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.

Post Field Day Report

I got a late start to field day this year due to a late breaking family commitment. Our club tried to setup at the local weather station but cancelled operations due to a large noise source crashing the bands at that location.

I started operating about 19:30 UTC. I started at 5W on SSB but over the first hour only made one contact. The band conditions were not good on 20m with lots of QRM and QSB. I added the amplifier and started to work on 45W. My power draw was significantly higher but my Q rate increased. The solar panel kept up with the power consumption even though there was quite a bit of cloudiness. I continued to operate on 20m until dusk when I switched to 40m. Overall I made 60 Phone contacts over the course of about 8 hours. My score this year will be lower even with more Q’s due to the higher power I ran. I did not get a chance to run digital.

What worked:

  1. Digital logging – netbook needed one charge cycle during this period. The 12V to 18V DC-DC converter was running at abou 2.2A during the charging cycle. I used a 7Ahr for this through a spare Solar Charge controller. I am going to look at a tablet for next year.
  2. The EFHW antenna worked great on 20m.
  3. SOTAbeams travel mast + TV tripod worked great to support antenna with no guy lines.
  4. Solar generator box had enough juice to supply the day’s activity even at the higher power consumption and had some power to spare.
  5. Tube Tarp came in real handy as shade. Luckily no rain on Saturday. I’ll do better with the depolyment next time as I figured out how to guy it better.

What did not work so good:

  1. Can’t run digital mode while using an amp. The amp uses the ACC port on the radio but provides no pass through. I am looking at how I can accomplish this for next time.
  2. I don’t have the battery budget to run 45W phone for 24 hours. I figure I would have run out of power after about 12 hours. Partly cloudy day didn’t help.
  3. Didn’t take advantage of more 6 stations to raise Q count.
  4. Calling CQ consumes a lot of power. Need to refactor the power budget.

So I figure my score this year for 60 SSB QSO’s + bonus points for emergency power will work out to 310 for my 1B station. I am convinced now that I have to finish learning CW so that next year I can run 5W on CW and up my point count. A more directional antenna would be nice but a portable beam antenna remains elusive. For some reason I seemed to be doing better with stations in California than on the more densely populated east coast.

In summary, A great afternoon of outdoor radio fun and already looking forward to next year.

Field Day!

Here is my station Deployment for Field Day.  Set up the tube tarp after all as there is some rain in the forecast. Shade helps as well. Not a lot of direct sunshine but am getting some juice to the batteries. The EFHW is well tuned to the 20m band at this time. All systems are go for the start in 1 hour. Good Luck to everyone participating today.

Photo Jun 24, 11 42 58 AM

Field Day Preps Complete!

My Field Day preps are done. Tested the EFHW and its ready to roll on 20m and 15m. There is 12Ahr of solar charged battery ready as well. I won’t be able to join the club at the NWS office as I have a commitment in the morning I have to deal with. I may start late but I am ready for operations in the backyard. Will get some water bottles and snacks for daytime ops. There is a 30% of rain tomorrow afternoon so I’ll keep an eye on that as well to see if I need to deploy the tarp tent. Rain means clouds so that may help moderate the heat. Today the NWS is advising people to stay indoors between 1pm and 5pm!

Tested the EFHW a bit and am finding Common Mode Current issues if I run higher than 90W. The SWR increases with power and foldback starts kicking in if I try and run at 100W. This should not be a problem on FD as I’ll be running at 5W where everything behaves itself. I’ll be trying computer logging this year as well. If things get real tough on Phone I plan to try PSK31 and have setup some DM78- macros for that.

Looking forward to a great Field Day in the outdoors!

Completed Linked EFHW

I completed the linked EFHW later yesterday afternoon and tuned the 15m, 17m & 20m bands. I removed about 6″ of wire to tune 15m, 2″ to tune 17m and about 3″ to tune 20m. The antenna is deployed vertically on a SOTAbeams Travel pole up 30 feet. I am using a TV mast tripod as a base. In the field I would lash the mast to a fence post or other similar support.

I tested the antenna on my base rig at 100W and made three easy SSB contacts. Two of these were EU DX contacts. I  left it tuned for 20m and ran WSPR for the last 12 hours. Here is the map:


This works out to 112 unique heard spots with 66 unique heard by spots when running 1/2W. Looks like the antenna is a winner for Field Day! Only thing I will likely try today is adding a 1:1 choke as I am seeing the SWR swing a bit on SSB transmit.

