Jackite Pole Locking Pin

Here’s a quick little hack that might come in handy if your Jackite pole should suddenly collapse in windy conditions. It’s very easy to do and costs nothing, depending on what you have in your junk box.

Once in a blue moon, in windy conditions, I have had my 28-foot and 31-foot Jackite poles spontaneously collapse. Usually, when it happens, it’s the second largest tube that collapses into the largest tube.  To remedy this, I drilled two 1/8-inch holes in the second largest tube right where it meets the largest tube. I drilled the two holes such that they were directly opposite each other. (See the accompanying pictures if my explanation is confusing.)

To remedy this, I drilled two 1/8-inch holes in the second largest tube right where it meets the largest tube. I drilled the two holes such that they were directly opposite each other. (See the accompanying pictures if my explanation is confusing.)

This is where the holes are drilled. Note that there is a second hole directly opposite this one.

This is where the holes are drilled. Note that there is a second hole directly opposite this one.

Here’s how it works. When the pole is fully extended, I just slide a pin through the two holes to prevent the pole from collapsing. For the pin, I used a hook from a bungee cord that I straightened out, using a pair of pliers. The resulting pin is just the right size and it has a nice rubberized coating on it. You could, of course, use something else (a nail, a piece of wire, etc.) for the pin.

These are the two pole sections with the locking pin inserted.

These are the two pole sections with the locking pin inserted.

This is before (top) and after of the bungee hook I used for the locking pin.

This is before (top) and after of the bungee hook I used for the locking pin.

I don’t usually use the pin, except in very windy conditions. I’ll definitely use it during my upcoming trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My Jackite pole will be up for a week and facing some stiff ocean breezes.

73, Craig WB3GCK

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Susquehanna State Park (KFF-1601)

My better half and I headed down to Susquehanna State Park in northeastern Maryland for a relaxing weekend of camping. My plan for the weekend was to make some contacts in the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES). I also wanted to set some time aside for a dedicated Parks on the Air (POTA) activation of KFF-1601.

Our campsite was heavily wooded but in a bit of a low spot. It was a great site for camping but probably not ideal for ham radio. Undeterred, I used my 30-foot wire vertical, fed through a 9:1 unun and did most of my operating outside in a comfy camp chair.

WB3GCK hard at work operating from our campsite in Susquehanna State Park.

WB3GCK hard at work operating from our campsite in Susquehanna State Park.

I made most of my contacts on Saturday morning working WES stations. After that, things slowed down and my little 5-watt signal was struggling to get through. On Saturday afternoon, I spotted myself on the POTA Facebook page and called CQ for nearly an hour on 40 and 20 meters. The net result was a meager 2 contacts. I made a few more WES contacts on 80 and 40 meters on Sunday morning before packing up for the trip home.

When the bands start to fade, it's good to have a backup plan.

When the bands start to fade, it’s good to have a backup plan.

Fortunately, I ended up with more than enough contacts to get credit for the POTA activation. Even when the bands aren’t conducive to QRP, it’s still fun operating outdoors.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Bike-Portable with My AlexLoop

Today was the first chance I’ve had during this long, holiday weekend to go out play radio. I’m a regular supporter of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, so I like to take advantage of rail trails when I can. Today, I loaded up my bike and headed down to the Chester Valley Trail. The Chester Valley Trail cuts across Chester County and connects to a large, growing network of trails in the greater Philadelphia area.

I decided to take my AlexLoop along today. I’ve never really tried carrying the AlexLoop on my bike before. While it fits comfortably in my backpack, I don’t really like to ride with a backpack on. I’ve always found that uncomfortable, especially on hot and humid days.

My bike loaded up and ready for travel. The AlexLoop structural components are in the green back. The coax radiator is in one of the pannier bags.

My bike loaded up and ready for travel. The AlexLoop structural components are in the green back. The coax radiator is in one of the pannier bags.

