Logging: Keeping Track of it All

Going all the way back to my Novice days in the mid-70s, I’ve always been a bit anal…  er… diligent, when it comes to logging contacts.  Years ago I started using logging software and that diligence persists.  Over the years, I’ve evolved to a logging process that I’m sure some would find overly complex.  It’s actually not that bad and it works well for me.

I use a variety of methods to capture QSO information.  Eventually, everything ends up in one central log.  From there, all QSOs are uploaded to Logbook of the World (LoTW).  The diagram below shows how everything ties together.

Overview of my logging process. In the end, all contacts end up in the Main Log.

Overview of my logging process. In the end, all contacts end up in the Main Log.

Here are the main components of my logging system:

ACLog.  I use this software by N3FJP for my main log.  All QSOs, no matter how they are made or logged wind up in here.  Because most of my HF operating is done while portable, I added a few custom fields to keep track of where I was (MY_QTH), what rig I was using (MY_RIG) and what power I was running (TX_PWR).  Everything in my main log gets uploaded to LoTW.  ACLog makes it very easy to do that.  For casual operating at home, I enter the contacts directly into ACLog.  Same goes for paper logs from portable operations with just a few contacts.  For larger batches of contacts, I might resort to other methods.

ADIF Master.  I use this great piece of freeware a lot.  It allows me to take an ADIF file and easily add in the custom fields I keep track of and do a quick bulk edit to populate the fields for all QSO records in the file.

Fast Log Entry (FLE).  I wrote about this software in an earlier post.  This came in handy last year for National Parks on the Air activations.  When I used paper logs for activations, FLE gave me a fast way to enter the QSO data and generate an ADIF file.

SKCC Logger.  I use AC2C’s SKCC Logger software to log all of my Straight Key Century Club contacts.  This software does automatic lookups from the SKCC member database when you enter a callsign.  It also helps keep track of award levels and generates award applications.  From SKCC Logger, I generate an ADIF file for further editing and importing into ACLog.

fldigi.  Every now and then I get on a digital mode kick.  Initially, I use fldigi’s internal log and export an ADIF file.  I haven’t worked JT65 or JT9 in a while but, when I do, I export an ADIF file from the WSJT-X software.

HamLog.  When I’m away camping for a few days, I use HamLog on Android cellphone to log my contacts.  If I have a cell connection, I can do QRZ.com lookups while logging a contact.  I export an ADIF file when I get home.  After, editing the ADIF and successfully importing it into ACLog, I go back to HamLog and clear out the log file so I’m ready for the next trip.

Contest Loggers.  When I use a specialized contest logging program for a contest… Well, you know the drill.  I export an ADIF file, edit in my custom fields, and ingest it into ACLog.

So, that’s it in a nutshell.  It probably sounds complicated but it has all become second nature to me.  I’m not suggesting that you do the same but, perhaps, some of the utilities and techniques will be useful to you.

I hope to see you somewhere down the log!

72, Craig WB3GCK

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The Splice of Shame

[Disclaimer:  Any misadventures I have had with this antenna were purely my fault and, in no way, reflect on LNR and their excellent product.]

I bought the LNR EFT-10/20/40 trail-friendly end-fed halfwave (EFHW) antenna about a year and a half ago, after seeing one at Field Day.  It’s a great, portable antenna.  It packs up small and weighs hardly anything.  I often use non-resonant antennas because I like to work a variety of bands.  However, I always carry the LNR end-fed in my pack as a backup antenna.  The EFT requires some initial pruning before use.  This is where my misadventures start.

I don’t have enough real estate at home for antenna testing.  Instead, I did the initial pruning of the antenna while setting up for the Skeeter Hunt QRP contest in August of 2015.  Trimming an inch at a time was getting a little tedious for me.  I incorrectly estimated how much I needed to cut to have the antenna favor the CW section of 40 meters.  As you might guess, I screwed up and cut off too much.  Resonance was at about 7.110 MHz and frequencies below 7.023 MHz were outside the 2:1 SWR curve.  20 and 10 meters were fine, however.  I operated in the contest with no issues.

