Sunday, 15 September 2013 was Chilly!!

The view through the forest
This year the annual Chillycon gathering lived up to its name - it was pretty chilly out, especially on Friday night, in fact it got down to about 4C, way past the threshold of my sleeping bag!

The drive from Kingston was pretty uneventful and the weather looked threatening but it didn't rain on the journey.  Don, VE3MNE, and I arrived just at 2:00 pm, and the staff at Rideau River were very friendly when we checked in. I commented before about this, but they keep the place very clean, in fact it's always clean and you never see garbage laying around, and you never see dirty washrooms either.

We arrived at our site No. 179, and began to get set up.  We basically setup the same way we did last year, as that design seemed to work.  We tarped over the tent and the
kitchen area, and got to work setting up antennas......and true to form it started to rain lightly.

We set up two antennas, Don put up our usual 31' vertical with 6 ground radials with a 4:1 balun, and I put up a 66' long wire with a 9:1 Unun and two 16' ground radials.  The long wire was up a tree at about 40' and sloped down on a 45 degree angle.

Both Don and I did very well chasing DX.  The long wire netted me:

5B4AJC in Paphos, Cyprus.
JW5E on Svalbard Island.
LX7I in Luxemburg City.
EB3CW in Bellaterra, Spain.
OE2S in Salzburg, Austria.
YO3CZW in Bucuresti, Romania.
HZ1DG in Abha, Saudi Arabia.
DL0GL in Gladbeck, Germany.
MM0KLO in Scotland.
EI7M in Carrigtwohills, Ireland.

Eric, VA3AMX working DX
Unfortunately these were not enough to allow me to regain the DX Challenge Championship this year.  The winner was Eric,VA3AMX, who also won last year.  Next year I'll be bringing a secret weapon to ensure victory!  Well done Eric!!

The weather Saturday was great, sunny and warm.  Don and I took an hour off, and drove into Kemptville to buy a couple of fleece blankets to make sure we didn't suffer again that night.  They worked, we had the best sleep ever.  In fact it was very difficult to get out of our sleeping bags on Sunday morning!

Saturday afternoon several Ottawa hams came out to join us for the day, chief amongst them was the old mountain man himself, Bob, VA3QV.  You can read all about Bob's site visit on his blog HERE.  It was good to see him and have an opportunity to have a long chat with him.

You can also read the Chillycon Blog article from Michael, VE3WMB, HERE.

Late on Saturday afternoon Don and I decided to compare the 31' vertical to the 66' long wire antenna.  Using an antenna switch we went around the various bands looking for loud signals and switched back and forth between the antennas checking which antenna had the better signal.  Surprisingly, the long wire won.  It certainly hears very well.

The Bar
Supper was the usual communal Pizza Feast.  Sixteen of us sat down to dinner around a pretty good fire, considering the wood was damp.  Before long the DX tales came forth and the single malt scotch flowed.  Slowly people left to go home and the party finally broke up  at 0030 hrs! 

A great time was had by all, and it's a great guys weekend.  It's a shame some of the more usual suspects don't come out for it.

Sunday morning broke and it looked like it was going to be another cloudy, wet day.  We dropped the tent and tarps, packed the trucks, had a shower, and headed over the "Charlys Place" for a good brunch.  It was touch and go that the restaurant would be open as we had a large area power outage that morning, and the power didn't come on till after the place opened.

It was, as usual, a great time, and next years Chillycon is already marked on the calendar.

More Photos.........

Don, VE3MNE, working DX

Ying, VA3YH, with coax chewed by
the squirrels.

All natural power

Michael, VE3WMB's magnetic loop

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Chillycon 2013

Bob VA3QV on his way to Chillycon!
This weekend is the annual Chillycon QRP gathering at Rideau River Provincial Park, just across the river from Kemptville.

Several of the hams from the Kingston area are planning on making the trek up there this coming Friday for the weekend.  This will be our fourth year attending this great event. 

Sponsored by the Ottawa Valley QRP Society, this is "the" place for QRPers to gather before the winter hits.

Many of the guys come for the weekend, gathering at one of the camping loops at the east end of the park, and many others just coming in to join us for the Saturday.

It's very interesting to make the rounds of the various campsites during the day and chat about the different radios and portable antenna systems people have on see something, and learn something new every year. 

