Fay State Forest NH – K-4900 POTA

fay state forest nh

Here I am on the loop trail at Fay State Forest in New Hampshire. I didn’t expect it to be as gorgeous as it was. I’ll be back for sure in the fall. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Fay State Forest – An Enchanted Tiny Woodland

Today I activated Fay State Forest in New Hampshire as part of the Parks on the Air (POTA) program. I did it with loads of help from my outdoor radio and CW mentor, Jim Cluett – W1PID.

Kay State Forest is a small 200-acre piece of pristine forest just west of both Route 3 and Lincoln, NH.  The southern boundary of the forest shares the Woodstock, NH  northern town line.

You can see Fay State Forest. Copyright 2018 OpenStreetMap.org

It’s an undeveloped piece of land with no roads or improvements on it whatsoever. We discovered a small gravel turnout on Route 3 just 100 feet north of the sign welcoming you into Woodstock.

fay state forest nh

Here’s Jim getting ready to wander up into Fay State Forest. We were lucky to find this turnout on the west side of Route 3 just north of the Woodstock town line. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Much to our surprise, there was a well-worn footpath leading you into the magic forestland. We were glad to not have to bushwack up into the trees to find a place to set up my Elecraft KX2 radio.

The Fay State Forest Loop Trail

Jim and I saw what appeared to be a loop trail and we made a left turn to proceed clockwise around the trail. The path was covered with a carpet of soft brown pine needles. It was like walking on a pillow.

Giant boulders plucked from the bedrock by the last period of Continental Glaciation were strewn about the forest. We even contemplated setting up on top of one that must have been 15 feet tall and 60, or more, feet in circumference.

fay state forest glacial boulder

This boulder may not look that big, but it was huge. Six people could easily sit on top and not be crowded. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

After walking just ten minutes we could tell we were on our way back to my truck so we decided to use a massive 200-foot-tall pine tree as our antenna support.

Jim used my water bottle and made a remarkable throw at least 50 feet up into the air snagging the perfect branch so we’d have a vertical antenna. He wanted me to make the throw at first to a higher branch, but I thought the challenge was too great.

This is just part of the giant pine tree! I cut off at least 12 feet at the bottom and the top of the tree must be 100 feet, or more, higher than the top of the photo. That yellow line is the halyard ready to pull up my 29-foot 26-gauge antenna wire. A 9:1 unun is attached to the bottom of the wire and a 25-foot coax cable stretches back to the radio. The top of the antenna was about 42 feet off the ground. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Little did I know he’d carry the day in more ways than just this throw.

Switch From Plan A to Plan B

Earlier in the day, I had posted on the POTA Scheduled Activations page that I’d be on the air by 1730 UTC, or 1:30 PM Eastern Time. Jim and I were set up and on the air seven minutes early.

While I had posted the frequencies I’d be on, 20, 30, and 40 meters, I didn’t post a specific frequency. That’s hard to do because you never know if that frequency is already in use when you power up your radio.

I called CQ POTA W3ATB W3ATB K4900 K several times hoping the skimmers would hear me and/or a POTA chaser operator. No one answered my call.

My signal was heard by two skimmers, but it wasn’t enough to alert POTA chaser operators who might answer my call all at the same time. When that happens, you get a mini pile-up. I was hoping for that to happen as we drove to the forest.

You can see my call sign and the 1730 UTC time stamp for today. The Reverse Beacon Network is an amazing tool that helps you see who’s hearing your signal and how strong it is.

After five minutes of growing frustration, Jim said, “Spin the dial and go find someone and make a QSO.”

Thank the Contesters!

We were fortunate that we did this activation on a weekend. Long ago Jim taught me that low-powered outdoor radio is very likely the toughest thing to do.

The conditions can be challenging, the antenna might be marginal, and you’re lucky to be transmitting at, or above, 5 watts. If you don’t know much about amateur radio, that’s the amount of power you use to illuminate an incandescent night light.

It didn’t take long for us to find activity. Fortunately, there were quite a few signals on 20 meters. The Kansas QSO party was in full swing and my log book started to fill up with contacts. We needed ten to activate this rare POTA entity. I was the first person in the USA to attempt an activation here, so I wanted to get the required ten contacts.

My fourth contact was a DX one, OZ2TF, in Denmark. I was quite happy to see my signal was bouncing well off the waters of the Atlantic Ocean! Jim and I are lucky to live in New Hampshire and we regularly log European stations because the nearby ocean helps reflect our weak signals eastward.

We milked 20 meters for all we could and switched to 40 meters. The Ohio QSO party stations were booming into us and in short order, we hit the required ten contacts. I was elated and Jim was happy to help log contacts.

I’m pretty happy about my log book filling up with contacts. Victory! First to activate Fay State Forest K-4900. Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

Here’s my log:

Call Sign                  Time                        Frequency             Signal Report

W0K 1738 UTC 14.044 599
N0C 1745 UTC 14.049 599
NS8G 1750 UTC 14.045 599
OZ2TF 1755 UTC 14.050 599
K0N 1759 UTC 14.031 599
W0S 1800 UTC 14.030 599
K8AJS 1808 UTC 7.045 599
N8BJG 1810 UTC 7.047 599
KE8G 1811 UTC 7.041 599
KI8R 1813 UTC 7.046 599
W8ERD 1824 UTC 14.046 599

A Learning Experience at Fay State Forest K-4900 POTA

I have to admit the day turned out far different than what I envisioned. While driving to Kay State Forest I said to Jim, “Today you’re going to see what a well-oiled machine can do during a POTA activation.” Jim wisely didn’t respond. He’s more an actions-speak-louder-than-words type of guy.