I resolved to correct my mistake and added that task to my “job jar,” where it languished for the next year and a half.  In the meantime, the antenna was used for numerous outings, including a National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) activation of the Appalachian Trail.  I just needed to avoid the bottom end of 40 meters.

Fast-forward to this past weekend.  I finally got around to doing something about the tuning of this antenna.  I had ordered some #26 Poly-STEALTH™ wire from the good folks at Davis RF.  First, I measured the top section of the antenna (from the top of the loading coil to the end of the antenna) in its current state.  Then I cut the wire about a foot or more from the end.  Since the splice wouldn’t fit through the holes in the end insulator, I wanted to keep the splice away from it.  I did this if I would ever want to re-tune the antenna for the phone section of 40 meters.  I next spliced on a piece of Poly-STEALTH™ wire that made the overall length about 2.5 inches longer than before.  After soldering the splice and applying some shrink tubing, I was ready to give it a test in the field.

The Splice of Shame. This is the splice I had to put onto my LNR EFT-10/20/40 EFHW antenna to correct my pruning error.

The Splice of Shame

I was out in central Pennsylvania over the weekend doing some babysitting for my grandson.  As I have done at this location before, I strung the EFT-10/20/40 from a second story window to a Jackite pole strapped to the fence in the backyard.  The antenna was roughly horizontal and up about 25 feet or so.  I wanted to make sure that the range from 7.000 MHz to 7.125 MHz fell within the 2:1 SWR bandwidth.  My antenna analyzer showed that it was just a bit long.

After I lowered the antenna and cut off a half-inch, the SWR was pretty much where I wanted it.  Now it was resonant around 7.040 MHz and the 2:1 SWR bandwidth spanned 7.000 to 7.130 MHz.  On 20 meters, the SWR was less than 1.5:1 across the band.  On 10 meters, the SWR was less than 2:1 across the band.  The SWR indicator on my KX3 confirmed the results.

Final 40M SWR plot for my LNR EFT-10/20/40 antenna. The 2:1 SWR curve covers 7.000 through 7.130 MHz

Final 40M SWR plot for my LNR EFT-10/20/40 antenna. The 2:1 SWR curve covers 7.000 through 7.130 MHz.

At one point, my inner obsessive-compulsive perfectionist said I could cut off another half-inch and make it better.  Fortunately, my practical side was able to resist and leave well enough alone.  As they say, perfect is the enemy of the good.  So, I declared victory and went on to make some nice CW and PSK-31 contacts with my properly tuned antenna.

The antenna works great but that splice will be a constant reminder of what happens when you rush things and try to cut corners.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Winter Field Day 2017

Well, there wasn’t much “field” in Winter Field Day (WFD) for me.  My XYL and I traveled out to central Pennsylvania for the weekend to babysit our 2-year old grandson.  My plan was to sneak out into the backyard for a few hours each day to operate in WFD as category 1O (outdoor).  Before the weekend, however, I came down with a wicked cold (courtesy of my other grandson).  I decided that operating out in the cold probably wasn’t a good idea.

I strapped my 31-foot Jackite pole to the fence in the backyard and used it to support the far end of my LNR EFT-10/20/40 end-fed halfwave antenna.  The feed point was just inside a second story window.  I set up my KX3 and operated under battery power.  I read over the rules and concluded that I was a “1H” (home) station.

My temporary indoor station for Winter Field Day

My temporary indoor station for Winter Field Day

After setting up, I had a warm-up QSO on 20M with K0WEW in Kansas.   Everything appeared to be working.  I operated mostly during nap time (my grandson’s, not mine).  With just a couple of hours of actual operating,  I ended up with 20 CW Winter Field Day stations in the log.  I’m sure I could have logged more if I had plugged in the microphone.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.

Outside of the contest, I worked TM1A (France) in the REF Contest (on 40 meters, no less).  I also had a nice two-way QRP QSO with W4MQC.  Alan was operating portable from New Hampshire.

