Posts Tagged ‘Buddistick’

Tomorrow is always another day

So ..... you're a QRP DXer. You hear a country you want to work, but it doesn't go well. What do you do?  You never give up, that's what! If you don't work them today, you may work them tomorrow, and in my case that happened to me, today.

I started my lunchtime QRP session fully intending to work the N3AQC QRP-pedition to the USS Requin which is docked by the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. John K3WWP and Mike KC2EGL were there today, and I figured that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to hear them on 40 Meters.  So I set up the Buddistick for that band - magmount base, all four 11 inch arms, untapped coil, extra long whip. I was able to get the SWR down to about 1.5:1 and I heard plenty of signals, but no N3AQC. They started at 10:00 AM, and by the time I was able to get to the parking lot, it was 1:30 PM, so I don't know if they were on lunch break also, or perhaps they had just called it a day by then, or perhaps they were on 20 and 30 Meters. But tuning around for about 15 minutes and not hearing N3AQC, I decided to switch over to the higher bands, as lunch time is only an hour.

So I took two of the 11" arms off, put the coil tap in its accustomed position and put the Buddistick back on the roof.  Tuning around, at 14.018 MHz, I heard them - PZ5W - Suriname. The same station from yesterday, and they were even louder than they were on 15 Meters.  So without even thinking, I dialed in a 1kHz up split and gave a call ... and was heard. I sent my info and completed the exchange and then looked down at the KX3.

In my haste, I hadn't touched up the SWR with the autouner. My SWR was 1.7:1 and the KX3's power had folded back to 3 Watts. So what I couldn't accomplish with 5 Watts yesterday, got done with 3 Watts today. That felt nice - really, really nice.

Looking at my watch, I saw I had about 15 minutes left before I had to break down and go back into the building, so I prowled around the band some more for a few minutes. Lo and behold, T2TT - Tuvalu coming in loud and clear! Argh! Ten minutes was not enough to even consider it a decent try, but I did - and failed.

But ...... tomorrow is always another day.

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

DX Spray …. it works!

Unlike the grand vistas that Jim W1PID encounters in the beautiful locales of New Hampshire, the views that I am afforded during my lunchtime QRP sessions are a bit more urbane.  However, as the season changes along with the leaves, even in a suburban setting there is beauty to be found:



Not bad for a parking lot view, eh?

As I was setting up the station, I noticed that the "stick" part of my Buddistick was ......well, rather sticky. I happened to have a can of this in the trunk, so I applied a bit to the whip and then proceeded to rub it in using some 3" gauze bandage from my First Aid kit.  Hey, you use what's on hand!


Little did I know that WD-40 actually stands for "Whopping DX - 40 Meters".  I didn't get on 40 Meters, but the can didn't know that, and the DX Spray seemed to work equally well on 15 and 17 Meters. In short order, after applying this miracle spray to my Buddistick, I worked T47GDXC, SM3PZG, RA1AOB and TF4X all in the space of about 15 minutes.

Who knew?  If I was aware of what WD-40 really stood for, I would have been applying it to my antennas years ago!  Just think ..... all the wasted time, all the wasted opportunities!  I could be on the DXCC Honor Roll by now.

Some would attribute my success today to the sun and something called "improved band conditions". But I, for one, know better. I have learned the secret of the magic "DX Spray".

Sob ....... weep!

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

A lot better today!

I saw another e-mail in my inbox this morning from Marv K2VHW with the subject "Another flare". I groaned loudly, inwardly, because no one near me would have understood.  Then, just before heading out to the Jeep at lunch time, I checked http://www.bandconditions.com/index.htm

That had me shaking my head even more.

I'm glad I didn't give in to the temptation to chuck it all for today, because I had the best QRP lunch time that I've had in a while - numbers and predictions be damned!

I started out on 17 Meters which seemed to be in great condition. Low noise level and some loud signals. I worked EA6NB, Jaime in the Balearic Islands.  From there I wandered around a bit and worked W4B a Special Event Station for Earth Day in Florida.

After that, I switched bands and called CQ near the 20 Meter QRP Watering Hole and was answered by Dick K5TF in Atlanta, GA.  Dick had a gorgeous signal. He was pushing 5 Watts out of his K2 to a Hexbeam (secretly, I am lusting for one of these babies.  Bob W3BBO and I always dream about getting one for our stations and my good friend and fellow DXer/QRPer Steve WX2S is in the process of installing one). Not only was Dick's signal excellent, but his fist was a dream to copy. The words were appearing in my brain as if I were reading a teleprompter. It was a very enjoyable, but short chat.


From there, I decided to spend the last bit of time that I could squeeze out of lunch break by calling CQ at the 15 Meter QRP Watering Hole on 21.060 MHz.  I was greeted there by Alberto WP4L for another 2X QRP chat. Alberto was pushing 5 Watts out of his Yeasu FT-450 and sounded like he was just down the street. And I might add, another excellent fist that was bliss to copy.

