Category Archives: US Islands

K9ZW Washington Island Operating Gear

The Island setup is evolving and when not in the radio room will be based on a Maestro with a Touch Screen ToughBook.

Here is a quick shot of what I am working on for the Washington Island – Wisconsin QTH’s portable operating position.

This is what I will be able to operate from (adding a headset & PTT in many cases) from anywhere I connect with my wireless system there.

Paired with the Maestro is a Touchscreen Toughbook laptop to do logging and other site-mobility chores. They will be wireless to the new Flex-6700.

Maestro and ToughBook laptop

Maestro and ToughBook laptop

ToughBooks are available refurbished under $300 with licensed operating system from Toughbook Tech.

Built strong enough to be a aircraft wheel-chock!

Ruggedized touchscreen does better with the stylus than finger jabs, which is a contrast to the Maestro touch screen sensitivity.

For activation of smaller islands the Maestro & Flex-6700 will stay behind, with the Flex-6300 then being paired with the Toughbook via SmartSDR for Windows.

For antennas I have several choices there. Typically I have been using a SteppIR CrankIR with the Flex-6300 for island activations other than the main island. I have several other portable antenna options.

Depends on what Island access I’m allowed (full setup on the activated Island or using one of the US Island Programs alternative rules when not allowed to completely disembark. http://www.usislands.org I think is the URL.)

On Washington Island itself I have a proper antenna farm in the works. As I am rethinking this whole setup you’re invited to follow along as I rework plans.

Still to come is a mobilization preparation of the Flex-6300 to keep everything needed together and protect it from some level of adverse weather while out on the smaller islands.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Maestro Road/Boat Trip to Washington Island

Pictures and much of text was originally posted at the FlexRadio Systems Community forum as I described my first weekend Maestro excursion.


 

Winds made the ride almost an hour

Winds made the ride almost an hour

 

Okay, just like a Flat Stanley, where have you taken your Maestro to go do radios?

Snapshot is quick shot off the ferry boat to Washington Island, Wisconsin (US Island WI-001L) where this weekend it will be a quick overnight running a Flex-6300 with a SteppIR CrankIR antenna.

Weather is a bit edgy though I hope the wind drops and drizzle stops long enough to get the antenna setup yet today.

With it sleeting out who knows?

So where has your Maestro gone?

A quick set of photos. (The small boar is one my youngest Vic KC9NWB shot.)

Wild Board standing guard over a Maestro near the table edge

Wild Board standing guard over a Maestro near the table edge.

The Flex-6300 needed a software upgrade to run with the Maestro.

Maestro conducting another Software Update

Maestro conducting another Software Update

The strong signal is George W9EVT who live about 3/4 a mile away.

George W9EVT is about 5000 feet away and his signal shows it!

George W9EVT is about 5000 feet away and his signal shows it!

Bands have not been good and highly variable. Definitely seeing my antenna limitations holding QSO count way down.

Have been playing with also running K6TU iPad control and on the Win10 box other programs like DDUTIL alongside the Maestro.

Maestro with K6TU Control Software on iPad

Maestro with K6TU Control Software on iPad

Off for coffee and church, hopefully my rate will improve afterwards.

One of the observant forum members comment on how my Maestro edged close to the table’s edge:

Steve, your making me nervous. The Maestro is too close to the edge of your table. Nice pics.
73 de Rob K1SR

And I replied:  Thank you. The Maestro with tilt feet gives such a solid feel that you spotted how I crept it up near the table edge.

Didn’t seem as worrying in the flesh as in photos, and certainly is an interesting phenomena as I try to be careful.

Running a vertical wire antenna in this weekend’s bands wasn’t a highly productive exercise. Would have twenty-thirty signals on a band, then only a few weak traces and all over between extremes.

Snowed and deleted, so never got the Maestro outside either.

Until next trip.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Flex-6300 K9ZW North Station in QSO

 

Jumping forward from 1977 Collins KWM-2A technology to current technology, here is a photo of the FlexRadio Systems Flex-6300 part of my northern Washington Island station:

K9ZW Flex-6300 Station on Washington Island

K9ZW Flex-6300 Station on Washington Island

There is a lot going on in this little station, so first the hardware:

  • Flex-6300 w/ATU Transceiver with USB digital codec dongle
  • Windows 8.1 USB PC on a stick
  • USB hub
  • WiFi Extender – 1Gb
  • 1Gb router
  • FlexControl
  • Powered Speaker
  • Power supply is under bench
  • wheel mouse
  • keyboard
  • 24in monitor

 

Now here is the important list – the software:

  • SmartSDR v1.5.0 with Free Digital Voice and DStar plus-ins
  • DDUTIL v3.0
  • FlexMeter v1.3
  • N1MM+ logger

The Flex-6300 station got great reports today using a SteppIR CrankIR portable antenna. Mostly CalifornyQSO party station but also worked some DX.

The PC on a stick was an experiment that has worked out fine, and I will leave it for the time being.  When the 6300 is swapped for a 6700 I’ll put in a full PC.

I’m not happy with the included Flex hand microphone but forgot to bring a desk mic up this trip.

Once the permanent antennas are up it is going to be obvious that I will want a Flex-6700 here rather than the limited single SCU Flex-6300.  The 6300 will go to my traveling radio setup at that time.

