Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Montserrat flight reservations

I made a couple of phone calls today to California to see if I could get the ball rolling on flights. It worked! Email messages have been pouring in from members of the group with their flight information and seat assignments.
The current plan is for us to rendezvous in Orlando on Sunday, January 28th and head out first thing in the morning for San Juan and then on to Antigua. There is a small airline that shuttles between Antigua and Montserrat that will take us the rest of the way.
The return trip is just as circuitous, plus there is that whole business about getting to Orlando in the first place, and then getting home again. Still, now that I've actually booked my flights this whole thing is starting to feel more "real" to me. I'm sure that feeling will become even more prevalent once the credit card bill for all these flights arrives! {grin}
We're still working out that last leg of the flight. The bag weight restrictions all the way to Antigua conform nicely to all my prattling about 2 bags, 50 pounds each, 100 pounds total, plus a little carry on bag (thank you). The little puddle-jumper airline that makes that last leg is a bit more restrictive. We hope to work out those last details in the next couple of days. When we do, and when we book that last flight, we'll have everything we need (except licenses) to get there, stay there, and work the world from there.
I had said that I wanted to have most of this settled before November 1st and it looks as though we made that goal (mostly). Once all this logistical stuff is taken care of, we'll need to turn our attention back to the details of actually operating on the island (and planning for it). We've got about 89 days before we leave. Let the countdown begin!

Monday, October 30, 2006

QSLing honorably

My QRP DXCC total went up by a few this weekend and now I stand at 70. I also picked up two new DXCC entities that I didn't have at all (Socorro island in the Revilla Gigedo Islands group, and San Marino). Of course, the Socorro island is also an IOTA prize.
Working a cool place is only half the battle. If you want to get credit for DXCC, IOTA awards, or nearly any other piece of wall-paper, you need to get the QSL card from that cool place. If you are working from that cool place (and that's the plan, right?), the you need to make sure you fulfill that role yourself. Don't second-guess why they want your card; they just want it. And, it wouldn't do to go someplace interesting, work a bunch of people who would be excited to get your card, and then stiff 'em once you get back home.
If you detect a little edge in my prose today, you're correct. I spent a little time with my log tonight looking to see what I might have in the way of 5 band Worked All States, DXCC, etc., in the log but not yet confirmed by card. My logging program, MacLoggerDX, like most good programs, helps keep track of what you've worked, QSLs you've sent, QSL cards received, and so on. I knew I had sent a lot of cards out without receiving a reply, but the magnitude of the problem wasn't apparent until I started collecting some statistics.
Here's what I found. I have sent out cards but received no replies for:
  • 76 DXCC entities - 3/4ths of a DXCC award.
  • 21 Zones - half the world.
  • 36 States - half a WAS award.
  • 22 IOTAs - some pretty rare.
  • Hawaii - on 20 & 40m. Yeah, I need 'em.
  • Alaska - on 10m. My only AK 10m contact.
I'm working towards my 5 band Worked All States (5BWAS) and I've been stiffed on cards for my 5th band for NC, ND, NY, NJ, and NC. I could go on, but you get the point.
I've read about people who brag about throwing QSL card requests into the trash because they can't be bothered with things that don't interest them. I can't understand that mentality. To me, it is counter to the Amateur Radio Code's first item: "The amateur is considerate.... He never knowingly uses the air in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others." If you're going to make the contact, be prepared to send the card. Disappointing folks later is, in my view, unconscionable.
I hope you'll use these trips, and the time you spend planning for these trips, as a way to have fun and spread joy. Everybody, you and the people you work on the air, deserve no less.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

CQWW SSB 2006 now in the can

After a contest, many people submit summaries of their adventure to the 3830 list. An easy way to do this is through the on-line web form. Here's the result from my effort this weekend.

Call: NE1RD
Operator(s): NE1RD
Station: NE1RD

Operating Time (hrs): 24+?

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
   80:   23     6       12
   40:   18     9       10
   20:   73    15       31
   15:   59    14       35
   10:    9     4        6
Total:  182    48       94  Total Score = 61,202

Club: Yankee Clipper Contest Club

QRP with just a single G5RV up about 50 feet was about as I expected it to be with a few surprises. I worked Hawaii, New Zealand, and a few other far away places. The bands were reasonably quiet so the trick was to speak (and be heard) when nobody else was talking.  
Most QSOs, once I was in the clear, had easy exchanges. Some were tough, and for that I'm grateful to the good ears on the other end. Surprises, if any, where how effective 10 & 15m were even at the bottom of the cycle.
The score above is approximate. I'm still working on the score calculation in Cab-converter. N1MM gives me a slightly higher score.
A couple of funny things always happen in a contest. This time, A fellow from Europe (no, I'm not going to give the callsign) was calling CQ but not hearing any of us here stateside. So, chatter erupted with one station transmitting, "OK. Now switch the antenna to the receiver...", and another saying (after hearing some big guns call with no answer), "I don't feel so badly now." I replied, "I'm QRP: nobody hears me." With that I got a few chuckles.
Tomorrow we're back to planning for the Montserrat trip. I really want to be booking flights, making hotel reservations, and generally getting things finalized within the next few days. I had original hoped to get most of the heavy-lifting done by November 1st. We'll see how close I come to making that date.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

CQWW nearly half done

It isn't quite halfway through the CQ WW SSB contest and I've nearly generated as much score as last year. I just put New Zealand in the log, adding to my QRP DXCC total. I'm now up to 65 DXCC entities with flea power after adding Senegal, Gambia, and New Zealand. I had hoped for more, but I'm pleased that the total is at least increasing.
I'm operating this contest QRP so I'm using the Oak Hills Research WM-2 watt meter to ensure my power out is really only 5 watts. I confess, it is a little exhausting to hear the big guns work a station on the first call when I'm averaging a QSO about every 5 minutes. But, that's the charm of QRP. You would expect to work New Zealand with 1500 watts and stacked monobanders; working New Zealand QRP SSB at the bottom of the cycle is an unexpected thrill!
While I've been going hoarse trying to get the attention of all those far away stations, I've been working on Cab-converter, the freeware utility I make available to Macintosh using contesters. In addition to adding new contests occasionally, I've been adding score calculation and summary displays for the users suitable for submission to the Contesting 3830 email reflector. I finished the update for this contest and that's why I know I'm at 10,496 points right now with 71 QSOs. (I just worked J3A while typing up this blog entry.)
It is starting to get dark so 15m will dry up any minute. I'm going to make one more pass through the band.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Montserrat activity heating up

