Thursday, August 31, 2006

Soufriere Hills Volcano activity

Paul (KB9AVO), a member of the Montserrat DXpeditioning team, has been sending around reports of recent volcano activity on the island. You can follow along with what we are reading from the stormCARIB web site. Another fine place to check out is the Montserrat Volcano Observatory web site. Obviously our team is watching the activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano very carefully.
In my efforts to prepare and plan for this trip there are some things that are foremost in my mind and safety is chiefly among them. I have several places in my outline for the DXpedition manual that discuss safety including a section on "Extraordinary Events" including sickness, injury, or death, political instability, transportation failure, etc. But, I really need to add at least two more things to my list: what do to if there is an event while we are on the island, and what might we do if there was an event preventing us from getting to the island. Our plan should address this. It would be A Bad Thingtm to be sitting in the airport lounge in Antigua with everybody saying, "now what?"
Budd (W3FF) wondered aloud in a group email if Antigua should be a backup operating place. Our current plan is to fly into Antigua and then trek over to Montserrat. But, if the volcano is going nuts and we can't get to Montserrat, what then? This is going to require some thought. In the mean time, we'll watch the volcano from here.
For some reason, I can't get this Jimmy Buffet song out of my head. Any ideas out there? {grin}

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Model release and general agreement

I mentioned a couple of legal documents that we are going to try to work through in the next couple of weeks within our group. One is the model release form which essentially says your likeness, image, voice, or things that make you recognizable, may be used by people producing photographs, videos, or audio recordings. If you are part of a public event or something newsworthy, this doesn't apply. But, say, if people wanted to use your likeness to promote a product (maybe a new brand of oat meal) then they would need to get your permission to use your likeness for such purposes.
I expect to create a video of my adventure down in Montserrat. Other team members, including our principal sponsor Buddipole Antennas will also likely make recordings and take videos and photographs during the trip. Team members should agree that this is OK. My expectation for this document is that each of us will give permission to all other team members (and Buddipole Antennas) to use their likeness, voice, or other recognizable artifact for any activity related to the DXpedition whether it be a book, web site, CD, DVD, or product brochure.
The second document is a little more involved as it is the General Agreement of each member as it relates to the DXpedition. If you already own the fine book DXPEDITIONING Behind the Scenes (available here) you can find an example on page 52. I do not yet have a draft of the agreement prepared (something on tap for this weekend) but the general idea is to capture the important financial and liability aspects associated with traveling to a foreign country, using public and chartered transportation, while taking expensive and delicate equipment into an area that has already been destroyed by the still smoldering active volcano. I'm sure there is at least one hazard in there that should be covered by the agreement {grin}.
Most of us are not lawyers, and many of us shy away from anything that sounds like legalese, but this is an important topic. There are thousands of dollars on the line here with risks of injury and death. Better to get everybody to agree upfront than spend the rest of your life in an argument where nobody wins. I am not a lawyer. I am not giving any advice here other than this is an important topic and one you should consider before leading any DXpedition.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Status report

For the second week in a row I've created a status report for the Montserrat trip. There will likely be such a document right up until we leave. With six operators scattered across the country from Massachusetts to California, the causal "let's get together for coffee and talk about it" approach isn't going to work. Truth be told, that approach probably wouldn't work anyway!
If you've got a group (that is, two or more) collaborating on a project such as a DXpedition, it is best to error on the side of thoroughness: make lists, have a schedule, set goals (including intermediate goals), make assignments, and have clear lines of authority. I'm trying to help organize this project with this approach and, so far at least, I believe it is working well.
We have created a Yahoo! group that is private to just the 6 of us to exchange this information and I must say that having an online collaboration area is very convenient. It is difficult to imagine how people did this in the days before the internet! Here's a glimpse of what I have in the status report:

* General status
* Actions this week
* Open issues (hot)
* Open issues
* Closed issues
* Discussion

Right now the hot issues are getting our licensing paperwork into the Montserrat authorities, joining the Montserrat Amateur Radio Society, and figuring out how we're going to get from Antigua to Montserrat (plane? boat?). There are many more things to worry about and once we think of things that need to be handled, it goes on the list. If we are disciplined about this we will be able to split up the work, get everything done, and have a very relaxing and successful DXpedition. We are already splitting up tasks nicely and as the saying goes, "Many hands make light work."
There are other items right behind the hot ones that also need to be handled, but we'll get to them in good time. I'll talk about two of them tomorrow: the model release form and general agreement. There are some things that should not be done "on a handshake".
Finally, I am developing a manual for the DXpedition. This might sound over the top, but it is common for serious DXpeditioning efforts to have such a document and it can be invaluable during and after the event. Think about all the things that need to be decided and handed: how will you QSL? Who will update your web site? How will on-line logs be handled? Will you participate in on-line QSLing? Who buys the QSL cards? These are all excellent questions and represent just one thin aspect of the mechanics of your project!
Some of this work will be specific to this trip, of course, but other work should be reusable. That gives me a head-start on my next big adventure!

Monday, August 28, 2006

IC-7000 and LDG tuner

While I'm careful to tell all of you that it isn't about the equipment, it doesn't mean that you can't bring a nice radio. In something that was in-between a planned purchase and impulse buy, I snagged an ICOM IC-7000 yesterday at Boxboro and picked it up from The Ham Radio Outlet this morning.
I also picked up the AT-7000 autotuner from LDG, a sweet little device that has the same footprint as the radio and integrates into the system by emulating the AH-4 tuner, drawing power from the four pin molex connector on the radio and responding to the tune button on the front of the radio. The tuner came with the molex to DIN cable that connects the tuner to the radio and even a 12-inch patch cable to run between the tuner and the radio. That was a nice touch.
I've had extremely good service from LDG. When some switches in my Z-11 were damaged, I called the company to ask for some help and they offered to send me for free a replacement panel with the switches. When we were hit by lightning here a couple of summers ago, my AT-897 took a beating. Again, I called LDG and told them what happened and they said they'd look at it. They fixed it for free, even though it was obvious the damage was from lightning. They've always been generous with their time and, obviously, they're service and repair policy has been extremely good to me. They've earned my tuner business pretty much for life. Period.
I've gotten as far as crimping PowerPoles on the power cord and making sure the unit will come alive when powered. It does. Golly that display is sweet! I'll give a full report after I've given it a workout. I plan on using it for CQ WW. That will give me a good idea of how it holds up with things get interesting.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Boxboro wrap up

