Tag Archives: Chelegance MC-750

The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 3

Day 3 of my spring-break Florida POTA trip began well. Those of you who read my “A Confession from the POTA Babe” article know my personal life has been anything but settled as of late. Two weeks prior to the trip, I experienced a traumatic break with a close friend and partner. I hoped this trip would help me move past that event and began putting my life back together.  This was the first morning I woke in two and a half weeks feeling like myself and ready for whatever POTA adventures lay ahead of me.

Day 3 of my spring-break 2024 Florida trip

Participating in the pilot session of CW Innovation’s Comprehensive ICR course in October 2022 introduced me to the concept of a code buddy. A code buddy is someone with  whom you have regular CW QSOs, a trusted friend who keeps you active on the air and with whom you grow your skills. I have two code buddies currently – Caryn KD2GUT and Charles W4CLW. Charles and I usually meet Tuesday mornings at 8 AM EDT and I thought why not try to meet up during the trip.

As noted in my article about the first day of this trip, I had to take down the EFRW at my campsite as per park regulations. I pulled out the Chelegance MC-750 as I thought it might stand a better chance than the AX1 with any noise in the campground. As Charles’ QTH was only 232 miles from my campsite, I figured 40 meters would be the only option for us.

I turned on the KX2 and the noise was horrible. However, Charles cleared a frequency and called QRL. He was a 599 on my end but when it was my turn, he could not hear me at all. Oh well. We at least tried.

I figured since I already had my equipment up and running, why not have an impromptu activation?

I spotted myself on the POTA website and began calling CQ. Within 40 minutes, I had a valid activation. Thirty meters gave me four contacts and 20 meters eight contacts including Manuel WP4TZ in Puerto Rico, another member of the Comprehensive ICR course I am currently facilitating with CW Innovations.

I also had one park-to-park QSO with Dave KQ4CW who was activating US-0567 in Virginia. At this point, it was time to pack up my equipment and head south to Cedar Key Scrub Preserve (US-3611).

QSO Map for Manatee Springs 4-2-24 Activation Source: http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

On the drive southward, I noticed lots of yellow flowers (I think dandelions) along the road as well as wild verbena. I enjoyed the encounters with the natural world I had on this trip. The previous day, I had several different caterpillar species visit me during my activations. They ended up on my clothes as well as my equipment.

During today’s impromptu activation at the campsite, three deer walked  through the area. Nature galore!

a tussock moth caterpillar
a Tent caterpillar
possibly a salt marsh moth caterpillar

Daisy and I arrived at Cedar Key Scrub Preserve (US-3611) around 11:30 AM. It was fairly warm at this hour of the day so I set up in the shade generated by Kai and some overhead trees. I chose to work with the Chelegance MC-750 again.

This activation proved to be a busy one, all on twenty meters. Over the course of 50 minutes, I logged 32 contacts including one DX with Chris F6EAZ in France, a QSO with another team member in my class – Pat K2SCH, and one park-to-park QSO with Jeff KF4VE at US-4857 in Virginia.

At this point, the sun had overtaken Daisy and I. We were beginning to roast so it was time to call QRT.

QSO Map for Cedar Key Scrub Preserve Source: http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/
USA Only QSO Map for Cedar Key Scrub Preserve Source: http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

I had planned to take a walk at Cedar Key Scrub Preserve but due to the warm temperatures and foliage that would not provide much shade, I scrubbed (yes, you can groan) that plan, packed up, and headed further south to Cedar Key.

The town of Cedar Key is made of small islands (called keys) linked together by bridges. We navigated over them to Cedar Key Museum State Park (US-3610).

Unfortunately, the museum was closed for maintenance. But, as I surveyed the site, I saw a shady bench beckoning me.

A QTH with potential!

I set up the Chelegance MC-750, Daisy sprawled out for a nap, and I got down to business.

This activation ran slower than the previous one. I ended up with 25 QSOs on 20 meters in an hour. However, it was pleasant to relax in the shade, enjoy the breeze, and not be in a rush. In fact, after the activation and everything was packed up, Daisy and I relaxed at this spot for a good thirty minutes, soaking in the experience.

