Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 24, 011
30 Degrees, Clear Skys, Cool Wind from the North

On the Eve of Christmas I hiked into Penwood State Park located in Bloomfield, Connecticut.   Less than 1/4 mile from the parking lot, you can take the Metacomet Trail to a nice peak for portable radio operation.   I have to thank all those who worked to restore the trail after this past October's winter storm.  You can still see the extent of damage to the native forest.   Fortunately, the Metacomet Trail path was well cleared.....many had obviously put  in a lot of work.

I packed the Yaesu 817, Par Endfedz 20-40 antenna, and a 7 amp hour SLA battery for the short hike.  This was the first time I took along my American Morse Porta Paddle II assembled from a kit, along with their small (yet heavy) base.  I took longer untangling the wire antenna than getting everything else on the air.    Within 2 minutes of hitting the ON button, I made contact with W0AEW, Art in Colorado.   Next up was VE7KBN, Ken in British Columbia.    There was quite a bit of noise on the band (QRN) and I was surprised by a trail runner showing up at my site looking for directions.   I got Ken's information, and hope that I'm in his log.  Sitting out in the woods alone with headphones on and working Morse code has a bit of Zen to it...until somebody (something) unexpected shows up at your side.   At 30 degrees it wasn't a bear, and a friendly trail runner was a better option.  Finally, I had a nice 2 way contact (QSO) with VE3PMQ, Gary in Windsor Ontario.   We were both using low power (QRP) and wire antennas.

The toes got cold and it was time to hike back for lunch (hey, it's winter vacation).   Before the stores closed early for Christmas eve, I made a quick run to the local hardware store for a 99 cent power cord spindle.   This will handle the Endfedz antenna nicely for future easy setup and 'wrap-up'.

Thanks to Art, Ken, and Gary for some nice QRP contacts from the Metacomet Trail.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Casual contesting and then some

This weekend was a "casual contesters" dream.  I operated mostly CW during the ARRL 10 meter contest.  I made more 10 meter contacts in 2 hours than in the last 4 years, propagation and motivation all accounted for.  It was fun meeting local 10 meter "neighbors" here in Connecticut the first night of the contest.  This includes Sean, KX9X, ARRL Contest Branch Manager.  Next was the SKCC Weekend Sprint, a 24 hour straight key event.  I managed to make my usual meager showing of around 10 contacts.    I did use the event, and lots of CW stations calling, to try out my future hiking setup of a Yaesu 817 and Par End Fedz 20/40 wire antenna.   It took about 10 minutes to deploy the antenna using a 31' jackite pole, and my garbage can made for a handy operating position...   The 817 tuned wonderfully on the CW portions of 20 meters and 40 meters without a hitch.  No tuner required.  Thanks to  W9DLN, WW30, K2PAY, and W9HLY for answering my QRP call.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I had a nice CW QSO with another Phil, WA9FZP this past spring. Great custom QSL Phil. I think lighthouses are great, and this gave me an opportunity to learn more about the Wind Point Lighthouse. I see from their website that active / ongoing restoration is in progress. The fog horn building look really unusual. They have a nice virtual tour on-line.
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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Small Buzzing Sound from Bee #150

Bumble Bee #150 made a showing today....not great...but hey.... I got on the air. I was planning to operate from one of the local state parks. However, I had an opportunity to hike with the family trumped radio. After we got home, Flight of the Bumble Bees was in full swing. I hiked (ok...walked) into the woods behind our house, and set up my newly build Norcal Doublet, MFJ switchable balun, using a 31' Jackite pole. Thanks again Pete, W1PNS, for your guidance AND ribbon to build this great portable antenna.

I was curious to see how my construction fared. I hooked up an MFJ antenna analyzer, and was pleased to see resonance around 7.150 MHz. The antenna tunes nicely on the CW portion of 10m, 15m, 20m, and 40m using a Z-11 autotuner.

I'm happy to report the NorCal doublet saw it's "first radio waves" today with three contacts during Flight of the Bumble Bees.

N1FJ - Frandy, Bumble Bee # 104
K3RLL - Don, Bumble Bee #94
VE2PID - Pierre in Quebec

Buzzing back to work tomorrow, but already thinking of great locations to deploy the new antenna....

Friday, July 29, 2011

Talcott Mountain State Park

73 Degrees, Cloudy, Misting
The weather forecast called for rain, all day. Not a great day to play radio in the mountains. But, the morning was notable only for lots of clouds, and a little mist now and then. I don't have a lot of free time to hike with radio gear, so I didn't want to let this opportunity slip by.

