Tag Archives: FT-817ND

POTA Field Report: Picnic table activation with the FT-817ND, CHA UCM, and MPAS Lite

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the easiest POTA sites for me to activate when I’m at the QTH.

Pretty much anytime I head into Asheville from home, I’m going to cross the parkway. The BRP is such a refuge, I often take it to avoid hitting the Interstate or a busy highways. It takes longer, but it’s orders of magnitude more peaceful and pleasant than, say, Interstate 40.

On Monday, September 13, 2021, I had a small opening in my schedule in the afternoon and decided to  pop by the Folk Art Center for a quick picnic table activation since I was passing by.

The Folk Art Center is a site where I typically deploy smaller, lower-profile antennas to keep from interfering with others who are enjoying the park.  I try to keep my antennas very close to my operating spot and my counterpoises on the ground in a space where others aren’t likely to tread.

In the past, I’ve used the Wolf River Coils TIA, the Elecraft AX1, Chameleon MPAS Lite & MPAS 2.0, and once, a Packtenna 9:1 UNUN random wire. I avoid anything that slopes so that I don’t inadvertently “clothesline” unsuspecting vacationers!

On this trip, I had the Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical and a new toy: the Chameleon Universal Clamp Mount (CHA UCM).

Continue reading POTA Field Report: Picnic table activation with the FT-817ND, CHA UCM, and MPAS Lite

Activating Pilot Mountain State Park on a beautiful summer afternoon

After a successful SOTA and POTA activation at Hanging Rock State Park on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, I drove to nearby Pilot Mountain State Park. It was quite warm, but a beautiful day with no afternoon thunderstorms in sight.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play a little more radio. As the French say, “Il faut en profiter!

Although I’ve seen Pilot Mountain numerous times in my travels, I had never actually visited the park so this was a new-to-me park activation.

Pilot mountain is a landmark in the Yadkin river valley and has a fascinating back story.

Per Pilot Mountain State Park’s website:

“Pilot Mountain is a remnant of the ancient Sauratown Mountains. A quartzite monadnock, this rugged mountain rock has survived for millions of years while the elements have eroded surrounding peaks to a rolling plain.

Pilot Mountain is capped by two prominent pinnacles. Big Pinnacle, with walls of bare rock and a rounded top covered by vegetation, rises 1,400 feet above the valley floor, the knob jutting skyward more than 200 feet from its base. Big Pinnacle is connected to Little Pinnacle by a narrow saddle.

The mountain was mapped in 1751 by Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, father of President Thomas Jefferson. Pilot Mountain became North Carolina’s 14th state park in 1968. The Pilot Mountain Preservation and Park Committee proposed the establishment of Pilot Mountain as a state park in order to protect it and the surrounding area from commercial development. The group secured options on the land and raised matching funds that made it possible to purchase with
federal grants.”

Pilot Mountain is a SOTA summit, but it has never been activated because it would require an experienced rock climber (assuming access is even allowed). The base of Big Pinnacle is 61 meters above the summit trail system, so well outside the 25 meter activation zone.

Pilot Mountain State Park (K-2750)

I only had my sights set on making a park activation out of Pilot Mountain and, frankly, I didn’t even have time to explore the trail system  that Tuesday.

Finding a spot to set up was quite easy. I entered the park and took a right at the roundabout which lead to the parking area at the top portion of the mountain.

From there, I found a small picnic area perhaps 50 meters from the parking lot. I carried my gear there and set up shop!

Since I was doing this activation mid-afternoon, I had the picnic area to myself, save one unfortunate woman who was trying to (conspicuously, if I’m being honest) fit in a bit of meditation time.  She picked out a picnic table near one of the main trails basically in the center of the picnic site , so I assumed she was pretty good at blocking out noises you’d normally hear at a busy park.

But the question remained: could she block out the sweet sound of CW emanating from my FT-817?

There was only one way to find out!

In truth, I try to lay low at parks and not disturb other people. In this case, I picked a table on the perimeter of the picnic area but it was still only a couple tables away from her. Since I was making one of my real-time, real-life field activation videos, I would be using the speaker–instead of headphones–with the FT-817.

In other words, there was no escaping a little CW music!

I shared my picnic table with this little Praying Mantis
I think he’s upset that my throw line is all over *his* ground.

Gear:

This was also the first time I’d used my new orange single-level CW Morse paddle very kindly gifted to me by contributor/subscriber, Nathan (N8HWV).

