Wednesday, June 22, 2016

So busy!

This time of year is always so busy!

Two weekends ago, our CERT Team was involved in helping out with crowd control and vehicle parking at a carnival in town. Last weekend was the Raritan Valley Radio Club hamfest; and Father's Day.  This coming weekend is Field Day. In between all of that, I'm trying to get that magnetic loop built (which really shouldn't take all that much time!), still do yard work and house work; and even get a few hours sleep in.

Last night I went to Home Depot to buy some PVC for a stand for the loop. I was hoping to use a mini-photographic tripod that I have, but after taking the center column out, I found out that the 1/2" PVC that I am using is just a tad too large. For less than $10, I bought all the PVC pipes, tees, elbows and couplers that I will need. Oh, and while I was there, I bought two citronella candles for this weekend. Gotta keep those mosquitoes at bay.

I am hoping against hope that NEXT weekend, which is a three day weekend due to Independence Day being that Monday, will afford me some time to get the loop built (in and amongst yard work and house cleaning).  For the "prototype", I am going to use one of my hamfest bought capacitors and a deli meat plastic box for the enclosure. Most of that is already built. If I get any kind of results, I will go on to making the "finished" model with the good RF Parts purchased capacitor and the 6:1 reduction planetary drive, and a nice box. Maybe a trip to Hobby Lobby?

I looked at my watch yesterday and it struck me that it's already the latter part of June.  Where has the time gone?  So much to do and so little time. I'll tell you one thing ...... Winter never seems to pass this quickly!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Conditions slightly better today

I heard more stations and more activity.

I worked N8BC who was at the James Garfield National Historical Site - NS39 on 40 Meters.  Then, hopping on over to 20 Meters, I may have worked Bob N4CD who was at Bryce Canyon National Park (which it turns out, I have worked before).  Bob was a very readable 559, but he gave me only a 229.  I'm not sure he got my call right. I think he was sending my call as W2DJ instead of LJ. QSB was bad - very bad. When Bob was in the clear, he was very copyable - which was most of the time.  The only time he became difficult to hear was when he was sending my call ........ of course.

The hitch about working NPOTA stations during lunch is that I don't have access to my NPOTA spreadsheet.  I suppose I could load it to my phone, but looking at spreadsheets on a cell phone is painful.

So, if I can hear them, I'll work them and take the chance that it's an ATNO.

Weather for this coming Field Day is looking very nice:


Sunny and warm/hot with pleasant overnight temperatures and NO chance of rain.  This will be a very welcome change from last year, which was soggy, chilly pneumonia generating weather. I'm still amazed that I didn't come down with something after last year's Field Day.

All we need is for the Sun to get on the ball, so that the solar weather will be as agreeable as the terrestrial weather!

If you're operating Field Day, listen for NJ2SP.  We'll be operating "3A NNJ" (actually 3A battery - so we'll be strictly QRP) from Spring Lake Park in South Plainfield, NJ.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Conditions are marginal

I went out to the Jeep at lunch time to hear what I could hear.

It wasn't much of anything.

The cell phone and DX Cluster showed a few NPOTA stations on the air at the time. I couldn't hear any of them.  I listened for a bit on both 17 and 20 Meters and the signals that I did hear were few and far between. So I began to call CQ.  After about 5 minutes worth on 17 Meters, I moved back to 20 Meters and called there.

In between calls on 14.061 MHz, I heard someone else start to call CQ below me.  It was RA1M/MM.  I moved down to 14.060 MHz, called and got an answer.

It was Stepan who was off the coast of Newfoundland.


Not only was he Maritme Mobile, but he was also using a KX3 at 5 Watts, so it ended up being a 2X QRP KX3 QSO. 

Cool!

Stepan was my only catch for the day as it was time to come back into the office after we finished.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Skeeters are a buzzin' !!!!

Happy 1st Day of Summer and "Thank You" so much to the first group of Skeeters to sign up for the 2016 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt!  We're only 9 or so hours into the Summer and we already have 47 intrepid QRPers who have decided to join in on the fun.


Make sure that you're one of them!

To see the 2016 roster - go to: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KJWpvDDBZibCMqna_qGXF3Ayg8KdEw5f1N8K6ByGMe4/edit#gid=880964485

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

This coming Monday is ..........


So sign up for your Offical 2016 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Skeeter number! Skeeter numbers will be issued starting Monday.

Send an e-mail to w2lj@arrl.net and I will e-mail you back with a number. Join in on the fun, on Sunday August 21st.  The rules can be found at http://www.qsl.net/w2lj/

Get your QRP gear, get outside ......... have a blast!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Tip o' the Hat


I really have to extend a hearty "tip o' the hat" to all you QRP SSB guys out there.  Not being used to SSB operations, not being used to QRP SSB operations has provided me with a learning experience. In your writer's most humble opinion, QRP SSB has a difficulty factor of 10X compared to QRP CW.

