Thursday, June 30, 2022

Even though I don't partake much anymore

the 2022 Summer QRP Fox Hunt season started last Thursday.

For all the particulars, you can visit for the rules and the schedule.

By the time 9:00 PM rolls around here in NJ, I'm usually too pooped to pop. But now that Summer is here and the basement is the coolest part of the house, I might just give it another whirl. The problem is that my 5:30 AM wake up time comes way too fast!

Tonight's Foxes are John K4BAI and Steve WX2S. I don't expect to hear Steve as we are all of about 18 miles apart. My head is telling me I have a better chance of hearing John, who lives in Georgia.  But my head is a silly thing sometimes and can often lead me astray.  So now that I've published my thoughts, I'll probably hear Steve and John will be silent. Go figure.

I went over to eBay today and put RigExpert in as one of my favorite searches with e-mail alerts when new postings are made. Who knows? One of these days I might get lucky and will find an antenna analyzer that I can actually afford.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

13 Colonies coming up

 Next Monday we celebrate Independence Day here in the US of A - our nation's birthday. So, beginning on July 1st and running through the 7th (I think) is the 13 Colonies Special Event.

This has become a biggie, drawing a ton of participation from within and without the continental United States. The bands will be crowded and that's a good thing.

I, myself, will not be participating. I've done the clean sweep thing about three or four times now and have nothing to prove. I also have another reason, but won't go into that here, What would be cool, though, would be if somehow 13 Colonies and POTA could somehow combine efforts so that each colony would be activated from a park. Each program would benefit from the activity.

The weather for the holiday weekend seems to be a mixed bag - unsettled on Saturday with scattered thunderstorms, then clearing on Sunday and the best of the three days on Monday. Besides the normal household "stuff" that I have the honor of doing every weekend, I'd like to re-solder the joints on my MFJ-1982 end fed and then test that out.  I'd also like to go to Cotton Street park and get some practice in with the arborist's throw bag and line that I purchased at the end of last summer.

Our annual pilgrimage to Lake George is coming up soon, and I'd like to throw the PAR up into a tree behind our cabin, rather than just rely on the magloop as my sole antenna for the week. I'm going to need to get the feel of that bag down, so that I don't look like a fool, or worse, damage something.

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

BTW ........ The new "header" photo. That was taken by my best friend from high school, Don, back in 1979 after I had upgraded to General.  You can make out my Heathkit HR-1680 receiver and next to that was a Kenwood T599. Underneath was my Realistic DX-160 receiver which I had from my SWLing days. On the other side of the HR-1680 were a clock (so it was close to 5:30 PM when Don took the picture), speaker and an MFJ VersaTuner, Model whatever. I have long lost the Ragchewer's Club Certificate and if my failing memory serves me, there was an ARRL Membership Certificate posted on the wall. If you look closely, KA2DOH had a little facial hair back in those days - I sported a mustache for a few years. Tried growing it back a few years ago, but it comes in all gray, so I ditched that idea.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Some post-mortem Field Day thoughts

While I understand the mindset of those who really consider Field Day to be an uber-contest and go whole hog........ as I get older, I see the wisdom of keeping it simple.  A few wire antennas, a few low power portable rigs make set up in 90F weather much easier and by the same token, tear down is much less of a horror after being up for 30+ hours. Taking down hexbeams, yagis and makeshift towers is a younger man's game. Definitely. Plus you get the added bonus of having visitors say, "You were talking to California (or wherever) with just 5 Watts and some wire?"

CW speeds - this one might be a ticking time bomb. If you want to run QRQ - by all means, go ahead. But if you expect a lot of responses on Sunday morning at 9:00 AM from guys who have been at this continuously since Saturday at 2:00 PM - I think you're barking up the wrong tree. There's no disgrace at keeping CW speeds at a more realistic 25 WPM or less neighborhood. And for Pete's sake, if a guy is calling "CQ FD" at about 18 WPM, QRS for him, please! You're not impressing anyone by continuing to send at 40 WPM. You're just annoying the rest of us by you forcing him to ask you to repeat your exchange for 5 or 6 times.

For those of you, who like us, run a club effort ....... I really recommend N3FJP's logging software. We're lucky enough to have Ron N2LCZ, who is a networking guru set up our logging system . He does it so that we're all tied into a portable network. We log at laptops and this all feeds into a master desktop acting as a server. I couldn't set this system up if my life depended on it, but Ron makes it so that the entire FD team can see our collective effort at each and every transmitting position. And it makes reporting results to the ARRL as easy as falling off a log.