Although it might look like a dual lever paddle, it’s actually a single lever!

Thank you so much, Nathan! 

On The Air

I started on 20 meters CW and, fortunately, it was hopping!

I worked 18 stations in 19 minutes. Whew!

Many thanks to N2EIM and NA9M for the P2P (Park To Park) contacts!

I then moved to 40 meters where I worked K8DRT for a second time (first was on 20M) and my “it wasn’t a real activation unless I worked him” buddy, K8RAT.

40 meters wasn’t in as good of shape as 20 meters was.

Having no way to spot myself to the POTA site, I didn’t attempt any SSB contacts–I would have at least for a while,  otherwise.

Video

Here’s a real-time, real-life, no-edit, no-ad video of the entire activation:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Inner Peace through code…

Evidently, Morse code must have “resonated” with my meditating neighbor.

She didn’t move until I I was off the air–as if the conclusion of her session coincided with the end of my activation.

Obviously, a little CW helped her along her journey to inner peace. 🙂

I know it did for me!

Thank you

As always, thank you for reading this field report. I hope you take a little time to achieve your inner peace by playing radio outdoors! 🙂

73,

Thomas (K4SWL)


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A potentially justifiable impulse purchase…

So I made an impulse purchase last week.

Well, to be honest, it was a purchase I planned to make, but not until much later this year or early next year.

Except I didn’t.

Don’t judge me.

Confession time

Last Sunday, I hopped over to the QTH.com Classifieds to price out a nice 100 watt radio for a friend whose daughter is new to the hobby.

Normally, I use the search functionality at QTH.com and seek out classified ads for particular radio models. Since I wanted to offer him several examples, I decided to simply load all ads for that day and skim through the list.

The very first item that came up on the list was a Yaesu FT-817ND. I opened the ad and looked at the photo.

The owner was selling the radio along with everything that originally accompanied it–the box, antenna, manuals, the whole lot–plus side rails he’d purchased and installed. He described it as “like new” with only five hours of operating time on it. He said he was selling it because, “I just can’t do QRP.”

The price was $350 shipped.

I bought it.

My justification

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you might recall that it was only last year when I purchased an FT-817ND from my buddy Don. I did this after realizing I missed the FT-817 I originally owned shortly after it was introduced to the market in 2001. It didn’t help that I really wanted to build and try the FT-817 Buddy Board by Andy (G7UHN). [Andy: V4 is next on my bench..I promise!]

I honestly think I appreciate the FT-817/818 now even more than I did after it initially hit the market. I’ve been enjoying the FT-817ND in the field and have used it in a number of park and summit activations.

A recent activation at Island Mountain Educational State Forest with the ‘817ND

But that’s not why I purchased this one.

I’ve been wanting to get in on a bit of satellite action as, perhaps, a bit of a stepping stone into QRP EME (I mean, the antennas point upwards, right?) and also my ham daughters are both interested in satellites.

My future QRP full-duplex portable satellite system

 

 

Ages ago, I’d seen and read about hams who’d paired two FT-817s or FT-818s to create a full duplex portable satellite station.

My buddy Eric (WD8RIF) reminded me about this earlier in the year, too, and it stuck in my head because I really liked the idea.

Why? Besides all of the advantages of using a full duplex station, two FT-817s is still a very portable set-up. Hypothetically, I could use it for both satellites and HF during a park activation. Plus, two portable HF radios, right? Right! What’s not to love–?

Seriously: I see the system as quite a value when compared to other full duplex systems including pricier HTs.

As described

I had not done research about FT-817ND pricing before pulling the trigger–indeed, I still haven’t–but I felt $350 shipped was fair. I know I’ll get $350 of fun out of it!

After taking delivery and unboxing it, I expected it to show normal signs of wear, but the seller described it accurately: it was like new. In fact, it still had the protective film on the screen (yes, I pulled it off) and I could tell the microphone had never even been taken from the box. It was flawless and included every single original accessory mostly in the original bags.

I like the side rails, too: They prop up the radio at a perfect viewing angle. I have no idea who made these, but they’re nice.

Speaking of side rails…

Dual Escort?

I’ve been very pleased with the Portable Zero side rails and bail that came with my first Yaesu FT-817ND.

Using a dual FT-817ND system in the field, though, I’ll require either a bag to hold them, or a dual side rail system.

Turns out, Portable Zero makes side rails that hold and space two FT-817/818s perfectly.  I gulped a bit when I saw the price, though.

