Monday, June 29, 2020

Field Day ...... Post Mortem

There's nobody like Philip "Gil" Gildersleeve !!!

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

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Field Day - it's like Lays Potato Chips

You can't eat just one - you can't make just one QSO.

As I stated before, I was not really hepped up for this Field Day. For me, Field Day is way more than just the operating event. The planning, the set up and tear down, the being with good friends who understand your passion end enjoy doing what you do. It's a social event - not just an operating event; and that's what makes it so special - and for 2020, COVID-19 blew all that right out of the water. So no, I was not very eager about Field Day 2020.

The plan was to set up the station out on the patio, operate from the table we have out there under the big market umbrella. I took care of all my chores early with the intent of setting up around 1:30. It doesn't take long when your equipment is designed with portable in mind. While I was mowing the lawn, my phone chirped with an advisory from NWS - severe thunderstorm watch until 8:00 PM local time. That torpedoed my outdoor plans, which in turn made set up even easier. I decided to take my portable KX3 down to the basement, hook it up to the deep cycle marine battery and operate there as W2LJ 1E NNJ. Set up would be even easier, 5 minutes max.

After I mowed the lawn (final chore of many), I set down on the couch. BIG MISTAKE!  Next thing I know, it's 2:30 PM and Field Day had begun without W2LJ. When I awoke, I took everything downstairs and WAS operational within 5-10 minutes. I worked until I had 20 stations in the log and came upstairs for a stretch break and something cold to drink. That's when I heard my AcuRite lightning detector chirping. I rushed downstairs, disconnected the antennas and shut everything down. And to be honest with you, I wasn't sure if I was even going to bother getting on again. It's just not the same as being in the field. To that point, about a three hour break ensued which included dinner and being with the family.

Around 8:00 PM, I decided I'd give it another go - maybe I could get to 50 stations worked before turning in,  Conditions on both 80 and 40 Meters were fantastic! 20 Meters was good as well, but for some reason, the SWR on 20 Meters was like a roller coaster, up and down, up and down. I had to hit the ATU button on the KX3 quite often - something I never had to do before. Not knowing what the problem was, I stayed on the W3EDP and when I looked at the clock, it was Midnight, I worked two more stations to bring my total to 100 QSOs and hit the sack for the night at 12:15 AM.

When I woke this morning, I was pleased with my total and was kind of ambivalent about getting on again. But like the post title says, once you're into it, for better or worse, Field Day is like Lays potato chips - "You can't eat just one."  I took a shower, made some coffee and headed down to the shack again, Before I knew it, I was at 150 QSOs when I decided to take another break. 15 Meters had been open and surprisingly, the HF9V played well and behaved itself, To me, that meant any problem was not at the feed point or with the feed line, It had to be something with the antenna itself. I knew that I would investigate some time after 2:00 PM.

I sat down on the couch again, took another short snooze and when I woke up, I headed down to the shack for one last time. "Maybe I can make it to 175 QSOs", I thought to myself. 175 became 185 and the 185 became 190 and finally reached 200 when I shut down with about 20 minutes to go, In that last session, I actually ran a frequency for a little while on 40 Meters and actually had a tiny pile up. Not bad for 5 watts, eh? Here's the statistical break down:

Not the best Field Day effort I've ever put forth, but considering the circumstances, not a terrible one, either. I'm pretty happy with it,

As a whole, propagation was weird. Severe QSB plagued both days, and for me at least, most of  my RF was blocked by an invisible RF shield located at the Mississippi River.  Colorado, North Texas and Saskatchewan were the only locations in the West that intercepted my RF.

I worked all the US Eastern Sections except for North New York, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands ...... and Indiana! Hey, Indiana Fireflies - where were you guys? LOL!

To complete the day, I discovered and rectified my 20 Meter SWR problem, I hadn't noticed that ivy had grown into and wrapped itself in the HF9V's coils. I cut the vine at the base and removed the offending foliage. A quick run to the basement seems to indicate (for now) that the ivy was indeed the problem. Some "TEST DE W2LJ VVVVV" transmissions on 20 Meters and the SWR remained rock solid at 1.2:1. I hope that's all this was - I don't need bigger antenna problems.

Thanks to all who worked me and put me in their logs!

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

Ubiquitous start

Last night was the beginning of the 2020 QRP Fox Hunt Summer season. I did not end up the outcome that I would have hoped for.

The Foxes for the evening were N7CQR in Oregon and N4FP in Florida. I spotted both easily by locating the packs of baying Hounds calling each. Alas, while I heard the Hounds, not the slightest scent on the Foxes themselves. Well ......... that's not totally true. I did hear N4FP for a few minutes at ESP levels. I could tell he was calling "CQ FOX", but he was not strong enough to justify sending my call and perhaps spoiling someone else's chances by generating unintentional QRM. N7CQR on the other hand was as silent as a tombstone to me.

