Saturday, April 23, 2016

Propagation woes...

I have the full weekend off this weekend.  That might sound strange to some of you who always have the weekend off.  However, I work in an industry that only allows me one weekend off per month.  I hate using cliche's but here it comes -"one has to do what one has to do".

When I do have the weekend off and after doing the usual errands and "honey do's", I like to immerse myself in amateur radio and simultaneously offer up a sacrifice to the propagation princess hoping she doesn't have a tantrum and screw things up. After all, when running QRP, propagation is everything.  Or is it?

I have three  propagation sites I haunt while my rig(s) is warming up.   I'm sure you haunt them as well.  If you're new to the game, here are a few sites I think you'll find interesting.

 At around 1700Z here's what things looked like on Paul Herman, NB0NH's site.  Overall it's a "meh" for the daytime hours.

40 meters is my favorite band (day or night). 30 meters is my next favorite.  And today, I felt like working 30 meters.  30 meters can be a bit fussy at times.  It sometimes acts like 20 meters and sometimes acts like 40 meters. Sometimes the band opens and closes in the blink of an eye.  It's also a band that IMHO doesn't get paid a lot of attention by the ham community.  But that's another post for another time.

My next propagation stop was the site  "Band Conditions"   I usually leave this site up and running while I'm on the air because it's supposed to show "real time" propagation allowing one to see band openings as they occur.  So off I go.  Whoa. "Band Conditions" is telling me that within the last hour or so, 30 meters is hovering around a value of "13".  A value of 13 pretty much means, "Larry?  Pack up the tent and go home".

Ah...but then we come to my favorite propagation site, VOACAP.  I plug in my numbers and I'm greeted with a delightful transmit radius for my 5-watt qrp peanut whistle on 30 meters:

CQ CQ CQ de N2ICZ, N2ICZ, N2ICZ.  I'm soon answered by W90RW, Bob in Indiana.  We had a great rag chew for about 15 minutes.  He was running QRP as well on his KX3. I was on the trusty MFJ-9030.  Some sort of propagation and the universe had aligned. I was happy.

I tend to drive myself crazy with whether the propagation is cooperating or not.  In the end, I just need to sit back, relax, send CQ a few times and see who answers.  Someone usually will despite the conditions.  72/73 de N2ICZ.

Sunday, April 17, 2016



I've always wanted a small dummy load for my QRP projects.  The doors of the N2ICZ vault creaked open and I purchased one of these: The QRPGuys 12, 50 ohm, Dummy Load/Power Meter.  Here's the part of the sales pitch that prompted me to purchase it, "The required tools for assembly are a soldering iron with a small tip, rosin core solder, small side cutters, and can be built in less than an hour.  On a difficulty scale of 1-5, 5 being the most difficult, this is rated at 1".

Yes sirree Bob...  Right up my alley.  And for $10.00, who can complain?  I'll keep you posted on how it works out.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The joy of QRP....

It's not uncommon for QRPers to work thousands of miles per watt given the right propagation and conditions.  In my case today, it was 39 miles per watt.  And I'll take it every day.  I had a great QSO with KA1HSP, Joe, up in Massachusetts.  Joe was running a Youkits HB1B into an end fed wire.  I was running the old Icom 725 (attenuated down to 5 watts) also into an end fed wire.  It was certainly not what one would call rare exotic "DX" but it was cool nevertheless.  We were Just two hams  ragchewing for a bit and learning some things about each other...and hold on...communicating.

When I was first licensed (way back when the Magna Carta was signed), my goal was to get on the air with as much power as I was legally allowed to run, a 100 foot tower, and a beam antenna that could hear a gnat sunning itself on a rock in the south pacific.  That was my mindset.  Finances, of course, dictated otherwise.  However, I did run 500 watts into a GAP Challenger vertical antenna and pretty much worked the world.

About 15 years ago, we (the XYL and children) had just moved into a condominium.  The amplifier and vertical were gone and I was itching to get back on the air.  I was surfing around the web one day and came across John Shannon, K3WWP's website.  I was stunned that this guy in the middle of Pennsylvania, was running 5 watts into a wire and had literally thousands of contacts.  I decided to try it out.

The condominium complex, of course, had the usual draconian rules about antennas and such, but one night, I did my best impersonation of James Bond 007 and surreptitiously ran about 80 feet of wire in and around and out of the condo. I fired up the rig, set it for 5 watts and started making contact after contact after contact.  I was back in business.  It amazed me that such low power (equivalent to lighting Madison Square Garden with a nightlight) could CONSISTENTLY work state side, coast to coast and the world.  I was hooked on QRP and have never run QRO since.

We have since moved from the condo and now live on the Jersey Shore.  Sure, I could have a tower and a beam, but I don't need it.  I'm happy with my old rig and a wire.  Whether I get 1 mile per watt, or 10,000 per watt, every contact for me is "DX"  And that, my fellow hams, is the joy of QRP.  72/73

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Yet another QRP blog....

Why?  Because I can. Therefore, I am.

All kidding aside, my goal for this blog is straight forward and simple -  to share my amateur radio exploits in the world of "QRP".  And maybe, just'll find and share something interesting.  72/73.