Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gee, That Was a Lot of Fun!

If anyone had told me a week ago I could have this much fun running QRP from Alaska, I'd have said they were nuts.  I started the ARRL 10 meter contest at 5 watts just to test the waters, thinking I would soon grow frustrated and go with a LP entry. 

Encouraged by the initial results, I stuck it out at QRP.  NL7YL's CW QRP AK record has stood since 1991, and I crushed it.  Another KL QRP might beat me this year, but the basic score was very gratifying. I could work just about everyone I could hear.  I even had some brief runs.  Conditions were far from spectacular, especially lacking EU.  

Laboring under some disadvantage with tri-banders no longer horizontal after a month of back-to-back ice and wind storms, it's good to know the station still has some competitive standing.  The QSO count exceeds my lifetime QRP achievement by two orders of magnitude.  I can't complain about that.

Call: KL2R
Operator(s): N1TX
Station: KL2R

Class: SO CW QRP
Operating Time (hrs): 10.5

 Band  QSOs  Mults
   CW:  333    68
Total:  333    68  Total Score = 90,576

A New Slant on Radio

The weather has been wild for the past month or so.  Nov 13-14 brought freezing rain at +15F followed by heavy snow, more freezing rain, and then wind.  It was fierce, frightening wind, which toppled huge spruce trees, leaving thousands of people in the area without power for days.  KL2R didn't have juice for nearly five days.  As the temperatures plummeted to 0F and below, it became a full-time job just to keep warm.

Most of the antennas survived.  The only true casualty was the 80m delta loop.  The tri-banders at 55 and 75 feet were tilted 45+ degrees, but they still work.  In fact, a subsequent wind storm several days ago pushed the higher one aimed at Europe to vertical polarization.  Repairs will have to wait until warmer weather. Nevertheless, their survival of estimated 70 mph winds and ice with no damage is a real testament to the Force12 engineering behind the C3s.

I had a feeling the ravens flying past were mocking me.

Monday, November 4, 2013

ARRL Sweepstakes CW 2013

KL2R was on the air in a good form for Sweeps CW as SOHP UNLIMITED for about 17 hours during the weekend.

  160     0   0    0       0 
   80     6   0    0      12 
   40    89   0    3     178 
   20   128   1   12     256 
   15   201   2   10     402 
   10   281   1   58     562 
    TOTAL SCORE : 117 030

Operators       : N1TX

I resolved to work no more than 12 hours, but the conditions were just too good to pass up. 10m was phenomenal at the start, and you can see it was a real money band. I had worked 70-odd sections early on, many of them usually difficult, and I decided to go for a CLEAN SWEEP. Achieved with hours to go thanks to N7IV in ND. I thought I would NEVER get a QC, but I camped on VE2AWR for over an hour before conditions permitted. The 80m dipole project didn't make it up the tower, but it will be ready for phone SS.

I nearly forgot to mention one guy -- a willy billy five? -- who called me in the heat of 110+ per hour and then sent me 5NN signal report. WTF?!? I then asked him for his details, and he sent me his name was Tom and his QTH was East BF (or whatever). One of the guys patiently waiting in the pileup sent HI HI. Ugh!!! NOT IN LOG YOU RAT BASTARD QRZ?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Keep Looking Up

Today KL1AZ mustered me and quite a few other folks to erect his tilt-tower. Using a small John Deere tractor as well as some good block and tackle, AL7F, N1TX, WL7GK, KL1NU, KL7EDK, KL3SP, WL7TV, KL3RP, and KL1SG managed to do it with ease. It was an incredibly warm fall day (55F). This evening, the sun was shining on the KL2R tower during JARTS.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Let the Fun Begin Again!

