350 miles per watt.
Today was our first near-60 degree day in weeks, so I excitedly went up on the new roof deck of our garage (completed last October, just in time to be too cold to use!) Time to try some ‘field work’ and see if I could contact anyone on 17m from my nice elevated view of the sky.
I grabbed the Buddistick, and in 5 minutes clamped it to the deck railing. It’s really no more than the HF mobile antennas you see attached to car bumpers: a balun, a coil, and twelve feet of collapsible whip. I leaned it tightly against the pergola to brace against the 30mph wind, ran a single 13′ wire radial along the ground, and poof — my analyzer showed a 1.2 SWR across the whole 17m band. No tuner needed!
I originally brought up my 100 watt base tranceiver out of the basement shack up onto the roof. Unfortunately, I discoved that the AC outlet up there was totally dead. The garage opener works, the lights work, but the outlets were dead; time to call the contractor and ask what’s up.
So I fell back on my usual QRP travel radio, the Yaesu 817ND, running on a battery. It only does 5 watts, but heck, that’s fine for CW.
My brother (an astronomer) told me that a huge huge CME hit the earth last Friday. Sure enough, I was getting an S8 noise floor across the band. Yikes. I heard a couple strong SSB conversations, but after a while I just ‘flipped’ the VFO to the local VHF repeater. I think I gave both Tom KB9AJM and Bob KB9SAR heart attacks — they never hear me on 440mhz. Bob told me that HF is expected to be ‘down’ for the next few days because of the awful space weather.
Well heck with it. The solar flux was 140, so I called CQ anyway on 18.085 at a measely 10wpm. Somebody almost immediately came back to me at 5wpm! But holy cow, I could barely hear them buried in the noise — I’d estimate an S3 within an S7 noise floor.
I suddenly remembered to make use of the ‘magic upgrade’ I put on my 817 radio: the DSP circuit. Friends, let me tell you, this product sold by W4RT is astounding. It’s just a tiny pushbutton drilled into the top of the tiny radio, but it activates DSP noise reduction as good as anything I’ve heard on a huge base-station radio. It’s FAR more effective than the 500hz Collins mechanical CW filter I had installed. I turned up DSP to the maximum, and it sounded like I was floating underwater with nothing but pure CW tone coming from my responder. I simply couldn’t have copied him without it!
In any case, it turns out to be Frank WB7NZI from Washington State. We give each other 539 signal reports, but the QSB is rough, and conversations take a long time at 8wpm. But heck, 1750 miles on 5 watts? That’s 350 miles per watt — not too shabby!
Field QRP still gives me a thrill, for sure. I really need to give a demo presentation of the Buddipole kit at a monthly meeting sometime.