#RACFD2017 (my)Field Day adventure

Field Day… The last rainy weekend in June… more on that comment later….


Liz and I left Ottawa around 4pm and after a couple of wrong turns ended up at our destination just outside of Kemptville Ontario at the Red Devils AIRSOFT field.  It’s an interesting sport and Most weekends they are open for visitors..Check their Facebook page for more info


We were joining some friends fron the VE3ORF repeater group to operate as part of their Field Day effort.
Friday evening… after we got our rig set up we spent time socializing and having a FANTASTIC deep fried turkey dinner with all the fixings…  


This was a first for Liz and myself… but it won’t be the last…  I can see one of these fryers in our future…


While setting up I had planned to run my 1.5 Kw Champion Generator… That would of been enough power to run all my electronics except the roof mounted AC unit.

However the Ham who had the Trailer across from mine offered me a plug on his 9 Kw Champion so we had the luxury of AC to help Liz and myself when the humidity got a bit much.  It seems that size does matter…

Saturday morning we assembled our stations…  


We ran a 1a station using a Yaesu FTDX 1200 with a triband beam, Armstrong rotator and a 132 foot doublet fed by 450 ohm ladderline.


We used a Yaesu FT 897 on 6m with a 3 element beam…


The GOTA station was a Yaesu FT 840 with a doublet…

I started on the 6m station and spent a few hours looking for an opening with little success. The FTDX 1200 however was racking up the contacts on the HF Bands…

Saturday evening was spent in a social setting with the scheduled radio operators leaving the group setting to operate for their hour long shifts…

Sunday morning I operated on 40m and 80m SSB on the 1200 from 7am to 9am… Although I am  a Yaesu fan… I should of read the manual first… I did manage about 50 contacts and then checked 15m ssb and managed a few more log entries..  After the next operators came on shift I went back to the trailer and made Liz bacon and eggs…  It might be me but I think that food tastes better when cooked outdoors on the Coleman stove…

I went back to the 6m station and found an opening.  The 6m beam was aimed southwest and a fair amount of contacts were in the log.  


Shorty after that the skies opened up…  as you can tell by the pic I took of my neighbors rig…  It was the last rainy weekend in June.. Suddenly it was 2pm and it was over…  The antennas were lowered and the gear packed…  I got stuck trying to get out of the field towing out the trailer from our saturated site…  Good thing there was a 4×4 there with a tow strap…

All in all it was a great time…

We returned home Sunday evening and rushed to get ready for our first big trip…

The adventures continue as we head down to the east coast of Canada later this week…

CU then 

bob

Ps… sorry about the pics but…. it was easier to show you rather than tell you

Defining casual operating

When we are on our first “major” trip with our new (to us) “Truck/Trailer combo” Liz has agreed that there will be “Radio Time” allowed and I have agreed that “Family Time” will not be disrupted by “Radio Time”.

What this means in reality is that as I am an early riser I will be enjoying the sunrise with my first coffee of the day and looking for stations who might be able to hear the 5w of my Yaesu FT 817.  Modes of choice will be SSB and PSK 31 as I will be bringing my NUE PSK modem with me.

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This handy little device once I attach a keyboard to it allows me to use the popular Amateur Radio Digital mode PSK 31 in a very portable operation.  No computer or monitor needed…  What you see is what you get…


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And here (above) is the complete portable station (not counting antennas)  FT817 with the LDG QRP Auto Tuner.  Battery Pack with the NUE Modem resting on it to get a bit of angle on the screen and the old AT Keyboard that is one of the few that works with out issues on the NUE Modem.


I will be using the callsign VA3QV/vy2.  It is my hope that early mornings I will be able to make both DX Contacts (20m) from the Picnic table at the campsite and also contacts back home to the guys in the Ottawa area on 40m.  In the past I have had no trouble making contacts to the east coast of Canada from Ottawa on those bands at those times… Really hoping that the reverse will prove true with me contacting Ontario and DX Stations from the east coast..  No guarantees with the band conditons being what they are but….  I’m going to try…

The afternoons should be spent playing tourist but after supper I will be out there again trying for VE3 and who ever else can hear me…  I plan to be active on 2m, 6m to 160m although my W3EDP is far from the best on the 160m band  so 2 to 80m would be more realistic.  For 2m and 6m I have a dipole cut for 6m and it really works well on 2m as well.  The thing to remember there is that….  I’ve only have 5w to work with so….  you have to be aimed at me to even have a chance of getting in the log.


 

If we are luck enough to make a contact I will be uploading the logs (after we get back) to LoTW, EQSL and QRZ.com.  Please be patient as I have to figure out how to add the portable designations to my accounts so you get credit for contacting where I was operating from rather than where I live.


