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A Day Out to WI-001L with WI9DX/W9DK Clubs 20 - June - 2010

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, US Islands.
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Yesterday June 19th 2010 seven Mancorad W9DK Club members traveled to Washington Island, Wisconsin – US Island WI-001L – to visit and operate from George W9EVT’s Mega-Hamshack as part of the WI9DX Washington Island DX Club.

A 5:45am departure took us to a 8am Northport departure (first of the day this time of year) on the Washington Island Ferry Line’s ferry boat the “Washington” to the Island. Thirty minutes later we were on-island and quickly having to remember to wave to every passing car, a wonderful Washington Island tradition!

After dropping most of the team at the Red Cup Coffee & Cafe ( reviews ) young Victor KC9NWB was dropped off at an Island based buddy’s home where he is spending much of the week. The Red Cup was outstanding as usual, and it was a real pleasure to drink carefully crafted coffee outside in such a pleasant place!

Not wanting to arrive at the W9EVT Hamshack too early, we made the next stop the “Stavkirke” wooden chapel. Click on the link for pictures, but this is one my favorite churches, and over the years we’ve attended services and performances several times in the building. Photo session and donations done, it was off to Schoolhouse Beach.

Unlike the photos on the tourist website linked, I was the only one who waded into the still very cold water.

Next stop was the W9EVT hamshack at Greengate Farm.

I will cover the Hamshack in another post, once we’ve pictures uploaded. Doesn’t seem smart to write “wow” several hundred times over & over to allow for a single “wow” for each radio in the shack!!!

Alison KC9MPL and Miki KC9NVZ made a ladies side trip to Siever’s School of Fiber Arts while the Hamshack tour continued.

Lunch was had a Nelsen’s Hall, a bar & hall that even the prohibition couldn’t legally close!

We were joined by Susan & George’s daughter Amy, who is home on vacation from a teaching assignment in The Federated States of Micronesia in the Pacific (yes V63-land for us DX fans!), and the Board of Directors of the Thorstein Veblen Historic Cottage preservation project, part of the Island Heritage Conservancy. John Moore and Jerry Maiers both made time in their busy day to meet to discuss my firm’s contribution of roofing materials to the project. The Green Bay Press Gazette did a nice Veblen Cabin Article covering much of the project.

Before we finished lunch, several of us joined the Nelsen’s Hall Bitters Club, by drinking a shot of Angostura Bitters. Most of the group didn’t, and it is a level argument who was smarter!

While I had made a number of 6 meter QSOs during the morning tour using my own call, the remaining chunk of time in the afternoon was spent working under the WI9DX Club call sign, and mostly on 20m at 14.180

I “primed the well” checking for clear frequency and getting the QSO’s started before turning over affairs to Rich KC9LOA and Tim N7TAL – who did a great job learning what it is like to be at the receiving side of a mini-pile up.

Winston KC9FVR did diagnostics and worked with George W9EVT to sort out network & internet issues, and fixed a configuration issue on George’s MacBook Pro that had started interfering with email & connectivity.

Alas it was time to leave to catch the last ferry for the day off the island, and after thank you & good byes, we made way to the 5 pm ferry, pausing only to pick up a Blue Berry pie.

Once back on the mainland, we made our way part way down the Door Peninsula for our featured diner stop – Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. The roof top goats were out and we had an excellent waiter of Transylvanian extraction who took a moment to tell us of the Siebenburgen (seven forts or castles) of the region. Al Johnson passed on this month at 84, and there were very touching memorial leaflets and posters up as a tribute. I’m going to admit to evening my day with breakfast, as Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry Preserves & Swedish Meatballs are enough of a treat to have breakfast in the evening!

We had a great ride back to Manitowoc, listening to podcasts & big band music from a band I play in, and even though I cruised past an exit (wrong lane – duh) we were back & home by 9:30 pm.

Pictures to follow later this week and if you were one of our QSOs WI9DX QSLs for the day can go to the W9DK address (good on QRZ) and my K9ZW are fine direct.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Island Upgrades to Omni VII, Orion II, FT-2000 and Flex-5000a 29 - October - 2009

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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Today after a two and half hour drive and a 40 minute ferry ride I set foot, or more exactly set my wheels, on Washington Island WI-001L, on my way to George W9EVT’s ham shack to install firmware updates on several radios and set up his Flex-5000a radio after he had received a new computer. My youngest Victor KC9NWB was riding shotgun on the trip.

