2020 QRP Skeeter Hunt
This past sunday I set up a QRP rig with quite a view! I participated in the 2020 Skeeter Hunt by NJQRP. I had a lot of fun and learned quite a bit, especially with all my unsuccessful troubleshooting.
Talk About Old Fashioned!
I used a Pixie Kit transceiver for 40m to operate. My antenna was a multiband off-center fed dipole strung across the revolutionary fort on campus. Dipoles for 40m should be 20ft above the ground (at least the center element). Mine, however, just barely got off the ground; my center element was about 1ft off the ground in a very wide v shape.
I selected my site of Redoubt Four on campus for the contest. I wanted a picturesque location and a place where strangers could see me operating and ask questions!
Installation was rough. I hiked about a mile up with 500ft of elevation change and my antenna, feed line, radio, paddle, and water source in my backpack. I had to trudge through some bushes, but the view was worth it when I got up.
I used the elmer’s favorite method of dipole installation: rope rocks. I tied a long (20ft) length of rope around a heavy rock and threw it over a sturdy branch. I slipped one end of the rope through my dipole insulator, then tied a two half-hitches to tighten the length of rope. I simply gave it a few thorough tugs and the line was up! In the future, I would probably set up an inverted V with a pulley; half the rock throwing, and a much easier tear-down.
When I got the dipole up, I was amazed by how much I could hear! It sounded like a factory of crystals all at relatively copyable (15 wpm) speed. I tried to respond to a cq, but was met with incredible feedback. My MFJ paddle wasn’t cutting it. I tried just the dits or just the dahs, but still nothing. So I took out a pair of old headphones, cut the speakers, and tried shorting the cord to itself. Still nothing. After that, I tried shorting the connections (ground - hot) on the radio with my pocketknife. Still only strong feedback. Frustrated, I decided just to try to copy a few stations. I had some good practice on copying, but eventually my battery cord ripped out of its socket. With the rain already setting in, I decided to pack up and take the long walk down. When I got back to my shack, I even plugged in a homebrew straight key (with proper dummy load) and still got nothing.
But I’ll still blame it on the band conditions!
All in all, this was a great way to kickstart the club’s year at USMA. I learned a lot about expedient antenna setup and more tips for next time. I got some (unsuccessful) troubleshooting in too!
This semester will be jam-packed with interesting radio projects. I hope to keep you all updated!
CQ BZZ DE KE8JCT!
Radio, Notepad, Paddle, and OCF Dipole!