The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and my sinuses are dripping because of allergies … Spring is officially here now! I’ve started digging through winter storage boxes to collect my portable QRP goodies so I can once more play radio from the great outdoors.
I was going to operate while on a Scouting weekend last week, but it was cold and rainy … not a great experience. As it turned out, I was pretty busy as well, so time was at a premium. Everything seems to work well set up at home, so I’m going to at least get out into the back yard and test things in an actual field setting on Saturday or Sunday.
I have been on 20M CW recently, and worked a few Europeans. The signals have been a bit poor when I was able to get on, but the QSOs went OK. I hope to get organized enough to be able to operate /P from the parking lot at work at lunchtime soon. I think that affords the best chance for a regular radio session.
We’re still looking for a location for our 2M repeater (W4MT). We lost our site a couple of months ago and are working several possibilities now. There are several other repeaters in the area that we can use, but it’d be nice to get ours up and running again.
73 de Dick K4FTW
I feel like I’m waking up from a winter hibernation, it’s been so long since I posted here. I guess I had one of those “slump” periods, where I rarely turned the rig on.
I did work a few stations in the Virginia QSO party last weekend, and enjoyed it quite a bit. This weekend is the CQ WW WPX SSB test, which I usually work, but Saturday I am delivering mulch with the Boy Scout troop. This is one of our major fundraisers, so I really need to be there to help. Maybe I’ll have time in the evening to work a few new ones, and then again on Sunday after church.
Well, it was Spring for a day or two, and now it’s back to Winter. They’re predicting a chance of flurries tomorrow morning, and it’s wet and cold outdoors now, so we just can’t win. The next warm day, I want to get an end-fed half-wave for 80 meters up in the back yard. I’ve been meaning to do that for several months now, but no joy. Something always seems to come up on the nice days.
Well, as I said … I’m back. Hopefully I’ll have the time to spend on the hobby that I need to. I really do enjoy myself when I’m operating. I just don’t seem to have the time I used to have to devote to it. I know … my loss, isn’t it
73 de Dick K4FTW
Last Saturday was the Virginia Beach Hamfest at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, so I made the trek. I already had a ticket, purchased at the club meeting. It was a nice time … met some old friends, saw some new things … also saw a Heathkit DX-100B for sale for $100.00. It was pretty clean, and according to the seller, worked flawlessly. Nostalgia is great, but no thanks. I’ll pass.
I was looking for some mobile hamstick-type antennas, and one of the flea-market sellers had some, but not for the bands I wanted or the price I wanted. I got home and ordered what I needed from HRO in northern Virginia, and should have them Tuesday. Even regular shipping is pretty much overnight to my QTH.
I’m not planning on mobile operations, but more truck-portable ops. I like Larry’s (W2LJ) habit of getting on from the parking lot at work for lunchtime, and a mobile antenna is a quick way to get on the air from there. He seems to have great luck, so I’ll give it a try with my FT-817nd and a hamstick.
The Hamfest, while worth a trip, is a shadow of its former glory. There were NO major ham radio vendors there (Elecraft had a local team there). Not even a lot of second-tier companies there. If you were looking to buy a name-brand, new hf rig, you’d be better off ordering it. I think this is a problem with all hamfests nowadays. The manufacturers just don’t have the budget to hit all the non-major hamfests. It’s a shame, really … no chance to “touchy-feelie” things.
I’ve been very busy lately at work. We’re updating our 800 MHz Motorola trunked system from analog to digital, so I’ve been involved with developing the new fleetmap and templates for programming the radios. Working at the computer for 8 hours a day makes your eyes cross after a while, so frequent breaks are needed and welcome.
73 de Dick K4FTW
I had hoped to help more with the club Field Day, but too many other things going on this weekend. I did get down to help set up on Saturday morning, but unfortunately, wouldn’t make it back to operate. I had my granddaughter’s fifth birthday party to attend, and that’s very important. I also had to buy a new dryer for the wife, since our 20+ year-old drier finally reached the dreaded “point of no repair”. I did get a good deal, though :-).
W4MT Field Day Site, Northampton Church of Christ, Hampton, VA
I did get a chance to operate some from home as a 1D station, but it’s not quite the same. I worked probably 75 stations, mostly on 20M CW, but also some on 40M and 80M CW. It was a good run, but alas, no elusive ND section :-). Propagation was good … I can’t complain.
73 de Dick K4FTW
I haven’t been very active lately. I’ve had lots of other irons in the fire, and ham radio has had to take a back seat. I got on 20m sideband tonight and worked a RA7 and AM08TL. That one threw me for a bit, but it’s a special Spanish call in honor of the new King. The station is in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands.
I’m getting things together for my trip to Pennsylvania for Boy Scout summer camp with two other adults and eight boys. We’ll be at Hidden Valley Scout Reservation, and I’m taking “ham stuff” with me. I’ve picked up an FT-817nd and am carrying that for some portable, battery-powered QRP. I think the boys will be more interested in SSB than CW, because they can actually hear what’s going on. I’m hoping to make a few more converts.
I got a certificate in the mail this afternoon from the Virginia QSO Party. I was the “High Newport News Mixed Mode 40M” scorer. I suspect I was the only Newport News Mixed Mode 40M entry ;-). In any case, it’s always nice to get another piece of paper for the shack wall.
