Tag Archives: KD6EUG

Field Day is coming!


Another Field Day is around the corner, June 28th – 29th. This year I have the opportunity to head back to my home state of California.

This trip is going to be a bit longer with more time on the road as well as spending more time in California. I am now the proud owner of a 2014 Coachmen Clipper travel trailer… it is like a travel trailer, only smaller. But small is good, my Toyota Tundra is not rated to tow a whole lot. So this adventure is going to involve some camping and somewhat more of a leisurely pace in the daily mileage heading out there.

The site for this field day will again be up at my dad’s cabin at Mi-Wuk Village in the central portion of the Sierra Nevadas. My dad, KD6EUG, has done some station upgrades to his shack at the cabin to include the addition of a hex beam and a yet to be used Icom PW-1. I will be using my IC-7000 with my Buddipole.

Now is the time I need to shake out my equipment to see if I have everything. I have not used the IC-7000 in quite a while and I need to make sure I have everything I need to set up two Buddipoles at the same time.

For logging, I think our choice will be to use the N3FJP Field Day software. I was really impressed with how it worked last time.

From eastern Kansas to the California Sierra Nevada – QSO with KD6EUG

Back in December of 2011 I got this email from my dad, Larry (KD6EUG) about the severe storm damage to his cabin in Mi-Wuk, California – located in the Sierra Nevadas:

The big pine tree that is located at the corner of the back deck, the one that we used as the center for all our antennas, split in two and about 90 ft of it landed on the back deck and cabin/garage. All the dining room windows and sliding doors are blown out. There is a 6″ separation between the garage and the kitchen. The PG&E power meter and feed lines to the power pole are ripped out. The wind had gusts of over 35mph.

Dad

Here are a few of the picture I received over the next few days showing the destruction:




My dad and I had a great field day from the cabin back in 2009. It was quite a blow to see what nature had delivered.

It has been a long path since December 2011. Through diligence and perseverance, my dad was able to revive the cabin. The work was finally completed this past summer.


We had another scare with the Rim Fire back in August and September. The fire actually came within a few miles of the cabin but fortunately the firefighters were successful in stopping it before it could do any damage.

My dad is now up there enjoying the California QSO Party from the cabin in Tuolumne County (…sometimes a pretty hard-to-get county in the CQP).

We have tried on several occasions to attempt HF QSOs while he has been at the cabin and I have either been here in Kansas or when I was stationed in Virginia. We never had much luck and have primarily used my EchoIRLP node as the best way to chat (IRLP Node 3553/EchoLink Node: KI4ODI-L 518994). Well, our luck changed today. We decided to give it a go prior to the CQP and started at 10Ms and worked down until we got to the 15M band. On 21.400 MHz we had brilliant success in carrying on an HF QSO. I’ve already send out the QSL card to confirm the contact.

With my coming retirement from the Army, I am going to have the opportunity to head back out to the California Sierra Nevadas this next June for Field Day 2014. I am looking forward to that!

Launching The Loop Skywire

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.

Rainy Sunday

It has been a cold, rainy Sunday. We are on short final for the delivery of child number two… about 12 more days. Spent part of the day finishing the fixes to the nursery. Despite the rain, I BBQ’d two excellent steaks for dinner. I spent a good amount of time at Fort Lewis, WA so BBQing in the rain is no big deal.

Yesterday I mounted a bike seat for my daughter (age 3) on the back of my underused Trek bicycle. The weather was pretty nice, sun and a little cool. I decided to take along my TH-D7A and mounted my Garmin eTrex on the handlebars… I was APRS bicycle mobile again (with a small passenger). I kept the power setting at EL (50mW) and had good luck getting digipeated by N7FTM, which is nearby. To get a little better coverage and maintain the low draw on the battery, I configured the home TM-D710A to digipeat only the packets from my TH-D7A. I hope the weather improves soon so I can do some more bicycle mobile testing. A speaker-mic would also be a great addition to the setup.

I have been doing a little more reading on APRS (when I should be working on homework). One item that I found very intriguing was CQSRVR. There is a good run down of that feature here and Bob “Mr. APRS” Bruninga’s, WB4APR, recent article in QST. What amazes me is that the CQSRVR feature is not used more often. I have also had a great time playing with aprs.fi. I am a long time user of findu.com, but aprs.fi is just a wonderful tool to use in looking at APRS data.