Made a interesting contrast to last weekends QSOs done with the Collins KWM-2A station  on the same antenna.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Collins K9ZW North Station in QSO

Eventually I intend to move the late Collins setup in this picture to my home QTH and bring up the S-Line separates set up.

This “Round Emblem” combined transceiver with external VFO for split operations is the final itineration of the S-Line series and was sold new in the mid/late 1970s.

K9ZW Collins KWM-2A Station

K9ZW Collins KWM-2A Station

  • KWM-2A transceiver
  • 312B-5 remote VFO and station console
  • 30L-1 amplifier
  • SM-1 microphone
  • Power supply is under bench

The other Collins station I own is a “Winged Emblem” first of the S-Line series with separate receiver/transmitter. That station is a 32S-1 transmitter, 75S-1 receiver, 312B-4 station console, 30L-1 amplifier, separate speaker and a power supply. The receiver/transmitter track each other usually. It dates from 1958 to 1960 from dating the serial numbers.

It has amazed me how many complex cables interface the various units. There are roughly a dozen cables in the KWM-2A station and about five-six more in the twins S-Line one. Many are simple, but some are complex and some are uncommon – things like RF coax with RCA plugs…..

The microphone jack is a military size and I had to source some as spares.

The KWM-2A station got great reports today using a SteppIR CrankIR portable antenna. Even worked some DX.

The audio has that warm friendly tube-amp sort of sound. Got great reports which I have to admit surprised me. I hadn’t expected it as there are so few adjustments possible compared to a modern rig.

I’m not happy with this particular SM-1 microphone and did make most contacts using an Astatic D-104 “lollipop” microphone instead. The SM-1 will go off for service.

I have a good ways to go in learning to use this gear, but as much fun as I had it is worth the study and practice time to get it right.

Made a interesting contrast to this weekends QSOs done with a barefoot Flex-6300 on the same antenna.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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K9ZW Northern Island QTH .. General Layout

It is obvious the new Washington Island QTH is a FlexRadio System Station first and a Vintage Collins Station second.

I’ve done a quick sketches how the layout will work.

K9ZW North QTH General Layout – outside

and

K9ZW North QTH General Layout – inside

The Antennas are:

  • HF Multi-Band Receive only – KD9SV RBOG (Reversible Beverage On Ground) units, aimed NW, SW, NE, and SE, using a convient existing buried pair of high grade 72 ohm cable to feed.
  • HF 80-10m Vertical – Zero-Five Flagpole with 30 radials
  • HF 160-20m – W9INN Half-Sloper
  • HF 40-6m – SP7IDX Hexbeam

Feedline will be Andrews Heliax I now have on hand.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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K9ZW Northern Island QTH .. First Steps

Have a lot going on putting the new Washington Island QTH together, with a TriEX Skyneedle waiting for a new base from Tasjian and other pieces starting to show up.

With the tower base I’d also ordered a work platform which will let me do most antenna work without a lift, and new coax standoff arms.

From the radio room to the tower base I have sourced enough Andrews 1/2″ Superflex HELIAX FSJ4-50B to ru two feeds and a separate feed to a vertical antenna.  This cable is very low loss, with amazing numbers like under 1 dB total attenuation per 150 ft feed line with working capacity in the 7 kW range!  Velocity factor is 81% for a fairly standard set of characteristics for calculating correct lengths to reduce unwanted electrical and RF characteristics.

The SP7IDX multiband Hexbeam is due in country in a few weeks, right on time.  The W9INN half-sloper is on hand and ready.

Intending to install a Zero-Five commercial grade flagpole multiband vertical antenna, which is especially cool as I really am keen to have a flagpole as well!! I’m going to start with 48 radials cut in sets of six per band.

Planning two KD9SV RBOG reversible on the ground beverage antennas. The pair of 180 foot long RBOG antennas installed in two directions will cover the four “Prime” directions (one NE/SW and the other NW/SE.). Gary KD9SV sells through DX Engineering and I think I have sourced a large roll of military surplus cable that should be a good match for the RBOG antennas. I hope to actually bury these receive antennas to keep them out of harm’s way. If the ends can come together, I already have buried feed lines from an old satellite internet installation.

I’ve bought a 25kW Lp-gas Kohler generator with automatic switchgear for a full site backup. With the power regularly interrupted or running off voltage on the island the plan will be to run all radio gear possible to run off DC from a battery farm and use the generator or mains power to recharge the batteries.

In the morning a local builder is visiting to review the plans for a garage, but I have changed my ideas to keep the operating station in the main house for the foreseeable future.

Another contractor is stopping by to look at road improvements and preparation for pouring various slabs.

Back to the tower the Heliax will terminate at a base of tower cabinet which is where antenna switches and lightening protection gear will also go. From the tower base box up to the antennas will go Davis RF’s BuryFlex cable, which is one I have had very good luck. A nominal 80ft of that coax plays the BuryFlex jumpers to get to the radios from the shack end Heliax termination will add up to on paper under 3 dB total losses.

Back at home the Alfa-SPID rotor should get mounted this week, and all touch up as well as a new Sheetmetal rotor cage cover will be ready before transport to the island.

A PC-on-a-USB-stick now has a nice 28 inch LED monitor, the combination which will initially drive the Flex-6300 Tranceiver.

Given my limited time on the Island and the late start I had, reality is I will be happy to have the tower and main antennas up before winter.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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