QRP to the Rescue
California QSO Party
QRP to the RESCUE!
By Tom, KQ6DV
Jeff Grudin, AC6KW, in his enthusiastic, infectious style has been trying forever to get me into QRP, but whenever the subject came up my response has always been the same: “Jeff, I am QROP – running barefoot at 100 watts is pretty low power in my opinion ? heck, I even drop down to 40 watts some of the time! Yet when I listen enviously to those big kilowatt stations talking to Europe I’m thinking I want more power, not less. And build my own radio ? are you kidding? Have you ever seen my solder jobs? Nope, thanks but no thanks guy: this QRP’s beyond me ? I don’t have the patience to make or sustain a contact with that weak a signal and I sure don’t have the skill to build a radio!”
Then I went on my first backpacking trip.
“Uh. Hi, Jeff ? you know that QRP you’re always talking about? Well, I just got back from the wilderness and we brought our HT’s but we couldn’t hit a repeater. They were pretty useless. Do you think if I had one of those QRP rigs I might actually have been able to get a signal out?”
“Yep” he assured me. “QRP’s perfect for that. I know just the rig you might want to try building as a first project ? it’s pretty simple: only about a hundred parts, and just a couple torroid coils to wind. It’s a piece of cake ? a great beginner’s kit!”
“Thanks Jeff, well I’ll think about it,” I groaned. I thought about it. I thought I couldn’t do it. Oh well.
Time went on and my dream backpacking trip was scheduled: My wife, Bobbie, KF6AYH, and I were going to the Emigrant Wilderness north of Yosemite for a full week. I really wanted a QRP rig for this one! Miraculously Jeff came up to me at one of our club meetings and mentioned that he was taking a class which culminated in building a QRP rig. He didn’t need another radio and he wondered if I’d buy it from him for the cost of parts when it was finished? Well, you bet I did! The timing was perfect: Jeff finished the rig just days before my backpacking trip and we put together the dipole antenna the night before I left. Talk about coming down to the wire! It also just so happened that Jeff was going camping during the same time, and he of course would be operating his QRP rig, so we made up a sked for the trip: we’d give it a shot on 7.040 MHz (the 40 meter QRP calling frequency) at 04:00 UTC. (9:00 PM PDT)
The night of our first sked Bobbie and I were camped at Gem Lake – one of the highest altitude lakes in Emigrant. Appropriately named, Gem is a real diamond in the rough: located just after a long, steep, and grueling ascent this picturesque lake was a welcome sight for the sore eyes (and thighs!) of these two very tired and worn out campers. Gem Lake supports a small rainbow trout population and its relatively shallow depth provides water warm enough for swimming. After taking a refreshing dip Bobbie and I proceeded to set up camp. I scooped out the trees with an eye towards setting up the dipole antenna. I picked out a tree close to our tent for the center feed and noted two trees for the ends which would result in the dipole running in approximately a West to East line, giving me my best shot at Jeff who would be south of us in San Luis Obispo.
After dinner with the dipole up about 25 feet and the mosquitoes swarming I retreated to my “shack”: our newly acquired Marmot Peapod tent. The moment of truth was rapidly approaching so I fired up the rig and was instantly greeted with a band full of signals! This was definitely a good sign, I thought, but receiving is one thing: transmitting another. I remained skeptical that I could be heard above the noise floor with my two watts out. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was almost 9:00 PM so I tuned in the rig to 7.040 MHz and to my amazement heard a strong signal calling KQ6DV! Sure enough it was Jeff. I couldn’t believe it: his was the strongest signal on the band. I gave him a call and he came right back with a 599 signal report. Knowing that he was QRP I gave him a 589, and instantly realized what I had just done: now I know why the QRP’ers suggest not telling a station they are QRP until after receiving their signal report! Of course he was a solid 5NN, but I refused to accept it.
Jeff and I ragchewed for about 20 minutes of solid, armchair copy, and I knew that I was hooked on QRP. After signing off I spent almost three more hours on the radio, mostly listening, but I did make a few more successful contacts before calling it a night. I fired up the rig first thing in the morning and the band was alive with Japan stations. I didn’t make a JA contact, but I think that was because my batteries were too weak from the previous nights operating.
The next night Bobbie and I were still at Gem Lake, but in a different campsite, and with a fresh set of batteries I again looked for Jeff according to our sked. Once again he came booming in and this time I gave him an honest 5NN report. Realizing that my batteries weren’t immortal I kept our QSO short and arranged a tentative schedule with him for three days later when he would be back at his home QTH. I wanted to conserve battery power so that the radio could be used for emergency communications if the need arose.
A few days later while fishing at Buck Lake we ran into another fisherman who needed to get a message out to a friend who was meeting up with him later in the week. He had packed in on horseback and had forgot the propane adapter for his camp stove and also needed to have more hay brought in for the horses. I told him I was a ham radio operator and thought I just might be able to do that for him. I told him about QRP and that I had a radio with me and he was amazed. I figured my best shot was to wait until my next sked with Jeff and pass the message through him, so he gave me the message in writing to use for when I made contact. I told him that considering I had a sked set up and Jeff would be listening for me I was 90% sure I could get the message through.
The night of our next sked Bobbie and I were on our way out and camped at Piute Creek. Although we were at a lower elevation and looking at walls of Granite around us, the southern exposure was clear. I figured it would be a piece of cake to hit Jeff in Santa Cruz at his home QTH with his Yagi beam and Yaesu 1000MP transceiver. Wrong! I’ve got the dipole up nicely, directed straight at Jeff as far as I can guess, and I fire up the rig: the frequency is busy and there’s no Jeff. “Oh, st!” I realize I’m on my own. “Well now don’t panic, buddy,” I tell myself, “You can do this – remember what Jeff said.” Jeff had given me some QRP operating hints before I left. “Don’t call CQ – its useless. Either try and answer a CQ or jump in at the end of a QSO and try to raise one of the operators before they go away.” OK – so first thing I do – call CQ of course. Naturally I get no response. Then I start tuning around listening for CQ’s and come across a QSO in progress with a very strong signal coming in from one of the stations. “OK, this is your best shot, hang in there!” I wait for the QSO to end and then give a call to KQ6UK – the station with the strong signal, and he comes right back. “Yes!” (At this point I’m talking to myself a lot!)
Bill, KQ6UK, in San Diego County, says he’d be happy to pass the message. I give him the message and phone number and he asks me to stand by while he makes the call. A few minutes later he comes back to report the message has been successfully passed, and I’m elated. Then we ragchew for awhile before signing off and when I get home there’s an e-mail from Bill asking me to QSL and let him know how it all worked out.
Well, needless to say: yes, Jeff, you’re right: “QRP WORKS!”
CALIFORNIA QSO PARTY
K6BJ will again be operating from Fremont Peak in this year’s California QSO party, October 3-4. The contest runs from 9 AM Saturday morning to 3 PM Sunday afternoon. The exchange is QSO number and county for California stations and QSO number and state, province or country for stations outside of California You can work each station once per band and mode. Try to work us on all bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, and 2 meters, phone and CW. For more information contact Eric Pearson – K6EP.
Labor Day has passed. Fall is around the corner. Propagation is up. Let’s get busy! On the last day of August, the solar flux value was 178.5, the highest since February 1993. As we head toward the Fall equinox, good openings toward Europe before noon local time should be common, as well as to the southern hemisphere later in the day, with South America first, and the Pacific later. Ten and twelve meters should be getting better as the days get shorter and the solar flux rises. It’s time to get “radio-active” (as some Monterey NPSARC members are prone to saying hi).
What’s interesting you in amateur radio these days? What kinds of fun are you having? There’s certainly lots of stuff going on out there. Get yourself a piece of that action!
The ARRL has a new “members only” section of their web page . You can surf to their home page and sign up for the “Extra” section from there. It’s easy if you have web access. Lots of good news and info.
The proposed changes in the FCC licensing structure are close enough that the Question Pool Committee has decided to halt their work on the license examination question pools until the changes are in place. They say the changes could be so great that they’d be wasting their time to continue right now. Have you commented to the FCC on the NPRM (rulemaking proposal) yet? The FCC just released an “errata sheet” on that proposal to clarify it a bit. Tell them what you think! They are asking for your opinion.
Amateur Radio Awareness Day: September 19 is Amateur Radio Awareness Day (and IARU World Amateur Radio Day)! It’s time to promote Amateur Radio and elevate public awareness of the hobby. You can write an article for the paper, establish a “Field Day” type station in the mall or park, or perhaps make a presentation before a civic group. Take time to acquaint the public with Amateur Radio. For publicity kits and ideas, contact Jennifer Gagne, N1TDY, at ARRL HQ; tel 860-594-0328; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll have a club breakfast on Sunday October 4 at 9AM (that’s right, we’ll try a Sunday morning for a change, to accommodate those who can’t ever do Saturdays) at Country Waffles Restaurant, 1970 Freedom Blvd (in the Albertson’s shopping center at the intersection of Airport and Freedom Blvds). The food and decor were nice last time we met there.
See you at the club meeting on Friday night!
