NPOTA Fun – Activating a New Park

River 2

Eastern Branch of the Penobscot River in Katahdin Woods and Waters NM

Ever since we built our Mobile HF Station, we’ve talked about taking it to Acadia National Park in Maine and operating from the top of Cadillac Mountain.  The 2016 ARRL NPOTA event gave us the motivation to plan the trip for the week before Labor Day.    The week before our trip, we saw an article in the ARRL Letter encouraging operation from the newly declared National Monument, Katadhin Woods and Waters in Maine, which had just be designated as NPOTA MN84.  Visiting the NPS website, we learned that the park is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from Bar Harbor, where we are staying.  We decided to accept the challenge to be the first to activate the new park.

Mobile HF In Park 1

Our F150 Mobile Station at the entrance to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Tuesday August 30 was our first full day of vacation, we left our hotel room and parked by the Acadia visitor center and called “CQ National Parks”.   We ended up with 76 contacts in the log from NP01.

After that we got on the road and headed toward Katadhin Woods and Waters, activating counties along the way including the county line between Penobscot and Aroostook Counties.

MN84 Map

NPS Map of the Park

As a newly designated National Monument, Katadhin Woods and Waters does not yet have a visitors center or any signs showing you when you enter and exit the park.  We just had the map (above) to determine where the park boundaries were.    All of the roads in black on the map are gravel roads that are also used for logging trucks.

Katahdin Woods Sign 1

Entrance to Kadahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

We entered the park from Swift Brook Road off Rt 11 in the lower right corner of the map.  We drove through the lower section by the entrance and then headed north along the Eastern Branch of the Penobscot River and operated near the Loos camping area.   The sign above confirmed that we were within the park boundaries.

River 3

Scenic View of Katahdin Woods and Waters NM

The scenery along the river was beautiful with views of the mountains in the distance.

Mobile HF In Park 3

Operating at MN84

We started operating on 20m and the pileups were huge!  Everyone was excited to get this new NPOTA into the log.  Fred, AB1OC/M ended up going split on 20m due to the size of the pileups.  After a while, he moved to 40m to give the close in folks a chance at MN84.  We went back and further between 20m and 40m until the pileups thinned out.   We also made 18 QSOs with the club callsign N1FD to also give the club credit for the activation.  We really enjoyed activating the park and the people we talked to were great!  We made a total of 350 QSOs from MN84.

National Park Yes!

Friendly Sign at Katahdin Woods and Waters NM

We also plan to activate Acadia National Park NP01 again from Cadillac Mountain this week. We will also activate Saint Croix Island, HS01 and Roosevelt Campbello International Park, AA21 in Canada (as AB1OC/VE9 and AB1QB/VE9).

Activating MN84 for the first time was truly a memorable experience.  We enjoyed it so much we will be back on Saturday to give more NPOTA chasers a chance at MN84!  Hope to talk to you on the air!

You can read more about our Mobile HF station and Mobile HF operations here on our Blog.


Anita, AB1QB

Summertime Station and Antenna Projects At AB1OC/AB1QB

Summer is the time of year that many of us work on our antennas and improve our stations. Anita AB1QB and I did both of these things at our QTH this summer.

Removing Lower SteppIR Yagi From Tower

Removing Lower SteppIR Yagi From Tower

Our SteppIR DB36 Yagis were due for some maintenance so we took them off our tower. A special thanks to all the members of the Nashua Area Radio Club who helped us remove, recondition and reinstall our antennas! Matt Strelow, KC1XX of XX Towers and Andrew Toth provided equipment and know how to safely remove our two large SteppIR DB36 Yagis with help from the rest of us.

Lowering Antenna With Electric Winch

Lowering Antenna With Electric Winch

The SteppIR DB36 Yagis weigh almost 200 lbs each and Matt made good use of his electric winch to lower them.

Antenna Coming Down The Tram Line

Antenna Coming Down The Tram Line

The picture above shows the lower antenna coming off the tower. We used a Tram Line system to lower both antennas to the ground so that we could rebuild them.

SteppIR DB36 Antenna On The Ground

SteppIR DB36 Antenna On The Ground

The SteppIR DB36 Yagis are quite large. They have 36 ft booms and the driven elements are almost 50 ft from tip to tip! They completely fill up our back yard when they are both off the tower.

Element Pole Sun Damage

Element Pole Sun Damage

The rebuild process began with a careful inspection of both antennas. They were both in good overall condition with some sun damage to the paint on the fiberglass element poles.