Still: they obviously make a great product and, for me, it’s an elegant solution. Before I bite the bullet, though, I might investigate homebrewing something or see if there are other options.

In fact, if you’ve seen other solutions–or have owned the Dual Escort yourself–please comment!

Or an affordable carry bag?

W9WSW’s Satellite Gear in this Amazon Basics DSLR bag (Photo swiped from W9WSW’s excellent site)

Another (and perhaps better?) option for portability might be this $28 camera bag from Amazon.com (affiliate link).

The bag would allow me to house both transceivers, a battery, cables, digital recorder and basically everything I’d need to operate full duplex portable in the field.

Another advantage of using the bag would be that I wouldn’t need to remove the side rails I already have on each FT-817ND (assuming the camera bag could accommodate them).  In addition, the bag might make for less dangling cables as I operate.

The fact that numerous satellite gurus like Sean (KX9X) use this same bag is a pretty strong recommendation.

Arrow heading my way

On the advice of Eric, and numerous other portable satellite ops, I ordered an Arrow 146/437-10BP Satellite Antenna.

I assume I’ll use the the BNC connectors on the front of the radio rather than the SO-239 connectors on the back.

SSB filtered!

The FT-817ND I purchased last year came with a 2kHz Inrad SSB filter. I replaced it with a 500 Hz Collins filter I purchased from Steve  (WG0AT)–thanks, Steve!

I opened the new FT-817ND yesterday morning and installed the SSB filter. It sounds great.

If I chased you in POTA or SOTA yesterday, and you logged me, it was with the new FT-817ND running 2.5 watts off of the included NiMH battery pack.

I gave the FT-817ND a thorough work-out and it seems everything functions as it should.

Any other dual FT-817/818 owners out there?

If you have any advice about mounting or packing dual FT-817/818s, I’m all ears.  Also, if you use the FT-817/818 with an Arrow antenna, I’m curious what you use in terms of cable assemblies.

I’m a complete newbie to the world of amateur satellites, so any tips or hints are most welcome.

This weekend, I’m going to the first hamfest I’ve attended in 19 months. Let’s hope I can resist other impulse purchases! For what it’s worth, I’ve zero buyer’s remorse about this purchase!

73 friends,

Thomas (K4SWL)

943 Miles Per Watt with the Yeasu FT-817ND, Elecraft T1, and 28.5 feet of speaker wire

When it comes to parks, I haven’t picked up many new-to-me “uniques” lately.

In truth, though, I’ve put more effort into activating unique summits which takes more time to plan, plot, and activate. SOTA has taken a bite out of my park uniques, but I’m good with that because to me it’s less about my park/summit numbers and more about the exploration and outdoor radio time.

On Tuesday (July 6, 2021) however, I added one more unique to my 2021 park count: Mountain Island Educational State Forest (K-4858).

This park is actually a modest detour during my weekly travels, but I’ve never popped by for an activation. You see, unlike other state parks I visit, Mountain Island isn’t yet open to the public on a daily basis. On their website, they state that visits must be arranged in advance, so I reached out to them the morning of July 6 and they promptly replied, welcoming me for a visit and activation that very same day!

Off the beaten path

Since this state park isn’t yet open to the public, I didn’t see the typical brown highway signs pointing me to the park entrance, but Google Maps steered me right to the front gate where there’s a sign.

The gates were unlocked and open, so I pulled into the property and met with two of the park staff who were incredibly kind and accommodating. They were both familiar with the Parks On The Air (POTA) program which made it much easier for me to ask about spots where I could set up my station.

First, though, I wanted to know more about Mountain Island Educational State Forest so I asked ranger Laura about the history of the site.

Turns out, Mountain Island is the newest Educational State Forest in North Carolina and has been in the works for more than 20 years.

The Forest is a vast conservation area that protects 12 miles of shoreline on Mountain Island Lake in the Catawba River Basin. This lake is the primary drinking water supply area for Charlotte, Mecklenburg and Gaston Counties. She told me that one in 23 North Carolinians rely on this area for their source of water.

Much of the land was originally owned by Duke Power who put it up for sale in 1998. Conservation groups purchased the land from Duke’s real estate agency in 1998 and put it into a conservation easement. The land is actually in two counties (Gaston and Lincoln) and a portion in the city limits of Gastonia.

The NC Forest Service now manages the forest and supports the public-private partnership with the counties, municipalities, and conservation groups.

