The Ham Radio Teepee, Cold and Wind

There’s not much I can say with the written word that would outdo what you can see in the video below.

Suffice it to say we had lots of fun building the teepee frame. Jim Cluett, W1PID, was not feeling well that day and even still we completed the frame in just 45 minutes.

The teepee is on some land I own and has a great vista to the south. The plan was to take advantage of solar radiation inside the teepee much like a greenhouse gets abundant warmth on winter days from the sun.

Three days passed after we constructed the frame and we decided to try shipping plastic wrap to protect us from the wind. It did a pretty good job, but a solid sheet of plastic will be better. That’s what you’ll see in the next outing!

Profile Falls in the Rain and Snow

“This could go on record as the worst day of the year to operate. I used to do this on my own years ago just to see if I could operate in bad weather. I’m only out here today because you’re here,” proclaimed Jim Cluett, W1PID.

It was a raw day indeed with a steady rain and the temperature hovering around 35 F. I worked outdoors for years as a homebuilder and have to tell you that days like today simply chill you to the bone more so than single-digit days. Mother Nature would not disappoint us.

We decided to go to Profile Falls just south of Bristol, NH to operate. It’s a delightful place.

“I’d love it if we could find a place with a shelter and picnic tables under it. There were many places like that in Cincinnati, OH where I grew up,” I said to Jim as we drove in the rain.

“Well, I don’t think we’ll find any and we’ll have to operate in the car,” Jim said.

“Look! There’s a shelter!”

Here's Jim inside the shelter. The only thing missing was a nice fireplace! Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s Jim inside the shelter. The only thing missing was a nice fireplace! Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I spied one as we came down the park road just north of the parking areas at Profile Falls. It was exactly what I envisioned and would provide a nice dry spot to operate from on the spacious picnic tables.

It didn’t take long to set up. Jim threw his water bottle up into a tree branch on the first try. It was a perfect throw and we had plenty of altitude to put up his resonant 20M dipole antenna. We set it up as a sloper with the other end tied to the water bottle in the snow.

Jim got on the air first with his Small Wonder Labs DSW rig putting out a stout 2 watts. Within a minute he had snagged Ben, DL5ANT in Germany. Jim got a 569 and Ben was into us with a booming 599.

Here's Jim doing his QSO with Ben, DL5ANT. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s Jim doing his QSO with Ben, DL5ANT. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I was next up because Jim had said he only wanted to do one QSO.

I plugged in the antenna to my HB-1B and immediately heard G3VBS coming in from England! He was right there on 14.058, the frequency I was on when I last used the HB-1B.

timatprofile

I’m pretty happy making a DX contact seconds after turning on the radio. Sometimes the band is deader than a doornail. Photo credit: Jim Cluett – W1PID

I had some trouble hearing him, but it was all me and my inexperience. I still have a long way to go on my CW journey. I did hear my RST at 549 and I gave him a well-deserved 599 as his signal was strong.

We packed up as soon as I finished up and headed for a warm cup of coffee.

If you want to add some additional flesh to this skeleton story, watch this video of the adventure!

 

Winter QRP Challenges and Staying Warm

At 7:35 a.m. this morning I was greeted with an email from my great QRP mentor Jim Cluett, W1PID. He’s always pithy and often has secret messages embedded his email.

Here’s what he sent:

“There is some chance I’ll go up the hill in Franklin today.”

That cryptic message really meant:

“Do you want to come with me out in the cold, claw our way to the top of the ice-crusted Veterans Memorial Ski Area hill to see why the Franklin 147.300 repeater is operating on battery power and do some QRP radio at the same time?”

Nine days earlier we had a wicked snowstorm in New Hampshire that caused massive power outages because of a heavy wet snow that brought down power lines all over the state.

It was cold when I read Jim’s message, just 15 F, but I saw the forecast was temperatures that might make it up to 30 F. It never made it, topping out at a brisk 26 F.

Jim and I met for lunch at the Tilton House of Pizza and he was kind enough to pay for the great food. We needed the energy for our adventure.

Mark Persson, W1DDI, joined us for the last half of lunch. He’s the repeater coordinator for our Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club and was happy we were going to go up to see what was going on with the repeater.

Jim and I had planned to take advantage of the altitude of the hill we were about to climb and do some HF work on 20 meters once we determined the problem with the repeater.

It didn’t take long to get to the site. You park at the base of the quaint Veteran’s Memorial Ski Area in Franklin, NH. This tiny ski hill is a piece of NH ski history as most ski areas fifty or more years ago were just like this before the mega resorts and taller ski hills sucked customers away like a tractor beam.

Just a day or so earlier we had a moderate snowfall followed by some freezing rain. This made the snow very slippery and crusty. To ascend the 225 feet of elevation change, you needed some sort of traction devices on your boots. Jim wore Yak Tracks and I put on my Kahtoola MicroSpikes.

 

Here's Jim putting on his Yak Tracks. They really give great traction on icy surfaces. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

Here’s Jim putting on his Yak Tracks. They really give great traction on icy surfaces. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

“I think we should use this trail made by the snowmobile to get to the top,” Jim said. It was a wise choice as the belt chewed up the snow and made the walk up the hill much easier.

The climb to the top only took about fifteen minutes with a few rest stops along the way. In no time we had determined that the power was out to the repeater shack. It was now time to set up an antenna before we got too cold.

While Jim was unpacking, I got out my tiny Baofeng UV-5R HT so I could attempt to help a fellow ham, Herm Weber – KB1RJC, activate a mountain 50 miles northeast of where Jim and I were. Herm’s a SOTA fan and was on 146.520 Mhz. When I heard him, I was in the middle of a minor pileup of hams waiting to talk to him.

As all this was going on Jim was getting ready to erect his 20-meter dipole antenna. We had decided to put it up as a sloper because it was faster and easier. One end of the antenna needed to be hoisted up into a juvevnile tree next to us.

We’ll never know what happened, it could have been a vitamin deficiency or a snowflake that flew into Jim’s eye, but his first attempt at getting the halyard line up and over the correct branch in the tree resulted in a wretched tangled water bottle stuck up just out of reach.

