Saturday, 28 December 2013

RAC Winter Contest - The Results!

Well, Bob, VA3QV is no longer that elusive!!  He was my 10th contact of the night, caught him hanging around on 80m SSB.  It was a very hard contact to complete, he was truly about a 41 and he was way down in the mud, but we managed to complete the QSO.  Made my day !!

Friday night was a pretty hard struggle, lots of noise on the band, and of course the antennas were still coated with thick ice making tuning "interesting".  However, over night the temperature rose to a balmy +2C by 0300, and by 0700 it was sitting at +3C.  The end result was the ice melted, the trees sprung back, and my dipole ended up about 15' higher by morning than I started with.....all good news.

Saturday morning with the dipole back up at 50', the contacts started to come on a regular basis with 20m being the band of choice to start.  The morning and afternoon was spent switching back and forth between 10m, 15m, and 20m depending on conditions and the very deep QSB that was going on. 

About 1700 local the bands started to change and I switched to 40m, bouncing every now and then to 80m.  I even managed a couple of 160m contacts, not bad for QRP on an 80m OCF dipole!

I managed to work just about all the multipliers, but saw no sign of the VO2's or VY0's.  So obviously that lone ham in Nunavut is back in Florida for the winter!

Summary sheet:

2m SSB – 1 contact VE3

6m SSB – 2 contacts VE3

10m SSB- 11 contacts VE5, VE6, VE7, VE8

15m SSB- 8 contacts VE4, VE5, VE6, VE7, VE8

20m SSB- 25 contacts VE1, VE3, VE4, VE5, VE6, VE7, VE9, VY1, VY2

40 SSB- 17 contacts VE2, VE3, VE4, VE6, VE7, VE9

80m SSB- 21 contacts VE1, VE2, VE3, VE6, VE9, VO1, VY2

160m SSB- 2 contacts VE3

All in all it was a great time, and I bettered my score from last year.  Next on the calendar is the NA QSO Party on the 18/19 January.

Friday, 27 December 2013

RAC Winter Contest

The 2013 RAC winter contest kicks off on the 28th of December, 0000Z and runs until 2400Z.  Most years I do not contest this one very seriously, but I'm going to give it a good try this year.  Hopefully I'll get the ever elusive VA3QV in the log this year !

I tested the ice covered antennas last night and managed a good QSO with Mark, SQ2GXO in Gdansk, Poland.  They seem to be working and tuning well on all bands.  Hopefully with the +1C heat wave we had today, even more ice will have been lost.

Hope to work you all on the bands tonight.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas

May peace, happiness and goodwill be with you and your family not only on Christmas,
but throughout the year and beyond.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a
Happy New Year for 2014.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Ice Storm of, 2013

It's been an interesting couple of days here in Kingston.  Since Friday night we have about 1.5" of accumulated ice from the freezing rain, and about 4" of accumulated ice pellets on the ground. 

We still have light freezing rain falling Sunday afternoon, and the weather Guru's are telling us this will continue until midnight Sunday.

While this is not as bad as the 1998 Ice Storm, we still have large area power outages and trees down all over the place.....including in my backyard.  The roads in the city, have for the most part, been quite drivable, but some of the more rural areas they were not drivable. 

Ron, VE3GO, ran a weather net on our repeater for most of the weekend, providing weather updates and driving information to the local hams.  Most of the local hams checked in so we knew who was available in case we had a full repeat of the 1998 storm.

This morning (Sunday) was supposed to be our Club's Christmas Breakfast.  Four of us braved the roads to attend.....and thanks to Don, VE3MNE, for picking me up as my driveway was a total mess.

It looks like both of my verticals have survived, and my 80m OCF Dipole is looking pretty sad with the ice load on it, but at least it hasn't  come down, and I just might be able to get on the air with it for the RAC Winter Contest.

Nothing to do now except pack away the go-kits and get ready for Santa's arrival :-)

And in other news.....A huge WELL DONE to the SAR Crew from 424 Squadron, CFB Trenton. 
An amazing rescue showing the shear professionalism of these guys!!

Monday, 16 December 2013

ARRL 10m Contest.....Day Two

Here in Kingston we woke up Sunday morning to a pretty intense snow storm that left us about 10" of snow on the ground.  So, foolishly, I jumped into my truck and drove downtown to have breakfast at 7:00 am with the other Frontenac Radio Group members at the Star Diner

The roads were disgusting and I don't think the City of Kingston plowed at all overnight.   I really should have just turned around and went home.  Most Sunday's we get 11 or 12 out, this Sunday we had three :-) 

Safely back home by 9:00 I had a quick look at the antennas to make sure all was well with them...and it was.  So off to the shack it was to check the SFI on and the numbers were not too bad considering the minor geomagnetic storm we had going on.  SFI was at 164; SN was 163;  'A' Index was 16 and the 'K' Index sitting at 1.

