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

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Time to winterize

The time of the year I dread….  The local campgrounds are closing and the temps are dropping….

We had hoped to get one more trip in before we did this but …  Needless to say with the way the temps are looking if we don’t winterize soon we will be doing some major plumbing repairs come the spring…

For us (for me) its fairly easy….  Make sure that all three tanks are drained (empty)… The fresh tank, the grey tank and the dreaded black tank…  After that I pick up about 12 litres of plumbing antifreeze (that the pink stuff you don’t put in your cars radiator)….

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I close the valve on the fresh tank (remember we opened it to drain the fresh tank) and I pour the 12 litres into the fresh tank.  I also double check that I closed the grey and black as well…  Then I turn on the 12 volt water pump and charge the system.  I then turn on the cold water taps and run them until the pink anti freeze runs out if them.  I then keep on flushing the toilet till the pink anti freeze runs through the system as well.

This ensures that :

There is antifreeze in the fresh tank,  There is antifreeze in the water lines, There is antifreeze in the pump and all the holding tanks….  After that all I have to do is double check that the fridge is empty and all the food stuffs have been removed…  After leaving some moth balls around the various hideyholes in the camper and leaving a couple of mouse traps out in case they don’t mind the mothballs the last step is to remove the 12v storage batter and bringing it home.  I maintain it here and it always helps to have a booster battery here just in case the truck needs a boost and also a battery back up for the hams toys.

In the spring time a day will be spent draining the tanks and flushing out the fresh water system….  Install the battery and away we go…  I don’t see us going south this winter as between the Low Canadian Dollar and the high (next to impossible cost of travel insurance) is just a bit hard to handle this year.

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This spring some time will also be spent installing a 600w solar system along with adding a 2nd storage battery as we plan to spend some time off the beaten path this coming summer but really want to keep our comfort level where we like it.

Safe Travels

Bob

#hamradio Antenna mods worked

Even though I had changed locations (Ottawa to Kingston) some things never change and I found myself in a location with a bigger yard but stronger antenna restrictions. (Before you say anything about a ham knowing better…. )

My wife and I moved in  with our eldest daughter and our situation suits both parties…

However with the assistance of a large pine tree and some shrubs to hide wire….  I am back on the air from FN14 with better results and less equipment than I had before

The new antenna is an approximate 45 foot wire in a mostly vertical configuration with 2 25 foot radial and 1 approx 40 foot radial.  The radials are along the fence line and under our deck in the back yard.   

This with the assistance of a 4:1 balun (using the internal tuner on my FT450 gave me great (great means it loaded up) results on 6-10-12-15-17-20 and 40m .  Hovever nothing on 80m or 160m.

Tonight I had a crazy idea and the part in stock.  I added a Buddipole 40m coil into the antenna close to the balun.  Taking the tap out I now have 80m using the internal tuner.  With the tap in at its shortest position I kept 6m to 20m… found 30m and kept 40m.  No luck on 60m with either setup but as I never used it before no big deal but I will check on what I might need to do to get something there that fits in my yard.

Not pretty, definately not technical… but it works…

At times there are people telling you it wont’t work…. (Ya can’t argue with the laws of electronics)….

Fortunately I never studied law…..   🙂

Sometimes its better to be lucky than smart….

73bob

 

ps…. for those RV’ers out there…. some amateur radio info for you and some solar plans for you rig will be coming soon.

Safe travels as well

 

 

 

Remembering the adventure

Liz and I have been back now for almost a week now …. and here are our collective thoughts now that things are getting for normal..

The Rig

Our truck and trailer combo behaved itself quite well on the trip there and back. The worst that happened was that the 40 amp circuit breaker that runs between the 12v storage battery and the fuse panel tripped a couple of times.

As we had no issues using shore power, generator or when attached to the trucks 12v power this was a minor issue.

I knew that the problem had to be a fuse or master link etc as everything worked outside of the storage battery so when we were stopping for fuel in Moncton NB I noticed a Leisure Days RV centre across the street. After fueling, We headed over and talked to the service manager. I explained the problem and asked if they could identify the faulty part… order one in and then we would stop in on our return trip and they could install it. Outside came a tech and he found the circuit breaker… reset the breaker and wished us safe travels…

A BIG SHOUTOUT TO LEISURE DAYS IN MONCTON FOR HELPING US ON OUR WAY….. If (when) we decide to replace our trailer you know where we are going to look first…

As it turned out the breaker tripped again and this time would not reset even with the power disconnected so now that I know where the breaker is… I will be replacing it before our next trip…

Other than that the truck got better than anticipated fuel economy and behaved itself in all that was asked of it..

The trip down

We made better time than anticipated…. I had planned to spend the first night in Edmunston NB and we made it as far as the Walmart in Woodstock NB before we decided to call it a night…. Even after the unexpected stop in Moncton NB for repairs we made it into Summerside PEI and was parked at the Walmart before supper. I ran the generator till it got dark to keep the fridge cold and then switched over to propane after that. In the morning after filling the cold fridge and freezer with provisions we headed out for Cabot Beach Provincial Park

On the Island

We arrived at Cabot and got checked in. The staff were fantastic and eager to help. We had planned to stay at Cabot for the duration and just take Day trips out when playing tourist… Our first trip was to Kensington PEI which was the closest town that we could re-stock our necessities of life. As it also was the location of the closest Liquor Store we visited it often.. Seafood tastes better when cooked in wine sauce ….

We also visited Summerside PEI for their Lobster Festival ( read a few entries back for that experience) along with a day trip to Charlottetown to play tourist.

We then decided to stay at the campsite for a while and just relax and partake in some local cuisine…

Liz got to enjoy fresh mussels and we both enjoyed very fresh deep fried fish and chips made over the Coleman stove.

It was decided that once again we would head out to the National Park in Cavendish PEI.

It was an excellent place to visit that was very popular but the crowds were worth it to see the scenery. We also found out that the park has a Day parking area for RV's that's big enough to let you drive in and out with ease.

After the day visit we headed into the Village of Cavendish and had a fantastic supper (Liz had lobster) and then we headed back to Cabot for more leisure time…

Amateur Radio on the trip

In the truck I had my old FT 2400 2m Radio programmed with repeater frequencies for the trip. I also monitored 146.520 as well. Once we left Ottawa NO CONTACTS were made until we arrived in PEI. I easily made contacts on the Summerside repeater and the Charlottetown repeaters for the duration of our holidays. Unfortunately the same was true for the return trip. Making calls on repeaters but no replies…

HF wise I was operating my FT 817 from the open site close to mine. I found lots of ssb contacts on 80m in the mornings and evenings. A few daytime 20m PSK31 contacts were made but for DX it was not a time to be operating QRP

The trip home

We left Cabot early in the morning and stopped at the gift shop in Borden Carleton and then after spending some $$$$ left PEI and headed home. The traffic was light and we were making better time than expected. Fuel stops in Oromocto NB, Edmunston NB (supper break) and west of Quebec City and then suddenly we were pulling into Ottawa at 2am. I had not planned for the long day drive but I was feeling good and everyone else was sleeping so I kept on rolling….

30 days after we left… we were back home… happy but tired…but We are planning our next adventure…. stay tuned

Bob

Ps…