Saturday, February 28, 2009

PSK Optimum Frequency Finder

Hello Again,

I found another useful link...This one calculates the optimum PSK 31 frequency based on your location.


PSK Automatic Propagation Reporter

Hello All,

I discovered this great website this evening.

Take a look at my signal report.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Blog & Contact


Just wanted to provide an additional link to another blogger:

Last night I picked up another QSO with K9QVB of IL. I pulled down my 20M dipole tonight, because we have rain / snow in the forecast and I have not yet weatherized the coax connection to the antenna.


Fellow Blogger

I wanted to share another blog address with you from G8UBJ.



As I continue to get my feet wet I've quickly learned about "QSLing".  Recently, I setup my eQSL account for electronic QSL cards.  Using the Digipan 2.0 software I am able to save an ADIF log file and upload it to eqsl and in a few clicks produce a new QSL card and transmit.

The URL is as follows:

If anyone has any suggestions on logging software please feel free to comment.  Thus far, I've been using the eQSL website to keep track of my contacts. 


Monday, February 16, 2009

The New Plan and Way Forward

Now that we are all caught up with the story to date, let's recap what has worked well.

ICOM 735 - Paid $90 - Great Purchase
RADIOWAVZ 20M Dipole - $42 w/Shipping from Ham Radio Warehouse (HRO) - Great Purchase
Rigblaster NOMIC - $50 from HRO - Great Purchase
Radioshack SWR/Power Meter w/ Extra stuff - Paid $16 on Ebay...Great Purchase

MFJ Travel Tuner - Paid $100 from HRO - Still in the Box
MP-1 - Although I made my first QSO with this antenna, it was difficult for a new ham - Paid too much $180 w/80M coil and replacement 10' Whip.

Going forward, my current plan is to get sometype of push up pole tower (comments welcomed), like the MFJ fiberglass 32' latching pole (to get my dipole up higher), either full size or shortned 40M diple, and a smaller form factor HF radio (the 735 is a little heavy for portable work).

My new plan is to assemble a station that will fit in a backpack (including the computer and excluding the push up mast). So, regardless of if I want to take it out to my backyard, on my boat, or on a trip its in a small form factor and ready to go (comments welcomed). For now I'm sticking with PSK-31, it is easy to get setup, easy to log, and a lot of fun (which is the most important part).

So, I'm now focused into working the United States and reducing the foot print of my station and improving its mobility.


Another 2 good QSOs

So, yesterday was Sunday which gave me another opportunity to plug up the radio and give it a try.

I caught 2 more QSOs on 20M with KB0ASQ of NE and WA5KPE of MS. Same setup as before running about 20W of power.


Time to by a Dipole

Given that i have 2 children under the age of 5 (one more on the way) my time is very much limited. After 2 attempts to construct my own dipoles I made the choice to cough up $37 and by a Radiowavz dipole from HRO in VA. Although, there is a lot of talk about why would anyone by a commercial dipole it simply comes down to time. In my case I had to weigh construction versus having some fun and getting on air.

So, as the story progresses the dipole was my 4th best purchase. After getting the dipole I took it up to the attic and first mounted it in the raptures with hopes of being able to relocate from the garge to the guest bedroom. As it turns out the QRM in the attic was a little to much. Luckly, we had a break in the cold with a warm day, so I took the dipole out of the attic, grabed my 12' painters pole, 50' of the coax I got with the swr/power meter from Ebay, some old line from my sailboat, and put my dipole up in an inverted-v.

With my radio ontop of table on the deck, my laptop, trusted radioshack meter, rigblaster nomic, and my new dipole. This got me a good 599 contact into Palm Bay, FL with N4URW on 8 Feb at about 10W. Success again! As the package said, "there is nothing like a tuned dipole" and I might add with a half-way decent RF choke balun.

Finnaly, I'm getting some where, more to come.


