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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Official 2013 Skeeter Hunt Announcement

The NJQRP Club is announcing the Second Annual " Skeeter Hunt".  The objective is to get QRPers out of their shacks for the day; and into the fresh air and sunshine, to spread their wings and fill the airwaves with "Skeeters".  While commercial equipment can certainly utilized, bonus multipliers will be awarded for those who personally home brewed their own or kit built their own equipment (equipment not built by the operator would not count as either home brewed or kit built - it would be considered commercial equipment).  This year, the event is to be held on Sunday August 11th.  It will be a four hour sprint - from 17:00 UTC to 21:00 UTC (1:00 TO 5:00 PM EDT).



The theme for this year is "bodies of water".  We all know that Skeeters love the water.  While we don’t want you going anywhere near actual Skeeter breeding grounds, we encourage operating near any local rivers, brooks, creeks, lakes, ponds, reservoirs, or even near a bay or the sea shore!  Please make sure to take pictures and tell us about it in your Soapbox comments. (Bird baths, swimming pools, old tires filled with water, buckets, Dixie cups, etc. will NOT count for the contest!)

Stations who wish to be designated as "Skeeters" can get a Skeeter number by requesting one by sending an e-mail to w2lj@arrl.net  Please let me know if you intend to operate from a state other than your home state as listed on QRZ. Skeeter numbers will be issued from May through the day before the event. The official Website for the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt is http://www.qsl.net/w2lj/

Station Classes and Multipliers
X1 Home stations - commercial equipment
X2 Home stations - home brewed or kit built equipment
X3 Portable station - commercial equipment
X4 Portable station - home brewed or kit built equipment

Portable stations cannot use permanent antennas, i.e you can't work from your backyard, hook up to your dipole or tower and yagi and be considered a portable station. Also, portable stations cannot be connected to the local power grid - alternative energy sources must be used - solar, battery, wind, etc.

Multi-Op Stations: - Great idea!  Want to get together with some of your best buds to have a barbeque and hunt some Skeeters?  FB deal, OM!  When you send in your log, send the calls of everyone who participated under that call and or Skeeter number.  And remember to send pictures of your group for the soapbox!

Suggested Call - Either CQ QRP or CQ BZZ

Exchange -
Skeeter Stations - RST, S/P/C, Skeeter number
Non-Skeeter Stations - RST, S/P/C, Output power

Modes – CW, SSB (new for this year!)
Power - 5W max CW, 10 Watts max SSB

Scoring -
Working a Skeeter Station - 2 points
Working a non-Skeeter Station - 1 point
Work a WAE station - 3 points  - Yes! The Worked All Europe contest (CW) is the same day - working DX stations (different continent) will get you extra points!

Total score equals the number of QSO points times the number of S/P/Cs worked on all bands (stations can be worked on multiple bands for QSO points and S/P/C credit) times the multiplier for station class. For example, if you work W2LJ on 20 and 40 Meters, it counts as 2 QSOs and NJ counts for a S/P/C on each band.

Bonus points – An extra 500 points can be added to your score if you operate near a lake, stream, river, pond, beach, etc. as stated above  Please send a photo of your set up, along with your log submission in order to claim points.

Suggested frequencies:
The QRP "Watering Holes"

For CW
80 Meters ~ 3.560 MHz
40 Meters ~ 7.040 and 7.030 MHz - also consider using from 7.114 to 7.122 MHz for a "slower" speed CW area.  We want to have everyone involved!
20 Meters ~ 14.060 MHz
15 Meters ~ 21.060 MHz
10 Meters ~ 28.060 MHz

For SSB
80 Meters ~ 3.985 MHz
40 Meters ~ 7.285 MHz
20 Meters ~ 14.285 MHz
15 Meters ~ 21.385 MHz
10 Meters ~ 28.885 MHz

These are suggested starting points, of course. Feel free to spread out and give your "Skeeter" wings a chance to do their thing.

Categories: CW Only and SSB Only, or Mixed Operating will be considered separate categories. Please indicate with your log summary which category you are participating as.

Log summaries, photos and soapbox comments can be sent to w2lj@arrl.net no later than 14 days after the event.  Certificates will be issued to the top scorers of each category as well as others to be determined. Here's an example of a summary that should be used:

Larry - W2LJ - NJ
Skeeter #4 - All CW
Skeeter QSOs - 23
Non-Skeeter QSOs - 5
DX QSOs - (if any)
S/P/Cs - 18
Station Class Multiplier X4
Claiming Bonus - No

If you send me all that information, I will figure out your score for you.

Hope to hear and work all of you during this year's event. Special thanks to the NJQRP club for their sponsorship!

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

Some QRPTTF videos

From Sean KX9X:



From Dave NK0E:



From N6NA:



I submitted my meager little log today along with SoapBox and photos.  If you participated, please don't hesitate to submit your entry. Click here to get to the QRPTTF page, where you can find summary sheets in .doc and .pdf formats.  As Paul states, "Thanks to all who participated this year and hope you all had fun, regardless of band conditions (not that great) or whether you worked 5 or 50 stations."

So I repeat, please don't hesitate to send in your log and summary, even if you only had 1, or 5, 25, 50 or 100 contacts.  Nothing warms the cockles of the organizer's heart like seeing a bunch of logs come in!  It's not extra work.  It's affirmation that fun is being had by all; and that it's worth it to repeat the event the next year.

And speaking of events, look for the official announcement concerning the upcoming 2013 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt here tomorrow and on all the QRP e-mail reflectors.

