Sunday, February 19, 2017


February 19th and it was warm!  It felt more like a Spring day than the middle of Winter; as it reached a high of 68F (20C).So what does a relatively young man's fancy turn to when it warms up like this? Why, Amateur Radio of course!  In particular, portable QRP operating.  Too nice to stay cooped up inside, right?

I decided on a very impromptu activation of Washington Rock State Park, which is designated as KFF-1635 in WWFF (World Wide Flora and Fauna nomenclature). Probably not my brightest idea as it's the ARRL DX Contest weekend; but I decided to head out, anyway.  Before heading to the park, I had to stop by Dick's Sporting Goods to pick up some fishing swivels (with clasps).

I use these to attach the "bullet" of my Joplin ARC Antenna Launcher to the fishing line. This allows me to quickly detach the projectile and attach in it's place the Mason's twine that I use as support rope during these activations.  A package of a hundred (a lifetime supply) cost all of about $5.

I got to the park and it appeared that everyone else from Central NJ had the same idea that I did! There was a small crowd at the park. It's very popular, because as I've mentioned before, Washington Rock is located on the first ridge of the Watchung Mountains and provides an unobstructed view of the NJ Shore and the Piedmont.  On a clear day, like today, it is even possible to see Manhattan and Staten Island with the help of binoculars or a telescope.  This is why General Washington used this spot during the Revolution.  By going up there at night, he was able to clearly see the campfires of all the British troop encampments.

But I digress.I found the last empty picnic table and claimed it by placing my equipment on top. Then I got to the business of hoisting the antenna.  Again, the Joplin ARC Launcher made this an easy task. I become a better shot each time out and once again, the "bullet" cleared the tree and went exactly where I wanted it to go.  The PAR END FEDZ 40/20/10 went up easily and within minutes, I was on the air.  Actually, I arrived at the park at about 1850 UTC and was calling CQ by 1900 UTC,

I really like the PAR END FEDZ 40/20/10, as it deploys easily and with the KX3's autotuner, it also loads up and seems to get out really well on 30 Meters and 17 Meters in addition to the three bands it was designed to operate on.

I started out on 40 Meters with no takers, despite spotting myself on DX Summit as well as the WWFF/POTA Facebook page.  That was a disappointment, as I was hoping for a decent amount of local activity.  At that time of the day, DX from Europe (and thus any contest QRM) is minimal, so I was hoping to work folks along the East coast and up into Canada. After about 20 minutes or so of no answers, I went up to 20 Meters.

Calling CQ POTA in the midst of the ARRL DX Contest was probably pure folly, but I did get answers. I worked S52A, EA8KW, S50Q, C6ARU, FY5KE and CO2JD at various points.  They were probably wondering what the heck "KFF1635" was. I think they probably just wanted the "599 NJ", but that's neither here or there.  They were QSOs made from the park; and they count whether they were looking specifically for me or not.

17 Meters yielded contacts with KG5CIK, WR2E and WB2MKX, both of whom were in New Jersey.

30 Meters was good for two contacts. One was with KA9CFD and the other was a half hour or so rag chew with N1KW, Bob in IL.  Bob was also enjoying the warm weather in Illinois and was in his back yard, using his K2 at 10 Watts straight off a solar panel - no battery.  I really enjoyed the QSO with Bob and it's made me anxious to try out the solar panel that I bought from Harbor Freight last October.  I purchased a voltage controller from Bangood, and once I wire it up, I should be able to get a good and steady 12 Volts on a decently bright day - more than enough to power the KX3.

After the rag chew with Bob, I realized I had been at the park for close to two hours, so I decided to pack up and head home while there was still plenty of light.  I did have a few people come up to me, asking me what I was doing. I was able to give Amateur Radio, QRP and portable operating a couple of good plugs.

With that, I'll close this post with a very short and hastily made video that I took just prior to tear down.  I apologize for the quality - Steve WG0AT has nothing to worry from me as far as video expertise goes. But maybe, just maybe, if I keep this up, I can get better at that, too.  Lord knows, I've come a long way from my first attempt at portable QRP ops!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


It appears that in September of 2016, the ARRL formed a committee, looking into the possibility of petitioning the FCC to create a new entry level Amateur Radio license.  At this point, they are looking for membership input.

So if you're a member of the ARRL, please log in to their Web site and take a survey, by clicking here.

Personally, some of the best times I have had in Amateur Radio occurred when I was a Novice.  I learned so much, most of it by the Amateur Radio School of Hard Knocks.  So, I was very saddened when the FCC ditched the Novice license.  I thought this was an excellent way to enter the Amateur Radio world, with the focus on operating in the HF bands, not just VHF/UHF.  Not that there's anything wrong with VHF/UHF, but I think opening up the world of the HF bands is the way to go, keeping interests piqued and offering endless possibilities.

