Tag Archives: arsib

Field Day

My Field Day adventure started on Tuesday, 23 June. I finished the final touched to the eARSIB and then through every possible item I thought I might need (minus a 25 pin to 9 pin cable for a Kantronics KPC-3+ which I will talk about later) in a total of 3 footlockers. I packed up the truck, loaded up the dog and was on the road by 10:30am. There was good APRS coverage on my route along I-80 up until western Nebraska where I encountered an almost 200 mile gap. Once I hit Cheyenne, I was back in APRS coverage. My stop for the first night was Laramie, Wyoming, which I made before sunset.

The next day I pushed on west. While in western Wyoming I was able to check into the 40M Sparkle Net (7262 kHz) and talk with Dave, KE0DL, back in Leavenworth, Kansas. I also noticed on my GPS that one of the APRS stations was moving along I-80 the same direction that I was going. I gave a short call on the 2M National Simplex frequency and got a reply. We had both started the drive in Wyoming but parted ways in Salt Lake; he headed south on I-15 to Vegas, I kept west on I-80. I enjoyed the drive through eastern Utah. Park City, Utah is a place I had spent a lot of time skiing about twenty years ago. I’d been there often in the winter, but this was the first time seeing it during the summer.

Traffic was heavy through Salt Lake City and I did my best to make my way around the city as quickly as possible. West of the Great Salt Lake, I had an interesting HF QSO with a gentleman in Southern California who was using an Elecraft K3 with an the diminutive MT-1 antenna. My initial plan was to spend the night in Winnemucca, Nevada but upon arriving discovered they had me on the second floor in a non-pet room. Instead of hauling my footlockers up a flight of stairs I decided to push on to Fernley, Nevada (just east of Reno) where I found a great hotel with a first floor room I could practically back my truck up into. The dog liked it too.

Thursday morning I worked my way up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas, listening to a few 40M nets. I reached the Sonora Pass around noon and enjoyed the view. The dog a I hiked up to a nearby plateau and took in the view.

After traveling down the western side of the mountains I was able to raise my dad, KD6EUG, on a repeater near his cabin in Mi-Wuk Village. California Hwy 108 wound its way down from Sonora Pass. The drive was spectacular along the scenic route and traffic was sparse. I rolled down the windows and opened the sun roof to take in gorgeous day. Reaching the cabin in Mi-Wuk, both the dog and I got to strech our legs and rest up. Thursday night we assembled the gear that would become a permanent station at the cabin: an IC-706MKIIG, LDG Z-11 Pro, RIGblaster PnP, IC-208H, all powered by an Icom PS-125. In addition to the radio gear, the station would also integrate a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station, beaconing the weather data view APRS.

To simplify the APRS setup in the cabin, I decided to use a special add-on piece of equipment from Davis specifically designed to be used for APRS – the WeatherLink APRS streaming data logger. The data logger, once configured, streams weather data directly to a TNC, eliminating the need for a computer (or UI-View32). With this setup, it was not necessary to leave a computer running to keep the weather station pushing data to the TNC and VHF radio. The weather data is formated by the data logger to be ready for transmission into APRS. The station also has a laptop which I installed the WeatherLink software that would allow me to configure the APRS data logger. Configuring the data logger was pretty straight forward. Setting the parameters in the TNC to grab the data loggers APRS weather info proved a bit more challenging. The challenge was further compounded by my forgetting to pack the 25 pin to 9 pin cable that connects the laptop to the Kantronics KPC-3+ TNC.

The real work started Friday. The first task was completing the installation of a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station on the cabin roof. That was done without much trouble.

The next step would be to get the weather data out via APRS using the IC-208H paired with the Kantronics KPC-3+ TNC and the Davis APRS streaming data logger. With the lack of a good cable to use between the laptop and TNC as well as not knowing exactly what parameters were need in the TNC we decided that task would have to wait until after Field Day.

Now it was time to string some antennas. The first was a 132′ dipole which ran N/S. I’d packed my CVS19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher (aka tennis ball launcher) which helped us position the antenna up about 40′.

Next we strung a G5RV going E/W. This is the same G5RV I bought from a fellow ham when I lived back in Virginia. He had never used it and I had used the antenna only once while running a special event station at Fort Monroe.

