Saturday, May 28, 2005

Antenna woes!

I have two antennas at station W2LJ. One is a G5RV at about 30 feet, or so. The other is a ground mounted Butternut HF9V vertical. I was on 20 Meters the other night and the station I was trying to work on the G5RV was kid of weak; so I decided the switch over to the Butternut. Imagine my surprise when the Butternut came up deaf! I was hearing nothing; not even background QRN.

Unfortunately, I lack an antenna analyzer; so I needed to do some basic detective work. Basicaly, I knew there could only be a few things wrong. I decided to start with the concept of, "it's either the antenna itself or the feedline". A basic ohmmeter check of the coax revealed no shorts. I then decided to take the lightning arrestor out of line - maybe something was wrong with that. So I put a barrel connector in it's place; only to get the same results.

Scratching my head for an idea of what to do next, I decided to break out my K1 and 12V SLA battery and hook it right to the HF9V's 75 ohm coax matching stub. Viola! Plenty of signals! So at least now I know the antenna itself is okay. The amazing thing is that when I put everything back together; a trip to the shack shows that everything is back to normal. I'm hearing all kinds of stations and even manage to work a few Europeans with 5 Watts and the K2.

I go back outside to wrap the connections up in electrician's tape, when I notice it. The jacket has backed away some on the 75 ohm matching stub. Right next to the PL-129, I can see tarnished braid. The antenna is working for now; but the first chance I get when we get some dry weather, I will replace both PL-259's. I don't need intermittent headaches!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Another one bites the dust!

Okay - another state is in the bag! Last night, after coming home from a community activity, I went down to the basement and turned on the K2. Since we are approaching summer time, shortly, I decided to give 20 Meters a shot. Down around 14.058 I heard a 7 land station calling "CQ". His signal was weak; but the band was quiet. I took the gamble and gave him a call.


It turns out that Bill is in Worden, Montana! Cool beans - another state in the bag as part of WAS 2.

We QSOed for a bit until a couple of lids started having a QSO on the frequency without so much as offering a courtesy "QRL?" The QSO was short, sweet, and to the point - complete. We exchanged names and QTHs, RSTs and even a bit of local weather information to boot!

Now all I have to do is send for the QSL card!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The proud, the few, the difficult

Since becoming an even more die hard QRPer a few years ago, I decided to re-do the Worked All States thing. I originally earned it in 1995 in my 17th year as a Ham. I never really paid much attention to chasing paper.

However, over the past two years; for some reason, the bug has bitten again. This time WAS is to be earned exclusively using CW at QRP power levels. Since I began keeping track, I have succeeded in working 44 states. Number 45 came Monday night, during the ARS Spartan Sprint. I heard and worked KO7X, Alan in Wyoming. That leaves the proud, the few, and the difficult 5 remaining: Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon and Montana. The remaining Continental states should come without too much difficulty. I just have to be at the right place at the right time. Alaska and Hawaii are hard enough as it is from New Jersey using QRO. QRP should make it all that more interesting.

Tonight's operating yielded two interesting QSOs. The first was with AD5A, Mike in Boerne, TX. I worked Mike on 20 Meters. Now that we're back in Daylight Savings Time, and summer is coming, 20 Meters has been staying open later into the evening. I called CQ on 14.058 and Mike came back to me with a fine 569-579 signal. He was using a NorCal 20 at 3 Watts. I don't know what kind of antenna he was using; but whatever it was, it sure was doing the job!

The other interesting QSO came later on 40 Meters. I managed to work Alex EW3EW from Belarus on 7.009 MHz. Not the most exotic DX in the world; but not bad for the K2 and 5 Watts - reaching all the way just past the home country of my grandparents - Poland.

The very thought of radio and working DX boggles my mind and is only reinforced each time I visit the New Jersey shore. When you stand on the beach, looking out at all that water you tend to feel so very insignificant. When you think of your radio signal crossing that vastness with less power than it takes to light up your kid's night light ..... well, now that really fills you with a sense of wonder.