Wednesday, May 31, 2006

OK quick update.

Last night, a good QSO with Louie, KB7DEL, up in Sitka, AK. My second AK QSO and first "real" one as the first one was my contact during the Spartan Sprint.

Monday night was W7AMA's first CW contact. He did GREAT for a first time, including solid copy of one of our exchanges. I love being able to do that!

Sunday a pair of QSOs with Mike, KA5REJ and Jason VE7FXY. Jason was my first Canadian CW contact.

Sunday afternoon was spent putting up wire antennnas at Jim's, K9YC, house in Bonny Doon. A Chicago native, who now has 8.5 acres with redwoods, is really looking forward to putting up an antenna farm.

The slingshot launcher broke, so I gave a several hour long demonstration of what can be done with a water bottle and rope. His 10/15/20m fan dipole went up about 25' (double what it was). And his 40/80 trap dipole is probably closer to 30-35'. (Triple what it was). Plus the orientation is better. He still has room to double those heights once he finds a "real" launcher.

Saturday I played at the WPX CW contest. My goal was 5 contacts. The contest speeds were too fast for me, so I picked out a couple of stations and did the best I could. One of those stations was KF6A, who is actually Bob, K6XX across the valley. He's a big contester who is a local "nice guy." I whipped off an email when I realized who it was and got a really nice, classy note back. Even during the contest when he was trying for 1000 QSOs.

Part of Saturday was also spent trying to get on 6m. A roundly frustrating experience. I can't hear anything. Not on the G5RV, Not on the loop, not on a homebrew 6m delta loop I threw together. Whaa! Oh well. As JV says, improvements can always be made.

OK, that's all I have time for.

73 de WyreRider

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hello all,

Busy week as always. Good QSO tonight with Al, WA7UQE in Longview, WA.

Hope to make 5 contest contacts this weekend.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hi, BearCreekHam, I'm in, finally. Will do more in depth after a while.
Cheers, Altos Mom

Monday, May 15, 2006

Made it into the "Gordo" net this morning on the way into work.

Also a quick 9AM Talk Net check-in.

Also got into the Noontime net. But the rig was dimming again. Plus the SWR was high to the hamstick. Gotta work that out one of these days... I have this nagging urge to get a set of paddles or a key for the mobile rig... I guess CW really is addictive.

This evening I practiced CW with Sam, KE6ZRW on 2m.


I've decided that my apparent "reduction" in speed was actually a symptom of working into faster QSOs.

The keyer is set to 15 WPM and I've been spacing for about 12-13 (I think). As I've had more QSOs I've probably been "ooching" up in speed. Thus the reduction in copy percentage.

That's OK, I can live with that. To double check my theory I ran a couple sessions of Morse Runner and I'm at 13 QSOs in 15 minutes. Which is where I was. But now, I'm just barely getting denied moving to 14 where as before it was lucky if I made 13.

Short term goals:

Mid-term goals:


Time for bed.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sorry for no updates for a couple of days.

Life was really busy.

Let's see. Wednesday...

Nobody wanted to be Net Control for the 9AM Talk Net. So I did it mobile for the 20 minutes from 17 & 85 to work. Did OK, but had really bad luck on call signs breaking. It was really hard to pick them off. Oh well. Nobody else stepped up and I did a reasonable job.

Thursday. A yearly celebration. Was volunteered to give the "2 way radio" segment to the SLV CERT training class. It ran about 1/2 an hour and from the questions it seemed like the class was fully engaged and learning well. wo0t!

Friday. Had a doctor's appointment, which I messed up and missed by a week... Anyhow made for a really productive Friday ham-wise. Four. Count them four contacts on Friday.

There is a FISTS sprint today, so if I get a spare hour, I'll try that.

Gotta go put my QSL cards in the mail now...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I've been fighting radio frequency noise issues for some time.

I've already hunted down the two biggest culprits, a battery charger (heard from 1/4-1/2 mile away) and a light dimmer switch.

That's taken the noise from 20 to 40 dB over S9 down to "just S9."

In a concerted effort this afternoon I also located a treadmill as a significant source of noise. Leaving me a significant dilemma...

