Saturday, 14 October 2017

Lunch Hour QRP

Looking for something to do at lunch time?  Following my last entry to this Blog, I can across the following this morning, and waited for permission to repost this information.  Mike, K9ODX, has a great idea and here it is:

Lunch Hour QRP

Ivin and I have discussed doing a "lunch hour" contest in an effort to encourage each other to get out and operate, even if it's just during a lunch break throughout the week. I then thought, if we were going to do this why not invite others to join us?

I have proposed the following to our local "QRP group" here in Central Indiana and I would like to share it with our blog readers as well. The event would last for one month and would be limited to one hour per day, your lunch hour. Please review the idea below and let us know what you think.

Purpose: To practice and encourage the use of portable/mobile amateur radio and operating at QRP power levels. Participants will drive to a remote location during their regular lunch hour, away from their home or work, and complete as many QSOs as possible using a portable/mobile station with a mobile antenna attached to their vehicle.

Dates: One Month (Monday - Friday)

Time: One Hour per day during your lunch hour
Modes: CW or SSB
Exchange: Call, RST, State (or Country if DX)

Special Rules: QRP power levels - 5w CW & 10w SSB

Points: 2 points for each CW QSO & 1 point for each SSB QSO

Multipliers: x2 points if other station is mobile & x2 points if other station is QRP

Do you know how we might make this more fun and interesting? Would you be interested in joining us? Please comment below and share your thoughts.

72 de Mike W9ODX

Friday, 13 October 2017

What makes a good club?

What makes a good club?  How about "No Dues, No Rules, Just Fun".  Well the club I belong to has no dues, no rules, but I don't find it "fun" anymore.  It's a typical club where only 3% of the members do 97% of the work, but then everyone enjoys the fruits of their labour.

I've gotten tired of planning events that only ever have the same three people attend them.  It's just not worth getting upset over any more, and it's time for the other 97% to start taking an active part in running the club.

For the past six weeks I’ve been doing my own thing, not attending club activities or meetings, I don't monitor the 2m repeater much anymore…but I am going to the local park on Sunday mornings and experimenting with different antennas and operating QRP with a group of like minded individuals…and I’m having a real blast doing it and making some good DX contacts as well.

I’ve decided that I’m going to get less and less involved with the club...and more and more involved with portable operating, HF QRP and VHF/UHF contesting, and plan my own mini-DXpeditions…in other words I’m going to start having fun and doing ham radio the way I want is just too short to do otherwise.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

In the mail today......

The mail was picked up, and I received a surprise today.......

Thanks to the guys at US Islands, I had a blast on Simcoe Island - ON022 that day....but I would be really amiss if I did not mention that Jim VE3ULC was also there working the digital contacts with me.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Messing about with Antennas

Yesterday here in Kingston it was a glorious day, with a high of 27C......41C with the humidex, so of course it was the perfect day to go to Lake Ontario Park and play with some antennas.

Several years ago I bought from Buddipole a Rigid Shock-Corded Whip and a Mini Shock-Corded Whip, and I have never used them...they just sat in the corner of the shack.   The issue here is that Buddipole produces no information about how to use these whips, unlike the rest of the products they have.  These two types of whips appear to be orphans.

There seems to be nothing on the Internet about these whips, no ideas for settings or how to set them up, or even how to tune them so they work on various bands.  So, it seems like it was time to experiment with them.

My Rigid Shock-Corded Whip is made up of five 22 inch sections, with a 19 inch adjustable stinger on the top and a 17 inch one on the bottom, giving it a total length of 146 inches.  According to the Buddipole literature, this whip is good for 10m through 17m, and can be used on 20m with the use of two extra 22 inch arms.

After four hours of experimenting with different set-ups here's what I managed to get to work:

On 15m, at 21.150, the SWR was 2.0:1.  The whip was set up with no stingers used, and on an 8 foot mast.  I used a single 10' 9" counterpoise wire running from 8 feet down to 4 feet.

On 17m, at 18.136, the SWR was 1.5:1.  The whip was set up with the top stinger fully extended, but the bottom stinger was not used.  It was also set-up on an 8 foot mast.  I used a single 14' 3" counterpoise wire running from 8 feet down to 4 feet.