Today was Day Three at Boxboro and the last day of the event. With my presentation behind me I was able to just hang out and have fun. My hopes of winning one of the big prizes were dashed about 2 PM as the last card was drawn. Still, if you can't be a winner at least know one. Bill Ricker (N1VUX), a very bright fellow who worked for me a long time ago, won an HT from the Minuteman Repeater Association. There were many other great prizes given out by the corporate sponsors of the event including Cushcraft, HeilSound, Unadilla, West Mountain Radio, Icom America, MFJ, and too many more to name here.
One of the (many) things I picked up at the convention was how pervasive the use of audio and video has become in these DXpedition presentations. I really need to think about this for the presentation and video reviews of my trips, and particularly the Montserrat trip. It is quickly getting to the point where the static picture slide show style of presentation will seem lame and not hold an audience's attention.
Montserrat trip planning will be shifting into high gear for me now that Boxboro is over. Expect to see updates here pretty much daily on the things I'm worried about and those things I've accomplished (or messed up, depending, I guess).
Finally, a web content update: I added links for the Montserrat DXpedition and Dave's 99 Hobbies web site. Dave's 99 Hobbies effort in most decidedly on the rise. As he walked around Boxboro people would say to him, "I was hoping to run into you!" He's got some great new podcasts lined up from this event. (I got a sneak peek at a sample last night. Awesome!)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Boxboro Day Two

Today was Day Two at Boxboro and the first official day of the event. I gave my 100 Pound DXpedition talk at noon and, once I got over my nervous jitters, had a good time sharing my experiences, successes, and goof-ups. I gave away a couple of items at the end including a tote bag with my 100 pound DXpedition logo on it, and a couple of goodies I'd been collecting from Rex Harper (W1REX) including a box of his famous Zomboids (Altoids relabeled) and one of his Tuna Tin transmitter kits. I was kidding attendees that the little 3 ounce transmitter is a good start to your 100 pound equipment budget.
The question and answer session after my presentation was lively and I believe I engaged a few people's enthusiasm. Again, if I have successfully encouraged a few folks to go out and travel with their radio I believe I've done a good thing. I was also stopped a couple of times after the session in the long hallway between meeting rooms to answer questions about antennas, plans for my next trip, and so on. It was fun meeting so many people!
Prior to the talk, when I was hanging out in the garden area with the intention of rehearsing the presentation one more time, I met Bill Barber (NE1B), a very interesting fellow who was sorting through some of the latest QSL cards he'd received in order to submit them for his DXCC credit. Somehow we got to talking about Cay Sal Bank, boats, planes, and (believe it or not) Bebe Rebozo, who, according to Bill, had a residence down there in Cay Sal at one point. Bill, in addition to being on the Honor Roll with 7BDXCC, and a long list of other awards, knew a great deal about the Bahamas, and the recent DXpedition efforts to Cay Sal. The more I talk to people the more I realize I've got to learn a whole lot more about Cay Sal and that area of the world before I go there. (It was also a little disconcerting to realize I was old enough to know who Bebe Rebozo was. [grin])
The majority of the afternoon was spent split between the New England QRP presentation and the Yankee Clipper Contest Club meeting. I am definitely spread too thin!
The YCCC meeting featured many very intersting presentations including a wrap-up by Mitch Stern (W1SJ) who operated FS5KA for the ARRL DX SSB contest (the same contest I operated from St. John this year). Mitch and I were (clearly) in different categories, though: Mitch was in the "Single Op High Power" category, and I was in the "umbrella drink" category. At least that's how it appears when you compare his 4,717,152 points to my 106,926 points.
One more day at Boxboro and then it is time to get really serious about the organizing effort for Montserrat. Getting licensing arranged and finding suitable transportation from Antigua are the top two concerns.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Boxboro Day One

Today was Day One at Boxboro and it was a full day of Ham radio. It began with an ICS-100 training class taught by MEMA. Two other fellow members of PART (the Westford, Massachusetts club) were there. I'm going to try to get through all three courses (-100, -200, -300) and the 700 level course so I've got all my credentials in order. We'll see when I can allocate the time.
The Boxboro DX dinner sponsored by New England DX Century Club was held tonight with special guest speakers Bob Heil and Ann Santos. Bob Heil received a rock star ovation from the crowd when announced and why not? Bob's company Heil Sound was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. In his remarks Bob said he owed it all to ham radio. You can't beat that!
Ann Santos was next with her video presentation from her trip to Kure Atol and the K7C DXpedition. The sound wasn't quite right when her video began and Bob Heil popped up, adjusted the microphone picking up her movie's audio, then went in the back room to further adjust the sound. He circled back and reentered the room near my table and asked me if the sound was OK now? Yes. Thanks. I turned to my fellow table-mates and said, "this is the best AV guy we've ever had here." I crack myself up.
My presentation is at noon in the morning. I ripped out a bunch of slides today in hopes of leaving more time for questions. I've also got some cool give-aways for those who suffer through the whole hour with me. [grin]

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Restating my purpose

The good folks at The Daily DX picked up our Press Release about the Montserrat DXpedition. Between this and the posts I made to the Yahoo! groups for the Buddipole Users Group and the HFpack, traffic here has picked up considerably. This might be a good time to restate what this blog is about.
Traveling with your radio can be tons of fun. Being on the other end of the pile up and being the pursued rather than the pursuer is a fun change of pace. My idea in this is simple: you can do this with a minimum of equipment. Sure, if you don't bring towers, yagis, and amplifiers you won't be the biggest signal on the band, but you just might be the one having the most fun. And, for me that's more important!
I've got three trips actively in the works: Montserrat, Deer Isle (ME), and Georges Island right in my "back yard", with a fourth, Cay Sal Bank, way off in the distance. I talk about planning and execution of these trips here. What I'm really hoping, though, is each of you will be inspired to try this yourself. Grab the radio and some wire, go someplace interesting and have fun!
Boxboro is right around the corner and I wanted to have the Montserrat trip announced and out there so I could talk about it. I finished the initial work on the VP2M web site last night, including the logo. Of course there is lots more work to do, but at least it is started. I think my logo turned out nicely, don't you?
BUMS logo

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

K1P call sign approved for 2007

I just got a message from Perry Green (WY1O) that my special event call sign request for K1P was approved for April 11-17, 2007. So, I'll be on Deer Isle again next year for Patriots Day. You can see our web site for this special event here.
Last year's operation was complicated by a solar event that largely wiped out the HF bands for the weekend. Dave got through with CW and data modes but SSB was tough going. Hopefully we'll not have a repeat of that mess!
It might seem really early to be setting up for a trip like this. I've already got the special event call sign, the lease for the house is ready to be mailed back to our hosts, and Dave and I have already discussed some of the operating aspects of the trip. It isn't too early. My advice is to work on these things far in advance and a little at a time. That ensures you'll have everything planned, everything done, and you'll have a great trip!
Speaking of planning head well in advance, I mailed the Montserrat DXpedition Press Release to the ARRL, CQ Magazine, WorldRadio Magazine, and The DX Magazine this morning. If you want publicity for your event, you have to be sensitive to the long lead times the print media has. Hopefully, one or more of these publications will find our story interesting enough to pick up and print.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Montserrat Press Release


