Eastern Branch of the Penobscot River in Katahdin Woods and Waters NM
Ever since we built our Mobile HF Station, we’ve talked about taking it to Acadia National Park in Maine and operating from the top of Cadillac Mountain. The 2016 ARRL NPOTA event gave us the motivation to plan the trip for the week before Labor Day. The week before our trip, we saw an article in the ARRL Letter encouraging operation from the newly declared National Monument, Katadhin Woods and Waters in Maine, which had just be designated as NPOTA MN84. Visiting the NPS website, we learned that the park is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from Bar Harbor, where we are staying. We decided to accept the challenge to be the first to activate the new park.
Our F150 Mobile Station at the entrance to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
Tuesday August 30 was our first full day of vacation, we left our hotel room and parked by the Acadia visitor center and called “CQ National Parks”. We ended up with 76 contacts in the log from NP01.
After that we got on the road and headed toward Katadhin Woods and Waters, activating counties along the way including the county line between Penobscot and Aroostook Counties.
NPS Map of the Park
As a newly designated National Monument, Katadhin Woods and Waters does not yet have a visitors center or any signs showing you when you enter and exit the park. We just had the map (above) to determine where the park boundaries were. All of the roads in black on the map are gravel roads that are also used for logging trucks.
Entrance to Kadahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
We entered the park from Swift Brook Road off Rt 11 in the lower right corner of the map. We drove through the lower section by the entrance and then headed north along the Eastern Branch of the Penobscot River and operated near the Loos camping area. The sign above confirmed that we were within the park boundaries.
Scenic View of Katahdin Woods and Waters NM
The scenery along the river was beautiful with views of the mountains in the distance.
Operating at MN84
We started operating on 20m and the pileups were huge! Everyone was excited to get this new NPOTA into the log. Fred, AB1OC/M ended up going split on 20m due to the size of the pileups. After a while, he moved to 40m to give the close in folks a chance at MN84. We went back and further between 20m and 40m until the pileups thinned out. We also made 18 QSOs with the club callsign N1FD to also give the club credit for the activation. We really enjoyed activating the park and the people we talked to were great! We made a total of 350 QSOs from MN84.
Several members of the Nashua Area Radio Club operated as N1FD/M (our club callsign) in the New England QSO Party this year as a Multi-Op Mobile Entry. Operators included Wayne Wagner, AG1A and Jamey Finchum, KC1ENX and myself. We began our operations on Saturday afternoon on the Massachusetts – New Hampshire State line where we activated two counties and two states.
N1FD/M NEQP Multi-Op Team
We entered the 2016 NEQP Contest in the High Power Multi-Op Mobile Category. We operated using SSB phone mode using mostly on the 20m and 40m bands. We took turns operating, driving and navigating. We used Fred’s, AB1OC’s mobile HF station in his truck.
CQ NEQP from N1FD/M
We operated Saturday and Sunday for nearly the entire contest period. We spent most of our time calling CQ and we had several nice pileups to work.
Counties Activated by N1FD/m in the 2016 NEQP
The map above shows the counties in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont that we activated during the contest. Anita, AB1QB helped us to create a route of counties to activate which included some of the more rare counties in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Operating on a County Line in Vermont
We tried to focus on activations where we could be in two counties as once. These activations produced some nice pileups for us to work.
Operating on a County Line in NH
We parked on county lines with 2 wheels of N1FD/M in one county and 2 wheels in another. This gave us two QSO points (one for each county) for each contact that we made.
NPOTA Activation – Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP in Vermont
We had a few challenges along the way. We had some antenna related problems to deal with. Fortunately, we had spare parts with us and we adjusted our operating style to overcome these problems. We also had to operate through a major solar event on Sunday. This made contacts very difficult but we still logged over 235 QSOs on Sunday in spite of the conditions.
All in all, we had a great time in the contest. We logged a total of 631 QSOs and we worked 58 Multipliers. Our final claimed score was 36,598 – not bad given that this was our first entry as a mobile and our first time in NEQP. We worked 43 of 50 states and we had quite a few stations from Canada and Europe call in to answer our CQs. All in all, it was a lot of fun operating from our Mobile HF station in the NEQP contest!
