Log them all and let #LoTW sort them out

For a change life has slowed down a bit here and I am finding much more time to hide in the shack.  For now time is spent catching up on some (LOTS) of non radio related paperwork at the same time as trying to complete my Digital WAS from the new QTH here in Kingston Ontario.

I’m using a rather simple way of it though….  Although at this time I am only missing 9 states for my WAZ those states seem slightly rare.  After a couple days of calling on the various HF bands although my signals have been spotted (tnx PSK Reporter) in the missing states it seems no one in those states were watching their screens at the right time so I am still trying….. and trying.

For now the preferred way is call and call and call on the various bands….  My “Stealthy Antenna ”  aka my “Disney Antenna (cuz its really Mickey Mouse) seems to work using my on board auto tuner on my Yaesu FT 450 on the following bands.  10-12-15-17-20-30m.  It used to like 40m as well but something changed…. dunno what…. and now no luck there.  If I insert my 40m Buddistick coil in just beside the balun I can also operate on 80m.

As the US call zones often cover more than 1 state and with their vanity call system often its hard to figure out where anyone is calling from till after the QSO has been made.  My answer is fairly simple…..  Work everyone I can and then let Logbook of The World figure it out.  Sooner or later I will work those missing 9 and then I can start on the CW and SSB WAS to complete my 2nd Triple Play.  When I was living in Ottawa I did manage to complete my Triple Play and it would be great to do it a 2nd time from here in Kingston.

With my great antenna restrictions here I just don’t think any rare DX will be in my future though I am able to reach across SA and most of Europe. Anything much past that is hoping for the Perfect Storm.

More on this later….

73bob

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Solar and Generator for the new season

Well seeing that the camper is in storage till the snow melts…  Its time to look on line and find some new toys for the old camper that will easily be relocated to the new camper after we return from the anticipated Newfoundland Tour in the summer of 2019.

The plan was (and actually still is) to get enough solar power to run the rig for extended periods of time while dry camping (boondocking).  The timetable would be that about every 7-10 days we would have to visit a campground for an overniter (groceries, dump and refill tanks as needed and a real shower) and then back to the boonies.

In addition to the solar setup I wanted to buy a larger generator.  The little 1.5kw Champion we have now is fantastic…. Easy on fuel and really quiet ….  BUT (you knew there had to be a but…) it does not have enough ooomph for all our power requirements.  A few more amps should we have the need to run the AC or a backup heater depending on the weather would be nice along with charging the house batteries should the need arise (cloudy week?)

After a little bit or internet searching (google and amazon can be your friend) I came up with the following:

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WARNING–> THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT OF THE PRODUCTS.  AFTER CHECKING PRICES AND FEATURES IT SEEMS LIKE IT WOULD WORK FOR ME.  DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK AND BUY WHAT YOU THINK WOULD WORK FOR YOU.  

I AM NOT RECEIVING ANY COMPENSATION FOR MY MENTIONING OF THE FOLLOWING PRODUCTS NOR AM I ASKING FOR ANY COMPENSATION.

PRICE AND FEATURES ARE MY ONLY FACTORS IN SELECTING THE PRODUCTS AND LIKE I SAID…. I THINK IT WILL WORK FOR ME…. NOT FOR YOU…. FOR ME

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For the generator I have chosen the Champion 4000w/3500 running w Generator/inverter.  

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Its a name I trust and the prices seem comparable with other lines.  Its a little noisier than the same size inverters that are enclosed in plastic but according to its stats its the same DB as my current champion and as I mentioned earlier in this post ….  its pretty quiet.

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It also will be easy to chain up in the back of the truck as its the same style as my current Champion

Next time we talk power it will be Solar Power

Safe Travels

Bob

The answer to today’s #hamradio question is “NO”

Now you might want to ask…..

”What was the question?”

The question is as follows:

”Is FT8 ruining Amateur (Ham) Radio?”

I believe that FT8 is no worse for ham radio than any of the other computerized modes such as any of the PSK family along with all the other sound card based amateur digital modes.

Earlier in my amateur life I would of said “yes” to the question but that was when I was operating mostly SSB with some very poor (and very slow) CW thrown in mostly for an extra multi or to try and get that rare dx.