It will be interesting to see how this all pans out and if anything comes of it.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Had to post!

Saw this on the "100 Watts and a Wire" Facebook page - too funny not to share!

KUDOs to Andre Vorreiter


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Skunked again - sort of.

I got on the air last night, in my 62F (16C) shack in order to participate in the 40 Meter QRP Foxhunt.  These hunts have been deplorable for me this year, with hardly any success.  Last night was no different.  The Foxes were NK6A in California and KV2X in New York.  I didn't hear either one of them - although W1AW/KP4 was absolutely booming in to NJ.

Instead of turning the radio off and running upstairs to warmer quarters and an episode of MacGyver on MeTV, I decided to participate for a bit in the NAQCC 160 Meter Sprint.  Just for grins and giggles, I did the search and pounce thing for better part of a half an hour, and also called CW for about 15 minutes or so.

Although my W3EDP tunes up on 160 Meters, thanks to the dazzling auto tuner inside the KX3 (I'd swear that thing would tune up a strand of wet spaghetti), I was probably sending RF into the HF equivalent of a rubber duckie antenna.  Even so, with 5 Watts I made 10 contacts, ranging from Maine, down to North Carolina and as far west as Michigan.  Not a band burner in any sense of the concept; but satisfying enough for an evening that looked pretty bleak, Foxhunt-wise.

What was also satisfying is that, thanks to a great suggestion gleaned from Facebook, I successfully stowed away my magloop antenna.  A few weeks ago, I went onto the DIY Magloop page and asked for suggestions on how the various members stored and carried their loops.

One of the suggestions was a stuff sack - a nylon bag with a draw string that normally you would use to stow away a sleeping bag or other camping equipment.  I went to Amazon and purchased this in the 25" (63 cm) version.

It's made by Liberty Mountain.  The longest piece of the antenna fits with room to spare, and the coiled up loop of LMR400 went in very nicely.  It doesn't look like as picturesque the above photo, as I'm not stowing away a sleeping bag - but it will serve its purpose very well.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Delinquent in posting

I began 2017 with a pledge to post more often, and there's one resolution already shot to Hades!  But I do have a reason for my lack of blogging activity. I've been battling a crummy case of sinusitis the past two weeks. I'll spare you the gory details, but it's been accompanied by a bad, hacking cough,  As a result, I've been staying out of the chilly basement shack. Staying out of the shack limits me severely as to what I can talk about.

I did get these through the mail, though - so I'll post two images:


I could be picky and say I actually participated in 10 activations, as one of those was under the NJ2SP call sign of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club - but only 9 under my own call.

A few folks have been bothered by the price of the certificates, However, if you consider the IT, publicity and staff man hour costs that it took to make NPOTA such a success, it's really not that much.  The amount of enjoyment I received throughout the year from NPOTA makes the cost of these two pieces of paper a mere pittance in comparison. Also, you have to consider that this is probably a "once in a lifetime" event.  I highly doubt that I'll make it to the National Park Service bicentennial.

I did receive something very recently from Rich G3CWI at SOTA Beams that I'm very excited about, I hope to play with it this coming weekend and I'll be posting about it real soon, so stay tuned!. This stupid sinusitis is definitely a drag.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

To help with your NPOTA withdrawal

There IS a Parks On The Air program that has been up and running for a while.  In the USA, POTA is part of the World Wide Flora and Fauna program, which is international in scope.  Like NPOTA, WWFF was devised in order to get Amateur Radio ops off their duffs and into the Great Outdoors. I love their catch phrase - "Make nature your shack!"

POTA is the United States arm of WWFF and POTA encompasses not only NPOTA, but State Parks as well.  So if NPOTA was difficult for you as an activator, POTA should be easier as it will include many places that were not part of POTA.

Take for instance, the Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge (KFF-0454)  here in NJ.  I drive through it every time I go up to HP28, Morristown National Historical Park (KFF-0746), which is part of NPOTA.  Since the Refuge is administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, it was not part of NPOTA - but it IS part of POTA. My favorite portable operating spot, Washington Rock State Park, is also part of POTA (KFF-1635).

Activation requirements for WWFF are a bit stricter. For a valid activation, WWFF requires 44 QSOs, while NPOTA required only 10.  Happily, according to my good friend Greg N4KGL, POTA also requires only 10 QSOs for a valid activation. A good day's worth of portable operations should cover you. If you're bound and determined to work towards Activator awards, then you have a good program here to fill your heart's desire.. Me? I'll just be happy to have the "excuse" to go out and put some NJ parks on the air.