Greengate Farm, Susan & George Ulm’s QTH, was not my only island destination. My official main purpose on the Island was to assist the Island Historical Society with evaluation and decision-making concerning the Thorstein Veblen cottage restoration project.

The cottage restoration will start in earnest in 2010, with the present priority to watertight the building and insure its safety overwinter. My firm has offered some assistance with materials for the project and I have been more than happy to donate my personal time to our Island friends who are undertaking this historic renovation.

I’m especially happy that allows me time to visit George’s shack, and in this case on this trip to do upgrades on several of his radios. George also had received a specially built PC to run his Flex-5000 and he needed it set up.

The first upgrade was to the Orion II with a full firmware update. This involves installing software I had brought to the island on a thumb drive onto a local PC, connected to the Orion with a serial cable, restarting the radio holding a specific key, and running the specialty upgrade software.

In the case of the Orion, with its massive number of settings, this upgrade takes several minutes. As it was the first time I had done in Orion update, I was a bit concerned at the length of time it took to load the new firmware. I really should’ve worried the system seems to work well and once the Orion was restarted all look to be well.

Upgrading the Omni was just as easy, but much quicker due to its smaller settings table. A similar process, cabling the radio up, restarting the radio holding a specific key, and running the special Omni update software. Again the update went smoothly.

Now came the challenge, the FT- 2000 radio. First step in updating a 2000 is to turn the radio upside down and locate a slider switch inside the radio through a small hole usually covered by the right rear foot. This switch is a problem as it is very very small and once you put your screwdriver in it is hard to see the switch. The 2000 also requires to be cabled to the PC for an update to install.

It couldn’t be that simple… no, it wasn’t as I discovered FT-2000 needed a different cable than the Orion or the Omni. A “Gender Problem” — the gender pin out was the opposite of what was expected. I guess I should look closer at the on-screen computer manual, rather than relying on the text calling out in nine pin serial port, before I came to Island.

So in the end the 2000 could not be upgraded, but would you think that putting that small switch back to its normal position could possibly be harder than finding it the first time? Absolutely, it was a time-consuming task to relocate this tiny switch and reset the radio.

In the end the software was left loaded ready for the correct cable to update the 2000, and a correct cable was ordered from a off-island supply house before I left for the day. I’m hoping that George can handle finishing the 2000 update on his own when the cable arrives.

Next was the Flex — and it’s new special PC. Everything was there, it just needed cabling up and the software setup with its final configurations.

The special PC arrived with all the usual Flex software preinstalled including PowerSDR, but it needed to be configured for this specific radio it was hooked to. It only took a few moments to get the software running and the flex on the air. However the first time George powered everything down for some reason the settings were lost. I found this on my return from the Veblen cottage, and I’m very glad that George and I split the day into two sessions to catch an error like this. Somewhere in the middle I found time to to squeeze in a visit to the island gunsmith and to visit with a friend who is a builder & Realtor on the island.

Again a few minutes of redoing the settings to match settings that have worked satisfactorily at my QTH put everything into fine form. With a large monitor, the fantastic antennas, the beautiful location for propagation, and the special PC George now has one very fine Flex-5000 setup. I do need to thank Harry W9BR for some phone assistance when I needed advice. To confirm the Flex-5000 was running right I of course had to quickly work several DX stations, mostly using the Washington Island DX Club WI9DX call sign.

So three of the four radios were put into fine form, the fourth prepared for its new cable to allow installation of the final firmware update, and George is back on the air with his Flex-5000. There was enough time to spare to socialize, walk part of the farm — actually a very small part of the farm — and before the last outgoing ferry for the day. Of course we were recipients of Susan’s lunch & hospitality, for which we offer our thanks!

It was a lovely ride back, breaking into rain only for the last 15-20 miles. Victor KC9NWB and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner at the world-famous Al Johnson’s restaurant on the way back.

73

Steve
K9ZW

A Little Island Time – WI-001L for the Day 20 - July - 2008

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW Just Rambled, US Islands.
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The day Saturday was was glorious sunny and blue skies as Tom KC9JGD and I made our way to Washington Island (WI-001L) by car to their Lion’s Club annual Fly-In and Fish Boil.

We met Susan & George W9EVT at the airfield, and later stopped in at Greengate Farm to see the progress on the Ham Mansion.

The Main Operating room has had all of its flooring completed and currently George W9EVT is operating with a minimal setup.  It only took a few minutes to sort out getting him back on the air for 160 to 40 meters, and the other bands will be back up in a few days when the operating counsels can put put back in the usual locations.