Even though it wasn’t much of a Field Day for me, it wasn’t without some excitement.  At one point, all the signals on 40 meters suddenly dropped way down.  I looked out the window and saw that the wind caused my Jackite pole to collapse putting half of my antenna on the ground.  My halyard line got caught between two sections of the pole when it collapsed.  It took me about 30 minutes to get that mess straightened out.

My hat goes off to all the hardy hams who braved the cold for Winter Field Day.  Hopefully, next year I’ll get out there, too.

73, Craig WB3GCK

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Camp Run-a-MOC 2017

Our loosely-knit group of QRPers, known as the Boschveldt QRP Club, gets together each year in January for a weekend of operating and socializing in the woods.  We rent a small cabin at the Mohican Outdoor Center (MOC) in the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area in Northern New Jersey.  The MOC, which is adjacent to the Appalachian Trail, has been the site of this annual gathering for the past 12 years or so.  This annual event has come to be known as “Camp Run-a-MOC.”

Our cabin at Mohican Outdoor Center.

Our cabin at Mohican Outdoor Center.

In attendance this year was K3YTR, WA3WSJ, NK1N, NU3E and me.  Walt KB3SBC was there on Friday but, unfortunately, had to leave to deal with a plumbing emergency at home.

When I rolled into camp on Friday afternoon, Ed K3YTR was busy setting up his gear for the ARRL VHF Contest and John NU3E was setting up an end-fed halfwave antenna for some JT65 & JT9 operating.  Ed WA3WSJ and Glen NK1N were operating pedestrian mobile near Crater Lake.  It turned out to be a rainy hike for them.  After a dinner prepared by K3YTR, there was a lot of catching up and story swapping.

John NU3E operating JT modes from the cabin.

John NU3E operating JT modes from the cabin. It wasn’t that cold in the cabin; John was ready for our hike to the Catfish Fire Tower.

After breakfast on Saturday, WA3WSJ, NK1N, NU3E and I made the two-mile hike up to the Catfish Fire Tower on the Appalachian Trail.  Although we hiked through dense fog on the way up, the weather cleared up a bit when we reached the top of the ridge.

I set up my KX3 and AlexLoop at a picnic table, while WA3WSJ and NK1N operated pedestrian mobile.  NU3E came along for the hike and caught a short nap on the bench of the picnic table where I was operating.

WB3GCK operating from the fire tower. This was taken during a brief break in the weather.

WB3GCK operating from the fire tower. This was taken during a brief break in the weather.

After we each had made a few contacts, the sun went in, the temperature dropped and a dense fog rolled in.  We packed up our gear and made the trek back down the trail.

Ed WA3WSJ operating pedestrian-mobile near the fire tower.

Ed WA3WSJ operating pedestrian mobile near the fire tower.

Glen NK1N operating pedestrian-mobile in the fog at the Catfish Fire Tower.

Glen NK1N operating pedestrian mobile in the fog at the Catfish Fire Tower.

Back at the cabin, K3YTR and NK1N made more some contacts in the VHF contest before we headed into town for dinner.  By the time we headed back to the cabin, the heavy fog and limited visibility made for some tricky driving.  When we got back to the cabin there was some more VHF contesting and more tall stories.  On Sunday morning, we all enjoyed NU3E’s famous Belgian waffles before packing up for the trip home.

ED K3YTR working the VHF contest from the cabin.

ED K3YTR working the VHF contest from the cabin.

Glen NK1N operating 6 meters in the VHF contest from the cabin.

Glen NK1N operating 6 meters in the VHF contest from the cabin.

So, another fun Camp Run-a-MOC get-together is in the books.  The weather wasn’t great but at least it didn’t snow this year.

The next outing for the Boschveldt QRPers is Field Day.  I’m already looking forward to that.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Drive-on Portable Antenna Support

[This is an updated description of the drive-on antenna support that I have been using for many years.  This version originally appeared in the July 2016 edition of QRP Quarterly in the “Idea Exchange” column.  You can still find the older article here.]

