CN82 and CN92

Current status:

CN82 – I worked three stations from the high plains valley at 4000′ in the Siskyoos on 6m. It was cold.

CN92 – I worked two stations from a high ridge above Upper Klamath Lake at 6000′ on 6m. It was cold again.  I worked a long time trying to reach Portland without success. Another 6dB from an amplifier would probably have helped.

Today – I’ll check another spot nearby (Mt Hagelstein) and then explore CN93 and find a good operating spot from among several candidates. I’m looking forward to meeting the pack train rescue mission and Rod.

Meteor scatter operation is not going to happen this trip, sorry. I need to rethink and redesign how a MS station will be setup in this truck. For now, it’s too ambitious for this trip.

Please track me on APRS and arrange contacts through the N5TM chat room. Use my “K7BWH Oregon” chat tab.

73 Barry K7BWH

Internet Access

I’ve struggled to find a good way of scheduling contacts. Should I use a spreadsheet, Word document, scratch pad, Post-It notes, electronic calendar with alarms or something else. All of these are problematic for a portable station in the field surrounded by chaos.

On this trip, I’ll try something entirely new for me. I will arrange for Internet access to help me announce activity and arrange contacts. This is unrestricted outside of contests.

Today I signed up with Verizon cellphone service. The Samsung Galaxy handset will provide a local WiFi hotspot for my laptop, which can then use Ping Jockey, email, chat rooms and other aids. This will be great! (Assuming it can get cellphone service.)

Daily Expedition Schedule

How should I choose my operating schedule?

The goal is to explore and hand out the grid contacts. This means a compromise between driving and sightseeing, and being on the air. This particular station takes a long time (upwards of 2 hours) to setup or tear down and stow.

I feel there’s only enough time in a day to set up once. And I want to do meteor scatter, and that works best in early morning, so I’m strongly motivated to camp out instead of using hotels. This will let me operate both evenings and early 5 am mornings. It will be living rough for five days, but that’s okay.

Now, as for the schedule itself…

I want to be easy to find on the air. Ideally, I’d just only use one frequency on six meters for all contacts on all modes. I know it’s non-standard but then at least if someone heard me they’d know what mode I’m using just by listening. The logical spot is 50.125, the national calling frequency, which is what everyone uses. However, this is certain to run afoul of some self-appointed frequency enforcer. So the next easiest place to be found is 50.128. This is a dandy place to be. Unless the band opens up. If the band opens, then my modest remote station is quickly blown off and I couldn’t hold the frequency, even if I’m in the rarest grid in the country.

In conclusion, I’ll operate SSB/CW all evening on 50.128. And I’ll operate FSK441 all morning on 50.270. I’m flexible – if “stuff” happens then I’ll have chat rooms and spotters to help coordinate changes. Hang loose and have fun!

Oregon Grid Expedition, April 1-5

Oregon-April-2014I have a big grid expedition coming up. K7BWH will operate portable in CN82, CN92, CN93, CN94, CN95 in the Oregon interior during the week of April 1 -5, 2014.

My goal is to give 6-meter contacts from these relatively unpopulated areas. I invite you to schedule contacts with me in the evenings and mornings.

Equipment: 6m5 antenna, 500 watts, 20’ mast, and some really good hilltops.

The schedule is to activate one grid each day from late afternoon through the next morning. It’s a five-day excursion with one grid per day. I’ll drive midday to explore and setup the next hilltop campsite. I’ll be on the air in the evening on SSB/CW and in the morning on FSK441 meteor scatter. And then break camp and head off to the next grid square to lather, rinse, repeat.

I know this isn’t the best time of year for either 6m propagation or meteor showers. But this is the only free time in my schedule for a while. The operating plan is simple: Afternoons are SSB/CW until dark. Early mornings are meteor scatter. I will have a dedicated expedition chat room while on location to schedule contacts (assuming cellphone network service). Of course posting spots are appreciated, esp on Ping Jockey Central.

Evenings

  • Evenings 5 pm – 8 pm PDT (0000 – 0300 gmt)
  • SSB/CW
  • CQ and listening 50.128 MHz

Mornings

  • Mornings 5 am – 9 am PDT (1200 – 1600 gmt)
  • WSJT FSK441
  • Dedicated chat room (details coming soon)
  • CQ and listening 50.270 MHz
  • Always sending on first sequence
  • Sending signal report (not grid)
  • Short tones on

Itinerary and locations

For schedule updates see my expedition blog at www.k7bwh.com or track me real-time on APRS using http://aprs.fi/k7bwh .

I will not have 144 MHz on this trip, and will not be operating the 2m Sprint on Monday, 4/7, and do not have EME capability.

Want a grid? Send me email off-list to schedule a contact. And use the K7BWH chat room (details soon).

73 Barry K7BWH
Seattle, Washington CN87xn
barry at k7bwh.com
Cell 425-503-5548

January 2014 VHF Contest

I operated as Rover in the Oregon coast grids of CN72, CN73, CN74 and CN75 on Jan 18-19 using 50, 144, 220 and 432 MHz.

This was pack roving (if you can call “two” a pack) with Rod WE7X /R. (ARRL rules allow up to 100 contacts with a single station.) It was great to have help wrangling a big antenna setup in the remote coastal area. Thank goodness Rod was along or I would’ve had great difficulty raising the antenna system. Plus, we circled a grid corner to activate CN84 and CN85.

I made about 100 contacts and 62 of them were with WE7X /R. My longest contact was 325 miles from Cape Blanco State Park CN72 to Paul K7CW in Seattle CN87.

Weather: Conditions were excellent for January but still cold: sunny days in the 40s and nights in the 30s with steady coastal breezes. But this is actually quite chilly for operating outdoors at the back of the truck and I felt like a popsicle for two days; I can’t imagine this trip in severe winter weather.

Distance: I love driving these resort destinations in January when traffic is so light. The total trip was 1042 miles from Seattle and back over five days and it went smoothly, averaging 1.9 contacts per gallon.

New gear: A new 6m5x and new aluminum mast worked well but setup and teardown each took an hour which cuts into operating time. The 6m5x is a big cannon for pummeling propagation into submission, but any antenna with an 18’ boom doesn’t make a nimble rover setup. I need to tune the setup procedures for efficiency and one-man assembly; I also need to re-think the mast as a raise-up design instead of tilt-up. A new battery and powergate worked like a charm in the back of the truck.

Murphy: Our 222 FM radios only intermittently communicated and we missed a bunch of these grid corner contacts. My laptop wouldn’t power up so I used paper logs instead. The computer problems would have cancelled my FSK441 meteor scatter, if I had been ready for it. The mast design and construction took all of my prep time so I wasn’t prepared for meteor scatter anyway. This trip was the first time all antennas had been stacked on the mast together and the first time the 6m5x was on the air. The 432 MHz 11-element yagi had tested okay on the analyzer but didn’t load up properly; I never did actually use it on this trip. I could have used another week to get ready. Or two. Maybe three.

Locations: My other hobby is recording all the places I’ve visited and publishing them online. There was no shortage of operating spots – the Oregon coast is an endless series of spectacular state parks, viewpoints, beach access points, RV parks and hotels. Numerous updates were made to the website for rover locations. See the updates for grids CN72, CN73, CN74, CN75, CN85 at http://www.k7bwh.com/rover_or.html

Next: The plan was to activate two grids/day from semi-rare locations. This turned out to be pretty ambitious for the time required for this equipment’s setup, teardown and driving. Next time, I want to try a one grid/day trip and have more on-the-air time and do meteor scatter ops.

My home is in Sammamish (near Seattle) but for sake of log entry, my contest entry section is Oregon because that’s where all the contacts were made. Unfortunately this trip was too remote to contribute to the PNWVHFS club score.

Claimed score = (124 QSO points) x (6 grids activated + 25 grids worked) = 3,844 points total

January 2013 VHF Contest

A lot has happened since my last VHF contest twelve months ago. I’m active in the PNW VHF Society as a Director and Webmaster. I’ve refined my equipment and tested new VHF techniques. And I finished activating all eighteen grid squares in the state of Washington, becoming the first person to win this award.

Now I am interested in VHF locations in Oregon, so this contest gave me a good chance to explore south of home.

I drove the I-5 corridor from Eugene, Oregon to Marysville, Washington during the 2013 January ARRL VHF Contest on January 19-20, 2013. The total distance traveled from door to door was 941 miles.

I operated 17 hours of the 33-hour contest, averaging 15.35 contacts per hour of activity. I averaged 5.11 contacts per gallon and 65.25 contacts per gas tank.

Results

The contest activity was steady along this route that includes major metro centers of Portland, Tacoma, Seattle and Everett.

Band Contacts Points Grids
50 109 109 14
144 119 119 13
432 34 68 5
296 32 Sum of Unique Grids
+7 One multiplier for each grid activated
39 Rover multiplier
Score = 11,544 = 296 points x 39 multipliers

Most Popular Contestants

  1. Eric N7EPD – 14 contacts
  2. Darryl WW7D /R – 12
  3. Tom K7ZL /R – 12
  4. Dale KD7UO – 12
  5. Bruce KI7JA – 9
  6. Jim K7ND – 9
  7. Tom KE7SW – 8
  8. Gary WA7BBJ /R – 7
  9. Mike WB7FJG – 7
  10. Merle W7YOZ – 7
  11. Ray W7GLF – 7

January 2012 VHF Contest

The Olympic Peninsula is way off in the far corner of the Pacific Northwest and offers a huge area of remote, isolated and largely undeveloped wilderness. The peninsula has but one single main road, Highway 101, which gives access to the distant coastline. Although most of it is within a hundred miles of the densely populated greater Seattle area, the tall peaks in the Olympic Mountain range will block radio propagation from the coastline. And the winter weather blocked drivable access to ridges and peaks. All of this along with our recent severe local weather, makes it a challenge for the 2012 VHF Contest that we couldn’t resist.

Rod WE7X and Barry WA7KVC made a driving adventure to activate rare grid squares on the Olympic Peninsula coastline on January 21-22 during the ARRL January 2012 VHF Contest.

Our goal was to activate the remote lowland coastal grids in the state during the VHF contest. This is the dead of winter in the Pacific Northwest so other possible destinations that involved “hilltopping” or other parts of the state with mountainous inland grids were not considered, especially in light of our recent weather. The Seattle area was still digging out from snowfall, ice storms, downed trees, mudslides, widespread power outages and road closures. To set the stage, you should realize that Rod’s home had been without power for two days before, and his neighborhood was still dark when we returned. Barry’s house had power restored just the night before we left.

Our plan to target the “warmer” ocean coast turned out to be mostly successful – at least it didn’t rain all the time during our trip. Sometimes it snowed for awhile instead.

During the 650-mile drive, our constant companions were rain, cold, wind, squalls, snow and fog. But it was fabulously scenic. Thankfully the 4Runner’s broad liftgate provided shelter from the worst elements when we stopped and put up the 2-meter beam at the back of the truck. All we had to do is remember to park pointing into the wind.
Rod WE7X in the freezing rain at Sekiu

Route

We drove clockwise around the Olympic Peninsula, thinking that we should activate the single most difficult grid square (CN78 at Sekiu) on Sunday morning during the VHF weak-signal net. This turned out to be a Good Idea because it gave us a better chance of reaching the most capable VHF stations when we occupied the most remote grid square. It was difficult to make any contacts but we achieved a few by bouncing signals from Mt Baker.
Driving route map for January VHF Contest rover

Rover Highlights

The contest began Saturday morning, 11 am local time, and we set up in Ocean Shores. This is a thin slice of land that juts into CN76 with wide, flat open areas. In summertime, this is packed with tourists and beach lovers. In winter, it’s practically a ghost town. The local airport’s parking lot was empty except for shorebirds and offered unobstructed propagation toward Seattle.
Barry WA7KVC in (very!) brief sunshine at Ocean Shores Airport Barry WA7KVC starts operating at Ocean Shores when the contest begins.This view is looking east toward Seattle across the inland bay at the small local airport.

The town of Copalis is rich with character, some of which is designed to lure campers and tourists.

A golden sun spurting crepuscular rays across the heavens while it sets behind a cloud bank over the crashing surf is always a huge inspirational thrill, even in near-freezing temperatures.
Crepuscular sunset of cold Pacific beach near Forks, WA Winter sunset at beaches near Forks, WA

We discovered that our mobile 144 MHz stacked loops worked surprisingly well on 432 MHz. This is triple the resonant frequency so I suppose we shouldn’t be so surprised. The mobile mast carried loops for 50 MHz, 144 MHz and 220 MHz. The little 220 MHz loops went unused as we didn’t carry a radio for that band.

We scouted the route to North Point (Kloshe Nanitch Lookout), a nice high 3,000’ ridge in the closer part of CN78. The road was totally blocked by recent snow to the extent that its forest path was unfindable.
Kloshe Nanitch Lookout road at North Point, Washington

Instead of North Point, we went to a spot near the Sekiu airport, a distant second choice in altitude and desirability, but it’s the best we could do in an area simply chock full of poor choices.
Sekiu Airport in the dead of winter

I love the banter you can use when calling from CN78: “CQ CQ, CQ Sekiu, CQ from Sekiu, CQ to Sekiu, and CQ everywhere else”. I think that all active hams should have a chance to visit a place that can help spread so much mind-boggling confusion.