I'm taking tomorrow off from work to get ready for the CQ WW SSB contest. The G5RV is already hung so all I need to do is run a feedline to it to have that antenna ready. I may also set up the Force 12 Sigma-5 in the woods so I can quickly check for openings on 15 meters without needing to mess with the antenna tuner.
I received an email message today from a magazine in the UK looking for a high-resolution version of our Monserrat DXpedition logo to accompany an entry in their publication. I returned the message immediately with a copy of the Adobe Illustrator version of the artwork. With that, they can scale it and reproduce it in any resolution they like. I sent out the press release on 22 August and have already seen mention of our trip in WorldRadio magazine and hope to see other announcements in the December or January issues of QST, CQ Magazine, and The DX Magazine.
You may not be familiar with The DX Magazine, but it is a gem! It is published bimonthly and features lots of great stuff on DXing and DXpeditioning. Recommended.
Hearing from this British magazine made me wonder how many places our announcement had stuck. So, I did a quick Google search using the string "Montserrat W3FF". A very pleasing number of hits came back! Naturally, I sent that little tidbit around to the group.
One particularly nice spot we landed in was this one: Announced DX Operations on the NG3K site. This seems like a pretty handy site all around!
Finally, my answering machine had a message from Paul. He had talked with our contact on Montserrat and the Montserrat Amateur Radio Society today. From the message, I gathered that our friend on the island will assist us with the paperwork and clearing customs upon our arrival. That is great news indeed. That should help speed us through what could have been a very time-consuming, nightmarish ordeal, and get us on the air that much sooner. I couldn't be more pleased! We will need to send him a complete inventory of our equipment, including serial numbers and estimated value, in order to make this happen. This is something we were going to have ready anyway.
Again, some legwork during the trip planning phase may lead to good things later. I know I dwell on this point, but planning is key!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Corrected NA-148 QSL cards on their way

In a previous post I discussed the problem I had caused myself and others by not putting the island name on the QSL cards I had sent out. I made amends tonight by spending the last couple of hours going back through the log and cards I had received to replace those erroneous QSL cards sent previously with new ones, this time with the island name shown prominently.
The little rubber stamp I had ordered from The Sign Man worked great. I put the "Georges Island NE1RD/1" stamp and the "Verify by NE1RD" on the cards and the bright red ink stood out nicely against the black and white card backs. Hopefully, folks can now get the IOTA credit they deserve from these cards. If anybody finds that not to be the case, please let me know immediately!
Also in the stack was some cards for KP2/NE1RD, K1P, and my home call. I keep track of QSL information in my logging program so I had to be careful to check, and then update, the correct log while I did this. The reward for keeping track of this electronically is an automatic calculation of how many states, islands, and DXCC entities I have worked from each location. In fact, now that I worked Alaska on that last outing to Georges Island, I'm thinking there might be a Worked All States from that location some time in my future. (I have to work Hawaii to really be close, though.)
We've not decided who will do the QSL work for the Montserrat trip, but I wouldn't mind having the job. It is restful, and fun, to look over the cards, read and write little notes, and take a few moments to re-experience the QSO. I know some find the whole business tedious, and for those people I make sure all my QSOs are also uploaded to the Logbook of the World and eQSL, but I enjoy the old-fashioned and traditional QSLing.
So, check your mailbox in a few days if you are one of those few souls that worked NA-148 this summer. The new cards are on their way.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Propagation book

One of the things that I would like to understand better is the theories and application of shortwave propagation. I am currently reading The NEW Shortwave Propagation Handbook by George Jacobs (W3ASK), Theodore J. Cohen (N4XX), and Robert B. Rose (K6GKU). While I've not gotten far in the book, I've read enough to recommend it. I know I've learned some things already and will likely go back and reread some of the material before proceeding. When I have finished the book, I'll post a full review of it here.
In the mean time, if you wanted to have some guess about what the conditions will be like for, say, this weekend, you could look 26-28 days prior to your desired date and check out those conditions. Since the Sun's rotation is about 28 days, it makes sense that the same stuff that my be spraying at us last month would be spraying at us again this month when that portion of the Sun spins around and faces us again. Sure, the rest of the stuff in all these books is interesting and helpful, but small, very practical tidbits like that take a lot of the mystery out of things.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Plans for CQ WW SSB

I did some thinking about the upcoming CQ WW SSB contest and I decided this would be a good time to work on my QRP DXCC award. I've currently logged 62 countries QRP thus far so there is quite a bit of work to do. The CQ WW contest presents an excellent opportunity to snag at least a few new ones. The interesting thing about the QRP DXCC award is that no QSL cards need be presented to apply for the certificate. Instead, you make a statement that you indeed made these contacts, and you used QRP power to do it. I guess since they could never confirm your power output, they don't bother with the cards, either.
The CQ WW SSB contest was the first ever radio contest I entered not long after I was licensed. It is difficult for me to convey the excitement I was feeling during that weekend as I had gone from never making an HF contact prior to August of 2002, to making hundreds of contacts all over the world just two months later. To me, it was magical!
That first year I entered in the 100 watt category. That was before the QRP bug had bitten and since then I have participated in many contests at the QRP-level, as I did in last year's CQ WW SSB effort. Here is my claimed score from last year's effort. Of course, claimed score is before all my goof-ups are removed (bad exchanges, busted call signs, etc.)
Band QSOs Pts Cty ZN
3.5 5 11 3 3
7 11 32 9 5
14 26 58 15 10
21 38 90 23 9
Total 80 191 50 27
Score 14707

I would like to beat that score this year. Even with the solar cycle down here in the basement, I should be able to accomplish that. Certainly my antenna system is about as good as it has been in the last couple of years (since my first stealth antenna was torn down by the condo police). I put the finishing touches on my G5RV, now a "flat-top" up about 55 feet, this afternoon. This is still a very modest station, but as I've been trying to emphasize in this blog all along: it isn't about the equipment; it is about having fun with the stuff you've got, in the place you're operating, for as long as you can do it!

Saturday, October 21, 2006


The testing session was a bust this morning. We had no takers. So, naturally, we VEs in attendance began discussing what we need to do to increase interest in the hobby. The word we began fixating upon was relevance. How do we make what we love to do (play radio) sound relevant in today's world? We did talk about one fellow's idea as discussed on my friend Dave's web site 99 Hobbies.com. Tom Baker (NC6B) has developed a class in Moorpark High School integrating Amateur Radio within a comprehensive course on emergency preparedness. You can listen to that interview here.
I applaud that effort, but we all agreed it would be nice if we were able to also generate some pure love for the hobby, absent of the practical, that many of us feel when we work that DX station, put in that good contesting effort, or just ragchew. I received a compliment that I was very happy to receive in a local club meeting on Tuesday night. One attendee of a recent 100 Pound DXpedition presentation thought it was a great "sales pitch" that communicates to the public the excitement we can have doing what we do. If indeed this is true even a little, I'm very glad.