It is time to get ready for Field Day. The plan is to road trip out California and link up with my dad, KD6EUG, at his cabin in Mi-Wuk (near Sonora, up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We will be a 2A operation. My rig will consist of my resurrected ARSIB (Amateur Radio Station In a Box). The ARSIB is based around the FT-817ND. To give the FT-817ND a boost, I’ve paired it with a 100W Tokyo HyPower amplifier. The tuner remains the LDG Z-11 PRO. I would like to have both a rig control interface and control cable from the radio to the amp but the the FT-817 has only one ACC input. Enter the CAT MATE – I am hoping this will solve the ACC input limitation. For a logging program I think we will go with the N3FJP logging software. It offers the ability to have two (or more) seperate stations have a combined log. It also features a software-based voice and CW keyer, which may come in handy. The downside is it is a Windows only program and it does not have integrated PSK-31. This will require a manual work around to add PSK-31 QSOs. I need to get all the pieces and parts together and start testing everything out to make sure there are no surprises. We will be busy enough stringing antennas and I want to minimize any adjustments I need to make to my own equipment during actual operation.

Force 12 From Santa Cruz

In an attempt to improve his antenna situation my dad, KD6EUG, was perusing Craigslist and found a seller in Santa Cruz that was looking to part with his Force 12 Sigma 5. I had just been reading about this antenna on one of NE1RD’s blog’s:The 100lbs DXpedition. Scott used his Sigma 5 on a few DXpeditions and reported good results. The Sigma 5 is a 5 band (20-17-15-12-10) vertical dipole. This should be easy for my dad to setup at the home QTH in San Jose, CA and also up at the cabin in the Sierras. I also have high hopes that this antenna will allow for an HF QSO between my dad and me. And a big thanks to Jack, WA6FYD who was the previous owner of the Sigma 5. I got to exchange emails with Jack – he’s retired military and a devoted CW aficionado.

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!

  • Headed Home

    After a year deployment in Iraq, I am heading home.

    I have not been keeping this blog up to date, but hope to make some posts here to describe my experiences operating an amateur station in Iraq (YI9MI). Other plans when I get home are to attempt a QSO with my dad (KD6EUG) – Virginia to California. My dad upgraded to General last year and we have not yet had the opportunity to have an HF QSO. I’m also going to install a Tarheel screwdriver antenna on my Toyota Tundra to enjoy some mobile HF while I am on the road this summer.

    I am looking forward to getting back to the States!

    QSL Cards… what makes a winner?

    My dad has recently upgraded to General and has been getting on the air making contacts. This isn’t the first time he’s been on HF or exchanged QSL cards. Back in his younger days, he held the call KN6ILL (I Love Lucy) and operated an HT-20 transmitter and a National NC-57 for a receiver with an 80 meter dipole. His license lapsed but now he is back in the game with an IC-718. He is making regular contacts using PSK-31 and has started to receive QSL cards. But he hasn’t made up his own cards yet. I figured I’d try an help with a rough draft – something to get the creative juices flowing.

    KD6EUG_qsl_draft

    Wikipedia defines a QSL card as a written confirmation of either a two-way radiocommunication between two amateur radio stations or a one-way reception of a signal from an AM radio, FM radio, or television station. A typical QSL card is the same size and made from the same material as a typical postcard, and many are sent through the mail as a standard postcard. QSL cards derived their name from the Q code “QSL”, which means “I acknowledge receipt.”

    I really enjoy QSL cards, both receiving them in the mail from other hams verifying our QSOs and designing my own to send out as an acknowledgment of the contact on my end.

    The appearance of your QSL card can be important for many. It gives the recipient a snapshot of you… and I find it difficult to do that on the small area provided by a 3.5″ by 5.5″ card.

    The general agreed upon minimum elements of a QSL card are the following:
    - Your callsign
    - Basic information concerning the QSO
    + the other party’s callsign
    + time/date of contact in UTC/GMT/Zulu
    + band or frequency of the QSO
    + mode (SSB/CW/digital mode)
    + signal report (RST)
    - Your name and mailing address

    Additionally most hams include the following information which is useful for a number of different awards:
    - County (for the county hunters)
    - Grid (for the grid hunters)
    - ITU and CQ zones

    After that the door is wide open on what is found on a QSL card. Many include membership numbers which go towards earning awards (FISTS, SKCC, 10-10, etc.). Some also include one or more logos of clubs and organizations they belong to (ARRL, ARES, MARS, SKYWARN, contest club, local club, etc.).