On 20m, at 14.145, the SWR was 2.0:1.  The whip was set up with both stingers fully extended and two 22" arms.  It was also set-up on the 8 foot mast.  I used a single 14' 3" counterpoise wire running from 8 feet down to 4 feet.

Even with changing the lengths of the counterpoise wire I could not get below these SWR measurements.

The Mini Shock-Corded Whip on the other hand could not be tuned anywhere.  The version I own is the nine-section version with a 10 inch adjustable stinger on top for a total length of 122 inches.  This whip is going to take a lot more experimenting before I can get it to work.

I'm very surprised that Buddipole does not seem to support these whips the way they support the other antennas they produce.  The documentation they produce for their other antennas is fantastic.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Chillycon 2017

What a difference a year makes !!!   This Chillycon was anything but chilly, in fact I doubt it got below 23C all weekend.  We had beautiful blue skies and not a drop of rain in sight.  The only downside was the 14 gazillion mosquitoes we had to dodge all day, they were relentless.

It was different this year being at Murphy's Point Provincial Park instead of at Rideau River.  Some of the campsites left a lot to be desired, and yet others were large and very usable.   Also, these sites were not as private as at Rideau River, but hopefully we will be able to go back to Rideau River next year after they fix the flood damage.

We had about 14 camping, 6 from Kingston, 6 from Ottawa, and 2 from Montreal.  Many others dropped in for the day on Saturday and stayed for the Pizza supper that night.   It was great sitting around after the supper talking to everyone, in fact the last guy left the campsite at around midnight, so a good time was had by one and all.

Lots of different radios and antennas to see and talk about this year, most of us have come away from it with a few ideas for winter projects.

Bob VA3QV was supposed to come for the Saturday, but was a no-show.....I will talk sternly to him over this issue later.   It was great to see Martin, VA3SIE, and his XYL for the first time in about 6 years.......he had the Polar Bear QRP Club flag flying proudly over his site all weekend.

Due to the lousy propagation not many QSO's were made, however, Eric VA3AMX won the Annual DX Contest with a QRP CW QSO with a Brazilian station.  

363 days to go till the next Chillycon!!

Jim VE3ULC operating his portable Digital gobox.
The camp Kitchen.
Somebody has to guard the Scotch and Rum!!!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Wow, September already!

VA3QV heading to Chillycon
As we enter September I really wonder where this year has gone.  It seems with all the rain we had that we have gone right from spring to falling about 3 weeks!!

There's not really a lot planned for this month except for the annual Chillycon weekend which is being held at Murphys Point Provincial Park this year due to flood damage at our usual location at Rideau River Provincial Park.   This year it will not be the same, it seems a bit more crowded at Murphys Point and not as open......but it will have to do for one year.

On a good note, the long-range weather forecast for the Chillycon weekend, September 16/17 is looking mighty dry and warm.....what a change from the past three years that will be!!!

Later on in the month, September 24th to be exact, a group of us are planning to activate the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour Light for the very first time.  It already has a number, CAN-815, and we are looking, and hoping, for good weather for that event as well.

It's starting to cool off at night these days as well, that means here in Canada we start our annual antenna maintenance programs to make sure they will stand up to our five months of crappy winter weather.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

2017 Island QSO Party

VE3ULC hiding under his umbrella
A great time was had by one and all!!!

This year Jim VE3ULC and I decided to go over to Simcoe Island, ON-022.  Simcoe is a relatively small island and has no RF noise at all, our meters showed S0 on the noise floor.

Lots of signals were heard on the bands, although we were mainly on 20m and 40m.   That weekend, besides the Island QSO Party was also the weekend for the Kansas and Ohio QSO Parties, so lots of traffic out there for us.........lots of LIDS and people tuning up on top of ongoing QSO's as well.

Jim operated PSK31 and I operated SSB, which worked out quite well for us.  Jim's rig was an FT-817ND into a multi-band sloper antenna held up by my 33' MFJ mast at one end.   I operated my FT-897D into a MFJ 17' collapsible whip antenna up at 8' off the ground, with two 16.5' elevated radials.  Both systems worked as advertised.
VE3FI's antenna

The WX was great, hot and sunny with just enough of a breeze to keep the worst of the bugs at bay.

