USECA's Ice Cubes
By Ken Coughlin, N8KC
On 3 February a hardy and very heavily dressed group of Hams from USECA (Utica-Shelby Emergency Communication Assn.) met on the 16 inches of ice covering Lake St. Clair in the Marina at Metro Beach (a large Detroit area Metropark) with both contesting and Perch fishing in mind.
The marina had everything an outdoor, on-ice Field Day could want - easy access, close parking, and docks with nice tall, sturdy, antenna support structures. Dragging their batteries and radio gear out onto the ice atop their collapsible ice shanties, they set about the business of assembling antennas and getting the shanties up and the gear out of the weather.
Expecting others from USECA to drop by during the course of the day, Arpad Miklos, WY8M, Walter Gracey, WB8E, and Barb Boik, KC8QEG, erected a tarp shelter so visitors could escape the constant 10 mph wind and +16 degree cold on the open ice.
About 2-3 weeks earlier, Arpad, WY8M, had brought up the idea of a 'Hams on Ice' station, similar to a special event station the 'Flying Beers International' had pulled off years earlier. In that episode, there had even been a special QSL made up and about 10-15 USECA club members had participated. More recent plans for a 'Return to Ice Station Zebra' over the last few years had always seemed to fizzle out due to poor ice conditions over much of Southern Michigan.
Arpad's plans for this latest version of 'Hams on Ice' just happened to coincide with the Arizona SQRPion's QRP Club's 'Freeze Your Butt Off' Winter CW Contest so it was decided to commit to operating the contest using USECA's new club call K8UO rather than trying to do a special event. After all, the contest's multipliers grew as the temperature dropped and with a projected ambient temperature of several degrees below freezing in the shanties, it didn't look like the team would have to make very many QSOs to rack up a pretty decent score. The real object though, as it always is at any USECA 'happening', was to simply 'have fun' with radio.
This year, ice conditions have been great. Ice fisherman, shanties, snowmobiles, and even trucks and cars have been out on the ice. Some take it to the extreme - every year our local media treats us to news stories of fishermen adrift on the ice and Coast Guard rescues. In the week and a half prior to the 'FYBO' contest, the weather suddenly warmed and we had several days of rain and thaw - it looked like ice conditions might suddenly be too risky to attempt an on-the-water operation.
Luckily the four days immediately beforehand saw temps drop quickly into the low teens causing the standing water and slush on the ice to quickly refreeze. Arpad confirmed the excellent ice conditions via the widely accepted, ultra-scientific method of jumping onto the ice several times from the docks and stomping the ice as hard as he could. Arpad's law of ice states: Wet Arpad equals bad ice, dry Arpad equals GOOD ice! Since we had dry Arpad, the ice was proclaimed fit for human traffic.
In all, three separate operating positions (shanties) were erected on the ice, all over what's normally about 6-8 feet of water. One shanty, a clamshell design, was only big enough for its single occupant Mike Culberson, KC8PUT, (a recent upgrade to General), a battery, and an HF rig supported on a milk crate (milk crates and 5-gallon buckets seemed popular pieces of shack 'furniture' in all of the shanties, with room at a premium). Mike operated on 20M for about four hours, operating rig and straight key attired in mittens and full face mask most of the time. His antenna set up was a borrowed, tuner-fed 40M dipole slung between two pilings in the Marina area. Barb, KC8QEG, and Arpad, WY8M, arrived at the Metro Beach before 9 a.m. loaded to the gills with gear.
They'd come prepared in thermal “long johns” and heavy boots with two pairs of socks on, spare hats, extra gloves and lip balm, as well as packin' heat in the form of piping hot coffee and chicken soup. Arpad and Barb operated using the alias 'Blunoz' (many ops use an 'alias' - 'Frosty' and 'Flaky' were among several heard) on 10M CW for a full six hours from a 3-man shanty (..that's 3-man as in 'cheek-to-cheek', and I don't mean the ones on your face!) using an Antron 16 foot fiberglass antenna tuned for 10M and mounted on 20 feet of mast, all this duct-taped to another handy piling (Tool-Time's Tim Allen's got nothin' on USECAns when it comes to new uses for duct tape!). Team 40M comprised of Walt, WB8E; Ed Jesse, W8EDX, and Chuck Grabau, KC8HNY, who'd just made Extra!) operating out of another 3-man shanty with a homebrew 40M vertical antenna.
