Thursday, March 31, 2016

Portable Ops 13/45: Sing it with me....YyyyyMCAaaaa

On Tuesday and Thursday nights my daughter takes Tae kwon do at the local YMCA.  I typically run a few miles while she in class, but last night I decided to setup portable and play a little radio.  The SKCC sprints run from 7-9pm once a month local time, and her class starts at 7:00 pm.

Since I would like to participate in these sprints, I have been looking for a location in the parking lot I could do this while she was in class.

The parking lot at the YMCA is large and at one end there are zero cars parked.  There are small trees that I can attach my portable antenna to.

So last night I decided to test it out.  The antenna strapped easily to a small tree and the coax easily reached in my car where I operate.

I made one contact...

AC4FZ (4987T) - Wally was working another station on  10.120 and once the QSO was over, I gave him a call.  He was nice and loud here in Kansas.  Wally was in North Carolina and had a nice signal and fist - with just a slight bit of QSB.  He was a 559 here and he gave me a 549 - I am constantly amazed and just what 5 watts can accomplish!

That was it for the night, but I am glad I tested the setup for the SKCC sprint at the end of April - I will be active!

Portable Ops 11 & 12: Two New States and 2 x QRP!

This post is a two-fer, I didn't get a chance to write up #11 portable operations, so I just decided to combine them.

Do you ever have one of those QSO's where everything seems to go wrong??  I did when I worked WB3GCK.  Right now I don't have a true straight key, so I use one lever of the paddles on my KX3 set to HAND mode.  Sometimes the contacts don't make great connection and they dits and dahs sound funny.  Well during this QSO this was happening a bunch!  On top of that my KX3 started complaining about the voltage level of the battery.  So mid QSO I had to attached my external battery which required me to change where the KX3 was sitting - it was just a mess!

But Craig WB3GCK seemed very gracious and we just carried on.

So who did I work??

3/29/13 - I just had about 30 minutes to play between just two contacts...

KG7VTO (14714) - Bob had a great signal from Oregon on 20 meters, plus a great sounding fist.

KK6GLP - I have worked Mike before and his signal sounded great as usual from California.

3/30/13 - Had a ton of fun this day!  These were all from me calling CQ on 18.080...

N1WPU (1312) - Ted answered my CQ from Maine!  He was running 75 watts into a G5RV and had a really nice signal and fist.

WB3GCK (15052T) - Craig came back to my CQ and he was also QRP at 5 watts.  Craig is also a fellow blogger, and a blog I frequent!  He has just recently obtained Tribune status in the SKCC.  From reading his blog it looks like he was bitten by the same SKCC bug I have been bitten by!  You can read his blog here  This is actually the second time I have worked Craig.  The last time was back in 2013 when he was vacationing in North Carolina!

WB1AJX (12872T) - The last contact for the day was with Howard running his KX3 at 5 watts.  We had a nice exchange from Rhode Island to Kansas for another nice 2xQRP contact.

So for this day it looks like there was a pipeline from Kansas to the far Northeast of the USA.  I had never worked Maine or Rhode Island before - so that is awesome.  Plus to have two 2xQRP contacts was a real kick as well!

The main reason I moved to 17 meters was because there was at least one VERY LARGE pileup going on 20 meters - it ran from about 14.035 to 14.057 - completely spread out!  I never did figure out the DX everyone was trying to work - but the pileup was destroying the band.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Portable Ops 10/45: Nice Lunch on the Radio!

Wow, today was the most fun I have had in a while on the radio - the bands seemed decent today.  So with my freshly charged KX3, and beautiful spring weather I set about to make some contacts from the local park.

N8XI (15024T) - Rick was calling CQ on 20 meters looking for SKCC members.  I gave him a call and we had a quick exchange from KS to MI.

Then I started calling CQ....

KF8DA - Roger gave me a call from Ohio and QSB was really bad on his end, but we got the contact done.

