The 2013 running of the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt was today. This QRP sprint-style contest has multipliers for home brewed equipment and operating portable. There is also a bonus for operating from a body of water.
I own two HF portable radios. My Elecraft KX3 was shipped factory built and is all mode, all band. My Elecraft KX1 on the other hand arrived in bags of components and I had to solder the components onto the board, wind the toroids, etc. It was a tricky radio to put together as it is so small… you actually have to bend some of the capacitors over so that they make room for other components sticking out of daughter boards.
The KX1 only does four bands 80m, 40m, 30m and 20m and one mode – CW. The contest also has a CW-only category. So my KX1 was the radio of choice today as it is also ultra-portable.
I thought about where to operate near a body of water. I decided to operate from Bate Island. This island sits in the middle of the Ottawa river half-way between the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. It is in Ontario though barely. The island has picnic benches and tall trees on it, perfect for portable radio. My bicycle is equipped for APRS. I packed the KX1 and a dipole into my bicycle and set off for the island. It’s around a 30 minute ride from home. The National Capital Commission shut down the parkway on Sunday mornings so it was a fantastic ride to the island on car-free roads!!!
Upon arrival at 12:50pm local time, I wasted no time throwing up the dipole. This is an 88′ doublet made from #26AWG teflon coated, silver plated wire fed with 300Ω TV twinlead. Setup consists of throwing a fishing weight connected to bright yellow string over one tree, then over another. The string is tied to the ends of the doublet. I then pull the wires tight and tie the strings off on low branches while leaving a little for tree movement.
I have 50′ of twinlead attached and if the trees are a little short or if I deliberately do not throw the weight very high to limit the risk of hitting other park users, parked cars or a highway bridge running over the center of the park (as was the case today!) I am left with some spare feedline. I try to drape it over bushes or otherwise keep it from running across the ground for any significant length. Today I taped it to the top of my bicycle 2m antenna to keep it off the ground.
I was on the air by 1:15pm, 15 minutes into the contest. It’s been a while since I last used my KX1 and it was a real pleasure to use it again. The KX1 does not produce very strong audio on 20m well at lest mine doesn’t. I really had to strain to hear most of the stations. The band however was in great shape. I was hearing stations all across the US. AB9CA and KX0R were consistently strong throughout the day. I worked those two stations and 3 others in the first half hour of operating. I was able to contact stations in Wisconsin, Alabama, Colorado and New Jersey on 20m.
I was scanning from 14.060 to 14.064 hunting skeeters. Every time I would go past 14.060 I would hear a strong contest station just below the QRP watering hole on 20m. I recalled that there were more points for contacting DX stations so I threw out my callsign and TF/LX1NO heard me from Iceland… cool. I really like the extra gain from the 88′ doublet on 20m where it acts as an extended double-zepp.
I jumped down to 40m for a bit and made contact with skeeter #1 KX9X in CT who had a blasting strong signal. Both Sean and W3BBO were consistently string, buzzing around 7.040 all afternoon. I also made contact with a station calling CQ SOTA on 7.033MHz. Dave had a very strong signal also from his summit in NJ. Highlights on 40m included WQ4RP making a massive effort to complete our QSO (he just keep asking me to repeat my call and exchange, maybe 15 times!! until we got the QSO done – *Thanks*) and also working VE2DDZ in QC. Malcolm is also an active SOTA activator rounding out the first hour. After this 40m jaunt I had added Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina and Quebec.
I flipped the switch back up to 20m and almost immediately stumbled across Bob VA3RKM. Bob had set up his KX3 portable station just a little farther up the Ottawa River from me. Bob had a nice strong signal on 20m I managed to work a few new states on 20m in the second hour. Missouri, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and even Pennsylvania and of course Ontario rounding out the second hour.
For the 3rd hour I popped back down to 40m and started calling CQ. I got a call from Bob just up the river and added Ontario to my 40m states/provinces. My wife dropped by at that point with lunch. A couple of sandwiches from an Italian deli and espresso to go. Yay!! I took a break from the radio to enjoy lunch. I rounded the 3rd hour out with another couple of contacts on 20m (no new states) and some 40m contacts adding New York State. I also made another couple of contacts with stations in Quebec and Ontario. Further afield this time.
The final hour had me calling CQ more and soaking up a few more contacts in addition to some rays… Just as the contest was about to end I tuned across the 40m band and encountered Larry W2LJ. I was very happy to be able to squeeze Larry into my log as it have me the opportunity to say a big 73 and THANKS for organizing this contest.
Here is my log summary:
Martin – VA3SIE/P – ON
Skeeter #52 – CW Only
Skeeter QSOs – 27
Non-Skeeter QSOs – 5
DX QSOs – 1
S/P/Cs – 18
Station Class Multiplier X4
Claiming Bonus – Yes
(27 × 2) + (5 × 1) + (1 × 3) = 62 QSO Points × 18 S/P/Cs = 1116 × 4 (Portable, Kit mult) = 4464 + 500 (Body of Water bonus) = 4,964.