FT-817 Power Connection

I’ve seen a lot of discussion on the Internet lately about the FT-817’s less-than-robust DC power connector. Its miniature coaxial power connector has long been recognized as a failure waiting to happen. I thought I’d chime in with my crude, little hack.

Over the years, users have come up with a variety of ways of dealing with the FT-817’s power connector. If you’re brave enough, you can just hard-wire the power cord directly to the FT-817’s main circuit board and eliminate the connector altogether. You can also buy a really slick adapter that gives you an Anderson Powerpole connector on your FT-817.

When I bought my FT-817 almost 15 years ago, I was immediately leary of the little 4.0 x 1.7 mm power connector; there was no way it was going to hold up in the field. I didn’t know of any commercial options at the time, so I raided my junk box to come up with a solution, albeit a crude one.

The power cord with an Anderson Powerpole connector attached to my FT-817
The power cord with an Anderson Powerpole connector attached to my FT-817

I merely attached a small right angle lug to the FT-817’s ground screw. Then, I used a couple of small nylon cable ties to secure the power cable to the lug and provide some strain relief. I installed Powerpole connectors on the other end of the cable. It’s not pretty but it served the purpose.

Close-up of the right-angle lug attached to the ground stud. Two small nylon tie-wraps secure the power cord to the lug. An unused lug is shown in the bottom of the picture.
Close-up of the right-angle lug attached to the ground stud. Two small nylon tie-wraps secure the power cord to the lug. An unused lug is shown in the bottom of the picture.

Although my FT-817 doesn’t see as much field use as it used to, my stupid-simple hack is still going strong after 15 years. While this approach doesn’t eliminate the FT-817’s little DC connector, it has (so far) survived many years of portable use in the field.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Leaf Peepers QRP Contest

I was pleased to be able to participate in the first-ever running of the Leaf Peepers QRP Contest. This new contest is the brainchild of Tim W3ATB. Although the Fall colors are barely getting started here in southeastern Pennsylvania, it was a good reason to get out and do some portable operating.

In the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, I headed up to Evansburg State Park (K/KFF-1351) near Collegeville, Pennsylvania. I figured I would work the contest while making Parks on the Air (POTA) contacts. Although this park is only about 25 minutes away from my home, I have never done a POTA activation from there. Today was the day.

The Skippack Creek Loop Trail in Evansburg State Park
The Skippack Creek Loop Trail in Evansburg State Park

I found a nice parking spot across the road from some restrooms. (This is a major consideration for us old guys.) There were very few others nearby so I practically had the place to my self. I put my 19.5-foot vertical on the back of my truck and set up my KX3 in the cab.

My parking spot in Evansburg State Park
My parking spot in Evansburg State Park

I started out on 40M and found some fellow Leaf Peepers but the QSOs were coming at a “relaxed” pace. Given that there were 180 registered Leaf Peeper stations, I thought I would hear more activity. However, I was able to work stations from New Hampshire to Florida and out to Michigan on 40M. The band yielded 7 Leaf Peepers before I switched over to 20M.

On 20M, my CQs yielded one more Leaf Peeper. Since the SKCC QSO Party was underway, I put the KX3 in straight key mode and flipped my paddles on their side to create a straight key. It’s awkward but it works. I picked up two SKCC contacts before pulling the plug.

Here are some of today’s highlights:

  • My second QSO was with Tim W3ATB, creator of the contest and Leaf Peeper #1.
  • I had a park-to-park QSO with Joe N2CX. Joe was at Washington Crossing State Park (K-1634) over in New Jersey.
  • I had another SKCC QSO with Bert F6HKA. He always has a great signal and is usually able to pull my QRP signal out of the noise.

After a little less than 2 hours, I had to pack up to run some errands before heading home. All in all, it was a fun outing and my 10 contacts were enough to qualify as a POTA activation. I don’t know why I waited so long to activate this park.

Thanks to Tim W3ATB for coming up with this contest. I always enjoy these QRP field contests and I’m looking forward to operating in this one again next year.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Oops!

Back in August I moved this blog over to a new hosting provider.  The old site went off-line this morning, as planned except…  I discovered that the migration didn’t go as smoothly as planned.  Many of the older blog posts retained image links to the old site and some images just didn’t migrate over at all, for some reason.  The net result is that many of the older blog posts have missing images.

I’m in the process of restoring the images and finished up the 2018 posts this morning.  However, it’s a somewhat tedious process and will likely go on for another week or two.  I still have more than two years worth of posts to check/fix.

So, if you go back through anything before 2018, you might run into this problem.  Thanks for your patience while the site is being restored.

(Remind me again how computers make my like easier…  HI HI)

73, Craig WB3GCK

[UPDATE 10/3/2018 – I finished restoring the images last night.  If you come across any problems, be sure to let me know. —  Craig WB3GCK]

 

Fall Camping in Elk Neck State Park

My XYL and I took the “QRP camper” back down to Elk Neck State Park in Maryland for the weekend. We had a couple of days of nice Fall weather but that did little to offset the mediocre propagation. By the end of the weekend, the weather became as bad as the band conditions.

