Tuesday, April 26, 2016

KX3 - Buddistick Mojo is back

Now, for a limited time ....... considering how the sunspot cycle is dropping like a lead balloon through a pool of hot, melted butter.

But today was relatively decent.  I set up the Buddistick on the Jeep during lunchtime, hoping to hear or work a few NPOTAs. No dice, nothing heard, even though DX Summit said they were there. I did hear a few chasers on both 40 and 20 Meters. Not hearing the activators, I decided not to be a QRM generator to those who stood a decent shot.

So I went on up to 17 Meters where I heard MJ0KUC , the DXpedition to Jersey Island by the Charente DX Group.  Even though I have worked Jersey several times, I always try to honor the Jersey / New Jersey connection by making contact. The CW op behind the key was superb, handling the pileup deftly and expertly.  He was loud to me - 589/599 depending on the QSB so I decided to give it a shot.  I put out my call a few times and finally heard "W2LJ HI LARRY".

Talk about being surprised - no one else's name was being used!  Coming back to my desk, while I still had a few minutes of lunchtime left, I decided to Google "MJ0KUC" and when the page came up, the surprise vanished.  My expert CW op was none other than Bert F6HKA - it just had to be!  We have QSOed before multiple times, so when we hear each other's call on the air, we both exactly know who is behind the key.

That was so very cool!  Thanks, Bert, for the highlight of the day!

The other DX QSO of the day was with 9Y/K2HVN, Bill in Tobago.  QSB was tougher on this one, but we got the exchange completed, and I'm in the log.  From there, I spent another 20 minutes or so unsuccessfully trying to bust the 7Z1JA pileup for Saudi Arabia.  Again, the station was decently loud to me, but no such luck.  The Buddistick didn't have THAT much mojo in it today!

Truly, band conditions are becoming tougher and tougher.  The ease with which I was able to work DX for the past few seasons is rapidly disappearing. But, it's encouraging to know that all things related to Amateur Radio propagation runs in cycles, so the day will come again (someday) when DX with 5 Watts will become easier.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Broke the 100 confirmations mark today!

NPOTA, that is:

I actually have about 1/2 a dozen more that haven't been confirmed yet. According to LotW, those stations have not uploaded logs since their activations.  A few were a while ago, so I guess it's possible that maybe they won't.

While working a few today, it was extremely embarrassing and saddening to see so may out there have no clue on how to handle themselves in a pileup.  Guys ..... YOU HAVE TO LISTEN!

Throwing out your call sign ad nauseum without taking a moment to listen is the number one earmark of lid-dome. Seriously, if you send out your call ten times without taking a breath, how are you going to know if the activator is calling you back? By the time you've stopped sending your call, the activator has worked someone else and is calling QRZ again (and everyone else in the pileup has taken note of your call sign - you can count on it!). DON'T BE AN ALLIGATOR!  You know, all mouth and no ears! Throw out your call once - maybe twice max, and then open up those ear holes and listen!

Which leads to a second and related problem.  If you can't hear the station you are trying to work, you have NO business sending out your call, in the first place.  If you can't hear the station well enough to know that he's answering someone else - or worse, is in QSO with someone else; but you keep sending your call anyway ..... bad scene, man, bad scene.  You've marked yourself as a QRM generator and no one likes those. Don't rely on the Cluster. Just because DX Summit says Joe Ham is on 7.034 MHz at NPOTA NP256 ..... if you can't hear him, then don't even try.  It's a waste of your time and everyone else in the pileup is going to think you're an idiot.

Now everyone makes an honest mistake now and then, and that's OK,  But you can tell when someone has no clue as to what they're doing. And frighteningly, it seems to be becoming more and more common.

It's OK to be excited and enthusiastic. It's not OK to be reckless or use poor operating practises. Use common sense, read the DX Code of Conduct and you'll be OK.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you call to send the very least!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A few thoughts about RC08.

