CW many times more effective in getting a signal out

CW many times more effective in getting a signal thru than is SSB. An example was last wkend, April 13, when I was at my cabin in NC testing a homebrew Buddistick I would use the following day on a SOTA activation of a mtn on the Blue Ridge Pkwy. I was particularly interested in 40m so I could communicate with my friends in Georgia so WA4ZXV in Atl agreed to a sked. On SSB it was worthless but on CW he heard me with 2.5w and I got 569 rst.

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Murphy Follows K4WK up a Mountain

Yes, Mr. Murphy, who had been bothering me all day Saturday while tuning (or trying to tune) my homebrew buddistick vertical, trailed me Sunday for my SOTA Activation of Clingmans Dome.  First, at the top ( steepish climb, btw) there were no hoped-for picnic tables for me to comfortably sit and operate.  Second, even tho it was Easter Sunday there were plently of people around to become curious abt my activities so I located a little ways down a side trail that went nowhere.

The antenna did not tune up any better on Clingmans than it did on my back deck; i.e., SWR of up to 20, but I operated anyway.  I could hear my Atlanta friends very well but none could hear me on 40m.  N4EX, a big SOTA player and Association Regional Manager, worked me easily fm Raleigh.  That was all for 40 min when I moved up to 20m.  At 14.285, the qrp freq, there were some spanish-speaking hams but they were 44 so I didn’t think I’d bother them.

Amazingly, I did bother them with 2.5 watts and a poor antenna so I had to QSY.  Went up to 14.287 and ND0C answered my CQ, N1EU, W7CNL and KK1W.  That made five qso’s and only four are needed to win points for the activation so my first SOTA was a (mild) success and I’ve captured ten points.

Now need only 90 more!

What you Need to Know About Clingmans (Clingman’s?) Dome

The first thing to know is that it is not Clingman’s but Clingmans.  Not possessive, just plural.  Where’s the grammar in that?
The second thing to know is that this is the highest point in the Smokies and the highest point in all the Appalachian Trail.  Here’s what the website says: “At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s highest point. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the second highest point east of the Mississippi. Only North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) rises higher.

Clingmans Dome is a popular Park destination. Located along the state-line ridge, it is half in North Carolina and half in Tennessee. The peak is accessible after driving Clingmans Dome Road from Newfound Gap, and then walking a steep half-mile trail. A paved trail leads to a 54-foot observation tower. The Appalachian Trail crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its 2,144 mile journey.

Third, for you ham radio operators out there, it is a SOTA mountain, W4/WM-001, that earns the max possible ten points for activation.  K4wk was the 4th ham to activate Clingmans and I earned ten points, my first in the SOTA pgm.  Two other 10-point SOTA peaks are up the trail a few miles, Mt. Kephart and Laurel Top, and I hope to activate them both in 2012.  Follow me on twitter @k4wk.

Preparing for First SOTA Activation. Murphy abounds.

April 8, 2012 1800Z is my planned first SOTA Activation.  Will go to Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountains, W4/WM-001, at 6,000 feet elevation and operate on the qrp freqs using Yaesu 817 and homebrew buddistick.  Will also have random wire antenna as a spare.

The buddistick was completed last wk at my home in Atlanta.  I tested it on the back deck on 20m and worked Madeira Island, off the coast of Africa, rt away!  Then was unable to make contacts for a while till I finally worked a ham in Massachusetts.  Not bad for 5 watts.

So, with confidence, I announced my SOTA intentions and proceeded to the Misty Mountain Cabin QTH, in western NC at foot of the Smokies.

Saturday’s radio project was to get ready for Sunday’s radio project, the Activation.

Alas, Murphy has made his presence known (with inadvertent help from me).

Murphy 1: First, I let the Buddistick plans at home.  Not so bad as everything but the radial was ready.  Luckily, I had saved the plans on my laptop and accessed them there and wrote down the radial lengths I would need to know.  Right after that, the (Murphy 2) laptop died.

I have been filming the Buddistick assembly and erection.  All was good until (Murphy 3) the SD card became full and because laptop was dead (Murphy 1, remember?), I couldn’t move the files off the card and onto the computer.

