Tag Archives: TS-480SAT

POTA: KFF-4354 Point Beach State Forest

My XYL and I just returned from another camping trip. This trip almost didn’t happen as my XYL’s appendix decided that it needed to be removed a few days before our planned departure day. After a run to the emergency room at 4:30 AM and subsequent surgery I was sure that the trip was off. However the surgery went well and the surgeon said that she could go if she was feeling OK with some restrictions (such as no bike riding.) Within a couple of days she was feeling well enough so we departed one day later than planned. I guess the outdoors is good for what ails you.

XYL @ camp several days after an appendectomy

While at camp, in between taking care of my XYL, I was able to squeeze in some radio operation. When I started operations the band conditions were:

Band conditions – 9/6/17

Given conditions, it appeared to be a 100W day as opposed to a 10W day so I left the KX2 in its bag and pulled out my TS-480SAT. I used my LNR EF-Quad antenna strung across the campsite with one end at about 30 feet and the other at about 8 feet.

EF-Quad Matchbox view

The 40m band was pretty dead but I was able to make about 15 contacts calling CQ for POTA with some stations interested in the POTA numbers and others not. There wasn’t really any pile-up and it was more like a nice bunch of casual contacts.

480SAT @ camp

While calling CQ between contacts I was observing a red squirrel collecting green pine cones. It would grab a pine cone from a group of them about 20 feet in front of the picnic table I was sitting at in my campsite, run about 30 feet to a stump, stop, drop over the side of a slight depression, pop back up on a stump adjacent to the one that it just was on, look around, run to a portion of a hollow log, look around some more, proceed back to the pile pine cones, pick up another, and start the whole process over again. It must have made at least 15 trips following the same process.

Squirrel process flow

After about 2 hours of calling CQ, making an occasional contact, and watching the squirrel, local weather was closing in (passing bands of mild rain) so I ceased operation for the afternoon. I believe that the squirrel did as well.

Damselfly visitor

Later that evening the local weather had cleared and conditions were dramatically improved (I forgot to capture the chart.) It was a clear night and about 50 degrees F so I set the station back up on the picnic table and found the 40m band was very much alive. I found a clear spot to call CQ for POTA and while it started a little slow, after about 40 minutes and a spot by Mike, KK4KHS, I had a nice pile-up going.

Night operation

Over the next 1.5 hours I made 78 contacts. It was a lot of fun. I was actually quite amazed at the amount of interest. It reminded me of an NPOTA activation. It’s nice to see the interest in POTA. There were some calls that I recognized from NPOTA and when I added the contacts to my ACLog there were quite a few that I had worked during the NPOTA event.

Among a bunch of very nice contacts, there is one of note. I worked NU0C, Jim in Nebraska early in the pile-up. About 35 minutes later he called me back to tell me that he had been reading a recent blog post in which I mentioned that the last state that I needed for an FT8 WAS was Nebraska. He wanted to tell me that he’d be happy to setup a sked to put Nebraska in my log with FT8. I told him thanks but I had already logged a Nebraska station. It was very nice of him to call back with the offer. What a fine example of an Amateur Radio operator.

After shutting down for the night my XYL and I walked out to Lake Michigan and were treated to a nice moon over the lake.

Moon over Lake Michigan

While I had planned to be on the air more, as it turns out that was the extent of radio operation for the trip. Between the local weather (more rain) and band conditions I wasn’t able to get on the air again.

Band conditions 9/8/17

It was a nice trip that almost wasn’t. My XYL is doing very well and we’ve got one more trip planned before we put the camper away for the season.

 

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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.

 

 

Portable station box

I’m really enjoying portable operation with the combination of camping more and the NPOTA event . My portable radio is a Kenwood TS-480SAT. I know that it’s not the lightest portable radio but I really like it a lot and I’m usually never that far from my truck.

My entire portable station, less the battery, fits into an MTM Sportsmen’s Plus Utility Dry Boxes (SPUD box.) Mine is the SPUD 7.

Portable station in a box

Portable station in a box

The box contains the following items:

Top storage

Top storage

A small assortment of pens, pencils, and a Sharpie along with a slip-joint pliers and at least one double female barrel connector.