Here are my main takeaways from today’s adventure at Fay State Forest:

  • If operating QRP, low power, then, by all means, favor contesting days
  • Don’t underestimate your ability to sling a water bottle 60 feet into the air
  • Respect solar minimums
  • Always invite a seasoned outdoor operator on a POTA activation

I’m very satisfied with the results of this activation, but as I drove back down I-93 I thought about how much I still have to learn. Just a few weeks ago I pronounced to Jim during the QRP Bumblebee contest I was a flippin’ operator. After today I wonder if I shouldn’t dial that assessment back a notch or two.

2018 NJ Skeeter Hunt

nj skeeter hunt

That’s me in the green t-shirt. N1LT, Dick Christopher, is in the plaid shirt and W1PID, Jim Cluett, is in the blue polo shirt. Dick forced me to upgrade to General six years ago and Jim has been patiently teaching me outdoor radio and CW. What a thrill to be out with both of these QRP radio giants. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

The 2018 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt radio contest was a huge success here in central New Hampshire. It was one of the best times I’ve had outdoors in a few years because I was able to operate with the two men, Dick Christopher and Jim Cluett, who have offered me the most amateur radio guidance in the past seven years.

Dick Christopher, N1LT. He was the founder of the Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to upgrade to my General privileges. I only had a little less than three weeks to prepare. Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

In a meager attempt to pay them back for all they’ve given me, I decided they could sit on the picnic table bench while I set up all the equipment. They howled with laughter when the first under-handed throw of my water bottle soared so high I was unable to grab the end of the halyard cord. It literally slipped through my fingers only to dangle 15 feet up in the air out of my reach.

I had to climb down over the river bank to retrieve my water bottle and pull the halyard cord through the tree to start over.

I tied the end of the cord to a special clip on my backpack and threw again. The second throw was perfect as the water bottle came straight down through the branches just ten feet from the edge of the picnic table.

In all the confusion I slipped the BNC cable onto my Elecaft KX3, but failed to twist it to lock the cable onto the female connector. Even still we worked contacts like I used to make cheese coneys at Skyline Chili all those years ago.

What was the Weather Like for the NJ Skeeter Hunt?

The weather was perfect. The temperature was probably 76 F, it was brilliant sunshine and the all-important dew point was about 57 F. The bonus was there were no bugs bothering us until the last ten minutes. That’s when a swarm of biting flies discovered my legs!

Where Did You Operate?

The three of us were just 50 feet from the edge of the Pemigewasset River in Bristol, NH. We were in the US Corps of Engineers flood control area behind the Franklin Falls Dam. There’s a group of three picnic tables under a majestic pine tree that offered up her branches to support my 29-foot wire antenna that had a 9:1 unun at the bottom.

nj skeeter hunt

This is my wire antenna and halyard holding it up. The top of the antenna was 39 feet up in the tree.  The halyard line continues up another 20 feet before it starts to come down. The wire did not touch any branches or pine needles. That’s super important! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Did you Operate as a Team or as Individuals?

We decided that we’d operate as individuals but use the same radio, antenna and iambic micro Pico paddles. We each had our own log books and used my Elecraft KX3, my 4.5 Ah BioennoPower LiFePh battery, and my 9:1 unun attached to 25-feet of coax cable.

nj skeeter hunt

Jim and Dick look like they’re attending class taking notes. As you might suspect, they’re busy copying CW being sent by another Skeeter! I sat at Jim’s left when I wasn’t taking photos or looking at horses. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

How Many Contacts Did You Get in the 2018 NJ Skeeter Hunt?

We had a grand total of only fourteen contacts, but it was far more than I ever thought we’d get. Propagation has been horrible this summer. I would have been thrilled with three contacts today.

Here’s our log:

19 Aug-18    1722  14.060    NK9G   CW 559 559 WI 6
19 Aug-18    1726  14.062    NN9K   CW 599 599 IL 64
19 Aug-18    1730  14.060    K4BAI  CW 559 559 GA 163
19 Aug-18    1736  14.059    WO9B   CW 559 559 WI 24
19 Aug-18    1740  7041      N3AQC  CW 559 559 PA 77
19 Aug-18    1752  14.064    AB9CA  CW 559 559 IN 22
19 Aug-18    1800  14.063    KE8EAS CW 599 599 OH 57
19 Aug-18    1805  14.059    N5GW   CW 449 559 MS 5W
19 Aug-18    1811  7031      WF4I   CW 559 559 NC 70
19 Aug-18    1818  7042      NK9G   CW 559 559 WI 6
19 Aug-18    1823  7038      N9MM   CW 559 559 POTA
19 Aug-18    1825  7033      K2BR   CW 559 599 NJ lighthouse Bob
19 Aug-18    1844  7042      K3RLL  CW 579 579 PA 15
19 Aug-18    1849  7038      N8GU   CW 559 579 MI lighthouse B

Because we each worked the same contacts, we were slower at capturing other contacts had we been able to hunt and pounce by ourselves. Jim would work a contact first, I’d follow and then hand the paddles to Dick.

It was a great way to operate. Had we set up individually, our signals would be crashing into one another and it would have been a frustrating ball of mayhem. Trust me, I’ve been in this situation before with Jim and another friend K1SWL. It’s no fun to be trying to work others when a nearby signal walks over a QSO.

