Thursday, October 24, 2013

A BEAUTIFUL DAY.....and no coax!

Today I finally had a free lunch period to get out and play radio, so last night I loaded up the antenna and radio into the car.  Drove to my normal park at lunch - with much anticipation of the possibility that 10 meters was open.


Discovered that I had left my coax at home - kind of important to have the antenna connected to the radio!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

38,750 Miles per Watt Contact

Yesterday I posted that I had worked AK4JA and that I thought he said he was running VERY low power, but my CW skills couldn't be sure.

Well I just noticed he logged the contact on QRZ...

He was running 20 MILLIWATTS from a homebrew transmitter!  He made note in the comments that this was a 38,750 mile per watt contact.

Wow!  What fun to be on the other end of Bob who was running such low power.  Keep having fun Bob!

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Mobile Station, QRPper and Two Frenchmen!

Wow!  I can't believe it has has been over a week since I have played radio.  On this, the last day of September, I just had to get out.  The weather here in Kansas was awesome - 75 deg, sunny and a light wind.

After getting setup, I heard a very faint CQ on 20 meters....

AK4JA (the QRPper) - Bob was calling CQ and was very faint, but readable.  He was in Georgia.  After reading his QRZ profile, he is a dedicated QRP addict, just like me.  I had a bit of trouble copying him, but I believe he said he was running 200 MW!  Thanks for the nice contact Bob!

Still on 20 meters....

N7IV/M (the mobile station) - Joe was calling CQ and was nice and strong here.  He was calling from Minot, ND (which might be a new state for me) - he was running 200 watts from a TS 480 into a Hustler vertical antenna on rear fender.  I believe he said he was on a long bike ride (but my CW skills were having a hard time keeping up :) ).  He thought my lunch time activities sounded amazing - and I agree!  However, I think bicycle mobile sounds even better!

Now it was time to hit my favorite band for DX - 17 meters...

F8EMH (the first Frenchman) - Flo was calling CQ and after a couple of calls I was finally able to work him.  He gave me a 229 - so he has good ears.  He was 579 here and sounded great.  Looking at the map, he looks to live in the northern part of France, really close to the border.

F8AAN (the second Frenchman)  - David was also calling CQ at the bottom of 17 meters.  It took a few calls for him to hear me, but we finally connected.  He also had great ears giving me a 419 - he was 599 in here.  He lives in the western part of France, almost on the coast it appears.

So after a week away, things were still just as fun!  Today brought some interesting contacts, and some fun DX to boot.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Italy & QRPer with a Mag Loop

I thought I might get skunked today!  The bands seemed pretty dead - and the wind was blowing 20-25 mph!

I finally did have two QSO's....

IK2CIO - Vini was calling CQ from Italy.  Tried several times and got a 599 report from him - which I suspect was more of a contest style report - but still fun none the less!  I worked Vini on 17 meters.

I didn't hear any other action, so I called CQ on 20 meters at 14.061.  A very weak station replied....

AJ8P - Jeff returned my CQ from Sherrodsville, OH.  He was very weak, and then someone started calling CQ really close to us.  If I cranked up the filter, I would lose him - so just had to suffer through it.  Jeff said he was running 2 watts.

After I got back to work, I had an email from Jeff.  He sent me this picture and said he was using the Mag Loop inside!  This just makes me want to get one of my loops working so I can start having some radio fun from the comfort of my home.

From checking out Jeff's QRZ page, he has a couple nice QRP rigs on his page - worth a visit.

After working Jeff, it was time to head back to the office - another fun day with the radio!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Working Ireland on a special day...

Today I went to my usual spot in the local park.  I didn't hear a bunch of activity, but I kept tuning up and down the band on 17 meters primarily.

I heard a station calling and working guys contest style.  It took me about 5 times to get the call right, since it was so long and he was sending pretty fast.

The call was EI13CLAN - a special event station in Ireland!  What made this really special is because of this...

My father-in-law passed away suddenly in June - exactly 3 months ago today.  Mike was a very proud Irish Catholic.  He had a trip to Ireland planned for August - which he was never able to take.  Mike had been on my mind all day, and then to work a station in Ireland - WOW!  Mike would have loved hearing this story.  I

It kindof made me wonder if he had a hand in helping my signals fly through the air to Ireland! :)

If you work EI13CLAN enough, you get this special certificate - I will be happy with a QSL card as soon as they update the Clublog so I can order one.

After working EI13CLAN I also worked....

K2WO - On 20 meters I worked George - we were both very weak.  He was in Florida.

K4NMN - Henry was in Virginia Beach - He was 559 and he gave me a 569.  Nice contact!

WA2LOT - On 17 meters I worked Mark.  I was very weak - 449 so that is about all we exchanged.

So that wraps up a pretty special day!  These lunch time sessions are just so much fun - and will even be more so as the weather cools down.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cuba! CO8LY...

Man is it ever hot here in Kansas!  Today it was 93 when I exited the car to setup the antenna.  Can't wait for those cool fall days to arrive!

Once I turned the radio on I opened SOTA Goat on my iPhone to see where the SOTA activators were.  I noticed one of them was calling CQ on 12 meters.  I had never even listened on 12 meters, so I thought I would give it a go.

I couldn't hear the SOTA activator, but I did here...

CO8LY - map from QRZ
CO8LY:  I heard Eduardo calling CQ with no takers and he was LOUD.  So I gave him a shot and he came back with a 599 report.  From the map on QRZ it looks like Eduardo was near the "infamous" Guantanamo Bay.

The bands were slightly strange today, a little up and down by there just not too many stations on.

I called CQ on 20 meters near the QRP watering hole.....

WB3GCK - from QRZ
WB3GCK/P: Craig was working portable from Duck, NC.  Duck, NC is on the eastern most part of NC - and looks to be a popular resort area.  He was VERY quiet - and judging from his picture on QRZ he was probably QRP.  He gave me a 559 and I gave him a 339.  We kept it short since he was so quiet.  Craig has a nice page with lots of operating stories and other projects.  You should really check it out here:  He is definitely a QRPer!

