40M4LLDD Delivered

Adam dropped the big 40m beam off this morning.  I had been playing in the Minnesota QSO Party and chasing some NPOTA activators, so I’d missed his call.  Holy crap, this boom is huge.

Getting seriously excited!  Still waiting on a couple more RF and control parts.  Final order for structural parts will go out tonight.

M2 40M4LLDD Delivered - I Am Excited!

M2 40M4LLDD Delivered – I Am Ridiculously Excited!

“Failed” NPOTA

Hooligans, up to no good.

tl;dr: We activated two NPOTA units and the ARRL assessed them as invalid. I agree, but have determined to attempt a valid activation!

When the ARRL announced the National Parks On The Air, my buddy Jean (KG7NJQ) and I started plotting and scheming a local activation.  I immediately noticed the two urban locations in Seattle, within 1/2 a mile of each other.

The words “National Park” probably conjures images of big trees, waterfalls, rocky crags and remote trails.  These two “units” qualify as they are managed by the National Park Service, but neither fit that picturesque mold.  The first (Klondike Gold Rush – Seattle Unit – HP22) is a “Historical Place” (though interestingly, all of Pioneer Square is identified as a Historical Area).  The second (Wing Luke Asian Pacific Museum – AA25) is an “Affiliated Area” and also managed by the NPS.  Both are basically museums in downtown Seattle.

We knew from the start that these would be different than most National Parks and most activations and might prove to be more interesting than running mobile in a parking lot.

This year, Microsoft celebrated Martin Luther King Day, for the first time.  I took the opportunity to drag Jean down to Pioneer Square for the afternoon.

We arrived at the Klondike Gold Rush “Historical Place” (that’s even what the signs say), introduced ourselves to the rangers, and talked to them about the program.  After getting their approval, we consulted with them on a safe and appropriate location work operate from, then proceeded to set up.

K7ADD / KG7NJQ, Suitcase NPOTA DXPedition

K7ADD, Sidewalk Portable

K7ADD, Sidewalk Portable

Jean, KG7NJQ, works the pile with Ranger Tarin looking on.

Jean, KG7NJQ, works the pile with Ranger Tarin looking on.







I’d brought my KX3 and KXPA100 in the Pelican case and we used the EARCHI End-Fed 4:1 matchbox (regularly available on eBay) and about 30 feet of Home Depot 16ga THHN wire (maybe 7 feet of counterpoise).  We held the wire up with a 31′ Jackite pole strapped to a street sign.  Jean brought his Hardened Power Systems JuiceBox.  I’ll post again. someday, with details of what works and what doesn’t about this setup.  On the positive side, we went from “in the truck” to QRV in a matter of 10 minutes.

KG7NJQ Packing Up

KG7NJQ Packing Up @ AA25

We tuned up on 20m and spotted ourselves (commonplace for NPOTA; withholding feelings about self-spotted DXCC entities for another post).  The pileup got thick and got thick fast.  We didn’t expect quite the fervor that the spot brought on.  Over the course of about 60 minutes, we put 62 stations.  The one thing I didn’t include in that list of gear, above?  Headphones.  Operating from a street corner with dump trucks, semi trucks, and Toyota Camrys in need of a break job?  Rough.  Especially with that pileup, we struggled a bit.  At least twice, we asked the hordes to QRX for traffic.  Holy CRAP,this was fun.

The rangers took some pictures of us and even asked us to complete photo release forms, as they thought the joint ARRL/NPS promotion was pretty cool.

We wrapped up at the Klondike Gold Rush and walked to the Wing Luke Museum (AA25).  A quick walk later and we were QRV again and quickly had another pileup.  Again, we put more than 60 contacts in the log in under an hour and fought with local AF noise.  Feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, we made our way back to Duvall and had a couple pints at the tavern.