Who Else Was With You Next to the River?

Why I’m glad you asked! Women and horses joined us. Lots of both.

It turns out there’s a cool group of NH women who ride together and they come to this amazing flood control area to exercise their steeds along the banks of the Pemigewasset River.

There were at least ten horses. They were pretty frisky and loving the fresh grass near the picnic tables. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Several were amazed we were doing Morse code. But all were flabbergasted about how I was able to get my halyard up 65 feet into the tree with just my arm.

My answer always when asked this question is, “Oh, it’s just one of my skills and magic.”

Why Was the 2018 NJ Skeeter Hunt So Much Fun?

I had a blast because I was with two of the hams that have played such an important part of my journey in this hobby. The weather was a bonus as were the horses!

KX2 Case

kx2 case

This is my KX2 case. It’s a Pelican 1200 case in vibrant orange so you can’t miss it out in the woods, unless it’s autumn in New England! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

KX2 Case – For Durability Use a Pelican 1200 Case

My Elecraft KX2 is protected from damage because it fits snugly and securely inside a Pelican 1200 case. I don’t want my radio damaged if I slip and fall on a muddy or icy trail out in the wilderness.

kx2 case

This is an Elecraft KX2 inside a Pelican 1200 case. Just about everything you need to get on the air is in the case. Some of the gear I normally put in the case before I close it I left out for this photo. It would block what’s down in the foam cutouts. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

What Fits in the KX2 Case?

I’m able to get the following into my Pelican 1200 Case:

Yes, all this fits in the case plus the radio! You just have to use the space wisely. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

What Do the Cutouts Look Like?

kx2 case

The foam moves around when everything is out, but it goes back to the correct position when your stow the gear. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Will a KX3 Fit in a Pelican 1200 Case?

Yes, you can make an Elecraft KX3 fit into a Pelican 1200 case. It needs to be rotated 90 degrees so the long side of the radio is parallel with the case hinges.

You won’t be able to get into the case all the other goodies I’m able to stash with my KX2.

kx3 case

Here’s my KX3 sitting on top of the foam and other gear. You can’t see it from this angle, but there’s enough room on the sides for one row of the foam cubes. You might be able to stow the battery, unun, coax and power jumper cables, but that’s about it. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

kx3 case

Jerry, W4DSD, contacted me about my KX2 in a case because he’s trying to get his KX3 to work in the same Pelican 1200 case. You can see there won’t be much room left for other stuff. Copyright 2018 Jerry W4DSD

pelican 1200 case

I wanted the bright orange so that no one steps on the case when I’m outdoors. If it had come with a flashing LED light, I would have bought that too! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter


Flight of the Bumblebees QRP Contest 2018

Here’s part of my logbook for the 2018 Bumblebee contest. You need to flip over the page to see the other two contacts. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Flight of the Bumblebees 2018 Contest

“I’m a flippin’ operator.”

I was proclaiming this as I stood over Jim Cluett, W1PID. He was sitting in the warm grass on a knoll on the flanks of Mt. Kearsarge. Jim and I were here with our mutual friend Dave Benson, K1SWL. The three of us were bumblebees out in the field trying to gather radio pollen.

We were participating in the annual Flight of the Bumblebees QRP contest hosted by the Adventure Radio Society. Just as bees flit around flower blossoms to gather nectar, we would be spinning the frequency knobs on our radios trying to collect as many contacts with other radio operators as possible.

It’s best if you bump into other bees who are also participating in the contest if you want to get a high score. I tend to be more interested in meeting other people face-to-face when we’re out operating instead of talking with people I can’t see.

The Boastful Bumblebee

I made that bumptious remark to Jim, my outdoor radio and CW mentor, because 90 minutes before I found myself on yet another plateau in my ongoing HF radio quest. I knew Jim would be happy because he’s been patiently pushing me for the past five years to become a respectable HF radio operator.

I love amateur radio but I don’t give it as high a priority in my life as Jim might like. “Just practice 15 minutes a day,” has been his mantra. Sadly I don’t follow that advice each day as some other shiny object seems to garner my attention.

Getting on the Air

When the three of us walked from the parking lot to the picnic area I peeled off first after eyeing a tree that was about 65-feet tall. It was perfect for my 29-foot wire antenna.

Here I am happy as a clam. I had already made four or five contacts and was thinking about how just two years ago I would have been thrilled with two! Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

The day before I had decided to get the antenna up as far as possible and connect a 25-foot coax cable to the 9:1 unun that was 15 feet in the air at the base of the 29-foot wire. I wanted the best possible chance for my signal to get out.

Not two minutes had passed and my antenna was up in the tree. Ninety seconds later I was on the air. I glanced over my right shoulder and noticed Jim and Dave were still in a discussion about where each of them was going to operate.

Go back four or five years ago and it would have taken me 15 minutes to get my antenna up into a tree and all my gear set up. Now it only takes me one underhanded throw to get my water bottle and the halyard line 60, or more, feet up and over tree branches.

Here’s Jim with his 44-foot twisted pair dipole antenna. It was nice and warm in the sun. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Radio Signals Galore!

I was stunned when I tuned my radio to the QRP (low-power) frequency on 20 meters. There were all sorts of stations calling! This past year propagation has been dismal and there have been times I’ve turned on the radio and heard just one, or two, signals.

Within a few minutes, I had already contacted two other bumblebee operators! After the third contact, I stopped and thought about how just three years ago I would have been thrilled with two contacts for an outing.

Can you Hear Morse Code?