If the flare that Marv e-mailed me about helped provide the kind of band conditions that I experienced today, then I hope we get them all the time! Loud signals, quiet background noise - what more could you want or ask for?  The only bad thing was having to stop so that I could come back inside in order to finish the work day out.

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

"QRL?" – please !!!!!

I did go out to the Jeep during lunch today, and no, the bands were NOT dead. But before I go there, I must digress.

I was involved in a 2X QRP QSO on 14.060 MHz with Tom, KC9RXI in WI. He was about a 449 to me; and I'm sure I was no better to him, but we were having a QSO.  I'm sure at times, that to people who may have been listening to the frequency, that it sounded like it was dead.

It wasn't.

All of a sudden, out of the blue, another QRPer started calling CQ/QRP on frequency!  The call will be omitted to prevent embarrassment (but it is forever burned into my brain).  Not so much as a single, solitary "QRL?"

Yes, I am sure that both Tom and I were weak, but we WERE in the middle of a QSO.  Coming on to a frequency, plopping yourself down and commencing to call CQ without asking is just - arrgh! And to top it off, the CQer was calling CQ DE WXXXX/QRP !!!!  I'm sorry, but QRPers, above all Amateur Radio ops, should know better. No excuse - period. If he had sent "QRL?" waited for a bit AND THEN had started calling CQ on top of us, I may still have been annoyed, but I would have thought to myself, "Well, he just didn't hear us."

Unfortunately, while Tom was trying to talk to me, I had to transmit "QRL. PSE QSY". He immediately QSYed (so he was able to hear me!), but at that point I had lost what Tom was trying to say. Shortly after that the QSB went off the Richter scale and the QSO came to a premature end. The "meat" that I could have copied was drowned out forever by needless QRM.

A bit after that debacle, I went to 12 Meters and tuned around for a bit. I heard 7QAA in Malawi quite loudly.  He was loud enough to work - even QRP. I don't think I broke the pile up, as again there was a lot of QSB. If I had more time (lunch hour was running out) I'm pretty darn certain I would have worked him. This time I had the patience - I ran out of minutes.

So , even with the G4 geomagnetic disturbance, Malawi was coming in the best I've heard them so far. Go figure.  Luckily, the station will be on the air until early April and I'm taking a vacation day on Friday. I just may make it into their logbook yet!

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

All in all – a good day!

There were a lot of things to get done before playing in FYBO, and (channelling Yoda) get them done I did. Believe it or not, my FYBO operation was from the street in front of our house. I live on a relatively quiet side street, so there was no danger of being hit by a car or something like that. I opened up the hatch of the Jeep, just like I do at work, and set up my nylon camping chair and used the "trunk" of my Jeep as an operating table. My antenna was the Buddistick/magmount combo on the roof . I'm sure the neighbors were staring - wondering, "What the heck is he doing now? And what is that tall stick poking up from his car roof?" "And why is our dishwasher going crazy - I'll bet it's him!"

As I set up it was flurrying slightly and the temp was 35F (1C). And then it happened. I tried tuning up the KX3 and couldn't get a decent match. Of course these things always happen at the worst time! Calmly, I took the Buddistick off the roof and inspected it - no problems there. Then the magmount - AHA!  Where the coax meets magmount, the dielectric foam surrounding the center conductor wire cracked open (from the cold, I guess, because I keep it in the trunk when not in use). The shield was ever so slightly touching the center conductor and was making for a bad situation. A quick trip to the basement shack was in order. I cut the coax back, soldered on two new ring terminals and put everything back together. The KX3 was a happy camper with a 1:1 match.

In about two hours of operating, here's my summary:

W2LJ
Team Polar Bear
Field - Yes
Category - Single Op
Alternative Power - No (Batteries- Mains charged)
Lowest Temperature - 35
QRPp - No
Final Score - 7780 points

BAND  QSOs  SPCs  NQ7RP Stns
------------------------------------
    20      15       12          0
    14      10         8         1
------------------------------------
TOTAL:  24       20        1

Score - (24X20) (X4 Temp multiplier) (X4 Field Multiplier) +100 =7780

15 Meters was pleasantly active, affording me 10 of my 24 QSOs. 20 Meters was also busy but noisier, with some TN QSO Party stations and some SOTA stations thrown into the mix. I also was contacted by an SKCC station - I guess they have something going on this weekend, as well as one DX station - G4OBC. I tuned around 40 Meters at the end of my operating time, but heard no FYBOers.

There was no wind to speak of, so it actually didn't feel that bad outside.  I think the temperature reached a max of 38F (3C) while I was out. I was comfortable, except that my hands were cold, as I really couldn't send Morse while wearing heavy Winter gloves. And another discovery - the older you get, the more bathroom breaks you need when it's cold!  Too much information? Sorry!

Now, if that wasn't enough - my FYBO day was made even better by finally working K1N with 5 Watts. YES!!! I came down to the shack this evening to enter my FYBO log into my Master Log. While doing that, I heard K1N on 20 Meters (haven't worked them there yet) and they were truly 599 loud.  I double checked my power setting to make sure I was at 5 Watts and I jumped into the pileup. In about somewhere between 5 to 10 calls, I finally heard my call come back to me. Sweet! My personal goal is now complete. I got K1N in the log for an ATNO, and I also got them in the log using QRP power.

