ARRL Field Day 2017

Posted on1 CommentCategoriesField Day, Portable, QRP

I had the pleasure to participate is this years ARRL Field Day with Tracy, VE3TWM and Randy, VE3OZR.

The site Tracy found offered plenty of room for antennas of all types. We were going to be using two antennas for this single station effort, 1B GTA designation. An 80m thru 10m off centre fed dipole and a 40m thru 6m mini windom. The antennas would be supported by telescoping fiberglass poles. More on this later.

I arrived Friday afternoon about 3:00 pm. Tracy had already been there a few hours and had begun setting up the station.

VE3TWM Field Day 2017 QRP Station
VE3TWM Field Day 2017 QRP Station
Tracy, VE3TWM preparing the OCFD
Tracy, VE3TWM preparing the OCFD

The first antenna to go up was the 80m thru 10m OCFD. The site had four wooden poles in the ground available, which made for a great support for the 15 metre fiberglass pole. As I stated earlier, the site offered lots of room for the full length antenna in an inverted V configuration.

During the Field Day weekend, Tracy took the time to video our activities. Here is his video on the 80m thru 10m OCFD. This antenna was a real performer throughout the weekend.

We operated the entire event with 5 watts SSB on the Yaesu FT817ND. You will note the Yaesu FT897D was on hand as well but only as a backup. That’s me in the shades by the way.

Randy's, VE3OZR, Food Shelter
Randy’s, VE3OZR, Food Shelter


By this time, Randy, VE3OZR, was well on the way setting up his quartermaster area for the weekend. Randy mustered all his culinary skills to keep us well fed and energized for the entire event.

Once the contacts begun it was important to stay nourished in order to be successful.

The second antenna we would be using this weekend was the 40m thru 6m mini windom. Supported on a 40 ft fiberglass pole and guyed.

This antenna needed to be kept away from the OCFD so we could not make use of the wooden poles on the site.

Tracy, VE3TWM and Randy, VE3OZR, preparing the Mini Windom
Tracy, VE3TWM and Randy, VE3OZR, preparing the Mini Windom

So it was now my turn to give our second antenna an on air test. While several stations gave us favorable reports, there was skepticism that we would be successful during the event.

Field Day can be a challenge, especially operating 5 watts SSB for the entire weekend, but as you will see, things worked out not bad at all, considering the band conditions were not optimum.

The Station is Ready to Go.

ARRL Field Day 2017 Station Shelter
ARRL Field Day 2017 Station Shelter

In my mind, Field Day captures so much of the spirit of amateur radio. Elements include portable operation, contesting (as serious or casual as you wish), testing out new equipment, camaraderie and let’s not forget the food (thanks again Randy). I also slept in a tent for the first time in about 40 years.

40m was the go to band, but Tracy had some success in the morning hours on 20m. 98 contacts were made for the weekend and lots of fun doing it.

“Many amateurs believe running a 5 watt SSB station during Field Day is an exercise in frustration. What they don’t realize is that if you connect your QRP transceiver to a good
antenna, you’ll make a lot of contacts.” – Tracy, VE3TWM

Image Credits: Paul, VE3EBY
Video Credits: Tracy, VE3TWM
Food Credits: Randy, VE3OZR

Be sure to check out more videos from Tracy on his YouTube channel Outdoors on the Air.

Paul, VE3EBY



PSK-31 with FLDigi and the FT-817ND

Posted on1 CommentCategoriesDigital, QRP

I am about to tackle several projects all at once, in order to operate PSK-31 with my FT-817ND QRP rig. The main reason for this project is the fact I operate QRP with an indoor antenna. In order to make the most out of this setup, going to a digital mode will offer more opportunities for a QRP station. I know there are many of you out there in the same predicament, so please follow along while I put this together.

Not long ago, I re-purposed an old laptop of mine with the Linux, Ubuntu operating system. The laptop is a Dell Studio 1535, manufactured in July of 2008. It has an Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 with 2G of ram. Now this laptop is really getting long in the tooth to be operating the latest Windows® operating systems.

Installing FLDigi

With the new operating system up and running, the next step was to install FLDigi software to run the digital modes.The first place to start is the W1HKJ Software page

Next, scroll down to the chart at the bottom of the page, to the line “Debs for Ubuntu”. To the right of this you will see Ubuntu debs by Kamal Mostafa   How To Install from Kamal’s PPA. Open this link and follow the instructions by opening a terminal window (ctrl-alt-t) and entering the set of commands shown, which will install FLDigi.

Setting Up FLDigi

In order to set up FLDigi for your station, I found this video from Dave, KE0OG to be most helpful.

Connecting the Signalink

The next step is to get the Signalink USB interface connected and get on the air. I ordered the unit for the FT-817ND, but all you need to do is follow the instructions for your specific rig. The Tigertronics website has all the information you need. If you bought your Signalink unit new, it will come with a full set of instructions. Before you hook up the unit, be sure you have the correct jumpers installed on the board. The unit comes with the correctly wired cable from the Signalink to the Data port on the rear of the FT-817ND. Next install the USB cable from the Signalink unit to an available USB port on your computer.

If you are running the Ubuntu program, as I am, open a terminal window (CTRL-ALT-T) and type “lsusb”. If you see a USB audio codec device listed, the Signalink has been recognized.

Setting Up the FT-817ND

I am going to start on 20m at the frequency of 14.070 MHz. For other bands, you can do a Google search and find plenty of charts listing where to operate PSK-31.
Set the rig mode to “DIG”.
Hold down the F button momentarily to enter the function settings.
F25: DIG MIC GAIN – Set to “40”.
F26: DIG MODE SET – Set to “USER-U”.
Set your power output to 2.5 watts.(display shows L with three bars). There are those that will run the FT-817ND at full power, but after discussions I have had with a few operators, the best recommendation is to operate any rig at no more that half the total power output available. PSK-31 will operate your rig at a 100% duty cycle.

Don’t forget to open FLDigi and configure the operating mode and audio.
Op Mode>PSK>BPSK-31
Configure>Sound Card>
Audio Port audio, Capture and Playback – USB Audio Codec.
Right Channel
Select PTT tone on right audio channel

Before making a transmission, I suggest you make a Test TX macro on FLDigi. On the Signalink, turn both TX and RX controls fully counterclockwise (off). On the FT-817ND, set the MTR function to ALC. Then use the Test TX macro to adjust the ALC. Bring the Signalink TX control up until you just see some bars, then back off until no bars are shown. This will insure you have no distortion on your TX signal. If you move up or down the waterfall, be sure to keep checking your ALC level. Bring the Signalink RX control up until you can see some signals on the waterfall without them being washed out by background noise.

Within a few minutes, I managed a QSO with a station in Colorado with just 2.5 watts and an indoor dipole. The signals were not that strong as this is the bottom of the current solar cycle. As you can see by the image below, I am operating a very minimalist station at the moment.

Please consider this operating mode. With QRP (low power output) you will make the most of what your station has to offer.

Paul, VE3EBY