The HAMCOW Maiden Voyage

Follow the story of W1ACT/P operating from Dukes County
during the New England QSO Party May 2nd & 3rd 2008.


HAMCOW at the Woods Hole Ferry
5/01/2008 2:00 PM-We're almost there!  Here we are at the
Wood Hole Ferry awaiting our ship to Martha's Vineyard.

Gang with KB1TIM's Truck at the Woods Hole Ferry
Here is the gang with KB1TIM's truck & military shelter waiting at the Woods Hole ferry.

Driving off the ferry at Vineyard Haven.
3:30 PM - Here is N1JOY driving the HAMCOW off the ferry in Vineyard Haven.

KB1TIM driving off the ferry at Vineyard Haven.
KB1TIM was right behind with his big red truck.

Large Satellite photo
This is where we are setting up on the island.  We're pretty far from anything!

N1JOY & W2DAN Installing Antennas
Here is N1JOY & W2DAN installing the antennas on the HAMCOW.  Look closely and you
can see the SGC tuner installed next to the rotor.  Also notice the U-clamps
that are installed on the mast.  This allows the Yagi antennas to be slid right onto
the U-clamps and already be the proper distance and all aimed in the
proper direction.  No antenna aiming required here.  Even attaching the dipole
wires to the SGC tuner has been sped up by installing short pigtails to the
tuner connections, and installing N connector bodies as the mechanical
and electrical connections for the dipole wires.  Even the rotor is
held in place with a single retaining pin that snaps in. 

HAMCOW set up at Gay Head
Here is the HAMCOW all set up and ready for business at Gay Head.
It's been a long time coming to get here!  Time to celebrate and
share a few cold beverages and burn some meat on the grill!

KB1TIM's Setup
Here is KB1TIM finishing up his crank up tower install with his military shelter.

W2DAN's tower with HF Yagi & APRS Verticlal
This is W2DAN's 30 ft. tower installation with a TA-33Jr Yagi
and a 2 Meter vertical for APRS.  We always fly a flag
when on the Vineyard.  KE1LI stretched a carrier rope
between KB1TIM's & W2DAN's towers and installed a
pair of phased 40 Meter dipoles that allow him to
swap directions depending on propagation.  All of the
antennas only took 2-1/2 hours to install, including parking
and securing the HAMCOW.

Guys at the Radios
5/02/2008 - Here you see (Left to right) N1JOY, N1PMB, W2DAN, & KB1JBC giving
the radios their initial shakedown.  We're all taking Friday to learn the new logging
software and to see how our new antenna configurations perform.  Even though
the band conditions are terrible today, we're still getting some good contacts.

Gang watching the clam boil cook.
Here is the gang watching the New England Clam Boil cook on the camp stove.
Left to Right: KB1NFZ, KB1TIM, KB1FUP, Melanie (N1JOY's XYL), & KE1LI.

Three big pots of New England Clam Boil cooking!!
5//02/2008 - We had 3 large pots full of New England Clam Boil on Friday night.
Nobody goes hungry with this meal!

MS Bike Race water stop.
5/03/2008 - Today we were all volunteers for a watering stop on the
MS "Tour The Vineyard" bike ride on the 100 kM course.  We provided
water to more than 300 riders who dared the long course on such a
semi-dreary day.

Big Steaks Ready to Cook
How about a nice big Porterhouse steak for dinner!  KE1LI knows how to
perfectly prepare & cook big meat.

KE1LI Cooking Steaks
Chef Paul (KE1LI) was in grilling heaven after cooking 3 batches of steak for the gang!

W1UJ Operating CW
One of our special guest CW Ops; W1UJ at the controls.  All of the computers were
networked together and using N1MM Logger to log our contacts.  The display on
the wall is the logging server PC and keeps track of all contacts logged, and who
is operating on what bands. 

Amelias in N1PMB's Bunk
This is Amelia, N1JOY's best buddy.  She seems to enjoy N1PMB's bunk
as much as he did!

W2DAN Running Stations
W2DAN is running stations on 20 Meters.

So How Did We Do?

727 QSO's - by far the highest QSO count we have ever had!  Having
3 operators who are passionate about CW helped.  Thanks to
WA1ESO, W1UJ, and KB1G.  The other ops were: N1JOY, W2DAN,
Congrats "Team HAMCOW"!

2007 score: 21,112
 2008 score: 71,980

Band Mode QSO's Points Sec
3.5 CW 160 320 11
3.5 LSB 16 16 0
7 CW 176 352 11
7 LSB 141 141 15
14 CW 116 232 13
14 USB 112 113 11
21 USB 3 3 0
28 USB 3 3 0
TOTAL SCORE: 71,980 BOTH 727 1180 61

Troubles During Our Maiden Voyage?

Yes, we had some minor problems on the initial trip, but nothing too unexpected, and many of
the problems have already been resolved.  Lessons were learned.

Problem #1 - The air chucks that I connect the air control valve to telescope the tower
were rusty on the inside.  These were brass air couplers, but the innards were steel! 
A quick bypass of the air coupler resolved the problem.  These air couplers have now
been replaced with industrial grade all stainless steel fittings.

Problem #2 - The Xantrex battery charger makes a ton of RF noise.  The funny part about
this is it was bothering me in my home station and it never dawned on me it was the charger
connected in the HAMCOW in my back yard.  On the Vineyard I had a contingency plan
in place where I shut down the charger, and utilized the "Octopus" cable and connected
in a spare Astron power supply to the battery bank.  Other charging solutions are being
researched and I haven't had much luck finding an RF quiet "smart" charger.  This may
end up being a "heavy iron" conventional charger with smart charging circuitry installed.

Problem #3 - The fluorescent lights generate RF noise after that have been on a while
and are warmed up.  The 5 small lights at each operating position have been replaced
with LED light bars, and the 4 ft. long area lights now have a set of specially ordered
RFI ballasts installed.  Most of the fluorescent fixtures will remain, but I'm confident
 all of the RFI noise has been resolved.  The new ballasts are mounted on their own
heat sinks, but I also applied a liberal amount of heat sink thermal grease to use
the lamp chassis to further dissipate the heat.  I have also installed a 1.5 inch
muffin fan in each 4 ft. light fixture to help evacuate any heat that builds up inside the
lamp.  The lamps are now installed with 1/4 inch spacers to allow air flow over
the tops of the lamps, instead of them being screwed tightly against the
ceiling.  Testing so far shows zero noise being generated by the main
lighting fixtures.

Problem #4 - The server PC needed an Uninterruptible Power Supply.  At one point the
generator ran out of fuel and the AC power dropped suddenly.  The logging server
crashed and it took a few tries to get it fired back up.  I have installed a 600 Watt
true sine wave inverter to use as a UPS.  Most UPS systems will not
operate on a generator, so an off the shelf solution wasn't practical.  Of course
the AC power inverter spews out RF noise, but I have been encouraged by my efforts
to quiet this unit down to acceptable levels.  With several properly placed torroids
on the DC power lines, making the DC power into a twisted pair (which by the way
is not very easy with 6 GA wire), and then shielding the DC power inside a
heavy copper braid, the noise is now virtually undetectable.

Except for the rusty air line couplers, the rest was not completely unexpected.  Eliminating
RF noise from devices that are essential for the functionality of the HAMCOW is turning
out to be a bit frustrating, but it will all get resolved very soon.

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