Today, I arranged the three support pieces of the loop side-by-side. I used the velcro straps on the back of the tuning box to help hold the three sections together. Then I placed the sections in an over-sized nylon stuff sack. Taking care not to bend the antenna’s feed loop, I strapped the loop components and my tripod on the rear rack of my bike. I put the coax part of the loop in one of my panniers, along with my LiFePO4 battery. I put my KX3 in the other pannier bag. This turned out to be a workable solution.

This is how I arranged the AlexLoop components prior to putting them in a protective stuff sack. The velcro straps attached to the tuning box are used to help hold the pieces together.

This is how I arranged the AlexLoop components prior to putting them in a protective stuff sack. The velcro straps attached to the tuning box are used to help hold the pieces together.

After loading up the bike, I rode about 2.75 miles to the Exton County Park. I found a picnic table in a remote section of the park and set up the AlexLoop and KX3. I was out in an open area, so the wind was strong at times. I used a bungee cord to secure the tripod to the seat of the picnic table.

Due to some gusting winds, I used a bungee cord to secure the tripod to the bench.

Due to some gusting winds, I used a bungee cord to secure the tripod to the bench.

I started off calling CQ on 20 meters and quickly received a call from N5GW. Gene was on vacation in Tennessee and was putting a great signal into southeastern Pennsylvania. After chatting for a bit, I signed with Ken and moved down to 30 meters. There were no takers there, so I gave 40 meters a try. N1KK gave me a call. Ken was operating QRP-portable from his summer home in Narragansett, Rhode Island. By the time Ken and I finished our QSO, the lack of shade was starting to get to me, so I packed up the bike and got back on the trail.

My setup at Exton County Park.

My setup at Exton County Park.

I rode another mile or so further before turning around and heading back to the trailhead.  I really enjoyed this trail and I’ll definitely be doing this ride again in the near future.

I was happy with the AlexLoop arrangement on the bike but I’m sure there’s room for improvement.

I’d like to wish all of my friends here in the U.S. a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Boschveldt (W3BQC) Field Day 2017

Once again, I joined my fellow Boschveldt QRP Club members for Field Day. We’re a loosely-organized group of QRPers who enjoy portable operating. Field Day is one of the few times each year that we get together, so it’s always good to see everyone and do some catching up. This year we held Field Day on a beautiful piece of land owned by a close family friend of one of our members. We were situated on top of a hill, so we had some good elevation, too.

This is the little camper K3YTR used. Besides sleeping, there was enough room for his radios.

This is the little camper K3YTR used. Besides a place to sleep, there was enough room for his radios.

Ed K3YTR, Glen NK1N and I arrived mid-afternoon on Friday and set up our tents. We were expecting some heavy rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy so we held off setting up our radio equipment. We were joined later that night by Ron WA8YIH.

This is my (WB3GCK) tent. The Jackite pole in the foreground is supporting the vertical portion of my 58-ft inverted L antenna.

This is the WB3GCK tent. The Jackite pole in the foreground is supporting the vertical portion of my 58-ft inverted L antenna.

We sat around chewing the fat until it started to rain around 10:30 PM. At that point, we retreated to our tents for the night to ride out the storm. It certainly was a rough night, with some of the heaviest rain I have ever experienced in a tent. My old tent made it through the night with only some slight leaks. WA8YIH’s canopy, unfortunately, was destroyed by the heavy rain. Other than that, we got through the night otherwise unscathed.

Ron WA8YIH (left) and Glen NK1N surveying the aftermath of Tropical Depression Cindy. Ron's canopy was a total loss.

Ron WA8YIH (left) and Glen NK1N surveying the aftermath of Tropical Depression Cindy. Ron’s canopy was a total loss.

After breakfast on Saturday, we went about setting up our radio equipment. Ed WA3WSJ arrived mid-morning.

Ed WA3WSJ camped out in his hammock. He's in there somewhere.

Ed WA3WSJ camped out in his hammock. He’s in there somewhere.

