Tag: CW

Monthly QRP Outing

Monthly QRP Outing

Every month the Lake Wales Amateur Radio Club has their QRP outing. It is normally at Crystal Lake Park in Lake Wales. This month was no exception. It was a really good turnout as well. 10 of my fellow hams showed up and we had 6 radios set up.

One of the goals of the monthly outing is to test new set ups you may have and this month I had one. I bought a SpiderBeam 12m (40′) push up pole. I’ve had an end fed half wave antenna for quite some time now but have not been able to use it since at the State Parks and other places I go you are not allowed to use the trees for supports. This gave me the opportunity to test my new set up.

My drive on mount consists of a 3 foot 2×12 with a floor flange and 1″ pipe, 3 feet long. I used hose clamps to mount the SpiderBeam to the pole and a bent piece of stiff wire to hold the antenna end. Instead of driving on the board I put it under a picnic table, pushed up the pole, and it worked great! I made 15 CW contacts, most of them DX on 15 meters. Since the CQ WW contest was going on, that helped quite a bit.

I can use this set-up at the State Parks and not worry about having to tie the antenna to anything. Also, if I have continued success I may sell my Buddipole system since I won’t be using it anymore. I prefer the EFHW antenna and it performs much better. I do not need a tuner on 10/20/40 meters and the KX3’s internal tuner matched the wire on 15 and 30 meters. Best part, I didn’t have to drop and raise the antenna to make band adjustments!

AE4RM Station during 2017 CQ WW

Also, since it was CQ WW weekend, I set a goal of 100 contacts. I’m not a big contester and I only operate an hour of so at a time so 100 contacts on a weekend is a lot for me. Especially since I am operating on the KX3 (I did go up to 10 watts). I also used a new logging program, Skookum Logger. It is for the Mac and worked great. It may not have all the bells and whistles of N1MM+ but I would say it is very comparable to N3FJP’s logging program. I’m still learning it but it has a lot of great features and interfaced with the KX3 and my WinKeyer with no issues at all.

Overall, it was a good ham radio weekend.

Whew…

Whew…

I thought today my QRP streak would end early. It was storming last night so I couldn’t get on the radio and this afternoon I’ll be at my daughters. That left early this morning to get my contact in.

My first contact was DX, KH6LC in Hawaii. But I had to use 10 watts to get him so not officially QRP. Then I heard JM7OLW in Japan. He never heard me until I pumped it up to 110 watts and then it was rough. But I was able to get him in the log, but still no QRP contact for the day.

So I decided to call CQ on 7055, the SKCC calling frequency with 5 watts using my J-36 key. Thankfully, after a few calls Al, N9YHF, answered me from NC. He gave me a 569 and I’ll take it. My streak goes on!

I’m going to set up my WSPRlite on 20 meters when I’m gone and see how the propagation is today.

Its only 7:20 am so I’m going to see if I can get a QRP DX call in before I have to get ready to go. Thanks for following my escapades!

 

72

One Week

One Week

My streak is continuing. I’m at one week with both a CW and CW DX contact. I wasn’t sure about today’s. Last night at 00 hour it was storming and stormed until I went to bed. Then this morning I an obligation I had to meet and when I got home I just had to lay down. When I got up, it was raining again, but I was able to get a POTA park,, KFF-3111 and my DX was Hawaii. But you think, “Roger, Hawaii is part of the US!” It is a state but as far as DXCC is concerned, Hawaii is a separate entity and has its own DXCC number and that is what I’m going by.

I hope to get back on at 00 hour today to get my contact for the 27th as tomorrow I’ll be gone most of the day visiting my daughter up in Gainesville. Its a 3 hour ride each way so most of my day will be gone.

I can hear thunder, so time to unplug again. 72 everyone!

New Page On Site – Watch My Streak

New Page On Site – Watch My Streak

I’ve added a new page to my blog site – my current streak. I’d like to thank John, K3WWP, for allowing my to copy the format he has for his 23 year streak. I’ll try to update my streak numbers daily and the stats monthly (after I figure out how the couch the numbers in MacLoggerDX).

XK150I’m on day 6 of my streak. Not only have a made a QRP CW contact for six days in a row, I’ve made a DX (log distance – out of country) contact as well with 5 watts! Today is was YK150YUKON! They have a cool QSL card I’m going to send for.

We’ll see if I can keep this streak up for a month. If I do, I’ll extend it from there. I’m taking a page from John’s notebook as well and ZI’m trying to make my contact when the UTC clock turns to 00:00 each day. Right now that is 8:00pm EDT and will be at 7:00 EST when the clocks change. It just gets it done and I don’t have to worry if its storming tomorrow or if the bands are poor.