Called CQ some more and...

N3RSD: Frank came back with 559 reports both ways.  He was in Wilmington, DE.  We exchanged SKCC numbers and called it day.  I always feel bad exchanging SKCC numbers when I am using the keyer - should I?

One other interesting thing... I was tuning around at 18.100 and heard W4BVH/BCN Tampa FL - I will have to check this out and let him know I heard it!

Another fun and successful QRP lunch time portable outing!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Spending More Time in a QSO

Lately I have been doing a lot of hit and run contacts - either with DX stations or SOTA Activators.  I can copy pretty fast in these quick exchanges.  However, I have noticed that my speed has slipped a bit when in a normal QSO.

So today I decided that I would start having at least one QSO that was a bit more of a rag chew each time I operate.  Today I had two!

Here is the run down for today (15 meters seemed pretty dead, and so did 17 meters)...

KE7GKM - I heard Bob calling CQ on 20 meters and gave him a call.  He was in Boise, ID.  He was running a K2 at 5 watts into a dipole.  This was a nice 2xQRP QSO.

Then I took a look at SOTA Goat and noticed several activators....

W4EON - Eric was on Mill Mountain, VA - W4V/HB-023 - he had good ears since he gave me a 449 and I gave him a 559 on 20 meters.

WA7JTM - Peter was on Baker Butte, AZ - W7A/AE-035 - RST of 559 both ways.

N7CW - Bud was on West Spruce Mountain, AZ - W7A/AW-202 - it sounded like he was running a nice little pile up!  579 exchanges both ways.

Still had a bit of time, so I tuned down 20 meters and heard....

KF7YHB - Wyatt was calling CQ with a nice clean fist.  His QRZ page says he sometimes uses a "cootie key" - I wonder if he was today??  We had a nice long QSO which was really enjoyable - the speed was perfect and Wyatt had a great fist and signal!

On another note, I hope to make some more progress on the Mag Loop antenna this weekend - get it mounted and tuned up and hopefully make a QSO!  We are heading to the Kansas State Fair on Sunday to see one of my sons friends and our neice and nephew - so that should be a fun day!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

France, Germany, Sweden PLUS SOTA Chasing! YEE HAA!

After reading Larrys post this morning about 15 meters being open, I thought I would check that band out first today when I arrived at the park for some lunch time portable operation.  It has been a week since I have been on the air, so I was itching to get back to some CW.

Sure enough, right off the bat I had success...

DL4MO - I heard Loy finishing a QSO and when they wrapped it up I gave him a call.  He came right back to me with a 449 report - he was 599 here in Kansas.  Interesting thing is this was more than a quick report and "see ya" - I don't think he could believe I was at 5 watts - he had me repeat my power after I sent it to him.  Loy lives in Germany - a new country for me.  His location is almost smack dab in the middle of the country.

SM5CAK - I heard Lars calling CQ and gave him a call - he was booming in here at 599, he gave me a 559.  Lars lives in Motola, Sweden - looking at Google Earth, it looks like a beautiful area.

I didn't hear anyone else that was not in a QSO or very strong, so I decided to throw out a CQ on 15 meters...

F5RQQ - Jean-Marc is located in France.  We exchanged a quick report, he sent me 549 and I sent him 599.  Nice quick contact.

With 40 minutes left of my lunch hour, I decided to chase me some SOTA Activators...

K7SO - Sat was on W5N/PW-012 in New Mexico.  I worked him on 30 meters - he was booming in here at a 599 and I got a 549.

NM5S - Alan was on the same peak with K7SO but he was working 40 meters.  He gave me a 539 and I sent him 579.

KE5AKL - Mike was on W5N/SS-001 - Wheeler Peak, which is the highest peak in New Mexico at 13,167 ft.  I found this panaroma photo of the peak at Wikipedia - pretty cool shot.

Panorama of Wheeler Peak, NM - KE5AKL was here when I worked him!
With so many quick contacts, I still had about 8 minutes before I had to tear down, and I spun the dial on 20 meters looking for a CQ....

NK6X/4 - Bill was sending almost to fast for me, but I enjoyed it!  Sometimes it is good to be pushed.  He was in Dallas, GA, which appears to be part of metro Atlanta - I didn't even know there was a Dallas, GA.  We had a nice QSO for the rest of my lunch hour, but I was having problems with the KX3 key.  Sometimes, it just will not send the dits and dahs when you push the arm.  Not sure what the deal is!

FUN FUN day today!  Thanks to all those that worked me!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Magnetic Loop Construction - Part 1

So I got a little time over the weekend to make some progress on my magnetic loop antenna.  I constructed this antenna from 1" copper pipe in a square shape with 90 degree elbow.  The loop is 30" square.

At this time it will be rockbound on 20 meters, centered around 14.060 - so the bandwidth will be very limited.  I want to do this so that I can do some testing before I go all out and convert it into a multi-band loop, which will hopefully work on 20-10 meters (with maybe 30 if I am lucky).

Making the Coax Stub Capacitor
So what I did was take a piece for RG-213 coax and cut it about 30" long.  Then on one end I removed about 2 1/2" of the shield and pulled the braid away from the core.  I taped it all up really well with multiple wraps of electrical tape, leaving about 1/2" of braid and 1/2" of conductor (sticking out of core).

After sanding the copper to a nice shine, I took some stainless steel hose clamps and clamped the braid to one side of the loop and the center conductor to the other side.

This piece of coax becomes the capacitor which will be used to tune the loop to the desired frequency.  Right now it is longer than needed so it will resonate well below the 20 meter band.