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

TTF = FUN

It's just about 11:00 PM and the day is almost done. It was a busy one!  After this blog post is finished, then I am finished too!  I will head upstairs to hit the sack.

The day started off with a visit to the Doctor's office.  Nothing serious, just some blood work as my cholesterol was just a tad on the high side when I saw him last autumn,  He wanted a follow up visit in six months, and today was the day.  Before I left however, my lawn mower repair guy called and said my mower was fixed and ready to pick up.  That was good news; but I really wasn't expecting it until Monday.

After getting my arm stuck at the Dr's office, I came home for a quick lunch. Then I packed up the car with my radio gear and went to pick up the mower.  On the way home, I headed off to Thomas Edison Memorial Park for a few hours of QRPTTFing.  I was surprised when I got there.  This what the memorial tower usually looks like:


My surprise was that I knew the tower was being refurbished.  But for some reason, I thought all the work had been completed.  It turns out that so far, only the accompanying museum has been refurbished.  This is what the tower currently looks like.  It should be finished sometime later this year or perhaps early 2014.



And in accordance with the QRPTTF theme for 2013, I was only a block away from NJ Route 27, which is officially part of the Lincoln Highway, America's first intercontinental highway - definitely an historic trail.


So I set off to one side of a side street in order to set up shop. I supported the PAR using my Jackite pole and my drive on stand. It was configured as a sloper.  I could have used a tree, I suppose, but I didn't want to take too many chances. As it was, the lady who was volunteering to staff the museum today drove past me very slowly a few times to see what I was doing.  I explained in advance, but I guess she just wanted to be sure I wasn't tearing up the place.


The drive on stand worked perfectly, by the way!  Thank you all for your many suggestions.  What I did was to buy an 8" corner brace, which in plain English is an "L" bracket.  Instead of bolting it to both the vertical and horizontal boards, though, I only bolted it to the vertical board.  I secured the "L" bracket in place to the horizontal board by driving onto it! And it worked great.  It was a bit breezy, and throughout my operating time, only the very top section swayed and at that, just a tiny bit.  Set up and tear down literally took only a few minutes. (Perspective with the camera phone is lousy as I tilted it up a bit to get this photo. The Jackite was actually vertical and was not leaning towards the Jeep as the photo might have you believe. Guess I would have needed a view camera with swings and tilts to get it right.)

Another surprise was that after I drove off this mast support, and disassembled it to put it away, I was expecting to see the "L" bracket imprinted into the wood. After all, there was basically 1/4 of a Jeep resting on it. But oak is hard wood, indeed. Not even a mark.

I worked the following stations - thank you all!

AB9CA - Dave in AL
KIØG - Bob in CO- SOTA
WSØTA - NM - SOTA
AD4S - John in GA
WAØITP - Terry in IA
K4AHO - Jim in FL
WØEA - TJ in IA
K4UPG - Kelly in FL
AA4GA - Lee in GA
KX9X - Sean in CT (QST Contest Editor)
NØKIS - Bruce in NE
N4EO - Jerry in AL
WD4EXI - Val in GA
K4BX - Bill in AL
W9WKP - Steve in NE (WØOOW)
W2JEK - Don in NJ
W3KC - Chas in MD

Only 17 stations, but I had to end this effort and come home and mow the lawn.  Not being able to do it until now because of the malfunctioning mower, it was beginning to look like a jungle!  After I got that done, I made dinner for the kids and then went grocery shopping. Can you say, "Whew"?

I wanted to see if I could work some DX on 20 and 30 Meters tonight to keep my totals up in the Club 72 QRP Marathon, which only has a few days left.  Right now, I'm in 8th place and I've been bopping around in the 7th to 10th place neighborhood. I'd like to finish strong, if I could, but I was just too tired to even try tonight.  Maybe tomorrow.

Good night!

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


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Almost there, but not just yet.

OK - so here's the deal.  I mentioned that I wanted to come up with a drive-on support that will allow me to use my Jackite pole as a support for wire antennas for portable non-hike type ops.  What I used to use, when I had my Buddipole, was a 4 foot plank of oak.  I bought a threaded piece of 2" pipe and a pipe flange.  I secured the pipe flange into the plank with screws.  When I got to a suitable spot, I would drive onto the plank, screw the pipe into the flange and drop the painter's pole that I was using as a mast into the pipe.  Viola' - instant Buddipole support!

The problem is the Jackite pole is a way bigger diameter than the painter's pole - 2 3/4" in diameter compared to less that 2" in diameter for the painter's pole.  The biggest diameter iron pipe that Home Depot had in small, pre-cut, pre-threaded pieces was 2".  Not gonna work.

So I took my 4 foot plank of oak and cut it into two, more or less equal sized pieces.


Then using hinges, I reverted it back into a single 4 foot plank.  Seems silly doesn't it, at first hearing?


Ahhhhh .... but there's a method to my madness, because now I have a vertical section as well as a horizontal section.



I added two "U" bolts to hold the Jackite pole.  And here's what it looks like "in action".




Two things remain to be done. First, I want to replace the hex nuts on the "U" bolts with wing nuts.  This will make it easier to tighten and loosen in the field.  Secondly, I need some sort of "support strut" between the horizontal and vertical components.  I am not sure what to use. A strut like you would find in an old style attache case or an equipment case would be ideal; but I don't know where you'd even go about buying case parts.  The only other thing that I can think of is buying a piece of aluminum stock and fashioning my own custom "strut".  Anchor it on one member with a screw and allow it to swing, and cut or file a "hook" into the other end and let that come to rest on a screw inserted into the other member.