Mountain Island has been actively educating school groups and the public about the river basin and local flora/fauna for many years by appointment. Currently, a new education center is being built on the property and will soon be open to the public with regular business hours. Being so close to population centers, I imagine they’ll stay busy!

Shade

Park ranger Laura was kind enough to allow me to set up under a huge tree in front of their ranger station.

I was grateful for the shade: it was 92F (33.3C) and humid.

There were no picnic tables under the tree, but I happened to have two folding chairs in my car. I used one as a table and the other as a chair. I flipped over my GoRuck GR1 backpack to make a stable base for the Yaesu FT-817ND.

Gear list:

On The Air

I was super pleased to put the Yaesu FT-817ND back on the air. It’s been a while since I’d used it in the field because my review radios (TX-500, X5105, etc.) have taken priority.

I love the FT-817ND and believe it’s actually an exceptional transceiver for CW and SSB ops. The CW full break-in QSK is wonderful and I actually like the mechanical sound of the T/R relay switching (if you like pin diode switching, you should look the other way, though!). With the 500Hz CW filter installed, the front end is pretty bullet-proof, too!

This was the first time I had paired the FT-817ND with my 28.5 foot speaker wire antenna. The random wire antenna needs a good ATU to match impedance, so I employed the Elecraft T1 this time (soon I’ll also try the LDG Z-100A).

I had planned to do a little SSB work, but quickly realized I’d forgotten the FT-817ND microphone. A shame because this site actually has excellent mobile phone service so I could have spotted myself to the network. Next time–!

I started on 40 meters CW and worked ten stations in 21 minutes. That’s a perfect pace for me!

Next, I moved to 20 meters where I worked six more in 9 minutes.

I was incredibly pleased with how well the speaker wire antenna performed–especially on 20 meters.

From the Piedmont of North Carolina, I worked Montana, Texas, New Hampshire, and Italy with 5 watts into $4 worth of speaker wire.

I did a quick back-of-the-envelop calculation and discovered that I yielded about 943 miles per watt!

To be clear, IK4IDF did all of the heavy lifting in our contact with his 9 element Yagi, but still it’s awfully exciting to put DX in the logs with only fair propagation.

Video

Of course, I made a real-time, real-life video of the entire activation (save the set-up and take-down):

Click here to view on YouTube.

Onward and upward!

I packed up quickly because I had a SOTA activation planned that afternoon on Anderson Mountain. I’ll post a field report and video of that activation soon.

Rev 4 FT-817 Buddy Board

Also, I’m about to start soldering together G7UHN’s new Rev 4 FT-817 Buddy Board! Revision 2 worked wonderfully, but revision 4 now includes a CW memory keyer among other upgrades! (Woo hoo!)  All of the components are now in the shack–just a matter of soldering them together and programing the Arduino Nano. Andy, if you’re reading this, expect a call from me soon, OM!

Thank you!

I’d like to thank all of you for reading this field report and I’d especially like to thank those of you who contribute to QRPer.com via Patreon and our Coffee Fund. While my content will always be free and QRPer is very much a labor of love, your support helps me purchase gear and supports my radio travels. With that said, if you’re saving up for your first radio or need to invest in your own kit, I’d rather you support yourself.

My goal with QRPer is to champion field radio operations and encourage others to discover the benefits of playing radio outdoors!

Have a wonderful week!

73,

Thomas (K4SWL)


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Field Report: Pairing the Yaesu FT-817ND, LDG Z-100 Plus, and CHA Emcomm III Portable at Tuttle Educational State Forest

On my way back to the QTH, April 21, 2021, I popped by Tuttle Educational State Forest for what I hoped would be a relatively quick activation.

The previous day I performed a SOTA activation of The Pinnacle and was still feeling the high from that brilliant solar flare propagation experience. Although I knew the solar flare effects were long gone over 24 hours later, I wanted to take in a quick hike and play a little radio: Tuttle was the perfect place for both.

Plus, Tuttle Educational State Forest is such a peaceful quiet place (that is, when no one is burning up rounds at the nearby shooting range). The park is never crowded and it has wide open spaces for playing radio.

My plan was to do a quick activation, then hit their longest trail loop through the forest.

Gear:

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

Another reason I stopped at Tuttle was to test the LDG Electronics Z-100 Plus ATU.