It doesn't seem like it, but a month has passed since I mailed the stuff off to Montserrat. I also realized that it had been a month since I had mailed around a status report to my fellow BUMS. Obviously I'm giving myself a failing grade on this assignment! Today's status report, and "punch list" of items we need to follow-up on, should begin to put things back on track. Chris (W6HFP) has picked up lots of this slack by bringing the group several excellent options for travel to-and-from Montserrat. Getting our flights settled, along with some other pressing items, would be good to do in the next few days. Thanks go to Chris for being diligent on this.
Though I swear I read the rules to the ARRL DX contest before going to St. John this Spring, I missed the line that said, "DX entrants making more than 500 QSOs on either mode will receive certificates." So, imagine my surprise when I got a very nice mailing from the ARRL yesterday! See below.
Finally, here's the new PART logo recently adopted. I think the group did OK. I hope you agree.
New WB1GOF Logo
KP2 certificate

Friday, October 20, 2006

Parallels and Win98 up-and-running

I had a wonderful time last night speaking to the Boston Amateur Radio Club in West Newton. That's a fun group! Because I didn't know how close I could park, I only brought the IC-7000 system, the Buddipole, and the Buddistick as my show-and-tell items. There was particular interest in the Buddipole as some of the members run a station for SKYWARN Recognition Day (which will be December 2 this year) and thought the Buddipole would be an excellent choice for the temporary and short-duration operation. I agree!
My copy of Windows 98 that I had bought on eBay came yesterday and I finally got a chance to open it tonight and try it. It was indeed a fresh, shrink-wrapped copy and it loaded into Parallels easily. After installing a couple of optional things from the Parallels distribution CD, I now have my choice of screen resolutions for the display in the VM, which is really nice. Also, the problem I had the other day with the system not wanting to connect properly to the internet disappeared. The web browser came up immediately and successfully loaded a web page.
I've tried two things so far: Morse Runner and N1MM Logger. Morse Runner failed because, somehow, there wasn't a sound device configured within Windows 98. OK. I'm downloading the driver now. {sigh} N1MM came up immediately and worked fine, though the trick will be to get it to talk to the radio via a USB serial port. It is too late to try that tonight; that will have to be tomorrow's adventure. Still, It is running very smoothly so far. I think the likelihood of getting hammac has gone up considerably!
While I was sitting here I noticed the Windows 98 display went black and shrunk down on the Mac Mini. For a moment, I panicked: did it just crash? No. The stupid energy saver kicked in and it "turned off the monitor". This, apparently, forced the window to resize. I'm turning that thing off as soon as I post this! First, it is disconcerting to have the software appear to do something crazy when you're not touching it, and, secondly, having Windows "turn off the monitor" in energy saver mode isn't going to save a watt! It was interesting to see how Parallels handled that, though.
I'm helping out at a VE testing session in the morning for the MMRA group. Then, I believe it will be time for more shack cleaning and baseball in the evening. The World Series begins tomorrow!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nice map

I believe good planning helps you have more fun when you travel. Certainly, I've tried to emphasize that notion here and in my modest 100 Pound DXpeditions. Planning relies on data and one excellent source of data can be a good map of the area you plan to visit. Google Earth is a fun tool but it has limited utility when trying to do very detailed planning. To see what I mean, start Google Earth and enter the string "16.7673N 62.2153W", the coordinates of the place our Montserrat group will visit next year. Sure enough, world on your screen will spin and zoom, eventually leading you to a fuzzy image of the terrain on the island. I'm not complaining; I'm just pointing out the strengths, weaknesses, and relative merits of this tool.
For a different presentation of the data you could use topographical map of the area. I have been buying my maps from Omnimap.com and have been pleased so far. I recently ordered the Montserrat Topographical Map from their web site and it is a nicely sized (72x78cm), single sheet map. The survey must have been prior to the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano as it still shows streets, schools, and businesses in Plymouth, the island's former capital now buried under ash and debris. To me, this makes the map even more interesting, though, as the portions of the map I need to be accurate (the places I can actually go) are accurate, and the rest of the map serves as a history book, telling me about things that used to be.Paper maps also have the advantage that they (a) travel well, (b) are easier to use as a visual aid with a group, (c) have more "dots per inch" so typically contain more detail, and (d) you can use a pencil to add a little something, all while being disconnected from the internet or even far from a computer. I am a software developer by trade and use my computers extensively, but I also recognize a good thing even when it is not on the computer. {grin} Sandy and I obtained similar maps for our St. John trip and we spent quite a bit of time looking them over, not just for antenna strategies, but also as a way to educate ourselves about our surroundings, the names of local landmarks, and even a bit of history about the place.
I've always loved maps so this is just a great excuse to get new ones and look at them. That said, they are also a great source of information about the faraway place you'll be visiting. I strongly recommend that you get your hands on a nice topographical map before that next big trip.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cleaning the shack

Time has been flying by and I realized it had been about a month since I sent the materials into the Montserrat licensing authorities. I had hoped that I would have heard something back by now but perhaps I'm just being impatient. I had also sent a letter to the head of the Montserrat Amateur Radio Society (MARS) with a request that our DXpedition group be admitted as members of their society. Knowing that they are doing emergency communication on an island with an active volcano, I also included a bit of a donation in there for their club, too. They are brave souls! Since I have a contact within that group, I mailed the President of the MARS club today and asked if he had received our letter. I hope to hear back from him in the next couple of days.
We had done a great deal of remodeling around the condo this last year and stuff has been piling up. (Crunch time at work didn't help, either, as we were spending very little time at home.) Tonight I turned on the baseball game and started cleaning the room that serves as my shack. There were two reasons for starting in this room: I hope to be working the CQ WW SSB contest at the end of the month and I didn't want to spend most of that 48 hour contest sitting among junk, and, alas, most of the junk was actually mine, so I'm the only one that could clean it up anyway. Nobody to blame but myself!
To further add to my excuse list for my messy home, I had been spending lots of time doing volunteer work for some local clubs. I had done some artwork for the New England QRP club this summer and had designed a new logo for the PART club in Westford. That new logo was approved at the general meeting last night! We'll be rolling that out on the web site, badges, and other stuff later this year. I must say, though, it is good to have this behind me. It was amazing how time-consuming that stuff was!
I'm speaking at the Boston Amateur Radio Club (BARC) tomorrow night. I need to run all this garbage I've collected to the dumpster so I can fill my car with toys for show-and-tell tomorrow! If you are in the Boston area and haven't seen the show, I hope you'll drop by. Again, mention this blog and receive a big smile from the blogger. {grin}

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Are you still up working on that computer?

