My Most Recent QSO's

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Classic QRP Rig

"The transmitter was running at 10 watts input and a copy of a 1928 QST design. Hence part of the exchange was "28mopa" meaning a transmitter from 1928 and a Master Oscillator Power Amplyfer, it uses vacume tubes and has about 5 watts output".

That was the response I received from an e-mail I sent to Scott (WA3FFC) in Brookville Pennsylvania a few days ago. (I worked him in error on the SKCC weekend event)

His signal was SO unique, I assumed it was a home brew QRP rig. And I was right (hence the e-mail to confirm my guess). I don't work a lot of stations on 80 meters and was surprised that he heard me.
It had a slow, almost musical, chirp when I answered his CQ. Scott said he worked a little over 60 stations in the 48 hour time period. That's a LOT more than I've ever worked at once!

I've worked a few "parasets" and even an old CIA radio but:

This is by far, the most unique radio I've ever worked!

Scott (WA3FFC) is a member of the " The Antique Wireless Association"
And I must say, a real artist.

This transmitter is a beautiful piece of work!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dog House

View this entry as a "Word to the Wise" this Christmas Season....

I love this hobby but there's a "line in the sand" for everyone.

It's very tempting to offer your wife or girl friend a special "gift of appreciation" this year.

My personal thoughts are another QRP radio.

But Just Remember

She would NOT be very happy with a new linear amplifier, another massive beam on the roof, or a multi-band HT capable of working satellites.
Only radio guys would understand this....

Once you find yourself in the "Dog House".....It's very hard to find a way out!

"Give the Gift of Laughter"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Simsbury Conneticut QSO

There was a LOT of noise on the band this morning. Useless to attempt the Navy Radio Club net on 7245 Mhz under these conditions. I threw out my call on the FISTS frequency (7058) with no luck. Checked the 7040 freq for QRP stations and was about to give up and tried the SKCC freq (7055).

I heard a very weak station and tried the contact. (not expecting a return)

Jack, (K1ARO) near Hartford Conneticut (Simsbury CT) was also using a "straight key" and we exchanged the basics of "rig and antenna". We wished each a "Happy Holiday" and called it quits.

Jack is a member (#1580) of the FISTS CW Club.

Hartford is known as one of the largest Insurance Company Capitols in America and home (from 1835-1910) of the famous author Samuel Clemens. (known as Mark Twain)

I've always enjoyed "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and have chuckled at Mark Twains Quotes for years. One of my favorites is:

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first" - Mark Twain

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jacksonville, Florida QSO

I've been off the air for a few weeks visiting relatives and friends in New York. I took the rig with me but just didn't get the free time for radio. (sometimes that's just the way it is).

I've missed CW and decided to set up and throw out the call again (7058 Mhz) this afternoon. (2030z)
On about the third CQ I heard a (?) but nothing more. On about the fifth CQ, I heard WA8OFU in Jacksonville, Florida. It was a very brief exchange at a quick pace.
I copied about 80% of it with QSB but we exchanged the basics.
Jack gave me a 559 report with his Ten Tec Omni and a Vertical antenna.

He is also a retired Navy Chief and FISTS member # 12112.

He was born in Weirton, WV. (the northern panhandle).

Jacksonville is about 550 miles from me....This means the rig is working.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

International Morse Code Book

We had a nice trip to New York City last week. (I took the rig but was so busy I didn't get any "radio time"). But, on the positive side, I found this little neat little item while looking through some "very old" books!

It's dated 1918, and I assume, a written guide for some old 78 LP records used to train "Morse Code" operators. It was produced by the "Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America".

Something that puzzles me is the Morse Code abbreviations at the end of the booklet.

I was a signalman in the Navy and we had our own "special" characters. We used "INT" for a question mark and a whole series of different "Q" and "Z" signals for military ships.

I once challenged a very large unidentified ship, on a dark, rainy and foggy morning to "halt, identify yourself, or be fired upon"

(And we would have too.....if the wrong call sign was returned with an incorrect "password").

In essence, I used just a few choice "characters" to communicate the entire exchange. Fortunately, they replied, and with the correct password, (I'm condensing here) "This is the USS New at will! )

(I'm probably the only West Virginian to have ever done this and lived to tell about it!)

Those small "variations" between military and civilian ship procedures can be a BIG difference in different situations.....

While looking towards the end of this booklet by the "Victor Talking Machine Co." I couldn't help but notice these (to me) unusual characters used to highlight CW conversations.

See anything unusual about them?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

599 into New York

I had a VERY nice, long 40 meter (7058 Mhz) QSO this morning, while waiting for the cholesterol medicine to "kick in" before breakfast. We must have been exactly the right distance, for the first bounce, to get signals (both ways) like this. I threw the call sign out this morning about 9:30 (est) and WB2FXK came back to me with a signal that rattled the room.

Although I get signal reports (quite often at the 579 level), there's not many that reach the 599, Jack in Horseheads, NY was a surprise. At first, I had to think about telling him I was QRP but sooner or later, in every QSO, the power level becomes a question.

I usually send the rig, power, and antenna, on the second exchange, and he was amazed that I was using 5 watts and an indoor antenna. (Of course, Jack had a really good antenna-- which has a lot to do with a good report--and he was using about 75 watts from near Elmira, NY.

If I'm not mistaken, Elmira (used to be and maybe still is) the home of the Schweizer Sailplane Company. I've flown in the SGS 2-33, a few times. It's a close to being a bird as you can ever be....

