Monday, June 30, 2008

Field Day Revisited

Ok, so yesterday I decided to tackle Field Day again. I had the data cable problem resolved and figured I'd try the antenna test I'd planned for Saturday. First up was the Blue Star P1. I tuned up for 40M and spun the dial several times to no avail. The antenna was about 8' off the ground but this means it was still being blocked by the house to a good extent I'm sure. I retuned for 20M and got busy. I actually managed to make about 5 contacts. It was hard work, though. I should've had at least one more contact but we lost each other. I could him him calling for me but I was gone I guess.

After a bit of success with the P1 I switched over to the Buddistick. I was feeling lazy and wanted to be able to swap antennas so this wasn't really an apples to apples comparison. I put the Buddistick on the handle of my grill so it was much lower than the P1. I could hear stations but I didn't log a single contact on either band.

The jury is still out on which antenna is the better performer. The advantage of the P1 over the Buddistick is that it's got a coil for 60 and 80. However, my SWR on 80 yesterday was >25 no matter what I did. I'm going to drop them an email to see if they have any ideas. If I can't do 80M (this is pretty big for me since that's where our FL Phone Net is) I'll have to come up with another solution.

I hope to do a better test later this week as we head out camping again.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Field Day Fiasco

Well, where do I begin with what went wrong today? It all started when I got the our site and went to unload the generator. Having loaded it into the truck last night, I'd used my security cable to lock it to the bed. Apparently I left the key sitting on the aquarium by the door when I left this morning. I had to move the truck and ran the genny from the bed the whole day. At lease she cranked up easy and ran like a dream.

I won't even get into all of the various issues I had today swapping between different coax and antennas. I made a whopping one contact with my friend's Buddistick. Didn't make a single one on the P1. The rig was also seriously wigging out. My Z11 tuner would get a mind of its own every once in a while. The thing would tune, all the LEDs would light. It was insane. I damn near went crazy trying to get PSK31 working. Never did. It was the damndest thing. I connected the RIGBlaster PnP like I always do but I couldn't get a waterfall. Disconnect the input and there's the waterfall. I finally got it receiving (no idea what I did at that point) but while the PTT LED would light the rig never keyed. I gave up on digital after about an hour and decided to make it a voice station.

Ok, it's about time for some good news. We didn't have many kids show up. Regardless, the three that were there had a good time with our mini foxhunt. Unfortunately I didn't get to spend much time with them doing instruction since I was so focused on all of my own problems. I think it went off well enough that I'll try to have it again next year.

Back to the misery. Through all the mishaps I swear I had to look like a Keystone cop. I guess I just kept getting flustered and was making dumb mistake after dumb mistake. I swear that before Field Day even officially kicked off I was more than ready to throw in the towel and say "Screw it, I'm outa here." There was only one flaw with that logic. Go back to the first thing I mentioned. I had the generator and couldn't very well leave it and pick it up later. So I stayed.

At least we had a good time. The burgers and dogs were good. We even met a new friend from SC who was down visiting family and looked us up since he was missing his home club's event. Bob stayed with us all day and it was a pleasure to meet and get to know him ... even if he did give me a hard time like the rest of the gang. I won't hold it against him for long. :-)

I discovered one problem with my Z11. I believe I read where this is actually a common problem. The ground nut was very loose so I had to open it up and tighten it down from the inside. I also noticed my audio would go away at times. Turns out I might have a bad phone jack. Plugging phones into the 718 and removing it would whack it out. Tap the jack or insert/remove the phone jack again and the audio would return. Figures.

Summers in Florida usually have one thing in common year after year: thunderstorms. Today was no exception. About 3:30 or so the rumbles started and we decided to break down. We had the monster V to drop, the 20M rotating dipole, G5RV, Buddipole, and Buddistick along with 5 radios and all the paraphernalia that goes with Field Day. We hadn't quite finished wrapping everything up when the rain hit. As we huddled under the pavilion it hit hard. Then it got harder. The loudest, closet bolt of lightning I've ever experienced seemed to have hit right over our heads. It's not something I'd say I'd like to be in again. I wish I could've gotten a shot of the radar while this was going on but this after-shot will have to suffice. You can see it was still looking pretty nasty after I got home. We were stuck under the pavilion for at least an hour.

Alright, so maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I really wanted to figure out why I'd had so many problems with a configuration I've used before. I pulled everything out of the boxes and mounted things back in the shack. That's when I discovered what I believe is the source of all my woes today ... the data cable.

It would appear upon close examination that the data jack from the RIGBlaster to the 718 will fit both ways. There's an arrow on the jack which I put in the top position so I could see it. The jack fit fine. However, this would appear to be wrong. Comparing the pin layout with the rig jack, I had it upside down the whole time. I don't think I caused any problems or damaged the rig, but it sure as hell screwed me up. Tonight I've heard all the traffic I should've heard earlier. The rig is keying up with PSK31 as expected as well. The world seems to be right again.

I'll have to put the P1 and Buddistick back into service tomorrow to confirm my suspicions but for the moment I'm thinking that was it. I'm sick that I blew the entire day for such a simple, stupid problem. I guess that's what Field Day is for, though, right? I learned a valuable lesson if that has, indeed, fixed the issue.

And that's my Field Day '08. I was up late getting ready for the fiasco and I'm up later than I'd planned tonight. I'm going to bed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Field Day Preps

Well, tonight I'll be putting the finishing touches on my preps for tomorrow. I need to top off the batteries and put new ones in the analyzer (can't find my stinkin' charger). I ran the generator a little bit the other night and she started on the 2nd pull. I'm looking forward to it.

We should be operating as 5A with the K4D special event call. Some of the guys are out at the park right now putting up some antennas but here I am at my stinkin' desk. Of course I don't have any work to do so I'm just twiddling my thumbs. And I just realized I didn't hand off the two 40M dipoles I have in my truck. Dagnabit.

Oh well, I'll be there early so we should be able to get them up w/o too much difficulty. Should be an interesting time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Go Box

Well, we had a go-box contest at last night's ARES meeting. I have to say I was impressed with my buddy Scott's setup. He rightfully deserved 1st place. I was happy to take 2nd, though. I was going to post pics but I realized they aren't current. I've made a nice mod that I need to get new pics of.

Other than that, not too much going on. I was surprised to see that Scott has the Buddistick which is what I was looking at buying instead of the P1. I'm hoping to try them both out this Saturday so I can do a comparison.

Looking forward to Field Day!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

P1 Success!!

Well, after long last I've finally managed to make contact with the new P1 antenna. I'm a bit disappointed that the 1.5 SWR I experienced when I set it up indoors climbed to about 5 outside. I'm not really sure why. I had the tuning sleeve all the way to the bottom, even added a third base rod, and still couldn't bring the SWR down. Oh well, the LDG Z-11 Pro tuner handled it without any problem.

I just barely missed the 9pm net with my buddies but got relayed in at the end. I have yet to be able to say (with any antenna) if I can hear it I can work it. I was hearing most of net control in TX but he never heard me. Fortunately, my buddy GT in South Carolina relayed me. I had good copy on him but lost him before I could get a signal report. Oh well. 40M wasn't so hot last night. Net control did come back and say that he had good copy on most of my last transmission to GT. I'll chalk it up as a success given that band conditions sucked.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get the SWR down with the 80M trap installed. I was really hoping to be able to check into the phone net but it didn't happen. I have an ARES meeting tonight so no radio fun for me on the air. I tried using both the 50' counterpoise that comes with the antenna as well as my #14 40M counterpoise but the SWR was high (20+). I'll have to monkey with it some more. I sure don't understand the reviews of people being on the air within 10 min. I must be slow or something. :-D

Regardless, I've got to get all the kinks worked out before Sat. I'd hate to show up for Field Day only to have problems. Well, at least I know I can work 40 and I can live with that. I do want to try it on 20M also.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Post Camping Follow-Up

Well, we survived. I meant to post an update last night but I guess after cleaning off the dirt and grime, unpacking, and everything else it slipped my mind. I have to say that even with the minor difficulties we experienced we had a great time and are already looking forward to our next adventure. It might be as soon as the 4th since it's a long weekend.

I got the tent cleaned up a little (at least it's dried out) but I need to go back and get the rest of the dirt off. I thought it was going to rain last night so I packed it up once it was dry. I also need to hit the rain fly and just go through everything to clean it up. The Coleman stove did a great job and I'm very impressed with how my GSI cookset worked. I do wish I'd been able to find a larger set locally but I just had to cut everything up. Even after fixing pancakes, two batches of eggs, and bacon one after the other it cleaned up mighty fine.

I don't know why but the antenna analyzer was back up to 12.2V when we got home so I was able to tune the P1 to 40M with as good as 1.5 SWR. I haven't swept the band yet to get a good idea of the bandwidth but I'm confident now that I'll be able to tune the entire band with a tuner. I'm going to throw the 80M trap on tonight to see if I can check in to the phone net this time. I also cut a radial to the right length instead of dealing with the very small gauge wire that came with it. It was a pain in the rump to lay out and the #14 stranded I have should be better and more durable.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Storm She Is A Brewin'

We had a difficult night last night. The air mattress has a leak, the pad is worthless, and the self-inflating pad needed to be exercised before we needed it, not in the field. Oh well. At least that should be good for tonight.

We didn't do much today. Mainly just walked around. No fishing as I'd hoped. We got back and ate lunch just before the bottom dropped out. We had very heavy, steady rain for a good 2 hours. I realized we picked the wrong place for the tent as the lake formed. All in all, though, aside from a little water in the tent (not enough to worry me) the tent held up very well. It was nice to just listen to the rain.

