The 2015 13 Colonies Special Event Begins Today!


2015 K2K QSL Card

2015 K2K QSL Card

The 2015 Thirteen Colonies Special Event begins today! There are stations in each of the states that grew from the original Thirteen Colonies plus two bonus stations – WM3PEN in Philadelphia, PA and a GB13COL in the United Kingdom. We have redesigned the K2K NH QSL card this year as part of the 2015 event theme – Patriots and Founders of the Republic. we have a great team of operators for the New Hampshire Colony this year. You can check them out here. You can find where the event stations are operating by using the 13 Colonies Spotting cluster.

2015 13 Colonies Special Event Certificate

2015 13 Colonies Special Event Certificate

In addition to collecting the QSL cards from each of the state and bonus special event stations, there is a very nice certificate available for working one or more of the 13 Colonies stations. See the event website for details.

I hope that our readers will take some time and participate in the 13 Colonies Special Event this year. Its great fun for all involved. Happy July 4th United States of America!

– Fred (AB1OC)

2015 Field Day Station Test


Field Day QTH

Field Day QTH

It’s almost time for the 2015 Field Day Event and we’ve been in high gear getting ready. Anita, AB1QB and I will be operating with the Nashua Area Radio Club, N1FD this year. The club was very active in WRT2014 and we were able to purchase several of the WRTC station and tower kits from that effort. I will be operating the 20m SSB station for Field Day and Anita and I decided to setup our station kit in our backyard last weekend to verify that all of our equipment was ready and in good working order. The first step was to pitch the wall tent from the WRTC kit. The tent and the associated tables/chairs can comfortably hold 3 – 4 people.

Field Data SSB Station Test

Field Data SSB Station Test

I will be using our Elecraft KX3 Transceiver again this year. We’ve added an outboard KXPA100 100w Amplifier to bring the station up to 100w and Elecraft’s very nice PX3 Panadapter. The combination makes a great 100W Field Day Station.

Elecraft KX3 Field Day Station

Elecraft KX3 Field Day Station

The picture above is a closer view of the setup. The KXPA100 Amplifier and the PX3 Panadapter are fully integrated with the KX3 and the combination creates a 100W transceiver with a useful Panadapter. The Panadapter should be helpful for Search and Pounce operation during Field Day. I’ve also added a Behringer HA400 four channel headphone amplifier (the unit on the right on top of the power supply) to the setup. This enables connection of a total of 4 sets of headphones to the station – one for the operator, one for a logger and two more pairs for folks to listen in on the fun. Our club has been doing a great deal of outreach to encourage new HAMs to join the hobby and I built this setup so that some of the new folks can listen in on our operation more easily. I will be using a Heil Pro 7 headset to operate and we will have 3 sets of Heil Pro Set 3 headphones for others to use. The Heil gear is very comfortable, light weight and sounds great over the air.

N1MM+ Logger

N1MM+ Logger

I will be using the excellent N1MM+ Logger for Field Day this year. It was very easy to setup N1MM+ to work with the KX3. I was also able to use it to trigger the KX3’s voice message memories for calling CQ and for calling in Search and Pounce mode. I am doing an N1MM+ clinic at our final Field Day prep meeting tonight to help others in our club to get going on the N1MM+ logger.

Generator Test

Generator Test

One of the many great aspects of Field Day is that it results in a test of one’s emergency equipment and operating skills each year. Our club has a large generator and power distribution system that we all share for Field Day so I used our station test session as a reason to get my smaller generators out for a test run. We have a pair of Honda EU2000 generators which can be used together to generate quite a bit of power. Here’s one of them in use during our station test.

Our club has quite a bit of antenna equipment and we will be putting up two 40 ft towers and tri-band beams with Triplexes and Filters for our 20m, 15m and 10m SSB and CW stations. I’ve built a 40m Delta Loop for our club to use for 40m SSB and we’ll be putting up 40m and 80m inverted-V and dipole antennas to cover those bands. I plan to do another post after Field Day is done on the setup of our antennas and the N1FD operation. I hope to work some of our readers on the air during Field Day this year.