This should have been posted last night, but it was well after midnight before I realized it and I decided that sleep was more important than blogging. I'm still considering my options for the logging computer I'll use on Montserrat and other DXpeditions. I had brought my 17-inch PowerBook with me to St. John and Deer Isle and it served me well. It is a beautiful machine and the very large display is very nice, but the machine is really too large and too important to me to tote it everywhere. I'm now considering getting a machine just for ham use. Sandy's already calling it the "Ham Mac", which is pronounced "hammock".
I know I'm going against the grain here when I say this, but I've had great luck with stability, versatility, and ease-of-use with the Macintosh running MacOS X and the MacLoggerDX logging program from Dog Park Software. I'm never worried that the machine won't boot, the computer will suddenly be filled with viruses, or stuff that worked last week will suddenly stop working today. I've used this for contesting, too, and have had reasonably good luck with this setup, though there were times on St. John when the software was having a little trouble keeping up with the high QSO rates. MacLoggerDX isn't a contest logger, after all; it is just a general purpose logging program.
With all that said, I am considering the idea that I should have other alternatives available to me. The new Macintosh computers have an Intel chip in them so I could run Windows simultaneously with MacOS X with the help of Parallels. We purchased a Mac mini computer this weekend to help us organize our considerable music CD collection and I'm using this new machine to give Parallels a test drive. I have a legal copy of Windows 95 that I had purchased when I built a machine from scratch many years ago that I could install on the Mac mini as an experiment. I spent most of last night working out the details of getting that to work. I managed to get Windows 95 running but the networking stuff was problematic. First I had driver nightmares and then, once I got over that hurdle, the configuration that should have worked didn't. At this point, though, it was very late and the root cause of the problem was probably fatigue and "pilot error" rather than software. Still, I had convinced myself that this is a good arrangement which gives me both worlds on one machine.
At this point it is my intention to buy the smallest (and cheapest) MacBook and configure it with Parallels and Windows 98. (I just ordered a new copy of Window 98 off eBay for about $40. There are enough improvements between W95 and W98 that it seemed worth it.) Though I had good intentions of using MacLoggerDX for the upcoming CQ WW contests, I might get this new machine and start familiarizing myself with it. Many of the Yankee Clipper Contest Club members use the N1MM Logger so I would probably try that one first in the CQ WW SSB coming up at the end of this month.
Again, I want to be completely familiar with all my equipment before I attempt to use it in a far away place. That means reading the manuals and using the equipment in similar situations if I can. Contest are an excellent training opportunity.
Speaking of contest results, I just looked at the write-up for the results of the CQ WW SSB contest from last year. I placed 8th in the US for QRP ALL BAND behind some other excellent operators. With just 5 watts and a low hanging dipole, I did OK! I had not decided what category to compete in this year, but perhaps a noble goal would be to simply beat my previous year's score. I need to think about this more.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

G5RV tested

I spent some time today rehanging one of the arms of my G5RV. Both arms are now mostly level and up about 55 feet. The antenna is hidden in some trees near my condo so all I need to do to use it is run some coax out to the feed point and hook up the radio. I gave it a try this afternoon and worked easily into Europe and around the US. After working so many outings this Summer with the compromised antennas on lightweight portable operations, I was surprised how loud everybody was on a decent antenna!
I'll be using this antenna for the upcoming contests. While these won't be portable operations, they do provide an opportunity to continue improving my operating skills. If ever I get someplace where I would need to be working the bands continuously for hours at a time, working through QRM, QRN, and other nightmares, I want to have the skills so I can do it well, if not easily. I believe you only get good at something with practice. Contests provide me with the opportunity for that practice. Seriously, one of the biggest skills I need to master is simply keeping my butt in the chair and working in a focused and effective manner. Stay put, stay focused, stay effective. My goals for each of these upcoming contests is to make more QSOs than I had in previous years. Given we're at the bottom of the cycle, we'll see how that turns out.
Finally, it has been about a month since I sent off materials to Montserrat and I've not heard anything back from either the licensing authority or the Montserrat Amateur Radio Society. It is probably time to send a follow-up email to see where we are on things.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Solar technology

One of the things I tried this year was alternate ways of powering my radios. I had powered radios from batteries and from the car in the past but this year I added solar and mechanical power to the mix. I'll talk about my experiences with solar power in this post.
There is a great deal of materials on solar cells and solar panels and, of course, I won't attempt to duplicate all of that here. Instead, I would like to talk about some of the things that have impressed me most this summer. The first thing I learned about photovoltaic power was there are many different technologies that are available today with different characteristics and efficiencies. A quick overview of these technologies can be found at the Solar Expert site. The efficiencies discussed all fall somewhere below 30%, meaning much less than 1/3 of the energy falling on the material is converted into something useful. That might not sound like very much, but it is! The Sun puts out about 900 to 1000 watts per square meter so even a system that is only 10% efficient is capable of putting out 100 watts. Some of these numbers might be easier to visualize with an actual panel so let's use the one that I bought as an example.
I purchased a 15 watt 12 volt folding panel from The Alternative Energy Store. First, a quick note about these folks: I like them! I placed my order, they processed it promptly, they sent me a tracking number, and it arrived quickly and in good condition. Recommended. Now, back to the math.
The panel folds out to expose 6 areas with solar cells, each area has two arrays measuring approximately 8 cm by 20 cm. So, the total area with cells is about 8 x 20 x 12 = 1920 square cm of power producing material. A square meter is 100 cm x 100 cm = 10000 cm. Therefore, this panel has about 0.19 square meters of power producing material. If the material was 100% efficient, and if we assume that the Sun puts out 1000 watts per square meter, we would see 190 watts of power coming from this material. That would be handy on a DXpedition!
As mentioned before, these panels are much less than 30% efficient and these flexible panels are probably closer to 10% or even less. If we take a number like 8% efficient and multiply that by the 0.19 square meters, we end up with a number like 15 watts rated output. That's the right answer.
Power ratings for panels are just that: ratings. The two big factors that go into a power rating for a solar panel are (a) the total area of the power generating material, and (b) the efficiency and power producing capability of the materials used to produce the power. The actual power produced in a given situation, though, depends on many more factors. For example, material efficiency decreases as the operating temperature rises. So, as your panel bakes in the Sun charging your battery, the efficiency of the material slowly goes down as the panel gets hotter and hotter. Also, optimal conditions such as the Sun's light hitting the panel squarely to produce maximum power are not likely to happen in your portable operation. In practice, you'll set up the panel as best you can and then hope it produces enough power for your needs.
The panel will only be part of your system. The power we wish to draw should be at 13.8 volts to run our radios or possibly 14.1 volts to charge our sealed batteries. The voltage from a solar panel can be far below or even far above these values, even producing voltages that would be dangerous for our batteries or equipment. What we would really like to have is a device that would take all the energy produced by the panel, no matter what voltage that energy is presented in, and convert it with a voltage-to-voltage converter into a form that is safe and effective for our operation. Further, we'd like this device to protect us from possible spikes in voltage that might happen when a passing cloud produces a knife-edge effect. There are such devices. The are called charge controllers. I purchased a Morningstar SunSaver 6.
The charge controller does a couple of things. First, it does convert the voltage produced by the panel into 13.8 volts (or so) which is useful and safe for our purposes. Secondly, it does protect me from spikes that might be produced which could, if not stopped, destroy my radio. The third thing my particular controller will do is protect my battery from being drawn down too low. Sealed batteries should not be discharged below a certain voltage as they could be permanently damaged. The charge controller will monitor battery voltage and, if the voltage falls below a certain point, disconnect the battery from the load. This low voltage disconnect feature means your battery is safe from abuse even if you aren't paying attention to the voltage level.
On some of my previous trips to Georges Island I would just hook up the panel and toss it on the ground to capture the Sun's rays. On this last trip, taken Monday, the Sun was low enough to the horizon (as it was October here in Boston) that this strategy was no longer viable. Now that I have my new Super Whatt Meter it seemed like a good opportunity to see how much difference "aiming" the solar panel would make. With the panel laying on the ground, it produced about 0.7A (about 9.5 watts). Sandy then suggested we use the small cart we'd brought to prop up the panel and have it face the Sun squarely. The power meter now read about 0.9A (12.5 watts). That's a big difference! So, obviously, the better you can position your panel, the more power you will produce.
I had the Super Whatt Meter watching the power coming out of the battery. With the solar panel and charge controller supplementing the power, the battery was being drawn at a rate of about 0.5A from the radio (with the panel producing the rest). I then removed the panel from the circuit and the current rose to 1.33A from the battery. The panel, therefore, was contributing about 0.83A, or more than half, of the operating current. That effectively doubles the life of your battery on receive!
The effectiveness of a solar panel solution gets even more pronounced when you operate QRP. My K2 draws only 35mA on receive. Even with this very modestly sized panel, I could probably operate during the day and fully charge a battery which could then subsequently be used for nighttime operation. If good weather and bright sunshine continued, I could probably operate indefinitely.
Now that I've had some experience with this technology I'm starting to consider larger panels, possibly a 30 or even 45 watt version of the folding panel I have now. Though expensive, they are certainly lighter and smaller than sealed lead acid batteries, and can produce a significant portion of the power needed for a remote operation.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New G5RV

My post on the power management on the island will need to wait until tomorrow. I spent the morning shopping at HRO picking up some coax, dacron rope, and a new G5RV to hang here at the condo for the upcoming contests. The antenna needed to be stealthy and I found a nice one that has copper-clad steal arms and is all black in color. I then returned home and spent about 3 hours trying to get it hung in the trees. The center is up about 55 feet and one arm is mostly level and in the clear. The other arm caught under a branch in a nearby tree and needs to be freed. I may get to that tomorrow.
Given that Buffalo got a record setting snowstorm today, I thought it would be best to get this antenna work done before our area succumbs to a similar fate. I know the bad weather is right around the corner!
The other reason to make the HRO trip was to get coax to put with the new Pelican cases. I have been trying to create complete, ready-to-go setups for each radio but had recently been "borrowing" from different setups to make these Georges Island trips. This is a mistake, and I know it. It almost cost me the day I made that last trip to Georges Island for the season. I didn't mention it the other day but Sandy and I were in the car, ready to go, when I realized I had brought no coax with me. That, of course, would have been a disaster! I want to have a run of coax in the bottom of each Pelican case. Today, I bought the coax to make that happen.
I should make a complete inventory of each case. I had made one for the case with the FT-897D, but have not done it for the K2's case or for the new IC-7000's case. Perhaps if I get the G5RV fixed, I'll do this was well.
Finally, I'll be speaking to the Boston Amateur Radio Club on Thursday, October 19th, presenting my talk "The 100 Pound DXpedition". If you are in the Boston area, drop by!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

RSGB 2006 IOTA Contest results are in

The unofficial RSGB IOTA contest results are in and, as expected, I will come in 2nd in my category of QRP SSB DXpedition with 12 hour operating time. You can see the results here. The bottom line is Petar (9A6A), the President of the Croatian Radio Amateur Association, cleaned my clocks with a fantastic effort and score of 62646 points versus my paultry 6084 points. Interestingly, he didn't have that many more QSOs than me, but he had four times the multipliers. Congratulations Petar!
The contest was one of the best run contests I've ever entered. The log submission process was easy and well considered, and the results were computed and released in a relatively short amount of time (just a couple of months). There is even a place next to my entry where you can click on a map to see my operating position from a satellite view. Very, very nice!
I had two bad QSOs (one a multiplier, sadly), three duplicates, and 97 good log entries. The duplicates can't be helped. If somebody calls you a second time, you just log it because you can't be sure it is really a duplicate. Perhaps the previous entry was erroneous. The bad QSOs were caused by me not capturing the other station's serial number in my log. One mumbled their number and then disappeared; the other one I just goofed up on. So, my error rate is still one or two per hundred QSOs. Too high! As I said the other day, this is something to work on.
I'm taking Friday off from work and hope to do a little home improvement around the condo. I'll also have a little more time for a better edited, and hopefully more informative piece on power management issues I had on Georges Island this summer.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It did work!

