Saturday, January 23, 2016


Another small celebration in the shack. I wasn't sure the time was right to spend much time chasing South Sandwich with a QRP signal. I usually save that  attempt for the last day or two of a big expedition and the VP8 guys are still working to satisfy a lot of demand. In fact I did try earlier in the day and just rationalized, after calling for a while, that the pile-up was still too big. The other deterrent to my thinking was that they just weren't that loud. As a rule of thumb I figure the DX needs to be 559 or better for them to hear my QRP signal. However as the sun went down I checked the 20 meter pile up on the Elecraft P3, hmm, not too big on the screen. Their signal was probably only an S3, what the heck, let me have a go, as my British buddies would say. I turned the K3 down to 5 watts, hit the split button and started listening on the second VFO. I found him and followed him up for 4 or 5 QSO's and then he came back to me, just like he does with the big guns, AD5A 599:-) That was when the small celebration broke out.

I love this radio stuff.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

K5P on QRP

I managed a QSO with K5P yesterday on 20m CW with 5 watts out for my 180th country on QRP. I don't know why, but I am always amazed by this, especially when breaking a pile-up. I have a decent antenna, a log periodic up 50 feet, but so do most of the QRO guys. Always fun. I suppose that's what's interesting about ham radio, it's never the same two days in a row.

I will be looking to work VP8STI on QRP. I need some band slots on QRO, but still need them in my QRP log for the first time.The pile-ups will need to die down a little before I jump in.

I like this logo, nothing against the SSB guys, but it only has a morse key on it:-)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

SOTA Rig Reconfiguration

Activating SOTA's, if you do it regularly, is an iterative process. Of course the primary focus is to get to the top of whatever summit you might be tackling on a given day, but another part of the game is how you get there. Of course the right clothing to be comfortable in whatever conditions you face, the right pack to carry your gear and of course the right radio. But then, some of the fun begins. Not only the right radio, but how will I configure the radio to maximize my signal, be as light as possible and how to I package of this so I don't have radio gear all over the ground or digging in my pack to find the battery, paddle, etc.. I have activated 150+ summits and this is a continuous process.

Since I've retired, I've now have the opportunity to have continuous thoughts about things like this without the interference of work or schedule related thoughts, it's great. Consequently, I've had some time to give my rig configuration some thought. What I have done is not totally unique as I have gotten ideas from others and mixed them into my own concoction. I have the 3 Band MTR, with 17m, 20m and 30m. I chose these particular bands so that I would have flexibility on contest weekends. So below is my latest, not my last configuration.

As you can see I am using a backpacking cutting board as the foundation of the setup. I used a product called Scotch Extreme fastener to attache the LIPO battery and the Pico Paddle, it's sort of like Velcro but it snaps into place and is 10x stronger than velcro. I simply drilled holes (this board has seen several iterations as you can see the many holes), and used rubber bands to hold the radio in place. I may decide to use the fastener instead. The "Rite in the Rain" card is for logging. A nice neat package to pull out of the pack, hook up the antenna, plug in the power and off I go.

There are however a couple of further improvements.

You can see I've added a tethered pencil for logging and an optional Elecraft T1 tuner, if you have a non-resonant wire. I can fasten it to the board with either rubber bands or the Scotch fastener.

I've also added a protective cover for the MTR. It's made from sleeping pad foam and protects the face and switches on the MTR when getting jostled in your pack. On the backside of the cover I've cut out recesses where the switches are and added little magnets that are attracted to the four screws on the case. Thanks to Fred, KT5X for this idea.

So there you have it, a light, three band, package that is compact, light and ready to go. So until I reconfigure again.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Retirement and Ham Radio

Last Monday, January 4th, 2016 marked my last official day as an employee. I am now retired. I made the decision a year ago, so I've had some time to get ready for the transition. I had a very demanding job and life was a very tight schedule. Now I get to decide when I get up in the morning.

Basically my last day in the office was mid-December, so I've had a nice taste of freedom from employment already. My schedule, or lack thereof, is starting to gel although I'm sure I will go through numerous "phases", I think the pattern is set. So below are  few things that I've already experienced on how retirement will effect my ham radio pursuits.

  • I've had time actually read the owner's manual for my radios.
    • I've learned to set-up and use the frequency/band memory functions available on the K3
    • I now understand more of the menu options for the radio
    • I can now operate my HT.
    • I'm reading books about antennas
  • Contacts can actually last longer than 10 seconds
    • I love CW and have found that rag-chewing is a very enjoyable aspect of ham radio. I have met some very interesting people and I've started to make a lot of new friends since I've taken time to just call CQ and not append DX to it
    • I joined the local 2 meter weak signal group and I actually check in to their weekly net.. When I'm home I monitor 144.200 on SSB/CW. VHF/UHF can provide a lot of excitement for a DX minded ham. The DX isn't as far, but it's just as satisfying. 
  • Cleaned out my shack
    • I've acquired a lot of new equipment over the years, but I haven't gotten rid of much. There are many avenues to sell gear, EBay,, eHam, etc.... Now that I'm retired I will have a more modest ham radio budget and getting rid of the old stuff provides a little cash for even more toys.
  • Build the kits I've purchased
    • I haven't finished this yet, but I've started
  • Consider more expeditions
    • I love SOTA and can now plan extended SOTA activation trips with no time lines.
    • I've activated 10+ IOTA islands and can now consider planning more trips.
What I have come to learn is that Monday is just as good a day as Saturday and weekend crowds are to be avoided. There are no crowds on Tuesdays.

I'm sure I'll write more as I get settled into this new lifestyle.