Here's Jim getting ready to hoist the amazing dipole antenna up into the tree. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

Here’s Jim getting ready to hoist the amazing dipole antenna up into the tree. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

Jim saw I was finishing my QSO with Herm and politely asked for my help in getting the water bottle down from the tree and the antenna up in the air. Within minutes we were on the air.

“We don’t have much time. By fooling around with this antenna, our hands are going to be too cold to operate,” Jim lamented.

“Quit your whining. Let’s get on the air and do a few QSOs,” I exclaimed ready to test out my improving CW skills.

It didn’t take Jim long, since he’s a CW and QRP pro, to snare XE1RK down in Mexico. Ralph was in Mexico City and gave Jim a solid 559. That’s not bad from the so-so antenna we had erected.

Next up was my QSO with Vic, WB2U. He was calling CQ and Jim helped me decypher some of Vic’s fist as I either had fluff in my ears or he was running his di’s and dah’s a little too close to one another for me.

Here I am working WB2U. The entire QSO was maybe 90 seconds. Photo credit: Jim Cluett, W1PID

Here I am working WB2U. The entire QSO was maybe 90 seconds. Photo credit: Jim Cluett, W1PID

I was using Jim’s outdoor key for the first time that works like half a paddle. I had a hard time hearing the side tone and my fist must have sounded horrible.

It was Jim’s turn next and he quickly found Sam, WZ4L down in TN. Sam gave Jim a 599 so the propagation, the little Yaesu 817 and the antenna were doing a superb job working south on that day.

“Let’s get going. My feet are cold and a cup of coffee sounds good about now.” Jim always is full of good advice and within a few minutes, all the gear was back in his day pack and we were headed down the hill.

Earlier in the day when the adventure was first floated, I thought it might be too cold to operate, but I was wrong. Had it been windy, we would have been frozen in minutes, but fortunately the wind was light. If the sun had been been out, we would have been snug as bugs in a rug.

As we were drinking our coffee and munching on our doughnuts, we relived the experience and were laughing out loud. I’m sure the young sales clerk thought we were two crazy old goats. Perhaps she’s right!

The Mysterious Ledges Sanbornton, NH

 

“I can go out today around 2 p.m. I’ll have all my work finished by then.”

I was talking on the phone to my very good friend and QRP outdoor radio buddy Jim Cluett, W1PID. We were going to take advantage of an exceptional late-summer bluebird day even though the temperatures in the upper 50’s F made it feel like an autumn day.

There wasn’t a cloud in the deep-blue sky.

“Where do you want to go?” Jim usually wants me to make the decision.

“I don’t know, but someplace different. Someplace I’ve not been too that’s spectacular. There has to be a place near us. You know all the places as you’ve been doing outdoor radio since the dinosaurs roamed the land.”

“The Ledges. Meet me at the parking area off exit 22 on I-93. Be on 146.52. We’ll be taking your truck.”

I’ve come to really respect Jim’s brevity in his conversations and his emails. He knows how to pack lots of information in a small space. When I was still building custom houses each day, my plasterer Jack Betch subscribed to the same philosophy – “Less said is better.”

The Ledges was created by a giant continental glacier that rode over Mt. Hersey just to the north. The glacier was flowing from the northwest and the south and southeast face of most mountains in New Hampshire is much steeper because the glacier plucked rocks from this face and carried them away. Image credit: Google Maps

The Ledges was created by a giant continental glacier that rode over Mt. Hersey just to the north. The glacier was flowing from the northwest and the south and southeast face of most mountains in New Hampshire is much steeper because the glacier plucked rocks from this face and carried them away. Image credit: Google Maps

Jim usually prefers to drive, so us taking my truck meant that we were going off road. I drive a monster Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4. It’s a beast and with it’s aggressive tires, we can go down rugged logging roads with little fear of getting stuck.

Once I picked Jim up, we were on our way.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been to this place. You’re going to love it.”

Just five minutes from exit 22 we had made the turn onto Wadleigh Road in Sanbornton, NH. Within 1,500 feet there was the telltale sign:

Class VI Road – No Town Maintenance From This Point On

Some Class VI roads in NH are not bad. Some are deeply rutted with giant muffler-and-gas-tank-grabbing rocks littering the two-track surfaces.

This road was not bad, yet.

“We have to travel quite a distance down this road. Maybe two miles. It past visits, I’ve walked much of the length because it was too muddy or the road condition was to rough for my car.”

Oh great, just what I wanted to hear as the paint-scratching trees started to get closer and closer and closer to my pristine red metallic paint job.

My Super Duty beast clawed it’s way down up and down little hills littered with basketball-sized rocks peeking up from the surface with no effort. With the stiff suspension in my truck, you don’t want to hit these going fast.

Because active logging was going on in the area, a previously overgrown road looked newer than the road we were on. At a fork, Jim told me to go right when we should have gone left.

No worries as we found the logger and he confirmed we needed to go back to the fork and take the other narrow track.

Fifteen minutes later the truck was parked off to the side and we were on foot heading to the mythical Ledges.

“We probably have a good 45 minutes to go before we get there.”

What? For goodness sakes, it was a little after 3:00 p.m.! Do the math. It was starting to sound like the two-hour canoe adventure in the spring that had me home after dark.

“We can’t miss the one turn off as we walk past this one camping area. If we do, who knows where we’ll end up. This is a very remote area and the closest house could be miles away.”

Gulp. You read about people getting lost in New Hampshire woods all the time. You can get lost in less than five minutes. It’s happened to me on my own 90-acre parcel!

Once we made the turn at the campground, the trail started to get narrow and the grade increased. It was a gorgeous trail littered with lots of brown pine needles.

Ten minutes later we came to a T in the trail. Right or left? Left was the way and we marked the way back with a large dead branch shaped like the letter Y.

The trail got steeper and steeper and we had to stop to catch our breath from time to time. This was a good sign as I knew the view would be spectacular the higher we got.

