The last week of our holiday we planned a mid week visit to the Efteling, a large Dutch theme park. Due to the busyness in the park we were engulfed in waiting for the attractions for hours on end. We managed to try out the best attractions, fortunately. In the evenings there was time for some HF! I put up the ZS6BKW with a length of coax and managed to make quite a few conversations around the country, with just 10W from the IC-705! This setup works great for NVIS on 80m.
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Another test of antennas in the field. Again at a well-known spot together with PA2DKW: the Polder Bilwijk, a nearby nature reserve. Unfortunately not a Flora & Fauna reference, but still a nice spot to experiment. A small wooded area near the parking space and a lot of pasture to extend long wire antennas. We used the call sign PA6ML/P for clarity.
We managed to make quite a few connections. The vertical EFHW was performing well on 20m with a reasonable amount of DX. The ZS6BKW dipole also managed to do a very fine job: with 10W we spoke with an amateur (also QRP!) on one of the northern Wadden Islands on a very comfortable signal level on both sides.
We seem to be picked up across the pond by a Canadian station, but we weren’t aware:
Frank PA2DKW and I went “antenna field day” again last week. We wanted to test the performance of some (too) small loop antennas, a SuperAntennas MP-1 and to find out why my dipole wasn’t doing its job. We suspected that the 1:1 balun for my 80/40/15 dipole didn’t behave properly. Frank discovered that the binding posts weren’t tightened enough (shame on me). On top of that, the VNA showed that both wires were too short and needed 33 cm (1′, really?) of additional wire. Hm, bummer.
The WSPR reports for three antennas were analyzed:
- The AlphaLoop antenna for 40-10m, 15W PEP max, tuned for 20m WSPR.
- The SuperAntennas MP-1 on a tripod, tuned for 20m WSPR.
- An EFHW wire antenna, vertically alongside a glass fiber pole.
Sometimes both earth weather and solar weather refuse to cooperate. “Murphy” assists by planning the worst conditions possible during the planned activation of PAFF-0095/PA-0080 in the first week of May: a SFI of around 70, heavy gusts (5Bft+) and a lot of heavy rain showers.
My family and both parents-in-law visited a large holiday resort near the small town of America in the province of Limburg. My planning was to activate ‘Mariapeel’ on the 4th, 5th and 6th of May.
With Google Maps I found a very good spot to set-up my equipment. It was well sheltered and in the northern area of the reference.
My father-in-law and I decided to explore the reference on Tuesday, the second day of our stay. The weather was quite rough: heavy gusts and persistent showers. We managed to reach the aforementioned spot. Bad luck plagued our mission. Due to a mixup, I took short coaxial cables with me, so I had to fiddle around with coax couplers. Adding insult to injury, the housing of the EFHW balun smashed against the roof of the sheltered benches due to the stormy weather, breaking off some of the plastic 😢
One of the wires inside the balun broke loose from the SO239 connector. I did not bring along my TS80P portable soldering iron with me. It was still in the holiday home. First attempt: failed. 😔
The weather stayed troublesome on Wednesday. A lot of wind and some hefty rain showers during the day. The 1:49 was fixed quite easily with the soldering iron. This time I assured myself of bringing along enough coaxial cable. I discovered that I forgot one BNC coaxial cable at the spot in the reference area. I knew it should still be there. People here are trustworthy and let stuff alone. My father-in-law and I jumped on our bikes and started cycling back to the spot. The heavy wind persisted and we had to shelter a couple of times. The rain was simply too hefty. We managed to reach the sheltered benches without getting soaked. The cable was still there and we decided to set up the station. We put up a 20 meter long EFHW, horizontally between a tree and a pole of an information board. We could work 80 through 10 meters, if conditions allowed.
However, conditions were quite bad. Nonetheless I managed to make two WWFF park-to-park contacts with stations already running CQ around 14.244 MHz. Too bad I wasn’t able to make any other FF contact, but I did manage to work some Russian Special Event stations and other DX stations in both SSB and CW.
The last full day at the holiday park, my father-in-law decided to try to activate the reference once more. The rain was less persistent and the wind was less overwhelming. I am glad we brought the e-bikes along: it made cycling to the center spot of the reference area a lot less of a challenge. We put up a 15 meter long telescopic mast with an EFHW of around 14m, for 10-40m band. Unfortunately it was again very difficult to make a contact: conditions continued to be abysmal (SFI around 70). I managed to work some non-WWFF stations in both SSB and CW.