Talcott mountain is an approximate 950 foot peak in Central Connecticut, located just several miles away from my home. You can park halfway up and then hike up a well maintained path to the ridge with great views. The Farmington River Valley extends out below. I set up my Yaesu 817 & Buddistick. There was not a lot of room to maneuver, no trees overhead to launch support line for dipole...the Buddistick worked great.

I began calling CQ on 20 m. Heard lots of signals, but no answers to my CQ. I decided to find some strong stations, and try to get a call at the end of their contact.

WA4IUC - Ray in North Carolina
W4HEX - Will in Alabama. Always great to make contact with my home state.

The clouds came closer, and mist started to fall. Time to pack up and head home!

All in all, a nice outing to Talcott Mount.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shake-Down Hike on the Metacomet Trail

I had big plans to head out early this Sunday for QRP (low power) radio operating on the Metacomet Trail as it runs through Penwood State Park, here in Central Connecticut. Well, things got more interesting when sunrise met with rain. Finally, a break in the heat!

I'm not interested in dragging electronics out in the rain, BUT this was a great time to build a new antenna. Enter my Massachusetts neighbor, Pete, W1PNS. Pete is a blogger extraordinaire, fine builder in the New England QRP Club, and a very generous fellow ham. Among Pete's many great blog posts, I learned of the NorCal Doublet. This is a lightweight version of the quarter wavelength dipole fashioned from computer ribbon cable. Perfect for launching into trees and getting on the air. Well, W1PNS had kindly sent me a portion of his ribbon cable stock, and it's been sitting on the workbench waiting for this rainy day.

Our home driveway serves three distinct purposes (1) get car into garage, (2) basketball court for kids, (3) ham radio antenna construction range for long wire antennas. Using the above web references, I was able to quickly fashion a balanced line fed dipole for 40 meters in the driveway, while dodging my wife's run in the minivan to pick up bagels for breakfast.

The rain continued on and off through mid afternoon. I got restless, and decided to head out on the Metacomet to scout for an operating position for next week's Flight of the Bumblebees. I think I found a pretty good site with boulder operating position, elevation, trees for shade a antenna support. The rain persisted, so my Yankee version of the Norcal Doublet has not seen radio "first light" just yet. ....Looking forward to next weekend.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I had an opportunity to briefly participate in this year's QRP-ARCI "Homebrew Sprint". I wasn't using homebrew equipment, but managed to make a qrp (low power) morse code contact with Jim, W4QO out of Georgia. I was completing QSL cards later on, and learned from Jim's QRZ'ed site that he is past present of QRP-ARCI, and was voted 2010 "Ham of the Year". Wow! A real VIP QSO.
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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Winding down

Winding two toroids for the MFJ Cub 40 transceiver kit. This doesn't seem to be that difficult. I must be doing something wrong. We'll see.....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


76 degrees, some rain, could spring really be here? Goldfinches recently appeared at the bird feeders.

Hey, an incredible thank you to WL7WH, Bob in Anchorage, for a fine business QSO this first Alaska contact. I was tuning the bands for SKCC contacts, and just by chance heard Bob calling CQ on 30 meters. We had fine copy throughout, with a little QSB toward the end. Certainly an important contact for my log. Now I just have Hawaii and Rhode Island left for WAS. I guess it's kind of ironic that one state is next door and the other half way around the world. 'Just goes to show that so many factors go into making the contact beyond time zones, work schedules, and density of radio operators.

I enjoyed the recent ARRL website article by James Kocsis, WA9PYH entitled "On Ham's Bucket List". I sincerely hope to have have a lot of time to achieve my own bucket list. The article did get me to thinking about "short term" radio goals for the rest of 2011. Here's my list:

-Attic Yagi for 10, 15, 20m from the ARRL Antenna Compendium
-Complete 40m vertical with elevated radials
-Make an AO-51 contact using my FT-60 handheld
-Get digital modes up and running
-ARRL 20 wpm qualifying run, 25 wpm by end of year!

Now that I've put these into print....let's see how I fare for the next 8 months. Finally, I planted a seed for a future QSL card. More about that later this summer.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

N4KGL QRP: N4KGL Radio Beacon Rocket Feb 12th Launch Report

N4KGL QRP: N4KGL Radio Beacon Rocket Feb 12th Launch Report: "Thanks to all who were listening for the N4KGL/B beacon on 14.060 MHz which was launched at 1730 UTC on Saturday Feb 12th from the SouthEast..."