Date: 22 August 2006
Contact: B. Scott Andersen (NE1RD)
614 Old Stone Brook
Acton, MA 01718
Phone: (978) 263-9617


Acton, MA — August 22, 2006 — The Buddipole Users on Monserrat (BUMS) will mount a DXpedition to the island of Montserrat from January 29th to Feburary 6th 2007. The team members include Budd Drummond (W3FF), Chris Drummond (W6HFP), Dan Gagnon (WZ1P), Paul Van Dyke (KB9AVO), Mike Greenwood (KC4VG), and B. Scott Andersen (NE1RD).

The DXpedition team will pack light in the style of a 100 pound DXpedition ( taking only lightweight transceivers and portable antennas. The maximum equipment weight taken to the island will be 100 pounds per person. With this lightweight equipment, the team plans many on-island portable operations in the hills, on the beach, and from the volcano observatory on the southern part of the island.

VP2M call signs for team members, QSL information, operating frequencies, and operating schedules will be released prior to the team’s departure in January 2007. Please check our web site for more information.

About Montserrat

Montserrat, often called the Emerald Island of the Caribbean, got its name from Christopher Columbus in 1493 during his second trip to the New World. It is roughly 102 square kilometers (39 square miles) and is a territory of the United Kingdom.

It was a popular tourist destination rivaling many of its neighbors until July of 1995 when the Soufriere Hills volcano began a long and violent eruption which eventually buried the island’s capital Plymouth with over 12 meters (40 feet) of mud and debris. The Southern half of the island remains uninhabitable. The northern half, however, continues to retain its charm which now includes a magnificent view of a still active volcano.

DXpedition Sponsorship

The DXpedition premiere sponsor is Buddipole Antennas ( who will be supplying antennas to the team for this trip.
# # #

Monday, August 21, 2006

Daily DX

I mentioned the Daily DX in passing in Friday's post. Perhaps I should say a little more about this fine service.
Two years ago at the Boxboro DX dinner there were a number of door prizes awarded. My good friend Steve walked away with a brand new MFJ-259B antenna analyzer. I was called a few minutes later to receive an envelope entitling me to a year's subscription to the Daily DX email newsletter. Though Steve's prize had a higher dollar value, I almost believe I got the better deal.
The Daily DX provides you with 250 issues per year (5 days a week, 50 weeks a year) with all the "who is operating where, on which bands, for how long, and how do I QSL with them" information you could ever want. When my renewal came due after the first year, I did so unhesitatingly. It was due again (this being the second anniversary of that Boxboro dinner) and I renewed again. For about 20 cents an issue (or, about a tenth of a good cup of coffee), you can't beat it.
You can view a sample of a daily mailing here. Subscriptions are $49 a year. A Weekly DX emailed once a week as a PDF is about half that. They'll even let you try it for a couple of weeks for free (details on the order page). Try it and see if you're not hooked. Oh, yeah, and look for my call sign in there once in a while [grin].

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sigma-5 performs and Monserrat update

My short workout with the new Force 12 Sigma-5 yesterday was very productive and encouraging. In roughly one hour contacts were made in Florida, British Columbia, Colorado, Oregon, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Louisiana, Newfoundland, and Italy. All of these contacts were with 5 watts except for the Italy contact. I had to turn up the power to 10 watts to get out of the noise for the guy. Very impressive! I think it will make a good addition to my 100 Pound DXpedition antenna collection.
The planning for the Montserrat trip had to take a back seat this week while I attended to other matters. I hope that the majority of the distractions are now behind me. Today I followed-up on a couple of things including joining the Monserrat Amateur Radio Society and finding a charter aircraft for the short hop between Antigua and Montserrat which our host at Gingerbread Hill is helping us with. (Email arrived while I was typing this blog entry from our host with the phone number. Thanks!)
I also made it a point to send out a status report to all the members highlighting the things that are in the works, the things that they need to follow up on, and those things we've not yet addressed. I hope to be organized enough to get such a status report pulled together each week and I think it would help our organization effort. There is a lot to do!
This week's hot points were licensing, joining MARS, and getting to the bottom of the airplane charter opportunity. I also have asked all the members for their T-shirt sizes. I've got a little gift I'd like to give everybody and want to be sure it fits.
Finally, there are two legal documents that I believe we need to get organized and signed: a general agreement among the traveling members (like the one in the DXpeditioning Behind the Scenes book) and a model release form, a standard release that says it is OK for people to use your likeness and voice. Simple, straightforward, and important. Just dotting the I's and crossing the T's.
This all might sound like overkill but I believe if we run this like a project, taking care at every step, then we'll all be more comfortable when we arrive. We'll know there is nothing important left undone.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Force 12 Sigma-5 first impressions

My friends kid me that every time I get a new antenna the HF bands go dead. Well, true to form, my Force 12 Sigma-5 is now stuck into the umbrella stand for my patio table and the HF bands have gone to pot. (I promise not to get any new antennas for CQWW contest weekends! [grin])
The antenna boasts that assembly requires no tools. True enough for the main antenna unit, but you'll need small screwdriver to attach the controller cable wires to the switch box. I had assembled it in the office the day it arrived in about 10 minutes. I probably beat that time today.
I fashioned a power cord for the unit with a PowerPole connector and moved the switch from 20-17-15-12-10-20 and back again. I could hear the relays clicking as I moved the switch. So far so good!
The MFJ-259B analyzer showed a good match across all bands 17-10m and a very large chunk of 20m. The instructions show how I could alter the coils inside the unit to move that range on 20m, but there is no need. I've got auto tuners to smooth out everything anyway. So as not to let the major point be lost here: I have a 5 band antenna with instant band switching (largely) resonant across all bands. For a 7 pound antenna system that breaks down into two foot sections, that is very good news indeed!
One of my concerns was the current draw on the relays. Measurements show each of the four relays draw somewhere between 80-90mA when energized. Nobody is going to care about this small drain from an operation with wall power available, but portable operations with a 7Ah battery and a QRP radio, the drain a more serious problem. Still, I knew this when I bought the antenna and believe it is a reasonable tradeoff. (If Force 12 wants a product improvement idea, though, latching relays might be considered.)
I made my first QSO on it a few minutes ago to a special event station in Michigan. I received a 57 report for my 20m contact. I was also able to do an A/B comparison to my MFJ HiQ loop and the signal strengths are roughly equivalent. Not bad considering the MFJ loop is at 35 feet and the Sigma-5 is at ground level!
After some prompting from Sandy, I sent Force 12 a letter outlining the trouble I'd had from my two orders with them. I also made it a point (and will make it again here) that I like their stuff, I can recommend their stuff with a clear conscience, and I believe it is a good value. I'd just suggest folks hound them a bit to be sure your order gets shipped, credit card receipts are actually sent, etc.
The NAQP begins in about 30 minutes. Contests are a great way to break in a new antenna (with a target rich environment spread over a large area). But, if conditions aren't improved, I might wait a bit and make my 10 hour run (the limit for single operator entries) towards the end of the contest.
I had thought about taking it out to Georges Island tomorrow, but the weather forecast shows heavy rains are coming. So, I'll have to wait. I hate to wait!

