Its over…. (RAC Canada Winter Contest)

Thats it …..  done till the RAC Canada Day Contest in the summer….

After looking at my logs it seems that its the best results I have seen in the 18 months that I have been living in Kingston….  I operated for about 14 hours of the 24 hours the contest operated for and in this “Solar Minimum” I managed to make a whopping 75 contacts.


Heres the “Coles Notes” version:

75 contacts/ 10 provinces/NO NORTHERN TERRITORIES HEARD/ 15 RAC Stations worked/ 51 Canadian Stations worked/ 9 non Canadian Stations worked/ Estimaed score of just over 18,800 points.


Contacts were made on all the contest bands with  2m, 6m, !0m and 15m were all groundwave contacts 

21- 20m contacts were made

17 -40m contacts were made

28- 80m contacts were made

4- 160m contacts were made

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Now considering that my station consisted of my Yaesu FT 450 feeding my SGC 237 auto tuner and the tuner was connected to 45 feet of wire wound around a tree in my back yard with a couple of radials around the perimeter of my back yard fence ….  I think the score is respectable for what I had to work with.

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Some highlights were:

Making a 40m contact with VA3RAC (Ottawa Amateur Radio Club operating) and after giving my call getting the reply “Hi Bob … how are things in Kingston??? ur 5/9 ON.    To which I replied …  “Hi Dave …. things are good… ur 5/9 in Kingston ON…. .   Later in the contest I made a 2nd contact with VA3RAC…  This on on 80m and got almost the same QSO but this time with Glenn VE3XRA at the mic….

Its really nice to make a QSO with a station that is manned by a group you have worked with many time in the past

Another high point was getting a couple of VY2 stations in the log.  Normally I have to hunt to find them as there is a small but active ham population on the Island.  This time I found my first one early and then next one was later but I got them in the log…. 

I can remember back in 2017 when I operated the RAC Canada Day contest as VA3QC/VY2 when we spent the month of July on the Island and am still amazed by the pile ups my QRP signal created back then.  Not to mention the best location I ever operated from.

The down side for me was that as I run a very poor antenna and the conditons were not the best I was unable to work coast to coast to coast.  I was unable to even hear any of the VE8/VY1/VY0 crew.  I worked from Atlantic to Pacific but was unable to work the Arctic.

Over the years I have come up with some defining points to decide if it was a good contest or not.

1- Have fun

2- Work all of Canada or at least the lower 10 provinces

3- When the results are posted find my score easier from the top down rather than from the bottom up.

So it was fun…. I did work the lower 10…. and when the results are published later….  I think my results should be around the middle of the list.

All in all I had a great time and am pleased with my time spent.  Hope to see you on the air for the RAC Canada Day Contest in 2020 and get you in my log

73bob

 

 

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Node back on the air

You might remember about three weeks ago when I posted the following:

First of all my Yaesu Fusion Node is off the air….  Windows did an automatic update and now the Node software is not functioning.  I’m guessing that a re install is needed but at this time I just don’t feel like jumping through the hoops a 2nd time.  I’m hoping that re installing the drivers will make it all work again…  It does however make me wonder IF there might be a more stable operating system to do this on….  I am the first to admit I use computers in my hobby but they are far from being my hobby.  ….  It will be back sometime (and I hope soon) but there is lots going on in my life at this time (all good) but time management is starting to be an issue…..

Well its back and seems to be mostly stable…. it only crashes now when my internet is flakey but the driver issue has been fixed.  I found a small usb powered fan and now whenever the laptop is on my node radio and the power supply for the node radio is being cooled.  Its working so well that I have returned the power to the 25w level that I started at.  The overheating problem has been cured by the usb fan so as long as the intenet is behaving the VE3ORF system has its Kingston node running again.

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The node is running on UHF (frequency on the pic above) and it is normally connected to the VE3ORF system

Hope to hear you sometime…

73bob

A new arrival for the mobile

Even though the HF bands would have to improve about 99% to be considered bad…  I had a chance to pick up (locally) some gear that I had been looking at on line and at a cheaper price (as it was used) so for me it was a win-win situation.