When we arrived on Friday I set up my usual 29.5-foot vertical. I initally gave some thought to putting up an inverted L but I didn’t see a conveniently-placed tree to support the far end. In hindsight, having more wire up in the air would have been a good idea this weekend. I made a couple of contacts to make sure things were working before getting a campfire started.

On Saturday, I worked an assortment of stations (SOTA, special events, SKCC, etc.) but it seemed like almost every QSO was a struggle. With an A Index of 27, that wasn’t too surprising. After several attempts, I finally got through to N8N in Michigan on 40M for a park-to-park contact. Hank N8XX was operating with a special event callsign for National Trails Day. He was operating from the North Country Trail (KFF-1555).  (Elk Neck State Park is KFF-1569.)

The WB3GCK camper on a rainy morning in Elk Neck State Park in Maryland. My Jackite pole is strapped to the lantern post on the left.
The WB3GCK camper on a rainy morning in Elk Neck State Park in Maryland. My Jackite pole is strapped to the lantern post on the left.

The beautiful weather was short-lived. By Sunday morning, a steady rain had moved in, so I hunkered down with the KX3 in the camper to give the bands one more shot. I ended up with a very nice chat on 80M with NS3X. Mark is located in north-central Maryland and was a new SKCC number for my log. After I signed with Mark, I packed up the radio and began the unpleasant task of breaking camp in the rain.

I only logged a paltry 8 contacts over the weekend but that was enough to reach the 44 contacts needed for a WWFF-KFF activation.

We have two more trips planned for October before it’s time to winterize the camper and put it into hibernation until Spring. Time sure flies…

72, Craig WB3GCK

QRP Afield at Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Our reservations for a weekend of camping at Pine Grove Furnace State Park (K/KFF-1398) in south-central Pennsylvania coincided nicely with the New England QRP Club‘s (NEQRP) QRP Afield contest. Although I didn’t hear much QRP Afield activity there was a lot going on this weekend, radio-wise.

We had a great campsite this time. It was large and isolated from our neighbor campers. Behind our site, there was nothing but woods. This site was screaming for a larger antenna. I put up a 53-foot inverted “L” antenna about 25 feet tall. I ran the horizontal section back into the woods and tied it off in a pine tree. It only took two attempts to get my line where I wanted it. I’m embarrassed to say I missed the tree completely on my first toss!

The WB3GCK QRP camper at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. If you look closely, you can see my antenna behind the picnic table. The white object is a plastic bag protecting the 9:1 unun from the rain we had on Friday night. The horizontal part of my inverted L runs back into the woods.
The WB3GCK QRP camper at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. If you look closely, you can see my antenna behind the picnic table. The white object is a plastic bag protecting the 9:1 unun from the rain we had on Friday night. The horizontal part of my inverted L runs back into the woods.

When I fired up the KX3 Friday night, the bands sounded great. I made several SKCC contacts, including KA4RUR out in Missouri. Fred is a retired Coast Guard Radioman and a fellow Field Radio member. I also had a nice chat with Jim WT2W in New York on 60M. Jim told me he was a Navy Radioman on a “tin can” (destroyer). It was great to work these fellow former military radio operators.

The next day, I set up outside the trailer and got ready for the contest. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much QRP Afield activity on the bands. I only worked two stations — W0UFO in Minnesota and W1C at the Chowdercon QRP gathering. I briefly heard another station but couldn’t connect.

WB3GCK operating at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.
WB3GCK operating at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

Despite the lack of QRP Afield activity, there was plenty of other stuff going on to keep me occupied. I worked several stations in the Washington State Salmon Run, Iowa, and New Jersey QSO parties. I had park-to-park contacts with VE2DDZ (VEFF-0365) and K5KJ (K-3031) and also worked 3 SOTA stations — N0TA, KX0R, and AC1Z.

My favorite QSO of the weekend, though, was a two-way QRP chat with UR5FA/MM. I heard Oleg calling CQ on 30M and gave him a call. He was aboard a Ukranian cargo ship in the Atlantic, west of Gibraltar and bound for Canada. After chatting for a bit about our respective set-ups, I wished Oleg a safe voyage and he wished me an enjoyable camping trip. I was pleased to add UR5FA/MM to my log once again. That contact sure brought a smile to my face.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Recuperating at Codorus State Park

My XYL and I spent the weekend camping at Codorus State Park (K/KFF-1342) in south-central Pennsylvania.  When we were here last year, we had a weekend of bad weather.  This year, it was a tale of bad traffic, bad knees and bad propagation.

With a late start and heavy traffic, it was dark by the time we arrived at Codorus on Friday. After setting up the trailer it was getting late so I decided to wait until morning to set up my antenna.  We were in a heavily-wooded camp site, so my antenna wound up surrounded by large trees.

My antenna at Codorus State Park. The trees helped to maintain a low profile but probably didn't do much for its efficiency.
My antenna at Codorus State Park. The trees helped to maintain a low profile but probably didn’t do much for its efficiency.

The day before we left for Codorus, I injured my knee and paid a visit to the local urgent facility.  The doctor said I needed to stay off of it for a few days and ice it several times each day.  Following my doctor’s orders, I spent much of the weekend relaxing in my reclining camp chair with my KX3 on a table next to me.