NX3Z/QRP - Jim answered my CQ and was right down there in the noise most of the time.  He was QRP from Arizona using a KX1 - it took many repeats but we finally were able to finish the QSO.  Jim emailed me and said that even though he is an SKCC member he was using the keyer on the KX1 so this won't count for an SKCC contact - but I always love 2xQRP contacts!  Thanks Jim!

K7EP (1683T) - Art answered my call from Washington state with a nice signal and a nice fist.

WH6LE (13533S) - Last up for the day was Pete from North Carolina for a nice quick contact.

It was a fun day today - much better band conditions than last week.  Thanks to everyone the found me!  I did go up to 15 meters right at the end and called CQ a couple times with no takers.

I also made some SKCC contacts over the weekend, so right now I am sitting at 27 SKCC contacts as I work towards 100 for the Centurion award.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Portable Ops 9/45: Just 1 1/2 contacts today....dead battery

Friday was a bit frustrating - the bands seemed really weird, and not much if any activity was heard here in Kansas.

I did manage one and a half contacts!

N5NAA - On 30 meters I worked Steve down in TX for a 2xQRP contact.  Steve was running 3 watts and even mentioned that he reads my blog!  Hi Steve!

VE4CWF (10492T) - I replied to Chris calling CQ.  He came back to me and gave me all his specifics, and then just as I completed sending our call signs back, my battery died in the KX3!  I admit it, I had operated probably 3 portable sessions without charging the internal pack - my fault.  So....sorry Chris for dropping you like a hot potato!  Hopefully we can connect down the line.

Thats all for today, I hope to have some time this weekend for a bit of SKCC CW!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Portable Ops 8/45: One NPOTA + Two More!

It was another windy, windy day here in Kansas!  Once again the Jackite dropped a couple sections right during a QSO.  When I took it down at the end of the session the tip section is stuck and won't release to slide down inside the next section - will have to work on that.

Today was pretty slow, 20 meters was a weird band for me today.  I was spotted all over the far east coast, but really nothing in between.

Tuning around I heard a strong station on 14.064, but for the life of me I could not copy the call sign.  I asked him to QRS (slow down) and he did and I finally got his call!

KA4RRU - Mike was activating NPOTA HP06 - this is my first NPOTA station other than when I was an activator.

AH6AX (11165S) - Larry answered my CQ, we had worked each other before.  He had a great signal from Maryland today, and it was nice to know I was getting out.  I had been calling CQ for some time with no takers!

KG4LLQ (5883T) - Ken answered my CQ from North Carolina.  Looking at his QRZ page he has some interesting rigs - I hope he was using one of the cool ones for our QSO today!

So in my quest for SKCC Centurion, I am now sitting at 18 unique contacts on my way to 100!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Portable Ops 7/45: Windy, Windy, Windy...

If there is one thing Kansas is known for, its the wind!  Today was no exception!  We had 26 mph steady winds with gusts to 30-40 mph.  This was really bending the old 31' Jackite over!  At one point one of the lower sections unleashed and fell into the bottom section during a QSO.  I was able to complete the QSO and then get out of the car and fix the antenna!

Today I continued my quest for more SKCC members, and I was not disappointed.  20 meters was great today for me - working from coast to coast from my normal spot in the park.

I started calling CQ on 14.054...

KA2KGP (1494T): came back to my CQ with a 549 report and some QSB from New York.  He was 599.  If you check out Tom's QRZ page you will read what he told me, and that is that he is deaf.  How amazing is that to work a deaf member of our ham radio community on CW.  QSB got him a bit, but I believe he said that CW is his main mode since he can't hear voice.  Tom had a nice fist as well!

K4DJ (11060S): came back to my next CQ with a 569 report from North Carolina.  Rich wished me luck in my pursuit of the Centurion SKCC award.  He was running 75 watts on his end.

W1FJI/p (2182): I was tuning around and heard a very faint CQ about 14.054, about a RST of 539, but very weak.  I got his call, so I answered and Art gave me a 559 in return from Massachusetts.  Art was portable either from his car or a park, not sure.  He was running 3 watts - so this was a nice 2xQRP contact.

