Friday, December 11, 2015

Military Morse Code Training

According to the following post, the US Air Force still trains a few individuals each year on Morse Code. Also this blog that this post is on is a cool SWL website if you are interested.

Friday, December 4, 2015

My New Paddle

I recently received Serial # 20 of the commemorative paddle built for the ARRL by Pietro Begali. As you can see below it is the Begali Sculpture paddle with both the ARRL Logo and the Begali logo. The Serial # is on the bottom.

The key is wonderful and it looks good on the desk. It is still available on the ARRL website.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Next Stage

Effective January 4th, 2016, I will be officially retired from the working world. A few key points contributed to my decision.

  • I've been working 40 years and that's enough
  • I've been married 40 years and that's, well, that's good
  • Both of my sons have lost their hair
  • My oldest grandson is 6' 2" tall
I think you would agree that these are all key indicators that it's time to  be doing more or less, what you want to do.

I have a great job and work with great people and if I were mad about something this decision would have been a lot easier, but there comes a time when you know it's time to move on and that time has come for me. I still have my health and at this point I'm not willing to trade healthy years for a few more dollars.

So more radio, more golf, more hunting, more camping and hiking. And I hope, more blogging.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Recent Activations Out West

I've been very busy lately with a variety of seemingly important things and I thought it was about time to write a little. In the past few weeks I've had the rare opportunity, in combination with a couple of business trips to do a few SOTA activations in California and Utah. A few words about those.


I was in Northern California, of all tough places to be, Napa. While having a look at the nearby summits I discovered that all the nearby summits were 1 or 2 pointers. Should be easy right. Well not so much. One of the inequities of SOTA, albeit well understood, is that elevation is the major determinant of point value, not length of climb or difficulty. Although all of that tends to even out over time if you do enough summits. I used my MTR II configured for 17M, 20M and 30M. I brought my LNR Trail friendly 40/20m antenna and a T1 Elecraft Tuner. The tuner failed, so I could only operate on 20m exclusively.

Mt. Diablo

This is a video from Mt. Diablo, W6/CC-045, near Walnut Creek, CA. While only a two pointer it is a substantial mountain rising up from near sea level to 3,800 ft. ASL. It is a drive up, so easy enough from an activation point of view and the views are excellent.
Sulphur Springs Mountain
This summit, W6/NC-406, is accessed through a local golf community named Hidden Brooke. Access is not forbidden and there is a nice trail to the top. The vertical gain is a little over 1,000 ft. over about 1.5 miles and it is a one pointer. Below a  short video from the top.
There is no doubt that you earn the one point. While the hike is not hard, I've had much easier hikes for many more points. Nice views from the top.
Pt. 970
This summit, W6/NC-422, can be done in tandem with Sulphur Springs Mountain, which I did. It is a more substantial hike with a 5.0 mile round trip. Not a difficult hike, it has a nice trail to the summit, but again you earn the one point. I got nice workout and I got to play radio on top.
My activations in Utah were at much higher elevations than the Northern California Coast. The two activations that I did were near Park City which sits around 7,000 ft. ASL. My wife accompanied me on these activations and we had some wonderful weather to hike in.
Scott Hill
The summit, W7U/SL-008, sits at 10,118 ft. ASL and is an 8 pointer. The hike is along nice trail/road. The road is closed to private traffic and on even numbered days the mountain bikers are out in force. However that's not a problem as everyone is courteous and respectful. This would be my 100th unique summit to activate in the SOTA program which is a nice milestone to cross. The hike is a 4 mile round trip and the final ascent to the summit is steep and you will like have to set-up in quite a steep pitch. Views are wonderful.

View from Scott Hill
Scott Hill in the Distance

Quarry Mountain

This summit, W7U/NU-067, is not the most scenic and the trail winds through a lot of scrub brush. There is a little more cover on top and so some shade to set up the station. It is a 2 mile round trip and is a 6 pointer. It was my second activation on a day that netted 14 points. Below is a short video from the summit.