But all of that changed a few years ago when my daughter picked me up a FLEX 1500 radio for my birthday.  Along with being a great present it also forced me (kicking and screaming as I went) to use a computer for more than logging in the shack.

After a long lesson in Virtual Comports and Virtual Audio cables along with intergrating several amateur radio software programmes so they could all talk to each other and the Flex it was a dream to operate.

Suddenly I had the ability to send CW and receive it at a speed never thought possible by my shakey hand and poor ear…  I also figured out that the macros I had programmed worked equally as well in RTTY, the PSK Modes and CW….

Memory 1 was VA3QV

Memory 2 (type in his call then) UR 5NN ON (or the contest exchange )

Memory 4 (type in his call then) 73 TU

The “AGN” or “RR” could be added manually as needed

and suddenly I was chasing DX in CW and my contest scores improving…  The RTTY contests were no longer just noise to me.

But I also figured out that most of the Big Gun Contesters and DXers were doing the same thing.  As I was using a CW Reading Software I noticed that it only seemed to decode perfect CW….  and it also seemed that most of the stations I could work must be using Computer Keyers as I could read there CW with no problems….

To put it to the test I monitored a CW Slow speed net where the operators preferred Keys to computers and I noticed that after a few seconds of their sending suddenly I was having issues decoding their transmissions…  The longer they sent…. the worse the copy at my end….  My gear was working fine… but their fist was getting weaker the longer they transmitted

Before you call BS on this…  I managed to work all of the W1AW stations during the Centennial in CW using my QRP Flex 1500 with it’s built in CW Keyer and the CW Get software package.  I also competed in my first CQ WW CW Contest and was operating at 30 wpm which seemed to be the average speed of most of the Contesters.  And I still freely admit that my CW skills would have to improve 100% just to be considered bad

So back to the real topic….FT8 is allowing people to make contacts…. and making contacts I am…. Since I relocated to Kingston from Ottawa and got the gear set back up I have managed to make 39 confirmed states and 38 of them have been made using FT8.

No different than the 5NN TU that the DX station gives you or you give the Contester….  It’s still a contact and its getting people to stay on the air.  It gives us a way to make contacts in band conditions that would be considered poor in the best of days.  Till the propagation Ghod smiles on us again…  FT8 is giving us a reason to visit the shack…

Yes I agree that the computer is doing most (if not all) of the work…. and that it’s not for everyone… but then again….  What part of Amateur Radio could we all agree on liking?

73bob

The “Tow Vehicle” remains on the road

This morning “The Dodge” and I returned to the Drive Clean Inspection station to re take our emissions test.  The first test was on Friday and it was a fail as I have had some electrical issues with the truck and the fix for that was removing the battery to clean all connections as it had needed a boost earlier in the week.  The cleaning worked as the truck is back starting as it should.  

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The downside to that is that the removing of the battery had also wiped the onboard computers memory so the data needed by the Drive Clean computer was not there.  They failed the first attempt as there was not enough data to check through…  They told me to drive it for a few days,  burn off some miles and then come back.

As the check engine light had been on, I had the  errorcodes read well before the test was due and knew that I had an issue with one cylinder occasionally miss firing along with a weak sealing gas cap.  Both would cause a fail.  

With the mileage on the truck approaching 500,000 kms I was not going to tear the engine apart to fix the issue so I started out as safely and cheaply as I could.  There is a popular fuel additive called “Sea Foam”.  YouTube users and backyard mechanics rave about its features and I have used it in the past to clean all the crap out of my Champion Generator when it got stored with gas that went stale and varnished…   I was not sure if it worked but the truck was idling better…

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The end result was that the truck passed with the help of a new gas cap and two cans of the wonder liquid Sea Foam and now the Ministry of Transportation for Ontario will let me renew my plates… 

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All this was done for a cash outlay of $50.00 plus the $17.50 cost of the re test.  (The first test was free)…

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Above map shows the Province of Newfoundland (VO1) in ham language

So whats next???  Well I guess its now decision time….  The original plan was to get a new (to us) truck in the spring to pull our anticipated new (to us) trailer and stay in Ontario rather than travel in the summer of 2019.   But as nothing was carved in stone the thought now is to head east to Newfoundland for the summer of 2019 which means no truck and trailer replacement till 2020.  As of right now (till she changes my mind again) is the plan.  But between now and Newfoundland some minor stuff like new tires along with some bondo on the rougher parts of the truck will be done. 