I don't want to take a chance that a gust of wind could catch this and then either blow it back onto the Jeep or even worse, out to the side (taking radios and equipment with it!).

The easy answer is to just screw a shelf bracket in place.  But that would make this thing a permanent "L". Right now it folds down onto itself, forming a nice 2 foot long piece that fits in the back of the Jeep quite nicely, not taking up a lot of space.  I definitely want this to fold for easy storage, but yet be strong and stable enough when deployed so that there will be no worries.

Any ideas?

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A few things

Two things pointed out to me by Bob W3BBO, who directed me to the "ARRL Contest Update" e-mail, which I had just kind of glossed over without reading properly:

This was submitted by Paul WØRW, of QRP Pedestrian Mobile fame. QRPTTFers - keep this in mind!

"This coming Saturday, April 27th, is Morse Code Day! Samuel Morse was born in 1791 and his invention of a telegraph and an effective coding method for text created the first "on line" medium, truly changing the world. The special event station W2M will operate from Locust Grove, Morse's villa, from 1400Z to 1900Z. (Thanks, Paul WØRW)"

No better way to honor Morse Code Day than by getting out for QRPTTF and pounding on some brass, eh?  Also, this relating to Morse Code from the ARRL:

"More about Morse with Morse Code Day coming up - if you are interested in Morse Code in baseball, here's an audio file from KCMO on the early days of baseball reportage (featuring an ex-President) and there is some secret Morse at Fenway Park in Boston. (Thanks, Rich K8MEG)"

Secondly - and this is really cool!

"Dave K1TTT has put one of those unmanned video drones to an excellent purpose - checking out the antenna farm without a climbing belt! Dave is using a Parrot AR-Drone 2.0. It's hard to tell who is having more fun with the drone - Dave the operator or Pablo the excited dog! (Thanks, Tim N3HX)"


This is what Dave did with it. Personally? Dave's a much better man than I. I would probably have totally wrecked the drone and the antenna!



Lastly, this little tidbit from the ARRL that looked extremely interesting:

"Speaking of maps, Rick ZL2HAM has created ViewProp a terrific new mapping program that takes a stream of spots or Reverse Beacon Network reports and plots them on any of a collection of maps from DX Atlas. Not only are the receiving stations displayed but the path between them, with color indicating the band and variable persistence, among other interesting options. It's fascinating to see the different bands opening and closing as the Earth rotates. Both globe and flat map presentations are available in this beta test version. If you'd like to help complete the test process before ViewProp 1.0 is released, check in on the software's website or join the online discussion group."

Mondo thanks to Ward Silver NØAX for supplying us with all this really, really great information.  Ward is a true gentleman and his efforts should be appreciated by all of us. His Contest Update e-mails are truly one of the best benefits of being a League member.

On a personal note, I hit some snags coming up with my latest and greatest version of a drive on antenna mast support for my Jackite pole.  The base of the Jackite pole is 2 3/4" in diameter, and the weight of a length of 3" pipe is more than I want to deal with. So I am in the process of designing something totally different.  When this hacked-up, jerry-rigged Rube Goldberg is done, I'll post about it here. Any suggestions for improvement will be welcome.  But rather than describe what I'm doing, I'll supply pictures, because words alone will not be adequate to describe this upcoming abomination.

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

Monday, April 22, 2013

Inspiration

Watching this YouTube video from Stan WB2LQF gave me a great idea.



I like the way Stan supported his fiberglass mast.  I have a 31 foot Jackite pole that I bought from Bob AF2Q about 2 years ago.  I'm not going to have a filler pipe welded to my Jeep, but I am going to revive and old system that I used to use when I had my Buddipole.

The system I used was simply a pipe flange screwed down onto a 4 foot plank of oak.  This hard wood was tough enough to allow me to drive onto it without cracking or crushing it.  Then I screwed a 3 foot section of pipe into the flange and dropped my Buddipole mast into it.  The same system will work again, but I am going to have to procure a new flange and piece of pipe.  The Buddipole mast that I had been using was a painter's pole that had a considerably smaller diameter than that of the Jackite pole, so what I currently have is too narrow.

This setup will allow me to use the PAR END-FEDZ in instances where I don't have an available tree for a support.  The Jackite isn't tall enough to allow for a true vertical installation; but it will allow me to make a sloper with a reasonably small enough footprint for portable work. If I can get the pipe and flange this week, I may even use it for QRPTTF this coming weekend.  If I get 'er done, I'll make sure to take plenty of pictures and post them here so you can duplicate the concept if you think it might something that could work for you.

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

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Something not often heard

I was listening around the bands this afternoon, looking for juicy DX, when I heard something that I'm not quite sure I've ever heard before.

Ivan 5N7M in Nigeria was on 17 Meters and he had QRS'ed to a very nominal speed. My estimate was somewhere around 18 WPM, maybe? Far slower than I was accustomed to hearing him, and he was calling CQ, but for new stations only.

I thought that was pretty FB. There are a lot of budding DXers out there, new to the game who are probably intimidated by this aspect of the hobby.

We've all been there. Do you remember what it was like? You're pretty proud of your code speed, only to find yourself in the middle of a pile of Hams who seem to be calling one station all at the same time.

"What was his call? 5NZM? No, that can't be right!"

"HN7M?  Oh, no, I think it's 5N7M. Man, that sounds like 40 WPM!"

To the beginning Dxer, it is all so confusing and it all must sound like being caught in the middle of a buzz saw factory. For Ivan to take the time to slow it down, and seek out new stations that have never worked him before is commendable.

I wonder how many new DXers might have been born today.

