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

73bob

Working on #hamradio “stuff”

Well its still hot…. and I’m still hiding inside as much as I can… The current band conditions are not the best but I am managing to contact about 10 POTA Parks a day and so the totals are still climbing, but a bit slower than I would like.

I decided to clean out the shack…. Its cooler inside and found lots of neat “stuff”…. I think I found the complete radial system for my old vertical that I had in the air back in Ottawa…. Lots of connectors along with about 100+ feet of coax.

I also as I was finding “stuff” I decided to do some antenna “stuff”… For a while I have been putting off creating an antenna for 60m.

Seeing that ISED Canada has increased the amount of spectrum in the 60m band it seems that now would be a good time. I decided on a end fed inverted “Vee” antenna along with a single counterpoise. All of this being fed by a 1:1 Balun….

It looks alot like by SOTABEAMS Bandspringer midi which I use with my portable station

The driven element and the counterpoise are both 43 feet long with the driven element going over a tree branch and the counterpoise bending around objects to keep within my small yard.

Check out https://www.sotabeams.co.uk/bandspringerMidi40m30m20m/ for more info.

Early tests show the antenna having a very respectable SWR on the (5) 60m Channels we are allowed now. I did not need the built in tuner on the FT991A.

The band conditions at the time were not strong (very weak) so no one was able to give me signal report, but as it loads up fine I am sure it will work for me.

I will not be using the new allocation that Canadian Amateurs are allowed until Yaesu comes out with a new firmware upgrade that unlocks that part of the band for us.

The other bit of antenna “stuff” I did today was re-wire my 40M End Fed Half Wave (the one from my portable station) with small gauge wire. It was made of 18 gauge and the smaller 25 gauge wire is much lighter and easier to work with and anything that lowers the weight of my backpack is appreciated by my back. Although all I did was replace 65 feet of wire I will test this out later at a local park if (and when) it cools off a bit.

Once I test it out I’ll let you know….

Thats about all for now…. CU soon

73bob

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…

73bob

An upgrade to the kit

Well recently I have been shuffling gear around to take into consideration my new interests in our Amateur Radio hobby along with the retirees budget….

Yesterday this rig made it into my shack:

The Yaesu FT2DR is a dual band (2m and 70cm) dual mode (FM and C4FM) 5 watt handheld radio.

I bought it used from a ham in Ottawa and so far I am more than pleased with my purchase. It also has a built in GPS and an AX25 modem so eventually I will figure out how to access the APRS Network.

For now I have been able to program the memories with the limited frequencies needed for Kingston and as I also have the programming software and cable (not needed yet) eventually I will have it working to its full potential.

I still have my FT70D handheld and my FTDM7250 and plan to keep them both doing duty in the shack. The “70D” is currently monitoring my NNMDM Hot spot and the “7250” is connected to my 1/4 wave dual band groundplane giving me local VHF/UHF coverage

So for now I will be using the FT2DR for my daily use rig when not in the shack. Walks around the block or out to some POTA Activations should make use of the APRS Features and the ability to send SMS and APRS Text messages from areas where the cell service is limited could be important. Hopefully the GPS stuff along with the APRS stuff will be just as easy to set up as the memories were.

If you want to track the progress of this check out APRS.FI on line and search for VA3QV. Once I get it functioning the SSID for the FT2DR will be VA3QV-7

There will be a few more changes coming… I am looking for another portable hf rig (FT817 or 818 or even a KX3)to keep the XIEGU X5105 company and I will be sending one of my 100W HF rigs (FT950 or the FT450) on to a new home (but not quite ready to say goodbye yet)

Other stuff— Still hunting lots of POTA with just over 1200 Parks confirmed so far. Only done 2 activations so far but once the bands get stable then the Xiegu will be getting lots of fresh air

First impression of the Morse Decoder by Hot Paw productions

This was written 1 day (16 hours) after we bought the app from the Apple App store. It seems to be very basic but good. If anything changes I’ll do a follow up post.

