Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Coffee is my friend this morning

It was busy here at work yesterday, but not THAT busy. Yet, when I got home I was feeling exhausted and was contemplating hitting the sack early and bypassing the 40 Meter Fox Hunts. As it was, I had  committed to running the NNJ Southern District ARES Net on 70 cm, last night at 0030 UTC. In a re-organization of ARES in the Northern New Jersey Section, the "Southern District" is comprised of Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset and Union Counties. 

John Garmendi N2DV, our DEC was otherwise occupied and was unable to act as Net Control, so I volunteered when he announced that he was looking for an NCS. Unless there are a lot of check ins, these nets don't last all that long. As it turned out, there were the normal check ins that we see from month to month, but I was surprised that a lot of my compatriots from South Plainfield were absent last evening.

A half hour later at 0100 UTC is the monthly NNJ Section ARES Net, where the whole section gets together. This net comprises the counties from Monmouth County on up, the entire Northern half of the state, so it takes a bit longer. This net lasted roughly a half hour, and upon its ending the Fox Hunt was only a half hour away, so I decided that I'm re-addicted enough to stay up and chase the two Foxes. As it is, I have a commitment Thursday evening and will not be able to participate in the 80 Meter Fox Hunts. A whole week without chasing Foxes? Suddenly, this year, that has become unthinkable - hence my "re-addiction"!

And two good, experienced Foxes they were- John K4BAI in Georgia and Tim KR0U in Colorado. Since this was the 40 Meter Fox Hunt, I thought I had a good chance for hearing both, if not working both.

John K4BAI was the Upper Fox and I found his chasing pack of Hounds pretty quickly - not much dial twiddling there. Once I found them, I twiddled down carefully until I heard John, himself. Then it was a simple mater of equalizing VFO B with VFO A, hitting the split button and twiddling VFO B back to where I initially heard the pack. John was moving a bit up in frequency after each hound he worked. Once I figured that out, I was able to tune up a bit more and throw out my call sign, hoping it would stick out enough and that he would hear me. I hit paydirt at 0218 UTC and was awarded with a 569 report. I thought John was a little stronger than that and gave him a 579.

One Fox safely in the log, it was time to twiddle on down the band to find Tim KR0U. It was easy enough to find the chasing pack, but finding Tim was another matter entirely. Going down slowly, I was finally able to find Tim, but there was a very loud NAQCC station right on top of him. Last night was their monthly Sprint. John had mentioned this in his Fox announcement, but I had completely forgotten about it until the moment. 

And at that moment, I was hearing that song by The Clash playing in my head - "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?". It didn't seem like this was going to be easy, but then again, anything worth doing  isn't always easy. So instead of pulling the Big Switch and heading off for some much needed ZZZZZZ's, I tightened up the filters, turned down the RF Gain, turned up the AF Gain and began to strain my ears for Tim. 

Slowly, his signal strength began to increase as propagation was changing in my favor. I was able to return the RF Gain and AF Gain to their normal operating levels and still hear Tim pretty well. Finally, at 0244 UTC, I heard Tim come back to me. I gave him a 559, and he gave me a 539. I hope he was able to hear the two "QHB"s that I sent at the beginning of my exchange as yesterday was his birthday.

With both Foxes in the log, I did pull the Big Switch and headed off to bed. The problem was that although I was tired from the day, I was wired from the thrill of the chase. I wasn't able to fall asleep until after 11:00 PM and I'm feeling it this morning. Thus the title of this post - coffee is indeed my friend today.

As I sit here writing this post, I have to admit that this QRP stuff still amazes me to no end. I've worked a lot of Fox Hunts over the years, both as a Hound and as a Fox. Last night, my meager 5 Watt signal made its way to both Georgia and Colorado.  If I took off in my car right now, and headed south for John K4BAI's QTH, I might make it there by dinner time ........MAYBE.  If I took off right now for Tim KR0U's QTH, I might make it there tomorrow or the next day?  I don't know, I've never driven to Colorado. I've flown to Denver for work once, but have never driven there. Yet, my 5 Watts of RF energy made it to both locations at the speed of light.

It was only 122 years ago, yesterday - December 12th, 1901, that Marconi, situated in St. John's Newfoundland, was able to receive an "S" sent via "wireless" (as it was called back then) from Cornwall in England, proving that radio waves could traverse the Atlantic. The "experts" of the day were convinced that radio waves would never travel farther than the curvature of the Earth allowed, So much for "settled science". eh? His antennas were massive monsters - John, Tim and I were using simple wires and verticals. I have a feeling that if Guglielmo were around to play around in a Fox Hunt, using today's Amateur Radio equipment, he'd be a dedicated QRP'er.

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

1 comment:

  1. I fully understand your love of QRP Larry and I'm always baffled by those who snigger at QRP operators. I'm absolutely sure that I would have already quit the hobby out of boredom if I was pumping out a thousand Watts and making contacts every time I pressed the PTT.

    73, Tom, M7MCQ