Here is the most important part of my new mobile antenna:

Its a Wolf River Silver Bullet Mini.  Its a 10-40m coil that works quite nicely with a standard 102 inch stainless steel whip.  For way more info please visit the Wolf River Website and check out all their info.

Basically you slide the collar up and down the coil for maximum noise for the frequency you wish to operate on and (in my case) hit the auto tune button on the FT 450 and we will be good to go.  If you are a purist then slightly adjust the collar after that for the lowest SWR.  I have heard lots of good things from people who have used this line of equipment and if I get 1/2 the results of what I have heard then I will be a very happy person.  The timeline is to get the 10-40m version mounted on my pickup along with the FT450 installed and then try things out.  If it performs as I have heard it should I will buy the Silver Bullet 1000 (10-80) and keep the mini as a backup.

I really just want multi band coverage (and really don’t want to be swapping out hamsticks)  when travelling around the Country when Liz tells me its time to replace the trailer we recently sold.  I figure on 40m and 80m will be the two money bands but if we make the anticipated trip out to VE7Land then suddenly 15 and 20 become a lot more important.

I got all the pieces (mount, coil, whip and coax) now all I got to do is put them all together on the truck and then install the radio.

I’m looking foreward to the challenge.

73bob

 

 

Operating with a “Stealthy” #HF #hamradio Antenna

Antenna Restrictions-  The ability of a Condo Board, HOA agreement, Landlord or Property Owner to limit the ways we can enjoy our hobby.  Sometimes even local goverments will try and interfere as well…. Normally these restrictions tell us as the resident what we can do with the outside of our living space.  However normally there are ways to circumvent the restriction although we might have to think outside of the box.  In most cases these are just rules that you can’t attach anything to the outside of the residence or to any of the “common ground” areas of the property

Stealth Antenna– My defination of a Stealth Antenna is an antenna that is up 24/7 and is very disguised (hidden) in such a way that you can operate when you want to.  I will give you some examples later.

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Portable Antennas- Antennas that can be used as they are not attached to the property.  Buddipoles or any other antenna which could be tripod mounted are the best and easiest examples although they may not be the best they do get you on the air…  Put the tripod on your deck or in the back yard….  Erect the antenna….  Play radio…. then take down and put away till the next time you want to play radio…

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The examples are various but…. the intent is the same..

Some basic suggestions for Stealth Antennas – Hiding it in plain sight is usually the best.  If you are living in an older neighborhood you might get away with using RG59 which we know as cheap 75 ohm coax as a long wire.  Where I used to live the cablevision companys solution for fixing problems was to re run a new feed line to the house.  They would just string the line from the pole to the house whatever way they could so….  We got used to seeing lots of people in Orange vests and a white hardhat tossing wire into trees and along fence lines.  Get one of your ham friends to wear a vest and run wire from you home into a tree and see what happens.  Just short the ends of the coax and treat it as a long wire….  This will be non resonant longwire so a good tuner will be needed along with a few radials on the ground where they will not be seen.

If that will not work for you try loading up the rain gutters.  It does work…. yes you do need metal gutters or perhaps a wire running down the plastic eves and gutters but use your imagination and see what you can use.

remember that you don’t listen to any ham who says it won’t work.  You try it and show him it works…

Over the years I have had the best luck using a tree that was in my back yard….  Tossed a thin insulated wire over the higher branch I could and used a 4:1 balun along with radials inside my fence and I stayed on the air in Ottawa for 20 years with acceptable results (DXCC, WAS, Triple Play)  When doing this I suggest you use insulated wire the same colour as your surroundings…  Using a Fir tree use green wire…. Regular tree try a brown wire….   Non Insulated copper wire tends to stand out for a while till the shine comes off….

None of these suggestions are guaranteed winners….  Your results will vary depending on many factors….  Think outside the box and see what you can do to stay on the air….

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Game on….

73bob

Some things work first time then others….

…..Don’t

Right on the heels of my Sunday Portable HF operations I decided to try something I had read about years ago ….  It was a 40/80m NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) antenna that used the body of my truck as the ground….