Top tray

Top tray

The top tray contains some paracord for guying, some old screwdrivers that double as stakes, some tape for the joints on the Spiderbeam pole, a jumper with powerpoles, an MFJ-108B as I use a paper log when I’m portable, and a homebrew panel meter with powerpole connectors that plugs into the RIGrunner to allow me to monitor the battery voltage. The panel meter is from eBay. They come in various configurations and cost around $5.00 shipped. I mounted it in a little project box and added a pigtail with powerpoles.

Panel meter

Panel meter

Inside the lower portion of the box is the main equipment:

Inside the box

Portable equipment

Comprising the TS-480SAT, a Dentron JR Monitor antenna tuner, a pair of Kenwood HS-5 headphones, a West Mountain Radio RIGrunner 4005, and an MFJ-259B.

And finally the EARCHI wire antenna, some coax jumpers, a battery cable with powerpoles, the Kenwood power cord with powerpoles, and an assortment of various coax cable lengths.

Coax and wire antenna

Coax and wire antenna

All of this fits in the SPUD box just fine although it does weigh 28 pounds. It’s definitely not playing in the same league as a KX2\KX3 station but as I said I’m typically not very far from my truck and when I am I have a heavy duty folding wagon to haul the SPUD box, a battery, a small folding table, a bag chair, my Alpha antenna, and the Spiderbeam pole if I’m going to use it. On occasion I’ve walked a few miles pulling this load and it works well as long as the trail is relatively smooth.

Folding wagon with portable station

Folding wagon with portable station

I originally purchased the SPUD box with the intent of building an EMCOMM box along the lines of this:

Emcomm box

Emcomm box

There’s an entire thread of various go boxes here. Most of these boxes are really well done but the more I thought about it the easier it was just to set the station in the box. I don’t mind pulling the stuff out of the box and wiring it up. It doesn’t take all that long. The emcomm boxes certainly have the advantage of simply attaching an antenna and power plus most have both an HF and VHF\UHF radio. To some extent these are probably serving a different need than my simple portable station.

Power for my portable station is provided by a trolling motor battery. Not the lightest power source but it provides plenty of capacity to run a portable radio at 100W for a fair amount of operating time. Eventually I’ll add a portable solar panel and charge controller to my portable station. For now what I have is working well. Over the past year the vast majority of my contacts have been from my portable station. As Andrew, VK1AD says, “Get out of the Radio Shack and Live Life.

 

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.

 

Par Omni – Initial test

Yes, it’s time for the latest installment of Tim’s 6m adventure. This one begins where the previous post left-off, the the Par Omni. My nice new OA-50 leaned against a workbench in my shack all week waiting to go outside and play with all the other antennas. Well Friday was the day. I stuck in on the aforementioned mast that I used to test my Par Moxon and bungee corded it to the side door of the garage workshop.

Par Omni @ 20ft

Par Omni @ 20ft

The wire in the picture is not a powerline, it’s one leg of my Cobra UltraLite Junior. It was temporarily deployed late last fall in order to have a backup for the winter in case my main antenna came down which it had the previous year during a very cold period late in January. Typical antenna behavior. They never have problems when it’s sunny and 72.

A quick test with my MFJ-259B showed that the SWR was at 1.1 at 50.125 and thru the SSB portion of the band. Using my TS-480SAT I slowly scanned through the range from 50.125 to 50.200 and didn’t hear anything. I returned to 50.125 and called CQ a few times to no avail. So I flipped back to 20m and worked some DX and NPOTA stations, occasionally checking back to 50.125 and watching DXMaps for signs of band activity.

On one of my checks I heard Ray, K9KHW and responded to his call. Being new to 6m operations I asked Ray about the tools that are typically used to check on 6m activity and he recommended the DXMaps site and also subscribing to the ON4KST chat which I subsequently did. He also recommended checking activity later in the evening. The rest of the afternoon was spent on HF.