First, propagation was good that morning.  Here's an image from the Reverse Beacon Network showing some of the skimmers that heard me calling CQ:

Actual stations in California, Saskatchewan and Alberta successfully completed QSOs, so my reach was even farther than the skimmers would indicate.

Secondly, I was surprised by the local ambient noise level.  I was sitting at approximately the middle of a sand spit jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, and I still had an S5 noise level.  I thought it would be way lower than that.  There were a few weak stations that I know were trying their hardest to work me.  I apologize for not being able to dig you out of the noise. Even though the Hook is commercially powered up for the Coast Guard station at the tip, most of the National Park Service buildings along the length of the Hook were still closed as the "season" hasn't started yet.  The service buildings that were open were solar powered. I just expected less noise - certainly not S5 on 40 Meters. My ambient noise level at home is lower than that!

I came home with a sunburn.  It was sunny and there was not a cloud in the sky and I completely forgot, or paid no mind to the fact that the UV rays from the sun would be bouncing off the water to all directions. I was only out for about 90 minutes or so, and I got red.  No big deal, as it wasn't painful or anything like that, but something to keep in mind should I head back for a re-activation later this year. If I do go back, it will be in the Autumn, after tourist season is over so as to avoid paying for parking.  What can I say? I'm as cheap as any other Ham!

Lastly, it came to my attention the other day that Cheesequake State Park is actually part of the National Park System's New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail (AA17), so that's yet another NPOTA activation that will take place later this year.  Perhaps as early as next month.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It was an NPOTA weekend .....

in more ways than one.

I worked about 5 or 6 new entities between Friday night and Saturday, so I am getting really close to my personal goal of working 100.  The bands have been good the past couple of days, after totally stinking during the middle of the week, so that was a good thing.

I have lived relatively near Morristown National Historical Park my entire life. I think I've been there once before NPOTA.  Yesterday, I decided to take Marianne and our dog, Harold up there for the afternoon, as dogs are welcome there.  It was a beautiful Spring day, Marianne had an extremely rare Saturday off; and I wanted to do something with her.  It seemed like a good opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous weather, walk the dog and get some good exercise in for ourselves. It's because of NPOTA that I discovered that dogs are welcome there. If I didn't see that while I was up there, activating the park, I wouldn't have known otherwise.

Much to our surprise, when we got there, we found out that a Revolutionary War re-enactment was taking place:

The highlight of the day was when one of the re-enactors came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. He pointed to the American flag that is embroidered on the left sleeve of my jacket and he said to me, "Kind sir, a question, please. It appears that you have a United States flag on your coat; and yet there are so many stars?  Certainly more than 13!"

I answered, "It's a long and sometimes bloody story, and I don't think we have time to go through it all, but I would like to thank you and your fellow soldiers for giving birth to the finest Nation on Earth."

He chuckled, and I chuckled at our impromptu time travelling scenario. In the end, it was great NPOTA day, even though this one didn't involve Amateur Radio.  So hats off to the ARRL for reminding me about some of the really cool places that there are to visit around my QTH.

In the evening, I decided that I would go out early Sunday morning to activate Sandy Hook, which is part of the Gateway National Recreational Area - RC08.

I used the Jackite pole and my homebrew mast holder and the PAR END FEDZ 40/20/10.  In a little over an hour, I made over 40 contacts on 40 and 20 Meters.  Bext DX was Alberta, Saskatchewan and California.  Not bad for 5 Watts, and if at all possible, the PAR will be my preferred antenna for future activations.  

I would have stayed longer, but I had somewhere to go with my daughter Cara, so I made due with the time I had.  It was a bit brisk while I was there, but it was sunny and clear.  If you click on the bottom photo, you just might be able to make out the New York City skyline in the distance, on the horizon.

Sandy Hook was my third activation, and I hope to do at least two more in New Jersey - the Pinelands and the Appalachain Trail in the Northwest part of the state.  When we go up to Lake George this Summer, I also hope to spend one day at Saratoga and activate HP42 while I'm in the neighborhood.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Never heard Heard

I saw on Facebook this morning, that many were thanking the VK0EK expedition for the ATNO and were thanking them, in general, for a wonderful DXpedition. I would suspect they have gone QRT.

