An easter egg-beater update !

The end of march saw a long weekend and the opputnity to do some work around the QTH. I wanted to make some progress on getting things a bit tider and also migrating the eggbeaters from the current trying/temporary location to up on the main mast. This would take quite a bit of physical effort, so was best done in stages and over a couple of days that the east bank holiday gave me.

first thing first, get the antennas out the trees !

The high levels of rainfall and wind combined to see that the egg-beaters fell victim to high winds, even with heafty guying stake pins and the tilt base, the soft ground wasnt able to hold the egg beaters. Thankfully no damage done and I was soon securing and lowering the eggbeaters to take them off their ‘temporary’ home.

end of the first days work, main mast and egg beaters ready for putting up

I had breaks and a nice time out in the sunshine, quite unusual for a English bank holiday weekend, but it was nice to get out and about locally, we didnt venture too far as to avoid the masses travellign miles to get to Bourenmouth. By the end of the day I had main mast down, and the egg beaters ready to put up. I was planning to put a mast-head preamp for the vertical, but high SWR meant I had to leave it out this time, I will be investigating and probably sending back to the vendor for repair.

Day Two

Day Two I got the Diamond X-30 on the very top of the mast, its is considerbly lighter than the X-7000 and even at half height I was able to get into my favourite 2m and 70cm gateway/repeaters (poole & southampton). I then set about putting the eggbeaters onto the mast.

Initially I put them on a lower (4th section of mast ) but found this too low, so I re-attached the egg beaters to the 3rd section. With plenty of prep I was able to get the egg beaters on and the use of the ratchet spanners really helped in securing the egg beaters both times to the mast. When your a meter up on a thin walking gantry, keping organized is essential and having things to hand ! Sure enough I was soon able to get the eggbeaters and the 70cm mast head up all setup. I put the new LMR400 on the antenna and tested from the base, then extended to the shack, the SWR results where satisifactory at around 2-3 meters off the ground.

Day 3 (Easter Monday)

Having tired myself out the previous day, it was now time to get the antennas up as high as I was comfortable with to start with. This mast will go up to 40ft in the the air, currently I have it at about 33ft (minus one section) – I saw a previous video where I had just the X50 on the mast and fully extended to 40ft, so know I can rig the mat to get higher, but for today I was pushing up to 33ft and seeing how the antenna done. I was higher than in the corner on the temporary mast and had a much clearer line of sight in most directions. The additon of better quality LMR400 probably helped with less signal loss back into the shack and into the antennas as well.

I started out by playing with HRD and the Sat Mode, the UI is really simple and easy to use for HRD and I like the graphics of the sat passes and the real time pass graphics.

HRD Sat module – Tracking the ISS low pass

The trouble i had with HRD is that its very intrusive to the IC9700, it near enough ‘locks’ the radio, even with the ‘manual’ frequency change selected, it would drop / loose the connection to the radio. I imagine the CAT signals between HRD + IC9700 are causing some conflict. Also I found that whilst eaiser to program, it wasnt perfect. THe doppler was good and alot of sats worked perfectly, but the linear sats, where a spectrum of frequncys are used during a pass, seemd more difficult to use. I would get up from my chair to tune the radio manually and then I was able to track the QSO’s, which was very exciting just to hear new and strong signals coming in.

I then tried to track/use LILACSAT-2, the satellite passed near enough right over, so should of been very clear to hear, and others on the satelitte tracking pass had heard it that day. This got me wonder if the tracking/frequencies was good for all satelllites. I turned my attention to SatPC32 – its UI is no means as ‘friendly’ or ‘good looking’ as HRD, but once the technical learning is done, it really does to work much better.

SATPC32 for CAT + HRD for Visual

With some time editing the DOPPLER.SQF and SUB_TONE.SQF I done CAT control via SatPC32 and visuals via HRD. This for me a a nice setup, as i could visually see the future passes and also have the right modes / doppler from SatPC32.

Day – Back to work and in the Shack

I wanted to try something that I was unable to do due to the weak signals from the previous location, so the APRS digipeater on the ISS was a good target. The iSS Crossband repeater gets VERY busy, but I reall enjoy listening to it, but I actually wanted to try out using the ISS from my egg beaters. This wasnt possible before as the APRS packets would be corrupted/too weak to decode.

I was very happy that once I had tuned into 145.825 FM-D I was able to receive APRS packets as clear as day, and unusually the ISS had several passes today, making the chance of actually working the ISS digipeater quite reasonable.

To start with I didnt do any special config for Direwolf, just a standrd 1200BPS and listen / send on the correct audio devices. This saw alot of packets correctly decoded. As I had used APRS before, my favourite, and free/donations is Pinpoint APRS software. I downloaded this and connected it to Direwolf. Sure enough the packets being decoded appeard on the map all across Europe in real time ! It was really amazing to see how well the egg beaters in their new postion was doing, and even on 2m where no mast-head amp was in place.

Pinpoint APRS decoding packets from ISS pass

As I continued to work thru the day, I enjoyed how each pass of the iSS brought in so many contacts on 2M via the APRS digipeater. I was really eager to try and get into the digi peater myself, and there was one more very low pass coming thru in the evening !