In the spirit of full transparency, LDG sent this unit to me at no cost when they became a sponsor of the SWLing Post and QRPer.com recently (you may have noticed their ads in the right sidebar). While I was really curious how well the Z-100 Plus pairs with the Icom IC-705–using the supplied command cable–I didn’t have a (charged) IC-705 with me. Instead, I pulled out the trusty Yaesu FT-817ND and hit the air!

The Z-100 Plus is RF-sensing, so a command cable is never needed and the ATU will pair with any transceiver.

To use the Z-100 Plus with the FT-817ND, I only needed to hit the Tune button on the front of the ATU then send a string of dits or dashes for it to initiate a match search.

It was no surprise that the Z-100 Plus easily found matches with the Emcomm III Portable.

I started calling CQ on 80 meters and quickly worked my buddy WD8RIF in Ohio.

After a few minutes, I moved up to the 40 meter band where I worked four stations in about four minutes, then the band was quiet for a few minutes.

I then moved up to the 30 meter band and worked four more stations in about seven minutes then silence again.

At this point, I only needed one more contact to validate my POTA activation to have ten stations logged, so I moved up to the 20 meter band and in about four minutes worked two more.

If I didn’t have a limited amount of time and a strong desire to fit in a hike that afternoon, I might have called CQ a while longer on 20 meters and possibly even 17 meters, but I called QRT after a total of 36 minutes on the air.

Herein lies the advantage of having a portable ATU: it gives you frequency agility. On days when propagation is rough, and contact roll in slowly, a good ATU will allow you to find matches on multiple bands so your transceiver will be happy pushing RF through a non-resonant antenna length. I love resonant antennas, but it’s hard to beat the flexibility an ATU gives you.

[My next video, by the way, will feature the Z-100 Plus connected to the IC-705. ]

QSOmap

Here’s how my contacts looked that day on a QSOmap:

Video

Here is one of my real-life, unedited videos of the entire activation:

I was so busy making the activation video, I didn’t think about taking photos of my rig.

During the hike, however, I did snap these two:

It’s fun returning to the same parks and seeing how the flora changes with the seasons. There’s always something new to see.

I think the next time I activate Tuttle, it might be from the trail–I located a couple of spots that would be ideal for a park bench activation! That might make it feel a bit more like a SOTA activation (although, there are no summits in this forest).

Thanks again for reading through this activation report. Please comment with any questions or feedback. Very curious what LDG Z-100 Plus owners think of this ATU.


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POTA Field Report: Pairing the FT-817ND with the EFT Trail-Friendly antenna at Lake Norman

Last week, I thoroughly enjoyed taking the Yaesu FT-817ND to the field.

While the ‘817 lacks features I’ve come to appreciate during field activations like voice and CW memory keying, it’s still an incredibly fun and capable radio.

Last Monday (January 18, 2021), I had an opportunity to visit Lake Norman State Park (K-2740) and perform an activation around lunchtime. Lake Norman is convenient to my hometown of Hickory, NC and these days I typically spend at least a couple nights there doing a little caregiving for my parents. It’s rare my schedule is clear at lunchtime to fit in an activation–typically it’s later in the afternoon.

As with my recent activation at Lake Jame State Park, I paired the Yaesu FT-817ND with my Par End-Fedz EFT Trail-Friendly 40/20/10 meter resonant antenna.

Gear:

It was an incredibly fun activation and one of the few recently where I racked up some great QRP contacts across the 20 meter band before moving to 40 meters.

Here’s my QSOMap of the activation (red lines are phone, green are CW):

As with most of my activations, this one was relatively short. Rarely do I have more than 45-60 minutes of on-air time during a POTA sortie.

I also made another real-life, real-time, no-edit video of the entire activation. If interested, you can view it via the embedded player below or on YouTube:

I’m long overdue a multiple park run, so will start strategizing soon! The Parks On The Air program has also added a few new park in North Carolina, but none appear to be in the western part of the state.

Oh, and Phillip, thanks for prompting me to take the ‘817 to the field again. It is a gem of a rig and I think it might suit your needs very well!

73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

POTA Field Report: Activating Lake James State Park (K-2739) with the Yaesu FT-817ND

One question that often faces newcomers to the hobby is: “Should I buy a QRP or a 100W transceiver as my first rig?

That is a very deep topic, actually, and one to explore in a future post. A 100 watt transceiver will certainly give you more options as they can often pump out 100W or be turned down to 1 watt. If you’re a phone operator only, that’s got some serious appeal. Then again, if you’re operating POTA or SOTA where you are the DX, power–while still important–is much less so than, say, if you were at home trying to work DX.