But it gets better. I’m now at a level where I can hear a call sign the first time. Five months ago it would take me two or three times to capture the code and decipher it in my head. While I’m not able to copy at 20 words per minute (WPM), I’m comfortable at 15 WPM.

I feel within six months I’ll be head copying at 15 WPM with no trouble. Three years ago that milestone was not even on my radar. I never thought I could advance that far.

An Ironworker and the Family

About one hour after arriving, two motorcycles rumbled into the parking lot. The two couples made their way to the picnic area and sat at a table across from me. They were extremely curious as to why a wire was stretched up into the tree above me. It’s important to realize they were polite and didn’t bother me.

Jim called me on the radio and I answered him. The contact counted. But the rascal was only 150 feet away from me and gave me a miserable 449 signal report. One of Jim’s favorite pastimes is to yank my chain, some days harder than others.

“What’s the deal with the 449?” I yelled down to Jim who was sitting on the grass.

Here’s where Jim was set up. Why he didn’t ask for help to move a picnic table down here is a mystery. He had a stunning view to the north and east. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

“What’s 449 mean?” said one of the women motorcycle riders. I got up from my table and began a delightful 15-minute conversation.

I discovered her boyfriend was a retired ironworker from Massachusetts. He used to work the high steel and drive spud wrenches into the holes at the end of I-beams so the bolt holes would line up.

spud wrench

Here’s a spud wrench. Ironworkers have these in assorted sizes. I got this one back in the early 1970s at a construction site across from my home. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

The other motorcycle couple had just gotten back from a three-week cycle trip through many of the national parks in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

It’s fun talking to strangers. At least for me, it is.

As I walked back from visiting Jim, a middle-aged man was starting a fire in a granite-lined firepit. Moments later his wife walked by my table and said, “Hello! What have you got going on?”

Wires and strings dangling from trees are the best conversation starter I’ve ever discovered. Within minutes I was engaged in a delightful conversation about what I was doing.

It didn’t take me long to discover the husband was a financial advisor and he loved using the Peak Finder app on his smartphone to identify all the mountains we were looking at to the west, north, and east.

sandwich mountain nh

Here’s the profile of the view I have from my deck looking north. This is a very useful app if you like to hike where there are mountains! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

“There’s Mt. Ascutney in Windsor, VT,” he exclaimed. He then pointed his phone to the north and east and I could see the names and horizon profile of lots of familiar peaks in central New Hampshire. I downloaded that app as soon as I got home. What a neat and useful tool to have on future radio outings!

Eyeball QSOs Don’t Count

I looked at my watch and it was time to pack up and leave. As I met up with Jim and Dave near the cars, they both made it quite clear that all the time I wasted talking to the motorcyclists and the family wouldn’t count towards my score.

“Those eyeball QSOs don’t count buddy,” Jim said with an impish grin.

“You could have had another 15 contacts if you hadn’t talked to all those people,” he added. Dave was backing him up 150 percent.

“Listen, I know you don’t like talking to people, but I do. I discovered all sorts of things about spud wrenches and I know where Mt. Ascutney is.”

“What? Where’s Mt. Ascutney?”

“Forget about it. I’m not telling you. Go ask that man if you’re so interested.”

We all laughed and Jim put his arm around me saying, “I still love you.”

He meant it and the feeling is mutual. Each time we all go out I have more and more fun and today was one of my best outings ever.

Odiorne State Park Ham Radio Adventure

odiorne state park

This is the rocky beach of Odiorne State Park in Portsmouth, NH. During fierce storms, water crashes over this low stone wall. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Odiorne State Park, Kites, and Ham Radio

Jim Cluett, W1PID, and I finally got to the beach yesterday at Odiorne State Park in Portsmouth, NH. We had talked and talked about this outing for years, but my new roof, my new deck, a scenic train and other obstacles got in our way.

The previous five days were fraught with rain and the forecast for yesterday was pleasant weather in the morning with a chance of rain in the afternoon. We were both itching to go and were not disappointed.

Related Link

VHF Along NH Seacoast in the Rain

How Can a Kite Lift a Radio Antenna?

The plan all along was to make contacts using a kite to keep a 29-foot antenna wire aloft. The park was crowded but we snared a parking spot in the shade. As soon as we exited my Volvo V70-XC the intoxicating aroma of the salt air filled our lungs. Jim and I both commented on the elixir as we made our way towards a picnic table in the shade.

This is the tree we sat under for lunch. The ocean is to my back and Jim is at the table under the tree. I threw my water bottle over it so I could get on the air immediately. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

I didn’t waste a moment’s time getting on the air and decided to put my 29-foot wire antenna up in a tree. I attach the wire to a small 9:1 unun to get the impedance in the wire down to a reasonable number that the internal tuner in my Elecraft KX2 can handle.

Jim was more interested in eating lunch while I was setting up the radio and he and I knew there wasn’t yet enough wind to hold the kite up in the air.

Within minutes I had completed a quick exchange with KW7D. Paul was in New Mexico and it was thrilling to avoid the proverbial skunk using just 7 watts. That’s all you need to make a nightlight glow!

odiorne state park ham radio

Here I am not too long after making my contact with Paul, KW7D. My wide-brimmed hat keeps the sun off my face. Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

What Radio Did You Use?