Today during lunch time, I was hunting around for NPOTA stations on 20 Meters.  Not hearing anything on the CW bands, I moved on up to the realm of voice - foreign territory, indeed!.  There I heard two stations. K0USA on 14.260 MHz and K0RP on 14.340 MHz.  K0RP was very weak, with QSB making it worse. K0USA was a good 5X5 into NJ and even 5X7 when QSB would let up. I decided to  concentrate on Mary, who was the op behind the mic.  It took the better of 15 minutes, but I got in the log - and it was a new one for me, MN46, the Homestead National Historical Monument in Nebraska.

For her part, Mary did a superb job dealing with my weak signal.  Only 5 Watts to the Buddistick has gotten me decent results on SSB in the past, but today, with the monstrous QSB, it was their beam (which was pointed south, by the way - I was off the side) and her great ears that made the difference. I owe her a ton of gratitude for sticking with me and granting me the ATNO.

Getting back to the topic of SSB vs CW ..... I'm pretty confident in my CW skills. From past practise, it's pretty easy for me to gauge who is workable and who isn't. I still get surprised from time to time; but I've gotten pretty good at figuring out who I am able work and who I am not..

QRP SSB is still a crap shoot for me. Like I stated, it's foreign territory.  To make things even worse, shall we say that patience is a "hard won virtue" for me?  Living in New Jersey all my life, I'm used to the fast pace of the Northeast. Things, especially at work, are wanted yesterday.  I'm used to dealing with that, and delivering those kind of fast results.  The downside is, that I've come to expect that, in return.  Waiting is still a battle for me.  Not in all situations, but in many - especially when I am dealing with myself.

QRP SSB is an extra hard challenge for me and will be for quite a while. The upside is hopefully, I'll become more skilled at it; and I'll also gain more patience, because of it..

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Another piece to the puzzle found

Update on the magnetic loop project:

1) The coax from DX Engineering was delivered last Friday.
2) The variable capacitor from RFI Parts arrived in the mail on Saturday.
3) I bought the PVC pieces for the frame that I have in mind, weeks ago.

I purchased one of these today:



It's a 6:1 ball bearing planetary reduction drive.  It was $18.00 plus shipping from http://www.orenelliottproducts.com.  This should make a big difference tuning the antenna, considering I don't have the lightest touch in the world.

All that's left to come up with is a enclosure for the capacitor. The Raritan Valley Radio Club hamfest is this Saturday, maybe I can find something there.  The toughest part of this entire project is probably going to be to find suitable time, however.  This weekend is the hamfest and Father's Day. Next weekend is Field Day.  On the bright side, however, is that the following weekend is the long Independence Day weekend.  I'll get this puppy built then, if not sooner.

So far, in parts and shipping, I'm still under the $150 mark. That's less than half the price of most of the commercially available loops.  Of course, theirs are pretty much guaranteed to work, out of the box.  Mine should, but you never know until you're done. If it does work, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I built it myself - and that I would have no compunction about modifying it to make it better - or perhaps tearing it apart to build a second, better generation.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Just a reminder

that next Monday, June 20th, is the first day of Summer. And you know what that means ..... Skeeter numbers will start to be issued that day!

Beginning this year, the Hunt has been moved to the third Sunday in August in order to even out spacing a bit between FOBB, the Skeeter Hunt and the NoGA Peanut Power Classic.  Also, there are some rule changes for 2016 in order to more fully incorporate NPOTA into the Skeeter Hunt. Make sure to check them out at www.qsl.net/w2lj.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Lunchtime conditions

were meh.

I heard NC8N running an NPOTA entity on 40 Meters while listening on the Buddistick. Since the Buddistick doesn't load up well on 40 Meters, I quickly switched over to the Hamstick. By the time I got the Hamstick on the magnmount, NC8N went south in the QSB and I couldn't hear him any longer. Typical for W2LJ.

I switched back to the Buddistick and 20 Meters and worked good friend and fellow QRPer John N8ZYA.  After a very short contact, I worked KP4/W2PK.  Not that Puerto Rico is rare, but there was bit of a pileup. Not being able to resist trying to break a pileup with QRP, I jumped in. After figuring out the QRG frequency, it only took a few calls and the pileup was busted with 5 Watts.

Conditions weren't terrible, but they weren't great, either. At least Ol' Sol had 39 freckles today where last week, he had none. Hopefully, things will improve as we inch ever closer to Field Day.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Loopy!

Last week, Dave KD2FSI brought his AlexLoop to the monthly South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club operating night.  I was impressed by how easily it went together and how relatively easy it seemed to tune. I would love to have one myself, but the retail price is a bit out of my budget, so I decided to homebrew one, instead.


