Sunday, July 10, 2016

IARU HF World Championship contest

I always enjoy participating in this contest and in years gone past it allowed me add to my DXCC list. This year was a whole other story.......I was only able to contact and hear Canadian and U.S stations only. I came across a VE2 station calling CQ and he sounded like a distant DX station! I was not sure if it was just my station not hearing any Europe stations. I decided to listen in on a few of the big gun U.S station to see who they were contacting. The stations I choose to listen in on were contacting fellow U.S and Canadian stations only.  I made 10 or so contacts all on 20m and with 5 watts QRP.  My station setup was the Elecraft K3, MFJ 1788 loop antenna on the balcony, N1MM+ logging software and Win4K3 Suit rig control software. Also I use MRP40 CW decoding software for the "machine gun" code senders. I found in this contest the top end code speed was in around 35 wpm so no decoding software was needed. I have not been on the radio much as work has been very busy once again. It was nice to sit down and get on the rig again, I knew it had been a long time away from the radio when I wanted to spot a CW station and I had to actually look and look for the spot button on the rig!

Friday, July 1, 2016

In the park with 5 watts, KX3 and new Endfed antenna

My outdoor shack 
I had this past Thursday off work and it was time to take my KX3 out on the trail again. In my last outing I used mono band whip antenna that was mounted on my bike along with a counterpoise. After giving this setup several tries I came to the conclusion that it was time to look at another setup option. I ordered the Endfed 40-6m antenna and it came in last week and it was now time to give it a go. To get the Endfed 40-6m antenna up on a tree branch I used an idea that was emailed to me by a fellow ham. I purchased some golfballs, closed ended "eye" hooks that are threaded on one end,  carabiners and rope. The "Eye hook is screwed into the golfball, one side of the carabiner is hooked onto the eye  and the rope is loop knotted and the other side of the carabiner is hooked onto the rope loop. I chose to use  a double sided carabiner at both ends of the antenna as it allows me to fast connect and disconnect without playing around with knots. I think using the golf ball is great as it has some
Golfball setup 
weight to it and is smooth on all sides allowing it pass through leaves and not getting hung up on branches. This method worked great for me and I was able to have good control with regards to placing the golfball in the tree right where I wanted it. Once the rope was in the tree I pulled the Endfed antenna up into the tree and got down to working the bands. When using this style of antenna I was informed that an antenna tuner is a must but I wanted to check out the SWR without using my tuner.
10m                    Frequency                    SWR
                           28.020                          3.8
                           28.060                          3.8
                           21.020                          2.9
                           21.060                          2.9
                           14.020                         3.8
                           14.060                         3.8
                           7.020                           8.4
                           7.040                           8.4
The antenna was mounted in a sloper configuration the high end at about 20 feet off the ground and the other end ground mounted. The tuner in the KX3 was able to bring all bands but 40m to a flat match, I was able to get 40m down to 1.5. The bands were very quite but I did spend some time
Anchor point 
calling CQ with the goal of checking the Reverse Beacon Network when I got home to see how my signal faired. I was not heard by any European stations but I was spotted on all bands by stations south of the boarder. The Solar conditions have not been all that great lately so I was very pleased with these results. I plan on heading out again on Saturday morning and this time my plan is to try to get the antenna higher up so a portion of my antenna is not at ground level. Since the weekend is here and I hope the bands will be more busy maybe a contact or two would be nice as well.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

If at first you don't succeed try try again!

Well here we are once again trying to get the portable ham radio setup going. My first attempt was to place one of my mono band whips on my bike and set out a counter poise. It was with mixed results, the SWR was sometimes all over, there was a TX error message now and again on my KX3 and basically frustration trying to get it to work. So if at first you don't succeed try try again. Last week I was online searching again for another way to get my portable op's on the air. I was looking for something that was easy to deploy, was portable and worked! My interest has gone toward the Endfed  antennas. I was looking at LNR's antennas and then I came across the Endfed 40-6m antenna by Steve W1SFR. I shot him some questions regarding the antenna and he got back to me right away with the answers. His Endfed seems to be very well built using Wireman "silky" 18 gauge wire which I have used in the past and been very happy with. There was a nice noticeable quality in both the wire connections and the 9:1 unUn. The antenna is only 35 feet but you do need about 25 feet of coax to act as a counter poise. Also your rig needs to have an antenna tuner (mine does) to get the benefit of 6m-40m with only a 35' antenna and no traps. Also it was nice to see on his web site a link to purchase his antenna including shipping to VE3 land. The shipping was super reasonable the total came to 67.00 U.S. Steve also mentions that his price includes handling as well. Other sites I had gone to being very interested in their antenna to only find out the shipping at times was either 1/2 or more of the price of the antenna. There was lots of positive reviews on Eham about Steve's antenna  as well. I put some items I am not using in the shack sold them very fast and the funds were in place so I have placed my order and waiting for it to arrive. I have the 25' of coax on hand but I do have to head out to the hardware store for some rope 1/8" nylon rope. Then I'm thinking of placing a water bottle with some sand it it as a weight to get the rope up and over a tree branch.....that is going to take some practice!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A slight change of plans.....

The test setup 
I was out today once again with my portable operations but this time there was no on air time it was time to test and decide. I went out with my MFJ antenna analyzer, mobile whip antennas and various lengths of counter poise. I wanted to see where my 20m mobile whip antenna was resonant and using the MFJ analyzer was the easiest way of doing this. The counter poise for 20m I started with was 17.5 feet long and the SWR was not showing it was resonant in the CW portion of the band but in the SSB section. So I found I have to lengthen the counter poise to 30 feet to get the SWR to 1.2:1 in the CW portion of 20m. This got me to thinking if the mobile whip was the way to go, I did have these antennas hanging around and I wanted to give them a go to see what results I would get. They are still very useful to me when I operate portable mobile from the car and they preform very well in that situation. I wanted to try the whip  antenna as I felt it would be a very small footprint of an antenna but with a counter poise of 30 feet the footprint is larger than I would like. From most of my blog reading about portable trail operation, NPOTA operations and just plan old out in the park for the day operation hands down most of the time the antenna of choice was one of LNR's par end fed antenna's.   I have looked over the antennas at LNR Precisions site and not sure yet which antenna to get, I am leaning toward the EF-20 as it's not as long (33') as say the other models. I'm really not going to use 40m and I figure (but not sure) I can use the Elecraft KX3's tuner to operate 15 and 10M?? Any feedback about this antenna or others would be appreciated.