So, my trip out west showed me some more of the variety that makes SOTA such a rewarding and enjoyable pursuit. A few more points and a few more summits and another memorable experience.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How I Worked VY0M From a Tent

In my last post I described my QSO with VK2SSI while experimenting with portable antennas in my backyard. Well the reason I was testing portable configurations is because I needed work Cezar, VY0M, from Melville Island, IOTA NA-248, located in the Canadian arctic.  I knew that the scheduled expedition would occur during the week that I was at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM attending a training class and I would be sleeping in a tent for the week. New IOTA's are getting rare for me, with 1,050+ confirmed so I didn't want to miss this one.

I experimented with multiple antennas as I didn't know what I would be allowed to do at the camp. Would I be allowed to put up an antenna in camp? Would I have to find a remote location somewhere else? How long would my batteries last? So my plan was to try a Buddipole vertical first. It was relatively low profile and wouldn't attract a lot of attention. So I set up the station, in my tent, for a dry run.

As luck would have it, there was a 110v plug in my tent, the power intended to power a light and possibly a fan, so exit the batteries and in with the power supply. I set up the vertical and the antenna worked fine. I was using a Yaesu FT-857, which is a very capable radio, especially for portable use.  With 70 watts I worked into Europe with good reports, so I was thinking that I might just get by with this set-up. However, the first day that VY0M came up, he was on SSB. I never heard a peep from him and decided it was time for plan B.

After erecting the vertical, a few around camp inquired about it and everyone thought the radio set-up was cool, so the next afternoon I decided to put up the bright orange Jacktite, 30 ft.  collapsible pole with an end-fed long wire through a 9 to 1 balun. After I got everything connected, I turned on the radio and tuned the antenna with an LDG tuner. Everything looked good, so I checked the spots on my iPhone and Cezar had just moved to CW. I went to 14.040 and there he was with the fluttery signal common to stations in the far northern latitudes. After two or three calls I had him in the log, Victory dance. All the planning had paid off and I had another IOTA in the log.

What a blast ham radio is. Below is video of the set-up, right after I made the QSO. I didn't have the narrow CW filter on the FT-857, so the stations you hear are actually 1 KC up, but you can still hear Cezar's fluttery signal if you listen closely.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Working VK2SSI From My Backyard

 I've written multiple times in this space about the magic of ham radio. It will always be magic to me.

This past weekend I was testing portable configurations for a trip I will be taking to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico next week. I am the President of the Alamo Area Council of the Boy Scouts and will be going through some training there. So, this trip I will not operating from a summit, but rather I need to work an IOTA Island that I need that will  QRV the week I am there.

I use EFHW's from summits all the time, but at QRP power levels, this time I will be running ~100 watts from a battery, so I thought an on air test would be a good idea. I conduct such tests in my backyard "Outdoor Radio Laboratory". I test portable configurations in an outdoor environment to simulate the conditions I will be operating in. I was running ~100 watts from an old Yaesu FT-100D to the EFHW  on a 30' pole tied off in a tree. I was tuning on 17m and I found and was able to work VK2SSI on OC-194, Solitary Island. So a portable to portable QSO would bode well for the capability of the set up.

Below is a video of the set up.

I think I have more fun in my backyard than in my regular shack.

Friday, July 10, 2015

SOTA Activity Weekend September 12th & 13th

 September 12th & 13th is the annual "Summits-on-the-Air" Activity Weekend

North America SOTA Activity Weekend 2015 is a casual event involving tiny battery-powered radios on mountain summits.  It is not a contest but is intended to introduce "Summits on the Air" to newcomers with home stations who try to work summit operators during one or two days. There are no rules regarding power levels, modes or number of bands worked, but please be courteous when more than one station is trying to talk to a SOTA operator on a summit.  The SOTA operators have just climbed mountains as high as 14,000 feet; they use low power; and they don't receive on split frequencies. 

Check to spot who is on which mountain.  Summits are numbered, and you can hover your cursor over the number to see the name and point value for each summit.  Expect the website to show activity near 7.032, 7.185, 10.110, 14.342, 18.095, 18.155, 21.350, 24.905, 24.955, 28.420, 146.52, 446.00, and 61 Khz up from the bottom of 20, 15 and 10 meters CW.  Participants are invited to collect points toward certificates and trophies offered by the thirteen-year-old international SOTA group (  As we learned in past years, this is a barrel of fun for both hill climbers and home operators.  See you then. 