Friday, August 18, 2006

99 Hobbies and Joe in Montenegro

Sorry for the late post. I'm very busy at work and I took the time today to meet with my good friend and Elmer Dave. Dave has the 99 Hobbies web site and has been interviewing really interesting characters for his podcasts. He spent Thursday at ARRL headquarters and got a couple of interviews I think you'll really enjoy. Lunch with Dave along with the stories of his exploits down there was a welcome break at the end of a long week. Go give 99 Hobbies a listen.
I have stuff to report on the Force 12 Sigma-5 but I'll just wait until tomorrow to write it up. Saturday is the North American QSO Party (SSB) and I'll see if I can put the Sigma-5 on the air for some of that contest. I'll be able to do A/B comparisons between the Sigma-5, my G5RV, and my MFJ HiQ loop. (I guess that would be A/B/C comparisons.)
In other news, those of you following along might remember that I had talked with Joe Pater (W8GEX) about his planning and experiences trying to reach Cay Sal Bank. Joe was extremely generous with his time and shared with me information that was invaluable going forward. He's a true gentleman and expert DXpeditioner.
Joe has popped up again recently in the newest of DXCC entities. Here's how today's Daily DX began.

W8GEX, Joe Pater, from the current
4O6DX team in Montenegro reports the
group is trying to have three stations on
the air all the time, depending on band

I dropped Joe a quick email on August 11th offering him congratulations and good luck for the trip. Joe was kind enough to write back within a couple of hours with this:

Hello Scott I do remember talking to you.
If we work from 4O6DX please tell me who
you are. After a while all the calls run
together. Joe W8GEX
PS: Keep me posted on Cal Sal.

You can count on it, Joe! I hope you'll all work the folks at 4O6DX. When you do, tell them Scott said 'hello'. [grin]

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Waldo arrives!

Where's Waldo? Here! It just arrived. I'll post first impressions tomorrow.

Nada Chair

Sitting at a remote site for hours on end can be a pain in the ... back. Being somewhat larger than your average person (I'm 6 foot 8 inches tall) I am stressed into uncomfortable areas and positions more than most so I make it a point to find things that provide a little comfort when I can.
I was attending MacWorld Expo in Boston a couple of years ago and happened upon a booth with people selling products branded as Nada Chair. Their products provide lower back support and the design looked interesting to me. Straps extend from the padded back support and loop around your knees. The little pads and straps didn't grab my attention but then I noticed vests with similar knee straps.

The only one they had left happened to be in their largest size. It fit me perfectly. I believe I paid something like $100 for this thing and it has been worth every penny. The one I have (olive-khaki) has a bunch of pockets (14 according to the web site) great for holding connectors, HTs, repeater guides, copy of my license, cell phone, pens, mini log book, and so on. It is constructed of strong material and seems like it will last forever.
When I'm sitting at a picnic table or other seat without a good back support, I just pull the straps from their little pocket and loop them over my knees. You might even hear me say "ahhhh" when I do it. The lower back relief is instant and I can sit for hours like that racking up the QSOs.
If you have problems sitting places that have insufficient lower back support I suggest you try a Nada Chair. There are many models and they are even sold on Amazon.
Waldo's saga: In apparent retrograde motion, Waldo has made a return to a Connecticut FedEx facility. Delivery estimates say it will be here tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Where's Waldo now?!

When Daniel Boon was once asked if he ever got lost out there in the American wilderness, Boon reply, "No, I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days." Like Boon, my ever errant antenna Waldo appears to still be a little bewildered.
Checking the FedEx tracking site today showed the dreaded Shipment exception and Cannot locate recipient in the 3:34 AM status. A quick call to FedEx resolved the problem: Force 12 had mangled the shipping address using the street and city from my work address, zip code from my home address, and who knows what else. FedEx fixed the problem immediately in their database but it looks like the package won't be delivered until Wednesday or Thursday Thursday or Friday now. Arrrggghhh.
On a happier note, I spent time filling out the first batch of QSL cards from the Boston Harbor operations last night and dropped them in the mail this morning. About 2/3 of the cards had a nice note telling me they were excited about the new IOTA number. That made me smile!
The North American QSO Party is this weekend. Last year I placed third in the QRP category. I'll probably take this opportunity to try out a shortened G5RV I bought at Dayton this year. This little gizmo will likely get packed for the Montserrat trip in January. Yes, even wire antennas should get tested before you travel with them! See you on the air Saturday.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Where's Waldo today?

Waldo's box was just scanned in Willington, Connecticut. It has been banging around on a truck since Wednesday from California to the East Coast. I hope all the good QSOs haven't fallen out of it. [grin] Looks like it will make it here tomorrow.

