POTA – QRP – G-0183 – Chesil Car Park for Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site Provincial Park (Jurassic coastline)

After a while away from PoTA and a previous experimentation locally with the AlexLoop only bag, it was time for my next PoTA activation. Based on my QTH location (IO90BS) I used the POTA site to find near but inactivate sites. This is becoming harder as PoTA becomes more popular (a good thing) but its always great to go out and activate a site, as the ‘hunters’ will be on the look out for a new location.

I carefully planned my trip, starting with the day before. I relinquished my beloved IC-705 purpose built bag (LC-192) for going fully Alex-Loop ham pack native. The main drawback of this bag is the lack of padding and overall robustness compared to the alex-loop bag, but I was determined to minimise what I was taking.

everything for HF ops fitted nicely in the Alexloop bag

Not withstanding the mount itself (I used a bike repair stand) everything fitted nicely in the Alex Loop Hampack bag. This includes in the ‘accessories’ my LiFo battery to keep the IC-705 running for extended time over the internal battery, which as shown in my previous ‘test’ is only good for about 2-3 hours on 5W SSB. The observant will also notice I have my iPad in there, rather than my WinTel based laptop.

I had setup and tested SDR Control back at the QTH, so it should be no surprise that it works well out in the field. What I did notice is that (to its credit) it sets the ‘connectors’ all to WLAN in the app, thus when using the IC-705 microphone (which I currently still prefer), this needs to be set back, else no telephony contacts can be made without the iPad.

Whilst the WX (Weather) wasn’t the best to be operating outside, I got setup in the Bongo quite well, at least I was warm and dry, and the IC-705 was at no risk for rain damage (one of the main issues for SoTA, its just not that rugged compared to the KX series of radios). I set about going across the different FT8 frequency/bands. At least this would be a decent propagation test and also make some contacts. I was able to tune in 40M and get the SWR down to 2:1, which resulted in 2 FT8 contacts on 40M. For a magloop I am happy with those results and on a Data mode where the key-time is longer than that for a typical HF QSO. 17M gave excellent SWR readings and resulted in 3 DX contacts. I returned to 20M and worked a further 4 DX stations via FT8, all on 10W of power into a mag loop in pretty grim WX (rain, thunderstorms)

FT8 via pskreporter – into .JP and East Coast America on 10W

Whilst not the activation I was expecting due to the weather, being able to diversify and setup in the Bongo resulted in plenty of contacts and being able to (TBC) activate the park. I was really glad to start out on telephony contacts and people thanking me to activate the park, it really makes it worth the time and travel to enjoy PoTA.

Logged contacts

PoTA QRP Experiment – G-0362

Unusually for a bank-holiday (National holiday / day off work) the weather was quite nice, I had already planned my trip to my nearest PoTA park, namely G-0362 Avon Heath, and headed out. I wanted to take a minimal setup to see how I would do !

QRP & Minimal Portable Setup

  • IC705
  • Alex Loop Hampack antenna
  • Laptop
  • Trolly for bags

I didn’t bring an external battery or even a chair to sit on, opting to just use the bench/seat at the location I was familiar with at Avon Heath. I was interested to see if I could make any contacts and for how long on only 5W and the Internal IC-705 battery. This made getting setup and on-air really easy, using a bungee to attach the loop antenna to the seat.

Telephony QSOs

I’m now starting to start-with telephony QSO’s over FT8 to get started, as such I started out on 20M as this band has plenty of activity and easy to slighty tune the Alexloop between FT8, SSTV and the Phone section of the band.

I was quickly rewarded with QSO’s into Italy and Spain, with my furthest QSO being with EA4GJP with an amazing 860 miles ! Using the MPW calculator I was getting 172 miles per watt for a 595 QSO !

Once re-spotted on the PoTA app I had a flurry of QSOs into Spain – I was rapidly getting used to telephony contacts and logging with pen and paper !

I turned my hand to FT8 but faced computer difficulties again and not having a table/chair didn’t fancy fiddling about with a cable/computer on a bench, reverted to Telephony on 20M again. I did go searching for other PoTA activations, but no chance of a park-to-park today.