First contact of the day was with TM1A in Provins, France, and for the next 2.5 hours it was a feast of non-stop European stations.  Most of these signals arrived here at about a true S5 or S7, and during that time I never heard a single US or Canadian station.  One would have thought it was a European 10m Contest :-)

At 1130 I went and made a cup of tea, and when I arrived back in the shack 5 minutes later, the Europeans had all disappeared and the band was now full of US and a few Canadian stations.  It was amazing just how fast the band shift happened, but it was that way all day, shifting East-West and then North-South and back again in a matter of a very short time.  As an example, within a 7 minute period I worked OG2A in Finland, KH6LC in Hawaii, and then PY5DC in Brazil. 

We had lots of good openings into the West Coast and I racked up dozens of contacts into California, Oregon, Washington, and BC.  I even worked three Alaskan stations - one after the other!  Best catch of the day for Sunday was either V55V in Namibia or VY1EI in Whitehorse, I can't decide which.

Most of the strong signals on the band, especially those coming in S9+, all seemed to  have great trouble hearing the stations calling them back.  Perhaps this is a result of too much power being used, and transmitting far beyond what they could actually hear?  It sure sounded that way, and many of the local Kingston hams all thought the same thing.  Most of these powerful stations called all day to little effect.

The radio used this weekend was the FT-950 with the Heil Pro-6 headset.  The main antenna in use was the 80m OCF Dipole.  100w into a piece of wire and 12 hours of glorious fun.  Ya just can't beat it!

I'm now getting ready for the RAC winter contest on the 27th and I'm hoping that the lone ham in Nunavut is not on vacation in Florida like he was the last few years :-)  I'm also looking forward to trying to make that ever elusive contact on 40m with Bob VA3QV.  We will see if we can do it this year!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

ARRL 10m Contest

Great day on 10m today for the contest!  The band was wide open into Europe this morning with many call signs all calling "CQ NA".  I must have worked over 70 European stations and really enjoyed myself.

In the afternoon 10m swung to work North-South and we started to hear the Caribbean and South American stations.  I managed to work V55V in Namibia, and got him on the first call.....which was totally unexpected given the pileup he was working at the time. 

About 1600 local the band changed again.  This time it was working well in all directions and I managed to work KH6LC in Hawaii.  Not too bad for a SFI of 164.  A SN of 141.  The 'A' Index at 16 and the 'K' Index at 4, and the band noise was going from bad to worse. 

It looks like we are in for some minor geomagnetic activity over the next 24 hours, and at 1920 local the Solar Wind is at 400+ Km/s.

There are still some of the big guns calling CQ on the band but it's almost impossible to work them now.  I doubt we will have the fun we had today in the morning, but we can hope!!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

RCAF Moose Milk

Drinking "fortified" Moose Milk at Christmas has been a time honoured tradition in the Royal Canadian Air Force for many, many years. 

For those that don't know what it is, Moose Milk is a magic elixir that makes fighter pilots look much more handsome, Aurora crews much smarter, and the Chinook crews much more rugged..............but it seems it doesn't do much for the Hercules or the CC-150 Polaris crews!

Most non-Canadians will not know the first thing about how to go about catching a wild Moose so you can milk it, and I must confess it can be a very dangerous sport if you are not extremely careful.  This is one of the few jobs we leave to the Flight Engineers as they tend to be much more responsible than the pilots, and the Loadmasters just get in the way and drink the stuff.

So to make it easier for my friends from overseas the following recipe is as close as you can get to drinking real Moose Milk.....

Recipe credit:
Flight Sergeant Jack Moore, is credited with concocting the original mixture on the instructions of the RCAF Station Borden CO, in about 1943, for guests to "have a good time."  A couple of 40-pounders (Dark Rum and Canadian Rye) providing the kick makes it a rather enjoyable drink.  Some substitutions include a brick of ice cream in place of the whipping cream.

Please remember to drink and drive responsibly!!! 
If you're caught the Police will never believe you drank Moose Milk!!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

2013 ARRL Sweepstakes

Yet another great weekend on the bands!  It was the perfect storm.....the wife is away on a 10 day cruise - so she can't bother me, and the propagation Gods were smiling on us.  You couldn't ask for better!

