2022 Skeeter Hunt!

On Sunday, August 21st, 2022, Myself, Frank KB4T, and Steve K8SR participated in the annual NJQRP Skeeter Hunt. For several years, I have participated in this event solo, usually from a small park near my home in Port Orange. At one of our recent DB CERT ART meetings, Frank mentioned “doing radio in the field”….so I told him about this operating event. In minutes both he and Steve were “hooked”. We made it a multi op date!

The Skeeter Hunt is a very simple field outing. The objective is to get QRPers out of their shacks for the day, into the fresh air and sunshine, to spread their wings and fill the airwaves with “Skeeters”.  Bonus points are awarded for those home brewed or kit built equipment. It’s a four hour sprint – from 1:00 to 5:00 PM EDT.

Our adventure started out…..where else???…..at Gina’s Restaurant in Holly Hill for breakfast at 11:00 AM. We all imbibed in the usual morning fare, bacon, eggs, potatoes, grits and toast. The meal was yummy…..and even better, as Frank KB4T generously pick up the tab (and tip!!) – THANK YOU FRANK!

We arrived at Sunrise Park in Holly Hill just after 12 noon. We lucked out and got one of the larger covered pavilions near the center of the park. Within minutes, we got our antennas and equipment set up.

The WB4OMM Skeeter #79 Operating Position

Our equipment consisted of a kit built Elecraft K1-2 (2-bands, 40M and 20M CW) that runs 5W output. This nifty little radio is fully functional transceiver with digital readout, CW keyer, 2 CW memories, and Antenna Tuner and 300Hx CW filter. It was powered by a Bienno Li-Po 12V/8Ahr battery, and we used an American Morse Equipment Porta-Paddle. We also used GenLog as out logging program.

We had two antennas – my Buddipole Vertical tuned for 20M with a single tuned radial pointed NW, and Frank’s recently obtained Wolf River Coil “SOTA Special” Vertical Antenna tuned for 20M with four 30-foot radials. Frank brought an antenna A/B switch so we could compare antennas. We did, and while his antenna showed a slight improvement on receive, transmit was about the same as reflected on the Reverse Beacon Network. Over the 4 hours, our signals got out about 1100 miles.

Steve’s Buddipole Vertical
Frank’s Wolf River Coil Antenna

On our arrival, it was a testy 89 degrees; before we left it hit 93 degrees on my monitor, along with 70% humidity. But unlike prior years, the steady river breeze form the Intracoastal Halifax River, and the shade in the ample sized pavilion surprised all three of us. it was comfortable and we never really broke a sweat.

Steve K8SR logging and Frank KB4T Operating
Steve K8SR logging and Steve WB4OMM Operating
A Passing Park Denizen took this photo of the 3 Skeeters – Steve K8SR, Steve WB4OMM and Frank KB4T

We started out OK on 20M – the band was fairly quiet and we had some QSB but we made 12 Qs in the first hour; after that, it became increasingly difficult make contacts; 7 Qs in the second hour; 2 in the third hour; and 5 in the last hour. Got a total of 26 Qs, all Skeeters, in 14 states/provinces.   Like pulling teeth!  Checking the Reverse Beacon Network, it looked like we a decent signal out to about 1K miles; signal strengths were good; but that all dropped some after the first hour.  Maybe it was the propagation, but we didn’t hear many Skeeters – and the other band (40M) has no signals here at all for us.

GenLog, a usually stable and really easy to use logging program with a Skeeter Hunt sub-program was updated the morning of the Hunt – and it gave us fits. For some reason it wanted the QSOs operator name but the Skeeter Hunt event didn’t require it. When we entered the contact and tried to log the QSO it erased the State, and we had to enter it again. Then it would log the contact. Fortunately, the contact pace was slow (crawling!) so we were able to get the Qs in log correctly.

BUT…….we had a ball! Like usual, we spent most of the time cracking jokes and laughing. And, I have to say that after several years of “solo” operation, this year’s multi-op was more fun than a barrel of monkeys! We most definitely enjoyed each other company! We agreed we would multi-op next years event too. And……… maybe a few others…..Flight of the Bumblebees immediately comes to mind!