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Of course for this to happen it goes without saying that the trailer (the funny thing that follows the truck) must have a good winter in storage and be in good enough shape to make the trip.

More on our anticipated trip to the most Eastern Canadian Province will be coming up in the spring

Safe Travels

Bob

 

 

Still making contacts

I started back on October 3 with the new stealth antenna.  Its a twisted Zig Zagged almost vertical wire about 50 feet in length with 3 random length radial.  Its fed by a 4:1 balun and I use a buddipole 40m coil at the bottom of the wire (after the balun) so its kind of base loaded.  By pass the coil and I can operate on 10-12-15-17-20-30 and 40m.  Using the coil I can get 60 and 80m.

The SWR on all band is low enough (under 3:1) that I can get the internal tuner in the FT 450 to bring everything down to a decent match (1:1)

All this is stealth mounted in a large pine tree just on the other side of my fence line.  The balun and the radials are on my side of the fence and the wire runs up into the tree.  Stealth being the key words as there are some antenna restrictions I would rather not debate with the Condo Board.

So how does it work???? Well its better than not being on the air…  So far this month I have made 206 contacts.  A few were voice and most were FT8 with a couple of CW thrown in for good measure.

Contacts were made in North America, South America and Europe.

Now before October the last time I played radio was in the spring of 2018 so I don’t really know if this is good or bad for band conditions.  Either way….  It does not matter…  I got to spend some quality time in the shack and realized how much i missed it.  Right now I just try to spend a couple of hours in the shack each day and also try to upload my logs to LoTW and QRZ.com on a regular basis.

I need 5 more states for the WAS-FT8 and after those 206 contacts I still need those hard to find 5.  As far as the DXCC Digital go one of those 206 brought me up from 48 to 49 so I still have 51 to go …  It will take a while.

But as the camper is off the road for the season… (if you read my earlier post) I do have time on my hands now so why not.

In the mean time…. I am proving that you can make contacts in Amateur Radio with less than fantastic antennas if you want to take the time to work at it…

Hope to hear you on the air

73bob

Parked for the winter

Tanks are dumped…..lines drained and anti freeze added…..  Parked in its space at the storage yard and the front end is lowered to allow for run off….

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I will drop in every now again (stored 5 min walk from home) to check on things but the next time a wheel is turned should be in the late spring…  Earlier I hope but being realistic…. Late spring

For those of you out there fortunate enough to have a decent healthcare plan that allows you to leave the country….  Enjoy the snowbird season

Safe Travels

Amateur Radio and the RV community

If you ever watch some of the Youtube Videos on Full Time Camping you always notice how so many of them are commenting that they have issues in getting Cell/Data service while in some of the more remote areas.  Now although I know many Hams who are RV’ers I don’t know many RV’ers who are also hams.

This might be a way to get some “New Blood” into our hobby….

I have always defined my most important part of Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) being the ability of talking to home.  By home I mean contacting someone who lived close to my home city and would call home for me and reassure my wife that I was still doing well well on my trip and inturn could assure me that all was well at home.  This was in the days before cell phones were popular but the premise still works today.  There have been a few camping trips where the cell service was spotty and the radio has been needed to update friends and family on our progress while on the road.

If you are a RV’er who wants more info just GOOGLE (your town) Amateur Radio and you should find a local radio club that would be more than happy to explain the basics of how Ham Radio can be a tool to assist you in your RV.

Lots of Sailors have Amateur Radio in their Yachts so why not get your Amateur Radio License and then install an Amateur Radio in your Land Yacht?

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To the hams out there….  If you do get contacted by someone who RV’s and shows interest in our hobby…. Try and gear your reply towards how your hobby can assist them in their hobby and that way we both win.

73 & Safe Travels