NS3C (8284T): Richard and I connected on the SKCC Sked page and met at 14.054 - he answered my CQ.  I had worked Richard last week I believe.  This time he was on his KX3 as well in California.  He had a great signal into Kansas.  So this was a nice 2xQRP and 2xKX3 contact!  Thanks Richard!

After that my 60 minutes was up and it was time to head back to the office.  At the pace I am going I think I will reach my goal of 45 portable operation outings much earlier than expected!

After today I am at 17 unique SKCC members worked.  I hope to work at least for a bit Wednesday night in the monthly sprint, but not sure I will be able to leave the kids and wife for 2 hours solid!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Portable Ops 6/45: "Are you a weather reporter?"

I got out a bit today to the local park for some more QRP fun chasing SKCC contacts.  I have been using the paddles on the KX3 set to hand mode - but this needs to change.  These seem to work great when using the keyer, but for hand keying it seems like they cut out from time to time while forming the dits and dahs.  A decent hand key is next on the agenda for me!

While I was taking down the antenna and loading up at the end of my session an older gentleman that had been fishing and was parked near me asked if I was some type of weather reporter.  I told him that I was an amateur radio operator and I was using morse code to talk to other stations across the country.  We had a nice chat - I always wonder what people think of me sitting in my car with a 31' pole and wire strapped to the bollard!

Today I had 4 nice contacts on 20 meters, 3 of them with SKCC members....

NV4U (9744T) - I answered Rons CQ, band was up and down a bit, but he was a nice easy copy from Georgia.

AH6AX (11165S) - Larry was from Maryland and was an easy 599 on my end and he gave me a 539 on his.  Larry answered my CQ.

K2PAY (4304S) - Jerry answered my CQ and gave me a 559.  I had to engage the narrow filter on the KX3 because someone else came on right next to us calling CQ - worked like a champ!  Jerry was in New York and during our first exchange had to take a quick break to help his wife with something - I completely understand this!

KK6GLP - I heard Mike calling CQ around 14.060, and I had time to squeeze in one more before my time was up.  He gave me a 599 and he was also 599 here in Kansas.  Mike was in Roseville, CA and was running 50 watts.  He said he had some bad QRM on his end, so we said 73 and ended our nice contact.  Reading on Mikes QRZ page he can't have a permanent antenna so he has a "rig in a box" and sets up in his backyard when he wants to operate.

It still amazes me that from a park, with a little antenna and just 5 watts I worked coast to coast today using CW and keying by hand.  I would love to hear a recording of my sending, it sounds good on my end, but I often wonder how the spacing and timing sounds to someone else.  I might have to find a WebSDR and see if I can hear myself sometime.

The strangest thing about today was that I called CQ many times, but I never saw a spot on RBN - this is pretty unusual.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Portable Ops 5/45: Four Nice Contacts

I went over the local park once again today - it was nicer today because the wind was not blowing 40 MPH like the last excursion!

20 meters seemed to be a bit better, and I heard a number of signals around 14.050 (the SKCC hangout), as well as the rest of the band.

I started calling CQ thinking I would have a contact really quick, but not to be the case, but it got more interesting after a bit.

First up was...

NS3C (8284T) - Richard answered my CQ from Los Angeles, CA and gave me a 599 - I was a new number for him.

NQ7K (13913T) - I heard Mike nice and solid replying to my CQ.  What started out as a 579 exchange turned into a 599 booming signal from Arizona.  Mike was running a 1 Watter Rig which is a kit available from Kits and Parts - and seems to be gaining a foothold in the QRP community.  It was fun to work someone running 1 watt on a rig that I have thought about picking up! Nice 2xQRP contact!

KF7YRL (10421T) - I heard a very very faint signal when Steve was calling me.  I was able to make out the necessary info and heard that he was QRP.  His QRZ page says he is in Montana, but I shot him an email for the specifics.  We kept it short because I could just not pull up his signal well enough to copy easily.  Another 2xQRP QSO!

