GW4ALG's QRP Radio Pages

[ GW4ALG went QRT in February 2007 ]

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Use of  80 m Transceiver in NFD Contest, June 2000

I used the home made transceiver in the National Field Day contest on 3rd/4th June 2000 operating as GW4ALG/P from a site near Abergavenny.

I was delighted with the performance of this little rig when used with an inverted-vee dipole at 30 ft above ground level.  Operating for about 9 hours of this 24 hour contest, 141 QSOs were made on 80 m  (5 W RF).

The selectivity was found to be adequate, and no cross modulation products were detected.  The external audio filter (45 Hz bandwidth) helped to obtain accurate netting when hunting for stations to work.

Although the rig was operated off a 12 V battery, I needed a generator to power the laptop computer!  This was the first time that I had used computer logging for an HF CW contest, and I was surprised how quickly I mastered the LOG program written by John Linford G3WGV.  It is very easy to use.

The only problem occurred while setting up the station, when I ended up locking the car keys inside the car.  I had to break a window to recover the situation!  . . .   and then had to dash back home (a round trip of two hours) to vacuum the car.  This explains the makeshift 'glazing' which can be seen in the third picture.  Moral: Don't try to mend a boot lock while the keys are still in the ignition switch.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge

General view

The operating position

The mobile shack

The tent for the Honda generator


Full Report

Operating from a hilltop site near Abergavenny, I made 141 QSOs (1042 points) running 5 W output from my homemade 80m transceiver to a half-wave dipole.

A renewed interest in QRP
Weather conditions over the past six months have tended to keep me off 136 kHz, my main band of interest.  Wind and rain have prevented use of my high voltage antenna on transmit, and the high level of QRN has made listening on the band less than enjoyable.

Instead, I have been putting my homemade CW transceiver to good use on 80 m. I made my QRP single-bander about three years ago.  It runs 5 W output and was used by Dave G3YMC when he operated as GU3YMC/P some two years ago.  My interest in QRP was re-kindled in February 2000 by colleague John (then G8TZK) who has been a regular listener to 40/80 m CW. (After several lunch-time morse practice sessions, I am pleased to report that John passed his 12 wpm morse test in May, and can now be heard operating his homemade TX under his new callsign M0CVB.)

I joined the G-QRP Club in March and, since then, have had many enjoyable two-way QRP QSOs - including QSOs with nearly 70 fellow members of the G-QRP Club.

The rig has always seemed very easy to use (having only three front-panel controls), and provided good performance. It was built to my own design using circuit elements from many different publications, and includes the following features:
- 12 v operation;
- full break-in keying;
- superhet receiver with a homemade crystal ladder filter (about 500 Hz);
- SWR indicator, using LEDs;
- RIT; and,
- AGC.

Could the rig be effective in a contest?
I became interested to know how good the performance of this little rig would be when used with a good antenna under contest conditions. So I decided to give it a try in NFD (3rd/4th June). I also decided that I would use the contest logging program 'LOG' designed by John G3WGV. I had purchased the program many years ago, but had never used it in a contest - this was going to be fun! A few days before the contest, I shifted the frequency of the sidetone oscillator in the rig so that it fell within the passband of my homemade 45 Hz audio filter.

I'm off!
By the morning of the 3rd, all was ready. I loaded the car and headed for my favourite hilltop contest site near Abergavenny - a site that I have been using for the past 27 years.

Of course, it was raining - again. By the time I got to the end of the lane which leads to my favourite field, the car was caked in mud - and I still had to make my way through the gate and into the field. Somehow I managed to get enough traction through the entrance, and made steady progress up the pasture to the familiar site. I was now in the clouds at 900 ft ASL: visibility was poor . . . and the fine, misty rain got everywhere. I needed to keep the car windows and doors closed to keep things dry. I also discovered a hole in the pocket of my jeans, so I stowed the car keys safely in the ignition switch so that I didn't lose the keys in the grass (or one of the multitude of fresh 'cow pies').

