Boschveldt Field Day 2022

Our new W3BQC banner (Photo credit: NK1N)

Another fun Field Day with the Boschveldt QRP Club is in the books. As in recent years, we spent the weekend camping on private property as the guests of a gracious local business owner. We had four members in attendance this year: Ed K3YTR, Glen NK1N, Ed WA3WSJ, and me. 

When I arrived Friday afternoon, NK1N was already onsite. As I was setting up my tent, the others rolled in and got settled in for the weekend. Later, we headed out to a local restaurant for dinner and finished off the night around the campfire.

After breakfast, I set up my antenna and radio equipment. We had three HF stations this year, all running CW. I operated on 40 meters, NK1N covered 20 and 80 meters, while WA3WSJ took care of the higher bands. K3YTR operated phone on 6 and 2 meters. We operated in Category 3A, running QRP on battery power and using our club callsign, W3BQC. Our three HF stations all used inverted L antennas, our weapon of choice for Field Day. 

  • Yours truly operating CW from my tent (Photo credit: NK1N)
  • As in previous years, I slept and operated in my tent.
  • WA3WSJ operating on 15M
  • NK1N operating under his new canopy
  • NK1N generated most of our points this year (Photo credit: NK1N)
  • K3YTR operating 6 and 2 meters from his car

This year we tried networking our logging computers together. Glen set up a small battery-powered Wi-Fi access point and used his laptop as the server. It was a simple task to configure the N3FJP logging software on the other laptops, and the network worked great.

After a dinner of brats and hotdogs, we again convened around the campfire. Before turning in, Glen jumped on 80M and I got back on 40M to make a few more contacts. 

Glen was our most productive point generator this year. Besides making the most contacts, he also copied the Field Day bulletin, transmitted our radiogram to the Section manager, and filled in as the Boschveldt Safety Officer this year. 

After breakfast on Sunday morning, we got back on our radios for a few more hours before packing up. By mid-day, we had all cleared out and headed home.

Although we don’t run the most serious Field Day operation, we always have a good time getting together. Besides our annual winter outing, we talked about doing another camping trip sometime this summer. 

I hope everyone who took part had a fun and safe Field Day weekend.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Father’s Day with a New Rig

I needed another rig like I needed a hole in the head, but I couldn’t resist. I’ve had my eye on the Penntek TR-35 for a while now, so I finally pulled the trigger and ordered one. I considered it a Father’s Day present to myself. Two days later, I had the TR-35 in my hands.

Lacking the patience and the close-up vision for serious kit building these days, I ordered a factory-built radio with the rotary encoder tuning option. Now, I have seen plenty of pictures and videos of the TR-35, but the small size of this rig really struck me when I opened the box. Its footprint is not much larger than a QSL card. It’s a perfect size for portable operating.

Here are some features that drew me to the TR-35:

  • It covers the bands I use most in the field (40/30/20/17)
  • Built-in iambic mode B keyer (my mode of choice)
  • Two CW memories. Perfect for POTA activations, QRP contests, etc.
  • Separate inputs for paddle and straight key. I sometimes get calls from fellow SKCC members, so it’s convenient to switch instantly to a straight key for those QSOs.
  • No complicated menu structures to navigate to get things set up. The TR-35 is super-simple to operate, and that’s just how I like it. 

The TR-35 doesn’t include a built-in tuner. No worries; I’m going to dust off my little Elecraft T1 ATU and show it some love. An SWR indicator would have been a nice feature to have, but I can get along fine without it. 

Taking It For a Spin

I didn’t have a chance to put my new TR-35 on the air until today. I drove over to Valley Forge National Historical Park (K-0761 and KFF-0761) to try the new rig on a POTA activation. Doing an activation with a radio you’ve never used is a little like going camping with a tent you’ve never set up before. But, what the heck, I was a risk-taker today. Actually, I brought a backup rig along, but I never needed it. 

I set up the TR-35 in the cab of my truck, along with my T1 tuner. The antenna was my homebrew 19-foot vertical on the back of the truck. As soon as I powered up, I was greeted by lots of loud CW signals. That’s a good sign. I quickly programmed a “CQ POTA” message into one of the two CW memories and got on the air.

My TR-35 on its first POTA activation at Valley Forge National Historical Park. My Elecraft T1 tuner is on the right. It was nice to have paddles and a straight key connected simultaneously.
My TR-35 on its first POTA activation at Valley Forge National Historical Park. My Elecraft T1 tuner is on the right. It was nice to have paddles and a straight key connected simultaneously.

