Sunday, July 25, 2021

FOBB 2021

The weather held out, although it was mostly overcast, with some breaks of sun - and hot and kind of muggy. I'm not sure what the humidity was, but it had to have been up there.. No records of any sort were set - only ten Bee stations and two POTA stations worked in the time that I put into the effort.

As planned, I set up in the backyard at the patio table. Set up was quick and easy. The antenna was the one described in K4SWL's POTA video. Like his, my KX3 was able to match it quite easily on 40, 30, 20, and 15 Meters.

The antenna went up lickety split and it's so light that it didn't put any bend into the Jackite. Unlike Tom K4SWL, I didn't bother with banana jacks. I inserted the wires directly into the binding posts.

The key that I used was my Bulldog Clip paddle. Tiny, lightweight but it has a super feel to it, almost as good as any full sized key.

I did mention it got hot, right? A couple minutes after I snapped this photo of my little Radio Shack clock with built in thermometer, the temperature jumped past 90F.

I had to leave in the middle for a little over an hour to drive my wife over to her boss's house. She was throwing a BBQ for the staff and my wife hates to drive, so .............

The bands were not in great shape by any means. Signals were down and I had to work to dig them out of the muck. Judicious use of the KX3's roofing filters helped with that. QSB was fast and deep. There were very few loud QRP stations this time around. Among others, I was able to work a few familiar calls, N0SS, AB9CA, N4KGL, K4BAI, and N3AQC.

The K4SWL antenna, as I will call it, did an OK job. FOBB was an experiment to see how well it would work. Well enough, I dare say, that I wound it up on a kite winder and stuffed it into my portable ops backpack. It's a good wire to bring along on vacation. It doesn't require a gigantic tree as the wire is only 28.5 feet long. A throw bag or a water bottle and some line should be able to get it deployed easily. If worse comes to worse and there are no trees around for whatever reason, the Jackite supports it like nothing is there.

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Weather outlook for Sunday

The weather outlook for the weekend is 50/50. You have to know that since FOBB is Sunday, the weather prognosticators are calling for Saturday to be the better weather day of the two. Of course, just my luck! And of course, as it's only Wednesday, all this could change between now and then.

So right now, we're looking at a hot and humid day with a chance of scattered thunderstorms pretty much the entire day. The lowest chance of rain being at start time. Higher chances before and after.  If that turns out to be the case, FOBB will be a backyard-under-the-patio-umbrella affair. I didn't sign up for a Bee number this year, so I'll  just be a 5 Watt station.

I still may try out the K4SWL "easy portable" antenna and just support it as a vertical using the Jackite. Or maybe I'll go with the PAR. We'll see. In any event, I'm still looking forward to it. As long as the day is not a total washout, it will still be a good time.

Speaking of weather - yesterday New Jersey was enveloped by atmospheric smoke from the wild fires out in the Northwest. The sun was a bright red rubber ball just hanging in the sky. It was dimmed to the point that you could plainly see the disc and look at it without hurting your eyes. Today we're expecting a cold front to come through bringing a little cooler, but much drier and cleaner air behind it. There was still smoke in the air this morning as I drove to work, but the sun was brighter and you could not look directly at it. I know they'd have to be GINORMOUSLY HUGE to be seen by the naked eye - but I could not detect any sunspots yesterday.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Flight of the Bumblebees this coming Sunday!

 From Rich Fisher KI6SN on QRP-L:

The Adventure Radio Society is hosting the Flight of the Bumble Bees on the last Sunday of July. This year it is July 25 - next Sunday.

Applications for field stations' Bumble Bee number requests are open and welcomed. Full details about 2021's FOBB are posted on the ARS homepage at: There have been no changes to the rules used in previous years.

This event is open to all radio amateurs running 5-watts RF power output or less. Both home and field stations are encouraged to participate.

73 and TNX for your ongoing support of ARS,

Richard Fisher, KI6SN

Co-founder, the Adventure Radio Society

This is definitely one of the staple Summer QRP operating events. It's a good time each year - be sure to join in on the fun.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, July 16, 2021

My antenna for Lake George next Summer


I found a link to this wonderful video by Tom K4SWL on Facebook. I don't know how I ever missed it as I read his blog regularly, but miss it I did - probably in the busy-ness of life.

When we come up here to Lake George, I usually have two goals in mind regarding the Amateur Radio equipment that I bring along. I try to keep it as minimal as possible so that I don't take up a lot of baggage space in the car. I also try to be as inconspicuous as possible. The owners of the place that we stay at here, Stepping Stones in Diamond Point, are very tolerant of my Amateur Radio activities. I try to honor that by not doing anything that might disturb other guests here. So far, over the years, fortunately there has been some curiosity, but no complaints. I'm even known as the "Shortwave Guy" by some of the other regulars who have been coming here for years.