This is a app for Apple IPhone and Apple IPad. When you go to the app store it will tell you if the app will work with the device you are currently using to connect with the app store.

Searching the app store for Hot Paw Productions should bring you to the app if its still available.

So here we go…

I downloaded the app from the Apple App store and away we went. It worked right out of the box (or right after installing) on my I Pad. The cost was about $15.00 Cdn after taxes…

Just to remind you this is a CW Decoding app ONLY (no FT8/PSK or any other sound card modes) and you will need some sort of device for transmitting CW. Straight Key or Keyer the choices are yours.

Right off the bat lets say that if you are looking for a decoder to see what the group on the weekly slow speed CW roundtable net are talking about you will most likely disapointed.

Remember the old “Garbage in = Garbage out” saying? Well if the person sending the code has a bad fist then…. The app can’t fix bad sending…

However if you want to use it to pick up the occasional rare DX station or a few extra multipliers in contesting or copy the ARRL Bulletins then this is about the best $15.00 you can spend (in my opinion)… It reads good code, normally that means contest quality computer keyer generated code and its good as what it does.

As an example last night there was the ARRL 160m cw contest. I started reading the screen and even though things were crowded I was able to make out complete contest exchanges. Just for $h!ts and Giggles I opened up the book of words for my Yaesu FT950 and figured out how to use the built in contest keyer and also how to program the keyers memories .

Memory 1 was: VA3QV (my callsign)

Memory 2 was : 5nn ONE (the contest exchange I had to send)

Memory 3 was : 73 TU (thanks)

Memorys 4 and 5 were not used

And heres how it worked:

I found a station calling CQ Test with his callsign and tuned the dial on to him…

I replied with Memory 1.

He replied by giving my call and then his exchange 5nn CT

I replied with Memory 2 then Memory 3

He acknowledged and then went to calling again.

I made 5 more contacts just to prove the 1st one was not a fluke and as a result contesting stations in the following RAC/ARRL sections got the rare “Ontario East (ONE) multi. They were GTA, MDC, CT, MN, WPA and OH.

Some comments and suggestions:

I suggest that if you buy the app, get used to it by copying the ARRL code practice on HF. Check the ARRL website for times and freqs. They send computer generated code and so its about as perfect CW as you can get. Read the manual that comes with your radio for the fine tuning on receiving CW signals or just tune by ear for the proper pitch. It worked for me fairly easily as I was used to the tuning aspect from using other decoding software

Don’t get discouraged it you don’t get it right the first time. Unfortunately its not the software…. Its either the poor cw being sent (remember the local roundtable comment) or you just have to make a very tiny adjustment to the VFO to change the pitch ever so slightly.

It has been suggested that you connect from your receivers audio output to the audio input on your apple device. I chose not to as just putting the IPad on top of my radio (see Pic) worked well enough for me. It may not for you though especially if your shack tends to be noisy.

IPad is right beside the radio speaker

As an added bonus I can use it on my other Apple Device so in the shack I have it on my IPad and its already been installed on my IPhone so its ready for portable ops (POTA) with my FT 450 and the Wolf River coil on a Tripod when the weather warms up

This is not the only app out there but its one of the few I have tried that really worked well for me. I have and still use CW Get which is software that runs on my laptop. The DM780 part of Ham Radio Deluxe also works good but HRD is more expensive than this app and its all I need. Not all the other stuff that HRD offers.

DISCLAIMER: It worked for me, It might work for you, BUT IT MIGHT NOT work for you, so you Buy at your own risk. You pays your money and takes your chances.

73bob

PS…. Thanks to Rich VE3MHY who had left a review for the app at the app store and answered a couple of questions I had quickly and honestly. His opinions confirmed what I had been thinking

Catching up on some paperwork

Well I still hate computers but… I was able to get my logging program talking to Logbook of the world and so….