“We’re close, very close,” Jim said as I spied giant pieces of bedrock sticking up from the ground.

Here's Jim near the top of the trail. The Ledges is just behind him about 300 feet away. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s Jim near the top of the trail. The Ledges is just behind him about 300 feet away. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Minutes later I was walking through a rock maze of stunning beauty. It almost felt like we were on a different planet.

Fortunately it didn’t take 45 minutes, more like 20 if you subtract the time we spent peppering a piece of paper with bullets. Jim and I love to shoot when we go out.

“What do you think? Was it worth it?” Jim was peering out looking south to the horizon. Off in the distance you could see the massive Franklin Flood Control Dam, but it appeared to be made for ants from our perch.

Does this really need a caption? Jim soaking in the view to the south. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Does this really need a caption? Jim soaking in the view to the south. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I was pretty much speechless. The view was dazzling. I thought how lucky I was to be there and how other ham operators dream of doing what we were about to do. I’ve been doing so much outdoor radio, that I’ve started to think that everyone does it.

Guess what? Only a tiny handful of amateur radio operators do what Jim and I were doing.

Enjoying nature and activating a spot on the globe where no one has ever before set up a radio. In this instance it wasn’t true as Jim had been here before.

Within minutes we were both on the air. I had to go set up over a little knob in the trees because the speaker output from Jim’s KX3 was bleeding through my earphones causing a big distraction.

I can only hear CW at about 10 WPM it this point and must stay focused.

 

 

 

Cannon Mountain and The Flume Adventure

 

“Hey, where’s your rig?”

Jim Cluett, W1PID, was asking his long-time friend Dick Christopher, N1LT, that question as we were gathered outside all our cars in the NH Park-n-Ride lot at exit 23 on I-93. It was just before 10 a.m. on a sunny late-August day, August 28, 2014 to be exact.

“I didn’t bring one. I figured I could use one of yours.”

Jim immediately responded, “You’re not using mine, you swine.”

Laughter ensued, and I quickly added, “You can borrow my HB-1B. I don’t mind.”

Soon we were all packed into Paprika, the name we’ve given Jim’s handsome newer Subaru Forester, headed north to Cannon Mountain at the top of Franconia Notch.

“How could you go on a dxpedition without a rig?” Dick’s cavalier approach to the day’s outing was still gnawing at Jim, although I did sense a hint of teasing when he asked the question.

Forty minutes later we were walking across the parking lot at the base of the Cannon Mountain Tram towards the mighty machine that would whisk us to the top in just eight minutes.

“Holy moly, it looks like you were the only one that dressed right!” Jim was referring to my long pants that had the zip-off legs in case it was warm at the top. Both Jim and Dick had shorts only and with the air temperature just 61 F in the parking lot and a stiff breeze above, there was no doubt I made the right choice.

I also had a long-sleeved polyester tee shirt and a warm fleece. I put both on before we walked to get our tram tickets.

It was the day after a cold front had pushed through and I was certain we’d be blessed with blue skies and nearly unlimited vistas from the summit.

Instead the whiteboard at the ticket window said:

  • Summit Temperature: 51 F
  • Winds: 20-30 mph with higher gusts
  • Visibility: -0-

Ouch! That’s not perfect outdoor radio weather, but we were told the clouds were lifting and things would get better.

The tram to the top of Cannon Mountain runs every 15 minutes. As one goes up, another one comes down. The travel time is only about eight minutes giving the operators plenty of time to load and unload passengers at each end.

This is what we saw moments after arriving at the top of Cannon Mountain. The cloud ceiling was just above our heads, maybe by 60 feet. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

This is what we saw moments after arriving at the top of Cannon Mountain. The cloud ceiling was just above our heads, maybe by 60 feet. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

Once at the top, we exited the tram / restaurant building and headed for a location to set up our small QRP (low power) radios.

“Wow, it’s windy! Let’s find someplace in the sun and protected by trees,” Jim suggested as we made our way across the walking paths.

We setup just below where you see Dick with his yellow backpack on his back. Photo credit: Tim Carter- W3ATB

We setup just below where you see Dick with his yellow backpack on his back. Photo credit: Tim Carter- W3ATB

Minutes later we were in position and doing our best to get antennas up. The trees were not tall enough to allow us to erect vertical antennas, so both Jim and I had slopers.

You can see Jim's sagging sloper, but it allowed him to snag a guy in Ireland and a friend in NC. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

You can see Jim’s sagging sloper, but it allowed him to snag a guy in Ireland and a friend in NC. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

The band conditions left much to be desired. I was tuning around 20 meters and all I heard were crickets. Often you can hear ten or twenty stations, some strong some faint.

“I have a wretched antenna. I should be ashamed of myself,” Jim uttered as the wind blew and clouds passed over us like an express train rumbling through a station.

Soon the weather improved and it was very nice to see blue sky and puffy white clouds.

The WX got much better as you can see! Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

The WX got much better as you can see! Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I got skunked as did Dick, but Jim was able to tweak out two QSOs, one with a station in Ireland and another a weak station on 10 meters from North Carolina.

Here I am hunting for a QSO. I got skunked. That's never fun. Photo credit: Dick Christopher, N1LT

Here I am hunting for a QSO. I got skunked. That’s never fun. That’s Mt. Lafayette just behind me – one of the highest mountains in NH. Photo credit: Dick Christopher, N1LT

Soon it was time for lunch.

“Where are we eating lunch?” Jim polled both Dick and I and I suggested we could go back to the tram building and get a cup of hot coffee.

“I’m not eating in that stinkpot hole. We have this majestic scenery and we need to be out here. Follow me.” Jim had a plan and we were part of it.

Five minutes later we had arrived at a solid granite outcropping that faced Mt. Lafayette and allowed us to look down at the tiny sinuous blacktop ribbon of I-93 as it clawed it’s way from the valley up and over Franconia Notch.

Franconia Notch is perhaps most famous as the location of the Old Man of the Mountain – the logo and symbol of New Hampshire. This stone edifice crashed to the valley floor eleven years ago on an early spring morning.