On the drive back to my campsite, I received an unexpected call. It was the close friend and partner I thought I had lost several weeks ago.  I pulled off to the side of the road. The conversation was a heart-felt and cathartic one.

I had a choice to make. There were three days remaining in my trip and potentially four more parks I could activate toward my 60 new-to-me activation goal.  Or I could choose to step through the door that just opened. It didn’t take me long to decide.

This spring-break Florida trip was a productive one. I activated six parks toward my goal, used two antennas with which I was not very familiar, and camped on my own. I also did what I set out to do in my “A Confession from the POTA Babe” article – savor the beauty around me, think, reflect, and be. I cancelled the remainder of the trip to visit this cherished person with the joy of reconciliation.

It doesn’t matter if it is POTA or your personal life; relationships are what matter. This POTA Babe has learned her lesson and has her priorities in the correct order now. Thanks to all of you who continue to share my adventures. They are far from over.

Equipment Used

[Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.]

The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 1

In pursuit of my 60 new-to-me park activations, I headed back to Florida for six days the first week of April. The weather forecast looked promising – high temps in the upper 70s falling to the upper 60s by the end of the week. Rain might dampen my spirits on Wednesday but otherwise, the sun was likely to shine during my journey.

Day 1 of my April 2024 Florida Trip

Daisy and I packed up the car and headed out early Sunday, May 31st. It was an easy journey – three and a half hours south down I-95 and then southwest across Florida. Of course, we stopped at the Florida welcome center and got our picture snapped, this time just the two of us.

Here we again in Florida!

We arrived in Branford which actually did look like a nice place to live. Lafayette Forest Wildlife & Environmental Area (US-6315) is just outside the town. Unlike the wildlife management areas in Georgia I’ve visited, this one looked more manicured. The road into the park could have been the entrance into some genteel Southern plantation.

Not far inside, we found a fenced-in parking area and kiosk. I figured this would be the easiest place to set up. Checking the kiosk, I confirmed we were out of hunting season though we would still wear our blaze orange items for our walk after the activation. (Before we arrived at the park, we actually saw a turkey crossing the road.)

Map of Lafayette WMA

I opted to use the Chelegance MC-750 on the tripod mount because I need more practice with it. That proved to be a good choice as I had to re-read the instructions to set it up – hi hi. This is what happens when you don’t use equipment on a regular basis.  Continue reading The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 1

Planning a POTA Babe Trip – Part 2

(Note: I cut my Florida POTA trip short as I needed to take care of some personal business. I apologize for the change of plans and the inability to communicate that to y’all. I appreciate everyone’s support of the trip and the QSOs of those who hunted me. Articles will be forthcoming for those activations in the near future.)

Those of you who have followed my journey on QRPer know that I wrote an article about my kit for the trip I took last summer to Nova Scotia. Since then, what ham radio equipment I take with me has changed, partially because I am not flying to a different country far from home and partially because of my experiences with what I generally do and don’t need. I thought I’d share what my kit currently looks like for the spring-break Florida trip.

Here is a photo of what ham radio-related gear I am taking on my Florida POTA trip. We’ll first look at what I have in each section of the Elecraft bag I take with me and then a few items that do not fit in this bag but are still along for the ride.

When I purchased my KX2, I also purchased the Elecraft bag. Though the bag is bulky in its profile, it was a worthy purchase due to the amount of stuff it can store in one place in a well-organized manner.

The bag has three compartments.

In the first compartment is my main man, Craig, my KX2. He is the rig I use for all my QRP adventures out and about. I do have a protective cover I purchased for him but haven’t installed yet. I have a fear of messing with electronics and, though installing the shield isn’t rocket science, the project seems overwhelming enough that I haven’t tackled it yet.

Also in this first compartment are my throw bag containing an arbor line and throw weight, some S-carabiners, my homemade radials for the AX1, the tripod mount for the AX1, and a pencil and earbuds. I find I copy CW much better when I have a headset of some sort.

In this compartment, I used to have a back-up key. However, in its place is a new single-lever paddle from CW Morse [QRPer affiliate link]. I am using this key because it is wired to be a cootie or a paddle via an internal switch. I discovered my KX2 doesn’t balk at using this key like a cootie unlike when I use the CW Morse SP4. I desire to use QRP for more than POTA, specifically for SKCC and calling CQ for ragchews. SKCC requires a mechanical key and, as the cootie is my favorite key, this new key should fill the need  I discovered the last time I visited Skidaway Island.