Aha, says I.  There’s a Radio Shack in Sylva so I’ll go get another SD chip.  I can always use another, I rationalized.  Not only that, there’s an internet café in Dillsboro so I can get online and post my SOTA plans on sotawatch.org, twitter, nasota and various list serves.  Problem solved!

In Dillsboro, Murphy 4 struck.  Being the day before Easter, some shops were closed, such as the internet café and Radio Shack.  Ok, so I won’t videotape the activation.  The Jackson County Library was open and it has computers so I’ll go there to use the internet.  Arriving at the library I discovered the Murphy 5 had gotten there before me; a library card was required and I left mine back at the cabin. 😦  Happily, the nice librarian looked up my card # and let me play.

The biggest baddest Murphy of all awaited me back at the cabin; Mean Murphy 5 was messing with my Buddistick SWR’s while I was in town and increased them to >25 on 40m and upper teens on 20m.  Testing the antenna, I couldn’t make any contacts Saturday.  What will happen at Cllingman’s Sunday?

I hooked up my small ant tuner and could achieve a good match on 20m (and recall that it worked fine the previous Tuesday in Atlanta with 1.5 or less SWR and no tuner), but not at all on 40m.   I contacted the helpful Budd Drummond but he was on his way to Montserrat and couldn’t talk.  He said he’d email me when he lands but I am sure he has more impt things to do on a DXpedition that worry about me.  Still, it’d be nice to hear his advice.

Theories: 1) I used 22-ga speaker wire instead of the 20-ga in the instructions because that’s what I had on hand.  Maybe the coils should have more turns.  2) Misty Mountain Cabin is in the Bermuda Triangle of EMF 3) I dropped my antennal analyzer and it is seeking revenge.

Possible Solutions for immediate need: I will try two radials to see if it’ll tune up better; and I will try out the random wire with a tuner.

Stay tuned (as I cannot).

LxPedition Last Night

We had a pleasant QSO roundtable Thursday evening at 9:15 EDT at 3899.  I said that I would start at 3899 and go down 3kc fm there till I find a quiet spot.  What I meant was to find a freq not in use and 3899 was not in use but it was not quiet.  Plenty of QRN to go around, thanks to normal summer noise augmented by thunderstorms in the Southeast.

Bill, KB4KFT, was first to ck in, from Duluth, GA.  Then Billy, KI4KGK who was 55 most of the time.  Next came Bobby with 600w, W4MAA, loud and clear.  I found he is using a Heathkit SB-221 and using it well.  I have an SB-200 that I cannot get to work so I plan to ask Bobby for advice.  Jason, K1OGR, chimed in at 58; he and I have talked on 2m in Atlanta and he told me about LxPedition and we had also talked about BuddiPole with John, KI4ESV that morning.   Finally Bill from Buckhead, KM4LS joined us at 58 and a Maryland station tried to enter but I couldn’t hear him altho the folks in Atlanta could.  My signal reports were 57-58 most of the 30 minutes we talked.

We talked about rigs and antennas, QRN, and an upcoming hamfest in Waynesville that KB4KFT wants to attend.  We had a variety of antennas represented: mine is OCF dipole, Bill’s is a G5RV (but he spoke of a field day special 80m antenna 5′ at the apex; I want to hear how that works), someone else had a phased array and yet another had a vertical loop.

This was a fun experience for me and next time I’ll give everyone a week’s notice instead of just 12 hours and look for more check ins.

Here’s a view of Misty Mountain Cabin.

73, Wayne

LxPedition Thursday nite

I will attempt a LxPedition Thursday nite 9:15pm on 75m from my cabin in western North Carolina.  I’ll start at 3899 and go down 3 kHz until I find a quiet spot, calling CQ Lxpedition as I go.  Will be running 100w into OCF dipole at 2,000 above msl.  Jackson County, NC, if you collect counties.  Go to k4wk.wordpress.com for pictures of operating position.  Hope to work you tonite!  73, Wayne k4wk, @k4wk on twitter.