The world "sailplane distance record" used to be held by a pilot that flew the Allegheny Mountains from near Pittsburgh PA, and a place in Tennessee, and back....... in the same day! I've watched a few fly over from a lookout tower near Peters Mountain in WV. Think about that for a minute....that's a LONG was to fly in a plane without an engine!

If you've never been in the sky in one of these, try this place. Harris Hill Soaring Center, Elmira, NY

Jack's antenna was a trap dipole, on a tri band Yagi, up about 50 feet. We talked about the Dayton Hamfest a few minutes and "snow showers" here and there. I mentioned to him that next week, I was going to New York City for several days, ....he jokingly sez "I thot u wr a hillbilly" Hihi. His XYL had the coffee ready and we both 73'ed for bacon and eggs!


12-10-2008----This afternoon the mailman brought this fine card to me.

I don't usually display my QSL cards, on this site, but this one from Jack (WB2FXK) is particularly nice!

I'm proud of this one.....I sent a return card immediately!

NAQCC Sprint last night

The NAQCC Sprint is one of my favorite events because it gives me the opportunity to work more QRP stations. Last night between 0130z and 0330z was the monthly event for these QRP club operators. I was fearful that I wouldn't catch any operators, as the event began, because I didn't hear anyone on either the 20 meter or 40 meter bands. That meant my only opportunity for success would be on my worst 80 meter band! (not an encouraging bit of news)

I took me a long time to realize my chances for contacts would be the "sit and wait" method.
The "search and pounce" method just didn't work because of all the competition from those with "great antenna's" and "great ears".

I wasn't successful until near the end of the contest. (a lot of stations give up by then)
The key was to throw out my call and let them come to me. It worked.... when I used "half steps" (using .5 intervals) and I also put my radio into "reverse CW mode".

The "reverse CW mode" changes the audio of interfering stations, much the same as shifting from USB and LSB on a SSB radio. I don't understand (technically) how it's accomplished, but....hey, it seems to work for me when I'm listening to VERY weak signals!

Towards the end of the contest (the last half hour) I was able to work K4BAI (Georgia), W1TF (Georgia) and last but not least, N1LU in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire station was especially rewarding to me because I've never worked that state on 80 meters!

That's not many contacts but for an indoor antenna and 5 watts, I'm very happy to have worked these three guys. And the really great thing..... it's QRP to QRP !!

I had a little advantage by using a "straight key" (I get double points for using this key) and it will be intersting to see the results posted on their web site:


I imagine it will take a few days to calculate, and post on the North American QRP CW Club site.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Morning QSO

Its cold here in Kanawha Valley today (23 degrees) but in Stover, Missouri -- it's Sunny and warm. (51 F). This morning, I worked KC0JKD (for the third time) in the last few years.

I heard Jim pretty well again (we usually send 559 reports both ways) but the beginning was very weak for both of us....
I had just sent my call on 7058 Mhz when I heard N8? (and he was weak also). I again sent my full call, and this time he returned with TU OM...very weak but lets try. UR RST 229--Name Jim QTH Stover, MO HW CPY?

The rest of the QSO was at the 559 level..... Evidently, we were both in the bottom of a QSB cycle and good signals were present from here on out. I was glad to hear "GM John UR SIG up 559 now. Got info FB on QRP ES doing just fine".

There was a lot of activity just one KC down from us but I copied his old " Tentec Delta" very well (If I'm not mistaken, this one is a CLASSIC "multi-band rig") for the rest of the brief QSO. I love those Tentec rigs! (they never seem to wear out)

We're both FISTS members, and exchanged #'s both ways, for the contact. (Jim is member number 8481 and I am member number 13968)


Last night, I listened for the elusive fox again. The hunt was for a fox in "Georgia" and another in "Colorado". I never heard either of them but DID hear a lot of barking on the 80 meter band.

I assumed the run was after "Georgia" but I was Friend Gari (K8KFJ), in the next town here, caught him in Colorado. Great Job!

It was good to work Jim (KC0JDK) in Missouri again this morning (600 miles from me) but this just shows the importance of good filtering in a rig.
I can get the distance, but a big bunch of hounds pursuing a running fox, calls for a good pair of very narrow ears!

If you're a radio'll understand that statement.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Navy Amateur Radio Club

This morning, I deviated from the norm, (I actually used the "SSB" microphone on the radio) and was surprised that I could "check in" with the " Navy Amateur Radio Club". I'm a member of this group because, (how could you guess) I was a former "Signalman" on a Navy Destroyer back in the late 60's. (the USS Corry DD-817)
Their Web Site is here: USS Corry DD 817 Association

Actually, I was a Boatswains Mate, while a member of the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club, but near the end of my tour in Vietnam, I re-discovered my Morse Code skills and transferred to the signal bridge. I was helping the Quartermasters, with their daily navigation duties, and could read the "slow code" being sent back and forth, between our ships, to verify our latitude and longitude readings on the nautical maps we used at the time.

This morning, the band was again very long, and although the net control station (N4USN) wasn't able to hear me, K4GWG was able to relay my "weather report" and a few details to the net control station.
I was amazed Larry (K4GWG) could hear me from Tennessee this morning. (I've been very lax on "check-ins" because of my QRP power and poor band conditions). A lot of these guys are "down-south" or "up north" towards the Great Lakes. It's hard to work them with 10 watts and an indoor antenna. The solar flux this morning is 68 doesn't get much worse than this as far as radio is concerned.