We’ll see how we fare in the results.

POTA! On the Road

During my trip to MD for the feds in mid-April, I was able to work some Parks on the Air locations. I brought my Yaesu FT-991A, mag mounted hamsticks, a Heil Headset, and an 85AHr deep cell battery to work with. I was pleasantly surprised at the great response I got.

My first stop on Sunday was Monocacy Battlefield, adjacent to the City of Frederick, MD. Working out of the back of my car hatch in some cold weather, I made 13 Qs in about 30 minutes. Conditions were not good with deep QSB; I was on 20M around 1:00 PM EST. It was also 39 degrees! I was cold and hungry. 30 minutes was enough!

My next stop Sunday afternoon (about 3 1/2 hours later) was Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, MD. It was 36 degrees here, but conditions were still poor and I made 15 Qs in about 45 minutes. I again worked out of the back hatch, but when I quit for the day I “played around” with some other ways of working the parks.

Monday afternoon I traveled to the Eisenhower Farm in Gettysburg, PA about 10 miles to my North; I got to the park around 5:00 PM EST, and wow did I do well! I made 61 Qs in just under an hour, signals were excellent and I even worked some DX! It was a bit warmer too, at 48 degrees.

By this time, I figured out how to work out of the back seat of the car with the laptop – and the radio fit snugly between the front seats. Warmer and much more comfortable! It was a great park Op!

Tuesday, before the NAQCC Sprint, I went to the Gettysburg National Park around 6:00 PM EST; I was again greeted by excellent conditions, and worked another 55 Qs including several DX in just under an hour. The Hamstick mounted on my car roof simply amazes me! I got a remarkable amount of compliments on my signal both Monday and Tuesday. It was also much warmer (48 degrees!).

In total, I worked 144 Qs on 20M in a little under 3 hours over 4 days. I was VERY happy with this count. I am looking forward to more POTA in my travels in the coming months. This stuff is FUN!!!

Holy Kow! 8 Months Since My Last Post!

I can’t believe how long it’s been…and this year has certainly flown by! But, as the busiest retired guy you’ll ever meet (as my darlin’ XYL sez), I have been “moving right along!

With no further ado, here’s the catch up!! (It’s a long post, scroll down to the end!)

Last November 2021 – I missed my favorite contest, the ARRL November Sweepstakes Phone (I had to go to Jax Airport to pick up my incoming daughter for the Thanksgiving Day holiday); but I did “dabble” a bit in the Nov SS CW contest – and wow! Finished 1st place in my Division category and set a new Division record!!

In January, our local group (DB CERT ART) participated in the 2022 Winter Field Day at Reed Canal Park in South Daytona. And Winter Field Day it was! We froze our patoozkies off! The days high temp was 46; it was 37 degrees when we finished. They never got a photo of me, I was too busy hiding in my car to stay warm. The wind blew a steady 15-20 MPH all day, and I assure you, it was VERY UNCOMFORTABLE for us old Florida fellas. But we still had a blast – and the hot dogs and chili were only eclipsed by the hot coffee and hot chocolate!

Here’s the fellas working phone (left) and CW (middle) – the fella on the right is a Popsicle – he never moved from that position!!! (Ha ha ah, only kidding).

In February, I worked the ARRL Booth at Orlando Hamcation checking cards on Friday and Saturday; I also attended the Florida Contest Dinner and the Hamcation Chairman’s Dinner – here’s my selfie at the FCG dinner (where I won a $300 Heil Proset 7 Headset!) and my “caricature” at the Chairman’s Dinner. Had a blast at Hamcation and both dinners! Always fun! The FCG and Hamcation folks are great!

In March, I did my annual Novice Rig Roundup Contest – I finished 11th place (our of 75) with 66 Novice style Qs. Not bad for 50 year old equipment! Here’s the certificate and a shot of my Novice Drake Line using crystals.