And I would guess I'm in the minority as I'm not in any of their logs.  In fact, I never even heard them decently well enough to work them.  There were a couple of times that I could tell they were on a given frequency, but they never loud enough that I would be able to hear my own call come back to me, on the off-chance that they would have heard me.  It didn't seem right to just add to the QRM.

Am I disappointed?  You're darn tootin' I am!  Working VK0EK would have been an ATNO for me and I sure as heck would love to have them in my DXCC tally.  But I'm not depressed about it.

It all goes back to that post a few weeks ago about balance.  Yes, I do not have Heard Island as an entity worked. However, the sun is still shining, the birds are still chirping, our solar system is still plowing its way throughout the galaxy.  I still have to go to work tomorrow and earn a living.

And while I didn't work them, and life goes on, I still applaud their effort.  It's not easy to go to a remote island near Antarctica, and brave the elements and hardships to provide the rest of us Amateur Radio ops with a bunch of excitement and fun.

Thank you Team VK0EK - even though I'm not in your log - thank you for a job very well done, indeed!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, April 03, 2016

A popular misconception

I saw this on Facebook:

Along with this comment:

"Why do we always congratulate the QRP operators...?!?! The ones who REALLY need congratulating are the guys/gals who smash the headphones to their head, desperately trying to make sense out of the distant RF they're hearing to make the QSO. The "skill" in QRP operation is not so much the operator employing it, but the operator trying to pull it out of the mud!"

So let's examine this for a bit ..... is this true?

A lot of times ..... yes.  A lot of time the credit should go to the stations that pull out our sometimes weak signals. And for these times, we offer a hearty "Thank You!"

However, there's a popular and stubborn misconception, or premise here at work here, if you will:

"QRP = Weak Signal"

Many times, this IS the case, but many times IT IS NOT.

This is where propagation and band conditions come into play, my friends.  And if you've spent any time at all on the HF bands, you would know better than to make the above statement, because a weak signal can be produced by any station. It's not necessarily an indicator of how much power they're running.

Many have been the times when I've had problems pulling a 100 Watt or better signal out of the muck. This could be due to the fact that the station I was trying to work was in the skip zone, the band on which we were working was only "so-so" that day, or for a plethora of other reasons.

Many have been the times when other QRPers have literally blown the cans off my ears with their 5 Watt signals (N9NE comes to mind, on a regular basis). So in the end, you really can't "'judge the book by its cover", nor make assumptions about the station based on the loudness of its signal.

The station that's pinning your needle just might be a QRPer, while the station that you can barely hear may be running a kilowatt.  It's all in the antenna, the band, and the ionosphere, and how all these elements are interacting at the moment.

So what's the lesson to be learned?  

1) Don't be afraid to try and work the weak ones.  I have been guilty of this myself.  There have been instances where I thought "Oh, this guy is never going to hear my 5 Watts!", only to find out that he was running 100 Watts, or better ........ but for whatever reason, he was hearing me much better than I was hearing him.

2) Propagation is not always reciprocal. (This is #1 in reverse.)  Just because the station you are hearing is 20 dB over 9 doesn't necessarily mean you will be heard equally as well at their end.  There may be a high background noise level on their end that you don't know about.  Yes, it IS frustrating as all get out, but don't beat yourself up because the "loud one" didn't hear you. Sometimes, it just works out that way.

3) Power is relative, but it's not an absolute. So as I've said so many times before, you should just forget that you're a QRPer. You're just another fish in the Amateur Radio sea. A smaller fish for sure, but just another fish. And sometimes, just sometimes, the smaller fish gets away with snagging the bait and swimming away to play another day, while the big fish gets snagged by the hook and ends up on the dinner plate.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, April 01, 2016

Hanging it up

After 11 years of blogging about Amateur Radio, QRP and CW, I've come to the conclusion that everything that needs to be said has been said.  I've run out of ideas and new ways to express the old ones. 