Any contacts (I logged) that happened before September 2021 have been uploaded to LoTW. This includes POTA contacts in the same time frame.

My 2 DX contacts from October have been uploaded and VJ4K (Australia) has already been confirmed.

All of my POTA for September and early have been uploaded..

All remaining contacts will be entered then uploaded.

Still lots to catch up on. Next on the list is getting computer talking to the Sound Card for better use of the Digital modes after I get the POTA logs completed

73bob

The two I regret letting go

Over the years I have owned plenty of HF radios and sold/traded most of them away for something more “Shiny or newer”….

But out of all the ones that are no longer with me, there are two that I am now kicking myself for selling..

Mistake number 1

Flex 1500 QRP HF SDR Radio

This fantastic little radio was my first (and only so far) SDR Radio and my second QRP Radio. It took a while to get used to all that computer hook up stuff but once I finally got it right it was a dream to operate. Using it at home with my S9 43 foot vertical, 4:1 balun, along with a Elecraft T1 QRP autotuner brought a new spark to the hobby and I was a happy ham.

This was done with the help of my laptop for the computer control, CW decoding program, and a logging program.

Using the Flex and T1 combo I was able to:

Complete my QRP DXCC, add to my QRP DXCC totals, complete my WAS Triple Play and actually make a decent showing in the 2015 CQ WW CW contest:

CallYearLocZnCategoryScoreQSOsZnCtyHoursOperator(s)Cert
VA3QV2015VE34SO QRP ALL11,47385284913.8
That ranked me as 4th in Canada, 25th in North America and 100th WW

With the excellent recieve filtering the Flex had it made hearing the weak ones out there much easier and allowed me to work into the areas of the world I had never even heard before.

FT 817

The other rig that I regret leaving my possession was the Yaesu FT817. Not an 818 or a 817 ND but the original 817

Mistake number 2

I bought mine from Radioworld shortly after they were available in Canada and added the orignal LDG QRP Auto Tuner a few months later.

My favorite setup involved using a few adapters connecting the rig to the tuner direct with no coax in the picture. Also using a double male adapter connected the end feds balun directly to the tuner so there was no coax in the picture at all. Normally the antennas of choice would be a Par Endz Fed or my old homebrewed W3EDP antenna.

I would like to think that having no line losses (no coax) made lots of contacts a reality but most likely it was also operator skill.

W3EDP antenna (Tnx to VE3FI for the graphic)

Contacts were made on all the amateur bands (70cm/2m/6m) along with (10m/12m/15m/17m/20m/30m/40m/80m) in SSB and Digital (PSK31) using a NUE Modem.

Back then I was not really a CW operator (and that remains true today) so all of my 30m contacts were PSK31 only and the original 817 did not have 60m so no contacts were made on that band.

Given the fact that the family budget could not really afford new toys at the time…. Old toys had to be sold so new toys could be acquired so…. both the Flex and then the 817 left me so newer and shinier toys could come into the shack to be sold later.

Now that I am fairly secure in the hobby…. and not wanting to get rid of the FT950 at home or the FT450at that will be going into the new (to us) VA3QV/m (once we decide on what to get).

I have the hope that a gently abused FT817 might find its way into my shack again if I can find one at a good price (or trade deal.)

I do have the portable station from the camper (FT450, 25amp power supply and LDG Auto Tuner) and its a great cottage/camper station and its currently surplus to my needs… that is gathering dust so you never know.

Image credit : NASA/SDO

This is also the weekend for the CQ WW SSB contest. For those of you who dare to brave the Solar Storm predicted….

Good luck in the contest

73bob

VA3QV/m (UHF/VHF/HF)

The result of having way too much time on my hands but as of right now VA3QV/m is as good as I see it being….

