Same Old Park, New Gear!

The Deal

Last week I was informed of some gear that a family member of a Silent Key had for sale. I called and found out that indeed it would fit nicely in to my QRP only regimen. The SK was a Ham after my own heart it seems. We struck a deal and I picked it up yesterday.

My “New To Me” gear. LNR MTR5B, Icom IC-703, ZN-QRP Paddles, Par EFT antenna, Original Buddistick and an AlexLoop WalkHam.

I gave it all a once over and as any good Ham would do, I did a power on test and a power out test. The seller , who isn’t a ham, asked “Geez, do you always carry this much gear with you?”

“Well of course I do!” I said, ” No self respecting Ham would be caught dead without at least three radios and four antennas in their vehicle.”

She laughed, I laughed, but it’s true, and you all know it. Especially the POTA activators in the room.

Everything passed the power on and out tests, at least they worked. Now on to the house with my new to me gear to play radio. Not so fast! My sons 13th birthday was today and by the time we went to dinner and all the festivities petered out I was done for the night. It would have to wait until tomorrow.

I planned to head out to a job site in the morning that as luck would have it put me right next to K-3315, Island Lake State Recreation Area just after lunch time.

I decided to use some of my “new to me” gear for the activation and see what happened. Except the battery that is. That’s old like me.

The Antenna

I have never even seen an AlexLoop until now much less know how to assemble it. It went together easily but where to mount it? I had also purchased an original Buddistick in the deal so I used the table clamp and a portion of mast to form a makeshift stand.

Tuning was easy, though a little touchy. I listened for the most noise on the radio and them fine tuned it with my Rig Expert A35. It was close enough for me at about 1.2:1 so it was time to activate said park!

Now under a large shelter that probably had an entire semi truck worth of steel in it was probably not the best place to set up. I turned it one way, then the other. I called a few and they didn’t hear me so I turned it another way. Putting it out in the clear seemed like a good idea so I drug a table out from under the shelter. I understand the radiation pattern and tried to work it. It was a bit of a challenge but that’s half the fun.

The Radio

My radio of choice? My shinny, newish IC-703. Not a plus but and older original 703. Now I had done some homework on this radio and had hoped that it would come with a couple of options installed. I am a happy camper! The DSP board and a CW filter are in the radio and working. Not the 500hz but the 250hz CW filter. The one I’d put in if I had bought it new.

Starting out an activation with little time at the controls of a radio is probably not one of my better ideas. I did watch a couple of YouTube videos and download the manual last night so I wasn’t totally blind going in. Having never owned an IC-706 like radio before, I was pleasantly surprised at how intuitive it was to operate. Once I figured out how to navigate to pertinent menu items like power setting, keyer controls and filtering, it was smooth sailing.

Except for one thing. The memory keyer. When it was time to call CQ I realized I hadn’t set any of the keyer memories! Entering each letter like naming a memory channel by rotating the main tuning dial and moving over one character at a time was a bit tedious and time consuming. Compared to “keying” them in it was slow. The use of them is great however. Very easy and natural. I will have to remember to set them before I take it out if a change is needed.

The Paddles

I acquired a new set of paddles in the deal also. A set of N3ZN QRP paddles in very good condition. The radio required a 1/4″ stereo plug so I had to find an adapter from 1/8″. I stopped and picked one up earlier in the day and I’m certain I will find the half dozen of them that I currently own after I get home.

I adjusted them to what I thought would be good and tapped out a few bars. I fiddled with them a bit and found a nice setting for 18wpm. They clack a bit while sending but I’m sure a can tighten them up and all will be well. I’ve wanted a set for some time. Solid feel and magnetic returns made for a pleasurable first run.

The Results

I was only able to make 4 contacts in the over two hours I was there. Disappointing but satisfying at the same time. I took a less than optimal antenna and a new radio/paddle combo in to the field and it worked. I’m sure that on a different date and time with more hunters and activators on the air I would have no trouble filling my log with the requisite 10 contacts.

A fun afternoon of radio was had and my newish gear worked as it should. I guess I will just have to spend endless hours working out the bugs. I will inform my YL and my boss I’ll be needing time to sort out my issues.

72 all,

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