My current assignment at Fort Leavenworth has me traveling quite a bit. My intent has been to bring a rig with me and have some casual QSOs while on the road. My success has been mixed. I would mostly attribute this to either a lack of planning on my part or being in a stuck in a hotel room with zero antenna opportunities.
One of the most inspiring ham radio blogs I ever ran across was the 100 Pound Dxpedition. I enjoyed how Scott, NE1RD, covered his adventures of conducting portable operations… documenting what worked and what did not. His last post on that paticular blog was back in 2007, but I still use the site as a reference. Scott’s praise for the Buddipole led me in using the Buddipole during my recent tour in Korea. Another tip from Scott I am going to try out is using a hardside golf bag case to transport my Buddipole to Hawaii.
Now for a rig… I think the Elecraft KX3 would be ideal for a Hawaii trip. With 10 watts output and an internal battery, I can’t think of better rig to take to the beach. But the wait time for the KX3 is still quite a while. I have both an Elecraft KX1 and a Yaesu FT-817ND. The KX1 would be great due to its small size and ease of use. But it is limited to only CW and I would like to do some PSK in addition to CW.
I pulled out my FT-817 and conducted an inventory:
- - West Mountain Radio RIGblaster Plug n Play connects directly to the DIN socket on the back of the rig.
- CAT cable that connects from the RIGblaster to the rig’s ACC socket which enables rig control.
- PowerPole 12v adapter.
- Palm Paddle.
- Elecraft T1 Auto-tuner.
- Nifty manual for the FT-817.
My FT-817 has quite a few of the optional bells and whistles from W4RT:
- - DSP module
- Kranker Knob – probably the most useful of any of the options
- One Board Filter (300 Hz)
- Speech compressor built into the MH-31 handmike
- Why all the options? The FT-817 was the center piece of my 2009 Field Day setup and I was attempting to get the most I could out of the pint-sized rig.
I also splurged on two recent upgrades:
- - Peg Leg tilt stand – I think this will be helpful as one of my significant dislikes of the FT-817 is the small display which is hard to see.
- Magnets for the Palm Paddle – this is critically important as the Palm Paddle by itself is not heavy enough. The magnets allow the Palm Paddles to firmly stick to the top of the FT-817.
For PSK, rig control, and logging I have my Dell Mini netbook. I had not used the netbook in a while, so I started it up to see how it was working. I initally purchased it back in 2009 baselined with Ubuntu and have kept Ubuntu installed on it since then. After booting it up. I updated the distribution to 10.04 LTS and installed fldigi. The RIGblaster easily interfaced with the netbook via a USB connection and the headphone/microphone jacks.
I configured fldigi to work with the RIGblaster to include rig control using Hamlib:
- - Audio: PortAudio using the netbook’s hardware soundcard for both Capture and Playback
- Rig: Hamlib; Device /dev/ttyUSB0; Baud rate 38400; Stopbits 2; PTT via Hamlib command checked
… clicked on the Initialize button and I was good to go.
Setting up the macros on flidigi is pretty straightforward with the default macros only needing slight tweaking for my personal preferemces.
Once I fired everything up all I had to do was switch to 14.070 MHz, switch the mode to DIG, and drop the input level a bit. With the narrow yellow PSK streams cascading down the waterfall, I picked one that was calling CQ and answered. Transmit worked and my home antenna provided a nice low SWR, no need for the tuner. My macros worked and the QSO was concluded successfully. All with 5 watts.
I plugged in the Palm Paddle, switched to 7.115 MHz, listened and heard nothing, then used the paddles to send QRL? a few times. SWR still looked decent. After a few CQ calls, I got an answer followed by a short QSO. Great – both PSK and CW were working FB.
Now the question is: do I want to bring my small Tokyo Hy-Power HL-100B amplifier that will raise the output to 100 watts? If I bring the amp, I will have to bring a power supply and a different tuner. I am thinking I need to be able to use two different configurations:
- (A) Beach and Buddipole: using the barefoot FT-817, running everything on batteries.
(B) Lanai Portable: used from the hotel room, with amp and assoicated power supply.
Now it is time to go through my Buddipole bags and figure out what I need to pack.
Looks like I will be there during the Hawaii QSO Party!