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 QRPKITS.com 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.