Linked EFHW Coming Together

I purchased the following for $1 at Home Depot yesterday to form links for the EFHW I plan to use for Field Day:

Photo Jun 21, 10 47 20 AM

These are buckles to make paracord bracelets. Here is how the resulting link looks like using these, a couple of cable ties and a pair of Anderson Power Poles:

Photo Jun 21, 11 01 22 AMPhoto Jun 21, 11 01 32 AM

I have made initial wire cuts for 15m, 17m, 20m and 40m. I also cut 1/10 wavelength counterpoise wires for each band. I have also prepped the Travel Mast and the TV Tripod so I will hopefully setup later this afternoon (when it cools off a bit) and tune the wires. I’ll run 15m-20m as a vertical and 40m as an inverted V.

The only other prep I am working on today is I’ve taken the solar generator box I built last year and set it up outside with the two 15W panels to charge them up.

Update: Just did the calculations on the 40m inverted V and found that I probably don’t have enough space to lay that out in the backyard due to obstacles. Will configure the first half as a vertical and then the remaining half as a sloper which I’ll aim towards the north and terminate 4 feet off the ground. Only need a radius of about 16ft. A quick run on EZNEC show the following pattern:


Plan B for Field Day Antennas

I was pondering what I would do for a Field Day antenna after yesterday’s debacle with the Homebrew Buddipole and military mast. It just hit me a few minutes ago. I’ll run the EFHW antenna as a vertical on 20m and 15m. It is a proven performer and it is resonant thus no tuner needed. I’ll use the TV Mast tripod Cliff gave me to support it during the contest on the SOTABeams Travel mast.  What I will do this week is set that up and cut some links for 15m, 20m and possibly even 40m. Will be much more manageable as a vertical. I have 5 days to work out the details. Tomorrow morning I’ll put put the battery packs and solar panels to top off the charge. This should work!

Epic Fail! – Homebrew Buddipole on Military Mast

I took out the military poles and tripod today for the first time with the intent of getting the homebrew Buddipole up around 30 ft. The mast itself works pretty well with the tripod hub. I mounted the Buddipole on top as I have before with the painters pole except this time I replaced the thread adapter with a 3/4″ PVC pipe adapter and used a length of pipe to fit inside the mast section. I guyed it near the top. I sent it up and it promptly got swung around in the wind and tangled in a tree. After twisting and turning awhile I got it clear and up to 28 ft then tied off the guys. I left the last section off as I did not have enough coax to get it in the shack.

Started operating on SSB and made a strong 59 contact into Arizona then noticed that my SWR was swinging around. Looked outside and saw that one half of the dipole was swinging into more of a v-beam. Moments later it fell off completely. Doh!

Photo Jun 17, 1 25 23 PM

The section landed cleanly and did no damage but I had to take the whole thing down. Guy lines get tangled, the aluminum mast sections are burning hot to the touch and my temper starts flaring. Did I mention it’s 97 degrees outside with 51% humidity?

So I carefully sort out the guy lines, move the tripod a few feet away from the tree and place a wedge in to keep it from swinging as much. Sent it up again and adjusted the guy lines. Went back inside the shack and hooked up the SWR meter. It started a sweep and was looking good when I heard a SNAP and the meter SWR reading went full scale. I looked out the window and sure enough the half of the dipole fell again. On inspection I was not so lucky as I broke the whip off at the base. Doh!

So thus ends my Field Day Preps today.I am goign to use something much simpler next week. Either the Homebrew Buddistick which I have used before, an end fed vertical up about 30 feet or a 1/4 wave vertical for 20m with four ground radials. The Buddipole is going to be limited to lower heights using the painters pole. If I had more time I’d try an inverted V for 20m using the Spiderbeam mast.


Buddipole 1:1 Current Balun

Here is the 1:1 Current Balun for the Homebrew Buddipole antenna. I sourced the parts kit from Ebay and just had to assemble it as before. This is ready to test as soon as tomorrow. I am planning to setup the 30 ft military pole with the Buddipole for the first time tomorrow if the wind cooperates. This should work very well at 30 ft!

Photo Jun 13, 2 49 18 PM

Photo Jun 14, 5 25 02 PM