I've only just registered and have not looked into all the details about how to upload logs and stuff; but I am bound and determined to put some parks in New Jersey on the air this coming Spring and Summer for the chasers that are really into this.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Portable operations antennas

So with all the NPOTA operating and other portable operating that I've done over the years, you might think that I've become some sort of expert on portable antennas, right?

Nope - not even close.

I have become "expert" enough to tell you that there's no "one size fits all" or all purpose antenna that will work in every situation.  That antenna continues to be the "Holy Grail" or "Golden Fleece" of Amateur Radio.  It is rumored to exist and is still being searched for.  Some will tell you that they possess it, or a reasonable facsimile, thereof.

In my mind, it's a myth, a fairy tale, a legend.  I have found that in every situation, all portable antennas will work well, some better than others. It all depends on the situation and the circumstances of that particular day or event.

Do you have trees available?  Awesome!  I think back on Day One, the Good Lord knew that someday, radio would be discovered, and that our species of hobbyists would be spawned. So He created trees.  "The World" seems to think that trees were created for the purpose of shade, food, converting carbon dioxide to oxygen, as well as a source of wood.  We Ham Radio operators know better - that trees were created to hold our aerials up in the sky, away from the ground,  and that the other services that trees provide are just side benefits.

If you have trees available at your location, put them to their intended purpose ....... get wire in them, as high as you can get it.  Whether it be a dipole, doublet, end fed, zepp, or any other kind of wire antenna, get it up as high as you can.  Of course, for portable operations, you want to keep the antenna as uncomplicated as possible, while still maintaining the ability to work as many bands as possible. In my experience the W3EDP or an end fed wire connected to a 9:1 UNUN will give you the most bang for the buck.  These can be used as verticals or slopers. And if you have enough real estate and feedline, they can even be stretched between two trees, as high as you can get them.  In the five years of the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, my best year was accomplished using a W3EDP strung between two trees in a horizontal configuration, about 40 feet up, or so.

But what if there are no trees; or only one tree?  If there's only one tree, then I would suggest using said arbor as a support for a sloper - again. getting the end up as high as possible.  If there are NO trees, then you have to become creative and a bit more flexible.  If you're at the top of a mountain, you might try taking an end fed and just allow it to dangle off the side of the peak. If that's not practical, or you're bothered by heights like I am, and will go nowhere near the edge of a cliff, then you have to resort to something else.

That something else might be something like a portable vertical. Portable verticals can work very, very well. But to work very, very well you need to lay down a radial field or use a counterpoise. When I used the PAC12 antenna, I used to lay down a set of 8 sixteen foot lengths of wire, arranged around the antenna in a wagon wheel fashion.  It worked well, but could become a nuisance if the radial wires became entangled.  Care had to be taken during storage to make sure that didn't happen. Also, the radials will work the best while being elevated, even if that means just an inch or two off the ground, which means some sort of radial support also becomes necessary.

If you operate from your car .... if you can operate from your car, the radial problem becomes much, much easier to deal with.  Put your vertical on a magmount and allow your vehicle to become the ground plane.  I was only so-so pleased with my Buddistick until Bob W3BBO recommended this to me.  After I abandoned using the Buddistick counterpoise wire, and let my Jeep fulfill that function, my Buddistick literally began to soar!  Over the years, I have worked over 60 countries and just about all 50 States using 5 Watts or less.  Having a huge hunk of metal under that vertical makes all the difference in the world.

That being said, does it work on ALL bands well?


The Buddistick on the roof seems to work well for me on 20 through 6 Meters.  If I want to hop on 40 Meters from the Jeep, I resort to a Hamstick.  The Hamstick, on that same magmount, works exceedingly well.  I suppose I could get the Buddistick to work decently, but I would need to add extension arms and figure out whip length.  It seems easier to just plop the Hamstick on for 40 Meters and the Buddistick for 20 - 6 Meters.  I have fiddled around with the Buddistick enough to find a tap setting that will allow me to work 20, 17 and 15 Meters without changing the physical configuration. The autotuner in my KX3 compensates as needed for each band, and minimally at that.

So what do you do, if you're away from your vehicle, there are no trees, and no way to support a wire with a portable mast; and you don't want to mess with a vertical and radials?  This is where a magloop can come into play.  The magloop is the newest antenna in my portable ops arsenal, and I have to admit that for a long time, I was doubtful of its capabilities.  But (there's always a but) I remained intrigued by the idea of having something like that and hoped against hope that the stories I had been reading were not just wishful thinking.

So far, I have found that the claims seem to have some truth to them.  From the limited use I have given my home brewed magloop, I have been quite pleased as well as surprised.  I have easily hopped the Atlantic several times with 5 Watts as well as crossing the Continental US to the west coast.  What has surprised me about the loop is that the noise floor, while using one, is so low that you may think you have it tuned wrong.  The incoming radio signals seem to jump out of nowhere and are quite loud. But using a loop takes some getting used to.  You have to teach yourself how to find the "sweet spot", which means turning the tuning capacitor for loudest ambient band noise. In an environment where there may be lots of traffic or people talking, that means resorting to using earbuds or headphones.  Once you carefully tune for that loudest band noise, though, means you are there - flat SWR.  But you have to be careful, though, because the tuning is very sharp and if you're even a tiny bit off, the SWR can be sky high.  If you're going to be frequency hopping a lot, this is a major pain.  Also, the tuning capacitor works best with some sort of reduction drive. As I've mentioned before, tuning can be tricky until you're used to it, and without the reduction drive, it can be difficult to find that noise peak.

The bottom line is that, if you're going to do a lot of portable operating, you really should have at least three or four options at your disposal. There is no situation where one antenna where work in all cases, either due to lack of set up time, real estate, available antenna hanging resources, etc.  Once you've gotten some experience under your belt you will be able to size up the situation and will be able to determine what option will work the best for that given day.

Always keep in the back of your mind the equation, "MOE = A + R + T" . That is, Maximum Operating Enjoyment becomes an art. It is a mixture of Antenna Efficiency  Resources and Set Up Time.  The desired outcome for an enjoyable outing is always using the most efficient antenna you can, using the resources you have at hand, with the minimal amount of set up and tear down time. After all, the idea is to be on the air making contacts, not silently cursing antenna wires or trees under your breath while simultaneously elevating your blood pressure.

A word of warning, though ..... this will become a lifetime endeavor and you will be constantly perusing the Internet and Ham publications looking for that "all purpose, all in one antenna".  I doubt that you or I will ever find it, but as they say, "The fun is in the journey, not the destination."

Have fun and see you on the air from the Great Outdoors in 2017!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Happy New Year !!!

Fervent wishes from W2LJ to all of you for a happy, healthy, prosperous and joyous 2017!

My resolution for 2017 is to get back into the blogging spirit. It seems too many things otherwise occupied my attention in 2016.  My post total for the year wasn't a low - but almost. Only 2006, my second year of doing this, had a lower post total.

Not that I am an Amateur Radio expert or anything like that; but I'd like to get back into the swing of things with sharing with you folks.  It keeps my head in the game.

I also have to find a new place to operate from during lunch break at work.  We relocated from the building we were in to a new destination about 10 minutes farther on down the road.  The bad thing, radio-wise, is that this location has an underground parking deck.  It's very nice that my Jeep will be protected from the elements, but not good at all for trying to generate RF into the aether.  I will have to Google map the are to see if there's a near by park or some kind of open space that I can utilize without eating up too much operating time.

That's it for today. I am going to post in the next day or two my impressions about my experiences with portable antennas during NPOTA.  Nothing I haven't covered before; but something I'd like to write a bit about again.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Wow ..... just wow!

I'm not sure how to even begin this post. Yesterday, the final day of NPOTA was such a good day, there was no time to be sad or mourn its end. If NPOTA was the gift of a great big cake to Amateur Radio in 2016 - then December 31, 2016 will go down as the icing on the cake.  It was definitely one of the best days in Amateur Radio that I have ever had. If it wasn't the best, it was right up there in the Top 10 .... maybe the Top 5.

As stated in my earlier post this week, my intention was to come full circle and to end NPOTA as it began, with activations of both the Washington-Rochambeau Trail (TR23) and Morristown National Historical Park (HP28). The day started sunny and a bit cold as I made my way up to Morristown.  I haven't been up there since last May, and since I take all back roads to get there, I was using my TomTom GPS unit to guide me there. About 1/3 of the way there, the TomTom gave up the ghost.  Rebooting and resetting did no good.  The map screen was nothing but a blank, white screen.  Fortunately, I was able to retrace my steps without getting lost.

I set up in the parking lot and set up my 40 Meter Hamstick on the Jeep roof and the magloop right next to the Jeep. I was intending to start out on 40 Meter CW with the tried and proven Hamstick in order to get the 10 minimum QSOs that are needed for a valid activation; and only then switch over to the magloop for 20 Meters, as I really haven't used it enough to be confident in it as a proven performer.

After getting everything set up, I made myself comfortable and self spotted my activity on both DX Summit as well as the NPOTA page on Facebook.  I was rewarded with 38 QSOs on 7.038 MHz and then called CQ for a bit until the activity died out.  Then I switched over to the SSB portion of the band in order to find an empty frequency.  My goal was to work Dave KD2FSI who was staying in nearby Morris Plains. Dave and I have a history as far as NPOTA goes.  When he activated HP28 last January, I drove up to lend him some assistance.  Together, we both coached several fledgling members of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club during an activation of TR23. And when Dave would activate an NPOTA entity during his travels throughout the year, he kept me abreast of his agenda and gave me several ATNOs.

To work Dave on the last day of NPOTA would have been a privilege and an honor.  Gladly, it came to fruition; and I was able to have a brief sideband contact with him on 7.220 MHz (gladly, I thought enough to bring the microphone along, which turned out to be very important). After working Dave, I turned my attention to 14.061 MHz and the magloop.  With the 6:1 reduction drive, it seemed to take forever to find a noise peak, but eventually I did.  After carefully turning for peak noise, I hit the auto tune button on the KX3, thinking that I would "clean up" and lingering SWR. The auto tuner clicked and clacked for about a millisecond as I was already there - the KX3 showing me that I had a 1:1 match.  Now the proof would be in the pudding, Was my home brew magloop as good as advertised; or would be just a waste of my time and money?

The magloop turned out to be a great performer, way beyond what I thought was possible. With only 5 Watts, I was getting great signal reports from California, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, the Azores and Italy! Wow! Something that I built from scratch actually worked and it ended up costing me substantially less than a commercial unit. To say that I was pleased would be an understatement. I was more akin to walking on air.

Then then next hour even topped that!  Much to my surprise, Dave KD2FSI drove up next to me and parked in the space next to mine.  I got out of the Jeep and greeted him and we had ourselves a very nice time talking and discussing NPOTA and the day's events.  

While we were shooting the breeze, we both noticed a group pf people a little bit over in the same parking lot.  They had set up tables and had some drinks and some food that they were enjoying.  One of the women from the group came up to us and asked what we were doing and was my magloop "Some kind of antenna?"  We explained NPOTA and Amateur Radio and that's when she invited us over to join her friends for a warm drink and to explain to all of them what we were doing. It seems they were a group of Norwegian descendants who usually get together, either on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve to enjoy some food, drink and fellowship outdoors.  They gave Dave and me a hot cup of Glug, which was a mixture of red wine, almonds and raisins.  While we sipped we gave a good talk about Amateur Radio, NPOTA, the ARRL and the National Parks System as well as a few points about Emergency Communications.  They thanked us and we thanked them and then Dave and I headed back to our cars. He left to get back to Morris Plains, and I packed up to head back home to TR23.

About a 1/2 hour later, I arrived at the Frazee House in Scotch Plains, which is right on the Washington - Roachambeau Trail; and it was the same place I activated the Trail from during the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.  When I activated TR23 last January, I did it from the entrance to the Ashbrook Golf Course.  It was open yesterday and I didn't want to cause any commotion, so I came back to the Frazee House which is only a couple of minutes farther down the road.

This time I decided to use another arrow from my antenna quiver,  I also brought along my Joplin ARC antenna launcher and I got a line over a tree and made use of the PAR ENDFEDZ 40/20/10.

I ran the coax into the Jeep through a crack in the window and got down to business.  I ran off a bunch of QSOs on 40 Meters and was about to switch over to 20 Meters when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a vehicle had pulled up next to me.  This time, it wasn't another Radio Amateur. This time, it was a member of the Scotch Plains Police Department.  I guess I called some attention to myself, being the only car there, in an otherwise empty place.   I got out of the car and walked a step or two to his rolled down window. I introduced myself and gave the spiel about NPOTA and how Raritan Road is part of the Washington - Rochambeau Trail, which he knew.  What the Officer didn't know was that the trail is part of the National Parks System and he was very surprised by that. Then he told me about how his grandfather was a Ham, that in fact W2KKG was his call sign.  We talked a bit, shook hands and he went on his way; and I returned to the Jeep for 20 Meters.

20 Meter CW proved to be a disappointment. Even with self spotting, I garnered only about 15 QSOs before the activity petered out, way too soon in my opinion.  I sat there, with KX3 calling CQ, debating whether I should pack it in and go home.  It was getting to be around 2:30 PM EST, and I only wanted to be out until around 3:00 PM as I had a previous commitment at 5:00 PM and I had to get ready for that. Wanting to get a least a few more Qs in the log; so I decided that I would give 20 Meter SSB a shot.  With the deep cycle battery, I could boost the KX3's output to 10 Watts. The PAR was up in a tree about 50 feet up or so, so I figured, "What the heck!".  I didn't even bother to spot myself, I just hooked up the microphone and started calling CQ on 14.340 MHz, figuring that what would be, would be.

Much to my surprise, about 60 QSOs later, the pileup ceased.  With 10 Watts, I had worked all up and down the East Coast, across to California and Washington State and even up into Alberta, Canada. In all, there were only 1 or 2 instances where I had to repeat anything. It was pure bliss!

As it started becoming overcast and dusk started settling in, I packed everything up and headed home. I was in another world, walking in rarefied air. NPOTA turned out to be everything it was chalked up to be; and more.  Thanks to Sean, Norm and all the ARRL staff who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make NPOTA the success that it was. I have never been more proud to be a Life Member of the ARRL.  Friendships that will last a lifetime; and new memories that will last a lifetime are the direct results of NPOTA. It just doesn't get any better than this.

Later, I was talking with my good friend Bob W3BBO on Skype, as we do just about every Saturday evenming,  I had worked him earlier from HP28 and we talked about our QSO a bit more in depth and about the day in general. Bob stated that, in a way, he felt bad for me.  As he tuned around 20 and 40 Meters, it seemed like it was just wall-to-wall NPOTA. He told me that he was sure I should have been at home boosting up my entities worked total. I told him not to feel bad, as not only had I worked a couple new ones via Park to Park QSOs; but there was nowhere in the world that I would have rather been - handing out QSOs as an Activator on the last and best day of NPOTA.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Going cold turkey

"Going cold turkey" - a phrase familiar to some - unfamiliar to others. Perhaps many of my readers from outside the US have never heard of this American slang term before.  It means to break a habit ...... by stopping.  If you happen to smoke and decide to stop "cold turkey", that means stopping. Period. No gradually smoking less and less until you quit. Nope, you throw away your last pack of cigarettes into the trash can and never smoke again.

I smoked for a very brief period of time (maybe 1/2 a year) when I was in college and to this day, I'll enjoy a cigar at a wedding, if they're being offered; but I never smoked to the point where it became a habit. I can imagine though, for a hard core chain smoker, the thought of going "cold turkey" probably produces cold sweats and chills down the spine.

Thanks to the ARRL, many of us have become addicted to National Parks on the Air.  I say that in a teasing and friendly manner.  But the fact remains that for the past 12 months we have really enjoyed chasing and activating the over 400 National Park System entities.

A lot of folks went in whole hog and seemed to make it their mission to activate as many entities as possible.  Some made it a family affair, taking their spouses and children on a tour of the USA. Some seemed to take a sabbatical from work in order to satisfy their craving.  Some slept in cars, hopping from site to site, alternately activating and then hunting for a spot with WiFi so they could upload their logs to Logbook of the World.  A lot were like me, activating sites that were relatively close to home when chores and family commitments allowed some of that seemingly rare  commodity - free time.  One thing seemed certain, though, whether you were a hard core NPOTA'er or just an occasional dabbler ...... everyone who got involved had a good time.

So it is with mixed emotions that I anticipate the end of NPOTA 2016.  I will always have fond memories of my activations, and of how I incorporated NPOTA into the 2016 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, and of the many hours I spent behind the key (and microphone) as a chaser. I think I spent more time behind the microphone this year than in all my 38 years of Amateur Radio combined.

I will also fondly remember the friendships that have formed with many activators and fellow chasers on the air and through the NPOTA page on Facebook.  Call signs have become names and faces instead of just random letter/number combinations.  In a few instances, Hams that I have known for years and have only worked via Morse Code have now become familiar voices! And when was the last time a fellow Ham gave you cookies or a pizza for working them? Chalk up those innovative ideas for fellowship to NPOTA!

For many, NPOTA became an opportunity for us to rethink how we thought about Amateur Radio. A lot of us had to shed all previous notions and start thinking outside the box. For many it was the first time they ever operated outside the home Shack other than Field Day. NPOTA became a fantastic opportunity to learn about what works and what doesn't.  Many of us became more in tune with our equipment, using it in ways we never had before, expanding our capabilities and experiences. It was an opportunity for many to build and experiment with new antenna systems, new power systems, new ways of doing things that were previously taken for granted. For many of us, it also became a school for learning (real fast!) how to improvise when piece of equipment was forgotten; or how to make quick (and sometimes not so pretty) repairs when something would break or malfunction.  Through it all, we became better Amateur Radio Operators because of it; and there's no amount of money you can place on that.

It will be very hard for all NPOTA'ers when 23:59:59 UTC rolls around on December 31st and it's all gone; and we're all going "cold turkey". As far as this particular event is concerned, microphones and keys will go silent and we'll only have the sweet memories of the past 12 months to comfort us. It will seem strange not to turn on the rig and twiddle the dial looking for that new entity to work - looking for familiar call signs that we could count on to be activating some new place of historical significance.

So many thanks go out.  To Sean Kutzko KX9X and Norm Fusaro W3IZ from the League, who did a magnificent job tending and managing the NPOTA program. To the ARRL for sponsoring the event and making the resources available that  are necessary to run something of this magnitude.  Web space and server space don't grow on trees, so the next time you're ready to grouse about "What does the ARRL do for me?" ....... well, here's a good example.

Thanks to the many before mentioned activators, who provided me with so many moments of fun as well as so many moments of anticipation, and yes, even some moments of frustration.  Many thanks to the chasers who worked me (and will work me tomorrow during my two, final activations). Without all you fine folks, this NPOTA concept would have been just that - a concept.  You all breathed life into what may well go down in history as the most fondly remembered activity the ARRL ever sponsored.

Lastly, so many thanks to the National Park System and its employees. You have been the most kind and gracious hosts to all of us these past twelve months. You not only were knowledgeable and competent guides, you also became good friends.  We are in your debt for your generous hospitality.

72 de W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Doesn't anyone build ANYTHING for themselves anymore?

An honest question.  I was parsing through some of the Amateur Radio posts on Facebook and there were several posts for 9:1 UNUNs available through eBay.

Now, I'll the first to profess that I'm no EE. And most of my home brew projects come out looking like those baking failures you find on Instagram. And I'm certainly not on par with the home brewing skills of my good friend W3BBO who builds transmitters and receivers that are so good looking, that you'd WANT one in your shack. Nothing "ugly" about his construction techniques.

But a 9:1 UNUN?  Really?

Even "Mr. Two Thumbs" W2LJ can handle one of those!

And I have! And, gosh darn, it actually even works!

So if I can do it, you can do it, too. The parts are easy to find and the step by step instructions are easily found on the Web. Just search for "EARCHI".  You can "roll your own" for half the price you'd pay on the online auction site.  And maybe, just maybe, you can buy parts in bulk and have yourself a club project. Now THAT'S an idea!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The weather

The weather outlook for an NPOTA activation or two on Saturday is looking good.  While a lot of the Northeast is bracing for a major hit of snow tomorrow, we're supposed to get only rain in Central NJ.  It's supposed to clear out Thursday night into Friday and Saturday is forecast to be sunny and clear with a high of about 38F (3C).  Chilly, to be sure - but warmer than my first activation of TR23 last January.

I have a commitment at 5:00 PM, so if I'm going to do two activations, both HP28 and TR23, I am going to have to get an early start.  If all goes according to plan (and when does THAT ever happen?), I hope to be out of the house by 9:00 AM and up at Morristown National Historical Park by 10:00 Am or thereabouts.  I am planning on bringing the magloop and giving it a full blown workout.  Of course, the Buddistick, Hmastick and my normal arsenal of end fed wires will come along for the trip, too.  No sense in leaving home the antennas that you brought to the dance with you before.

TR23 and HP28 come together for a 2-fer from one small part of the park. You can see the trail in the following screen shot - it's represented by the red line.

It's hard to be IN the park and still within 100 feet of the trail. As you can see from the map, there are no roads which lead to easy access of TR23 from within HP28 by car.  All the service roads in the park are more that 100 feet away from the trail; and to be honest with you, I don't have the luxury of time for going for a hike.  So in keeping with being on the up and up, I will probably do them separately.  

Now here's something I just learned today which is fascinating.  I always knew there were two parts to the trail, where the two Generals split up for a bit before rejoining up.  Trail One is the one that General Washington took and is the one that runs close to my house that I've activated twice already.

Trail Two is the one that General Rochambeau used. This one runs right through Washington Valley Park which is also the site of the Middlebrook Encampment, where Continental Army troops wintered and where the first United States flag ever flew.  In fact, the Middlebrook Encampment is the only place in the United States, where by an Act of Congress, that the original 13 star "Betsy Ross" flag is officially allowed to fly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

It's not all that far from Washington Rock State Park (and home), so maybe I will set up there for a couple hours after returning from HP28.  If I can activate HP28 from about 10:00 AM to Noon (1500 - 1700 UTC) and then TR23 from about 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM (1800 - 2000 UTC) that will still get me home in time to make my commitment and still finish up before NPOTA ends at 2359 UTC.

Ambitious plans usually get messed up for me. We'll see what happens.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

New Year's Day Sprint

From the QRP-ARCI folks:


1500Z to 1800Z on 1 January 2017.

HF CW only.

Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, ARCI member number Non-Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, Power Out

QSO Points:
Member = 5 points Non-Member, Different Continent = 4 points Non-Member, Same Continent = 2 points

SPC (State/Province/Country) total for all bands. The same station may be worked on multiple bands for QSO points and SPC credit.