Thursday, July 9, 2015


I think this video will spark memories of what brought you to ham radio. Click on the link below.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Field Day 2015

ARRL Field Day in an annual operating event designed to demonstrate and practice portable station operation. The Field Day exercise is important in that it shows how radio amateurs can be mobilized in the case of an emergency of any sort. Those involved in the planning of a Field Day understand the detailed planning required to construct, operate and tear-down a quality operating station. There is also the social side of Field Day that is the annual highlight for many clubs, that is a side benefit of the operating activity.

I haven't participated in Field Day for a couple of decades. This year I was invited to participate in the Field Day operation of W5YA. W5YA has won their entered category numerous times and has finished in the top 10 of all Field Day stations multiple times, operating QRP. Their success is directly correlated to meticulous planning and the excellent execution of that plan by the team of KT5X, K1JD, K5KM, NM5S, K7SO, K6XT, W0CCA and WD9FJL. The primary antennas are wire antennas strung in the trees at the Field Day site near Chama, NM.

My role this year was to fill in some shifts at the CW stations but primarily to supervise the operation of the GOTA (Get On The Air) station along with my son, Michael Jr., AB5EB. The GOTA station used my call, AD5A, as the GOTA station must operate under a different callsign than the primary Field Day station. The GOTA operators were my grandsons Reid, KF5GYE, age 14 and Boogie, KF5GYD, age 13. Both have their General tickets, but are not very active, which is a requirement of the GOTA station. My son and I would coach them during the event. Neither of my grandsons do CW, so we would be operating SSB, QRP. Not the easiest of assignments. Operating on a crowded band with beginner level operators is quite a learning experience for all involved. What was slightly frustrating in the first 12 hours was a delight in the last 12. Both boys learned a lot about operating QRP, proper procedures and amateur radio etiquette. In the final hours of the event, no coaching was needed. They  learned to handle both calling CQ and answering stations in a pile-up. Overall a fantastic result, the boys finished with 158 SSB QSO's from the GOTA station using 5 watts from a KX3 and a wire in the trees.

The final tally hasn't been made yet, but the CW station contributed over 1,400 QSO.s with wire antenna's and 5 watts of power. A very cool accomplishment and a testament to what is possible with amateur radio. Teaching us those lessons and getting new hams involved is what Field Day is all about.

We camped in a tent for two nights so I got to enjoy my son and grandsons in a great outdoor radio experience. Below is a video of the two GOTA operators. KF5GYD is operating and KF5GYE is cooking. The video should give you a flavor of Field Day.

Monday, May 18, 2015

SOTA Mountain Goat Trophy Arrives

My engraved SOTA Mountain Goat trophy finally arrived. It took 118 summit activations to earn this little piece of glass making it priceless, to me at least.

My Ph.D. in Portable Mountain Ops
No two trophies are alike, each is hand chiseled. Pretty cool!!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dayton Finale

Dayton Hamvention 2015 is over for me. I have a plane to catch Sunday morning so I made my final rounds through Hara Arena just before 5:00 pm. I will be back, good Lord willing and the creek don't rise. It was a good time and I now have lots of ideas of things to do in and around the shack.

Below is a picture of the new K3S. There are some significant differences that I'm sure will be documented soon. Some of the differences will be mods that can be applied to current K3's, other changes will not. Only minor changes to the appearance of the radio


There are always new things to discover and I came across a neat product for portable QRP practioners. One of the processes to getting efficient in portable QRP operation is to try to figure out a reasonable antenna configuration. Enter PackTenna, .

The product is a prepackaged antenna system, including the telescoping 32 ft. pole. The antenna is an innovative design that allows you to configure the antenna as a dipole or a vertical. Check it out.


Finally, I didn't get away without a couple of catches of my own. I found a Navy Flameproof straight-key and a 100 year  commemorative version of the Vibroplex Original semi-automatic key. Both are seen below.

So another Dayton experience in the books, can't wait to go again.