But to make the QSO more memorial, Larry actually remembered my name, QTH, and QRP status here in Charleston, WV! (I don't think they get a lot of "QRP" stations checking into the net, so when one makes the news).

There's a special bond between "Veterans" and I enjoy checking in with everyone. I'm hoping the winter months will continue to improve the bands and I'll be able to do more of this....

There are many memories I'll only discuss with "Vietnam Veterans".....if you haven't "been there", it's no use trying to get others to understand. I know that may not make a lot of sense to some people but it's futile to waste time trying to persuade people that "haven't been there" the complexities of the Tonkin Gulf shoreline and rivers.

I'm very proud of my service to my country and the sacrifices of my former shipmates. I have two honorable discharges (one from the Navy and one from the Air Force).'s much too long a story for this blog.

This group is a nice platform to remember those who served on the high seas and coastal shorelines. It was nice listening to the conversations this morning!

My member number is 720.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Run for the Bacon

I got a kick out of the Flying Pigs "Run for the Bacon" contest last night. It was my first event, with this club, and I actually worked a few stations (QRP) at 5 watts. I don't do real well with these type of events because of my indoor antenna and "standard filtering" on my Icom 703 QRP rig. I can get the distance....(last night it was about 1,000 miles into Texas) but unless the other station is "off frequency" just a bit, It's VERY difficult to distinguish "piglets" from one another.

My first contact was W5RCP in Putnam, Texas and he was VERY weak (his RST 229). I worked him at 0218z (18 minutes after the start of the Bacon Run). He actually returned my call, when I sent out CQFP from 7044 Mhz on the 40 meter band. Before I changed freq's to the 80 meter band, I also heard W5TA in Round Rock, Texas but couldn't get him to hear me.

Last night, the 40 meter band was VERY long again! (since I didn't hear anything between here in West Virginia and Texas). I've found this to be the case the last several days now with the solar flux at 68.

On the good side....when I listened to 3562 MHZ on the 80 meter band, PIGS were everywhere!

I managed to work WA0TCO in Edina, MN at about 0309z and was also hearing (among other squealing pigs) two stations in Connecticut (KG1W and K1EV) and another (N4FI) in Norfolk, Va.

One of GREAT things about these type of (QRP) clubs (and something I'm sure the casual reader on this blog doesn't recognize) is these stations, are ALL using 5 watts, or less, of power to communicate with each other.

It's often been said "give me an acre of Aluminium and a Kilowatt, and I'll work the world". How true.....but QRP x QRP is SO satisfying.... It's not the money and equipment that creates the fun, it's the fun of communication with simple rigs and simple antenna's.

Some people actually call it "skill".....I think so too!

The Flying Pigs Web Site can be viewed here:

I'm member number 1896.

Flying Pigs QRP Club International

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hounds Barking

I wasn't able to make the "Fox Hunt"....Dinner with good friends can last awhile. It was near 11 PM when we finished desert and played a game of Scrabble. Friends and family always come first..... Besides, they'll be lots of other opportunities this winter.

I brought the antenna back indoors (received an interesting comment from the neighbor next door---"that's temporary isn't it?") and re-installed my three Isotrons on the indoor mast.

I must's nice to listen to the bands, from the next room, and run back and QSO when I hear an interesting station.

I can't imagine NOT ever having a radio!

Yesterday morning, I worked K4JER (Jerry in Shelbyville TN) . We've worked before and it was good to hear him. I sent him an e-mail abt his station and he returned mine with a "hello and good to hear you again".

The last few days, the band has been extremely LONG on 40 meters, . I looked at the log books, of the two Fox's, this morning and noticed most of the contacts were at 1,000 miles or better!

My Friend Gari (K8KFJ), in the next town , couldn't even hear the Georgia fox and only one station in West Virginia was able to claim the pelt.

But the Wyoming fox (WC7S) was a different character......Gari bagged him 12 minutes into the hunt!

I worked an interesting station (KB6NU) in Ann Arbor Michigan this morning. Dan is only 300 miles from me in a straight line. Great signal (579) but the band is still wildly fluctuating .

QSB soon reduced the signal to near the noise level.

Dan is a VERY active ham in Michigan and FISTS # 9342. (I work a LOT of stations on 7058 Mhz). He is running for the ARRL Great Lakes Division Vice Director again.

I wish him the best and will track his progress on his web site:

(Dan is the guy on the right)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fox in the Woods

I've been off the air for a few days because relatives were visiting, and then Halloween, and then the elections.... Sometimes there's just not enough hours in the day. (even when you're retired).
Tonight is one of the first few " FOX HUNTS " of the winter season and I REALLY want to catch the "Wyoming" Fox but..... There's a BIG problem for me this year!
We inadvertently scheduled dinner with some friends, just up the street, and it's really going to be close timing to eat, drink, and be merry and then do a quick "fox hunt".......
To make matters worse;

I live in a "Historical District" which has MANY reasons to NOT have an antenna showing outdoors.... but I chanced it this evening and placed the 40 Meter Isotron on a painters pole, just outside the window where I usually keep my indoor station.

My neighbors can't say much about the "temporary" structure outside the bedroom window but they can cause some problems if it's up for much more than a few days. I hope there's not a big fuss but these are extraordinary circumstances tonight.
I have high hopes for catching the elusive fox's tonight (0ne in Georgia and one in Wyoming). I caught the Wyoming fox last year. It won't be the end of the world, but its SO much fun....
As a test, just at sunset this evening, I threw out my call on 7058 Mhz (2250z).