The Feed Loop
I then took some RG-8 and made the feed loop.  For my loop size the feed loop is about 1/5th the circumference of the main loop - so about 24".  I added a bit for the coax connector.  I decided on a shielded Faraday loop after reading that they are quieter on the mag loop email list.

To construct this loop I formed the circle and soldered the center conductor to the braid at the bottom of the circle.  Then at the top of the circle I removed about a 1/2" of the braid only.  I taped up all connections and exposed braid, etc.

Initial Tuning
I quickly taped the Faraday loop to the main loop with some painters tape because I wanted to see how it looked just sitting on the bench.  Before I do the final tuning I will hang the loop on the wall of my garage - its final home.  I was just excited to see where it was resonant!

So I hooked up the antenna analyzer and started a slow sweep from 20 meters down looking for the SWR dip.  THERE IT WAS SWR 1.2 @ 11.131 MHZ - clear as day!

Next Steps
The next thing I am going to do is mount the loop to a piece of 1x wood and then mount that on the wall at its final location.  Loops are sensitive to their surroundings, so you always want to tune them at the location they will be when completed.

Then with the analyzer connected I will start cutting 1" chunks off the coax until I get close to 14 MHZ - the final tuning will be done by sliding the braid up and down the core to get the frequency exactly where I want it.

Once it is operational I will spend some time testing with the Reverse Beacon Network and making contacts.  If it works well, ultimately I will construct a butterfly capacitor for tuning and build an Arduino stepper motor controller so that it can be remotely tuned from the shack.

I can't wait to see how it works and if the noise floor is substantially lower than using my Portable QRP Vertical.

If you would like to construct something similar (although he shows a Gamma Match for the feeding) you should check out W2BRI's pages - great instructions with pictures to make everything easy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

4 SOTA Activators and a Regular

The bands seemed very dead today at lunch.  I looked at SOTA Goat and saw that there were some guys spotted in New Mexico on some 10 point peaks.  I listened first for WS0TA (club call) and could not immediately here him - he was there, but not strong enough to copy.

So I put out a CQ about 14.059 and checked for reports on the Reverse Beacon Network.  I was spotted on both coasts by about 11 stations with many reporting 15-20+ DB - so I knew I was getting out.  Do you ever wonder if the bands are dead, or just nobody is calling CQ??

Contacts for today:

WS0TA - I was finally able to pull him out of the mud with 339 reports both ways on 20 meters.  This is a club call, so I am not sure who the OP was today.  He was on W5N/SE-001.  (Updated: Fred, KT5X was the Op today, and also the trustee, for WS0TA.  Looking at his QRZ page he is also into trail running, and running on mountains!  Very cool!)

K7SO - I saw him spotted on 10.110 and was able to work him easily thru the little pileup.  He was 599 and he gave me a 579.  He was on W5N/SE-003.

K1JD - He was 559 and he gave me 579, he was also on W5N/SE-003.  Worked him on 10.110 also.

NM5S - also on W5N/SE-003 but on 40 meters about 7.031 - very weak but I called him when he peaked a bit.  He gave me 449 and he was 339.

Fun to work 3 guys on the same peak - I bet they were having fun!  Unfortunately for me, the chaser, I only got 10 points for the 3 contacts since you only get points for a peak once per day.

Right now I am sitting at 88 points.

N7BBH - Right as I was ready to pull the plug and head back to the office I heard Steve calling CQ and he was nice and strong.  We have worked each other twice before.  I had to keep it short since I was almost late, but he got stronger during his second exchange, and he reported I did as well.

Fun day once again!

Pondering Antennas for the HOA Restricted Home

30" Magnetic Loop Under Construction
As the list of major projects at our new home is starting to get shorter, I have been pondering an antenna installation that is more permanent than my Portable QRP Antenna that I strap to the deck railing when I want to operate.

The portable vertical I use, which is nice and quiet at the park, is VERY noisy at the home QTH which is full of all sorts of man made electrical noise.

First thought was to put a 66' doublet in the attic and feed it with ladder line.  I have no doubt this would work, but I have to invest in ladder line to make it happen.

I have a 30" square magnetic loop that I have built from 1" copper pipe before we found out we were moving.  It is all soldered up, just sitting in my garage waiting for a tuning capacitor and feed loop to be installed.  I am leaning towards this being my first antenna install here at the QTH.

Why a magnetic loop?

You can read all about the good and bad of loops online, but one of the biggest drivers is that they are supposed to be very quiet.  Many hams that report S5+ noise on their dipoles are reporting S1-S2 noise on the loop.

The other reason is that it is almost done - probably a couple hours of work max and I could have it on the air.  Additionally I can hang this in my garage, or put it in the attic, so that I can keep in good graces with the ever watchful HOA observers!

So that is what I am going to do.  At first the tuning capacitor will be done with a coax stub tuned to a fixed frequency.  I will do this centered around 14.060.  This will give me a narrow little spot to play.

Then I am going to build a home brew butterfly capacitor - which I will document here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Kansas QSO Party - 2013

As I have mentioned before, in May we moved our family from the Kansas City area to Wichita, KS.  While everything is unpacked and pretty well settled in, there is still some organizing that needs to be done.

This weekend we organizing the garage.  Last weekend I built shelves along one wall, and this weekend I finished painting the garage and installed some holders for shovels and tools.  The garage had never been painted, so that meant a coat of primer and then a coat of paint.  It looks fantastic!

Due to this project and other commitments, I was only able to work the last hour of the Kansas QSO Party on Sunday from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm local time.

After reading about the event it looked like there were a number of special 1X1 calls.  I tuned around the bands and didn't hear a lot of activity on any band - again, this is with my portable QRP antenna strapped to my back deck - so that might be part of my problem with hearing stations due to noise and inefficiency of the antenna.

I did finally hear K0K on 20 meters - Jim (W0EB) was just north of me probably 20 miles.  I answered his CQ and I was in his log.  I must have caught him early on that band, because a pile-up quickly built on his call.