Live From Dayton

I am taking a break at the Dayton Hamvention to capture a few thoughts. This is the first time I've been to Dayton since the late '90's. The good news and bad news is that not much has changed. The good news is that all the cool stuff is here.Yesterday I got a look at the new K3S that Elecraft announced and all the other new toys and old ones are here. It is Ham Radio Heaven from that perspective.

The gatherings around town are still a highlight. The social aspect of Dayton is always a plus, getting to hang out with your "on-air" buddies in person and getting together with people of common interests

So what is the bad news? Hara Arena was in bad need of a facelift in the late 90's and I can't tell that anything has been improved. Even a light rain brings out the buckets, inside, to catch the leaking water. The Flea Market area has crumbling asphalt, to the extent of being dangerous in places. Although it's early on Saturday, the crowds seem much smaller.

I was able to mix in a little SOTA fun while here. The highest point in Ohio is about an hour north of Dayton in Belle Fountain, OH. So I ventured up to there to activate a summit in a new association and get 4 points. 

                  A Collins Amplifier

                  Activating Campbell Hill

I will try to take a few more pictures to day.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Miscelleneous Radio Stuff

I've had so much to blog about lately and so little time to sit down and actually write it down that I felt the need to just say a few words in summary fashion without pictures. So below are a few radio things that I have going on.

As I have blogged in the past, I have a QTH is Santa Fe, NM. From there I have done the majority of my SOTA expeditions. There is a great ham radio community there and an even better SOTA community. Including myself, there are four hams who have earned SOTA Mountain Goat status in the Santa Fe areas and soon to be five. So we have a lot of fun in the mountains of New Mexico. To bring some organization to that group, we have formed the New Mexico Mountain Goat club to promote efficiently summit radio operations. This week the club call was finally issued, NM5MG. So listen for this call around Memorial Day weekend (end of May).

I have built my first stealth antenna with help from AD6D, in the form of a flagpole, at my Santa Fe QTH. The 20 ft. flagpole from ZeroFive antennas works great. I've installed an LDG tuner at the base to get the antenna resonant 10 -20m and added a piece of wire, attached to the flag fastener and raised to the top, in an inverted L configuration to get tuned resonance on 40m and 80m. No doubt it is a compromise, but I'm on the air and can work a lot of stuff.

I will be travelling to Dayton for the first time in 15+ years. I am looking forward to seeing old friends there. My focus in ham radio has matured a lot since the last time I was there, so looking forward to the flea market.

I am also working on perfecting remote operation of my home QTH station in Boerne, TX. Early results are encouraging. I just to need to tweak a few things and get comfortable with the process.

Hopefully next time, I can write some specifics about these projects.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

FT4TA Expedition Book

I received the commemorative book on the FT4TA expedition to Tromelin in the mail a couple of days ago. Just a word to say that it is a nice memento of the expedition. I enjoy collecting expedition books as they are nice reading to learn how things worked, but also to look at a few years in the future to remember how things worked, "in the good old days":-)

You can see a preview of the book here:

I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My New Station

As I have blogged in past, I have a QTH in Santa Fe, NM. I have 5 acres, but according to the deed restrictions all I can do is look at it. No towers, no antennas, nothing. Since I spend most of my time here activating SOTA summits it's not that big of deal, however from time to time there is something I might miss because I have no HF capability, plus I like to chase SOTA peaks as well and I haven't been able to do that from here.

So with the help of Hector, XE2K, I am now able to work HF from here in a couple of ways. The first challenge was the antenna. While there is strict prohibitions against transmitting antennas, there is nothing prohibiting flagpoles. So I got permission to put up a flagpole. The flagpole I bought was from ZeroFive antennas. I bought the 20 ft. version. which is resonant on 20m with no tuning. I am using 16 43ft. radials However, I also put a SGC remote tuner at the base, which tunes all bands from 10m - 30m. Hector, who is very good at expanding the capabilities of any antenna, suggested we add a radiating wire to the mix. So we cut a 43 ft. piece of wire, attached it to the flag fastener and hoisted it to the top of the pole and tied off the end, in an inverted V configuration. the two antennas now are resonant, with the tuner, 10m - 80m. While it's not optimum, it is functional and now I'm on the air. In the photo below you can see the flagpole and the wire that makes 40m and 80m possible.