Miscellany and spam

Just a couple of things in the works today. I've got the first pile of QSL cards from my NE1RD/1 Boston Harbor Islands (Georges Island) activity that will get filled out tonight. They should be in the mail by morning.
A few minutes ago I called about my car to see if the body shop had given it a look. (As mentioned earlier, we were in a bit of a bang-up recently.) The body shop manager said he finally received the paperwork from the insurance company and would be prying it open to do a more thorough inspection in the next day or so. Once I have all the numbers, I guess I decide if I just fix it (if the damage isn't that extensive) or just roll the money into a new Element. Of course that means moving all the radio stuff. [sigh]
I just cleaned out the first pile of spam from the blog this morning. Ugh. Just a couple of spam-comments but perhaps it was the wake-up call I needed. I've now enabled the feature that demands comment posters type in the squiggly word in the box. By the way, the term for this irritating little feature is captcha. Sorry for the inconvenience.
While cleaning out the spam I also noticed that I had a couple of comments posted on previous blog entries including a question. I didn't see these until this morning. I've answered the question (about PowerPole crimping) but I should add here that I welcome feedback on the blog and am happy to answer questions privately if you like. Send mail to my call sign at ARRL dot net if you'd like to reach me.
Finally, Where's Waldo? Waldo, the name I've given to my errant Sigma-5 Force-12 antenna, is on its way. It should have shipped last Tuesday but, in fact, it shipped on Wednesday of last week instead. My FedEx tracking shows it had departed Los Angles on the 10th but no other word since then. It is still slated to arrive tomorrow. I hope it does!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Establishing relationships with the locals

Going to the operating location and getting on the air is certainly the most fun part of the DXpedition but there are plenty of activities both before and after where things need to get done. My advice on this is pretty simple: bring the right attitude and have fun with these planning and post operation activities, too.
This weekend I worked on some of of those activities. For the Montserrat trip, I sent an email to the head of the Montserrat Amateur Radio Society (MARS) indicating that our DXpedition team would like to join their organization. If you are thinking of going to some interesting, far away place, consider joining the local radio club. To me it seem like "good form" and "the right thing to do" to support local hams while you are guests in their part of the world. Plus, these folks could be a very helpful source of information. Establishing a healthy relationship could be very helpful for your efforts. I've also asked if they would like to join us for a cookout one night while we are on the island. I hope they'll join us!
I also wrote to the owner of the villas we're renting asking if he could help me finding options for getting to the island. There is a small airline that makes runs between Montserrat and the Antigua, but the baggage restrictions are fairly draconian and it would be nice to have another option. I had hoped to find a boat we could charter (the ferry service halted some time ago) but our host indicated there might be a chartered air service that should also be considered. That's the first I had heard of that!
Again, establish a relationship with people at your destination and, while being considerate about taking up their time, ask for some help and advice. The locals could be your best asset during planning.
There are lots of other loose ends that need to be tied up. We hope to do some portable operation while on the island and will need to procure some batteries (maybe car battery size) to power the radios on these jaunts. So, I asked our host if he had ideas on that issue. He did and I'll follow up.
The level of planning I'm trying to do for this trip might seem excessive to some but I believe it is best if I can answer all the important questions about how we will operate, log contacts, QSL, coordinate multiple transmitters, travel on the island, and communicate back home before we even step foot on the airplane. When I get down there I just want to relax and have fun knowing that nothing is left undone and nothing has been forgotten. That should be a good feeling--but there is lots of work to do in the mean time. I'm counting on the locals to help me.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

SLA battery goof-up

I am trying to share all of the experiences I've had planning for these small DXpeditions, preparing equipment, managing logistics, and so on. It is fun to share my successes but pointing out my mistakes might be just as instructive. So, when I'm an idiot, I will document it in gory detail here. [grin]
I got a couple of 17 Ah sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries from a friend some time ago. Of course I forgot about them for a while and rediscovered them recently. I popped on one of my "smart" SLA two stage chargers to see what happened. Actually, I connected them up and walked away. When I came back later, the little green light was on and I thought, "Great! I'll use those on my next trip!"
Here's a little secret about some of these spiffy little SLA chargers: if the battery voltage is below a certain point, the charger just gives up. So, I wasn't charging these batteries at all. These batteries were dead, dead, dead. I didn't realize this until I had (a) run out and bought new bags to carry them in, and (b) made harnesses for them with inline fuses and PowerPoles. Only then did I realize that one battery was reading 8 volts and the other 2(!) volts. Sigh.
Of course I should have put a voltmeter on these things long before I invested any effort. And, if I were serious about this (and I should be), I would get one of West Mountain Radio's Computer Battery Analyzer (CBA II). A friend has one and swears by it. I should just bite the bullet and get one, too.
In the mean time, I did a cursory web search looking for some cheap Absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries and found these. The good news is I already have bags and wiring ready when they arrive. I've also got two SLA chargers that will be connected to them trickle charging them constantly. I only need to make that mistake once.
The purpose of these batteries is to give me an opportunity either run nearly forever at QRP levels or even run at 25-30 watts with a larger radio while running portable (like on Georges Island). Of course, at 14 pounds a piece, they chew up my 100 pound budget quickly, but for some trips they'll be well worth it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Return to Deer Isle NA-055

Patriots Day is celebrated in Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin. Running fans might know the Boston Marathon is run that day. I live in a part of the country rich with history. The founding of our nation began along the roads I drive every day. The first man to fall at Concord was from Acton, my home town. The town monument in the center of Acton graces my home QSL card.
Last year I got the idea that it might be fun to learn a little more about Patriots Day and maybe run a special event station. I looked for something in my research that might be surprising to people, perhaps even unexpected. I found it, I think, and put this in the special event description:
Patriots Day celebrates Massachusetts in the founding of our nation but many do not know Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820, split as part of the Missouri Compromise. Join us from the Maine sea coast celebrating Patriots Day and the New England tradition of the sea April 10-17, 2006.
Last year Dave and I operated from Deer Isle, Maine (NA-055) from a rented house right on the sea coast. We had such a good time that I've arranged to return next April and operate the special event again. I've requested the same call sign K1P to be active April 11-17, 2007. If you'd like to see some of last year's stuff, check out
Maine is a few hours drive away and the house we are renting is quiet, isolated, and in a beautiful setting. Sandy and Dave's wife Carol had a great time, too, reading, relaxing, and just hanging out. Here's an excellent example (I believe) of a personal DXpedition that is family friendly.
Next time you're planning a vacation, see if you can't combine a little DXpeditioning in with the family fun. It isn't as hard as it might seem.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Carry on

While I am taking great pains not to have anything political in this blog, I can't ignore current events if they directly impact the kinds of planning we would need to do to mount one of our 100 Pound DXpeditions. Recent arrests in Britain in connection to a plot to smuggle explosives on to a commercial airliner fall into this category, especially since this has prompted airlines and air security agencies to make fundamental changes in the rules for carry-on baggage.
Here is a note from the American Airlines web site regarding recent changes:

"Effective immediately, no liquids or gels of any kind will be permitted at the security checkpoints or in carry-on baggage. This includes all beverages, shampoo, suntan lotion, creams, tooth paste, hair gel, perfumes and other items of similar consistency. This policy also includes liquid and gel products purchased as duty free. All liquid and gel items must be placed in checked baggage only. Customers may carry-on approved electronic devices such as personal computers, electronic games, and cell phones, except when traveling from or thru the United Kingdom."

