CW from the mobile

About twice a month I have the opportunity to scoot out in the morning to a nearby park for an hour or two. I use it as an opportunity to make a few contacts to make sure my mobile setup is still working well. This morning I was out at the Wyandotte County Park.

I was able to make five contacts on 40M. Some interference form shortwave broadcasts, but nothing that fully prevented a QSO. I enjoy using the J-45 leg key – it does not seem like it is a key built for speed. That’s okay for me as I am still somewhere in between 10 and 15 wpm.

When I get home and upload these contacts on to LOTW, I want to make sure that I have the correct location in TrustedQSL before I sign and upload the logs. I found two websites that helped me figure out the grid location for the park. The first is QRZ’s Gridmapper. The second website was a bit more user friendly and also provided the ITU and CQ Zones. After I set up a new station location in TrustedQSL and had transferred the contacts from my pocket notebook to my fldigi logbook, I exported the contacts and then signed and uploaded them via TrustedQSL into LOTW. Victory.

From eastern Kansas to the California Sierra Nevada – QSO with KD6EUG

Back in December of 2011 I got this email from my dad, Larry (KD6EUG) about the severe storm damage to his cabin in Mi-Wuk, California – located in the Sierra Nevadas:

The big pine tree that is located at the corner of the back deck, the one that we used as the center for all our antennas, split in two and about 90 ft of it landed on the back deck and cabin/garage. All the dining room windows and sliding doors are blown out. There is a 6″ separation between the garage and the kitchen. The PG&E power meter and feed lines to the power pole are ripped out. The wind had gusts of over 35mph.


Here are a few of the picture I received over the next few days showing the destruction:

My dad and I had a great field day from the cabin back in 2009. It was quite a blow to see what nature had delivered.

It has been a long path since December 2011. Through diligence and perseverance, my dad was able to revive the cabin. The work was finally completed this past summer.

We had another scare with the Rim Fire back in August and September. The fire actually came within a few miles of the cabin but fortunately the firefighters were successful in stopping it before it could do any damage.

My dad is now up there enjoying the California QSO Party from the cabin in Tuolumne County (…sometimes a pretty hard-to-get county in the CQP).

We have tried on several occasions to attempt HF QSOs while he has been at the cabin and I have either been here in Kansas or when I was stationed in Virginia. We never had much luck and have primarily used my EchoIRLP node as the best way to chat (IRLP Node 3553/EchoLink Node: KI4ODI-L 518994). Well, our luck changed today. We decided to give it a go prior to the CQP and started at 10Ms and worked down until we got to the 15M band. On 21.400 MHz we had brilliant success in carrying on an HF QSO. I’ve already send out the QSL card to confirm the contact.

With my coming retirement from the Army, I am going to have the opportunity to head back out to the California Sierra Nevadas this next June for Field Day 2014. I am looking forward to that!

Yes… the bands are open

Like you needed me to tell you about it.

I was initially licensed in 2001. Finally upgraded to General in 2005. Up to this point, my ham radio career has been under less than optimal propagation. From the oldtimers, I’d heard tales of 10 meters… when the sunspots where there, 10 meters could be worked around the world with only a wet clothesline (not even wet, just a bit damp). Frankly, it was hard to believe. My one prior 10 meter contact had been an opening QSO during the 2006 Field Day… Virginia to New York, some serious DX? [I thought so at the time.]

We’ve all heard the news… 10 meters is open. But from an HF standpoint, I was limited to my Buddipole, where I was nugging out CW contacts on the 40M Novice Band.

This weekend I threw up some wire and everything changed…..

Europe, the Caribbean, Alaska, 10 meter magic! (… I thought 6 meters was The Magic Band?) 10 meters was like a local 80 meter ragchew without the S5 noise floor, everybody has a 2KW amp, and the vast majority of the inbreds were nowhere to be found.

Thanks be to Apollo – may the sunspots continue!

Time to look about getting a 10-10 membership…. and, with a little luck, I might even have the cards for DXCC.(!)

…. need to put a map up on the wall.

On a radio safari

Today was a real adventure on the airwaves. I only made 12 contacts, but there were a few that are quite memorable. My location here in South Korea affords me the ability to make contact with exotic locations even with my modest Buddipole antenna. The first contact wasn’t actually a contact – tuning around 20M, I stumbled across 9W6HLM and 9W6BOB operating from Borneo (yes, 9W6BOB is Borneo Bob… how cool is that?). Both stations were on the air, leisurely trolling for contacts… although they couldn’t hear me. I was able to hear them work Denis, WA5TYJ, in New Mexico. Fortunately, the noise level for me was very low and I could just hear Denis.

The next two contacts were with JA’s – a completely unremarkable accomplishment from the QTH here in HL-land. However, they were made using my newly basedlined Linux Ubuntu hamputer using CQRLOG, Fldigi, and Flrig. Again, an unremarkable accomplishment on the face of it… until you hear about my trials and tribulations of getting it working.

Then I worked ZS6CCY, a South African station, on 20M phone! That was pretty exciting. I switched to Fldigi to give PSK31 a try and was able to work a few Russian stations. Then booming down the waterfall came Kim, HL2DYS. I had yet to work another station here in South Korea… but I had to be patient. Kim was working the South Pacific and Europe. When there was a hole, a jumped in and we had a great QSO. Hopefully I will be able to meet Kim soon for an eyeball QSO.

There was a major JA phone contest underway, so I decided to head up to 17M and see if I could scare up another phone contact. While spinning and grinning I fell upon V73RS… Rob on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Wow!! He was just above the noise level and I was his first contact before the spotters got him and the pile-up hit. Rob stuck with me, which is saying something. First – because my callsign here is HL2/AD7MI…. which is horrendously difficult to pass across less than desirable band conditions. Second – Rob wanted the name of my city, which is Uijeongbu (I spell: Uniform India Juliet Echo Oscar November Golf Bravo Uniform). It is quite a mouthful. The pileup kept building, but Rob stayed with the QSO and told me he was there on Kwajalein and that I should look for him on 10M, as conditions generally more favorable for a 2-way exchange.

Back to 20M where I worked another Russian station. Then I snagged JT1DN, a station for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It is hard to get more exotic than Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia is not actually far from Korea, but it was my first contact ever with the country and I won’t soon forget it.

Maintaining the exotic theme – my next contact was with YC9ETJ – Bali Island, Indonesia. Agung had quite a pile up and I was glad to get picked up by him.

Sunset and the grayline approached and I was successful in working Poland and Norway. All in all – I was quite excited with the contacts for the day.


I’ve had QSOs with W1AW when they’ve been at the Dayton Hamfest as well as other locations around the country, but I had never logged the home station back in Connecticut. That is until I was on my way back from the National World War I Museum where we had an offsite class followed by a guided tour of the museum. I’d been to the museum twice before without a guide and it was great having a guide this time. Our seminar leader is a colonel in the German Army, one of our classmates is from the British Army, and our PhD for this block is from Australia – so it was great getting an international perspective to WWI. As Americans, we tend to be myopic about WWI, not realizing that we only entered at the very end of the war. While our contribution was critical, it was a small sacrifice compared to how Europe had suffered. The museum is excellent – half is devoted to the war before US entry and the other covering the American Expeditionary Force.

But I digress – yes… the QSO with W1AW. I was on my way back to Leavenworth from the museum in Kansas City and was tuning around 20M. Up pops W1AW, the guest op was Mark from southern California, with a booming signal. I got him on the second call and am now happily in the log.

I am looking forward to the arrival of my new QSL cards so I can send one out (along with the SASE) to get a QSL card from W1AW.

Working in the shack

I spent some time this afternoon trying to get the shack a little better organized. I mounted two power strips on the wall behind my desk to help organize my power cables. I also mounted the console for my Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station directly above my computer monitors for easy visibility. I use Anderson Powerpoll connectors and West Mountain Rigrunners for my power distribution. Things were looking a bit like a rat’s nest, so I shut everything down, unplug all the connectors, rerouted them in a more coherent fashion, and replugged everything in. I also added in my West Mountain PwrGate and hooked in my 12v deep cycle marine battery. The PwrGate keeps the marine battery charged and automatically switches to it should there be a drop in the 120v house power. I still need an UPS for my computer running the Weather Display software and UI-View32.

Also added a lamp to the desk to help me see what the heck I’m doing.

Finally, I fired up the IC-7000 just to make sure it was still working and had a nice QSO with VE6CQ operating from Calgary, Canada.

Another day in the shade

I hooked up my Morse key to my Icom IC-7000 and it appears to be working fine. Also hooked up an external speaker which is working nicely. I tried to connect my SM-20 microphone but realize now that a need a connector that I don’t have. I don’t want to hook up my Heil headset with the boom mike just yet. I was able to have a QSO with an Italian station and again with TI8II (Costa Rica), except on 20M this time.

More stuff I’m going to get done tomorrow:
– gather up my old (digital) logs
– back up my current Kansas log
– load up my YI9MI logs and prepare and organize the remaining received QSL cards
– order the adapter for the SM-20 mic
– find my weather station software
– have a CW QSO

I’m prepping to start a batch of homebrew beer. Tomorrow I’m going to start the process. Maybe have some fresh beer by Halloween?

Headed Home

After a year deployment in Iraq, I am heading home.

I have not been keeping this blog up to date, but hope to make some posts here to describe my experiences operating an amateur station in Iraq (YI9MI). Other plans when I get home are to attempt a QSO with my dad (KD6EUG) – Virginia to California. My dad upgraded to General last year and we have not yet had the opportunity to have an HF QSO. I’m also going to install a Tarheel screwdriver antenna on my Toyota Tundra to enjoy some mobile HF while I am on the road this summer.

I am looking forward to getting back to the States!


Some newcomers are astonished during their first encounters on the ham bands by the many QSOs in which only the callsigns and reports are exchanged. It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. In the beginning I disliked this myself as I enjoyed long and elaborated QSOs. I was a real ‘ragchewer’. There is nothing wrong with that. However, in time though I switched from long to very short QSOs. Everyone has their own preference.

Although we exercise a mainly technical hobby, our QSOs do not have to be limited to purely technical matters. A healthy balance is necessary. Radio amateurism is not intended to chit chat about groceries. Let your common sense be your guide.

Topics we must avoid include religion, politics and of course commercial advertisements. It is also forbidden to broadcast, ie. one way transmissions of either long winded announcements or music programs.

The Belgian basic license manual implements for the first time an ‘Operating Practice & Procedures’ chapter and explains how to make a QSO. What follows is a concise repetition and some additions:

* before commencing a transmission on a given frequency, always check thoroughly if this frequency is in use by other stations;
* if the frequency is clear, call CQ (general call -CQ possibly derives from ‘I seek you’-. Pat, W5THT has the following explanation on CQ from the pre-wireless days). See Chapter 7 ‘How to call CQ?’ which expands in detail on the proper way to CQ;
* the sequence on how to place callsigns during a contact is straightforward; first name the callsign of your counterpart, then yours. Example (you are ON4ZZZZ): ‘Thanks OM, microphone back to you. ON4XXXX (de) ON4ZZZZ’ (end of your transmission). An easy way to remember this: you always have to be polite.
* Always end a transmission with your callsign. If making many short transmissions during a QSO, identify with your callsign at least once every five minutes (some countries: 10 minutes);
* leave a short pause in between ‘overs’. In that way, someone else can make a quick call, or intervene in the ongoing QSO. Keep in mind that one day ‘you’ may be the one receiving a distress call! Be ready for it.
* Do not elaborate about a zillion things during one over. Keep your transmission short and concise as to give your counterpart ample time to respond to your topics before he forgets about what you were actually talking. Remember many times you are talking to someone in a language that is not their native tongue. Give them time to comprehend what you are saying;
* on phone, say ‘over’ when you hand over the microphone to your counterpart. In amateur radio this is strictly not necessary, but often handy. Experience will teach you when to use ‘over’ and when not;
* on CW, end your transmission during a changeover with the letter K (from ‘Key’). Also ‘KN’ can be used; this is more specific and means you only want to hear the station whose callsign you just sent to come back to you;
* on CW the end of a QSO is marked by the letter string ‘SK’ (‘Stop Keying’). The QSO is completely finished after you sent ‘SK’;
* on phone a QSO is never ended with ‘over and out’. Either say ‘over’ during a microphone handover, or say ‘out’ at the very end of the QSO, which is then completely finished.