The basic idea that if you attach a 66 foot long wire to the stud mount that holds your mobile vertical HF antenna (just above roof height of the vehicle) you in effect would have an 80m NVIS antenna.  By folding it back on itself and shorting the ends of the wire together you would now have a 33 foot long antenna giving you the 40m NVIS effect as well.

For a good description of NVIS go to: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_vertical_incidence_skywave

or click on this link: NVIS

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I had all the pieces necessary in my junk box and headed back to Lake Ontario Park to build and do the basic testing.  For me the basic testing meant stringing it out and then testing using my MFJ Antenna Analyzer and it it worked return later with the FT 450 and see if it likes RF.

As I do not have a 3/8 stud mount on the new pickup (yet) I improvised with a single magnetic mag mount that had a stud mount attached.

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I set up at the park and proceeded to check things out and to my shock it worked on the first try.  SWR was excellent and all appeared well.  I then packed everything up and headed to meet a couple of local hams for a coffee then head back to the park with the FT 450.

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On my return to the park I re strung the antenna up and hooked up the FT 450 and found that the antenna would not load up…  On 80 or on 40….  I seem to remember from many years ago when I mounted a Hustler 80m mobile antenna on the luggage rack of a mini van the same thing happening.  That problem was cured by running a ground strap from the frame of the vehicle to the mount on the luggage rack but today I did not have any way to ground a magnetic mount so…..

Looks like I will have to wait till I install the mobile 3/8 mount on the truck.

Now on to “Other Stuff”….

I re installed the HF gear back in the shack as I realized that it is much better to be on the air with a poor antenna than not be on the air.  Its also better to be listening to anything on HF while waiting for some one to to call on a Local Repeater or one of the Wires X or for that matter than just to sit waiting.

The VA3QV  Wires X Node is working fine.  Along with East-West coverage I have also found that I go as far south as Lake Ontario (about 4km from my site) and still hear and use the node and that takes me to the end of the boat ramp and I can’t go any further south without getting wet.

Due to the ongoing overheating issues I now keep the node at its 5w setting  when its operating.  I have a cooling fan I have to install and then the power level issue will be looked at again after the install.

Tuesday night (last night) I listened to the VE3ORF/3730 Digital Net which was held on Yaesu Wires X Room 40505.  It operated for just under 1 hour and had 21 check ins from VE1, VE2, VE3, VE6 and the States of Mass, Virginia, Rhode Island along with a VK station.

The Net runs every Tuesday night at 8pm Eastern and is found on most of the digital platforms (C4FM, DMR) and for more information go to the VE3ORF Website.

The trailer still has to be winterized although the final camping trip of the year might be cancelled as there was a frost alert for the area we were planning to go to and also a family member (was not Liz) had to spend the night in the hospital (she was released the next day) so all is well but….

Liz and I are thinking if we tried to get away Murphy’s Law might  see us having to break camp and rush back,  so why not stay close to home as its better to be safe than sorry….?

So as usual its much more RF than RV in the blog post.  I think that Erika has spent more time in the trailer than Liz and I have this year….  Don’t see that changing till next spring…

For now Safe Travels and…

73bob

 

 

 

Putting the pieces together for a HF Morning

With all the C4FM (Wires X, VHF and UHF) stuff I have been doing recently I realized that I needed head out to a park and stretch out some wire and play radio.  I had taken my HF gear down at home as I was getting tired of everyone telling me I should put up a better antenna and me telling them that the only way my antenna could improve was if the tree the wire was hiding in would grow.

Although I have been saying for years I would rather be on the air with a bad antenna than not being on the air…..

I just got tired of telling everyone (not to get stuffed) and decided the tree might grow faster if the weight of the wire was not holding it down….

So this morning I took my FT 450…..

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and my SGC 237 auto tuner….

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along with 2 100 foot rolls of the finest (cheapest) Princess Auto wire….

and my Trailer Hitch Mast mount and 3 of my fiberglass military surplus 4 foot long sections of mast….