So with this blog post, this will be the end of "QRP - Do More With Less".

It's been a good run and I'd like to thank all of you out there who have been faithful readers over these past 11 years, but I think it's time to hang it up.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

April Fool!
Didn't think I was going away that easily, did you?  Naah, I enjoy this too much and will keep on going, the Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Isn't that horse dead yet?

Yet another thread on QRP-L on why the Yaesu FT-817 is better than the Elecraft KX3.

Sheesh!  Haven't we beaten that horse to death yet?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.  Different strokes for different folks. Either way, I thought we all outgrew those "My Dad is bigger than your Dad" arguments when we were about 7 years old.

Give it a rest, already, it's getting old.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My log book experimentation obsession - has it come to an end?

Let's see if I get the timeline straight ..... things get fuzzier as one grows older!

For the first 15 years or so of my Amateur Radio career, I used the "ol' stand by" ARRL paper log books for logging my QSOs.  I think everyone did - well, log books, I mean.  If you didn't use the ARRL ones, you probably used giveaways that used to be handed out as promotional items by Yaesu and Kenwood, or perhaps you just used a regular spiral notebook or loose leaf in a binder.

About the mid 80's, I discovered Log-EQF and used it for several years.  It was fast, intuitive and did not require much in the way of computer processor power. It was a DOS based program with a UNIX look and feel to it.  It was great because the comments space for each QSO was vast, and my log book became sort of a QSO diary in addition to recording the essential QSO data. The fact that it ran great on 80286 and 80386 machines was icing on the cake.

As Windows developed and became more popular, Log-EQF transformed into Win-EQF.  I thought that with the transition to becoming a Windows based program that the developers would update the look and make it appear more like other Windows programs. Sadly, they kept the UNIX appearance and I guess I'm shallow - but I wanted something that was more aesthetically pleasing.

So I purchased a copy and switched over to AC Log for a while.  I did that based on the raves everybody was giving it (and still do). Having a a junker computer at the time, the program would hesitate on me as I tabbed through the data entry fields.  The biggest glitch would come when I tabbed from the last "normal" field to one of the custom fields that I had renamed "Rig/Ant".  The program would freeze up on me for about 3 or 4 seconds before jumping to the custom field.  Not sure what that was (as I stated above, it was probably due to not having enough processor power or perhaps not enough RAM installed), but it drove me mad, particularly while trying to simultaneously log and carry on a QSO.

So while I kept using AC Log, I kept looking for alternatives. Here were my three main requirements:

1) The program had to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
2) The program had to be relatively easy and intuitive to use.
3) The program had to work well with my less than state of the art computer.
4) The program didn't have to be free, but that would be a bonus.

I think I downloaded and tried just about every freebie and/or demo logging program out there.  Some worked great, but didn't have the features I wanted, while others had the features I wanted, but didn't work on my computer. I settled upon three different programs - Ham Radio Deluxe, the DX Labs Suite and Log4OM.

The DX Lab Suite is about as complete as they get. If you want a feature in a log book program, "It's in there!" as the old spaghetti sauce commercial goes. The problem was that so many bells and whistles came with a steep learning curve.  This program takes a long while to become comfortable with and I never did. 

Log4OM was easy to use, easy to set up, pleasing to the eye and full featured.  You would think this would end up being my choice, right?  Well, it did - but not right away. For a while, it came in second.

For a time, I went with Ham Radio Deluxe, back when it was run and maintained by Simon Brown. It had everything I wanted, was relatively easy to use and pretty intuitive, and was very easy on the eyes. It was free, but I was sending a donation to Simon every now and then for all his hard work.

Then he went and sold the rights to it.  HRD became a commercial product and I even bought the rights to it for one year.  Improvements were made and it ran well on my XP computer. Then I bought a laptop which had Windows 7 on it, and unfortunately I had some trouble getting HRD to work correctly.  Eventually, I got it working just fine, until one day when Windows went and updated on me. The next day, all my previous efforts went for naught  and all went kaput in my HRD world.  I started getting all kinds of new errors and lo and behold, my year's worth of support had run out, and I ran out of patience (which has never been my strong suite).