Here’s a simple, inexpensive drive-on mast support that I have been using for more than ten years now.  It’s been particularly handy for quick trips to the field, such as National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) activations.

Over the years, telescopic fiberglass poles have become popular as portable supports for lightweight antennas.  Two popular suppliers of these collapsible poles are Jackite (http://www.jackite.com/) and SOTABeams (http://www.sotabeams.co.uk/).  I typically use my 31-foot Jackite pole to support a vertical wire along the outside of the pole.  I have also used them to support lightweight dipoles and a variety of end-fed wire antennas.

One trip to your local hardware store will get you everything you need for this project.  To support a 31-foot Jackite pole, here’s what you’ll want to buy:

  • 1-1/4 inch floor flange
  • 18-inch length of 1-1/4 inch threaded steel pipe
  • (4) 1/4-20 x 1-1/2-inch flathead bolts
  • (4) 1/4-20 nuts
  • (4) 1/4-inch flat washers
  • (4) 1/4-inch lock washers
  • 18 to 24-inch length of 1×8 lumber (I used a piece of maple.  A piece of 1×6 lumber would also work)
Figure 1. Drill 4 countersunk holes for the floor flange at the end of the board.

Figure 1. Drill 4 countersunk holes for the floor flange at the end of the board.

Assembly is pretty straightforward.  Drill four holes to mount the flange to the board.  The flathead bolts go in from the bottom.  You need to countersink the bolts so they will flush with the bottom of the board.  Attach the flange with the flat washers, lock washers and nuts.  That’s about it.

Figure 2. Here is the floor flange mounted on the board.

Figure 2. Here is the floor flange mounted on the board.

To use the mount, I just set it on the ground and run one of my vehicle’s tires up on it.  Next, I screw the threaded pipe into the flange.  Once the pole is fully extended and the bottom cap removed, I just slide the pole over the pipe.  For my 31-foot Jackite pole, I use a little electrical tape on the pipe to give a snug fit.

Figure 3. Drive onto the mount and screw in the pipe.

Figure 3. Drive onto the mount and screw in the pipe.

Figure 4. Drive-on mast in use supporting a vertical wire.

Figure 4. Drive-on mast in use supporting a vertical wire.

You can also adapt this for other size poles.  For my 28-foot Jackite pole, for example, I use a 1-inch pipe.  For my 20-foot Black Widow pole (https://www.bnmpoles.com/), I use a 3/4-inch pipe.  You can buy reducers (adapters) in the plumbing department that will allow you to use the smaller diameter pipes with the 1-1/4 inch flange.  If you only use one particular pole, you can always buy a smaller flange and build your mount with that.

This design is more than sufficient for a lightweight, telescopic fiberglass mast. If you need to support something heavier, like a steel mast, you’ll need a more robust support than this.

DE WB3GCK

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My NPOTA Finale

ARRL National Parks on the Air logoWow!  This year sure went by fast.  Back on New Year’s Day, I activated Valley Forge National Historical Park (HP46) on the first day of the ARRL’s National Parks on the Air event.  I thought it only fitting that I end the year where it began.

I had some things to do today, so I headed down to Valley Forge this morning for an early activation.  I pulled into the same parking spot in the Wayne’s Woods area I used on January 1st.  It only took a few minutes to set up my 29.5-foot vertical on the back of my truck and get on the air.

The National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge National Historical Park

The National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge National Historical Park

I started off on 40 meters CW and was quickly met by a horde of enthusiastic chasers.  Business was brisk for about 30 minutes or so.  The 40-meter band was in excellent shape.  My meager 5-watt signal was making it all up and down the East Coast and well into the upper Midwest.

Operating "stationary-mobile" the Wayne's Woods area of Valley Forge. This is the same spot I used back on January 1st.

Operating “stationary-mobile” the Wayne’s Woods area of Valley Forge. This is the same spot I used back on January 1st.

I moved up to 20 meters but the results were disappointing.  Signals were very weak and only one station made it into the log.  I dropped down to 30 meters and worked a handful of stations there before calling it a morning.

