Sunday, November 19, 2017

Run for the Bacon

Thanks to Brian - KB9BVN and Ivin - W9ILF for letting me know about the "Run for the Bacon" tonight. I had a blast participating in this contest for the very first time tonight.

The two hour event is hosted by the Flying Pigs QRP Club International and is held every third Sunday of the month. You can find out more about the contest by CLICKING HERE.

I've not been very active the last 2-3 weeks due to my work schedule so my CW was a little rusty. That being said though, I was still able to complete 6 QSOs and score 18 points on my first attempt at running for the bacon. As a bonus, two of my QSOs were new states! The contest was fun and the exchange was easy. Everyone I had a QSO with was more than willing to slow down to my speed and exchange information with me. No matter what your skill level may be, you will have fun participating in this monthly contest. I'm excited to do it again next month and improve my score.

The Flying Pigs Club International are a group of amateur radio operators from around the world that believe in the motto, "No Dues, No Rules, Just Fun". Their mission is to promote the art, skill and fun of operating at low power and home brewing equipment. The club would be proud to know that my first Run for the Bacon was done using my gutters on the house as my antenna. That should be worth some bonus points don't you think? Well... I tried! If you want to find out more about this fun QRP club, you can visit their web page by CLICKING HERE.

I hope to hear you at the next run for the bacon event!

Until next time, 72 de Mike W9ODX

Friday, November 10, 2017

Digital Mode - FT8

I will preface this blog post by telling you that CW is and always will be my favorite mode of communication, BUT... digital modes like FT8 seem to be a hot topic right now in the world of amateur radio so I thought I would check it out for myself, QRP of course!

FT8 mode on the WSJT-X Software

According to the ARRL, FT8 is a "weak signal" mode that is named after it's developers, Steve Franke - K9AN and Joe Taylor - K1JT. The number 8 designates the mode's 8 frequency shift keying format. FT8 signals occupy just 50 Hz. FT8 requires accurate time synchronization and uses an auto-sequencing feature that offers the option to respond automatically to a reply of your CQ call. I use the WSJT-X software to access and use this mode, you can find a free copy of the WSJT-X software by CLICKING HERE. 

I will admit my first impression of this mode was not great. I found it to be a little boring and seriously lacking the "personality" of CW. The QSO is short and just about 100% automated. That being said I stuck with it and found a perfect use for me. I am not always home during the day and my job requires a lot of travel. I found that be accessing my home station remotely through a program called Teamviewer, I could operate FT8 from any computer, tablet or phone around the world.

Operating FT8 via my cell phone

The photo above I took a few days ago when I was operating FT8 on my cell phone, by remotely logging into my station back at home using Teamviewer. I had some time to waste in-between meetings and sat in my car and made contacts around the world on 20m. I will admit, I had a lot of fun operating this way and I completed QSOs with several DX stations including Venezuela and Spain. My QSO with Spain is now my new record for distance using 5 watts and my "home brew" gutter antenna, over 4,200 miles away! Thank you to Miguel - EA4BAS for the QSO.

Well, I guess I have a use for digital modes after all. Whether I'm wasting time in-between meetings for work, sitting at the airport, or just hanging out I can now log into my home station from anywhere and complete some quick and fun QSOs. Do you operate on FT8 or some other digital mode? Do you have any experience with remotely logging into your station? Please comment below.

Until next time, 72 de Mike - W9ODX

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thanksgiving QSL Contest

This morning I was talking to Ivin - W9ILF and Jermaine KD9GZJ on a local repeater as we were all commuting to work. One of the topics we talked about was contesting and how it is used to help keep hams interested and motivated to get on the air. Most contest out there reward points for QSOs completed. We thought we might come up with something new, that would not only help keep us motivated to get on the air, but it would also respect an old tradition in ham radio at the same time. Here is what we came up with...

The Thanksgiving QSL Contest. The idea is simple really, starting tonight and running through the end of the month we can use any mode on any HF band 10m-160m. The catch is that we are not going to be counting QSOs to determine who the winner is, instead we are going to count QSL cards confirming those QSOs only. Only QSL cards dated from 00:00 Zulu today through 23:59 Zulu on November 30th will count towards the total. Since Thanksgiving falls during this time frame and all three of us are always thankful for the QSL cards we receive, we have named this contest the Thanksgiving QSL Contest. Thanks for "giving" or sending us a card! After the contest is over, the three of us will get together, grab a bite to eat, share the cards we received for everyone else to see, and find out who the winner is.

We will also be inviting a few other locals hams to join us as well if the choose. Who knows, if we have fun doing this maybe next month the contest will be called The 12 Cards of Christmas... the first one to get 12 new QSL cards wins?

Have you done anything like this before? What helps keep you motivated to get on the air? Please comment below. 

Until next time, 72 de Mike - W9ODX

Changes to the Blog

It's been a while since Ivin or myself had a chance to post anything to the blog and for that I apologize. Life can sometimes get a little crazy with schedules and free time has been hard to come by lately. Good news though, we are back!