The current restrictions still allow personal electronics which, for us, might mean either radio equipment or computers. But, that is only if you are not traveling to, or through, the United Kingdom. Several thoughts come to mind immediately:
  1. If I was going through the UK, what would I do with my computer? Check it? In what? Do I need to get a whole separate Pelican case for my laptop now? Plus, limits for checked baggage in Europe are even more onerous than in the US or other places. Is this even practical?

  2. Will these restrictions be extended to beyond travel through the UK?

  3. How long until restrictions prohibiting any electronic items as carry-on items are instituted? No iPod, no DVD player, no more getting work done on the laptop during those long cross-country trips. Egad!

I have no answers and no profound wisdom to offer on this. I only make the observation that these changes, and perhaps some that follow, will affect the planning we must do to get our equipment safely to our destination. The option of carrying on the most delicate of our equipment helps make the 100 pound weight limit viable. Denying us that severely limits our options.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Going public: NA-103 DXpedition

I've made some mention to another DXpedition that I've been planning but haven't written about yet. Well, here it is: I will be traveling with a small group to Montserrat (NA-103) in January of 2007.

As some of you might know, Montserrat suffered a catastrophe when the Soufriere Hills volcano destroyed a large portion of the island, including the capital Plymouth. Half of the island is now uninhabitable and even dangerous to this day. Much of the population has left the island and so, this once beautiful gem in the Caribbean now stands as a shadow of its former self.
What you might not know is the other half of the island is just as beautiful as ever. Our group has already secured a set of villas for our stay but little else in the trip has been worked out. As we nail down these details, I'll blog about here here so, hopefully, you'll see how a trip is planned and executed.
This has been in the works for a while but I asked only yesterday if the group would OK me making it public here. Hearing no objections, I did! Just to be clear, though, I'll report in my blog about things we've arranged and finalized but the discussions among the group members will be behind closed doors. Having a little privacy while you make important decisions is key to building confidence and trust within the group. I wouldn't dream of breaching that.
This doesn't mean I'll only be talking about the Montserrat trip. Far from it. Life goes on and I've got lots of other, more immediate, stuff in the works. For example, I was eyeing Little Brewster light house while last on Georges Island. There's an International Lighthouse/Lighthship Weekend event coming up and that might be an even more interesting way to hand out NA-148.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Polishing the presentation

I've been working on refining my presentation for Boxboro, the ARRL New England Division Convention. I'm slated for noon on Saturday (the full schedule for the event can be viewed here). I had given my talk The 100 Pound DXpedition to PART, a local club in Westford, Massachusetts earlier this year so this really is just a polishing of an existing work.

Keynote screen shot

The thing I most worried about is keeping to the one hour time slot that I've been given. At the PART meeting I could take up all the time I wanted (I was the only speaker) but here I've got to set up, do the show, and be off within my slot. Some of the things that made the presentation in Westford fun (passing around equipment, showing how things can be set-up quickly, and showing how small things can be when packed) will need to be skipped because there just won't be time. I also need to ensure I've got plenty of time for questions, too, of course.
The point of the presentation (and I hope this comes through) is that this approach of lightweight DXpeditioning is well within the capability of most of us. If you travel, you can travel with a radio and a little supporting equipment and add to your have fun. I believe the presentation conveys that. I'll let you be the judge. I hope to see you all at Boxboro Saturday, August 26th!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Giving out a new one

If you've been keeping up on the DX scene you've been seeing activity on a couple of new DXCC-qualifying entities in Montenegro and Swains Island. The operators working those crews are having the thrill of "giving out a new one" every minute they are on the air.
While these small DXpeditions I'm organizing can't really be compared to those huge efforts, I've also had the pleasure of giving out a new one, in this case a new IOTA numbered island. There have been many contacts that have thanked me on the air for NA-148 and have since followed up with QSL cards and requests. Since fewer than 25% of the participants in the IOTA program have the Boston Harbor Islands in their logs, I'm not surprised by the response, but it is still gratifying.
Email just arrived telling me my QSL cards from QSLworks should be here by Friday. I can't wait to see them! Plus, I'll be able to turn around some of those requests that have been piling up over the summer. If you've got a QSL card in to me for NA-148, it won't be long now!
This might not be the same level of prestige as activating DXCC's most wanted, but even activating an island on the IOTA list that is mildly rare can bring that same thrill from giving out a new one. When the fellow on the other end of the QSO is excited to hear from you, you can't help but feel good about it.
So, check down the list on the IOTA site. See if there are islands you might want to visit and operate from. These islands need not be expensive, exotic, or even far away. Perhaps something along the California coast or in Maine could be considered. You could even combine your DXpedition with your next family vacation. Even if the IOTA site says 50% of the participants have the island logged (which would make it far from "rare"), half don't have it confirmed and that other half would be grateful to hear from you. Perhaps you could soon be the one giving out that new one!

A bit banged up

After tonight's baseball game we were struck from behind while stopped dead in traffic. We're sore but I believe Sandy and I are OK. The car will need some serious repairs, though, and it will certainly be a distraction over the next month. All in all, my Honda Element held up pretty well given the collision from the 7,000 pound Ford F150 pickup was violent enough to have the offending truck's airbag deploy!
I've got lots of interesting stuff in the works including a fairly large DXpedition I've not even discussed here (our group hasn't disclosed the plan yet) and the very last thing I needed was this nightmare. But, so long as everybody is really OK, I guess the other stuff is just a quibble. My hat's off to the Lowell Police department and the officer who helped get us through the paperwork and calmed us down after that rush of adrenaline.
Hopefully, this will be the last I have to say on the matter and we can return to the much more fun topic of lightweight DXpeditioning!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Where's Waldo?

I just got off the phone with Force-12. I called to see if they had indeed shipped my Sigma-5 antenna yet. I had order this some time ago and my American Express card was charged early last month. So, where it it?! (I've now dubbed my errant antenna "Waldo".)
The woman at Force-12 said that there had been a "small mixup" but it should be shipping out tomorrow. OK. Good. (Of course, I'll never know if it was already going to be shipping tomorrow, or, if my phone call prompted them to ship it tomorrow.)
This is my second order with Force-12. The first order for a Force-12 product was placed last winter, an indirect order through Ham Radio Outlet. I had ordered the Force-12 C3SS through HRO and it was to be drop shipped to me from the Force-12 factory. Finally, after I decided I had waited long enough, I called HRO and asked, "where is it?!" HRO suggested I follow up with the factory. I called (this was just a few weeks before my St. John trip) and was told the order had been lost. Oops. But, to their credit, they expedited shipping to me and got it here in a couple of days to make amends. Alas, it was still too little time for me to become comfortable with it enough to take it to St. Johns (though it did get a workout on Deer Isle).
Today's call was a similar thing: they've had my money for a while but nothing shipped. Well, if they really ship it tomorrow and I get it soon thereafter, OK (I guess). It is a little awkward to see your credit card charged and no product appearing for weeks, though.
To be clear: I really liked the C3SS. It is a very nice antenna. (I've since sold it but only because I was concerned about the weight, not the performance.) I've had two telephone conversations with the Force-12 factory and in both they were pleasant and courteous. One conversation immediately resolved my problem (last winter). The jury is out on this latest one.
Force-12 seems to make great stuff--though you might want to be a bit deliberate following up with them after you order (getting tracking numbers and so on). I'll let everybody know when Waldo (my Sigma-5) finally arrives.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Power Poles

