Monthly Archives: December 2008

Ham radio thoughts when off the air

I’m skiing with the family in Vermont between Christmas and New Years. On the drive up to Mount Snow from New Jersey I noticed many homes with antennas. Not so easy to spot those with wire dipoles, but with yagis, towers and even veriticals, you could tell a ham lived there.

I’m also starting to see call signs and DXCC entities in license plates and other non-ham everyday things. I was behind a car with a license plate that started with VKx-xxx and thought Australia. I guess I’ve got the bug.

Happy New Year to all and I hope to work you in 2009, starting with the RTTY Roundup that kicks off a couple hours before we get home from our vacation.

K2DSL

Christmas & RAC Winter Contest

For Christmas I got a fleece pullover and a long sleeve t-shirt with my call sign and name on it from CallsignWear. Nice quality clothing and the personalization looks sharp.  My younger daughter did the tags for the call sign personalized items and one said “To Kilo 2 Delta Sierra Lima Love L5PDL, S9LIZ and M2Mer” . Very cute.

On Fri night, Saturday I participated in the RAC (Radio Amateurs of Canada) Winter Contest. I have just gotten a good (bad) cold and wasn’t feeling well, but I made 88 contacts on 80, 40 and 20, mostly to Canadian stations, though you’re allowed to work anyone. Sort of like a QSO party where you can still work other “states” but the big points are making a QSO with a Canadian station.

        Band    QSOs    Pts  Sec
         3.5      41     410    9
           7      16     162    6
          14      31     212    7
       Total      88     784   22

       Score : 17,248

There wasn’t a tremendous amount of operators on, probably because it’s right after Christmas. I thought there would have been more Canadian stations.

Happy Holidays!
K2DSL

My [almost] first bureau card

I’ve sent a bunch of cards out via the bureau since I’ve started on HF over this past summer. A bunch means a couple hundred. It can take months to years to get a card back, if you get one at all. Well in the middle of December I received an envelope from the NJDX Association which handles the 2nd call district. My first bureau card, or so I thought. I opened it up and looked at the front and it was from LZ1250 in Bulgaria. I turned it over and noticed the mode is CW. I don’t do CW yet. I then looked at the date and it’s from March. Well, I wasn’t on HF in March yet. I looked at the year and it’s 2003. Well, that’s about 4 years before I was licensed. Definitely not me!

Now I don’t think that K2DSL was previously assigned to anyone so my best guess is that LZ1250 copied the wrong call sign down when the contact was made on 10.1 MHz (30 meters).  At least it’s an interesting card. If you have a call sign similar to mine and had a contact with LZ1250 (special callsign used for one month in March 2003), send me the details of the QSO and if it’s close enough, I’ll send you the card.

Happy Holidays,
K2DSL

[Edit: Removed the space between NJ DX to make it NJDX]

OK DX RTTY Contest

Still having antenna issues, and I had a bunch of things to do on Saturday, but I was able to put in a couple hours to participate in the OK DX RTTY contest.  The antenna is acting up and I can’t tune well (so not full power) but I ended up with 93 QSOs with 54 within in the US, 7 in Canada and 32 DX. Here’s the breakdown by band.

Band    QSOs    Pts  Cty   Sec
3.5      17      57    4    1
7        33     117    7    2
14       43      57    8    5
Total    93     231   19    8

Score : 6,237

Happy Holidays,
K2DSL

Antenna update again

I’m a member of the Bergen Amateur Radio Association (BARA) and they have a weekly “kit night” where a good 15-25 people show up to hang out and often work on radio related projects. So I brought my G5RV that 2 weeks ago started acting up (see the last 2 blog posts) to firther check out and get some suggestions on.