This year, we operating as Class 3A EPA, using our club callsign, W3BQC. We were all QRP on battery power. I operated CW while WA8YIH operated SSB, digital and a little CW. NK1N worked satellites using his new portable setup. K3YTR worked 2M and 440 SSB. WA3WSJ assisted with all the stations.

Glen NK1N setting up his antenna array for satellite communications.

Glen NK1N setting up his antenna array for satellite communications.

On HF, WA8YIH and I were both running KX3s and inverted L antennas fed through 9:1 ununs. Propagation seemed fair on Saturday but was much better on Sunday. Despite all the wet foliage around us, NK1N managed to make some decent satellite contacts. On Saturday night, I switched my station over to digital to copy the W1AW Field Day Bulletin on 80 meters.

This is Ron WA8YIH's station running SSB and digital.

This is Ron WA8YIH’s station running SSB and digital.

Field Day with the Boschveldt QRP crew is always a somewhat laid-back affair. None of us are serious contesters, so there is always a lot of socializing going on during the weekend. During the evening, we assemble around the campfire to swap tall stories. We never rack up huge scores but we always have a lot of fun.

WA3WSJ grilling Spam for lunch on Sunday

WA3WSJ grilling Spam for lunch on Sunday

After a Sunday lunch of grilled Spam sandwiches, we started tearing down and packing up. We haven’t compiled our logs yet, so I don’t know what our final score is yet. I’m sure we didn’t set any records but, if they gave out bonus points for having fun, the Boschveldt crew would be at the top of our category.

For more (and much better) pictures of our Field Day, visit the Boschveldt QRP website.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Father’s Day Weekend Camping

As is my usual practice, I spent Father’s Day weekend camping with my XYL. One of my Father’s Day “gifts” is a relaxing weekend with some occasional ham radio.

Our camp sign. A local artisan made this for us many years ago.

Our camp sign. A local artisan made this for us many years ago.

We took our travel trailer up to nearby French Creek State Park. On our maiden voyage with the trailer, I encountered some noise issues. Not this time. Since the trailer was only on battery power this time, I didn’t have the noisy 12V converter to contend with. Plus, I used my Jackite ground mount to mount my antenna further away from the trailer.

My 31-foot Jackite pole. This time I located the antenna about 10 feet away from the trailer.

My 31-foot Jackite pole. This time I located the antenna about 10 feet away from the trailer.

For this trip, I used the 31-foot Jackite pole to support a 30-foot wire and fed it with a 9:1 unun. Inside the trailer, I used my KX3 with a small LiFePO4 battery. Using the KX3’s internal antenna tuner, I was able to load up on all bands from 80-6 meters. The KX3’s tuner never ceases to amaze me.

Operating on and off over the weekend, I made a dozen or so casual contacts. Some of them were pretty interesting:

  • On Saturday, I worked WB2LQF in New York. Stan was running 1W to his attic dipole and was delivering an amazing signal into southeastern Pennsylvania. On Sunday, I worked Stan again. This time he was operating WW2DEM aboard the USS Slater in Albany. Like me, Stan is a former Navy Radioman.
  • I worked N2CX who was doing a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation from Big Pocono State Park (KFF-1333) in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I was monitoring his usual 40-meter frequency and caught him when he first came on the air.  After working Joe, I decided to start submitting my POTA logs.
  • I worked K1ZK as he was testing his new MTR rig on 20 meters. Zack and I had a nice two-way QRP chat. I was pleased to be his first contact with the new rig.
  • I wrapped up the weekend by working the NAQCC guys operating NY3EC aboard the USS Requin.

I also had a chance to do a quick test of the vertical antenna I have been working on. It’s getting better but the 30-meter band is still resonating a bit low. I’ll be doing another loading coil tweak this week.

My experimental vertical antenna set up on our campsite for some quick SWR measurements.

My experimental vertical antenna set up on our campsite for some quick SWR measurements.