Last night, I ordered 25 feet of LMR400 from DX Engineering - enough to make two loops with left over to spare.  Then I went and purchased a 20 - 240 pF air variable capacitor from RF Parts.  I already have some PVC for a frame - all I really need is a box for the enclosure for the capacitor.
I've read several articles by Steve AA5TB, Julian G4ILO and others.  I think I have the construction concept down and if all goes well, in a few weeks, maybe I'll be playing around with a W2LJ Loop. The only thing I'm not sure of, and have to think about, is how I'm going to get this to mount to my Buddistick tripod.

I think I may have to bug Dave again and take a look at how his mounts to his tripod.

As I build, I'll take plenty of pictures and will post the saga here.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

A productive evening

The sunspot count is up to about 12, I believe - so maybe things are looking up!  This evening, just before dinner, I heard N0UR on 30 Meters, operating from NPOTA NP31 - Isle Royale National Park. I worked him, but I had a slight hitch in my sending and I knew I goofed it up as soon as I sent my call.  Instead of coming back to W2LJ, I heard Jim come back to W2REJ. Just the teeneist, tiniest hesitation between those last two dits in the "L". Argh!  QSB kicked in and I couldn't hear if Jim heard my corrected call.

After dinner, I took a chance that Jim was still on frequency; and luckily he was. I also took the chance at being a pain in his keister and worked him again.  Second time was the charm; and I heard my call come back the correctly. Whew!

I saw on the DX Cluster that 6 Meters was open, so I took another chance and twiddled the dial for a bit. Even though the HF9V is made to work on 6 Meters, that's really pushing it. It loads and I get a decent SWR reading; but I think we're talking highly inefficient compromise, here.  In any even, I heard and worked two stations - N4GG at EM74 in Georgia and NV4B at EM64 in Alabama.

Even though it was only two stations, it was a lot of fun. 6 Meters is a relatively new experience for me. It's neat to see how those borderline HF/VHF signals travel.  If I can get something halfway decent built and up, maybe I will hear and work more. Another project in the long line of many!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

It's getting to be that time ......

less than a month from now, the 13 Colonies Special Event will be in full swing during Independence Week - July 1st through July 6th.

I had a real good time hunting down and QSOing with all 13 Colonies in 2015 - I'd like to do it again using only QRP CW, but there are too many Colonies that do not operate CW at all.

It is a fun event which I heartily endorse. It never hurts to learn a bit of history while engaging in the World's Best Hobby.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Oh, wow!


That about says it all, doesn't it?  And here I was, wondering why I've been hearing so little on the bands.  Looks like, even though we'd be battling summer static, 80 and 40 Meters in the evenings might be the best bet for decent QSOs.

It might also do me in good stead to get something decent up in the air for 6 Meters, to take advantage of this time of year.  I think that in my close to 40 years in Amateur Radio, that you can count on one hand, the number of QSOs that I've made on 6 Meters.  Admittedly, up until owning my KX3, I never had 6 Meter capability before. Add to that, that I've never had a decent antenna for 6 Meters, either.  I'll have to Google the subject to see if I can't homebrew something decent. Anyone have suggestions?

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Thursday, June 02, 2016

Limburger conditions


I've been fortunate enough the past few days to be able to head outside to the Jeep during lunch. Unfortunately, band conditions in my area have been akin to Limburger cheese ..... kind of on the stinky side.

I heard only one signal on 17 Meters and that was a Stateside station calling "CQ DX". 20 Meters was largely dead, although John ON4UN was busting through with a 599 signal.  Considering the amount of aluminum he has hanging in the air, that's no surprise. I've worked him several times and was tempted to try again, but he was looking for NA DX and I highly doubt he needed another QSO from that rarest of States, New Jersey.

The lack of signals was so bad that I even ventured up into the SSB portion of the band to hear what I could hear.  Not much there, either.  Other than one XYL telling her friend about her car's recent mechanical troubles, I heard one or two Italian stations and that was about it.

No NPOTA stations, no SOTA stations, no QRP stations were heard.  Calling CQ for a few minutes, yielded nothing, either.

I hate days like this, although it's days like this that make me appreciate K3WWP's streak even more.

SMH

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Enjoying the journey

There's an active post on the ARRL NPOTA Facebook page, where someone is lamenting the fact that some of the NPOTA Activators are not loading up their logs to Logbook of the World in a "timely" enough manner to his satisfaction.

I think we have to keep in mind, that for many of the Activators, this is not a "free" exercise.  Maybe they have to pay to get into a National Park, perhaps not. Destinations a long way from home involve gas, wear and tear on the car, perhaps even lodging and meals. There are also other considerations that don't involve money, but still involve expense. Time away from home, friends and family.  These all factor into the equation.