With around 2 hours of operating on 5W the battery on the IC705 was almost entirely drained, but with a good set of contacts I felt happy to pack up and head home, whilst I didn’t get 10 this time out, i was glad to see just how good the IC705 and Alexloop antenna is, making it a viable QRP setup which can be easily setup and transported.

I did learn that having a battery will not only extend the life of my operation, as to be expected, but I can operate with only 5W on SSB outside the noise of QTH, which makes doing PoTA all the worth while. My next planned activation is in a very exciting/interesting place and am really looking forward to that !

Activation log
QRZ

QRP – POTA – G-0211 – Upton Heath

With the weather being so lovely and time allowing day time operation, I headed out to Upton Heath – this is just opposite Upton Park but separated by the busy A35. Although once in either, you wouldn’t notice that it is there !

Upton Heath (G-0211) and Upton Country Park (G-0443)

I brought my wagon along to help transport the radio and accessories from the car to the heathland, with just a short walk to find a good bench to operate from it was no problem at all.

I was able to be on the air quickly with the excellent Alex Loop ham-pack antenna, I used a bungee to attach it to a direction post as my bike stand is still in the back of the bongo in North Wales, but the bungee was excellent to use and changing frequency across the 20M band was very easy to get low S.W.R. across the operating frequencies.

I wanted to get better at Telephony contacts so started with Phone on 14.241 and used the PoTA App to self-spot, within minutes I was trying to manage a pile up ! I was getting so many call signs at once, it was hard to distinguish them and get back, thankfully I got most, but some I couldn’t complete, but that’s what experience and patience will teach me ! I managed 6 Phone contacts, whilst I appreciate all of them, it was great to get a fantastic signal report from K1RO in New Hampshire ! I was so glad to have a break and a drink of water with me.

I then moved onto FT8 and completed enough QSO’s to active the park, with reports coming in from all over Europe.

FT8 – 20m

Whilst I had been operating for just over an hour, I wanted to give SSTV a try, my previous attempt was thwarted by a very busy 20m band, but today I was able to get thru a fantastic signal from HA1AD

With my water supply fast running out and time getting on, i packed up having had a fantastic time at Upton Heath. It is definitely a park I will come to again, its nearby, really accessible and lovely location to work from.

Youtube – QRP POTA Upton Heath

QRP POTA – G-0258 Martin Down

Having originally planned to go out PoTA the week before and found that the IC-705 had developed a fault with its SQL/RF/AF Gain knob, that had to be repaired, was fixed and turned around very quickly by Icom UK !

After Sales Service is important

So I lost a weekend of PoTA activation, I did make good use of the time tidying my Mazda Bongo up and enjoying time out with it still around the gorgeous Dorset/Hampshire countryside.

Having got the IC-705 back in re-instated my visit to Martin Down. Having not been there I thoroughly enjoyed this excellent video on Martin Down and more, which gave me enough information about the location without having to visit there.

Lovely video about Martin

I put my planned action on the PoTA website and headed out on the 12th of March, it was a lovely drive up and the location was fantastic. I set about setting up my IC-705 and Alexloop Hampack antenna. When I went to transmit via WSJTX on FT8, the radio and transceiver kept disconnecting ! I went back and checked over the basics, but couldn’t find anything out in the field as to what the issue was. Having not packed an external table/chair and feeling a little despondent headed back home.,

Portable Problems !

After having a nice afternoon out with XYL Monica, I got the 705 and out the bag and started working through the problems I had encountered. In the video above you’ll see how i switch out the antenna, computer and cables finally identifying the issue with the Alex Loop antenna.

Alex loop antenna ‘fix’

Upon closer inspection I was able to find that there was a considerable ‘cut’ in the coax, wether this all three (outer, braid and feeder) hitting each other wasn’t clear, but restoring the shielding by way of some strong tape and its proximity to the inner loop resulted in the transmit issues being resolved

I re-registered my planned activation on the PoTA Website for the 13th and headed back out, full of determination not only to make FT8 contacts, but also SSTV and Telephony.