My setup in the truck

My setup in the truck

Although I was only on the air for about an hour, it sure was a lot of fun.  There were lots of familiar stations like my friends, Kay N3KN and Carter N3AO, down in Virginia.  It was nice to work Emily KB3VVE, the NPOTA “Cookie Queen.”  I also made 2 park-to-park contacts to boot.  As I was processing my log, I noticed that N4EX worked me on both my first and last activations (and a bunch of others, too).  Thanks to Rich for the contacts this year.

I really have to hand it to the ARRL.  This event was a stroke of genius.  The popularity of this event was nothing short of spectacular.  While I wasn’t the most active participant, I sure had fun.  I particularly enjoyed the camaraderie of the participants on the NPOTA Facebook site.  Thanks to the ARRL for putting all of this together.  I also want to thank the many activators and chasers who really made this event so successful.

I wish all of you a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

73/72, Craig WB3GCK

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First State for the Second Time

ARRL National Parks on the Air logoOne of the things I wanted to do this year was a digital mode National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) activation.  With less than a week left for NPOTA, I figured I better get busy.  I had some free time today, so I headed down to Delaware to activate First State National Park (HP12) using PSK-31.  I activated this park once before back in July.

My set-up was very similar to what I used at HP12 back the last time I was there.  I set up my 31-foot Jackite pole on my bike rack and used it to support a 29.5-foot vertical wire.  I fed it through a 9:1 unun with 18 feet of RG-8x coax from my KX3.  The only thing different this time was the addition of my little Linux netbook computer and a Signalink USB interface that I picked up recently.

I started off on 20 meters and quickly worked about 4 stations.  Things slowed down a bit after that.  Looking at the waterfall, I could see the band fading in and out.  After picking up a few more, I moved down to 40 meters.  Although 40M seemed to be in good shape, there wasn’t much activity there.  I worked one very loud station from West Virginia and headed back to 20 meters to finish up.

By the time my laptop battery died (it’s probably time for a new battery), I managed to log 11 stations, just squeaking by the minimum number needed to qualify the activation.  Despite the fading on 20 meters, I managed to cover a good bit of the country including a California station and a park-to-park PSK-31 contact.  I’m sure I could have done better using CW but using PSK-31 was fun and a nice change of pace for me.  Unfortunately, I left the park without taking pictures.

I’m planning to do one more activation before the end of the year. I’m going back to finish the year where I started off on New Year’s Day.   On New Year’s Eve, I’ll be at Valley Forge National Historical Park (HP46) from 1700-1900 UTC.  This time, it will be CW only.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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The WB3GCK Downspout Antenna Revisited

[A ham friend of mine recently asked me for the details of how I use my rain gutter and downspout as an antenna.  I originally did a write-up on it in 1994.  That article found its way into several ham radio publications and newsletters.  Most of the original article is still relevant but I have made some changes in the way I feed the “antenna.”  So, here’s an updated description of my Downspout Antenna. – WB3GCK]

After years of trying to come up with a good way to get on the HF bands from my little townhouse (without attracting a lot of attention from my neighbors), I started experimenting with using my aluminum rain gutter and downspout for an antenna. The results have been surprisingly good. In fact, it has turned out to be the ultimate low-profile antenna!

The downspout has a vertical run of about 16 feet, connecting the horizontal rain gutter which is about 16 feet long across the front of the house. Including the feed wire into the shack, the total length is in the neighborhood of 42 feet; over a quarter wavelength for 40 meters and almost a half-wave for 30 meters. The house is made of brick, so the entire system is isolated from ground.

Diagram of the WB3GCK Downspout Antenna

WB3GCK Downspout Antenna

I use my downspout like a random wire antenna, using a commercial autotuner (or internal tuner, in the case of my KX3). I feed the antenna through a homebrew 1:1 unun.  I use a short run of coax between the unun and the autotuner on my operating table.  A length of #22 stranded hookup wire is used to connect the output of the unun to the downspout outside.

