Sunday, March 11, 2018

SKCC and the Weekend Sprint

I have to hand to the SKCC crowd.  When the band is dead, and no one seems to be there, you can move to an SKCC frequency and usually find a operator willing and ready to QSO.  Reminds me of the FISTS organization 10-15 years ago.  Making CW QSO's is fun. 

Today I started out on 40m, this weekend is the Weekend Sprint for SKCC, and I am SKCC 2076T, the T means I have worked a bunch of SKCC contacts since becoming a member many years ago.  I think they are on number 20,000 or close to it now. 

SKCC means Straight Key Century Club and you make contacts using a straight key, or a paddles, no keyboards, no computers.  

In 20 minutes I had worked five stations on 40m.  KA2KGP in NY, K3SEW in PA, K4ZGB in AL, K0FD in MO, and W0UY in KS.  The band was weak but the K2 was working great today.  After about 20 minutes I was invaded by my herd of grandchildren, well most of the herd, so I had to QRT for a bit and play with this them for a few hours. 

I got back on the air close to 5PM and worked 5 more in about an hour.  K3EW in MD, NM1W in NH, KD8DD in MI, K2MD in NJ, and last but not least K4CRD in NC.  So I managed to work the Great Plains, New England, and Coastal Carolinas...not too bad. 

Now folks, that was running 5 watts to a attic dipole in terrible band conditions. If you ask me the band was doing fine...yes it was noisy, yes there was QSB galore, yes bugs are harder for me to copy than paddles and keyers....but it can be done.  Turn on your radios and just give it some time and enjoy the hunt. 

Here is my straight key for today:

I'm glad I don't have to use that all the time,  It is very tiny.  About 2 inches long and a half inch wide. 

Best 73 de KB9BVN
SKCC 2076T

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Good Day for CW

What a rainy day, we've been getting drenched now for two solid days.  Mud everywhere, temps run from the 30's to the 50's every day...the BUG has been getting passed around at work and at home.  Welcome to Indiana in the late winter. 

So I was sitting at home working on some projects for work, and noticing my station had been neglected all month.  So I decided to take a quick break and see if anything was hopping on 40m before the big RTTY Party got started. 

I tuned to 7053 and called CQ a few times and heard nothing, so I started calling CQ SKCC and that must have been the right bait.   I managed three QSOs in a row on that frequency and it was good to work the straight key.

First up was Jeff KC3HWU out in Maryland.  I was his first QSO with his new straight key and his fist was great.  We had some QSB to overcome but it was manageable.  Jeff is a frequent NTS operator and has quite a collection of ham gear, including a end fed wire up 30 feet and a pile of Kenwood rigs.  I enjoyed the QSO and we traded SKCC numbers.  Thanks Jeff.

Next up was Mark AA4AX down in Pauline, South Carolina. .Mark has a fairly new SKCC number and his fist was great.  He was running about 100 watts and was a solid 599 here near Indianapolis. He's using an Icom 7600 and an OCF antenna to make the trip.  He had my K2 at 5 watts as a booming 579, so I was happy to hear that!  According to Wikipedia, the most exctiing thing about Pauline SC is they have a Redbox movie rental machine, and their own Post Office. 

Fun Fact: When they built the post office in 1890, the town was named Stribling....but there was already a Stribling post offic in South they changed the name of the town to Pauline...who was Pauline?  She was the Postmasters eldest daughter! 

Thanks for the QSO Mark! 

1955 Speed-X Straight Key
My last one of the afternoon was Carroll W4PCA down in Maryville TN.  Carroll was also an SKCC contact and we traded numbers.  He's been in SKCC a long time with 1590T as his SKCC digits...he's been a ham since 1955 when he was first licensed at age 17. he has a Speed-X Straight Key that he has been using since 1955 and his fist is smooth copy. 

Maryville is in Blount County, located in the Great Smoky Mountains. The family of Sam Houston moved to Maryville from Virginia in 1808, when Houston was 15. His older brothers put him to work as a clerk in a store they established in town, but he ran away. Houston lived for a few years with the Cherokee at Hiwassee Island, on the Hiwassee River, where he became fluent in their language and appreciative of their culture. 

After his return to Maryville about 1811, Houston started a one-room schoolhouse. He signed up for the army during the War of 1812 and rose rapidly in rank, beginning his military and political career. The schoolhouse still stands just off US-411 near the community of Wildwood.  Sam later went on to become the governor of Tennesee, and then the first governor of Texas where he  fought against Santa Anna of Mexico.

Sam Houston Schoolhouse in Maryville TN

Thanks for all the QSO's today! 


Saturday, February 3, 2018

It's been a while...

