September 2, 2017
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Configured a Pelican case to carry the FT-450D and an MFJ-4230MVP 12V power supply along with the microphone and assorted cables. The case has two “levels” so there was plenty of room. I plan to use the FT-450D portable with antennas that can be matched with the internal 3:1 tuner. So this is my FT-450D “go-kit”:
I have a QRP version of this with the FT-817ND in another case. There is also a smaller case now which holds the Netbook and cables needs to connect either rig for digital modes. I have one more smaller pelican case to configure for solar charged portable operation with the LiFePo batteries.
July 27, 2017
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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:
July 27, 2017
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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.
June 28, 2017
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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.
- 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.
- The EFHW antenna worked great on 20m.
- SOTAbeams travel mast + TV tripod worked great to support antenna with no guy lines.
- Solar generator box had enough juice to supply the day’s activity even at the higher power consumption and had some power to spare.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Didn’t take advantage of more 6 stations to raise Q count.
- 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.
June 23, 2017
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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!
June 4, 2017
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I have two more weekends to prep for 2017 ARRL Field Day. Next weekend I plan to test the Homebrew buddistick on 20m WSPR and compare to the 20m Buddipole I tested last week. I need to complete a 1:1 current balun for both of these antennas. I am also reconfiguring my go-kits. I have a case for solar power generation, another to carry gear for digital ops, and yet another for the FT-817ND and other equipment. I have also sourced a “tarp tent” which I hope to test next weekend as well. Just missing a field portable chair and table at this point. Need the shade and will need plenty of water as well.
My plan now is to run solar powered battery operation from start of the event on Saturday, run 20m & 15m through the day then switch to 40m once the sunsets and operate till the late evening. I will not likely operate on Sunday at all. I plan to start with SSB and switch to digital PSK31 if band conditions limit QRP SSB operation.
December 11, 2016
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Living in South Texas has some advantages especially in mid December. Great day here, sun was out and the temp around 78°F. Took out the FT-817ND and setup for solar operation with the DXtreme end fed antenna in vertical orientation. This end fed antenna needs an antenna tuner but allows me to operate on multiple bands. I used the LDG Z-11 Pro II tuner and ran at 45W today. Solar conditions were pretty bad with SFI of 72 and a sun spot number of zero. That’s right…zero…nada. I only made a few stateside connections on 20m. The ARRL 10 meter contest was going on today and I found this band was open. I logged contacts in Argentina and New Zealand without any difficulty.
Some notes on my operation today…first up it was bit breezy had gusts up to 30 mph. The travel mast worked great but I did have two instances where one of the segments broke loose and brought the wire down.I am going to think through some 3d printed clamps to keep this from happening in the future. I found I am short one PowerPole “Y” harness if I need to use the radio, amp and tuner. I switched from the two 15W panels to the fold-able 52W panel so I could free up the power connection. Duh, I just remembered I have some power distribution blocks that would solve this problem! Will try these next time. This time of year the sun angle is way different than the summer. Makes finding a suitable position for the solar panel a bit tricky. Overall no issues running the portable station at 45W. Finally, there was a lot of noise on the bands today. Suspect it was external man-made noise as the radio Noise blanker would help.
Feels good to get outside and play radio again!
November 5, 2016
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I was going through a local pawn shop earlier this week and came across a Gateway LT4004u netbook that had just hit the floor a couple of days earlier. It turns out to be in great shape with 2GB ram (maxed out), 150GB drive and a decent set of USB and other ports. I have been wanting a netbook for its size and low power requirements to work HF portable digital modes. This little unit fit the bill perfectly and for $60 I could not go wrong. I have ordered a 12V to 19V converter so that I can use this with my solar generator. I re-installed Windows 7 on it and after hunting a bit was able to load all the orginall drivers. Only thing I plan to add to it at this time is a Bluetooth dongle so that I can control my FT-817ND with a bluetooth CAT gizmo I acquired some time ago. Battery life on this looks quite good so I’d say I lucked out.
October 4, 2016
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I did some preliminary testing of the Hi-voltage capacitor I completed last week and found some interesting things.Rather than commit the 40m loop design I decided to try and adapt the existing loop antenna I have previously described. To make this work in a configuration similar to what I have in mind with the 40m loop, I installed the capacitor at the top and used a toroid instead of the shielded coax loop for the coupling at the bottom of the loop. To do this is needed to replace the vertical PVC supports to accommodate the configuration. The reducer I used for the 1/2″ pipe on the 40m loop was replaced with a 3/4″ version. This configuration worked well. The capacitor is in the range of being able to tune this loop on 20m. Previous experiments indicated a good match with 5 turns on the FT140-43 toroid. It turned out that 6 turns would give me a perfect match 1:1 SWR at resonance. Here is the SWR plot on 20m.
The bandwidth at the 2:1 points measured at 45kHz. This compares favorably to the original capacitor which was indicating a bandwidth of around 68kHz. This indicates that the Ohmic losses are indeed lower and therefore efficiency should be higher as well.
I did not have enough time this weekend to run all the measurements I had planned but I did operate the antenna indoors at 45W with the FT-817ND and amplifier.The Califonia QSO party was underway and I made numerous contacts in California without difficulty with this loop. The capacitor handled the power without any issues at all!
September 17, 2016
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Setup the 20m EFHW as a vertical on the 30ft travel mast as before. The mast is lashed to a chain link fence post and the match box is just off the ground. Checking the antenna at the feed point with the Mini60 antenna analyzer showed a bandwidth of 588 kHz with a 1.11 SWR at 14.175 MHz. The antenna is resonant across the 14.150-14.350 Mhz voice band. Then through a 50ft piece of RG-8X coax the SWR increased to 1.24 but the antenna remained resonant. Here is the station in operation:
There was a couple of QSO parties going on this afternoon so there was a rich field of domestic contacts. I operated at 45W using the FT-817ND and the amplifier.Partly cloudy day today so there were period with no direct sunshine. The following power statistics were noted:
After 1 hour Solar panel provided .644Ahr and the rig consumed .380Ahr
After 2 hours Solar panel provided 1.146Ahr and the rig consumed .904Ahr
I was unable to take a final reading as I accidentally pulled the plug on the solar panel erasing the counts. The 52W fold up panel was able to keep up with my duty cycle at full 45W.
I operated for 3 hours and made 16 QSO’s mainly in the Washington State area.No difficulties at all making the contacts and received solid 59’s across the board. Propagation during this time favored North America but Europe started opening up towards the end. I was able to copy QSO’s in progress with stations in Italy and Germany. I was not able to break the pile ups though.
All in all I am impressed with the performance of this antenna and with the ability of the solar panel to let me operate for an extended period even with periods of cloudiness. Here is a view of the antenna and the antenna fed point.