Adventures with 1.5 watts

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I got my QRP QSO today at 0100z just as the Zulu day started.  I have been using my Elecraft K2 radio most of the time.  The SW+ at 1.5 watts just seems like torture for those copying me.  I’m looking for conversation more than just the state or county.  I haven’t given up on it though.  I will keep working on WAS with that radio but at the bottom of the sun spot cycle just a little more seems like what is on everyone’s minds.  I read another QRPer’s blog last night and he bought a 100 watt amp for his QRP radio due to the dismal conditions.  I’m not that far gone…..  He wrote that this was his first sunspot low using QRP.  I am a seasoned veteran. I have been using QRP since 2005 and have been through a sunspot minimum before.  This is the time I am finding nice state side QSO’s and mostly stick to 40 meters.  It is best to enjoy what we can get.  I am back working on county hunting.  It’s great for what we have in band conditions.  If you have never county hunted before I highly recommend it.  Some states have tons of counties while others may have only a few.  Either way I have not yet worked any state’s entire counties.  Some are as rare as hen’s teeth!
The QSO came from Salem, NH.  Carmen K1LKP.  Carmen served on a submarine in our U.S. Navy.  He also serves the Lord (as in Christianity), keeps fantastic records, and is a proud ham!  Salem is in Rockingham Co.  That is not a new county for me unfortunately.  Carmen told me our only two QSO’s before this was in 2006.  He even had my age logged at that time.  Ha ha… I said at that time I must have been using my TS-520 radio.  He corrected me and said no, it was the IC-703.  WOW!  I don’t have that radio any more but I sure loved it.  It is Icom’s full featured QRP radio.  I got into contesting with that radio and took it hiking in the woods.  I also flew kites with magnet wire hooked to it.  I didn’t know static would build on the wire which burned up my finals not once, but twice.  The Icom service center told me to stop doing that.  Ha ha…  I sold it to help fund my Elecraft K2 when that opportunity came along.  Of course I still have the Elecraft and it serves as my main radio.  He sure brought back memories of when I got into CW.  At the end of the QSO Carmen wished me God’s blessings and to my loved ones.  I did the same.  If you have not been listening to CW QSO’s much it is very common to say “God Bless” at the end of a QSO.  I found that pleasant but strange at first, however, I have come to find many CW ops will say this and I do it as well.  

So to end this blog post I want to say God Bless to all of you and Dit Dit.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

I haven’t been on the air a lot lately but I’m catching up.  There has been little hiking or bicycling much this summer.  It’s funny that I can’t really tell you what I have been doing.  I guess working and doing other activities.  I play the cello and I set time aside each day to practice.  Days just go by I guess.  Within the hobby of ham radio I have been spending time with a new ham and friend Mike W9ODX.  Mike received a 1969 Vibrokeyer key from a nice fellow radio enthusiast.  It needed a little TLC so we put new finger pieces on it and replaced the underside hardware with correct screws.  It also got a new foot because one was cracked.  This key is a left handed paddle which no one would know except that Vibrokeyers are reminiscent of a Vibroplex bug which do function either right or left handed. I primarily use a Vibrokeyer paddle also so I am very familiar with this key.  Mike’s is jeweled and has a super smooth feel.  I’m sure he will get a lifetime of enjoyment out of his new to him key.
     This morning I set up in the back yard waiting for Mike to come and receive the key and had a nice QSO with it to K2OGT/Bob in Gouldsboro, PA.  Gouldsboro is located within the Pocono mountains It is a small town and named after Jay Gould who made his fortune with the railroad.  Jay Gould was not well liked but made wised investments in the Railroad and ended up in control of the Erie Railroad.  Gouldsboro has recently restored its train depot.  As for me I doubt I will ever be an investment tycoon.  I seem to invest in ham radio equipment and things that bring me personal enjoyment.  Maybe I should get a lottery ticket tonight.  The powerball is getting pretty big!