Next weekend I’ll be out with the Boschveldt QRP gang for Field Day. If you hear W3BQC on the air, give us a shout.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Weekend Antenna Testing

Carrying on from the initial testing I did last week, I went out for a bike ride yesterday and took my experimental vertical along.  (I gave a general description of this antenna project in my previous post.)  I rode a few miles up the Schuylkill River Trail and on to a park along the Perkiomen Trail.

I set up in a remote section of the picnic area and quickly took some readings on 40 and 30 meters with my antenna analyzer.  I had done some tweaking to the loading coil but, unfortunately, both bands were still resonating too low.

My set up at Lower Perkiomen Valley Park. If you look closely at the S-meter in the upper right of the display, you can see the horrendous noise level on 40 meters.

My set up at Lower Perkiomen Valley Park. If you look closely at the S-meter in the upper right of the display, you can see the horrendous noise level on 40 meters.

I set up my KX3, intending to make some contacts.  This, however, was not to be.  There was a background noise level that was higher than I had encountered on a previous visit to this park.  As I was tuning around, I looked over and saw that the wind had blown my antenna over.  I neglected to bring anything along that I could use to stabilize the antenna and tripod.  I set it back up but it wasn’t long before the antenna was on the ground again.  After it blew over a 3rd time, I gave up.  I packed up the bike and rode back down the trail to my truck.

My bike loaded up for the trip home. No contacts today but at least I had a nice bike ride!

My bike loaded up for the trip home. No contacts today but at least I had a nice bike ride!

This morning I made another adjustment to the antenna’s loading coil and headed over to Valley Forge Park to test it.  Like yesterday, it was somewhat breezy.  This time, I hung my backpack from a hook on the bottom of the tripod to make sure the antenna stayed upright.

My set up at Valley Forge National Historical Park. I hooked my backpack to the bottom of the tripod to help stabilize it in the wind.

My set up at Valley Forge National Historical Park. I hooked my backpack to the bottom of the tripod to help stabilize it in the wind.

I took some antenna analyzer readings and found that the 40-meter band was now resonating right where I wanted it.  I saw some improvement on 30 meters but it was still resonating below the band.  Obviously, the tap for the 30-meter band is in the wrong place.

As I tuned around, it the bands seemed better this morning.  I worked N5P in Texas on 20 meters.  N5P was participating in the Museum Ships Weekend event from the National Museum of the Pacific War.  I moved down to 30 meters and heard a couple of strong stations.  I didn’t make any contacts there, though.

I called CQ on 40 meters and quickly got a call from N1PVP in Massachusetts.  I remembered working Marino a couple of weeks ago.  He always has a very strong signal into Pennsylvania.  I wrapped up with a two-way QRP QSO with Alan AC8AP in Ohio.

Antenna-wise, I have to do some thinking about how to proceed with my experimental vertical.  As I see it, I have a few options:

  • I could continue to tweak the existing coil.  If I remove turns from the bottom of the coil while adding the same number of turns to the top of the coil, this would effectively move the tap point for the 30-meter band.
  • It might be easier to just re-wind the coil and add a few more tap points.  I could do some testing to see which tap works the best.
  • I could always invoke the “do nothing” option.  The SWR on 30 meters is only about 4.3:1, which is a trivial match for the KX3’s internal tuner.

In any event, the antenna is useful as it stands.  I’ll take some time this week to consider my next move.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Memorial Day Antenna Testing

Some time ago, I bought a small, lightweight telescopic fishing pole from a Chinese vendor on eBay.  It’s about 19.5 feet tall and collapses down to about 26 inches.  It’s a great size for backpacking or transporting on my bike.  It weighs practically nothing.  In fact, it’s too light for supporting anything but a lightweight vertical wire.  Although I have used it a few times to support various antenna configurations, I never really found one that was a “keeper.”