So I decided since it was late in the contest, I might be some new blood.  I decided to tune down a bit from K0K and call CQ with my 5 watts on 20 meters.  I was watching my spots on RBN and I was working good into the east coast.

So I setup a memory keyer with the CQ KSP call and starting calling CQ.

I was quickly answered, so I just kept calling CQ until the end of the contest.  In 50 minutes I worked a total of 9 station (including K0K).

I worked the following: K0K, N4PN, K7BX, W9OL, K7IA, AA6XV, W9MSE/M, K4BAI, NS2X.

It was a fun hour on the radio - no, I won't win anything, but it sure was fun!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Playing Around With Reverse Beacon Network

After parking at my usual lunch time portable operating position, and not hearing much on the bands, I decided to do something I had been wanting to do for awhile now.

I have been wanting to play around with the Reverse Beacon Network using my portable QRP antenna.  When not hearing much on the bands, I wanted to see if there was just not many operators, or if the band was actually dead.  The other thing is that many times when I call CQ I call at less than 15 wpm because that is where I am most comfortable.  I have never seen many reports on RBN in the past when calling CQ so I wanted to see if speed made a difference.

So I started off with 20 WPM and called CQ for about 3 minutes on 20 meters.  You can see the spots on the photo, but I was heard mainly to the East coast and West part of the country - and one Canadian station.

Then I went down to 14 WPM and called CQ again - as you can see on the photo.  At 14 WPM, my signal was still decoded and I got spotted by 5 stations.  Where at 20 WPM I was spotted by 6 stations.  So not really much difference.  I did change frequency so that it would show the new spots.

I didn't call as long at 14 WPM because I heard someone answering!

KO4OP - Rick was answering my CQ and had a nice sounding signal.  He was in King William, VA.  He was 599 and he gave me a 559.  We went on to have a nice 15 minute exchange - really nice QSO Rick!  Thanks for giving me a call!

As you can see in the picture I then went to 17 meters and put out a CQ at 14 WPM and was spotted by 4 stations (3 on the east coast and one out west).  I did hear someone call ..__.. (?) after one of my CQ calls but I never could reach him, and they never gave a call.

After this I did hear NE1SJ very, very weakly calling from a SOTA summit on 20 meters.  I gave him a call and he heard me, but when he came back he got weaker and I just could not pick him out of the noise.  Sorry we couldn't make it today - I would have liked to pick up some more points!

It seems my SOTA chasing has stalled a bit.  Lately 20 meters seems to be skipping right over me here in Kansas!

So the RBN site was fun to play around with.  It just tells me that even when you don't hear anything, it doesn't mean that you aren't getting out!  Put out some CQ's and have some fun!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

IZ4RTE & UX1AA - Amazing Lunchtime Portable QRP

Map from N0HYD to UX1AA
Wow!  It was a fun lunch today working portable from the park.  I heard a little activity on 15 meters, but then tuned down to 17 meters and started having fun!

I had TWO great DX contacts on 17 meters today...

IZ4RTE - He was first up.  He was calling CQ and after several repeats of my call he finally got it.  He gave me a 519 and I gave him a 599.  Eddie was near Bologna, ITALY!  I don't know call prefixes well enough to recognize where people are from - so I was super excited when he said this.  From his QRZ profile apparently he was running a Elecraft K3 - so this was a nice 2xElecraft QSO.

UX1AA - I heard Serge finish a QSO and start calling CQ.  It took several attempts for him to get my call, but he finally did.  He gave me a 559 and he was 579 here in Kansas.  When I looked him up on QRZ I realized he was in the western part of Ukraine!  This is roughly 5,600 miles from my location!

It was about time to head back to work, but I spun to 20 meters and heard nothing, so I put out a CQ on 14.060.  N7BBH - Steve in is Arizona.  We have worked each other before in early August.  Today he was on his TenTec Eagle at 40 watts - sounded great!

Well, another fun lunch time working QRP portable with my vertical EF QRP antenna.  Its always fun, but today was exceptional with two nice DX QSO's and working Steve again!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Run for the Bacon - August

I have been a "member" of the Flying Pigs QRP club for a long time, but I have never participated in any of the on air activities that they promote.

Well that all changed last night!  I took part in the monthly "Run for the Bacon" sprint.  This contest happens each month on the 3rd Sunday evening.

Since I don't yet have a shack setup in our new QTH (to many other projects to get to first), I put my portable QRP antenna out back strapped to the deck post and ran the coax inside to the kitchen table.

The propagation forecast looked good - so I was hopeful.  I turned the rig on about 10 minutes before the official starting time, and was somewhat surprised by the noise level on the bands.  Only the strongest of stations were able to be heard.

Either one of two things was going on:

1.  I am spoiled by working portable at the park, where there are not TV's and other assorted electrical devices nearby to generate noise on the bands


2.  The bands were just stinky for me at my little patch of the earth.

I have a feeling that the first reason is more accurate, but a guy can always hope!  This is only the second time I have operated from my home, so I need more experience to really understand the noise level at my house.

I worked the entire 2 hours of the contest - and ended up with 8 clean contacts.  Five of them were Flying Pig members and two were not.  There were a couple contacts that seemed to hear me when I called them, but I could never fully make out their calls - so they are not on the list.

So 8 total contacts and 8 States gave me a total score of 144 points.

I really enjoyed my time on the air, and hope to make it again next month.  I really need to get started on my New Carolina Windom that will be installed in the attic (HOA restrictions).

Here are the stations I worked: N4DU, WB4MNK, KB4QQJ, K7YTE, W0PQ, W0GV, K9PX, WB5BKL - Thanks for pulling me out of the noise!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Costa Rica in the Log!

Today the bands didn't seem as good as they were yesterday, but was still able to make some contacts.