I’m planning another visit in a few weeks, and we talked about what we might get up to at that time.  

We’re hoping to have another WI9DX Washington Island DX Club Meeting in early August.

WordPress is fighting me on adding photos, so the few pictures I have of the day will wait for another day.

73

Steve
K9ZW

WI9DX Washington Island DX Club Meeting – July 2nd 2008 3 - July - 2008

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, DX Interests, US Islands.
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KK Fiske Restaurant on Washington Island, Wisconsin

The famous KK Fiske Restaurant on Washington Island (WI-001L) Wisconsin was the venue for a WI9DX Washington Island DX Club meeting.  

Founding Members George W9EVT, Mac W9EVI and Myself (Steve K9ZW) welcomed member Dean K3GGN and new members John KA9USC & Mike K9ABT

WI9DX DX Club was founded several years ago to promote Amateur Radio on Washington Island, specially the pursuit of DXing.  (DXing is the hobby of tuning in and identifying distant radio stations, or making two way radio contact with distant stations in amateur radio.)

These events are always great fun, as everyone has so much to share, finally gets to meet people with shared interests and always results in much camaraderie!

Of special interest this July meeting is interference noted by several of the members on 6m, 10m, & 12m bands.  Several audio recordings were played and discussed.  There is a strong correlation that the interference (which can range to over S9 across more than a hundred kilocycles in several areas at times) with a pilot data over power grid (BPL) program underway currently on the Island.  When running this interference is strong enough to deny the affected band segments from Hobby & Emergency Communications use.  

In true “Island cooperative style“, the group was unanimous to offer our assistance to try an firmly identify the exact source, and to help correct the in-Amateur Band interference.  Further consultation with Ed Hare W1RFI at the ARRL is planned to help define a protocol for offering Amateur Assistance.  As the ARRL has a working & acceptable BPL install to the League’s main radio station the group hoped that depth of experience would help sort out the local interference on Washington Island.

Antennas, rigs, mobile (including Marine Mobile) operations and station banter filled the rest of the morning’s meeting.  George W9EVT extended an invitation for all the members to come visit his shack, QTH at Greengate Farm.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Back from Washington Island (WI-001L) Memorial Day Weekend 27 - May - 2008

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW Operations, US Islands.
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Great Ferry ride and drive back from Washington Island W9EVT, where we had booked again with George W9EVT and his XYL Susan. Memorial Day weekend on an Island, yeah! Adding to our Memorial Day observance is that George W9EVT is a Korean War era Navy vet and I spent my time in the Cold War Army.

Great time had by all!  Huge Thunder & Lightening Storm with Heavy Rains last night – power went down for a 1/2 hour across the Island.

The expanded “Ham Mansion” W9EVT/WI9DX Hamshack is moving along.  The main operating room will be 2-1/2 the length once the plasterers finish in the next few weeks.  The first of the theme rooms to be ready will be the “Collins Room” which was a couple days from being ready for moving gear in.

The rest of the “Ham Mansion” is a work in progress, all framed & closed in, with various areas ranging from needing just plaster, trim & paint to being open walls.  My understanding is the additional rooms will be progressed after the main room and Collins Rooms are completed.  

Various gremlins made radio work fall behind being helpful on other projects.  When we arrived the internet for the whole complex was down due to serious misguidance received from an On-Line call-in Tech Center somewhere out there.  Guidance from one of these “tech on the phone” led to a Router being used as NAT interface between the inside system and the Motorola Canopy system loosing all it’s settings.  

Certainly the phone tech meant well, and it very hard for a phone tech to visual what is a decidedly more complex than the average system, but the result was the entire system being unusable.  We had been called before we left, so we knew there was an awaiting troubleshooting exercise.

Having a go rebuilding the setting matrixes was a no-joy outcome.  Extremely puzzled I broke off for dinner and was very pleased when most of the system came back to life!  Seemed once the correct settings were installed that it took a while for the Canopy system re-authorize the network connection.  

A couple buildings I wasn’t able to hotrod the wireless back up to running, lacking the admin passwords to make corrections, but I was able to get plug in ethernet points up.

Always fun to trouble shoot a system you hadn’t designed or built, specially without full documentation.

The TenTec Omni VII received its bootloader update and full software updates.  I didn’t bring the correct cabling to update the Orion II, Icom IC-7800 and Yaesu FT-2000 units.  Next trip!

Working with the SPE Expert IK-FA it was clear that this particular example needs help – Expert has a new Level-III Update program to bring these amps up to spec.  George W9EVT is going to send it in for the warranty upgrades needed.