What I like about the antenna that Tom built and used in the video is that it is simple, small, lightweight and inconspicuous. I can toss this up in a tree that sits to the side of our cabin and no one will be the wiser for it. 

I already have enough speaker wire sitting on a shelf back home and I have a few of the binding post to BNC adapters sitting in my portable ops back pack "Go Kit". I am going to try this for FOBB this year.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Social Media commentary

 If you subscribe to Facebook, there is a wealth of Amateur Radio gold to be found. Some of the groups that I belong to include the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt (of course!), Magnetic Loop Antennas, I Love QRP, 4SQP, Begali Keys, Ham Radio 2.0, DIY Magnetic Loops and a plethora of others. I have gotten some really good ideas, tips - "hints and kinks" as it were, from these pages. 

The good far outweighs the bad. But every now and then .......................................... !!!

One of my pet peeves is when someone feels the need to bring up a story where they, as a newbie, felt they were somehow slighted by a veteran of the hobby. I had my share of those experiences as a Novice and a new General back in the late 70s and early 80s. We all went through that. If I want to go down Memory Lane far enough, I can tell you the times I was made to feel about an inch tall on the local 2 Meter repeater. But I'd have to think really hard about the specifics, because for the most part, I've forgotten the particulars and moved on.

This probably has to do with my upbringing. Both my Mom and Dad's families were huge by today's standards. I was the youngest of all the grandchildren. For some reason, my uncles (on both sides) took delight in harmlessly teasing me, at times. It was not a constant thing and I remember great times and wonderful memories with them all, but there were times, as a very young kid, it was not so much fun. I was too young to realize it was just kidding, and I felt hurt. I remember complaining about it to my Mom once. She gave me invaluable advice. "When you can show them it won't bother you, it will stop." And, true to her words, her wisdom proved spot on.

Flash forward to now. Someone had posted on how he didn't have the most deluxe experience as a new Ham. He had gone to a club meeting (his first one, I guess) and someone asked him what class license he held. When he answered "Technician", the older club member responded "Well, we all have to start somewhere." He stated that at that point he was almost ready to leave the hobby.

Seriously? You're kidding right? I almost fell out of my chair when I read that.

Look, I can understand his reaction to a point. We all want to be accepted and we're all proud of our accomplishments. We want to be recognized and welcomed - heck, that why we join clubs and organizations in the first place - for fellowship and camaraderie. But Amateur Radio, like all groups, is a microcosm of our society at large. You're going to have your gems and your going to have your bad apples. You can't let the bad apples get to you. "Illegitimi non Carborundum" as the old saying goes.

But as an aside, the street goes both ways. Many times, when a newbie feels slighted, instead of sucking it up and moving on - they will retaliate using terms such as "Old Fart", "Geezer", "Curmudgeon" and the like. There's no need for that, from either side.

The point of this post is to remind everyone that Amateur Radio is a huge tent, and there's room for everyone. While there's a time and place for good natured teasing and kidding - maybe it's a good idea to refrain from that until you get to know the person better.  Treating each other with respect and avoiding epithets is always a good idea. For Pete's sake, if you don't know how to react - at least be civil! But if you run into someone who desperately feels the need to be a real ...... , remember my Mom's advice. It's timeless.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Made a purchase


A new drive on mast holder through Amazon. It has an inside diameter wide enough to handle the Jackite. This will replace the homebrew one that I made out of some oak boards. This one takes up less real estate and will fit better in the back of the Jeep.

I've been thinking of purchasing one for a while and finally pulled the trigger. It would have been good to have with me this week at Lake George along with the PAR ENDFEDZ.  

I see that Rich Fisher KI6SN put out an e-mail today reminding everyone about FOBB. Don't forget to sign up for a Bee number!

I will be participating this year, but as a 5 Watt station. As always, this will serve as a dress rehearsal for me for the Skeeter Hunt. I'm torn between Cotton Street park, where I'd use the MFJ-1982LP or Washington Rock State Park, where I'd use the PAR. If I go to Washington Rock State Park, I can do double duty as a POTA station. However, it's a slightly smaller venue with way more people visiting. I'd be limited to throwing the PAR in a tree. WRSP does have the advantage of a higher elevation.