Don't discount digital ops. While I'm not a devotee of FT8 or whatever the digital mode du jour is - they are an invaluable tool. Dave KD2FSI was our DX King, working into New Zealand, Hawaii and other distant locals with the digital modes. Plus ........ while they might not everybody's cup of tea, they also seem to attract the younger crowd and that is definitely a plus.  A youngster of say, 15 or 16 may think Morse Code is cool and may really be attracted to the paddles and keyer,. I know this first hand, as I have witnessed it. On the other hand, that same youngster will undoubtedly feel right at home and like an old pro behind the keys of a laptop. I may not be the one to do it, but sit with a youngster and guide him/her through a connection with the other side of the country (or world) in their first few attempts and you may have hooked someone for life. Getting that youngster to realize he/she can enjoy SSB and CW can come later.

Field Day is the most excellent opportunity to get inactive Hams on the air again. For whatever reason, some Ham's enthusiasm for the hobby can dry up. Raising a family, working a job (or two) might leave no time for sitting behind the radio. Let them sit down and make a few contacts and you're going to help re-ignite that old flame. It works....... I've seen guys who have not been on the air for decades, but have kept their licenses active look at my KX3, see what it can do and they're almost salivating! "THAT little rig does all this?!?"

Besides being a contest, Emergency Communication exercise or whatever ....Field Day is perhaps our biggest PR opportunity of the year. Take advantage of it.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, June 27, 2022

Field Day 2022 ........"Put 'er in the books!"

 Another Field Day has come and gone. This year was not without its surprises, but as Clint Eastwood said as Gunnery Sargent Thomas Highway in "Heartbreak Ridge" - "You improvise, adapt, and overcome!"

The week started with a Proclamation of Amateur Radio Week in South Plainfield by our Mayor and Borough Council.

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the Council meeting as I'm still going to physical therapy for my hand twice a week. But we were well represented by Ron N2LCZ, Marv K2VHW, Bill W2AOF, and Harry KC2PGX. Mayor Matt Anesh is standing to the right. By the way, Matt's father, John AB2VE is a member of SPARC.

Field Day 2022 arrived itself on a day quite beautiful - sunny, blue skies, white puffy clouds - but HOT! I made the grocery shopping trip for the family first and when I arrived at the Field Day site at Putnam Park at about 10:00AM it was already in the 90s! (30s C)

Setup went without a hitch and we were able to actually sit for a breath before the main event arrived at 1800 UTC.

The "Communications Center" was a 10 X 20 carport and two 10 X 10 pop-up canopies. The carport was donated to the club by Marv K2VHW and worked out exceedingly well. We improvised sides using tarps which would have kept out the inclement weather, if we had gotten any. They were rolled up on the front side, but we kept them in the down position on the backside. This was a heckuvalot more economical than the commercial tent that Dave KD2FSI used to so generously rent for us.

A few years back, we purchased some small banners from Vistaprint to help visitors who are not familiar with Amateur Radio to let them know what they were looking at. That's Dave KD2FSI and Eric KD2ONY setting up the satellite antennas in the background.

This is a picture of Dave KD2FSI's 80-10 Meter end fed antenna, set up in an Inverted Vee configuration. Dave has the QRO version and I have the QRP version - both from MFJ. Dave's was oriented North and South, while mine was oriented East and West. More about mine, later.

My solar panel just topping off my PowerWerx battery before festivities began.

We remembered Bill Koeth W2WK who became a Silent Key earlier this year by having one of the keys he handbuilt at a place of honor at the Field Day site. I'm lucky enough to be able to call this one "mine".

Marv K2VHW getting a little CW in on 20 Meters. I stayed mostly on 40 or 80 Meters. We split operations at the station Marv was sitting at in this photo between CW and SSB modes. I'll explain why, in a bit.

Dave KD2FSI was our digital and satellite op. Dave was quite successful in making FT8 contacts and VHF/UHF contacts. The satellite end of things was not so quite as cooperative.  You can see Dave's empty water bottle there. Bill W2AOF brought a huge cooler and it was filled with ice covered bottles of water, Gatorade and cans of soda. That was a vital component of our 2022 Field Day effort. Without hydration, we would have been calling on EMS to cart us away!

