Saturday, 29 March 2014

/P back at Grove Park with 4 bander linked EFHW

With the Spring weather back (17C and sunny), I went back to the local Grove park to test my new 4 bander linked EFHW and Mountain Tuner.

I found a handy fence to lift the 20m of wire as an inverted L. (6m vertical & 14 horizontal) to a nearby tree.

With all the links closed, I started on 40m at 15:00z which was very quiet. After a few sweeps of the band and a QSO with Italy, I turned the dial on the mountain tuner to 20m. The band was not that busy, but worked a few stations including special event station YU120STEPA and Andy - HB9JOE/P at SOTA summit HB/ZH-014.
Before I went home, I opened a link and moved to 30m to work SE station HF15NATO in Poland.

Log Map
Although 20m was generally quiet, the RB showed a good omni-directionality of the inverted L.

Reverse Beacon

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Antenna works

I did not go out last weekend due to the weather. So I took the chance to do some work on my antennas.

I built a linked EFHW for 17,30,40/20m using insulators, crocodrile clips and Hi-Viz antenna wire.  I used my G11 SDR QRP to test on 17m, having not used this radio for a while I was quickly reminded how good this SDR is. With the band open, I bagged a few contacts quickly with pretty decent reports. It was easy to tune to visible signals in the pan-adapter, select a 100Hz filter and go for it. The sidetone is a lot smoother than my HB1B. I tested 30m as well with no problem. I hope I can go out with it this coming weekend.
I am thinking of building another one for the higher bands - 15-17-20m.
264gr - 4band efhw antenna

testing 17m

I also had a look to my fixed doublet in the garden. This antenna is a 20m wire (inverted U - 15m horizontal lenght) at 6m height (cloud burner) fed by about 10m ladder line. The ladder line connects to a Gwhip 1:1 current balun and then the MFJ-901B tuner fed by 8m of RG213 coax inside the house. Thanks to Mike M0MTJ who helped me with the design and implementation.

 I had had problems tuning the antena when changing bands in the previous two weeks and found the culprit - one of the coax jumpers - open ground. I yet have to test a suspect BNC to 4mm socket adaptor. As a temporary solution I am using the balanced feed conection (4:1 voltage balun) in the tuner.


Monday, 17 March 2014

SOTA Activation: Gun & The Cloud

We drove to the Southern Pennines Region to activate a couple of summits on Sunday. The weather was not that good - cloudy and windy and temp of 9C. We parked nearby the summit as recommended in the SOTA summit info. The family decided to stay in the car due to the weather so I run up the 600m to the top the hill to activate the summit. (quite an easy access)

view to the East from Gun G/SP-013 
I used a new 7m SOTA pole from - 600gr weight saving w.r.t my 10m pole and a lot more manageable. On the North side of the summit I found shelter from the wind close to a few trees and stone fences.

I lifted an EFHW for 20m as an inverted L with the top pointing towards the East. I used a couple of trees to support the pole and top of my inverted L (mason line run to the tree in the background). It took me a little bit longer than expected to set up - the insulator slipped over the top of the pole when I was tightening the mason line.

Operating position
 I called CQ at 20wpm with the picokeyer plus and on the second attempt Manuel EA2DT responded from Pamplona, I recognised his callsign immediately as I worked him in the last activation. I used to go over there with work back in 2006, very nice place.
After him, Jean VE2JCW replied, this was my first SOTA DX. The band seemed to be in a better shape than in the past days with the German stations coming very loud, 20 min of operating produced 22 QSOs. I also made a contact with what I wrote down as DL/WA1USA - a google search returned USS Saratoga aircraft carrier museum ship??? -  [did I copy the call correctly?]
Worked DXCC: EA, VE, DL, DJ, DF, DK, OE, CU, HB, OM, SM, SP, GW, F

The EFHW and Mountain Tuner seems to be working great, it will be interesting to compare it back to back with my Gwhip resonant end fed which is a solid performer.

No time for 40m this week. I packed quickly and run back to the car.

We drove for 10 min to The Cloud and parked passed the Shooting Range. The summit is very close from there.
Approaching The Cloud G/SP-015

Eva called CQ on 145.500 with the Kenwood TH22E @5W and the Diamond whip (364 gr) and we both made the required QSOs. Thanks to Alan G3NPJ, John M6JUR, Frank M0AFF, John G0NAJ, Mike M0OZH/P (s2s at Gun).

We quite enjoyed the views. I can see now why The Cloud is so popular. It is a pity that the weather was not better...

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Russian DX Contest CW QRP

On Saturday we went up to the Barr Beacon to meet the guys from Central Radio Amateur Circle (CRAC) on their Plug&Play day. We arrived in the afternoon and found Martin G1TYV packing the tent. A problem with the generator meant an early finish for the club station. The weather was cloudy and windy with a few spells of sunshine.

We set up a Gwhip resonant EFHW for the 15m band on a 10m vertical pole and Carl M0SER KX3 @ 5W. The SWR seemed a little bit higher than what I remembered from last time.
The KX3 did not like my picokeyer plus that I had programmed the night before. So we had to send the callsigns and exchanges with the paddles at 22wpm.

The band was in good shape. We worked 25 stations each quickly. Best DXs about 7000 km into NA and 5000+ km into Asiatic Russia.  John-G7JMZ had a go on the straight key and worked a couple of fast sending stations (>28wpm).

It was good to meet the guys from the club again and to work plenty of DX on QRP CW.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

SOTA Activations G/WB-003 & G/WB-005

Glorious SOTA Sunday... Proper spring weather, 17C and sunny. Apparently, every SOTA activator on the country was out yesterday!
We drove to The Shropshire Hills AONB, in the Welsh Border region, planning on doing two 2 point summits, each one with a 3 point winter bonus (ironic with yesterday's weather).

Approaching Manstone Rock from the South
G/WB-003 Stiperstones - 536m ASL

After evaluating the terrain, we decided to place the QTH on the North side of the rock to get out of the way. 

We put the 40m EFHW antenna as an inverted V to a 9m pole in the North-South direction so I could operate 40m and 20m bands and a 2m counterpoise. Setting up took a little longer than anticipated, lacking some practise, the antenna wire and guy lines got all tangled.

Views towards the Northwest
The night before I had added 6m of mason line to the end of the antenna, which meant the wire end was about 2m high with the wire-winder in the ground. I also programmed my picokeyer plus to send CQ at 22wpm and my callsign at 18wpm plus SOTA, which was detected OK by the RBN gateway.

Operating position
I used my HB1B on the Li-Ion battery outputting 3.5W onto the Mountain Tuner, pk+ & mini paddle. 
I started on 40m and worked 13 stations, then moved on to 20m, working another 6 stations, one of them S2S (Gyula - HA2VR/P on HA/EM-22). Thanks to all the chasers.

I wish I had a rig to work 12m given the current solar conditions.
20m was poor and I am not convinced about the 40m EFHW wire on 20m as an inverted V. More experimentation required...

SOTA embodiment. This one speaks for itself...
We packed around 2.30 pm and as we started to move Nick - MW5DND/P on top of the Aston Hill answered Eva's call (M0HJV/P) on 2m FM.

We made our way down so we had enough time to drive to the next summit. 

It was slightly colder and windier when we got to the top of the Pole Bank, so we went for a 2m activation on FM with the Kenwood TH-22E @ 5W and Diamond RH-771 whip antenna. 

We managed to get 5 QSOs each before the battery gave up. 
Thanks to Adrian G4AZS, Simon G0EIY, Peter GW1FOA, Gary 2E0DAQ and Jimmy M0HGY/P (S2S to G/SP-015 The Cloud).

Looking forward to the next outing...

Saturday, 8 March 2014

/P afternoon at the Clent Hill

We hit 13C today! Warm afternoon with some sunny spells, so we decided to go for a walk around the corner to Clent and Walton Hills.

 52°25'8.81"N,   2° 6'18.04"W, 260m ASL

We found a nice spot to operate from, looking towards the Southwest from the hills.

We chose the spot because of the cluster of tall trees to hang the antenna from. I threw the plastic bottle over a 8-9m high branch (with quite a good precision to my surprise) and lifted my 40m EFHW as an inverted V in the East-West direction.

Earlier in the week I found what was wrong with my pikokeyer plus, the stereo cable ring was open circuit. It's fixed now, back in business.

I lifted the tuner off the ground to try to reduce the losses. The jury is still out on that one, more testing needed.

The AGCW QRP contest was going on.

Call         R     S    Band
R1ALS   579 579 20m
OK1HX  599 599  20m
UA1FL   599 599 40m

It turned quite windy, so we only stayed for 35min. Besides it was nearly 5 pm and we had still an hour to walk back to the car.

To cap the afternoon off, we were spoiled with a beautiful sunset from the top of Walton Hill.

We are planning a SOTA activation for tomorrow... 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

CW Portable at Harborne Groove Park

The weather was kind enough this morning, so we decided to go for a walk to the local Groove Park in Birmingham with the hope to find a good spot to operate portable. I only had 30min, so the deployment needed to be quick.

The park is within 10min walk of my QTH and we had some nice spells of sunshine.

As we walked into the park, we found a table with nearby tall trees. Up it went the plastic bottle and on the second attempt I had my 20m EFHW sloping to a branch about 9m high. I adjusted my Mountain Tuner for max. noise and I was ready to go.

Not that much going on around 20m band at 11.00z this morning. 25min of operation produced 3 QSOs. With the recent solar activity, the band was up and down with some serious QSB going on.

Call           R      S
IV3OX      599  599
DJ9IE        599  599
DL6BBE   599  589   QRP

Reverse beacon

It was nice to work /p at the park.  As spring (and hopefully better WX) approaches, I think I will be operating from there a lot more.