It quickly became apparent that we could not both operate using both antennas due to their proximity to each other and surrounding powerlines prevented us from placing the antennas end to end in order to minimize interference. The solution: my dad’s Force 12 Sigma 5. The problem: the antenna was back in San Jose. So Friday night consisted of my dad traveling back to the Bay Area to retrieve the vertical antenna while I continued to configure the laptop (N3FJP Field Day networked logging software, Digipan for PSK-31, and the Davis Weatherlink program) in addition to setting up my operating position on the back deck of the cabin.

My operating position setup consisted of a 10′x10′ pop-up shelter (with mosquito net) and a large table with comfortable folding chair. Inside the shelter I placed a large table with the eARSIB and my station’s laptop.

I verified that the laptops at either operating position (the one inside the cabin and mine outside on the deck) could communicate via WiFi using the N3FJP software: it worked like a charm. The software allows two (or more) operating positions to share one log. Each operator gets to see the combined log and is notified of potential dupes.

Saturday morning my dad arrived back from the Bay Area and we setup the Sigma 5.

My operating position on the deck had the antenna connections for both the G5RV and the Sigma 5, my dad’s position had the 132′ ladderline-fed dipole. Interference between the two positions was sometimes a problem. I could use the Sigma 5 vertical on 20M, 15M, and 10M as long as my dad stayed on 80M or 40M (as long as I wasn’t on 15M). While this slowed down operations a bit, it gave us time to take plenty of breaks. My dad started Field Day by working PSK-31 on 20M. I worked phone contacts on 15M and 10M. Later my dad switched to phone, which he really started to enjoy.

10M and 15M were really incredible. I was able to work all the way to the East Coast and up and down the West Coast. For dinner, I BBQ’d some brauts. By midnight we were both exhausted and decided to get some rest.

I enjoyed using my eARSIB. This is the first time I used a foot pedal for my PTT – paired with a Heil headset. That worked great, allowing me to use both hands on the keyboard. I had been unable to configure the West Mountain RIGtalk to work on my laptop – not sure why. But it wasn’t too hard to just flip the band in the logging software. I had not used my Logikey CMOS4 Keyer in some time. I paired it with my Vibroplex paddle and the two worked well together. I enjoyed a few QRS CW QSOs – thank you for those who took the time to slow down for me. I had picked up a marine battery to use with my PWRgate and that worked well.

Sunday I got up after four hours of sleep and started working 80M using the G5RV.

The G5RV worked nicely and I contacted stations from Western Canada down to Southern California and Arizona. I moved up to 40M and expierenced similar results – but was also able to work a station in Japan. My dad was up soon and started to work on 80M and 40M with the 132′ dipole while I switched to the vertical and worked stations on 20M. By about 11:30am we were both pretty much spent. Overall we made about 250 contacts, mostly phone but also a few PSK-31 and CW…. and we had a great time!

KD6EUG Brags About The Number of QSOs He Made

We slept well Sunday night and Monday morning had me back working on the Kantronics KPC-3+/Davis weather station. The biggest problem I was having was figuring out what value to use for the GPSHEAD parameter. Without the correct value, the KPC-3+ was not grabbing the weather data. GPSHEAD would pull in the data a place it in LT (a buffer). LPT setup the APRS path. BLT setup the amount of time in between the TNC initiating a beacon transmission containing weather data.

After a few calls to the Davis headquarters, I was able to figure out that “@” was the magic value for GPSHEAD. Now the weather station is up and operational.

It was then back on the road, up and over the Sonora Pass. I was able to talk to my dad, operating from the Mi-Wuk cabin station, on 80M from the top of the pass. I spent the night in Carson City, Nevada and the next day headed east on I-80. I had made the decision to take I-70 back to Kansas in order to try something different as well as seeing a part of Colorado I had never seen before. It was a long haul to Grand Junction, Colorado – I arrived around midnight. After a few hours of sleep, I was on the road again heading east through some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip. Aspen and Veil were beautiful cities – I hope I get a chance to go back there someday. But while the drive was scenic, the going was slowed and progress was not nearly as quick as I had experienced before while moving through Wyoming and Nebraska.

I finally emerged from the Rockies and headed into Denver, stopping at the Ham Radio Outlet located there. Terry, KC0VFO, and I talked about our Field Day experiences – he operated mobile. His call sign looked familiar and sure enough, I had worked Terry on 15M during Field Day.