I've still got hum.

If I put an AM radio near any of the three antennas' coax, I get significant hum.

If I run the radio off of battery and disconnect the earth ground the hum mostly goes away. (The entire system is floating at that point). As soon as I connect the "black" lead back to a power supply, or reconnect the earth ground, the hum comes back.

Now given the "construction techniques" used in this house, I wouldn't rule out hum on the house ground. But JV and I pounded in 4 eight-foot copper rods into my front yard. They are connected together with two pieces of 6? or 8? gauge copper wire, one of which continues into the shack. I believe the "earth ground" is about as good as you're going to get in these mountains without the addition of chemicals to the soil or a pond (hmmm... two hobbies with one project... gotta remember that one.)

I'm guessing that I'm getting AC hum into the system someplace(s) and when it sees a path to ground (either house or earth) it makes itself known.

With everything unplugged and the system floating, the 40m band is glitteringly alive with signals. I don't normally hear that (contest or not). It normally sounds sort of muted or muffled.


Rig: Icom IC-706MkIIg.
Power: Astron 30A and 88 A-hr battery in parallel through a PowerGate
Antennas: HF #1 G5RV Jr, HF #2 ~170' circumference vertical loop, VHF/UHF Diamond D130 Discone, VHF packet, dual-band j-pole.


Was characterizing my loop antenna and blew up the antenna analyzer.

Bands are mostly dead, but 40m is active. But all contesters going way faster than I can cope with.



Friday, May 05, 2006

Thursdays are self-declared "QRP in the Park" days around here.

I had some very painful surgery earlier this year and since I spent a lot of the recovery time learning Morse code and reading the ARRL's QRP book, I bought myself a Yaesu FT-817ND as a "get well" present.

So pretty much every Thursday when work and weather cooperate, Craig (AE6RR) and I head to Murphy park in Sunnyvale for some QRP in the sunshine.

This morning I heard K6OTT on the 9am Talk Net announce that he was going "LunchPacking" I quickly chimed in with a "me too."

I arrived at Murphy park about 12:10. Joanne, KG6TJJ, was already there. She had heard the comments on the 9am Talk Net and was curious about portable operation and how to run a FT-817.

I quickly set-up, demonstrating equipment and explaining things between bites of sandwich.

There was a choice of antennas. I had both a Pac-12 and an end fed 1/2 wave wire & counterpoise for 40m with me. Running a bit late, as usual, I felt the wire would go up faster.

Luck was with me. The first try using the "water bottle sling" launching method went over the desired tree branch, 25-30' up. That put the antenna in an inverted-U. Figuring that "the more wire, the higher, the better" and my luck was holding, I made another successful launch and had the entire inverted L 20-30' up.

The set-up was a FT-817ND, a EM-2 tuner and a 7 A-hr gel cell for power. I used the stock mic and an Astatic for SSB and PalmPaddles for CW.

The bands weren't in really good shape. The first thing we did was make sure we got a contact with Andreas, K6OTT. We really had to pull him out of the noise. Since it was Joanne's first 20m contact she was tickled pink. She was very glad it was you and on equipment like she had at home. Andreas had helped her out with her equipment so it was a triple win!

Since Joanne was newer than I, I gave her a bit of a guided tour of 20m. We had solid copy on the maritime net and county hunters, but didn't hear the
DX net or the SSTV guys. Weird!

Once I determined that 20m wasn't going to happen, I went down to 40m and
checked into the noon-time net. I got a resigned tone from the net
control when checking in QRP... The signal _is_ pretty hard to copy in
Reno... :-(

We dropped back to 20m just in time to hear Andreas calling CQ on CW. He was doing 599 where we were. It was a REALLY nice demonstration of the difference between CW and SSB for Joanne.

Three contacts, weird bands, learning experiences, great weather.

What more can you ask? (More contacts perhaps?)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

This evening's CW QSO was with Doug, WC7C in Ephrates, WA.

Good check in to the noontime net from my car. Low power still got a "good signal" report from net control.

