Category: Contesting

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.


RAC Winter Contest / PBMME report de VA2BBW/group

By , December 23, 2010 1:31 am

Mark VA3UMP had a great idea… and so… for the 2010 Radio Amateurs of Canada Winter Contest (RAC), and the December Polar Bear Moonlight Madness (PBMME), a group of qrp polar bears including myself did set up a portable QRP station at the ‘Pines Cabin’ in Gatineau Park, Quebec and then we set up portable stations at Breton Beach on the shore of frozen Lac Phillipe.

We used Ante’s callsign during the RAC contest: VA2BBW/P.

Our emphasis was more on learning the ropes for winter /P operation than operating, but we did manage to work 197 contacts including the following provinces & territories for a total of 36,120 points and 12 RAC special event stations:

  • 160m – QC, ON, PE, NS.
  • 80m – ON, NS, NB, NL, QC, PE, BC, AB.
  • 40m – NB, QC, NS, BC, ON, AB, NL.
  • 20m – NL, AB, BC, NS, SK.
  • 15m – NL.
Here’s a link to Scott’s blog entry and a link to Ante’s page for this event. You can also check Radio Amateurs of Canada’s facebook page here.

Hike & Setup

We hiked in at lunch time and carried the equipment in two pulks.  It was tough to keep from overheating while hiking!  I should have worn less clothes and packed them in the pulk.  Lesson learned 😳   Upon arrival at the cabin, we started setting up the antennas and get settled in.  Mark placed a tarp to cover his hammock between two trees where he intended to spend the night and we set up the following antennas:

  • A 160m carolina windom at around 30ft.
  • An 88ft doublet at 30ft.
  • A 137ft EFHW*.
  • An 84ft longwire fed against a 17ft counterpoise.
  • A PAC-12 vertical.
  • A mast-mounted 2m roll-up J-pole.

* I spent a half hour just before dusk trying to get my Fuchs tuner which I had finished constructing the previous evening to work.  I was unable to get it working unfortunately, must have made a silly mistake so that one goes back to the drawing board.  Eric helped me to substitute my backup antenna (a deconstructed W3EDP – a 84′ long wire fed up at 40ft fed against a 17′ counterpoise running along the snow covered ground).

We had an extra challenge with the 2m antenna.  The coax was too short to reach under the door and into the cabin so the only way to activate 2m was to walk outside and hook up a handheld.

We learned a couple of valuable lessons during this phase or the preparations.

During the antenna setup we were We will be beaconing APRS from VA3SIE-7 and VA2BBW-7.  Because of this I received an APRS message from Fred DL9MDI and then shortly thereafter I heard him connect to the VE2REH repeater system however I did not receive any audio on the repeater from Fred and he did not hear me calling him.

We set up a range of transceivers inside the cabin: a Yaesu FT-817, a Yaesu FT-897, a Hendricks PFR-3, a Yaesu VX-8r hand held and an Elecraft KX1.

The stove had wood burning in it when we arrived and the park has delivered water for us :mrgreen: … we added some more from the large woodpile and made dinner using our stoves and cracked open the foil around Scott’s fruitcake.  Yum!

The Contest

Then the contest started…  the contest was great fun.  I don’t often do SSB so I really enjoyed trying that mode for a change.  I was surprised and impressed that we were able to complete SSB contacts to BC on 80m.   Eric was using my KX1 to make CW contacts and I was using Marks FT-897 with Ante to make contacts.  Sometimes Ante was using his PFR-3.  Scott was using his own FT-817 on a 3rd band so we had 3 bands going simultaneously.  We heard the PFR-3 and KX1 often on harmonic bands, that was a source of endless amusement.  The contest was very enjoyable with contesters stopping often to exchange a few words.  Something that is unheard of in the larger contests.  I love that about RAC.

I went outside a few times to call CQ on the 2m J-pole and fire off the occasional APRS beacon.  I tried to do this at the top of the hour.  We were unsuccessful however to complete any 2m or 6m simplex contacts.  The stillness and natural beauty outside the cabin was great, especially with the wood smoke drifting around.  Lovely.

The weather was beautiful, around -6C (21F) on the hike in (-10C/14F wind chill), warning overnight to -2C (28F) (-6C/21F wind chill) the following day.

I went to bed around 2am after sorting the logging sheets and around 5am I heard Eric and then an hour later Ante fire the radios back up and get back on the air.  Great dedication thanks guys.  Breakfast (for me) was a couple of hours later and consisted of oatmeal then I took a stint operating the radio.  Mark came in from his hammock having enjoyed the night sleeping outdoors.  We got a visitor in the morning in the form of Michael VE3WMB/VA2NB, he ski’ed over on cross-country skis from his cottage.  Michael told us he was heading down to Breton Beach on Lac Phillipe for the Polar Bear Moonlight Madness.

We did tune the radio for the 80m pot hole informal net but there was no one there, maybe everyone was contesting?

Polar Bear Moonlight Madness

Shortly thereafter we packed up all our gear and antennas and pulled the sleds down the path to Breton Beach, to arrive just as Michael was leaving.

We all set up stations along the beach on picnic benches (after clearing some of the snow off… or in my case using Michael’s pre-cleared bench).  Mark set up a W3EDP instead of his windom and operated using a Ten Tec R4020 rather than the FT-897 which remained on the sled.  Eric used a magmount whip on the bench.

The beach was closed for swimming… for some reason:
    (pictures courtesy VE3WMB)

Lac Phillipe Summer

Lac Phillipe Summer

Lac Phillipe Winter

Lac Phillipe Winter

We contacted several fellow polar bear stations out on the trail elsewhere and made some additional RAC winter contest contacts, the bands had shifted slightly and we were able to get a few new multipliers.  We were operating without dupe sheets though so we had to endure the scorn of the contesters as they sent “dupe om” 😎

All in all it was tremendous fun and we learned some lessons which we can take away for next year (I definitely want to repeat this next year it was so much fun).  Mark suggested that we try the RAC Canada Day contest from an island an canoe our gear in.  Hee hee… another adventure awaits!!

73 for now


Saturday 24th April is QRP To-The-Field!

By , April 20, 2010 11:17 pm

It’s a celebration of the great depression and a summer picnic.

QRP stations across the US are gearing up to visit and operate QRP CW from WPA, CCC & field sites:

It’s also the first of the QRP Polar Bear Summer Picnic events.   What’s that, you ask?  Fear not, it’s defined in the Beartionary.

So it looks like a large group of Ottawa & Ontario QRP enthusiasts and QRP Polar Bears will be operating from the Hampton Park, and I will be blowing the ash off my KX1 and cycling over to the farm for a smokin’ afternoon of QRP crazy fun and picnicking. (I have volcano on my mind).

I plan to be set up and on the air at 10am for the Pot Hole Roundtable net on 3760kHz (at 10am) and then for the QRPTTF & PBSPE which starts at 11am local time.

I’ll keep my twitter feed up to date and you can track me on

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