To connect the wire to the downspout, I first sanded the downspout and connected the wire using three sheet metal screws.  I used multiple screws to help ensure a low resistance connection.  After making the connections to the downspout, I sealed them up using an adhesive/sealant called Goop.  Goop is available at most hardware stores.

With the downspout behaving essentially like an end-fed wire, it really helps to work this type of antenna against a good ground. Fortunately, my basement operating position is only a few feet away from where the water supply pipe enters the house. I used a piece of 1/2-inch copper pipe as a ground bus between my operating position and the incoming water pipe. A tinned copper braid strap and a couple of ordinary automotive hose clamps were used to connect the bus to the water pipe. A short braid strap connects the ground stud on the unun to the copper ground bus.

For good measure, I attached counterpoise wires to the ground stud of the unun; one each for 40, 30, 20, and 15 meters. The counterpoise wires are made from garden variety stranded hookup wire cut to a quarter-wavelength. I just run these wires around the shack, hiding them under the rug. Operation on the 80 meter band has been successful using just the ground bus.

How well does it work? During the first few months of operation, I worked 49 states; all with 5 watts or less. I’ve also worked a bunch of DX stations (though I’m more of a casual rag chewer than a DX-chaser). The length of the “antenna” is somewhat short for 80 meters, but performance on that band has been a big surprise. Signal reports on 30 and 40 meters, my primary bands, have been consistently good. In fact, the downspout has been my main antenna at home for more than 20 years.

While this arrangement has served me well, it is not without an issue or two.  I find that it helps to clean up and re-do the connections at the downspout periodically.  Typically, I do this maintenance every other year or so.  Also, I have noticed that my local noise levels on 80 and 40 meters have steadily increased over the years.  I attribute this to the proliferation of electronic gadgets both in my house as well as my neighbors’ houses.  Those bands are still usable, though.

Some words of caution are in order, however, if you plan to use your rainspout as an antenna:

  1. Make sure your gutter and downspout are isolated from ground.
  2. Make sure there is solid electrical continuity between the various sections of your downspout and gutter. Mine are fastened with pop rivets (not the greatest for RF work, but they appear to be doing the job.)
  3. Watch your power. I wouldn’t recommend running a kilowatt into your rainspout. Ham radio is fun, but not worth burning down your house.
  4. Make sure people and pets won’t come in contact with the “antenna” while you’re transmitting. This isn’t too much of a problem at QRP power levels, but be careful.

So, if you find your HF antenna options are limited by either space or legal restrictions, take a look at the outside of your house. There just might be a free multi-band antenna hanging out there!

72, Craig WB3GCK

 

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Ham-iversary

For a variety of reasons, the past week has been a slow one for me, radio-wise.  However, I did notice on my calendar this morning that today is the 42nd anniversary of my first ham radio license.  Wow!  Where has the time gone?

Forty-two years ago, I had finished up my 4-year enlistment as a Navy Radioman and had just started school studying electronics.  I had plans to get my ham license, so I began to blow the dust off of my rusty CW fist.  Although the Navy trained me in Morse code, I never really had many opportunities to use it.  Also, I had never copied code without a typewriter (or “mill” as we called them in the Navy) so I had to learn how to copy CW with pencil and paper.

Radio gang aboard the USS LaMoure County (LST-1194) in 1974. I'm standing in the back, second from the right (with my eyes closed).

Radio gang aboard the USS LaMoure County (LST-1194) in 1974. I’m standing in the back, second from the right (with my eyes closed).

Once my code was back up to snuff, I contacted a local ham, Bob Rothrock K3MAZ (SK).  Years earlier, he restored an old console radio that my grandmother had given me.  Bob was the only ham I knew at the time and he graciously administered my Novice exam and helped Elmer me along when I had questions.

After receiving the callsign, WN3YSV, it took several months to put a station together and get on the air.  I found a used Heathkit DX-60 transmitter and paired it up with a Realistic DX-60B shortwave receiver I already had.  Anxious to get on the air, I quickly threw together a low dipole for 15 meters.  I picked 15 meters only because the dipole would fit easily across the backyard.