Saturday night is the annual Pizzafest and campfire gathering - where lies and tall DX tales are swopped.  Stay tuned for this years report and pictures after this weekend.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Frontenac County Disaster Exercise

Today the annual Frontenac County Emergency and Disaster Exercise was held at various locations up and down the county.  Of course being held on a work day it was difficult to round up enough operators, but thankfully 13 volunteered to take the day off from work to play radio with the Frontenac Emergency Communications Group. 

It was also our new EC's first exercise trying to control us all, thankfully we don't require much supervision.   I'm sure Mark is now realizing just what he stepped into, and will soon be taking up a new hobby.....herding cats.

This exercise was also the unveiling of our new digital network that has been built over the past 12 months.  At the moment we have almost 100% coverage of Frontenac County - from Kingston to Plevna - via VE3FRG-7 which is located 10 kms north of Kingston on a 260' tower. VE3FPN-7 located on an 100' tower at the Sydenham Fire Hall, and VE3MNE-10 our main gateway located in the west end of Kingston.  Coming on line mid-November will be VE3DTG-10 which will be a secondary gateway, and will be located in central Kingston.  Work is under way to bring on line a further two nodes, one in Plevna and the other in Sharbot Lake.  All the nodes and gateways are located on 145.070.

VA3ORP giving his briefing
Also helping us out today was the new location of our main repeater, VE3FRG.  This repeater was recently moved from the John Orr Tower in Kingston, to the same 260' tower the VE3FRG-7 node is on.  The footprint has changed significantly and we can now use this repeater from Belleville to Brockville, north to Smiths Falls and beyond.  So for the first time all of the municipal EOC's located in Frontenac County can hit the main repeater, and most can also hit the secondary repeater as well.  VE3FRG is on 146.805- with a 203.5 tone.

For the most part the exercise went very smoothly and the staff in the County EOC were very impressed with the digital messaging we can now do.  Dave, VA3ORP, gave a great briefing on the W2K capabilities we now have before the exercise started.

We had another three hams deployed early in the morning to Plevna in North Frontenac to man the EOC there.  Unfortunately things did not go smoothly there as the newly, and professionally, installed antenna had coax issues.  Dave, VE3DZE eventually worked out a compromise and managed to pass the digital traffic, but the coax needs to be looked at.

VA3ORP showing an EOC worker
how to use our system
Yours truly and Dave, VA3HFX.....(we seem to have a lot of Dave's!) spent the day at the beautiful, downtown, Sydenham Fire Hall passing traffic while huddled under a large blue tarp over the back of our two pickup trucks. No air conditioned EOC for us!  In fact it was quite disconcerting to listen to the guys deployed to the County EOC, complaining at the end-ex briefing that at the large lunch spread, in air conditioned splendor put on by the County, that the caviar was not imported, the champagne was not quite chilled enough, and that the coffee was to be them!  I made do with a warm bottle of water and a half stale to be me!

This was my first exercise since stepping down as EC, and I have to tell you it was extremely nice to be able to just take part with no pressure or stress........I could grow to like this!

All kidding aside, it was a good day.  Lots of lessons learned, lots of new goals have been listed, and our Training Officer knows what path to guide the training over the next 12 months.

Thanks to Norm, VE3VY, for standing by most of the day in Westport, with further digital and HF support if we needed it......and thanks to Les, VE3KFS, who also stood by in case we needed support from Kingston.

Thanks to Derek, VE3HRW, for the photographs.

Friday, 6 September 2013

New Rig in the Shack

Last week I had to put my Yaesu 2800 out to pasture, it gave up the ghost after many years of faithful service.  It was a good little rig and did a good job for me right up to the very end.

I spent a day or so cruising around the ham store websites checking out what was available in 2m rigs these days, and to be very honest.....I wasn't very impressed.  Many of the ones that I thought could do the job for me had lousy reviews, or didn't do everything I wanted it to do.

I think the scariest thing was the price of some of these new 2m rigs.  A few more $$ and you could practically buy a good used HF rig!

Anyway, I ended up with the very first ICOM radio to set foot in my shack, the IC-2300H. 

I'm very pleased with it so far.  It has received some good signal reports and the locals say the audio is great.  It has four power settings: 5w, 10w, 25w, and 65w.

It's a small package, and is going to do great for Emcomm work.