So I went back to Log4OM, my second runner up, and I'm so glad I did. In addition to being easy and intuitive to use, there were several other things about it that made me additionally happy about the change.

1) It installed, quickly, easily and without a hitch.
2) The interface between Log4OM and LotW and eQSL are so simple, even I was able to figure them out.
3) I have since upgraded to Windows 10 and have had several windows updates and Log4OM keeps on ticking like nothing has ever changed.
4) There's actually a comprehensive User's Manual available on-line that you can download to refer to any time you need it.
5) There's a forum at the Log4OM Website that Danielle IW3HMH and Terry G4POP monitor and you actually get answers to questions. And they'll even incorporate suggestions and features into future releases of the program, if they deem it worthwhile.
6) Their DX Cluster tab is the bomb!  If you hook up your rig to the program via CAT control, you can enable the program so that as you change bands, the Cluster will display spots only for the band that you're currently on.  Other software programs probably offer that feature as well, but Log4OM does it so nicely.

I have been a happy Log4OM user now for a couple of years and an so happy that I'm not even tempted to go and look at "new kids on the block" when they pop-up from time to time.

And to answer any skeptics out there, no, I don't receive any consideration or kick-back from Danielle or Log4OM for relating my experiences here,  I'm just a happy, very satisfied user and am hoping that others can be, too. And I intend on being a happy, very satisfied user for a long, long time.

As for AC Log, it works quite well on my current laptop with no issues. I use it for keeping the NJ2SP log, as many other members of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club use AC Log as their primary logging software and I can easily share the file with them. For personal use, Log4OM has features that I like that AC Log doesn't, and I like those features too much do without.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

They're still up!

My antennas, that is.

After yesterday afternoon and last night, I expected to wake up to find my W3EDP at ground level and my Butternut HF9V bent at 90 degrees somewhere along its length.  In retrospect, my fears were probably silly as my antennas withstood Hurricane Sandy with nary a whimper, but ...........

Last evening, as I lay in bed, struggling to fall asleep, the winds were howling, and I do mean HOWLING. Not an exaggeration, they were dong their best to imitate a freight train passing underneath our windows. But, thanks be to God, both antennas are still up, working, functional and never the worse for wear.  Dodged another bullet - whew!

I find myself in somewhat of a quandary.  I e-mailed my buddy, Bob W3BBO about this.  I see all the posts on Facebook about the Heard Island DXpedition. All these people seem to have worked them on so many bands and with so many different modes.

I just can't bring myself to even bother trying.

It's not that I don't need them.  Working VK0EK would be an ATNO for me. Never worked Heard Island before,  It just seems, that for some reason or other, I just don't feel like jumping into the fray.  On the other hand, Yosemite National Park was on 20 Meter SSB last night, I spent close to half an hour unsuccessfully trying to bust that pileup, before they faded into oblivion. So it's not that my competitive instinct has disappeared. Not sure what my problem is.

I'm sure whatever it is, that like everything else, it's cyclical and one day I'll be jumping into the DXpedition pileups with both feet again.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday - 2016

"Why do you search for the Living One among the dead?
He is not here, He has been raised up"

2016 years later, that tomb is STILL empty.

Wishes for a Blessed and Joyous Easter to all of you and your families and loved ones,

Larry W2LJ

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday - 2016

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.

Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people,

A grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, Though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.

Good Friday blessings - W2LJ

Thursday, March 24, 2016

QRPTTF - Saturday, April 23rd

Paul NA5N put this preliminary announcement on QRP-L the other day. Like the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, QRPTTF will be incorporating NPOTA into the mix:


I've been working on the 2016 QRP To The Field website, rules, links,  deleting old stuff, etc. all night, but taking longer than I thought.  So  to not cause any further delay, here's a HEADS UP on this year's QRPTTF.