On Monday's trip to Georges Island I brought two antennas: the Force-12   Sigma-5 and my little Buddipole system. The little Buddipole system has the 8 foot mast (instead of the 16 foot mast) and fits in a smaller bag. The Sigma-5 covers 10-20m; the Buddipole covers 2-40m.
One of the goals for the trip, as described the other day, was to do more antenna evaluation, including some comparisons where appropriate between these two antennas. I did do some of this, but the biggest lesson was learned today, delivered in an email. Allow me to explain.
The Buddipole can be configured as a horizontal dipole, vertical dipole, vee, inverted-vee, or any number of other shapes by using the rotating arm kit. On Monday, though, I just configured the antenna to be a 40m dipole in the horizontal configuration. This effectively makes the antenna an NVIS, or near vertical incident skywave antenna which is typically good for a range of a couple hundred miles. There is lots of good stuff written on NVIS systems but the general idea is this: set up an antenna parallel and close the ground (under an 1/8th wavelength and maybe even lower) and the antenna will send much of its radiation straight up, bouncing high above your head, and then nearly straight down again. Great for short distance communication, not so good for DX.
I only spent a few minutes on 40m with the Buddipole as time was running out and I wanted to make my primary goal of putting QSOs in the log. I talked with Dave (KZ1O) on 40m and then had him spot me on the packet spotting network to see if anybody else could hear me. After working WR3KI in Maryland and then not hearing anybody else immediately, I shifted back up to the high bands. To be honest, I wasn't sure the Buddipole was really performing that well on 40m in this configuration and I didn't want to waste my valuable time on the island trying to push a mediocre antenna setup.
Fears that nobody could hear me with this antenna configuration were unfounded as I learned today in a mail message from Bill (K9RR). Here's a snippet:

Hello Scott:
I was excited to hear that you were going to Georges Island yesterday, since that is a IOTA I have never worked. Unfortunately you were nil on 17m here in the midwest.
When you went to 40m you were strong but I tried to call you after you talked to that one station but your friend called you and then you switched back to 17m. ...

Wow. Not only could he hear me but I was strong in Illinois (approximately 1000 miles / 1600 Km away). Again, the performance of the Buddipole surprises me. If I had been the least bit patient, I probably could have worked a bunch on 40m, too. Truth be told, I had so little confidence this would work well that I didn't really give it a chance. I had broken some of the most basic rules I have for myself: don't assume, listen, and be positive. (It wouldn't be wrong to have listen twice in that list!) Luckily, Bill wrote me to correct my misconception. I can't wait until next year to try that configuration again!
Things aren't always going to do what I expect. In fact, one of the reasons for doing all these brief portable operations is to get more experience and figure out what works and what doesn't work. Intuition is good; experience and facts are better! I had made some assumptions about how well and how far the Buddipole would work in that configuration and, quite simply, those assumptions were wrong. I've made a vow here to be a little more open minded when I'm running experiments like this in the future.
Finally, relating back to a previous post, I received an eQSL today from John (K9QVB/9). John is from Wilmette, Illinois but signs /9 when operating from Stone Lake, Wisconsin. Like I said the other day, this is a great way to keep your logs organized when operations from different locations.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

NA-148 slide show

I was going to talk about the power management lessons from yesterday's Georges Island trip but I just uploaded the pictures we took to my PowerBook and they are too wonderful not to share! So, instead of a treatise on solar panel efficiency and power management issues you might have when running portable, I'd rather point you to my Boston Harbor slide show so you can see what we saw on yesterday's trip. You can read more about the Boston Harbor Islands here.
The ferry service has stopped for the season so there is no more island hopping for me this year. Ferry service resumes in the Spring. I believe after seeing these pictures you'll all understand why I can't wait to get back out there!
I'll pick up the lessons learned thread tomorrow.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Last day on Georges 2006

We made our last trip of the season to Georges Island (NA-148) this morning and it was a glorious day. We had blue skies, temperatures in the 70's, and an easy breeze accompanying the sounds of the ocean washing up on the rocks just below my operating position. This was a wonderful way to wrap up the last of summer here in New England.
We got a bit of a late start and just missed the 10 AM ferry so we didn't arrive on the island until 11:45 AM local time (15:30Z). We made our way to the northern part of the island (try Google Earth with 42 19'19.42"N 70 55'46.76"W) and set up the equipment. In addition to the Force-12   Sigma-5 antenna (good for 10-20m) I brought my little Buddipole system so I could play a little on 40m from this location.
My goals for this trip were modest: put another 25 or 30 QSOs in the log, evaluate battery performance with the IC-7000 using one of my 17 Ah batteries and the solar panel, and possibly do some A/B comparisons between my Buddipole and Force-12 antennas. I easily made my QSO goal as we put over 40 contacts in the log in just 2.5 hours thanks to some helpful activity on the spotting network. Here are the spots for today courtesy of the DX Summit spot database:
KZ1O       7155.0 NE1RD       IOTA QRP needs help           1803 09 Oct 2006
KZ1O 7155.0 NE1RD IOTA QRP needs help 1803 09 Oct 2006
KZ1O 18155.0 NE1RD NA-148 QRP needs help 1814 09 Oct 2006
KZ1O 18155.0 NE1RD NA-148 QRP needs help 1814 09 Oct 2006
GI3DZE 18155.0 NE1RD/1 na148 still there 1826 09 Oct 2006
GI3DZE 18155.0 NE1RD/1 na148 still there 1826 09 Oct 2006
CT1BXX 18155.0 NE1RD/1 NA-148 Good signal 1833 09 Oct 2006
CT1BXX 18155.0 NE1RD/1 NA-148 Good signal 1833 09 Oct 2006
CT1BXX 18158.3 NE1RD/1 Sorry Freq. 18.158 NA-148 1834 09 Oct 2006
CT1BXX 18158.3 NE1RD/1 Sorry Freq. 18.158 NA-148 1834 09 Oct 2006
I0SYQ 14000.0 NE1RD/1 PSE 14 SSB.MANY TNX! 1837 09 Oct 2006
I0SYQ 14000.0 NE1RD/1 PSE 14 SSB.MANY TNX! 1837 09 Oct 2006
WP4NIX 18158.2 NE1RD/1 57 NA-148 1842 09 Oct 2006
WP4NIX 18158.2 NE1RD/1 57 NA-148 1842 09 Oct 2006
IZ8EJB 18158.0 NE1RD/1 IOTA NA-148 1900 09 Oct 2006
IZ8EJB 18158.0 NE1RD/1 IOTA NA-148 1900 09 Oct 2006

You might notice the first couple of spots are from my buddy Dave (KZ1O). I had called Dave on the phone and talked with him after operating for a while and he offered to get the spotting activity started. We worked on 40m and after his spot I worked one other station on 40m (Maryland) before switching back up to 17m. After the pump was primed, the spots took care of themselves as you can see.
It isn't cheating (if you are not in a contest!) to have somebody get you spotted in the packet spotting network. In fact, once the spots started appearing I was able to make many people happy by handing out a QSO for NA-148! If you can, arrange to have somebody perform this service for you if you can't spot yourself.
I'll continue with this thread tomorrow and talk about battery usage, the effectiveness of the solar panel (now that I can measure things with my Super Whatt Meter), some antenna comparison impressions, and managing the little pile-up I had generated from all those spots.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Last trip to Georges Island this year

I'm going to Georges Island in the morning (NA-148). This is the last day the ferry runs so this will be the last trip this season. I am bringing:
  • The IC-7000 kit in its Pelican case
  • 2 17Ah batteries
  • The Force-12 Sigma-5 antenna
  • My backpack with Heil headset, solar panel, etc.