In the second compartment, I have the AX1 and the Tufteln EFRW antenna. Those of you who have read my articles know I generally deploy the Tufteln EFRW antenna. On this April Florida trip, I plan to use the AX1 and the Chelegance MC-750 more often in preparation for my summer POTA trip. I anticipate I’ll be limited by terrain and park rules from deploying an antenna in a tree so more experience with verticals will be helpful.

In the third and final compartment are some odds and ends: neon pink flagging tape, an allen wrench for adjusting my CW morse keys, some twine, a short length of wire with an alligator clip on the end, two shock bungee cords, the cord for my CW Morse single-lever key, and a splitter for the headphone jack. I’ve used all these items (except the cord for the new key) at one time or another so I don’t want to leave the house without them.

Here are items I am also taking that don’t fit in the Elecraft bag.

The Tufteln kneeboard, POTA flag, and a notebook. I really like using pencil and paper for my POTA logs. I hold my key in the left hand and send with the right. For some reason, juggling that with paper is more manageable to me than logging in my phone or a laptop. The one thing I miss out on by doing that, though, is not knowing people’s names except those I’ve encountered many times. (And even then I forget names in the busyness of an activation so if I do, please forgive me.) I like to thank people by name at the end of the QSO rather than just their call sign if I know their name. I learned to do this in SKCC exchanges and I think it is a respectful and genteel practice. The one advantage I see to using a logging program is that I could do that with every QSO.

In a Tom Bihn bag, I have my RG-316 coax in three lengths (10’, 20’, and 50’), a short bungee cord, a stereo connector, and a newer version of the SP4 (aka The Minion).

Also coming along for the ride is the Chelegance MC-750. [QRPer affiliate link]

The last pieces of equipment I am bringing are for the first park I will visit – Lafayette Wildlife Management Area. In areas that allow hunting, Daisy and I wear blaze orange, even in the off season. Though as hams we try to be law abiding, we need to remember there are others out there who are not. When it comes to areas in which hunting is allowed, it is wise to wear blaze orange year-round because hunting violations due happen.

There you have it – the POTA Babe’s current QRP kit. I have one last question to address in this series – how I plan my trips. To find out, stay tuned…

Pairing the TR-45L Skinny and the MC-750 at Gorges State Park!

Once a year, I meet up with my friends Monty and Mike for a weekend of camping. We’ve been friends for over 30 years, so it’s always brilliant hanging out with them, hiking, and just enjoying the break in our busy family lives.

This year, we planned our weekend campout for March 15-17, which is slightly earlier in the year than we usually do, but all of us have complicated schedules in April, May, June, and July. So March it was!

We chose to camp at Gorges State Park (US-2732) in Sapphire, North Carolina.

We also decided to opt for one of the park’s five cabins instead of tent camping. The park ranger I spoke with on the phone prior to making the reservation convinced me that we should reserve one of their newly built cabins. The cabins can sleep six, have electricity, and even have heating and air conditioning.

Mid-March in the mountains of western North Carolina is a fickle part of the year. It can be cold, hot, dry, or wet–all easily within one weekend. Choosing a cabin would mean packing in a lot less gear. Done!

Unfortunately, only a few days prior to the camping trip, Monty had to duck out to attend a funeral. We really missed hanging out with him.

Gorges State Park

To my knowledge, I had never been to Gorges State Park. It’s one of the newer parks in the NC system and, frankly, it’s located in a part of WNC that I rarely travel through these days.

The park is vast, and there are a number of trails that lead to waterfalls.

The visitor’s center was built in 2012 and is really impressive. We stopped by there and spoke with staff about some of the hiking options.

I’ve always preferred state and national park camping facilities over private campgrounds. They’re typically well-maintained, and the sites are spaced apart (so I can easily set up an antenna!).

Cabin #5

The camping area at Gorges is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen. It’s all very new. The cabins and shower/bathroom building are only two years old.

The weekend, overall, was warm during the day and cool at night with periods of rain. We both felt pretty happy we’d picked a cabin for the weekend–packing up wet camping gear is never all that fun!