Flagpole Antenna

The next HF solution is to remote into my K3 at my home QTH in Texas. So I bought the K3/0 which is the remote radio device along with the RemoteRig interfaces. It is also now functional. So if I need a beam, I have access to that as well. So I am back in business on HF. Below is a look at the station. The K3/0 is on the left and an Icom 7200 on the right.


Where there is a will, there is a way.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Final Assault (Part Three): Mission Accomplished

Today, March 8, 2015 at 1732z, I made my fourth QSO from Peak 9431, W5N/PW-019 with N4EX. That QSO qualified the activation and thus earned me my SOTA Mountain Goat award. After 2 years and 2 days my point total is now 1,007, hallelujah!!

Peak 9431 was also  the second activation I ever made and I activated it with Fred, KT5X and John K1JD, both of which were with me today. Also this was my first activation using snow shoes the entire way, which actually was sort of fun. I made 37 QSO's and had a nice run of Europeans on 15m. It was a great day. Below is a video and a couple of pictures of today's activation.


Activation (I left my snow shoes on)

Departing the Summit with K1JD and KT5X

More summits to activate. Thanks to the chasers who make this possible.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Final Assualt (Part 2), Not Today

There was a tentative plan to do two peaks today to finish off my SOTA Goat quest. However it was not to be. We did activate Viejos Mesa, W5N/CC-020, but evidently I had yet to do a hike through snow and mud on a beautiful sunny day. I can now check that box. The summit took us a lot longer than expected and conditions would have been similar a the second peak. So we cancelled the second one.

I did the activation with Fred, KT5X and John K1JD. It was a lovely day and the views were simply magnificent, in fact these views captured the imagination of Georgia O'Keeffe, and which she immortalized in her paintings. Of all the days to forget my camera it was today, but in the picture below, everything in it plus a lot more was what we got to look at while activating this summit. Of course we were a lot higher, 8,000 ft. ASL, while enjoying the beauty.

So now I sit at 996 points. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Final Assault (Part 1)

The last I wrote I had 965 SOTA Activator points. The goal is 1,000 Activator points to achieve Mountain Goat status. I'm almost there. I did two summits today, Palomas Peak (W5N/SI-010) and Peak 6860 (W5/SI-022), to move my total to 985 points, almost there. Below are some video clips from my activations today.

It was a beautiful day to be in the mountains of New Mexico. Both of these summits are near Albuquerque, but very different environments. Palomas Peak is in an alpine forest and 6860, more or less in the desert. Al within about 25 miles of each other.

The Trail to Palomas Peak

Palomas Operating Position

Palomas Descent

Taking a Break During 6860 Ascent

Arrival on 6860

6860 Summit

It was a beautiful day with two very different mountains. Lots of fun. Only 15 points to go. Stay Tuned for Part II.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Chew the Rag a Little

Most of us these days are very busy. Especially for those who are working, raising kids and trying to do the best we can to meet our obligations, there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day. Today's world is fast moving, with smart phones, iPads and other forms of technology it's hard to have any spare time. And so for many that translates to our beloved hobby, Amateur Radio, we just rush through our routine, work the station, 599, and get back to the hustle and bustle of life.

We use the spotting networks to save time turning the dial looking for DX, or that needed whatever, we may be chasing. Even the rare times that we may call CQ, it's a quick report and on to the next one. Because of our rush to get through our days, we miss a lot of the hidden treasures available to us in Amateur Radio if just take the time.

I'm as guilty as the next guy of all of the above, that's why I can write about it so easily. However in the last few months I've been taking the time to have real chats or "ragchews" with my fellow amateurs. CW is my preferred mode, and so I have set aside 20 -30 minutes in an evening, rather than watch some TV show I will forget about in a weeks' time, to just sit down and have a chat. I've met some really cool people and had many very satisfying QSO's. I have re-sharpened my CW skills and met some new friends.

So, call CQ instead of watching the spots and see what you get. Talk about your rig, the weather,  your paddle or bug and enjoy a relaxing time in your shack. You will feel refreshed to meet others who share this great hobby.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Closing in on Mountain Goat

It has been a busy year on several fronts. My day job has kept me extremely busy, my band competed in the International Blues Challenge (IBC), getting to play two nights in BB Kings on Beale St. in Memphis, TN to packed houses and I've been accumulating a lot of SOTA points.