On the radio front, my antenna analyzer batteries died before I could get the new P1 tuned. I could hear the phone net but they weren't hearing me. I also tried answering a CQ on 40 to no avail. The lesson? Always test new gear before you try using it in the field.

Dinner had to change a little. The rain soaked all out firewood and kindling. The charcoal survived for the most part but I did the chicken on the camp stove. The potatoes and corn on the cob were grilled. I think I did a great job. Sadly I couldn't get a good wood fire going so we had to turn back to the stove for roasting marshmallows.

Oh well. My hands hurt from all this typing on the tiny keyboard. That's all for now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Finally Setup

Well, we got off much later than planned. Then we hit heavy rain on the way down and had to stop to put the tarp on.

There are a lot of people here but after the ranger got onto our neighbor it's been quiet. As it turns out I actually know the ranger. We've already met some of the locals. A racoon welcomed us as we set up the tent and brought a friend back later. Junior Armadillo just came by to say hi. Oh, I've already started finding ticks.

Dinner was sausage, mixed veggies, and sweet potato patties. Sadly I don't have the antenna up. Might have to wait for morning. So will gps coords as my batteries died. :-(

Oh well. That's it for now.

Cary Beuershausen/N4CDB
Duval County ARES AEC

Sent via BlackBerry

Camping Weekend is Here!

Ok, I really don't have a whole lot to add today but my buddy is on me to keep this thing updated daily.

I'm really keeping my fingers crossed for this weekend's weather. We've had severe wx warnings the past few afternoon/evenings and the last thing I want to do is make camp in a downpour. High temp tomorrow is 92 and it's supposed to feel like 103. Gads.

Looks like there may be another opportunity for a hike/camp in the Ocala Natl Forest next month. I'm really hoping it doesn't fall on the weekend I'm on call but others are putting it together so we'll have to wait and see.

Next update from the campsite. :-)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's here! But now I have no time.

Well, yesterday was disappointing. My new P1 antenna from Blue Star Antennas arrived as expected. Unfortunately, after dinner we went grocery shopping for the camping trip and by the time my son was in bed and I had stuff for the trip laid out it was too late and I was too tired to do anything with it other than unpack it and look at it. We have a wedding tonight (Thursday??) so it looks like it's first use will actually be from the campsite.

My initial impression is that it's well made. The instructions are a bit lacking, though. There's a bulleted list that says, "Assemble antenna as shown". Sadly, the drawings on the next page don't make a damned bit of sense. Oh well. Hopefully I'll have an update Fri or Sat.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Well, I guess I'm not such a good blogger just as I suspected. Things have been busy though. I spent Father's Day weekend shooting a softball tournament and I've spent this week so far playing catch up with other things.

I did finally do some radio stuff. I've been looking for a good portable HF antenna for use with Field Day, emergency deployment, and just plain whatever. I wanted a Buddistick but decided on the P1 system from Blue Star Antennas. This antenna gets good reviews at eHam and for the same price as the Buddistick I was able to add the 80M coil. Having 80M capability is really a big deal for me. The North Florida Phone Net is run on 80M and that's where I'd be looking to pass health/welfare traffic through NTS.

Blue Star is only a couple of hours south of my QTH and I already have a shipping notification and tracking number. I don't see why I wouldn't have it by tomorrow. That's good since I have a wedding Thur and won't be able to try it out. Its first field trial will be this weekend from the campsite. Really looking forward to heading out.

My dilemna now is power. I have a 65AH Optima that's a beast to haul around and a meager 10AH that wont give my much operating time with the 718. I'm thinking of picking up another 10AH and running them in parallel but I've already spent a good bit on pre-camping goodies and that's another $30. I may cheat and throw the one 10AH on the charger since we'll have AC. Of course, I'm really trying to do this w/o using such luxuries. We'll see how it works out.

Well, that's it for now. Next update will probably be from the campsite ... if I have cell service. :D

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blackberry Test

Ok, this is just a post to test the functionality of mobile blogging. :-D

Cary Beuershausen/N4CDB
Duval County ARES AEC

Sent via BlackBerry

Wx Update

Well, we've been having an interesting time lately weather-wise. The past couple of weeks have been filled with severe hail storms producing up to golf ball-sized hail. Today the skies are rumbling again. Looks like some weather is headed our way if it keeps on the north-easterly track. We even have a couple of mesocyclones (ie rotations) out there (the red circles).

Monday, June 9, 2008


Well, it's 2008. I decided maybe it's time to try this blogging thing. So what can you expect? Good question.

My main purpose for this blog is to share what I've been up to with my hobby de jour. :-D Since the end of 2006 I've thrown myself into amateur radio and I'm loving every minute of it. So expect to see articles about antenna projects, homebrew projects, etc.

I'm also heavily involved in emergency communications. Along with this is an interest in weather. So you'll probably see updates about various sever weather occurrences or just anything that interests me.

All in all you may see a variety of stuff here but I'll try to keep it as radio-centric as possible.