You may notice a big change with the blog and I would like to go over it with you. The name of the blog is now "Adventures with QRP" and the web address has changed to match the title. While CW is and always will be my favorite mode of communication, there is much more to ham radio that is worth sharing as well. I can tell you that this will still be a CW heavy blog, but you will also now start seeing post about mobile HF, SSB, digital modes like JT65, FT8 and more. I have recently started exploring several of these other modes and I have been having a blast. I recently had a SSB QSO with a station in Ireland while driving home using nothing more than a 10 watt QRP radio and simple 20m hamstick antenna. I also recently had QSO's with several DX countries including Brazil, Venezuela, Spain and more using just a 5 watt QRP radio and my home brew gutter antenna. I am looking forward to sharing more of these stories with you as well as my CW stories including progress on my "Work all States" with QRP CW goal. I know Ivin is excited to share more stories with you as well.

Please leave a comment or suggestion below and let us know what you think of the change.

Until next time, 72 de Mike W9ODX

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Favorite DX

When we talk about popular DX we think about DX spotting tools and station pile ups.  This goes hand in hand. You don’t have to be a DX hound to quickly understand how this works.  A DX station is on the air.  It gets spotted on popular web sites, DX packet/telnet, and other places. Everyone who wants that DX in their log converge onto a frequency to be heard and it’s called a “pile up”.  Success comes quickly to powerful stations with effective antennas.  
My favorite DX has been the unexpected.  The rare times I am spinning the knob and hear a station far away looking for a QSO or DX finding me calling CQ.  It’s even better if we can exchange more than 599.  I was recently talking to a friends and we were laughing that we will say we talked to a far away place.  When asked what they said we then must admit. “599”.  That was it?  Yes.  Most times that is all.  

This weekend was different for me.  It was a fortunate day in ham radio. This is because I chose to sit outside in my back yard with my new MFJ Cub for 20 meters.  The weather was fantastic.  I turned the VFO knob and found a faint station calling CQ.  It was DL1EKC/p.  A German station portable and no one has found them yet.  I called and my 1.5 watts was copied.  Marcus gave me a 319 RST.  Well, that isn’t saying 599.  I replied with a report to him of 559.   He then told me his station set up was a KX3 at 100 watts and a 4 element beam antenna.  I told him about my radio and antenna.  He confirmed my cub at 1.5 watts and vertical antenna.  He was very curious it seemed as to what I was using for a station.  I wonder who was more excited and interested.  My key was my first key I owned.  A Western Electric straight key.  Marcus slowed down hearing my sending was slower as well.  After about 10 minutes the QSO came to an end.  I am still smiling.  This was my only QSO of the day but well worth the effort of setting up and enjoying a little time listening to the bands.

Ivin / W9ILF

Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Mini Paddle

Yesterday I received a kit I ordered from American Morse Company. I ordered the DCP Paddle kit which is a miniature iambic paddle made with aircraft grade aluminum. Once constructed the paddle it only  1 1/2 x 1 7/8 x 1 3/16. It's compact and lightweight, so it's perfect for backpacking and portable use. Thank you to Doug - W6AME for your great customer service and quick shipping of the kit! 

DCP Paddle Kit from American Morse

The kit was very well made and easy to put together. I had the entire thing done in less than 30 minutes and ready to operate.

Assembling the DCP Paddle

I really enjoy the raw aluminum finish and the overall look of the paddle. I am very excited to not only show this new paddle off to fellow hams tomorrow evening at our "CW meetup" but also to pack it up this week and take it along with my QRP radio to North Carolina where I plan to do some mountain top operating. I plan to share my experience with this paddle in a future post.

It's complete - I really enjoy how it looks

Building kits is a ton of fun, this is an easy one that I'm sure anyone can do at home. What do you like to build? Do you have a story about a recent kit you built that you would like to share? Please comment below.

Until next time, 72 de Mike W9ODX

Saturday, October 14, 2017

CQ Lunch

Ivin and I have discussed doing a "lunch hour" contest in an effort to encourage each other to get out and operate, even if it's just during a lunch break throughout the week. I then thought, if we were going to do this why not invite others to join us?

I have proposed the following to our local "QRP group" here in Central Indiana and I would like to share it with our blog readers as well. The event would last for one month and would be limited to one hour per day, your lunch hour. Please review the idea below and let us know what you think.

Purpose: To practice and encourage the use of portable/mobile amateur radio and operating at QRP power levels. Participants will drive to a remote location during their regular lunch hour, away from their home or work, and complete as many QSOs as possible using a portable/mobile station with a mobile antenna attached to their vehicle.

Dates: One Month (Monday - Friday)

Time: One Hour per day during your lunch hour
Modes: CW or SSB
Exchange: Call, RST, State (or Country if DX)

Special Rules: QRP power levels - 5w CW & 10w SSB

Points: 2 points for each CW QSO & 1 point for each SSB QSO

Multipliers: x2 points if other station is mobile & x2 points if other station is QRP

Do you know how we might make this more fun and interesting? Would you be interested in joining us? Please comment below and share your thoughts.