We tested things out and it looked like there might be an issue in the area where the coax connects to the ladder line. The way the G5RV was built, there’s a sharp bend in the coax as it goes loops back through the ladder line. Folks that was probably too sharp a bend of for some reason there was too much tension on it as it blew in the wind. As we were testing continuity, between the shield and one of the ends of the antenna, they manipulated that area where the connection is and we lost the connection momentarily. So we pulled it apart trimmed a bit off of the ladderline and the coax and put it back together by soldering the connections between the coax and ladderline, using heat shrink tubing on each leg of the new connection, wrapping it further in tape, shrink tubing the pair of wires, and then with some popsicle like sticks in that area, taping it further.

The folks also suggested using some nylon rope around that by looping through some of the ladder line and going below the connection on the coax to further eleviate stress on that part. It all tested out and I brought it home. Not sure when the weather will permit me to put it back up, but I’ll get it up as soon as I can. I still have the antenna analyzer to test things out when it goes up and see how it looks.

So thanks to Kerry who sold me the antenna for all his support and to my fellow BARA members for jumping in with suggestions and support with getting it [hopefully] repaired!

K2DSL

Antenna update and 10m contest

I’m still having an issue with my G5RV as mentioned in my last post. I lowered the antenna today, pulled the coax back out and did a continuity test from pin to end and shield to end and it seemed all good. So I raised it back up and what do you know – I could tune on 80, 40, 20 and 10 again. Odd. I make a few 10m contacts and then see an interesting 20m station show up in the cluster so I tune to it and uh-oh, not again. Seems like I can’t tune 20m again. Ugh. Nothing changed in that short time other then a very slight breeze out today.

So I call a local club member that has an antenna analyzer and he calls me back later in the day and I run over and grab it. I connect the coax and 20m looks good with a low SWR and 50 ohm impedance. Well I disconnect the coax and connect it to the radio and it won’t tune. Hmmm – now it seems it’s the radio. I disconnect the coax, connect it to the analyzer and 20m is showing  a 3+ SWR and impedance of 15-20 ohms. What the heck? I wiggle the cable/coax but all looks tight and solid. I take some more readings and note them down and send off an email to the very helpful individual I got it from 6 months ago.

After dinner, I decide to take it down and throw up my basic 20m dipole I have and it is working fine. We’ll see how this all ends in the upcoming weeks.

For a very short time after dealing with the antenna this morning and it apparently working until I realized it wasn’t, I made a few contacts during the ARRL 10m contest. Only 21 contacts but before this contest, I only had 3 10m contacts logged. It’s interesting to see who I was able to hear/contact. The screen shot snippet below of the 21 contacts makes the “openings” pretty obvious.

I’m where the cross hairs are in NJ. That line of contacts across FL looks fake, but those pins are shown based on the grid location of the operator from QRZ. Here’s a close up of just FL.

Hopefully we can get my G5RV antenna straightened out soon.

73,
K2DSL

Antenna issue and SARTG Results

First the not so good news. This past weekend was a RTTY contest and things were fine. The beginning of the week I fired up the radio and I can’t seem to get the SWR within range when tuning. Hadn’t been a problem before on 10, 20, 40 or 80 meters. I contacted the fellow I got it from and he suggested some tests and resetting my radio. Reset the radio and there’s no difference there. Ran a couple tests and sent him the results. I think I need to pull it down this weekend and see what is going on with it.

Back in August I went to my in-laws and operated as K2DSL/4 from North Carolina for the SARTG RTTY contest. The final results are posted and I placed 55th in the Single Op Single Band 20m category. Looking back at that contest, I could only operate 2/3rds of it because I was travelling back home for one of the time slots. I also wasn’t comfortable using MMTTY yet which would help me now compared to using DM780 during a contest.  Comparing my submitted score to the final results, I submitted 106 QSOs and they show 103. I submitted 39 mults and the final results show 38.  So comparing the final score that I submitted, I went from 45,825 down to 43,320.  Still, it was my real first contest on my own and it was a lot of fun.

73,
K2DSL

TARA RTTY Melee Contest

Friday night into Saturday was the 24 hour TARA RTTY Melee where you can operate only 16 hours. Not sure how many hours I ended up operating but it was a couple before heading to bed and then a good portion of the day on Saturday with about 6 or so short errands around town.