The evening was not a total loss, however. I was fooling around with upgrading my version of N3FJP's AC Log to the newest version. I turned on the DX spotting function and my mouse accidentally clicked on CO8WN who was spotted on 40 Meters. Sure enough, the KX3 automatically changed bands and landed on his frequency. He was pretty loud, so I decided to give him a call. Sure enough, I landed him on the first try and got a 579 report without revealing my power output.

It wasn't a couple of Fox pelts hanging out to dry, but it took away some of the sting.

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

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Gearing up for Field Day

Actually, there isn't that much to do. We had our last South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club meeting on Zoom last night to go over details.

Most of us will be operating from our respective homes as 1E NNJ (low power) and we're all going to denote the club affiliation with the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club.  I think most of us, if not all of us have bought a Field Day copy of N3FJP's Amateur Contact Log.

Dave KD2FSI reminded everyone to look at the rules and not to forget the bonus points - such as copying the W1AW Field Day Bulletin. I reminded everyone about bonus points for social media posts.

We're going to lose a lot as a club this year for not being in a public location, having municipal officials visit, etc. But the weather forecast for the weekend is for temperatures in the 90s (33C), so being in a tent while wearing a face covering isn't something that's all that attractive, anyway.

Conversely, NOT being in a tent and operating from home leads to more ....... shall we say ..... distractions? For me, at least, being close to the fridge, the bathroom and all the conveniences of home makes sitting in the chair pounding out Morse for hours on end all that much harder. I know for a fact that once those 80 Meter and 160 Meter contacts dry up at night, I'll be hitting the sack instead of going to the Jeep for a short snooze. I think this year, there will be no such thing as a "short snooze" - LOL!

I was mulling over setting up the KX3 and the PAR END FEDZ in the backyard and operating that way - and I may still do that. All operating will be accomplished using my PowerWerx deep cycle battery which has been charged up via my Harbor Freight solar panel.  Thinking about it as I type this, I probably WILL set up that way for daytime operations and once the evening hours come, I'll just slide down to the basement (with the battery) so I can use the W3EDP for 80 and 160 Meter contacts.

I wasn't all that juiced up for Field Day this year, but after last night's meeting, I'm feeling a bit more excited about it. However, it is my deepest wish that for 2021 Field Day, we can go back to "normal". The thing I will be missing the most is the social aspect of it - toughing it out for 24 hours with my SPARC compadres.

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

Sunday, June 21, 2020


The amount of e-mails that I have received requesting Skeeter Hunt numbers has been a bit overwhelming to say the least! And I could not be happier! Is this little Summer QRP Sprint beginning to become a favorite? I certainly hope so!

In the first 24 hours, since I started handing out numbers, I have received 136 requests.  In the past, that didn't happen until way closer to the event. Thank you all so much for your support and participation - does my heart good. And who knows? Maybe we'll actually have some sun spots this year. Could Ol' Sol finally be awakening from his slumber?

The Roster can be found at:

Keep those requests coming in, folks - plenty of Skeeter numbers to be had!

On another note,I have been reading a little book that I re-discovered on my kindle. I must have downloaded it a long time ago - I don't even remember when. It's titled "The Brasspounder" and the author is D.G. Sanders.

If you own a kindle, or have the kindle app on one of your devices, you can download this from Amazon for free. The time period the author tells of is the early 1900's - specifically around 1915 when he first started working for the railroad. It's not Amateur Radio related, but the word "ham" does make an appearance early on, in what I thought was, an unexpected way.

It's light reading and goes pretty quickly. In just a few evenings of pre-bedtime reading, I'm already half way through the book. Some of the language is railroad lingo, but it's easy enough to get through, and figure out what he's writing about.

If you get the chance, download it - it's free and is an interesting read of the life of a professional railroad telegrapher.

72 de Larry w2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

NJQRP Skeeter Hunt 2020

Skeeter Hunters!

The Ninth Annual NJQRP Skeeter Hunt is set for Sunday, August 16th.

A word about Skeeter Hunt numbers as I'm already receiving e-mail requests. Tradition is that Skeeter Hunt numbers are issued as of the First Day of Summer - which this year is NEXT Saturday, June 20th. ONLY e-mail requests sent as of 12:01 AM Saturday EDT will be honored.

"Why/ What difference does it make?" you may well ask yourself. The answer is simple - it gives everyone an equal opportunity to acquire a lower number. To some that's no big deal, but to others it's a very big deal - so everyone gets the same chance. And it also adds another level of participation that keeps YOU in the game, and this is all about keeping you involved.