I couldn't hear any of the SOTA activators on 20 meters - I must have been in the skip - I could hear people working them, but could never hear them.  I wish one of them dropped down to 30 meters to see if that would work.  Hey activators - try 30 meters every once in a while! :)

I had 3 really nice QSO's today:

KD8AZO - Dave was calling CQ on 14.060.  He was in Coldwater, OH.  He was running a Tentec 40/20 rig at about 4 watts.  This was a nice 2xQRP QSO!

K8DSS - Ed was calling CQ on 14.060.  He said he was near Tampa, FL.  His QRZ page said he has K3 and a KX3 so I am not sure if he was portable or not.  Really bad QSB so we cut it pretty short.

Then I spun to 17 meters....

I hear LY2J in Lithuania, but I never could get him.

TI7/AA5NX - I heard Gene in a nice rag chew with a four station, they were both booming in here.  I waited till they were finished and then gave Gene a call.  He came right back to me.  He said I was pretty weak and gave me a 559 - and I sent him a 579.  Gene is in Costa Rica - he faded a bit when sending his exact QTH and I didn't copy it all.  I can't find much about him online - other than his AA5NX call info.  I would like to know more about where he was exactly.

That was it for today!  Good times...

(just for my own reference: SFI 120 A Index: 10 K Index: 4 - 20m and 30m listed as FAIR)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Two DX and a SOTA!

K-96 Fishing Lake (red dot is where I parked)
I tried a new park today for my lunchtime portable.  I have been having lots of noise at the other park the last several times out.  I was not sure if it was just the bands or the location.  So I moved to a different park, also near my office, and either the bands were good today or the location was better!  The park I went to is called the K-96 Fishing Lake - as you can see in the picture.  Not sure why the water is so green!  (also I just added a page about my Portable QRP Antenna - check it out.)

First thing I always do is pull up SOTA GOAT on my iPhone to see if any SOTA activators are spotted.  There were several on 20 meters.  I could not hear any of them although I could hear stations calling them.

So I changed to 17 meters and heard several DX stations.  I heard PI4DX (Netherlands) calling CQ booming in here 599.  I missed him a couple of times, but then I snagged him!  He said I was 599 also.  Interesting that there wasn't a huge pileup - maybe he is not that rare.  HE WAS RARE for me! :)  After looking up the call it is actually a contest station put together for 5 or 6 guys - nice setup.  Erik was the OP today.  QRZ shows his station at 4,674.5 miles away!

Then I looked at the SOTA spots again and noticed K0JQZ was on 30 meters.  I thought maybe on 20 meters they were skipping over me, and I might have a shot on 30 meters.  Sure enough there Frank was calling CQ.  I dropped him a call and we exchanged 559 both ways.  This is the fourth time I have worked Frank as a chaser.  Today he was on W0/FR-063.  This was good for 4 /SOTA points which puts me at 68 total points.

After working Frank I went back to 17 meters - this DX stuff has me pumped.  I tuned around and heard XE2ST calling CQ.  I was first to respond and he got me after a couple repeats on my call.  He gave me a 559 and he was 599.  When I was replying with my information I heard him say "YES" and I heard another station calling CQ behind him.  Anyway, he copied enough that he said I was in his log and we signed.  Fernando is in Mexico.  Another fun DX contact in the books!

QSO to Map - having some fun....

(not my map)
I just put together a page on my blog that maps all my QSO's.

Its pretty cool - you can click on any of the houses and it will show you the call and the mode/band.

You can view my QSO Map <= click there

I thought I would share with you how I did this.

  • Export an ADIF file from your logging program.  It needs to have the grid squares included in the export.
  • Then visit ADIF to Map and follow the instructions.  Download the KML file.
  • This is where it gets tricky if you are using Blogger.  You need to upload your KML file somewhere on the web.  You have to be able to have a URL for the next step that points to your KML file.  I have a self hosted web site that I could upload it to - so this worked for me.  I am sure there are other options, but you will have to explore this.
  • Once you have your KML file uploaded visit this Google Gadget page for complete instructions on how to finish this and embed the file on your blog.

Its really just something fun to play with.  I really enjoyed seeing that one way over there in France!  I hope to add more of those shortly.

There is one problem - for the SOTA activators I have worked - my logging program pulls in the grid square of their QTH as listed at  I have not gone in and manually updated those records with the grid square for the summits - I should probably do that.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Stinky Bands but still fun!

K0JQZ activating a summit (from
The bands were really stinky today - lots of noise, at least at my location.

I did manage to work two stations:

W5MP: Mike was calling CQ on 20M and was booming in.  I put a call back and we had a nice 20 minute rag chew.  Mike was using some nice Drake gear and sounded great with a really nice CW fist as well.  He said the bands stunk in Houston also - so it wasn't just me!  He gave me a 579 and I gave him a 599.

K0JQZ: I gave the dial a quick spin and heard Frank 599 at 14.061.  This is the third time I have worked Frank while he was activating a summit for SOTA.  He was on W7Y/TT-161 Signal Mountain in WY.  This was worth 4 points to me as a chaser - which puts me at 64 points right now.

Spun the dial for a couple more minutes, hearing nothing I broke down the rig and antenna and headed back to work.

The Ultimate Portable QRP Antenna continues to work great, and is so easy to erect and take down!  I really need to get my page written up on how I have this antenna constructed!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

SOTA Update & a strange one...

I worked 2 more SOTA stations today:

W4TZM: I had worked him previously on another summit, but today he was on W4V/SH-009 North Marshall in Virginia.  He was 559 here and he gave me a 559.

K0JQZ: I had also worked Frank before, but today he was on W7Y/PA-224 Bunsen Peak in Wyoming.  He was booming in here at 599 and he gave me a 559.  I was the first to catch him when he switched to 20 meters and called CQ.

Right now I am sitting at 60 points on my way to 100 so that I can claim the Shack Sloth award as a chaser!

This is where things got a bit strange....after not seeing any other spots on SOTA GOAT, I decided to call CQ on 20 meters.  After calling about 6 times a station comes back to me.

