Working the world on 2.5 watts

OK, now I get it! After trying for several days to make a complete QSO with the FT-817, things finally came together on Sunday. Let me roll back to Friday night though…

I finally got around to setting up the SignaLink USB (installing the wire jumpers to configure the interface for my 817 was a snap). Connecting it to the 817 via the 6-pin data cable pretty much makes it a plug and play affair. No need to remove the mic from the rig. Also, the interface was recognized by Windows 7 and configured automatically. Everything just worked right out of the box. I didn’t even need to reconfigure any of my digital mode software, except to specify that the new audio board was the SignaLink. The easy of use and portability of both items makes this an amateur radio “killer app” as far as I’m concerned.

I’m not good enough at CW to even attempt a QSO yet, so I figured it I wanted to make any progress with the 817, I’d need to rely more on low bandwidth digital modes instead of SSB phone. I goofed around with WSPR a bit on Saturday and Sunday, and was amazed at how far away my signals were being heard. I was only running 2.5 watts to conserve battery life. I decided to fire up JT65HF and see if I could actually make some QSOs on 20 meters. My first contact with the 817 was DL1EKZ, a German station approximately 4,300 miles from my home base. We both exchanged -05 reports. Not bad! That’s more than 1,700 miles per watt!

A few moments later I worked KJ2U, out of Utah (Oh wow, I just checked his QRZ page. He’s the father of famed Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings. Is this for real! Big Jeopardy fan here, and I’ve even read Ken’s excellent book Brainiac).

I broke for dinner and came back later. I decided to hook the rig up to my power supply so I could comfortably run the full 5 watts. I sunk into a rather miserable dry spell in which I responded to dozens of CQs but never received a response. I wondered if something was wrong, or maybe folks just don’t want to waste the six minutes on a lowly KK4 QSO.

My luck eventually turned: Europe started coming in strong on the waterfall and I recorded QSOs with UR4MG (Ukraine), W7EWG (Washington State), G8XXJ (My first England contact!), F4BAL and F1MWV (both out of France). Good DX — in fact, just as good as any JT65 QSOs I’ve made on my main rig on much higher power levels.

Other interesting stations on the waterfall last night included an Australian station (Tasmania), a New Zealand station, and a station out of Hawaii that QRZing the frequency and making a lot of QSOs.

I’ve definitely fallen hard for QRP!

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