6 Meters Mobile with the FT-857D and ATAS-120A

Savannah – Earlier today, I visited the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge to decompress from the week at work. While I was there, a rainstorm came up so I parked on the side of the wildlife drive and waited for the storm to pass. Since it is Sporadic E season and I haven’t had the opportunity to try out the new ATAS-120A mobile HF/6 Meter antenna on 6 Meters, I tuned the FT-857D to 50.125 MHz and pressed the Tune button. After a few seconds, the ATAS-120A tuned itself to the frequency and showed a low SWR. A few minutes later I heard a station start calling CQ so I returned his call. It turned out to be Ron, K5WLT from Seguin, TX (near San Antonio). It was the first 6 Meter contact I’ve made in years (the Opek HVT-400B never really got the job done for me on 6 Meters) and the first one I’ve made with the ATAS-120A. K5WLT gave me a good signal and audio report, so I’m very pleased with what the mobile HF/6 Meter setup is capable of. I imagine that for the rest of the summer, whenever I’m on the road, I’ll have the FT-857D tuned to 50.125 MHz listening for E openings!

After the rain stopped, it turned out to be a pretty good refuge visit, too. I got one of my best Glossy Ibis photos yet and saw a Purple Gallinule, but it was too far away for a good photo.

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Glossy Ibis at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

6 Meters is Open!!

Location:  Savannah, GA

I made my first contacts of the 2011 Sporadic-Es season this morning during a nice opening into the northeast US and Ontario and Quebec.  While doing some searching on the scanners in the VHF lo-band range, I started hearing some skip so I fired up the FT-897D and hooked up the JTB4 to see what I could hear.  I worked 5 stations in fairly short order:

  • W3FJ, Mick in Williamsport, PA
  • VE3EN, Kevin in Cornwall, Ontario
  • VA3TVW, Tom in Hamilton, Ontario
  • VE2XK, Michel in Belleterre, Quebec
  • W2ZDP, Wayne in Buffalo, NY

Recharged Already? I Think So

Earlier today I wrote about how I haven’t been on the radio much this week and how I was perhaps starting to feel burned out a bit.  I may already be recharged after the last week of little to no radio activity.  This afternoon after getting the car fixed, I began hearing some military aviation activity and this evening I worked some 6 Meter E-Skip; After not getting all that excited about radio stuff for a few weeks, I got excited about both and played radio for a bit in the early afternoon and evening.

On the way home from the shop I heard NIKEL 31/32 (F/A-18, VMFA-122) begin working with ADVANCE (JTAC) at Townsend Range in McIntosh County.  Fighter to FAC/JTAC activity is among my favorite scanner activity to listen to, so both on the way home and after I got home I enjoyed listening to the NIKELs doing their thing at Townsend.  Not long after I got home, WINDER 2# (F/A-18C, VFA-86) and HAWK 8# (F/A-18D, VMFA-533) did air combat training offhshore in W-157 with the WINDERs also doing some activity at Townsend Range.

This evening, after having dinner with my folks, I sat down at the radios and heard some AH-1s arriving at Hunter AAF.  While searching for an air-to-air frequency for them I began hearing some E-skip on low band VHF.  I hooked up the FT-897 for 6 Meters, began tuning through and found a couple of great catches.  I made my first 6 Meter contact in Colorado with W0RIC in Denver; I had to work through his pileup for it, but I was glad and stayed patient and waited it out.  This is the farthest west I’ve worked on 6 Meters!  A little later I worked CF3NAVY, a special event station in Ontario commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Navy.  Working Ontario with an E-Skip opening isn’t all that unusual but the callsign and the special event station is; I love having that station in the logbook and I look forward to getting that QSL card!

Perhaps the week or so away from the radios was just what I needed because I sure did have fun after my post this morning.  It almost made up for the $450 repair bill on the car…

First 6 Meter Contacts With the Mobile/Portable Station

This evening on the way home from Sunday dinner (Shrimp and Crab from Jinright’s in Brunswick, excellent as always!) I heard some activity on 6 Meters and had the first chance to try out the HVT400B mobile antenna on that band.  Band conditions weren’t great with a lot of QSB (fading) and some QRN (noise) in some areas of town, but I did hear two stations in Minnesota calling CQ.  Surprisingly the noise was not ignition noise from the car.  There was some minor ignition noise, but it was not problematic; the noise was coming from other sources, especially when I was around more industrial areas.   Getting to work some 6 from the car was fun; I just had to remind myself that when I’m here in Brunswick I have to use grid square EM91 as opposed to EM92 at home.

First I heard K0GUV in grid square EN26 working stations on 50.145, after a few attempts I was finally able to work him.  I gave him a 57 signal report and he returned a 52 signal report with QSB.  This was the first attempt on 6 with the HVT400B and band conditions didn’t seem to be the best, so I’m not going to complain. Second, I heard N2BEN in grid square EN25 calling CQ on 50.125 and followed him as he moved to 50.140.  Two attempts later, he answered my call.  I gave him a 54 signal report (right there with my noise floor at the time) and he returned a 55 signal report.  Once again, I saw nothing to complain about with the antenna performance.

I am really looking forward to being able to compare the performance of the HVT400B with the FT-897D in the car to the performance of the tri-band vertical with the FT-897D at home.  For now I’ll reserve judgment on the HVT400B’s 6 Meter performance until I get a bit more experience with it, but so far so good.

6 Meter Band Opening – 31 January 2010

Yesterday afternoon Russ, K4YGD was kind enough to call me and let me know about a 6 Meter band opening. I spent much of the morning and afternoon getting Groundwaves, the Coastal Amateur Radio Society Newsletter finished and sending it out to club members, so I hadn’t had radios on to know it was open. Following Russ’ call, I cranked up the FT-897D and hooked it up to the triband vertical to see what was going on. Straight away, I made contacts to New York, Ontario, and Quebec. After supper, before sitting down to watch the Pro Bowl, I checked 6 Meters again and found it open to the West and Midwest, working Illinois, Missouri, and Texas.

I don’t have a 6 Meters setup down in Brunswick yet, so it was good to hear some Winter Es on one of my days off while I’m here in Savannah. Before the Summer E season cranks up I’m definitely going to have to get something setup for 6 in Brunswick.

Mac McCormick, KF4LMT