One of the first things I noticed is how loud the audio is. I was using earbuds, and I had to turn the volume almost all the way down. The sidetone seemed a bit loud for my liking, but not really much of a problem for me.

Once I got going, I had a lot of fun with this little rig. I easily made contacts on each of the four bands (40/30/20/17). The TR-35 is a joy to operate, and I really appreciate its simplicity. Tuning with the optional rotary encoder is smooth as silk.

After about an hour and a half, I had 24 contacts in the log, with five park-to-park QSOs. My stomach reminded me it was lunchtime, so I packed up and headed home. I left the park feeling very happy about my recent purchase. The TR-35 is going to see a lot of use in the field.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.

73, Craig WB3GCK

French Creek Iron Tour 2022

I spent the morning taking part in a public service event. The French Creek Iron Tour is an annual cycling event that benefits the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust. This year was the 20th running of the event.

Chester County ARES-RACES provides communications support for the event, and it’s one of our larger public service events. Besides providing a crew at the start/finish line, we have operators at five rest stops and in seven roving support vehicles. APRS is used to track the locations of the support vehicles, allowing Net Control to dispatch them efficiently to assist riders experiencing problems.

This year, my assignment was at a rest stop in historic Yellow Springs, Pennsylvania. I’ve been at this location for the past several years, and it’s become my favorite assignment. This rest stop is the first one to open for the event, so after a quick stop for coffee and a breakfast sandwich, I was onsite bright and early.

Yellow Springs rest stop for the French Creek Iron Tour. This was taken early in the day as the riders started coming through.
Yellow Springs rest stop for the French Creek Iron Tour. This was taken early in the day as the riders started coming through.

The day started off with some heavy downpours. I hunkered down in my truck, and the rain pounding on the roof made it hard to hear the radio. Fortunately for the riders, the rain stopped by mid-morning. Despite the initial rain and the wet road conditions, I didn’t encounter any downed riders or other major issues during my shift. 

Although the weather could have been better, it was nice to work with the friendly volunteers at the Yellow Springs rest stop again this year. Kudos to my ARES-RACES colleagues who put in a long day supporting this event.

73, Craig WB3GCK

A Chance POTA Meet-Up

I made a return trip to Fort Washington State Park (K/KFF-1352) this morning for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation. I activated this park back in October of last year, so I wanted to give it another go today. Along with some over-the-air contacts, I made a fun eyeball QSO.

My location and setup were nearly identical to my last visit. I started on 40M, and within a few minutes, the POTA hunters showed up. After I had logged 14 contacts, I was getting ready to change bands. I noticed a car going by with a familiar callsign on its license plate. 

Greg WA3GM turned around and stopped behind my truck. I have worked Greg many times in recent years. He’s a frequent POTA activator and a fellow SKCC member. Despite those contacts, we have never met in person. After chatting for a few minutes, Greg left to find somewhere to set up for his activation.

After spending some time on 30M and 20M, I did some searching and pouncing to pick up a few park-to-park contacts. Right before pulling the plug, I found Greg on 40M and had a quick park-to-park QSO with him. Of course, we were 599 both ways.

Greg WA3GM activating Fort Washington State Park (K-1352)
Greg WA3GM activating Fort Washington State Park (K-1352)

I packed up my gear and spent some time driving around the park to see if I could find Greg. I found him less than a mile away, operating from a picnic table near some group campsites. Greg was using his trusty Rybakov antenna. We chatted for a while and learned that we have a bunch of friends in common. After posing for some selfies, I let Greg get back to his activation and headed off on my drive home. 

WA3GM (left) and WB3GCK during a chance POTA meet-up in Fort Washington State Park (K-1352)
WA3GM (left) and WB3GCK during a chance POTA meet-up in Fort Washington State Park (K-1352)

I ended up with 19 contacts in my log, with 3 park-to-park contacts and a nice eyeball QSO.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Memorial Day 2022

May has been a busy month around here, and I haven’t had much time to get out and do some portable operating. So, on the last day of the month, I made a quick trip to nearby Valley Forge National Historical Park for a short POTA activation (K-0761, KFF-0761).

I had some plans for later today, so headed out early. Most of the holiday picnic goers would likely arrive later to observe Memorial Day and take advantage of the glorious weather. Based on previous activations, I knew where to find a shady parking spot. Once situated there, I set up my 19-foot vertical on the back of my truck. I operated my trusty KX3 in the truck, this time out. 

