Rocky Ridge Farm on Washington Island, WI – First Radio Activation

Even though we have leased the farm for months, I first got around to setting up a portable station this weekend.  Usually when I am on Washington Island I have the luxury of guest operating from George W9EVT’s mega-shack, and even in this attempt George W9EVT saved the day helping me get on the air.

Equipment used was:

  • SteppIR CrankIR antenna with radial and 80m kits
  • FlexRadio System Flex-6300 transceiver
  • A Toshiba Laptop running Win7-Pro I borrowed from work
  • Power supply from my spares shelf
  • Cisco gigabit router
  • cables and power cords/distribution from my spares

This was our first use of the CrankIR and the Flex-6300, so we had a bit of a learning curve.  It was also a fresh install of SmartSDR, SmartCAT, DAX, and fldigi on the Toshiba which all had to be configured.


The SteppIR CrankIR Antenna

The SteppIR CrankIR Antenna

The working end

The working end

The Wires side of things

The Wires side of things

Logging on Cardboard

Logging on Cardboard

CrankIR Main Unit up close

CrankIR Main Unit up close

Rocky Ridge Farm Activated

Rocky Ridge Farm Activated



W9EVT saved the day...

W9EVT saved the day…

Pictures cannot convey the experience of doing a first time setup of the CrankIR – an easy task once you’ve done it, but a dickens the first time.  Winston KC9FVR helped the first setup and I don’t think I could have done it first time without my son’s participation.

I quickly discovered I had no audio out – I forgot to bring a headset or speakers, and ten Flex-6300 does not have an internal speaker, so my initial efforts were digital mode.

No joy there as my signal apparently wasn’t readable on PSK31 and without audio out the portable stup wasn’t going anywhere.

So the next day, hat in hand, I borrowed a headset from George W9EVT and switched to SSB.

Fairly quickly I was able to work a good number of stations on 20m and 15m phone, including several DX stations.

Found that the software juggling on the laptop was a pain, and ended up doing all the logging on the cardboard tabletop cover I used to have a mouse-ready surface.  Later I entered the QSOs into eQSL and I’ll import the adi log file into my main log later.

Mother Nature ended my activation early as it started to rain and the winds started whipping.  Knocking everything down went smoothly and with Labor Day still windy & rainy, further Rocky Ridge Farm activation will wait for another day.

Of course I have updated my gear checklist to include headphones and speakers for the next activation.




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4 thoughts on “Rocky Ridge Farm on Washington Island, WI – First Radio Activation

  1. Kuby says:

    I just viewed the SteppIR, it looks to be a folded 1/4 wave dipole using a single wire radial for the other 1/4 wave to make a 1/2 wave ‘L’ dipole – interesting. They need to include a tri-point guy rope attachment as FD storms can blow in fast!
    This looks more Rube Goldberg than functional for a very temporary field antenna. BTW I found the SteppIR web page very lacking in explaining the antenna method-theory, the videos did not help explaining the method just install – but how about a diagram of the layout so the actual antenna can be visually understood; the white paper did not help much either. For +$395 much more is needed when they are making ~$200 margin!

    The stand is way to small making it far to tippy and would suggest a substitute stand that has a far wider-stable-stronger base:

    The pole height is 16′ and is not a conductive part of the antenna but all those clamps and stuff – consider this – with simple 1/2 turn locking – NO clamps: (top tip may need some mod’ing)

    As far as your radios woes, well that one is on YOU for being impatient and in a rush to get to the island – no speaker/headset – shame shame Mr Flex. Ya this was your FIRST Flex experience – right?

    You should have set it all up once in your Manty backyard before doing an expedition! And no Spare NB for logging?!@#$%^& Bet you didn’t rig up a real remote OPs with a car battery either!

    But even with all the woe’s it was still frustrating-fun but to compound your joy with the typical unpredictable channel WX…. Bet ya next time your remote expedition will be different!

    I have the same HF woe’s being in St Louis consulting (far from my home shack) for +year – hence my interest in your setup. But I will run my OPs out of my cargo trailer mini-shack (when the darn WX temps get below 73F, if ever) using my IC-7000. I have the tripod referenced here but I’m still looking at what antenna to use/make for my desired 75/60/40/20/17m, efficiently and portably.

    • k9zw says:

      The CrankIR is somewhat over engineered and I can report once learned it is easy to really rock with this antenna. I respectfully cannot agree with the suggested substitutions, especially in light of the performance.

      Headset/speakers are a must for a Flex and I not only left them behind on the table, but left my checklist too!! I’ve got to confess I also left the steaks in the fridge and a few other things behind.

      One MUST leave in time to make the ferry to the island, so this isn’t the first time something was left in the rush.

      No intent to drag up my gell cell batteries or a generator to do /P Field Day style operations, though that will happen when I get around to some island-hopping radio ops next season.

      Had a blast the two weekends running the CrankIR and Flex-6300 so far. WX is not great this weekend and I’ve twice set the gear back down this morning rather than setting it up at 42F, cloudy and threatening to drizzle.

      In can put up my camouflage pole in a Work-Mate table-base with a horizontal HamStick dipole much quicker than the CrankIR but the results are so overwhelmingly in favor of the CrankIR that the extra effort is a no-brainer. I am guesstimating that the CrankIR is 9-12dB better or more….

      Come on up and let’s do some A/B comparisons between options – it would be a lot of fun to do it up here.

      All best and 73


  2. Kuby says:

    I’m going to use the tripod referenced here (that I bought) and then dual 100′-metal tape-measures as an Inverted V with coax. Pull out the pre-Sharpe-marked (on back of the tape) element lengths of tape for the band to be OP’ed.

    But an issue needs investigation – if the tape-measures are put at the element ends will act as a coil —- what will be the cause/affects?

    I rather NOT have to tip-over the tripod each time I want to change band/tune with the tape-measure(s) attached at the apex.

    Now this antenna I’d put up against the SteppIR Robe Goldberg – both in performance and cost!!! But driving +10hr for a challenge is prohibiting, maybe you could make time next Dayton (and Billy might even learn something too)!?! Or it will need to wait until next July.

    Don’t we just love these challenges – it’s what HAM is all about!

    • k9zw says:

      Today I was able to use the CrankIR antenna to work 10m, 12m, 15m, 17m, 20m, and 40m bands working DX on most of them.

      Once the built in resonance indicator is figured out, band changes within 1:1.1 SWR take very little time.

      Getting GREAT reports running barefoot.

      The proof is in the log book, as they say ..and the CrankIR I has put the DX in the log…



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