Since I had some time over the long holiday weekend, I scratched out a quick design for yet another vertical antenna and cobbled it together with parts I had on hand in my junk box.  I designed it to operate as a base-loaded resonant vertical on both 40 and 30 meters.  On 20 meters and higher, it operates as a non-resonant wire; thus, an antenna tuner is required on those bands.  Along with the loading coil, the matching unit contains a 1:1 choke balun to isolate the feedline.    Both the choke balun and tapped loading coil are wound on toroids and mounted in a small, plastic enclosure.  The radiator is a 19-foot piece of #28 wire.  I could have shortened the radiator to make it resonant on 20 meters also, however, I went with the longer radiator for better performance on 40 meters.  I used four 12.5-foot radials that I made from a 25-foot roll of cheap speaker wire.

The antenna I was testing. The white piece between the telescopic pole and the tripod is an adapter I made from PVC pipe.

The antenna I was testing. The white piece between the telescopic pole and the tripod is an adapter I made from PVC pipe.

Normally, I like to use the “build a little, test a little” approach.  Since I don’t have the luxury of space at home for antenna testing, I just took my chances and built the whole thing.  I headed out to a local park yesterday to give it the “smoke test” and see how close I came with my loading coil design.

My operating location on a cloudy and rainy morning

My operating location on a cloudy and rainy morning

It took less than 5 minutes to set it up.  I used an antenna analyzer to take some initial measurements.  On both 20 and 30 meters, the resonant frequencies were low and fell outside the band.  I still have some work to do there.  On 20 meters and up, the KX3’s tuner loaded it up easily.

The antenna matching unit. The red jumper is used to change bands.

The antenna matching unit. The red jumper is used to change bands.

Next, I wanted to put it on the air.  I started on 40 meters and used the KX3’s tuner to tweak the SWR.  I called CQ a few times and eventually got a call from K4ALE in Virginia.  Bevin said I was 559 with QSB.  Despite the poor band conditions, we had a nice chat.

After I signed with Bevin, I set the antenna for 30 meters and kicked in the KX3’s tuner.  I called CQ and was quickly answered by NN4NC in North Carolina.  Jim gave me a 569.  At times, the band would fade to just about nothing.  As I was chatting with Jim, some drizzle started blowing in under the pavilion where I was sitting.  So I signed with Jim and quickly packed up.

I’ll be doing some adjustments to the antenna over the coming weeks.  It looks, though, that this could be a useful portable antenna, once I get the loading coil straightened out.

Since this is a work in progress, I left out the details for now.  After I get the antenna working as intended, I’ll provide a detailed description, schematic and parts list in a future post.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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IFR – The Curse is Broken!

I went out to a nearby park to operate for a bit in the International Field Radio Event.  It took 3 of these events but I finally worked another IFR participant!

I didn’t expect to be out for very long so I kept my setup pretty basic.  I set up my Alexloop on a short tripod on top of the picnic table.  (That decision would come back to haunt me later.)   I fired up my KX3 and found the bands were suspiciously quiet.  In fact, it was hard to get enough receiver noise to peak up the Alexloop.  That’s usually a bad omen.  A check of the Band Conditions website confirmed that.

Band conditions weren't the greatest today.

Band conditions weren’t the greatest today.

Undeterred, I started calling CQ on 14.035 MHz, the Field Radio group’s 20M calling frequency.  I got a call from NE3I whose signal was very strong. It turned out that Bob was only about 5 miles away from me.  As he noted during our conversation, we could have done the QSO on 2M simplex.   Bob wasn’t in the IFR event but I appreciated his call; I wasn’t going to get skunked today.  As I was working Bob, I was keying with one hand and swatting at bugs with the other.

Picnic table portable for the International Field Radio Event. The Alexloop was on a short tripod on top of the table.

Picnic table portable for the International Field Radio Event. The Alexloop was on a short tripod on top of the table.

I moved down to the 40-meter calling frequency (7.035 MHz) and had a short two-way QRP contact with another non-participant, K3JPT.  He was two counties west of me.  After a while, W3DET in North Carolina came up on the frequency and called, “CQ IFR.”  I gave him a call and he came right back to me.  Happy dance!  After we exchanged IFR numbers, Dave noted that this was his first IFR contact.  I replied that it was mine also.  How about that?  I finally made an IFR contact!