Moving east through Denver I was back on the open road, moving rapidly along I-70. I heard a call coming over the 2M National Simplex frequency. It was a gentleman operating from the Mt. Evans Observatory – we had an enjoyable QSO and he went on to work others. The Canada Day contest was also underway and I started to hand out contacts from the mobile. I had planned to make it all the way back to Leavenworth, Kansas but realized I was too tired and needed to spend the night somewhere. I crossed the Colorado/Kansas border and arrived in Goodland, Kansas were I found a hotel room and promptly fell fast asleep.

My final day on the road was pretty easy driving. When you think about Kansas, it is usually what you see in western Kansas along I-70. Flat terrain, lots of farms, not much else. For some reason, the speed limit max in Kansas drops to 70mph (Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado all have a max of 75mph). I listened to some of the morning HF nets on 80M and 40M, then made contact with K2L, a special events station in Charleston, South Carolina. I was also able to check into the Sparkle Net on 40M and then later worked two stations on 17M, both located in and around the western border area between North and South Carolina. Soon I was back home, arriving before 3pm.

Field Day Is Coming! Field Day Is Coming!

The clock is ticking and the time is now to get ready for Field Day. My station will consist of the eARSIB: Enhanced Amateur Radio Station In a Box. The entire station fits in an airtight, waterproof box that can be carried with one hand. An FT-817nd makes up the core of the station. To assist the QRP rig in getting up to 100 watts, there is an Tokyo Hy-Power amplifier. The LDG Z-11Pro autotuner and a power supply round out the box’s main components. I’ve redone the shelving system to give the main components a bit more room and stability. One of the big improvements will be to mount a RIGrunner inside the shelving system and clean up the power wiring. Another new edition will be a connection panel that will allow me to easily connect cables for rig control, a Heil headset, CW paddle, and a RIGblaster Plug & Play digital interface. I am also hoping to add in a PWRgate with an external powerpole connection for a battery backup. The final improvement will be a few 12v fans installed in the rear to keep everything cool. I hope to have everything assembled tomorrow for a backyard patio smoke test.

Station goals

I set a few goals back in July and thought I would take a look at my progress:

What I want to accomplish in the Kansas Shack:
- HF phone and CW operation; 80m-10m
- HF digital modes (PSK-31, RTTY, PACTOR III)
- Computer logging
- 2m FM base station
- APRS weather station, interfaced with a dedicated 2m transceiver
- Online weather page, showing current weather conditions
- Separate, organized workbench

HF phone and CW operation; 80m-10m – my HF activities are centered around my IC-7000. I would like to get the TS-930S up an operational, but I am afraid that is not in the budget at this point.

HF digital modes (PSK-31, RTTY, PACTOR III) – I am using my RIGblaster Plug & Play for digital modes… other than PACTOR III. I have not yet hooked up my SCS PTC-IIusb Modem.

Computer logging – I do have Ham Radio Deluxe loaded now, but I want to find a good linux version.

2m FM base station – currently the FT-2800M for the job. I do have some plans to move my IC-208H from the truck into the shack. That will give me a 70cm capability in addition to the 2M. The truck is getting a new rig… more on that soon.

APRS weather station, interfaced with a dedicated 2m transceiver – I am using a FT-1500 for the job, connected to UI-View32 and receiving data from the Davis VantagePro2. The problem here is that I only have the one antenna up so this limits my ability to hop on the local repeaters from the shack. I need to either get a coax switch to be able to switch between the two rigs or put another antenna up.

Online weather page, showing current weather conditions – yes indeed… I think this is working pretty nice.

Separate, organized workbench – also a success… although it seems to be too crowded with stuff. The best part is the pegboard for tools – I no longer have the problem of quickly locating the tools I need.

Overall, I am happy with the progress I have made getting the shack in shape. What I want to work on now:
- New antenna for HF
- Fix up the ARSIB
- Get the SB-200 amp working
- Transition all shack computers to Ubuntu linux

Return of the ARSIB

It’s time to dust off the Amateur Radio Station In a Box (ARSIB) and get it ready for field day.
Back in 2006 I was inspired by other hams who had put together portable stations that were built inside waterproof containers, capable of multimode (phone, CW, digital) HF, VHF, or UHF operation, easily powered by 110v/220v AC or a 12v source, able to carry with one hand, and ready for immediate operation with minimal setup.
My prototype was the ARSIB which I used on several occasions.

