Finally got around to hanging some wire today. At times it seemed like the trees possessed some type of magnetic properties, the wire clinging to every branch (… reminded me of Charlie Brown and his kite experiences). The good news is that the CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher is still fully operational. I used the small air compressor from my wife’s emergency car kit to fill it up. Admittedly, the first couple of shots from the CSV19 were a bit off. But once I had the CSV19 zeroed in, I was pretty accurate. Thankfully the XYL arrived home and was able to help me with some of the finesse work of pulling the wire up into the trees. The G5RV is up and operational. Now it is time to start filling up the log.
Radio Works – I love your antennas but your website needs a serious update.
More good news… I should have my 2m/70cm antenna up on the chimney on Monday.
Out here in Kansas, on the eastern edge of the prarie, the leaves are turning and the first frost is upon us. The time is NOW to get the hamshack in order.
(1) My VHF/UHF antenna and Davis weather station NEEDS to get mounted up on the chimney. I have the mounting brackets – thin aluminium straps that circumnavigate the chiminey. However, the roof at the new QTH is basically three stories high and the roof itself is pretty steep. Too steep for me. The solution? I am trying to get a local roofing company to give me an estimate for the job.
(2) The HF antenna. In the course of sorting through all the hamshack flotsam, I’ve started to identify “stuff” I can part with. Already I’ve said goodbye to some old MFJ TNCs, the Kenwood TS-930S, and my old TinyTrak (thank you Craigslist!). There’s more to part with and I’m still in the process of identfying them (… like an ICOM PCR-1000, TenTec RX-320, and a D-STAR DV Dongle for starters). More importantly (and back on topic), I unearthed two in-the-package wire antennas. The first is an 80M OCF dipole from RadioWavz and the second is a G5RV+ from RadioWorks. Now I need to dust off the CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher and let the tennis balls fly.
(3) Once I have my antenna situation under control, I can take the hamshack innards to the next level.
Questions to ponder:
Do I retain the hardcopy collection of QST magazines I’ve been carting around since 2005ish? Starting for the late 40′s, it is a solid collection up to 2000. It takes up a great deal of space and I have the same issues on CD. I’d like to find the collection a new (local) home, if possible.
My new job has me on the road – it would be great to take some gear on the road with me. What to take? Needs to have a small footprint. Sounds like a job for the KX1. What to use for an antenna?
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.
Back in early October I finally strung an HF antenna here at the Kansas QTH. The antenna was a RadioWavz End Fed Zep. The performance was mixed and I never did get it to load on 75M. I am a believer in the magic of a dipole (132′ fed with ladderline). But the geography of the Kansas QTH would really only support a dipole running east/west and radiating north/south… not what I wanted. The End Fed Zep was a compromise allowing me to make the antenna run north/south and radiating east/west. As I said, the performance was lacking. In comes the Loop Skywire. A past QST article talks about setting up a horizontal loop: The Skywire Loop, November 1985.
The author, Dave Fischer (W7FB) avoids theory and talks about just the specifics of construction and antenna performance. The basic principles of setting up the horizontal loop include its horizontal position over ground and maximizing the enclosed area within the loop. Ideally, the loop is installed as a circle – but reality tends to make it look more like a square… a compromise between number of skyhooks/antenna wire supports and maximum enclosed area. Ideal height above ground is 40 feet, but the higher the better. Like most wire antennas that you try to use beyond their fundamental harmonic, it is recommended you feed the loop with ladderline to minimize feedline loss. To determine the length of wire required for the loop divide 1005 by your fundamental frequency in MHz. If you set up a loop for 80M, it should also provide good performance from 80M up to 10M. The loop should radiate omnidirectionally and greatly minimize local RF noise. It’s low take off angle also supports good DX performance.
At the recent hamfest I went to in Kansas City, I purchased two 150′ rolls of #14 flex-weave copper antenna wire as well as a few 100′ rolls 3/32″ black Dacron rope. From MFJ I had a 6-pack of ceramic insulators. I had about 75′ of 300-omh ladderline as well as a ladderline feedpoint insulator. Along with my CVS19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher – I was ready to fly this skywire.
Installation took all afternoon, but the weather was great and I took my time. I ended up with 6 antenna supports, trying my best to make it as circular as possible. My CVS19 Launcher continues to perform well. My bicycle pump broke so I switched to the 12v roadside tire pump in the XYL’s emergency auto kit. This made for a quick turn around for prepping the CSV19 for successive antenna wie support lines. Setting up most of the ceramic insulators as “floating” allowed me to apportion the copper wire as needed around the loop. In the end, my loop was a bit less than 300′ and had the shape of a long oval rather than a square (or circle).
After connecting a 4:1 voltage balun to the ladderline and running coax to my LDG AT-200 Pro tuner I was on the air. My first observation was that the antenna was very quiet. Were previously I had S3 to S5 background noise, the noise floor dropped to S1 or in some cases was completely gone. The loop tunes easily from 80M to 10M.
