Sunday, July 30, 2006

FOBB 2006 - The Happy Recap

It was a beautiful day for operating outdoors! It was sunny and in the high 80s and low 90s. It was a good day to be a "bee" in this year's edition of The Flight of the Bumblebees.

As planned, I headed on over to Cotton Street Park in town. This park is tucked away in a residential neighborhood and is harldy ever crowded. Today was no exception. The whole time I was there, I saw maybe two or three other people walking though.

The first order of business was to get the antenna erected. Just this morning, I made up a NorCal Doublet, a portable lightweight antenna intended for QRP field trips. When I got to the park, I went to the pair of trees I had scoped out yesterday. I tied the end of a ball of twine to three, 1 ounce fishing weights. I made a slit in a tennis ball and tucked the weights inside. Then I threw the tennis ball up over a branch in the best Tom Seaver impression that I could muster. Sucess! I got the line over, hooked it on to one end of the doublet and pulled it up, up, up, until it arrived at it's resting place about 25 feet above the ground. I pounded a tent stake into the ground and anchored the end of the antenna support "rope" to that. Then, I went over to the other tree at the other end and saw that the lowest branch was about 35 feet up off ground level. Several tries got me nowhere, as the angles seemed a bit tight and all too narrow for a thrown tennis ball. A slingshot would have been just the ticket; but they're illegal in New Jersey. So I decided that for today, the antenna would be configured as a sloper. 25 feet up on the high side; and down to about 8 feet up on the low side. I used my QRP toolbox as a "make do" step stool to tie the antenna off at the low end.

I hooked up the feedline to my 4:1 balun and then hooked that up to the K1. The antenna was no problem on 20 Meters for the K1. The autotuner handled it in less than two seconds. I set up the rest of the station; put a towel down on the ground to sit on and got down to business. 20 Meters was open nicely and in the end, I worked about 23 station on 20 Meters. The K1 did not like the antenna as much on 40 Meters. The tuner took a lot longer to find a match; and when it did, I could see by the K1's power out meter, that it had folded the output down a touch. In the end, I worked about 11 stations on 40 Meters. For next time, I am going to experiment wih making the dipole legs a bit longer and shortening up on the feedline. I have a feeling I was losing power in the feedline on 40 Meters. I did manage to work my very good friend, Bob W3BBO on 40 Meters. That was the highlight of my day; and getting a good signal report from him made it all the better.

Using this kind of antenna in a portable situation was a first for me; and I would categorize it as an unbridled success. I am very happy with the results. I worked stations all over the eastern 2/3rds of the country. About the farthest west I got was South Dakota. I had no problems working into Texas, Florida and up on into Canada.

At about 4:45 PM, I started cleaning up - about 15 minutes early. I took great care to clean up and leave no trace whatsoever that the park had been used for an Amateur Radio operation that day. It was a fun time; and biting flies notwithstanding, I'm looking forward to Flight of the Bumblebees 2007! Next year, a small portable folding camping table and a collapsible nylon chair are musts. It's tough sitting on the hard earth for almost 4 hours!

For the record ..... here is the equipment rundown that I used:

Elecraft K1 - 4 band transceiver (40, 30, 20 & 15 Meters) with built in auto-tuner.
LDG 4:1 balun
NorCal Doublet - 44 foot wire doublet made from ribbon cable.
Vizkey mini paddle.
Panasonic 12V 7Ah sealed lead acid battery.
Pair of non-descript Walkman type headphones.

An extra battery was charging via solar panel - ready to go if need be.

73 de Larry W2LJ

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