I copied his call as W6VZ - and then a bunch of letters that really didn't make sense.  He also had something wrong with his keyer, because sometime it would just send a long string of DAH's.  I asked him what the letters were after his call and he repeated BIZ BIZ.  He said his name was Howard and he was in TN.  Each time he sent his call he would add BIZ to the end of it.

So I did a quick search after the QSO and W6VZ is not named Howard.  So then I thought maybe his call was WB4BIZ (similar CW) - but that was not Howard either.

This maybe one that I just not ever figure out!  If any of you out there know what this might be, let me know - I am stumped.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Last night I played around with AC Log.  It was easy to get my ADIF file out of HamLog on my iPhone and into AC Log.  It pulled all the address information from QRZ really easily.

I then uploaded all my log entries to LOTW.  I am honestly not sure if it did anything or not - the entries are still not visible at LOTW.  I don't know if it is a problem on LOTW or my upload never happened.

Went to the park today at lunch and got....

The bands were really noisy here in Wichita, KS.  I only heard a couple QSO's on 17 meters, and 20 meters was dead.  I did call CQ and was answered by a K9 station, but when he came back I could not hear him well enough to copy.

So it was a stinky day on the radio - but I will try again tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

W2LJ & SOTA Bonanza!

On the way out to my lunchtime portable operating location I dropped just over 30 QSL cards in the mailbox.  Can't wait to see if I start getting more back now that I have sent some.

Today was a fun day on the radio.  20 meters was nice and quiet.  17M had lots of noise at my location, and really only heard one QSO, so I stuck with 20 meters and was rewarded with several nice contacts.

With one eye on the SOTA Goat iPhone app, it is always nice to see some SOTA spots.

W4TZM - Tom was activating W3/SV-004 Ritchey Knob in Pennsylvania.  He was only 229 here but he gave me a 599.

W2LJ - Larry, the blogging and lunchtime portable legend was calling CQ and I got lucky enough to grab him!  He was 449 and he gave me a 559.  Larry operates with a Buddistick on top of his Jeep from the parking lot at his office over the lunch hour.  He also keeps a great blog at  Great to work you today Larry! 2xQRP and 2xKX3 QSO.

K1JD - John answered my CQ - he was sending faster than I liked.  John was in Santa Fe, NM and mentioned something about SOTA.  I asked if he was on a peak, and he never responded.  Either I couldn't hear him or he got tired of me asking for QRS repeats :) 2xQRP and 2xKX3 QSO.

K0JQZ - Frank was activating W7Y/PA-103 Notch Mountain in Wyoming.  He was 559 here and he gave me a 559.

KU6J - Eric was activating W6/NS-211 with no name, just a number Pt. 7481 in the Northern Sierras of California.  He was a 449 here and gave me a 549.

I would call that a good day!  3 SOTA stations at least and W2LJ who's blog I read everday - can't get much better than that.

Logging Software and QSL Cards

I really enjoy sending and receiving QSL cards as a part of this great hobby.  I know there are other alternatives such as eQSL and LOTW - but there is just something fun about getting a REAL QSL card in the mail!

I finally got my QSL card designed and printed.  Its not perfect, and there are already things I want to change, but since I only print 40 at a time that wont be a problem.  

Here is what it looks like right now (all the contact details are on the back so that I could maximize the front with pictures).

My Current QSL Card
Last night I finally finished filling out and addressing all 30 of the cards by hand.  This was TIME CONSUMING! I have decided on a new QSL work flow.  At the end of each operating period I will fill out and address cards to the stations worked.  Then I can mail them the same day.  Plus this will also let me write something personal about our QSO on the card while it is fresh in my mind!

In the field I use Ham Log on my iPhone to record all the contacts.  I love this little app.  It has everything I need for portable operations.  It can even upload straight to eQSL - although I have decided that I am going to be a direct and LOTW QSLer ONLY.  I just don't really see the point of eQSL - but if I change my mind in the future I can always start uploading again down the road.

While Ham Log works good for logging in the field, I also want something on my computer at home as my main log.  I have decided I am going to go with ACLog.  ACLog will import the ADIF file that I can export from Ham Log, so that will be nice and simple.  ACLog also makes uploading to LOTW a snap - which is a big bonus.  It can also print address labels for QSL cards - which would also be a nice feature if I have more than a few per day.

So that is my plan right now, as always it is subject to change!

How do you handle logging for your operations?  I would be interested to hear, just leave a comment below.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Two SOTA Contacts and Nice QRP to QRP contact

NM5S was on Midland Hill W0/SP-117
After several days away I was finally able to make it back out for a little lunch time portable operation.  With my Ultimate Portable QRP Antenna I worked these guys today with what seemed like pretty poor band conditions and some noticeable noise on my end today:

First up was N7BBH (fun call to listen to on CW) - I heard Steve tuning up on 14.060 just as I turned the rig on, and then he started calling CQ.  The QSB was very deep, after several repeats we finally pulled off a nice QSO - he was on the edge of my ability to copy at the speed he was sending.

Next up was WS0TA (I think it was WG0AT at the key) - this is a club call working from a SOTA peak.  I was never able to copy the peak he was on.  I worked him at 17:35 on 14.061, so if anyone knows the peak designation let me know!  He was a 579 and he gave me a 229.

Then I found NM5S - Alan was doing SOTA on W0/SP-117.  He gave me a 559 and I did the same.

Not including WS0TA contact, I am now at 24 points towards my Shack Sloth certificate!

The bands overall were pretty dead today.  The 7 region was the strongest today - nothing really heard from the east coast.  Nothing heard on 17 meters at all - which was disappointing after my first DX score last week!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


QSL copied from his QRZ page
Ran over to the park on the way back from a meeting for my lunch break today.  First I checked out SOTA Goat and found a few spots, but after turning the dial for a bit I could not hear any of them.

