Looking up …

Not literally … I meant that conditions improved quite a bit over the past couple of days. Forty meters really seems to be the workhorse, but twenty had its moments. I was working JT-65 and JT-9 with one hand, while doing some catching up on paperwork with the other and the waterfall was full, with stations stacked on top of stations. I would transmit a CQ and at least two stations would decode coming back to me. Midwest, East coast, and Europe were all workable. Lots of fun!

Yesterday afternoon, I adjusted the hamsticks for my truck using my handy-dandy MINI60 Antenna Analyzer. Yes, I parted with my hard-earned cash and I must say, I’m really pleased with the device. It’s well-built and does what it’s supposed to. With the Bluetooth linked to my smartphone, It’s easy to see where the resonance is … the answer is just a scan away. I’m hoping to get some portable operations in from some nearby parks soon, now that the weather is nice.

So, I’ll catch you later.

73 de Dick N4BC

On again!

Well, I’ve been somewhat of a slacker … my last sustained activity was in February. I just had an accumulation of things that couldn’t be put off any longer that took precedence. I’m still not out of the woods, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

I have managed to get some JT activity the past couple of days. Yesterday, in particular, seemed to be pretty good propagation during the early afternoon, but I didn’t have the time to get much operating done. Ah, well … I can only hope!

The weather is decidedly more cooperative lately, so maybe I’ll have a chance to get the cobweb antenna up, and do some portable operations from the truck as well. I checked out my FT-817ND and the associated mobile and portable goodies the other evening, and I think I’m OK there.

I got a couple of QSL cards this week, too! That’s an unusual occurrence for me nowadays. Back in the “good old days,” it was NOT unusual to get a few cards every week. Of course, when I was rare DX, I used to get LOTS of cards every week. Times change.

Well, I’m about finished my lunch break at work, so let me get back to work. See you later …

73 de Dick N4BC

What happened to Spring?

We had a few nice Spring days, but it seems like Summer has arrived about a month early. Temperatures and humidity here in coastal Virginia have been Summer-like already. I sure hope this is not a taste of an unbearable August.

Saturday, we had our annual Southeastern Virginia Ham picnic at Deer Park, in Newport News. It was a nice get together, with a chance to put faces to some of the calls I hear on the local repeaters. We had hamburgers and hot dogs with a few sides, and just generally relaxed and got to know each other a bit better.

Field Day is approaching, and once again our club, PARC, will do a joint venture with SPARK at the usual Hampton location. Things will be as usual, but I don’t think we are going to run a GOTA station this year. Last year we had zero luck with that. We are always looking forward to improving every year, and hopefully we can make a better CW showing this year.

I still haven’t had a chance to get an 80M antenna up in the air yet, but with the good weather, I’m going to have to get out into the yard and just do it. I’ve got the wire, 9:1 UN-UN, rope, coax, and slingshot, so the only thing holding me back is lack of motivation! I’m going to go out on a limb here (not literally!) and promise myself to GET THIS DONE!

I’ve recently started trying to make a contact or two at lunchtime from work, using the HB1B from the truck, but not a lot of luck so far. Yeah, I’ve gotten a couple of contacts, but with only a half-hour for lunch, it’s difficult to get some food into myself, get the rig connected and then dismantled, and not feel terribly rushed. Maybe it’ll get easier as I get more familiar with it.

73 de Dick K4FTW


The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and my sinuses are dripping because of allergies … Spring is officially here now! I’ve started digging through winter storage boxes to collect my portable QRP goodies so I can once more play radio from the great outdoors.

I was going to operate while on a Scouting weekend last week, but it was cold and rainy … not a great experience. As it turned out, I was pretty busy as well, so time was at a premium. Everything seems to work well set up at home, so I’m going to at least get out into the back yard and test things in an actual field setting on Saturday or Sunday.

I have been on 20M CW recently, and worked a few Europeans. The signals have been a bit poor when I was able to get on, but the QSOs went OK. I hope to get organized enough to be able to operate /P from the parking lot at work at lunchtime soon. I think that affords the best chance for a regular radio session.

We’re still looking for a location for our 2M repeater (W4MT). We lost our site a couple of months ago and are working several possibilities now. There are several other repeaters in the area that we can use, but it’d be nice to get ours up and running again.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Hamfest Time

Last Saturday was the Virginia Beach Hamfest at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, so I made the trek. I already had a ticket, purchased at the club meeting. It was a nice time … met some old friends, saw some new things … also saw a Heathkit DX-100B for sale for $100.00. It was pretty clean, and according to the seller, worked flawlessly. Nostalgia is great, but no thanks. I’ll pass.

I was looking for some mobile hamstick-type antennas, and one of the flea-market sellers had some, but not for the bands I wanted or the price I wanted. I got home and ordered what I needed from HRO in northern Virginia, and should have them Tuesday. Even regular shipping is pretty much overnight to my QTH.

I’m not planning on mobile operations, but more truck-portable ops. I like Larry’s (W2LJ) habit of getting on from the parking lot at work for lunchtime, and a mobile antenna is a quick way to get on the air from there. He seems to have great luck, so I’ll give it a try with my FT-817nd and a hamstick.