I searched the internet on how to setup for APRS via the ISS, the most important thing is to update the PATH, usually this is somethign like WIDE-1, WIDE-2 so other digipeaters will repeat the packets, but fo the ISS DIgipeater, this needs to be RS0ISS. I saw others also using ARISS so I put both in my path to make sure my packets would be repeated by the ISS Packet station.

Direwolf receivng messages at a very low was (9 degrees above horizon) and me transmittingl.

I transmitted a few times, I didnt receive my own signal back but was really please to see that on the ARISS webpage by packets had been received and re-tranmistted by the ISS !

No location, but I was heard !

The raw data lower in the page confirmed my message was processed by the ISS APRS digipeater and am really excited for future passes that I should be able to have a QSO, several of which I had seen other operators do and request logging via LoTW which does Satellitle logging.

Raw data from APRS Digipeater on ISS

So whilst it has been hard work and its still early days with room for futher improvements, it seems all the hard work has really paid off. Heres to more ‘working the birds’ and looking forward to making a QSO.

follow the adventure in this rather long video !

Eggbeater progress and 70cm communications

Sundays weather took a turn for a worse, the best part of the day was used to enjoy some time out the shack and with my XYL. We headed off to the New Forest then to Milford on Sea. In the Bongo I have the Kenwood TM-D710GE which I use for APRS on 2M and scan the other bands, GB3IW used to be on 2M, with amazing coverage, being able to reach as far east as Shoreham/Worthing, it was a good way to make /M and /P contacts (as you’ll see in other posts on the blog). I tried out to reach IW from Milford-on-Sea, but no luck, where ever the repeater is now, its a former shadow of its once great coverage, which probably led to its demise thanks to abuse.

We headed back home and whilst there was spatters of rain, there was a time to get out before the sun went down to make some small progress on the satellite antennas.

I removed the previous horizontal beam and replaced it with the one supplied in the kit. I was careful enough, as the vertical holders are only fibreglass, and it would be unwise to knock them and suffer any undue damage! As I had already had a full day, and the next step would be to start erecting the antenna and horizontal fetelling, decided to call it a day, happy at least that the anteannas are in there temmporary mount.

I’m hoping for some good weather today to at least make sure I can locate the coax and get things in place. My son is due to visit this week, so I will put the antenna vertical with him the first time at least, then I will have a better idea of the effort and how easy it is to get up.

I finished the day with a nice meal of roast lamb, which on a cold, wet and rather miserable evening, was a welcome break.

GB3SU + M0DQO 70cm contact

Further to my lack of 70cm contacts via GB3IW, I had a scan thru the bands at the QTH on the IC9700 today (Monday 13/11/23), I was glad to find GB3SU in Southampton. I monitored for a while and was pleased to hear a call out from M0DQO, who was operating portable on his way to work. It was a good QSO and learned about Chris’s setup, which worked really well being /M via Bluetooth controlled PTT Headset. It was a good start to the day and will put the repeater in the D710 to listen to when I’m out and about in the New Forest or en-route to Guildford.

New Forest POTA G-0112

With a second bank holiday in quick succession and the WX predictions for the bank holiday being ‘traditional’ I made a impromptu POTA activation in the New Forest. Whilst its not my nearest POTA, there are plenty of nice quite places to go, so I headed off for a evening of radio fun !

As is norm for me, I started out with FT8 – or should I say after some reacquainted got started with FT8 ! As I wanted to do SSTV I used my old laptop and USB cable. This has been running at home nicely for months for WSPR via the IC705/Laptop combo, sure enough, go out in the field and it starts playing up ! Firstly experienced disconnects on WSJTX on anything above 5W, and remembered that I had setup the 705 to be a 7300 to allow MMSSTV to use the same ‘hex codes’ – once I got the power and connection sorted, was soon on the air and the QSO’s started coming in. 17M was very busy but propagation good, the magloop and 5W was getting me all over the world, was very glad to see several contacts into the states from POTA hunters.

5W into magloop on 18 and 20m (FT8 / FT4)

I was soon getting drowned out on FT8 on 17m, so switched to 20M and FT4, whereby i was able to get the 10 QSO’s needed to activate the park. I then switched to SSTV. Receiving was fine, and the absence ‘noise’ produced fantastic RX. I thought I would give it a go, even tho I was ‘limited’ to 10W.

A very good signal came in from OK1DNT and was reward with a 595 signal report on 10W ! I was overjoyed that the magloop, low power and noise floor worked so effectively. It really was a highlight for me and I think I shall work out how to the webcam on the laptop to capture some ‘live’ PoTA pictures, each time I’ve tried SSTV on PoTA, I’ve made a QSO, so it is most defineatly a viable mode with QRP power. Thanks to OK1DNT for the QSO as well !

I headed home with the Retevis RT73 working nicely doing its APRS positioning beaconing. Whilst the RT73 doesn’t have the TNC/Packet capabiilities of the THD7, it nethertheless does a great job of position reporting. I did struggle with updating the message, but I got it to read ‘POTA G’ I struggled to get numbers and symbols, so will investigate that next time. The RT73 is a ‘neater’ solution for 2m/70cm operation, tho admittedly I’ve not a QSO on it yet !

