Peanut Power Sprint 2016

I operated in the Peanut Power Sprint for the first time today.  This sprint is sponsored by the good folks of the North Georgia QRP Club.  It’s a short, two-hour sprint, which works nicely with my short attention span.

I headed out to a nearby park to operate portable.  Since the Peanut Power Sprint is a short contest and I was pressed for time anyway, I kept my setup simple.  I used the same setup I have used for some recent NPOTA activations.  I operated from my truck with a 29.5-foot vertical wire supported by a 31-foot Jackite pole on my bike rack.  I fed the vertical wire with a 9:1 unun and 18 feet of coax.  I set up my KX3 on the passenger seat of my truck.

My "stationary-mobile" setup at the Upper Schuylkill Valley Park. The Jackite pole is mounted on the rear of the truck.
My “stationary-mobile” setup at the Upper Schuylkill Valley Park. The Jackite pole is mounted on the rear of the truck.

Before the sprint started, I worked AB7RW who was doing an NPOTA activation from the Curecanti National Recreation Area (RC06) in Colorado.  So, it looked like the antenna was working.

Propagation on 20 meters was a little flakey and 40 meters was plagued by wall-to-wall RTTY contest stations.  Despite the challenges, I ended up with 19 contacts in the log.  Even though my operating location was along the Schuylkill River and I didn’t have the benefit of altitude, I managed to work the west coast (WA).  I also worked N8XX and WD8RIF who were both operating from the North Country National Scenic Trail (TR04).  My last contact was with Greg N4KGL who was operating pedestrian-mobile from Florida.

I’m glad I decided to operate in this year’s Peanut Power Sprint.  It was a fun way to spend a beautiful Fall afternoon.

72, Craig WB3GCK

QRP Afield 2016

My XYL and I were long overdue for a weekend of camping.  We towed our old pop-up camper to one of our favorite campgrounds, French Creek State Park near Elverson, PA.  It was a happy coincidence that the New England QRP Club’s QRP Afield contest was being held while I was camping.  OK, so maybe it wasn’t just a coincidence.

Our pop-up camper and sometimes portable radio shack.
Our pop-up camper and sometimes portable radio shack.

I operated from inside the camper using my KX3 on battery power.  The antenna was my “Pop-up Vertical” that I have used with the  camper for years.  Basically, the antenna is a 27-foot wire vertical fed through a 4:1 unun.  I use the body of the camper for ground.  The wire is supported by a 31-foot Jackite pole attached to the side of the camper with some velcro straps.  I run a 10-foot length of coax into the camper to the radio.  The KX3’s internal tuner will easily load up the antenna from 40 meters through 6 meters.  The KX3 can also tune it on 80 meters but it isn’t very efficient on that band.

The "Pop-up Vertical" fastened to the camper.
The “Pop-up Vertical” fastened to the camper.

During the contest, I didn’t hear much activity on 20 meters.  I made one QRP Afield QSO there.  I made the rest of my contacts on 40 meters.  I ended up with only 11 contacts in the log.  It wasn’t a great showing but I had fun.

Outside of the contest, I worked several Route 66 special event stations, along with a few National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) stations.  I also worked TM77X, a special event station in France.  There were a couple of nice rag chew QSOs in there, too.

My operating position inside the camper. The coffee cup. of course, is a mandatory accessory.
My operating position inside the camper. The coffee cup. of course, is a mandatory accessory.

We have one more outing with the camper scheduled for October.  Not only will this be the last camping trip of the year for us, it will be the last camping trip with our old camper.  It has served us well for the past 19 years but, like me, it’s starting to show its age.  My XYL and I decided it’s time to retire it and replace it with something new for next year.

I’ll miss our little tent-on-wheels.  My family made a lot of memories with that camper and I made a lot of fun QRP QSOs from it.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Skeeter Hunt 2016

NJQRP Skeeter Hunt LogoThe NJQRP Skeeter Hunt is one of my favorite QRP field contests.  This year, I planned to do some biking along White Clay Creek but the dire weather forecasts made me opt for “Plan B.”  “Plan B,” in this case, was to activate nearby Valley Forge National Historical Park (HP46) and operate from my truck.  This was my first time back at Valley Forge since I activated it on New Year’s Day.

I chose a parking spot that was away from the trees.  I also made sure to face west, so I could keep an eye on the approaching storms.   I took a few pictures before the Skeeter Hunt started, while the weather was still decent.

I used a 30-foot wire vertical mounted on the back.  This antenna, fed with a 9:1 unun and 18-feet of coax served me well on several NPOTA outings recently.  I set up my KX3 on the passenger seat of my truck.

A few QSOs into the contest, a park ranger rolled up next to me and asked what I was doing.  I mentioned National Parks on the Air and he said, “that’s cool.”  He also warned me about the approaching storms.  I assured him that I planned to shut down if there was any lightning.