I am going to leave the pop-up enclosure at home this time just to lighten the load. We'll see if that is a mistake!
Look for me between 1400 and 1700Z on 20 and 17m SSB. I will be running 50 watts so you should be able to hear me. Hope to work you.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Debug methodically

My buddy Greg (NE1OB) and I took a little drive today to New Hampshire to provide ham radio demonstrations to some young people in a weekend camp. There wasn't much planning for this event (I learned of it only Wednesday) so, again, I packed too much into the car, using only half of what was brought.
There were kids wandering around everywhere and I was concerned about my antenna systems being a hazard. To minimize the possibility that someone would become entangled in the antenna, feed line, control line, or guy lines, I set up the Force-12 Sigma-5 antenna close to some large boulders, thinking that would be the safest thing to do. Perhaps it was safe, but it wasn't a good idea.
I began operating on 20m with the IC-7000 and noticed immediately that the SWR was running pretty high. This was puzzling because the Sigma-5 is a resonant antenna on all bands 20-10m. Plus, I had used this successfully on Georges Island just a few weeks ago and had no such problems. I mentioned this to one of the other hams sitting with us and he offered to allow me to use his G5RV he had hung. "No", I said, "if you find a problem you should debug it!"
Here is something that is a carry-over from my professional life: if you have managed to create a problem that is repeatable, figure it out! These little side trips and portable operations provide an opportunity for me to learn about my equipment and prepare for the big, important trips. I was determined to figure this out so if it were to happen on, say, Georges Island, Montserrat, or some other faraway place, I would know what to do.
Here is the first symptom: there is high SWR on 20m. Let's walk through what I did to debug this problem. I wondered if this problem was only on 20m so I switched bands to 17m and tried transmitting there. Again, the IC-7000 showed a high SWR. So, we quickly determine it isn't associated with one band. I have my MFJ-259B antenna analyzer in my kit so I disconnect the coax from the back of the radio and connect it to the analyzer. I quickly determine that the antenna is resonant at 13.7 MHz when switched for 20m. That's not right!
At this point, I walk out to the antenna and swap the coax. I'm virtually certain it isn't the coax, but by eliminating this possibility completely, I know that the problem has to be with the antenna. The 50 foot piece of RG-8X is quickly replaced with a 75 foot run and, indeed, the problem persists. So, I've now convinced myself something is wrong with the antenna, or how I've assembled and erected the antenna.
I look over the antenna and see nothing obviously wrong. I had been a bit careless in how I had routed the coax and control cable away from the controller box, but that seemed unlikely to be the culprit. I then glanced at those big boulders I had huddled up against. The lower part of the antenna was just inches away from one particularly red one. Gee, I wondered, do you suppose there's a bunch of iron in that one?
We moved the antenna about 15 feet away from the low rock wall, guyed the antenna in its new position, and took a few extra moments to route the coax and controller cable away from the antenna at a 45 degree angle like the manufacturer recommends. I put the MFJ analyzer on the system again and remeasured. Sure enough, now the antenna showed a great match on all bands, just as it had before.
In hindsight, my initial choice of antenna placement was pretty stupid. While it was a good idea to put the antenna in a place that was safe for this public venue, I still needed to have the antenna sufficiently far away from other objects so it would not couple with them as it did with those iron-laden boulders.
I could make the glib recommendation, "don't be stupid", but that isn't the point of this post. You will have problems, even if you aren't as stupid as me, that you'll need to resolve. When you see a problem, don't just do random stuff to see if you can make it go away; think through how you will investigate the problem so you can learn what is causing it. Take single, well considered steps to eliminate candidate pieces of equipment. Narrow what can be wrong until you are left with a small handful of things, preferably one thing, and then consider the situation again. Has this worked before? What is different from the configuration that worked well? And, especially with antennas, what items in the general vicinity might be affecting the antenna?
Because I took a disciplined approach to this problem it was resolved in minutes. And, I learned something that will prevent me from making this particularly stupid mistake again (though I reserve the right to make other, equally stupid mistakes {grin}). I hope you will follow this advice and consider every problem you encounter in the field as an opportunity to learn more about your equipment, learn more about the hobby, and prepare you for your next portable operation or personal DXpedition.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Practice makes perfect

I'm always looking for a way to improve my operating skills. Accuracy, ability to work through QRM and bad conditions, and even endurance, are some of the aspects of my operating skills that I'm always looking to polish. In the event that I ever get to operate from a truly rare place, I'll need all that and more to be effective.
While contesting isn't everybody's cup of tea, it can be an excellent way to hone the skills you will need to operate in a high stress DX location. I had bursts of high QSO rates while on St. John during the ARRL DX contest that sounded very similar to those scenes you see on a typical DXpedition video. Though nervous, I was able to keep up and log accurately though those bursts largely because of all the practice I had gotten in previous contests.
Improvement needs to be a closed loop activity: you need to do something, assess your effort, make a plan to correct what you didn't do well, and then try again. Assessing your effort is pretty easy if you participate in one of the major contests run by the ARRL or CQ Magazine as they provide access to a UBN (Unique, Bad, Not-in-log) report. An article describing this Learning from Your Log Checking Report just won the ARRL QST Cover Plaque Award for September. The article is brief, but it provides some excellent advice such as record and listen to your on-air operation after the event to see what you missed. Use the log checking report to revisit those problem QSOs. See what went wrong. Did you miss that extra dit making an "h" into an "s"? Did you hear "J" and log "G" in that call sign?
To give you an idea of what is in one of these reports, I've included one of mine (so you can see all my goof-ups). I believe practice makes perfect but you also need to have an improvement plan that analyzes your shortcomings and tries to address them. And, like my little 100 pound DXpeditions, I have goals in these contests, too. For example, in the next major contest I would like to have no busted calls. We'll see how I do. In the mean time, here's the log from my QRP effort in last year's ARRL November Sweepstakes contest. By the way, this was SSB with my Elecraft K2, a low hung inverted-vee antenna, and a lot of grit. I may not have had the most competitive station for this contest, or indeed any contest, but doing your best with the working conditions you have is also excellent practice for lightweight DXpeditioning! OK. Here's the UBN report. I hope you, too, can learn from my mistakes. Enjoy.



There were no dupes found in your log.

0015-2124 = -1610
On time = -1610 minutes (max of 1440).

AG3G is a busted call. The correct call is AJ3G.