There was some discussion on the way home about the Maine and New Hampshire QSO parties which will be held later this year. We hope to be N1FD/M again in one or more of those as well.
It is once again time for the New England Regional Hamfest. The convention will be held in Boxboro, Massachusetts this weekend and will feature a great presentation and forum schedule, a large vendor exhibit area and a HAM Flea Market.
We constantly update the material in this presentation and this version will include a preview of a new project to enhance our station – a Remote Operating Gateway based upon a FlexRadio 6000 Series SDR.
We hope to see many of our friends and readers in the region at Boxboro this year. If you have a minute, stop by the forums and say hello.
We had a lot of fun during our 2015 Dayton US Counties Tour from our home in New Hampshire to the 2015 Dayton HAMvention and back. The trip involved a total of 5 days of driving and covered about 2,000 miles – giving our Mobile HF station quite a workout. We ended up activating 98 unique US Counties and we made 1,226 contacts during the trip. We mostly operating using the Nashua Area Radio Club’s call, N1FD/M. We spent most of our time on the County Hunter’s frequencies on 20m and 40m and the Net Control folks there provided a great deal of help in making our operation effective and efficient. We worked both bands in most Counties to try to give folks that were both close in and some distance away a chance to contact us.
Near The Line Between Blair and Cambria Counties in PA
We tried to activate some of the most needed Counties along our route. We had the most activity when we were in Blair and Cambria Counties in PA. These were two Counties that were needed by quite a few folks.
On The Fulton And Montgomery County Line In New York
We learned that one can be quite popular with County Hunters by activating two Counties at the same time. To do this properly, one must park the vehicle on the county line with one set of wheels in each county as shown in the picture above. Operating in this ways allows folks to gain credit for two counties via a single contact.
Dirt Lane On A Hilltop In Hampshire County Massachusetts
We spent quite a bit of time finding good locations to activate the rarer counties that we were in. This involved driving down dirt roads and “getting off the beaten path” quite a bit.
The County Hunter folks who worked us were great and some become fast friends during the trip. Several folks worked us more the 30 times during our trip.
N1FD/M QSL Card
We have already begun to receive QSL card requests for the contacts that we made during our trip. A Counties Tour is a great activity for a Mobile HF operator. It makes the time on a long drive go by very fast and can generate some great Mobile HF operating time. We are looking forward to finding another opportunity to do a County Tour again in the future.
Presentation On Building And Operating A Mobile HF Station
We recently had the chance to do a presentation on building and operating a mobile HF station for the Nashua Area Radio Club here in New Hampshire, USA. I thought it would be interesting for our readers to see this presentation as it contains some new information that we have not previously covered on our Blog.
Mobile HF Antennas
Safety in mounting mobile antennas and anything else on the exterior of you vehicle is a primary concern. This was discussed in some detail during the presentation. The best source to understand safety considerations and proper installation and mounting of Mobile HF antennas is Alan Applegate’s excellent website, K0BG.com.
The most important part of any Amateur Radio Station is the antenna system. This is especially true in a Mobile HF Station because antennas in these applications are almost always short loaded verticals. To create an effective antenna system for a Mobile HF application, one must pay extra attention to the “3 R’s” – Radiation Resistance, Loading Coil Loss, and Ground Loss. Radiation Resistance (a measure of the antenna’s ability to transfer transmitter power to radiated waves) is the “good R” and the other two R’s dissipate power from our transmitter in the form of heat.
Mobile Antenna System Typical Parameters
There is some good information on the typical efficiency in the ARRL Antenna Book. As you can see from the table above, the Radiation Resistance of a mobile antenna becomes quite small on the lower bands (40m, 80m and 160m). Also note that as the antenna becomes increasingly shorter to RF on these bands, more loading coil inductance is needed to make up for the short radiator length on these bands. On these bands, Coil Loss and Ground Loss can easily dissipate most of our transmit power in a very inefficient antenna system. The net of all this is that one must pay careful attention to controlling the Ground and Coil losses while trying to make the Radiation Resistance of the antenna as high as possible. One good way to improve the Radiation Resistance of a mobile antenna is to make the whip longer. For more on mobile HF antenna efficiency, please consult K0BG.com.
Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna With Rod And Cap Hat
Here in New England, we have many low tree branches which limit the practical length of a mobile whip. A good technique, if the installation permits it, is to use top loading in the form of a Capacitance Hat. The Cap Hat makes the antenna appear longer and thus increases the Radiation Resistance of the Rod below it. The increase in apparent electric length at Radio Frequencies also means that less loading coil inductance will be required which in turn also means that the Coil Loss is lowered. This is a win-win. The only problem is that this sort of setup significantly increases the wind load on the antenna when driving so a mechanically strong antenna and mounting system is required for a safe installation. Ground Losses can be minimized by making the vehicle on which the antenna is installed a good RF surface to couple to the ground. This is best accomplished by proper Bonding of the metal surfaces on the vehicle to each other and the vehicle’s frame is there is one.
Mobile HF Equipment
The next part of the presentation covered the selection of equipment for a Mobile HF Station. Safety and good usability are the paramount concerns here. I believe that a Transceiver should have the following attributes to be a good choice in Mobile HF applications:
It should have at least 100W output on the HF bands
It must have an effective Noise Blank and a good Noise Reduction system
It should have a removable control head to facilitate mounting of the radio’s controls and display where they can be easily seen without taking one’s eyes of the road
It is extremely important to consider safety in all things mobile HF. Safe, non-distracting mounting of controls is a top concern. One also needs to consider what could happen in a crash. Loosely mounted parts or anything that can get between a deploying air bag and the vehicle’s passengers are among some of the important safety concerns. One should also consider accessories that facilitate safe mobile operation. Automated antenna controllers and a voice recorder to capture contact details for later transcription in logs are some good items to consider.
Bonding And Choking
I believe the bonding and the associated effect on noise levels and ground losses is perhaps the most important factor in determining the performance of a mobile HF station. “If you can’t hear them, you can’t work them.” Proper bonding of the exhaust system, body parts and the engine’s ground are some of the key items in this area. You can read more about how we did this here. To give some idea of how important this area is, I was able to take the initial S9+ noise levels (with the radio’s preamp off) of my F-150 pickup truck prior to proper binding to an S3-4 level with the radio’s preamp on. This is a huge improvement and is a primary reason for the DX performance of our mobile HF station. Bonding also lowers the Ground Losses of the installation which improves the efficiency of the antenna system when transmitting as well – again a win-win. Proper bonding is not expensive but it does take some work. One must also be careful when drilling holes for the installation of ground straps that you do not accidentally drill into wiring harnesses, gas tanks, electronic boxes and other vehicle systems. Again, consult K0BG.com for more information on how to properly Bond your vehicle. If you use a screwdriver antenna, you must also properly choke your control leads to keep RF out of your vehicle and its electronics. Here’s some good information explaining how to do this.
Stage 1 Mobile HF Station
I am a proponent of building a Mobile HF Station in stages from a simple one using to perhaps a more involved project later on. This allows the operator to have a lot of fun on the air with a reasonable initial amount of work and expense. The approach also provides the opportunity to see how the various steps outlined in the presentation contribute to improved performance. Our stage one installation consisted of a 100W transceiver and Hamstick antennas. You can read more about our Stage 1 installation here. The focus at this step includes proper bonding/noise control, safe installation of a suitable transceiver and simple Hamstick antennas. This stage gives you an inexpensive and effective, one band at a time, station on the 20m and higher HF bands. This type of installation is not difficult to do as is possible on most vehicles.
Stage 2 Mobile HF Station
A Stage 2 installation would probably involve a multi-band remotely controlled antenna – typically a screwdriver antenna. You can read more about our Stage 2 installation here. It’s important to choose and efficient screwdriver antenna. You can read more about the choices and what to look for here. We used a Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna and are very happy with it. This is a big antenna and you must carefully focus on a strong and secure mounting system to use it safely. Our Stage 2 station was QRV on all HF bands from 80m – 10m and utilized a screwdriver controller to automate the adjustment of the antenna when changing frequencies and bands. We use a 4′ rod and a Cap Hat to improve the efficiency of the antenna system as well. This is an important safety feature and should be strongly considered in any screwdriver antenna installation.