Come the 13th I headed out early to ensure I got a space suitable for my Bongo where I could park in a good position to the antenna, this was easily setup and getting on everything in position is becoming very routine now. Operating from the Bongo in cold/not warm conditions is really brilliant, and means I don’t need to carry tents,etc to do an activation and keep warm/risk my IC-705 getting damaged by rain/weather,etc.

Once setup the issue with the radio disconnecting happened again ! This time knowing where to look I reapplied the ‘fix’ in the field, and was back on the air in no time. I achieved the 10 QSO on FT8 to activate the park in just over 1 hour and 10 minutes, they ranged around to the world to right here in England. I was very satisfied with how the 705 and the magloop antenna was performing.

FT8 RX/TX Report via PSK Reporter

Using the PoTA app from my phone I could see numerous people re-spotting me which undoubtedly helped in the succession of FT8 qsos.

Having gotten the 10 QSO’s needed to activate the park, I then turned my attention to SSTV on 20m (14.230) – reception was amazing, I got the IC-705 and Magloop tuned in no problem, another technique I have ‘developed’ since going portable of tuning the antenna to the frequency to get the best S.W.R and signal output (where as at home I use multi band verticals and Endfeds). I tried for an hour to have a QSO, but sadly I couldn’t make a contact this time, but did receive some great pictures. For the full gallery of RX, see here

Upon arrival at home I did receive a very nice email that my SSTV picture had been picked up my a KiwiSDR in Germany ! ( Thank you Tommy/ LB6DI )

CQ POTA BW Mode on 10W

After an hour of SSTV I turned to Telephony – I’m not the most confident HF Telephony person, but doing PoTA gives me a real opportunity to improve my HF QSO style. I do find that that with PoTA people do tend to do the ‘rubber stamp’ contest style of QSO, but are nevertheless very enthusiastic to make the contact and really patient in getting call signs out to ‘activators’ (operators in the park).

In the end I managed 6 Telephony contacts all over the globe with a good mixture of reports, I was really really excited to do so well with such relative low power and portable.

2E0FWE – QRP – POTA Martin Down National Park

Once home I had the challenge of getting the log book fully into ADIF format. This is the one thing that some non-technical people may find a challenge, but I have been able to find this excellent page on how to create a mixed log using Excel (on Windows). I was able to complete the spreadsheet and run the macro to produce the ADIF file for submission to PoTA Administrators easily, so now I just need to wait for the file to be processed for my activation to be complete !

I can say that operating mobile and doing PoTA is by far the best part of amateur radio for me now, it is incredibly satisfying to go out with such lower power and in lovely locations to operate from.

POTA log book uploaded into QRZ

A summary mini-update

Hello there ! Well its been a while since i sat at the desk to do a blog-posting rather than a video and of antenna related results, so this evening I thought I would return to the blog and give a summary mini-update of what I have been upton !

How do I approach this.. hmm, well, lets go for by bands of operation and then methods as a subtext !

HF Operations (80m to 10m)

Well I have mostly been busy on improving the performance of my main 6BTV antenna, this is following a fantastic field trip with G4PRS (Poole Radio Society) to have a great day out and with so much learning about antennas.

As an outcome of that, I decided to improve my 6BTV and understand more about the tools that I have. I’ve made several fundamental changes to my 6BTV and initial results, well, are seeming promising. I have yet to take the X&Y measurements I wanted to take due to the inclement weather, but I think that will be this week.

I have been doing more and more telephony work on 40 and 80m. 40m via the IC-7300 and 80m via the Kenwood TS-690 into the excellent UK Antenna 80m multi band end-fed. Although its below its optimal height, it is functioning brilliantly.

Specific Modes – FT8

You would of seen from my QRZ page I used to spend allot of time on FT8. It is an interesting and exciting mode to start making contacts with. I found myself wanting more thou, so I found another digital mode to move onto. I am still doing occasional FT8, but really for what it was designed for in my opinion, getting signal reports and checking propergation/antennas, rather than solid FT8 only.