N5DY (Jack) of Stillwater Oklahoma answered me. That about 875 miles, as the crow flies from here. This tells me the FOX can be had.....if he's not back in the brush by the time I can get in the woods.

Monday, November 10, 2008

AM Radio Broadcasting

For several years, I’ve been alarmed at the “drivel” presented on the AM Radio Waves in America. When talk radio emerged in 1949 the “Fairness Doctrine” was established to mandate opposing political and social views.

In 1969 the Supreme Court said:

"It is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited
marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to
countenance monopolization of that market, whether it be by the government
itself or a private licensee. It is the right of the public to receive
suitable access to social, political, esthetic, moral and other ideas and
experiences which is crucial here. That right may not constitutionally be
abridged either by Congress or by the FCC."

— U.S. Supreme Court, Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 1969.

But ever since the early 80’s, AM Radio has deteriorated into a virtual cesspool of misinformation. There’s only a limited space on the AM Radio dial and most of it is owned and operated by a very few select owners.

This is an important issue….. Our form of government demands a medium for discussion and dialogue. It’s not happening now!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Radio St Helena

I spend about 90% of my time on the Amateur bands using Morse Code (CW) but sometimes, there are "Special Event" broadcasters that use the SSB or AM modes. Sometimes, on rare occasions, I'll try to make a contact in the brief time they are on the air.

In the past, I've made some interesting contacts with guys transmitting from ships and lighthouses, the Russian Space Station (MIR), and a bunch of Hams operating from State Fairs and Historical Spots. It's nice to get a QSL card from them celebrating the event.

One of the most recent I've contacted was transmitting from the "Calgary Stampede" event in (where else) Calgary, Alberta Canada. (that's a good coast to coast contact for me). I have a music friend that lives there and was probably playing at one of the many rodeo events during that week.

But probably the rarest station I've logged in the past, is on a little island about mid distance between Africa and South America called St Helena.
It's a shortwave broadcaster (SSB) that transmits for about one hour on one day of the year.
If you're lucky (and have a SWL receiver with SSB capabilities) you'll be able to hear them on Saturday 15 November 2008.

Listen on 11092.5 Khz in USB @ 2230-2330 UTC Time.

Here's the link to their web site:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Morning QSO on 40 Meters

This morning, waiting on bacon and eggs (just kidding) , I heard the sound of another familiar call sign!

Gary (N2ESE) and I have talked before but never this long a QSO. We discussed a variety of subjects revolving around the FISTS Club I've recently joined. I had to increase my power to the maximun 10 watts because of QSB but we chatted for almost an hour before calling it quits! Gary (N2ESE) lives in Stanhope, NJ and is FISTS # 12806.

I have his card in my BURO envelope now. I'll send it when I get another 6 or 7 contacts.

I told him about my faint 80 meter results and added the 20 meter band to those I can work from here. I can work three bands with my Isotron Antenna's (40-20-80) and just about ALL bands with the G5RV when operating in the field.

My friend Gari (K8KFJ) did a good job in the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) contest last night. If I remember right, I think 13 QSO's in 11 states! I entered my results in the contest logbook and was amused at the QRP stations that made decent scores!

I wasn't very amused at my 2 contacts...but it was fun!
One of these days, I'll set up outdoors, in the woods, with the G5RV, and make a good score!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

SKCC Sprint

I'm actually quite shocked that I worked a few stations on 80 meters tonight!

80 meters is my worst band and I hardly ever transmit there.....but the stations I've caught have been good ones.

Of course, all my contacts are at QRP levels, and tonight's SKCC Sprint was my first with this club. The goal is to make as many contacts as possible, in a 2 hour time frame, but Marilyn and I were at a retirement dinner for about half of the contest. I only worked the contest for about an hour but caught two stations.

When we returned home, I tuned around on the 40 meter band and I didn't hear much. In desperation, I listened on the 80 meter band and heard stations everywhere.

I heard KC2KY (Neil) in New York work my friend Gari (K8KFJ) here in the next town about 15 miles from me. What 'da heck, I'll give it a try! (Gari is my mentor, and the guy that keeps me motivated).

It took about 10 minutes to get his attention, but I finally heard my call repeated back and I sent my Name, State, and SKCC number. He returned with the same (I already knew it and had it written down in the log when he worked Gari).

About 10 minutes after that, I heard K4ZGB (Tom) in Alabama. WOW....was he strong!
I never expected him to hear me at this distance with 5 watts but he came right back when I sent N8 ?........ We exchanged the same Name, State and SKCC number and GL TU. (Good Heavens...what a pair or ears)!

It was all over in about 30 seconds but that's the way it works......quick, and on to the next station!

I sent my log into the club and imagine there are those who will chuckle about 2 contacts...

But I'm happy.....I'm not a real competitive contester. I don't do it with the expectations of a big score, I do it just for one's fun to me!

I run all these with 5 watts and a simple indoor wire antenna.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Jamboree on the Air

Scout Oath:

On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,brave, clean, and reverent.
I remember those words, not from my youth, but actually, my middle age years.
I was working on heavy equipment at that time and a few of my fellow workers were leaders of a Scout Troop in my town. It was natural for me to help out since we were all outdoors people.

