G-QRP Virtual Convention

I’m a long-time member of the G-QRP Club. It’s an excellent group and its excellent quarterly publication, SPRAT, is more than worth the annual dues. I’ve met many of its members who visit FDIM, but I’ve never attended the annual conference in the UK.

Due to the virus, this years event will take place online and that provides an opportunity to attend without leaving home. The club recently conducted a poll of members to determine the interest in an online conference.

Over 400 responses were received and based on the positive feedback, the convention will take place online on September 5th and 6th with more details to follow but mark your calendar.

The decision was made to charge a small fee to cover the video conferencing costs, but at just £4 it’s certainly a bargain!


Thirteen Colonies

Here’s something to keep you busy during a long, hot, holiday weekend, the twelfth annual 13 Colonies special event. Collect ‘em all while you can, especially bonus station WM3PEN in Philadelphia. That call sign commemorates the Pennsylvania colony’s founder, William Penn, and who knows when someone will demand his name be stricken from history and his statues removed? Good luck!

The annual 13 Colonies Special Event will begin on July 1 at 1300 UTC and conclude on July 8 at 0400 UTC. Stations representing the original 13 British colonies, plus two bonus stations, will be on the air with 1 × 1 call signs. The event sponsor stresses that participants do not need to work all 13 colony stations to obtain a certificate and do not need to work the two bonus stations for a clean sweep. All HF bands will be in play, with the exception of 60 meters, and simplex on 2 and 6 meters is encouraged. All modes of operation may be represented. (ARRL News)


Extinction

JA1NUT recently wrote about what he sees as an extinction level event in our hobby, the lack of interest in CW. If you follow his blog regularly you will note that this theme surfaces frequently in his thoughts. Shin has been a radio operator for 57 years, I respect his opinions and collected wisdom, and I don’t completely disagree with him.

The new digital mode has seized the hobby and the rapid mass migration to it was stunning to witness. For this and doubtless other reasons, it’s become considerably more difficult to find CW signals on the bands during non-contest periods. It’s not impossible, but the lack of it is so clearly noticeable that to declare otherwise would be ignorant or a purposeful deception.

Whether or not this will bring about the demise of ham radio is something only history can answer with certainty.


Reconnoitering

And just like that, the first half of 2020 is gone. To say that this has been a strange year would be a major understatement. With so much of life being on hold until something happens to make it better, (no one knows what that will be), this wasted year continues without slowing. Since things aren’t likely to change over the next six months, I’m using this calendar milestone to adjust my ham radio goals given that the virus dashed many of my plans for this year.

I’ve already canceled all plans for attending any hamfests, conventions, and club meetings for the remainder of the year. While everyone likes to imagine things getting back to normal sooner rather than later, this virus is going to be a big problem for a long time so I’m not holding my breath for a normal next year either.

I’ll just stay home as much as possible and busy myself on the air. My interest in chasing DX has been low for a long time due to the extended poor band conditions, and that hasn’t improved since all the big DXpeditions have been halted.

My LoTW account reveals all sorts of low-hanging fruit in the form of finishing off many small things. For instance, I’m only one shy of completing Worked All States on 40CW and only a few more to complete the same on 80CW. There are a dozen or so little things like this that need to be checked off. I need to compile a list of them and make those my goals for the next six months and I think I can get there via the radiosport.

I have no illusions about assembling a competitive contest station, and even if I did, my skills don’t match those of real contest enthusiasts. But there’s plenty of opportunity there and best of all, contesters make solid use of LoTW which will be a big help. My experience has been that casual CW operators avoid that method of confirmation like the plague. Lazily pounding brass for an hour or so in the evenings won’t cut it.

The shack remodel work should be complete in a few weeks. The new antenna farm is coming along nicely and I expect it to be complete soon too. So for the rest of this year, I intend to get busy collecting that low-hanging fruit and checking things off the big list.

More about this over the coming weeks, stay tuned.


Field Day Report

I wasn’t certain I would be home in time to participate in Field Day this year. As it turned out, I made it just in the nick of time to setup in the backyard with a wire aerial supported by a 31-foot pole and a single radial stretched across the lawn.

Using the KX3 it was a battery-powered, QRP operation. I had 117 contacts in 42 ARRL sections over about six hours. 114 of those were via CW, three of them SSB. The batteries ran out sooner than I wanted but it wasn’t really unexpected. I ordered another a week ago but it didn’t arrive in time.

The bands weren’t good but I’m not complaining. I was pleased with my results. I had a goal of 100 contacts so a little happy dance was in order. It was rough going in spots and often like pulling teeth. And I would have fallen far short had it not been for a nice little run on 20 and 15 on Sunday morning just before I bowed out.

I haven’t operated FD with a group for decades, it’s always the backyard for me. Seems like a more realistic “test” for being able to contact others in disparate areas should the need ever really arise. So I had to deal with the rain, humidity, mosquitos, in the backyard too. I had fun and was pleased enough with the results. Thanks for the Q’s!


First CW Contact

I was at my son’s (N9AVG) house today and noticed a QSL card he had on the wall from his very first CW contact. It took place EXACTLY fifteen years ago today during Field Day 2005. Jason was using a battery-powered K2 with a random wire antenna from his mother-in-laws backyard in Indiana.