Saturday morning, Mike and I planned to do a bit of hiking, and I wanted to fit in a short activation.

Picnic Shelter Activation

At one of the trailheads for a short hike, we found a spacious picnic shelter. Despite the amazing weather that morning, there was no one else at the shelter.

I scoped out the trees around the perimeter of the shelter, and most were pretty small trees with larger trees behind them. I decided that it would be easier to simply deploy my Chelgence MC-750 vertical.

I brought three radios along on this camping trip: my TR-45L Skinny, Icom IC-705, and Elecraft KH1. I chose the Skinny for this activation! Continue reading Pairing the TR-45L Skinny and the MC-750 at Gorges State Park!

Woo hoo! Finally taking my QRP Labs QMX on a POTA activation!

Those of you who purchased a fully-assembled and tested version of the QRP Labs QMX are, no doubt, patient people.

While you can order a kit version of the QMX and receive it fairly quickly (still, I believe), the assembled versions take more time as the QRP Labs crew is small and they build and test these by hand.

I ordered mine on June 5, 2023, and it shipped on December 27, 2023.

Truth is, I’ve had a QMX kit since Hans Summers announced it at Four Days In May (FDIM) prior to the 2023 Hamvention. I’ve been meaning to build it but, as many of you know, my life has been a tad crazy these past months and I never got around to it.

I purchased an assembled version of the QMX because I will be reviewing this one and wanted a factory-tested unit. I would have never guessed I’d receive the assembled unit before building it!

Familiar Form-Factor

The QMX looks so much like my QCX-Minis, I’ve gotten them mixed up in the shack! The menu system is very similar to the QCX, but there are some changes to accommodate band changes, modes, etc., as the QCX-Minin series is mono-band CW only.

The QMX, on the other hand, is a five-band, five-watt, multi-mode (CW, Digital, and likely SSB in the future) transceiver. It’s hard to believe you can purchase the QMX for as little as $90 (bare-bones) kit or $165 (fully-assembled and tested).

I initially thought I had an issue with my QMX because it kept shutting down the transmit function. Turns out, that was all user-error. I mentioned the issue on an episode of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast, and a couple of listeners wrote to tell me what I was doing wrong: I was feeding it too much voltage. The QMX doesn’t want more than 12V or so. If the radio detects even a temporary mismatch, it shuts down the TX to protect the finals, etc.

I was unintentionally triggering the QMX’s self-protection functionality!

Once I figured that out, I decided to simply pair my QMX with my Bioenno 3Ah 9V LiFePO4 battery. That would yield about 3 watts of output power and be a comfortable voltage for the QMX.

Vance Historic Birthplace (US-6856)

On Thursday, March 7, 2024, I finally took the QMX outdoors where it belongs! I had a one-hour window of time to complete a full activation. I decided to pair the QMX with my Chelegance MC-750 vertical.

My QMX is a “low-band” version that covers 80, 60, 40, 30, and 20 meters. I thought the top end of its band coverage would serve me best mid-day, so I planned my activation around 20 meters.

Setup was easy and simple. You can see the full set-up process in my activation video below.

Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

On The Air

I hopped on the air and started calling CQ POTA after sorting out my QMX settings–I needed to adjust the sidetone and I had to take it out of split mode! Continue reading Woo hoo! Finally taking my QRP Labs QMX on a POTA activation!

A Slimmed-Down Solution: My first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L “Skinny”

You might recall a recent POTA activation where Jonathan (KM4CFT) joined me at the Vance Birthplace K-6856 US-6856–?

Jonathan used my Penntek TR-45L for his portion of the activation, and I was pleased he got to spend some time with this magnificent CW machine. You might also recall that it still had a buzz in the speaker audio–something inside the radio was vibrating.

KM4CFT working the TR-45L in late December 2023.

I tried to track down the buzz as Jonathan operated by tightening some of the screws holding on the speaker grill (yeah, I’m sure that was annoying, and he’ll think again before activating with me in the same space–!). I knew, though, it was something inside the chassis that was vibrating with audio.

As I also mentioned, my TR-45L was a prototype unit (I helped Beta test it)–it had a couple of mods and wasn’t exactly representative of the upgraded production model.