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I headed over to Lake Ontario Park to see what a 100w radio with one of the best tuners in the world and surplus masting and lots of wire would accomplish…

For the purpose of this test…..  I used 3 of my masting sections… 1 on the hitch, 1 to hold the SGC and 1 in the middle… So the center of my antenna was approx 14 feet above ground taking the height of the hitch into consideration

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You can see the white breadboard holding the SGC and the breadboard is clamped onto  the top of the surplus masting…

I used the SGC as the center point in my (sort of) dipole antenna with 100 feet of wire running North West and the other 100 feet of wire running South East and the ends were suspended at approx 10 feet above the ground using the existing trees in the park.

I WAS powering my radio gear using a 450 watt inverter in my truck which was powering my 25 amp power supply to breathe life into the FT450 and Tuner.

“WAS” being the best description as shortly after tuning up the radio and making a checkin with Paul VA3PC in North Bay (on the North Bay Net 3.768) my noise level suddenly jumped and then the inverter stopped working.  It did not let any magic smoke out but after I reset it and tried again I could not get rid of the new high noise level…

I then quickly found the spare parts to by pass the inverter and power supply and connect everything directly to the battery in my truck.  Problem solved and the noise dropped down to a very pleasing low of S1 to S3.   Now to some of you out in the country that might seem loud but to a city boy who thinks that anything below a S7 is low….  Today was just fantastic….

At 10am I switched over to the Ottawa Valley Mobile Radio Clubs weekly 80m Net on 3.760 and suprised most of the participants by having a signal that everyone could hear.  Equally I was extremely pleased with being able to hear everyone out there.  Its amazing what one can do when the noise floor is low…

At the end of the net I spun the dial a bit and although I did not try and make any contacts the antenna system (wire and the SGC 237) was easily able to load up on 10m to 160m with a 2:1 swr on 160 which was brought down to 1:1 using the internal tuner on the 450.  That was the only band that the tuner has a slight problem with and compared to other instllations a 2:1 match is not that bad when operating portable…

In additon to HF operation I could also easily change over to VHF/UHF operations by putting my Discone antenna at the top of the mast if I was in need of reaching a repeater not easily accessable while camping or on a Public Service event

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And I could go up much higher as I do have a total of 11 sections of masting for a total height of 44 feet…

However the HF side of things is what is really interesting me right now so I do have enough wire to try several other setups.  A delta loop comes to mind along with an inverted L antenna.  Although I’m not sure how long the weather will allow me access to the best portable operating areas close to Kingston but what ever I can learn this fall will really improve my enjoyment of the hobby in the spring….

A bit of an update with the VA3QV Node here in Kingston.  I still have some issues with the internet.  If (when) my home internet hiccups while the node software is trying to access the server it just causes a crash and nothing happens till I do a reset.  However when the internet is stable the node is working fine all is good.

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Liz and I are still planning the season ending trip with the camper and it will (has to) happen as at the end of the trip we have to drain the tanks and winterize before the camper goes into storage for the winter.

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Thats all for now…  Thanks for visiting

73bob

Updated Node coverage area

Thanks to Allan VE3AJB from Manitoulin Island who talked to me from Kingston to almost to Joyceville and also to Steve VE3AVP in Ottawa who talked to me from Kingston almost to Odessa I can now say that the nodes coverage is :

But to be honest it was a bit rough in the valleys but on the high ground it was fantastic…  The coverage between the HWY 15 exit and the Gardiners Road exit was excellent (armchair copy)

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Just to remind you that the VA3QV Node is running 70cm C4FM (Yaesu Wires X ) on 443.1625 and is located in Kingston Ontario at the Corner of John A MacDonald and John Counter.  Its output is 25w going into a 1/4w dual band Arrow Groundplane at approx 20 feet above local ground.  The node is connected to the VE3ORF Network of linked digital repeaters ( 40505 in Wires X).

This node proves proof of concept but it is not in its final configuration.  I would hope to move it to a location with more dependable internet connections  that allows a higher antenna and that should come when we move to our new QTH .  When that happens is up to Liz with an extimated move date of the summer of 2020.

More to follow

73bob