Stage 3 Mobile HF Station
A Stage 3 Station is probably not for most folks due to the added complexity and cost but it does create a “work the world” Mobile HF Station and can open the door to effective operation on 160m from a Mobile Station. This step involves the installation of an Amplifier and may also include extension of the antenna system to operate on 160m. I would have to say that the upgrade to Stage 3 was as much work in our station as Stages 1 and 2 combined. It also brings a new set of important safety considerations due to the high current DC powering required by a mobile amplifier. You can read more about this Stage of our installation here.
Mobile HF In A Car
It is also quite feasible to install a Mobile HF station in a car. The slide above shows Dave, N1RF’s installation of a Stage 2 setup in his Honda Accord. The mount is a custom-made unit done by a local fabricator. Also note the equipment mounting on the fold down rear seat of the vehicle. This installation uses and Icom IC-7100 and has produced some great DX contacts including on to the Philippines from New England on 20m using 100w.
Operating Mobile HF
Our presentation included some tips for operating a Mobile HF station. See the graphic above for details. I believe that even a well executed Stage 1 station coupled with good operating technique and some patience can yield a DXCC in many parts of the US and Europe. I was able to make many contacts to Europe and some to Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Alaska using our Stage one setup. If you progress through Stages 2 and 3, this gets easier. We have worked over 110 DXCCs from our Mobile HF Station and confirmed 100 in about 9 months with our Stage 3 setup. The Stage 3 setup has produced some of our most memorable QSO’s to date including my very first 75m phone contact ever to Japan and a contact with Ulleung Island, South Korea on the 40m band using SSB phone (these contacts were made from the East Coast of the USA).
The Mobile Amateur Radio Awards Club (MARAC) is a support group for county hunting and mobile activities with members all over the world. This is a great organization to join if you are interested in County Hunting. MARAC provides additional awards center around County Hunting and mobile operating.
You can also view WY7LL’s video on YouTube for a nice introduction to County Hunting, MARAC and the tools that the group provides to help County Hunters.
Anita did the planning for our County Tour to Dayton, OH and back. She began by looking at looking at the County Hunter’s Web most wanted page to determine which counties lie along potential routes between are home and Dayton, OH were most needed by County Hunters. Based upon this information, she created the route shown at the beginning of this post. As you can see, we are taking different routes going to Dayton, OH and back to allow us to activate as many U.S. Counties as we can. We are also taking a few side trips off our route to activate a few of the most needed Counties near our route.
Windham, Tolland, Hardford, Litchfield, New Haven, Fairfield
The table above shows the 86 U.S. Counties that we plan to activate on our trip along with a rough idea of our schedule.
County Finder App
We found a useful iPhone App (County Finder) that will tell us what County we are in at a given time. The County Finder App uses the GPS in our iPhones to provide our current location in real-time.
HamClock Grid Square App
We will also be tracking and logging the current grid square that we are operating from. We will be using the HamClock App on our iPhones to determine our grid square of operation in real-time.
Anita and I will be taking turns operating and logging. We are planning to use a laptop computer running the DXLab Suite and we will connect it directly to the IC-7000 Radio in our truck. This combination plus the County Finder and HamClock Apps above should allow us to accurately log all of our contacts. We will also be uploading contracts that we make to eQSL, LoTW and ClubLog in real-time as we operate.
We will also be running an APRS station so that folks can see where we are located in real-time and follow our progress. We are using the OpenAPRS iPhone App for this purpose. Our APRS callsign with be AB1QB-15 and you can see our position and progress on aprs.fi at any time by clicking here.
N1FD – Nashua Area Radio Club QSL
Anita and I are members of the Nashua Area Radio Club and we will be operating using the Club’s call sign, N1FD/M, during the trip. In addition to the electronic QSL’ing methods mentioned above, we will also be able to provide paper QSL’s using the Club’s QSL card shown above. All paper QSLs that we send will note the correct County and Grid Square from which the QSL’ed contact was made. See N1FD on QRZ.com for QSL information.