My parking spot at Valley Forge National Historical Park (K-0761, KFF-0761)
My parking spot at Valley Forge National Historical Park (K-0761, KFF-0761)

Starting out on 40M, I made the requisite ten contacts in about 15 minutes. My best “DX” of the day was California and Washington State, both on 20M with 5 watts. I operated for a little over an hour and ended up with 32 contacts with four park-to-park QSOs. 

Now that I’m driving again, life seems a little more normal. It was good to do an activation with no chauffeur. My (far) better half was a good sport, but I know she has things she’d rather be doing.

Friends here in southeastern Pennsylvania have been talking about how bad the ticks are this year. I think they’re right. As I was driving out of the parking lot, I found one crawling on the back of my neck. So, be careful out there.

Finally, I’d like to wish everyone an enjoyable and safe holiday. Please be sure to take time to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Northbrook Canoe Challenge

Earlier this week, my orthopedic surgeon gave me the OK to drive again. This allowed me to take part in the Northbrook Canoe Challenge, an event to benefit the Cerebral Palsy Association. My local ARES-RACES group has provided communications for this event for many years.

This year I served as Net Control Operator for the event. Tim KB3FCJ set up a canopy for us along the scenic Brandywine River. We were situated near a dam, which the canoeists needed to portage around. A water rescue team was on hand to ensure the safety of the participants. 

My operating position for the Northbrook Canoe Challenge. This was taken while we waited for the canoes to make their was down the river.
My operating position for the Northbrook Canoe Challenge. This was taken while we waited for the canoes to make their way down the river.

As events go, it was pretty uneventful. There were no medical emergencies or overturned canoes. Just a nice day on the river operating with my Chester County ARES-RACES colleagues. 

73, Craig WB3GCK

Patience is a Virtue

I’m still not able to drive yet, so my (far) better half offered to take me out for another POTA activation. Things got off to a slow start, so much so that I was tempted to throw in the towel. I hung in there, and eventually my patience paid off.

Like last week’s trip, we kept it close to home. We headed down to Ridley Creek State Park (POTA K-1414, WWFF KFF-1414) for some Parks on the Air action.

Like last week, I kept my gear simple and used my KX3 (5 watts) and AlexLoop. After calling CQ for a while on 40M, I finally logged a contact. Moving between 20M and 30M, I made three more contacts. Despite some decent spots on RBN, I was stuck with four contacts for what seemed like an eternity.

WB3GCK at Ridley Creek State Park (PA) (K-1414, KFF-1414)
WB3GCK at Ridley Creek State Park (PA) (K-1414, KFF-1414)

After bouncing around the bands for a while, I ended up back on 20M. I was going to spend a few more minutes calling CQ before packing it in and accepting defeat. 

The propagation must have improved, because a pile-up appeared out of nowhere. Over the next few minutes, I made seven more contacts. That was enough to qualify the activation plus one for good measure. Those contacts included 3 park-to-park contacts.

As I was packing up I saw something I hadn’t encountered in almost 30 years of portable operation. A little pot-bellied pig stopped by to say hello. His owner was trying to take him hiking on a nearby trail, but the little guy seemed to prefer socializing with the other people in the park. Eventually he responded to his owner’s call and went off trotting down the trail.

Boss the pig stopped by to say hello. Apparently, I wasn't the only "ham" in the park today.
Boss the pig stopped by to say hello. Apparently, I wasn’t the only “ham” in the park today.

It wasn’t a great day for radio, but at least I made enough for a valid POTA activation. Radio notwithstanding, the weather was excellent, and I got to meet Boss the pig. 

72, Craig WB3GCK

Getting My QRP-Portable Fix

It’s been more than a month since my last QRP portable outing. I’m still recovering from my knee surgery, and my doctor hasn’t cleared me to drive yet. My (far) better half must have recognized that I was going through portable radio withdrawal, because, out of the blue, she offered to drive me somewhere to get my portable radio fix.

Naturally, I took her up on her offer. For my XYL’s sake, I wanted to keep it short, so I opted to do a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation at nearby Evansburg State Park. To keep things simple, I grabbed my KX3, a battery, and my Alexloop.

We ended up in a small picnic area. It’s still a little early for picnics, so we had the area to ourselves. While I set up the radio equipment, my XYL occupied herself with a book. 