It occurs to me that something has become so second nature to me that I've probably not mentioned it anywhere in this blog--yet it is very important (at least to me). I've standardized all of my power connectors on Anderson Power Poles and doing so was one of the best decisions I've made in organizing my equipment.

Picture of a Power Pole connector

Power Pole connectors are genderless. That is, you don't have specific male or female connectors, same size connectors can connect to each other. They are also keyed so it is impossible to cross connect positive to negative in a properly built connector. Power distribution systems such as West Mountain Radio's RIGrunner make powering several pieces of equipment from a single power supply a breeze.
Just to make a point as to how pervasive this connector technology has become in my equipment stash, consider the power connections I was using yesterday:

Wiring diagram

Every interconnect of power was with a mated set of Power Poles. The solar panel has a Power Pole, the charge controller has 3 (one for connection to the solar panel, the battery, and to the load/radio), and the batteries I have along with the power cords for the radios are all terminated with a Power Pole connector. If I need to swap out the battery, just pull apart the connection and insert the Power Pole connector from the new battery. Easy!
Because I've standardized on this connector for everything I'm never worried that I'll not be able to power something in the field. Further, I only need one set of weird connectors (big alligator clips, cigarette lighter adaptor, etc.) to power all the equipment I've brought because once I've tapped into the power somehow I can then use a Power Pole distribution box to get juice everywhere else.
There is lots written on Power Pole connectors, how best to crimp them, which tools are best, etc. I'll not repeat any of that here. My advice is use them. Use them at home in your home station. Use them for all your DXpedition equipment. I even have a distribution panel mounted on the floor in my car. Again, it has become so automatic for me to assume these connectors are present I've not made any mention of them until now. I hope they become equally second nature for you.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Return to Georges

I made it down to Georges Island NA-148) again today and used the opportunity to try a few new things. The first change was in how I got to the island--or more precisely, how I got to the ferry to go to the island. I parked at the Alewife station on the edge of Cambridge and took the T Red Line to Park Street, then the Green Line to Government Center, then the Blue Line to the Aquarium and the ferry docs. For those of you not intimately familiar with the Boston subway system, here's a little help.

T map

Well, as you might have guessed, that's a lot of fooling around on trains! It was an interesting experiment, though, having to haul the equipment through a complicated public transportation environment, up and down stairs, escalators, and narrow ticket gates. I had reduced my load to just the Pelican case with the K2 (25 pounds on wheels), a 7 Ah battery in a bag which rode on top of the Pelican case, my backpack on my back, my Big Buddipole system slung over my shoulder, and my pop-up enclosure carried by hand. Weight wasn't really a problem (as most of the heavy stuff rode on wheels) but the bulk was a bit troublesome. Still, I managed nicely.
Imagine now trying to get through some airport in a far away place with this kind of bulk. Even if you make your weight limit (as I had done easily today), the bulk needs to also be managed or you'll never be able to negotiate through a busy public place. The Pelican case goes a long way towards managing this: it is very solid and has a big pull handle that is strong enough for me to heft the whole thing up stairs if need be (as was needed repeatedly today). There are plenty of luggage models that have strong enough cases for this kind of duty but the pull handles would never hold up to the kind of abuse I gave this case today.
Once I finally reached the island, I looked for a new spot to operate from and found it. I went to the North side of the island with a very nice view of Little Brewster Island lighthouse, the LNG tanks (OK, maybe that's not a great landmark), and the Boston skyline. The big reason for trying this new location is it is well away from the monstrous Fort Warren giving me a nice clear shot to Europe. The new spot was up on a little hill, still very close to the water, and much cooler and breezier than the operating position used last week for the IOTA contest.
The setup was essentially the same as the other trips: pop up the shelter over a picnic table, set up the Buddipole, stretch out the solar panel, and hook everything up to the K2. I ran the Buddipole in a vertical dipole configuration today using the rotating arm kit. Conditions were not very good but I still managed to snag TI8 (Costa Rica), CU8 (Azores), PA (Netherlands), and a few states.
I also spent some time talking with Whitey W1AA who was activating yet another lighthouse (read about it here). These fellows have been activating lighthouses up and down the coast for a while and having a ball doing it. Today was the start of the National Lighthouse Weekend QSO Party and there were many stations on the air calling CQ lighthouse. Perhaps I should see if I could activate Little Brewster next year.
I only spent a couple of hours operating before I packed it up for the long train ride back. On my way off the island I ran into Alex Hall of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the fellow I had talked with just prior to the IOTA contest. I began talking to him about the possibility of tapping into their power when a woman approached him and said her companion had cut his foot on some rocks and was bleeding badly. I can see why he might want me to wait until later in the season to do this (when there are fewer people around). I'll follow up with a letter and see what happens.

Friday, August 04, 2006

LoTW for NA-148 DXpedition

On Wednesday I discussed uploading your log to eQSL to give people credit for the QSOs you've made on your DXpedition electronically. Adding a new QTH to the eQSL system is pretty easy. Today I'll talk about the other electronic QSLing program sponsored by the ARRL called Logbook of The World (LoTW).
If you already have an account on LoTW then getting a new certificate and adding a new QTH is pretty straightforward--though there are a lot of steps involved. Rather than discuss all those steps here, I decided it would be better to write them up and publish them on my home page. In fact, I expect to have several helpful pages like this so, with complete respect for the good folks at QST, I've created a new little area on my home page called Hints and Kinks where I can put stuff like this. The very first entry in this new section is a piece on how to add a QTH to your LoTW account. The direct link to this page is here.
I went through this exercise yesterday and by this morning I had 10 QSLs! The list included Wales, Mexico, and eight USA QSOs in seven states. Not bad at all!
Now, I love QSLing. I love to get cards in the mail (a small pile has already formed after last weekend's contest), I love looking at the cards and reading them, and I even love filling out the return cards, writing a little note on them and doing all the log up-keep. To me, this is restful and a way to experience the QSOs long after they happened.
I know others don't feel this way and believe QSLing is drudgery. Well, for those of you who are closer to that end of the spectrum the LoTW is a fantastic option. You can give full credit for QSOs that can be used for ARRL awards such as DXCC and WAS just by going through a few steps to get your certificate established and then uploading your log. Easy as pie.
I hope you will use both LoTW and eQSL to give your contacts all the options they deserve. After the small startup cost on this, the process is quite easy and may really make somebody's day.
Don't forget to stop by my home page to see the new write-up on LoTW.