Sometimes my busy schedule gives me opportunities to activate summits that I wouldn't otherwise get to activate. A case in point was travelling to the IBC in Memphis. My drive from San Antonio took me through eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. Both areas are target rich environments for SOTA activators so I was able to accumulate a lot of points. So many points in fact that, when added to a recent trip to Santa Fe, NM and the Davis Mountains in Texas I am knocking on the door of the SOTA Mountain Goat award which requires 1,000 activator points. I am now at 965 points.

Not just because I am getting close to earning MG status, but I believe this is one of the toughest awards in ham radio if you factor in the physical side of it. Nearly all awards in the amateur radio world require you sit on your derriere for hours or even days at a time. You will never mistake a ham convention for a gathering of tri-athletes. Staying fit enough to do these climbs has me in the best shape I've been in  years. That said, you don't have to be in fantastic shape to participate in SOTA. There are mountains or hills  that qualify that can be driven up or just a short walk will get you there. But it does require that you get outside, which is a good thing. And I promise, the more you do it, the more you will want to do.

I've learned some much about portable QRP operating while working toward this award. It's been said that when you achieve MG status, you have a Ph.D in portable radio operation. When I think about my first activation versus the way I operate now, it's night and day. I travel so much lighter and my station is much more efficient. I can be operating within 10 minutes of arriving on the summit with a station that will generate a pile-up and make DX contacts on multiple bands.

So I am anxious to get the 1,000th point, which hopefully will be within the next couple of weeks. Below is a video and picture from a couple of summits I activated last weekend in the Davis Mountains of Texas. The Davis Mountains are the home of the McDonald Observatory which, as you will see below, is a dominant feature on the horizon in that area. BTW, Mount Locke, where the observatory sits, is a 10 pointer that you drive up, however you have to get of the house to get there. The picture is from Mt. Arabella, a fairly steep 8 pointer that will take the average person 30 -45 minutes to ascend. The video is from Peak 6411 outside of Ft. Davis. It also is a drive-up. I use the Alex Loop on drive up mountains, but End Fed Half Wave (EFHW) on hikes of any distance.

Since beginning my chase for MG my longest hike was doing Santa Fe Baldy, in Santa Fe, NM. A 15 mile roundtrip up to 12,000+ ft. ASL. The tallest mountain I've done is Mt. Sherman in Colorado at 14,036 ft. ASL.

I 'm sure I will make another posting to the Blog when I get the 1,000th point. I can't wait to become a certified Old Goat!

McDonald Observatory from Mt. Arabella

Saturday, February 7, 2015

My Plan for K1N

It's been said that if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. Said another way, it's always good to have a plan. As the K1N expedition was approaching, I had a look at my log to see what bands I would need them on. I was fortunate to work Navassa in 1992, so I didn't need this one for and all-time new one (ATNO), but I did need to fill a few band slots. But what did I need? Oddly enough I needed them on 20m. Navassa and North Korea are the only countries I need on 20m to have 'em all on that band. I also needed them on 160m, 17m, 12m and RTTY for a new mode.

My plan would've been relatively simple however I've been on a business trip the past week which has prevented me from chasing K1N. What's worse the trip was to Europe which is six hours ahead of Central Standard time, where I live. When I arrived back at my QTH at 7:00 Friday night, I was worn out. It was 2:00 am on my body clock and my body was ready for bed.

Ah, but I had a plan. However, to make the plan a little more complicated, my wife had foot surgery just seven days before and was basically confined to bed except for the very basic needs. So when I arrived home I relieved some of our family who had filled in during my absence. So, before I dare turn on the radio,  I got her squared away and comfortable then immediately checked the K1N spots. They were on 20m SSB and 160m CW. I figured I would try 20m as I assumed that demand had been worked down during the week. After just a few calls I had them in the log. Next, QSY to 160m for what I would figure to be an extended period. I quickly checked on my wife, all was good, back to the pile. After about 10 minutes of calling I had him in the log. 160m contacts are special to me. I only have an Alpha Delta DX-A attached to my tower at 50 feet. K1N was my 179th country with this set-up. So two bands down, 12m, 17m and RTTY would have to wait until the next day.