After looking at the numbers I decided to do this contest as a QRP station, and I'm glad I did....I don't think I've ever had such a good result in a contest.  The IC-703 was brought off the shelf and hooked up to power and coax and away we went.

I took it fairly easy, giving myself plenty of time off the air for breaks, and you can only submit the first 24 hours of the log anyway, so there was no need to kill yourself and go crazy.  I ended up working 63 out of the 83 ARRL and RAC Sections.  Not too shabby for a screaming 5w.

10m was wide open for most of the contest, as was 15m.  I ended up working stations on 10, 15, 20, 40 and 80m at one time or another, but 10 and 15m were my "go to" bands during the day.  I didn't get onto 20m until late Sunday afternoon as the runs on 10 and 15 were just so good!

I heard no LIDS and no band police this contest, but it was such a friendly atmosphere there was no need for them to hang around and try and make us miserable.  It was also very nice to be hunted, apparently Ontario East (ONE) is very much sought after.  I guess there are not many contesters in this Section.  One other point did stick out, and that was the number of YL's on the air.  I can't remember hearing as many on the air as I did over this weekend before.

Many thanks must go to the great operators who took the time to work me, it must have been difficult at times for them I'm sure. 

The worked Sections from my contest logger

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Remembrance Day 2013

In Loving Memory of the
Officers, NCO's, and Men
2816 Squadron, RAF Regiment

December 1941 -  June 1946

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Sad News

For those QRP'ers who followed the adventures of Rooster and Peanut, the pack goats of Steve, WG0AT, as they climbed all over the Colorado mountain ranges, there is some very sad news today.  Rooster the pack goat has passed away. 

I have always enjoyed Steve's videos of his adventures as much for the antics of the two goats, as I did for his set-ups and DX contacts.  In fact it was watching these videos that first got me hooked on QRP.

Our condolences go out to Steve and Pam, they've lost a true loyal friend.

RIP Rooster, we'll miss you.

Rooster, Steve, and Peanut.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Upper Brewers Mills Island Activation

Upper Brewers Mills Lock
Next Sunday, November 10th, the Frontenac Radio Group will be trying to activate Upper Brewers Mills Island.  This island has not been activated before, although we have attempted to activate it on one previous occasion, but were unsuccessful because of very poor propagation.

We plan on being on the air between 1530 UTC and 1800 UTC, and the frequencies in use will be 28.450;  21.350; and 14.250 to 14.260.  All frequencies are +/- 10 Kc.

Radio will be an FT-857D and the antenna will be a 31' vertical.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

What a weekend......

The weekend in one word?  Outstanding!  The bands were just simply incredible with both 10m and 15m just rocking with wall to wall DX.

It started early Thursday morning when Don VE3MNE and I hit the road and travelled up Hwy 38 to Leggat Lake, about 75 Kms north of Kingston to my brother-in-laws cottage.  Leggat is a medium sized lake and sort of remote.....well, it's off the beaten track. It's very quiet electrically there with very little to no noise like we get in the city.

Once we had arrived and unloaded our trucks it was time to get the antennas up.  Don used his Chillycon Mk.2 antenna with six 16' radials.  We also put up a 2m 5/8 ground plane antenna so we could hit our local repeater and talk back into Kingston.  My initial choice of antennas are what we now call the VA3QV, first seen on Bob's Blog.

Now Bob uses this antenna all the time and has good results with it.  I couldn't get it to work to save my life.  Don was working DX hand over fist and I couldn't get the VA3QV to even tune.  I even added and then subtracted radials and changed the coax, but still it did not work for me.  The radio in use was a FT-857D with a LDG YT-100 tuner.  By this time Bill VA3WOW had arrived from Belleville, so outside we went and swapped the VA3QV for a 66' long wire with a "pile" of 16' and 31' radials.

While the 66' long wire worked, it was not to my liking and the tuner was taking forever to tune.......I knew I could do much better, and it was now getting dark, Don was still working DX hand over fist, and frustration was starting to settle in!  Outside we went again, only this time it had started to rain, and put up my 31' antenna in a sloper configuration with, once again, a "pile" of 16' and 31' radials.  Hallelujah, it worked just fine, and the DX started to roll in. 

Thursday evening was just a feast of DX as everyone was on the air testing and checking out their antenna systems for the weekend contest.

Most of Friday was taken up with more tweaking of the antennas, adding and subtracting radials, elevating them, and putting them back on the ground.  We also took time out to explore the other side of the lake, and had a good long walk doing so.

