Retired Sr. Software Developer with over 30 years experience in all phases of software development with an emphasis on server side technologies. I'm a licensed (W4MKH) Ham Radio operator and I'm active on HF/VHF/UHF with a love for POTA and SOTA.
I just want to let you know that Elecraft has a limited number of the ES80 cases on sale at half price. They have a slightly crooked logo but I doubt it will be noticeable when the case is stuffed full of gear.
The cases are half price at $35 plus shipping. I ordered mine on Sunday. It shipped on Monday and USPS Priority mail had it in my hands on Wednesday.
You can order it here ES80 K3 Carrying Case. I have no idea how may they have in stock so if you want one you may want to jump on it quickly.
I am still experimenting with how I want to load it out and it is a tight fit for my IC-705 but still I am okay with the way the radio fits the case. As for the slightly crooked logo, I keep staring at it and sometimes i can see it is crooked and sometimes I don’t see it. But when I use a soft padded case like this I stuff it so full that the logo area gets distorted by little bumps and bulges so no one will ever notice. And in case you are wondering I don’t care that it says Elecraft but there is really an Icom inside.
As I posted earlier this week, I had some hosting issues which threatened to skuttle this blog. I’m happy to say that most of those issues have been worked out and I will be keeping this blog active.
I still have some display formatting issues to work out that seemed to have been caused by losing my domain hookup and the account reverting back to a free plan. But I have WordPress Support working on that so hopefully it will be cleared up soon.
As always I am open to your comments and suggestions. If you don’t want the hassles of having your own blog, I am open to having guest posts on here.
I am looking at ways of offsetting the costs of this blog but I really want to keep the content free and open to all.
If you need me, please look in the Doghouse as that is where I’m hiding until the XYL gets over me spending more money on this blog.
I am having a small dispute with WordPress over the cost of my hosting for this site. If that doesn’t get addressed adequately between now and March 9th I will be forced to shut down this blog. I am retired and this has gotten to be too expensive for my budget.
There is also the fact that I have done you my readers an injustice by not posting frequently enough. I had great plans to post weekly this year and be more active then I came down with a bad cold in early January and I haven’t had the energy to post or do much of anything. I know I am getting older but I have never had a cold last this long before. I’m still not completely over this cold though I am slowly getting my energy levels back up.
Maybe I will do something on Facebook to document my ham radio adventures. I’ll have to explore that avenue. I suspect it will be somewhat limiting but t least it i free.
So, if this blog suddenly disappears you will know what happened.
Okay, as I write this it is the second day of 2023. I am committing myself to blogging more and getting more involved in my hobby this year. 2022 was a rough year with lots of changes in our lives that took me away from ham radio a lot more than I anticipated or wanted. We (the XYL and I) have experience health issues, a move to a new state, a new radio club and a bunch of new ham friends as well as several changes in my radios and equipment. I’ll be going into more details in upcoming posts on the new ham setup but I will provide some highlights here.
We finally made the move north to Hendersonville NC on Saturday September 24th. As reported in prior blog posts we are leasing a second floor condo through at least June of this year. In addition to exploring the area we will be using this time to decide if we want to make the move permanently and if so , we will be house hunting. Of course, I intend to play radio. The locam ham radio community is important to me wherever I end up. and I am blessed to have great club in this area. The Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Club is very active and meets about 4 miles from our condo which allows me to easily participate. The members have been very welcoming and friendly. Back in Florida I had a 20 mile trip to participate with either of the two clubs in the area so I wasn’t very involved with either club. Here there are a lot of repeaters and numerous hams along with lots of POTA/SOTA opportunities to enjoy. I’m anticipating an active “ham” Winter and Spring.
Our girls came up to visit in the middle of November and my sister and her kids visited us over Thanksgiving. We were able to go back to Florida for a week at Christmas and we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with all of our family.
This is the hardest part for me to write about and I have written this so many times in my head then abandoned it as I was never comfortable with what I “wrote”. Since July the XYL has had a tough time with her Hemodialysis slowly taking a toll on her physically. In mid December we were finally able to transition her to Peritoneal Dialysis and she now does her treatments each night while she sleeps. This allows Her/Us to live a more normal daytime life as we explore and enjoy the North Carolina mountains and the area we live in. This “home dialysis” is also easier on her kidneys and her body. We are seeing her overall health improve and we are trusting God for a complete recovery for her kidneys.
The New Shack
I moved my shack from a corner of our bedroom in Florida to an enclosed balcony here in the condo. I have downsided considerably and I am still working out the layout and some of the kinks that I have encountered. My biggest problem has been getting an antenna setup that works well indoors for HF. I can’t put up an outdoor antenna and most things that I have tried indoors either don’t work well or are impractical to have in the middle of our living room. A 17′ vertical whip just isn’t practical indoors with 8 foot ceilings. My hamsticks didn’t work well either. Luckily I have a friend (thanks Mark) who has loaned me his AlexLoop and that seems to work fairly well but it limits me to 20 watts or less.
The local VHF/UHF repeater access has been very good. For example, I am able to talk on the Mt. Mitchell repeater using an HT from inside and that is about 35 miles distant from my location. Having repeaters on mountain tops sure helps! I check into the local Net each Sunday evening and I am always amazed at where the participants are located and how far away they are. In fact, we have a Net almost every night that I can check into.
Unfortunately I have a ridge line that is about 100′ higher than me that surrounds me on three sides. This limits my access to repeaters south of me and keeps me from participating in one of the nets that I like. I have to use Echolink if I want to participate in the Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Society’s nightly Net. I did that quite regularly when I was still in Florida but it kind of hurts to have to do it now that I live here. But that is the way things go sometimes; you win some and you lose some.
Once we committed to the move I decided that with the smaller shack space I would downsize my radio collection. The Xiegu G90 and X6100 were sold off and the money went towards an Icom IC-705. So my shack now consists of an IC-7300 and a Yaesu VHF mobile rig on the desk. The 705 sometimes gets shack duty but it is pretty much dedicated to field use and will be my POTA radio as I also sold off the Yaesu 891. If you are going to go QRP in the field then go all the way. My friend Mark ended up with all three of my radios. I am still refining my shack layout and field setup so I won’t go into much detail here. In addition to the radios, I have also sold most of my Wolf River Coils antennas and have settled on some some new antenna combos that I will write about in future posts.
Again, I am making a commitment to blogging more this year as well as getting out and playing radio in the great outdoors. Future blog posts will be more radio focused but with the gap in my blogging and all that has happened I wanted to explain things to everyone. Thanks for sticking with me and for reading this. I hope to hear from you guys in the comments. Happy New Year.
Well, as it stands now, we will be making the move to the North Carolina mountains on Saturday 9/24. As I write this that is two weeks from tomorrow. The date may change some as it is dependent on us getting the XYL’s dialysis moved to the Hendersonville NC area.
The shack picture is a little clearer now, I simply don’t have one as everything is packed away for the move. I was hoping to wait until a few days before the move to do this but I had to vacate two rooms of the house so they can put down new carpet. So, my “shack’ doesn’t exist anymore. But I do have options…
Hello new radio, good-bye old radios
I will write about this in more detail later but I have a new Icom IC-705. It will be my POTA/SOTA radio after we make the move and it will serve double duty in the new shack setup. The IC-7300 has a new hard case so I will be able to carry it to the field also though I’m still not sold on that idea yet.
Gone are the Xiegu X6100, the G90 and even my Yaesu FT-891 is gone. All went to the same ham and were traded/sold for an antenna analyzer and a Buddistick Pro Deluxe. Mark really was a joy to deal with as we worked out the different deals. I heard he just fell in love with the G90 and rightly so; it’s a fun radio to use.
The 705 is in a new POTA backpack that is reserved strictly for the 705 and the batteries, coax and antennas that I need tor a POTA activation. The plan is to use the Buddistick with the 705 but I also have an EFRW as well as a 40m – 10m EFHW for field use. I also have a new MAT-705 Plus auto tuner so that I can use the nonresonant wire antennas. The whole setup can also be easily setup in my yard for hunting POTA which is what I will do over the next two weeks if I can work around the thunderstorms.
If I do hunt from my yard over the next two weeks, I will post about it along with pictures of my setup. But regular posting won’t begin again until after the move.
Update to my update (about 5 minutes later)
I did hunt from the shack one night last week using the 705 and 10 watts (on external battery). I hunted 3 parks in under 5 minutes and even broke a couple of pileups with good reports. The IC=705 is an awesome little radio that just works magic.
Thanks for sticking with me and as always your comments and suggestions are welcome.
I sold my Wolf River Coils Silver Bullet 1000 TIA about two months ago as I wasn’t using the 80m band and the coil was too big and heavy to use with the 24″ extensions rods to make a center loaded vertical. To be clear, there was nothing wrong with the SBC 1000 TIA; it just didn’t fit my needs. I only sold the coil, and I kept the extension rods, the mega tripod and the radial wires along with the 102″ whip.
Silver Bullet Mini
So, last week I ordered the SB Mini along with the Dual Collar Retro Kit. Both items were in my hands within 3 days of ordering. Shipping is always fast when ordering from WRC.
Today I took the original collar off of the mini, converted it to the new dual collar system and added the second collar. It took me less than 10 minutes to do the conversion. To be honest it took longer to find the tools needed than to do the actual conversion. It was that easy.
WRC has a great video on Youtube showing you how to do the conversion and I am very happy with the results. My goal was to set the top collar up to bypass the coil and use the MFJ-1979 17′ whip for 20 meters and above. The bottom collar will be set for 40 meters. I will tune and set the collars in the next couple of days if the thunderstorms ever go away. They are starting up mid morning each day and lasting most of the day. A typical Florida weather pattern for this time of the year. In fact it is storming outside as I write this at about 1950 UT.
As I have posted previously we are moving to Laurel Park NC. We were supposed to make the transition on 7/14 but unfortunately we have had to postpone that for a few weeks. My wife went into the hospital for kidney failure on 7/1 and got out 15 days later. She has been diagnosed with ANCA Renal-limited vasculitis (RLV) which is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the kidneys. Her kidneys are making progress with regular dialysis and once her kidneys are functioning on their own she can stop the dialysis and we will move as soon as her doctor clears her.
New Wolf River Coils radial setup
I have been reading and watching people experiment with the length and number of rails that they use for their WRC. So, even though I have had good results with the stock 33′ radials that came with my Silver Bullet 1000 T.I.A. I decided to modify mine so that I can have more options. Sometimes you just don’t have a large area for a radial field so I made the decision to cut my radials in half so that I can deploy with 6 16′ radials for those times when space is limited. But, I also wanted to be able to deploy the stock 33′ version.
I use large battery clips to quickly attach my radials to the WRC tripod legs. After cutting the 33′ radials in half I trimmed about 5″ off the end of each wire and attached the short wires to the clips and attached female bullet connectors to the end.
Next I attached male bullet connectors to one end of the remaining 16′ wires and I added female connectors on the other ends. One of the wires has yellow connectors and the other one uses red bullet connectors. This allows me to easily tell which wire I am using.
This setup allows me to add two 16′ radials to each battery clip (and attach a clip to each leg of the tripod. It also gives me the option of connecting the to wires together and use them as a 32′ radial.
In the future it will allow me to quickly and easily make up radials of any length that I want and attach as many as I want. I am considering making up a small pigtail harness that can handle multiple radials. That setup will allow me to plug the pigtail into the battery clip and add multiple radials wires.
This whole “modular” radial setup will also allow me to easily create tuned radials for each band if I decide to go that route. Remember that radials on the ground will decouple and don’t have to be tuned. But raised radials (or more accurately; counterpoise wires) need to be tuned for each band.
New Wolf River Coil
A few months ago I sold my WRC Silver Bullet 1000 coil as it was just too long for my liking and I rarely use 80 meters. Last week I purchased the SIlver Bullet Mini along with the two collar retro kit. I also purchased an MFJ-1979 17′ telescoping wip. The plan is to set the MIni up with one collar at the top of the coil for 20 meters. With the coil bypassed and just by adjusting the whip length I can work 20-6 meters. I will set the other collar for 40 meters.
Check back for more about the move and how I am redoing my shack setup.
I have put this post off for a week as I wasn’t sure what to say or how much detail to include. I also wasn’t 100% sure how my future ham radio activities will play out.
For 60 years or so I have wanted to live in the North Carolina mountains. As a kid growing up my Dad would take us on vacation each summer to the area around Asheville NC. I grew up loving the area. Fast forward to modern times and after I got married my wife and I took our kids to the mountains every year or so and they have grown up with the mountains in their DNA.
Not that we are both retired my wife and I have been looking for a place in the mountains to call home. I won’t bore you with the details but I will say that in mid July my dream will finally come true. We have leased a condo in Laurel Park NC for the next year. Laurel Park is a small town just 2 miles out of downtown Hendersonville and about 30 miles south of Asheville. Laurel Park has a lot of green space and there’s even a lake and a park across the street from our condo that has walking trails along with a fitness/exercise trail.
