Monthly Archives: July 2017

First QSO’s from South Padre Island

Setup the end fed antenna on the 3rd floor condo balcony this afternoon. This time I had about 10 feet of wire hanging off the end with the remaining 20ft aligned with the telescoping fishing pole at a 45° angle. Radio, tuner and amp were configured as before. Band conditions were generally bad. SFI of 68 with a sunspot number of zero. That being said I did manage four QSO’s over about an hour and a half. Two were on 20m and two were on 10m. Most copied me at between 55 and 57. So it works! Here is the rig on the coffee table:


Here is the antenna deployed on the balcony:

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First Beachside Setup

Got started a bit late last night but managed to set up the beachside balcony station. I wrapped 30 feet of wire around the fishing pole and attached the end fed matchbox. I strung the coax around the balancing floor. The “mast” is self supporting in a nearly vertical orientation. I set up the FT-817ND with the tuner and amplifier set for 45w out.

The 20m band tuned right up but the band was quite dead by the late night evening. I moved to 40m and found a bit more activity but no contacts were made. The noise floor was surprisingly low on 40m considering there was lightning visible offshore. No contacts were made although I did pick up Roberto I2VRN with a solid 59. Could not bust the pileup.

All this being said will try this setup again this afternoon and try and scare up a QSO.

To the Beach!

Taking the FT-817 to South Padre Island today. I don’t have the artificial ground yet but will try without it. I can try two antennas. The first is the end fed antenna with a 9:1 matchbox. Will try and wind 30 ft of wire on the 26 foot pole. I’ll have to run with a tuner and spread out the coax on the floor of the balcony. May also run a wire down about 20 feet as a counterpoise. Next choice is a vertical 20m dipole. For that I’ll run a 16 ft wire vertical and another hanging from the balcony and use a 1:1 current balun. I am on the third floor of a wood and brick structure and an about 150 yards from the Gulf of Mexico.

Homebrew Artificial Ground

I will be operating on a third floor condo by the beach at South Padre Island, Texas soon and am thinking through the antenna. I have clear space above the balcony so a temporary vertical is certainly feasible using the new 7.2m crappie poles I just got in from Ebay. The problem is that I can’t really set up a decent ground system. An end fed vertical comes to mind but would need at least 30 ft of coax snaking around the balcony. Ground radials are out as are elevated radials. A vertical dipole would be feasible either with wire or perhaps a pair of ham sticks. Issue may be keeping the lower half coming in contact with folks in the lower balconies.

I’ll likely work out a vertical dipole but I am thinking of using an artificial ground with an end fed vertical. I have some plans for such a unit and may convert a unused manual MFG tuner to that purpose. Will scope out the site today and see what is feasible.

Update: 7/24/2017 Found a used MFJ artificial ground unit on eBay and won a low ball bid. Will try that with the end fed antenna and some counterpoise wire. 

First DX Using FT8

Made my first two DX contacts to Australia today on 40m FT8. I need to get used to the faster pace but otherwise looks like it works pretty well. I added the FT8 mode to HRD logging software and am uploading the contacts as “DATA” to LoTW.

Exploring a New Digitial Mode: FT8

Joe Taylor is testing a new digital mode called FT8. The development version of WSJT-X software now supports this mode. FT8 ( Franke-Taylor design, 8-FSK modulation) works similar to the more familiar JT-65 and JT-9 modes except the T/R cycle completes in just 15 seconds thus greatly reducing the time to complete a QSO. The bandwidth of the signal is 47 Hz and the decoding threshold is -20dB.


I downloaded the development version this morning and tried FT8 on 40m. There were just a few signals but I did close my first QSO. Pskreporter showed my signals was also being received in Australia this morning. Some things to note: Logging may not work and I understand that LoTW does not recognize FT8 as of yet. Also, the software autoexecutes the T/R sequence once the QSO starts. You have less than 2 seconds to select the station to respond too!


Happy Independance Day!

God Bless America!

No radio today…just enjoying our Freedom and Liberty.

Morse Code Trainer

I need to get back to learning CW. I still remember the code as far as sending but I have not been able to practice reading. I found an used MFJ-418 code trainer on Ebay for about half the new price and jumped on it. Hope it can help get me reading soon.


VHF Winlink

I started looking into how to use VHF Winlink with the Icom 7100 and it’s built in sound card. I am close to getting this working. The Mail server nodes are all in the Harlingen Tx area about 30-40 miles from my QTH. The closest working digipeter is in La Feria, TX. Sadly, there does not appear to be a working digipeter in Brownsville. In order to get everything working you will need the following:

  1. CAT7200 software – This creates a virtual serial port that maps to the IC-7100 USB CV-I interface. Pretty handy software and should work for other older programs as well. Good overview of the setup can be found on WB4SON’s blog.
  2. UZ7HO SoundModem – This is a software TNC that connects to the virtual port created above and to the RMS Express software via TCP connection. W2YG has some good material on setup for Signalink hardware.
  3. RMS Express – I have used this before for HF email using WINMOR. For VHF at 1200 baud you will need to use packet winlink.

For setup info recommend seeing the video by K4REF showing an overview of the usage. I cannot report 100% success at this time. I am able to connect to the mail server and start handshaking with it. Unfortunately, no mail has been exchanged. I suspect that packets are being lost in the exchange resulting in retries and eventually it gives up. I’ll be playing with this some more and see if I can get a message through. Hard part is done with the rig and software setups.