Why new numbers every year and not the same one year after year like other QRP contests? Because not everyone can participate each year - family commitments or vacations or other things come up that prevent people from participating.

So folks, start pouring in those e-mails to AFTER Midnight when this coming Friday turns into Saturday, here in NJ. And as always, please, please, PLEASE include your call sign, your name (that you will use when operating) and the State or Province that you will be operating from. It makes it way easier to update the roster if you supply me with all the correct info.

Hope to hear from you all real soon!

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

Saturday, June 13, 2020

A Successful Day

Today, the ETS of NJ VE Team that I belong to had our first successful exam session since this COVID crisis erupted last winter. A session was held in February, but I could not make it as I was stuck in an interminable check out line at our local grocery store. The sessions for March, April and May were canceled.

Governor Murphy had recently relaxed some of the restrictions that were in place, so we were able to hold a session today, albeit with Covid precautionary measures in place.  Our session was held outdoors and not indoors. We had to have two sessions because we had 20 candidates on our "waiting list". Sounds kind of daunting, doesn't it? Actually things went quite smoothly thanks to the actions of our liaison, Drew W2OU.

We had the candidates line up their vehicles on one side of the parking lot. Directly across from them were the vehicles of the VEs. One on one, directly across from each other, facing each other. The candidates were given some restrictions - no passengers, the front of the car had to be totally clear of any printed materials. They were given the option of taking the exam inside their vehicle, or if they wanted, they could bring a chair and clipboard and take the exam in front of their vehicle. If they decided to remain in their vehicle, their cell phones had to be placed on the dashboard where we could see them. Each vehicle was checked for compliance as we collected exam fees and checked photo IDs.

Social distancing was maintained whenever possible. Face coverings and gloves or hand sanitizer were mandatory equipment for the day. VEs were instructed to wear yellow safety vests. We communicated with the candidates via a low power FM transmitter tuned to 88.7 MHz, or thereabouts and they could hear us on their FM broadcast receivers inside their vehicles.

Thankfully, the weather cooperated by giving us a beautiful day and both sessions went off without a hitch. Well, almost. We panicked a bit when we thought we misplaced a candidates completed test answer sheet, but we quickly found it located in another folder. Everyone who came walked away (or should I say drove away) with either a new Technician license or an upgrade, we even had a couple folks come in with no license and went home as General Class ops.

The only sad part of the day was remembering one of our own, Bobby Cure W2REC who became a Silent Key due to this plague. We tried to honor his memory by making him present in spirit at today's session

We left a seat vacant for him and put a straight key in place to honor his years of dedicated service to our VE Team.  RIP, Bobby, you are sorely missed.

For a session this large and due to the unusual circumstances, our VE Team alone would not have been enough, We were assisted by other VE Team members from the Tri-County Radio Club, the Raritan Valley Radio Club, the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club and the New Providence Amateur Radio Club, and I believe even some members from the Fairlawn Amateur Radio Club. I met a whole bunch of VEs for the first time today, that I had never met before. It was a great thing to behold.

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

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Cookie Crumble 2020 was not crummy!

I had a good time, despite a few glitches.

First off, Emily WC3R contacted me during the week to ask me if I'd be interested in being either a Cookie Monster or a Burnt Cookie. I asked her which she needed more and she replied "Burnt". Hmmmmm ..... I was happy to volunteer, but I made up my mind right then and there that I would only call CQ. I would not hunt and pounce and go out of my way to give people negative points. That may not be what the organizers intended, but it felt like the way to go for me. After the fact, I have heard from a few people who have told me that they heard me rather well, but once they heard me give out "Burnt" as my name, they did not respond to my CQs. So my QSO total was probably less than it could have been, but so be it.

Then, in the middle of the contest, the KX3 began acting up. Whenever I went near the cable that connected the battery to the DC Power Socket, the rig shut down. Once it happened in the middle of a QSO.  So I took the rig apart, and took that half down to the shack to re-solder the connections of the jack to the circuit board.  Problem solved!

Oh yes, I ran down to the shack. That means I operated backyard portable from our patio table.

I think this was the first time that I have used my laptop DURING a sprint. I usually log on paper and transfer later. The QSOs were not coming hot and heavy, so there was time for this uber slow typist to add them to Log4OM in real time.

The antenna was the PAR END FEZ which was being supported by Jackite Pole in the bottom photo. I bungeed the Jackite to the swing set and then ran the wire down to the patio chair in the foreground (I didn't want the end touching the ground). It's funny, my two kids are in college, but I haven't gotten rid of the swing set as it serves as a very good support for the Jackite. That's going to change this summer, though. That structure has seen better days and needs to come down.