Specific Modes – SSTV (HF to start with)

I have been enjoying SSTV massively on 20m (14.230USB) – you will see on this site my most recent received images uploaded to the SSTV section. I use SSTV early and the early evening (grey line times) during mon-fri and where i can during the weekends. I have had some fantastic contacts and enjoying the pictures / QSOs massively. It is very rewarding to get a good 595 / P5 report from another operator well into DX terrority.

I continue to enjoy SSTV in making great contacts, I hope you could be my next one !

Specific Modes – Telephony on HF(voice)

Whilst on UHF/VHF I tend to be more comfortable with the longer QSOs via repeaters and even simplex on 2M, I still find HF QSO’s challenging, but very rewarding. At home I’m limited to 50 Watts, and when up against even legal full licence holders who can typically run 100W+ making a QSO and getting a good report, is really rewarding – lets not start about the Italians who are doing a great job of warming the atmosphere in what seems like an almost unlimited use of power of the HF airwaves.

I am doing more telephony on 40m and 80m recently (Sep/Oct 21) and really enjoying it. I’m using N1MM as a logging tool, which really helps me get the call sign down – i still don’t mind asking multiple times for a call sign until i get it right thou ! I have had great contacts with the ‘secret nuclear bunker’ and also Germany – I’m hoping the solar cycle continues to improve propagation on 40m

Specific Modes – Telephony on VHF & UHF

I use my IC705 on occasion from home on 2m and 70cm. I am very lucky to get into Southampton and the Isle of White very easily from my QTH in IO90BS. This gives me the opportunity to what must be one of the best repeaters on the south coast, namely, GB3IW. This repeater has excellent coverage with people connecting to as far west as Somerset and as far east as Brighton, inland I have heard people from Uckfield, Haywards Heath and also closer to my QTH in Bournemouth. I can take one of my handhelds out with 5W of power and get into it, with varying signal reports. From home with the X50 and 10W I am always 5/9+10 without problem.

I am working on a packet radio project for 2M based on the excellent Kenwood TH-D7 and the raspberry Pis I have. I am also into setting up a local ‘SSTV’ night,so if you in/around IO90BS and hear SSTV on 2m, it can well be me !

QRP / M / P

I continue to use my IC-705 both at home and mobile as a QRP transceiver. I have no interest in adding an amplifier to this fantastic and amazing transevier. For me QRP is almost becoming a sub-hobby in its own right. I have several very exciting antennas to use /M and /P and (/PP)

I’m hoping in the autumn and winter months to get out more with the IC-705 and my other UHF/VHF handhelds for some exciting and interesting field experiments.

Conclusion

Well I am keeping incredibly busy, its my final year of my MSc and am enjoying a new contract with a fantastic team who keep me wholly engaged thruout the day. I do hope to return to my local club when i can safely, until then i am keeping in touch with several of the members via email and hopefully when the weather gets better, back on the 2M net !

I have probably gone on for too long due to absence of recent postings, but thanks for reading and staying with me. I am hoping to do more frequent updates, no matter how busy i get, even if its just a short write up with some theory and application.

Until then take care, stay safe, and enjoy your radio.

Alan / 2E0FWE

ICOM 7300 & SM-50

My HF Telephony problem

Whilst i enjoy a ‘ragchew’ on the IC-705 via D-STAR, the Internet and ‘Bit Encoding Rate’ (BER) has more to do with the quality of the received signal than an actual radio wave. (I use a Pi-Star hot-spot as there is no DSTAR repeater nearby IO90).

With that I know that the IC-7300 is a very capable radio on its own, but even with previous antennas having access to all bands did I ‘try’ telephony that much, preferring to stick to digital communications via the computer. I thought it was time to give it a try and get used to operating telephony on the IC-7300.

The inspiring video section !

I checked out this video and it gave very good examples of setting up the audio for various transmit types. If you have a 7300 it well worth the watch and I’m sure the same principals apply to other radios.