Power Multiplier:
>5 Watts = x1
>1 - 5 Watts = x7
>250 mW - 1 Watt = x10
>55 mW - 250 mW = x15

Suggested Frequencies:
80m 3560 kHz 40m 7030 kHz 20m 14060 kHz 15m 21060 kHz 10m 28060 kHz

Bonus Points:
If you are operating PORTABLE using battery power AND a temporary antenna, add 5000 points to your final score. (You can NOT be at your shack operating from battery power using your home station antenna to qualify for this bonus.) This is to help level the playing field for contesters who work from the field against contest stations with 5 element yagis at 70 ft.

Final Score = Points (total for all bands) x SPCs (total for all bands) x Power Multiplier + Bonus Points

Entry may be All-Band, Single Band, High Bands (10m-15m-20m) or Low Bands (40m-80m)

How to Participate:
Get on any of the HF bands except the WARC bands and hang out near the QRP frequencies. Work as many stations calling CQ QRP or CQ TEST as possible, or call CQ QRP or CQ TEST yourself! You can work a station for credit once on each band.

Log Submission:
Submit your entry online at
Log sheets are not required for entry, but may be requested by the Contest Manager if required.


Entries must be postmarked on or before 15 January 2017.

Will be published in QRP Quarterly and shown on the QRP-ARCI website.

Will be awarded to the top five scoring entrants.

New Year's Day is pretty much a non-event for me. It's a holiday that I just can't get excited about, other than having the day off. Another trip around the Sun. Big deal. But this may provide a few hours worth of fun if same said Sun cooperates.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016

A day late and a dollar short - my Christmas post for 2016.  This year has been hectic with work, NPOTA and a host of other things.  Blog postings are coming in at almost an all time low for W2LJ. For that I apologize and will do may best to make up for it in 2017.

Did you get any Ham goodies left under your Tree by Santa?  None here at the W2LJ house.  I guess Santa didn't get my letter about that PX3, or the KX2, or the Begali paddle, or the..........

Just joking, actually, as W2LJ didn't ask for any Ham goodies this year.  Maybe I have to turn in my Amateur Radio Membership Card, but there was nothing Ham related that I really wanted this year. And that's not a sign of apathy or losing interest - just a sign of contentment with what I have.

Christmas was spent with family; so it was a wonderful day. Today was wonderful, too, as I managed to work 3 or 4 new NPOTA entities.  I should wind up 2016 with close to 220 confirmed. On Saturday, I am thinking about possibly going up to Jockey Hollow once again to activate HP28 again for a couple of hours; and then maybe TR23 for another coupe of hours on the way home.

But getting down to business - W2LJ's Christmas wish for you ........

May the Joy, Hope and Peace that the Christ Child came to bring, live in your hearts now and forever!  May your friends and families know them as well. May your houses be filled with Happiness and Contentment and Love.  And just remember, for the secular world Christmas has ended - but for those who believe ......... the Season has only just begun !!!

A very Blessed and Merry Christmas to you all!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When oyu care to send the very least!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bah, Humbug!

You can't believe everything you read on the Internet these days, but I would sincerely hate to think this story is true:

I used to be an HRD user, and even went so far as to purchase a license a couple of years ago, which has since expired for continued support.  For my needs, the software became a bit overblown and I really didn't want to keep renewing that license for continued support.

I have since returned to using Log4OM, which I had previously tried and have no intentions of ever turning back!  This is my logging program for now and for the foreseeable future.

Log4OM was developed by Daniele Pistollato – IW3HMH. It is free and is actually very intuitive and very user friendly, in addition to being aesthetically appealing, as well.  Daniele and his team keep providing upgrades and support and even offer an excellent User Manual which is easily downloadable.  And if you should ever run into a problem that's not answered in the manual, there's also an on-line forum on which the developers keep a close eye. They usually answer questions in a day if not with in hours, and the team is very friendly and gracious.

If you happen to be one of those people who is a "visual learner", meaning that it works better for you if you can actually see the program in use, there are plenty of videos on YouTube which will show you how the program works.  There are also additional videos that go into deeper explanation as how to use the additional features, such as linking to eQSL and Logbook of the World.

If you want a free Windows based logging program that is easy on the eyes, pretty simple to use with a relatively small learning curve - look no further. Log4OM may be the solution for you!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

QRPGuys new kit

TheQRPGuys are offering a new kit, a 40 Meters Direct Conversion Receiver - for $35 (without the optional digital dial, which is extra).

It looks like a fun kit and is all through-hole, which is a big plus for the neophyte kit builder.

QRPGuys offers a whole bunch of inexpensive kits. Be sure to check them out - with Christmas coming and all - maybe you'll find a neat stocking stuffer for that favorite QRPer of yours. OR maybe you can discreetly leave a few hints with the XYL.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!