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

Friday, April 19, 2013

QRPTTF Practice

It was a very unseasonably warm day today in Central NJ. I took advantage of temperatures in the mid 70s, and headed out to a park near work during my lunch break. North Branch Park is all of about five minutes away.


I decided to use the Buddistick on the mag mount on top of the Jeep, so set up was a snap. After getting to the park, I was on the air within just a few minutes. There was a ton of activity towards the low end of 20 Meters, but it was all contest traffic. I probably could have worked a few DX stations, but I didn't know the exchange, so I headed towards the QRP watering hole instead.

There, I ran into Martin KØBXB in Burlington, WI. We had a short QSO as I didn't have a lot of time. It was very pleasant however. Martin was 579 into NJ and I received a 539 in return. Martin was using his IC-7000 at 5 Watts into a G5RV.

Later on, back in the building, I saw that Martin is quite the accomplished Ham. He builds, he experiments, and he was the winner of the May 2012 QST Cover Plaque Award.


So it just goes to show, you never know who you're going to run into when you turn on the rig! In addition to learning more about Martin, I did a little research on his town of Burlington, WI. It's an old town that was settled somewhere around 1835 by the sons of some Revolutionary War soldiers. Burlington is nicknamed "Chocolate City, USA" because of the Nestle chocolate factory that is located there (pssst ...... don't tell the folks in Hershey, PA ....... OK?).  Burlington was also the home of a lot of notable and famous people. But one in particular, caught my eye.  Burlington, WI once was "home" to Gregory Itzin. If you're a fan of the TV series "24" then you know Mr. Itzin better as President Charles Logan - unfortunately, not one of the good guys.


But getting back to the topic of QRPTTF practice, I wanted to share with you all how I carry my portable QRP equipment out and about.  My KX3 is my pride and joy, so I want to protect it as best possible. A tip o' the QRP hat to TJ WØEA for recommending the Lowe Pro Traveler 150.  We're having thunderstorms tonight, and I'm off the air, so I made a little video:


Hope you enjoy it - I'm certainly no WGØAT or K6BBQ, but you'll get the idea.

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

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Portable ops

We Radio Amateurs in general, and QRPers in particular, take so much for granted when we want to enjoy both our hobby and the great outdoors together.  It really takes no effort at all to pop a small, lightweight radio into a backpack along with a lithium battery and a hunk of wire, and find yourself on the air - literally in minutes.  What's your pleasure?  An Elecraft KX1, K1, KX3?  A Sierra?  A Yaesu FT817 or an Icom IC-703? A Steve Weber ATS or MTR? A Hendricks PFR3A? One of the HB radios from either YouKits or one the Ten Tec models? One of Dave Benson's Small Wonder Labs models? There are many other models from other manufacturers that will fill the bill just as well, too.

But it wasn't always this way.  Before the days of transistors, ICs and other semi-conductors, radio equipment was (for the most part) big, bulky and destined to a life in an indoors environment.  When radio equipment was needed for outdoor use by the military, conventional equipment was often modified for use outside, on the battlefield. Here's the story of how Hallicrafters served our country during WWII:



Obviously, I'm comparing apples to oranges.  First off, today's military doesn't rely on HF as in years past. A majority of military communications take place in the UHF and higher frequency parts of the radio spectrum.  Also today's military makes extensive use of satellite communications.  But for the moment, let's forget that.  If HF was the still predominate playing field today, like it was during WWII, think what a small radio like a Yaesu FT857D (capable of 100W output), a small generator, or a deep cycle marine battery and an antenna like a Buddipole could do. This would be a lot more convenient (and portable) than the equipment shown in the YouTube video.

My point?  We've come a long way, baby!

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

NJQRP Skeeter Hunt for 2013

Official announcement to come out in a few weeks. The date is confirmed, though - Sunday August 11th, so save the date!


New for 2013:

New theme for this year with bonus points.
SSB will be a category this year for folks who prefer that mode.
Extra points to be awarded for any WAE (Worked All Europe) contacts made, as it runs the same day and a few Skeeters and Hunters actually made DX contacts last year.

Stay tuned - more to come!

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Simply Amazing

This is my 35th year as an Amateur Radio operator, and my 10th year as a dedicated QRPer. I think the best thing about this hobby is that it just doesn't get old. Maybe I'm the exception, rather than the rule, but my latest QSOs give me as much enjoyment and fill me with as much wonder as that very first one.

Tonight, I worked EW8DJ, Alex in Belarus on 30 Meters. Listening on 20 Meters for a bit, I heard RW6FS and LZ1QI and I hesitated to work them, as we QSOed so very recently. Sometimes I feel like they'd hear W2LJ and think, "Didn't I just work that guy?"

But thinking about the QSO that I did have makes me pause.

New Jersey to Belarus with just 5 Watts from my radio, out my Butternut antenna, travelling a quarter way around the world to another Ham.

Think of the distances! If I got in a commercial airliner, and left right now, in about 9 or 10 hours (or more), I would arrive where my radio signal traveled practically instantaneously.

Many take this technology so much for granted, but I still find it amazing. Can you imagine what the early radio pioneers would think? Imagine Marconi, who strung miles of wire, high in the sky, just to strain to hear a whisper of a signal from Europe. Can you imagine him sitting down behind a KX3? What do you think his reaction would be at working a station in "White Russia" using a piece of aluminum 26 feet tall, using less power than an average nightlight?

I'm pretty sure that he'd be smiling from ear to ear.

