Paul Butzi (W7PFB)
Here are some notes on my 6/22 grid-pedition to CN98…
loaded portable station into car. Holy cow, there’s a lot of stuff. Briefly considered pulling get home bag out of car to make more space (idea rejected, obviously).
Beset by anxiety that I’d arrive on site missing some essential bit of gear, I decide to set up entire station in driveway to make sure I’ve got everything, then strike it all so I can drive to site. No items missing but added USB extension cable to make arrangement slightly more comfortable.
Gas up car, head to site.
Arrive on site, pick parking spot in park that is facing the lake. This is a mistake, as the entire time I am operating the sun was beaming in thru side window and falling on the heat sink for the amp, which is not exactly optimal. Set up station in car. Put antenna on roof, which prompted a local urchin to shout in amazement.
make a quick test to ensure that everything is set up correctly, send email to 070 list and other friends. Starting on 20m, start calling CQ, which gets an INSTANT response from KG6MZS.
more or less continuous operating from that point on, with only a brief hiatus when a different urchin, tiring of setting off firecrackers in the parking lot some 50 feet away, decided to try setting one off directly underneath my car.
while operating, also texting and emailing to coordinate band changes with grid chasers. I had solid cell connectivity so email on my cell phone worked well for this, and I turned on the hotspot on my phone so I could do QRZ lookups within FLDIGI.
* I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants on band choices. A much better thing to do would be to do propagation forecasts for the intended site in advance, and use that to inform decisions about when to QSY and to which bands.
* To my great dismay, I could not operate on 80m because every transmission caused the USB connection to the laptop to seize up. So I need to get that sorted, which probably involves providing a ground strap for the mag mount and a ton of clip on ferrite chokes added to every cable.
* If I had had the ability to operate NVIS on 80m and probably on 40m, it would have been much easier to work/be worked by stations that were relatively close (mostly Barry VA7GEM). I spent considerable time trying to find VA7GEM, other stations could see his signal but I could not. In the end we managed to dig out a contact on 40m but working NVIS it would have been a cake walk. I have some ideas on this, mostly along the lines of a horizontal wire run from the top of the Tarheel and just stretched out horizontally over the ground. Some experiments are in order! Yay!
* Band changes on the Tarheel with the Tunematic Lite are a snap. I was checking the SWR after adjusting the antenna but I never found a problem so I could just as well have not bothered.
* Holy cats, the KXPA-100 got hot. It was warm (maybe 80F) in the car, and I was forced to fan the heatsink to help it cool off, and took time several times to let it cool. So some sort of 12v powered fan to blow on the heatsink would be a useful thing. (for reference I was running 45w the entire time)
* the Little Tarheel II antenna was not as sensitive, I think, as my 135’ OCFD at home. But it does surprisingly well especially with the big 13.5’ whip I assembled from Buddipole parts. But changing whips is more of a hassle than I’d like, so maybe I’ll try some 3/8-24 quick release things to see how well they work. My goal was to put up the longest whip I could tune to 14070 for most of the time. The combination of two buddipole arms and a buddipole long telescoping whip worked but was somewhat fiddly to deal with, so I may look into a shock cord whip that gets me the same length with less hassle.
* the site was quite noise, RF wise. Next time I’ll try to pick a site that is a) not near power lines, and b) not in town.
* some sort of defense against miscreant urchins is needed. Sadly my family advises me that a flamethrower is a bad plan.
* the bathrooms on site were locked. This was a Problem.
* in my shack at home, I have a monitor speaker hooked up to the SignaLink, so I can hear what is being piped into fldigi. In the portable setup there’s no way to monitor the receiver audio, so I’m forced to watch the laptop display like a hawk. And that makes it hard to do things like let the cq macro run and also check email, or shout at urchins, or whatever. I thought the audio was not a big deal but it turns out after years of hearing it I’m very tuned to picking out which signals are on the frequency I’m transmitting on (and thus might be replies!) and which are not, and my operating practices are all oriented around that. So I need to add some speaker to the setup - one more connection to make during setup and disassemble when striking.
* setup and strike times are too long. Setup should be to open up some box, connect power, set up antenna and connect it to box, unlimber laptop and connect it, and then power everything up. Strike should be the reverse. This business with patiently connecting Every Single Cable to set up, and disconnect Every Single Cable to strike - that’s go to go. Too time consuming. Too error prone. So some sort of go box is called for.
73, Don’t forget to smile and have fun!