Aim your beams towards FN86dn for the best results.  If we are lucky enough to make a contact then also remind me that my grid square at the campground is FN86dn…

Between family commitments…campfires… and band conditions it will be hard to commit to skeds but…. Mornings and evenings would be 20m if band is open along with the Canadian Voice Portions of 40 and 80m.  If the bands are opening up then the Digital Portions of any band open for PSK31.  If you hear me please spot me on the cluster…

Amateur_radio_prefixes_in_Canada

CanadaFlagSunset1During RAC Canada Contest I will be giving out the “PE “multiplier as VA3QV/vy2.  I will be operating QRP SSB on any allowable band for the contest.  

Sorry no CW for this one but my poor CW Skills have deteriorated since I quit operating with the Flex about 6 months ago.

There is also a good chance that towards the end of July we will be moving over to VE1 Land as well as VE9 Land before we head towards VE2 and then home.  If time permits Liz has given me permission to aim the camper North into VE2 and operate for a day in Zone 2 but thats only if everything comes together within our timetable.

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But then again after spending a month with each other in a camper we might just want to get home and find our own space…

Final (before we leave) test for the new setup will be on Field Day Weekend… Hope to hear you then as well.

73bob

 

 

 

 

 

Cut cord and replaced modem… and trip update

Mostly a non RV or Ham Radio post but you can learn from parts of this….

Well the cord was cut on June 1st…  The world has not come to an end and we are getting used to watching 12 HDTV (Over the air) channels (for free) instead of the previous 1,000,000 we had with our old television signal provider….

Our OTA antenna has not been upgraded yet and still is a 4 bay antenna up just over roof height ( 25 feet approx)  being fed by 100 feet of RG 6 feedline.  At this time we are not using any preamps.  More on this in a minute…  With this setup we can get 12 of the 14 available channels to our area.  The funny thing is that the missing 2 channels are on the same tower as the others and they are just lower on the tower or running less power…

Thats where the Preamp would be nice…  However it seems here in Ottawa we have not jumped fully into the OTA Market yet.  Although many stores seem to sell antennas and some of those come with built in preamps there is only a couple of stores here in Ottawa selling preamps and they seem to be a bit pricey… And thats being polite.  The same amp being sold in Toronto or from Amazon sells here in Ottawa for 200% more than on line or out of town.

One store wanted to sell me a new antenna with a built in preamp for less than he was selling the stand alone preamp for….

The OTA setup in the camper would also benefit from a stand alone preamp as I have no plans to change the existing antenna on the trailer.  Everything else is working as expected and the reception we get while camping is dependent on where we are camping at the times and our proximity to the television transmitters…

Now about the modem…..

We were noticing that our Android box was locking up a bit while watching programs.  I thought this was being caused by the server hosting the event we wished to watch being overloaded….  Well I was almost right…  The problem was diagnosed as being at our end with our Cable Modem dropping our connect with the host…  After being told it was our fault… (operator error before the diagnosis) (Which reminded me why I got rid of them years ago) we find out it was their equipment and so…  Out they went again….  You think they would of learned the first time but thats another story…

Our new DSL Modem (same 3rd party provider but no longer coming in via the cable lines) is giving us the same fast speeds but not dropping us from the network…  We are back to streaming the shows and specialty events we can’t find on OTA TV…

Having to buy a DSL Modem raised our startup costs slightly but still coming in at a lower price than 2 months of our old service…

Disclaimer the cable modem we had to replace was also purchased and we are negotiating a credit for the purchase and our down time while we were not able to use the services we were being billed for.  If we are successful it will bring our startup costs down below the price of 1 month of our old service.

Remember your android box will only be as good as the speed of the internet you have access to.  

If you are thinking of cutting the cord I recommend that if you are starting from scratch get an amplified antenna…  Its going to be cheaper in the long run.  Also don’t scrimp on the feed line… NO RG59….. RG6 or better….  and remember with antennas (in most cases) height is might…. Its easier to drop your antenna a few feet than it is to raise it a few feet…. and remember to watch for overhead wires when putting up any antennas… Not to could be a shocking experience.

This weekend we are staying at home but next week I will be camping out just west of Ottawa and then on the weekend Liz and I will be camping just south/east of Kemptville Ontario as the final testing of the rig will be done.

After that its a couple days to fix things then we head out on what will be the first (of many) excellent adventures when we visit the Maritime Provinces of Canada with stops in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia with lenghty stop in Prince Edward Island thrown in for good Measure.