Cotton Street park is way more "deserted", if you will. There are local users, but not nearly as many visitors as Washington Rock, which is an NJ State Park. The MFJ-1982LP which is 135 feet long (or there abouts) doesn't make a dent in the space of the park. The MFJ also offers me all bands 80-10, where as I'm confined to pretty much 20 and 40 Meters with the PAR. I don't expect there to be any activity on 10 Meters (PAR), but there just might be activity on 15 Meters (MFJ).

What it boils down to will probably be the weather situation for the day. If there's going to be a threat of rain, I just might go with the PAR which can come down more quickly than the MFJ - even though both come down pretty easily and quickly. The PAR is just a matter of yanking it out of the tree, rolling it up on the nifty winder Dave KD2FSI made for me, and stuffing it into the backpack and hiking back to the car.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 12, 2021

Loopy at the lake

 Marianne and I have headed back up to Lake George, NY for our yearly July sojourn. This year I decided once again to keep it really light in the radio equipment department. I left the full QRP portable backpack at home and brought along just a daypack. This year I have just the KX3, my small lithium battery,  a couple set of earbuds, a backup Bulldog clip key and the Alex Loop.

Since I acquired the Alex Loop from Peter NN9K a couple of years ago, I have not used it enough to be comfortable with it. It works, but I don't know its "ins and outs" very well. I'm not totally sure you can thoroughly know the "ins and outs" of any antenna, as there will always be surprises. By comparison, in the case of wire antennas, I'm a lot more confident in knowing what I can work and what I cannot work. I am hoping to become more familiar with the Alex Loop this week.

I tried listening for some ops in the QRP-ARCI Homebrew Sprint yesterday afternoon. I was disappointed as I only was able to hear some SKCC Weekend Sprinters. Even though I heard them, I didn't work any as I haven't brought a straight key with me. It doesn't seem quite kosher to participate in an SKCC event with keyer and paddles.

This morning, I attempted to work Mike KC2EGL and John K3WWP as NY3EC at the USS Requin in Pittsburgh. I set up HamAlert to let me know whenever they were spotted by RBN or the Cluster. I did not hear them on 20 Meters when they were spotted there, and I did not hear them on 40 Meters when they were spotted there. I was able to make them out on 30 Meters, however. They were at ESP levels, and I was able to hear the stations they were working, and was able to figure out that it was Mike at the key. I patiently waited for their signal strength to rise. Eventually they got up to about a 449 and I gave a call. I made contact, but it's a busted QSO as I'm pretty sure that Mike was copying me as W2BJ. I did get a 339 report, though. Then QSB reared its ugly head and they disappeared, even though reports from HamAlert confirmed they were still on the band. Maybe I should follow K3WWP's advice and invest in a PX3 panadapter. I don't care for waterfalls, though - call me an old fogey. I was, am and always will be a dial twiddler - and cheap! The Ham Alert app is a freebie!

So then I did a little experimenting by calling CQ and looking at Reverse Beacon Network reports on the various bands. It seems the Alex Loop is best heard on 40 and 30 Meters. Those two bands gave me the best db above Noise Level reports. 

So later in the afternoon, I sat down to try and work NY3EC again, as I was still getting reports that they were on the air. No matter what band they were on, this time I couldn't hear them. However, while tuning across 20 Meters, I heard RW3XW calling CQ at the bottom of the band. He was strong, but there was a lot of QSB but I decided to give the ol' roulette wheel a spin and give it a shot. My recent experiment be darned, telling me that my RBN reports on 20 Meters are not the best - I gave it the ol" college try.

Success! I got him in the log on the second try. Shaking my head, I was not able to work Pittsburgh on any band, which is a small hop away - but I was able to work Russia which is several thousand miles away on a band where the loop doesn't give me my best results. If I live to be a hundred, I'll never figure propagation out.

I came into our cabin to log my contact on AC Log only to get a bit of a scare. This old Lenovo T430 came to life, only with no mouse cursor pointer! The finger pad and the little "mouse" controller button in the middle of the keyboard were both inoperative, Great - just what I really need - a bum computer for the rest of the week and of course, I did not bring along an external mouse.

I'm not what you would call "IT savvy" but I know enough about using the keyboard keys to navigate around. Soon I was able to get to the Control Panel to try and see if I could get things working again. The drivers were up to date and re-loading them didn't help any. The Device Manager was telling me that the drivers would not upload on boot up  Why? I have no idea.. I did remember that when I shut the laptop off last night, it did a Windows Update. Something funky must have happened then and there.  I managed to navigate over to the recovery area. I did not do a full blown backdate, but I was able to do a recovery and a re-boot which got the mouse pointer working again.