While I ended my fun QSO with Bob, Mike pulled into my driveway and I gave my 73 and goodby.  Mike and I had a nice visit and then went out for pizza and talked about CW traffic nets and DX.  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Today my friends Mike W9ODX and Garry KA9ZYL visited in the evening to play with some QRP.  We set up the Elecraft K2 in my back yard and the buddistick antenna.  Mike wanted to see how the buddistick worked.  I set up on 20 meters and we listened a little.  I then answered a station and talked with Andy AB1BX in Warren, RI.  I was set at less than 2 watts.  Andy was running a little more at 100 watts.  We had a couple rounds and then we said  goodby.  
Warren, RI is a very old town.  It was established in the early 17th century.  In the 18th century it was a prosperous wailing port and ship building was a good industry for it.  As wailing declined Warren moved toward textile manufacturing.  I must say with the history of Warren it would be fantastic to visit some of it’s historic buildings and take a look around.  I also would love to try some fresh seafood while there.  I put it on the list of places I want to visit!   

For this QSO I used my cheap, cruddy, tarnished, but trusty Ameco straight key.  It has been awhile since I pounded brass with it but it strangely felt good.  The simple action of a straight key is a nice change to a paddle or even a bug.  It’s nice and simple.  After the QSO I tried to get Mike to try the straight key.  He sent a couple CQ’s but he was having none of it.  We moved on to the Vibroplex Vibrokeyer.  I really like that key too.  I have not had that many paddles, but the Vibrokeyer has been my favorite.  It’s even on my SW+ QSL card.  Mike made a couple 40 meter QSO’s and we listened to a couple stations sending.   It was so humid that by the time the sun set the fog started rolling in and before long it was time Mike and Garry to say 73 to my QTH and head back home.  What a fun evening!

Monday, July 24, 2017

At 0053z today I talked with Rick KC4KNN in Weaverville, NC.  It has been a little bit since I was last on the air.  The SW+ was a lot of fun to use again.  My MFJ Cub project has hit a snag.  I was not able to get it to receive any stations or hear it with another radio.  It does have power out and I can hear some digital noise as well as background noise so it must be a tuning issue.  I worked on it for a couple days and then called MFJ.  They tried to help but then finally recommended I just mail it to them for inspection.  So I am waiting and without the new radio for a while.  I sure hope it works when I get it back and it is a good trail radio.  

Anyway, Weaverville, NC looks like a nice little town.  It is in the Blue Ridge mountains.  They have a bed and breakfast and some industry.  There is a school and it is known for it’s beautiful scenery.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It came!  I got home late tonight but went out to the mail box and the MFJ Cub was sitting in my crappy white mailbox waiting for me in the drizzling rain.  I am really looking forward to starting the build.  I was able to at least open things up and see how big the radio will be but unfortunately I will have to wait until tomorrow before I can start melting solder.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Yesterday I went to my friend Mike W9ODX’s house.  We played with his hamstick antenna set up and the MFJ 9040.  The 9040 is a very simple but fun radio.  It has 5 watts, internal keyer, and 500hz filter.  Mike is borrowing it right now, but I have really used this radio to death.  It isn’t collectible or valuable.  I have enjoyed the 9040 for probably 10 years.  It was just a great value as a used purchase of $100.00.  

The last few years I have thought about trying a MFJ Cub off and on.  I ordered one for 20 meters and it is due to arrive Wednesday.  I could use a 20 meter backpacking radio.  I think it will be a nice simple build.  It is simple.  I can throw it in a pack without worrying about scratching it up or anything.  Like my MFJ 9040, my plan it just to use it up and get a lot of fun operating out of it.  I have no delusion that it will perform like an Elecraft radio, but I also don’t need to take care of it like an Elecraft.  I will try documenting the build and it is another 1.5 watt radio more or less so it fits with spirit of this blog.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tonight the SW+ traveled to the state of New York with my outdoor home made dipole.  I got in the log of K2A the NY station for the 13 colonies event.  This is a popular event every year.  If you can log all 13 colonies you can apply for a special certificate.  It is very possible to do this from Indiana with some dedication and a modest station.  However, using the SW+ would be a big challenge.  I logged NH, GA, VA, and PA with my Elecraft K2.  NH was on 20 meters and the rest have been on 40.  I was running 5 watts also for NH but then less than 2 watts on the rest.  It was really a nice surprise to get in each log with the amount of activity the stations were getting.  The K2 can filter and has a dynamic range to hear the calling station amazingly better than the SW+.  I think now that Independence Day July 4th has passed and the weekend is over there is less interest in chasing these stations.  There was only a few stations calling for NY tonight.  I must say, however, that there is something very satisfying using the SW+ to get a special event station.  

In 1624 the Dutch settled along the Hudson River.  In 1664 the English took it and renamed it New York.