Team 40 had contemplated taking the contest just a wee bit further, cutting holes in the ice and fishing while operating, but the lack of a fishing license and the excitement of the contest killed that idea, (..the presence of a nearby Conservation Officer checking licenses and limits kinda helped too!).
Several other USECAns dropped by during the day to check out the madmen on the ice. Bill Stranhan, N8NMX, stopped by with his friend Rick, visiting from S. Carolina, who was totally freaked out by the sight of so much ice, and so many cars driving on it. In South Carolina, I guess the only ice they ever see is in their Lynchburg Lemonade. USECA's president, Nancy Carr, KB8QMS, skated in along with Marilyn Glass, K8PIK, to check out the action (...no threat to Michelle Kwan or Dorothy Hammill here!) as did Ken Coughlin, N8KC, and Denise Coughlin, KC8IPF, a bit later (with a bit of Irish Cream for the coffee!).
Although deliberately located in a public park for the purpose of putting Amateur Radio on display, in plain sight and earshot of land, the only real attention from passersby the contesters attracted was that of a few of the nearby ice-fisherman. There seems to be a distinct lack of casual strollers and joggers when it's ten degrees below freezing (..hmm, wonder why?).
Most of the fisherman had been busy inside their own shanties and were oblivious to the newcomers until they noticed 'funny noises' coming from several shanties that hadn't been there earlier. Arpad had, at one point, stuck his nose in a few of the other shanties, checking to see how many fish were being caught. Curious about these fellas with the really strange fishing equipment, a few meandered over to the radio shanties, introduced themselves, and themselves became introduced to Amateur Radio and a few of USECA's diehard radio enthusiasts.
The fishermen eventually wandered back to their own shanties, to get on with their fishing, but I had to wonder what they thought of a group of guys and gals who'd sit out on the ice in a freezing shanty for half a day, just to play radio. I'm sure they had a giggle or two over it back in their own shanty, but I think the USECAns who worked the 'Freeze Your Butt Off' contest had the last laugh. They had the higher score (more QSO's were caught than fish!) and far more fun!
Reprinted from WORLDRADIO
Mobile DXing can be fun
By Mike DiPersio, KC2Q
I'm not sure if there is an award for DXCC/M (mobile), if there is, I'm not aware of it. If there is not, then there should be. At any rate I have been HF mobiling for about 25 years now and enjoying it very much. I have had many different size HF rigs in the mobile from Yaesu FT101's to Kenwood TS130 to Icom IC730 to the IC735, this last one for about 10 years - now I'm with something even smaller yet, the Icom IC706 MKIIG. As a single unit it's small enough to locate on or near the dash area when I owned a Toyota Camry, since replaced with a Dodge Caravan. But when you take the removable head and just place that somewhere on the dash, (velcro works good) the body of the radio can be placed under a seat somewhere or in the trunk, it becomes a stealth radio, practically invisible.
The antenna can be from a number of different sources. After trying many, I chose Hustler, a 40 or 20 or 10-meter resonator on a 54 inch mast works really good, but having to stop to change resonators every time I wish to change bands does get to be a bore (I band hop a lot!). So I tried their multiband adapter. It worked fair, but not great.
That's when I designed my own adapter about 20 years ago. It is in a 90-degree format with one resonator forward into the wind and the other two swept back for lower wind resistance, all horizontal, and one resonator holding this assembly in place, allowing four, not three, bands plus the 54 inch mast which gives me 6 Meters. The horizontal resonators act as a ground plane to the vertical, and the vertical resonator and the mast do much the same for the other bands, plus I now have the benefit of any of five bands to go to with just the touch of the band switch on the rig. No stopping, no changing resonators, etc. Eventually I made it out of stainless steel rather than aluminum - keeping the coefficient of metals similar.