Again, a deep topic for another post because there is no right or wrong answer.

One of our readers (Phillip) reached out to me a couple weeks ago and asked if the Yaesu FT-818 would make for a good first HF rig. He liked the portability factor, the build quality, the HF/VHF/UHF multi-mode coverage, and the overall flexibility of the rig as a field radio. His goal was to do POTA activations.

We had quite a few emails back and forth about the pros and cons and I decided it might make more sense to simply take my Yaesu FT-817ND (which is nearly identical to the FT-818) to the field and activate a park in both SSB and CW. Since I knew he wouldn’t necessarily have an external antenna tuner from day one, I paired the FT-817 with my resonant 40/20/10 meter end-fed antenna.

Lake James State Park (K-2739)

On January 17, 2021, I pulled into my favorite part of Lake James State park and quickly set up my station. I only had about one hour to complete my activation, so knew this would be a very brief excursion. Since I actually had a minimal amount of gear, it was a quick setup.

Gear:

Since I deployed a resonant antenna, there was no tuning or matching involved which not only makes the most of your 5 watts (in that it’s more efficient), but also saves a bit of time in set up and tuning up.

You might note in the video below that my FT-817 has an accessory board attached to the top: G7UHN’s 817 Buddy Board prototype.

I’m testing this prototype at the moment, but didn’t need to employ it at Lake James since it’s really useful when the rig is on your lap or on on the ground. It essentially gives you top-mounted controls and a larger display to read front panel information from above–incredibly useful for SOTA and proper in-the-field activations. Andy’s v3 board will include a memory keyer–I can’t wait for that one!

Since I had Internet access at this park, I used my Microsoft Surface Go logging tablet to spot myself to the POTA network. I started calling CQ on 40 meters phone (SSB) and within six minutes logged eight stations. Not bad for 5 watts and a wire!

Next, I moved to CW on 40 meters and started calling CQ POTA. The POTA spots page auto-spotted me via the Reverse Beacon Network in short order. In eight minutes, I worked six more stations.

I then moved to twenty meters which was essentially dead, so I called it quits a bit early. I needed to pack up and head to my next destination.

Here’s a QSOMap of this short activation (red polylines are SSB and green CW):

I also made one of my real-time real-life no edit videos during this activation if you’re interested:

Truth is, each time I use the FT-817, I love it more. Sure it’s only 5 watts, has no ATU, has a small display, a clicky T/R relay, and questionable ergonomics, but it is a keeper for sure. Even after 20 years of being in production, it still holds its own and is an incredibly popular radio for good reason.

As I told Phillip, the 817/818 is the Toyota Corolla of the QRP radio world.

Upgrading my Yaesu FT-817 with G7UHN’s rev2 Buddy board

This article was originally published on the  SWLing Post.
Last August, SWLing Post contributor, Andy (G7UHN), shared his homebrew project with us: a genius companion control display for the venerable Yaesu FT-817 general coverage QRP transceiver.

Andy’s article caused me (yes, I blame him) to wax nostalgic about the popular FT-817 transceiver. You see, I owned one of the first production models of the FT-817 in 2001 when I lived in the UK.

At the time, there was nothing like it on the market: a very portable and efficient HF, VHF, UHF, multi-mode general coverage QRP transceiver…all for $670 US.

In 2001? Yeah, Yaesu knocked it out of the ballpark!

In fact, they knocked it out of the ballpark so hard, the radio is still in production two decades later and in demand under the model FT-818.

I sold my FT-817 in 2008 to raise funds for the purchase of an Elecraft KX1, if memory serves. My reasoning? The one thing I disliked about my FT-817 was its tiny front-facing display. When combined with the embedded menus and lack of controls, it could get frustrating at home and in the field.

I mentioned in a previous post that I purchased a used FT-817ND from my buddy, Don, in October, 2020. I do blame Andy for this purchase. Indeed, I hereby declare him an FT-817 enabler!

FT-817 Buddy board

When I told Andy about my ‘817ND purchase, he asked if I’d like to help him test the FT-817 Buddy board versions. How could I refuse?

Andy sent me a prototype of his Version 2 Buddy board which arrived in late November. I had to source out a few bits (an Arduino board, Nokia display, and multi-conductor CAT cable). Andy kindly pre-populated all of the SMD components so I only needed to solder the Arduino board and configure/solder the cable. I did take a lot of care preparing and soldering the cable, making sure there was no unintentional short between the voltage and ground conductors.