We decided to share my Elecraft KX2 equipped with replacement iambic paddles I had just received the day before. You use these to send Morse code. My original ones were malfunctioning and Elecraft had sent out a new set under warranty. They worked perfectly.

elecraft kx2

Jim has finished lunch and he was itching to get on the air. It took him about 30 minutes before he finally made a contact. He tried and tried to make contact with GM0HCQ/MM, but Mike Gloistein, the operator, on the ship couldn’t hear Jim. He was on the RRS James Clark Ross well above the Arctic Circle! 76N, 29E! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Just after hearing his callsign and his coordinates, I decided to see where Mike was while Jim continued to throw out his callsign. Sadly we didn’t make contact. Copyright 2018, Google, Inc.

Mike was on the gorgeous RRS James Clark Ross. I hope it was good WX where he was! Copyright 2108 Mike Gloistein

Jim continued to make a few more contacts as did I, but I was more interested in just soaking in the sea breeze and watching a bunch of small children construct a rocket from a two-liter soda bottle with the help of their day-camp counselors.

After an hour or so, the wind seemed to come up. We tried to get the kite to fly, but there just wasn’t enough wind. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

After nearly two hours of relaxed operations and our failed attempt to fly the kite, we decided to pack up and head home. As we walked away we decided to explore a little more of the park near the shoreline.

Quickly we discovered we had picked the worst table to sit at as it was in a depression and the stone wall had been blocking our view of the water. Soon we were walking on a path next to some daylilies and there was a magnificent view of the ocean with picnic tables galore!

Look at that picnic table just to the right of me! What an IDIOT I was not to look around first before deciding where to set up. You can bet I’m going back to this spot next time. Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

odiorne state park

This WW II coastal artillery gun mount was immediately adjacent to the picnic table. Not too far up the river feeding water into the Portsmouth, NH harbor was a naval ship-building yard and the 155 mm cannons were aimed at German U-boats that tried to sink US ships. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

This is what you might have seen at the gun mount Jim and I were flying the kite had you been here back in 1943. Photo courtesy of some unknown photographer.

We immediately noticed a strong wind was blowing and decided to fly the kite and get back on the air!

odiorne state park kite

It only took minutes to get the kite in the air. We both worked as a team and the kite lept 80 feet into the air in seconds! It was quite exciting to see the antenna wire hang vertically down to the large artillery gun mount. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Here I am getting ready to make my first contact using an antenna supported by a kite! I was able to make contact with Eugene, EA5EL who was doing an Islands on the Air activation! He was at EU093 Tabarca Island! Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

Jim got on the KX2 before I did and made a fast contact with a Russian operator. We were both ecstatic! The kite adventure was a success and we only wish we had found this spot from the beginning. No worries, we’ll be back!

Tiger Tail Antenna

ht antenna

The yellow wire is a tiger tail antenna. It may not look pretty, but it dramatically increases the performance of the HT. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

“It’s probably best to just use a length of 19 and 1/4 inches to put you right about in the middle of the 2-meter frequencies.”

A Tiger Tail Antenna Boosts HT Output – HT on Steroids!

A tiger tail antenna is a short piece of flexible wire that connects to the ground side of your handheld transceiver (HT). They are easy to make and this simple additional wire will increase the outgoing strength of your signals.

What Is the Tiger Tail Antenna?

The tiger tail is the other side of a dipole antenna. The rubber duck antenna that comes with most HTs, or a good 1/4-wave high-gain whip antenna, is the positive side of the dipole. You create a high-performance antenna for your modest HT by attaching a matched length of wire to the negative, or ground, side of your antenna post.

How Long is the Tiger Tail Antenna?

You need to match the length of the tiger tail to the frequency you’ll be using on your HT. If you’re transmitting in the allowed portions of the 2-meter band in the USA, you’ll be between 144.00 and 148.00 MHz.

I used the ground plane calculator at Buxcomm.com to calculate it.

tiger tail antenna

Look at the last value at the bottom: Radial Length (inches). That’s what you want. Copyright 2018 Buxcomm.com

Here are the lengths you’d need to cover the entire 2-meter band. It’s probably best to just use a length of 19 and 1/4 inches to put you right about in the middle of the 2-meter frequencies.

144.00 MHz 19.50 inches
145.00 MHz 19.36 inches
146.00 MHz 19.23 inches
147.00 MHz 19.10 inches
148.00 MHz 18.97 inches
tiger tail antenna tools

A tiger tail antenna requires simple wire, a wire cutter/stripper, a tape measure, and solder. I’m using 26-gauge stranded wire for mine. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

tiger tail antenna wire

I stripped off 1.5 inches of insulation and twisted the strands of wire together. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

tiger tail antenna

A standard pencil creates the perfect sized loop diameter for the tiger tail antenna. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

tiger tail antenna

The loop is completed by wrapping the excess wire onto itself. All that’s left is to put a drop of molten solder on it so the loop stays intact. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

tiger tail antenna loop

I still need to solder the loop, but you start your measurement for the tiger tail antenna at the base of the loop, NOT at the far end of the loop at the left. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

Ham Radio Antenna Orientation

ht antenna

The 1/4-wave dual-band high-gain whip antenna is oriented correctly. It’s pointing to the sky. The yellow wire is a tiger tail counterpoise that helps increase the output signal of the small low-powered radio. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

Ham Radio Antenna Orientation  – Very Important for 2-Meter Communications

Your ham radio will transmit and receive much better if you have the antenna in the proper orientation. Watch this video to get a good understanding of how important ham radio antenna orientation is.

What is the Antenna Orientation for 2 Meters?

You should hold your handheld transceiver (HT) so the antenna is pointing to the sky. Do not hold it sideways so the antenna is parallel with the ground.

