Testing the homebrewed #hamradio antenna

If you remember from my last post that I had constructed an antenna to work on the 60 meter (5mhz) band. It consisted of a single 43 foot driven element and a single 43 foot counterpoise/radial fed my a 1:1 balun.

It looks a lot like this

As mentioned before the above graphic is for my SotaBeams Bandspringer Antenna but my homebrewed 60m antenna (in the configuration I use) looks alot like the above.

In reality its a 60m dipole but in reality as I don’t have enough real estate to stretch out almost 90 feet of wire I use it as an End Fed inverted VEE with an elevated 43 foot counterpoise attached to my fence at about 3 feet above the ground. The SWR is good to where I don’t even need the built in tuner on my Yaesu FTR991a and so far the signal reports are fairly strong considering the very poor band conditions (darn solar storms) that we are going though right now. With the help of the built in tuner I can get it to load up on some of the higher bands but I like the long wire better….

So with the addition of the new antenna I can now operate on:

2m, 6m, 10m, 12m, 15m, 17m, 20m, 30m, 40m, 60m, 80m and 160m

Some bands are not as strong as others but I am on the air, doing the best I can from within an antenna restricted environment.

There is talk of getting a group out for some QRP activities so perhaps my Xiegu X5105 might finally get some time outside to play. More on that later this coming week


Still reading the manual

Well two weeks later and 100 new POTA parks in my log and I am still learning “new stuff”….

The FT991a is living up to all its hype and is a dream to operate… If you use it right out of the box with the default settings its a good radio…

A dream to operate

If you RTFM and customize your Transmit audio settings and your Receive filter settings its a FANTASTIC radio to use.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post…

So far I have added 100 unique parks to my Parks list… A few in CW but most of them in SSB.

This would also include the K7K DXPedition to Kiska Island in SSB (95w ssb and CW (40w). Both contacts were made on 17m

Above from their website…

No digital at this time but until I’m sure that my NUE PSK Modem that works well my my older Yaesu Radios will also work well with the 991a I am not going to take a chance on bricking the rig…

As I mentioned above I have even made a few CW contacts. The 991a has a very good built in Contest Keyer and when I use it with my IPAD and the HotPawz Decoding app I can “5nn TU” with the best of them. My contacts have all been Search and Pounce and I use an app to fill in the blanks but… Its still a contact…

Now before the flames start let me remind you of my post back in December where I described the Pro’s and Con’s of the setup. It can’t decode a bad fist but as most of the people I am contacting are also using keyers… It works for me… And for the record (full disclosure here) my XIEGU X5105 has a contest keyer built in along with a fairly good decoder also built in…. Still nothing but S&P but still much better than nothing.

For now I am still very pleased with my purchase and looking forward to more DXPeditions and POTA contacts. It will be the perfect way to finish the summer along with starting of the fall season…


Changes in the #hamradio shack

Its not really spring cleaning or adding to the collection but more aiming my Amateur Radio gear towards a goal….

That goal is to prepare for the eventual move that we are planning in about a years time. We are not sure where we will end up but…. We need a place that is “Senior Friendly” which loosely translates to no stairs… The Condo Garden home we are renting is the right size (in sq feet) but that is shared between 4 floors and the stairs are killing us… Also having to be a bit “stealthy and creative” in my antenna systems here is making me believe a move would mostly be a good thing… With any luck we will find a small bungalow that has a yard that’s antenna friendly at a price that’s pension friendly. Failing that then I guess it will be Seniors Apartment (top floor please) with balcony antennas.

VHF/UHF on the left with the loop in the center

I was thinking that Mag Loop for the HF bands and the existing Arrow GP would be acceptable if I had some altitude…

So getting back to the big change… Where the Yaesu FT950 and the FT7250d used to sit on my desk has been now given over to my new Yaesu FT991A.

My Yaesu FT991a

It has a much smaller footprint and the radio can operate on 70CM, 2M ,6m and the full HF bands of 10m to 160m including 60m. Its modes are FM,C4FM,SSB and CW with provisions for the various Digital Modes

So far its working fine with the SGC237 autotuner I have mounted outside on my fence. I do have an Arrow dual band (70cm/2m) groundplane outside as well but I would prefer at least a couple of horizontal loops for 2m and 6m SSB but they will have to wait for now.

