Saturday, July 05, 2008

SG-237 installation

I have finally purchased a new tuner for my Mobile HF setup. I picked up a used SG-237 antenna coupler locally and installed it in my Ford Winstar mini-van. I was using a LDG RT-11 before, but it is not designed for mobile use and would only tune my 9' whip consistently on 28Mhz, 50Mhz and 18Mhz.

Here is the inside view of the installation from the inside. It is mounted directly to the ball mount in the inside of the read-drivers side of the minivan. Note that the SG-237 ground is attached directly to the ball-mount ground and that there is only about 2.5" of #10 wire between the SG-237 and the ball mount for the RF lead.

Here is the view of the ball-mount from the outside.. looks great!

Initial testing with my FT-857D is very favorable. It tunes in 3-4 seconds on all bands from 6m to 80m!! I made several contacts on 17m and 40m, so I think I am good to go!

Here is the link I found which gave me the idea of mounting the SG-237 the way I did:

Many thanks to Ken, VA3KA, and Rick, VE3CVG, for the advice on setting this up. I am looking forward to many HF mobile contacts!!


Monday, June 30, 2008

Field Day 2008

I was not part of any organized Field Day activity (although I did visit the MARG field Day setup on Saturday...very nice!) this year and I had very limited time, so I decided to combine a short hike with ham radio. I headed out Sunday morning to one of my favorite hiking spots and setup near a small unnamed lake. Alana and the kids dropped me off at 9:30am with the promise to be back at the trail head for a 12:30 pickup.

Along with a snack, water and bug spray I brought in the following radio gear:

- Yaseu Ft-817
- MFJ 1899-T Multi-band whip antenna
- 7.5ah 12v gel cell
- Kenwood TH-D7A + Garmin eTrex Vista GPS for APRS

Here is the general location (West of Ottawa, Ontario), showing my VA3TRZ-7 APRS beacon courtesy of and Google:

As it rained HARD the night before thus the trail into my operating location was very muddy and wet, perfect conditions for mosquitoes. Here is a snapshot of the trail. What a jungle!

I setup at about 10:00am and settled in for about 1 hour or so of operation. The bugs were a bit nasty until a breeze picked up. Here is a picture of my operating site which is on a ledge overlooking this small lake.

For an antenna mount I used my Lee-Valley hiking stick. I stuck it in the ground about 5" and attached a simple antenna mount on it via the camera tripod adapter on top of the grip. The MFJ antenna connected via BNC as did my coax. I strung out a single counter-poise wire and I was good to go!

I was setup as "1B ON Battery" and started checking out the bands. I was amazed to hear lots of activity on all the bands 6m to 40m! I tried calling CQ on 20m, but with my low power I had little luck. At about 11am 10 m was coming in strong and I worked 5 stations in the US. At 11:15 I worked 2 stations on 40m. I also worked Dale, VE3XZT, on APRS ;-) I was having SWR problems on 6m, so I could not work the many station I heard on 6m. Considering that I was running only about 2.5w in to a compromise antenna, I was very pleased with my results.

I packed it in at about 11:30am and hiked back out to the trail head for my pickup.

I saw no-one else on the trail, but I did have a family of what I think were Golden Eagles keeping me company while at the lake and on my walk back.

I think I will try this location again, but perhaps in the spring or fall when there are less bugs ;-)


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Tour Nortel Event

This year the Ottawa EMRG/ARES group volunteered to provided communications support for the annual Tour Nortel charity bike/run event.

Over 15 Ham Radio operators volunteered to help man Check Points, and Rest Areas and to assist with safety.

I was partnered up with Mike (VE3UMZ) and we posted at Check Point 6 which is located here along the 70km cycling route. The weather was PERFECT for this event as it was sunny and cool in the morning and then warmed up to about +12C by noon.

Here are some pictures of our operating location:

Each check point was required to have two complete stations in operation. Each station includes a VHF FM radio, battery, and an antenna capable of getting into the main EMRG VHF repeater on 146.880. One station was to be tuned to the controlled net on the repeater, and the other was to be tuned to the Simplex net operated on 146.580 FM.

Mike's station consisted of a FT-1500 FM radio, deep cycle battery, and a 1/4 wave ground plane antenna mounted on a "painters pole" attached to a portable trolley. It is a very nice setup. Here are some pictures of the trolley and the antenna:

My station consisted of a Yaesu FT-8800 VHF radio, deep cycle battery, and a J-pole antenna up about 13' in the air. I used a 5-gallon pail filled with cement with a short mast pipe as a base for the mast. As the antenna has virtually zero wind load it is very stable and it proved to be an effective setup.

Here is a picture of the FT-8800 with a hat over it to keep it out of the sun ;-) :

It was a great event with just enough radio traffic to keep it interesting. Our radios and antenna worked very well. This check point is in a great position as we could hear all stations on Simplex and easily get into the EMRG VHF repeater using low power (5w).

We had one minor "emergency" at our check point when one cyclist had a breakdown and required transportation back to the start. We were able to relay his request back to Net Control and his ride arrived about 20 minutes later.

For next year I an going to add an external speaker as well as a headset to my setup, but other than that it worked just fine.

