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!