Dick, N1LT, satisfying his thirst while Jim was satisfying his insatiable appetite for QSOs of any type, anytime, anywhere. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Dick, N1LT, satisfying his thirst while Jim, W1PID, was satisfying his insatiable appetite for QSOs of any type, anytime, anywhere. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

As we ate lunch, Jim got out his ICOM D-STAR HT. I brought mine too. We were full quieting into our Sanbornton, NH D-STAR repeater at 100 milliwatts! We talked to a man driving home from work in Germany as we munched on our food.

Once lunch was finished, it was time to head back down the mountain.

“Let’s go to The Flume!” I can’t remember if it was Dick or Jim’s idea, but ten minutes later we were at this magical geologic wonder that’s just below Franconia Notch.

Dick and Jim in the Flume. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Dick and Jim in the Flume. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

The Conway Granite that forms The Flume was created 200 million years ago. It was molten rock that was deep beneath the surface of the ground.

As it cooled, it cracked and the cracks were filled with a black, dense volcanic basalt rock that was softer than the granite.

Once the rock was uplifted because of Continental Drift forces, the softer basalt eroded creating the narrow flume that we walked up.

At the top of the flume, I saw a young couple that reminded me of Kathy, my wife, and myself. We honeymooned at this exact spot almost 40 years to the day.

The young woman was taking a photo of her male friend as he posed inside a natural cave at the top of the trail. She kissed him just after taking the photo.

“Why don’t you give me the camera and let me take a photo of the both of you in the cave? I want you do give him a deep kiss.”

They giggled and obliged me.

“We need more photos.” They laughed and I shot more of them as they were awash in the happiness of the moment. Minutes later Dick and I joined Jim who was anxious to keep moving.

“Why did you stop and talk to them and take their photos?” Jim was shaking his head not having any history of what The Flume meant to me.

“I’m in the happiness business in case you’ve not noticed. I bring scads of happiness into people’s lives. They’ll have those photos and the memories of the old goat who took them for decades.”

“Let’s just go find a place to get more QSOs,” was Jim’s response.

It didn’t take long. We dove off the main trail up an overgrown service pathway and found an ideal spot to put up a vertical wire.

See, I told you I was in the happiness business. I obliged Jim allowing him to make these QSOs! :-) Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

See, I told you I was in the happiness business. I obliged Jim allowing him to make these QSOs! :-) Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Within 20 minutes Jim had two or three more QSOs. He was in hog heaven.

An hour later we were back at the parking lot and headed home. It was a day I’ll never forget!

 

 

 

CNHARC Fox Hunt Prizes

The Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club will have a fox hunt on Tuesday, August 5th.

Below are prizes that will be given away to some lucky club members.

The impact driver, linesman’s pliers and wire cutters go to the top teams finding the fox. The actual winner of the prize will the the team member pulling the shortest straw at the after-hunt party back at the Gilford Community Church. Good luck!

The generator prize is a raffle prize. Tickets are $2 each or three for $5.

Tim Carter, W3ATB, donated the brand new Klien wire cutters, Klein linesman’s pliers and the Rockwell 16-volt impact driver kit.

Dick Christopher, N1LT, donated the brand new two-stroke 1000-watt generator.

Do you have some nice gear or ???? to donate so all hunters win something? EMAIL ME now if you do.

This is the FIRST PRIZE. It's awarded to the team that is the first to find the fox.

This is the FIRST PRIZE. It’s awarded to the team that is the first to find the fox. It’s BRAND NEW – never been used. It comes with TWO batteries, a charger, and a soft case.

This is the SECOND PRIZE - awarded to the second team to find the fox.

This is the SECOND PRIZE – awarded to the second team to find the fox. It’s a BRAND NEW pair of pliers, not something I dusted off from my shop.

This is the THIRD PRIZE - awarded to the third team to locate the fox.

This is the THIRD PRIZE – awarded to the third team to locate the fox. These are BRAND NEW Glow-in-the-Dark wire cutters. They’ve NEVER BEEN USED.

This 1000-watt two-stroke generator will be RAFFLED off to anyone coming to the club meeting. Ticket prices are $2 each or 3 tickets for $5. Proceeds go to the club general fund.

This 1000-watt two-stroke generator will be RAFFLED off to anyone coming to the club meeting. Ticket prices are $2 each or 3 tickets for $5. Proceeds go to the club general fund.

CNHARC 2014 Membership Survey

The following survey has been developed in an attempt to make the Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club (CNHARC) one of the best in New England.

We’re trying to match up club members with similar interests.

If you’re a member of CNHARC, please take the survey. If you’re NOT a member, consider joining the club as an active member or as a Friend of CNHARC. Then come back here and take the survey.

Each person that completes the survey will be entered into a drawing to win a brand new Fein Multimaster power tool. Please no duplicate entries. Multiple entries will be squelched.

Here are some survey facts:

  • Your data will be put in a database and shared with other CNHARC members ONLY
  • The survey will remain open for entries until August 31, 2014
  • The drawing for the tool will happen at the September CNHARC meeting
  • ALL of the questions below are REQUIRED. You must make a selection or entry for each question
There are grinding blades, sanding pads, etc. that can be used with this tool.

There are grinding blades, sanding pads, etc. that can be used with this tool.

 




Name:
Email Address:
What is your call sign?
What are the TOP THREE THINGS that interest you in ham radio? Your answers will be put in a database and shared with all members of CNHARC. (Examples: DX, contests, kit building, public service, CW, antennas, etc.)
Cliff, N1RCQ, needs three assistants to help come up with meeting ideas and make them happen. Are you interested in helping Cliff make our meetings the best in NH? Yes, I want to help!

I can’t help now, but maybe in a few months.

No, I’m not interested in this part of the club

Lee, KB1GNI, puts together The Communicator each month. Do you like putting together puzzles and playing with text and photos? Can you help Lee in some way with The Communicator? Yes, I want to help!

I can’t help now, but maybe in a few months.