About 7:30 PM CDT band activity appeared to be increasing as indicated by  the DXMaps site. Hearing nothing on 50.125 I called CQ with no response so I moved to 50.130 and called CQ and Kevin, W9APE in Sheboygan responded. With only 38 miles between our stations we certainly weren’t pressing the limits of the 6m band but he was very helpful with a few more 6m operation questions that I had. Shortly after breaking with Kevin to tune around a bit a station from Houston, Rick K5GZR called him followed quickly by another station in Houston, Dan N5TM. I could hear the two Houston stations very well so after W9APE completed his contacts with them I gave K5GZR a call and he responded with a good signal report. After a nice conversation with Rick I called for N5TM and he responded as well with a good signal report. Both of these stations had much more substantial antenna systems than my Omni on a pipe and also power but I was able to clearly hear them (no real surprise) and more importantly they were able to clearly hear me. That’s a thousand miles on 6m with an Omni on a pipe at 20 feet and 100 watts. As I think of it I should have tried to reduce power to see how low I could have gone and still maintained contact. After breaking with Rick and Dan I tuned around a bit more and called CQ on occasion with no response. I heard KI4FCQ in Georgia on 50.125 and called for him, while he had my call we were not able to complete the contact. I returned to 50.130 and called CQ again and Matt, W3UUM responded. Matt is located well east of Houston so another 1000 miles on 6m. As a side note you should check the picture of Matt’s antenna farm on his QRZ page. It’s very nice and enough to give the average HOA president a well deserved heart attack. After a nice contact with Matt I called CQ one last time as weather radar indicated that a storm was approaching and would be at my location in less than an hour. Bruce, W9XX responded and after a short contact we both decided to pull the hook in the face of the impending storm as Bruce is located in Sheboygan and the path of the storm was angled such that the leading edge of the storm was closer to him than to me at that point.

All in all a successful day of 6m operations. The Par Omni performed as expected and given that this is the weekend for the ARRL June VHF Contest it will get a bit more workout if the band conditions allow. Plus my XYL thought the Omni looked cool which I’m certain is wife-speak for “Honey, why don’t you get some more antennas.

Conclusion: Par Electronic’s antennas work very well and 6m is a blast!

Update: Here’s an interview with Dale Parfitt of Par Electronics

Update: Here’s a nicely done introduction to 6m operation that’s largely done on air with KF7ETX.

KA9EAK Portable – 6m

The weather was beautiful today and I really didn’t want to do anything that I needed to do so it sounded like a perfect day for Amateur Radio. I checked various propagation sites and saw that 6m was open. This combined with the fact that I had a new (to me) Par Electronics SM-50 6m Stressed Moxon waiting to be deployed made for a good day for portable operation.

I’ve wanted to get one of the Par Moxons for awhile and found one at the ORC spring hamfest. It was complete in the original box and the price was right so it followed me home. The antenna gets really good reviews on eHam and is perfect for portable operation. It is very easy to assemble and is very well made. The reflector is a piece of Flex Weave wire with ring lugs on the ends that screw into the arms that lead out from the driven element causing them to bow in a wee bit. I placed it on the top of a bit over 20 feet of pipe welded together for just this purpose and fed it with about 30 feet of RG-8U.

6m stressed Moxon

6m stressed Moxon

Antenna at a bit over 20 feet

Antenna at about 20 feet

By the time that I got the antenna up and the rest of the station (Kenwood TS-480SAT) assembled the band was starting to get busy. I went to the SSB calling frequency, 50.125 and listened for a bit, hearing nothing I called CQ and got an almost immediate response from WA1T in New Hampshire. Great signal reports both ways and I was working off the side of the antenna at that point. Using my armstrong rotator I moved the antenna around and moved up and down a bit on the band from 50.125 to 50.150 looking for stations. In less than two hours of operation I had made a dozen contacts, most with good signal reports though with some effort as the band moved around. Some stations were there and strong and the next instant they were gone so some contacts were missed. Most all of the stations I contacted were running as much or more power and had larger antennas than I so it was good that they had better ears than mine, but the little Moxon on some pipe in the backyard performed well. More investigation is required in order to determine if the pile of flowers at the base of the mast had any influence on signal strength. Could this be the origin of the phrase “flower power?”

Portable station

Portable station

I heard\called a few Texas stations but the only one that heard me was K5HGX. I also heard\called some stations in zero-land but was unable to complete any contacts.

Map of contacts

Map of contacts

It was a fun afternoon trying out the new Moxon and operating a portable 6m station. Now that I have this nice antenna I’ll be watching for 6m band openings.

Your host enjoying the best hobby of all

Your host enjoying the best hobby of all