The Hamfest, while worth a trip, is a shadow of its former glory. There were NO major ham radio vendors there (Elecraft had a local team there). Not even a lot of second-tier companies there. If you were looking to buy a name-brand, new hf rig, you’d be better off ordering it. I think this is a problem with all hamfests nowadays. The manufacturers just don’t have the budget to hit all the non-major hamfests. It’s a shame, really … no chance to “touchy-feelie” things.

I’ve been very busy lately at work. We’re updating our 800 MHz Motorola trunked system from analog to digital, so I’ve been involved with developing the new fleetmap and templates for programming the radios. Working at the computer for 8 hours a day makes your eyes cross after a while, so frequent breaks are needed and welcome.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Field Day 2014

I had hoped to help more with the club Field Day, but too many other things going on this weekend. I did get down to help set up on Saturday morning, but unfortunately, wouldn’t make it back to operate. I had my granddaughter’s fifth birthday party to attend, and that’s very important. I also had to buy a new dryer for the wife, since our 20+ year-old drier finally reached the dreaded “point of no repair”. I did get a good deal, though :-).

W4MT Field Day Site
W4MT Field Day Site, Northampton Church of Christ, Hampton, VA

I did get a chance to operate some from home as a 1D station, but it’s not quite the same. I worked probably 75 stations, mostly on 20M CW, but also some on 40M and 80M CW. It was a good run, but alas, no elusive ND section :-). Propagation was good … I can’t complain.

73 de Dick K4FTW


I haven’t been very active lately. I’ve had lots of other irons in the fire, and ham radio has had to take a back seat. I got on 20m sideband tonight and worked a RA7 and AM08TL. That one threw me for a bit, but it’s a special Spanish call in honor of the new King. The station is in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands.

I’m getting things together for my trip to Pennsylvania for Boy Scout summer camp with two other adults and eight boys. We’ll be at Hidden Valley Scout Reservation, and I’m taking “ham stuff” with me. I’ve picked up an FT-817nd and am carrying that for some portable, battery-powered QRP. I think the boys will be more interested in SSB than CW, because they can actually hear what’s going on. I’m hoping to make a few more converts.

I got a certificate in the mail this afternoon from the Virginia QSO Party. I was the “High Newport News Mixed Mode 40M” scorer. I suspect I was the only Newport News Mixed Mode 40M entry ;-). In any case, it’s always nice to get another piece of paper for the shack wall.

That’s it for now, I guess. I’ll write a bit more later.

73 de Dick k4ftw

Computer Crashes and Antennas

I spent a bit of time last night working the various QSO parties (IN, NE, 7QP) and had a pretty good time. N1MM kept crashing the computer, and I couldn’t figure out what had changed since I last used it. I was using the FT-450 hardware file for my FT-450D, and had had the occasional crash before, but it was getting worse, so I decided to try the FT-950 file. Night & day, folks. I haven’t had a crash since I changed, and everything seems to work OK. I guess the FT-450D is a lot more like the FT-950, since they are both SDR digital DSP boxes. I’m not sure how the FT-450 is different in how the computer sees it.

I want to say a couple of words about the W1SFR End-Fed 40 – 6 m Antenna that I bought from Steve at kx3helper.com and used for the first time last weekend. This is a quality product and Steve really stands behind what he sells. Just because the website says kx3helper, there’s plenty there that’s useful for other small portable rigs, too. Yeah, sure … I could have built the matching network in a box myself and cut some wire and had something functionally equivalent, but what I didn’t spend was TIME. Between work, family, scouting, and church, I don’t have a lot of time. I treasure the (too few) moments that I have to myself to do ME things (like ham radio). To me, it’s worth buying it ready to go. Visit Steve’s site and see what he has to offer, especially if you like portable operation.

Well, that’s about it for now. 72 and 73 de Dick K4FTW

Hammin’ in the Woods

Operating has been pretty spotty lately. I’ve just been so busy with other things that radio has had to take a back seat. I have worked a few of the W1AW/x stations, but not much else.

This weekend, though, I did get on the air in a different manner. I am also a Scout leader, so I took all of my portable gear with me on a weekend camping trip into the woods. I wanted to expose the kids to ham radio, and gauge the interest for participation in the Radio Merit Badge.

This was really the first weekend I’ve had the time (and the decent weather) to get out and do some portable operation. This past winter was too nasty for me to trek to the woods and do ham radio!

I had the Ten-Tec R4040 QRP transceiver, the ZM-2 tuner, and a 40-6 Meter End Fed antenna with 9:1 balun from Steve at kx3helper.com, along with the assorted odds and ends needed to connect everything. The antenna was up in a “L” configuration, no more than 20 feet high at its highest point.

I powered up everything from a 12V 7AH battery, tuned up, and got on the air. The Florida QSO Party was going, and the signals were pretty good. I answered a few stations and they came right back to me. I was impressed. I was even more impressed when I noticed I’d made quite a few QSOs with the ZM-2 in the TUNE position … I wasn’t even connected to the antenna! I flipped the switch, and the results were much better!

This was the first “Field Test” of the entire setup and I was duly impressed. Everything worked just like it was supposed to, and I had several of the boys (and adults) interested in learning more. It was really a great weekend in all respects.

73 de Dick K4FTW