No, I’m not interested in this part of the club

Do you want to see CNHARC Field Day happen in 2015? Are you willing to commit now to help Dick, N1LT make it happen? Yes, I want to help!

I can’t help now, but maybe in a few months.

No, I’m not interested in this part of the club

CNHARC needs helpers to put together parties and other special events. Clayton, N1VAU, has stepped up to volunteer. Will you commit to help Dave, KA1VJU, Peggy, KB1GQV and Clayton to make our social gatherings some of the best in the state? Yes, I want to help!

I can’t help now, but maybe in a few months.

No, I’m not interested in this part of the club

Would you like to participate AND help organize Fun Days we operate our radios? For example, we could revive the Old Man special event, how about celebrate Marconi or Tesla’s birthday, how about an all-morning fox hunt, our own VHF contest? Think of the possibilities of what we can do operating. Yes, I want to help!

I can’t help now, but maybe in a few months.

No, I’m not interested in this part of the club

ARRL Centennial Convention Full Report

 

“Hey you guys. We should go to the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT in July. It’s an historic event – 100 years of amateur radio. I can stay with my kids and you two can bunk in a nearby motel.”

Those words of wisdom were spoken by Dick Christopher, N1LT, the founder of the Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club. Dick, Jim Cluett – W1PID and I were sitting in a booth in a small restaurant in Laconia, NH having lunch on a spring day in May when this profound advice was brought up in conversation.

“This sounds like a perfect adventure. Tim, why don’t you book the room for us,” said Jim.

This is where we were headed, the convention center in downtown Hartford, CT. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

This is where we were headed, the convention center in downtown Hartford, CT. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

A few days later I had locked in a room at the Holiday Inn in East Hartford. The location turned out to be magnificent as it was just a ten-minute walk across the Connecticut River from the hotel to the convention center.

Little did we know that people from all around the globe were making, or had already made, plans to attend. I have no idea all of the countries that were represented, but I personally talked to radio operators from Australia, Japan and the UK. Jim, Dick and I would only have to travel 189 miles to the convention while others would come over 11,000 miles to become part of history.

No real need for a caption, wouldn't you say? Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

No real need for a caption, wouldn’t you say? Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

As the convention loomed, Dick decided he was not going to be able to make it, so it was just Jim and I that decided to make the sprint the first day from the misty and foggy Sanbornton, NH down to Hartford, CT.

It was just before 6 a.m. on Thursday July 18, 2014 when I picked up Jim at his house and showed him where to hang his dress shirt, pants and blazer in my beastly Ford F-250 Super Duty truck that would whisk us to the gathering of amateur radio enthusiasts.

“Good morning! Are you ready for our little man self-discovery trip?” Jim was awake, but it was still early and too much conversation at this hour of the morning was probably not a great idea.

“Yes. Let’s get going!” And off we were!

Three hours later we were pulling into the hotel parking lot. Brenda checked us into a great room on the second floor, we stowed our backpacks and were walking to the convention center by 9:20 a.m. to get our badges and show program.

Once at the convention center, Jim and I got our credentials that gave us access to the exposition hall, the lectures and all special events. Jim happens to know Kay Craigie, the current president of the ARRL and has known her husband, Carter Craigie for nearly twelve years.

Kay Craigie, current ARRL president, is presenting me with the rare gold ARRL Centennial coin commemorating the historic convention. Photo credit: Carter Craigie

Kay Craigie, current ARRL president, is presenting me with the rare gold ARRL Centennial coin commemorating the historic convention. Photo credit: Carter Craigie

Because of this relationship, Jim decided it was a good idea to attend the fancy banquet on Friday night and the President’s breakfast on Saturday morning. I didn’t have those events printed on my badge so I was on my own for both of these times. I decided to have dinner with a couple of my AsktheBuilder.com newsletter subscribers on Friday night.

Minutes after walking away from the registration area, who do we run into but Carter Craigie! He was wearing his official ARRL staff gold polo shirt and he and Jim exchanged gracious “Hellos!” and “How have you beens?”.

Jim introduced me to Carter and he said, “My, you have a wonderful last name!” His distinctive and friendly western-Virginia accent was a perfect match for his vibrant personality. Jim and Carter met years ago on the air working each other in CW sprint contests. It didn’t take long for them to become great friends.

The three of us entered the exposition area and started to look at all of the glorious eye candy at each of the booths. New radios, antennas, and hand-crafted CW keys from the master craftsman, Pietro Begali were all on display. It was Christmas in July.

Here is Pietro Begali, founder of Begali Keys. Jim was entranced by the deluxe works of art, almost too beautiful to use. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here is Pietro Begali, founder of Begali Keys. Jim was entranced by the deluxe works of art, almost too beautiful to use. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

“Are you guys ready for some lunch? Let’s go over to that Subway restaurant that’s attached to the Science Center.” Jim is always full of sensible advice. It was about 11:35 a.m. and his intent was to beat the lunch crowd.

Other ham operators had the same idea not wanting to eat the pricey food offered at the convention center and we sat with a husband/wife team who had come from southern California to the event.

Here's a nice wall people could post their QSL cards and business cards. My QSL card is right there in the middle. Look closely. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s a nice wall people could post their QSL cards and business cards. My QSL card is right there in the middle. Look closely. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Soon we were back on the convention floor walking by each and every booth. Along the way Jim would stop and talk with old friends, especially the men manning the New England QRP Club.

Jim loves QRP (radio work done with 5 or less watts of power) and has become good friends with many of the people who gravitate to this part of the hobby. He’s gotten me deeply interested in low-powered radio and the magic of making contacts with just a few watts of power.

“I need some fresh air,” Jim mumbled after a couple more hours of roaming the giant cavern some call a convention center. We’d been inside the exposition hall now for a while and it’s devoid of any windows or connection to the outside world.

Carter, Jim and I decided to take the escalator down to the lowest level and sit on a wall that was under some shade trees in a nice oval raised garden that was at the street entrance of the convention center.