Wish me luck as I try to continue this streak.

Going for a Record

Going for a Record

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K3WWP – John. From his QRZ page

There is an amazing ham radio operator on the bands. His name is John Shannon, K3WWP. Besides being one of the founding members of the North American QRP CW Club and FISTS  member where he wrote articles for the monthly newsletter for over 20 years, he holds the “unofficial record” for  the most consecutive days with a QRP QSO (low power contact). He is currently at day 8,419. Thats over 23 years!!!! For 23 years, everyday, he has managed to make a CW contact using less power than a nightlight. You can see his current streak on his home page.

John is also working on another record. He is currently at over 1,620 days with a DX (International) contact. Once again, over 4 years! This guy is amazing. And at 72 years young he shows no sign of slowing down.

Besides making his daily QRP contacts, John also keeps up a diary online. Notice, I didn’t say blog. He was “blogging” online before it became popular. His diary goes back to April of 2006. It is his online journal of his ham radio escapades. It is something we can all learn from.

So, if you know me, you know I like goals to shoot for. Its one of the reasons I have all the certifications I received when I was working. Its why I like the NAQCC challenges. It why I like to chase DX and get that rare QSL card. I like to have a goal in front of me that I can go for.

Am I going to break John’s record? I highly doubt it. 23 years is a long time. Yet, Being 50 as of this Thursday, and starting now, I could break his record by the time I am John’s age! Yet, I was always taught to make my goals SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. So, my first goal is to have a CW QSO every day until the end of September. Including my current streak that would put me a 37 days. A far cry from 23 years but you have heard that old saying, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Well, that 27 days will be my first bite.

In all actuality, I do not realistically think I can meet or even come close to John’s record. I can, however, set a personal best and compete against myself.

So, here is to the first step in a journey of 8,419 steps.

NAQCC-WFL Outing

NAQCC-WFL Outing

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The view from our operating position at Anclote Park

Friday I went out to Anclote Park for the monthly NAQCC-WFL outing. NAQCC-WFL stands for North America QRP CW Club – West Florida. Being in Lakeland, I can attend the WFL or FL outings as they both are just as far from me. I almost wonder if we need a Central Florida chapter, but thats a subject for a different post.

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Ron – N9EE

It was almost a 2 hour drive and I left the house a little before 7:00 am for the 9:00 meeting. The only other member that showed up was Ron, N9EE. Three members if you include Sam! It is the first time I’ve met Ron and we had a good “meeting of the chapter.”

Ron set up his FT-817 and wire dipole and I set up my KX3 and Buddipole antenna. Band conditions were not that great and we had our antennas too close as we both got interference from each other even when

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Mag Loop Antenna

on different bands. I made one solid contact to Mark, AF4NW, in North Carolina. Ron had made a few contacts. Ron also had he friends mag loop antenna and he tried that out. We were not very successful and we were not 100% sure we were tuning it right. Receive signals were a good 2-3 S-units lower than his dipole.

Overall, I had a good time. It was a long drive. In fact, drive time was greater than the time spent with the radio. Yet, I plan on attending these on a regular basis. I think its good to get out and meet other people and have some fun on the radio at the same time.

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Of course, where ever I am, Sam will not be too far away!
CWops – relearning CW

CWops – relearning CW

I’ve been accepted to CW Academy given by CWops. This is a very successful course in teaching CW and stresses head copying vs. copying onto paper. Copying onto paper is a hinderance to copying speed because you can only write so fast. I heard somewhere that you cannot write any faster than 15-20 words per minute.

I have to admit, I am struggling with this. In order to head copy you need a decent short-term memory and if you know me, you know mine is shot. For those of you who don’t know me, I am “disabled.” I was in a serious auto accident in November of 2015 that caused permeant brain damage. One of the main things caused by this is short-term memory loss (long with a host of other issues). This is making it very hard for me to copy without a pencil, even the short three letter words. I forget the first letter by the time the last letters sent. At the same time, this will help rebuild some of the pathways damaged by the accident and stretch my cognitive abilities.

The great part about CWops is they assign you an “Elmer.” For those of you uninitiated in the ways of ham radio, an Elmer is a mentor. No one really knows where the term Elmer came from. My Elmer is Ken Talbott. I wrote him last night about my frustration and we are going to meet on Skype today to discuss this. I told him under no circumstances do I want to give up but I’m not sure I can meet the expectations of the class.