Between us we managed to work 10 islands, including a couple of local ones, and another 40 contacts from people hunting the islands.

All in all it was a great day, and we're going to have to do this again before the snow flies....maybe in late October if the bands behave.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Be Careful Out There!!

They say that ham radio is basically a safe hobby.  There has also been considerable discussion and concern about the possible hazards of electromagnetic radiation, including both RF energy and power-frequency (50-60 Hz) electromagnetic fields.

BUT…..did anyone think of those simple dangers, like rocks falling out of trees?

Last Friday, in preparation for the weekends Island QSO Party, Jim VE3ULC, and I decided to test out some equipment on my driveway to make sure it was working well for the weekend event.  A portable antenna needed to be checked out, so up went a line attached to a large rock…which was placed inside a cloth bag.

My Head after being cleaned up.
Well…this was fine until the rock and line went over the wrong branch, and Jim pulled on the line to bring it down so he could try again.  It came down all right, right onto my head.  

While Jim yelled a warning I couldn’t see a thing as the midday sun was in my eyes.  The first thing I knew was a tremendous pain in my head and copious amounts of blood running down my face. 

So please keep in mind that you never know when something is going to happen and it pays to play safe.

No real damage done, but when Jim is around I’m wearing my old army helmet…it’s safer!!

My new operating helmet!!!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Island QSO Party

Don't forget, tomorrow is the W / VE Island QSO Party !!

You can find the rules HERE.

Jim-VE3ULC and I will be heading over to Simcoe Island early tomorrow morning.  We plan on operating a Digital station and a SSB station, and will be on 40m through 6m.

The propagation numbers for tomorrow are not looking too bad as of today, but lets see what happens in the morning, if nothing else it will be a nice day out on the island.

Stay tuned for the full report.....

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Not the day I had hoped for......

The 20m Antenna
Well, we had high hopes for a good day of activating and chasing lighthouses......that was not too be.  At 1020 UTC the propagation numbers were:

SFI= 80, SN= 41, A Index= 21, and the K Index= 5......not the numbers you want to see on a big event day.

We also had a S5 to S7 noise floor at the operating site.  It rained heavily for about 20 minutes while we set up our gear.......just what we needed !

Once we were up and running the bands were in a disgusting state, between the high noise floor and the very deep QSB we had it was very difficult to work anyone.   In fact we had two SSB stations and a Digital station on the air and made a grand total of 4 contacts all day.....including one, solitary, lighthouse station in Florida, K4PIL.

However, having said all that, we did have a good time out there - but then again, any day outside playing radio is better than being home with a large "honey-do" list.......

My antenna for the day was my MFJ 17' collapsible whip, up at 8' with a 17' counterpoise.  Radio was my FT-897D, with my FT-817 being used for VHF work.

I hope the propagation...and weather... improve a great deal for next weekends W/VE Island QSO Party.  I'll be out for that event as well.  Details will be posted here later in the week.

The 20m station using an FT-897D

VE3ULC operating the digital station

Friday, 18 August 2017

ILLW coming up

Coming up this weekend in the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend.   This event is sponsored by the AYR Amateur Radio Group in Scotland, and they have been running it since 1993.

This year I will be activating Pig Point Lighthouse on Amherst Island, a light which has never been activated before, so hopefully the propagation and weather Gods will cooperate with each other and allow us to have a great day on Saturday at the light.

I'll be using the usual Lighthouse frequencies and using the VE3FI callsign.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Sunday QRP'ing

Jim VE3ULC in todays operating tent.
It was a beautiful day here in Eastern Ontario, in fact it was warm enough to go on out to our Field Day site.....which is now no longer under water, but still real soggy in some spots.....and play some portable QRP radio.

The bands were not in too bad a condition.  The propagation numbers as of 1757 UTC, 13 August were:   SFI=70, SN=11, A Index=11, and the K Index=2.

