Look what I found…


I was at the Charleston Hamfest Saturday and found an old friend: My first ham radio, the FT-847, with my old desk mic and auto-tuner, was for sale at one of the tables there.

I sold this setup back last year. One of guys there, knowing I once owned an FT-847 pointed it out. I took a look at it and thought, “hey this is a good-looking 847” … then I looked closer and started seeing some familiar marks along the top. Then I spotted the LDG YT-847 tuner on the right, and the MD-100 mic. Yep, this was my old station.

I noticed the price they were asking was a good bit higher than I sold it for. Of course, at the end of the day, I saw the seller boxing it back up and carting it off without a sale.

Small world!

Close but no cigar at the swapfest

Our club held its annual “swapfest” this past weekend, and I took a trunkload of gear that I’d hoped to sell, namely a Baofeng UV3R, a programming cable for that radio, an old 2m/440 antenna with a drill-through mount and a magmount, an old Icom desk mic, and my old Yaesu FT-847 station, complete with LDG autotuner and the Yaesu desk mic.

The Baofeng handheld went fast and I picked up nearly as much as I originally paid for it. I ended up giving away the ratty dual-band antenna along with the two mounts. The Icom desk mic also went on its merry way. I’d never had much luck with it and it will need the connector rewired anyway, so I didn’t mind parting with it.

I’d especially hoped to unload the Yaesu 847, tuner and mic as one complete package. (Plus extras: a custom Signalink cable, and a duplexer for dual band antennas) It’s been unused and in the original box since I put my K3 online. Ironically, the first person to come over and ask about it was the gentleman who sold it to me back in 2012. I jokingly asked he if wanted to buy his rig back, and he seemed to seriously consider it for a moment, and mentioned he’d thought about getting another 847. Ultimately, the conversation turned to drones, astronomy and photography, and there was no sale.

Another guy there mentioned he wanted to get into 2-meter SSB and was very interested in the rig. He told me how much cash he brought, which was in line with how much I needed for the rig, plus I lowered my already deeply-discounted asking price a bit more in an effort to sweeten the deal, but again, no sale.

I guess my next step will be to put the station on the local Yahoo “ham swap” reflector and see if anyone bites.

In other news, thanks to recent contests, I’ve picked up a few more LOTW confirmations for the DXCC chase. I now need 19 confirmations to finish up DXCC mixed. Looks like I’d be better off trying to exchange QSL cards than hold out hope for a few of these. Wonder when K1N will upload for non-donors?

The agonizing wait

I can almost see the finish line for the Worked All States Triple Play. I must check Logbook of the World 100 times a day to see who has QSLed… and lately, hardly anyone has.

I grabbed W1AW/7 on CW yet again last night, this time with a solid contact on 40 meters. I was certain he busted my call on my previous attempt on 40 meters, but last night was an easy in and out, working him via my straight key no less. He hadn’t gone split yet, so I gave him a call and he came back to me on the first pop. That marked my 4th CW QSO with /7 across three bands. I look forward to receiving confirmation on LOTW soon.

A phenomenon I’ve experienced recently over at the K3UK Sked Page has left me a little frustrated. My last half a dozen or so attempts at scheduling QSOs (particularly CW QSOs) have been met with silence. The routine is something like this: Check the sked page; “oh wow, I need that state for the Triple, I’ll message him;” wait; wait some more; wait more than an hour; nothing heard.

Ah well.

Charlotte Hamfest

I hit the road Saturday with a friend of mine and we headed to the Charlotte Hamfest. As usual, I didn’t buy anything, even though I found exactly what I was looking for — a Bushwacker single-lever paddle, which I intended to use as a “cootie” key.

The Bushwacker comes as a kit, and the gentleman selling it in the flea market area had already assembled his. I tried it and I really liked the action. Unfortunately, seeing lust in my eyes, he waffled on the price, then couldn’t decide whether he even wanted to sell it. I felt like he wasn’t dealing with me on the square so I moved along. Never saw another single lever key. As it turns out, I can purchase the kit new cheaper than he was willing to sell his used one.

It’s always nice to see some ham radio “celebrities” in Charlotte and this year was no exception. QST columnist and HamRadioNow producer Gary, KN4AQ was there, and ARRL President Kay, N3KN, actually sat behind me during the Wake Atoll forum presented by the Carolinas DX Association. (this was an excellent presentation!).

Some of the guys from the recent Amsterdam Island DXpedition were also on-hand, although I had to leave before their presentation began.

Overall attendance seemed to be up and there were more vendors and tables in the flea market. Prices looked inflated on almost everything (A grungy 30-year-old Yaesu FT-101: $360? Seriously?). Neither Yaesu nor Flex were there, although Ten Tec was, and I had fun playing around with a few of their rigs.

Ida-Ho-Hey, Hamming in Charlotte

The Idaho QSO Party paid off for me and that state is now in my log.

I returned from the Charlotte Hamfest Saturday and had to run some errands before I could get in the shack. It was after 6 p.m. here when I finally switched on the rig and tuned around for about an hour. There were many interesting foreign stations but nothing from Idaho. Eventually, an Idaho station, AB7HP, the Hewlett Packard Amateur Radio Club based in Boise, showed up on the DX cluster on 20 meters.

I could hear him, but just barely above the noise. I decided to hold off on a QSO attempt and wait to see if band conditions improved. I left the rig on AB7HP’s frequency and set about programming the new Baofeng UV-3R+ I picked up in Charlotte for $39.