It was especially rewarding to hear Scouts, (Boys and Girls) all over the world participate in a yearly Ham radio event called the "Jamboree on the Air" this weekend. It allows kids to talk to each other over Ham radio stations set up and sponsored by the Amateur Radio Relay League.

This weekend I heard a bunch of them excitedly chatting to all parts of the world with each other over the air waves. I even talked to a few of them myself.

Where did I first learn Morse Code?
I learned it from the Boy Scout Handbook, as a kid, although I wasn't able to join in the fun!

While in the Navy in the late 60's I re-discovered that I could still read Morse Code sent on the searchlights of other ships sending info back and forth between themselves.
When my shipmates discovered my talents, it's was a quick move to the Signal Bridge!
It's funny how simple things can develop into useful service to others in emergencies.
I hope some of those I heard this weekend do the same!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Morning QSO

I quickly worked KM4VX in Willmington, NC this morning while waiting for breakfast. It's a morning ritual where I wait 30 minutes after taking my cholesterol pill. to do something, and can't think of a better way to spend a little radio time! I like working the "coastal areas" and Willmington was a good catch this morning. (My RST 479)

I get down that neck of the woods, at least once a year, and it brings back good memories about radio etc. (I hear a lot of Carribean stations)
But I'm amazed at QRM at times.... It's not that some stations can't hear me, (and Ron had a good signal) but I think....some operators just don't take the time to listen for a few minutes. (no QRL or nothing, they just start sending)

We exchanged the "basic" call sign and QTH etc, and then were pounced upon. We cut it short because of interference and I went downstairs for "bacon and eggs"....
I'm just kidding here, can't eat much of that kind of stuff.....
My 6 month check up, with the VA a few days ago, was the best news I've had all year.
Cholesterol is a genetic thing with me. I eat healthy and exercise when ever possible. (My Sciatic nerve flares up sometimes). But my Cholesterol is usually sky high....

My check up this year was within guidelines!'s taken 2 years to find the right combinations of medications.

I'm enjoying the low Cholesterol numbers now!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Morning QRP x QRP QSO

I've worked Walt (WA9LT) before, but this morning it was especially nice to hear his QRP rig again from Geneseo Illinois.

Last night, just before turning in, I worked a Texas station at 1100 miles, but there's NOTHING like a QRP contact to start off the day!

QRP x QRP contacts are special!

I remembered Walt as soon as I heard the call. How can anyone forget a call like this?

WA9LT--Walt-- get it? The first time I worked him I had a hard time getting his name because of noise here in the middle of town. He came back to me with W A L T (without the 9).

He actually spelled the entire thing out to me.

I don't know how some Hams are lucky enough to get a call like this, but it's something you won't forget when you work them on the air!

Great FIST too !!

Nice spacing and a pleasure to listen to, especially first thing in the morning, in this cool foggy Kanawha Valley.

Nice to hear you again Walt !!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Long Texas QSO

Just what I needed to cheer me up a bit after the disastrous contest this weekend!

About 10 pm this evening I was tuning a little high of the Fists frequency (7062 Mhz) and heard a 5 call with pretty good signal strength. (449)

I always give these things a "shot" with the assumption that if I can hear a station, they can hear me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.....

Wayne (W5WRF) in Argyle, Texas and I carried on a QSO for about half an hour. He was using a Kenwood at about 70 watts. I was, of course, operating with 5 watts. The band shifted slightly and I decided to use the max 10 watts because his signal dropped to a 229, but I copied 90% or more of the entire conversation by tweaking the knobs a bit.
Jim was 1100 miles from me here in West Virginia. the way, my RST was 589!

I really needed that one!

A Bee Hive

I wasn’t able to make a single contact with the NAQCC contest this weekend. Of course, all the participants were running QRP (5 watts or less), which make it a little tuff, but, in the past, I’ve worked several QRP stations at 1000 miles.

The problem was a horrendous noise level at my QTH…. It was so bad I couldn’t hear a thing on 40 meters (where I make most of those contacts) and my antenna doesn’t function well on 80 meters.

I could hear many stations on 80 meters, but I don’t have extra filtering on my rig.
I was hearing the sound of a “bee hive” and that was about it.

The bands have been just horrible the last few days but I’ve managed to work at least a station a day this month (and there have been several days I’ve not been on the air). I'm having fun tho....and that's all that matters!
Fox Hunting season (on 40 meters) is about to open and I'll be looking forward to tanning a few hides! This month I’ve worked stations in MO, NY (2), NJ, TN, IN, IL (2), NC, and IA.

Today, I mailed out an envelope of QSL cards for FISTS members.
One of the stations (KB9VTM) had a nice picture of his shack on the web:

It was also a joy to work K2GTC (again) in New York City last week. I’ve worked him before and I travel to the “big city” several times a year. Most Hams are familiar with “Google Earth” program. I use it for hiking sometimes and, just out of curiosity, I looked up his QTH .

I’ve walked right by his place several times. The last time I was there, I recognized his apartment building from the "Google Earth" program. I’m not sure, but I thought I saw his "random wire" , blowing in the wind, from the 6th floor window.

You don’t hear many Hams in this neck of the woods!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The BURO's

Today, my pre-breakfast QSO was K0MAF in Windsor, Missouri. (At least a brief exchange of call signs and QTH) I had an important phone call, that interrupted things, and I left him hanging in mid air. I hate those things but sometimes it happens. I sent the standard AS and hoped he would be there when I returned, but the frequency was in use by another station. Jack was about 850 miles from me and I had a great signal on him!