Whew - computers ARE black magic - especially when you're not an IT whiz. I was lucky this time, but now I'm strongly considering an upgrade in the near future. This machine is too old to run Windows 10 reliably and Windows 8 support stops sometime soon.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, July 09, 2021

This and that

 Bill; W2AOF, Ron N2LCZ and myself got together last night to put together the Field Day score submission for the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club. This was a chore always handled by Drew W2OU, who is now an SK, so we are rookies. The process was quite easy, easier then we expected. Bill is going to have to resubmit, though, I think. Unless he got a confirmation from the ARRL, we're not showing up on their webpage as a submitted score.

Tropical storm Elsa has visited our environs. As I type this, she seems to be moving away from the NJ coast. We only received about 3/4" of rain. We've gotten more than that during a summer thunderstorm, so for our area, not too bad. The winds were not too bad, either - at least in my neighborhood. As I drove closer to work in Hunterdon County, NJ, I did see some tree branches down here and there.

There seems to be a debate going on on one of the Amateur Radio pages on Facebook as to what the power levels are that define QRP. There's wide swath  of opinion, to anything from "whatever low power setting you're at" (whatever that means!) to 5W or less ONLY.

I offered my $0.02 and went by the definition put forth by QRP-ARCI, and that is 5W or less for CW and the Digital Modes, and 10W or less for SSB. To be honest with you, I didn't think this was such a controversial topic. One Aussie Ham told me that my opinion was irrelevant and didn't count as I am not licensed - my name didn't show up  in the Australian Callbook, I guess. 

I guess you'll always have uber purists who think that 5W is the limit no matter the mode. It also doesn't help that there is no standard from contest to contest, or operating event to operating event. Sometimes it seems that QRP means whatever is in the mind of any given event organizer. For the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, we use the QRP-ARCI definition.

I can understand the uncertainty about it all, though. When I joined QRP-ARCI way back in 1980, QRP was  considered to be 100 Watts or below. My original membership certificate shows that.. QRP has come a long way since then!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 05, 2021

Got the new W3EDP up - Plan B

I got the new W3EDP up today with a little modification from my original plan. I intended to move the center mast a little farther back in the yard, but that turned out to be a no-go. There's a small amount of  poison ivy back there along the chain link fence that I didn't want to deal with today, so I kept the mast where it is. The red line shows where I had intended to relocate the mast to.

The added 18 feet of wire brought the end of the antenna closer to the mast on the opposite side of the backyard, but still not to the very end. There's no wire hanging down vertically like there used to be when I had a G5RV. An on the air test proved the KX3 was able to provide a good match with ease on all bands 160 through 10 Meters. The old W3EDP proved a capable aerial for years, I expect the same from this one.

The big surprise of the day came when I was taking the old W3EDP down. I unwrapped all the electrical tape that I had covering where the PL-259 was attached to the balun. When I tried to loosen the PL-259 from the balun, it was already loose! It wasn't anywhere close to being disconnected, but I was able to turn the connector's tightening shell freely with just my fingers. If I was tightening instead of removing, it would have been another turn and a quarter until I had reached finger tightness.

When I attached the coax to the new balun, I not only snugged it finger tight, I also used a pair of channel lock pliers to get it just a tad tighter than finger tight. Not so tight as to damage the balun, but it should remain nice and tight for a long time. Then I securely wrapped everything with electrical tape to keep the connection and the coax free from potential water damage. I should be good for the next 10 years or so, if not even longer.

Later in the afternoon, I headed out the backyard to retrieve the old antenna and I saw we had a visitor.

She didn't even flinch as I opened the back door, but she did keep a wary eye peeled on me. I called my son Joseph over to see and she didn't flinch when he came out to join me on the deck. When Harold, our Beagle approached her to say "Hello", she took off like a flash. She jumped the chain link fence into our neighbor's yard right over that break where there's no cross rail. I was afraid she'd snag a hoof on my coax, but she sailed right over without coming even close.

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

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Happy Independence Day!


Happy Independence Day!

However you spend it - chasing Colonies, chasing POTAs, SOTAs, DX or in general just being on the bands or spending the day with family and friends at a BBQ and watching fireworks, have a very good and safe day!

If you should get the chance, I would urge you to watch a very good movie, "The Crossing" which was produced by the Arts & Entertainment Network back in 2000. It's about the very pivotal role that General Washington and New Jersey played in the American Revolution back in December, 1776.

My state of New Jersey is often the butt of jokes. We are nestled between the two large and powerful states of New York and Pennsylvania and we live in their shadows, Yet back in the day, New Jersey was one of the most important Colonies in the fledgling United States of America. 