Woody, WD9F was the operator on the other end. His card says he was running 2 watts from a Wilderness Radio SST40 to an attic zepp. Snagging your first CW QSO on Field Day would be special, though not completely unheard of. But a first CW contact being a two-way QRP contact on Field Day, that seems pretty memorable.

Good luck on your Field Day adventure in this very strange year!


Tossed Salad

PE (Prince Edward Island) is a new section for Field Day. Is your logging software up to the challenge?

From Hackaday, Raspberry Pi Takes Control of Ham Radio.

A Brief History of Listening In on Police Radios.

On the 23rd of June 2020, the VHF path from Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa to the UK opened up again. The following stations in the UK and France reported D4VHF on FT8 on 144 MHz…

Sapphire Lane lost its signature radio antenna and tower this month when the neighborhood’s amateur radio operator, Lewis Rohrer, K0LEW signed off from his longtime hobby.

Amateur radio enthusiast KA1AAT still hamming it up after nearly 60 years.

G4FON has written a program entitled CW Contest Trainer and has made it available on his website.

ARRL continues to solicit paper logs of prominent DXpeditions or logs from stations and operators active from more rare locations from the 1950s through the 1980s, for inclusion in The DX Log Archive endowed by JA1BK.

The 23rd International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend (ILLW), which usually takes place during the third weekend of August, has been moved to August 22-23rd. As of June 18th, there were 185 registered Light-house/Lightship stations listed. Find more details about this year’s event here.

RI1, ANTARCTICA. Alexander, RX3ABI, has bee active as RI1ANM from Mirny Station (AN-016) and will be there until early 2021. Activity will be limited to spare time on various HF bands, but it seems he likes mostly 40 and 20 meters FT8 between 0200-1530z. (via OPDX)


Spirit Morse Key

A new home-based company formed to develop modern-looking Morse keys, have successfully reached its funding goal through a Kickstarter campaign. The Spirit Morse Key design is inspired by the B-2 stealth bomber, with its dark, sleek lines.

Weighing in at a healthy 2lbs, the Spirit anchors firmly to the table with its silicon rubber feet, providing a stable experience even during enthusiastic keying. For those requiring even more stability, tapped threads are hidden under the feet to facilitate bolting the key to any surface.

The mono-block concept means that all parts are anchored firmly within the same solid metal block. There are no wooden parts to expand and contract with the seasons and no subassemblies to come loose. The key is just under 4 inches square and the top surface sits around 1.5” above the table top.

The output is found in the form of a standard 3.5mm stereo socket on the back, recessed to continue the smooth look. Suggested retail price of $275 US. More details here or call at 208-446-7906.


Plans Change

The date for a medical procedure has recently changed altering my plans for Field Day. I’m not certain if I’ll miss all or part of this weekend on the radio.

That didn’t prevent me from ordering a new 12v 9ah battery from Bioenno. I have one, but wanted to add another to make certain battery power would be available for the entire weekend. You can never have too many batteries ready to press into service.

I’ve also canceled plans for our vacation to Michigan next month. It certainly would be nice to enjoy some time on a sandy beach letting Lake Michigan work its magic. But I’m not convinced this current wave of social unrest has run its course and the last thing I want to do is wade into more of it hundreds of miles from our more easily defended home.

The Fourth of July seems like a fat target for knocking over more statues, looting, shooting, and general mayhem. When coupled with the recently noted virus flares around the country, staying home right now makes the most sense. Maybe we can get away for a few days in the autumn, or maybe not at all?


Hello Summer

The arrival of the summer solstice brought with it a spat of hot weather to the Heartland. 92F and humid here yesterday and the grass is already going dormant and brown in spots. Only good news from that is a short break from mowing and the days are getting shorter…

I managed to snag number 20 for the New Jersey QRP Skeeter Hunt event in August. New numbers are issued each year on a first come, first served basis in this one. Get your own number and all the details about this activity here.

Given that all my recent radio activity has been using the KX3 and a battery with temporary antennas, mostly in the backyard, my return to full-time QRP as a lifestyle seems complete.

It’s not like this unfamiliar territory, I’ve been actively involved in the low-power movement since 1995. But recent events demand a certain amount of introspection and Occums’s adage that “it is vain to do with more what can be done with less” seems oddly appropriate during these troubled times.


Cootie Shot

Listened to another episode of the DitDit podcast during a long drive on Monday. An interview with Steve, W1SFR who handcrafts Morse keys. He mentioned having a few cootie keys available with the SKCC logo. I’m a member of SKCC and I’ve never had a cootie key. Felt like he was reaching through the aether and speaking directly to me.

So I ordered one. Can’t wait to give it a go!