The last few days have been really busy here. Our Anniversary was on Saturday (the 11th) and my wife and I spent the entire day together. We took a great to hike in the New River Gorge. (That’s where we first met). Sometimes when we go there, we stay all day and watch the sunset, but that evening we had dinner and listened to some VERY good music in Charleston.

I’ve worked several stations the last several days and I’m surprised at the number of them that are either FISTS members or SKCC members.

While working KA1OX , a few days ago, in Old Suybrook, CT, Wayne mentioned the FIST QSL BURO.

The “ Buros ”, as they are known, is a great idea that makes exchanging QSL cards more economical to members. It allows members to exchange six or seven cards with ONE envelope!

With today’s postage rates, this saves a lot of bucks!

Last night I addressed envelopes, to myself , to both organizations.

I’ll get those in the mail today!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Sound of a "Straight Key"

My pre-breakfast QSO this morning was with KD0V in Minnesota. (I’ve also worked Merlin before) (Sept. 30th). He had a good copy on me (569) but I kept the power at my maximum 10 watts. (I usually reduce power when I get a reception report like this).

We exchanged the usual weather, rig specs, and antenna and then it was time for breakfast.

Merlin uses a Tentec Jupiter at 100 watts and a G5RV antenna. He lives about 750 miles from me in a small town a little south of St Paul, MN.

I love those Tentec rigs because the keying is so sharp. I can usually recognize one immediately when I hear the first “dot”. It’s an incredibly sharp, crisp, “chirp” that’s very distinctive.

The more I operate on the ham bands, the more I recognize different “tones”. Some home built QRP rigs have a sloppy “fuzzy” tone and they "drift" a little, when in a long QSO. Sometimes I hear a “keyboard” CW operator. They’re “typing” on a computer with a program that sends it on the air. I can’t really describe it in words but I recognize the sounds. It has a “mechanical” sound that’s “too perfect” for a normal operator to achieve.

I used “iambic paddles” for many years before I retired from the paint store. In a contest, an "exchange" can be in the neighborhood of about 20 wpm or faster. But I wouldn’t try to carry on a conversation at this speed. It's also discouraging to new operators....

I’ve found the most "enjoyable" CW mode is a “straight key” at about 13 wpm. I bought an imitation “Navy Training Key” several months ago, and rarely use the "paddles" anymore. I can tell quickly who is using the same type of key. There’s something special about the sound of a “straight key”. There’s a “personality” that comes across on the air with this type of key and it’s enjoyable to hear on the bands.

A few months ago, I removed the microphone from my rig. I’ll still use it occasionally (probably for DX on the 20 meter band) but I don’t miss it…..

Merlin (KD0V) is a member of the “Straight Key Century Club”, the “FISTS” Club and the North American QRP CW Club.
You can learn more about a "Straight Key" here:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

QRP x QRP Georgia

Every Ham has their specialty in the hobby and mine has always been portable equipment. So when I make a contact with another “portable” operator, it’s especially rewarding.

This morning, as I was waiting for breakfast, I tuned across the 40 meter band and put out my call (CQ) to any station.
(You never know what direction the band is leaning towards, and this morning it seemed the South. I have no idea why the band favors different directions, on different days, but I imagine there are those in the hobby that can explain this in great detail).

But I enjoy the mystery of never knowing what I’m going to catch when I throw my call out into the air. To me, it’s part of the magic of a radio signal.....

This morning as I exchanged my call and QTH with another station, I immediately recognized the home town of “Cartersville Georgia”. I talked to Jim last December, and at that time, I joked with him about the possibility of living in the same town as our past President “Jimmy Carter”.

This morning, Jim (AE4DT) was doing the same thing as I was doing, getting ready for breakfast. He was using a K2 and an 80 meter loop. And guess what…

He was running QRP at 3 watts!

My reception report was 579, so I immediately started reducing power. Just before we both quit, for bacon and eggs, we were both QSO'ing at 3 watts.

Jim and I are members of the North American QRP CW Club (NAQCC) which is especially devoted to “low power” operations.
Jim and I are also a members of the Straight Key Century Club. (SKCC)

He lives a few miles north of Atlanta and is about 350 miles from me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Illinois Contacts

Today I made two contacts into Illinois. Something, when time permits, I try to do on a daily basis. This doesn’t happen every day, but more times than not, at least two on a good day.
I’ve worked as many as five when conditions were favorable.

A lot of hams don’t realize how effective a 5 watt signal can be with a “simple wire antenna” but I got excellent signal reports from both these stations which were about 500 miles from me.

On 40 meters, I like to hang around the FISTS frequency (7058 MHz) or the SKCC frequency (7055 MHz).

This morning I worked W9SJW in Freeport and just before dinner N9TMU in Jerseyville.

One ham on each frequency!

Both hams were FISTS members!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

QRP from the Outer Banks of NC

My trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina last week was my second activity from the “edge of the pond” this year. (My first was from the New York City area where I worked Spain and Italy)

I was near the beach at Nags Head and operating from the balcony of a rental home.
I found it easy to work Puerto Rico (KP4DKE) and Cuba (CO8LY) with a simple wire antenna and 5 watts of power.

This was my first use of my G5RV antenna and I heard a lot of Spanish speaking stations in the Caribbean. Because of length restrictions, I couldn’t properly orient the antenna towards Europe and besides, 20 meters, was hardly active last week. (Sometimes it’s there…and sometimes it not) I had hoped for the Eastern-Western direction but with a solar flux in the low to mid 60’s, I was happy to work these two guys on 40 meters.

