QRP To The Rain Forest

The Western Edge of the Botanical Park

A Field Day Practice Session of KARC and UHAM

Original Announcement

February 13, 14 and 15th, 1998, Hawaii Grid BL11

The Ham Radio Club at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and The Koolau Ham Club have reserved a camp ground at the beautiful Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden and Park on the windward side of Oahu Island, State of Hawaii, "grid BL11." We are going to have a warm up for Field Day.

We may have as many as three QRP operating sites going at once and are taking an array of antennas to test including:

We are going to set up Friday in the early afternoon, February 13th and be there until Sunday morning, February 15th. In the dead of night we hope to be up on 160 and 80 meters and when the tropical sun is overhead on 20,15 and 10 meters, with 40 meters at appropriate times.

Already we have set up several ambitious schedules with stations that will qualify for the 1,000 mile per watt award if we get through, so fingers are crossed. Also there is a Pixie test with the Big Island scheduled on 80 meters.

This is a real tropical rain forest and rain is expected, with wind, and blowing rain, fantastic green stuff everywhere, including mildew that grows so fast it could star in some horror movie. It has a clear view over the Pacific Ocean of the Mainland (a bit over the horizon) and mountains just inland to back up the antennas.

With luck we should be ready to check into the local Hawaii Afternoon LSB Net by 1600 HST (7.088 Mhz at 0200Z) on Friday and already have stations set up ready for the evening fun on 20 and 40 meters. Note: HST = GMT - 1000 hours.

Report QRPTTRF; QRP To The Rain Forest; February 13, 14 and 15th

Our camping trip was fun and educational. We arrived Friday just at local solar noon at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden and Park on the windward side of Oahu Island, State of Hawaii, grid BL11.

A Nice Hex Dome Tent

There was only two of us, but we both set up rigs and antennas. I had a new tent based on last year's field day experience. I packed the rig and accessories in an old Jensen tool case (like a fat brief case) and after unpacking, I used the case as a "table" for the rig. The tent was a dome version, only about 7 feet across with a hex base. It was comfortable to sit up in crosslegged. The rig went on one side, the other stuff on the other side, and the sleeping mat went down the center. The first night I did not sleep well because I had trouble figuring out how to fit! The box said "sleeps three", and I was thinking they must have some very tiny "three people" in mind, or one standard adult folded three times.

But the second night a bit of rearranging and adapting, and a much smaller pillow and I was able to fit nicely and slept well. In all it was a great setup. The rig was always ready to go, protected from the elements and right next to the "bed". For one person and a rig it was a very nice setup. My camping buddy went for the tarp over the picnic table and sleeping tent setup. The tent station was better protected, nice since if it was not raining at night, there was a very heavy dew coming down almost like rain.

When we arrived it was immediately obvious that the tent should go IN THE SHADE! A tree was selected to provide shade all day long and the door was faced to catch the trade winds. The ground appeared dry until one knelt on it and then you had wet knees. So a heavy duty ground cloth was required.

The rig included an Alinco DX70t with the internal switch set to half power (5 and 50 watts output) run at 5 watts, a huge battery, an MFJ memory keyer/keyboard (493) unit, an MFJ QRP portable tuner and a DSP 59+ signal processor. I loved using the keyboard to send CW since I had to switch between notebook and keyboard, the buffer would allow me to finish my transmission, put down the keyboard, pick up the notebook and be ready when the keyer got to the end of the buffer. The DSP unit was essential and was used constantly to make ESP level signals jump right out of the noise. I cannot say much for the Alinco's native filters.

View of the Rigs inside the Tent

There was a large storm in the Pacific between us and California and static crashes were heavy on all bands tried, 80-15 meters. There was not much rain in our "rain forest" especially the second night. El Nino is shuttling OUR rain to California and we would like some of it back, things are getting too dry.

I used two antennas. One I call the "Stake Stick." It is just a Radio Shack CB mounting afixed to 18 inches of 1/2 inch aluminum rod which is sharpened on one end for shoving into the ground. From this fitting extend 16 radials each 10 feet long. I was anxious to test the theory that radials did not have to be longer than the antenna is tall, nor resonant. Into this screwed a standard Hustler whip and resonator. This tuned up well on most bands, best on 30 meters. It was used to check into the Hawaii Afternoon 40 SSB Net on Friday with good signal reports. I was not blowing any socks off, but was easy copy around the state. This was used for all contacts on 30,20 and 15 meters and seemed to work quite well on 15 meters, the one band where I have the extra large version of the resonator.

The second antenna was a modified SLV. I have the fantastic 80 meter version of Verne Wright, W6MMA's St. Louis Vertical custom coil. I added a four-foot length of PVC pipe with two runs of 1/4 inch copper braid from end to end in a two turn spiral to keep the braid tight up against the PVC pipe. This used a one foot diameter aluminum plate under it, the spike was drilled and tapped and fastened to the plate, the plate had three more tent stakes each drilled and tapped on the top and all connected with 1/4 inch copper braid. On top of each of the three tent stakes was a set of eight radials each 25 feet long made from 24 gauge insulated wire (total of 24). A single woman's hair pin about six inches from the end of each radial, pushed down over it, kept the radials straight and well behaved on the ground.

The SLV Magnum

The antenna was about 25 feet tall and had a cute little circle of small diameter brass braising rod inserted in the tip to make a decorative "top hat". The coil was out of reach, some humbug here. But the entire unit was easy to lift off the base peg, fiddle the coil and then put back. But it did discourage band changing. Two eyebolts in the top of the PVC extension were used with four small plastic tent stakes and two miniature bungie cords to provide a stabilizing harness. The rig resisted what wind there was very easily set up like this. It tuned 40 meters with only about six turns of the big coil and was very broad banded.

Compared to the stake stick, it would receive signals about two S units better. It was used for all 40 meter contacts except for the first net checkin.

I heard lots of signals, especially on the magnum SLV. Friday and Saturday nights were CHAOS! RTTY, SSB, FAX, Slow Scan TV, Thunder Crashes, all on top of s9 white noise, solid from 7.000 to 7.100. But there were CW stations and I did get some answers. Seemed like the band was full of FISTS members. Fortunately, I had my number handy so I could answer the CQ FISTS calls that I heard.

In all I ended up with 22 solid contacts in the notebook and many more that netted only ? in return or QRZ's. The SLV was working extremely well on receive and without the DSP unit 40 meters would have been one useless howl.

Daytime 15 meters was good and a real relief after working the chaos that was 40 meters. I even made some SSB contacts. I also managed some contacts on 30 meters though it seemed to jump up for a while and then die. At night I kept the 30 meter resonator on the Hustler so I could switch back and forth between it and the SLV on 40.

Random notes:

The small tent as a one man station worked out very well and protected the rig nicely. Every time I woke up during the night, which was many very sore times Friday night, I would turn on the rig and search about.

The first aid kit must have over the counter drugs like Dristan and Tylenol or whatever your favorite flavors are.

A separate tea kettle in which to boil water is well worth it, A large insulated mug with a snap on cover is great and the Folgers singles "coffee bags" are a great invention.

The moon through the clouds on the mountains and all the dense wet trees around the campground was a sight that would stop you in your tracks.

The more you do this the better it gets.

It was spooky to have people come back to you after a CQ and already know your name! Does everyone belong to QRP-L?

AH7R - Mike Burger, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Dept. of Chemistry HI-QRP #28 - QRP-L #1053

FISTS #3225 - BL11ch - Honolulu County

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