Disassembled SteppIR DB36

Disassembled SteppIR DB36

We removed all the element tubes and sweeps from both antennas for rebuilding. The picture above shows the disassembled upper antenna.

Reconditioned Stepper Motors Installed

Reconditioned Stepper Motors Installed

All four Stepper motors on both antenna were replaced. These motors move metal tapes inside hollow element tubes to adjust the length of each antenna’s 4 movable elements. These adjustments are done automatically by controllers in our shack which receive frequency information from the radios which are connected to each antenna.

Reconditioned Element Sweep Poles

Reconditioned Element Sweep Poles

All of the element housing poles were cleaned, prepped and painted with a UV resistant clear coat to protect them from further sun damage. The poles cleaned up like new.

New Element Sweeps Ready For Installation

New Element Sweeps Ready For Installation

The assembly of all the new element sweep tubes (shown above) was done next. Each antenna has six sweeps.

Element Pole Preparation

Element Pole Preparation

The end of each element pole must be prepped with a tape system which ensures that the poles are seated properly, sealed to and firmly attached to the sweeps. This process and the associated assembly and tightening of the element couplers was the most time-consuming step in the rebuild process as it had to be repeated a total of 24 times.

Rebuilt Element Assembly

Rebuilt Element Assembly

Here’s a picture of one of the rebuilt element tube assemblies. The ropes support the element tubes and keep them aligned when the antenna is up in the air. These elements are attached to the antenna motors with couplers and clamps.

SteppIR DB36 Yagi - Rebuild Complete

SteppIR DB36 Yagi – Rebuild Complete

The picture above shows the lower antenna with all the element tubes reattached. There is quite a bit of additional prep work associated with adjusting all the supports and taping all the exposed areas of the antennas which are susceptible to sun damage. Also, all the electrical wiring on the antenna must be checked to ensure good electrical connections and good overall condition of the wiring.

Ground Test Setup

Ground Test Setup

The final step in rebuilding the antennas is to test their operation on the ground. This ground test is done to ensure that all the motors are working correctly and that the element tapes move smoothly inside the rebuilt element tubes.

Ground Test Results

Ground Test Results

Another important part of the antenna Ground Test is to confirm that the antennas have a consistent resonant frequency and SWR on all bands. The resonant frequencies and SWR levels are far from those that would be measured when the antennas are on the tower at operating height. The idea here is to confirm that a resonance exists and that its frequency and SWR readings are repeatable as the antenna is adjusted to different bands.

With both antennas rebuilt, its was time for Matt and Andrew to return and, with help from folks from our club, reinstall the rebuilt antennas on our tower. The video above shows this process. It is quite something to see! The installation took about 3 1/2 hours.

Updated SteppIR Controllers

Updated SteppIR Controllers

The last step in the SteppIR DB36 rebuild process was to install the latest firmware in the associated SDA100 Antenna Controllers. There are some integration issues between the updated SteppIR Firmware and our microHAM system but we are getting those worked out with help from the folks at both SteppIR and microHAM.

Icom IC-7851 With Display Monitor

Icom IC-7851 With Display Monitor

I recently had a major birthday milestone and Anita surprised me with a new radio – an Icom IC-7851. This radio is an upgrade/replacement for our Icom IC-7800. While the two radios are quite similar in their operation and interfaces, I did not want to install the IC-7851 until the SteppIR antennas were reinstalled and all of their upgrades were working properly with our current radios. With the antennas done, it was the finally time to install the new radio!

Icom C-7851 Transceiver

Icom C-7851 Transceiver

The Icom IC-7851 has several important performance upgrades. The most impactful one is a new low phase noise oscillator which significantly improves RMDR performance compared to the IC-7800. The IC-7851 is in the top-tier of Transceivers in Sherwood Engineering’s tests. The receivers in the IC-7851 are very quiet, have excellent Dynamic Range and perform great in when close-in interference is present.

Icom IC-7851 Display Monitor

Icom IC-7851 Display Monitor

The Icom IC-7851 has a higher resolution and faster display. It also supports higher resolution external monitors so we installed am upgraded display monitor along with the new radio. The IC-7851 has a number of new networking features and supports stand-alone remote operation over a LAN and the Internet. We are planning to use these capabilities to add a second remote operating gateway to our station. More on this in a future article.

The combination of the rebuilt antennas and the new IC-7851 Transceiver has our station performing better than ever. The antennas are working as well or better than when they were new and the IC-7851 has significantly better receive performance compared to its predecessor and is a pleasure to use.