I led the way and was quick to notice the grass was flattened by something. Soon it was clear to me from the soft soil the underground sprinkler system has just given the grass and trees a drink of water.

“I’m ready for some ice cream. Find us some Tim.” Jim declared. Carter said he’d gladly imbibe on some of the soft and cold belly expander looking at his Fitbit pedometer.

“I’ve already walked 3,874 steps today and burned 854 calories, so I deserve some ice cream,” he proclaimed.

I pulled out my smart phone and used it to locate the closest ice cream stores.

Out of the corner of my eye while doing my research I noticed Jim was taking off his shoe. What the hell? Why was he doing that?

“Whoa! This grass is WET!” Jim had decided to soothe his sore feet by walking around the soft grass. But now he had saturated his one sock and everyone knows how horrible cold wet socks are.

The arrow tip marks the spot where Jim saturated his sock. You can see the drying wall to the right, the curved white line. Image credit: Google Maps

The arrow tip marks the spot where Jim saturated his sock. You can see the drying wall to the right, the curved white line. Image credit: Google Maps

“Take it off and go put it on the wall over there in the sun so it will dry,” I said. The sun was intense and a nice constant breeze would have that sock dry in no time.

Jim put the sock on the wall in the sun and came back over to sit in the shade. Minutes later he was up walking towards the sock.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m getting ready to go get ice cream.”

“There’s no way your sock is going to be dry. Are you an idiot?”

By now Carter was howling with laughter at the banter Jim and I were exchanging about his wet sock.

Jim came back, sat down on the wall, and held his sock trying to will it to dry.

“There’s no way the sock is going to dry in your hand. Get it back in the sun you languid dolt.”

“I’m going to go get ice cream and don’t try to stop me.”

Minutes later we were on a crusade to Yogi’s Dairy Bar at 187 Asylum Street.

This is the way to Yogi's! Image credit: Google Maps

This is the way to Yogi’s! Image credit: Google Maps

“Where is it?” We were standing confounded at 185 Asylum Street and there was no Yogi’s, just a tall sterile office building that had a bank on the first floor.

“Oh Tim, you and your phone let us down. There’s no ice cream here.”

I was frustrated that I’d not called to make sure Yogi’s was still in business. The three of us started to turn around and walk back.

“What are you guys looking for?” A complete stranger had come up to us after noticing our confusion and overhearing our conversation.

“We’re trying to find 187 Asylum Street and Yogi’s Dairy Bar, but the building number here is 185,’ said Carter.

“It’s right up there on the second level. Go in the door, up the escalator and right at the top you’ll be greeted by a beautiful woman, the owner.” Little did we know it, but a lifelong Hartford, CT resident named Dean had come to our rescue.

Minutes later a gorgeous middle-aged oriental woman was dishing up ice cream for us. Jim was kind enough to pay for it and while we were enjoying the frozen treats at small tables next to the shop, Dean came up and sat with us.

He told us stories of him growing up in Hartford and how when he was a kid, the entire city was ruled by the Italian mafia. You didn’t spit on the sidewalk or litter without being punished.

“The streets used to be so clean here you could eat off them, but now it’s all changed. Hartford is nothing like it used to be when I was growing up,” lamented Dean. His long gray hair, accent and tough attitude made it clear he was connected and was telling the truth about everything Hartford.

It was time to head back to the convention center and hotels to get ready for the evening.

Around 4:20 p.m. Jim and I found ourselves back at the Holiday Inn and were trying to unwind. We had both been up for nearly twelve hours and on the go for the past ten.  It was time for a little siesta.

I set my alarm for 5:30 p.m. which would give me plenty of time to wash up and make it to my dinner engagement at 6:00 p.m. Believe it or not I was to meet my friends at the wet-sock oval.

“Why didn’t you warn me that you snore? I may have to call down and get a separate room for myself.” Jim was giving me a play-by-play of me drifting off to sleep on my back 30 minutes before. The short power nap was just what I needed.

“Oh, you’ll get over it like a bad cold,” was my reply.

Jim continued to rib me about it and seemed genuinely worried that his slumber would be submarined by my creation of countless ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’s that would fill the room in about four or five hours.

We headed out the door, walked across the grand pedestrian walkway bridge just across the street from the hotel parking lot and within minutes we had split up Jim going to the banquet and me to have dinner with my friends. We agreed to meet back up at 8:30 p.m.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Tyler (in red) and Michael Lorello at dinner. We shared great stories and fantastic food fare! Thanks Tom and Mike for sharing your evening with me. Photo credit: Our nice young waitress

I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Tyler (in red) and Michael Lorello at dinner. We shared great stories and fantastic food fare! Thanks Tom and Mike for sharing your evening with me. Photo credit: Our nice young waitress

I arrived at the empty convention center at 8:20 p.m. that was being attended to by the convention janitorial staff. They were working very hard to make the building spotless for all of us the next morning.

Minutes later Jim texted me wondering where I was in the building. Soon we were walking back across the bridge in the dusky light and joined in a conversation with an Australian ham operator. What a wonder to talk to a man who felt the need to travel 12,000 miles to be part of a celebration of another country’s radio society! I don’t know if I’d ever even consider going to an Australian Radio 100th-year anniversary!

“I hope you don’t keep me awake all night. I’ve got these four pillows to throw at you if you try.”

“Hah, my daughter tried that years ago when she’d go with me to building and remodeling conventions. I’ll tell you now I’m immune to pillow strikes.”

“Hey, let’s see if Mark, W1DDI is on D-STAR,” Jim exclaimed.

Unfortunately Mark was back in NH riding his Harley in the glorious warm and dry NH weather. He texted Jim saying he was out on his bike.

“Hey, who put the thermostat at 69 F?” Jim had set it to 70 and really wanted it probably closer to 74 F while we slept.

“I don’t know.” I was lying of course.

“Well, you don’t have the arctic blast of air blowing across you.” Jim had taken the bed closest to the window and the wall HVAC unit air ducts were aimed at him just six feet away.

Minutes later I was comatose. My guess is Jim fell asleep not too much later.