That evening, Jean posted to the Reddit /r/amateurradio subreddit (post here) and we got some kudos from fellow Redditors.  Our friend, fellow contester and the moderator of the subreddit, Jeff –NT1K (and I’ll pimp his blog, too), suggested that we post to the ARRL NPOTA Facebook page.  I posted them with a little commentary.  Positive comments flowed all night and into the morning.  Mid-morning the following day, a couple ARRL staffers commented, stating that his was not a valid activation and that we not upload our logs.  What followed was several days of public debate (that Jean and I didn’t participate in) and the ARRL reps reiterating that the activation was not valid and would not be accepted.

The crux of the debate centers around a clause in the rules about “operating entirely from NPS property.”  Jean and I had wrongly assumed that the sidewalk, where the NPS had placed signage and flyers would count.

There are some pretty crappy attitudes and language being thrown around.  I’ve taken what I think is the high road by almost immediately accepting the ARRL’s decision and fairly publicly thanking them for putting on the event.  Furthermore, I’m taking this as a challenge to solve the problem in the spirit of amateur radio.  We have an immense number of tools at our disposal and I will find a way to activate at least one of these “parks” again (and have them accepted).  Despite this, 3 weeks later, this debate is still sputtering on Facebook.

Over the I spent some time considering the nit-pickiness of the need for there to be a “ruling” on something as mundane as 10 feet of sidewalk for 120 contacts.  I recognize the difficulty of authoring rules for a competition (and this is, despite the ARRLs repeated statement that it isn’t) that have stamped out all subjectivity.  The ARRL DXAC (DX Awards Committee) has faced this for the entire history of the DXCC.  I prefer that the contests I participate in (again, this is) maintain high standards on what’s accepted and not.  I like having a real sense of achievement when I attempt something and loose interpretation of rules have the potential to degrade that.  In fact, I still feel this way about “remotes” that aren’t maintained by the operator (see prior post on the topic) and won’t claim a DX QSO I didn’t work on my own equipment.

KX9X, ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager, and others have put a lot of work into this event and I’m happy that it’s taking place.  Of course I was disappointed that our efforts were determined to be outside the rules, but we had a blast and, again, the fact this these units will be hard to activate will make me happier when I do.

This afternoon, I’d scrolled down around 14.080 to see if I could hear VP8SGI (I couldn’t) and ended up working NG1L (good Ham Radio Deluxe tutorials there, BTW).  Brave man was calling CQ amongst the hordes and band cops (“UP IDIOT LID UP”).  When I wrapped up with NG1L, I spotted a set of rails just below where we were… it was K0TLG calling me!




K0TLG DE K7ADD … UR 599 599 BTW!

His inquiry was enough to spur me into finally writing this up.  For the record, all calls have been uploaded to LoTW, but not with the park designation… that’ll happen next time.

K5P, Super Quick LoTW!

Just sync’ed DXKeeper with LoTW and was pleasantly surprised to see that K5P had already uploaded!

Call Band Mode Station Call Result
K5P 15M SSB K7ADD new confirmation for Palmyra & Jarvis Islands: 15M
K5P 12M SSB K7ADD new confirmation for Palmyra & Jarvis Islands: 12M
K5P 20M SSB K7ADD new confirmation for Palmyra & Jarvis Islands: 20M

LotW operations: 39 QSLs processed, 39 log entries updated, 0 errors

Wrong Controller

Prior to the shack-relocation and remodel, I was using a 2-element SteppIR at ~30 feet and a ZS6BKW at ~55 feet.  With the move inside, I’ve compromised and I’m only using the ZS6BKW (relocated – now broadside E/W @ ~70 feet with the help of W7ECK).  This is about as simple as it gets.  One rig, one tuner, one amp, one feedline, and one antenna.