I also had a great QSO with fellow NAQCC member N1LT who was running 4 watts from his location in Laconia, New Hampshire. Despite those more distant contacts, QRP X QRP contacts are always the best and most challenging.

(This was my most prized catch on the sea)

In the mornings, I was able to check into the Navy Amateur Radio net on 7245. A lot of these guys are in the Georgia and Florida area, and with me running QRP, sometimes it’s difficult to do from West Virginia.

As I was sitting on the balcony, near my last day at the beach, exchanging the essentials with a station at Pocona Summit, PA (WB2KKI), the rain started to heavily fall. I had to break down the radio, key, and battery and run inside to dry ground.

I was able to break down, and reconnect everything, from inside, in about 10 minutes. I sent the call sign again and Mike answered immediately. We continued the QSO for almost half an hour laughing about QRP and the weather.

Then the tornado moved in…..

It crossed the inlet about 10 miles below us, without any damage.
I’m now glad to be back in the mountains.

I see no reason to ever run more than 5 watts QRP with a simple wire antenna.
The G5RV gave me the option of operating on all bands and the scenery outside was wonderful.

I much prefer my radio shack in the great outdoors!

SKCC Event

Just listening to the 40 meter band today, I've worked five different stations on 7055 Mhz. Not a contest...but nice to meet other SKCC members. All my contacts today have been nice QSO's with my 10 watts and an indoor Isotron antenna.

I worked one station in Tennessee that would have been a possible QRPp contact if not for the other party leaving for work. (I'm glad I'm retired now and enjoying the radio). I received a 599 report (both ways) and an e-mail confirmation suggested our next QSO possibly with 500 mw.

I worked an "Outer Banks" island station with a good report. My last contact this evening was Chillicothe, Iowa. It's been fun working SKCC members on 40 meters. Perhaps next month I'll try a few more bands but 40 is my favorite. Even with these 60 solar flux days, it's fun to QRP.

I encouraged one station (really really slow CW) to try the 7114 freq.
That's a nice quiet section to operate now.

In the Beginning

I bought this little Rig when I retired and haven't had the time to play with it. As a matter of fact, I still don't know how to use all the buttons. But I know enough about it, to use the basics, and decided to try my luck again last night.

I've been frustrated with the antenna that came with it and decided to experiment with a special antenna called an Isotron. I've used it before and knew it would perform if "push came to shove".

The 40 meter band was horrible last night but my first contact was a 5 watt station about 100 miles below Richmond VA. The noise level was almost an S-7 but I was able to work him. This is about 400 miles away from my location in Charleston.

My next contact was on the border of Canada near the tip of Michigan. As a matter of fact, the town has the same name on both sides of the toll bridge leaving the United States. Sault Saint Marie is about 600 miles in a straight line from here.

Just as I was about to shut down, I heard a "0" call from the Midwest. My signal report was a RST of "489". For you "non radio folks"- that's pretty darn good considering Minot,North Dakota is 1200 miles from me.

Needless to say....I'm a happy camper.

I will be able to operate this rig with a simple battery pack and hike with it to a better location. Away from all these "city power lines" that are SO interfering!
My frustration began while listening to a corporate jet at 35,000 ft, talking to two fellows in England last week. I knocked myself out trying to get thier attention with the "portable whip".The next time I'll be ready to snare them and get those famous QSL cards confirming the contact.
My most prized QSL card so far,has been from the Russian (MIR) Space Station. I worked them from a cow pasture, "Sitting Around the Campfire", as they crossed the early evening sky, with a walkie talkie, and a 30 watt amplifier.

Shortwave Radio

Radio has come a long way since the old days. It is a powerful medium to share our culture with people in other parts of the world. With the invention of the “computer chip”, the prices have become so cheap, that nearly everyone can afford to buy one now.

Several months ago, while watching the evening news, I saw an Iraqi Insurgent busting one of these into a million pieces on the ground with a hammer. He wasn’t destroying it because he didn’t like our music. It was because he was afraid people would be able to hear news from all over the world. These radios can receive both the AM and FM bands and most of the International Short-Wave bands.

We have given hundreds of these to tribal leaders.

This radio is a little different from most others. It doesn’t need batteries! The “crank” on the side of the radio is actually an electric generator. When cranked, it produces electricity to run the radio.

It’s a long way to “Radio Shack” to get AA batteries out here.

This radio and those like it has been the key to freedom in many parts of the world. I’ve always believed that people have more in common than they do differences. I have a strong hope, that with communication, we can all get along together.

I hope we can make these as common as Camels in a desert!

AM Radio

I listen to the AM radio bands at night and I really like the big 50,000 watt stations. Some HAMS can hear European stations, with the right gear and antennas, but they can be expensive and complicated to operate. You can spend a fortune on receivers but I’ve always adhered to the KISS principle. (Keep it Simple Stupid).

One of the best, and cheapest radios on the market, is the GE Super Radio. I bought mine for $40 bucks at the local Circuit City store many years ago. It’s an ugly - black- plastic- lunchbox- looking thing but the “circuitry” inside is AMAZING ! It has a BIG speaker and is pleasant to listen to. It’s GREAT for talk radio!

There were all kinds of stations popping up on the new 1700 MHz area when it was expanded by the FCC several years ago. I could hear a little 10 watt tourist information station (TIS) at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and another TIS station on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is a Grand Turk and Caicos Island station hiding behind the KDKA station on 1020 MHz. Sometimes around sunset, you can hear it on your car radio in West Virginia. It’s always been fun logging them.