The ARSIB was based around my FT-817 to provide complete flexibility of a minimalist operation on AA batteries if need be. For normal operations, the 100W Tokyo HyPower amplifier gets me were I need to be. I had a lot of fun with the ARSIB using it during an RV DXpedition and for a lighthouse activation.
I now want to take the ARSIB to the next level – fine tune the design a bit. In searching around I have found several sources of inspiration:

  • Notes on building a portable self-powered communications station suitable for RACES, ARES, remote station, or general QRP use
  • Second Generation EmComm Station
  • KA5CVH Portable

    For my second generation ARSIB, I would like to improve the inner shelving structure supporting the radio equipment. Another goal of mine is not to put any holes in the waterproof container, which has limited some of my arrangements inside the box. I also want all the equipment to be able to travel well, without worry of damage. I also need to clean up the wiring; power, audio, and antenna. Some more ascetically pleasing, but functional.

    I think the Dell Mini will serve as the perfect companion for the eARSIB.

    Ultimately I hope to use the eARSIB (“e” is for enhanced) for Field Day 2009. The plan now is to link with KD6EUG, Larry, up in the Sierra Nevada’s for Field Day. In addition to participating in the event, we will string up an antenna or two for his cabin/shack… and maybe even get an APRS weather station operational as well.

    Now it is time to make it happen!

  • CW QSO

    I jumped on the radio real quick last night before bed. After jumping around from 30M to 40M to 80M, I got an answer to my CQ from Tim, WD4GXD. Tim lives in Ruffin, a small town in the hills of western North Carolina, that I actually visited back in June of this year. We had a nice QSO, only wish it could have been longer. Tim was telling me that he had just picked up an IC-706 for mobile operations. He QRS’d so I was able to get almost 100% I hope to catch him again later for a longer ragchew.

    I tried looking for a quick lunch time QSO, but had no luck. I think I might try and take the ARSIB out here to Fort Monroe and try to work a lunchtime QSO using a portable antenna. Might be fun.

    Blue Ridge Mountains DXpedition

    The Thursday before Labor Day Weekend I was able to get off work an hour early and headed up to Fort Eustis through a light drizzle (the early beginnings of Tropical Storm Ernesto) to pick up the RV. The beast was 29′ long and about 11′ high. A young gentlemen gave me a orientation of the vehicle which lasted about 45 minutes. First an initial walk around, then an explanation of how to flush the black and gray water holding tanks, how to connect city water, how to connect electricity, how to operate the generator, and how to operate the propane supply. All of this and we hadn’t even made it inside the RV yet. When we did make it inside, I was briefed up on how to operate the test panel, how to turn on the water heater, and a assortment of additional tips for easy operation of all the RV’s features. For instance…. don’t run the A/C while also running the microwave and the water heater takes 20 minutes to provide enough hot water for a shower. There was also a TV with an external antenna that cranks up into position. Nothing super complex, just lots and lots of stuff.

    It was a slow ride on I-64 back to Hampton. Not because of heavy traffic, but because I was trying to get a feel for piloting the beast. The wheel was a little loose and it took a while to slow down. The rain didn’t help much. I arrived home and parked out in the street in front of the house. When untethered to an electrical hook up, the RV uses propane to keep the refrigerator going. To avoid depleting the propane, I ran a heavy duty extension cord out to the RV to give it a steady supply of juice.

    We decided to watch the progress of Ernesto and wait to see if we’d leave Friday or postpone until Saturday. As the night progressed the winds picked up and the rain continued on.

    Friday morning showed that the rain and wind were still continuing. My weather station indicated the rain had picked up around 2am and was maintaining a consistent heavy downpour. The radar showed the southern edge of Ernesto nearing the North Carolina border to the south. Even though the storm would clear our location by about 2pm reports from the roadways indicated things were a mess for motorists and we decided to move our departure to Saturday morning. It was at this time that I noticed the water out front was rising significantly. I could see the water level approaching the storage compartments underneath the RV. After shuffling the cars in the driveway, I splashed out to the RV parked on the street/canal, started it and did a loop around the block to position it to allow me to pull into the driveway. The short loop showed that a few other streets had flooded and small tree limbs and other debris was accumulating in the road – but nothing severe.

