I alternated between making SKCC contacts and checking the IFRE calling frequencies. Most of my contacts were with SKCC stations on 40M. I didn’t hear much activity on 20M but I did make a 2-way QRP SKCC contact with Bobby AK4JA. Bobby was running a crystal-controlled tube rig and had a nice signal into Valley Forge.
After about an hour, the heat was starting to get to me and the static crashes from nearby storms were deafening. I moved my rig into the truck to get out of the direct sun and checked around 7.035 for IFRE stations and heard Dave W3DET calling CQ. I had previously worked Dave in the last IFRE and, as luck would have it, he is also an SKCC member. Two for the price of one.
After two hours or so, the static crashes were giving me a headache, so I packed up and headed home. I needed to get a few things together for a public service event the next day. I ended up with 10 SKCC contacts and the IFRE contact with W3DET.
On Sunday, I wrapped up my weekend supporting the French Creek Iron Tour with my local ARES-RACES group. The Iron Tour is a charity bike event benefiting the French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust. This year, I provided communications for a rest stop in historic Yellow Springs, Pennsylvania. Fortunately, the rain held off until I finished up and there were no major issues to deal with.
Unfortunately, I was once again unable to participate in was the annual Cookie Crumble Contest due to a conflict with the bike event. Hopefully, I’ll be able to participate in this fun QRP contest next year.
This week, my ham radio activity was focused on an emergency communications exercise with my local ARES-RACES group. I thought I’d do a post about the simple whip antenna I used with a dual-band radio. I cobbled this set up together a few years back and it has come in handy on several occasions.
During the exercise, I was operating indoors with easy access to our local repeaters. I was copying digital traffic using the Narrowband Emergency Messaging System (NBEMS), so a handheld radio wasn’t a good option. In this situation, a dual-band mobile radio and this little whip antenna hack were able to get the job done.
For the whip, I use commercially available, collapsible BNC whip antennas for the 2 meter and 440 bands. To connect the whip to the radio, I use a UHF-Male to BNC-Female right angle adapter I picked up on eBay. To help improve the efficiency, I attach two 1/4-wave counterpoise wires, one for 2 meters (about 19 inches) and one for 440 (about 6.3 inches).
To attach the counterpoise wires, I re-purposed a 9-volt battery holder. I just drilled out one of the mounting holes and used a small bolt and nut to attach the wires. The clip is just about the perfect size to snap onto the right angle adapter.
The antennas I use came from Smiley Antenna. I have 5/8-wave whips for 2 meters and 440, along with a halfwave whip for 2 meters. Although some of the antennas are specified to handle 50 watts, I generally use them only for 10 watts or less (in the interest of RF safety). If I need to run more power, I’ll go with an antenna placed a safe distance away.
I’ve used this simple antenna arrangement in several situations in recent years. It’s become a permanent part of my emergency communications go-kit.
The QRP to the Field (QTTF) contest is one that I look forward to every year. This year, however, it coincided with a long-standing commitment to take part in a public service event.
For many years, I’ve been coordinating my local ARES-RACES group’s support for the March of Dimes’ annual March for Babies event in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. In addition to enhancing the safety of the participants, events like this also provide a low-stress environment to hone our emergency communications skills.
The event got off to an unpleasant start. Paul, KB3ZOH, and I arrived early to set up a crossband repeater at the Net Control location. We wound up having to set things up in a steady downpour. Fortunately, the rain let up by the time the walkers set out on the course.
From an ARES-RACES standpoint, it was an uneventful event. We had solid communications around the course and there were no incidents or issues to handle. In addition to KB3ZOH and me, The Chester County ARES-RACES team included Leslie KC3EOR, Joe W3JY, Will K3WIL, and Rob W3OWM.
Since the March for Babies course was located about 100 yards from Valley Forge National Historical Park, my original plan was to head over there after the event for some QTTF action. With another obligation later in the day, however, QTTF was clearly not in the cards for me.
So, I look forward to next year’s contest. At least I was able to do some portable operating for a good cause this morning.