Category: Cycling

Bzz de VA3SIE/P … QRP fun in the skeeter hunt 2013

By , August 12, 2013 12:46 am
Martin sitting at park bench sending CW

Park Bench BZZ

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.

APRS Route to Bate Island

APRS Route to Bate Island

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!!!

Martin at Park Bench on Bate Island

Martin at Park Bench on Bate Island

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.

Martin Bike & Feedline

Martin Bike & Feedline

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.

Dipole feed point

Feed Point

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.

Martin standing beside park bench at Bate Island, river in background

Martin at Bate Island

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

 Claimed Score:

(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.


Cycling in Prince Edward County

By , July 3, 2012 12:39 am

Fariba and I were privileged to be able to rent a pair of high end road bikes (a Litespeed C3 – $3,600 MRSP, and a Litespeed M1 – $2,300 MRSP) from the Bloomfield Bicycle Company.   

The Bloomfield Bicycle Co isn’t your ordinary bike shop.  Rick & Katy have a passion for cycling and it shows!  They offer a full range of services from thier funky store in Bloomfield:  guided tours, club rides, minor mechanical miracles, rentals, beautiful bicycles and accessories and much more.  The range of bikes in the rental fleet is astonishing.  From tandems to recumbants, from mountain bikes to high end road bikes.

How great are they?  Check this article or listen to this podcast.

We had set our sights on cycling out to the County Cider Company.  Many times we stopped at Culinary Conspiracy across the street from our home to pick up home made muffins or scones and coffee to take to work.  We were often greeted and served by Darcy.  Darcy moved out to Prince Edward County this summer to work at the County Cider Company so it was a good chance to drop in and say, ‘Hello!’.

The weather on Canada Day (July 1st) couldn’t have been more perfect for cycling.  A nice hot summer day, peaking around 30°C in the mid afternoon.

Rick at the Bloomfield Bicycle Co recommended a 27km route (one way) which took us south of Bloomfield, a short climb up a hill to Picton Airport.  We had to use the lowest gear in the Shimano Ultegra shifters for that hill.  The route then crosses over some of the highest ground in Prince Edward County, beautiful roads perfect for cycling through picturesque country, not too many cars, loads of birds and trees, coming out at a lookout on a cliff overlooking Waupoos Island.  From there, we join a tarmac road which winds down a cliff to the Waupoos Marina.  The speed we were able to achieve down that hill was astonishing!

The route then tracks along the southern coastal road of North Marysburgh adjacent to farms and forested hills, we passed berry farms and just after the Waupoos Estates Winery we climbed another small hill to arrive at the County Cider Company.  We had ridden at a leisurely pace and completed that portion of the journey in 90 minutes.  We relaxed at the restaurant and enjoyed a couple of tall glasses of dry cider, some roasted garlic hummus and a pizza prepared in a wood fired oven, served to us by Darcy 😎  … it was great to meet with Darcy and steal a few minutes out of her busy day to catch up.  It’s obvious why Darcy chose to move to Prince Edward County.  The view from the Cider Company is just lovely, it’s a different world from downtown Ottawa 😀

County Cider Company

County Cider Company

From there, we rode inland, North over the top of North Maysburgh to the North coastal road, which we then followed West, back towards Picton.  That road was a gentle climb up through pastoral farmlands including a steeper section of road which had been blasted through a hill.  Again, we had to select the lower gears.  The Provincial Park at Lake on the Mountain was teeming with visitors, picnicking and enjoying the view of this astonishing Lake.  This beautiful turquoise lake has no visible water source and lies 62m above the Bay of Quinte only a few hundred meters away!

After the lake, we were rewarded for all that previous uphill cycling by a glorious slope down to the Bay of Quinte.  Again, we were able to reach stupendous speed on those bicycles 😀  Finally, we rode back into Picton where we enjoyed the on-street activities laid out for the Canada Day festivities and finally a short ride back to Bloomfield.

The ride took us 3½ hours and 53km.  It was SUPER FUN !!   Huge thanks to the Bloomfield Bicycle Co

New Toys – but the jury is out…

By , September 25, 2011 8:48 pm

Bike Portable (Hogs Back)

Bike Portable (Hogs Back)

Today I cycled to Hogs Back Falls.  I was trying out three new products/concepts for my portable ultralight amateur radio work.  When I’m cycling/hiking/canoeing/etc, I like to carry as little weight as possible.  Also when I’m out cycling to join a HF net, I want setup to go as quickly as possible.