Its really a radio that you should read the manual for so for now its working fine for me and once I actually RTFM it will be even better. So far my received signal reports are almost identical to those I received when using the FT950 so I am more than pleased.

I am still active on HF and C4FM (PiStar Hotspot) so its all good…

A much better review of the FT991a will be posted once I RTFM and figure out what I am doing


ps…. and IF I have the urge to activate a POTA Park or just work the world from my neighborhood park I do have my XIEGU X5105 along with my choices of the EFHW antenna or the SOTA Beams 6-60m antenna

Getting my #POTA “Activator” station on the air

Its been a while since I had to get a portable station running…. Gone is the FT817/LDG Tuner combo and here is the Xiegu X5105 with the built in auto tuner.

Gone but not forgotten

Also gone is the Buddipole Deluxe, W3EDP antenna and the PAR Endz Fed QRP Tribander and…

Xiegu X5105 and the SOTABEAMS 10-60m

Here is my homebrewed 40m EFHW 49:1 and a Sotabeams 10-60m inverted VEE antenna (pic below)

SOTABEAMS 10-60m antenna (tuner required)

But with the new toys come new issues and its been a challenge getting them all fixed up…

So far the EFHW antenna is doing whats expected of it and more. The “more ” part being letting some stray RF get into the transmitter which is causing havoc with my audio…

The transmitter is getting good signal reports on 20m and 4om which are the two bands that use for the most part until the RF finds its way into the transmitter.

At first I thought that I just had the audio running hot…. and that was causing the audio to distort… I tuned things down and then hooked up to my home antenna and…. the results were fantastic…. using a remote SDR Receiver in PA (thanks K3FEF) I was able to listen to myself and proclaim the problem solved….

And it was solved till I went out to the park for my next test…

Back in the park I found that the noise had returned…. and my audio was a crappy as ever (using the EFHW). After talking to a local ham who swears by (not swears at) the EFHW for portable use it was suggested that I try adding a ground from the coax connector at the balun end…. It might be a bit of overkill as the only clamps I had were from a battery project so I have a pretty good ground connections now… Take a close look at the pic.

XIEGU X 5105 Homebrewed EFHW and one helluva ground clamp

Anyway it worked today… although the band conditions were not too good I did manage a 40ssb local contact. The report was not strong but he commented that the audio was fine with no distortion. I also was able to check into the 20m Salvation Army SATERN net and was heard by the NCS who commented that for 5w the signal was ok and the audio clear and chrisp…

Back to the pic for a minute and you might notice that I am using the 66 foot EFHW antenna in the sloper configuration with the end of wire up near the top of a 33 foot MFJ mast that I have leaning back into a tree. The set up works fairly well for me and the masting sways with the wind and requires no guying. The test worked fairly well for me… I fought the static and QSB and managed to get heard. So at this time I guess the extra ground is working… I want to go out a set up a few more times and make sure that the gremlins are gone before I attempt a POTA Activation. This weekend is a POTA Support your local parks weekend so I would like to Activate during the day…. come home and hunt in the evening… Lets see how that works for me…

In the meantime I am the “POTA Hunter”… but with any luck could be the “Hunted” soon.


Caught the 13 Colonies Stations

It started during the RAC Canada Day Contest on July 1st when I started answering CQ’s on 40m from a station with a call of K2D. During the contest K2B and K2L also made it into my log.

On July 2nd while I was hunting some POTA K2M also made it into my log for a total of 4 of the Special Event Stations in the bag

On July 3rd once again hunting POTA I also managed to get K2K, K2A, K2G and K2F for a total of 8 of the 13 now in my log.

On July 4th in between wishing any US station that was calling CQ or answered my CQ a happy 4th of July. I also managed to get K2J and K2E for a total of 8 logged with only 3 to go.

