Its bigger than I thought…

… and it works great

Back on May 8th I posted that I had finally ordered the Wolf River 10-80m mobile coil for VA3QV/m.

Well today it showed up and I am pleased…. very pleased…

Its a little bigger than the 10-40 Wolf River coil that I already was using:

10-40 on the left and 10-80 on the right

With the coil mounted on the rear of the truck, add in the length of the coil and then the 102 inch stainless steel whip we come out to 14 feet 3 inches which is a bit over the Provincial limit of 13 feet 6 inches.

This was expected but I wanted to play with the new toy ASAP so I headed out to Lake Ontario Park in Kingston with everything laying in the box of the truck…  I found a shady place to park and then set up the coil for 80m using my MFJ antenna analyzer.

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I was able to determine that my SWR was acceptable on 80m between 3.720 and 3.775.   Anything over/under that would be easily corrected by the built in auto tuner on the Yaesu FT 450

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But the proof is not in what the computer says but more in what the station says when I contact them….

As the sweet spot on 80m was already set I aimed for 3.755 and heard the NCS for the ONTARS Net (Rob VA3WDK  south of North Bay Ontario) who heard me and gave me a 5/7 to 5/9 report during our 3-5 minute conversation. That was a distance of approx 180 miles north west of Kingston with daytime conditions on 80m

I am more than pleased with the results so far and over the next few days I will be removing the top 12 inches of the whip which should bring it down to a legal 13 feet 3 inches (total height) and then I will set the sweet spots on the coil for 15m, 20m, 40m, 60m and 80m which are the primary bands I would be using when Liz and I are out (eventually) pulling our new trailer.  Not sure when that will happen but when it does….  The truck will be radio active to say the least….

The blog will be updated in the near future once I get the whip trimmed with my final comments on what I consider (at this time) to be a superior product at a great price….

More to follow

73bob

 

Has it been 2 months already?

Well look back….  On March 14th 2020 Liz and myself drove to Oshawa, bought my 2nd Yaesu FT 450 from VE3FJC….  Looked at a new trailer , but did not sign on the line and had supper at the Belleville Casino….

A day later it all hit the fan….  Pandemic City and the worst two months in our lives…. Fortunately we kept our health and financial security (many lost both) but its changed life as we know it…. and two months later its not getting much better….

As things pertain to Ontario (VE3) the public parks are just starting to open up but right now  its only for day use…..  Don’t make any plans for Field Day yet…..

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I am still planning to operate Field Day but most likely as a 1A station.

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Yaseu FT 450, 43 foot vertical, 25 amp power supply and my Champion 1.5k Gas Generator.

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Overnight won’t happen but will (should)operate for both days but will be operating under Day Use restrictions.

Now as plans were made to be broken… I will be fairly flexible if the parks suddenly open for general use

However as of today’s date the private campgrounds that cater to the permanent campers will be allowed to start their season…  In addition many more businesses are going to able to open up but with some restrictions….

A biggie for me is that the Provincal Parks remaining day use only….  We were still strongly debating the new trailer but we also want to travel with it so……  Hard to travel if there are no Provincal Parks to travel to….  Not really wanting to make the payments with no where to go with it….

Radio wise it might be the year of the Contests or QSO Parties….  DXPeditions for the most part are not going to happen….  Just can’t see some remote area  inviting a bunch of old people from a country or countries that have had serious issues with COVID19 to welcome us with open arms…..  However I will be the first to admit that sitting in the shack in the evenings and having some chats have taken most (if not all) of the stress from my daily life  till the next day when it builds up again…

Hoping you are staying safe and sane through our search for the “new normal”

73bob

 

 

Over the Air #OTA TV antenna

So seeing that I had some time on my hands today…. well not going camping…. I decided I needed a project to work on for a bit….  The antenna idea for Sunday worked like a charm and yesterdays antenna build was a bust so….

Today would be deciding project…  Would I be at 2-1 or 1-2 as far as successful projects went?  Read on and find out….

Recently we have been having some issues with our TV at home as our Android Box content providers (we subscribe to 3) have had issues due to that crackdown in Europe.  Two of the three content providers we use just vanished…. The last one is still active but we don’t get the same quality of programming we got with other two.

We “Cut the cord” about 2 years ago when we cancelled our Bell Fibe account and switched over to a combination of OTA TV and streaming services like Netflix and Crave with some YouTube thrown in for variety.

When we lived in Ottawa our OTA content consistted of CBC, CTV 1, CTV 2, City TV, Global, Omni 1, Omni 2 and TV Ontario along with about 5 French Language stations which as I found later was exceptional for Canadian Content.  As Ottawa was too far north of the Border I was unable to receive any of the American Networks….

Fast forward a year later and we had moved to Kingston.  Still streaming but now had the choices of the Android Box and all the stations one could imagine.  However with certain Condo Antenna restrictions (you have heard me mention them before) our OTA reception was limited to Global Kingston using an inside antenna…IMG_0438

Taking my camper to various locations including Lake Ontario Park ( 4 km south of here) on a day trip we managed 18 different OTA stations using the antenna on the trailers roof.  However 4 km north and on the wrong side of a hill all I could get was Global Kingston.

However on a later trip just west of Bath Ontario I managed to receive 9 different stations OTA

Fast forward to today and a bored Bob heads over to Princess Auto in Kingston to look for a project and finds…

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This little dream was $45.00 plus tax and came with a built in Rotor with wireless control, built in signal amplifier with power supply with all parts included….  I brought it home and had it built (assembled) in about an hour….

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And after some playing with it the following was noted and I share with you

The good points

1> It does work.  The instructions were fairly easy to follow.

2>The instructions also made sense to my knowledge of antennas.