My First QSO

Frustrated with trying to get the MP1 to load up and dealing with the tiny SWR meter on the Icom 735, I broke down and made my 3rd good purchase. For $16 including shipping I bought a radioshack SWR/Power meter, 100' of RG8 Coax, and a low-pass filter on Ebay. The new meter with a much larger display aloud me to tune to the MP-1 and get it to finnaly resonate (with a decent SWR).

So, my setup was as follows: MP-1 (in my garage), attached to the Radioshack meter, attached to the ICOM-735 with a Rigblaster NOMIC attached to my laptop running Digipan 2.0. Low and behold I made my first QSO to the Midwest (I since have now begin using for logging and QSL card management). Running about 20W I got out in the dark around 8:00pm EDT on 20M.

Finnaly success!

On to the next chapter....


The Original Plan

Ok, so now it is time for the new hams to begin taking notes on what not to do (save yourself a lot of time and money).

Being a sailboat owner now for 3 years I should have applied my same lessons learned from boat ownership to radio. What I've learned about boat ownership is that it is either a complete money hole in the water or just a minor money hole. My experiences with upgrades and repairs have been devise a good plan, do what you can do within your own skill level (call a pro when you really need it), and always keep in mind that even the smallest project can quickly erupt into a major effort (both time and money).

So, with radio I violated the first rule....Not having a good plan...After constructing my first make shift dipole I switched gears and went vertical. Worse over I selected a MP1 antenna from Super Antennas. The first night I had the antenna I opened the box quickly assembled the antenna and attached it to my back deck. I did not tighten down the screws on the mount, so once up down came the antenna which then broke the 4' whip in half (errrr....).

Ok, let's push pause, there are two problems here. One, I did not take my time to assemble and erect the antenna correctly and two a completely green operator bought a compromise (screwdriver) antenna! What was I thinking (actually, I wasn't and got caught up in the raving reviews about the portability of the antenna (most likely from very experienced hams w/ Antenna Analyzers).

Now being invested into the MP-1 I purchased a replacement whip (this time 10') and moved out. By now it was October and the holidays were bearing down (we were host 20 family members for Thanksgiving, so getting ready began to take priority). After replacing the whip and the ground radials that came with the MP-1 I was determined to make a contact.

So, now the question was which mode? Voice, data, cw? After googling around I decided that PSK-31 would be the best start (in future posts you'll find that this was the best decision I made). With PSK31 selected and still no luck with getting the MP-1 to resonate, I made a trip down to HRO with a friend and purchased a new MFJ Travel Tuner and RIGBLASTER NOMIC (excellent purchase).

At this point I started attempting to get on the air in September, it was now October, and it would not be January until I made my first contact (mostly due to the holidays).

Next post I'll talk about my first QSO and my way forward...


My Frist HF Rig - Got Radio but no Plan

After passing my General Class exam I began to search for my first HF Radio. I was fortunate enough to find someone selling a ICOM-735 (w/ the plastic door) for $100, I negotiated down to $90 and picked up the rig the next day. Living on the Chesapeake Bay and being an avid sailor it was only natural that my first radio would come from a fellow sailor. He had just purchased a new boat and readying to make his passage to the Caribbean prior to the winter settling. He had just purchased a new ICOM 706MKII for his upcoming passage while outfiting his new boat.

Not knowing if the unit worked first hand I purchased it on a chance. Once I got home I connected it to a 12V power supply and she powered up. Next I fabbed up a homemade dipole cut for 20M. This did not work out, mostly due to lack of patience and wanting to get on the air, without a good plan. It worked great for RX at only 4' up it did well on 20M, 40M, and 80M.

Although, I now had a radio, I did not have a good plan to get on the air (mode, antenna, etc).

Check out my next blog for my original plan (after not having a plan to start).


Sunday, February 15, 2009


Hi and welcome to my new blog.  

The intention of my blog is to step you thru my personal experiences of becoming a general class HAM and getting onto HF with a simple and effective station.

I upgraded my license on September 15, 2008 and since then have been working to build my HF station.  

Although, many good resources exist on the Internet ( is an excellent source of information, I thought it would be helpful to publish my experiences.

As blogs are meant to be interactive, I am looking forward to seeing everyones comments and inputs.