Tennessee QSO Party 2017

Spent a few hours playing in the Tennessee QSO Party over the weekend.

As expected, all the TN stations I was able to hear were on 40 m. Made a few more contacts than I did last time, but I think more counties this time. Wasn’t able to find the bonus station though.

 Band     QSOs     Pts  Mul  Pt/Q
     7      27      81   21   3.0
 Total      27      81   21   3.0
Score: 1,801
1 Mult = 1.3 Q's

Wasn’t hearing a whole lot of activity across the bands in general, but the 40m shortwave broadcast stations that usually show up in the upper portion of 40m late afternoon/early evening seemed extra loud when they appeared.

It’s nice having the shack back up and running, even if setting up and taking down the antenna means it takes a little more time to get set up.

NA and Eclipse QSO parties

Got the antenna up this weekend to participate in a couple of events. It’s the first significant amount of radio activity I’ve done at the house since moving from the old house.

On Saturday I spent a few hours tuning around the bands working the NAQP SSB contest. Managed a couple dozen contacts casually spinning the dial around on 20 m and 40 m.

On eclipse day, I managed to get a few contacts in the Solar Eclipse QSO Party in the morning. Didn’t hear too many stations on 20m, but there were a few. I heard a couple of stations out in Washington State, but couldn’t get through the pileup they had going. Made contacts with three other stations participating in the eclipse QSO party and made periodic checks on the WWV broadcasts (heard 10 MHz faintly at times, but 15 MHz was coming in loud and clear).

Sadly I had to shut everything down due to a thunderstorm moving in just before the eclipse started so I wasn’t able to make any more contacts or monitor the bands as the eclipse happened.

Good weekend on the air.

Review: MFJ-1906HD telescoping mast

Ordered an MFJ-1906 fiberglass mast from DX Engineering over the weekend and it arrived at the house yesterday.

I ordered the 33′ hose clamp version of the mast, but what ended up at the house was the 38′ quick clamp version (MFJ-1906HD). Even the label on box said it was the hose clamp version. Factory labeling error I guess. Can’t really fault DX Engineering for sending the wrong item.

MFJ-1906 box label
MFJ-1906 box label

Instead of the expected six 6′ sections of fiberglass tubing inside the box, there were seven 6′ fiberglass tubes along with 6 quick clamps. It’s a pretty compact package. One 6′ x 2.5″ OD tube with all the others nested inside.

The quick clamps need to be glued to each mast segment so that they don’t come off while you’re extending each segment. The only suitable glue I had was epoxy, so I just used that.

Final assembly is just a matter of adjusting the quick clamps so that the tubes slide into each other and holds securely when the clamp lever is in the down position. I marked the bottom end of each tube at 12 cm (the instructions suggest marking them at 1 ft (~30 cm) as an indicator to stop pulling each tube out.

Final length is just over 2.1 m (7′) and fully extended (leaving about 12 cm nested inside the previous segment) the mast is about 12.2 m (40′) long. Leaving about 30 cm nested in each segment would bring the total length down to just over 11 m (37′), which is still plenty long enough for my purposes. Probably a good idea to leave the thinnest tube nested a little further inside for extra strength, especially on a breezy day.

The mast seems pretty sturdy, although I can tell that getting it up is going to be at least a two person job. At somewhere around 10 kg (~20ish lbs), the mast doesn’t weight a whole lot, but the length can make it bulky and unwieldy. The quick clamps should easily hold each segment well enough for the mast to support a wire or other light weight antenna.

The quick clamps seem like they’ll need readjusting, especially if they’re being locked/unlocked frequently. Don’t drag it on the ground while you’re carrying it around, especially on hard surfaces or you’ll end up grinding away the mast.

Now to figure out how to secure the dipole to the top of the mast.

8/10 stars. (10/10 for value in my case).

My first boat anchor!

I’ve acquired my first boat anchor radio!

One of my friends from the photography meetup I’m in messaged me and asked if I’d be interested in an old radio he was helping a friend of his sell.

I’m now the owner of a Hammarlund HQ-100 receiver that powers on, but will need a fair bit of restoration work.

Hammarlund HQ-100
Hammarlund HQ-100
Hammarlund HQ-100
Hammarlund HQ-100

I even got a speaker to go with it.

Hammarlund HQ-100 speaker
Hammarlund HQ-100 speaker

It’s a bit of a heavy beast, but not quite as heavy as it looks. Undoing two screws let me slide the cover off to look inside.

Inside the Hammarlund HQ-100, top view
Inside the Hammarlund HQ-100, top view
Inside the Hammarlund HQ-100, bottom view
Inside the Hammarlund HQ-100, bottom view

There’s a fair bit of dust and corrosion on the components, but except for the band spread dial, all the controls seem to work. Not sure how the radio spent the last few decades of its life. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to replace a few components, especially the mechanical bits. Smells like the previous owner might have been a smoker, but it’s hard to really tell.

This is going to be a fun restoration project to work on. It’s going to take me a while, but I’m going to enjoy working on it.

Field Day 2017

Another ARRL Field Day weekend has come and gone.

This year was a pretty good one. I spent a little less time at the radios this year than in previous years, but it was still busy.

Started out with getting the radio at home set up on battery power (2 SLA batteries that had been pulled out of my UPSs) and getting the antenna mostly up in the air.

Antenna setup
Antenna setup
Battery powered radio
Battery powered radio

I didn’t get to use the radio at home, but Connie was able to use it to make a contact Saturday evening. She started off at 5 W, but wasn’t able to break any pileups. After stepping up to a few different power levels, she was able to make a contact at 50 W, which the batteries apparently handled without complaint. The antenna setup is far from ideal, and I imagine most of the 50 W she had to use ended up warming up the sky overhead. But it still worked. Operating at reduced power is something we’ll have to work on.

The bulk of my Field Day was spent at the USS Yorktown. Once we got the operating positions set up, it was just a matter of waiting for the festivities to start at 1800UTC. We had our usual operating locations off the port side of the flight deck.

WA4USN operating locations
WA4USN operating locations

We also had a lot more visitors to our Field Day operation than in past years. The lady in charge of the overnight camping program at Patriots Point brought groups of Scouts and other campers by every now and then, so we got to show them a little bit about what amateur radio was about.

Our digital station was set up on a dipole mounted on the starboard side of the flight deck but it wasn’t performing very well, so it ended up getting replaced by a Butternut multi-band vertical that was stashed away in the club room. After some assembly, we got the dipole down and the vertical up and everything was performing beautifully.

Assembling the Butternut
Assembling the Butternut
Assembling the Butternut
Assembling the Butternut
New antenna in the air!
New antenna in the air!

One of the things that makes doing Field Day from the Yorktown so great is the view. It’s pretty hard to beat.

Sunday morning, the alternate power source was pulled out of the club room and put to work.

Alternate power
Alternate power
Alternate power
Alternate power

It’s an old exercise bicycle with an alternator attached to the front wheel via a belt. It actually works well enough to power a radio. Unfortunately, the load on the alternator when the radio transmits makes you feel like you’ve suddenly hit a wall while pedaling and the radio shuts off because you’ve stopped pedaling. Entertaining, but not very effective.

Overall, another excellent and fun Field Day with CARS/WA4USN. I think next year I’ll try to do a bit more of Field Day from home.