– Fred (AB1OC)

An Introduction To Amateur Radio At The Academy For Science And Design


SPARK Day At The Academy For Science And Design

SPARK Day At The Academy For Science And Design

John Keslo, W1MBG and I (both members of the Nashua Area Radio Club) recently had the chance to visit the Academy for Science and Design (ASD) in Nashua, New Hampshire to provide an Introduction to Amateur Radio for the students there. ASD’s goal is to be a world-class school that specializes in science, engineering, mathematics and design for students in grades 6-12. ASD periodically holds SPARK (Symposium Promoting Advancement of Real-world Knowledge) conferences, which enable ASD students to learn about areas which might help them to develop careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and/or Math (STEM). The students at ASD are extremely bright and are highly motivated to develop STEM careers. We had about 45 students elect to attend the two sessions that John and I presented.

Introduction To Amateur Radio Video

Introduction To Amateur Radio Video

After some introductions and a little time spent by John and me to explain how Amateur Radio has led each of us to careers in Engineering, we showed the group a video entitled Discovering Amateur Radio. This video provides an excellent introduction to Amateur Radio and we have used it successfully in many settings include the Nashua Area Radio Club sponsored Technician License Training Classes that we have been doing.

Demonstration Station Setup

Demonstration Station Setup

John and I setup a portable HF Radio Station at the school to enable us to demonstrate Amateur Radio to the students. We used an Elecraft KX3 Transceiver with an outboard PX3 Pan Adapter and a KPA100 Amplifier (100W).

20m Vertical Antennas Using Buddi-pole Kit

20m Vertical Antennas Using Buddipole Kit

We also built a 20m Vertical Antenna with elevated radials outside the school. We used the Buddipole Antenna System to build this very effective antenna for the demonstration.

Amateur Radio Demonstration

Amateur Radio Demonstration

The students were very interested in the radio setup and antennas and asked quite a few questions about both the setup and how they could get involved in Amateur Radio. John and I were able to get on the air and make several contacts. The operators that we contacted spoke with some of the kids and shared their experiences with Amateur Radio which made the session great fun for everyone involved.

Maggie Hassan, NH State Governor, Visiting ASD SPARK

Maggie Hassan, NH State Governor, Visiting ASD SPARK

We were honored to have the Governor of the State of NH, Maggie Hassan visit our ASD SPARK session. The picture above shows John explaining  Amateur Radio and how we were using it to help forward the goals of ASD’s students.

It was very rewarding and a lot of fun for John and me to participate in SPARK day at the Nashua Academy for Science and Design. I hope the we’ll have a chance to do this again in the future.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Dayton 2015 HAMvention Recap


Contest University 2015 Kickoff By Tim Duffy, K3LR

Contest University 2015 Kickoff By Tim Duffy, K3LR

Anita, AB1QB and I began our 2015 Dayton HAMvention experience by spending a day at Contest University. Tim Duffy, K3LR and the Contest University team put together another great program this year.

Contest University 2015 Dayton Agenda

Contest University 2015 Dayton Agenda

Anita and I choose to attend the VHF contesting, Low-Band Antenna and Waterfall Displays sessions and they were all very interesting. It was also great to see all of our friends from Contesting Community.

Anita, AB1QB At The ARRL Exhibit

Anita, AB1QB At The ARRL Exhibit

We began our visit to the HAMvention exhibit halls at the ARRL booth. It is quite something to see the scope of the activities that The ARRL engages in to the benefit of the Amateur Radio Community.

ARRL Emergency Go Kit

ARRL Emergency Go Kit

One thing that caught our eye there was the very well put together Emergency Go Kits that the ARRL can supply in disaster relief situations.

Elecraft K3S

Elecraft K3S

Next, we visited the Elecraft booth and saw the newly announced K3S Transceiver. The K3S is a pretty major upgrade to Elecraft’s popular K3 transceiver. Most of the K3S upgrades can be retrofitted to existing K3 Transceivers. Elecraft’s approach to making significant upgrades available to update older version’s of their radios is a major selling point for them.

Elecraft KX3 And Accessories

Elecraft KX3 And Accessories

We also saw the recently added accessories for the Elecraft KX3 Transceiver – the KX3 Pan Adapter and the KPA100 100w Amplifier. These are both excellent units which we have added to our KX3 Transceiver setup. The PX3 provides a really nice band activity and waterfall display capability and the KPA100 is nicely integrated with the KX3 making the combination a 100W transceiver package. Look for more on our experiences with the PX3 and KPA100 in future posts.

Bob Heil And Gordon West - HAMNation Forum

Bob Heil And Gordon West – HAM Nation Forum

We had the opportunity to spend a little time with our friend Bob Heil, K9EID again this year. Bob and the HAM Nation crew are always fun to listen to. Bob was also part of Contest University this year where he spoke about improving contest audio.

Ward Silver, N0AX And The Spurious Emissions Band

Ward Silver, N0AX And The Spurious Emissions Band

A big part of the HAMvention fun was the various dinners and end of day events that we attended. We did the RTTY Contesting, Top Band and Contesting Dinners this year. A special treat was seeing Ward Silver, N0AX and the Spurious Emission Band perform some HAM Radio Hits!

We expanded our 2015 Dayton HAMvention experience with a County Activation Tour on the trip to and from Dayton. You can read more about that here.

The Dayton HAMvention is always a treat for us. We hope to see some of our readers there in the future.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Mobile HF – Our Counties Tour From New Hampshire To Dayton, Ohio And Back


2015 Dayton, OH County Tour

2015 Dayton, Ohio County Tour

We had a lot of fun during our 2015 Dayton US Counties Tour from our home in New Hampshire to the 2015 Dayton HAMvention and back. The trip involved a total of 5 days of driving and covered about 2,000 miles – giving our Mobile HF station quite a workout. We ended up activating 98 unique US Counties and we made 1,226 contacts during the trip. We mostly operating using the Nashua Area Radio Club’s call, N1FD/M. We spent most of our time on the County Hunter’s frequencies on 20m and 40m and the Net Control folks there provided a great deal of help in making our operation effective and efficient. We worked both bands in most Counties to try to give folks that were both close in and some distance away a chance to contact us.

Near The Line Between Blair and Cambria Counties in PA

Near The Line Between Blair and Cambria Counties in PA

We tried to activate some of the most needed Counties along our route. We had the most activity when we were in Blair and Cambria Counties in PA. These were two Counties that were needed by quite a few folks.

On The Fulton And Montgomery County Line In New York

On The Fulton And Montgomery County Line In New York

We learned that one can be quite popular with County Hunters by activating two Counties at the same time. To do this properly, one must park the vehicle on the county line with one set of wheels in each county as shown in the picture above. Operating in this ways allows folks to gain credit for two counties via a single contact.

On A Hilltop In Hampshire County Massachusetts

Dirt Lane On A Hilltop In Hampshire County Massachusetts

We spent quite a bit of time finding good locations to activate the rarer counties that we were in. This involved driving down dirt roads and “getting off the beaten path” quite a bit.

The County Hunter folks who worked us were great and some become fast friends during the trip. Several folks worked us more the 30 times during our trip.

N1FD QSL Card

N1FD/M QSL Card

We have already begun to receive QSL card requests for the contacts that we made during our trip. A Counties Tour is a great activity for a Mobile HF operator. It makes the time on a long drive go by very fast and can generate some great Mobile HF operating time. We are looking forward to finding another opportunity to do a County Tour again in the future.

– Fred (AB1OC/M)

Building And Operating A Mobile HF Station


Presentation On Building And Operating A Mobile HF Station

Presentation On Building And Operating A Mobile HF Station

We recently had the chance to do a presentation on building and operating a mobile HF station for the Nashua Area Radio Club here in New Hampshire, USA. I thought it would be interesting for our readers to see this presentation as it contains some new information that we have not previously covered on our Blog.

Mobile HF Antennas

Mobile HF Antennas

Safety in mounting mobile antennas and anything else on the exterior of you vehicle is a primary concern. This was discussed in some detail during the presentation. The best source to understand safety considerations and proper installation and mounting of Mobile HF antennas is Alan Applegate’s excellent website, K0BG.com.

The most important part of any Amateur Radio Station is the antenna system. This is especially true in a Mobile HF Station because antennas in these applications are almost always short loaded verticals. To create an effective antenna system for a Mobile HF application, one must pay extra attention to the “3 R’s” – Radiation Resistance, Loading Coil Loss, and Ground Loss. Radiation Resistance (a measure of the antenna’s ability to transfer transmitter power to radiated waves) is the “good R” and the other two R’s disipate power from our transmitter in the form of heat.

Mobile Antenna System Typical Parameters

Mobile Antenna System Typical Parameters

There is some good information on the typical efficiency in the ARRL Antenna Book. As you can see from the table above, the Radiation Resistance of a mobile antenna becomes quite small on the lower bands (40m, 80m and 160m). Also note that as the antenna becomes increasingly shorter to RF on these bands, more loading coil inductance is needed to make up for the short radiator length on these bands. On these bands, Coil Loss and Ground Loss can easily dissipate most of our transmit power in a very inefficient antenna system. The net of all this is that one must pay careful attention to controlling the Ground and Coil losses while trying to make the Radiation Resistance of the antenna as high as possible. One good way to improve the Radiation Resistance of a mobile antenna is to make the whip longer. For more on mobile HF antenna efficiency, please consult K0BG.com.

Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna

Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna With Rod And Cap Hat

Here in New England, we have many low tree branches which limit the practical length of a mobile whip. A good technique, if the installation permits it, is to use top loading in the form of a Capacitance Hat. The Cap Hat makes the antenna appear longer and thus increases the Radiation Resistance of the Rod below it. The increase in apparent electric length at Radio Frequencies also means that less loading coil inductance will be required which in turn also means that the Coil Loss is lowered. This is a win-win. The only problem is that this sort of setup significantly increases the wind load on the antenna when driving so a mechanically strong antenna and mounting system is required for a safe installation. Ground Losses can be minimized by making the vehicle on which the antenna is installed a good RF surface to couple to the ground. This is best accomplished by proper Bonding of the metal surfaces on the vehicle to each other and the vehicle’s frame is there is one.

Mobile HF Equipment

Mobile HF Equipment

The next part of the presentation covered the selection of equipment for a Mobile HF Station. Safety and good usability are the paramount concerns here. I believe that a Transceiver should have the following attributes to be a good choice in Mobile HF applications:

  • It should have at least 100W output on the HF bands
  • It must have an effective Noise Blank and a good Noise Reduction system
  • It should have a removable control head to facilitate mounting of the radio’s controls and display where they can be easily seen without taking one’s eyes of the road

It is extremely important to consider safety in all things mobile HF. Safe, non-distracting mounting of controls is a top concern. One also needs to consider what could happen in a crash. Loosely mounted parts or anything that can get between a deploying air bag and the vehicle’s passengers are among some of the important safety concerns. One should also consider accessories that facilitate safe mobile operation. Automated antenna controllers and a voice recorder to capture contact details for later transcription in logs are some good items to consider.

Bonding And Choking

Bonding And Choking

I believe the bonding and the associated effect on noise levels and ground losses is perhaps the most important factor  in determining the performance of a mobile HF station. “If you can’t hear them, you can’t work them.” Proper bonding of the exhaust system, body parts and the engine’s ground are some of the key items in this area. You can read more about how we did this here. To give some idea of how important this area is, I was able to take the initial S9+ noise levels (with the radio’s preamp off) of my F-150 pickup truck prior to proper binding to an S3-4 level with the radio’s preamp on. This is a huge improvement and is a primary reason for the DX performance of our mobile HF station. Bonding also lowers the Ground Losses of the installation which improves the efficiency of the antenna system when transmitting as well – again a win-win. Proper bonding is not expensive but it does take some work. One must also be careful when drilling holes for the installation of ground straps that you do not accidentally drill into wiring harnesses, gas tanks, electronic boxes and other vehicle systems. Again, consult K0BG.com for more information on how to properly Bond your vehicle. If you use a screwdriver antenna, you must also properly choke your control leads to keep RF out of your vehicle and its electronics. Here’s some good information explaining how to do this.

Stage 1 Mobile HF Station

Stage 1 Mobile HF Station

I am a proponent of building a Mobile HF Station in stages from a simple one using to perhaps a more involved project later on. This allows the operator to have a lot of fun on the air with a reasonable initial amount of work and expense. The approach also provides the opportunity to see how the various steps outlined in the presentation contribute to improved performance. Our stage one installation consisted of a 100W transceiver and Hamstick antennas. You can read more about our Stage 1 installation here. The focus at this step includes proper bonding/noise control, safe installation of a suitable transceiver and simple Hamstick antennas. This stage gives you an inexpensive and effective, one band at a time, station on the 20m and higher HF bands. This type of installation is not difficult to do as is possible on most vehicles.

Stage 2 Mobile HF Installation

Stage 2 Mobile HF Station

A Stage 2 installation would probably involve a multi-band remotely controlled antenna – typically a screwdriver antenna. You can read more about our Stage 2 installation here. It’s important to choose and efficient screwdriver antenna. You can read more about the choices and what to look for here. We used a Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna and are very happy with it. This is a big antenna and you must carefully focus on a strong and secure mounting system to use it safely. Our Stage 2 station was QRV on all HF bands from 80m – 10m and utilized a screwdriver controller to automate the adjustment of the antenna when changing frequencies and bands. We use a 4′ rod and a Cap Hat to improve the efficiency of the antenna system as well. This is an important safety feature and should be strongly considered in any screwdriver antenna installation.

Stage 3 Mobile HF Station

Stage 3 Mobile HF Station

A Stage 3 Station is probably not for most folks due to the added complexity and cost but it does create a “work the world” Mobile HF Station and can open the door to effective operation on 160m from a Mobile Station. This step involves the installation of an Amplifier and may also include extension of the antenna system to operate on 160m. I would have to say that the upgrade to Stage 3 was as much work in our station as Stages 1 and 2 combined. It also brings a new set of important safety considerations due to the high current DC powering required by a mobile amplifier. You can read more about this Stage of our installation here.

Operating Mobile HF

Operating Mobile HF

Our presentation included some tips for operating a Mobile HF station. See the graphic above for details. I believe that even a well executed Stage 1 station coupled with good operating technique and some patience can yield a DXCC in many parts of the US and Europe. I was able to make many contacts to Europe and some to Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Alaska using our Stage one setup. If you progress through Stages 2 and 3, this gets easier. We have worked over 110 DXCCs from our Mobile HF Station and confirmed 100 in about 9 months with our Stage 3 setup. The Stage 3 setup has produced some of our most memorable QSO’s to date including my very first 75m phone contact ever to Japan and a contact with Ulleung Island, South Korea on the 40m band using SSB phone (these contacts were made from the East Coast of the USA).

Fun With Mobile HF - US Counties Tour

Fun With Mobile HF – US Counties Tour

There are lots of fun things that you can do with a well-built mobile HF station. I have worked many DX contacts from the mobile for example and some have netted as many as 75+ DXCC’s in a weekend. County Hunting and Tours to activate rarer US Counties are another popular activity for Mobile HF operators. You can read about one such County Hunting tour here on our Blog.

We have found building and operating a Mobile HF station to be a lot of fun! It’s almost like beginning our Amateur Radio experience all over again.

– Fred (AB1OC/M)

HF Mobile – Planning A U.S. County Hunter’s Tour


2015 Dayton, OH County Tour

2015 Dayton, OH County Tour

Anita (AB1QB) and I have been having a lot of fun with our Mobile HF station since we completed it several months back. We’ve been working quite a bit of DX and we make some contacts whenever we are out doing errands or taking other trips. We are planning to attend the Hamvention in Dayton, OH again this year and Anita suggested that we use the trip to activate some most wanted United States Counties along the way.

CQ US-CA Award

CQ US-CA Award

U.S. County Hunters are Amateur Radio operators seeking to work and confirm all 3,077 U.S. Counties. CQ Magazine has an awards program for U.S. County Hunters. Quite a few Amateur Radio operators work all U.S. Counties – some do this using multiple modes and several have done it multiple times. To find out more about the US-CA Award, see the excellent County Hunter Dot Com site.

The Mobile Amateur Radio Awards Club (MARAC) is a support group for county hunting and mobile activities with members all over the world. This is a great organization to join if you are interested in County Hunting. MARAC provides additional awards center around County Hunting and mobile operating.