Open to all QRPers, SOTA ops, and ARRL NPOTA participants (running QRP)

DATE: Saturday, April 23, 2016
TIME: 0800-1800 your local time U.S.
THEME: "Park It Here"

Operate from any National Park, State Park, or AOP (Any Ole Park).  This is  designed to be compatible with the ARRL's NPOTA - for those participating in  the ARRL's National Parks On The Air.  Thus, QSOs for QRPTTF will also count for the NPOTA if operating from an NPS qualified park or facility.  If  more convenient, operate from a nearby State Park, Municipal Park, or other park for the "Park" multiplier.  SOTA stations operating from a qualified summit (and who doesn't?) also count as a "Park" multiplier.

That should be enough for now to mark your calendars, charge your  batteries, dust off your field rig, and come up with a good excuse on why you will be gone Saturday, April 23.

Website coming soon.

72, Paul NA5N

I've said this before ... when you come right down to it, NPOTA is perfect for QRPers. It doesn't have to be complicated, it doesn't have to be a mini Field Day (unless you want it to be, of course). Personally, when it comes to portable ops, I feel the simpler, the better - a la` Jim W1PID, Steve WG0AT and countless others .....a rig, a battery and an antenna, and a whole lotta fun..

There's nothing like QRP and the Great Outdoors!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Radio Amateur's Code

The Radio Amateur's Code

CONSIDERATE...He/[She] never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

LOYAL...He/[She] offers loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs, the IARU Radio Society in his/[her] country, through which Amateur Radio in his/[her] country is represented nationally and internationally.

PROGRESSIVE...He/[She] keeps his/[her] station up to date.  It is well-built and efficient.  His/[Her] operating practice is above reproach.

FRIENDLY...He/[She] operates slowly and patiently when requested; offers friendly advice and counsel to beginners; kind assistance, cooperation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the marks of the amateur spirit.

BALANCED...Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

PATRIOTIC...His/[Her] station and skills are always ready for service to country and community.

The original version of this was written in 1928, by Paul M Segal W9EEA, and it's been modified over the years as things change with the times. The core message remains the same though, as it's pretty much timeless.

The one trait that I want to touch upon today, is the "Balanced" one.

The Radio Amateur is:

BALANCED...Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

Sometimes, I think we forget this one the most, and the evidence is not that hard to find. Take a wander on over to Facebook, or listen to a repeater and it's pretty obvious that some of us become seriously preoccupied or obsessed with such activities as NPOTA, contesting, DXing, county hunting, SOTA, etc.

Amateur Radio, on the whole, and these activities in particular are good and wholesome things. For instance, I'm certain that a lot of our wives, husbands and significant others would rather have us in the shack, yakking away on our radios than spending the month's mortgage money in bars,saloons, casinos or race tracks.

But it's easy to lose focus and become obsessed.  Radio sport that involves chasing that elusive country, county, SOTA peak, NPOTA entity or whatever should never become the focus of our lives, or our reason for being.  Just as purchasing that new rig, antenna, or piece of test equipment should never result in being unable to pay the mortgage, rent or put food on the table. It should also never result in the kid's college fund being raided.

Do you enter the shack on a Friday night for a contest, only to emerge late Sunday evening or early Monday morning?  That's not good, my friends.

Even an essential thing can become bad, if you're not careful. Are you that someone who HAS to be at every civic function or training class?  Even public service, as worthy and noble a cause as it is, should never become between you and your family.  Before going out to respond to any disaster or emergency, the health and welfare of your loved ones should always be your top priority. If they're not taken care of, you don't go.

The bottom line is that there's more to life than Amateur Radio. In our quest to satisfy our passion, sometimes we forget that. Family, friends, loved ones and those relationships are way more important, and should always come before getting that high score, or working that 300th country or buying that newest, latest and greatest radio.