So I went to 17 meters to see what was cooking on that band.  I tuned around for a bit and heard some DX but everyone was sending to fast for me to copy solid.

Then I was able to finally copy F6HKA after listening to a few exchanges.  Finally I sent my call followed by QRS - and what do you know he slowed down for me!  Bert was in France and has a really nice antenna setup.  It did well to catch my 5 watts into the 30' EF vertical which I am now calling the Ultimate Portable QRP Antenna!  He gave me a 549 and he was 579 here in Wichita, KS.

Super fun!

The antenna I put together is working really well.  I will be putting a page together explaining how I put my own spin on the EARCHI 9:1 Unun antenna - which I am affectionately calling the Ultimate Portable QRP Antenna (or UPQA for short!) :)

Monday, July 29, 2013


WA3WSJ from his QRZ page
So I had about 30 minutes over lunch today to operate.  I setup the Ultimate Portable QRP Antenna (UPQA) in 3 minutes and was on the air.

I pulled up SOTA Goat on my iPhone and saw that WA3WSJ/PM was calling CQ on W0/FR-004 (Pikes Peak) on 14.060.  I tuned over there and sure enough there he was.  I had worked WA3WSJ last week from Bartle Scout Reservation when he was on Devils Butte.

I gave him a shout and he came right back with a 559 and I gave him a 589 - good for 10 points as a chaser!  I am now up to 20 points.

I would really like to get to 100 points before winter sets in so that I can qualify for a Chaser Certificate.

Then I switched over to 17 Meters and heard CO8LY calling CQ.  I returned a call to him about 5 times before someone else got him and the pileup started.  He never heard me.  He was booming in over S9, so I was disappointed.

Then all of a sudden the band was filled with S9 static.  I switched bands and it was the same thing on each band.

It had started to sprinkle, so not sure if that was it or if a nearby vehicle had just pulled in.  When I was tearing down I noticed a car one row away from me that I didn't see pull in, and there was a gentleman sitting eating his lunch with the car running - maybe that was the source.  Any ideas???

Will have to see if I experience the same thing today.  This has never happened at this park before.

Boy Scout Camp at H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation

Our Troop Flag
My 15 year old son attended his fifth year at Boy Scout camp last week.  They camp for 10 days at H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation near Osceola, MO.  I had a chance to get down there with the troop for the last four days of camp.

If you have never had the opportunity to do this, and you can, jump at it!  There is nothing like being around your son, and a group of other young men, at a summer camp.  I find it fascinating to watch them do things they didn't think they could do.  It is something that is hard to explain here in writing...

Anyway I brought along the KX3 and a new vertical EF antenna that I put together that attaches to the 31' Jackite pole.  I bungee corded this to the shelter railing and I was off to the races.

KX3 w/ EF Tuner on the picnic table at  camp
On Thursday I had a couple of hours in the afternoon to play radio and I jumped at the chance.  I worked four stations all right around 14.060 using 5 watts out.  I worked KA3ZOW, WA3WSJ/PM, KK4BOB, W3UEC.  All fun contacts!

Now a couple specifics....

WA3WSJ/PM was working SOTA on the summit of Devils Head in Colorado.  It was fun to work portable to SOTA!  This was good for 4 points as a chaser.

On Friday I was able to get on the radio for about 30 minutes.  The band was quiet.  I finally put out a CQ on 14.060 and after a couple calls K2RFP (in New York) returned my call with a 599.  I could tell he was using a manual key, and his fist was really nice!  After reading his QRZ page, I was right - and he likes to work about 10 WPM.  So if you are unsure that you can handle CW because of your speed, quit worrying about it and get on the air!

So I worked a total of 5 stations from the Scout Reservation.  I will get a special QSL card put together for these guys in the next couple of weeks.

My Oldest Son, Nick - on a hike with me
But above that, my son finished his final 3 Eagle required merit badges and also earned 3 additional ones.  The most interesting one to him was a new merit badge offering this year - Search and Rescue.  The instructor must have been really good as well - he really enjoyed this class.  They used a Garmin product that was a GPS and Radio.  Not sure of the model but they sounded cool.  When someone talked you could see the name of that persons radio of your screen - he was very interested in this technology.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I am a SOTA Chaser - First 6 Points today!

I have been interested in SOTA for some time, but living smack dab in the middle of Kansas severely limits my ability to be an activator.  I have found several summits over in Missourri that could be done in a one day activation - but my schedule won't allow that right now.

So at lunch today I headed over to the park - it was HOT!  My car themometer was reading 90 deg when I rolled the windows down and turned off the car.

I tuned around 20 meters - at first there was not much activity.  I heard a few QSO's underway.  Called CQ a few times around 14.060 with no takers.

Then I tuned down to 14.040 and heard W2TAW calling CQ nice and slow.  Gave him a shout and he came right back giving me a 559 and I gave him a 579.  Tom was in Vincentown, NJ on a Carolina Windom up 30'.  Nice signal and nice operator.

Then I tuned back around 14.060 and heard a QRZ followed by an almost contest style series of exchanges.  The speed was a bit to fast for me, but I was able to make out most of his call and the word SOTA.  After he called CQ one time, I replied "QRS de N0HYD".  After a couple seconds NS7P returned with at a nice pace that I could easily copy.  He gave me a 559 and I gave him a 559 right back.

Phil was on W7O/CM-033 which was good for my first 6 points as a SOTA Chaser! What fun that was!

Next Wednesday I am heading to H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation to spend a few days with my oldest son at Boy Scout Camp. I really want to take along an antenna that is multi-band, and I would like the same type of antenna for my lunchtime portable operations.

So this weekend I am going to build one of the EARCHI 40-6 meter end fed antennas.  I think I am going to wire tie the matching box to the bottom of the 31' Jackite pole and also put a couple clips to wind the vertical wire to when not in use.  A simple self contained multi-band antenna!  I will bungee this to my tent poles at the camp and be able to operate when I have free time.