When I finally got on the air, I nervously called CQ a few times and was answered by K3RDT.  I was excited to hear someone calling me and I’m sure my sending reflected my nervousness.  I had never had a conversational CW exchange before.  As it turns out, Pete was only about a mile away from.  He helped other novices get on the air and seemed happy to be my first contact.

A few days after that shaky QSO, I received my first QSL card.  On the card Pete questioned my choice of 15 meters and encouraged me to figure  some way to get on 40 meters.  Of course, he was right.  I eventually rigged up a 40-meter dipole and ran across the roof of the house and across the backyard.  Although I made some nice contacts on 15 meters, the 40-meter novice band was where the action was for me.  I also became interested in QRP early on.  I built a little one-watt transmitter during that time and made a few contacts with it.

QSL card from my first ham radio contact with K3RDT.

QSL card from my first ham radio contact with K3RDT. It was 599 both ways, since we were only about a mile apart.

After a little over a year of operating, I moved away to start a new job.  My ham radio gear got packed away and I focused on my career and raising a family.  It would be another 15 years before I got back on the air with my current callsign.  Ham radio was definitely better the second time around.

Even after all these years, the thrill has never subsided.  This radio stuff is still like magic to me.

73, Craig WB3GCK

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Catoctin, Gettysburg and Eisenhower NPOTA Activations

ARRL National Parks on the Air logoSince the XYL was planning to do some Christmas shopping today, I decided to activate three NPOTA sites.  It was a busy day but a lot of fun.

I started off at Catoctin Mountain National Park (DZ01) near Thurmont,  Maryland.  Brian, N3VN, had emailed me to let me know that he would be there at the same time.  On arrival, I headed to their location in the Chestnut Picnic Area.  I chatted with Brian and Mike W3MBC for a while before heading to the Hog Rock trailhead to set up.  I used my KX3 at 5 watts and my trusty 29.5-ft vertical wire and 9:1 unun.

Catoctin Mountain Park Visitor's Center

Catoctin Mountain Park Visitor’s Center

For some reason, the “dit” side of my Palm mini paddles wasn’t working.  Fortunately, I brought my old NorCal paddles along as a backup.

Once I got my paddle issues under control, I worked a steady stream of stations on 40 meters and a few on 20 meters.  After about 45 minutes things slowed down.  I decided to cut my visit short and move on to Gettysburg National Military Park (MP03) to make up some time.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg National Military Park

Brian N3VN recommended a spot at Gettysburg but I never did find it.  I ended up pulling off the road near the New Jersey Brigade monument.  I set up the 29.5-foot vertical and got to work.  Here I again made most of my contacts on 40 meters.  There weren’t many takers on 20 meters so I again left early and headed over to  the Eisenhower National Historical Site (NS13).

At the Eisenhower site, I operated outside the fence along the side of the road.  Many folks have activated NS13 from this spot.  Since there are some overhead utility wires, my 31-foot Jackite posed a bit of a risk.  So, for this site, I went with a 19-foot vertical that I had cobbled together the day before.  I also cranked up the KX3 to 10 watts for good measure.  Because of the shorter antenna, I only worked 20 meters from this location.

Activating the Eisenhower National Historic site. My 20-foot antenna is a bit closer to the utility lines than I would have liked.

Activating the Eisenhower National Historic site. My 20-foot antenna is a bit closer to the utility lines than I would have liked.

Things got off to a very slow start.  I was a little nervous but eventually got the required 10 contacts and then some.  Despite my kludged-together antenna, I worked several stations in western Canada plus one in Alaska.

While I was operating at Eisenhower, I noticed that my SWR was changing a lot.  I had to frequently re-tune the KX3’s internal tuner to get it back down.  As I was taking down the antenna, I found a loose connection on my 9:1 unun.  So, in addition to dealing with the Palm paddles, I have an unun to repair.

Things didn’t always go smoothly but I was happy to successfully activate three sites today.  That made the 2-hour drive home a lot more bearable.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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