Summer Travel Plans 2019

This post is geared more to the RV’ers than the Amateurs Radio ops

With the current price of fuel (was $1.23 a Litre when I was driving home last night) we have decided to hold off our purchase of a new (to us) rig.  There is no point making payments on a rig we can’t afford to move….

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This summer is still going to be a camping year with lots of time spent in our existing trailer but less time (and miles) in the truck getting there. 

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Living in Kingston (on the St. Lawrence River at the end of Lake Ontario) gives us many wonderful areas to camp in.  Between the St. Lawrence Parks Commission and the Ontario Parks we have many public parks within a 2 hour drive of home.

We also plan (after checking the Crown Land Map) want to try some boondocking later in the season. For more basic info on the topic try a Google search of Crown Land in <Province>

For my non camping followers “Boondocking” is a term that we use when we are camping out in the boonies on public land that is free to use.  There are no services but also no (or next to no) costs for the stay.  This is sometime refered to as dry camping

For my non-Canadian followers Crown Land is roughly the same as BLM Land in the States.  Depending on the designation of the land we have the option of staying for free on certain plots of land.  This is on a first come first served with no reservations (space and access could be limited)  and I believe (memory fail) that its either a 2 week or 4 week maximum stay. 

Not an issue as with our trailer we would have to move to a location where we could  dump our grey and black tanks and refill the fresh tank about every 7 days so…  It is something in the back of our minds for now.

Now back to the present.  At the end of April Erika (daughter) and myself will be taking the trailer out of storage and towing to a location where we will be giving it the once over, correcting anything that is not in order after the winter and giving it a good cleaning.  This will be done in anticipation of the shake down cruse for the new season planned for the end of May and the first couple weeks of June.

After that who knows???  At this time we have plans for most of September between the Amateur Radio camping trip for Chillycon in mid September followed by a potential season ending trip at the end of September … but depending on the weather we might try to make it to Riverside Cedars campground just east of Morrisburg Ontario  for the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend in mid October.  Liz and I  did that two years ago and really enjoyed it but we were glad our site had electricity as we did need the electric heater overnight.

Right now most of this is thinking out loud but the new (to us) rig will not be happening till we can figure out what the “static costs” will be along with the “camping costs”  At this time our “Static costs” are storage 75.00 and insurance 25.00 so in reality the trailer costs me a minimum of  $100.00 per month if it turns a wheel or not.

Now with a new rig (especially if its financed) you have the monthly payment, your insurance costs will be higher and you will still need to store it when not is use.  These factors could easily raise the static costs to over $500.00 per month without even turning a wheel.  I don’t want to own a camper that I can’t afford to travel in so…  Lets see what the price of fuel will be doing (my guess is rising) before we tie up major funds in a new rig.

Much more on this topic later but till then…

Safe Travels

Bob

Something new to talk about in #Hamradio

Since our move here to Kingston Ontario early in June 2018 it seems that Amateur Radio has taken a back seat to many things including life.

I’ve got the gear….  got it running at home operating mostly on HF FT8 using my FT 450 but that lost interest after a bit.  I then tried hooking up my Winkeyer and tried some HF CW with the 450 and that again lost my attention.  Between poor band conditions and my stealth HF antenna being rather poor well…. 

I did think about taking my FT 817 (pic below) out to a local park to play some radio but it seems any time I had had some free time do do this…. It was either wet, cold or the bands were un cooperative.

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Suddenly the bulk of my Amateur Radio life was the occasional chat on one of the 2 local 2m repeaters from the truck when I was driving to work.  Again not exactly exciting.  So fare (until recently) was the best I could come up with.

Enter the next exciting (this hobby is fantastic…. when one things loses my interest there is so much more to re kindle the spirit) phase for me….  Digital voice radio. 

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Right now I am experimenting with a Yaesu Fusion Radio the model FTM7250D (pic above) and its a great little dual band (2m/70cm) dual mode (FM/C4FM) mobile radio I use at home with an 15amp Astron power supply.  My antenna for this rig is an Arrow dual band 1/4 wave ground plane that I managed to hide in the large pine tree beside my fence at about 20 feet above ground.

Currently there are no Yaesu Fusion Repeaters in K-Town (yet) but there is one scheduled to come on line here in the near future and a few of the local hams (myself included) have already gotten our radios and are having simplex QSO’s on 2m C4FM.  I was so impressed with the quality of the audio that I ordered a dual band/dual mode Yaesu handheld the FT70DR (pic below) and that should be arriving any day now.

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 Hopefully by the time the new repeater get up and running I’ll have a bit more of this digital stuff figured out.

73bob

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

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