We will be hosting the ARRL Rookie Roundup RTTY contest for our club members who have received their first license in the last 3 years next weekend and we’re going to use the new radio and rebuilt antennas for the contest.

This project was completed in a little over two weeks and was a lot of work. I could not have done the project without the help of the many folks in the Nashua Area Radio Club. Again, a big Thank You to all the folks in our club who helped me with this project! I hope that many of you will be able to find some time to operate from our upgraded station.


Fred, AB1OC

2016 ARRL Field Day!

2016 Field Day Site Layout

2016 Field Day Site Layout

I had the privilege of acting as the Field Day Incident Commander for the Nashua Area Radio Club this year. Field Day is the most important operating event for the Nashua Area Radio Club each year. We operated under our club callsign, N1FD and we were 7A here in New Hampshire, USA. We included some new antennas including a Three Element 40m V-Beam, a Satellite Station and a 70cm Digital ATV Station in our operation this year. You can see some of the details which went into the planning of our 2016 Field Day Operation on our Club’s Tech Night Page.

The video above shows highlights from our 2016 Field Day Operation. As you can see, we had a lot of fun at Field Day this year. Our club has 120+ members and we had a large turnout for Field Day. You can see more about our 2016 Field Day operation on our Field Day Page including photos, a score summary and a recap presentation shared at a recent club meeting. I hope that you enjoy sharing our memories from 2016 Field Day.


– Fred, AB1OC

2016 New England QSO Party – Operating Mobile HF

Several members of the Nashua Area Radio Club operated as N1FD/M (our club callsign) in the New England QSO Party this year as a Multi-Op Mobile Entry. Operators included Wayne Wagner, AG1A and Jamey Finchum, KC1ENX and myself. We began our operations on Saturday afternoon on the Massachusetts – New Hampshire State line where we activated two counties and two states.

NEQP Multi-Op Team

N1FD/M NEQP Multi-Op Team

We entered the 2016 NEQP Contest in the High Power Multi-Op Mobile Category. We operated using SSB phone mode using mostly on the 20m and 40m bands. We took turns operating, driving and navigating. We used Fred’s, AB1OC’s mobile HF station in his truck.



We operated Saturday and Sunday for nearly the entire contest period. We spent most of our time calling CQ and we had several nice pileups to work.

Counties Activated 2

Counties Activated by N1FD/m in the 2016 NEQP

The map above shows the counties in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont that we activated during the contest. Anita, AB1QB helped us to create a route of counties to activate which included some of the more rare counties in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Operating On The Line 4

Operating on a County Line in Vermont

We tried to focus on activations where we could be in two counties as once. These activations produced some nice pileups for us to work.

Operating On The Line 1

Operating on a County Line in NH

We parked on county lines with 2 wheels of N1FD/M in one county and 2 wheels in another. This gave us two QSO points (one for each county) for each contact that we made.

NOPTA Activiation 2

NPOTA Activation – Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP in Vermont

We also activated two National Parks along our route as part of ARRL’s NPOTA program. We activated Saint-Gaudens NHS (NS60) in New Hampshire and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP (HP26) in Vermont. The HP26 activation produced the best response – we made about 50 contacts while we were there.

Solar Weather for NEQP

Solar Weather for NEQP 2016

We had a few challenges along the way. We had some antenna related problems to deal with. Fortunately, we had spare parts with us and we adjusted our operating style to overcome these problems. We also had to operate through a major solar event on Sunday. This made contacts very difficult but we still logged over 235 QSOs on Sunday in spite of the conditions.


Wayne, AG1A Operating in NEQP 2016

We used a PC running the N1MM+ logger connected directly to the Icom IC-7000 radio which is mounted on the passenger side lower interior panel in our truck. This made if very easy for whomever was operating to keep up with the logging when our QSO rates were high.

All in all, we had a great time in the contest. We logged a total of 631 QSOs and we worked 58 Multipliers. Our final claimed score was 36,598 – not bad given that this was our first entry as a mobile and our first time in NEQP. We worked 43 of 50 states and we had quite a few stations from Canada and Europe call in to answer our CQs. All in all, it was a lot of fun operating from our Mobile HF station in the NEQP contest!

There was some discussion on the way home about the Maine and New Hampshire QSO parties which will be held later this year. We hope to be N1FD/M again in one or more of those as well.

The N1FD/M Multi-op Team,

Fred (AB1OC)
Wayne (AG1A)
Jamey (KC1ENX)
Anita (AB1QB)

Dayton Hamvention 2016

Anita Preseting in Contest ForumFred, AB1OC and I just returned from the 2016 Hamvention in Dayton, OH.