Crossing grid lines is always exciting. Just when you think the bands died or the antenna fell off, you cross a grid line and suddenly become extremely popular again. All grid line crossings were like this, but when we entered CN97 above Issaquah Highlands on the plateau at 1,001-foot elevation, we enjoyed a real pile-up. Rod made 15 contacts in 10 minutes.
Rod WE7X working mobile radio in Issaquah Highlands

A blizzard at night driving from Forks to Port Angeles caused almost white-out conditions. Indeed, there was snow alongside the road on the entire route and snowplows were few and far between.
Curvy winter road signposted 15 mph near Port Angeles Winter travel from Forks to Port Angeles Wet winter conditions at Sekiu Airport, WA Winter snowplow on road to Kingston, WA

It was a new experience to send CW in conditions so cold that two-finger gloves are required.
Barry sends morse code in the cold with two-finger gloves

January is so far off the tourist season in Port Angeles that one of their best Fish-n-Chips restaurants closed early: 7pm Saturday!

We pulled into a Super-8 hotel in Port Angeles, and their entry overhang looked quite high. Imagine our surprise when we step out to discover the loops had just cleared it by an inch. If we’d parked a little to the left then it would’ve had a nasty dispute with a light fixture.
Rod WE7X looks up at close call in Super-8 motel

Testing New Gear

A large part of this trip’s purpose was to try out a wide variety of new equipment:

Winter setting sun at beaches near Forks, WA New Toyota 4Runner – a very capable truck that makes some unthinkable spots possible and some difficult conditions become easy. It has lots of storage room and good road manners at all speeds in all conditions.
Biggest problem: while operating at the back end, the rainwater pools in the liftgate and later, when you pull down the hatch, makes itself known. The icy water takes a diabolically unavoidable path down your arm and into your neck and armpit.
Second biggest problem: In spite of its advanced hill-climbing features, a new 4Runner still won’t let you climb a forest trail up to a 3,000’ ridge on a road that is so buried under snow that it’s unfindable.

Trailer hitch T-adapter for radio mast mountsNew trailer hitch T-adapter – this allows two versatile side mounting positions, where we could have two masts while not blocking the rear hatch access.
Biggest problem: Rod is keeping it for himself. So, just because he provided the entire idea, design, parts, labor, construction, painting, installation and testing, why does he think he can keep this dandy device?


Kenwood TM-D710 showing APRS information at Issaquah Highlands CN97New TM-D710 dual band mobile radio – integrates with Avmap G5 and supports APRS and displays your six-digit grid square with a handy continuous dashboard display.
Biggest problem: there were no APRS receiving stations around most of the Olympic Peninsula to bridge our position to the Internet.


Barry WA7KVC with M2 seven-element 2-meter beam on 15' mast at Sekiu, WAM2 seven-element 2-meter beam on a 15’ mast – terrific gain, f/b ratio, low SWR, portability and light weight. This let us bounce a signal from CN78 (Sekiu) off of Mt Baker and work a few stations in Seattle.
Biggest problem: you just don’t need these features for the other 90% of the contacts around the greater Seattle area. The horizontal loops on an 8′ mobile mast works just fine for a lot of quick contacts.

New deep-cycle storage battery – its huge 134 amp-hour capacity could probably have powered both VHF radios for the entire weekend.
Biggest problem: the battery went untested and unused since I forgot to connect it. We were a half hour late starting the contest in Ocean Shores (CN76) and rushed through setup and then never moved the power connections.

Results

The overall contest activity was very light. The recent ice and snow storms probably reduced the participation from everyone across the Pacific NW. There were no good 6-meter or 2-meter openings during the trip and we only made three Canadian contacts.

Band From CN76 From CN77 From CN78 From CN87 From CN88 From CN97 Total
 50 MHz 2 4 14 10 14 47
144 MHz 4 4 9 17 4 12 50
432 MHz 6 6
Total 6 8 9 31 14 35 103

This was my first two-person rover contest operation. It was highly enjoyable and a rather successful trip, activating six grids resulting in 103 contacts for an estimated score of 2,398 points.

Barry WA7KVC
Winter sunset with crepuscular rays at beaches near Forks, WA Winter rainbow near Port Angeles, WA