The next day dawned. First things first. Get some breakfast for my wife. Not hard, cereal and fruit. Make a cup of coffee, check the spots. K1N was on 17m RTTY and if I could log them there, that would be a two-fer, that is it would satisfy the need for the 17m band and the need for RTTY. I called for about 5 minutes and then the operator called for Europe. He would then work Europe for the next 6 hours. I would check back regularly, hoping he would come back to the states, but it wasn't to be.

During the late morning, there was a spot for 12m CW. I pounced on the spot and called for probably two hours off and on. I would periodically check on my wife, retrieve something she needed and then get back to it. The pile-up 20 kc wide and it was hard to find where he was consistently. Finally I found him and followed him up the band and got a QSO. Cool, now the 17m RTTY QSO would close the book on Navassa for me I could just manage that QSO.

Mid-afternoon sometime, K1N started working stateside again, but for the next hour would have software problems and they QRT'ed to fix that. When they got it fixed, worked stateside for about 10 minutes and then listened for JA. This was a little frustrating as most of the stateside QSO time had been used up by the software repairs. Finally. at 7:04 pm local time, 0104z, I was able to get the 17m RTTY QSO....Mission accomplished, all in less than 24 hours.

I haven't followed the entire K1N expedition, but, at least from a stateside view, the pile-ups are fairly orderly. They are still very large however. Whoever predicted the demise of ham radio, missed the boat. DXing seems to be as strong as ever.

One thing I like about the K1N expedition is that they seem to always have a station on 20m. I think that is a must to help calm the crowds who need a country for an ATNO. I also don't believe that it's imperative to have every mode on every band. I believe a major expedition should work the three main modes and operate on all bands, but not necessarily all modes on all bands. If in the final days  the pile-up diminish then start adding band modes. As I mentioned above, the 17 meter RTTY QSO checked two boxes for me, new band, new mode. More thought should be given to this approach.

So I still need them on 6m, but that's asking too much:-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bugs: My New Fascination

As many QRP'ers, I'm a CW enthuisiast. Before I earned my license, CW was an imagined barrier. I imagined how difficult it would be to learn and that it would the ulitmate reason for me failing to get my license. However, for me, after I tried it it came to me relatively easy. I went from 5 wpm to 20 wpm in 11 months as I advanced to Extra Class. As most of us do, I started with a straight key and moved on to paddle and electonic keyer.

During my process of learning code, I had read about, and seen at hamfests, these telegraphy devices called "bugs". Interesting looking contraptions these bugs, but could a person really master one of these things. As I was intimidated by the code initially, so I was intimidated by sending code with a bug. You must understand, of course, that I never attempted to send even a dit with a bug, because I was certain it was difficult.

The past Straight Key Night I was in Santa Fe, NM having a New Years Eve dinner at the QTH of Fred, KT5X, and in the company of John, K1JD. It was assumed by both of these experience bug users that I too was proficient with that instrument. As we retired to the radio shack after a fine dinner with our wives, I was introduced to the bug. I was actually able to send my call after a brief tutorial from Fred, although he forbade me to send actual code over the air after a few of my awkward attempts. but I was able to manipulate the bug. How about that, not as hard as thought. Fred also collects and restores bugs and has a lot of knowledge of the time frame of manufacture and the rarity and nuances of collectible bugs. To get to the point, I was quite enthuisiastic about learning this part of the craft and the history of the bugs was quite interesting to me.

So after a trip (or two) to EBay, I am now the proud owner of a Vibroplex Original from 1944. I've gotten to the point that I'm not afraid to call CQ and have a QSO with the bug. I have, however, been calling all my CQ's to date on my KX3 at 5 watts. I want to keep the damage to my CW reputation to a minimum:-) It's quite fun and leaves you with a sense of accomplishment.

As you see from the picture, the bug is almost as big as the KX3, but its lots of fun. I am now certain that using bugs will always be a part of my CW repertoire. If you don't want to get hooked, don't try it.

One word of advice, find someone to coach you on how to set up the bug. As you can see above, there are lots of knobs to turn to get to that feel that you like.