After the success of my previous day’s activation at Fort Dobbs State Historic Site, I decided to take the Icom IC-703 Plus out for yet another activation.
As I mentioned in the previous post, the IC-703 has not gotten a lot of outdoor time this year because I’ve had issues with the electronic keyer locking up when using the radio with end-fed antennas.
Of course, there are a number of ways to mitigate or radiate the RF that could be coming back to the radio, so at Fort Dobbs, the previous day, I used a simple common mode choke. It seemed to do the trick.
I was curious if using a common mode choke might be the only solution needed to solve this problem, or if I’d need to perform a mod to my IC-703.
I was ready to test the IC-703 again.
I had a fair amount of antenna options in the trunk of my car, so on the way to Tuttle Educational State Forest (on Friday, October 7, 2022), I considered a few options to shake things up a bit.
Since I was feeling comfortable that the common mode choke was taking care of things, I decided to push the limit a bit and deploy an end-fed random wire antenna. I didn’t have any of my mini portable 9:1 random wire antennas in the car (PackTenna, Tufteln, etc.), but I did have another solution: the Chameleon MPAS Lite.
The cool thing about the CHA MPAS Lite is that while it’s primarily designed to be a vertical antenna with counterpoise, it can be reconfigured and deployed a number of ways including as a simple end-fed random wire antenna.
After giving it some thought, I decided it might be fun to deploy it as an inverted V random wire. In fact, here’s a diagram from the MPAS Lite manual of exactly what I planned to do.
I’d be using the MPAS Lite counterpoise as the radiator, so I wouldn’t have the optional second counterpoise as seen in the illustration above. That’s okay, though, because I was feeding the antenna with Chameleon’s 50′ RG-58C/U cable with in-line choke; the shield of the coax would act as the antenna counterpoise.
This is the same coax cable I used the previous day.
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
As I drove into Tuttle, I could see that I’d essentially have the entire park to myself. Not a bad thing since it would give me ultimate flexibility finding a choice site.
I grabbed the Chameleon CHA MPAS Lite and attached the counterpoise to the top of the matching unit so it could serve as the radiator.
Next, I set up the antenna, prepared the Icom IC-703, then connected the 50′ coax feedline.
I should note here that I give a proper tour of my setup in the activation video below.
Turns out, I was a little too optimistic about this radio and antenna pairing.
I sat down at the radio, got a great match via the internal ATU, and started calling CQ POTA.
This is when I discovered that–sadly–the electronic keying was locking up again. It consistently added extra dits to some of my CW elements.
After giving it some thought, I decided that perhaps I could set up the exact same antenna system I’d used the previous day with success at Fort Dobbs.
Plan B: MM0OPX End-Fed Half-Wave
I packed up the Chameleon MPAS Lite and deployed my MM0OPX EFHW in an inverted V configuration using the same branch I’d used with the MPAS Lite.
Again: this was the same antenna/feedline/radio pairing was identical to the one I used successfully the previous day at Fort Dobbs, save the way the coax was laying on the ground.
I started calling CQ POTA and, once again, the ‘703 keyer was locking up–including extra dits I was not sending.
I had one more thought: perhaps if I used my CW Morse CNC Machine aluminum paddles, my hand would add a bit of capacitance? I’m not an engineer, but this was very easy to test, so I hooked up the CNC paddles and, unfortunately, there was no change. The keyer continued to lock up.
The only other option I could think of that might have worked would have been to put the IC-703 in hand key mode and use the left paddle as a straight key.
This is what I would have done in order to complete the activation, had I not a secret weapon tucked away in my backpack.
Plan C: Ingrid
Turns out, I would need this little rig to save this activation as well.
I hooked the KX1 up to the MM0OPX EFHW and I was off to the races.
- Elecraft KX1 3 bands, ATU, and paddles (a.k.a. Ingrid)
- Pelican 1060 Weatherproof Case (affiliate link)
- Moleskine Cahier Journal (affiliate link)
- MM0OPX QRP EFHW (Contact Colin for Availability)
- Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil (affiliate link)
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera with Joby tripod (affiliate links)
- Sony ICD-FX312 Digital Recorder ($20 thrift store find)
On The Air
I was happy to finally send my CQ POTA with no extra dits!
I started on 40 meters and worked two stations in 8 minutes. I felt like 40 was quite weak, so I QSYed up to the 20 meter band.
Within seven minutes, I worked the additional 8 contacts needed to validate my activation.
That was quick!
I continued logging hunters on 20 meters and snagged a total of 18 giving me a total of 20 logged contacts on both bands. I called QRT because it was time to pack up and move on to yet another park that day.
Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map. Note that I was running about 3-4 watts.
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.
Time to modify the IC-703!
This activation made it clear that I need to perform the keyer mod on my IC-703 Plus.
I know that I could deploy an end-fed antenna with a counterpoise system and likely mitigate most of the RF traveling back to the radio on the coax shield, but I’d like my ‘703 to be able to use the same antennas my other radios can. Hopefully this modification can help.
Thank you for joining me on this activation! I’m grateful I decided to record this one because I think it’s important to share field frustrations along with field successes. In a sense, I actually enjoy sorting out issues in the field. I feel like it makes me a more prepared operator.
These things happen–especially if you experiment with the types of antennas and radios you take to the field.
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.
Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.
As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.
Thank you so very much!
Cheers & 72,