Tag Archives: LNR EF-Quad

Fasten your seat belts for FT8 @ camp

Early in the morning of the day that my XYL and I left for our most recent camping trip I was making a quick pass through some of my favorite Amateur Radio blogs and came upon a post by Bas, PE4BAS and another post by John, AE5X regarding the new WSJT protocol\mode, FT8. In John’s post he graciously referenced my recent post on PSK31 with my KX2 as an example of QRP portable digital operation. I had already packed my equipment in order to operate PSK31 from camp but I thought that I may as well try FT8. I pulled out my PC and installed the beta version of WSJT-X. I didn’t have enough time to setup the KX2 to check configuration and test so I figured that I’d just wing it at camp.

The second day at camp dawned bright and beautiful, perfect weather for digital operations. After a nice breakfast I pulled out my equipment to have a go at FT8. I quickly placed one end of my LNR EF-Quad well up in a tall fir tree and setup the KX2 and laptop. When I originally setup for PSK31 with my KX2 I used an older Toshiba laptop however the battery in that laptop would not hold a sufficient charge so I switched over to another old laptop that I purchased a few years ago at a local Hamfest with the intent of setting up a dedicated WSPR station with my IC-718. This never happened and in the face of my new WSPRlite transmitter it’s not likely that it will so I decided to use it as my portable digital PC. It is a bit more compact than the other laptop and as a result the keyboard is a wee bit smaller, but it’s still reasonably serviceable.

In order to confirm that everything was setup correctly as far as the general PC\radio interface I made a quick test with Fldigi and PSK31 using the same USB soundcard I described in an earlier post. This resulted in a couple of very nice QSO’s with N1ZQ who was operating portable in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and KA3OCS in Virginia. Both stations were very considerate of me being new at PSK31.

Fldigi PSK31 @ camp

With general functionality confirmed I shut down Fldigi and started up WSJT-X. Within a minute I had the interface to the radio and audio setup, selected FT8 on the Mode menu, and with a click of the Monitor button WSJT-X was receiving and decoding FT8 on 20m.

WSJT-X FT8 @ camp

WSJT-X configuration was as follows with the KX2:

WSJT-X radio config with KX2

WSJT-X audio config

This was my first experience with WSJT-X having never operated with either JT9 or JT65 in addition to the new FT8 mode. If you’ve not seen FT8 in action before, let me tell you that it moves very very quickly. The Band Activity pane filled quite rapidly and scrolled along at a rather brisk pace. I observed the activity for a wee bit to get a feel for the flow of activity and then attempted to respond to some CQ calls. After a few attempts I was rewarded with my first FT8 QSO, N4ULE. It was over before I knew it!

First FT8 QSO, N4ULE

When it comes to FT8, as Briscoe Darling once said, “Just jump in where you can and hang on…

In fact if there was a theme song for FT8, it may well be Doug Dillard playing “Banjo in the Hollow” as in the video. FT8 moves right along, just like Doug’s pickin’.

The KX performed as expected, flawlessly. The CAT interface with WSJT-X functioned without an issue. The KX2 mode was DATA A. I’ve read a number of threads on the heat sink temperature rise with digital operation with the KX2\KX3. In the KX2 manual Elecraft states to reduce power to 5W so that is where I set the power. Depending upon the ambient temperature and operation my KX2 sits around 21-25 C. It was about 78 F\25 C at camp and I saw the heatsink temp peak at around 34 C after several rounds of transmission. It would quickly rise and as quickly descend at the end of each transmission. I don’t know what the foldback temperature is for the KX2. I will monitor the power output with my OHR WM-2 the next time I operate FT8 and digital modes in general to see if I hit the foldback in normal operation.

Given our position in Cycle 24, recently purchasing a shiny new QRP rig might not have been the best timing but digital modes seem to be on the rise. They mostly certainly provide new opportunities to make contacts and expand the frontiers of Amateur Radio. Like all of the other modes, some old, some new, they are another tool in the toolbox. My initial impression of FT8 is positive and while it will take a little practice to get used to the pace, my guess is that there will be some more operation with FT8 and my KX2 in the future.