Overall, I found the construction and programming pretty straight-forward. It helped that Andy did a remote session with me during the programming process (thanks, OM!). Andy is doing an amazing job with the documentation.

I do love how the board makes it easier to read the frequency and have direct access to important functions without digging through embedded menus. While there’s nothing stopping you from changing the program to suit you, Andy’s done a brilliant job with this since he’s an experienced FT-817 user.

The Nokia display is very well backlit, high contrast, and easy very to read.

“Resistance is futile”

I mentioned on Twitter that, with the backlight on, the FT-817 Buddy makes my ‘817ND look like it was recently assimilated by The Borg.

Don’t tell any Star Trek captains, but I’m good with that.

Andy has a rev3 board in the works and it sports something that will be a game-changer for me in the field: K1EL’s keyer chip!

For more information about the FT-817 Buddy, check out Andy’s website.

Of course, we’ll keep you updated here as well. Many thanks to Andy for taking this project to the next level. No doubt a lot of FT-817 users will benefit from this brilliant project!

Yaesu FT-817: Getting reacquainted with an old friend

In a previous post, I mentioned that I had regretted selling quite a few radios.

Almost immediately after publishing that post, I purchased an Elecraft KX1. It was an impulse purchase, and I’m happy I made it.

Then, a couple weeks ago, my buddy Don discovered I was considering purchasing the Yaesu FT-818.

He mentioned that he had a very lightly used FT-817ND with a lot of extras he would appreciate selling me. I agreed without hesitation.

The package included:

  • Yaesu FT-817ND
  • Inrad SSB 2.0 kHz narrow filter
  • Massoft Mylar speaker (installed)
  • Anderson Powerpole adapter on rear of chassis
  • Yaesu PA – 48B Charger
  • Portable Zero FT-817 ESCORT bracket and side rails in black
  • Portable Zero Sherpa Backpack
  • Nifty Mini Manual
  • Yaesu FNB 85 1400ma
  • All original accessories and antennas

Don offered a fair price for the package, so how could I resist? (Hint: Don’t answer that!)

Besides completely trusting Don as a seller, I must admit that the FT-817 Escort side rails were a big selling point. I’d planned to purchase those regardless. Having owned the original FT-817–what, 20 years ago?–I knew I wanted something to protect this radio in the field. Not only that, but the FT-817 needs a proper bail in my opinion and the Escort delivers!

Blue Ridge National Parkway (K-3378)

Saturday, I had one goal in mind: split some firewood at my father-in-law’s house. But I had to pass the Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378) en route, so why not a quick activation too, right–?

Gear:

Packed the FT-817ND and, since I needed to fit in a quick deployment, the CHA MPAS Lite antenna.

Talk about getting reacquainted with an old friend: I haven’t operated an FT-817 in at least 18 years!

I was on the air perhaps 35 minutes or so. It was a lot of fun and some trial by fire as I quickly sorted out my CW and phone settings live on the air.

I very quickly made contact with my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) in a park to park contact (thanks, Eric!).

After that, a CW contest started up and I quickly realized how important it will be for me to get a narrow CW filter for the FT-817ND. It was as if 10 stations were sharing the frequency with me. (Any advice on filters would be much appreciated!)

I only managed to collected the 10 contacts needed for a valid activation and, for the first time, relied on my daughters (both licensed) to help snag my 10.

Propagation was poor on Saturday. Since I was in a hurry to get the wood split–and was running behind–I didn’t hang around to work more than 10 stations. Plus, no one “needs” the Blue Ridge Parkway these days since it’s activated so frequently.

This activation was a brilliant shake-out for the FT-817ND field kit. I created a few to-do items:

  • Perform some TX audio tests and tweak the mic settings at home–I feel like the mic gain might have been a bit low.
  • Sort out the AGC and sidetone settings in CW and decide if I want to run full or semi break-in. Between the relay clicks, AGC recovery and gain settings, I found full break-in a little distracting with the lower sidetone volume I had set Saturday. This can be easily adjusted and then it’ll sound great.
  • Dedicate a small external battery pack for the FT-817ND kit. I might purchase another 6aH Bioenno pack especially since it fits in the Sherpa pack side pocket so well.
  • I have the accompanying internal battery pack, but have yet determined how much capacity it still has.

I’m so happy the ‘817ND has re-joined my field radio family! I’ve missed this fine little rig!