John (WA3RNC) at Penntek reached out to me after I published my recent field report and video; he offered to upgrade my TR-45L to the production chassis which would sort out the buzz. I was most grateful, of course!

He then asked if I would be interested in checking out the TR-45L “Skinny,” which is essentially a TR-45L in a much skinnier chassis. The Skinny model lacks the ATU and battery options but is lighter weight and more portable. I mentioned to John that I’d like to purchase one, actually. Since John was interested in sponsoring QRPer, we ended up working out a barter (at full market price) for ad space. I love this arrangement, actually, because I was going to approach him about sponsorship at some point anyway.

The Skinny!

Now keep in mind that the TR-45L is one of my favorite CW radios. I love the audio, the receiver characteristics, and the “Apollo era” aesthetic. I think it’s one of the best-looking and best-sounding radios on the market.

The Skinny is just like the bigger TR-45L, just roughly half the depth. I did have concerns that the audio wouldn’t be as good since the acoustic chamber would be smaller, but turns out, I had nothing to fear. The Skinny’s audio is on par with its bulkier sibling.

There was no learning curve with the Skinny because 1.) it’s identical in operation to my TR-45L and 2.) Penntek radios have super simple interfaces, and almost every function has a top-level direct control.

Zebulon Vance Birthplace (US-6856)

On Tuesday, February 27, 2024–the day after receiving the TR-45L Skinny–I packed it up and took it to the Vance Birthplace for its inaugural POTA activation!

That day, I had about 90 minutes to enjoy an activation, and I was looking forward to spending time with the new Skinny.

Vance was a great choice that day because the weather was moody; it was gusty, rainy, and I knew their picnic shelter would provide excellent cover.

The Skinny (in its padded bag), the MC-750 and my ABR cable assembly.

The TR-45L Skinny, unlike my original TR-45L, has no internal Z-Match ATU, nor does it have an internal battery. In fact, there’s no room for either in the Skinny, so it’s not even an option.

I paired the Skinny with my Chelegance MC-750, which is a resonant antenna when deployed correctly, so there was no need for a matching device. I supplied power via one of my 3Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 batteries.

Setup was simple and easy!

Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

On The Air

I hopped on the air with the intention of working 20 and 17 meters. Continue reading A Slimmed-Down Solution: My first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L “Skinny”

The POTA Babe Takes One for the Team

by Teri (KO4WFP)

I had planned to take the week off from POTA when I received an email from Dave N1CGP asking if I was participating in the March 8th Young Ladies Relay League event. The event is an all-day celebration of International Women’s Day with POTA activations. Well, there was no way the POTA Babe could sit that out!

Young Ladies Radio League logo

My day was already packed with appointments but I had four hours in the afternoon I could squeeze in an activation. I chose to activate Canoochee Sandhills Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a 35 minute drive from my home QTH. The park would not count toward my 2024 goal as I had already activated it last year. However, it would work for this event.

Signage photo from a previous trip

Daisy and I headed out around 2:30 PM under partly cloudy skies and 73 degrees. Apple Maps took me a slightly different route than my prior trips. As I was driving along, suddenly the paved road became dirt but what a fun ride! We fishtailed a little and that put a smile on this POTA Babe’s face.

Carolina Jasmine, a vine with yellow trumpet-like flowers, bloomed along the roadside. It is the state flower of South Carolina and adaptable, growing in a variety of conditions. What I didn’t know about it before writing this article is that all of the plant is poisonous. Even deer and rabbits will not eat it and that is saying something.

At the WMA, there was only one pickup truck parked off the road so it looked like Daisy and I would have the place pretty much to ourselves. I decided to use the Chelegance MC-750 vertical since time was limited. Daisy and I donned our blaze orange gear, set up, and got down to business. I had one hour to get a valid activation. As I hadn’t used the 40 meter coil yet on this antenna, I opted to start with 20 meters. I called and called CQ but had only two takers in 20 minutes.

https://georgiawildlife.com/canoochee-sandhills-wma

It was time to see if 17 meters would come to my rescue. It did! I had 22 contacts on that band in 40 minutes including Peder SM2SUM (a regular) in Sweden.

