Monday, January 21, 2008
Last Week we took a week off and I had the opportunity to operate portable from Bryce Mtn Resort in Bayse, VA. For equipment I took the HP Laptop with PSK31 Deluxe, Yaesu FT-817 and a PAR Electronics 40/20 QRP End Fed Antenna. We managed about 20 contacts from the condo usually using 1 watt but a handful of QSO's were made using 1/2 watt on the internal 'AA' Batteries when on of my 6V SLA security system batteries failed. We took a trip to town and found a Lowe's in Woodstock, VA and they carried the battery. My light duty charger though would only keep up with one watt with lots of CQing though so we mostly stayed at that power level for most contacts.
The antenna was put up for a few weeks at home and it was pruned a bit for the two bands so that the SWR would be good and this seemed to be the case even though we did carry along the LDG Z-11 which we have had great luck with in other portable or home operations with a number of 'untuned' antennas. The dual band end fed has a loading coil for 40M and a small balun at the end that you can see in the pix. The wire is pruned on one side of the coil for each of the two bands, 1st the 20m side then the 40m side. Not too difficult and it seemed to work at the 'different' location with resonances at about the same frequencies. We only managed to get it up about 10 feet off the ground and the overall location was very much in a valley so the location was actually poor. In the past I have made some CW contacts from other condos at Bryce using indoor wire dipoles and Slinky's using the Z-11 tuner and I did not notice a lot of difference really but the End Fed wire is much neater and way more 'eye' friendly than having all the wires inside the condo. The disadvantage of it is that it really will not perform on bands other than the 'design' frequencies. You can see the small stream in the back yard of the condo that the antenna actually crossed over. The antenna was tied on to the 2nd floor balcony on one end and the RG8X feed line attached. The other end was secured to a tree limb with 50lb monofilament line lofted over the limb with a sling shot and 3/4 oz sinker.
The PSK31 software seemed to work well with just a basic sound card interface. A Riglaster NoMic was used to at least provide an isolation tranformer in the Mic line. I had used it a few years ago with the FT-817 to get on PSK-31 so it was all set to go. The software was new to me though and but it was simple to set up and get going. After changing the tags and macros for you station info and practicing with it some it was no problem. I did briefly 'scan' the manual but cannot say I did much more than just get a quick overview of the features of the program. At home I am now using the more complete HRD and Digimaster 780 with a radio control interface. As we had no internet availability at the condo there did not seem to be much advantage in the extra complexity so we stuck with the PSK31. Upon returning home however I did experience some difficulty with uploading the ADIF log to eQSL for some reason that I have yet to figure out.
We have been going to Bryce for over 20 years every Jan for a week and it is always enjoyable to operate from there. Often I have done the ARRL Jan VHF Test from the top of North Mtn at about 3800 feet or so. You can drive right up to the top if the roads are not too bad. This year we were a week early for the VHF weekend though and it was a great opportunity to try the low power PSK31 and it was great fun.