APRS via Retevis RT73 working well

En route i encountered the lovely horses/ponies of the new forest. I do love the nature and animals in the beautiful scenery.

Once home and unloaded from the Bongo I set about logging. I always use a manual log, even for digitial modes, incase something should happen to the computer/device I used. I was pleased to see some very cool new features on the POTA website, in that its possible to create a manual log via the PoTA page for submission.

I watched a video on how to do the manual log, shown below and it was easy to follow and create my own log submission.

POTA Manual Log Entry

Sure enough my log submission was done, it was so easy ! Also I could export the ADIF file and upload to QRZ


Whilst the frequency and signal reports were not the ones from the event, it did at least have the time, band mode and contact, not bad at all and acertainly allot easier than when I first started POTA last year.

Overall, despite the early technical frustrations I really enjoyed this activation, it has made me think about a PoTA strategy for digital modes, i.e. use the mac ipad for FT8/FT4 and laptop for SSTV, if the ipad app had SSTV capabilitiy, that would be amazing, but its a great app as is being totally ‘wireless’. Still, I look forward to more PoTA as the year go on !

Thanks for reading and 73

Yeovil Amateur Radio Club QRP convention

An ealy start from Bournemouth as we drove upto Sherbourne – I was rewarded with a space in the nearby car-park which was free due to broken machine !

It was a chance to test out the APRS on my Bongo and I took two fellow members from G4PRS along, it was great weather for a nice, albeit bumpy ride up ! The little whip antenna on the Bongo done a grand job of reaching multiple digipeaters to send the APRS packets onto.

It was a nice stroll from the car park to the hall, its a lovely little village and there was even nice sign-posts to the hall.

Once inside for such a small venue there was plenty to see and great people to talk to. It was great to meet so many other radio amateur enthusiasts and those around QRP as well. I registered on the SPRATS desk and got a nice copy of sprats for a 40M beacon which could be a project I build later in the year..

Whilst I didn’t go with the intention to buy anything, one stall caught my attention.. Whilst the Giant Morse Code Key and a working demo of it was great, I spotted a Fluke 8125A multimeter. This was all powered up and it had fantastic NIXIE tubes on it. Knowing the reputation of Fluke kit I knew it would be pretty good. I had a chat with the seller, to get some background, turns out he restored it from broken to operating, and what a fantastic job he done.

Now the reason for the slight delay in this video is that I haven’t yet (up to today, the 25th) actually powered on the meter at home, so today I powered it up and done some basic meter readings with it. As you can see, its a fantastic piece of test equipment and I am really looking forward to use it with my future kit builds.

Kenwood THD7 APRS & GPS (Bongo is back!)

Firstly the Mazda Bongo is back from Wales after the brakes have been repaired in Bangor ! Very grateful to Kevin at Bangor Kwik-Fit for sourcing all the parts required to get the Bongo back on the road.

Replacement caliper, disk and pads on the Mazda Bongo

When I returned home I found a package from America waiting for me, which turned out to be the connector cable between the Garmin eMAP and Kenwood TH-D7. The only place I was able to find this was an on-line shop in the USA.

Glisson Cable for THD7 and Garmin EMAP

When I contacted them they was unable to ship to the UK ! I contacted a friend in Portland who was kind enough to order it for me and send it on to me here in the UK, I was really grateful to get the ‘final’ piece of kit required to use APRS and GPS with my Kenwood TH-D7.

I setup the emap and TH-D7 to produce packets via the beacon method and setup my home computer and IC-9700 to relay APRS packets.

Whilst I have a dual-boot machine, for simple reception and digipeating I’m able to use Direwolf in Windows. I was able to ensure my APRS packets are being transmitted and received before going out and doing a field test.

Windows APRS Setup

I headed out with the Mazda Bongo on a trip to one of our local farm shops and then to Poole harbour which made a nice way to spend a trip out and combine with some real data creation.

Trip to Farm Shop and Poole Harbour

On return to home I was able to look at APRS.FI and see my route had been nicely recorded and received via various Digipeaters around the IO90BS area. I was quite suprised that the coverage was as good as it was giving the hilly nature of the route and small low-powered 2m/70cm antenna on the side of the Bongo.

GPS Data in APRS received by M0VPN-1

Clicking on anyone of the data points will show all the data received and relayed, and from where. In this case we can see I was doing 22MPH on a heading of 101, this was received by M0VPN-1 whereby it was then put into APRS.FI website.


Whilst it took some time to get all the components I needed to get GPS and APRS working with my older Kenwood TH-D7, it has been well worth the wait. I can now setup position reporting and include useful messages, this will be in particular use when en-route to amateur radio activities (weekly club, conventions, POTA activations) and to send messages to other APRS users.

I would recommend that if you are looking to get more from your 2m/70cm experience and have the budget invest in a radio that has GPS & APRS, it may not seem obvious as to why it could be useful to start with, but certainly could be something you may well find yourself using when you have it.