WB3GCK at Evansburge State Park (K-1351/KFF-1351)
WB3GCK at Evansburg State Park (K-1351/KFF-1351)

It has been quite a while since I’ve used the Alexloop, so I was rusty at getting it tuned up. I was having some trouble finding a peak in the receiver noise. I concluded this location was just too quiet (RF-wise). Turning on the preamp during tune-up, I had no trouble finding the noise peaks. My five-watt signal seemed to get out fine with the loop.

I operated for about an hour, logging 16 contacts, including one park-to-park contact in Florida. There weren’t any exotic QSOs today, but I had a nice two-way QRP contact with N1MX near Boston. Mike was running two watts and sounded great. I also had a QSO with fellow Boschveldt QRP Club member, NK1N, over in New Jersey. It’s always a pleasure to work Glen.

After sitting for an hour, my knee was getting stiff. So, we packed up our stuff and loaded up the car. We took advantage of the great weather and went for a walk before heading home.

Many thanks to my incredible XYL for this brief field trip today. It sure felt great to be operating outdoors again.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Spring Equinox Outing

I celebrated the first day of spring with a QRP-portable outing today. I headed out to my daughter’s property and set up on top of the hill to test a new antenna and make a few contacts in the process.

Spring notwithstanding, it wasn’t a great day to be up there. Strong thunderstorms last night left the ground soft and ushered in a cold front. Along with overcast skies, there were some strong wind gusts. So, I set up the KX3 in the shelter of the truck.

Mother Nature was trying her best to knock down my antenna
Mother Nature was trying her best to knock down my antenna

I set up the antenna I planned to test—the subject of a future post—and ran it through its paces. The results were less than satisfactory. It needs a little tweaking, and I found a mechanical issue that will need some attention. Add that to the to-do list.

As a backup antenna, I went with a Rybakov-style vertical, with a pair of 26.5-foot wires, one vertical and the other on the ground for a counterpoise. I grabbed a small 4:1 unun that I built a few years ago and mounted it at the feedpoint. The male BNC on the coax cable refused to go onto the BNC jack on the unun. It looks to me like the center connection in the BNC jack has some corrosion or something in it and needs to be replaced. Another task for the to-do list.

Fortunately, I had another 4:1 unun in the truck, and I quickly got that set up. This particular unun is about 10 years old and has never let me down. It got me on the air, so I could at least make a few contacts.

I tuned around 40M and made a couple of contacts with Virginia QSO Party stations. Later on, I checked the Parks on the Air spotting page to see what parks were being activated. I worked a couple of parks on the 40M band and moved up to 20M to work N4CD at a park in Texas.

Although I spent most of the time fiddling with antennas, I’m glad I could get out and play radio for a while. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be having knee replacement surgery this week. The recovery and rehab process will probably put me out of commission for a few weeks.

Enjoy your spring!

73, Craig WB3GCK

Auburn Valley State Park Re-visit

I made another quick trip to Delaware this morning for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation. My destination was Auburn Valley State (POTA K-4366, WWFF KFF-4366), a park I activated by in November of last year. Delaware state parks resume charging a parking fee on March 1st. It’s $4 for state residents and $8 for out-of-state vehicles like mine. So, I saved a few bucks today.

Parking fee sign at Auburn Valley State Park in Delaware
Parking fee sign at Auburn Valley State Park in Delaware

Like last time, I parked at the Yorklyn Bridge Trail trailhead. Once again, I used my KX3 at 5 watts with my 19-ft vertical mounted on the back of my truck. The last time I was here, there was a little of noise on the bands, but, fortunately, that noise was nowhere to be found today. 

My cell coverage wasn’t as good as the last time. Using the Wi-Fi in my truck, however, I managed to post a spot on the POTA website. Unfortunately, I fat-fingered the park designator and inadvertently spotted myself at a park in Iowa. Doh! I quickly made the correction and got on the air.

My parking spot at Auburn Valley State Park in Delaware
My parking spot at Auburn Valley State Park in Delaware

I spent most of my time on 40M and quickly racked up 27 contacts. I moved up to 20M, which was good for another seven contacts. Although the 17M band seemed to be open, I only picked up one QSO there. After an hour and a half, I packed up and headed back north to Pennsylvania.

I ended up with 35 QSOs in the log with three park-to-park contacts. One of the park-to-park contacts was with W6LEN in California. The best DX of the day was with TI5JON in Costa Rica. 

Delaware parks are always fun for POTA. I swear, a Delaware location adds a few decibels to your signal.

73, Craig WB3GCK