Bill VA3WOW chowing down!
Don BBQ'ed a great steak supper on Friday night and as he did so the bands went very quiet.  Other contesters were also off to eat a good meal and grab an hour or two rest before it all kicked off at 0059 UTC.   Steak, mushrooms, peppers, and a very nice red wine were on the menu. 

After supper we stocked up on dry wood for the stove and got things cleaned up ready for the contest.

At 0059Z the bands just exploded!  I started off on 15m and Don was on 10m.  We just never stopped logging stations.  15m was simply wall to wall DX, with hardly a gap between them.  It was actually quite hard to sort things out at first as our ears were not used to the deafening calls of "CQ Contest".

It was  great to hear so many hams on the bands, I can't remember when I heard a contest kick off like this one did.  Because of the great band conditions and superb propagation we had many inexperienced contesters on the bands working.  This is great to see, but many of them didn't even know what a "zone" was.  You would think before entering a big contest like the CQ WW SSB Contest a person would read the rules, and hopefully listen.........and listen again........and listen again to what the other guys are exchanging.....but many did not do that.

VE3FCT in front and VE3MNE on the far side
On Saturday evening, just as the grey line was going through us, Don worked 15 Japanese stations one after the other.  He thought he had died and gone to DX heaven!

We also worked seven Moroccan stations between us, and over 20 Brits.  There were also a good number of Scottish stations we worked, including one in the Orkney Islands and another in the Shetland Islands.

Many stations, and especially those from one particular country, were running so much power that they were talking way past what they could actually hear.  I doubt very many of the stations calling them actually got through to them, the big guns called CQ over and over with little response.  Perhaps one day these guys will learn that you can do wonders with 100w and a long piece of wire up in a tree. 

My Philosophical question of the weekend is why is it that the station you "need" is always weak, and is always parked right next to a super station pounding out a 1.5k signal into stacked Yagi's ??

Of course it wouldn't be a contest without hundreds of "band police" on the bands.  They seemed to be everywhere on the weekend, and of course the LIDS were also out in full force.  Why, for the love of God, do these idiots insist on tuning up right over a QSO?  Do these individuals really think that's how things should be done?  I'm sure if we tuned up over one of their QSO's  they would all scream loud and long!

My prize for the most polite operators must go to the Germans. It was a delight to work them.  It was always please and thank you from them. The Romanians were also very polite as well.  One Romanian ham actually apologised to me for his poor English......which was perfect by the way.  I told him if he thought his English was bad he should hear my Romanian!

This weekends total was 131 countries worked, including three new ones:

C37NL from Andorra
UP2L from Kazakhstan
9K2HN from Kuwait.

Just an outstanding weekend!

Don VE3MNE cruising the bands
Hmmm....which wire goes where?????????

The quiet before the storm


Sunday, 20 October 2013

There's No Life Like It !!!!

It was another great weekend on the bands!  As well as operating from the home QTH shack, many of us here in Kingston went out on Saturday and Sunday to activate the local islands for the annual W/VE Island QSO Party.

On Saturday Tim, VA3TIC, and Derek, VE3HRW, activated Howe Island, ON-023 and Dave, VA3ORP activated Washburn Island, ON-289.  Both activations were a great success and both had many QSO's, both local and DX.

On Sunday myself and Dave, VE3DZE, took the Wolfe Island ferry right after the club breakfast.  Dave activated Wolfe Island, ON-009 and from what I hear had a blast, especially after he was posted on the DX Cluster.  Dave was using his FT-450 and a 31' vertical with four 16' radials.

I carried on and went to Simcoe Island, ON-022, via the small three car cable ferry.  At the last minute I chose a different route, I used my IC-703 with 10 screaming watts, and a Buddipole erected as a 10m dipole on a 16' mast.  The 10m band conditions were superb!  The European DX was right across the band, and I had an extremely hard time finding a spot to call CQ.

Over the next three hours I made eight DX and a pile of local Ontario contacts.  What amazed me was the fact that every DX contact was made on the first call!  DX stations in the log today are:

SP7UWL -Tomasz in Bodzentyn, Poland
LY75RMD - Club Station in Vilnius, Lithuania
G0MTD - Steve in Workington, UK
F4EPR - Dave in Chalindrey, France
G4ZWY - Steve in Bromyard, UK
M0VKC - Nige in Malpas, UK
M0DZH - Malcolm in Barnsley, UK
GM4SSA - Hans in the Shetland Islands, Scotland

It was a beautiful day, 14C under blue skies with a little wind.  This is the second year I have operated this event from Simcoe Island, it's very peaceful and the cows don't bother you at all.