Thats the adventures from my part of the world today!  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stumbled upon a County Hunter Extraordinaire...

I had a bit of time today so I snuck away to the my local portable location near my office.  20 meters was pretty quite - heard a few QSO's underway but nobody calling CQ.  I called CQ for about 10 minutes with no takers.

Started tuning around and I heard someone calling CQ CHN  - but mostly he was calling QRZ and working station after station.  He was sending to fast for me so one time when he called QRZ I simply sent QRS (slow down) and what do you know he repeated his call slower!

It was K3IMC.  He was portable in Big Horn, WY.  After a quick search on QRZ I found that he is a big county hunter and has transmitted from over 2,000 of the 3,000+ counties in the USA.  He has actually worked every county TWICE!  Pretty interesting.  It was nice of him to slow down so that I could work him.  He was a 589 here and he gave me a 339 I think.

That was the only contact for today, but it sure was fun!

Tomorrow I take my oldest to Kansas City so that he can go with his old Boy Scout troop to summer camp.  Since we just moved to Wichita in May we have not found another troop, and this camp was already paid for.  I will be spending a few days there next week and will be taking my KX3 for a little Scout Camp Portable!  I will probably even work up a special QSL just for the contacts I make there.

Stay tuned for more information on that trip!

Building the AlexLoop Clone

I am one of those guys that would rather strike out and try to build something myself - it is actually part of the hobby I enjoy the most.  Plus the idea of dropping $$'s on an antenna just kinda turns my stomach!

The first thing I did was gather the parts.  I used LNR-400 coax for the main loop.  Some 10 gauge wire for the small loop and some RG8 for the coax to the rig.

I also purchased a variable capacitor from Midnight Science - it is a single gang.  I probably should have purchased the dual gang - and probably will - more on that later.  I also picked up the reduction drive from them.

Here is how it looks right now all set up:

It is a really slick setup - the grey pipe is simply plastic electrical conduit - everything is simply attached using wire ties.

Inside the "black box" - the air variable capacitor, reduction drive and coax connectors for the loop coax.  If you look closely you will see that I ran a short wire from the center to the ground on the coax connectors.

It is all fine and dandy BUT I can't get the darn thing to tune!  At first I thought it was the feed loop not being built correctly - and I was right!  However, after rebuilding the feed loop the thing still won't tune.

I can almost get it tuned on 10 meters - down to about 3:1 - but the capacitance introduced by my hand turning the capacitor is horrible.  I have read that if you use a 2 section capacitor this problem is reduced.  Once I can get it working with this capacitor I might invest in a 2 gang.

I really think it comes down to the feed coax at this point.  There is just not much else that could keep it from working.  I am going to rework the connector and see if that fixes it.

Right now I have it all set up looking really cool - but it does absolutely nothing! :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Lunch Time Park Portable

31' Jackite EFHW attached to bollard
I was finally able to get to the park today again over lunch.  My goal is to operate every lunch hour that I don't have a work related meeting or some other activity keeping me from it.

Ran over to Chisholm Creek Park (I think this will be my primary lunch time operating location) that is about 3 miles from my office, and strapped the Jackite pole to a parking bollard.  Was on the air in less than 5 minutes.

I tuned around a bit and didn't hear much - not even a CQ - so I threw one out on 14.0605.

I immediately had two stations calling me back - both weak, so I picked the stronger one - WB5CTS/M.  Steve was QRP mobile in Arizona - thunderstorms in his area kept us from rag chewing, but it was a nice contact.  I suppose he was driving and doing CW at the same time - I can't imagine doing this!

Then another CQ netted me Carl, K4EAY in Alabama.  He was running a K1 at 5 watts - so this was a nice QRP to QRP contact!

I also managed to take a couple pictures of my setup.  Up above you will see my car with the 31' Jackite pole next to it which has the 20 meter EFHW hooked up to it.

Here is the KX3 sitting on my leg which is how I operate.  Then I have a clipboard where I write the code I am copying.

Elecraft KX3 sitting on my leg in my car for Park Portable operation

Monday, July 8, 2013

First Portable Ops with KX3 & EFHW

I was finally able to get on the air for a little lunch time portable today.  I used my KX3 with the 31' Jackite pole and ran my EFHW on 20 meters.

I built the little matching device from scratch using the schematic from the SOTA tuner at about a year ago.  I have had really good luck with it on a couple of camp outs with my oldest sons Boy Scout troop.

I have always been able to get it to a 1:1 SWR, but today, the best I could do was 2.3:1 - it must have been the proximity of my vehicle - maybe I will try adding a counterpoise next trip to see if that helps.

So today, I drove over to a park near my office and got busy setting up for a little portable operations.  This is when I encountered my first problem.

I used a couple of 36" bungee cords and wrapped the Jackite to a bollard on the edge of the parking lot with my vehicle parked right next to it.  Then I ran the wire into my car to the tuner and then to the rig.  I set the internal ATU to bypass.

Well the bungee cords were not quite the right length, and it made it very difficult to get the pole wrapped tight enough to the bollard so it would not fall over - need to get some longer bungees!

Finally got it rigged up and tuned around the 20 meter CW portion of the band.  I heard KN4ZQ calling CQ.  Gave him a call and Dave came right back to me from Palmyra, VA.  He was a solid 589 and he gave me a 229!  He copied me perfectly, so it must have been good enough.

It had been about 2 weeks since I charged the internal batteries and they were running about 9.3 volts - I kept getting the low battery indicator on the KX3 - which was irritating when trying to copy CW.  I will put the rig on charge tonight to get them topped off.

The good news was that I could actually run the engine with the AC on and there was no extra electrical noise on the receiver!  This was great because it was pushing 89 degrees!

Next time I go out I will take a picture and publish it here so that you can see my setup from this park.