The world may look at us, watch us play with our radios, and think we're quaint, doddering old fools for bothering with antiquated technology that's over 100 years old. I sit down and consider what's actually happening, the distances covered considering the power used, and I am still able to appreciate the miracle that radio continues to be.

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

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bands getting better

The bands are improving, the geomagnetic effects of the Coronal Mass Ejection seem to be fading. I was able to get on the air after dinner and work a few DX stations to add to my Club 72 QRP Marathon totals.

Many, many thanks to Peter HA5MK in Hungary on 40 Meters, Rolf SE6Y in Sweden on 30 Meters, and Vlad RW6FS in European Russia on 20 Meters.

The final totals for the 2012/2013 QRP Fox hunts were posted today. While I placed nowhere near the top finishers, I did "OK" for living in the Northeast without gain antennas. In the 40 Meter hunts, I nabbed 21 out of 40 possible pelts for a .525 batting average. I did even slightly better in the 80 Meter hunts. There I snared 26 out of 40 pelts for a batting average of .650 - good numbers if I were a slugger in the Major Leagues.

The "Major Leagues" as far as Fox hunts go, are folks like Doc K0EVZ, Dick W0NTA, Dave AB9CA, Dale WC7S, Dave N1IX, Jerry N9AW, Rick NK9G, John N2RK, Todd N9NE and many others. These guys are the heavy hitters, and I am nowhere in their league.

The "portable ops QRPer" in me really appreciated and enjoyed an article by Padraig Lysandrou KC9UUS in the May issue of QST. Read it if you get the chance. Padraig is a relatively newly licensed Ham, as well as a high school student. He and his family (Mom, Dad and two sisters are also licensed) took the opportunity to combine a vacation to Cyprus with Ham Radio. Not QRP, but very much portable. It was a good read, and Padraig is an excellent writer.

Lastly, before closing, for the night, I'd like to send prayers and thoughts to all the folks in Boston who suffered in the bombings today. May the injured heal completely and quickly. May the families of the deceased receive consolation and healing, also.

We are all Bostonians tonight - as a Nation, we gather together and become one.

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

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Downhill fast

As great as conditions were on Friday night, that's how fast they went downhill over the weekend. Not sure how things went for the state QSO parties, but for casual DXing, things were the pits.

Personally, I would reckon this was all the side effects from the geomagnetic disturbance that resulted from the CME that recently occurred. As a result, most of the DX stations that I were able to hear were very weak, and the QSB was fast and deep.  For instance, I was listening to EA2DD today on 17 Meters. One second, he was as high as 569 - the next he was ESP.

Even though the SSN & SFI numbers remained favorable, the A & K indices rose high enough to be troublesome. The good news is that things should change for the better rather quickly. Maybe when I get home from work tomorrow evening, things will be better.

One consolation this weekend was hooking up fellow blogger, John N8ZYA. We had a decent rag chew type QSO on Saturday evening, and that made up for the otherwise lackluster Saturday and Sunday.

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

Friday, April 12, 2013

A very good night

And if I wasn't so tired, I'd probably stay on the air for a little longer; but alas, I am just about ready to call it a day. As soon as I finish this post, I will turn in.

I have read and heard reports of the big flare that occurred, and how we're supposed to get hit tomorrow with potentially huge geomagnetic disruptions.. Main stream media news outlets are saying that we might see aurora tomorrow night, even here in NJ.  If that  is true, then tomorrow's HF conditions will probably be, how shall we say, less than optimal?

But tonight was a good night.  20 and 30 Meters were exceptional.  On 20 Meters, I worked E74UB in Bosnia-Herzegovina, LZ1QI in Bulgaria, TF3JB in Iceland (with 2.5 Watts!), and the topper - the prize for the night A71CM in Qatar.  I have never worked Qatar before, ever  -and to get him in the log with 5 Watts had me doing the happy dance.

On 30 Meters, I actually had two honest-to-goodness QSOs with Lin G4DZE in England and Viorel YO6LV in Romania.  When you can have a civil QSO with more details that RST and TU, it's always special.  Special thanks to Lin and Viorel for that.  I also worked SP6EIY in Poland and UY5BA in the Ukraine.

40 Meters was a little tougher, but I managed to work H70ORO, a special event station down in Nicaraguan to finish out the evening.

For the record, all tonight's QSOs were completed with the KX3, using the HF9V on 20 Meters and the 88' EDZ on 30 and 40 Meters.

I am making so many typos here that it's ridiculous - thank God for spell check!

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

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bunch o' stuff

There's a bunch of stuff I wanted to cover today.

The first is totally unrelated to Ham Radio; but I found it fascinating.  Today, the Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to Fr. Emil Kapaun, a Catholic priest and Army Chaplain who courageously served our country in WWII and the Korean Conflict.  He died a POW at the hands of the Chinese in North Korea.  The story of how he conducted himself as a POW and as a leader of men is, to use an overused word, awesome (in the truest sense of the word). After finishing reading the eight part story, all I could think of was "Wow!".  Follow this link for the story about the humble, brave and holy man : http://www.kansas.com/kapaun/

Secondly - this comes from the "I ordered me one" department.  The Four State QRP Group introduced a new kit today. I immediately ordered one. It's called the "Force Link" but is spelled 4S-Link.  It is an interface between your radio and computer for the digital modes. All you need in one totally complete kit for $40.  You can't beat that with a stick!


It was designed by Dave Cripe NMØS and if it's like everything else that the Four State QRP Group offers, it will be a home run.  I would suggest ordering early before the first run gets all sold out.

Thirdly - Is it just me, or can't anyone think of something better to do with $120.00? http://tinyurl.com/cvgkce6   Pardon me for saying so; but I have a hard time believing that this is worth it.  I could be wrong though (pssst ..... that's been known to happen - a lot!).

Lastly, I was looking through the ARRL's Webpage today and was looking at the list of QRP DXCC awards given out.  I was surprised that I recognized so many call signs and names.  Either I have personally worked these QRPers, or I know them from various postings to the various QRP e-mail reflectors. Here's the list of call signs that hit my eye:

AF4LQ
AF4PS
G3YMC
HP1AC
K3NG
K3PH
K4KSR
K4PIC
K7ZYV
K8EAB
KC4ATU
KG4FSN
KU7Y
LA2MO
LA3ZA
N0UR
N2CQ
N2EI
N5DM
N6KD
N8XMS
N9AW
N0AR
VA3JFF
W0RW
W2AGN
W2JEK
W4QO
WA9ETW (listed as WA9ET – Mark, they have you listed incorrectly.)
WB2LQF (listed as WB2LQ – Stan, they have you listed incorrectly)
W0EA

I think this tallied out to be about a fifth of all the call signs listed there. I'm sure a lot of you recognize a lot of these calls too, as they are all pretty active QRPers.

Anyway, that's it from me for tonight. I'm going to head down to the basement and see what's what on the bands.

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

No radio tonight!

It has been very warm here in Central NJ the past two days - unseasonably warm, in fact, However, tomorrow is supposed to be cooler with temperatures normal for mid-April. So I guess you can gather as to what's happening here tonight? Yep, thunderstorms. And so far, they've been pretty heavy with lots of dramatic lightning. The first squall line went through here about 90 minutes ago, and another (which is in Pennsylvania right now) is due to arrive in about an hour.

Fortunately, the antennas have been unhooked from the radios and everything has been secured. Definitely do not need the smell of deep fried Elecraft wafting through this house.

To pass some time this evening, I entered my score into the auto logger for last night's NAQCC Sprint. Depending on how many more logs get entered, I will probably end up either 5th or 6th in the W2 region. I haven't seen an entry posted from Charles W2SH yet, and he's one of the perennial top finishers, so I expect him to exceed my score, once again.

I look at these scores, where guys are logging 40, 50, 60 or even 70 QSOs in the two hours, and I wonder how they do it. I guess a superb location with superb antennas is the answer. Man, I would love to be behind the key in one of those situations just once!

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

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

NAQCC Sprint

I actually had a meeting to attend this evening; but I must confess that I played hooky   My attendance was not mandatory, so I decided to stay home and play in the monthly NAQCC Sprint. I am glad I did, as I had the best time I've had in a while.

I must be getting back into the swing of things, as I was able to make 34 contacts in the two hours.  I am sure that puts me nowhere even close to the top. But it sure beats my efforts in the past couple of months, where I had only made 19 -20 QSOs per Sprint.

Conditions were decent on 20 Meters, where I made 8 QSOs; but the money band was 40 Meters.  With the exception of one measly QSO on 80 Meters, the balance were made on 40 Meters.  I was even able to hold a frequency and run it for a period of time, like I used to in the past. Man, that was fun!

I used the KX3 all night, but I used two different antennas. The HF9V vertical was used for 20 Meters, while the 88' EDZ antenna was the mainstay for 40 Meters.  Activity remained pretty steady throughout the Sprint, except for the last 20 minutes or so.  By then, no one was answering my CQs and searching and pouncing landed me only a few calls that I had not worked before.

The main thing was the fun factor however, and that was very high! High marks go to the NAQCC for providing a good Sprint opportunity each and every month.

One thing I do have to sheepishly admit to, however. After all these years of either using paddles or a bug, my form with a straight key needs work. Two hours of using my Speed-X and my wrist is hurting! Nothing that won't go away by tomorrow, though.

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

BOGO


BOGO – Buy One, Get One free.  Two for the price of one.  You know what I’m getting at here, right?

Unfortunately, I am NOT announcing a cool bargain on Amateur Radio equipment. If that were the case, I’d probably be at the head of the line. But BOGO does have something to do with QRPTTF for me, this year.

QRP To The Field is just a couple of weekends away.  This year, the theme for the event is “Happy Trails”. As Paul NA5N describes it on the official QRPTTF Website, “About every community has an historic trail or two …… from the biggies like Route 66 or the Santa Fe Trail, to a local old wagon trail, mining or lumber road. About all railroad lines, active or abandoned, are old trails.”

Paul proceeded to provide a link to a list of historic trails, highways and railroads, which I clicked on. And there, right at the top of the list of Historic Highways was the Lincoln Highway.  Holy!  That’s what we now call Route 27 which runs through Edison, just the next township over from South Plainfield.  A quick trip to Wikipedia informed me that the Lincoln Highway is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  With Wikipedia’s indulgence, I am going to paraphrase some history.


“The Lincoln Highway is one of the first transcontinental highways for automobiles across the USA. The highway turns 100 years old in 2013.  It was conceived and promoted by Indiana entrepreneur Carl Fisher. The Lincoln Highway spans the United States coast-to-coast from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.  It passes through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California.  When originally built, it measured 3,389 miles long. After some re-alignments were done over the years, the road currently measures 3,142 miles.”

Thanks to Paul NA5N, I learned more about this road than I ever knew before (isn’t Amateur Radio a wonderful thing!?!).  I have seen some street signs along Route 27 that still call it “The Lincoln Highway”, but I had never bothered to investigate its history before.  But where does the BOGO come in you ask?  It comes in here – as Paul states: “Many old historic trails are also today’s super highways (like Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, etc); we don’t expect you to operate from an Interstate junction!  Find a nice operating spot within a couple of miles if you can to ensure your safety.”

Immediately, I thought of a real neat place to operate from that is literally just a couple of blocks away from the Lincoln Highway:


The Edison Memorial Tower, which was dedicated in 1938 and was built on the spot where Edison’s Laboratory was located. It was here that the incandescent light bulb, as well as many of Edison’s other inventions were conceived and produced.  The original buildings have since been relocated to Dearborn Michigan by Henry Ford so this tower and its accompanying museum (which has a parking lot where I can operate from) were built to memorialize the spot.  The tower and museum were just recently renovated and were reopened last year after being closed for a long time due to deterioration.

I am envisioning a special QSL card, designed for the day which will include photos of both the Edison Tower and something having to do with the Lincoln Highway.  Two "special" QRP outdoor events for the price of one - BOGO! This is going to be fun!

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

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Over and done

So another QRP ARCI Spring QSO Party has come and gone.  It was definitely fun.  As strictly a "Giver of Points", I had set a personal goal to make more than 50 contacts between chores and other commitments (you can tell I'm not a big time contester, eh?)  I beat that!  I got a chance to sit in the chair for just a little bit more time today and I finished up with 62 QSOs in the log.

The highlights today were:

1) Working EA4CWN on both 15 and 20 Meters.  Alfonso was operating at the 2 Watt level, so that was way cool.  He was 559 on 15 Meters; but with the same power was 599 on 20 Meters.  I tried real hard to work DL2BZG (I think that was his call) on 15 Meters, but he just wasn't hearing me.  EA2LU, EA4CWN, HB9DAX and almost this DL2 station - I'm not used to hearing this much DX in a QRP ARCI contest!

2) Working my good bud, Bob W3BBO on 40 Meters.  I think this might have been our first KX3 to K3 QSO.  Last time I worked him with my KX3, I think Bob still had his Yaesu.

3) Working Lloyd K3ESE on 40 Meters. Lloyd has gotten away from the hobby. He used to be a steady standby in the QRP Fox hunts. I haven't heard him in years, so it was good to hear his CW again.

Oh, and Hans W1JSB did a video of our QSO last night.  Here's how I sounded in New Hampshire (neat radio he has there!)



Thanks for the QSO and the video, Hans!  It's always cool to hear what you sound like from the other end. And I didn't flub the exchange, either (whew!).

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

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Good radio day

It was a good day to be a "Giver of Points".

I worked 44 stations in the QRP ARCI Spring QSO Party in various little spurts of operating time today.  I also handed out a few points to Polish stations in the Polish DX Contest.  And I grabbed a few other DX QSOs in order to keep up with the Club 72 QRP Marathon.

Regarding the QRP Marathon, in a field of about 33 stations, I am currently sitting in 9th place.  How long do you think that's going to last?  But here's a thought - to qualify, the two stations have to be separated by 500 kM.  So, if I get back into the QRP ARCI QSO Party again tomorrow using 1 Watt or perhaps QRPp, maybe I can score some good QRP Marathon points!

The high points today - working Jorge EA2LU on both 15 and 20 Meters, working HB9DAX on 20 Meters - both of these were QRP ARCI QSOs, so they were all 2X QRP.  And this evening, I worked W1JSB on 80 Meters.  You might know W1JSB better as Hans, Jim W1PID's hiking buddy.  Hans was running 1.5 Watts and had a killer signal.  I also worked Ann K1QO up in New Hampshire - Ann is one of my Fox hunting buddies.  She is a superb op with a great fist and a great signal - it's always great to hear her on the air.

I also scored two QSOs on 160 Meters - the W3EDP is still doing great in that regard.  Even though it's only April, 160M seems to be in full Summer time mode - static crashes galore!

I'm beat - going to hit the hay for now!

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

Friday, April 05, 2013

This QRP DX Marathon thing is fun!

I would encourage you all to take part in the Club72 QRP Marathon.  I am having a blast!

After work and dinner, I came down to the basement once again, to try to find some decent DX on the bands. Each day for the month of April (that's how long the Marathon runs) my goal is to try to work one DX station on each of the bands. Tonight I was successful on 20, 17, 15 and 10 Meters, before the clock turned to 00:00 UTC.  All QSOs were made with the KX3 at 5 Watts

20 Meters - G6PZ in England - HF9V antenna
17 Meters - FG5FR in Guadeloupe - HF9V antenna
15 Meters - CM2YI in Cuba - EDZ antenna
10 Meters - ZL1ALZ in New Zealand - HF9V antenna

And you could have knocked me over with a feather with regards to ZL1ALZ.  I was tuning around 10 Meters just to see what I could hear.  John was quite audible about 579.  I figured he was running at least 100 Watts, possibly more.  I put out my call thinking that he would never hear my 5 Watts. Boy, was I wrong!  First shot, John came back to me!  John has one set of really fine business ears, that's all I have to say!

According to QRZ, John is 9,088 miles away from me - so that makes this QSO 1,817.6 miles per Watt. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, made my day!  10 Meters is so wonderful when it's open and conditions are good. Oh, and by the way, this was my first time working New Zealand using QRP - a very good day, indeed!

The SSN is at 119, and the Solar Flux is 131.  The K Index is 1 and the A Index is 3 - that spells for good DX conditions with a low noise floor.  I sure hope these good conditions last over the weekend.

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

Thursday, April 04, 2013

My name is Larry ..... and I am a Lid.

There! That sounds like the beginning of an Alcoholics Anonymous story, doesn't it? I'll explain my confession about being a Lid in just a little while.

Actually, the evening started well. After dinner, I was able to get on the radio for a bit and found some activity. My first goal was to work some QRP DX. Now that I have entered the Club 72 DX Marathon, I don't want to be the only US station entered and show up dead last. To that end, I was successful and worked PP1CZ from Brazil on 17 Meters. To my delight, I found activity on 10 Meters also, and I was fortunate enough to get 6Y5KF from Jamaica and LU1FAM from Argentina into my log. I entered the PP1CZ and LU1FAM as official QSOs for the day.

Now, onto the 80 Meter QRP Foxhunts and my liddiness issues.  The first Fox was easy. I was easily able to find Jim K4AXF. Since Jim is located in Virginia, that's a real easy shot from New Jersey on 80 Meters. Using the KX3's Dual Watch feature, I had Jim's pelt within 16 minutes from the beginning of the hunt.

The second Fox was Jerry N9AW. Normally, Jerry is an easy catch for me. Most Wisconsin and Minnesota Foxes are. Sometimes I think I have a pipeline to that part of the country. But this time his signal was weak, so I waited for a while before calling. Sure as anything, Jerry's signal started improving. Again, using Dual Watch, I was able to figure out rather easily where he was listening. I began calling, but for some reason, I just wasn't making it.

That's when I discovered my error! I looked down and noticed that after I had worked K4AXF, I had turned the split function off. Horror of horrors! I had forgotten to turn the split function back on and I was calling N9AW on his calling frequency!  The "Prime No-No" of Foxhunting! If I could have dug a hole, I would have jumped in and closed it up after myself. I had probably angered a whole bunch of my brother and sister Hounds. Imaginary mutterings of "Lid" stung my ears. My deepest and sincerest apologies, my fellow Foxhunters. I have violated the sacred Foxhunters Code of Conduct. I will accept the 40 lashes with a wet noodle that I am entitled to.

After rectifying my mistake, though, I got Jerry in the log in very short order. In fact, it only took one call. Amazing how well things can go when you use the equipment properly.

My fellow Fox hunters are a kind and magnanimous group, so I doubt anyone will give me grief. But that won't be necessary, as I will give myself plenty, and will do my best to make sure I don't make the same mistake a second time.

Being a Lid is no fun.

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

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

A little bit of DX

I had a meeting to attend this evening, so I wasn't able spend too much time behind the K3. But after I got home, I did run downstairs to fire up the rig. 30 Meters seemed active, so I camped out there for a bit.

In short order, I worked 9A6C in Croatia and CN8KD in Morocco. I nabbed both these stations with QRP power levels. I threw out my call a few times for A45XR in Oman. But by that point, he had been spotted on the Cluster and the pileup was enormous. Even though I have never worked Oman before, I did not up the power and jump into the fray. I was just too tired.

A little bit up the band, OK did hear ER1OO, Wlad in Moldova. I tried him a few times, but I kept on getting "W3L?". It was obvious that he was having difficulty hearing me. Not wishing to torture Wlad any further, I pulled the Big Switch for the night.

No commitments for tomorrow night, except for the 80 Meter Fox hunt, which is the very last one for the 2012/2013 Winter season. Maybe I will hear some more good DX before the hunt begins.

I've done pretty well this season. I am going to miss the hunts, and will eagerly await the 20 Meter Summer season.

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

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Club 72 QRP Marathon

April marks the beginning of the Club 72 QRP Marathon. This is not a contest, but is a QRP DX operating activity. In a nutshell, it's basically a friendly competition to see how you can do against other QRPers on a sort of a "miles per Watt" basis.

I had two QRP DX QSOs tonight. One with EA8BVP on 20 Meters, which was a 2X QRP QSO, and one with HR9/WQ7R on 10 Meters, where I was the lone QRP station.

QSOs are permitted on any HF band, 160 through 10 Meters. You can enter your best DX QSO per band, per day for the entire month of April. All the calculations are figured out for you. All you need to enter is the QSO date and time, the calls (yours and the station you worked), the Maidenhead locators for both stations, and the output power of both stations.

So far, out of 16 stations competing, I am in 11th place. I think it's pretty obvious that the leaders need not fear me. So far, I am the only stateside station competing.

This is more than anything, a personal challenge to get on the air and work as much QRP DX as possible. I have no idea how I will end up, but it will be a fun and interesting journey.

You do not have to be a Club 72 member to participate, but membership is free, so why not look into it. You can simply Google "Club 72 QRP" and you will get the hyperlink to the Website. Normally, I would provide the link for you, but I am typing this on my Android tablet, and providing a link is not as simple a task as it would be were I at my desktop computer.

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

Monday, April 01, 2013

New offering from LNR Precision

This appeared on their Facebook page today:


This is the EFT-10/20/40, which is a "Trail Friendly" version of their popular EF-10/20/40MKII antenna.  The one shown above comes in at a weight of 3.5 ounces.  The EF-10/20/40MKII, which I have, is already no burden to carry. But if you're one of those guys who are into serious hiking (can you say Appalachian Trail?), where every quarter of an ounce makes a huge difference, then you may want to look into this baby.

I love my EF-10/20/40MKII.  I tuned it so that I don't need to use the KX3's autotuner. It didn't take long and only needed a minor adjustment - it was THAT close right out of the package.  Using one of these is simplicity in itself - get one end up in a tree, hook the other end to the radio and go to town! And you make contacts - plenty of them.

The LNR Webpage can be found by clicking here.

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