Dave and I met up on the way home and missed the big ferry home causing us to have an hours wait, but that just gave us time for a coffee and a chance to compare notes.  Off we went to the General Wolfe Hotel and enjoyed the chat (guess who the island is named after?).

This week will be spent getting the portable gear ready for this coming weekend and our five day weekend at the Brother-in-Laws cottage on Leggat Lake.  VE3MNE, VA3WOW, and myself will be taking part in the CQ WW SSB Contest from there.  I'm really looking forward to this coming weekend.  Stay tuned for a full report.
The neighbours come visiting!
The view of Wolfe Island from the small ferry

Buddipole in action


Monday, 14 October 2013

Great Weekend on the bands

Finally, the propagation Gods smiled upon us this weekend!!  The HF bands have been just singing with signals, and mostly good DX signals. 

The best band all weekend just had to be 10m.  In fact I spent most of my time there on Sunday and Monday.  There were many comments about not hearing 10m open world-wide like this for many, many years.  There were times it was a challenge to find an open spot to call CQ the band was that busy.

Lets hope we have a repeat of this in two weeks for the CQ WW SSB Contest.....wouldn't that be a blast!!

Best contact of the weekend?  It had to be TX5D in Raivavae, French Polynesia.  Broke the pileup and got him on the first call.....made my day!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

2013 W/VE Island QSO Party

Coming up on October 19th and 20th is this years edition of the W/VE Island QSO Party.  This event is sponsored by the US Islands program, and is held each year to help promote both the Canadian and US island programs to amateurs.

This year the Frontenac Radio Group will be activating four local islands around Kingston: Howe, Wolfe, Amherst, and Simcoe Islands.  This will be the first time we have considered getting all four islands on the air at the same time.  Each island will hopefully have at least two HF stations, including 6m.

The rules for the event can be found HERE.

What is most embarrassing about all this is the fact that the US Islands program (USI) do all the work for this event, and our own Canadian Islands Award (CIsA) program does nothing at all to promote it.  In fact it is not even mentioned on the CIsA website, but given the fact that the website has not even been updated since August 2012, it's hardly surprising. 

Nobody will ever be able to convince me that no Canadian amateur activated an island this summer, and that the CIsA webmaster received no email updates advising them of any activations in 2013. 

Just for the record, over the past three summers the Frontenac Radio Group has activated over 14 islands, including three already this year.  Two weeks before every activation we have emailed both CIsA and USI advising them of the up-coming event.  Only USI has ever responded to our emails, normally within 30 minutes to an hour.  The CIsA webmaster has responded once only, and that was three weeks after the event.

Perhaps somebody should come up with another Canadian island activation association that will actually do the job....and if you think activating islands doesn't attract much attention, have somebody spot you on the DX cluster and wait for the wall of calls to hit you.

Anyway, get out there on the 19/20 October and activate one of your local islands, it may be your last chance to get out and operate portable before the snow flies!!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

CQ WW SSB Contest

It's been a quiet couple of weeks around here due to the fact I've been as sick as I've ever been.  Somehow I managed to get the latest flu bug that is going around.  It's not very nice at all, you ache from head to foot, and every joint and every bone hurts, but you have no runny nose or cough.  Anyway, after a trip to the local emergency room I'm finally feeling better, and got the all clear from the family doctor today.

Coming up on my radio calendar soon is this years CQ WW SSB Contest, this year held on October 26th and 27th, and runs the full 48 hours. 

This year myself and a couple of other hams are heading up to my brother-in-laws cottage on Leggat Lake, about 60 Kms north of Kingston.  It's beautifully RF quiet up there as it is quite far from civilization. So we are all hoping to be able to hear, and work, the weak ones for a change.

Our plan is to go in to the cottage on Thursday the 24th, and stay over until Monday the 28th.  Five days of ham radio!!

There are no antennas up at the cottage so we will have to get them in the air as soon as we get there.  The to have a 31' vertical, a 80m OCF Dipole, a 66' longwire, and what we in Kingston are now calling a VA3QV (see here).  This should do us just fine....and we will have a Buddipole, with enough pieces to build three of them!

This is the same cottage we use each year for Winter Field Day at the end of January, so we are looking forward to having running water, a BBQ, a working toilet, and hot showers this time we are there.  Of course this will just spoil us for this coming January's Winter Field Day!!

The rules for the contest can be found HERE.  This contest is always great for working DX, and lots of it. The  propagation looks good for that time period as well, so hopefully it will be a successful contest.

The cottage in mid-winter

Sunday, 15 September 2013 was Chilly!!