You can also view WY7LL’s video on YouTube for a nice introduction to County Hunting, MARAC and the tools that the group provides to help County Hunters.

Anita did the planning for our County Tour to Dayton, OH and back. She began by looking at looking at the County Hunter’s Web most wanted page to determine which counties lie along potential routes between are home and Dayton, OH were most needed by County Hunters. Based upon this information, she created the route shown at the beginning of this post. As you can see, we are taking different routes going to Dayton, OH and back to allow us to activate as many U.S. Counties as we can. We are also taking a few side trips off our route to activate a few of the most needed Counties near our route.

Date

States Counties
SundayMay 10 MA Middlesex, Worcester
CT Windham, Tolland, Hardford, Litchfield, New Haven, Fairfield
NY Putnam
NJ Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Hunterdon, Warren
PA Northampton, Lehigh, Berks, Lebanon, Dauphin
MondayMay 11 PA Northumberland, Montour, Union, Snyder
TuesdayMay 12 PA Cumberland, Fulton, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Indiana, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene
WV Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler
OH Monroe, Washington
WednesdayMay 13 OH Athens, Meiga, Gallia, Lawrence, Scioto, Pike, Ross, Greene, Montgomery
SundayMay 17 OH Clark, Madison, Union, Delaware, Morrow, Richland, Ashland, Wayne, Medina, Summit, Cuyahoga, Lake, Ashtabula
PA Erie
NY Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, Wayne, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaiga
MondayMay 18 NY Oswego, Madison, Oneida, Herkimer, Montgomery, Fulton, Schenectady, Albany, Columbia
MA Berkshire, Springfield, Hampshire, Worcester, Middlesex

Planned U.S. County Activation Schedule

The table above shows the 86 U.S. Counties that we plan to activate on our trip along with a rough idea of our schedule.

County Finder App

County Finder App

We found a useful iPhone App (County Finder) that will tell us what County we are in at a given time. The County Finder App uses the GPS in our iPhones to provide our current location in real-time.

Ham Clock Grid Square App

HamClock Grid Square App

We will also be tracking and logging the current grid square that we are operating from. We will be using the HamClock App on our iPhones to determine our grid square of operation in real-time.

Mobile Logging

Mobile Logging

Anita and I will be taking turns operating and logging. We are planning to use a laptop computer running the DXLab Suite and we will connect it directly to the IC-7000 Radio in our truck. This combination plus the County Finder and HamClock Apps above should allow us to accurately log all of our contacts. We will also be uploading contracts that we make to eQSL, LoTW and ClubLog in real-time as we operate.

OpenAPRS App

OpenAPRS App

We will also be running an APRS station so that folks can see where we are located in real-time and follow our progress. We are using the OpenAPRS iPhone App for this purpose. Our APRS callsign with be AB1QB-15 and you can see our position and progress on aprs.fi at any time by clicking here.

N1FD Special Event QSL Card

N1FD – Nashua Area Radio Club QSL

Anita and I are members of the Nashua Area Radio Club and we will be operating using the Club’s call sign, N1FD/M, during the trip. In addition to the electronic QSL’ing methods mentioned above, we will also be able to provide paper QSL’s using the Club’s QSL card shown above. All paper QSLs that we send will note the correct County and Grid Square from which the QSL’ed contact was made. See N1FD on QRZ.com for QSL information.

Band County Hunters Net Frequency (SSB)
20m 14.336 & 14.271 MHz
40m 7.188 MHz
80m 3.901 MHz
17m 18.136 MHz
15m 21.336 MHz
12m 24.936 MHz
10m 28.336 MHz

County Hunters Net Frequencies

We plan to operate on or near the County Hunters Net Frequencies listed above. We will be QRV SSB on all of these bands and we may also do a limited amount of operating on 160m SSB as well.

Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna

Our Mobile HF Station

We hope that you will take some time to work us during our trip. If you do and you read our Blog, please let us know. If we do not have other stations calling, we’d like to take a little time to say “hello” and get to know some of our readers better. We will also be attending the County Hunter’s Forum on Friday, May 15th at this year’s Dayton Hamvention. If you are there, please introduce yourself and we’ll have an “eyeball QSO”.

– Fred (AB1OC)