Contest         : CQ World Wide DX Contest
Callsign        : KL2R
Mode            : RTTY
Category        : Multi-2 (M2)
Operators       : N1TX, KL1JP, AL7ID
Band(s)         : All bands (AB)
Class           : High Power (HP)
Zone/State/...  : 01
Locator         : BP64KU
Operating time  : 25h53

   80     7   3   3   0   5      15  2.14 
   40    76  12  18   2  28     174  2.29 
   20   592  23  63   6  38    1701  2.87 
   15   531  29  72   3  48    1376  2.59 
   10    60  14  16   1  20     143  2.38 
TOTAL  1266  81 172  12 139    3409  2.69 
         TOTAL SCORE : 1 336 328

This was the first trial run of our full-up M2 configuration.  Although N1TX lost half Friday night troubleshooting a network problem with one of the PCs, and we only had two ops here briefly on Saturday, it was a resounding success. Conditions were phenomenal, and all systems were stable throughout.  Loads of fun.  Welcome to new op John AL7ID!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Whispering on WARC

Of late I have been focusing a bit on working Europe on the WARC bands to close the gap on Worked All Europe first class award (WAE I).  I have also boosted the numbers slightly on 40m. JT65 has made it possible to work pretty reliably into EU most days and evenings on 30 or 17. While experimenting with WSJT-X 1.1 this weekend, I finally saw Cliff VK2CCJ working KH6OO on JT9 in the 12m band.  We eventually connected with this exciting new mode.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Summer Wraps Up

Snow today for the first time since May 23. It was a short summer.  Leaves and ground cover are in full blaze of yellow, orange, and red.  The contrast of snow on dark spruce and low-hanging clouds ringing the hills made for a dramatic landscape.  Alas, antenna season wanes quickly.  A 40 meter vertical project hangs in the balance.

Living for much of the summer under threat of wildfires, the station has been largely pieced back together.  A full multi-2 is nearly 100% functional.

The rig has been on quite a bit lately monitoring JT-65A on the low bands.  I have been using JT65-HF for ages, but recently found WSJT-X 1.1 works faster and decodes more effectively on my slow XP PC.

John AL7ID, who lives just a few miles east of KL2R, put up a full-size 160m loop around his property.  Comparisons on the various bands has been interesting.  The 30m band has outstanding worldwide coverage much of the day now, and 40 has had some strong nights for DX.  A61BK was even heard here at midday on a dipole, which was totally anomalous.  160 yields the Lower 48 as sunrise moves across the US, and 80 has been marginal most evenings.

Nearly two weeks ago I was in Anchorage re-building KL7SB's shack with a complete Elecraft K3 line and Microham MK2R+ SO2R box.  I will do it again in a few days.  Given the uncertainty of the 40m project at home, I might as well do something useful.

Friday, July 12, 2013

No IARU This Year

We are sad to report IARU is a no-go this year from KL2R.  Despite being one of our favorite contests, another wildfire has forced us to pack up most of the radio equipment in preparation for another possible evacuation. The fire, known as Stuart Creek 2, grew to about 85,000 acres in short order, and we had to evacuate on Sunday afternoon.  Earlier this week a good soaking rain helped the situation, but the northwestern fire front is still only about five miles from KL2R.  Hotter, windier weather is descending now, and we can't be complacent.  You can read more about the fire online:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


A wildfire kicks off not far from KL2R on 17 June. Unbelievable. Note the water bucket under the helicopter and our tower on the hill.  It became known as the Kanuti Fire.  One finger of the fire burned as close as 200 meters from our property.  Thankfully, it was limited to about 120 acres, and no homes were lost -- but it was a mighty close call for all of us in the neighborhood!
This is a particularly dangerous time for wildfires in Alaska.  A long spell of near-record heat (95F/35C) has dried everything thoroughly.  Lightning or a simple spark can spell big trouble in a hurry as was the case here.  The fire was man-caused, possibly by a spark from a four-wheeler/ATV.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Antenna Season Delayed, Again

22F and a cold north wind sure doesn't seem promising for antenna work. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

This Thing Called a QSO Party

Bless Ron KL7YK for having the cojones to step up and make an Alaska QSO Party happen this weekend. Good for him. The whiners about this never lifted a finger to help but instead tried to discourage him from pulling it off. It happened anyway with mixed results. Nevertheless, first time out of the gate is always a bit rough.  Congratulations, Ron!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Where We Are Today