At about 20 minutes into the contest, the rain started and never really stopped.  It varied between slight drizzle and torrential downpours. When the rain forced me to roll up my windows, the cab of the truck got unbearably warm.  I couldn’t operate with the truck running due to electrical noise from the engine.  Every so often, I took a break from the radio and ran the air conditioner to cool off.

My "stationary-mobile" set up in Valley Forge. You can see the wind bending the fiberglass pole.
My “stationary-mobile” set up in Valley Forge. You can see the wind bending the fiberglass pole.

The bands seemed to be in pretty good shape.  After a little more than two and a half hours of operating, I had 29 QSOs in the log.

20160821    1701      40M    CW    K3COD   559    559    NC NR145
20160821    1710      40M    CW    K4YA    569    569    TN NR8
20160821    1716      20M    CW    N4BP    599    599    FL NR173
20160821    1718      20M    CW    N0SS    579    579    MO NR18
20160821    1720      20M    CW    AB9CA   559    559    AL NR57
20160821    1727      20M    CW    WK8S    559    559    CO NR156
20160821    1729      20M    CW    NN9K    559    559    IL NR168
20160821    1732      20M    CW    WB4OMM  599    599    FL NR97
20160821    1737      20M    CW    VE3XT   569    559    ON NR162
20160821    1739      20M    CW    K2WO    599    559    FL NR2
20160821    1749      20M    CW    W4MZA   569    579    MN29 NR60
20160821    1750      20M    CW    KX0R    569    569    CO NR166
20160821    1756      40M    CW    N2CX    589    579    NP51 NR1
20160821    1802      40M    CW    NC4RT   579    559    TR10 NR24
20160821    1808      40M    CW    KG3W    599    579    PA NR160
20160821    1809      40M    CW    AA8WQ   599    569    OH 5W
20160821    1816      40M    CW    AA4XX   569    449    NC NR112
20160821    1818      40M    CW    N3AQC   589    569    TR14 NR76
20160821    1823      40M    CW    KY3P    579    589    NY 5W
20160821    1826      40M    CW    W1PID   559    559    NH NR41
20160821    1835      40M    CW    W4MPS   579    559    NC NR163
20160821    1845      40M    CW    WD8RIF  579    559    HP11 NR46
20160821    1850      20M    CW    K7TQ    559    559    ID NR11
20160821    1856      20M    CW    NF4GA   579    579    GA NR110
20160821    1904      20M    CW    AB4QL   569    569    AL NR149
20160821    1911      20M    CW    AD4S    599    579    GA NR56
20160821    1916      20M    CW    WB5BKL  579    579    TX NR42
20160821    1926      40M    CW    VE3LFN  599    599    ON NR28
20160821    1936      40M    CW    W3BBO   559    559    PA NR5

The rain was really starting to come down heavily, so I put on my rain gear and tore down the antenna.  The park ranger was parked in the lot behind me.  He was probably getting a chuckle out of the crazy old guy taking down his antenna in a downpour.

As I was making the 3-mile trip home, the rain stopped and the sun came out.  Go figure!  Anyway, I had a fun time, despite the rain.  Once again, a tip of the hat goes to Larry, W2LJ, for coordinating this fun contest.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Flight of the Bumblebees 2016

Another Flight of the Bumblebees (FOBB) is in the books.  This year, I was going to travel to my operating site by bicycle but forecasts for thunderstorms forced a last-minute change of plans.

I ended up in French Creek State Park (PA) near the Hopewell Fire Tower.  This area has good elevation and there usually aren’t many other visitors around.  Dark clouds were moving in, so I opted to set up in the shelter of an old picnic pavilion.  Fortunately, the storm skirted around my location.

Pavilion near the Hopewell Fire Tower, French Creek State Park, PA.
My operating location near the Hopewell Fire Tower in French Creek State Park (PA)

I kept my antenna simple, in case I needed to bail out in a hurry.  I strapped my 31-foot Jackite pole to a small tree next to the pavilion and set up a 30-foot wire vertical with a 9:1 unun.  I ran 18 feet of coax over to one of the picnic tables.  I had my KX3 set up and ready to go about five minutes before the contest started.

My antenna support. I strapped my Jackite pole to a small tree near the pavilion.
My antenna support. I strapped my Jackite pole to a small tree near the pavilion.

Conditions were pretty rough.  There was heavy fading on 20 meters and lots of static on 40 meters.  Early on, most of the activity was on 20 meters but 40 meters started to come alive later on.

Despite the conditions, I managed to eek out 19 contacts in about 3 hours.  I heard a lot of familiar callsigns.  I was pleasantly surprised to work N6GA, Cam, in California.  I guess my simple antenna was getting out OK.  I also worked fellow Polar Bear QRPer, Kelly K4UPG in Florida.  In addition to the contest exchange, Kelly and I exchanged the traditional Polar Bear greeting, “GRRR.” Right before I packed up, I found QRP friends, Larry W2LJ and Carter N3AO, on 40 meters.