    Ernesto passed by about 3pm and the standing water drained quickly. We did a quick clean up of all the fallen leaves and small branches in the yard and then repositioned the RV in the driveway for easy loading. From all reports, we were wise to delay our departure as fallen trees and the rain had closed down section of I-64.

    Saturday morning arrived and we finished packing the RV and got on the road. Traffic was light and moved well. I kept the speed at about 55-60mph, still getting a feel for how the RV handled. After one break at a rest stop west of Richmond for lunch, we pressed on towards the Misty Mountain Campground in Crozet, VA. Enjoyed a nice QSO on a repeater in Charlottesville with Harry, W2HD. I later found out (according to QRZ.com) that Harry was a former president of ARRL! He chatted a little about being in the Navy but never mentioned the fact of his involvement with The League.

    After checking in to the Misty Mountain Campgrounds HQ we arrived at our camp site. The hookups were pretty straight forward and soon enough we had the RV humming.

    On Sunday we took the truck to explore the first fifty miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. What a beautiful area! I was able to hit one of the repeaters back in Hampton from the first overlook along the Parkway. Pretty good for a 150 mile path using 50 watts on FM.

    Sunday night I set up the ARSIB and tried to work both S9SS (Western Africa) and P43W (Aruba) but failed to break the pile ups.

    Monday morning I had a nice QSO on 40M with Jim, W2SY up in Syracuse, NY. After enlisting in 1940, Jim served in the Army during WWII and participated in the Africa, Italy, and European campaigns. Jim gave me a nice 59 report and am glad I was able to get at least one HF contact before it was time to pack up shop .

    The trip home encountered a little bit of rain, but traffic was also light and the trip was uneventful. Average speed on I-64 was probably about 65mph as I was feeling a little more comfortable driving by now.

    All in all, I enjoyed the RV DXpedition. Next time I will set up the rig earlier and try to do more operating.

    QSO with W2SY

    I had my one and only Blue Ridge Mountains DXpedition contact with Jim, W2SY. After 30 minutes of calling CQ on 40M, trying to find space between all the nets, Jim came back to me with a nice 59 report and I gave him the same. I think we chatted for about 10 minutes or so. Jim, 82 years old, served in the Army during WWII, a veteran of battles in Africa, Italy and France. After the QSO, I packed up the ARSIB, antenna, and all the rest. The trip back to Hampton was safe and uneventful.

    International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend

    I enjoyed activating the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse this weekend. Went out both on Saturday and Sunday. Had some great QSOs. Was able to work N1LO and AG4GO (operating as N4P) at the New Point Comfort Lighthouse…. that was cool. Also had QSOs with Denmark, Bermuda, and El Salvador…. all new countries.

    Learned some lessons when setting up a portable operation:
    (1) Don’t set your operating station up farther away from your antenna than the length of your feedline allows.
    (2) Don’t print your log sheets with an ink jet printer… when you’re sweaty after setup and try to write in the log, sweat will make the ink jet print smear,
    (3) If you have a shelter to keep you out of the sun, go ahead and use it.
    (4) Make sure you have everything BEFORE you pull out of the driveway (i.e. your feedline, log book, headphones, and tools).

    Good news… this was the first real deployment of the ARSIB. Everything worked very well. Even used the the ARSIB and the vertical dipole on 17M, in addition to 40M and 20M.

    Station Books

    I want to finish up my station books tonight. I got the idea from an eHam article, but the idea behind a station book is just a consolidation of all the equipments manuals as well as a station layout diagram (to include wiring diagrams).

    I’m creating a book for the main shack, the ARSIB, my Tundra mobile, and the Avalon mobile.

    RV DXpedition… on the calendar

    I called Fort Eustis MWR and reserved a 29′ RV for Labor Day weekend. Yahoo! Now I have to figure out where I’m going to go. It’s looking like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah Valley. Doing the research now.

    I’m trying to see if there are any contests or special events that weekend. This is going to be a good workout of the Amateur Radio Station In a Box (ARSIB). Maybe I can work on my CW between now and the trip and try to work a lot of CW.