Today the signals radiating off my 20-meter resonant dipole antenna were really taking off. It was hung straight down from a majestic pine tree branch next to the grass runway at the Newport, NH airport.
The end of the grass strip is adjacent to the Sugar River which you cross using the historic Corbin covered bridge.
It was a remarkable late fall day and Jim Cluett, W1PID and Dave Benson, K1SWL joined me to bask in the intense sunshine of this cloud-free day. November in New Hampshire can be day after day of cold, penetrating rain.
Jim is well known in the outdoor QRP radio community. Dave is the founder of Small Wonder Labs and is responsible for inventing many tiny low-powered radios not the least of which is the famous Rockmite.
Jim and I decided to travel west to see Dave because Dave’s traveled the sixty miles to the Lakes Region to play radio with us. We keep thinking we’ll have our last outing for the year, but the weather continues to be unseasonably warm and sunny.
While I was walking near the bridge looking at the placid water of the Sugar River and watching a fly fisherman, Jim was busy setting up his antenna. He’s such a pro and rarely gets his halyard line tangled. I believe today he got the branch he wanted on his first throw.
I decided to wander about 200 feet east of Jim and Dave along the north edge of the grass runway. The sky was so blue it almost hurt your eyes to look at it.
Today was not my day and I struggled to get my halyard line up to the branch 40 feet up in the air. I believe I had no less than ten, maybe 15, pathetic attempts at getting my thin micro-cord up to the correct branch. I struggled for at least 20 minutes all the while Jim and Dave were snaring QSOs out of the air faster than I’d be running across the grass to retrieve my water bottle.
It’s not as easy to throw the line up as you might think. Release too early and the water bottle and line sails across the ground at too low an angle. Release a fraction of a second too late and the bottle and cord mimic a Saturn V rocket clawing its way vertical into the ether.
While I was making a fool of myself, Dave and Jim were gathering more and more QSOs and no doubt talking about old times. They seemed to be very relaxed today.
Jim and Dave are experienced operators. They were sharing Jim’s Elecraft KX3. Here’s a video of them having some fun. Dave decided to try to get a QSO for me as I was shooting the video. Listen to the code he sends! This was a last-minute idea and no planning was involved so the video could have been much better.
Jim had just worked FG/F6ARC in Guadeloupe. The video may be confusing, but I think it will give you a flavor of the afternoon and the surroundings.
Once I put up my antenna, I wasted no time getting on the air. It didn’t take me but three minutes to avoid the skunk! I heard N4NQ, Sid, finishing up a QSO and jumped right on his di dit (shave and a haircut) throwing out my call sign.
Sid came right back from Lawrenceville, GA. He was blistering fast for me, but I heard my RST and I gave him the 599 he deserved as his signal was loud and crystal clear in my tiny HB-1B radio.
I’m trying to get more and more practice so I can hear Morse above my turtle-slow 11 WPM.
Next up was Ken, KG4LLQ in Asheboro, NC. Obviously my signal was strong to the south. I experienced some significant fading, QSB, during the exchange, but was able to copy my RST of 559. I gave Ken the same signal report.
Ken was interested to discover I was QRP. My HB-1B was only showing 10.8 volts rather than the 12 it normally shows, so that means less output. I may have only been at 3 watts.
Last up was Jim, W8RTJ from Amherst, OH. He was kind enough to slow down for me and we did a quick exchange. He gave me a 559, but I sent him 599 back as he was so very very strong into me.
It was time to pack up and head back home. Sometimes Jim and I go browsing at firearms stores on our adventures and there were two gun shops on our way home.
I felt very lucky to be with Jim and Dave today. The are very patient with my developing skills. If you’ve never operated outdoors, I highly recommend it. It’s even more fun if you bring along a buddy or two!
I took some extra photos of the covered bridge because it’s one of the gems of New Hampshire. She’s 180 years old!