    Many hams like to individualize their QSL cards with a picture showing their hamshack, antenna farm, QRP rig, mobile setup. Others put a picture of a some notable location or landmark near where they live (National Park, major league stadium, civil war battlefield, etc.). And a few portray an additional hobby they are active in beyond (or complimenting) ham radio. This is where you can really set your card apart from others, make it stand out in a crowd.

    I think some sound advise is to keep the card relatively clean and simple – don’t try to do too much in such a small space. Have fun and make your card something you are proud to share with others.

    Here are some other sites with more information on QSL cards:
    - eham.net: QSL Cards
    - WA7S: QSL Cards – How to Make Your Own
    - QSL Factory
    - The QSL Man

    Electric Radio – Celebrating a Bygone Era


    I recently put in an order to AES for a few items I really didn’t need. Fortunately AES ships to APO addresses… while HRO does not. When stateside I prefer to order from HRO, having had great overall past experience with them. Quick delivery, no fuss, no muss. If I have a problem, I can call the store directly. I’ve also used HRO to give gifts (Father’s Day, Christmas, Birthday) to my dad, KD6EUG, and that has worked very smoothly. When I’m back visiting the folks in Sunnyvale, CA – I always try to stop by the HRO store there. It is near Fry’s Electronics – not far from Moffett Field. HRO also helped field the US Army Amateur Radio Society and the Baghdad Amateur Radio Society a complete radio setup, to include IC-7000, power supply, CW key, etc. HRO’s good people. However… they don’t ship to APO addresses, so I ordered from AES. Now AES will allow you to use a stateside billing address, but will send your order to the APO address. But here is the kicker – AES sends an invoice to your billing address… so the XYL gets it and finds out you have been ordering a bunch of stuff you don’t really need instead of saving money for our upcoming trip to Europe. But I digress. One of the items I ordered was the August 2007 issue of the periodical Electric Radio. What a wonderful little magazine! I’ve talked about other radio magazines in the past and lately I’ve taken a real shine to World Radio.

    Electric Radio is a real jewel. Inside the front cover, the magazine states it’s intent upfront: Electric Radio is all about restoration, maintenance, and continued use of vintage radio equipment. So what does this have to do with me? I don’t restore or use vintage equipment. I wouldn’t know the difference between Collins, Drake, National, or anything other type of old, dusty metal cabineted stuff. Despite this, the magazine is still a joy to read. Page 2 talks about Electric Radio’s “Honor Your Elmer Contest” – how great of an idea is that?! Page 39 has an amazing article about the life of George Mouridian, W1GAC, SK. The magazine itself is the size of a church pamphlet with a nice sturdy color cover. The pictures inside are black and white – but what better captures the essence of classic radio than black and white photos. The gear is wonderful to see… massive tubes, huge dials, looks like some of the rigs could have easily of come from Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. I probably won’t subscribe and you may not either – but I do recommend you pick up at least one copy to have a look for yourself.

    Quick & Dirty: APRS WX Station?

    I want to put together an inexpensive APRS WX station for my dad, KD6EUG, to install up at his cabin in Mi-Wuk Village, CA. There was an article in the July 2006 QST that talked about one solution. But the big price tag comes with the weather station itself.

    Today I found a nice, inexpensive solution from TAPR, the T-238+MODEM2 Kit. Not only is it APRS ready, it also incorporates it’s own TNC. The weather station components that it works with, 1-Wire™ Weather Instrument Kit V3.0, and also doesn’t break the bank.

    We’ll see how this project comes together. For the radio, I will use either an FT-1500M (ideal for the job) or an HTX-242 if I can ensure it’s capable of the task. I like the W3BW (see QST article) solution of using a gel cell with a trickle charger. Should the shore power drop out, the APRS weather station should function for quite some time.

    Speaking of WX stations…. you can go here to see the weather at the home QTH.

    Looking at the APRS activity around Mi-Wuk, I’m seeing the following nearby stations:

    K6TUO-3: looks like a digipeater in Sonora, sponsored by the Tuolumne County Amateur Radio & Electronics Society (TCARES).
    K6NFL: over in the town of Arnold, Dave has a very nice wx page.
    KE6KYI: located in Groveland.