Our state nickname is "The Garden State", as we were the bread basket of the newly formed Nation. Our agricultural produce went a long way towards feeding the rest of the Colonies. In addition, our geographical position played an important role in the conflict. If New Jersey could be controlled by the British, then the vital pathway between the New England Colonies ands the Southern Colonies would be broken.

In the Bicentennial year of 1976, New Jersey was named, and continues to be named as "The Crossroads of the Revolution". There were more battles, skirmishes and engagements fought in New Jersey than in any other of the 13 Colonies. You can't go anywhere in this state and not be near somewhere that played an important role in the War.  My house is a mere block away from the Washington - Rochambeau Trail which was the route taken by the Continental Army on the way to the Battle of Yorktown.

So the 4th of July holds a special place in the hearts of New Jerseyans - at least those of us New Jerseyans who hold a special place for history in our hearts. Even if we are the butt of jokes about how we speak, how our State is perceived as overcrowded and less than a natural beauty, we remember the role we played in the founding of this Nation, and we are proud of that.

As a last word ..... to my readers who may be from Great Britain ..... even though today we celebrate our breaking away from the Empire, nevertheless, we thank you. You are our roots. Many of the traditions of our justice system and our government come from your influence on us. As happenstance would have it, over time we have patched up our differences and we have become the closest of allies. May God Bless the United States and England!

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

Friday, July 02, 2021


 The kvetching and complaining about 13 Colonies on social media has already begun!

Why is K2# only on FT8?

Why is K2# NOT on FT8?

Why doesn't anyone listen to the word "UP"?

and on and on and on.

Listen my friends, if it was a turkey shoot, or like shooting fish in a barrel, it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying. So stick with it. You have tools at your disposal - the Clusters and wonderful apps like HamAlert that you can set up to notify you when the stations you are looking for are on the air.

Back in the day, all we would be able to do was twiddle the dial and hope for the best. You have the means ...... use them.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Happy Canada Day !!!


A very Happy Canada Day to all our VE Ham Radio friends up north! The RAC is holding the annual Canada Day contest today. It's a good opportunity for many QRPers to try and get those harder to work Canadian Provinces in the log.

The annual 13 Colonies Event will be commencing soon, if it hasn't already. That will fill the bands for the next few days. I will not be actively participating, but it will be interesting to see if all 13 Colonies have a good presence in the CW portion of the bands. Of the several times that I completed a clean sweep, I think it was only once or twice that I got them all via CW. (Shudder! LOL!)

Here in the USA, we have a three day holiday weekend coming up to celebrate Independence Day. The weather has been wild and wooly over the past few days. It's been very hot the past two with temperatures close to the 100F (38C) mark along with high humidity. Last night we had quite the light show with thunderstorms closing in around 9:00 PM local time. This afternoon, into tomorrow morning, we have a flash flood advisory as heavy rain is expected later today. Then Friday and Saturday are supposed to be cloudy and showery. Sunday is supposed to be sunny and dry as well as Monday.

So where am I going with this? No, I don't want to simply bore you with weather details for Central New Jersey. But I'm thinking the weather is going to leave me with just Monday to get my Extended W3EDP antenna built and deployed. We'll be going over to my sister's house on Sunday for a BBQ, so that puts the kaibosh on getting it done Sunday. Although, I suppose I can actually build the antenna on Sunday morning before we leave and deploy it on Monday. If there's a break in the rain on Saturday, maybe I can measure out the 85 feet of wire I'll need. For me, it's a lot easier to measure and cut the wire outdoors than indoors. I usually tie one end off to a fence, unroll the wire to where I need it to be, as per the tape measure and then cut it. In that case, I can get the building part done on Saturday.

I want to move my mast farther back to the rear of my property as I cleared out all the overgrowth from my neighbor's yard while I was unemployed. Oh yeah - update - I'm back at work! Got re-hired at the same place I was before. I guess they didn't realize all that we had done for them, and it was like, "Get back here ...... quick!". Anyway, in the four weeks that I was off, among other things, I really got the backyard cleaned up from unwanted and encroaching vegetation. So now I can move the mast farther back. This will accomplish two things:

1) Make it less noticeable, which will please my wife to no end.

2) Make the wire more of a horizontal "L" instead of a weird variation of a "V". I suppose to RF, that doesn't matter, but it soothes my OCD.

Less than deluxe weather or not, I'm looking forward to the time off. Tonight, I'm going to get together with some SPARC members in order to compose and submit our Field Day results.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!