KO1U (7648S) - I heard Mark calliing CQ with a nice 599 signal.  I answered and he got me with a 559 report from Massachusetts.

Another fun day working some of the nicest guys and great operators that are involved with the SKCC.  Thanks for putting up with my new fist, and slower speed!

This puts me 11/100 SKCC contacts as I work towards my Centurion award.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Portable Ops 4/45: A SKCC Kind of Day!

I have been a member of SKCC for some time now, but never really done anything with it except hand out my number if asked- I'm 8033 if you're interested.

Anyway, this weekend while I was playing radio from the shack, I worked a few guys in the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon - 5 to be exact.  This lit some type of fire inside me to work more of these guys!

If you are a new CW operator, these Op's are great to work.  They take it nice and slow typically matching your speed, and tend to be good operators that you can learn from.

So anyway, I decided to really start putting some effort into working more SKCC operators - it seems like in the past I have almost always heard some QSO's around their calling frequencies.  The first award I will work towards is the Centurion - which requires you to work 100 SKCC members.

So before today I had worked 5 members from the weekend.

Today I listened around 14.050 from the local park.  I heard a few stations, but decided to call CQ.

AA7XP - Herb answered my call and gave me a 329 he was a 459 here. His number is 14525T.

Then I called CQ again and...

KE6OIO answered from CA with a 599 signal, she gave me a 559.  We had several nice exchanges, her SKCC number is 1204T.

So that puts me at 7/100 for SKCC members worked - still a long way to go, but I am going to enjoy the ride.

I do need to get a better straight key!  Right now I have just set my KX3 paddles to work as a hand key.  I just push on one of the paddles to form the dits and the dahs - but I need something better!  I might have to fire up my sons 3D printer and print something off!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Two Portable Ops, NPOTA, and the Shack - Oh My!

Finally getting a chance to get caught up since my last posting!  I have been having lots of fun with the radio lately so it's time to check in.

Portable Op 1/45: On February 20 & 21 we visited my mother-in-law in the Kansas City area.  I knew the girls would be busy shopping and doing some sewing, so I brought the KX3 and antenna along.  I strapped the antenna to the deck railing and setup on the kitchen table.  I had lots of fun, there was some contest going on, but I have not looked up which one, but there was lots of DX.

I worked about 18 stations into South America and west to Hawaii.  Good times, but unfortunately none of them have confirmed via LOTW!

Portable Op 2/45: February 22nd I went to the local park over my lunch hour and had some radio fun.  I worked CO8LY in Cuba and two stations in NM - WS0TA (on a summit) and KE5AKL.

NPOTA Portable Op 3/45: On February 25th I had to be in the Kansas City are on business.  There are several of the parks in that area.  One spot was actually a three-fer since there were 3 trails that crossed at that location.  So I activated Lone Elm park which was a major camping location along the Oregon, Santa Fe and California Trails.

What a blast this was - in 2 hours I worked 55 stations all stateside except two DX from Canada and Belgium all on 20 meters.  I started out calling CQ about 14.059 and started getting some calls.  After about 20 minutes I spotted myself on DXSummit and it go crazy.  Having never been at the receiving end of a pileup on CW it sounded like one sound - I could not make out hardly anything except a fragment of a call.

What a blast!  If you have anyway to get out and activate one of the parks DO IT!.

Unfortunately on this outing right before I was ready to leave my Jakite pole collapsed into itself.  The top sections fell into the bigger sections with the wire antenna tied to the top.  I can't seem to figure out how to get it back apart - it is stuck inside.  So I need to get that figured out before I can do much more portable operating.

In the Shack:  I have been having lots of fun running PSK31 from the shack.  In the last week or so I have worked over 30 stations.  This is a fun mode for quick contacts or a little rag chewing.  Most of the time I connect to the computer in my shack with Teamviewer on my iPad while sitting in my easy chair in the living room with the family.  This works really well and allows me to be around the family and still have some radio fun.