Sunday, December 26, 2010

QRP in Blizzard Conditions

QRP contact for tonight was with Lou, K3OXG in Pennsylvania. This was especially neat as we currently have blizzard conditions with 12" snow, 40 mph winds, 22 degrees outside. I was out shoveling earlier, and was amazed at how the ladder line dipole is dancing up in the trees. I took time to loosed the support ties today in the hope of preventing a break under stress tonight. I bet the ladder feed line is bouncing up and down over 10 feet.

Using 5 watts to the dipole, we were able to complete the contact. There was quite a bit of QSB, so I appreciate Lou's efforts with my code and pulling my signal out of the wind.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

QRP from Talcott Mountain

What started as a Christmas Day hike with my son, quickly many things with an 11 year old can. Ben asked to take the radio equipment with us, and "let's make some contacts Dad!". I've learned to seize those moments.

The road leading up to the park's lot is closed in winter. It's a fine road, but very steep and not practical to plow or salt. So, we parked with about a half dozen other cars at thhe base, and hiked the way up. It's less than 1/2 mile the whole way up, but a very steep grade, and challenging with ice 'flowing' down the gravel path.

The summit was great, with a few fellow hikers bringing family to look at the Farmington Valley in winter. Not much snow yet, but beautiful as always. Ben and I set up the Yaesu 817d and Buddistick. I called CQ on 40m then 20m, and let Ben key several CQs along the way. No takers...not surprising for Christmas day. I even tried calling VHF simplex 146.52. Does anyone really monitor the 2 meter call frequency these days (I don't). Well, the ground was getting cold, and we weren't really prepared for a day of radio. After 30 minutes or so, we decided to pack it up and hike back down.

A day on the trail with your son is always fun, even when you strike out on the radio.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Home QSL Sorting

After becoming active in Ham Radio, I suddenly enjoyed making trips to the mail box each day. There's something neat about following up a new radio contact with a paper card. Sometimes they have a photo giving a flavor of the operator and their location, often a personal note with a followup message. Today was spent with family, warm at home watching movies, oh....and sorting all those cards that have stacked up on my desk over the fall.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I was able to squeeze in about an hour for the NAQCC Sprint tonight. Thanks to all for the contacts. Had to work harder than usual to pull out signals tonight. 6 contacts for the log:


I seem to be doing ok with the Pennsylvania gang tonight. Thanks to VA3PEN, Ki in Ontario for the final QSO right before the closing bell! 72 phil

Monday, December 13, 2010

I finished up the Straight Key Century Club WES / Weekend Sprint last night. I used a J-38 straight key obtained on ebay, mounted to a custom "wood burning project" from my son.

Thanks to all for the contacts. Really enjoyed this WES, like all before. 'Special mention
to K1LEE, nice to meet you Lee and thanks for my first SKCC home-state contact for
Connecticut. Enjoyed meeting new folks. No Centurions in the log this time around.
Thanks for the new Tribune numbers from N3EIN Matt, K2VT Randy, KA3LOC Ric, WA2OQJ Jim, AF2Z
Drew, and N3MVX Jim. And congrads to Colin K4CML....honored to help you completed your 80m
T endorsement. Again, thanks to all. 73 Phil

Today is raining on and off, seasonably warm at 50 degrees, and a frigid cold spell is approaching.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dual-Band Inverted-L Antenna

Great day! I finally had an opportunity to transform my old inverted-L antenna using an article by Dennis Monticelli, AE6C from the QSO, July 1991 article ""A simple, effective dual-band inverted-L antenna" for 160 and 80 m. I found this article in the compendium ARRL's Wire Antenna Classics, pp. 7-13 to 7-16.

This variation uses a 3/8 wave-length wire....192 feet total for the radiator. This antenna is suspended (carefully) in a huge old oak tree out back. The distance from the shack is a total of 150 feet, so my first step was to upgrade coax to RG-213U. I preserved the existing two ~ 130 foot radials, and added two additional ~ 190 foot radials. About 70 feet of the radiating element is suspended vertically by the oak, and the remaining 120 feet sloops down to the back of my house an onto the balcony off our second floor. I had hoped to 'launch' a new wire over the house, but my son lost our sling-shot, and I had no suitable potato for the potato canon (life is difficult here :)

I had planned to hook up the antenna analyzer and evaluate resonance with and without the 100 to 400 pf capacitors placed in series with the feed described in the original article. Well, it snowed last night, was cold, and the sun was setting fast (I'm whining). I hope to get to this done down the road.

A tuner and current choke sit at the base of the antenna, pictured above. Current choke is at top, MFJ remote auto-tuner turned on side in the middle, and a copper pipe terminal for the radials at bottom. Instead of home-brewing a matching system as described by AE6C in his 1991 article, I cheated by using the MFJ-927 remote auto-tuner at the base of the antenna. I also installed a DX Enginneering Feedline Current Choke. Hey, the antenna is precariously close the neighbors...I can't affort any type of feedline radiation / RF interference.

The new antenna tuned up nicely on 160, 80, and 40m. I was anxious to make a contact on 160. I was calling CQ for the SKCC weekend sprint. Richard, K2ZR was quick to answer my call and was patient with my ~12 wpm morse code. After the contact, I realized I hadn't increased my power above the 5 watt maximum for tuning!

So, new antenna, and the first contact on 160m was QRP to boot. A great day at N1Dn.

Friday, December 10, 2010

W0EP QRP on 40m tonight

Nice QRP (low power) contact with Chris, W0EP in Mississippi tonight. Chris was running a home brew transmitter at 2 watts to a G5RV up 20 feet. I was using my Yaesu FT857 at 5 watts to the cobra dipole. I'm trying to get more proficient with my keyer. Thanks for seeing through my CW errors tonight, and nice meeting u Chris. 72 Phil

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Great CW Tool

I'm always looking for new ways to improve my morse code skills and speed. This is really important during the school year, when kid's homework takes priority over radio operating. I found a great "quote of the day" podcast at Morse Resource.

Monday, December 6, 2010

ARRL 160m CW Contest

Completed my first 'official' ARRL contest. I used 100 watts to a 160m quarter wavelength inverted L suspended in the old oak in the back yard. I made 18 contacts, with 14 multipliers, for a total score of 504. This is a meager showing by most accounts, but I'm pleased to have participated and will submit my log to Newington, CT.

Thanks to everyone for the contacts:


A special thanks to K5RX in Texas. You were patient with my code, and made sure we had the exchange right! 73 Phil