72 de Mike W9ODX

Sunday, October 8, 2017

SKCC Weekend Sprint

Looking for a fun way to practice your CW copy and speed? There are a variety of Sprints available throughout the month, including my favorite... the SKCC Weekend Sprint (WES).

Sprints - A great way to have fun with CW

This weekend was the October edition of the SKCC WES and even though I only participated for a few hours I had a blast! The bands were packed full of CW signals last night and I was able to complete QSOs from the east coast to the west coast and everywhere in-between using just 5 watts and a simple antenna constructed from the gutters on my house. The more I use CW the more I am amazed at what I can do with it at such low power. Sprints are not only fun to participate in but also a great way for new CW operators to get on the air and practice their CW skills. The QSOs are short and simple, mostly just containing callsigns, RST report, QTH, and club numbers. In addition, the SKCC WES typically goes at a slower speed then most other contest making it more inviting for newer CW operators to join in the fun. I would encourage you to give it a try for yourself and see what I mean.

Would you like to find our more about SKCC or the SKCC Weekend Sprints? You can visit their webpage by CLICKING HERE or by directing your web browser to

The SKCC offers something for everyone, regardless of your skill level. With a variety of contest, awards, challenges and more there is always something to do to help keep operating CW fun. If you are brand new to CW there is even a beginners corner and elmer program available to you, just CLICK HERE to check out beginners corner.

What do you do or participate in that helps keep CW fun for you? Please share in the comments below.

Until next time, 72 de Mike W9ODX

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ham Lunch

Ham for Lunch

I had plans to do a "Ham Lunch" this week but Mother Nature had other ideas. The plan was to find a few parks within driving distance from work, setup a station, get on the air and complete some QSOs, and then head back to work all within the lunch hour. I could even pack a ham sandwich to eat while on the air. When I setup my plans I had no idea that we would see 3 straight days of rain this week. After all, we have had drought type conditions over the last 8 weeks here in Central Indiana with little to no rain. I don't want to complain though as we really do need the rain here. There is always next week, so plans are just going to have to wait until then. The forecast for late next week is looking great with fall temps arriving.

Our 7-day Forecast

Thanks to Ivin - W9ILF for posting about our trip to Cages Mill Lake last weekend. The lake was very peaceful and fun to operate from. If you missed Ivin's post you can read it by CLICKING HERE. Ivin is a good friend who has been a great elmer to me during my CW learning process. He loves to operate outdoors as much as I do and I look forward to reading more about his adventures on this blog.

Ivin - W9ILF operating at Cages Mill Lake

Our view at Cages Mill Lake while operating

I am currently searching for a good "portable" or "mini" key to use while operating outdoors. My Vibroflex keyer is awesome, but it's also very heavy and over 50 years old. I'm looking for something more portable and lightweight that I can carry in my backpack along with the radio. If you have any suggestions please comment below.

Thanks for reading the blog. If you know someone who is interested in ham radio, CW, or operating outdoors please point them in this direction.

Until next time, 72 de Mike - W9ODX

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cagles Mill Lake


Hello,  This is my first post for the Adventures With CW.  My name is Ivin W9ILF.

I’m sure I will post more about what I do with QRP as time goes on.  Today, However I want to talk about the weekend.  

This weekend was POTA (Parks On The Air).  Parks on the air is sponsored by the ARRL and is similar to other outdoor operating entities.  What I appreciate about POTA is that there are more state parks in Indiana than there are Summits.  We have some nice state parks to visit within the state and this weekend it was.... FREE!!  So of course Mike - W9ODX started hatching the plan that we needed to go out to a lake and enjoy a day relaxing.  

We kicked lots of ideas around but settled on the park just north of Cataract falls.  Cagles Mill Lake.  We combined that with my other new hobby, scooter riding.  A couple ham friends Gary and Dan (Dan pictured riding) met at my house and we planned to meet Mike up at the lake.  It was a cold start but warmed up nicely and we sure enjoyed the ride.  Once we all found each other we rode through the park and chose a set up spot right off the lake.  There was a little place to park and just enough loose dirt in the asphalt to get the 40 meter hamstick stuck into the ground and 8 radials.

The band sounded good, but it was 2PM. On 40 meters experience tells me at QRP levels we might struggle.  We listened a lot, called CQ some.  Finally Mike took a break and walked away and just then... BINGO!  I got N2CX.  He was calling CQ POTA!  I copied 1375 which when I look it up is Linn Run State Park, PA.  I need to confirm that with a QSL.  It was a very short exchange but I let Joseph know we were at the state park as well and I will send him a picture.

Mike walked back and of course he missed the whole thing.  Ha ha... Before we knew, it was time to go and that ended up the only QSO of the event.  What a great day of being outdoors. I wish we had more success, but I am looking forward to sharing more pictures and information about QRP/scooter adventures in the future.  For now I encourage you to enjoy fresh air and operate outdoors.

72, Ivin