Sunday, 17 May 2015

Portable working on holiday.

If it is supposed to be a holiday I need to be able to relax. Not pound the airwaves all day.

So how it usually works is that I take the FT-817 and a few telescopic whips. Also in the bag go various coils of long wire, sometimes an ATU (which I bought second hand from GI4DOH about 35 years ago), audio leads, some bell wire with crocodile clips, and of course a laptop PC to work it all.

To be honest I am always trying to recreate 2 June 2011 when I sat on a balcony on Crete and worked IZ7BAS (978km), OE6KDG (1591) and OE5FIN (1698). That was just with the 817, its clunky PSU, and a flexi whip on the top. After that first day as SV9/G4FVM, I was hooked.

So for most holidays since I have dragged the FT-817 with me and I have had some success. To preserve the holiday aspect I tend to use data modes, and especially WSPR. This maximises the poor antennas and thrives on low power.

Also, WPSR allows me to set the radio up and leave it to run by itself. I can be luxuriating n the sun while the radio and PC are working away. And so it has been to Greece, France, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Spain ...

Usually I just work in "stealth" mode, stringing up antennas and keeping the power down to 5 watts maximum.

This time however, I took the Icom IC-7100 with me. The FT-817 cannot manage 5 watts on WSPR, whereas the 7100 can do it all day. Also I have the leads to separate the PC and IC-7100 using USB extensions, whereas the 817 has a habit of picking up interference from the computer due to the cable lengths. And the 7100 allows a few more watts for other data modes. I brought a small switch mode power supply, and all of it fitted into one cardboard box in the back of the car.

For the first four days this was a failure as I have mentioned before. Then I started using the antennas on the car. I only had 144/432 and 70MHz whips. I added the only thing I had to lengthen the 70MHz whip to work on 50MHz - a length of bell wire. I still had the telescopic whips for HF bands, but they are not very suitable for use outdoors - I only used the 10 metre band one.

Here is some of the work done on 6m:-
2015-05-15 13:58  GM4FVM/P  50.294506  -24  1  IO87ei  +37  5.012  DB0ZDF  JN49cx  1128  701 
 2015-05-15 13:52  GM4FVM/P  50.294529  -16  1  IO87ei  +37  5.012  DL4RU  JN69cr  1341  833 
 2015-05-15 13:44  DL4RU  50.294451  -25  0  JN69cr  +37  5.012  GM4FVM/P  IO87ei  1341  833 
 2015-05-15 13:36  GM4FVM/P  50.294479  -10  0  IO87ei  +37  5.012  PA3249  JO32hm  846  526 
 2015-05-15 13:32  GM4FVM/P  50.294527  -21  1  IO87ei  +37  5.012  DC9JVN  JN59ml  1303  810 
 2015-05-15 13:28  GM4FVM/P  50.294479  -22  1  IO87ei  +37  5.012  PA3249  JO32hm  846  526 
 2015-05-15 13:28  GM4FVM/P  50.294503  -13  1  IO87ei  +37  5.012  DK8NE  JN59fw  1237  769 
 2015-05-15 13:28  GM4FVM/P  50.294528  -23  1  IO87ei  +37  5.012  DC9JVN  JN59ml  1303  810 
 2015-05-15 13:26  PE1MXP  50.294479  -2  0  JO32gh  +37  5.012  GM4FVM/P  IO87ei  858  533 
 2015-05-15 13:18  DK8NE  50.294482  +4  1  JN59fw  +40  10.000  GM4FVM/P  IO87ei  1237  769 
When you see the antenna that was not so bad:-

If it looks like a whip with a droopy extension, that is what it is. Not technically correct but it worked.

Harry, PA3249, contacted me to tell me that he was beaming 165 degrees when he heard me. So I was off the back of his antenna. Looking at the photo above it is hard enough to work out what the front of my antenna is, and what is the back? It isn't even vertical.

On 10m I got around Europe as you might expect. This spot of a South African station pleased me, but it was weak. Not bad for a 1.1m telescopic whip. He did not hear me of course ...

2015-05-15 11:44  ZS6BNE  28.126111  -25  -1  KG33bu  +37  5.012  GM4FVM/P  IO87ei  9693  6023 

Added to this was my contact with SP2HMR on 4 metres. All together I was happy enough. It was not supposed to be a radio holiday, so anything is better than nothing.

I think that in future I have learned that I should use the car as a base for antennas. I need better antennas and certainly something better than the telescopic whips for HF. The IC-7100 worked well in the caravan.

I would say that holiday working is really just an effort to see what I can do with limited resources. In that sense it is not really about DX. It is more about having fun and trying to manage with whatever you have around you - like using a crocodile clip extension.

It was fun though. I encourage anyone to try it.




  1. I knew that ATU was going to a good home Jim :)
    It's an intereting point that you don't have to be having direct person to person QSOs to be having fun with amateur radio.
    I had a similar experience when I was is Nice earlier in the year with my KX3 and an end fed off centre dipole sticking out of the window of the hotel room. We were surrounded by ferro concrete and I didn't have a single QSO throughout our stay. However, I was using CW and I was picked up and reported on the Reverse Beacon Network on 3 different bands by a number of stations. That made it all worthwhile.
    Keep up the good work
    Richard GI4DOH

  2. Yes, well I was meaning to ask about the ATU - the screw heads on the back have opened out and one of the terminals is loose. Are the repairs covered by the warranty?
    I know the sort of situation you describe from hotel rooms I have visited. I tried making a base for verticals which might give a reasonable ground plane, but with little success. I feel that resonant antennas always seem to work better than long wires, but all those reinforcements in the concrete do not help - except when there was an earthquake. Now that was scary. 73 Jim