KL2R is well into our seventh year of operations.  A look back at a few numbers shows how much we have grown.  The QSO breakdown is rather telling if you know a bit about our history:

Year DXCC QSOs % CW % Phone % Data
2006 54 1324 62.24 37.76   0.00
2007 88 4314 59.41 30.81 9.78
2008 97 4360 40.83 25.14   34.04
2009 90 5472 50.16 32.42   17.42
2010 146 9654 61.34 19.83 18.83
2011 152 8616 43.80 34.81   21.39
2012 154 12739 49.50 21.40   29.10
2013 62 2263 72.91 0.09   27.00
Total 210 48742 52.45 25.32 22.24  

The station wasn't even on the air until fall of 2006, and of course 2013 is just getting started.  So we can ignore those outliers and see steady growth in terms of QSO counts and DXCC countries worked over 2007-2012.  We didn't even have an amp in full-time service until late 2011!  The numbers correlate strongly with propagation, technical improvements in the shack, and increasing operator skill/experience.

As we go over the hump toward the next solar minimum, I believe the numbers will still be quite respectable.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

One Becomes Two

Last November, I wrote about the initial thoughts we had to bring more capability to KL2R as a multi-two station.  After considerable research and planning, the efforts are coming to fruition in time for the spring contest season. 

Station Master

The Microham Station Master serves multiple functions. It ties together the Microkeyer II, bandpass filters, and SixPak antenna switch into a powerful, centrally-controlled system at each position.  The SM is far more than your standard band decoder.  You can build extremely sophisticated logic for switching, timing (to avoid hot switching), and miscellaneous device control.  To get started, you have to define bands and then associate these bands with specific antennas or antenna groups.  You can even build virtual rotators with fixed antennas on a tower, multiple Beverages, or a four-square, for example. 

A nice feature of the band definitions is the ability to limit transmissions to specific frequency ranges.  For instance, in a phone contest you might want to specify only the legal phone sub-bands.  In that way you avoid inadvertently chasing multipliers into the non-US segments.  The Station Master will simply not allow you to transmit there, thereby avoiding a possible OO card or FCC notice.

The two Station Masters control their respective sides of the SixPak 6x2 antenna switch at the tower along with bandpass filter arrays.  Two ports, A and B, with DB-25 connectors provide plenty of outputs for switch control.  Eventually we will add a second SixPak to the entrance to the shack to select antennas not going through the tower switch and thus consolidate all inputs to the radios to two coaxial lines.

The Bandpasser

At one position, the W3NQN bandpass filters are combined with an FM-6 switch from Array Solutions.  The SM selects the appropriate filter by applying +12 VDC to a specific pin on the switch's DB-9 connector.  The assembly is effective, of course, but bulky.  For the second position,  Hamation's AS-419 Bandpasser proved to be just the ticket.  It is a compact, book-sized unit with filters for all the non-WARC HF bands rated for 100 watts at 100% duty cycle.  Control can be asserted manually through front panel buttons, or remotely with a band decoder, in this case a Station Master.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Green Stamps

This is what passes for "green stamps" in Belarus these days.  This Belarus 100 ruble note is worth about one cent in US currency.  The beautifully printed cards are worth far more.  We normally expect $2 to cover postage and printing costs for QSL cards destined for overseas.  Let me see...that would be around BYR17,391!  I wonder how much it would cost to mail that many rubles.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Worked All Europe

This DARC award is not all that easy from Alaska. WAE Diplom, as it is called, is the oldest and most renowned of all DARC certificates is awarded for contacts with amateur stations in many European countries and on the European islands on different bands. Each confirmed country of WAE-Country list counts one point per band, with a maximum of five claimed bands per country. DX stations may count two points for any contact on 160 or 80 meters. Working Europe on those latter two bands is really tough from Fairbanks. 

The different classes require the number of WAE countries and bandpoints. For the Class II, you need 50 and 150 respectively. Each WAE country counts for one point, but a maximum of 5 bandpoints may be used for one country. Class I requires 60/200. I've got the countries right here, but I'd better get busy on those extra bandpoints!