Wish me luck as I try to bring my code speed up and be able to copy it better.

Putting Together a WinKeyer (MacKeyer)

Putting Together a WinKeyer (MacKeyer)

It’s been a long time since I soldered or put anything together electronic related. It used to be a regular thing for me 30 years ago when I attended DeVry (where we are serious about success) and worked in the electronics industry. It all stopped when I started working on copiers then computers where everything was board replacement.

I decided to embrace my inner geek this week and bought a kit to put together. It’s the W1EL WinKey. It seems simple enough for my first project in 30 years. All the surface mount components have already been installed and all I have to put on is the big things like buttons and connectors.

I made it through the first page with no issues. I did figure out if I continue to do kits I need a smaller solder iron and solder! The key jack, USB port and speaker are installed. Now onto the switches.

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The switches were a breeze. The next step was the RCA phono jacks that were easy to solder on too.

When I had to do the next step, solder the wires for the speed potentiometer and battery case I remembered why I hate soldering. You need a third set of hands. I was able to get it all together now on to the tests.

IT’S ALIVE!!! I put the batteries in and it passed the first test, it sent an “R” in Morse code when it got power. It passed the next test – it sent an “MT” for each button pressed (stands for eMpTy). I plugged in a key and it sent dits and dahs! All stand alone functions work. Now to test hosted mode… It worked well on MacLoggerDX. I also got it working with my contest logger, Skookum Logger, which was the primary reason I acquired the WinKeyer (in my case, MacKeyer).


The hardest part of this project was getting the cover on! The space between the battery and the RCA jacks is very tight. Like fractions on an inch tight. I had to reposition he battery in order to get everything to fit.

Overall, this was a very easy kit to put together. You just need a small soldering iron, some solder and some patience.

Taking a Forced Break

Taking a Forced Break

My luck has not been to good lately on trying to activate parks. First, my KX3 had issues just when I was getting rolling and had to go in for warranty repair.

Just as after I got it back and was going to start activating again, my truck starts giving me fits. I either have to get a "new" truck or put an engine in this one. Since I don't want a car payment, it's looking like the engine is the way to go.

Once all that is fixed, I plan on activating two parks a week. If they are close together, maybe more. I really enjoy activating an miss it even though I just started. My goal is to activate all the parks within 75 miles of my home by end of next year. That's about 80 parks.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… I've gotten active again with SKCC. I'm also a member of FISTS but have not been active with them. I'm looking into them I found out I am really close to quite a few awards and didn't even know it. I'm going to start participating more in their activities as well. I don't think I've touched my mic in a month!

As for my CW progression. Well, I've hit a wall. I just lose one letter then an avalanche of lost letters follows getting me frustrated. I can handle the SKCC exchanges with no problem, but once I'm in a rag chew, I get lost real fast.

In January, maybe earlier in September, in going to take the CW Ops classes. It's two months of intense CW training that is supposed to take you to 15 words per minute in 2 months. I've heard nothing but good things about it and it must be popular. The waiting list is about a year! I hope it helps. I'd really like to become proficient at CW.

In the meantime, I'll just keep plugging along.

Alafia River State Park – KFF-1829

Alafia River State Park – KFF-1829

Just got home from the Alafia River State Park as part of the Parks on the Air program. I even bought a yearly pass to the Florida State Parks so I can go to any park as many times as I want.

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My Operating Spot

I  just checked the log and I have 11 contacts, including 1 Canadian and 1 Ukrainian! 40 meters was a bust. SWR was all over the place with my BuddiPole but it worked flawlessly on 20. I’ll be looking into that before I go out again. My new battery worked great as well as the KX3 and PX3.

Used my KX3 paddles for the first time. Thanks everyone for being patient with my sending. I kept losing my last dit… I really have a lot of work to do to get comfortable with them. Using them is the only way to learn.

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PX3, Battery and KX3 with Paddles

Biggest issue was the guy spraying weeds for 20 mins 10 feet from me from the back of a 4×4. I know I missed 2 calls during that time I couldn’t hear.

Sam enjoyed watching the wildlife and the mountain bikers roll by. After we were there for almost two hours, and it getting up to 90 degrees, Sam looked like she was melting. I’ll have to decide if to keep bringing her with me in the summer as it is not good for her to be in the heat like that.

I’ll be going later this week to Colt Creek State Park and going to try to make a day of it by going to Fort Foster Historic Site and Hillsborough River State Park

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Sam is Melting…