Covid Strikes Deep

The Visalia DX Convention for 2020 was canceled due to the virus. Out of an abundance of caution, they’ve decided to make the 2021 event virtual. And changing the name to reflect what may be the way it will be from now on? I think the success of these virtual meetings will drive all such events to follow suit. Normal seems like forever ago…

The challenge for 2021: Should we plan for an in-person convention in Visalia or a Virtual meeting? Everyone wants to hold out hope for a face-to-face meeting next year but we have to ask, “What will our “new normal” lifestyle be like next April and can we guarantee a “Covid-Free” environment for our attendees?” After consultation with a few medical experts, epidemiologists, and long-time attendees of IDXCC, we have concluded that for 2021, the right choice – and the safest choice – is to have a Virtual Convention instead of an in-person meeting. So that’s our plan.


Fine and Dandy

It’s getting tougher to exchange paper QSL cards for DX since the US Postal Service has temporarily suspended international mail acceptance for items addressed to certain destinations due to service impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation could result in the return or loss of mail, such as QSL cards, addressed to affected parts of the world. The USPS has posted a list of affected countries, which is updated regularly.

And yet LoTW continues to work just fine and dandy…


Another Beautiful Day

Another beautiful day in the Heartland. It’s refreshingly cool this morning, 50F when I woke. Blue skies, sunshine, and breezy. I like it cool, but this is probably the last really cool day of the season. The 10-day forecast shows us headed up into the high 80s and low 90s next week and after that it will practically be July. We never get mornings like this in July and August so I enjoy this day outside before it ends.

My five favorite reads of the week:

  • AE5X details his recent propane conversion of Honda EU2000i generator. John’s blog is always best in class.

  • Conditions are right for Low Latitude Noctilucent Clouds to be seen in many US states. While that article was written last year, record-cold temperatures in the mesosphere this year are boosting NLC production, and they could soon be coming to a sky near you.

  • W2LJ’s local radio club participated in an unusual license testing session that wasn’t online though it did make use of a parking lot and analog broadcast FM radio. A Successful Day has the photos and details.

  • Portable power and field communications from the OH8STN blog. Interesting collection of ideas.

  • Amateur radio enthusiasts believe that any mention of our hobby by any other “outside” group or publication is something worth bragging about. We need confirmation that we’re all not nuts I suppose. So you can imagine the joy in Whoville when a recent Rockwell Collins brochure mentioned ham radio. Since it’s racing around hamdom, you might as well read it too.


Friday Coffee

Another week lost in the virus stream.

I haven’t worked outside of my house for more than 100 days. But next week, I’ll travel for a few days of labor and don’t tell anyone, but I’m looking forward to the change in venue.

ARISS has broken up with AMSAT and the ARRL and even changed its name. I can’t put my finger on it, but something must have misfired among the trio triggering the split?

KB6NU says don’t miss the 100 point Field Day bonus for issuing a press release just because you’re making radio waves alone in the backyard this year. He even shows you how and provides a template. And word about this years change to the event is already beginning to spread.

  • Paul, PA0K has gotten off the QSL card exchange train.

  • Raw scores for the CQ WW WPX 2020 are now online.

Made certain the XYL has this info, just in case she ever finds herself wondering what I would like for Christmas or birthday.

The ARRL says the much-anticipated updated features at its Contest portal have arrived. I don’t know, looks a lot like 3830 to me?

The always popular SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (CQ WES) takes place this weekend. The theme for bonus points this month is “Summer Bands” - 15 and 10 meter bands - 5 points for each 15m and 10m SKCC station QSO. Membership is free for a lifetime. Get a number, clean up your favorite straight key, and get in on some of this.

And finally, if the nice weather has you fiddling with antennas this weekend, you should have a look at this QST article that’s suddenly making the rounds again 25 years after it was published. Getting the Most Out of Your T-Network Antenna Tuner - how to adjust this popular tuning circuit so it transfers maximum power to your antenna without going snap, crackle, and pop.


State QSO Party Season at Mid-Point

The West Virginia QSO Party is scheduled to take place on June 20-21. That marks the mid-point in the annual run of State QSO Parties for 2020. While not exactly half in number, it denotes the break between June and August. The rest of the State QSO Party season then comes fast and furious with Illinois wrapping it all up in mid-October.

Having been off the air for several months already this year, my annual QSO count is far below average, and I hope to get a bit of a boost from Field Day and then chasing as many of these as possible:


DitDit and Traffic Handling

I listened to the DitDit podcast this morning. I’ve missed the last four or five episodes and wanted to get caught up, but I only had time for one today. It was the latest, Episode 31, on CW Traffic Nets. The guest was Carl Davis, W8WZ a seasoned traffic handler. I found it very interesting and have always wanted to get involved in this facet of the hobby. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few radiograms and it always makes my day! I’m making it a goal to check in soon to see if I can get the hang of things and then try to originate a few holiday messages to friends come December.


Backyard on the Air

Those wonderful crisp, cool, low-humidity, days have ended and it warmed up to 89F here today. This evening I decided to step into the backyard and see if I could put one or two in the log. Same setup as last time. KX3, battery, AX1 antenna with the 40M extender and a counterpoise strewn on the ground. This time I used the new little straight key and worked Lloyd, K3ESE (SKCC #19100S) who was in MD despite noisy band conditions on 40 meters. QRP-to-QRP is always a special treat.

Setup time was three minutes, and everything needed fits snug in the carry bag.