IMG_0793

VHF/UHF communications provided by my Yaesu FTM7250D which along with being dual band its also dual mode (FM/C4FM) with output power being up to 50w.  If the repeater I am on at the time is part of the Wires X network I can also access that network as well

wirexgraphic

HF Communications (15m/17m/20m/40m/60m/80m) with my Yaesu FT450d along with a Wolf River coil.  The FT 450 has a built in Auto Tuner which I plan to use to extend the bandwidth of the antenna system but so far it has not been needed

IMG_0746 (1)

In addition I have a hotspot that I tether to my cell phone that interfaces the 7250 with the System Fusion system for Wires X style linkingIMG_0728

But getting back to HF Mobile operating…

In anticipation of next year being better than this year is turning out I decided to outfit my truck with a good selection of communications gear so that if we are allowed to travel unrestricted next year communications “home” from wherever we were visiting would be possible

It did take a few remakes but the Wolf River 10-80m coil along with a 90 inch stainless steel whip is working better than expected.  I am making contacts (on a daily basis) with stations across Ontario/Quebec and the Maritimes on 40m and 80m ssb. I have also make contacts into Canada’s western provinces using 20m and 40m ssb.  In eastern Ontario the guys say that my mobile is almost as strong as my fixed station setup seeing that I have to use a stealth antenna here at home to keep the condo board guessing.

Left pic shows the mount that failed and the one that is stronger is on the right

Now if you decide to go this route for your mobile I do recommend going with a very strong mount on your vehicle.  My first mount failed due to the flexing issue with the 102 inch whip (I later cut it down to 90 inches due to height restrictions) and a 16 inch coil driving around the streets of Kingston.  Before then the coil was working fine and then the mount failed.  After replacing the mount with one more robust it is working just fantastic.  I still have some filtering to add to my ignition and charging systems as there is some alternator whine and ignition noise there but I’ve got time before 2021 to get that figured out

The next part of the package will now to get the trailer set up and then make it “Radio Active” in time for Field Day and the RAC Canada Day Contest.  The next 2 weeks are going to be a busy time.

73bob

Three months later….

3 months ago Liz and I almost bought the RV Trailer of our dreams but that nasty old COVID came calling and everything was closed and put on hold….

kodiak 1

The following YouTube clip is from a different dealer but it shows the finer points of the trailer without the normal BUY NOW….BUY NOW….BUY NOW that most RV dealers put on their YouTube postings

2 weeks ago I headed back to the dealer and found that it was still available and we started to talk…


Before I go any further I must mention that Quinte RV did not ask me to write this or did they offer me any thing to write this.  What you see here is an personal endorsement  which honestly describes my purchase experience…


The salesman let us visit with our old friend with no pressure.   I took a long visit and it was everything I remembered it as.  Big…. but light enough that my Pickup (VA3QV/m) could easily tow it….

IMG_0716

So now that the trailer remains how I remembered it ….  Just for $h!ts and Giggles lets put in an offer to purchase…..

 

 

The Salesman passed me over to the Financial Wizard and he started to do his magic.

 

And the Wizards magic was strong as he was able to get me the price I wanted, at the terms I wanted and  at a much better interest rate than I expected.

And to make matters even better (yes it does get better….) we were able to grab one of last two permanent campsites at a private campground just a short 45 minute drive from Kingston.  At this time I expect that Liz and I will spend most of our time there from when we move in on June 26th till the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend in Mid October.

Our summer is now spoken for….  Time to enjoy life a bit when not working…  

 

For those of my followers who are more into RF than RV there will be a C4FM station set up along with my new(er) FT 450 set up there with what I expect to be an Inverted “L” which will cover 10-80m and maybe even 160m when I feed it with my SGC237 auto tuner which will relocate from the home station to the trailer for the season.

 

 

I plan to operate from the campsite as soon as I am able to which means a limited Field Day station but a strong attempt at the RAC Canada Day Contest a few days later.

 

I still have more to share with you especially on how great the new HF antenna system on VA3QV/m is working out but that will be for another post after I get everything moved into the trailer.

73 and safe travels

bob

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_0556 (1)

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

ft450

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