My operating position for Flight of the Bumblebees 2016
My operating position for Flight of the Bumblebees 2016

It turned out to be a pretty nice day.  The thunderstorms stayed away and not a drop of rain.  I was in the shade and there was just enough of a breeze to make the heat and humidity bearable and keep the mosquitoes at bay.  Thanks to the Adventure Radio Society for sponsoring this fun contest.

72, Craig WB3GCK

FYBO 2016

I didn’t have a lot of time today but I wanted to get out for an hour or two for the annual Freeze Your B—- Off (FYBO) contest.  FYBO is sponsored by the Arizona ScQRPions.  I didn’t do a lot of  advanced planning for this event, so I threw my backpack into my truck and headed out with a couple of possible locations in mind.

I ended up in the Schuylkill Canal Park in Mont Clare, Pennsylvania, just a few miles away from home.  I’ve been to this park many times but I had never operated from there.  The spot I had in mind had some high voltage power lines nearby so I headed a little further down the road.  I wound up in a parking lot next to the canal lock.  There was still some snow on the ground and the area looked muddy, so I set up in the truck with the window down.  (It was 36F when I started.)  I used my YouKits HB-1B and a 29.5-foot vertical.

FYBO "Stationary-mobile" set up
FYBO “Stationary-mobile” set up

Now, normally, when people see my antenna, they usually just give some curious stares and move on.  Not so today.  Before I had even made a contact, I noticed a county park ranger drive by.  He circled back around and pulled up next to me.  He was curious about the antenna and I ended up discussing ham radio with him for the next 5 minutes or so.  He wished me well and drove off.

A few minutes later, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a car with two park rangers behind me.  They were staring at the antenna, so I got out and went over to talk to them.  I gave them my ham radio spiel and a few minutes later they drove off.  I was finally able to get back to the radio and start making some contacts.

In my hour or so of operating, I only managed to work 3 FYBO contesters on 20 meters.  There was very little FYBO activity heard.  In fact, I worked more Minnesota QSO Party stations than FYBO stations.  Before I packed up, I dropped down to 40 meters and picked up a Vermont QSO Party station.

Just before shutting down, a fellow who had been walking his dogs walked up to my truck and asked about what I was doing.  Once more I gave my ham radio spiel.  In all the years I’ve been operating from portable locations, I can’t remember ever getting this much attention.  Maybe I enlightened a couple of folks today.

Lock 60 and the Canal Keeper's House at Schuylkill Canal Park, Mont Clare, Pennsylvania
Lock 60 and the Canal Keeper’s House at Schuylkill Canal Park, Mont Clare, Pennsylvania

Even though it was a short outing and I’m sure I wasn’t a big threat in the FYBO contest, it’s always good to get out and play some radio.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Winter Field Day 2016

My original plan was to get outside or, depending on the weather, operate “stationary-mobile” from my truck for Winter Field Day 2016.  However, my XYL and I had a long-standing obligation to head out of town for a weekend of babysitting our grandson.  So, “Plan B” was put into effect.  I would have to operate in the “Indoor” category and, at least, hand out some points to those braving the elements.

On Saturday morning, I started to set up my portable station at my daughter’s house.  I secured the feed point of my LNR EFT-10/20/40 end-fed antenna and tossed the rest of the antenna out of a second story window.

Antenna support for my LNR EFT-10/20/40 EFHW antenna
Antenna support for my LNR EFT-10/20/40 EFHW antenna

The next part was a little tricky since there was still more than a foot of snow in the backyard and I neglected to bring boots.  Anyway, I trudged through the snow to secure my 31-foot Jackite pole to the fence.  I used three velcro cinch straps that I had recently purchased.  I used some twine to hoist up the far end of the antenna.  It turned out to be mostly horizontal but with a little bit of sag in it.  Then, I set up my YouKits HB-1B and my logging computer on the dining room table.

My portable station for Winter Field Day 2016
My portable station for Winter Field Day 2016

About 2 hours before the start of Winter Field Day, I fired up my YouKits HB-1B and had a nice 2-way QRP chat with John, W3FSA, up in Maine. So, my slightly sagging antenna wasn’t doing too badly.

In between entertaining my 1-year-old grandson and taking my grand-dog out for walks, I got on the radio.  There didn’t seem to be a large number of stations on, so I bounced back and forth between 40 and 20 meters.  At the end of the first day, I had worked 22 stations and a few stations not in the contest.

I got on for a bit on Sunday morning but things had really thinned out a lot.  I made a few non-contest contacts.  It was a while before I heard any WFD activity.  I only managed to pick up one new one.   Around 10 AM, I packed up and tore down my antenna.

With my 23 contacts, I certainly didn’t set any records.  It was, however, a fun event.  Hopefully, I can get outdoors next year.

72, Craig WB3GCK