Another indicator of success – a 20M QSO with my dad, KD6EUG, in California. A goal that has been on my list for almost a year. I was also able to work stations in British Columbia, Maine, Michigan, and Oklahoma. There are still a few more adjustments I want to make on the loop, but so far I am pretty happy with it and look forward to seeing what more it can do.
I guess now I need to make a QSL card for the Leavenworth, KS QTH so I can send one to KD6EUG.
The matching unit is up about 50′. I was able to put the 82′ leg over the house and tied off to a tree in the front yard. The 51′ leg went out the other direction tied off to a tree behind my backyard. Each leg is tied off at about 35′. Unfortunately, the antenna is not in a completely straight line from end to end, but I think its the best I’m going to get. So far I have noticed a lower noise level than my inverted vee. I participated in the MARS training net tonight and was able to hear all the stations very well. I also had a 20M USB QSO with Argentina and a 40M LSB with southern Florida.
I had a few CW QSOs Saturday night. I hoping to have a few tonight and test the new antenna a bit more.
Finally put the CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher into action. The objective was to drop the four 10′ PVC pipe sections that supported the center point of my B&W inverted vee and replace it with a heavy duty rope supported by the upper sections of a pine tree in the back yard.
I pumped up the launcher to 70psi, loaded the ball, launched it almost straight up. I fired the tennis ball up over some tree branches at about 60′. The ball went up, cleared the branches and easily came down the other side. I attached some heavier line to the far end line and pulled it up and over the branch. I pulled down the PVC and attached the center point to heavy duty rope. I then pulled the center point back up. The launcher worked great and my next step will be to raise the end points from 10′ to 20′…. which will allow me to then raise the center point a few more feet.
I had two 20M SSB QSOs: a station in the British Virgin Islands that gave me a 59 and a station in Italy that gave me a 57. I’m pretty comfortable that my antenna is working at least as well as it was before I made the changes.
GYFWW: Get Your Feet Wet Weekend. This was an interesting event… all CW. My CW skills are atrocious and this was my attempt at improving. I enjoyed it, although at times it was very frustrating. The exchange was RST, name, state, FISTS #, and year licensed. Most folks were good at slowing down and repeating missed parts of the exchange. I spent a lot of time just sending CQ without a response. A contest doesn’t have the personal interaction of a regular QSO. At the end of the contest I had 18 contacts and over 200 points… no records broken here. I still have a long way to go on the CW. I would like to get my speed up to 15-20wpm – that will take a lot of consistent work.
Virginia Beach Hamfest: My second year attending the Virginia Beach Hamfest. A two-day hamfest, I went on Sunday. $5 to get in. There were a few vendors, but I had primarily come this year for RadioWorks, a local company from Portsmouth that makes great wire antennas. I purchased a Carolina Windom, 133′ long, good on 80M to 10M. The challenge now is to hang that bad boy. I’ll be assisted by my CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher.
T-238+ APRS WX Project: The main board was good to go. I put the modem board together Friday night, checked out and good to go. Then came Saturday, I was interfacing the WX sensors (temp, wind speed and direction)… it worked! I was getting the data to read out properly. However, when I tried to interface the modem board with the radio, the LCD screen started showing all solid squares instead of text and the heat sink got very, very hot. The LED heartbeat light is still functioning, but clearly there is something wrong. Hope I’m not back to square one. http://www.tapr.org/kits_t238plus.html
Knocked out some more QSL cards and certificates for the W4M special event station. It’s fun going through all the QSL cards. Two QSL cards stood out from this morning, one from Washington State near Fort Lewis and the other from Sierra Vista, AZ… near Fort Huachuca. Each QSL response has the W4M folded QSL card, the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse (USA 567) QSL card, the W4M US Army Amateur Radio Society special event certificates, and sometimes a picture or two from the actual event.
The US Army Amateur Radio Society is picking up more members. We’ve been able to identify more hams downrange as well as hams getting ready to go – trying to get them their reciprocal licenses as soon as possible. Also identified some folks in Korea, to include a POC to help with licensing. I need to start looking at Germany as well… I’m sure there has to be quite a few Army hams in Germany.
…. and I even had a 40M CW QSO today! Had about a 40 minute ragchew with AA4TB who is down in Summervile, SC (near Charleston). Tommy put up with my horrible CW skills and kept it slow. I need to find the time to do some serious work on my CW. I wish I could find somebody I could establish a regular CW sked with… like two or three times a week. I think this would really help me improve. Plus – on air practice is a lot better than working one of those CW computer programs.
I have grand plans for a new antenna. The Radio Works is a local company and produces quality antennas. I have two Radio Works G5RVs – one of which I bought from a local ham. The antenna was originally purchased back in the 1980s, but unused. I used the antenna for the W4M special event station – still looked like new and worked like a champ. My current antenna is a B&Wend fed inverted vee. Although it has omnidirectional properties, it has a N/S orientation. My plan is to put a Radio Works Carolina Windom 160 Special with a E/W orientation. I intend to use it as a flattop, 133′ in length. I have nice pine trees in the front and back yards, I think I can get the Window up about 50′ or more. Just waiting for my CSV17 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher!