Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Mynydd Y Cwm

Mynydd Y Cwm (GW/NW-076)
All the equipment worked properly this time but I only made 3 contacts in 45 minutes. This was at 11am on a Tuesday. The hill isn't in a bad place, it was just quiet this morning.
Got G4ZRP, GW0WTT and MW0IDX/M on 2m FM.

Breakfast from some cafe in Colwyn Bay

Halkyn WSPR

18 MHz WSPR from the car at Halkyn Mountain. Used the laptop line out into FT-817 mic socket (VOX and some resistors to drop the level). Set the PC clock before going out as there wasn't a decent mobile internet connection up there.

The antenna was Watson Multi Ranger 200.
From near there I got into the APRS gateway MB7UL-10 at Keighley (same site as GB3TP), as well as MB7UXB (Liverpool), MB7UCW (Crewe), MB7UBN (Bolton) and MB7UWC (Warrington). Going further west along the A55, the APRS activity dies off.

Monday, 27 September 2010


Things didn't go as planned today - after I thought I'd got the FT-817's power cable sorted (it was working last night when I tried it in the car), it stopped working again on the summit of Tal Y Fan (GW/NW-040). I'd carried the Watson W50, poles and 9 element 70cm yagi up there, and now that the FT-817 wasn't working, they were useless. If only I'd not left the SO-239 to SMA connector in the car...
Well I managed to do the activation with my 2m/70cm and 4m handhelds. The 4m handheld is definitely better with its new Garex flexi whip. Probably not as efficient as a 2m handheld though.
When I got back to the car I tried the 817 with a different power cable and it still didn't work, the plug wouldn't even stay in. Time to change the FT-817's power socket I think.
Next stop was the Great Orme where I set up about 5pm. Not having a working FT-817, I tried running the FT8900 from the car on my 11.1v 4Ah LiPo battery. The mobile rig worked with no problems, I kept the power at 10 watts but even with 35 watts on 70cm nothing bad happened. I might start using a 50 watt mobile rig out portable with 2 of these batteries (one for standby). As long as you don't spend lots of time calling CQ with no reply, you only need about 5 minutes of transmit time to make the minimum 4 QSOs for a SOTA activation. You might not need the full 50 watts for each contact either, only a couple of difficult ones. It's a light way to get 10dB more transmit gain as something like an FT1500 doesn't weigh much more than a handheld and will fit in a large pocket.
I set up the 9 element 70cm yagi and W50 at the Great Orme summit (western end of the car park). This was the first time I'd tried the yagi. I called CQ a bit and put a spot on Sotawatch for myself. There were no replies. Monday teatime isn't a good time. I plugged in the W50 and had a tune around. GB3MP at S1? Something wrong there. No I hadn't plugged the 70cm antenna back in by mistake. I took the coax plug out so the braid was disconnected, MP was now up to S5. The coax had been damaged inside, when I moved it about the signal was changing and actually went up to S9 for a second before going back to S1.
... so even had the FT-817 worked or I'd brought the SMA adaptor up Tal Y Fan, I would still have carried the antennas up there for nothing as they wouldn't have worked.
The 70cm yagi was working properly at Great Orme because it was on its own 2m long N - N cable (both antenna and rig have N connectors). With the FT-817 I'd have used the 5m long RG58 cable I used with the W50.
As it was only a 20 second walk back to the car, I went back and got a 2m long PL259 - BNC cable which could go from the W50 to a BNC-N adaptor on the FT8900. This cable and adaptor is part of my mobile antenna system, so I wouldn't normally have carried it up a hill.
The cable was a bit short but I just taped the FT8900 to the fence to get it above the ground. I had the remote head on a cable so it didn't matter where the main bit was.
I couldn't tell any difference between the yagi and the W50 on 70cm, even in the proper direction. Maybe the extra height (it would have about 80cm more average height above ground than the yagi) made up for the difference in gain. I'll have to check the SWR of the yagi when I get home. Both antennas were on similar lengths of RG58 coax and the yagi had only N connectors in the signal path.
On 145 MHz I managed to get the 4 QSOs I needed before I'd had enough and went to get some tea.

Tomorrow I plan to activate NW-076. What could possibly go wrong?

I'll get some pictures from today on another time, but here are a few from yesterday:

Sandpiper 23cm yagi on summit of Foel Fennli

Moel Famau from Foel Fennli

Moel Y Parc TV mast, taken from Halkyn Mountain.

Beef curry, boiled rice, chicken & sweetcorn soup. From somewhere in Mold. For 20% less than Barrow prices. It's like £5.60 in Barrow for an average meal and £4.40 round there. I went to this place in Ellesmere Port and it was also in the £4.40 region.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

FT-817 power plug

I found out what the problem was with the 4/1.7mm power plug I was using with my FT-817. The barrel of the plug (-ve) was not making contact with the solder terminal. I'd bought 3 of these plugs and the other 2 checked out OK with a meter. You can't see that the 2 parts aren't touching. I put a bit of solder between them.

CT17 interface

I bought a Icom CT17 CI-V interface cable from G4ZLP for my Icom IC-7000. This is a 9-pin serial port to 3.5mm jack plug cable. At first it would not work in Ham Radio Deluxe but it needs the DTR and RTS flow control/interface power boxes checking when connecting to the radio.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Monday, 20 September 2010

70 MHz Flexiwhip

I've ordered a 'tuned flexiwhip for 70MHz' from Garex for use with my Wouxun handheld. The Wouxun's own rubber duck gets nowhere but switching to a 50cm long (50% of a full 1/4 wave instead of 20%) antenna should make some improvement. It will help when I want to operate on 70 MHz portable but can't bring an antenna for every band.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

WSPR this week

Furthest 10

Nearest 10

Pendle Boulsworth Rombalds Cracoe

Pendle Hill from Boulsworth Hill - 12th September

War memorial at the top of Cracoe Fell - 13th September. I stood next to this on the East side to shelter from the rain. So if you were to the west, that may be why you never heard me

Had to make do with only handhelds for this trip, the FT-817's power plug suddenly stopped fitting properly (it had worked OK before) and I hadn't brought any SMA to PL-259 adaptors. I thought the 817's power socket had been damaged or just worn out but that night I tried the 9 volt PSU which came with my Eken M003 Android tablet (also using a 4/1.7mm connector) and it worked OK.

I made a QSO on 144.6125 MHz D-Star from Boulsworth Hill with G0DFO who wasn't very far away. I was a good signal except it was a windy day up there and there was a lot of wind noise in my microphone. Which reminded me of the limits of voice communication over radio.
1)Everything we needed to know could have been transmitted in the data which is automatically sent with each transmission
2)No matter how noise free and spectrum efficient digital voice is, it's still only as good as your microphone and loudspeaker
3)Somebody still has to be there to talk to you

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Nagoya UT-108

Don't buy a Nagoya UT-108 dual band mini magmount antenna. They're available on Ebay from a few places. There are a few other in their range of mini magmount antennas, which are smaller or have different connectors.
On my car roof, it was a lot worse on 70cms than the proper mobile antenna (Watson W-770 copy) which was mounted quite close to the ground on the tailgate. Probably the RG-174 coax being so lossy but it didn't seem to be resonant on any amateur band at all. Even when the car body was in the way, the W-770 was much better.
The mini magmount was OK around 165 MHz, compared to other antennas, but none of the others were meant to work on that frequency anyway.
Other mini magmount antennas are probably the same, but the last one I had (I think it was from Moonraker) fell apart soon after I bought it. Other stuff from Nagoya looks like it's a direct copy of the Diamond/Watson antennas.