? Cap, KE6AFE
By Art Lee’ WP6F
Was just leafing through my latest copy of the Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz newsletter. Saw a couple of nice articles by Wayne Thalls, KB6KN, and Wil Sulzner, W6TXJ. Both work extensively with that organization and stand watches in the Genealogy Room of the Main library. Stop in and say hello and they will help you find your lost relatives and friends. The Society meets upstairs in the Main library at 1300 the first Thursday of each month except July, August and December.
My cousin, Gail, and her husband, recently relocated to the Bahamas from San Diego. They are looking forward to purchasing a computer for email purposes but have expressed an interest in getting a ham license. Naturally, I am doing a bit of pushing from my end. I guess that working them would constitute DX! They are also going to buy a 40 foot sail boat and I have been selected as their first choice as skipper to take it from Florida to their new QTH. That would be exciting ? and work. To put myself in the proper mind for that trip, I would have to watch a re-run of the movie, “White Squall.” I must contact them to see how they made out on last month’s hurricane. Maybe they have had enough wind already.
Was working a bit of CW on 40 meters last week. Heard a breaking station, NY6S, Stanley, from Tracy, CA. he came back with a nice smooth fist, at about 15 wpm. He said that he was happy to hear people still working CW and joined Marsha, AB7RJ, and me for a few minutes. He invited Donna, AB6XJ, and me to stop in to see him on our way thru town. “Not until that mountain of tires stops burning!” we said. He came back and replied, “Well, it’s still burning” (after a couple of weeks).
A note received via email from Leon Fletcher, AA6ZG: On July 24, Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi, a member of the house of Representatives, an enthusiast for amateur radio, was elected as president of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. Obuchi is a member of JARL and a very good friend of Shozo Hara, JA1AN, president of JARL.
I just finished reading a very fascinating book, “Battleship Sailor,” by Theodore Mason. The account is about the early career of the author after attending Radio School at the naval Training Center, San Diego. In six weeks of training, students had to be able to receive and send code at 18 wpm in 5 letter code groups. Failure in the class would result in the wash-out being assigned to mess cooking or other lowly duties, forever, it would seem, in the Fleet. He was assigned to my father’s old ship, “U.S.S. California,” and describes the pre-war Navy of 1939-41 in Hawaii, where I was raised as a boy. As a young radioman aboard the ship, he witnessed the Japanese attack from the foretop of the battleship when his ship was torpedoed and sunk. I lived about two miles away at the Naval Ammunition Depot, West Loch. My brother Stanley was a 17 year old seaman aboard the cruiser “U.S.S. Saint Louis,” tied up only a few hundred yards away. Mason didn’t care much for hams. They “knew the code” and were somewhat arrogant about it. The hams lorded it over the non- ham sailors in Radio school. When they would introduce themselves, they would always (irritatingly so, to him) give their call signs. I don’t know if Mason ever got his ham license, if indeed he wanted one. In his second book, We Will Stand By You, he said he had about 8000 hours in the radio shack over a few years time frame. Much of it was under combat conditions. Maybe that was enough Morse code for him. If you are even remotely interested in Navy shipboard radio operations, those are the books to read.
Minutes of the SCCARC Board, July 23, 1998
The meeting was called to order at 6:45 P.M. by the president, Cap KE6AFE.
Attending were secretary Doris Piper KF6IOW, Treasurer Frank Carroll K6BDK, board members: Bruce Hawkins AC6DN, Ralph Evans W6ENE, and Gene Bokemeier KD6DSB.
Ralph motioned to pass the June minutes and Bruce seconded the motion. It was passed unanimously.
Doris reported that she had sent a get well card to Helen, Dave Taylor?s wife, who was not feeling well.
After a lengthy discussion, on a trial basis, the Board agreed to move the Board meeting to Friday at 6:00 PM, same day as the regular member meeting.
Gene cited that the cost was the main factor for the lack of interest in the polo shirts, embroidered with the Club logo. The Board discussed the possibility of lowering the price on the T-shirts and caps that the Club still owns. No motion was filed.
Cap reported that he had received comments from general membership complaining that the presentation at the last club meeting was too technical. He also received comments that they would like to know who are the guess speakers before the meeting. Gene said that he will try to put that information in the ShortSkip; however, logically he may not be able to do so all the time.
No new business was discussed
The meeting was adjourned at 7:20 P.M.
SCCARC Treasurer’s Report
Balance previous month: $869.75
End Of Month Balance: $749.40
Santa Cruz County Radio Club
? SUN. OCT. 4 ? 9:00AM
Country Waffles Restaurant, 1970 Freedom Blvd