Icing my injured knee while making contacts.
Icing my injured knee while making contacts.

I didn’t do an announced activation at Codorus; instead, I just tuned around making contacts where I could find them.  Along with some Ohio and Kansas QSO Party stations, I worked an interesting assortment of stations.   On Sunday morning, I woke up to the news that there was a geomagnetic storm in progress.  The dead bands confirmed that; I only managed a few more contacts over the rest of the weekend.  Fortunately, I made more than enough contacts on Saturday for a qualifying POTA activation.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • I made park-to-park contacts with Joe N2CX at K/KFF-1461 and K/KFF-1452 in Wisconsin.
  • On Saturday afternoon, Ron WB3KVR answered my CQ on 40M.  It turned out that Ron was also camping in Codorus and operating QRP.  After we signed, I drove over to his campsite for an “eyeball QSO.”  Ron stopped by my campsite the next day to see my set up.
  • On Saturday evening, I worked LZ1146SPS in Bulgaria on 30M.  The unusual callsign is for a special event by the Bulgarian Radio Club Blagovestnik.
  • I wrapped things up on Monday morning with a contact on 30M with K0RU/M in Kansas City, Kansas.  Rob was operating while driving to work.  I’m always amazed by hams who can carry on a CW conversation while driving.  Very impressive!

Although the bands could have been better, I still enjoyed my lazy weekend resting my ailing knee and playing around on the radio.

72, Craig WB3GCK

 

 

 

 

Skeeter Hunt 2018

NJQRP Skeeter Hunt LogoBzzz… All that buzzing you heard on the bands on Sunday was the annual running of the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt contest. Happily, I got home from my recent vacation in time to join in the hunt.

The theme of this year’s contest was “water – the breeding ground for Skeeters!” In the spirit of the theme, I headed down to Upper Schuylkill Valley Park along the Schuylkill River near Royersford, Pennsylvania.

It had been raining all morning and it was drizzling when I got to the park and started setting up. Because of the inclement weather, I opted to operate from inside my truck.  I put my usual 19-foot vertical on the back of the truck and fired up my KX3. I tested the rig on 40M by working a SOTA station in Vermont and a special event station in Illinois.

This was my view of the Schuylkill River during the Skeeter Hunt contest. This was taken shortly before it started raining again.
This was my view of the Schuylkill River during the Skeeter Hunt contest. This was taken shortly before it started raining again.

As I was operating, a fellow was curious about my antenna and walked over to ask about it. As I started to explain what I was doing, we both recognized each other. As it turns out, we were childhood friends and grew up less than a block away from each other. He happened to be visiting in the area and took his grand-kids fishing in the river. We hadn’t seen each other in more than 40 years, so we spent a half hour chatting and getting caught up. If he hadn’t been curious about my antenna, we never would have noticed each other. What an amazing coincidence!

My "stationary-mobile" set-up. You can see the antenna that attracted both skeeters and a long-lost childhood friend.
My “stationary-mobile” set-up.  My antenna attracted both skeeters and a long-lost childhood friend.

Back to the contest… I operated for about an hour and a half. There was some deep fading on the bands but 20M eventually seemed to open up a bit. I bounced between 40M and 20M, alternating between CQing and search & pounce.  When it started raining again, I figured it was a good time to wrap things up. I ended up with 20 QSOs (18 skeeters) in 11 SPCs.

Here’s my log:

UTC  BAND  CALL   MODE RST-S RST-R SPC  SKEETER NUMBER
1703 40M   N3AQC  CW   559   449   PA   Skeeter #77
1713 40M   KD3CA  CW   589   579   PA   Skeeter #44
1720 40M   VE2DDZ CW   569   559   QC   Skeeter #35
1723 40M   N8RVE  CW   559   559   OH   5W
1727 40M   WF4I   CW   579   559   NC   Skeeter #70
1733 40M   WQ4RP  CW   559   559   NC   Skeeter #11
1804 20M   W5IQS  CW   559   559   TX   Skeeter #170
1807 20M   KF5RY  CW   559   559   TX   Skeeter #26
1811 20M   NN9K   CW   599   599   IL   Skeeter #64
1817 20M   AD0YM  CW   599   449   MO   Skeeter #16
1821 20M   NE5DL  CW   559   559   TX   Skeeter #25
1825 20M   NQ3N   CW   599   579   FL   Skeeter #141
1829 20M   WB4OMM CW   579   579   FL   Skeeter #98
1841 20M   N5GW   CW   599   569   MS   5W
1844 20M   KD0V   CW   569   559   MN   Skeeter #99
1851 20M   W3HZZ  CW   559   559   GA   Skeeter #131
1907 20M   N0JBF  CW   559   559   MO   Skeeter #37
1913 20M   K4BYF  CW   599   549   FL   Skeeter #107
1915 20M   K4BAI  CW   559   589   GA   Skeeter #163
1920 40M   NK9G   CW   559   559   WI   Skeeter #6

As always, the Skeeter Hunt was fun, even with the lousy weather. Thanks to Larry W2LJ and the NJQRP Club for once again putting on this great contest!

72, Craig WB3GCK