Is It a Bad Idea to Put My HT on my Belt?

Yes, it’s a bad idea to put your HT on your belt. Much of the signal coming from the antenna is driven into your body.

Can You Use an HT in a Car or Truck?

It’s not a good idea to use an HT in a car or truck. The metal body of the vehicle acts like a Faraday cage. The 2-meter wave trying to get out the windows is taller than the windows.

If you must use an HT in a car, hold the radio next to the window to get the best reception and for most of your transmission to get out of the vehicle.

Can You Make a Simple Dipole for an HT?

Yes, all you have to do is add a 19-inch length of wire to the ground connection of the antenna stub. Some call this a counterpoise or the negative side of the dipole.

Read my column about a tiger tail antenna to see how easy it is to make one.

How To Cross Band Repeat Ham Radio

cross band repeat

How to cross band repeat using the Yaesu FT-8900R. Note the left side of the radio is on a 2-meter VHF frequency and the right side is tuned to the UHF frequency of 445.875 Mhz. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

How To Cross Band Repeat – It’s Easy To Do

You may want to know how to set up cross band repeat on your mobile radio. It’s not as hard as you might think.

I happen to have a Yaesu FT-8900R and it only takes about five seconds to set up the radio once you have your receiving and transmitting frequencies set.

How To Set Up Cross Band Repeat Video

Watch this video to see how easy it is to get a Yaesu FT-8900R to be in cross band repeat mode.

Can you Cross Band Repeat on the Same Band?

You can cross band repeat on the same band (2 meters in and 2 meters out) if you have a powerful repeater that might be up on a mountain or tall building, but small mobile radios with cross band repeat functionality are designed to repeat signals on different bands.

My Yaesu FT-8900R has no trouble retransmitting my UHF 440 Mhz signal out on VHF 145 Mhz, the normal 2-meter frequency.

Here’s another video showing you how it’s done.

What Radios Can Cross Band Repeat?

There’s a good chance ICOM, Kenwood and other modern mobile transceivers can operate in the cross band mode. Often it’s buried in the manual and the marketing managers don’t promote it as well as they should

When Should I Cross Band Repeat?

There are all sorts of situations where you can, and should, cross band repeat.

Let’s say you go on a hike and your mobile radio is left at the trailhead. You can set up the mobile radio to hear your handheld radio. If you get hurt on the trail, your tiny HT all of a sudden can reach out via your 50-watt mobile radio to get help.

You may do public service work and need more power to transmit a much greater distance than your small handheld HT will do. I happen to work the New England Forest Rally every year and cross band repeat allows me to communicate with the Finish Line when I’m miles away at the Start Line.

Read my story about Ham Radio and the New England Forest Rally to see why cross band repeat is so important and useful.

Carter Mountain Road Meadow

carter mountain road

This is a 180-degree panorama shot of the view from the top of Carter Mountain Road in New Hampton, NH. Unfortunately, because this photo has been reduced in size you can’t really see the majesty of what my own eyes saw. CLICK HERE to see all the high-resolution photos of this adventure to Carter Mountain Road.  Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 was the second day of glorious spring here in central New Hampshire. Winters are typically long in Northern New England and just one week before we were dealing with a wretched sleet, ice and freezing-rain storm that spanned two days. We thought spring was never going to show up.

Carter Mountain Road – Not My Mountain

The sun was out, it was just about 70 F, ticks were scurrying about, birds were singing and the famous Robinson Falls in Blake Brook could be heard as the remaining patches of snow were being delivered to the pristine Pemigewasset River just three-quarters of a mile away. In other words, it was a day that helps restore the soul.


Jim, W1PID, and I had lunch before we went on the radio adventure. It was our first time eating outdoors since early last fall! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

W1PID and I decided to set up and operate at a new location at the end of Carter Mountain Road in New Hampton, New Hampshire. Unbeknownst to me, as I had only been up this road twice before – and never to the end, it had a stunning view to the west and south.

My guess is the road was named after one of the two bumps you pass on your right as you drive up the road. Some long-ago settler named Carter must have lived in the hollow and one of the high points was named in his honor. If we’re related, I’m not aware of the connection.

The blue dot marks the spot where Jim and I were set up. CLICK HERE to see all the high-resolution photos of this adventure. Copyright 2018, Google, Inc.

Within the past two years, the property owner had clear-cut about forty acres of land sending the trees to the local lumber mills and the power plants that make electricity burning wood chips. Much to our surprise, four trees were left standing in the wasteland. Two were aligned about ten degrees east of true north and were about 85 feet apart.

This was perfect for the 44-foot dipole antenna we had 30 feet up in the air within minutes of arrival. We had decided to just share Jim’s Elecraft KX3. Jim was enjoying the warmth and the view so much that he at first attached his short coax cable to the radio instead of the required small banana BNC connector for the dipole antenna twisted-pair wire leads.

elecraft KX3

I’ve got my own Elecraft KX3, but we decided to use Jim’s. It’s the gold standard of portable outdoor radios. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Germany, France, and Ohio

After connecting the Bioenno Power 4.5 Ah LFP battery, Jim was turning the large VFO knob hunting for a strong signal on 20 meters. At first, there was nothing. Within a minute or so Jim heard Joe, DL4KCA calling from a suburb of Cologne, Germany.

I’m right at the cusp of being able to head copy Morse, but Jim’s been there for decades. Jim worked him first and got a 549 signal report. I then used Jim’s miniature Pico Paddles and got a 559 from Joe. Leading a pure and simple life has its benefits I’ve come to discover.

