Straight Key Night

Straight Key Night is one of my favorite activities of the year. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time at it, it’s a chance to get on the air at the start of the new year and make some interesting contacts. Many hams use vintage gear to go along with their historic telegraph keys, but my “vintage” gear isn’t up to snuff, so I use the gear that I use regularly – just sending with a straight key instead of the keyer. Since I use the straight key every month in the NAQCC sprints, I’ve kept in practice and can send quite smoothly at around 18 wpm.

If you got on the air for SKN, be sure to send a report to ARRL. It’s one of the few events where participants’ calls are listed in QST, so it’s a great way to get your call listed in the magazine.

Sweepstakes 2016

novembersweepstakeslogoWell, another ARRL Sweepstakes is in the books, and while I didn’t set any personal bests or come close to a clean sweep, I had fun during the time I had on the air.

In the CW weekend, I made 203 QSOs in 69 sections for 28,000 points in about seven hours in the NF8M shack. Additionally, I put perhaps 50 QSOs in the log at W8SH, my college club at Michigan State University. W8SH made just over 200 QSOs in total.

The phone weekend saw more limited time. Continue reading “Sweepstakes 2016”

Hustler 6BTV Vertical Antenna Installation

6BTV AntennaI recently finished building and installing a Hustler 6BTV six band vertical antenna that I purchased from DX Engineering at the Dayton Hamvention. This antenna, which covers 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 and 50 kHz of 80 meters, has been a reliable workhorse among amateurs for many years, and is a favorite of DXpedition operators because of its simplicity and ease of construction and installation.

For temporary installations, it’s possible to put the pieces together, tune, hoist, mount and guy it, and run out a few radials along the ground in less than an hour. For more permanent installations, there are many augmentations that turn it into a versatile and easy-to-maintain antenna.

In addition to the antenna, I also purchased the SO239 feed bracket, the reinforced lower tube, and an Alpha Delta lightning spark gap from DXE. They also offer two kinds of tilt mounts, but both are designed to mount on a single 2 inch pole driven into the ground. My mount consists of two Unistruts anchored in concrete with aluminum panels mounted across them, which was the mounting arrangement for the 30 and 15 meter vertical which the 6BTV replaces. Continue reading “Hustler 6BTV Vertical Antenna Installation”

North American QSO Party, CW

I enjoy the convivial fun of the semiannual North American QSO Parties, sponsored by the ARRL’s National Contest Journal. The exchange is simple – name and state – and you can work stations again on every band. Power is limited to 100 watts so you’re not competing with the “Big Guns”. It’s one point per QSO and states, counted separately on each band, are the multipliers.

It’s kind of like a pickup game of basketball, played by a bunch of friends from various teams during the off-season. Continue reading “North American QSO Party, CW”

CWops

cwops_225Earlier this year, I stumbled upon the weekly CWops sprints when working the monthly NAQCC sprint. Our “quiet” section of 40 meters around 7040 kHz was suddenly invaded by high-speed ops sending CWT and working each other with names and numbers. Sometimes, as QRP operators, we can feel like ants getting squashed underfoot, but among the callsigns were a few I had worked in the NAQCC events as well as some I recognized from other contests.

I recalled seeing the CWops events listed in WA7BNM’s contest calendar, so I checked it out. Continue reading “CWops”