You had 1 calls in your log which were not found in the database of good
callsigns. All of these were judged to be busted calls and will be removed
from your score - along with an additional penalty of one QSO per busted
Unique percentage = 0.0

QSO #68 W4NTI : M 64 Al should be M 61 Al
QSO #119 K0HC : S 71 Ks should be S 97 Ks
QSO #147 W4QK : B 73 Ct should be A 62 Ga
QSO #160 WP2Z : M 58 WWa should be B 58 Vi

100.0% of your non dupe QSOs had their exchanges checked.

There were 4 exchange errors found. These QSOs will be removed from your
score with no penalties.


87.6% of your remaining good QSOs were cross checked.

There were no cross check errors found - congratulation!

List of 67 mults = Il Ga NLi Va ENy Wv Mdc Mar NNj Mi Nh Em Vt Ep WMa WPa WNy
Oh WWa Mn Mt Ks NFl Al Az Ar Mo Ia Vi WTx STx Sjv Org Wcf NTx Nd Scv Sv Sk Sd
Ew Ne Or Eb Wi Mb Ok SFl Ri On SNj Nc Sc Ct Ms Sf Lax Nv Wy In Tn Sdg De NNy
Pr La Co

Raw QSOs = 168
Time Expired = 0
Dupes = 2
Busted QSOs = 5
Valid QSOs = 161 0 80 26 29 25 0
Penalty QSOs = 1
QSO Points = 320
Multiplier = 67
Final score = 21440
Error rate = 3.0% (100 X (Busted QSOs / Duped QSO total))

The following information shows contacts you made that were removed from the
other station's log. These are not deducted from your score. They are listed
for your information only.

AD4EB: QSO #724 NE1RD : Q 40 Em should be Q 02 Em
K0GND: QSO #915: Received QSO# 5 should be 105 NE1RD
KE3WM: QSO #340 NE1RD : Q 02 Me should be Q 02 Em
KQ6MU: QSO #157 NE1RD : A 02 Em should be Q 02 Em
N4TP: QSO #364: Received QSO# 25 should be 65 NE1RD
NP2B: QSO #810 NE1RD : A 02 Em should be Q 02 Em
W1QK: QSO #286: Received QSO# 22 should be 147 NE1RD
W3GH: QSO #602: Received QSO# 189 should be 29 NE1RD
W5JJ: WE1RD is a busted call. The correct call is NE1RD.

Number busts found in other logs = 9 (5.6%)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A little change of plans

There is a possible change of plans for the weekend. I had offered to help a friend help with a little ham radio demonstration for a youth group some time ago. I just learned today that the event is this weekend. Oops! I think the ferry runs through Monday so perhaps I'll get out to Georges Island on Monday (instead of Saturday). I'll post more as I figure all this out.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's with the /1?

I received a note today from a fellow who was wondering, why do I use the call NE1RD/1 when I operate from Georges Island (NA-148)? After all, there is already a "1" in my call sign!
The answer lies with the way the electronic QSLing programs work. When you set up an account with eQSL, for example, you specify the location, grid square, and IOTA number (if there is one). The Logbook of the World (LoTW) has similar data associated with each location. So, to give people full credit for NA-148 I wanted to have a separate call sign, account, and log for those contacts. If things were only done on paper, I probably could have just used the regular call and sorted it out when I looked in my log. But, with these on-line programs, I found it is easier to have a separate call sign for each location.
I could have just called NE1RD/P (portable), but I was afraid that doing so would just encourage people to log it as simply "NE1RD" and, therefore, the QSOs would not match on LoTW. Of course, with the double-blind LoTW system, I'd never know that we had that mismatch ("NE1RD" versus "NE1RD/1").
The other operations I've done had more sensible calls: I was K1P from Deer Isle (and will be again next year during Patriots Day week), I was KP2/NE1RD from St. John, and I just use my home call "NE1RD" when I operate from the top of Mount Wachusett since that location and my home both fall within grid square FN42. (If it hadn't, I would have scrambled to figure out how to differentiate that location as well!)
The question now becomes: what will I do when I activate another island here in the Northeast? I've thought a little about that, but haven't made any decisions. There are lots of islands along the Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut coast and I'd like to operate from all of them eventually!
One last point, the LoTW service allows you to combine several call signs for your awards calculations. So, the QSOs from NE1RD, NE1RD/1, and K1P operations can all be used towards the ARRL's DXCC award, for example, because the operations were all from the same DXCC entity (the continental US). Similarly, eQSL also merges these QSOs for their awards.
So, that's why I use the /1 while operating from NA-148. It helps me keep these QSOs separated and helps ensure those who QSL electronically get the full credit (grid square, IOTA number, etc.) for the contact. Sor far things have worked out nicely using this scheme.
This was a great question! Thank again to everybody who has written to me and given me feedback on the blog. I hope all of you are having as much fun reading it as I have writing it!

Monday, October 02, 2006

IOTA cards and island names

We are back from Pittsburgh and the games were fantastic. It was also a pleasant, relaxing drive through the hills of New York and Pennsylvania giving us a little quiet time that we've so desperately needed. One of the things we did to pass the time was listen to some of the Long Delayed Echoes podcasts by Jeff Davis (KE9V) on the history of ham radio through World War II. If you're not following these shows, you're missing something extraordinary. Begin with episode 25 to pick up the WWII thread.
I left the computer at home this weekend but pocketed the Blackberry so I could continue to read my email. I got a message from one fellow who had trouble getting credit for my Georges Island (NA-148) card. I had missed something important in the IOTA rules. Here's the part I goofed up:
QSL cards submitted must have printed on them the name of the island from which the operation took place. This must be an island mentioned as qualifying for that IOTA group in the island listing in the latest IOTA Directory or in the list of Additional Qualifying Islands on the IOTA Manager’s web-site. The IOTA group name and the IOTA reference number are not acceptable alternatives although it is desirable that they also appear on the card, nor are geographic coordinates, a locator square or a lighthouse or castle name. The name of the island should not have been handwritten, nor should it have been added in a way that makes ambiguous the location of the station at the time of contact.

My Georges Island card has only the name of the island group (Boston Harbor Islands) and not the name of the specific island (Georges). Of course, the reason why I had not put the name of the island on the card is because I had hoped to work from several islands of that group and didn't want to have the card be too specific. To solve the problem, I've ordered a rubber stamp from The Sign Man with the words "Georges Island" around the periphery and my call used on the island NE1RD/1 in bold in the middle. Check out the "InstaStamp 24". Thanks go to Don (W9DC) for putting me on the right track with this. Anybody who needs a new card, please drop me a note at ne1rd at arrl.net.
The ferry to Georges Island stops for the season on October 9 so I have one more chance to get out there and puts some QSOs in the log before the snow flies here in Boston. The weather outlook is good so plan on hearing me from NA-148 this Saturday. Perhaps I should update the RSGB IOTA site, too.