I will try another activation of a reference on the Veluwe, in the end of May. Hopefully this will be more successful.
Finally… two weeks a bit of a holiday. Regular work is more or less on a back burner, because there is only one assignment and all other stuff is on hold. Besides that, I am going to spent some time with the family. And where possible … in the field 🙂
Today was hopefully a ‘harbinger’ of what is to come. With my glass fibre pole, backpack with IC-705 and my LFP battery pack I went to one of the WWFF-spots I discovered ages ago, before I was into WWFF. The weather was a bit on the ‘fresh’ side, around 10 degrees Celcius, with a light breeze. The sun was shining throughout the day and with my windjacket on, it was perfect to make some qso’s in the field.
I started off with some voice and CW contacts. The qso was quite relaxed, at about 10/12 wpm, because the ham on the other end of the waves was learning CW too, which made it much less awkward. I managed to write along on paper. Answering went quite smoothly, I was not dissatisfied at all.
Then I decided to switch to voice again and call for WWFF-hunters on 14.244 MHz. With two ‘big-guns’ from Spain and Russia around the frequency it was barely workable. But setting the filters right made it possible to pick up a ham from Bretagne, France. OM Guy, F4INT, was working portable from the beach near Brest (IN78SI). He used a FT-817 with a SotaBeams processor. It gave a very nice audio and we had quite a long qso of about 40 minutes. At the end, the fading become too strong and we decided to call it a day.
I did not expect the conditions to be that favourable. The SFI was around 80 and there were some geomagnetic disturbances. Guy was working with the FT-817 at 5 Watts output, and I was running from the battery pack giving about 7-10 Watts. Still, not quite ‘high power’, but the QSO went smooth for the most part and we had no problem hearing each other.
Hopefully next week more of these surprises with reasonable weather (around 12 degrees C) and some welcome solar activity.
Due to some very fine weather with a temperature above 17℃ in the afternoon, fellow radio amateur Frank PA2DKW, owner of antenna kit webshop HFKits, and I decided to do some antenna experiments ‘in the field’.
We ended up in a polder, a typical Dutch countryside setting. And as I am interested in World Wide Flora and Fauna, this area is indeed a WWFF reference, namely PAFF-0079. We were able to make 11 QSO’s for WWFF under the call sign PA6ML/P. Conditions were abysmal, but still, we could test the antennas in mind.
Frank set up a glass fibre pole with an end-fed half wave wire antenna vertically along it and, mounted against the picnic table, a very skilfully assembled delta loop antenna. Not very scientific, but we tried testing the performance with WSPR. Only 10 watts from an ICOM IC-705. The results were puzzling at best.
We both worked with WSJT-X to transmit a WSPR signal. Frank used call sign PA2DKW/P and transmitted on his delta loop antenna and PA6ML/P was used to transmit using the end-fed wire antenna, vertically.
Preparing for some portable operation. Ogling an activation of POTA PA-0181 (2,5km / 1½ mile by bike) and/or PAFF-0079/PA-0180 (5,6km / 3½ miles), my wife PD4LYN and I decided to test the new equipment in the field.
Our /P setup under test
- TRX: ICOM IC-705;
- Battery: 13.2VDC 12Ah home-brew LiFePo4 pack;
- Antenna: Diamond RHM-10 with PL socket; mounted at the back of my bike with a SO239 gutter mount;
- Amp: 45W MX-P50M, when QRP is really impossible due to abysmal condx, trying to output about 25W at most; seldom used nonetheless;
- Keypad: for easy voice or cw-keying; simple, home-brew pad, needs some reworking;
- PC: Asus Transformer T100TA;
- Tuner: mAT-705, not needed, but you never know;
- Paddle: Pico Paddle;
- A couple of coaxial cables.
We noticed some heavy RFI originating from the USB between the IC-705 and the mini-notebook. Previously, with the microHAM USB III, I did not have this problem, so I (wrongly) assume this is a combination of transceiver, USB-cable and possibly some coaxial common mode going on. It messed up the RX and, as we later found out, RFI from the TRX also messed up USB. Quite predictable.
Next time I will try:
- a decent RF-choke;
- a variety of properly double shielded USB-A-to-micro-B cables of different lengths with ferrite core(s);
- a separate ferrite clamp of decent quality to run the USB-cable through;
- changing the position of the antenna relative to the transceiver;
- warmer weather! It was sunny, around 15ºC (60ºF), but a harsh wind in open land made it very uncomfortable.