01/22/13

My First Ham Contest

If you read previous posts, you know this past weekend I took part in my first ham radio contest. It was the North American QSO Party. I was also trying to take part in the ARRL VHF January contest but that was fruitless, completely. Saturday afternoon about 12pm CST I started my setup. I gathered up my antenna supplies, a 20 meter home made wire dipole with a DX Engineering Alpha Delta Antenna kit. Basically it’s just a feed point and two insulators. This was going up into two tree’s outside the radio room’s window, so I also used rubber bands to lash the various pieces in place. Then I just opened the windows a smudge and feed in the coaxial feed line it’s self. This all worked really well!

By this point it’s about 12:40pm on Saturday, 20 minutes to go. I now grab my laptop put it on the desk, turn on the PS and finally radio. I’m using the NAQP program by N3FJP as my logging software. It’s simple, easy-to-use and this program is specifically made for this contest. N3FJP has a whole suite of programs for popular various contests. I had tried to get my radio to interface with Ham Radio Deluxe, but it just wasn’t having it. O well.

It’s now 15 till start time. Everything is on and charged. I tune up the antenna just to tighten everything up. Since I had extra time I tuned around and called CQ for about 13 minutes and 6 contacts so I was feeling pretty good about it. First hour 20 contacts right out of the gate. All over the north, north east, south and south eastern side of the USA and I think one Canada contact. So I take a lunch break and sit with the wife for a few and then get back at it. 26 more contacts in about an hour and a half.

This is awesome, I mean I don’t have a pile up of people looking to talk to me when I’m working CQ, but every single station that I come to that’s calling CQ I get through to. Including a pile up or two that I make it through. Remember home made antenna in a tree that’s not near as high as it should have been. I’m having a ball!

At this point I’m 4 hours into the contest, I’ve stepped away to do something for the wife. I come back and turn the radio back on and my for whatever reason my power supply takes a dump. The fan inside revs up to full speed, as does the voltage read out. It maxs! As quickly as I can I turn it off and unplug my radio from it. I put a voltmeter on the PS and 31.6 volts. AGH! So pissed.

Power Supply is a MFJ-4245MV

My nice, beautiful, expensive, new Yaesu FT-950 was over volted! Then I’m taking another reading and the POS power supply shocks me. I’m touch the metal chassis of the case and the negative terminal. I then, after my arm stops hurting, take a measurement on the chassis. 186.9 volts. At this point I go, pull out my antenna and bring it in. My contest day is over. Tomorrow, tuesday 23rd, I’m calling MFJ.

I’ve always heard the MFJ isn’t the best but I really was trying to buy from an American company. Astron

ft-950 338422

 

03/7/12

What is Amateur Radio?

Amateur Radio (or “ham radio”) provides the broadest and most powerful wireless communications capability available to any private citizen anywhere in the world. This worldwide community of ham radio operators use their radios for emergencies, experimentation, and fun!

12/16/11

Pearl Harbor Day and Ham Radio…

This is a shot of the USS North Carolina right
after she arrived in the 60’s

If there is anyone, beside me, reading this you know I’m a new Ham Radio(Amateur Radio) operator. I’m only at the first, of 3, levels in which you can be at in the US. With that said I am still, over all, getting my feet wet in what is out there. There are a 1000+ ways to go at the hobby. I am a hands on kind of guy, so I like building things. Particularly circuits and antennas. Nothing to crazy, but I have built myself a very well tuned ground plain antenna for 2 meters. One of the other things I am doing is trying to be active in the ham community locally. I have attended several functions the club has put on over the past 2 months and also joined the local ARES chapter. One of the functions I took part in was the Pearl Harbor Day radio ops the local club put on.

Azalea Coast Amateur Radio Club is the club here in town. Several of the members have over many years restored and worked with the USS North Carolina Battleship here in town. These folks have gone in and explored the battleship, restored rigs, and operated on them. Plus all the gear surrounding the radio operations; generators, wiring, etc.. So every year for the past several they have radio events on the battleship. This year I took part in one and it was awesome!

Sitting probably in the Cape River in Wilmington, NC

This all went down on the 6th and 7th of December 2011. On the 6th we went in and tested the waters, so to speak. Course the night of the 6th the airwaves were basically silent for us. Three contacts were made and that’s it, no more. Now with that said some guys had met the previous Sunday afternoon to this and managed many contacts, plus they contacted a station at Pearl Harbor and another ship in San Diego, CA. On the 7th we met on at a fine local eating establishment for breakfast and then proceeded to the ship. There are several radio rooms on the ship but for our activities the guys doing CW/morse code worked 4 decks down in Radio II(I believe) and my group worked SSB voice on 20meters in Radio Central(I believe).

At sea in the 1940’s

Working this day on 20meters was awesome! Probably one of the coolest things I’ve done! I was the 3rd operator to take a 30 minute shift. It was nerve racking and absolutely awesome all at the same time. I have no, nil, nada experience on the HF bands and the etiquette down there is very specific and, for me at least, difficult to grasp that day. There’s all this verbal short hand and jargon, that in passing I’ve heard, but had no clue how to implement it. But with that said the guys in the room were super nice and patience with this noob. I made roughly about thirty contacts. Including 2 from Canadian, 1 UK and even another museum ship, my fav, in Tampa, FL. It was the USS American Victory, W4AVM. During the operation we logged roughly 140 – 150 contacts. To my knowledge we had 5 to 7 countries, 25ish states, and 2 museum ships. During that time we also talk to one ham whose father was on the USS North Carolina during it’s tour and one ham who was a chief engineer in the yard in which the ship was built.

Over all this was a day that I hold high, not only did I get to operate my first HF comms, but I did it to help celebrate the memory of the USS North Carolina and Pearl Harbor Day.

The USS North Carolina sitting in the Cape River across from Wilmington, NC