Next up was Bert in France. Bert, F6HKA, and Jim are old-time friends. Bert seems to be on the air from France every day as Jim has talked with him countless times. I’ve had the pleasure of working Bert at least two or three other times from out in the field.


Here’s Jim happy as a clam. The ticks had not yet found him. He was enjoying the day too much to be bothered taking a photo of me operating. Perhaps next time… Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Jim was being his usual polite self and signed off to Bert, “Merci” and then handed the paddles to me.

I wandered off to get my water bottle from my truck and Jim worked another station or two. When I got back to the soft moss we had set up on, I had one last QSO with Bud, W8HOG in Ohio on 40 meters. He was very strong to me and I gave him a 589 but his report about my signal was only 339. I blame Jim for this because his end of the antenna was pointing towards Bud.

We packed up our gear and decided to get on with our day. I had to scurry home to help make a birthday cake and dinner for my wife Kathy. I have no clue how Jim spent the rest of the day, but no doubt he was drumming his fingers waiting for me to publish this story.

I’m lucky to have him as a friend and we do have a grand time outdoors. Usually there’s lots of laughter and anyone who sees or hears us is jealous of the happiness that we generate.

Lady the Dog

Lady the Dog – July 27, 2008 | March 12, 2018

I remember when Meghan, Brent, and I first held you. You had that puppy-fat belly and wanted to get down to run and play with your sister. Do you remember jumping off that retaining wall only to hurt your shoulder?

I remember how happy Mom was to see you at the airport when she picked you up. The Delta Airlines Freight employees thought you were a super cute puppy. Yeah, you were.

I remember Mom telling me how you and she went for walks in French Park down by the creek.

I remember when I’d get home after sixteen hours of driving from New Hampshire to see you and Mom. I’d growl at the back door, you’d do that puppy-courage bark, I’d make the monster sound hiding around the corner, you’d pee yourself and then run back into the family room to huddle next to Mom.

I remember how Mom took you to training classes and you’d do the lazy sit.

I remember how Mom trained you to lay down, turn around and look at us.

I remember when you’d play orange ball but not give it back.

I remember when you’d bark and bite at the waves in the lake.

I remember you scratching me while we swam together.

I remember you crying like a baby when we locked you in the house as we’d walk down the hill to go kayaking. You knew you couldn’t swim that far silly dog!

I remember when you’d be a troll at the top of the steps not letting the cats up to their food.

I remember you being Nala’s tool. She’d peer at you looking under the couch, see what way you were facing and then dart right past you like greased lightning. Your whimpers, while you chased after her, were pathetic.

I remember you licking the empty peanut butter jars and you warning me not to try to take it away from you. I knew better. But you let Mom have the jar anytime she wanted it. You trusted her.

I remember you taking naps on frosty winter mornings as the warm sun would stream into my basement office.

Meghan remembers how much you loved swimming in the lake, even when the water was freezing cold.

Meghan and Brent remember you swimming far out into the lake as they paddleboarded. When you were tired, you tried to climb up on their boards to rest.

Achilles, Meghan and Brent’s fierce cat, had no use for you.

Meghan remembers how happy you were to see her when she’d come back home to visit. You’d not stop jumping or nipping at her for close to half an hour it seemed like.

Meghan remembers when she’d come home, you’d sleep right next to her like you were her own personal bodyguard. And if Meghan woke up during the night, you’d nuzzle her to be pet.

Meghan remembers sneaking treats to you.

Tristan remembers when Mom and I would leave you for a week to travel back to see Grandpa. Right after we left, you’d lay up next to the front door for hours. Tristan said eventually you’d come down and lay quietly next to him until we got back.

Tristan remembers you laying on the warm basement floor in your cozy dog bed.

Tristan remembers you trying to mooch peanut butter after midnight. Holding up your paw was a dirty trick.

I remember you tangling with the porcupine the day Kelly and I took you for a walk.

I remember you getting too close to the skunk.

I remember you chasing deer.

I remember you chasing squirrels.

I remember the chipmunk chatter driving you crazy.

I remember you digging to China to get the chipmunks. That’s how you skinned your nose.

I remember you biting bees.

I remember that dark night you went chasing after some animal up the big hill above the house. Your barking became fainter and fainter until I could barely hear you.  I whistled and whistled for you to come back. I thought you lost your way. But you didn’t. I was so very happy to see you on the porch.

I remember you barking each night at the invisible animals outside.

I remember making hoot owl sounds that would make you bark. Mom wasn’t happy when I did it inside.

I remember us playing snow.

I remember us playing water.

I remember you making it very hard to wash my truck.

I remember you making it nearly impossible to shovel snow.

I remember how you used to tell us how hard it was snowing by the amount you brought back in on your jet-black fur.

I remember looking through the man-cave window down at your tracks in the fresh snow. Some days you’d roll in the snow taking a snow-bath. Now nothing’s going to disturb the white carpet.

I remember how angry you got at the central vacuum. You would bark and want to bite the brush. I think you didn’t like the rushing air.

I remember how many thousands of times I opened and closed the gate so the cats could rest without you bothering them.

I remember how much you loved romaine lettuce stalks.

I remember how well your hearing was. No matter how slowly and carefully I’d try to open the stiff cellophane bag of mini-pretzels while you were downstairs or in the other room, you’d be next to me within seconds looking up at me for your share.