This was a great event, and a great excuse to dust off our "Go Kits" and to get on the air and help out a great cause like Tour Nortel.

Many thanks to the organizers for planning and executing this event.

Mission accomplished!


Monday, January 22, 2007

2007 ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes!

Here is some info from my recent contest entry.

Station and contest details:

Click here for my ARRL Soapbox entry.



Working 10Ghz at -20C ! Brrrrrr!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

903 and 1296 Antenna Testing

This weekend I completed some testing on 1296 MHz and 903 MHz.

The goal was to test 2 home brew antennas. One is a 1296.1 FM ground plane antenna and the other is a 903 loop created by VE3CVG.

Here is a pic of the home brew 1296 Ground Plan:

And here is a pic of the 903 Loop made by VE3CVG that I created a Plexiglases mount for:

The other antennas I tested were commercial 903 Yagi. One Yagi has 3 elements and one has 7 elements.

Here is a picture of the "antenna test farm" with Matthew helping hold the 903 loop antenna mount (the plexiglass proved not strong enough) while I was conducting some receive testing. As you can see my QTH is up on a hill and is ideal for antenna testing!

The radios I used to test were my Kenwood Th-59 1296 FM HT and my Downeast Microwaves 903 transverter. The transverter was driven by a Yaesu FT-817.

In testing 1296.1 FM with VA3KA, the Ground Plane antenna was nearly as good as using the HT with just the rubber-ducky antenna. Considering coax loss I think this means that the Ground Plan is working just fine. The signal report Ken gave me while using he rubber-ducky was 56 and the signal report from the ground plane antenna was 54.

On 903 I was able to copy VA3KA when he transmitted on 904.5 FM, but he could not copy me. This could be due to the lack of sensitivity on his FM rig, or it could mean a problem in my setup. More testing is required to know for sure.

Just for fun I decided to check to see if I could copy the WCARC 903 CW Beacon with this setup. I was amazed to find that I could hear it the beacon Q5 copy on the 7 element bean, the 3 element beam as well as on the simple Loop! It was also interesting to note that the beacon was loud when I pointed to the South, away from the beacon. This is probably due to the signal being reflected off of something. Very interesting!

Here is video proof that I copied the beacon:

This map shows my QTH (VA3NFA) , Ken's place (VA3KA) as well as the approximate location of the 903 beacon (BEACON).

As you can see from this diagram the beacon is North East (about 35 kilometers) of me, but I was receiving a very strong signal while pointing south. Very interesting!

So, the bottom line is that it looks like my 903 antennas are receiving just fine, but I still need to test again to make sure that my 903 setup is transmitting properly. It also shows that my simple 1296 ground plan antenna is more-or-less working.

This testing also proves how valuable beacons are for testing, especially on frequencies such as 903 MHz that do not currently have a lot of amateur activity. It will be great once we have more beacons on the air, especially on 432 and 1296!

Next I want to make a more rugged mount for the 903 loop and also try to make a J-pole antenna for 903 and 1296.



Friday, December 29, 2006

WCARC 70cm cw Beacon

The West Carleton Amateur Radio Club is building a CW propagation beacon for the 70cm band.

This weekend I am testing the transmitter and have asked local hams for signal reports.

Here are the specs on the setup:

Keyer: ID-O-Matic (built by VA3NFA ;-)
Transmitter: HTX-100 28Mhz IF into a Microwave Modules 432 transverter
Frequency: 432.300 Mhz (maybe a bit lower)
Mode: CW
Power: ~5 watts
Antenna: KU4AB E-Factor horizontal loop at 40' fed by ~70' of LMR400
Beacon Location: FN25bh (APRS Object: 432beacon)

Initial Signal Reports:

VA3KA: FN15wg (16Km): 559: Yaesu FT-736R: 28 elements at 40'
VA3WK: FN15xc (25Km): 519: Yaesu FT-897: 3 elements pointed NE
VE3CVG: FN25hm (45Km): 519: Kenwood TS2000: 19 elements
V01NO/VE3: FN24cw(40Km): 519: FT-736R: 20 elements at 40'
VA3SAX:Fn25bh(3Km): 519: FT857: Loop
VE3HXP: FN25eb(34Km): 519: Echo 70: 15 elements at 100'
VE3AKV: FN15vb(36Km): 559: 12 element K1FO at 8' (sat antenna)


The ideal CW beacon should have just enough power to be heard by a moderatly sized station within the area, but not so much power that it will cause interference with contest stations.

From initial reports it looks like a 5W beacon on 432 with a good location and a gain antenna (such as the proposed Big Wheel) will work well.

Many thanks for all the signal reports!


p.s. Many thanks to VE3CVG for mod'ing the HTX-100 to be used as the I/F!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Aurora Propagation

There was a MASSIVE solar storm here today that resulted in some amazing Aurora Propagation on 50Mhz.

Here is a pic of the Sun showing the sunspot responsible:

Here is an audio recording of W8IF that I head on 50.155 at about 0014 UTC: click here.

The approximate distance of W8IF from my home QTH is 1000 kms!

I was using my Ft-847 for a radio with a G5RV jr antenna to receive this signal. He peaked at about 55a on this antenna. WOW!

Here is a pic from showing the 50Mhz spots in the last hour: