Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Outstanding !!!

So far, I have received over 70 e-mails with Skeeter Hunt log summaries, soapbox comments and photos. That's close to a third of the people who asked to be assigned a Skeeter number; and is definitely a record so far. The deadline for submitting log summaries is September 1st at 11:59 PM EDT. After that, log summaries will still be accepted, but will appear as a footnote as far as official standings go..

To be honest with you all, right now I'm just concentrating on tabulating results, and am kind of glossing over soapbox comments and photos. Except for this one, which caught my eye and gave me what has probably been the biggest smile this stubbly old mug has seen in years. Since it will eventually be published in the 2019 Skeeter Hunt Soapbox Comments section of the webpage, I am going to share it early. Not only does it deserve special attention, but it also makes the effort behind the Skeeter Hunt so worthwhile.

Good evening,

Since he’s in bed and has school in the morning, I’m submitting Etienne’s logs (WI9EJR; #144) on his behalf. Since we only have one radio, we ultimately decided to run a single op station, so I won’t be submitting logs (WI9AJR; #143). Logs are attached in CSV format. I’ve never submitted contest logs before, so if another format is preferred, let me know.

I’ve attached two photos, one of Etienne helping raise Rick's (NK9G) antenna which was in the same general vicinity as our station. And another of Etienne’s station, including the logo sign we hung from the EZ-up.

Summary:
Etienne - WI9EJR - WI 
Skeeter# 144 - All SSB , Single Op 
Skeeter QSOs - 1 
Non-Skeeter QRP QSOs - 1 
Non-Skeeter QRO QSOs - 6 
S/P/Cs - 7 
Station Class Multiplier X3 
Logo Photo Bonus - 100 points

Soapbox:

This was Etienne’s first contest, other than Field Day (“it’s not a contest!”), so why not make it SSB on QRP in the worst possible propagation? We headed over to Sheridan Park in Milwaukee, overlooking Lake Michigan (in the photo background), near the popular Oak Leaf Trail pathway. Rick (NK9G), as usual, took us under his wing, loaned us a longer dipole than we usually use, and helped us get it up high up into the trees. We hooked it up to our KX3, and let Etienne go to town.

Etienne alternated the four hours between calling CQ and hunting around on 20m. The bands started pretty quiet, with him being able to hear a few people but not much ability to be heard. Strangely, his first contact was a QRP station in North Carolina, with both sides hearing each other really clearly. Later in the day Europe started coming in, but Etienne either wasn’t getting back them or just couldn’t break through the pile ups. Finally, by the end of the contest things opened up to the western US, but 20m was so full that it was hard for him to be heard.

All in all, it was a good day to spend some time out in the park and for him to play on the radio. QRP with phone is a tough racket, so hopefully he’ll learn Morse sooner than later. And for those wondering, he’s eleven, just started sixth grade. He got his General last summer when we started ham radio.




An outstanding effort by this young man!  QRP SSB can be a tough go; and has caused many a person much older than Etienne to throw up their hands and toss in the towel. However, he stuck with it (under particularly crummy band conditions) and made a good number of contacts.  His perseverance and determination are to be admired. These qualities will serve him well as he travels through middle school, high school and college.

Kudos to Etienne,  and kudos to his Dad, Andre WI9AJR and to Rick NK9G for being outstanding mentors.  Amateur Radio needs a lot more like these two fine men.  I don't know Andre that well; but I do know Rick as an active and particularly excellent QRP'er. Now, I also know him as a particularly fine mentor.

If stuff like this doesn't bring a smile to your face, then I don't know what will!

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

Skeeter Hunt 2019 - Bittersweet?

When I woke up yesterday it was pretty dark and gloomy. As I showered and changed to get ready to head out to Church services, I was thinking that I would probably set up in the backyard, under the patio umbrella, as it looked like rain. Lo and behold, halfway through Mass, the sun poured through the stained glass windows! It was turning out to be a decent day, after all.

I came home for a light breakfast, printed out a Skeeter logo and got everything else ready. At Noon, I headed out for Cotton Street park in town, which is only about 1/4 mile or so from my house. The trees are tall and there's plenty of open space, certainly enough for this new-to-me MFJ-1982LP that I purchased.  (That goes against my grain, but I was intrigued enough by the YouTube videos on it.)

MFJ recommends installing the antenna as an Inverted Vee, with both ends tied off close to the ground, and the apex as high as you can get it. I brought my antenna launcher and got a line shot over a limb at the 40 foot or so level on the first try.  The antenna is made of that "silky" type wire which pulled through the leaves like a hot knife through butter. The thing that took me the longest was untangling the antenna out of the package. I'm not sure whether it was the way I took it apart, or the way it was coiled and inserted into the package, but I managed to untangle it in relatively short order - short enough where frustration didn't get a hold on me.


Of course, when you take a picture of your wire antenna installation, it never photographs well unless the wire is against the sky.  For illustration purposes, I provided the yellow lines to make it easier to see how the antenna was configured. The apex is out of the top frame of the photo. It was up pretty high.

I got set up with about a good 15 minutes to spare, so I decided to do a little investigating. One of the parts of the video that intrigued me was how low the SWR was across all the bands. I took the KX3's autotuner out of the loop and test transmitted at all the QRP Watering Hole frequencies on 80, 40, 20, 17 and 15 Meters. In each case, the KX3 measured an SWR of 1.4:1 or better. 80 Meters was actually 1.2:1. I was impressed - cautiously impressed. After all, a dummy load has a perfect SWR, right?  Time was fast approaching to see how well it radiated some RF energy.



The weather stayed nice for the Hunt. My little Realistic travel alarm has a built in thermometer, which read the ambient temperature as 90F (32C), but in the shade and an occasional breeze, it was comfortable enough. Mosquitoes weren't a problem for me, but the gnats were. Tiny little critters that you can barely see, flying right into your face. Ugh! But after settling down into the operating chair and cooling off after the job of setting up, they went away. They must be attracted to body heat or sweat or something. Luckily they were not a problem, or a distraction during the Sprint.

When 1700 UTC came around, the bands came alive - at least 20 Meters came alive. I was working stations at a pretty good clip and then after the first hour, activity seemed to die off some. I spent the rest of my time jumping between 40 and 20 Meters, alternately calling CQ and hunting and pouncing.

Around 4:15 PM (2015 UTC) the skies started turning that heavy lead gray color that tells you that thunder and lightning are on the way.  It was then that I pulled the plug and started to tear down. I hadn't worked anyone new in about 15 minutes anyway, so it seemed as good a time as any to head home. Tear down was a breeze and I was packed up and ready to go in minutes. 

In all, I made 24 contacts. 22 were Skeeters and the other two were 5W stations. 15 S/P/C's were logged. I was a bit disappointed with propagation.  Before the Hunt started, I had set a personal goal of working 40 stations. With 210 Skeeters signed up, I thought that was a reachable and reasonable goal. The Propagation Princess slapped me upside the head, "You silly Ham, you!", she whispered in my ear.  I didn't have the pipelines that I normally have into New England and Virginia and the Carolinas.

QSB was tough with stations being 579 or better upon the start of a contact to going down to 339 or worse by the end of the contact. I did work everybody that I was able to hear with the exception of two stations - one of them being Dave NE5DL down in Texas. I tried calling him several times, but no joy.

Drew K9CW gets the distinction of being the loudest station that I heard all day - he was 599+ from Illinois. Jerry N9AW and Rick NK9G were close seconds. When I heard them not quite as loud as I usually hear them, i knew that propagation was off. I did work two stations on both 40 and 20 Meters - Bob W3BBO and  Steve VE3LFN. Malcolm VE2DDZ was a two-fer in that I worked him as a Skeeter and also as a SOTA peak. My best DX was Blaine, K0NE in Nebraska.


Two things I should have done, but didn't - hindsight being 20/20, after all.

1)  I should have brought my lightning detector with me. I left it home on the counter that it normally sits on. I probably might have stayed longer, even with the leaden sky if I was sure there was no lightning in the area.

2) I should have also set up my PAR ENDFEDZ  for a little "A to B" comparison. That would have provided me with some valuable information. Of course, I thought of this as I was driving the short distance home. Maybe I'll do this for the Peanut Power Sprint, which comes up soon.

Again, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who participated, as well as the NJQRP organization for sponsoring this event. It would not be the success that it is without all of you out there. For that, I am eternally grateful!

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Uncharted Territory

As we come closer and closer to the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt this Sunday, I'd like to report that we are in "Uncharted Territory". And by that, I mean that I just handed out Skeeter # 186 to WB4AEG.

186 Skeeters so far! Wow, if memory serves me correctly, the highest we ever got was somewhere in the 170's.

For those of you who read this blog on a regular basis, you all know how much I love Amateur Radio, particularly QRP, CW and portable ops. The Skeeter Hunt is really nothing more than my way of saying "Thanks!" for all of that and paying forward for all the joy this hobby has given me over that past 40 years. It also allows me to share my passion with all of you.

The fact that this hobby (doesn't quite seem like the right word) has also led towards making some awesome friendships is just icing on the cake. There are a lot of you out there who I have never met face-to-face; but yet I have great admiration and fondness for.

The weather for Sunday for Central Jersey is partly cloudy with a high of 90F (32C). I hope to get a lot of you in the log. I never go into any of these Sprints with the intent on winning. Maybe that's the wrong attitude, but that's just the way I am. I'm perfectly happy with getting to make contacts with friends, even if it's just for a few seconds at a time.

So I hope to hear all of you this coming Sunday. Hopefully, propagation will be decent for that short amount of time and we'll all get to fatten up our logbooks - and have a blast in the process - as well as make a few more happy memories. And speaking of memories ...... this year the Skeeter Hunt is being dedicated to the memories of three stalwart Skeeters who are no longer with us - Hank N8XX , Ken WA8REI, and Joe N2CX. Their keys may be silent, but their memories live on in those of us with whom they shared the airwaves.

BTW, Skeeter numbers are still being handed out until Sunday morning. Just e-mail w2lj@arrl.net with your name, call, and state/province.  Come join us and see what the BZZZZZ is all about! If you're iffy because you feel your CW skills are not up to snuff, we'll slow down for you! And bring along your microphone, because SSB is also welcome in the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.

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


Thursday, August 08, 2019

Extemporania

Unfortunately, there's not a lot going on for me in the "on the air" world right now. The last big event for me was FOBB. Since then, I have been bogged down with yard work and now my left calf and hamstring muscles have decided to remind me of my age. I guess I overworked them when the tendinitis in my right ankle and knee flared up.

But in the meantime, I keep eyes and ears open for neat stuff. I've come up with two things. This first was spotted on the DVRA Facebook page.  The DVRA is the Delaware Valley Radio Association, which is more or less based out of the Princeton/Trenton area of New Jersey.  They've been around for a long, long time and posted this Hamfest notice back in 1939.


Wow! Can you believe this? This ain't your normal Hamfest - this is your Grandpa's Hamfest! And from the looks of it. buying and selling radio gear seems to be the last thing on everyone's mind. This was a downright picnic on steroids!

Two live orchestras for music, a Jitterbug contest, a baseball game, lots of food (with a variety of tasty sandwiches - dollars to donuts some of them were ......ham!), plenty of prizes and gifts and it was scheduled to run from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM. This was probably the social event of the year for this club. I can just picture in my mind's eye the washtubs that were filled with ice holding bottled beer, soda and probably watermelons. Big cubes of block ice from the local ice house that you had to use an ice pick in order to make what we would now call "ice cubes", or crushed ice.

Notice there's nothing in the announcement about buying and selling stuff. And it kind of figures as back in 1939 you built your own gear. Yaesu, Kenwood and Icom didn't probably even exist back then - at least not here in the States. If Hams got together at that time to buy and sell stuff, it was most likely parts that you might need for whatever your next project happened to be. Boy, to be able to go back in time!

The other thing I picked up on was this YouTube video that Marv K2VHW had posted to the SPARC Facebook page. It's for an MFJ antenna.



It looked very intriguing to me, so I bit the bullet and ordered one. What the heck, right? It should be delivered to my door tomorrow from the tracking number that MFJ provided, and I hope to use it for the Skeeter Hunt.  Cotton Street park in town has more than enough real estate required to deploy this.

I know, I know, I don't normally buy antennas, other than my Butternut or the GAP when I had that many moons ago. I'm the big advocate for building your own antennas - so what's going on? Not sure, I was just intrigued by the video and decided to plunk down the coin, almost as a whim. If it works as advertised, then this will be my antenna for Field Day next year for the CW station. The W3EDP works well, but the results as seen in the video seem to indicate a much better match than the W3EDP.

Besides, a Ham can never have too many arrows in his antenna quiver, right? The more the merrier and too many antennas to pick from is way better than not having enough. Should the antenna end up being a dud, I'll post about that here, too. 
 
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very best!