County Hunters Net Frequency (SSB)
14.336 & 14.271 MHz
County Hunters Net Frequencies
We plan to operate on or near the County Hunters Net Frequencies listed above. We will be QRV SSB on all of these bands and we may also do a limited amount of operating on 160m SSB as well.
Our Mobile HF Station
We hope that you will take some time to work us during our trip. If you do and you read our Blog, please let us know. If we do not have other stations calling, we’d like to take a little time to say “hello” and get to know some of our readers better. We will also be attending the County Hunter’s Forum on Friday, May 15th at this year’s Dayton Hamvention. If you are there, please introduce yourself and we’ll have an “eyeball QSO”.
It is once again time for our annual 2014 Year in Review post. First, I’d like to thank our readers for their continued interest in our Blog. Our blog was viewed about 100,00 times in 2014 from 165 countries around the world. You, our readers have made 2014 our busiest year yet and this provides Anita (AB1QB) and me with great encouragement to continue to provide content for our readers.
2014 was a very busy year in Amateur Radio for us. Our activities included a continued focus on station building, contesting, WRTC 2014, special events, providing presentations to help other in the hobby learn about new things, attending several HAM Events, progress on operating awards, and most importantly – time spent on the air operating.
microHAM Station Master Deluxe Antenna Controller
We upgraded our fixed station to include a microHAM Station Automation system this year. This was a major project that added some nice SO2R capabilities to our Multi-one station as well as automated the sharing of our antennas between our two SO2R Operating positions. More of this project can be found here:
Eggbeater LEO Satellite Antennas And Preamps Systems On Tower
We also added LEO Satellite capabilities to our station with the addition of some new antennas and electronics on our tower. This allowed us to make our first contacts through LEO birds with linear transponders. Our articles on this project include:
Our final major station building project was the construction of a state of the art mobile HF station in our Ford F-150 pickup truck. We did this project in phases starting with a simple setup using a 100W radio and HAM Stick antennas through the installation of a Screwdriver Antenna System for the 160m – 10m HF bands and concluding with the installation of an amplifier to enable high power mobile HF operation. You can view the articles on this project here:
Anita (AB1QB) and I continued to be active in several contests this year. We both continued to develop our skills as contesters and our scores and place in the rankings reflected this. You can read more about our contesting activities and what we learned in the following articles:
We make it a priority to develop a significant amount of our Amateur Radio time to helping others in the hobby learn new things. In addition to writing this Blog, Anita and I try to create and deliver several presentations each year on a variety of topics of interest to the Amateur Radio Community. Our presentation this year included an update of our presentation on Amateur Radio Station Design and Construction and an Introductory Presentation on the DXLab Software Suite. We are always interested in working with Amateur Radio Clubs to deliver the presentation either in person where practice or over the web.
Anita (AB1QB) and I with Bob Heil (K9EID)
We had the fortune to meet some of the legends in Amateur Radio this past year. Anita and I had the opportunity to get meet Bob Heil, K9EID and to appear on his Ham Nation podcast. Bob is an amazing gentlemen and we feel truly fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know him. We also had the opportunity to meet Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ, the President and Founder of QRZ.com. Fred visited our station and did an article about our station on QRZ.com. Anita and I both learned a great deal about HAM Radio and how it came to be what it is today as a result of the time these fine folks spent with us.
Joe Taylor’s WSJT Presentation At the ARRL Centennial Convention
Amateur Radio Conventions and HAM Fests were a major part of our Amateur Radio fun again this year. We were fortunate to attend and speak at the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT USA this year – truly a once in a lifetime Amateur Radio experience. We also attended the Dayton Hamvention in 2014 where we had a chance to see all of the latest and greatest in Amateur Radio Equipment.
Our 2014 QSOs By Callsign
We were quite active on the air making almost 26,000 contacts between the two of us. As you can see from the graphic above, about 45% of our contacts were as part of Special Event Operations. We also made a little over 500 contacts from our mobile station, working over 100 DXCC entities in 2014 from the mobile.
We mostly operated in the SSB phone mode in 2014. Anita and I both continue to work on our CW skills and we managed a little over 800 QSOs using CW in 2014. Anita was very active in the RTTY mode as part of her RTTY contesting efforts.