Seems like a month or two has gone by since I got to spend much time on the air.  The band conditions have been challenging to say the least.  Today I was able to get on the air for a bit and managed to work Bill Etter AG4EA down in Pelzer SC.  We traded 599's when we got started on the QSO but the QSB increased rapidly and we had to call it quits after about 10 minutes or so.  To show how small this world is getting, Bill mentioned that he knew a friend of mine, Ivin W9ILF (Now N9IVI), and we had also worked each before, a couple years ago.  How cool is it to just be QSOing on 40m and run into another ham that knows your friends.  We could have talked longer but the conditions were heading south fast. 

Bill was running 50w on this Ten Tec Corsair into a G5RV, I was pushing 10w out of my K2 into the infamous attic dipole.  Things were going great, until they weren't. 

KE1LA Joel at FDIM 2002
This week I learned of the passing of an old QRP friend, Joel Denison KE1LA.  Joel lived up in Strong Maine with his wife Grace and had been battling pancreatic cancer for about a year.   He was a "Po' ole displaced Cajun lad" originally from Louisiana and was a frequent contributor to the club newsletter "The Bacon Bits" and to the QRP ARCI "QRP Quarterly".  

His signature was well known, "Up here in Maine - freezin" and his wit will certainly be missed.   In 2002 Mike WB8ICN and I picked "Doc" Joel up at the Dayton airport and took him to Four Days In May.  They still talk about that FDIM to this day.   

Joel loved to play with wire antennas, and was somewhat known for his wire beams in the trees up there, aimed at Europe and Asia, he was a good QRPer and had a fine fist.  I'm sorry we won't hear his call anymore.   Best 72 es OO to you KE1LA... you were a good piggie. 

Best 73 de KB9BVN

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The End of 2017 is Near...Happy New Year!

Woke up this morning to go to was 10 F outside and I didn't want to go, but go, I did.  At lunchtime the temperature had dropped down to 8 F...I miss those days of summer. 

2018 is beating on the door, and with it comes a great QRP radio event.  The 25th Anniversary of the NorCAL 40 transceiver kit.  Originally designed by none other than Wayne Burdick N6KR, and updated to the NorCAL 40A in 1995, it was one of the most successful kits unleashed on the QRP community. 

Back in 1998 I was thinking about getting back into the hobby. I had been licensed since 1988 but with two young boys in scouting, and my desire to participate fully with that, ham radio went by the wayside.   My eldest N9AWM got his Eagle in 1995, and my youngest son Jason, got his Eagle in 1999.  My duties in the troop were slowing down as the new leaders were stepping up and taking things over.  I had time. 

A friend of mine, Rick KB9NDF stopped by one evening and was asking if I was still a ham.  He had just upgraded to Extra and was telling me all about the fun he was having on CW with his Ten Tec Scout and loop antenna he had at home.  In 1988 I had managed to learn CW and passed the 5 WPM test but I hadn't used it in about ten years.  The bug bit me and I was very interested in QRP CW because of how easy it would be to take on camping trips and operate from the outdoors. 

About that time I signed up to join the QRP-L list, and met another Elmer extraordinaire in Mac Steinmeyer AF4PS.  After asking a bunch of questions on the QRP-L list Mac guided me toward my very first radio was between the Small Wonder Labs 40m rig, or the more complete Norcal 40A from Wilderness radio.  The 40A was more expensive but it came with a case, a keyer board, all the knobs and buttons and I went with that setup.  I also bought a Z-Match tuner from Roy Grigson at Emtech.  The ZM-2 antenna tuner would match a school bus, so they claimed.

Mac AF4PS - Enjoying his QRP
Mac nurtured me through the building process via emails and phone calls.  It was tedious mentoring I am sure but he stuck with me.  I got it completed but had no way to know if I was getting any output.  So my friend Rick KB9NDF and I were able to make the right adjustments to squeeze about 1.2 watts out of it into a dummy load and measured on a borrowed power meter.  The next weekend was Labor Day  1998, and I had strung up two pieces of telephone cross connector wire over the roof of my home, connected the ZM-2 to my "antenna" and the radio, tuned it until the LED went out and fired off a very fist solo CQ...I was eventually answered by a station in Mississippi! KF4EWO heard my tiny one watt signal and gave me a 579 report.   I was hooked. 

Front of my NC40a with KC-1 Keyer Board

Rear of my NC40a with Extra jack for Paddles

the original PCBoard in my 1998 Norcal 40A
Mac was also the inventor of the Infamous Attic Dipole at his old house in Florida.  This prompted me to try the same thing here in Indiana, and man was I surprised at how well it worked.  It's been up there almost 20 years now.  Take a look at Mac's!