The view through the forest
This year the annual Chillycon gathering lived up to its name - it was pretty chilly out, especially on Friday night, in fact it got down to about 4C, way past the threshold of my sleeping bag!

The drive from Kingston was pretty uneventful and the weather looked threatening but it didn't rain on the journey.  Don, VE3MNE, and I arrived just at 2:00 pm, and the staff at Rideau River were very friendly when we checked in. I commented before about this, but they keep the place very clean, in fact it's always clean and you never see garbage laying around, and you never see dirty washrooms either.

We arrived at our site No. 179, and began to get set up.  We basically setup the same way we did last year, as that design seemed to work.  We tarped over the tent and the
kitchen area, and got to work setting up antennas......and true to form it started to rain lightly.

We set up two antennas, Don put up our usual 31' vertical with 6 ground radials with a 4:1 balun, and I put up a 66' long wire with a 9:1 Unun and two 16' ground radials.  The long wire was up a tree at about 40' and sloped down on a 45 degree angle.

Both Don and I did very well chasing DX.  The long wire netted me:

5B4AJC in Paphos, Cyprus.
JW5E on Svalbard Island.
LX7I in Luxemburg City.
EB3CW in Bellaterra, Spain.
OE2S in Salzburg, Austria.
YO3CZW in Bucuresti, Romania.
HZ1DG in Abha, Saudi Arabia.
DL0GL in Gladbeck, Germany.
MM0KLO in Scotland.
EI7M in Carrigtwohills, Ireland.

Eric, VA3AMX working DX
Unfortunately these were not enough to allow me to regain the DX Challenge Championship this year.  The winner was Eric,VA3AMX, who also won last year.  Next year I'll be bringing a secret weapon to ensure victory!  Well done Eric!!

The weather Saturday was great, sunny and warm.  Don and I took an hour off, and drove into Kemptville to buy a couple of fleece blankets to make sure we didn't suffer again that night.  They worked, we had the best sleep ever.  In fact it was very difficult to get out of our sleeping bags on Sunday morning!

Saturday afternoon several Ottawa hams came out to join us for the day, chief amongst them was the old mountain man himself, Bob, VA3QV.  You can read all about Bob's site visit on his blog HERE.  It was good to see him and have an opportunity to have a long chat with him.

You can also read the Chillycon Blog article from Michael, VE3WMB, HERE.

Late on Saturday afternoon Don and I decided to compare the 31' vertical to the 66' long wire antenna.  Using an antenna switch we went around the various bands looking for loud signals and switched back and forth between the antennas checking which antenna had the better signal.  Surprisingly, the long wire won.  It certainly hears very well.

The Bar
Supper was the usual communal Pizza Feast.  Sixteen of us sat down to dinner around a pretty good fire, considering the wood was damp.  Before long the DX tales came forth and the single malt scotch flowed.  Slowly people left to go home and the party finally broke up  at 0030 hrs! 

A great time was had by all, and it's a great guys weekend.  It's a shame some of the more usual suspects don't come out for it.

Sunday morning broke and it looked like it was going to be another cloudy, wet day.  We dropped the tent and tarps, packed the trucks, had a shower, and headed over the "Charlys Place" for a good brunch.  It was touch and go that the restaurant would be open as we had a large area power outage that morning, and the power didn't come on till after the place opened.

It was, as usual, a great time, and next years Chillycon is already marked on the calendar.

More Photos.........

Don, VE3MNE, working DX

Ying, VA3YH, with coax chewed by
the squirrels.

All natural power

Michael, VE3WMB's magnetic loop

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Chillycon 2013

Bob VA3QV on his way to Chillycon!
This weekend is the annual Chillycon QRP gathering at Rideau River Provincial Park, just across the river from Kemptville.

Several of the hams from the Kingston area are planning on making the trek up there this coming Friday for the weekend.  This will be our fourth year attending this great event. 

Sponsored by the Ottawa Valley QRP Society, this is "the" place for QRPers to gather before the winter hits.

Many of the guys come for the weekend, gathering at one of the camping loops at the east end of the park, and many others just coming in to join us for the Saturday.

It's very interesting to make the rounds of the various campsites during the day and chat about the different radios and portable antenna systems people have on see something, and learn something new every year. 

Saturday night is the annual Pizzafest and campfire gathering - where lies and tall DX tales are swopped.  Stay tuned for this years report and pictures after this weekend.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Frontenac County Disaster Exercise

Today the annual Frontenac County Emergency and Disaster Exercise was held at various locations up and down the county.  Of course being held on a work day it was difficult to round up enough operators, but thankfully 13 volunteered to take the day off from work to play radio with the Frontenac Emergency Communications Group. 