A set-back
It took me about two hours to put up the 30 ft mast and 80 m dipole. At about mid-day, I quickly checked the tuning of the antenna, and found that it resonated nicely at 3.530 MHz - great! But the frequent opening and closing of the car boot - together with the effects of having very wet hands - meant that my thumb was getting quite sore after operating the stiff boot lock so many times. So I decided to try and sort out the lock mechanism. But after operating the push rods several times, I figured that there was not much I could do without a can of 3-in-1 oil, so I closed the boot again. To my horror, I found that the boot was now locked! Not only that, but all the central locking had been activated: every door, and - of course - every window was well and truly locked. "Oh bother", I said (or something like that).

It was still raining, and it gradually dawned on me that I was going to have to break into my own car! Now, for someone who has owned and cherished this Carlton for the past twelve years, you will understand that this decision was not an easy one to take.  I started by thumping a glass pane using a small guy stake (from an ex-army 'golf bag' antenna, if you know of it). I made several strikes at the pane - which had no effect whatsoever. Out of the corner of my eye, I became aware that my efforts were not going unnoticed. Through the mist I could just make out two people. They were staring at at me from the other side of some new fencing used to cordon off civil engineering works associated with the laying of a new gas pipeline. Although I was, by now, quite engrossed in my endeavours, part of me felt that I should share my predicament with the two onlookers.

A life-line?
Well, it turned out that my audience comprised two archaeologists who had been commissioned to 'walk the course' to ensure that the pipeline project would not damage sites of historical interest.  I then explained the purpose of my visit; and why I was trying to break into my car. They kindly offered to let me make a call on their mobile 'phone and handed over their 'life-line'. Now, if you're wondering why I didn't use my own mobile 'phone (after all, I do work for a mobile 'phone company), then you're allowed just one guess as to where my mobile was located at the time . . . .

Strangely, perhaps, but after considering my present location (miles from anywhere), I handed back the 'phone without having made any calls - I was simply unable to think of anyone to call, or anything to say to anyone that I might have called. (Of course, I would have liked to have pinned the blame on someone else; called 'em up; and really given them an earful. But I didn't. There was no one else to blame)

[Who would you have telephoned, and what would you have said?]

A bigger set-back
Anyway, we said out 'farewells', and the two archaeologists picked up their trowels and continued their trek along the 23 km of the planned pipeline route . . . and I carried on bashing my car . . . I eventually found a guy stake big enough to do the deed, and, after the sixth impact, finally caused the glass to shatter. I took a few moments to contemplate, how professional car thieves do it so effortlessly, and then discovered that I had a new challenge ahead of me.

In my ignorance, I had been expecting bits of broken glass (I imagined, about the size of sugar cubes) to fall conveniently just inside the car, ready for picking up and placing in a spare cardboard box. Not so! When the glass broke, fine shards of glass went, well, everywhere! Fragments lay on the seats; in boxes; on the floor; on clothing; - just everywhere. (I'm still finding bits over a week later.)

I realised that I needed to get back home to do a full vacuum of the car if I wasn't going to end up being cut to pieces while setting up and operating the contest from inside the car.  I was not looking forward to negotiating the mud again - but it had to be done. I abandoned the 80 m dipole (wondering if I would make it back up the hill again that day) and set off down the field, heading for home. It was still raining.

Two and a half hours later, after having vacuumed up as much of the glass as possible, I was sliding and skidding through the mud again, and (only just) made it back up the hill. It was now 4:00pm; the NFD contest had started; and it was still raining.

Time for a rest
It took me another hour to set up the station by which time I was, of course, well and truly knackered. Fortunately, the state of the D-layer meant that 80 m was still very quiet, so I wasn't missing any QSOs. I then realised that I hadn't eaten or drunk anything since breakfast, so I allowed myself a few hours to rest a while, and played with John's contest logging program 'off-line'.

80 m finally started to get going about 8.00pm and I made my first tentative contest QSO with PI4R/P. After that, things seemed to go very smoothly. I found John's program very easy to use, and the QSOs came reasonably quickly. Because I was running QRP, I kept the speed down and had no trouble working the QRO guys. I even found that I could hold a frequency for CQ calls. The little transceiver worked great! At times it felt like I was running 50 W from a top-of-the-range Yaesu rig - especially when using the 45 Hz filter. How pleased I was when G3WGV/P answered my CQ!

I finally fell asleep at about 4.00am - too tired to continue, but very pleased with the results.

Steve Rawlings, GW4ALG
14th June 2000