Always keep in the back of your mind that the greatest gift you can give your family is your time. If you're doing OK with that, then you're doing a good job with the "Balanced" part of The Radio Amateur's Code.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

I had hoped for better results

As planned, I went and activated Morristown National Historical Park (HP28) for NPOTA. Things didn't turn out as well as I had hoped; but it was still a good time nonetheless.

I got to the park on time, right before Noon (1600 UTC).  I allowed my TomTom GPS unit to bring me up to Jockey Hollow via a new route which I had never taken before. This brought me up through the Great Dismal Swamp, which is designated as a National Wildlife Refuge.  It is truly a beautiful area and as I was driving through, I could see herons and egrets and all sorts of birds in the marshes. Seeing that the Great Dismal Swamp is designated as a National Wildlife Refuge, I was wondering why it's not listed as one of the NPOTA WR entities.  A little Googling revealed that the Swamp is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and not the National Parks Service. That's a shame because that would be a really beautiful area to set up a portable operation from.

Anyway, I got to the Park and got set up, which by now, only takes me a few minutes. After so many lunch time QRP sessions, I could do this in my sleep, or with my eyes shut.

Since I was planning on operating some SSB in case there was a lack of activity, I brought along my big, heavy Werker deep cycle battery. I figured that this way, I could operate for an extended period of time at the 10 Watt SSB level if I needed to. And boy, did it turn out that I needed to!

The first thing I did after setting up was tune to around 14.061 MHz - the neighborhood of the QRP Watering Hole. I was shocked by what I heard - wall to wall CW signals! There was literally nowhere to sit where there wasn't a station calling "CQ TEST".  I didn't realize that today was the RUDX, the Russian DX Contest - and boy, it filled the band!

I went on up to 17 Meters and heard some Europeans that were very loud. Knowing that meant the band was wide open, I easily found a clear spot at 18.082 MHz and proceeded to call "CQ NPOTA". The band was wide open, but as it turned out, there wasn't much if any activity. I worked K0IG right off the bat and then ...... nothing.

Not wanting to waste too much time, I got out of the Jeep and switched from the Buddistick to my 40 Meter Hamstick.  I went down to 7.037 MHz, called CQ and was greeted by the normal NPOTA pileup. I was stoked and began to work station after station. The only bad thing was that the initial pileup lasted for only a few minutes, and then I began the monotonous routine of calling "CQ NPOTA" and waiting minutes in between answers.

Getting bored, I decided to give 20 Meters another try. Off came the Hamstick and up went the Buddistick.  I called CQ for a bit and got a couple of QSO completed on 14.060 MHz, but it was tough.  The stations calling me were loud, but their calls were being blanketed by even louder DX stations. Those guys had to be using mondo power.  How much do they allow over in Europe, anyway?

Sitting there, disappointed as heck, I was ready to pack it in and head home a bit early. Then an inspiration occurred that maybe I should give 20 Meter SSB a whirl. Even though I'm not an avid fan of SSB, I decided to give it a shot. I was rewarded with a small run of about a dozen stations before that too, ended up petering out.

I had gone up to HP28 with a spiral notebook, thinking I would fill pages with call signs. After all, my outing to TR23 in January netted me over 80 QSOs. For some reason. I was thinking I would break that record easily. Just the opposite happened!  I ended up with only 27 QSOs - but you know what?  I discovered that a bad day of Amateur Radio is STILL better than a good day at work. So I'm a happy camper, anyway.

This only gives me more incentive to go back up to HP28 later this year, but this time throw a wire into a tree.  I know that's kind of verboten, and on Facebook, someone actually related how they were asked to leave a park the other day for doing that. With that in mind, just before I left, I went to the visitor center and explained that I was an Amateur Radio operator and what NPOTA was (she knew what it was, by the way) and asked if there was any prohibition about wires in trees. She said as long as it was temporary, and would cause no damage and would not interfere with anyone else's visit, that they were OK with it.

So when I got back to the car, just for the heck of it, I attempted to launch a line over a limb just to see how it would go.  30 plus feet on the first try.

I'll be back, Jockey Hollow!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!