Greg, Fine Business on your Rocket Launch. I'm sorry that I missed it, and hope to follow along here and catch future launch(es). 'Great to see that a fellow SKCC neighbor WA2OQJ in Long Island logged your beacon. 73 Phil

Paradise in the Logbook

I was able to check into the 80 meter OMISS net Monday. I've gotten away from SSB lately, but it was good to touch base with the organization that got me started in Ham Radio. Thanks to all for the calls, including KI6WOX, Mike in Paradise, California!

Stations Worked:

KA8YIT Ohio 4/4
W5JDF Texas 5/5
WA4HBQ North Carolina 5/9
K8BEC West Virginia 5/9
WA8HHE Michigan 5/9
KI6WOX California 3/3
W0VD Missouri 5/9
NN1G New Hampshire 5/9
KG5B Texas 3/3

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Night Call" - Chapter 15

"Phone calls at 1:30 in the morning mean one of two things. A relative or close friend has died, or there's a new one on!" pg. 124

Great Quote!

I'm really enjoying "The Complete DX'er" 3rd edition by Bob Locher, W9KNI

Monday, February 28, 2011


I had the pleasure of a CW QSO with Burt, F6HKA again today. A glance at the log shows I've contacted F6HKA four times now....the first three times on 20 meters. Today was our fist 17m QSO. I've never met Burt....never been to France. If I had the pleasure one day, I would thank him for being a great radio operator, great fist for CW, great signal, matches my code speed, and a consummate gentleman. QRZed lookup shows F6HKA to be ~ 5700 km from West Hartford, CT. His strong (RST = 599) signal and pleasant manner make it seem like talking with your neighbor over the fence. Of course, he is on the other side of the world! This is what makes ham radio so much fun. Thanks Bert.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jupiter Tonight

Observing Jupiter with Ben, using our 6" Dobsonian reflector. We were a little late, as the planet was fast disappearing behind trees on the mountain to our west. Ben encouraged me to look anyway. We had a nice view of the planet, a hint of bands, and Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede. A check of Pocket Universe showed that Io was to become visible separate from the disc of Jupiter at around 2334z. All was out of our view by that time. Man, that would have been neat.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Storm Benedict

Winter storm "Benedict" left 22.5" snow. Not much radio activity today. The ladder line feeding the dipole is about 1 foot below surface. No difference in performance that I can tell.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Studies on Solar Disturbances

An issue of QEX turned up on the kitchen counter last week....thought it was new....but turned out to be Jan/Feb 2010 that must have gotten misplaced around the house. It's no coincidence that I turned to the "Amateur Radio Astronomy Projects" article by Jon Wallace. He's written a wonderful series of articles on this topic over the past several years. This is a great partnership of several of my interests, and I'm working to learn more here. I'm using Evernote web based software to keep track of my personal notes, and the multitude of web resources on this topic.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tuna Tin Transmitter Trouble Shooting


That's a mouthful. This is the second electronics kit that Ben and I worked on together as a father/son project. Our first kit was a robotic crab....some kit I found on a website. The circuit board is cut out in the shape of a crab, has two flashing led eyes, and it runs along the floor toward a light source. We were lucky. It worked the minute we powered it up.

The 2 Tinned Tuna kit was our second attempt. We weren't so lucky this time. We did have a lot of fun. One of us would run the soldering iron, the other the solder. Sometimes Ben would tackle a componet all by himself. We fired up the transmitter recently, feeding into a home-brew dipole cut for 40 meters. Ben used our home Yaesu 857d as a receiver. I sent my call sign on 7.030. Well...we get a strong carrier right on 7.030, but instead of a nice CW tone, we get a harsh, buzzing sound. I was bummed, and Ben was ......well....."Dad I told you this thing wasn't going to work". Maybe it was the tuna fish tin and label that took away his faith. For me, it was part of the Maine charm of this kit.

I inspected each of the soldering joints; they all looked fine. I check our compoents to ensure we installed them correctly. Finally, I traced the circuit with a multi-tester and everything seems in order. It's not going to be that easy, I see. I was able to get the original Tuna Transmitter article by the late Doug DeMaw form the QST Archives, . While have a build that's not working is not 'great', I can see the fun associated with the whole process. The design from my kit has evolved since the original 1976 article, DeMaw does list DC and radio frequency RMS voltages on his schematic. to build an RF probe and dummy load.....