Setup the 7300 for optimal audio

Tim, G5TM, has a great video on calling CQ. Having watched the video I was up for trying calling CQ on the 40 meter dipole I am currently using !

G5TM with great advice on calling CQ

I started calling CQ not expecting any replies, but amazingly on 50W on a dipole I did ! My first QSO on 40m was with IZ6TGS. He was obivously a really experienced operator and it was amazing to reach him ! I was immeadilty drawn to how unprepared I was to ‘log’ – when doing FT8, its so well setup it make it easy. Suddenly I was trying write down the call sign and any other details. Thankfully Adrio was a patient and great operator, we managed to give a report each way and I had made my first HF SSB contact !

It did really show I needed some ‘help’ with logging and operating. Having seen both M0MCX and G5TM operate live on air (its great watching a live stream!) they use a free piece of software called N1MM Logger. You can see them both as they start the QSO they are typing in the call sign and any details they can garner. My problem was that I was restricted to the hand-microphone and my Windows PC neither has a screen or keyboard attached as I connect via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Whilst having recently tided my shack-tables up, there is still limited space on my 7300 table.

I was able to come up with the following solution !

Keyboard and Screen Technology

They keyboard and mouse come as a set from Amazon, the Perixx PERIDUO-212 Wired Mini Keyboard fits nicely on the keyboard shelf under the 7300, along side the BHI Dual In-Line Filter. For £16.99 this was a really good piece of kit, obviousy its not as good as the keyboard i use on my mac, but then i’m mostly using it for typing out call signs and reports, not developing stuff 🙂

I combined this with the 7 Inch Small HDMI Monitor with VGA which cost £36.99. Even at 7 inches and a respectable 1024×600 resolution, I could easily see NIMM with no problem when using my radio. It fits very nicely on the desk and comes with a fairly decent stand. I’ve not even had to fix it to the table and its staying up nicely.

SM-50

The last part of the equation, is no doubt, the most important. Whilst having a QSO i struggled to write down the call sign as my hand had a handmic in it. Whilst there are many microphones out there, the SM-50 is the recommended microphone within the 7300 manual and importantly receives very good reviews on eham. It is not a cheap microphone, nor is it expensive, as my son can attest in his experience of sound engineering, microphones can get *Very* expensive depending on what you want to record and where.

I orderd the SM-50, i was very impressed with how sturdy the base and the flexability of the neck. I could bend this perfectly over to me a few inches from my mouth to make operating alot easier.

The SM-50 is a fantastic microphone for the 7300

I went about setting the 7300 following the videos above and adjusting the microphone gain on the underside of the SM-50 to match the 7300. I also read the manual on how to setup recording my ‘best’ voice for 7300 so i could replay my CQ call.

This also made listening via Wesbree WEBSDR very easy and amazingly i could hear myself ! During this time my CQ call on repeat was picked up by DK4EI. We had a great QSO, his setup amazing, but i was happy with 50W and a dipole to come thru with a 5/9 report into Germany!

Conclusion

If you have been on ‘digital modes’ during the solar minimum, and also maybe slightly nervous of going on HF, i can say its worth putting the effort in to get onto SSB/Telephony.

My key points are

  1. As per Tim’s video sound enthusiastic/engaging – I took my time and made a ‘good’ recording/playback feature of the 7300 – it works !
  2. Set up your audio/microphone well and for the audience/conditions, the pileup busting video is really good for this. I’ve not had to change my settings, and i get great audio reports
  3. Get your logging software, or pen/pad easily to hand, fill in details as you go, it makes the QSO more rewarding and you can spot people again !
  4. Get a good microphone, for me the SM-50 suited *my* needs and had good reviews. You may want a different type of microphone and use it in a different way (VOX/PTT/Foot PTT, up/down buttons, on a bracket.. SO MANY FACTORS).

I am getting (braver?) better at HF QSOs and am currently limited to 40 meters, so you might hear me put the shout out during the evenings and night. Until then I really hope to have a QSO with you !

Stay safe / 73

Alan / 2E0FWE