I am planning on another visit to Georges Island tomorrow. Look for me on 20m and maybe even 15m if there is an opening. See you on the bands!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

St. John DXpedition ~ 2006 ARRL DX SSB results

The results from the ARRL International DX SSB Contest are in and I can't help but be pleased. I traveled in March of 2006 to St. John in the USVI for the contest and a little R&R. I wrote about what it is like to be on the DX-side of the pile-up here and here. You can see my log from that trip here. There are some nice pictures here.
My goals for the trip and for the contest were (a) to make 500 QSOs, and (b) 100,000 points. I was originally going to bring the Force-12 C3SS tribander with me but in the end I decided it was pushing my weight budget too much. So, with small antennas such as the Buddipole and some verticals made from fishing poles I thought the 100K goal was plenty.
I know I've mentioned this but it bears repeating. Every personal DXpedition you make should have specific goals. There are two excellent reasons for this. The first reason is specific goals help you provide focus when you are preparing for the trip, especially regarding equipment selection. The other reason to have specific goals is it gives you a way to breathe a sigh of relief when you've made your goal and significantly reduces the chances of experiencing pangs over a missed opportunity later. Compare this to going for a run. If you set out to run 3 miles and complete that course, you have done what you set out to do and feel good about the effort. That is much better feeling than wondering how far you've run or whether should should have done more.
Like every contest, this one had categories and you largely compete against others in your category. My category was the following: Single operator Low power DX (not in the continental US or Canada). Here is my score:

Call Score QSOs Mults Club
KP2/NE1RD 106,926 502 71 YCCC

From a "place" perspective, in my category I placed 41st of the 449 entries. That's in the top 10%. I'll take it! Remember, this is a 100 Pound DXpedition so I'm not bringing towers and yagis; I'm using lightweight materials with a weight and size limit imposed by two checked airline bags. As you can see, even with these limits you can still do well and have fun!
Earlier this year the Yankee Clipper Contest Club was kind enough to admit me as a member. My score contributed to the group's effort of edging out the Frankford Radio Club as shown below:

YCCC 196,375,278 with 205 entries
FRC 174,069,834 with 131 entries.

Sandy and I had a great time on St. John and I'm pleased to see that my efforts in the contest also met the goals that I had set for myself. Perhaps one more look at that gorgeous QSL card is in order!
KP2/ QSL card image

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


QSLing has become a more rich activity recently with the advent of computer-based logging and the internet. It is now possible to confirm QSOs electronically through email or web-based QSLing services like eQSL or the ARRL's Logbook of the World LoTW. A QSL is the final courtesy of a contact. In a sense, it is also a recognition that both parties wanted something out of the QSO: you hauled a hundred pounds of gear in hopes of making some contacts, and the people you met on the air would like to have a souvenir of that contact with a QSL card or electronic confirmation that they could then possibly use towards earning an award. The way I look at it, they didn't ask me my motivation for going to this far away place; I shouldn't ask about their motivation for wanting a card, eQSL, or LoTW confirmation!
As it turns out, assuming you are doing computer-based logging (and if you're not, please consider it), providing your contacts with an eQSL or LoTW confirmation is extremely easy. I'll just discuss eQSL today.
Your logging program probably has a way to export your log (or selected entries from your log) to a file. There is a standard called ADIF, the Amateur Data Interchange Format that your logging program will most likely offer as an export option. According to the standard, the purpose of ADIF is to

"Provide a standard interchange independent of operating system or programming language for amateur data that will permit easy and direct transfer of data conforming to the standard between various amateur programs as well awards and contest sponsors."

That sounds very much like what we are trying to do here! For this weekend's efforts, I took my paper log and (with Sandy's help) got all those entries into my logging program. From there, I can do lots of interesting things including track QSL cards received and sent, generate a Cabrillo file for submission to a contest sponsor, or export an ADIF file for use with these on-line QSLing programs. Once the data was entered (and checked), I exported those QSO entries to an ADIF file.
I already had an eQSL account but I wanted to keep the logs for my regular home call and QTH to be separate from any DXpeditions I do (which is one of the reasons why I was signing NE1RD/1 last weekend). The eQSL system allows you to easily create sibling accounts to your main account for just this purpose. In fact, I have already created separate accounts for my home in Acton, for activity on Hawaii, the K1P special even station, my KP2/ log, and now for NE1RD/1 (Boston Harbor Islands). To add a new location to your account, just click on the My Accounts button and scroll to the bottom of the page where it says Register a New Attached Account. Once you've supplied the callsign you'll use for that account, date range for valid QSOs, and other information, this account will now be listed on the My Accounts page. Easy! Once the account is listed, just click on Login and that will be the active account for this session.
After that, everything works the same as it did for your first account. I created my NE1RD/1 account, logged into it, and then uploaded that ADIF file I had exported from my logging program. Those QSOs appeared in my electronic Out Box and within a few days I had received 11 QSLs.
Even if you don't necessarily find value in the eQSL system, chances are somebody who worked you does. Perhaps you'll bring joy to a youngster who has been using borrowed equipment to get on the air and has no money for postage or cards. Or, perhaps it is a retired person who has decided the money once spent on paper QSLing could be better put elsewhere and now tries to do everything electronically. Just take that few moments--and it really is just a few moments--and upload your log. Who knows what joy that simple act may bring.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The art of QSL card design

I just got a note from the graphic designer at QSLworks that she had finished my card's design and was looking for some feedback. Here is what Tami came up with:

NA-148 QSL card image (small)

I wrote back almost immediately and told her I thought it looked fantastic!
In an earlier post I'd mentioned that you really want somebody with some artistic talent to help you get the best card design. I know even less about art than I know about boats, so I know I'm not that person. Tami, on the other hand, appears to be the real deal. I stumbled across Tami's Tami's web site and blog. Check out her sketchbook and other pages. I think I'm beginning to realize why my cards look so good!
So, now I wait. I hate to wait! In a couple of weeks I should have my cards and, hopefully, there will be a pile of QSL requests asking for them.