K0GKJ – Just Another Ham
The New QTH – A Floating Shack

A Successful ‘Hamcation’

View Just Part of the Haul from Frigid Fun in Orlando

Aside from the ooggling endless ham-related merchandise at the Central Florida Fairgrounds this weekend, the array of which was incredible, I thoroughly enjoyed lots of eyeball QSOs (face-to-face meetings) with some really interesting folks. And it was a hoot monitoring all the VHF channels that were buzzing with activity in the hotel room all night long after walking maybe a hundred miles during each day.   

OK, so it was rainy, cold, brutally windy, particularly on Friday. This meant that the outdoor vendors (“tailgaters”) who could be convinced to pull up a corner of the tarps covering their merchandise for the few hard-core masochist shoppers (like myself) who were out there braving the elements, sometimes found themselves accepting offers they might otherwise have declined (good deals!). Fortunately, the rain departed the area before Saturday morning. That meant Saturday was CROWDED. Sunday was great, though, so I consider Friday afternoon and Sunday morning the “sweet spots”.   

I found it very satisfying to have many longstanding technical questions finally answered (radials associated with verticals, operational attributes of bugs versus keys, the true meaning of life, etc.), some by characters who are now legends in the ham radio world.   

I did burn up more cash than was even outrageously reasonable, and now poor Kay, my way-too-understanding YL,  is trying to make heads or tails out of a fistful of receipts cryptically scratched at the swap tables to the schmuck with the cash, debit & credit cards (me).   

Yup, I’m battling one helluva financial hangover this morning. Worth it? We’ll see, but it sure was a lot of fun. In the pics below, you can see at least a portion of my haul, and don’t I just look like I’m ready for a radio safari? Shoulda worn my pith helmet, but opted for my call sign hat and deep bush vest instead…  

I toured a robustly outfitted emergency communications vehicle, emcomm being one of my passions. Check out this privately owned communications center, complete with commercial FM broadcast capability to get the word out to civilians after the FM stations get blown away, along with half a dozen operating positions on VHF, HF, Marine & microwave, all separated from each other on the spectrum by notch filters and unique frequency assignments – one well thought-out (and funded) truck:   

View Sponsored by Agencies But a Private Affair

I bought a few books, mostly other small stuff, but also more than a few spendier items.   

These include my first Vibroplex ‘bug’. a.k.a., semi-automatic Morse code key (see nauseating detail on this item originally manufactured in 1962 and described enthusiasticslly in an earlier post – included in the album below after partial clean up), also a SWEET brand new Vibroplex Iambic Deluxe (silver with the red paddles below) and some cool portable operating equipment, like a hyper-portable 33 foot Eagle One vertical HF (10-80 meter) multi-band (with tuner) antenna and tripod, an ultra-portable tuner (the reknowned LDG Z11 Pro II), etc.   

View Portable Ops Antenna, Tuner and New Keys

Right now I’m contemplating how to cut up a 500 foot spool of wire I bought into a radial system for the vertical. Sounds like tuned elevated radials are the way to go. I’m thinking four each for:   

  • the 40 meter band, whose third harmonic will also resonate on 15 meter (34′ long each),
  • 20 meters (17′ long each),
  • 10 meters (8½’ long each),
  • I’ll also lay out just one radial for 80 meters as it needs to be 66 feet long at ¼λ (gulp!), but at least to pay homage to some balance in nature at those lower freq’s. We’ll see if the LDG autotuner can load up the vertical with any efficiency at all with this set up. I can always add more radials this long, but let’s see how much of a hassle just one is and how well it works.

I’m just using one insulated speaker wire conductor for each radial, crimped and soldered to a ring terminal.   

I’ll tuck two radials into each ring terminal, connect them to the antenna tripod with a few hose clamps(which will be electrically connected to RF ground) before they all hit my 4:1 (voltage) balun, the other side of which will connect to the antenna “radiator” (the vertical 33′ element). The other end of this balun will connect to my tuner via (unbalanced) coax and then the coax feedline to the rig.   

Spreading these radials out, well, radially, out from the antenna’s base a foot or three off the ground (their outer ends insulated and suspended from chunks of sharpened PVC pipes driven into the ground) should keep them at least marginally tuned and elevated (so fewer radials will yield most of the benefit of a far larger number of detuned ground-huggers).   

At least that’s the theory popular these days in the literature.  All I care is that I make a pantload of contacts, not whether I’m losing 0.2 dB to cookin’ earth worms or not.   

Technically, these radials are supposed to be at least a quarter wavelength off the ground to truly minimize near-field losses to Mother Earth and to optimize launching an RF signal outward and upward, but hey, everything is a compromise. This way I can spend just 15 minutes setting up the antenna system and 2 hours operating instead of the other way around. So I don’t score a QSO with JA country. Don’t know anybody in Tokyo (yet) anyhow! 🙂   

My next task will be to organize all this wire in such a way that it’s easy to deploy and “undeploy” for the next time.   

Now its high time I compile all the bad news ($) and face the music. Oh well. Life is short. Now where is that last darn receipt? That’s what Kay gets for sending me to a big ham show all by myself for an entire weekend! 

 In parallel to getting the portable station “to go”, I’ll keep sloggin’ away on the boat QTH, which will present some installation challenges that I also look forward to!  

73 dit dit

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