Someone brought the following to my attention. As amateurs progress in their ‘ham career’ they seem to forget they were once newcomers themselves. Indeed, one can often hear amateurs call ‘CQ DX’ on the HF bands, after which they are called by a ‘local’ station (which is no long distance for them at that moment). Often this local operator gets a verbal beating and is left behind in disbelief or anger. This cuts both ways. The local newcomer should understand that if someone calls ‘CQ DX’ he shouldn’t call that station at that point in time. On the other hand, the experienced ham should remember his early days when he did exactly the same because he wanted to work ‘a new one’, and be considerate towards the newcomer.
In such a situation I usually give a short report, log the station and tell him that I’m actually looking for DX. The newcomer usually understands the hint and will pay better attention next time, while he’s still happy to have logged a new one…and that’s what counts! So…give everybody a chance for a QSO and don’t forget your early days!

gerryk – Bringing tech to the West

Nice new blog… and I really enjoyed this post:

First proper HF QSO
July 21st, 2007

Now I have a proper dipole up, albeit not all that high, at about 15ft, signals are coming in very strong on all HF bands. Now that could mean a great antenna and matcher on my part, or, is more likely, a mediocre antenna system but huge signals from stations with massive beams and amps in the 100w plus range.

Going on what I was hearing today, though, it seems to be a combination of the two. I heard plenty of 100 watt, G5RV at 60ft people, as you might expect, but also a few putting small powers out, like one gent putting 30w into a random wire who was chatting to another putting 5w into a resonant dipole. Both were 5/6 to 5/8 which boosted my confidence no end, given that my max output with the FT817 is 5w. I listened around the 40m band and, ok, it wasn’t completely crowded, but there was plenty going on all the same. I listened into a few chats and whenever I heard one wrapping up, got ready to pick up the open station after the other went QRT.

Time after time, I waited for a QRZ or CQ and went straight back with my call, but when I unkeyed, generally heard a booming 5/9+ signal, or, more commonly, a few, coming back to the calling station, drowning my little signal completely. Frustrating, you might think, but, to be honest, I enjoyed tuning up and down the band, listening not just to people ragchewing or notching up QSOs, but the atmosphere too. The weather has been almost tropical of late, by which I mean tropical rain rather than tropical sun, and that sort of weather means thunder. Not thunder I could hear with my ears, unless you consider the added hearing aid of about 66ft of wire hanging about 15ft in the air. With that to pick up the discharges, the thunder sounded like feet crunching in gravel, in amongst the ever present hiss.

I didn’t spend a couple of hours throwing rocks into the branches of trees just to listen to clouds blowing off steam, though, I did it to talk to people far away with a tiny amount of power, and in among the big guns it just wasn’t happening. I tried tuning down to the 80m band, but apart from some very weak signals, it was dead as a morgue. I tried 20m. Not anywhere like 40m, but a few here and there. I tried catching loose stations at the end of a QSO, but again and again was rendered inaudible by what one QRP op called a pocketbook op. Those with deep pockets rarely have problems being heard, but, a well placed whisper can be like a shout, so I stick to my rather small guns on the power output. I tried 15m, and it’s pretty silent too, until, up at 21.190MHz I hear a clear voice calling CQ 15! He repeated his call a number of times while I frantically rematched the dipole with the Emtech ZM-2. Finally got a nice low SWR, switched back to USB and heard him still calling CQ. I keyed up, and as slowly and clearly as possible gave my callsign. “QRZ? QRZ, that station.” he said, and I was in. I repeated my call, almost shouting it into the mike. “Echo India 8 Delta Foxtrot Bravo?” he replied. I reread my call, “Echo India 8 Delta RADIO Bravo, Echo India 8 Delta ROMEO Bravo” and this time he got it. “EI8DRB from Charlie 3 3 Portugal Panama” he returned, mixing up the phonetics as hams often do. He gave his QTH as Andorra and his name as Pedro. Andorra! That’s nearly a thousand miles away! On 2.5w and a dipole 15ft off the ground, surrounded by trees, that’s not a bad achievement.

He gave me a report of 3/5 and I gave his as 5/5, we bade each other good DX and 73 and went about our business. He also said I could QSL via, and within the next few days, Pedro in Andorra will be getting a postcard from Galway confirming our brief QSO. I don’t think he fully realises the significance of this to me. To him, I was just another weak station for him to log, for me, it is the beginning of an adventure.