So today I was trying out some stuff.

  • A tiny 50 gram amplified speaker from Diamond called a ‘mini rocker‘.
  • A tiny 170 gram 6½ amp hour battery from Novuscell.
  • A quick deploy all band antenna

The speaker did work… after a fashion 😕   Certainly it is tiny and powerful.  The most obvious shortcoming was that when I’m sending morse code I cannot hear my side tone on every frequency.  Some frequencies were okay, others were not.  I guess the RF was affecting the amplifier circuit.  I also noticed a lot of noise on the band which may have been generated by the speaker’s amplifier circuit.  I didn’t have earphones to compare with.

Bike Antenna

Bike Antenna

The battery also is not without it’s quirks also.  I’ve taken it on a few outings so far.  There’s a button on top.  When it charges up, and I press the button, four LEDs light up.  Last time I took it out, I charged it with a 5W solar panel for around 6 hours and afterwards I got four LEDs.  After about 2 hours of operating, it was down to two LEDs.  The following morning I couldn’t get any of the LEDs to light 😥

So today I had it charged up 100%.  After 2 hours of very light operating (listening mostly) it was down to 3 LEDs (out of 4).  My gut tells me that I should be getting more endurance out of this battery (if it really is 6½ Ah like it says on the front).

So…  the jury is out… for now.  Time will tell if these two items become a permanent addition to the VA3SIE/P ‘go-bag‘.

The quick deploy antenna concept however worked well.  I strapped a Jackite Pole to my bicycle in a vertical configuration just behind my bicycle seat.  When I got to Hogs Back, I rested the bicycle up against a low wall, hooked up the wire and extended the pole.  The antenna was up in less than 5 minutes and I was on the air on 80m through 20m.



Combining Cycling, SOTA chasing and Geocaching

By , September 2, 2011 7:34 pm

QRP Setup

QRP Setup

I took the day off work today, and the weather looked okay so I jumped on my bicycle after lunch and cycled up into Gatineau Park.  I was heading for a location suggested by Tom, he calls it the ‘Super Secret Location‘ (#6).  The ride to the operating location was 13km in length and hard work once I was in the park, lots of climbs. 

I set up just off trail #26 not far from trail #5. There was a nice cleared area with some tall trees.



I tied a rock to the end of some string and threw it over a couple of tall trees (around 40′ up in the air).  I pulled an 84′ wire through the tress with the string, ending up with an inverted-L W3EDP-esque antenna.  I connected two counterpose wires (16′ and 32′) and I was able to support these at 8′ over the ground in small trees.

Great fun!

Great fun!

As I was finishing the antenna, my cellphone bleeped with news that a couple of Summits On The Air (SOTA) summits were on the air:  Dave WN1E was on Mount Greylock W1/MB-001He was on 20m CW. Chuck  K4QS on North Marshall Mountain  W4/SH-009 and Batman JP and Robin VA2SG/P & VE2DRO were on Mont Blanche (White Mountain)  VE2/SG-011.

All three of them started on 20m and I tuned to 20m to see if I could hear them.  I thought that I could hear Chuck bur after listening for a while I realized that I was hearing other stations working Chuck, not Chuck himself.  I could not hear the other stations at all 😥   I spent an hour listening for them to QSY to 40m and hoping that propagation would shift.



Finally at 1900Z, I heard Chuck on 40m but the there was extreme interference from lightning (QRN) and his signal was light around RST 449 with QSB so I could only get little snatches of his callsign.  I called him when I thought he was asking for callers and I passed my signal report.  I heard RST 339 in response, Yay!!  :mrgreen:   My ‘chase’ was successful.  A couple of times I called Chuck back and repeated my exchange just to be sure, sorry for the QRM Chuck, but the QRN was wicked.

At 1945Z I head a station calling CQ QRP on 40m (7.034 MHz) so I decided to take a break from SOTA chasing.  It was Bob WK1N, he was on the air with 5W into a G5RV.  He had a honking FB signal, RST 589 and I could hear him under the QRN.  We had a short QSO and compared notes about our QRP equipment before Bob had to leave.  Great to work a fellow QRP op !!

On the way back, I found a geocache and left an Algonquin Park pin in it.

The return trip brought my total kilometers cycled to a round 30.

All in all, a great day.  I had originally planned to activate VE2/LR-002 Mont Tremblant today but when I got home and checked the weather radar I realized that was where all the lightning was – right over the summit.  Good call to do a SOTA chase today instead!!

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