Our first day in Dayton was spent at Contest University – this was our 5th year in attendance but each year we learn more from the contesting experts. This year, we attended two presentations from Frank Donovan, W3LPL on operating techniques for the declining solar cycle and on 80m and 160m antennas.   We also heard a talk from Val NV9L from Ham Nation on Log Analysis tools and another session on SO2R (Single Operator 2 Radio) Operating.

W3LPL Solar Cycle 5

Slide from W3LPL Contest University Presentation

Friday was the first day of the Hamvention and we spent most of the day visiting all of the vendor exhibits.   We visited the Icom booth, where we looked at the new Icom 7851. It has an incredible display as well as one of the best receivers on the market.


Icom IC-7851 Display on a Large Screen TV

We also saw the new KX2 Transceiver at the Elecraft booth. It is even smaller than the KX3 and is perfect for SOTA and other portable operations. I would expect to hear some NPOTA activations using this radio.


Elecraft Kx2 on Right, next to a KX3

Friday evening was the Top Band dinner where we learned all about “Top Band Disease” from Larry “Tree” Tyree N6TR.   Hams with this disease are nocturnal, love the bottom of the sunspot cycle. They are constantly improving their 160m antennas – when you upgrade your receive antenna, then there are people who can’t hear you, so then you need to improve your transmit antenna – and the cycle continues…

Top Band

Top Band Dinner Presentation by N6TR

After the dinner, we were treated to a concert from the Spurious Emissions Band (N0AXKX9XK4ROW4PA), with hits like “On The Cover of the NCJ” and “Sittin on the Edge of the Band”. They were so funny! You can watch their performances on YouTube

Spurious Emissions

The Spurious Emissions Band Performs at Dayton 2016

On Saturday, Fred, AB1OC and I presented our Station Building talk to around 250 people as part of the Dayton Contest Forum. It was a great honor to be selected to speak there by Doug Grant K1DG, who has been organizing the Contest Forum for many years.

Fred in Antenna Forum

Fred, AB1OC Speaks at the Contest Forum

We also continued to tour the vendor booths, visiting our fellow Nashua Area Radio Club Member Bill Barber, NE1B, at the DMR-MARC booth.

Bill Barber NE1B

Bill Barber, NE1B at the DMR-MARC Booth

After that, we stopped by Gordon West’s Ham Instructor booth where we spoke to him about the success of our Club’s License classes.  Here is a picture of Gordon, WB6NOA and Fred sharing the secrets of how the Hilbert Transform and the Flux Capacitor make Single Sideband and Time Travel Possible.

AB1OC with Gordo

Gordon West, WB6NOA with Fred, AB1OC

We also visited the AMSAT booth, where we met Burns Fisher,  W2BFJ,   who currently lives in Brookline, NH and is moving to Hollis.    They had a cube sat on display – you can see how small it is below.  It’s amazing that AMSAT builds and arranges to launch them into orbit so that we can make QSOs through them!

Cube Sat

Anita, AB1QB Holds a Cube Sat

Fred could not resist a visit to Begali Keys where we purchased a neat travel key. It should be great for operating mobile and for Field Day.

Begali Travel Key

Begali Travel Key

On Sunday, we headed back to New Hampshire, sad that the weekend had come to an end but full of great memories from the trip.

2016 ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB

ARRL Rookie Roundup Ops

ARRL Rookie Roundup Ops

A team of newly licensed members of our club, the Nashua Area Radio Club, came together to enter the 2016 ARRL Rookie Round SSB Contest, using our club callsign, N1FD. We held a training session at our QTH the weekend before the contest to allow our operators to learn about contesting and to become familiar with our station. We put together a training package to introduce the operator team to contesting in general and to the ARRL Rookie RoundupYou can view the training package here..

Station setup for the Contest

Station Setup for the Contest

We entered the ARRL Rookie Roundup in the Multi-Op, Single Transmitter category using the club’s N1FD call sign. This gave everyone a chance to operate in the contest and to contribute to the team’s final score. Fred, AB1OC spent some time setting up and checking out our station ahead of time. Our operators used the N1MM+ logger and operated using 100w of power on the 20m and 40m bands.

We had a total of 13 Nashua Area Radio Club members who attended the preparation session and/or operated in the contest. Folks worked as teams during the contest with one person operating while another person logged. Our operators had nice pileups to work for a good portion of the contest. All of our Operators did really well. As you can see and hear from the linked video, we definitely have some future contest stars in our club!

