Amateur Radio in America's Paradise

I am a former communications specialist in U.S. Army, after which I spent time in broadcast radio, both on the air and in engineering (at the same time; that's small-market radio for you). I am an award-winning homebrewer and fully-qualified professional brewmaster, having made beer in microbreweries and brewpubs all over eastern PA. I and my wife Kass own a business catering to costume historians. Visit our website to learn more.

Now I'm DX, I'm beginning to understand the other side. I try my best to live up to The DX Code of Conduct; if I miss the mark, drop me an email or tell me on the air. Seriously. I want to know when I goof up, as that's how I learn.

The image at left is me on the left aboard the schooner Roseway in Gallows Bay harbor in Christiansted, St Croix, USVI. It's a school ship on the register of National Historic Places. Click here for Roseway's story.

My station is very simple. No towers, no beams, no amplifiers, no automation. Just a guy and a 100w rig.  I like to homebrew wire aerials. I change them like I change my socks. I just like tinkering with antennas.

Below is a photo of my little setup.  It's an Icom IC-7000.  I control it with a couple-of-years-old Dell desktop running N1MM.  I probably should use a different logging program for non-contest activity, but I can't be arsed to learn something new.  I tried DXLab but found it too complicated. 

Keys, in order of popularity, consist of the output of N1MM, then a set of Palm traveling paddles, then a J-38 straight key that's twice as old as I am.

Note: Currently the IC-7k is off the desk. Something went "pop" and it's off for repair. In the meantime I'm using a friend's ancient Yaesu FT-757GX2. It's comparatively deaf, the filtering is non-existent, it drifts, and the frequency display is off by quite a bit. But I'm on the air! :D

It took some fiddling to get N1MM to key the rig, but I got it sorted. In the meantime, for general fannying about I'm using my Palm paddles, which I adore. Except for how they bounce around! They're so light, even with the weighted base I've got them stuck to, that they're a PITA to use. 

Then I had a brainstorm, and clamped the keyer base to a clipboard! With my hand resting on the clipboard, no movement whatever occurs. Sometimes it stuns me how simple certain answers can be.

Antennas consist of a 10-element 2m beam for local and inter-island FM work, various homebrew wires, and a Cushcraft AP8 vertical for HF. 

The AP8 is a gift from Fred, K9VV/NP2X, who had it in his aluminum pile. It replaces a Hustler 4BTV, with which I wasn't pleased. Good for all amateur HF bands (80-10), it's sitting about 10 feet from the Caribbean. 

Note: Not "excellent"; just "good". I need to put more wire on the ground, and that should improve things. Elevating it would make it play better. But because the current installation is very unobtrusive, I'm loath to elevate it off the 2nd-floor porch and have radial wires running all over our tiny side yard and pool deck. My other HF wire was excellent (30m GP fed with ladder line with the "radials" damn near in the sea), but it was also an eyesore and prevented me from actually running a flag up my flagpole.

Speaking of which, if I could isolate the flagpole from ground, HOLY COW. It's aluminum, about 30' tall and easily 10" around at the base. It's mounted to the steel-reinforced concrete of the pool deck. I could use my SGC autotuner and get decent performance on 40 through 15, that's for sure (it's too long to play well on 12 and 10). Time to talk to my landlord about it.