I find that the quadband or multiband antenna adapter as I call it, gives me a 58% increase in reception as well as transmit when the assembly is together instead of working the resonators individually as a monoband. I prune each resonator individually before I put them into the assembly. Then I fine tune each resonator, starting with the highest frequency in use working my way down to the 40-meter or 75-meter resonator. An SWR of 1:1.5 can be achieved on 10, 12, 15, 17 and 20 Meters almost across all the amateur portions of each of these bands. 40 Meters normally gives me approximately 20 kc above and below the resonant frequency when used as a mono. However, when in the assembly it becomes a little wider, 3040 kc above and below the resonant frequency (usually 7.255). I have done very little with 75 Meters, therefore I can't comment on that band. I have been making these adapters for close friends and club members over the years. I have however, been told by others that 75 or 80 Meters works similar to the 40meter resonator but with a higher "Q" - only 1020 kc above and below the resonant frequency.
It's true, it can be somewhat of a package, (four resonators plus SS Adaptor) but with a 40 or 50 lb. test monofilament fishing line to prevent the antenna from leaning back, it works ok. I can be traveling on the Florida Turnpike at 70+ mph with no problems.
Once I reach my destination, and would like to operate from the base, I simply remove the mast, which is on a quick disconnect, and place it on a ball mount already mounted on a 10-inch diameter by 5-inch high cake tin. I have wires in the length for 10, 20 and 40-meter dipole style, connected to the cake tin to act as a ground, taking the place of the vehicle.
This base assembly works very similar to the way it does on the car. If it's on a roof of the building somewhere or in the field, use some more fishing line as guys to keep it from blowing over. In my case I put the antenna on the balcony of the condo rental in Key West, FL supported by a "bungee" chord with a plastic wastebasket as a spacer from the metal railing.
The IC706 MKIIG sits very comfortable atop a switching power supply (very light in weight) 12 volts 20 amps. I also field tested a 12volt power booster; it's like a car battery but somewhat lighter, with a handle and rechargeable. Worked great. Good for jump starting other cars as well.
In the three weeks of my trip I worked a schedule on 14.305 daily from 1300Z to 1500Z and again from 2000Z to 2200Z with many Hams who join in on the 305 group from areas in NJ, NC, AZ, TN,NY and many other states like IL, NV, OH, TX, NE as well as stations from other parts of the world - YJlPD,VK3JBH, NH6IG, 5B4/ RW3GW, HR6/AH6PN, EA3EVR, SP9LJD, and P43E.
All of these contacts, as well as many more from outside this three week period of driving to and from Florida, have been worked with only the 100 watts the IC706 has to offer. Most of the signal reports were 59 and 59 + both to me and from me, from the mobile or the portable setup on the balcony.
I have enjoyed this trip and you could also. Mobile HF or just DXing is really a lot of fun. However, the logging can become a little difficult, but with a small tape recorder to log the calls, times, frequencies, names etc. or a copilot to log for you, can make it pretty safe.
Good luck and happy mobiling.
Reprinted from WORLDRADIO
GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB
MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING – 6/18/03
By Pete, N2PYV
The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:38 p.m.
All present introduced themselves.
TREASURER'S REPORT –
Finances continue to be in good shape.
REPEATER REPORT –
The owner of the Hauppaugue tower is having a steeplejack contractor come in to survey the antennas on the tower. Gordon has spoken to Bill, N2NFI, about what the riggers should do for our antennas, but we have not contacted the owner to determine when the activity will take place.
The Bethpage repeater seems to be working well without the "crackles" since the amplifier was removed from the system. Gordon is trying to contact the amplifier manufacturer to determine how to modify the amplifier to accept higher input power.
NET REPORT –
The propagation was good on the Wednesday Noon 20-Meter Net, but there were not many stations on. The Thursday Night 2-Meter Net was OK.
VE REPORT –
There were three VE’s and four applicants present. Two applicants passed the General Exam but did not take the code test to upgrade.
One passed the Tech Exam and also upgraded to General.
Discussed the preparations for Field Day. The schedule will be:
Friday 6/27, 4:00 p.m. – Start set up of antennas.
Saturday 6/28, 9:00 a.m. – Start setup of tents, stations and generators.
2:00 p.m. – Start contest.
Sunday 6/29, 2:00 p.m. – End contest and start packing up.
We expect to compete in Class 4A. We will have four HF stations on the air plus a GOTA (Get On The Air) station. We will have equipment set up to make digital contacts. We expect to put up two 40-Meter and one 80-Meter dipole antennas, plus one or two beam antennas. A publicity Kit will be made up and handed to passerby’s. We have four tents promised and will try for another one. We will have the new generator from the Recreation Department and also one that Bill, N2SFT will bring as backup.