2016 RR SSB Score

The table above shows the results of our operations during the 6 hour contest period. Our team did really well! Of particular note is that they were able to work 45 of the 70 available multipliers. It will take some time for the ARRL to put together the results for everyone in the contest but we believe that our team did very well.

Abby and Her Dad Jamey Operating in the ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB

Abby and her Dad Jamey Operating in the ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB

The results are in and N1FD took first place in the recent ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB in the Multi-op Category. The N1FD team was also #1 in area one and #5 overall in the contest. Congratulations to all of our operators – the did a great job operating in the contest. You can find all of the scores for the contest here.


We are planning to host recently licensed club members again for the ARRL Rookie Roundup RTTY and the ARRL Rookie Roundup CW contests later this year. We hope to see many of our operators back again for these contests.

Do you have a contest station?  If so, we’d like to encourage to host and Elmer some new hams and challenge us in the ARRL Rookie Roundup RTTY on August 21.

Becoming A Great Elmer

Teaching Amateur Radio License Classes

Teaching Amateur Radio License Classes

There is much being said and written these days about the importance of bringing new people, especially young people, into our Hobby. There are many obvious reasons for this. As we all get older or get busy with other aspects of our lives, some will leave the hobby. Also, we have the use of many commercially valuable portions of the RF spectrum and there is always pressure to reallocate bands or segments of bands which are not fully utilized. In my mind, the most important reason to bring new HAMs into our hobby has to do with the energy and new ideas that these folks bring to Amateur Radio. Amateur Radio has always been a learning hobby and new folks help us to keep this important part of what makes our hobby so much fun vibrant.

Anita (AB1QB) and I putting a lot of time and energy into getting folks started in Amateur Radio and helping them to build their skills and progress. Our Amateur Radio License Classes and the youth outreach work that we’ve been doing are two good examples of this. To make these efforts as successful as they can be, it’s also very important to provide good opportunities for folks who are new to various aspects of Amateur Radio to learn and gain experience. This means becoming an “Elmer” or a HAM Radio mentor to people who are less experienced in some part of the hobby than you are.

Perhaps the most challenging part of Amateur Radio for many new HAMs is making the transition from getting their initial license or a license upgrade, to getting on the air with their new privileges. I think that this is equally true for newly licensed folks and for folks who have upgraded to a higher license class and are looking to get onto the HF bands. It’s impossible to teach everything that one needs to get the most from their Amateur License in classes alone.

Help A Young Person Learn To Operate From Your Shack

Help A Young Person Learn To Operate From Your Shack

So what does effective Elmer’ing look like? I think that the answer is different for every HAM. For a new Tech, it may be as simple as helping the person to pick their first radio and antenna along with some help getting it programmed for the local repeaters. For a person upgrading their license to gain HF privileges, it is often about helping to get a first HF antenna up along with helping them to select equipment for and assemble a first HF station. All of these folks will also benefit from help getting on the air and learning to operate. Most of all, a great Elmer is someone who is willing to give their time to help a person who is new to an aspect of Amateur Radio learn and get started doing what they want to do.

I have personally found that being an Elmer to be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of Amateur Radio. Every time that I help someone get on the air for the first time or help someone to build their first HF antenna or station, I get the same enjoyment as when I did these things for the first time in my Amateur Radio experience.

Elmer’ing is also a great opportunity for the “Elmer” to learn new things. Newer or less experienced folks will have different things that they want to try or learn about than those things that we “Elmers” consider our “tried and true” Amateur Radio activities. A great Elmer will help the less experienced HAM take on these projects and learn along with them. This gives the less experienced person the confidence and support that they need to try more difficult projects with confidence. The learning experience associated with being an Elmer has often been the best part of the experience for me.

So how does one get started with Elmer’ing? You could open your station to newer HAMs and offer them a chance to get on the air and learn to operate. There is always someone looking to put up a new antenna or to repair an existing one. These are all great opportunities for Elmer’ing. Also, you could consider creating a presentation that you can deliver at your local radio club meetings as a way to share specialized knowledge or experience that you may have. If you are new licensed, perhaps you could help someone who is studying for their license exam with some of the areas that they are finding difficult. Also, new folks tend to have experience with computers and the Internet that many of the folks who have been in the hobby for a while can benefit from. This can be a 2-way Elmer’ing opportunity.

I hope that all of our readers will consider becoming an Elmer in some way. Your efforts to help someone new or less experienced can provide you with the satisfaction that you helped to make Amateur Radio a better hobby for everyone.

– Fred (AB1OC)