NorCal QRPTTF Announcement
Saturday, April 25, 0600-1400 HST
There was light rain and gray skies when we got to the park so most of setup of tents, shelters, antennas etc. was done in the off and on rain, with some bursts of intense tropical sun to raise lots of steam from the wet grass.
I was using two "improved" verticals from my last trip. One was an SLV with a 5 foot extension of PVC pipe on the base. It sported an 18 inch aluminum disk at the base. The spike of the support peg and three 9 inch tent stakes were all tied to the ground. It had three clusters of 25 foot radials, 8 radials each for a total of 24, attached to the tent stakes.
The SLV element was made from 1/4 inch braid. Two runs for most of the length, ending in a short single run, then an 18 inch section of 18 gauge wire and a cute little circle of brazing rod for the very top. At the base was the smallest of the MFJ VersaTuners for a base matching network. This thing tuned up quite well on 40-10 meters. It was very close to 26 feet tall. I have both the 80 and 40 meter, Verne Wright, W6MMA, SLV custom coils but with the base extension, they are too high to reach. They still work very well, but it is a bit of humbug lowering the antenna for each retune. The base tuner worked extremely well.
The other antenna was my "Stake Stick", 18 inches of 1/2 aluminum rod sharpened to a point with a Radio Shack mounting on it. Hustler whip parts are used with this. It had 16 radials 10 feet long and 12 radials 13.5 feet long. I had prepared a "resonator" by cutting out the insulator and wire from a 10 meter standard Hustler element and replacing it with 6 inches of copper pipe. One mast plus this element plus a 36 inch SS Radio Shack whip makes a tunable full size element on 10 meters. Two masts plus a short 9 inch whip makes a full size element on 15 meters. Two masts plus the 36 inch whip makes a full size 17 meter antenna. All of these are extremely broad banded and tuned up quite well with SWR's below 1.5:1. I found that a standard 17 meter Hustler resonator with the 36 inch whip tunes very well on 20 meters and is still quite broad banded.
Laying out all those radials is a hassle but I was anxious to test both antennas side by side. In all cases except 17 meters, the SLV was 3 DB louder, but both worked quite well, when the bands were not blacked out. On 17 for some reason the signals were nearly identical. I plan on using the Stake Stick for backpacking and more portable operations, and the SLV for camping in a more "field day" fashion.
Friday afternoon I checked into the 40 meter local SSB net and identified some problems with the crummy speaker plug on the back of the Alinco DX70t. But the antennas seemed to be working just fine. That evening I talked to Japan several times, VE7ZBK in BC and AD6FA on 40 meters without any trouble. Hear CQ, call one time, have QSO. It looked like it was going to be a good time testing antennas and working the contest the next day.
The good news is the antennas worked extremely well. I am very pleased with both designs, the bad news is that on Saturday 40, 20 and 15 could be completely dead, not a single signal, for extended periods.
Saturday morning I awoke before dawn. There was a rather intense morning rain shower, but not before I managed to brew a cup of prescription strength coffee on the stove outside the tiny tent where the rig was protected. I operate sitting crosslegged on a small mat on the ground in front of the rig which is propped up on its travel box. Nice to know I can still sit that way for six hours and manage to stand up again. 40 meters was churning with FAX, RTTY, SSB and even some CW, all JA stations. As contest time started I searched and searched on 40 for any sign of TTF. Finally, I called JH9BIY and chatted with him to confirm the antennas were working. He was running 30 watts.
I was going back and forth between 40 and 15. After two and one half hours of fading JA's, noise and dead bands I was checking the backpack for razor blade and composing my death haiku when suddenly on 21.061 I worked a station that started spitting out four, count them four, signal reports! It was a four corners station. In a brief flurry of activity I netted a few more. There was hope again.
Then the sun came out. First thing we noticed was that the wonderful shade trees of two months ago were naked. They had dropped all their leaves. The lack of rain has been bad here as all the stuff has been getting "el nino'ed" to California.
Intense tropical sun on wet tent makes for instant sauna.
Temperature soared to 98 degrees in the tent at 100% humidity. Where the sun was hitting the tent floor directly through the door, there was a couple of blobs of candle wax from a lantern I was using the night before. As I watched it melted! It ran like water and soaked into the fabric of the tent floor and spread out into a big circle six inches across.
The rest of the day was war. Roaring dead bands which would jump to life for 10 minutes or so and then die down to no signals at all from top to bottom. I called CQ for several long periods on 10 meters out of desperation. I would go for an hour or more with no contacts and no signals except a few non-contest QRO signals down low in the band and some SSB up top.
The sun fortunately spent most of the day behind fairly thick clouds. I rigged a large umbrella as a "wind scoop" at the front door of the tent to deflect what breeze there was into the operating position and stripped down to a pair of swim trunks. I feared the vision of me in shorts would strike the few fellow campers blind, but since I only came out to umptuple check the connections on the antennas one more desperate time, not many suffered from the sight.
Of course, Saturday evening 40 meters was hot and 20 meters was open until 2 in the morning. The antenna testing was extremely successful. And as I look over the list of states worked, it ain't too shabby. Its all DX from here.
I heard one signal that I could not believe. He was 60+ over 9 on the meter so I was waiting for the KH6 callsign figuring he was just down the road. He was in California. True, he was running 500 watts when I chatted with him, but even with the preamp off and 20 DB of attenuation he was still jumping to 10 over 9 on the Smeter bar graph. So I guess the new portable antenna designs work. Just not during contests...
During the contest period I contacted:
AH6OZ; KK6MC/5; AA7QU; K4MF; W6ZH; W4DEC; KF6CTA; KN6WV; AE4RO; W5JAY; W5VBO; AE4MU
On the SSB local net that afternoon, several other Hawaii hams reported hearing dead bands for periods. One said 20 meters had no signals of any kind for a while during the morning. That makes it rough when everyone is two or three skips away. Sometimes I miss neighboring states.
The same Shama Thrush from last time was there Friday night to give me a 15 minute cussing out about violating his territory and planting funny trees without limbs.
Saturday evening a large flock of tiny escaped cage birds attacked the SLV. As we had dinner under the tarp some distance away, while the Shama Thrush cheered them on, they lined up on the 22 gauge radial wires on the ground. The would get in a straight line shoulder to shoulder down the length of one radial and peck at it. When I checked later several radials had been lifted up and moved about.
I am not responsible for everything I may have sent on CW while the sun was out and the tent temperature was melting wax inside.
AH6OZ 7.041 599 HI KK6MC/5 21.061 5NN AZ 5NN CO 5NN UT 5NN NM AA7QU 21.060 55N OR K4MF 21.045 55N MS W6ZH 21.061 44N CA W4DEC 21.060 559 AL KF6CTA 21.059 55N CA KN6WV 21.059 55N CA AE4RO 21.060 5NN STL(?) Got this three times. W5JAY 21.060 55N AZ W5VBO 21.060 55N AZ AE4MU 21.059 539 CA
Note: the only contact on 40 meters was 100 yards away. He was QRP, however. Not counting the JA I talked to but he was running a full 30 watts. I have no idea what STL means, but I heard him send the same report to several others as well.
AH7R - Mike Burger, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Dept. of
HI-QRP #28 - QRP-L #1053 - FISTS #3225 - BL11ch - Honolulu County