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On the Air

QRP Dreaming

With no antenna in the air for more than a month I’m getting a little stir crazy. Sure, I played with the KX3 using the telescoping AX1 portable antenna from the kitchen table last month, but ain’t nothing like the real thing.

Having had all the radio silence I could stand, I strung a random wire up a 30-foot mast that’s still attached to the back of the house on Sunday morning. The AH-4 antenna tuner liked it well enough on 30 meters that I decided to try to make my first FT8 contact of the New Year.

Mission accomplished. A few watts to the (mostly) vertical wire using FT8 yielded more than a dozen contacts on 30 meters and another handful on 80. One of those contacts with fellow ham-blogger Steve, K9ZW who was enjoying a snowstorm in Wisconsin while I watched it rain here in Central Indiana.

I wasn’t surprised at this modest success. Having been a QRP-only operator from 1997 until 2015 I’ve worked more than enough DX with low-powered kits and oddball wire antennas to have long ago become a believer. Though after nearly 20 years of this kind of activity I found it difficult to not become jaded about the efficacy of five watts and a wire.

But lately I’ve been taking fresh inspiration from Rich, KY6R who has started making a habit of trolling the bands for DX at QRP, while experimenting with various oddball antenna designs, I find myself thinking about a return to the minimalist radio lifestyle…

I dream of an Inverted-L to best take advantage of the low-bands from my small lot and build around the fully loaded KX3. All the equipment is powered exclusively from batteries that are charged via the Sun. I chase the DX Marathon using QRP CW every year while riding out the balance of time remaining in my lifelong ham radio adventure.

I’d never tell anyone that whatever particular joy they take from this hobby is not real ham radio, but success, however you define it, with a minimal station is as real as ham radio ever gets.

Categories
On the Air

NAQP Indoors

The CW version of the North America QSO Party took place yesterday. I’ve always enjoyed the NAQP because of the 100 watt power limit and the easy exchange. But at this particular moment in the transition state of my shack and antenna garden, there’s nary an aerial installed on my property right now. Nada. Zip.

So while I was aware that the contest was taking place, I busied myself with other tasks. But then I got to thinking that I do have the new portable AX1 antenna for the KX3. It’s a short and stubby little fellow that covers 20/17 and with the addition of the AXE1 extender, it’s supposed to cover 40 as well. Hmmmm…

Out comes the KX3 from the protective pouched I stored it in a few months ago. The 12V/6Ah (LiFePO4) battery from Bioenno had held its last charge. I unpacked the AX1 and extender, stretched a single counterpoise wire across the floor from the kitchen into the living room. Things setup on the kitchen table and with the telescoping antenna fully extended and the KX3 on the table, the antenna was just a few inches from the ceiling.

I turned the transceiver on, fairly certain that I would be able to hear stations using an indoor antenna, but had very low-expectations of being heard. Fifteen minutes later I had five stations in the log. All on 40 CW with just 5 watts out using the small antenna. An hour or so later I went back to the well and worked five more. Later in the evening I went back a final time hoping to work another five and call it quits. But signals were much weaker now and I only managed three more.

I ended the day with 13 stations in the log. Six different states (PA, FL, MD, VA, NC, MN) plus one Canadian (ON). The SFI was 73 and I thought conditions on 40 were a little better than normal.

And mind you, this wasn’t an effort where I had to call and call to be heard. All told I had less than an hour of time at the table. Most answered my first call, only a few required a single repeat.

I’m still grinning about the performance of the AX1 with the extender for 40 meters. Surely a wire antenna would easily outperform it, but I bought it specifically for those times when I just want to walk into a park or the backyard, plop the KX3 on a picnic table and make a few contacts without having to install another antenna. 

This combo sure seemed to work admirably, from inside my house and now I’m anxious to get it outside to see if it can drop my jaw again. Maybe on Winter Field Day