Chuck Adams K7QO has done a great service by reviving the Norcal 40A radio on his website at along with the blessing of Wayne Burdick N6KR.  You can buy a newly worked NC40A PCBoard and start scrounging parts.  I am in the process of doing just that right now.  I only need a couple more things and I should be ready to start melting solder.

So in 2018 we Norcal users will be sending out our NAP (Norcal 35th Anniversary Party) numbers...if you hear a prime number that means the station you worked was using a Norcal 40 radio.  My number is 1777 and I hope we can trade numbers on the air in 2018. 

Here's to a great and prosperous new year in 2018!  

Best 73 de KB9BVN 
dit dit

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Cold outside but the bands are heating up!

NZ4T - Ricky
In preparation for the upcoming QRPARCI Holiday Homebrew Sprint this afternoon, I fired up the K2 and tested the waters on HF.  The bands were really pretty quiet around noon, I tossed out a few CQ's here and there and did not get any response.  Spun the dial and tried out 10m through 40m, checked the band condition reports, and things did not look that promising. 

So after about a half hour I locked in on 7041 Khz and started calling CQ.  The band was sounding pretty quiet and pretty empty so to my surprise I heard Ricky NZ4T booming in to the Hoosier state from Covington Virginia. He was 599 here and he gave me a 579 on my 10w K2 effort.  Ricky was using a old J-38 and his Yaesu FT 920 with a windom up in his trees to work a little CW today.  Ricky has an excellent fist, and was very patient with my sloppy sending today, my fingers on my right hand go numb from time to time due a pinched never fails.  Anyway, we had a very nice QSO lasting right at a half an hour. We found out that neither of us are big fans of winter weather, and we both use CW as our primary means of amateur radio communications.  Ricky is also SKCC 12246, so we exchanged SKCC numbers and signed.  Ricky has also earned the almost world famous KB9BVN Ragchewer Award!  

Anyway, I hope to hear a few of you during the Holiday Homebrew Sprint today.  Remember it starts at 3PM EST and ends at 7PM EST.  Go to the QRP-ARCI website for all the rules and online logging.  

Best 73 de KB9BVN

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Winter is here...time to QSO!

Not much on TV today, it's nice out, for December 3rd, and the Colts are losing again...what to do?  So I fired up the K2 and got tuned up on 7042 and started calling CQ at 5w with the attic dipole.  After about 20 mins of not getting any answers I checked the reverse beacon network and I was definitely getting out.

Finally I got a call from Gary AD4EV down in Hays North Carolina.  Not a new state but a welcomed QSO.  Gary was running a Ten Tec rig at 20 watts into a windom, we traded 579's and the QSB was moderate.  Hays is a small town of about 1800 located in north western North Carolina in Wilkes County very close to the Great Smoky Mountains.  Thanks for the QSO Gary! 

Next up was Mike KD2WX up in Hilton New York.   Mike has been licensed for about a year, and has moved up the ranks from technician to Extra class.  He is a new CW operator but let me tell you this, his fist was good copy here in Central Indiana.  Mike is a software engineer for an aerospace company. Hilton NY is a village that is inside the town of Parma NY in Monroe County, and is known as "The Little Village with the Big Heart".  Mike was on his Kenwood 590S and using a dipole antenna. Thanks for the QSO Mike! 

KG4GFX - Bill
Then I was called by Bill KG4FXG from down in Lawrenceville, GA.  Bill was using his Kenwood TS 570S  and a long wire for an antenna.  Bill is also into QRP and has a K1, and OHR 500 and enjoys kit building.  He's also a CPA!  Bill is a regular and often serves as NCS on the Georgia Training Net every night at 9PM eastern,  on the frequency of 3549 Khz.  I could have talked to Bill for hours but I had to QRT and tend to the wishes of "She Who Must Be Obeyed".  Things were just getting interesting too, I love talking to fellow QRPers. It's been a relaxing Sunday afternoon on the radio.   Thanks for the QSO Bill! 

Lawrenceville GA is the county seat to Gwinnett County.  Founded in 1821 by the Georgia General Assembly, Lawrenceville has survived the Civil War and has grown to become an important suburb of Atlanta.  The city is named after Commodore James Lawrence, commander of the frigate Chesapeake during the War of 1812. Lawrence, a native of New Jersey, is probably best known today for his dying command, "Don't give up the ship!" William Maltbie, the town's first postmaster, suggested the name of "Lawrenceville". So there you have it.  Also, you might recognize the name Oliver Hardy, he was half of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo, and he was from Lawrenceville GA.  

That was pretty much it for the day, I have also been working on my Norcal 40A parts gathering phase so I can start building this new kit soon.  Chuck Adams K7QO and the guys at qrptech have done a great job with this project.  I can not wait to get mine on the air. 

Best 73 de KB9BVN