13 Colonies K2K New Hampshire QSL!
All of this operating resulted in quite a bit of QSL activity. We sent a total of almost 4,200 QSL cards in 2014!
We again made a video showing all of our contacts around the world in 2014. As you can see from the video, we were fortunate to work quite a bit of DX in 2014.
Anita and I had a lot of fun with Amateur Radio in 2014. We are looking forward to another great year of HAM Radio fun in 2015. We hope to share some of what we learn and our experiences with our readers here on our Blog.
We have continued to gain experience with our recently completed mobile HF installation in our F-150 pickup truck. We have been working quite a bit of DX from our completed mobile station. Recently, I have been concentrating on the 80m band from the mobile station and have been pleasantly surprised with some great DX contacts on this band. The last two evenings around sunset here in New Hampshire, USA have been particularly good ones for 80m DX. This evening, I heard Aki-San, JA4FHE during a short errand just as we were one the grey line. I pulled over to the side of the road so that I could concentrate on the contact and turned on the amplifier (450W). After a few tries, Aki-San came back to me and we completed the contact! This was my first contact to Japan ever on the 80m band and it was from the mobile!
Aki-San has a capable antenna system including a 2-element yagi for the 80m band and his antenna system no doubt helped to make the contact possible. My received signal report was a 44 (he was 57 on my end) but the band was quiet and we were easily able to exchange names, signal reports and our callsigns.
I have also been working quite a bit of DX on the 80m band from our mobile station into Europe. I recently encountered a nice group of fellows working a team effort on 80m. I was on the light side of the afternoon grey line here in New Hampshire, USA when I worked Henry, OU5U in Denmark from the mobile. It was a bit early for 80m but our signal reports at that time were 55 both ways (I worked Henry again from the mobile later in the evening on 80m and our reports were 59 both ways the second time). I also worked John, G4PKP in the United Kingdom, and Ian, GM4UYN in Scotland during this session. Signal reports ranged from 57 to 59+ both ways.
80m Ground Plane Antenna
John, G4PKP was using an 80m ground plane antenna and he was putting a good signal into my mobile once we were on the dark side of the grey line.
Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna
I am quite surprised at what is possible on 80m using a short antenna. Our screwdriver antenna (a Scorpion SA-680) is set up with a 4 ft rod and a cap hat. The 4 ft rod/cap hat combination is electrically longer than the usual 6 ft whip that one might use on a screwdriver antenna and therefore requires less of the screwdriver antenna’s base loading coil to be used to tune the antenna to resonance. This significantly improves the overall efficiency of the combination.
Screwdriver Antenna Configured For 160m
We are moving into the best part of the year for operating on the low bands here in the Northeastern, USA. The days are short and the 80m and 160m bands are quiet at night. I plan to concentrate on 160m next and see what sort of results we can achieve using our mobile station on the Top Band.
It is still early days for operating mobile HF now that our setup is complete. I am continuing to make adjustments to improve performance. I had a chance to operate mobile from New Hampshire, USA this evening made some interesting contacts. I began by calling CQ on 20m SSB. I was operating with the amplifier on at about 325W output. I had a pileup almost immediately and worked about 20 contacts over about 40 minutes. Early on in the pileup, I had several stations in Europe call me. I also had ZS2XD, Gerry in South Africa answer my CQ! The signal reports for our QSO were 59 both ways and I was able to have a nice conversation with Gerry. We were both surprised that the contact was as solid as it was. Gerry has a good antenna system on his end and I was on the grey line which no doubt helped.
HL5FUA Antennas On Ullung Island, South Korea
Later in the evening I decided to tune across the 40m band where I encountered Choi, HL5FUA on Ullung Island (AS-045), South Korea calling CQ. He was working stations all around the world and had a decent pileup going. I set my drive to produce about 425W out and called him. To my surprise, he came right back on the first try! The signal reports for our QSO were 56 both ways. I believe that he was working the USA long path over Europe. Choi has a good directional antenna and was using some power. This combined with my being just on the dark side of the grey line certainly helped.