Listen for VA3QV from VE2, VE9, VE1 and VY2 on HF or on 146.520 over the month of July.  

More on this before we leave…

bob

14 Days and counting

We decided to add to our plans…. The real purpose of this is to ensure that everything will be “shipshape” for our trip down east…

The plans are now that Liz and I will be leaving on the afternoon on Friday June 23rd and then spend the weekend boondocking at an Amateur Radio Field Day Site outside of Kemptville  with the 3.730/VE3ORF group.  


For those of you reading who are not hams…. Field Day is a  24 hour emergency communications test that starts at 1400 eastern daylight savings time.  The purpose of this is to prove that if in the case of an emergency we could take our equipment out of our home stations ….  set up our radios and antennas and operate from the field in emergency like conditions with Amateur stations across Noth America

Fore more info on Field Day…. please visit :  www.arrl.org


We will be returning on the Sunday night and then I have two days to fix/change anything I don’t like in time for our departure for the east coast…

It also lets us catch up with some old friends that I don’t see as often as I would like to… and camping and Amateur Radio works for me

More on this later….

Bob

The “Cord” has been cut

Although this is really not a “camping” or a “radio” topic as posted…. Let me run with it and let’s see where it takes us…

Today… June 1st 2017 my family has officially ” Cut the cord ”  and no longer using a cable style provider for our television viewing…

We are receiving our local programming using an OTA (over the air) antenna and for the rest we are using an android box.

The local stations comprise of a CBC feed, Two CTV feeds, a Global feed,  TV Ontario feed and a couple of indie feeds.  In addition we also receive 4 local French programming stations.  Although my French is poor if you are catching sports it’s easy to figure out what’s happening.

Using the Android box we get ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC feeds along with the specialty Sports channels as TSN, ESPN and Sportsnet.

We also get much more but the above is what I am interested in…

Although it’s not as user friendly as we had it with our old traditional TV provider we can find everything we used to watch.  In addition at the end of the day our combined bill (television and internet) has dropped by approximately $120.00 per month.

Between the OTA antenna and the Android box We receive everything that we used to…

Now here is the tie in… As a ham operator it’s easy to hang an OTA antenna off your existing antenna support… And as an RV’er your rig already has the basics for the OTA antenna and with a decent mobile data plan you can find most if the rest.

Why spend big bucks on Cable style providers at home or Satellite service on the road when the basics are available for free and the extras are available depending only on what you want to spend for your data bandwidth.

Something to think about…

Disclaimer:  This is not as user friendly as your existing Cable style provider and your local OTA reception will depend on what you are using for an antenna and where you can erect that antenna.

Like I said something to think about…

Bob

Repairing and upgrading

As you know last week Liz, Trisha, Shadow the cat and myself spent some time down at Riverside Cedars Park on the St. Lawrence River  (just east of Morrisburg) testing out our new (to us) travel trailer.    


Now a week later I have started the chore of doing all the “small things” that we thought would make our life on the road more pleasant.  

I already have replaced a few blown fuses and have purchased the replacement light bulbs that will be shortly making things a bit brighter…. A new 300 w inverter is now wired into the fuse panel (storage battery ) which will give us enough AC power to run the television and an oscillating fan for those few times that we are without shore power and unable to run the generator.

                                            
Still on the electrical side of things…. I will be wiring my 12volt Koolatron into the fuse panel as well which will give us a extra bit of refrigeration.  Another electrical addition will be hard wiring my solar panel to the storage battery.  This solar panel should be large enough to extend the use of the storage battery by a couple of days or so before I have to worry about things.  

Just to remind you.  The storage battery is being charged whenever we are connected to shore power or whenever the truck is connected to the trailer via the lights/brake cable.  So every time we stop for the day the storage battery should be fully charged.

If things do not go as planned…. I will have to upgrade the solar system as there is no real space left to expand on the storage battery.  

The plumbing side of things is much simpler… Nothing seems to leak and the toilet works.  The previous owner of the unit removed the shower from the bathroom.  Not sure why … but I am not in a hurry to open up a wall to find out … so I have come with a McGiver solution for the shower.  The prototype was built using $50.00 worth of parts from my local Home Depot store and was neat enough that it was ” Liz approved ”  and will be installed before our July trip.  A description of my plumbing fix will be shared after the installation.