I ended up with 199 contacts across 75m, 40m and 20m. Most were US with about a dozen Canadian stations and about a dozen DX stations.  199 QSOs with 66 multipliers for a score of 13,134.

Next big RTTY contest is just after the beginning of the year. I think I’ll be home from a skiing trip by then. Should be a lot of fun.

See you on the air,
K2DSL

My longest phone contact so far

Last night before heading up to bed, I glanced at the DX cluster info and noticed a South Africa station was spotted from a couple US stations so I flipped the radio on and tuned to 40m. The operator was ZS4U (Barney) and he was booming in. He was in the Extra portion of the band and it was my first time manually setting a split on my TS-2000 and putting my call sign out as an Extra class operator.

Setting split worked like a charm and was easy on the TS-2000. I’ll have to check but I guess I just need to switch back and forth to hear both sides of the QSO, making the xmit frequency the receive frequency when the other op is speaking. The TS-2000 makes that easy with the push of a single button.

When ZS4U was done with the QSO he was in when I tuned to the frequency, I put out my call sign but he picked up another op. When he did, the other op said hello and that Barney was booming in and he’ll stand by in case there were weaker stations that might want to try. So I put out my call sign again and Barney came right back to me. Gave me a report of 57 (he was 59) and he seemed to have no issue copying me.

Based on the distance between my grid and his, we’re about 8,017 miles apart. It’s easily my longest phone contact which previously was 6,350 miles into Kazakhstan on 20m. My previous longest on 40m was Honduras at 5,500 miles. I’ve had another contact with South Africa but it was on 20m RTTY, both with the same operator (ZS2EZ) during 2 RTTY contests.

So thank you Barney and thanks to the operator that stepped aside to let some others get a shot at ZS4U. A great way to the end day!

73,
K2DSL

APRS

Here’s a screen shot from APRS.fi of my APRS track from Wilmington, NC to my home QTH in Northern NJ. I use a Garmin GPS76CS connected to my Kenwood TH-D7A(G) handheld and plugged into a Mirage dual-band amplifier. I’ve used this setup a few times on this same trip when going to visit my in-laws. I have the radio station id as K2DSL-7. Here’s the map…

APRS track from Wilimington, NC to Northern NJ
APRS track from Wilimington, NC to Northern NJ

You’ll see a very large gap at the bottom portion between where the track ends and Wilmington which is shown at the bottom of the map above. It’s a APRS dead spot. I almost never get anything between that last end point and Wilmington.  Otherwise, the track is pretty accurate for the route which is primarily Rt 17 in Northern NJ to the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike and then I-95 south to I-40 in North Carolina which is the ride (a few different names as it gets into Wilmington) my in-laws live off of.

I usually leave Band A on APRS with a 2 minute interval. Band B I leave on 146.52 which is the national 2-meter simplex frequency. I usually don’t hear more then 2 or 3 people on that frequency during the 650 mile trip. The map above is the route home and the map from NJ to NC from 5 days earlier is very similar. APRS.fi shows 32 stations reporting hearing me direct ranging from a few miles away from my broadcast location at the time I was heard to over 115 miles away. Most are in the 30-50 mile range from my location.

APRS.fi reports 100 packets received for today’s trip home and 127 for the trip down last Tues night/Weds morning. Without analyzing why, I’d guess the number difference it was the length of the trip down on Tues vs home on Mon.  Tues/Wednesday’s ride was very long with a lot of traffic. It took about 12.5 hours to get there (arriving just before 2am). Today it was smooth sailing and we did the trip in 9.5 hours. If I look, I see about the same gaps on the map between the 2 trips.  We need some more igates (computers connected to tranceivers that get APRS packets via RF and push them onto the Internet) along I-95 and I-40 in North Carolina.

On a completely different subject, the FCC ULS is now showing my license class as Extra. QRZ should follow in a day or two the upgrade.

73,
K2DSL

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