In mid-April, I traveled to work for the Feds at the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, MD; I had the opportunity to do some POTA (I provided this in a separate post) and worked the NAQCC Sprint from Gettysburg Battlefield.

At the end of April, the Florida QSO Party had us driving through 8 counties in two days – but we had great weather, great conditions, and a great time!

In May……well, not a good month for me – I had two heart attacks on May 21 – one in the ER, and one in the Cardiac ICU – but two stents later I am as good as new!

June is Field Day month, and our group (DB CERT ART) scored the highest we have ever scored! Conditions were very good and we had a great turnout of folks.

July is 13 Colonies Month! And for the 14th straight year, I got a clean sweep! My wife and I also got COVID. But all better now!

Well, that’s it for now…….all caught up!

Whatta Great Ham Week!

Whatta Great Ham Week!

Started out Tuesday night with the NAQCC Sprint, made some 23 QSOs in 16 states; then on Wednesday evening, I got an e-mail posting from one of the Florida Contest Group fellas about Mt. Athos (Greece) active on FT8…….I ran out to the shack, fired up the rig, and in 15 minutes worked him!! An all time new one for me! (The photo is a screenshot of my FT8 contact – and already confirmed on ClubLog, so I know he was real and a valid QSO)……then Thursday night, I WAS THE FOX! (QRP Fox Hunt) – made 59 QSOs in 90 minutes on 80M with 5W to a G5RV…..conditions were superb! So many loud signal, it sounded just like the roar of a freight train. And to cap off a great week, Friday we had out local NAQCC-FL Chapter Parkpedition in Candace Strawn-Lake Diaz park in DeLeon Springs…..a beautiful day, and made 10 more QSOs in 8 states and Canada in an hour – here’s a shot of the spectacular view I had at the park.

Whatta Great Ham Week!!

Melbourne Hamfest

Another successful Melbourne Hamfest – brought 6 full boxes…..came back with one! And lotsa’ cash too!

Went down Friday morning, got there around 9AM……had about a third of it sold before the doors opened at 1PM. Sold some more before I left at 4:30PM. Came back at 8:30AM Saturday morning with my “hamfest posse” – my brother Jon KI4LOF and Nikki KM4SBQ…..after a stop for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel in adjacent Viera of course!

Sold some more, saw lots of folks, had fun and found good homes for my surplus stuff. What I brought back was minor and none ham items (mostly wi-fi routers and USB wi-fi dongles).

On Friday, I was challenged to have my usual lunch fare by my old pal Frank KB4T……..in the last several years the concession stand in the Melbourne Auditorium wasn’t open, but this year it was. So I had my Chili and Cheese Fries with a cup o’ Joe!

It was kinda’ small, but tasty. So when everyone started asking, I just had to pull out the original photo from 2014 (below) – yeah, much bigger in size, taste, and calories! YES! I ATE THE WHOLE THING!!

Watch for more hamfest escapades coming soon!! (Stone Mountain, GA is next).

Huntsvile Hamfest

Nikki KM4SBQ, Steve WB4OMM, John KI4LOF

An all time “new one” for all of us!

This past weekend, the three of us attended the 2021 Huntsville (AL) Hamfest. We drove 10 hours, spent the night, grabbed breakfast then headed to the Von Braun Center – arrived at 9:10 AM (opened at 9:00 AM). We checked out the commercial booths, then perused the indoor swap tables – we walked the entire floor twice, then grabbed a snack from the concession stand (only one place to get food),. WE then walked the floor once more – and we were done by 12:30 PM! Checked out from the hotel and drove back the 10 hours!

Yeah, long drive, but we had fun! Saw some ARRL folks, the Orlando Hamcation Folks, and picked up a few “things” (ladder line, a 4:1 balun, and a memory keyer project box). Steve spent about $100, John spent $1 (a spare wired keyboard), Nikki didn’t spend anything!

We were fortunate to only pay for only the one night at the Homewood Suites…..and dinner Friday night at Taco Mama was GREAT!!!! The drive home was uneventful.

Next adventure is the Melbourne (FL) Hamfest in October, then the Stone Mountain (GA) Hamfest in November…….