Yes, Activators are putting the Parks on the air, because they want to. No one is holding a gun to their heads. So they pretty much ignore the personal expense because they're having a good time and are getting some personal satisfaction from doing their activations. At the same time,  they are giving all the Chasers something invaluable, too.  They are giving you a good time!  They are providing you with something fun, something exciting, and new. 

There have been anecdotes told of those who have their dwindling interest in the hobby rekindled because of NPOTA.  In my own personal experience, I had a dormant Ham come up to me while I was activating the National Gateway (RC08) at Sandy Hook, NJ.  He saw my antenna and me, sitting at my little table, putting The Hook on the air.  He bicycled up and introduced himself with this name and call and proceeded to ask me "What's going on?"  He then proceeded to tell me how he was licensed, but was inactive. I in turn, explained all about NPOTA and portable ops. Not only was his interest in the hobby rekindled (you could tell by "that look" in his eyes), but he also brought his young son over to take a look.  You could almost see the light bulb go off over his head. To him, the idea of not being stuck in a Ham shack, but being able to be operate outside in the sunshine, with the breeze in his hair struck a resonant chord with him. It was almost like he never thought of the possibility before.

Let's also not forget that NPOTA is not a contest.  Yes, there's a Leader Board and yes, stats are being kept; but that doesn't mean that NPOTA is radio sport and nothing else. If anything, it's an operating event - designed by the ARRL to put a new, shiny face on our wonderful hobby.

With that, I'm going to go off on a tangent here, and am going to state my personal opinion that Amateur Radio has gone somewhat off the rails and has become too much "radio sport". We worry too much about DXCC tallies and contests in general. Look, I'm as guilty as anyone else in that regard, as I run a QRP contest each August ........ but what's happened to the rag chew?  When was the last time you had a QSO with a DX station that was more than "599 TU"?  When was the last time you talked about the weather with a foreign Ham, or about some other subject not related directly to radio?

I remember when I was a Novice in the late 70s, and actually had conversations with DX stations!  I know, unheard of, right?  And the QSL cards I received actually contained friendly letters, sometimes with photos of the DX Ham's station or hometown.  Why have we largely gotten away from that?  That was the best part of the hobby!

Before I get accused of contest bashing - let me state that radio sport has its time and place. There are people that exist only for that - and that's fine. That's another facet of this hobby that is perfectly legitimate. However, it seems to me that we've let a little bit too much of that mentality creep into the rest of our hobby.  We worry too much about scores, standings and results. I think what we need to do is slow down and enjoy the journey and not worry so much about the destination.

The journey is the fun part and the destination should be the fond memories of the things we enjoyed along the way. We need to exist for each other, not just for standings, results, wallpaper and trophies.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016


We will never forget you.
We will always be grateful for your sacrifice.
You will forever be in our prayers.

W2LJ

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Grand slam?

So how big a home run has the ARRL hit with National Parks on the Air?  I guess when you've made the cover of the DX Engineering catalog - you could say a very, very big one!


Don't forget as we rapdily approach the first day of Summer, in about three weeks, that Skeeter Hunt numbers for 2016 will begin to be issued. I'm still tweaking the rules a bit to accomodate full integration of NPOTA into the Hunt. Bonus points will be awarded to those who activate an entity during this year's contest.

I've successfully chased about seven new ones this weekend. It's becoming a tad more difficult to hear new ones that I've never worked before.  I think the highlight was wortking K2EZ to get Morristown National Historical Park in my "entities worked" coluimn.  I helped Dave KD2FSI with his activation of HP28 and I went up there once by myself to activate it - but I had never worked it until yesterday.  While twiddling the dial on 40 Meters yesterday afternoon, I caught Andrea on groundwave and added another to the "worked" tally.

Even though the WPX CW contest was this weekend, my focus has been laser like on NPOTA. This event has been so much - it's almost kind of like having the 13 Colonies event all year long!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Back in the saddle again!

Woo Hoo!

The tendinitis in my ankle still has me wearing my "boot". However, it feels good enough to allow me to hobble down the basement in order to get back behind the radio. So I was happy to work five NPOTA ATNOs this weekend!

I have 112 confirmed, with two of the five from this weekend. Once the other three logs are posted, I should be up to 115 confirmed.  What was even cooler is that four of the five QSOs were CW QSOs. I am so much more used to working CW pileups than SSB pileups. I manage, but I feel slightly like a duck out of water when using the microphone. In a CW pileup, I feel like it's just a matter of time, while in a SSB pileup, I keep my fingers crossed the whole time.

Next weekend in the USA is Memorial Day Weekend, which is the "unofficial" beginning of Summer.  It's my humble opinion that this will bring out a lot more NPOTA activations, with folks having vacation time, and/or wanting to spend their weekends outdoors, if at all possible.

The Activator bug is biting me again, causing me to itch.  I'm thinking that WR03, the Delaware National Scenic River is a possibility. Maybe Washington's Crossing Park.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least@