I wrapped things up with another non-IFR contact with N1PVP in Massachusetts.  As I was signing with Marino, the wind kicked up and knocked the Alexloop over.  That was my clue that it was time to pack up.  Yep, I probably shouldn’t have set the tripod up on the table.

With my first International Field Radio Event contact in the log, I declared victory and headed home.

For more information on the Field Radio group, visit www.fieldradio.org.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Trailer ‘Tenna

We recently retired our old pop-up tent trailer and acquired a small hard-sided travel trailer.  The antenna I used with the pop-up camper evolved over 19 camping seasons to a pretty decent all-band antenna.  It covered 80 through 6 meters (with a tuner) and required almost no space at all when deployed.  I needed to come up with something similar for the new trailer.

My new travel trailer on its maiden voyage to Codorus State Park in south-central Pennsylvania.

My new travel trailer on its maiden voyage to Codorus State Park in south-central Pennsylvania.

For the first outing, I went with a modified version of the Pop-Up Vertical.  In a nutshell, I used a 30-foot vertical wire, fed through a 4:1 unun.  The ground side of the unun was attached to the frame of the trailer.  My 31-foot Jackite pole supported the wire.  I used my drive-on mast support to hold up the pole.  Instead of parking one of the trailer’s tires on top of the drive-on mount, I put it under one of the trailer’s stabilizer jacks to hold it down.

This is the drive-on mount that supported the Jackite pole. The black box is the 4:1 unun. To the left of the unun, you can see the clamp for the ground connection to the trailer's frame.

This is the drive-on mount that supported the Jackite pole. The black box is the 4:1 unun. To the left of the unun, you can see the clamp for the ground connection to the trailer’s frame.

On our first camping trip with the new trailer, I was able to quickly set up the antenna.  For the feedline, I used an 18-foot length of RG-8X coax, which I ran through a window to the dinette table inside the trailer.

Using the tuner in my KX3, I was able to get the antenna to load up on 80 through 6 meters.   The 80M band was a bit touchy but the KX3 was able to get to 1:1 SWR.  I had a nice CW chat on 40M with N1ESZ up in Connecticut.  Tony gave me a great signal report.  This thing appeared to be radiating!  I was a little concerned because part of the antenna was close to the metal wall of the trailer but my signals were going somewhere.

WB3GCK operating from the new trailer. My XYL took this picture while I was working N1ESZ on 40 meters.

WB3GCK operating from the new trailer. My XYL took this picture while I was working N1ESZ on 40 meters.

I made another half-dozen QSOs on 80, 40 and 20 meters over the weekend.  The antenna performed well during some lousy band conditions but I did encounter some issues.

There was some noise that appeared about every 25 or 30 KHz that moved around a bit.  It was loudest on 40 meters.  I suspect that the trailer’s converter, which converts 120 VAC to 12 volts DC, is the culprit.  My antenna was pretty close to the trailer’s power cable that connects to “shore power.”  I could have picked up the noise from there.  Also, during a QSO with KK0I in Wisconsin on 40 meters, I noticed that a LED on the trailer’s control panel was flashing in unison with my CW.  My 5-watt signal was finding its way into the trailer’s circuitry.  The extra amenities and gadgets in the new trailer are convenient but not necessarily radio-friendly.

Not unlike the antenna on my old camper, this will be a work-in-progress.  On our next trip, I’ll be relocating the antenna to a corner of the trailer that’s further away from the electrical stuff.  I also have some tweaks to the antenna configuration that I want to try.  If all else fails, I’ll just have to mount the antenna further away from the trailer.

Stay tuned…

72, Craig WB3GCK

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A Memorable Contact

I’m sure we’ve all had memorable contacts.  You know, the ones where you can recall the content and the events surrounding them, even decades later.  I was going through one of my old logbooks today and I saw an entry from almost 22 years ago that brought back a flood of memories.

Back in August of 1995, my wife and I took our two daughters on a weeklong tent camping trip to the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  My wife had a “milestone birthday” that week (I won’t say which one) and that’s how she wanted to spend it.