There is a very active ham radio community in Hendersonville as well as just across the state line which is about 8-10 miles from our new home. I will have the Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Club in Hendersonville and the Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Society in South Carolina. I have already made friends in both clubs and have joined their Nets when I have visited the area.
There are really only two problems we will be downsizing from 2400+ sq. ft. to about 1,000 sq.ft. and the condo is up stairs. This means my ham shack will have to be downsized too and I’m not sure what my antenna options are. I will probably have to set up my station on a small table in the closed in balcony area and throw a wire out the window for an HF antenna. Luckily the Hendersonville repeater can be easily activated by an HT but I will be using my Yaesu FT1900 as a base station so VHF/UHF shouldn’t be a problem.
I have thought about selling most of my radios and getting a IC-705 to pair with y IC-7300 in order to make my footprint as small as possible. But my current plan is to take all of my rados and see what I can do once I get there then make the decision whether to sell or not. Either way I will be off the air for a few weeks as I tear down, make the move and setup the new station.
I am really looking forward to the cooler weather and getting out into the outdoors. The area has a plethora of hiking trails and waterfalls. Along with The Pisgah National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest, there are lots of state parks for POTA. The Dupont State Recreational Forest is about 11 miles from our location and the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site is about 4 miles away.
As, you can probably imagine there are no SOTA opportunities near my current Florida QTH but at the new home there will be plenty of SOTA opportunities.
The maps below show the active hams around our new home along with the POTA and SOTA opportunities. The Magenta circles shows a 5 mile radius around the new QTH and the Red circle is a 25 mile radius.
For the next several weeks I will be tearing down my shack and boxing things up so I will be pretty much off the air. But in the long run I will be much better off with considerable opportunities to live a more active lifestyle and pursue my hobby.
My friend Thomas (K4SWL) announced today that he has created a QRPer discussion board that anyone can join, free of charge, at QRPer.net. He hopes that it will be a spot for community members to get quick answers to questions and connect with other like-minded operators. Everyone is welcome.
I have already joined and committed to be an active member and do anything I can to promote the board and make it a good info source for those of us who love QRP.
You may have noticed that I have been a little absent from my blog. We took a three week trip to the mountains of western North Carolina leaving on May 1st and returning home on the 23rd.
My planned activations didn’t go according to my dreams or plans. I had planned to do some POTA hunting during our first week from the place we were staying at north of Mars Hill NC. It had an elevation of 4500 feet but the ground was so sloped that there was no place to set up. I tried using my speaker wire antenna from the 2nd story deck but it was 30′ off the ground and I couldn’t get a good SWR so that was a bust.
After we relocated to Black Mountain I had planned to activate at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a site that Thomas Witherspoon (K4SWL) has activated numerous times but on the morning f the activation it started raining before we even got out of bed. Another POTA opportunity lost; this time to the rain gods (or Mother Nature). Though, looking back I really didn’t want to get me or my equipment wet so I guess that also contributed to the failure.
After relocating to the Hendersonville NC area for our final week, I tried an activation at the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site. That was ultimately a failure mostly due to band conditions. I tried hunting after no one was responding to my CQs. I could hear an activator in Florida who said he was using 100 watts. He was a strong 59 but not even calling “Park to Park” could get a response to my 10 watts out of the Xiegu X6100. I did make contact with a MA activator but I dropped down into his noise floor so we never completed that Park to Park. This failure was due to bad conditions and QRP power levels.
The next day we planned on hiking to the waterfalls in Dupont State Recreation Area and I was going to try activating there too. But after hiking to two waterfalls and doing a total of 3.5 miles I was just two hot and tired to do an activation. My bad knee was also bitching at me about all the abuse I had put it through.. It kept reminding me that it was used to flat land in Florida and not changes in elevation going up and down the mountain trails I had abused it with. So when we got back to the trailhead we jumped into the car to cool off in the AC and went back to town for lunch. Another failure but this time it was all on me.
We are back home now and I am slowly unpacking the radio gear and bringing the home shack back online. I downed all the antennas before I left and took the shack computer with me. But as of this morning the shack is fully operational.
I was able to spend some time on vacation thinking about my field setup and what I took with me. This resulted in several planned changes and enhancements that I will be making over the next few weeks. I will try to blog about those as I do them. Once I complete them I will activate a park near me (there are only two) and blog that as well.