Who's that guy?

My 40 Meter CW station set up.

I brought my Bencher Mercury paddle for use at Field Day. I love it's action and it's feel. However, no one and I mean absolutely NO ONE but me touches my Begali paddle. That was safe and sound on the operating bench at home.

Neil WA2EGE getting in on the action.

The overnight - the toughest part of Field Day!

Marty W2BEW was our primary SSB op and as usual, did an outstanding job!

W2LJ looking at the rig in frustration. QSB was terrible on Saturday. I'd answer a station calling "CQ FD" at 20 over 9, only to have them go down below the noise floor when they sent their exchange. On the other hand propagation was decent and we were able to work just about anyone we heard. We were putting stations in the log at a decent rate until about 11:00 PM or so local time, and that's when a potential disaster struck.

Around 10:00 PM or so, we had a visitor stop by, Antoinette KK4TTX who is a Ham who had re-located to New Jersey from North Carolina. She's a Tech who has been off the air for a while and she wanted some tips and pointers on antennas, about the local repeaters up here as well as the inside information about clubs in the area. We sat and talked for about a half hour or so and when she left, I sat down at the rig and switched over to 80 Meters. The band was busy and there were lots of loud signals. I called a few loud stations only to have them come back to me calling "CQ FD" once again. That was not a good sign to say the least! Something was wrong, even though the KX3 looked fine and was its old reliable self. Dave KD2FSI came over to me with his RigExpert analyzer (I really have to save up to buy one of these!). and he attached it to my MFJ end fed only to find it reading an SWR of infinity. Holy! On ALL bands!

It was pitch dark at a public park, and we were in the woodsy part of the park with no commercial lighting (the park is usually closed after dark, but we were granted permission to remain overnight) - so what do you do? We limped along - we improvised, adapted, and overcame. When Marty needed a break at the SSB station, we would switch Dave's MFJ end fed over to my rig. We'd operate until either Marv or I needed a break and then we'd switch the antenna back over to Marty. Not the most ideal arrangement, but I wasn't about to make an antenna swap until first light.

First light arrived at about 4:45 the next morning and I waited for just a few more minutes until it was bright enough to take down the MFJ all band end fed and replace it with my PAR END FEDZ 10-20-40, as seen below.

We were back to two antennas! It kind of sucked not to be able to go up to 15 Meters, but we were back to simultaneously making CW and SSB contacts and that was the important point at that moment. Once I had the MFJ coiled back on its holder, I took the screws out of the little box that is the UNUN. The toroid was fine. I viewed what I perceived to be one or two suspect soldering joints though. I am going to re-solder those properly and then give the antenna a test. If the high SWR still prevails, the only thing it could be, then, are the two capacitors inside the little black box, and I'll have to swap those out. They LOOK fine though, so I am suspecting a suspect soldering job. Even after I make repairs, next year I am going to string up the PAR or maybe my other W3EDP into one of the many trees near us so that I can have back up ready and raring to go, if needed. Like the old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me".

All in all, it was a great Field Day! Even though since last year we re-located to a smaller Borough park from the County park we had been at, we had more visitors than ever this year! In addition to Derryck White from South Plainfield Borough Council (who, by the way, made a tremendous post about us on the Borough Council's Facebook page - thanks, Derryck!) we had John Garmendi N2DV the Middlesex County ARES Bureau Chief and his wife stop by. Eric Martin KD2ZME the head of Middlesex County CERT stopped by and we had a long discussion on CERT drills and acquainting the CERT Teams in the county that have an Amateur Radio component. We also had visits from Bill Kelly NB1LL, the local American Red Cross liaison and his wife. They presented us with a certificate for our Field Day activation.

We also had visits from Ria Jairam N2RJ, our ARRL Hudson Division Director as well as members from the South Plainfield EMS Team who were interested in our operations.

I'm not exactly sure how this year's edition of Field Day will stack up against our previous efforts. Being without one of the main antennas for close to 6 hours will probably show a remarkable decline in our statistics. However, we had fun and in the long run, that's all that's important. We all went home after tear down a bit hot, sweaty, sticky and exhausted but at the same time quite content and happy. I hope YOUR Field Day was as good, if not better, than ours.

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

Special "Thanks" and a tip o' the call sign cap to Mario Labot KD2HPF for providing us with many excellent Field Day photos.