Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Portable Ops - 11 June 2012

This post is the first of a series of posts to expect this summer.  I operate portable A LOT.  It is by far my favorite thing to do in radio.  There's something about being outside, in the sun, with the birds chirping and the breeze blowing.  Can't be beat.

Yesterday was no different.  I had a busy weekend attending the "new student weekend" for the Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student Award  (I am an executive board member of the program's Alumni Association) so while the weather was nice, I did not have a chance to get the KX3 out for its inaugural portable op.  I did take it with and tried to get on the air from the grounds of the Presidential Library in West Branch, IA, but did not have much luck so I didn't count that as the official launch of the KX3 ;)

So back to yesterday.  I decided on Monday morning that I'd take the day off from work - there was a lot to do in the house and the weather was going to be prime.  After my house chores were done, I was pleased to find the bands were doing fairly good compared to the weekend.  Still, I waited until about 3:30 PM to head to the park with the dog.  Temp was in the low 80s I think and not a cloud in the sky.  With a medium breeze, in the shade it was perfect.

My new favorite operating position is atop the highest hill in the area, known as Zoo Hill.  It is inside Bever [sic] Park in South East Cedar Rapids, IA and is a quick 5 minute walk from my home.  There's a large pavilion on the hill and lately has been pretty busy with birthday and graduation parties but on a Monday afternoon, it was completely vacant.

On to the setup - lately I've been bringing a 52' "random wire" for my antenna.  It works pretty well and I used it for QRPTTF in April since I had been having problems with my older standby antenna - the Par End Fed 10-20-40.  It seemed to be not tuned on 40m with the K1 I have on loan and I suspected a problem with the K1 but it now is clear that the problem lies with the antenna.  There's not a ton of activity on 40 during the day now anyway so since 20m was working on the antenna, I put it into service.

With a little effort - I really need one of those arborist line things - I got the end up in the tree enough and started tuning around 20m.  I was pleased to find the band was alive with some relatively strong signals, it was looking positive for an enjoyable time!  Since I had not really proven the internal battery pack (which is stuffed with 8 NiMH Eneloop batteries for about 2Ah of power) I set the output to 3 watts to take advantage of the KX3's reduced current mode.  When I operate portable, I make extensive use of the Reverse Beacon Network to help me decide if I need more power.  I was easily getting 10dB+ spots which means I should be easily readable by quite a few people and I was not mistaken.  I was able to make several nice contacts on CW pretty quickly.

I plugged in the MH3 hand mic and started looking around on the voice portion of the band too.  Much to my surprise, there were no SOTA activations yesterday so I was unable to work them on voice but I did stumble across Tom, AB6Z, who was testing his new K3 on voice for the first time.  Tom was on the list for a KX3 but when his station suffered a direct lightning strike, changed his order to a K3.  We had a really nice chat, me at 5w the whole time.  Tom made a funny note that he recognized my call from something, he figured we had worked in a contest or something, forgetting that I am the "KX3 tracking sheet guy."  I guess I'm getting famous (infamous??) :)

That pretty much wraps up the day's portable operation.  The contacts, weather, and the radio all combined, couldn't have been better.  I was out for about 2 hours and the KX3 batteries started at about 10.4V and were at 9.9V when I left.  Still plenty of operating in them and I had been on SSB for a fair amount of time, which draws a lot more current on TX than CW.  I was very impressed by everything on the KX3.  With time, the software will even improve and impress me more.  It was well worth the wait!

A quick log of the contacts made is below:

Time        Call                 Band/Freq       Mode    S           R     QTH      Name

2059 WB1HGA 20m 14060.0 CW    529 539    MA Ron
2146 AB6Z         20m 14197.0 SSB    54          55    MS Tom
2158 CO6LC         20m 14220.0 SSB    59          59      CO
2216 K7ZYV         20m 14062.0 CW   559 339    MS Carl
2216 K2PC         20m 14275.0 SSB    55          55