Array Solutions Six-Pak

Array Solutions Six-Pak

WX0B Relays

WX0B Relays, inside Six-Pak

Over the last I’ve been amassing parts for the upcoming tower install.  Calling it a “tower install” belies the complexity associated with what I’m attempting to do.  Accompanying the tower install is the installation of two new beams (M2 KT36XA and an M2 40M4LLDD), new feedline (450′ worth), a new rotor, new rotor control cable (also 450′ long), a new rotor controller, a new remote switch with 350′ of control cable, a new switch controller and band decoder, a new ingress panel for the house, new shack grounds, and new wire antennas on top of the hill. The list of moving (and fixed!) parts is pretty daunting, especially given my neophyte status; I’m learning as I go.

Today, I received an Array Solutions Six-Pak antenna switch and Rat-Pak (also from Array) push-button controller.  The goal is to leverage the 2 beams for 10m/15m/20m (KT36XA) and 40m/17m (40M4LLDD w/17m tuning elements) and then wires for 30m/60m/80m/160m.  I’m keen to ensure that this is both as close to “set it and forget it” as I can and something I can work remotely.  I landed on the Six-Pak as it’s well regarded (eham reviews, et al), super simple, and quite common.  The controller was a little less clear, but I wanted to be able to override the band-decoder (maybe I’ll want to use the wires for 40m, sometimes) and run it remotely.  With the eventual goal of SO2R or Multi-Multi I liked the “ShackLAN” stuff between all the Array devices.  I thought what I’d ordered had an integrated band-decoder.

Rat-Pak Controller

Rat-Pak Controller

Unboxing the controller, I found a well made case with nice silkscreens, good build quality … but missing the DB9 I’d expected.  A quick call to Jim and Jay at Array Solutions and we figured it out.  I want the “Rat-Master” controller.  What’s the difference?  From all I can tell, it simply includes the band decoder.  Strangely enough, it’s exactly the same price.

Two "ShackLAN" ports, no DB9

Two “ShackLAN” ports, no DB9

This mistake on my part was solely as a result of the lack of clarity and completeness of their website.  For a company that manufactures their own (incredibly solid and well regarded) equipment and retails high value parts, why is their website so bad?

In fact, there’s a huge gap in the amateur radio web-retail business.  Almost all retail amateur radio storefronts are miserable.  Try to find something on Force 12’s site.  DXEngineering sells a very clever pair of 9:1 current baluns that let you use 450ohm ladder line for transmission with negligible loss.  Good luck finding that without a part number (hint, it’s under “Antennas”).  Good thing they’re so friendly and helpful, on the phone.

I’m starting to get excited about the install!

WPX Awards

I have a friendly competition with a couple of other hams around # of worked DXCC entities, contest scores, and occasionally, who’ll break through a pileup first. I enjoy the slight gamification of amateur radio.  It’s slightly more than “fake radio points” but not by much.

I spend time on the IRC channel affiliated with the Reddit /r/amateurradio subreddit. It’s an incredibly supportive and quirky group of hams. mostly younger and greener than the typical ham population. I find that there’s lots more interest in programming, building, and new digital modes than exists in the general ham population. Sunday afternoon/evening (US-centric view), we coordinate HF skeds in the IRC channel and I’ve been working to be the first to “WAS Reddit.”  The goal is to work “redditors” in all 50 US states I have 14 remaining.achievement

Another Redditor (VA3MWL) introduced me to the CQ WPX awards.  With some modes, I find that I have no incentive to make more contacts.  If I’ve confirmed their state and their grid on JT65, why would I spend 6 minutes calling them?  I can’t even have a nice conversation with them (insert commentary about how silly a mode JT65 is).  Enter WPX.  A unique callsign prefix is “one more” and gives me a “reason” to work them.  Awhile back, I applied for the initial round of WPX awards.  They’re quite inexpensive and, in contrast to the ARRL, the physical certificate is actually nice.  Matt, VA3MWL, asked about my progress the other day and I took a look.  Sure enough, a handful more endorsements, below.  I’ve also added the complete list to my “About” page.

WPX Mixed 17M
WPX Mixed Oceania
WPX SSB Europe