In all, I made 13 contacts. Nine were with other Cookies and four were not. I made three contacts on 20 Meters, nine contacts on 40 Meters and one contact on 80 Meters. Yes, to my great surprise the KX3 was able to load up the PAR on 80 Meters for one final QSO of the day with the Cookie Queen herself, Emily WC3R.  In addition to working Emily, it did this ol' heart some good to hear such familiar calls as Jim W1PID, John K4BAI, Marc W4MPS and John Paul AB4PP - but thank you EVERYONE for the QSOs - and I apologize for having to be the bearer of negative points.

There were bonus points for posting pictures to Facebook (which I did - the ones above), posting a picture of biting into a cookie on Facebook (which I did not do) and posting a limerick to Facebook (which I did do):

There was never a hobby as hip 
As allows us to chase the skip 
The waves they do propagate 
And to radios our ears do mate 
To hunt down the vaunted chocolate chip.

OK, OK ....... I know, I'm no great author or poet, but points are points! Easy enough to get for composing a bad limerick, but not enticement enough for posting a photo of my ugly mug chomping on a cookie. Between QSO points and bonus points, I ended up submitting a score of 9,354 points. I'm sure that will land me somewhere from middle to bottom. But that's fine because I had fun, it was a gorgeous day weather-wise AND ...... I was not at work!

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

Friday, June 05, 2020


I have to admit, I'm not all that much into podcasts. The four that I pay attention to are listed in the box to the right. I get particular satisfaction from listening to "QSO Today" by Eric Guth 4Z1UG. You can never really get bored listening to "QSO Today" as Eric makes sure to interview people that represent a wide variation of Amateur Radio interests.

That being said, I think the followers of this blog - if they don't already benefit from listening to "QSO Today", would get a kick out of these interviews (I think you'll notice some familiar names ansd call signs):

Episode 304 - Tim Carter W3ATB
Episode 295 - Bry Carling AF4K
Episodes 293 & 80 - Michael Rainey AA1TJ
Episode 245 - Joe Everheart N2CX
Episode 215 - Mike Bryce WB8VGE
Episode 173 - Preston Douglas WJ2V
Episode 158 - Don Minkoff NK6A
Episode 154 - Dave LeDuc N1IX
Episode 151 - George Heron N2APB
Episodes 149 & 11 - Wayne Burdick NK6R
Episode 148 - Rich Fisher KI6SN
Episode 147 - Rich Moseson W2VU
Episode 141 - Paul Stroud AA4XX
Episode 138 - Tony Fishpool G4WIF
Episode 125 - Hans Summers G0UPL
Episode 120 - Jim Stafford W4QO
Episode 117 - Gerry Jurgens N2GJ
Episode 113 - Bill Kelsey N8ET
Episode 110 - Tom Witherspoon K2SWL
Episode 102 - Rex Harper W1REX
Episode 101 - Graham Firth G3MFJ
Episode 99 - Jeff Murray - K1NSS
Episode 93 - Joe Eisenberg K0NB
Episode 84 - Peter Parker VK3YE
Episode 78 - Bob Hopkins WB2UDC
Episode 77 - Dave Cripe NM0S
Episode 72 - Alan Wolke W2AEW
Episode 67 - Nick Kennedy WA5BDU
Episode 58 - Chuck Adams K7QO
Episode 25 - Steve Galchutt WG0AT
Episode 30 - Greg Lane N4KGL
Episode 24 - Dan Walker WG5G
Episode 10 - Stan Lewandowski - WB2LQF

And these are just the ones with a special interest towards CW or QRP . There's a goldmine there, just waiting to be explored! Find it at

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

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

So maybe Field Day is not a goner after all.

By now, it's not news that the ARRL has amended Field Day rules for 2020 (only) in face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, that news came out the day AFTER our last SPARC meeting, where we tossed out the idea of putting forth a Field Day effort for 2020.

Now that the rules have changed, and we can aggregate our scores, we just might do something as a group, albeit from our individual locations. We're going to discuss this at our monthly evening "activity gathering" tomorrow evening on ZOOM. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

I know our club President plans to be at his Pocono Mountain cabin retreat that weekend. I'll probably operate from the backyard like most of our other members. I'm sure that Dave KD2FSI will be operating from his home, too - as will Marv K2VHW. Marv and I anchor the CW leg of the effort, so I'm hoping he plans to operate!

One thing, though ....... Field Day participation or no, I haven't totally decide, but I don't think I'm going to purchase the T-Shirt this year. Even though I'm a Boomer, I'm not a big fan of the "concert tour" design.

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