That’s it for now, I guess. I’ll write a bit more later.
73 de Dick k4ftw
Been absent from here for a while, but I’m still around. I’ve been busy with numerous things, and my daughter is graduating from high school this coming Saturday. It sure seems there’s a lot more stuff leading up to graduation than there was 50-some years ago when I graduated. I’ve been listening a bit when occupied with other tasks, but the bands have seemed pretty lackluster lately, and noisier. Guess it’s summertime.
Hopefully, I’ll be re-energized after the furor of graduation dies down … at least until she heads off for college in August :-).
73 de Dick K4FTW
I spent a bit of time last night working the various QSO parties (IN, NE, 7QP) and had a pretty good time. N1MM kept crashing the computer, and I couldn’t figure out what had changed since I last used it. I was using the FT-450 hardware file for my FT-450D, and had had the occasional crash before, but it was getting worse, so I decided to try the FT-950 file. Night & day, folks. I haven’t had a crash since I changed, and everything seems to work OK. I guess the FT-450D is a lot more like the FT-950, since they are both SDR digital DSP boxes. I’m not sure how the FT-450 is different in how the computer sees it.
I want to say a couple of words about the W1SFR End-Fed 40 – 6 m Antenna that I bought from Steve at kx3helper.com and used for the first time last weekend. This is a quality product and Steve really stands behind what he sells. Just because the website says kx3helper, there’s plenty there that’s useful for other small portable rigs, too. Yeah, sure … I could have built the matching network in a box myself and cut some wire and had something functionally equivalent, but what I didn’t spend was TIME. Between work, family, scouting, and church, I don’t have a lot of time. I treasure the (too few) moments that I have to myself to do ME things (like ham radio). To me, it’s worth buying it ready to go. Visit Steve’s site and see what he has to offer, especially if you like portable operation.
Well, that’s about it for now. 72 and 73 de Dick K4FTW
Operating has been pretty spotty lately. I’ve just been so busy with other things that radio has had to take a back seat. I have worked a few of the W1AW/x stations, but not much else.
This weekend, though, I did get on the air in a different manner. I am also a Scout leader, so I took all of my portable gear with me on a weekend camping trip into the woods. I wanted to expose the kids to ham radio, and gauge the interest for participation in the Radio Merit Badge.
This was really the first weekend I’ve had the time (and the decent weather) to get out and do some portable operation. This past winter was too nasty for me to trek to the woods and do ham radio!
I had the Ten-Tec R4040 QRP transceiver, the ZM-2 tuner, and a 40-6 Meter End Fed antenna with 9:1 balun from Steve at kx3helper.com, along with the assorted odds and ends needed to connect everything. The antenna was up in a “L” configuration, no more than 20 feet high at its highest point.
I powered up everything from a 12V 7AH battery, tuned up, and got on the air. The Florida QSO Party was going, and the signals were pretty good. I answered a few stations and they came right back to me. I was impressed. I was even more impressed when I noticed I’d made quite a few QsOs with the ZM-2 in the TUNE position … I wasn’t even connected to the antenna! I flipped the switch, and the results were much better!
This was the first “Field Test” of the entire setup and I was duly impressed. Everything worked just like it was supposed to, and I had several of the boys (and adults) interested in learning more. It was really a great weekend in all respects.
73 de Dick K4FTW
I got a few QSOs in for the Virginia QSO Party. Once again, life interrupted Ham Radio :-). I only had 39 QSOs this year, quite a few less than last year, but what I did was still fun. It’s one of the great QSO parties … pretty laid back, compared to some. Unless a station has a run going, they’re usually willing to have a few words with you.
So, Spring starts this week, and they’re predicting rain, sleet, and snow tonight and tomorrow. It’s a cold rain outside this evening, and it looks like the rest of the night is all downhill. I’m hoping for warmer weather by next weekend. I’m going on a Scout camp out with the Troop and hope to get in a bit of qrp portable operation while in the woods. Although we’ve had some nice days in the past couple of months, they were just that … days. No real spells of “outside” weather.
Well, I’ve got to import my contacts from N1MM into my log and email the Cabrillo log to the QSO party folks. After that, I think I’ll just relax and do some reading, Don’t get to do that as often as I like.
73 de Dick K4FTW
Digital modes are addictive. I’ve worked several days now of JT-9 and JT-65 and managed to pick up a few new states that had been elusive in the past. I tried a couple of different software programs and settled on WSJT-X with JT-Alert and linked everything to my DXLab software.
I was noticing a few tuning issues on my vertical antenna, so I finally went out to the back yard and checked it. It’s a 31-ft wire on a Jackite collapsible fiberglass pole and one of the sections had collapsed. I had a wire tie at each joint to keep that from happening, but I guess this one was not snug enough or had slipped. Anyway, to make a long story short, I re-extended the pole section and twisted it to lock it.SWR readings are back to normal now. I’ll put another wire-tie on it when I get around to finding one :-).
Tomorrow is a Holiday — President’s Day, so maybe I’ll have a chance to get some operating accomplished. I did work a couple of stations in the ARRL International CW contest this weekend, but those don’t count as a ragchew, for sure!
73 de Dick