3>In addition to Global Kingston (local station) I was able to watch quite clearly the CBS Station and the Fox Station both in Watertown New York.

The bad points

4> The rotor did not work

5> Although its design is excellent along with its performance, the antenna itself is very flimsy and I doubt it would stand up to a strong wind let along a Canadian Winter especially an ice storm.

6> No matter which way I swung the antenna (by hand) I could not receive the PBS Station or the ABC Station in the vicinity of Watertown

The set up

I attached a 4 foot length fibreglass mast to the stand for my patio umbrella.  I then attached a 5 foot length of small diameter aluminun tubing to the fibreglass mast which fit into the bottom of the rotor.  The beam was fed by some (supplied) lightweight coax (RG59???)to the amplifier and then to the TV set.  The amplifier was powered by a (supplied) 15v wall wart.

My opinion

If I was living in an apartment this would be my first choice for a balcony antenna.  A fairly small foot print and lightweight enough to be installed on a Camera Tripod.  The balcony would protect it from most of the elements and also provide the altitude needed to get the further out station especially if the built in rotor was working.  

I could also see it working great as an indoor antenna (aiming it out a window) and easily out performing a set of rabbit ears or other styles of indoor antennas in the $45.00 price range.

I also think this antenna would work great for RV Portable style uses especially if your expensive RV TV antenna got damaged when you forgot to lower it before you left the Campground.  (Been there…. done that)

Disclaimer

Receiving any signals over the airwaves is dependent in being in a good location (usually high ground) to receive them.  What let me watch 3 channels at a whopping 15 feet above ground might give me much better reception if the antenna was on top of our roof at 40 feet or so above ground.  The phrases “Height is might” and “Location, Location, Location” are both especially true when it comes to receiving antennas for any band.

What I thought worked well for me might not work at all for you…. 

Or it could work better than expected….

Your mileage may or will vary and if you choose to purchase one you do so at your own risk and expense.

However due to the non functioning Rotor and the flimsy materials used in the construction I will be returning the antenna tomorrow for a refund.  Don’t feel like running outside in the winter time to hand rotate the antenna or to pick up the pieces after freezing rain hits.  I have no issues with its cost or performance…. Just in its quality and quality control.

So at the end of the day I would call todays project a success.  I learned some stuff…. I got to watch some TV not normally accessable from home and I also proved a point (that it could be done) as well as realizing that even though it works today it might not survive the harsh elements.  Lets come back with a new plan for OTA

Safe Travels/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

Living on the “wrong side” of the hill

Both the RV community and the Amateur Radio community should like this one

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In yesterdays post I mentioned that we were parked for the day at Lake Ontario Park in Kingston.  I forgot to mention that I decided to play a bit with some HDTV reception to compare signals from my home 5km to the north to what I would receive at the park.

From my backyard (facing south) I get Global Kingston which is about 6 km to the south south east and thats it….

From Lake Ontario Park I got signal locks on 18 different stations  (Global Kingston was the only Canadian station)  and 17 other US stations between Watertown and Rochester NY.  Between those 17 stations I managed to get ABC, CBS,NBC and Fox along with several different shopping channels and a few special interest channels.  

Why the big difference?…..  at home I’m blocked to the south due to a hill between me and the lake….  I did not really think it would make that much of a difference but it did….

Proving that “Location, Location, Location” comes into play in more that real estate and thats its all about the antenna (and the antenna location)

Safe Travels & 73bob

Back to where it began….

(This is a camping post…. to my amateur radio followers…. you might enjoy it anyway)

…or it might be called returning to the scene of the crime…

It was the summer of 2001 and we were camperless.  Our last tent trailer had been damaged by a harder than expected winter and the roof had collasped.  We were looking for a way to get back into camping and I found a 1980 GMC 1500 van at a good price.

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With the help of a few friends, a couple of power tools, a first aid kit and some lumber we turned it into a home made van conversion that would sleep 4 and for the most part was comfortable….  I seem it to take about 3 weekends to get it all done.

We built a bed in the back with storage underneith.  The storage was accessable from the barn doors and there was also a small circuit breaker panel that allowed us to plug into a 15 amp service and provided power for the bar fridge along with an electric light and an electric fan.  In the storage area was the tiny propane BBQ and a Coleman stove.

Our first trip with it was to Lake Ontario Park in Kingston.  On the shores of Lake Ontario it was a friendly but mostly transient park but with your choice of 30 amp or 15 amp electrical service and clean washrooms along with a swimming area (by the boat launch) it was a dream for us

The camping area back then was off the first loop you come to when you enter from King Street.  Thats also the area that has the easiest parking for RVs

So now we fast forward to 2019 and we live in Kingston.  We had visited Lake Ontario Park earlier and found that it had been converted to a day use park but the campsites were still there…  no power …. but they were roomy and free.  Signs were posted saying that there was no overnight camping but we were allowed to spend the day there… IMG_0438.JPG

and so today we did and had a great time.  On Monday we hit the Costco and picked up some burgs, sausages and steaks along with getting 2 propane tanks refilled….

Tuesday morning we picked up the trailer out of storage and headed over to Lake Ontario Park and set up.  We BBQ’d lunch and supper.  The breeze off the Lake kept the bugs at bay and kept the  temps bearable. After supper we packed up and headed back to the storage yard and put our trailer to bed

Now there is a bit more to this story.   I did mention that Lake Ontario Park is now a day use park and is free to all to use…  Well if I was into “Boondocking” this would be fantastic place to spend a long day…… Spend the night at Walmart, get up and buy your daily groceries…..  Take the rig over to Lake Ontario Park and spend the day there…  When the sun goes down head back to Walmart, catch some ZZZZZ’s and repeat.

Sometimes a short trip can give you great rewards

Safe Travels

Bob