“You slept like a baby. You snored a little when you first fell asleep on your back, but then you rolled over and it stopped.” Jim was one happy guy that his sleep had only been minimally disturbed.

“Do you want to hear my new plan? I say we go down and eat breakfast here at the hotel then I go over and just grab a cup of coffee at the President’s breakfast.”

“That sounds good to me. Let’s head down about 7:30 or so,” I replied.

Before we left for breakfast I uttered, “I discovered something last night.”

“What?”

“That I can sleep in a room that’s 94 F with zero air circulation.”

“Oh come on, it wasn’t that hot. But I guess the room is a little stuffy now that you mention it.”

An hour later, after Jim had checked news on his tablet and I had caught up on email on my laptop, we were downstairs eating a hot buffet breakfast.

“Look who’s over there Jim! Pietro Begali!” Next to the window eating his breakfast was, perhaps, the finest craftsman of hand-made CW keys in the world. Mr. Begali hails from Italy and has been making precision radio gear for nearly five decades.

We sat at the table next to Pietro and Jim thanked him again for his contributions to the hobby. After saying goodbyes to Mr. Begali, Jim and I went back to the room, grabbed our gear, checked out and stowed it in my truck. We then headed back to the convention center.

Once there, Jim headed up to grab his cup of coffee at the President’s breakfast and I decided to go down into the main lobby and interview some fellow hams.

The first two I found were Japanese radio enthusiasts, Ritsu Seo and Nozomu Takahashi. We chatted about why they came so far and I thanked them for their diligence and determination to make such a journey.

They bowed to me and Ritsu handed me a gorgeous dual flag lapel pin that features the American and Japanese flags. Nozumu gave me a small snack bag of crispy french fries that I’ve yet to open. I felt like a loser having no gift other than my business card to give in return. The Japanese are so very polite and gracious. I could learn volumes from these two men.

Ritsu is on the left and Nozumu is on the right. Two very polite men. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Ritsu is on the left and Nozumu is on the right. Two very polite men. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I then found several other hams to interview. I could have spent the entire time doing interviews if I wanted, there were so many interesting folks at the convention.

Just after 9 a.m. Jim texted me and we found each other in the lobby.

We visited a few booths again, talked with some of Jim’s QRP buddies and then headed down to the lower level to board the bus that would take us to the ARRL headquarters several miles from the convention center.

The trip to the ARRL headquarters was the highlight of the trip for me. Seeing the massive antenna farm surrounding the historic W1AW brick building was inspiring. The inside of this majestic building was bustling with activity. All of the radio studios were busy with hams that had scheduled time to operate using the legendary W1AW call sign.

Built in 1938, this could be the epicenter of amateur radio in the entire world. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Built in 1938, this could be the epicenter of amateur radio in the entire world. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Each of these operators left the building with a fancy inscribed certificate noting their achievement of being on the air at W1AW. I can’t wait to come back to do this myself and plan to organize a club outing to do just this possibly in the fall of 2014.

Here I am just outside of the main door of the ARRL headquarters. The man in the granite is the father of amateur radio - Hiram Percy Maxim. Photo credit: Jim Cluett - W1PID

Here I am just outside of the main door of the ARRL headquarters. The man in the granite is the father of amateur radio – Hiram Percy Maxim. Photo credit: Jim Cluett – W1PID

“What the hell? How did you get in the magazine?” I stood there astonished looking at a full-color page of the upcoming QST magazine and there was a full-page article written by Jim about what’s not going to change about the hobby in the next 100 years.

Jim and I were in the editorial department of the ARRL headquarters and on the wall was a full-color print out of the September edition of QST. It’s scheduled to go to the printer on July 22nd, so I guess they print it out one page at a time to see exactly how it’s going to appear.

“Maybe that green magic marker line through the page means it’s been cut from the issue.” Since many of the pages had this same slash across it, I felt it meant the draft copy was fine and free of errors.

I’ve known for a few years Jim’s an excellent writer, but I had no idea I was in the presence of a celebrity. It’s a big deal to have a full-page column in the QST magazine!

An ARRL staff member sorting traditional paper QSL cards to be sent to ham operators in the USA and around the world. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

An ARRL staff member sorting traditional paper QSL cards to be sent to ham operators in the USA and around the world. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

After the tour was over, we were dropped off by bus at the convention center. We made one last trip to the exposition hall where I was able to get five additional gold commemorative ARRL coins to give away as prizes at club functions.

Jim and I grabbed another lunch from Subway eating it outdoors under some trees on the plaza immediately between the convention center and the pedestrian bridge that separated us from the waiting truck that would take us back to NH.

As we drove back home, Jim fired up his D-STAR HT and he talked with a gentleman from Wales. The audio on D-STAR was so clear I thought the man was sitting behind us in the truck.

Jim and I grabbed a celebratory coffee ice cream at the NH liquor store rest stop just north of the I-93 toll booth. Have I ever told you about Jim’s addiction to ice cream? It’s bad, real bad.

Here I am clowning around taking notes about what I saw at the convention. Photo credit: Jim Cluett - W1PID

Here I am clowning around taking notes about what I saw at the convention. Photo credit: Jim Cluett – W1PID

An hour later I had dropped of Jim at his house and was on my way home. During the remainder of the drive, I reflected on all the laughs and good times we had in the past 36 hours. In that short time period we had so much fun and saw so many cool things, it’s probably illegal.

My only regret is not attending some of the great one-hour presentations made by some of the leaders in the hobby. I can tell you I’ve been to many conventions before, but this one was the best value of all I’ve attended in my entire life. If you have the opportunity to attend a future amateur radio convention, be sure to do it and take a friend. Just watch out for wet socks and those who like to sleep on their backs!

 

Portable Multiband Antenna Mast and Support

I’ve been doing public service amateur radio work since June of 2011. Frequently we need to erect a stable 2-meter antenna to get great simplex coverage at some of the events we work.

A few years ago I was introduced to the durable and versatile military surplus aluminum tubing that connects together with male / female ends. There’s even an interlocking tab so the tubes don’t spin.