We arrived at our campsite on Saturday, August 12th, 1995, and quickly set up our tents.  As is my usual custom, I brought a QRP rig along.  My simple set up for this trip was my old MFJ-9030 30M rig and my old J-38 straight key.  I strung a lightweight dipole between two pine trees and ran the RG-174 coax down to a picnic table.  The rig was powered by a 7 A-H gel cell battery, which was enough power for a week of casual operating.  The MFJ-9030 put out about 3 watts under battery power.  On a typical day, I got on the radio each morning for a couple of contacts and again later in the day.

Our vacation got off to a great start.  While my wife was away from the campsite on her birthday, the girls and I threw her a surprise birthday celebration.  We decorated the campsite with balloons and streamers.  My family enjoyed spending time outdoors without the distraction of TV and telephones.  Back in 1995, smartphones weren’t available and I didn’t own a cellphone yet.  By Monday, there weren’t any other campers near us.  So, we were blissfully unaware of what was going on in the world outside of our little campsite.

The morning of Tuesday, August 15th, 1995, was a typical morning for me while camping.  I was up earlier than the rest of the family.  I got the percolator ready and fired up our old Coleman camp stove.  While the coffee was brewing, I turned on the radio and tuned around the 30-meter band.

Just before 7:00 AM local time, I made contact with Clark W8IHN/8.  Clark was operating portable from Houghton Lake, Michigan.  We had a very nice rag chew.  During our CW conversation, Clark mentioned that he was 79 years old and had been on CW for 66 years!  He was interested in our camping set up and our location.  He asked me if I was following the news.  I said I hadn’t been.  He said I should since there was a hurricane heading our way.  He said it looked like the Virginia coast was going to be getting high winds and “big surf.”  He advised that we not wait too long to leave the area.  We signed off after an enjoyable 45-minute chat.  In my notebook, I wrote, “QSL for sure.  Send a postcard.”

QSL card from W8IHN. On the back he wrote: "What can I say, Craig, it's not often that I run into a fellow ham that I take a liking to. I do hope we can meet up again on 30M."

QSL card from W8IHN. On the back of the card, he wrote: “What can I say, Craig, it’s not often that I run into a fellow ham that I take a liking to. I do hope we can meet up again on 30M.”

Concerned by Clark’s warning, I got in the car and tuned the radio to a local broadcast station. Clark was right — Hurricane Felix was heading our way.  Before we left Pennsylvania, Felix was still churning around in the Caribbean.  It didn’t seem to be much of a threat to our vacation plans.  Now, a hurricane warning, which included our location near the lower Chesapeake Bay, had been issued.  To the south of us, they were planning an evacuation of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Things were getting serious.

We spent the day listening to the news on the car radio and considering our options.  I suggested that we head inland and look for a safer campsite.  In the end, we decided to just head home the next day.

The next morning, I made two last contacts on 30 meters before taking the dipole down.  After breakfast, we tore down the tents and packed up for the trip back to Pennsylvania.  We stopped in the campground office to check out.  They said they were planning to evacuate the campground later that day.  Since they were planning to close the campground, they gave us a credit for our unused nights.

We were all disappointed that our vacation was cut short.  At least, we able to get out of the area, avoiding the traffic and confusion of an evacuation.  As we drove home, I was glad that I brought the QRP rig along and very grateful for that CW contact with W8IHN that had tipped us off to the bad weather heading our way.

In the end, Felix never did make landfall in the U.S.  It did, however, impact the East Coast.  In addition to major beach erosion,  nine unfortunate souls lost their lives due to the heavy surf.

Clark and I exchanged QSL cards but I don’t think I ever worked him again after that.  His real name was Whittier E. Clark.  Doing some Internet research, I found out that he became a Silent Key two years after our contact.

Wherever you are, Mr. Clark, I still think about our CW contact in the summer of 1995 and the concern you showed for me and my family.

73, Craig WB3GCK

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