QSO Map including Sweden http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/
QSO Map with just US stations

The weather, while operating on 17 meters, turned cold and windy, gusty enough to blow over the antenna during one of my QSOs. I put on the hoodie I had taken off earlier and wished I was sitting INSIDE instead of outside the car.

ominous weather

At this point, I hoped to hunt a few activators, most of whom were on 20 meters. I reset the vertical for that band and began hunting but came up empty handed.  The last one I tried, Melvin W3PYF, barely heard me and sent “Sri try later”. Unfortunately, I didn’t have later as I had a code buddy QSO with my best friend Caryn at 6:30 PM. Besides, I was sufficiently chilled from the weather that rolled in and was ready to head home.

This wasn’t one of my favorite activations, partially because I was pressed for time and the weather turned unpleasant. However, I did support my fellow YLs with the activation.

Sometimes, as a POTA Babe, you have to take one for the team.

Equipment Used

[Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.]

QRP & Coffee: Late-Shift POTA using the new Chelegance MC-750 80 Meter Coil!

I mentioned in a previous post that Jesse at Chelegance had sent me some antenna goodies to evaluate. One of them was the MC-599 portable dipole antenna which you might have read about in my previous field report.

Another item he sent, which I was equally excited about, was an 80-meter coil for my beloved MC-750 vertical antenna.

In the spirit of full transparency: he sent this at no cost to me, and, as a reminder, Chelegance is also an affiliate of QRPer.com.

I’ve been eager to take the 80-meter coil on a POTA activation because 1.) if it proved effective, it would be great to have such a low-impact, low-profile antenna for 80 meters, but 2.) it’s been very difficult to fit in an evening POTA activation with my family life.

It would have been difficult to gauge how effective an 80M antenna performs in the late morning or early afternoon when I typically activate local parks/summits.

On Wednesday, February 6, 2024, a two-hour window of opportunity opened. One of my daughters had a dress rehearsal that night, and I knew of a nice, quiet, secluded POTA spot only 25 minutes away.

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Game Land (K-6937)

My original plan was to arrive at the Looking Glass Falls’ picnic area, deploy the antenna, fire up the stove, make some coffee, eat on-site, then begin my activation after the start of the UTC day.

So why wait for the new UTC day?

Mainly because once you hit the new UTC day, it counts as a new activation. That really works in your favor as an activator if your goal is to complete a valid activation (with ten contacts) and you’ve enough time to do that before the UTC rollover. If you time it all correctly, you could activate double the parks with a minimum of 20 contacts (split 10/10). In my case, that would mean a total of four parks activated in one evening (since this was a two-fer).

I decided fitting in an activation prior to the UTC rollover simply wasn’t worth the rush.

Once I arrived on-site, however, I was already changing my mind.

I started my activation video, deployed the MC-750, and looked at my watch. I had roughly 15 minutes before the UTC rollover.

It would be tight, but I decided to give it a go and try logging ten contacts before 18:59:59 local (or 23:59:59 UTC).

If I couldn’t log ten before the UTC day, who cares!? It would be a fun challenge for sure, but I wasn’t going to cry if I couldn’t gather enough contacts for a valid activation.

There was another factor, too: operating 80 meters with a 17′ loaded vertical isn’t exactly “efficient.” My theory, though? It doesn’t need to be efficient. It’s crazy portable, convenient, and as a POTA activator, I only need enough performance to get the job done.

Time to hit the air!

Radio Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

Coffee Gear:

Photo from the Fall of ’23.

On The Air

I’d scheduled my activation on the POTA website, so was relying on it to spot me via the Reverse Beacon Network.

I started calling CQ POTA and the contacts started rolling in… very… slowly.

Well, it felt slow because I had a goal of ten contacts in fifteen minutes. Continue reading QRP & Coffee: Late-Shift POTA using the new Chelegance MC-750 80 Meter Coil!

Filling in the Gap at Skidaway Island

The Sunday of President’s Day weekend, I was supposed to camp overnight at Reed Bingham State Park and pursue two more activations for my 2024 goal of 60 new-to-me parks. However,  the Wednesday evening prior, I sustained an injury to my right hand which happens to be my sending hand. The injury was serious enough that I rescheduled that trip for June and, for my bi-weekly QSO with my code buddy Caryn KD2GUT, I sent on the paddle with my left-hand which turned out better than I expected.

Since I did not go out of town as planned, my son Sean attended his bi-monthly Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) meeting Sunday afternoon. Another code buddy, Gary K4IIG, suggested that while I waited for Sean, I should consider activating. The weather was unpleasantly chilly and overcast so I opted against an activation but did want to try out my new antenna, the Chelegance MC-750. I knew I needed another vertical for my POTA kit and it came highly recommended by several other hams.

Not welcoming weather!

After dropping off Sean, I headed to Skidaway Island, a 30-minute drive. Seven hundred acres of the north end of the island belong to the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, part of the University of Georgia. The site is for salt marsh research and houses the administrative offices for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The land is open to the public for daytime hiking and wildlife viewing. In fact, Daisy and I have walked there on several occasions. The habitat is typical coastal maritime forest with live oaks, Spanish moss, and palmettos along with some more open areas populated by pine trees.

Daisy and I chose the open field outside the institute at which to park and set up the new antenna. We were not the only ones using the field that afternoon despite the weather. While there, several other dog owners showed up to let their pups run and play in the field.

I read the simple three-page instructional PDF from Chelegance’s website and thought I had a good idea of how to set up the MC-750. However, I had not read any instructions about using it with the tripod accessory. I knew the bottom spike needed to be removed but couldn’t get it out with my bare hands. This is why I carry a Wave+ Leatherman [QRPer affiliate link] with me! I rarely use it but when I need it, I REALLY need it. Soon the spike was off and I was ready to set up the antenna.

True to what I heard, the Chelegance vertical is easy to set up. You screw together a few sections, plug in the four radials at the bottom, select your band and extend the whip to the location marked on it, then screw the whip on. Viola! Yes, it was that easy!

Usually my son’s D&D sessions last 3.5-4 hours so I figured I would log onto the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) sked page and see if I could scare up some QSOs as I work toward the rank of Senator. Yes, even POTA Babes do non-POTA things. For me, my non-POTA CW activities are code buddy and SKCC-related QSOs.

SKCC is a wonderful organization of more than 28,000 ops from all over the world. To pursue their awards and ranks, one has to use a mechanical (straight, cootie, or bug) key though anyone can participate in their sprints or other events to join in the fun (just send “none” for the SKCC number if using a paddle). It is because of them that I learned to use a straight key and cootie (my favorite key) and am now learning to use a bug.

I decided to start with 20 meters and moved the whip to the 14 MHz mark.  Then I remembered my code buddy Caryn KD2GUT mentioning something about a contest going on this weekend. I set up my laptop and checked the Reverse Beacon Network online graph by HA8TKS. WHOA! That band was chock full of signals. As I was using my KX2 and was therefore QRP,  I knew there was no point calling CQ on that band.

Source: https://dxcluster.ha8tks.hu/V2/rbn_ct1boh/

What about 17 meters? Checking that band yielded much better results. Now to log into the SKCC sked page.

Source: https://dxcluster.ha8tks.hu/V2/rbn_ct1boh/

The SKCC sked page is a wonderful resource. You can private message ops for a QSO or just to say hi! If calling CQ, you can post your frequency and on what you are working. I claimed 18.088 and noted I was working toward Senator, using QRP and slower ops were welcome. (I like to slow down for newer ops or those who are in an ambling frame of mind as many other ops slowed down for me when I entered the hobby.)

I spent about 10 minutes calling CQ and queried on the general section of the sked page if anyone was hearing me as I had a new antenna. That is when Jim N0IPA from Colorado answered my call. Jim, like me, is learning to use the bug. I suspect he is working on the Triple Key Award, too. To achieve this award, an op has to have 100 unique SKCC-member QSOs each with a straight key, cootie, and bug. I happened to be Jim’s first bug QSO! The standard SKCC exchange is RST, QTH, name, and SKCC number and it wasn’t long before we had each other in our log.

About ten minutes later, Jacob N3VH answered my call. He is located in New Jersey and said by the end of our QSO, my RST was a 559. Both Jacob’s and Jim’s QSOs counted toward my Senator progress putting me at 48 out 200 QSOs left to earn my toga!

Unfortunately, my son’s D&D session ended earlier than expected which meant it was time for this POTA Babe to call QRT.  The short time was well worth it as I now felt more comfortable with the new antenna and was 2 QSOs closer to earning the rank of Senator with SKCC. Plus, I got on the air with QRP for a non-POTA exchange which is unusual for me. I also have a place I can visit (if the weather cooperates) two weeks from now for more non-POTA QRP work. The fun with ham radio never stops, does it?!

And for those of you wondering how my progress with my 2024 POTA goal is coming along, you’ll find out soon when I attempt to activate park #17 on that journey. Stay tuned…

October Leaf Colors at Lake James: Pairing the Elecraft KX1 and Chelegance MC-750

This past fall was a busy season for me.

So busy, in fact, I completely overlooked an activation video I filmed two months ago (on Monday, October 23, 2023)!

That said, one of the things I love about making field reports and recording videos is re-living activations a second time. It’s fun to remember the site conditions, the weather, the radio/antenna choices, and all of the folks I might have logged.

I enjoyed stepping back in time a couple of months for this one!

Lake James State Park (K-2739)

That Monday was the first day I surfaced to fit in an activation after fighting a respiratory bug the previous week. I felt much better and tested negative for Covid, so I made my way to Hickory to help my parents with some tasks.

On the way that morning, I stopped by Lake James to play a little POTA with one of my favorite radios in the world: the Elecraft KX1.

On October 23–as I mention in the video–the QRP world had only just learned about the new Elecraft KH1 and I had yet to receive the almost-production unit I ordered as a field tester.

I knew that once I received the KH1, I’d be using it heavily for a few weeks, so I wanted to fit in a little KX1 time in advance!

POTA in Color!

The weather and fall colors at Lake James were absolutely stunning!

New KX1 Tufteln Cover!

Back when I filmed this video, it had only been one week since the W4 SOTA campout where my friend Joshua (N5FY) gave me a few prototype snap-on protective covers for my KX1s.

These covers are very clever because they protect all of the important front-panel components yet remain very low-profile so add little bulk to the radio.

Image: Tufteln.com

Joshua provides two new screws for the front panel (you simply replace out the stock KX1 screw); the cover magnetically snaps onto the higher-profile screws and seats itself securely.

Image: Tufteln.com

I demonstrate my cover in the activation video.

At the time, this was a product Joshua was considering adding to the Tufteln line-up–since then, he’s made it available to order–click here to check it out.

At present, Joshua offers the covers in two colors: black and light brown. Mine are the light brown color.

You’ll notice in the video that Joshua added my callsign to the covers he gave me. I don’t think the production covers are customized with your callsign because Joshua makes these in batches. You would need to check with him about customization–I assume there would be an extra charge and lead time for that because it would require modifying the file and printing a one-off cover.At any rate, I love the covers and have added them to all of my KX1s. Note that I used a Sharpie to write the name of each radio on the cover–this makes it very easy to tell the difference between my KX1 models (they’re named Ingrid, Greta, and Ruby)!

Gear:

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On The Air

It was early enough in the morning that I decided to spend some time on the 40 meter band to work POTA “locals.” I deployed my Chelegance MC-750 with the 40 meter coil.

I tested the SWR and discovered it was high due to a loose connection on the end of the cable assembly–I fixed that and the SWR came down to 2.5:1. With the MC-750, I could have easily lengthened or shortened the whip to get a perfect match, but instead I took the lazy (& speedy) route and simply used the KX1 ATU to get a 1:1 match.

Even though I’d spent a long time talking about the KX1, KH1, the Tufteln cover, etc. in the  video, I actually didn’t have a lot of on-the-air time. (Typical me to talk away my activation time!).

I started calling CQ POTA and the contacts started rolling in.

Within ten minutes, I’d already worked ten contacts.

I worked a couple more, then called QRT. Looking at the time, I had to end this activation earlier than I’d hoped. I needed to hit the road again.

I packed up in short order, but still took a few moments to enjoy the beauty of that lovely autumn morning.

QSO Map

Here’s what this five watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map:

Activation Video

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.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them. I enjoyed reliving this Octeber activation.

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.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me!

Here’s wishing all of the you best of the Holiday Season!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)