It was a good QRP day. A VERY good QRP day!

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

The bands are slipping

Band conditions seem to have vastly deteriorated from what they were just a few months ago. It’s not that propagation is non-existent, it’s just that it seems to have left us in a bigger hurry than I would have thought.

I went out at lunchtime today (around 1730Z) to find activity on 15 Meters to be nil.  A quick scan of 17 Meters revealed not so much.  Just a few months ago, both these bands were hopping with all kinds of DX. It wasn’t all that rare to hear Europe, South America and Asia all at the same time! It wasn’t all that rare to hear a good amount of activity on 12 and 10 Meters just a few short months ago.

Since 15 and 17 seemed inactive, I went to 14.061 MHz and called CQ after QRLing to make sure the frequency was dead.  I was answered by fellow New Jerseyan, QRPer and blogger, Chris KQ2RP who gave me a 559 from Maine.

After that, I worked fellow Polar Bear, Ken WA8REI who is having a hard time enduring the heat and humidity in Michigan.  It’s hard to put up with the Temperature Humidity Index when you have so much fur! 😉  Ken was a good solid 579 here when the QSB wasn’t wreaking havoc. We had a nice little chat and then it was time for Ken to go, and my available lunchtime minutes were growing short, too.

Before heading in, I decided to check out 17 Meters one more time.  There, blasting in at 599+ was GA14CG, the Special Event Station for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.  There was a bit of a pileup, but he was so loud that I figured that I could work him, if only I could place myself correctly.

With time running short, I was able to eventually find the right spot.  GA14CG was using the ol’ racetrack pattern scheme. Start at a frequency, move a bit higher after each call, reach a high point and then continue to work stations, moving a bit lower after each QSO until arriving at starting point and starting the process all over again. Essentially, he was doing laps, which I guess was appropriate considering it’s the Commonwealth Games.  I placed myself correctly on the return trip home and got into the log. They’re on the air until August 3rd, so you have plenty of time to work them.

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

SOTA

I worked three stations this lunchtime.  It takes me a little bit longer (about a minute or two) to get out to the car in the parking lot wearing this orthopedic boot on my foot. Common sense tells me that I should stay inside and go find a quiet place to sit down and read, rather than walking on this. But I was never accused of having an overabundance of common sense, so ……… out to the parking area I went.

I worked two stations on 17 Meters and one on 20 Meters.  DL2DX, Joe was coming in like gangbusters on 17 Meters. He was calling CQ over and over with no takers. I just couldn’t let him think that he wasn’t being heard.  I told Joe that he was 599+ and got a 569 back in return.

I also worked W1AW/4 in South Carolina.  That took a bit of doing as there was quite the pileup and my 5 Watts was being drowned out by European stations.  But I stuck with it and got in the log after I figured out their “listening pattern” and conveniently plopped myself down in the middle of it.

The coolest QSO of the session was on 20 Meters with George WB5USB who was on SOTA peak W5N/PW-019 in the Pecos Wilderness of New Mexico. (Turns out that was probably a 2X KX3 QSO, to boot!)

I gave George a 449, which he was when QSB was at a minimum.  When the fading was the worst, George was about 339.  I got a 529 in return.

I am fascinated by SOTA and the process of going to activate a mountain.  Maybe it’s because of growing up here in New Jersey and not really having a lot of mountains in the area to go to.  I have always lived on the Piedmont. What we do have of bonafide mountains lay in the northwest corner of the state, where the Appalachians run through New Jersey.  They’re about an hour or so from my house, by car.

Rocky Mountains

Years ago when I worked for Sinar Bron, I had the opportunity to visit the Art Center College of Design in Denver to do some maintenance on their view cameras and studio strobes.  While we were there, we took a ride out into the surrounding countryside and the mountains. Now the Rockies are what you would call REAL mountains – to the folks out there, the Appalachians would really be just huge, gigantic hills by comparison. Having seen both, I’d have to agree. That doesn’t take anything away from the grandeur of the Appalachians, but they’re just different from the Rockies.  The Appalachians are a lot older, from a geophysical standpoint, and they’ve had lots more time to erode into a smaller (altitude-wise) mountain range. To illustrate my point, Mount Mitchell in North Carolina is the tallest Appalachian Mountain. At it’s peak, you are at an altitude of 6,684 feet (2,037 Meters). The mountain that George was on today? 9,431 feet (2,875 Meters) – and that’s nowhere near the highest Rocky Mountain.

I’ve been fortunate to have seen the Alps while in Switzerland, they’re a whole different story and they just take your breath away!

 Adirondack Mountains – part of the Appalachian chain.

Someday, when I’m through with this rat race we call the work world, I would really love to operate from a SOTA peak (out West), even if it’s just one time.

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


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