July 5th was a busy time with K2I, K2C and K2H along with the Bonus Stations WM3PEN and TM13COL logged,

And on July 7th the final Bonus Station GB13COL was captured for the Clean Sweep

So there you have it ….. 13 Colonies and 3 Bonus Stations in 7 days… And for the most part I did have fun…

For those who might be wondering about the operating conditions used….The HF RIG is a Yaesu FT 950 running at approx 95w on SSB. My antenna is a 50 foot long inverted L with approx 150 feet of radials that run along the edge of fence and small yard. I use the SGC 237 auto tuner to bring it all together and it gives me excellent results on 10-80m and tolerable results on 6m, 60m and 160m but it does work on all the above mentioned bands. This setup has to be stealthy as the CONDO Corporation or HOA group does not like antennas but I’m still on the air after 4 years here

However on the downside of things…. The just plain stupid operators who could not figure out the words “UP 5-10” or “He’s working split” while the bulk of operators were trying to get GB13COL and TM13COL in the logs…. Right behind them were the operators who could not figure out what “by the numbers” meant when the DX stations were calling for specific calling areas to try and ease the pile ups.

And as always the self proclaimed DX POLICE had to increase the frequency QRM by telling each individual several times of their mistakes

In some cases the behavior was so bad that the DX Stations were forced to shut down for a while…. People calling on top of other operators…. People calling on top of the DX Station??? (really guys if you can’t hear him then why are you even calling???) and of course the operators who insist on tuning up their AMPS and antennas on the DX Frequency…

The stations who benefit the most from the 13 Colonies event have to remember that to the DX Stations it means nothing(Ok to the British it means something but not what it does to the Americans) and the French are just being nice to try and help out. I tell you they had more patience than I would of had and I for one thank them for what they did for us.

Last night (July 7th around 0030utc) when I was getting frustrated by the lack of brains in the pile up …I Tweeted the following:

“Starting to believe that on the #hamRadio Exams for any class that includes #HF they should have to prove that they understand the words “SPLIT” and “Listening up” and know to use the function”

I feel the same today even before the joy of successfully completing the event wears off

Once again… Thanks to the various operators of the K2A to K2m stations and also the WM3PEN operators and of course the various operators of TM13COL and GB13COL.


And a week later…. Its the RAC Canada Day Contest #RACCD

Despite my best plans Field Day 2022 was not a good time…. I did operate 1B (Battery) but the bugs won out and I did not get that many in the log….

So now that FD is behind me its time to get ready for the 2022 RAC Canada Day contest which starts at 0000 hrs UTC on July 1st and runs for 24 hours finishing at 2359 UTC on July 1st.

The rules for the contest can be found here:

The exchange is simple….

For Canadian Stations its signal report followed by Province

and for non Canadian Stations its signal report followed by a Serial #

Nothing fancy this time…. I will be operating from the comfort of my shack operating at QRP Levels with the Yaesu FT950.

If the bands are not cooperating then it will be raised to the full 100w . I expect that I will be active between 6m and 160m

My expectations for the contest are as follows:

Have Fun and give out as many of the 5/9 Ontario multiplier that I can to all who wants to participate. In addition I would hope to work from VE0 across to VE7 and if I’m really lucky perhaps a VE8,VY1 or VY0 or two thrown into the mix

Hope to get you in the log




A blast from the past


A sign of good #hamradio things to come

Today was a great day…. Or at least a better day in hamradio than I usually have

For the 1st time in this Solar Cycle (and most likely the last 2 solar cycles) I managed to make at least one SSB HF contact on 10, 15, 20, 40 and 80 meters in a single afternoon.

. Being a PopGun in the DX world it was amazing to think that I was hearing stations calling CQ and I was getting them all on the first call.

Some were POTA, others were School Roundups and a few were just stations calling CQ because the bands were open. There were 2 dx stations as well. Either way it was a heck of a good day…

Sometimes its the small things in life that give the most pleasure. Hopefully in a year from now I will be commenting on how I contacted all 6 continents in an afternoon or something equally as spirit raising


Compromise HF antennas

I think I have to change the terminology that I normally use to describe my normal Home HF antenna….

They have to be stealthy but I can no longer think of them as “compromise”. Its working great for the operating conditions here….

