I took the Radio Amateurs Exam while I was still at school and I was first licensed as G6FHO. This was a "Class B" VHF only licence. In those days you still had to pass a Post Office morse test to gain access to HF (Shortwave) and I progressed to my current "Class A" licence in 1985. G6FHO was later re-issued to my Father.
I don't have a traditional "shack" set up at home as the vast majority of my operating is done from parks and other country side locations.
I have recently joined ARPOC, a new club that has been set up by M0LMK and is devoted to portable operating.
I have gained all their "Portable Professional" awards.
Some of my earliest portable operation on HF was on 5Mhz when the first few "channels" became available. The picture below shows a full wave loop for 5Mhz supported on four 7m fibreglass fishing rods. This antenna produces a single lobe pointing straight up and is ideal for Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) working.
I have moved details of my HF antenna experiments to this page
I have two means of transport that get me to portable operating sites: My car and my motorbike.
If I'm going out my myself I tend to operate from the boot of my estate car. This is ok for an hour or two but isn't very comfortable after that !
If I'm more organised I remember to put a folding chair in the car ! Here you can see the KX3,PX3 and KXPA-100 in use at Southend on Sea.
For longer sessions (such as a Weekend afternoon "Essex Ham" session at Galleywood Common) I take put a small folding table. Here you can see Steve M1ACB operating my station at this years "all day" June Summer Solstice event. On hot sunny days I try to position my car so that the open boot lid provides some shade, but if that is not possible I take a small parasol. Note essentials such as flask of tea and tube of Pringles are close at hand :-)
During the colder/wetter months I operate from the back seat of the car.
The split back seats provide a convenient flat place for the radio equipment. If I'm using the linear it sits in the boot space.
This afternoon I rode down to see Charlie M0PZT at his local /P spot. Here I am with the minimal /P setup.
Charlie was operating on 40m, and from previous experience we know that I can operate on 30m at the same time with only very slight interference between us. I worked OK,SM amd SP on 30m and later EA7 and 9A8 on 20M.
After a week of fine Autumnal weather Charlie M0PZT and I decided to visit Galleywood Common again for an afternoon of /P fun. Hopefully it won't be the last one of the year. Charlie and I arrived just after midday and we were joined later by Jason M3RYN and James M6JJN. Other Galleywood regulars were busy on Raynet duty.
To start with Charlie put up his normal 40m inverted V and 2m Slim Jim and later added his 2m 5ele beam on my 6x1m poles. Sadly it seems that the good conditions that had been present on 2m on previous days had decayed so no great DX was worked on 2m. 40m was busy and a couple of Lake district /P stations were worked early on. However they complained that our sunny warm day was in sharp contrast to the damp and foggy day they were having ! I started out with my 30m Doublet on 3x10m poles.
On the previous Thursday evening I had joined the Colchester Radio Amateur's 80m club net from a /P spot using a 10m up, 10m out inverted L fed against 8 radials. This seemed to work well and led me to consider trying feeding my 30m Doublet as a "T" by strapping the feeder and adding some radials. So although I planned to put up my 80m top loaded vertical I never did as the T seemed to work quite well.
The Doublet has about 10m of feeder and 7.5m "arms", so configured as a "T" I had expected it to be resonant above the top of the 80m band. However when fed against 7 radials the whole lot was resonant at 3.780Mhz. My SGC-237 was easily able to achieve a good match across the whole of the 80m band.
If you've not worked it out, you may be surprised to learn that the 80m band actually spans 85.7m to 78.9m (3.5 - 3.8Mhz).
In the Doublet configuration I had CW QSOs on 17m and 30m and as a "T" on 80m. I got Reverse Beacon Network "spots" covering a good area. Pity there was no one listening on 17m in the USA :-(
Charlie snapped this picture of me in a moment of relaxation :-)
The sun set at 1830, and the temperature quickly stated to fall, but it was dew starting to form on everything metal that made us decide to pack up. However it was still dark by the time we left the common.
A few days ago Elecraft released a new Beta Test version of the firmware for the PX3 panadapter. The most interesting new feature is that you can now plug a USB keyboard into the previously unused USB socket and type messages to be sent in PSK31 (and CW but I fail to see why anyone would want to do that ;-) ). With the new firmware installed I went out /P today to give the new features a try.
The new firmware provides a fairly simple "memory" scheme which allows bits of text to be pre-typed and saved and called up with a single key press. Before setting out I set up a few obvious messages such as a CQ call, Name & QTH, Rig and Antenna, and a "Thanks for the qso, best 73". Once I started operating I quickly realised it was useful to put the other station's callsign into a memory before starting the QSO. Editing the memories is quite straight forward once you remember the key sequence.
But I'm not sure how well the KX3's psk31 decoder works. I seemed to often miss whole overs from stations if another adjecent signal had come up, even if it appeared to be outside the passband shown on the PX3's display. And it seems that PSK31 operators are unable to deviate from their predefined qso structure as "Sorry no copy please repeat your last over" only seemed to produce "73 om Peter thanks for the qso, 73" :-(
It's fair to say I'm not a great fan of "digital modes" as all the data QSOs I've had in the past fall into the "rubber stamp" category, consisting of just a series of predefined "macros" and todays experience did little to change my opinion. In all I had 4 PSK31 QSOs in an hour of operating, none of them over 5 minutes long. At the end of the afternoon I had a 25 minute CW qso on 30m with a German, and that was far more satisfying than the PSK31 qsos.
Until the novelty wares off I'll give PSK31 another go when I'm out portable, but it's not going to displace CW as my preferred mode.
Only when I started to transmit did I discover that that USB keyboard doesn't like RF ! Luckily I had some spare ferrite with me !
Following my first attempts at using My KX3 on PSK-31 I decided I should perform what Elecraft refer to as the EXTENDED VFO TEMPERATURE COMPENSATION PROCEDURE This requires a stable frequency source in the 50Mhz range, and they have a simple little kit called the XG50 for just this purpose.
During the Winter months I've taken to operating from my car using simple mobile whip antennas. I've made some modifications to a magnetic mount to improve the earth connection to the car body and added an addition section at the bottom to move the loading coils futher up the antenna. See this page for more information.
I've often thought about operating from the Highwoods park in Colchester, but the only car park is in the middle of woodland and would mean a fair trek with all the gear to get to some open space. Then today I found there is another car park, which doesn't seem to be publicised! It's much more convenient for easy access to open spaces where you can put up antennas.
As you can see my trolly got another outing, as did the 10m fishing rod vertical and the new radial set.
I started out with 4 radials connected which produced a 1.4:1 SWR on 40m, which is perfectly usable. (Which was a good job because I had forgotten to take the ATU that I normally put at the base of this vertical). Later in the afternoon I tries adding an extra 4 radials, which brought the SWR down even further
Charlie M0PZT's write up.
News item on Essex Ham's site.
Report of M0TAZ's first visit to Galleywood Common.
My own write up with details of my new LiFePo4 battery pack.I'm sure there will be many more reports from Galleywood during the year.
On Facebook I've been following M0PJO's progress as he has built a "One Watter" QRPp transceiver for 40m. It has rekindled my interest in construction and I've ordered one of my own.
I'm not a "true" QRP operator as I normal run 10 Watts, so I've also ordered a 5W PA kit from the same supplier.
The Build log is about to begin !
More to come soon.V1 23/8/2015,V2 6/9/2015,V3 4/10/2015,V4 18/10/2015,V5 22/02/2016,V6 25/03/16,V7 5/04/2016