The was the usual stuff going on, tuning up over QSO's and LIDS a plenty.  Lots of European stations were on 20m, I tried to work 9A3ON in Croatia, and SV9NNK in Crete.  Both stations copied VE3Fox......but couldn't get the "Italy" at the end of the callsign no matter what phonetic I they're not in the log.

I did manage to have solid QSO's with EI8BLB in Ireland, and EG8HKT in the Canary Islands, both of which made my day.   Not too shabby for 5 watts into an MFJ 17' collapsible whip antenna with one 17' elevated counterpoise.

Next weekend we're off to activate the Pig Point Lighthouse on Amherst Island for the ILLW weekend.  We'll be QRO for that event with the FT-897D.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

It was a WSPRing type day.....

Not much going on at the homestead yesterday so I did a bit of WSPRing after cutting the grass.  I haven't been on WSPR for a few weeks as my computer developed a disliking to that program.......

Propagation as of 2242 UTC, 11 August, was:  SFI=69.  SN=11.  A Index=8 and the K Index=3.

Here's my 20m map:

Not too shabby, signals getting out to either end of the earth, from Eureka, Nunavut, to Australia, and New Zealand.   Very pleased with this.   Antenna is a 148 foot inverted L long wire up at 50' and my FT-817ND at 500mw.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

An interesting Go-Box

Jim - VE3ULC brought his recently built go-box over to my QTH yesterday so he could check it and a newly built OCF dipole out.

The finished box
Interesting piece of kit, he's built it into a small Pelican Case and it has a FT-817, speaker, a Raspberry Pi, a small hi-def screen, and enough battery power to last a week.

He's built a lightweight 40m OCF dipole to go with this kit, and we put it up 25 feet into one of my tall trees to test it out.   Putting the analyzer on it first we found it was very good on all bands.....including 2m...... but it will not tune at all on 15m.

We ran it through several bands on various digital modes and it works just great on all of them.   Next Friday we plan on getting out to one of the local parks and doing some portable work with our gear, and hopefully Jim's gear will pass and exceed our expectations.

Jim VE3ULC on the miniature key pad.
Don - VE3MNE supervising our testing

Friday, 28 July 2017

Rumour Control.........

Hmmm.......rumour has it that the VE3FI Van will be heading to the west coast again next year in May.

I wonder how many 2m repeaters I won't get a response from in 2018???  It was pretty dismal in 2014 when I drove across, and I imagine with the growth of the digital repeaters it has become even more dismal....but we shall see.

Not sure of the route yet......but it won't be via the Trans-Canada, but I have decided to do the northern route through Ontario.  I've driven the Lake Superior route three times now so it's time for a change.

I'll post more details as I solidify my plans.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

W / VE Island QSO Party 2017

VE3DZE on Simcoe Island
Coming up is this years W / VE Island QSO Party, sponsored by the US Islands Award.

The event runs 15 hours from 1200 UTC, 26 August to 0300 UTC, 27 August, and the Rules for the event can be found HERE on the US Islands page.

Participation by Canadian amateurs has been pretty dismal over the past few years and the disappearance of the Canadian Island Award (CIsA) website did not help.  However, in case you don't know, out of the ashes has grown another group of guys who have formed Canadian Island Activators with the intent to carry on from where CIsA left off from.

The one item the organizers do ask is that you submit your event log.  Last year only three Canadian stations did so.  
I've participated on this event for the past six years and have had a blast and I'm sure you will too if you take time to take part.  This year I will be operating from Simcoe Island, ON-022, and hope to work a pile of you on the air.

Islands on the Air

One of the main purposes of the Islands on the Air (IOTA) program is to promote activity on the bands, not just on HF but on VHF and UHF.  It’s also for clubs and individual operators.  

IOTA is an outstanding program for the activator, chaser, and contester as well.

Coming up this weekend is the 2017 version of the RSGB IOTA Contest.  The contest starts at 1200 UTC on July 29th, and ends at 1200 UTC on July 30th.

This years rules can be found HERE.

Let's all hope that the propagation Gods are in a good mood and allow the bands to open and play nice for us all over the weekend.  It's about time we had some cooperation from them.