Not sure whether the Boise station turned their antenna or the band shifted, but suddenly the station came through my rig at a signal level around S7. I keyed up and tossed out my call and the operator came back to me on the first shot with a perfect copy on my call.

A second Idaho station, N7UVH, showed up on the cluster on 20 meters,  so I tuned over and found him managing a small pile-up. He was a solid S9. I managed to get heard after 2-3 tries and we exchanged locations and signal reports. Since N7UVH is an LOTW user, our contact was nearly instantly QSLed, bringing me one step closer to Worked All States basic.

Some notes on Charlotte:

  • The Hamfest was almost a duplicate of last year’s event. Same location, same setup, same vendors, some of the same junk, er, boat anchors for sale, some of the same faces and friends too.
  • Despite speaking with the Flex Radio vendor for quite some time about buying a Flex 1500, I decided to move on and not purchase the SDR QRP rig. It’s a neat piece of kit, but not at $600. I’d much rather have something from Elecraft.
  • I did buy a 12 volt sealed lead-acid battery rated for 8 aH. I should be able to power my FT-817 for a while on this.
  • As mentioned above, I did contribute to the economy of China by purchasing one of the infamous handhelds. The Baofeng is not a bad rig at all. It’s a simple radio and doesn’t have a lot of needless bells and whistles, so programming it is easy. It has 3 watts output, it’s very lightweight and it’s so small it fits in the palm of my hand, or in a jacket pocket. I actually took it to work today in the inner pocket of my sport coat. Receive audio is good and it hits the club repeater without any problem. I was talking with some friends within seconds of getting it up and running. Best of all, it was only $39. I really enjoy using this little radio, and it’s just too darned cute…
  • The highlight of the Charlotte trip was the Summits on the Air presentation. It got me excited about SOTA all over again. Naturally, the really interesting portion was when 4-5 of the local SOTA heavy-hitters showed off some of the gear they use. I spotted several end-fed antennas (The PAR EndFedz company owner was actually in the audience), we saw a demo of the Alex Loop antenna, a KX1, a Hendricks CW transceiver kit, a “Mountain Topper” built into an Altoids tin, and of course, the KX3. I e-mailed the presenter today (Christian, KF4LXB) and he graciously provided me with the Powerpoint presentation he gave. I may present something similar at our club later this year, seeing as how I’m responsible for organizing at least one program.
  • The Yaesu guys were there. They were giving out those stylish black ball caps again and I snagged one. I’ve been missing mine since I gave it to a guy on the streets of Atlanta back during Dragon*Con last year. The new hat is a slightly different design — white letters that simply says, “Yaesu, The Radio.” Hehe.

Idaho, I’m coming for you…

I just noticed the Idaho QSO Party is this weekend. That dramatically increases my chances of getting them in my log and one step closer to Worked All States.

So Saturday, after I hit the Charlotte Hamfest and sit in on a couple interesting forums — one on Summits on the Air and another on Software Defined Radio — I’ll speed back home and try to make some contacts. Fortunately, they are two time zones behind us!

Looking forward to decent propagation and catching someone with a good ear operating a directional antenna pointed southeast, hopefully on the 20 meter band… hehe.

I have some coin in hand from a freelance gig or two and I’m wondering what I can spend it on in Charlotte. I really don’t need anything, but if a W4RT dual filter board for the 817 surfaced I’d certainly snag it.

Looking back at the Charlotte Hamfest

I intended to do a write-up on the Charlotte Hamfest I attended this past weekend before now, but strangely enough, I have very little to say about it.

I spent a grand total of $2 (yes, 2, as in single digits, not 200, not 2,000!) on gear: a pair of 6-foot-long mono audio cables for digital mode tomfoolery. I flirted with buying the hardware to get setup on Anderson Powerpoles, very nearly bought the Arrow LEO satellite antenna that I’ve had my eye on since before I entered the hobby, and considered buying some Dacron rope to replace the nylon stuff that is currently supporting my dipole.

I had a pocketful of cash and couldn’t find anything to spend it on. The bottom line is, there isn’t anything I really need now. I’m on HF/VHF/UHF with a great radio. I have an antenna that’s performing well in my limited space. There is nothing I would change about my shack at the moment (well, I need to do a better job grounding perhaps, and maybe one day I’ll actually put the 2-meter antenna up…).

I’ve been interested in a QRP rig for travelling, so I was on the lookout for either a Yaesu FT-817nd, or a Flex 1500. I didn’t see either, new or used. However I did make out like a bandit on Yaesu swag. I managed to grab a pen, a map for my shack and a Yaesu hat. I think I was somewhat shell-shocked the majority of the time because there was so much to look at, especially in the flea market area, where you could find just about any kind of cable, connector, tube or gadget.

The best part of going to the hamfest was really just the journey. I met up with a large group of local hams around 7 a.m. and we caravanned up to the event, talking on simplex the whole way. Our club leader, W3KH, received the Roanoke Division Service award from the ARRL during one of the forums, so it was nice to drop by and support him.

Right before I left I recognized the videographer from TWiT’s Ham Nation, Gary Pearce, KN4AQ, wandering around. I should have gone over and introduced myself, seeing as how I make web video for a living, but he looked like he was in the zone and I didn’t want to bother him. He posted his video from Charlotte this week over at his Ham Radio Now site. Hopefully we’ll see a segment on Ham Nation this week.