Mechanical wise…  The pickup is getting an oil change/greasing/filters done before we leave and I have purchased 2 tires on rims which will give me a couple of spare tires for the trip.  The trailers wheel bearings were already packed so unless some running or brake lights go out all is good there


Radio wise… The “maiden voyage” proved that my balun was not waterproofed.  This will be corrected in time for the trip.  At this time I am still planning to be operating casually while on holidays but a bit more seriously for the RAC Canada Day Contest.  I will be QRP using my FT 817.  Listen for VA3QV/VY2 (mostly SSB and PSK 31) on the bands for most of July…

All in all….. things are going as planned and (so far) we are looking forward to our holidays…

My next visit to the storage facility is scheduled for Monday and the repairs/upgrades will be ongoing… I promised Liz that she will be comfortable when we head down east…. Now I gotta make it happen…

Liz should be talking to you about her thoughts about things soon…

Bob

Back home

The “Maiden Voyage ” is now completed and our trailer is safely back at the storage yard…

We left Ottawa on Wednesday mid morning and drove to the Riverside-Cedars Campground located just east of Morrisburg Ontario on Hwy 2.  Our site was a 15 amp semi serviced site ( Electric only with no water or sewer ) that we had stayed at in the past with old Class C motorhome 


Above pic is the old camper and the pic below is our new to us camper.


The new (to us )camper was fairly easy to set up with two people and everything was done within 30 minutes.  Levelled, opened up and hooked up to shore power all in good time…

First lesson learned:

Fill your fresh water tank before you set up…   Our site was electric only… It took a few trips from the closest water supply with the 10 litre water jug before I had enough in the tank to test out the plumbing.  

Second lesson learned:

Not all cats like camping… Even though Shadow ( our cat ) loves being in our backyard while at home he seemed overwhelmed by the great outdoors… He was comfortable in the inside…. hated the outside however…  A happy pet is a happy camper whereas an unhappy pet causes stress in the family…

On the positive…. The propane system all seemed to work.  The hot water tank was not tested but all the rest of the plumbing properly functioned…  Outside of a few lightbulbs needing replacing and a fuse needing replacing the 12 v systems worked great.

Third lesson learned:

Carry the basic spare parts… Fuses and spare bulbs make life much more bearable….  Tape is also a good idea…. Electrical, Duct and don’t forget Gorilla Tape.  All three types were needed on our first trip.

Back to the trip….  After setting up we had a great rest of the day.  The weather was great, the BBQ was hot and the drinks were cold…  Wednesday was a fantastic day… We all slept well and Thursday morning having my morning coffee while watching the locals was a great start to the day.


After coffee I made breakfast for the family ( In my opinion food tastes better cooked on a Coleman stove ) did a bit of cleanup then hooked up my FT 817 along with an antenna and tried to make a few ham radio contacts.  Contacts were made In Hamilton Ontario and North Western Quebec.  Noticing that the skies were starting to darken I brought the Radio gear inside but left the antenna outside…

Then the rain started…

48 hours spent watching it rain… lots of time enjoying the peace and quiet, watching local TV stations (the campers antenna worked and I brought our old 32 inch TV along so I could watch the Sens-Pens Game 7 hockey game.  At our campsite we could receive 4 American PBS stations but no Canadian stations….  However I was able to stream the game on my IPad using the CBC Sports app.  ( Good thing I have a good mobile data plan

Fourth lesson learned:

Plan for bad weather activities.  We had a deck of cards…. A TV with limited reception and three tablets.. Next time I come across a garage sale I will be looking for board games.  Unless you are camping really close to home you gotta figure out what to do in the rain.  Also keep your menu in mind as BBQ’ing outside in the rain starts to lose its appeal after a few meals..

On Saturday the rains let up…

Here’s what the ground around our site looked like…


And these pics were taken on Saturday afternoon.  The ground was saturated to the point that I was having some concerns about being able to hook up and get the rig off our site when it was time to go.

Fifth lesson learned:

Plan where you set up.  The weather forecast was calling for two days of showers… What we got was much more than showers…  The site I chose was in the open and also close to the washrooms but was not really high ground which meant we got swamped and we came very close to having to get winched out after hooking on to the trailer when it was time to leave on the Sunday afternoon.  

On Sunday morning I hooked up the radio again but found out that my balun (transformer) for the antenna was not as waterproof as I thought and that ended any thoughts I had of playing hamradio on this trip…

We decided to pack up late morning and head it home…  

By my calculations we travelled 475 KMs in total and burned off 1 tank of fuel.  We were sitting about at the 1/8 tank level when I filled up on Tuesday evening and our fuel light came on just as we pulled away from the storage yard.  My rough guess is that it took approximately 100 litres in fuel for the trip.

We spent 5 days camping and had a great time ( Shadow not so much of a great time ) and learned lots about our new to us camping rig.  


We are feeling much more confident about our upcoming trip next month…

Thanks for reading…

Bob