It was also our new EC's first exercise trying to control us all, thankfully we don't require much supervision.   I'm sure Mark is now realizing just what he stepped into, and will soon be taking up a new hobby.....herding cats.

This exercise was also the unveiling of our new digital network that has been built over the past 12 months.  At the moment we have almost 100% coverage of Frontenac County - from Kingston to Plevna - via VE3FRG-7 which is located 10 kms north of Kingston on a 260' tower. VE3FPN-7 located on an 100' tower at the Sydenham Fire Hall, and VE3MNE-10 our main gateway located in the west end of Kingston.  Coming on line mid-November will be VE3DTG-10 which will be a secondary gateway, and will be located in central Kingston.  Work is under way to bring on line a further two nodes, one in Plevna and the other in Sharbot Lake.  All the nodes and gateways are located on 145.070.

VA3ORP giving his briefing
Also helping us out today was the new location of our main repeater, VE3FRG.  This repeater was recently moved from the John Orr Tower in Kingston, to the same 260' tower the VE3FRG-7 node is on.  The footprint has changed significantly and we can now use this repeater from Belleville to Brockville, north to Smiths Falls and beyond.  So for the first time all of the municipal EOC's located in Frontenac County can hit the main repeater, and most can also hit the secondary repeater as well.  VE3FRG is on 146.805- with a 203.5 tone.

For the most part the exercise went very smoothly and the staff in the County EOC were very impressed with the digital messaging we can now do.  Dave, VA3ORP, gave a great briefing on the W2K capabilities we now have before the exercise started.

We had another three hams deployed early in the morning to Plevna in North Frontenac to man the EOC there.  Unfortunately things did not go smoothly there as the newly, and professionally, installed antenna had coax issues.  Dave, VE3DZE eventually worked out a compromise and managed to pass the digital traffic, but the coax needs to be looked at.

VA3ORP showing an EOC worker
how to use our system
Yours truly and Dave, VA3HFX.....(we seem to have a lot of Dave's!) spent the day at the beautiful, downtown, Sydenham Fire Hall passing traffic while huddled under a large blue tarp over the back of our two pickup trucks. No air conditioned EOC for us!  In fact it was quite disconcerting to listen to the guys deployed to the County EOC, complaining at the end-ex briefing that at the large lunch spread, in air conditioned splendor put on by the County, that the caviar was not imported, the champagne was not quite chilled enough, and that the coffee was to be them!  I made do with a warm bottle of water and a half stale to be me!

This was my first exercise since stepping down as EC, and I have to tell you it was extremely nice to be able to just take part with no pressure or stress........I could grow to like this!

All kidding aside, it was a good day.  Lots of lessons learned, lots of new goals have been listed, and our Training Officer knows what path to guide the training over the next 12 months.

Thanks to Norm, VE3VY, for standing by most of the day in Westport, with further digital and HF support if we needed it......and thanks to Les, VE3KFS, who also stood by in case we needed support from Kingston.

Thanks to Derek, VE3HRW, for the photographs.

Friday, 6 September 2013

New Rig in the Shack

Last week I had to put my Yaesu 2800 out to pasture, it gave up the ghost after many years of faithful service.  It was a good little rig and did a good job for me right up to the very end.

I spent a day or so cruising around the ham store websites checking out what was available in 2m rigs these days, and to be very honest.....I wasn't very impressed.  Many of the ones that I thought could do the job for me had lousy reviews, or didn't do everything I wanted it to do.

I think the scariest thing was the price of some of these new 2m rigs.  A few more $$ and you could practically buy a good used HF rig!

Anyway, I ended up with the very first ICOM radio to set foot in my shack, the IC-2300H. 

I'm very pleased with it so far.  It has received some good signal reports and the locals say the audio is great.  It has four power settings: 5w, 10w, 25w, and 65w.

It's a small package, and is going to do great for Emcomm work.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

ILLW - Great Weekend !!

Don hard at work
What great weather, and what even better propagation we had for this years International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend.  This year the group I belong to activated two lighthouses as mentioned in the previous posting below. 

Today, Sunday, Don VE3MNE and I activated the Point Petre Lighthouse, CA-026, and we had a fantastic time.  It was blue skies, a light wind, and 25C all day, we couldn't have asked for better weather.....and the Granville Island beer we had with our lunch went down really well.