UPDATE: Bas, PE4BAS asked a good question in the comments, that being time synchronization for the PC. I forgot to add this into the original post. WSJT-X requires a means for synchronizing the computer clock to UTC within ±1 second. Thankfully my XYL’s cellphone has service when we are at camp so I used that to access the US Naval Observatory time service at http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/simpletime.html. Using this reference I updated the PC clock manually. Lacking a data service I would have used WWV. This Genesis Radio site has a very nice list of time signals around the world. If the PC was connected to the Internet I’d use NISTIME 32 (scroll to the bottom of the page for the download), which is what I use on my home QTH PC.

 

Rig Expert @ Rawley Point Lighthouse

While on the first camping trip of the year I once again activated the Rawley Point Lighthouse (USA-689.) This time I chose to operate from the parking lot just to the north of the lighthouse. I used my Kenwood TS-480SAT and instead of my Alpha Antenna Alpha DX Sr I chose to use my LNR EF-Quad.

The parking lot just to the north of the lighthouse is located behind a very large dune at the top of which is a rather tall tree perfectly suited as support for one end of an end fed wire antenna. Using my arborists throw bag and line I quickly placed the line over a limb about halfway up the tree. I hoisted one end of the EF-Quad into the tree and ran the feed end back to my truck.

EF-Quad @ Rawley Point (light red line highlights antenna)

EF-Quad

I used my RigExpert AA-55 Zoom to quickly check the antenna and obtained the following readings:

Frequency SWR
7180 1.35
14250 1.27
21325 1.29
29000 3.1

AA-55 Zoom @ Rawley Point Lighthouse

AA-55 Zoom – Outstanding in its field

The RigExpert AA-55 Zoom continues to be outstanding in its field (pun intended.)

Due to the fact that it was a very windy, and somewhat cold day, I chose to setup the radio in the back of my truck. Once the antenna was up and checked I was able to start making some contacts on 20m. Even though band conditions weren’t great I was able to make a number of contacts in the time that I had for operation. The EF-Quad is a very nice antenna for portable operation and is a great option for windy days where I would have had to guy a vertical antenna like my Alpha Antenna Alpha DX Sr.

Some day this summer I’ll tune the EF-Quad to get 10m closer to what is spec’d. Now that I have the AA-55 Zoom it will be much easier to tune this multi-band wire antenna than with the old MFJ-259B.

 

NPOTA activations

It’s September which means there are only four months left for the NPOTA event. As I write this there have been over 612,000 QSOs with over 11,000 activations of the 489 units. If you look at the stats you’ll see that there are only 40 units that haven’t been activated. This means that over 90% of the 489 units have been activated at least once, with many of those activated a number of times. I wonder if anyone at the ARRL and the NPS thought that this event would generate this level of interest.

Some significant portion of those 11,000 activations involved Amateur Radio in the view of the public at the units. What a great promotion for the hobby. My activations have drawn interest from people at the units that I’ve activated with the first question usually something like “what are you doing?” followed by the typical responses of either “people still do that?” or “my <fill in the blank family member> used to be an Amateur Radio operator.” All the interest I’ve seen has been very positive. I’ve enjoyed doing activations as it’s fun to be on the other end of the pile-up. It’s not like being some ultra rare DX such as Outer Swobovia but I’m not likely to travel there anytime soon so a pile-up in Wisconsin will serve. I’ve also enjoyed the chase as well. As of this moment I’ve done nine activations and have 107 units confirmed.

Wisconsin doesn’t have any National Parks but we do have five units on the list:

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – LK01
  • Ice Age National Scenic Trail – TR05
  • Ice Age National Scientific Reserve – AA11
  • Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway – WR09
  • North Country National Scenic Trail – TR04

Of which two, Ice Age National Scenic Trail – TR05 and Ice Age National Scientific Reserve – AA11 have multiple locations throughout the state, many of which are very near my home or where my XYL and I camp.