You hear an exchange of ideas on talk radio. Not always the ones you want to hear, but nevertheless different views. I can hear the weather, traffic, and sports. And I can do it while working on the computer or playing the guitar. Radio is NOT confining.
This evening I’ve heard Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, New York, Illinois, Virginia, and Iowa. Several years ago, I even logged California.

That cheap ugly radio is one of the best investments I’ve ever made!

The next time you are tuning around the band and hear the call letters of a station in the far distance...

Click here: Radio-Locator

You can enter the call sign, frequency, or zip code. This site will even show you the radiation pattern of the antenna's and the power levels of the transmitters.

Skipping Across the Pond

I took my Icom 703 QRP rig with me while traveling recently near New York City. I also took an "end fed dipole" cut for 10-20-40 meters. It is made by the PAR company and it is just the right length to install in the upstairs attic. The "coax end" was just a few feet outside the "attic ventilation window", and was easily run down the side of the house and into the living room, where the radio sat on an old desk. The antenna was oriented towards the east and west.This month, the "solar flux" has been a little more cooperative. I think the bands are beginning to change, and are more favorable for longer distance contacts.
This has been an incredible radio year for me. I've worked my first DX stations and also had some great QRP CW contacts. Since February, I've worked Jamaica, Poland, Croatia, Italy, and Spain. I've also worked several 40-meter QRP stations at over 1000 miles. (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Texas, and Colorado).I am desperately trying to work N0TU (The Goat Man) in Colorado and have actually worked the "Spy" near Pikes Peak. (W0RM). He is using an old CIA spy radio and operates as a "pedestrian mobile".I've also been successful working my first "QRP Contests". One of my most exhilarating moments this year was hearing my call sign during "The 40 Meter Fox Hunt" from near Houston Texas. That call sign was AE5BH and he was my first "pelt". I also worked Texas in the "Spartan Sprint" (W5ROK) this year.Needless to say, working a 3 watt station in Florida this year was also a real hoot. (WA3SCM). Dave Slater was using a random wire from a motel room. (my Isotron Antenna was quite enough to hear him). I've also worked a Washington DC 1/2 watt station several times this year. (AI4OT) It looks like a GREAT year for radio and I'm looking forward to many more contacts, as I travel with the radio, and a simple antenna....

I've had so much fun with QRP this year. I recently joined the North American QRP CW Club and will be the featured member in June.

I'll be at the Outer Banks in May. I hope my "right on the water" QTH will allow some Caribbean, Mexican, and South American stations for the log book. Last year, from Nags Head, I worked most of the US on 40 meters and 20 meters. I'll be looking forward to the "Solar Flux" increases this summer.
I also hope to do some "portable operations" from West Virginia.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My 100th QSO for 2008

This morning I worked KI4RNY in Alabama. This was my second contact with him, on the same frequency and almost the same time as a week earlier. This week, the signal was a little weaker (229 at best) and band conditions were very, very, poor!
The band was just horrible, and we both had difficulty exchanging the basics, but we sent and received our Calls, Names, and QTH's. Not much more......QSB and QRN were discouraging.

Bill was number 100 in my 2008 log book!

I had hoped for a QRP contact and CQ’d several times earlier on the 40 meter calling frequency. But when sending CQ a little further up the band, there were several signals responding in the noise, and Bill was the "first" I thought I could copy and exchange the “basics” for a contact.

I'm amazed at the QRP contacts I've made this year, with “poor” propagation, and a solar flux mostly in the 60's. I use an "indoor mounted Isotron antenna" for the majority of my contacts. My home, in a "historic district" in Charleston, doesn't encourage outdoor wires or antennas.

I've worked 10 DX stations this year, (most with a little 18” 20 meter Isotron antenna) and 25 of those 100 stations, I’ve worked so far this year, have been using 5 watts or less....

Of those 25 QRP stations, 3 were QRPp. (all on 40 meters)

I worked those QRPp stations while using one watt of power.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

International Morse Code

I must admit it was a pleasure to work WY3H (Tom in PA) this evening on 80 meters and an unexpected privilege to hear the "President" of the NAQCC club!

My QRP rig and antenna is not very good on 80 meters and I hardly EVER make a contact on this band! I've only worked a few stations here. (a spy station --paraset---is the exception to the rule)

So why was I operating there?

I checked the FISTS search page, just a few minutes ago, and they had my new number posted on the site. The 7058 frequency was busy on 40 meters, so I decided to make a "one time effort" on the 3558 frequency.

I truly never expected to hear anyone answer my call....especially a QRP station!!

(I'm a little disappointed with my 80 meter antenna. It doesn't perform like my 40 and 20 meter antennas).

But to have been lucky enough to work the president of the NAQCC club as my first "fists" contact is something I will never forget!

He suddenly disappeared into the noise on the third exchange and I sent SRI I lost U. Your RST was a 229 with heavy QSB....I copied my RST and your city but copied his name as "OTTO".....

BTW/ I'm totally devoted the NAQCC group and have written several items for the "member news". (I have one now as a current news item)

I worked Portugal, Finland, two stations in Germany, and Hungary this weekend (SSB) on the European DX contest. Certainly not on 80 meters

I was using an 18" Isotron on 20 meters!

NAQCC # 2279
Fist's # 13968