Here's a section of the aluminum tubing. Each piece has an effective length of 29.5 inches. It's 1 and 5/8-inch OD. The male end extends into the female end of the next piece 4 inches. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s a section of the aluminum tubing. Each piece has an effective length of 29.5 inches. It’s 1 and 5/8-inch OD. The male end extends into the female end of the next piece 4 inches. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

At one event I saw a fellow ham use a patio umbrella stand to support the mast tubing. To ensure the mast didn’t fall over, the base plate of the umbrella stand was held to the ground by the tire of the ham’s truck.

I thought the umbrella stand design could be improved upon so I talked one day with a fellow ham, John Haven, KC1AAG. I drew up a rough sketch on a piece of cardboard to show John and he thought about how to add the bolts and make the base as light as possible using a ring of metal instead of a solid plate of steel.

The steel ring was a brilliant idea. My guess is the entire support weighs less than 20 pounds. You won’t be taking this backpacking, but for a field setup where you operate in the vicinity of your car or truck, it’s a good thing to consider. I think the photos do a good job of explaining what’s going on.

Be sure to watch the video below of one of these masts being erected by my fellow club members.

Here's the completed antenna mast support. The yellow and black iron ring is 17 inches in diameter. The galvanized pipe is 17 inches tall and has an ID of 2 inches. Holes were drilled into the side of the pipe so the bolts can secure the mast to eliminate wobble. It's one-half-inch bolt material with a nut welded to the pipe. A small piece of grounding rod is welded to the end of the bolts so you need no tools in the field to secure the antenna mast. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s the completed antenna mast support. The yellow and black iron ring is 17 inches in diameter and 3/8-inch thick steel. The galvanized pipe is 17 inches tall and has an ID of 2 inches. Holes were drilled into the side of the pipe so the bolts can secure the mast to eliminate wobble. It’s one-half-inch bolt material with a nut welded to the pipe. A small piece of grounding rod is welded to the end of the bolts so you need no tools in the field to secure the antenna mast. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Here's a close up of the bolt setup. You don't want to tighten these too tight as the aluminum tubing is soft. You're just trying to prevent movement. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s a close up of the bolt setup. You don’t want to tighten these too tight as the aluminum tubing is soft. You’re just trying to prevent movement. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Here's the male end of the aluminum tubing. You can see the tab that interlocks with a notch on the female end. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s the male end of the aluminum tubing. You can see the tab that interlocks with a notch on the female end. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

John Haven, KC1AAG, fabricated this mast support based on a design he and I collaborated on. He was able to stamp my call sign into the base! He had to use a letter "E" for the number 3. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

John Haven, KC1AAG, fabricated this mast support based on a design he and I collaborated on. He was able to stamp my call sign into the base! He had to use a letter “E” for the number 3. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Here's the mast up without my truck parked on the base. There was no wind, so it was safe to put this up for the photo. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s the mast up without my truck parked on the base. There was no wind, so it was safe to put this up for the photo. The tubing you see here is 25 feet tall. If you go any taller, you should stabilize the mast with guy wires. If you operate where it’s windy, you should probably attach guy wires to a mast this tall. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

CRK-10A CW Transceiver Review

 

Yesterday my good friend Jim Cluett, W1PID, gave me a very cool present. It’s a crystal-controlled tiny pocket radio – the CRK-10A CW transceiver. It transmits on a single frequency, 7.030 Mhz, and it receives across a wider band.

Here is the little guy. This radio measures just a tad over 4 inches long, it's just under 2.5 inches wide and about an inch thick. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here is the little guy. This radio measures just a tad over 4 inches long, it’s just under 2.5 inches wide and about an inch thick. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

The CRK is an acronym for Chinese Radio Kits. The tiny rig operates on a wide range of power levels from 9 to 15 volts DC. At 12 volts DC power, the manufacturer states it will output 3 watts.

The case seems to be made from a painted aluminum channel. It’s hard to tell since it has a black finish on it. Whatever it is, it’s LIGHT! The little rig can’t weigh but 8 ounces, maybe less.

This radio is a power MISER. When you transmit, it only gobbles up 500 mA and while you listen for stations to operate, it gently tugs just 15 mA of power from a battery pack.

You can read all the technical specifications and see great color photos of the circuit board before, during and after assembly of all the tiny parts by clicking here.

The tiny SW button on the front of the radio allows you adjust the speed of a paddle keyer like I use. You can use a straight key too. This same button allows you to also enter in your call sign so the radio will automatically start to send out a CQ for you.

The CFM button allows you to determine where an incoming frequency is either up or down the frequency range of the receiver. You do this by listening to a tone change as you press the button. It’s a very cool feature.

The antenna connects with a standard BNC connector on the back of the radio.

Why would you be interested in this radio? I can think of several reasons:

  • it’s challenging to gather QSOs on just one frequency
  • it’s challenging to pull out a signal from other background signals that are competing for your attention
  • it’s a dandy emergency radio if you’re out on a hike as the preset 7.030 frequency is quite active

I tested it using my large multi-band dipole antenna that I use for my primary shack radio. I tuned it perfectly to 40 meters then connected the antenna to the BNC connector on the back of the radio.

In a few seconds I had my micro Pico Paddles connected as well as my earphones. The last thing you want to connect is the power supply via a 2.1 mm standard jack.

The little radio is powered up, connected to the antenna and it's receiving. I just need to put in the earphones and start sending CQ! Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

The little radio is powered up, connected to the antenna and it’s receiving. I just need to put in the earphones and start sending CQ! Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Instantly I heard signals! I called CQ  and within 15 seconds was answered by K1PUG in CT. He was so loud I had to pull the earphones out of my ears. Realize there’s no volume control with this little rig.

In less than a minute, I had my first QSO with this fun radio.

My friend Jim told me this is a copied design from the Rockmite radio first introduced by Dave Benson, K1SWL, the founder of Small Wonder Labs. Dave introduced the Rockmite at the 2002 Lobstercon.