After the huge lightening storm – lightening could be seen running across the tree tops like a freight train at one point – we discovered the internet was again down, the phones were partially out and a few of the radios seemed to have reset themselves despite being disconnected and leads grounded.

The radios were a puzzler, as no direct hits were taken and nothing was “smoked” anywhere on the farm.  Guessing that the heighten airborne ambient energy was enough to “tickle” them.  At the peak of the lightening display you could feel a tingle while watching from a covered porch.

The internet turned out to be a wall wart to the same annoying NAT router that had not liked going onto battery backup and burnt out.  A trip out to th e workshop across the farm for a spare wall-wart (power cube) and all was well!

Phones were a bit more vexing, and by a process of testing & elimination we found a Direct-TV Satellite box in the Applehouse Master Bedroom had internally shorted out.  This is the second Direct-TV Satellite box to turn belly-up at Greengate this year (they have a bunch).   

Operating time was mostly limited to testing equipment.  

Did a spot of “poor man’s surveying” by using a GPS unit to pick out relative antenna base heights and spacings.  The unit I used is not highly accurate and perhaps is accurate, relative to the other points measured, by six feet (2m) or so.  As for absolute accuracy the entire plot should be within 50 ft (16m)  of actual.  I will use this data as a model the antenna array in NEC.

DIdn’t get the WI9DX work done I had planned, but hey there are only so many hours!

Far too short of a weekend.  great to get back onto the Island and at least get a few QSOs completed.

I need to ask permission to post the construction photos. Hopefully more to come!

73

Steve
K9ZW

Try Try Again – New WI-001L Bruce Array in Construction 8 - May - 2008

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW Learned, US Islands.
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On Washington Island WI-001L two Bruce Arrays have met their fate. The first was lost to groundskeepers who damaged it beyond reasonable repair with power equipement.

The replacement was lost when one of the support towers suddenly collapsed, as its crank-up cable perished from concealed damage.

A Third is in Modeling – with NEC2 models of various exact measurements suggesting a number of tweaks that should make “Third Time Lucky” a reality.

One issue in Number two was an unexpected difficulty in bringing the antenna into resonance exactly where we expected until a considerable amount of effort was made adjusting tuning stubs.

Models suggest that the feed point impedance was greatly higher than planned for, which likely exacerbated the “twitchiness” in tuning that version (Link to Article on Tuning that Array).

Bob Rumsey, KZ5R’s Balun Designs LLC #6113 6:1 Current Balun has been ordered for the feed point duties, after antenna modeling indicated that the antenna impedance is actually in the 300-325 Ω range, rather than the 200 Ω range assumed.

A Number of Design parameters are being used in doing the redesign and modeling:  

  • Supports are 70 (max) tall at tie-off point.
  • Supports are 125 feet apart.
  • Target Frequency is 40m SSB Net & DX frequency range
  • Feedline will be Coax to reduce interference & interaction with other feedlines & existing ladder line.
  • A 10 foot headroom clearance under the antenna would be desirable.
  • The Supports are Crank-Up Towers, so the antenna must allow for their movement.
  • Design that would prevent the antenna being in the snow or on the ground when the towers are lowered would be a plus.
  • The Antenna will be built in warehouse space in Manitowoc, and must be transportable to Washington Island WI-001L with little fuss.  (Link to Build Article)
  • An easier method of adjusting resonance & element lengths is highly desirable.
  • Once on the Island it must be simple to install.

It seems appropriate that this array is called a “Bruce Array” given the legend about “Try Try & Try Again” surrounding the ancient “Bruce” namesake Robert Bruce of Scotland:

According to legend, at some point while he was on the run during the winter of 1305-06, [Robert] Bruce hid himself in a cave on the east coast of Rathlin Island, where he observed a spider trying to spin a web. Each time the spider failed, it simply started all over again. Inspired by this, Bruce returned to inflict a series of defeats on the English, thus winning him more supporters and eventual victory. The story serves to explain the maxim: “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” 

There is a lot of differing information published on Bruce Arrays.  The Application of Wire Velocity Factors vs. Open Air factors is one discrepancy between various sources that would change the length of a 40m Bruce Array by 4m in length alone!   In one case a 5% shortening, specially of the end elements, is suggested, while other sources add 5% to the direct length calculations, calling out an “array factor.”

Given that each of the previous two Bruce  Arrays needed wire extensions to come in-band I will be studying this one carefully!

Should have some new models and figures to post for comments right after the Dayton Hamvention.

73

Steve
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