We arrived on site about 0830 and began to set up our usual array of antennas.  Don set up his 31' vertical and got to work looking for other lighthouses on 20m and 40m.  I took a different route this year.....................
15m Vertical

Some of you will know that I have been working on getting my home QTH fixed up for 15m, as none of my current antennas seem to want to work on that band.  So before I did anything else today I built a 15m quarter-wave vertical and three ground radials.

The radiating element was taped to a 20' crappy pole, the three radials were simply laid out on the grass, and I used an LDG 1:1 balun.  The antenna was then simply leaned against the chain-link fence around the Coast Guard compound.

I should also mention that the wire used was a 25' roll of 14 gauge speaker wire that cost me $2.00 at Princess Auto here in Kingston.

It took several attempts to get the SWR down to an acceptable level, but in the end I did not really need the tuner as it matched right across the SSB portion of the band. 

Well, they always say the proof it works speaks volumes, so I'm really pleased to tell you all that it worked great on 15m.  Over the course of the day I used it to work:

EA3/DL1EHV, Albert in Barcelona, Spain.
UT7UV, Sasha in Kiev, Ukraine.
Z320T, Al in Shtip, Macedonia.
YT5CT, Zex in Novi Sad, Serbia.
RU3UR, Mike in Ivanovo, Russia.
ES5QD, Vello in Tallinn, Estonia.
S59N, Dan in Naklo, Slovenia.

Needless to say I'm pretty pleased with its performance, and it will be set up at the home QTH sometime this week.  I like working DX on 15m, and I've really missed this band over the past 10 months we have been at this new QTH, and I'm really looking forward to getting on there on a regular basis now.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend

Coming up next weekend, August 17 & 18, is the BIG international lighthouse weekend, sponsored by the Ayr Amateur Radio Group

Here in Kingston the Frontenac Group will be activating two lighthouses, one at Nine Mile Point on Simcoe Island - CA0031, and Point Petre - CA0026. 

The Simcoe Island light will only be on the air only for the Saturday, but Point Petre will be on from 1000 local Saturday, until 1400 local on Sunday.......or as long as the batteries hold out.

There's not much in the way of a camping spot there, as we have to stay outside the Coast Guard compound, but hopefully the OPP will leave us alone once they see us just operating and not causing any trouble.

With over 400 lights signed up for the event we're hoping to work a pile of them, and hopefully, this time, the propagation Gods will favour us this weekend !!

Give a listen for VE3FRG and VE3FPN and give us a call if you hear us.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Disappointing Day

It was a pretty disappointing day yesterday on Amherst Island, the propagation Gods decided to have the day off !!

The weather was perfect, lots of sun, a nice breeze and the occasional cloud drifting by.  Ron, VE3GO, had arranged with friends of his to use their waterfront property to operate from, and what a beautiful spot to operate from it was.

My antenna of the day was a 31' homebrewed vertical into a 4:1 balun, and four 16' and two 31' radials.  Ron used an Outbacker mounted on a mag-mount on the back of his SUV.

The bands seemed to be working very short, and while we could hear a lot of European stations on 15m, we worked only two of them on CW: IK3VUT, Luca in Oderzo, Italy, and HB9TNW, Celso in St. Gallen, Switzerland.  Our third CW contact was with HI3IFE in the Dominican Republic, but I'm not sure if that is the correct callsign, copy was difficult.

The SSB side of the activation was not very good at all.....two contacts were made, both in Ontario.  First up was Russ, VE3FI, in Haliburton, who was testing out a new 80m vertical, and next up on 20m was Don, VE3MNE, at his cottage on Hay Bay. Both of course had booming signals.

No signals were heard from the Colorado 14er event at all, despite spending quite a bit of time listening for them.

While not the most successful activation we have ever done, it was a fantastic day really.  We wouldn't have asked for better hosts, the location was perfect, and we got to ignore the "Honey Do List" for another day.

I'm not one to make political statements, but having seen the mess these things left Wolfe Island in, I don't want to see this happen on Amherst Island.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Amherst Island ON-21

Short notice.........but a group of us will be activating Amherst Island ON-21 tomorrow, August 4th, from 1500Z to 2000Z.

Ron - VE3GO, and Bill - VA3WOW will be joining me for a fun filled day of DX.  We will have 2 or 3 HF radios on the air, and we will be mainly on 20m, 15m, and 10m, hanging out on the usual island activation frequencies. 

Hopefully the propagation Gods will be smiling on us.  The weather is suppose to be very good, with a high of 21C expected.

Tomorrow is also the 2013 Colorado 14er event, so we are hoping to make a pile of contacts with the guys on the top of the really big hills......the 14,000 foot "hills".