If you are putting up the best darn antenna you can that keeps you on the air and fits in with your local operating conditions, its a great antenna and not really a compromise antenna.

Remember using a 10-160 OCF dipole in an inverted V (rather than in a flat top) is not a compromise…. Its just getting the antenna to fit in your yard or operating location. Running a 43 foot vertical with lots of radials (instead of a 10-40 OCF due to yard size or lack of trees) is not a compromise. A 48 foot tower is not a compromise (because the local municipal restricts the height of towers so you can’t put up that 100 foot self supporting one in your city lot)

Now there are little things like municipal bylaws, HOA restrictions, Condo restrictions, Rental restrictions, cranky neighbors and of course family opinions (to name a few) might come into play when trying to install your antenna.

Its not a restriction…. it becomes a challenge….. it challenges you to put up the most effective antenna you can while trying to make everyone else happy. If you are successful in completing your challenge it should make you happy as well.

The antenna of choice here is an end fed random (about 50 feet or so) length wire being fed by my SGC237 auto tuner. It is in an “inverted Vee” configuration with the wire leaving the tuner and thrown over a tree branch then it terminates at my back fence. I also have some random length radials (counterpoises) running north/south and east/west along the fence perimeter. Using the magic in the SGC 237 I am able to make contacts on all Amateur Bands between 6m and 160m. This antenna is not fancy…. its actually cheap…. (How much does 100 feet of automotive wire cost at Princess Auto???). Its fairly (75%) stealthy. So far no one is complaining about it and the “Condo Cops” has not been knocking at my door (yet).


Is it the best antenna? NO…

Does it work? YES…

Is it stealthy? YES..

Am I making contacts? YES (Including a VK on 40SSB)

Could I do better? NO… (Not here at least)

There you have it… although I could do better, its the best I can do while living where we do. So I no longer feel I have a “compromise antenna”…. Its actually a “pretty good antenna”.


PS…. This is just a reminder to those of us who operate in an “antenna challenged” environment that HF contacts are actually possiable.

So far 46 states confirmed from here in Digital and 31 states confirmed in SSB and nothing yet in CW….Sooner or perhaps later I will finally work on my CW log again.


Antenna changes for the good

This weekends post is a bit strange but here we go…

I have been subject to lots and lots of static across the bands here with my stealthy antenna.

Yaesu FT 950 (my shack rig)

The FT 950 / SGC237 combo receives fantastic signal reports but to be honest I have issues hearing most average stations.

It was suggested by the local repeater crowd that I try building an “Ugly Balun” and put it in line with the chances that it would help with my static issues. So this morning I acquired an empty Folgers coffee Plastic Can and went to work. I am more than pleased to say that its working fantastic. I now have lower static levels with the pre amp on than I did with the preamp off. This is a big deal for me as my stealthy antenna consists of 40 feet (approx) of green insulated wire hidden in the Fir Tree beside my backyard. I have a few radials strung around the perimeter of the yard which along with the green wire is feeds my SGC 237 Smart tuner.

The above picture is not the one I built but I think it shows the way it supposed to look when constructed properly.

As I had no PVC Pipe laying around the Folgers Red Plastic can worked and as I was already feeding the SGC with RG58 from the FT 950 and I had lots left on the 50 foot run it was easy enough to wrap the can with about 20 feet (or so)

Safe to say I am NOW pleased because now we get into the 2nd part of the story…

The statement “if it ain’t broken …. don’t mess with it” was also proven true today…

I run about 50 feet of RG58 from the radio (PL259 connectors) from the radio. At the end that connects to the SGC I used a small commercial patch cord with a SO239 to BNC which connects to the SGC 237. After completion and the balun was in place I had nothing but grief. The tuner (which I think can tune dry string if asked to) could not find a match on any band. I double checked all my connections but no luck. Out of despiration I took an Amazon SO239 to BNC adapter (no patch cord) and it worked and all is well with the universe again.

I don’t know why that patch cord decided to fail after years of faithful service… perhaps like me it just wanted to retire and decided that that was the time to do so.

But at the end of the day its working great …

Enjoy the rest of your weekend