The SWR on the hamstick was a minimum of 1.8:1, quickly rising above that in "reasonable" parts of the band. I'll need to revisit that once I have the mobile mount issues straightened out.

Bedtime... PAST bedtime.


This evening's CW QSO was with Bob, KE7BAW from Wilderville, OR

If I received correctly he was using a 400 foot long antenna. W00t!!!

I also checked in to the noontime net from my car. For some reason the display lights were dimming when I transmitted. Wonder why?

I'll bring out the antenna analyzer and power "toy" and trouble shoot it tomorrow.

Monday, May 01, 2006


From 5/1

Spartan Sprint
The first Monday of every month the Adventure Radio Society holds a two hour long contest, the Spartan Sprint. I had wanted to do it last month, but some family commitment or another got in the way.

This month I got a kitchen pass, and was good to go. The original concept was to set up in some park or another and operate from outside. However real life intervened, the hours ran out, so I decided to operate QRP from my home station, but using the FT-817 instead of the Icom-706.

Yeah right. The FT-817 was OK, but it was getting KILLED by QRN/QRM. So I punted back to the Icom 706 with the power turned all the way down.

My goal going in to my first Spartan Sprint, (and first real contest outside of field day) was ONE contact.

I started on 15m. Not much happening. Tried 40m and 20m. Boy those folks are sending FAST. Signals aren't too bad. Finally found a clear station that I could JUST BARELY copy. KL7CW. I botched the exchange the first time, but got it right the second time.
With that under my belt I started looking for my second contact of the contest. Came back to a station, but he has looking for a normal QSO rather than a contest contact.

Being the rawchewer that I am, I punted on the last 15 minutes of the contest to have a nice long QSO with Stan NY6G, from Alameda, CA.

Anyhow. I was basically pretty clueless on the contest, but learned a little. Having gotten over the initial hump, I'll shoot for 10 contacts next month.

Also, firmly determed that manual antenna tuning really bites during contests...

Finally as I was recovering for the evening I also had another good rag chew with Dave W6NFU, from Saugus, CA.

From 4/30

The loop adventure
I've been wanting to put up another antenna for a long while. I inally settled on a 1/2 wave vertical antenna for 40m. 1/2 wave verticals "in theory" don't need radials. Since I don't have a lot of room for radials that seemed like a good idea.

The plan was to shoot a line over the oak tree on my property and suspend the 1/2 wave vertical from the top of the tree. I figured that if the feedpoint was elevated I might even get away with 4 short radials to make it a 1/4 wave on 80m too.

So after a couple of abortive shots with the slingshot, I get the line over the perfect top of the tree. But I also got a nice branch about half way up going up and another one about halfway down on the way down.

Looking up at the configuration, I had a perfect set up for a diamond, vertical loop. It needed to be about 140 feet in circumference in order to be reasonant on 40m. Unfortunately it wound up 25 feet short of being able to "close the loop."


So I put the additional 25 feet in and hope that it plays OK. I haven't been able to characterize the antenna yet, but the antenna tuner loads it up and it seems to have a couple of dB over the G5RV Jr on 20m. "It works"

Evening contact
Fate favored me with a nice contact on Sunday evening. Roy, WQ9Z, from Il was an excellent FISTS ambassador. I've been meaning to join FISTS ever since my initial abortive attempt to learn CW more than a year ago. I'll join the next time I sit down to write checks. The FISTS folks have an even higher percentage of "good folks" than the CW community at large.

My "old fashioned" ham goal
Deep down at heart I'm a people person. I love to ragchew. Neither the DX or contest bugs have bitten yet.

On the other hand I love doing public events. The Adventure Radio Society seems like the "bee's knees" to me. Frankly, I like Field Day better than I like Christmas. No... REALLY!

So other than to use CW for QRP "out in the field" I didn't really have a ham related goal for it. Now I do.

Working All States, CW only. It is a good "old school" ham goal. It will help me get serious about logging and QSL cards. (Which I also *love* to send out...)

So, now I have two goals...

Goal #1: 500 CW contacts. One per day, two on weekends.
Goal #2: Worked All States using only CW.

That should keep me off the streets!

73 de WyreRider

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