I remember how you’d loiter in the kitchen each night as dinner was made wandering ’round and ’round the island. You knew someone would drop something.

I remember never having to sweep the kitchen floor because you ate every crumb and morsel that ever touched the floor.

I remember you helping me load the dishwasher. You’d lick the plates and silverware trying to do your best to keep the septic tank in great shape. The men at Rowell’s told me you did an excellent job.

I remember being upset with you some days telling you to run away. You know I didn’t mean it and you always forgave me.

I remember when you, Mr. Cluett and I went for a hike. Mr. Cluett loved you too.

Mom remembers that you weren’t really a Lady, but more like a bull in a china shop.

Mom and I remember when you’d go outside just to eat bird food.

I remember you making your nest in the mulch at the end of the sidewalk to lay in the warm sun.

I remember you jumping up into Brian’s UPS truck.

I remember you having no manners with Brian insisting he give you three or four dog biscuits. He’s going to miss you too.

I remember boxes on the front porch with a dog biscuit left on top for you.

I remember you coming up in the morning with me to the man cave and putting your head against my leg.

I remember how forlorn you’d look when you saw me come out of the bedroom with my carry-on bag. You were so smart and knew I was leaving, but not for how long.

I remember getting back from business trips and how you’d knock me over on the front sidewalk you were so happy to see me. Not once did you ever scold me for staying away so long.

I remember all your fur. Everywhere.

I remember you being my shadow.

I remember you always pushing the door open. You just had to be first to check out what the cats had been doing.

I remember you and me sitting in the living room waiting for Mom to come up and start dinner. It was always so quiet there with you at my feet.

I remember you telling me you were hungry. Those were the only times I ever heard you complain.

I remember Mom getting angry at me because we’d sham fight before dinner. “Take it outside you two!”, she’d shout.

I remember you biting me when we’d play, but only so hard to let me know you could tear me apart if you wanted to.

I remember you being outside the bedroom door laying on your back against the wall in the morning.

I remember when you’d go for a morning swim.

I remember you laying in your comfy bed chair.

I remember how you hated getting your picture taken by me, but Kelly could do it anytime she wanted.

Kelly remembers how much you loved to go to the beach with her, especially to watch the sun kiss the clouds goodnight.

Kelly remembers taking lots of photos with you, especially toe-to-toe.

I remember whenever I’d lace up my boots, you’d come over and nuzzle against my hands because you knew we were going outside. You love love loved going outside, didn’t you?

I remember saying, “Let’s go up to the mailbox!” and you’d follow me each time.

I remember how you smelled like dog. I know you don’t believe me, but I’m going to miss that too.

I remember how every winter morning when we’d go into the garage so I could get up to the man cave I’d have to tell you why I couldn’t leave the garage door open for you. You always turned left wanting to go outside. You were so predictable. 😉

I remember how each Sunday when I pulled the car into the garage after arriving home from church Mom would make me wait for you. She’d open the front door, let you out, and you’d come bounding around the corner saying in dog speak, “Welcome home! I thought you’d never get back!” Your ears were flattened and you were so happy to see Mom and me. I was so very happy to see you too. That’s why I always waited and exclaimed, “What took you so long to get here?”

I remember how much you loved me to massage your paws in the morning.

I remember how each morning you go outside and anytime you came back in you’d want to follow me. But lately I noticed you had a tough time climbing the steps to the man cave. I just thought your hips were bothering you. I now think you didn’t have the energy.

I remember saying goodnight to you before I’d go to bed.

I remember many a day before dawn when I was in that halfway place between sleep and awake you’d move to a new resting position outside the bedroom door. You’d let out that slow groan from sleeping on the hardwood floor for who-knows-how-long as you protected Mom and me from intruders. As you got to a new comfortable position, your dog tags would jingle and clank on the floor.

I remember coming out in the morning most days, kneeling down next to you in your bed chair and stroking your nose. I’d whisper to you how it was going to be a great day. You always looked me in the eyes and agreed.

I remember your unconditional love and affection.

I remember this last sunrise we shared together. We both stood so quietly on the deck. I had no idea days later you’d be gone.

I remember the happy look on your face when you grabbed the green ball from the snow minutes before you collapsed and got dizzy.

I remember you walked to the end of the sidewalk because you thought I was leaving you forever without saying “Goodbye, sweetheart”, didn’t you? I was just moving my truck so we could race you to Dr. Julie. You had such a relieved look in your eyes when you saw me walk over to pick you up and lay you gently in the back of Mom’s car.

I remember you crying one last time in Mom’s car as we rushed you to see Dr. Julie.

I remember Mom softly stroking your head as you took your last breath. I stood helplessly hoping in shock while Dr. Julie did all she could to save you.

I remember how warm and peaceful you were when I held you that last time.

I remember that loving look in your eyes before Mom and I walked out of the room.

I remember thinking how dreadful today would be.

I remember trying to eat dinner and looking for you under the dining room table before I moved my legs. But you weren’t there and my heart sank.

I remember not wanting to come out of the bedroom the next day because I knew you’d not be there.

I remember thinking how hard it would be not to see you, but not this hard.

I knew I loved you, but didn’t quite understand how much until now.

I’ll never ever forget you Lady the Dog.

I can’t wait until I see you again.

Kathy, the kids and I want to thank Dr. Julie and the entire staff of the Interlakes Animal Hospital for their great skills in doing all possible to save Lady the Dog. We deeply appreciate their compassion and love in allowing us to say a very private goodbye to Lady. Thank you Dr. Julie.