Ice Age Trail - Point Beach Segment

Ice Age Trail – Point Beach Segment

NPOTA TR05 portable station

NPOTA TR05 portable station

At one activation I had some assistance from a dragonfly:

Dragonfly counterpoise

and an odd little bee that spent about 20 minutes flying around and walking about my portable station:

QRB???

QRB???

For all of the activations I’ve used my Kenwood TS-480SAT @100 Watts powered by a trolling motor battery and either my Alpha Antenna DX Sr, EARCHI end fed, or LNR EF-Quad end fed, all with good results.

NPOTA portable station

NPOTA portable station

On occasion I’ve used my folding wagon to transport the station equipment:

Portable station transport

And other times I’ve worked largely out of the back of my truck:

Ice Age Trail - Northern Kettle Moraine

Ice Age Trail – Northern Kettle Moraine

NPOTA station @ TR05 and AA11

NPOTA station @ TR05 and AA11

The current run rate is about 76,000 QSOs per month so with four months to go the final tally will probably be just over 900,000 QSOs. Maybe there will be a push through the fall and we’ll break one million QSOs for the year. Who knows.

I’ve visited a number of the units over the years and it’s been fun to work them in this event, recalling the times that I’ve visited the unit in the past. With the popularity of this event, and the interest that it has generated I wonder what the ARRL is going to come up with next. I know that I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

 

 

LNR EF-Quad initial test

Well it’s Father’s Day and dads don’t do flowers but they do like antennas. I gave a big hint to my family that I had enough ties and fishing rods, but that I could really use, one might almost go so far as to characterize it as a need, an LNR EF-Quad. And here it is:

LNR EF-Quad

LNR EF-Quad

Yes, they are a bit expensive when strictly considering the materials but any good products is more than just the sum of its parts. Additionally, the EF-Quad along with the the rest of the LNR family of wire antennas get great reviews on eHam. I’ve watched enough auctions for used LNR antennas on eBay bid up to nearly the same price as new.  It appears that they are desirable and so it was time to jump in.

I attached the end to my Spiderbeam 12m fiberglass pole and stood it up, bungee cording the pole to a picnic table. I deployed it as a sloper so as to allow the tuning stubs to hang freely. There are three tuning stubs on the antenna, one for 10m, the next for 15m, and the last for 20m. The antenna is intended for use on the 10m, 15m, 20m, and 40m bands. It is very well made. I can easily see how some choose to deploy these permanently. I can also see how this antenna would work nicely as a stealth antenna. The antenna wire and tuning stubs are made of Poly Stealth 18 and virtually disappear.

LNR EF-Quad: Quietly giving HOA Busy Bodies nightmares

Where’s the antenna?

This thing would be perfect for those living in HOA-restricted areas. Run a stealth operation at night to get the end well up in a tree and run it back to your shack. Done correctly it will likely never been seen by the HOA cranks when they are out measuring the length of your grass. Little will they know that you are tickling the ether in their controlled airspace.

The total length of the antenna is 65 feet. Just for fun, dust off your trigonometry, a²+b²=c²:

a²+b²=c²

a²+b²=c²

So the matchbox ends up 50 feet away from the base:

Another view

Antenna Feedpoint

I didn’t have time to operate with it but simply tested it with my MFJ-259B, As shown it appears to work as specified:

20 meters

20 meters

On the 20m band the SWR ranged from 1.7 at 14.000 to 1.4 at 14.350.

15 meters

15 meters

On the 15m band the SWR ranged from 2.0 at 21.000 to 1.3 at 21.450.

40 meters

40 meters

On the 40m band the SWR ranged from 1.1 at 7.000 to 2.0 at 7.300.

The 10m band needs some tuning as out of the box the SWR ranged from 4.3 at 28.000 to 7 at 29.7. The instructions state to tune the antenna from 40m down. I’ll need to tune the 10m stub another day and 15m could probably use a bit of a tweak as well. For now though 15m, 20m, and 40m are plenty good enough for initial operation which will hopefully be soon.