QRV again

It was almost a year away from ham radio due to work commitments but today I finally managed to take a day off and enjoy some QRP mobile work while driving to Kennedy Space Centre to see ULA launch to ISS. And what a day it was!

On the way to Cape Canaveral, while driving on I95 and checking APRS.fi, I noticed John K2ZA driving a few miles behind me. When he got closer, I called him on 146.520 and he responded instantly. Then, W4UDP also joined the chat from his QTH and we had a great small group until we drove too far away from him. Thank you for your great company, gentlemen!

Then, on the way back from Cape Canaveral, I put my trusty MFJ-1620 7′ long fibreglass 20m hamstick whip on the roof and Yaesu FT-817ND on the passenger seat, and started calling CQ using 5 watts.

image1 (3)

Except later I discovered that it was actually 2.5 watts (!) but nevertheless that was sufficient to complete a short QSO with Virgil N9TMU in Illinois who were about 1,000 miles away as I was driving just south of Vero Beach, FL on I95 which made it almost 2,500 miles per watt!

Then I realized that my power output was set to 2.5 watts only… Switched it to proper 5W and started calling CQ on 14.061:

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 9.41.10 PM

Much better! Doubling the power helped and the RST reports I received have improved.

More great Qs followed: two on CW – K3SEW, VE3EYI, and two nice Qs on SSB: Christian FG5DHF in Guadeloupe (1380 miles), and Christopher W8/SP4RF (?) in Michigan.

Thank you all for your patience. It is fascinating how far a little power and great operator’s skills can go when operating QRP.

I hope, I wrote down the callsigns correctly – it was challenging to make notes while driving and keeping eyes on the road!! All Qs are now in QRZ.COM logbook.

Very 73’s!
DE Paul WA4PAW / M / QRP



ARRL Field Day is in 2 weeks

As the ARRL Field Day is quickly approaching, I signed up as an operator for the night shift for Davie/Cooper ARC.

The club is planning to have 2 HF operating stations, plus a VHF (2m/6m) and a GOTA stations at Markham park in Broward county.


Most likely will be working on 40m – CW + SSB, logging QSOs with SQIRL logging software.

Stop by to say hi, or look for NA4DC on the bands on June 25th!



Bluetooth PSK31/WSJT/Digital interface for Yaesu FT817 (and a tablet/PC)

I used a bluetooth CAT control with my Yaesu FT817 for quite awhile ($14 on ebay) and was generally happy with it. There is a small lag but one can get used to it. The advantage is no wires between a laptop and transceiver. Also, I could use my HP Stream tablet with it (Win 8) this way.

Given this success, I entertained an idea of making a digital (soundcard) interface wireless too. As the connection would be simplex and mono (1 channel), a regular bluetooth phone headset seemed up to the job.

I happened to have one laying around without much use so the first step was to prove the concept which was very easy. Once paired with the laptop / tablet, the headset became available as a soundcard in HRD DM780 settings. I tried sending some RTTY to it and it worked. I guess now I understand what Alexander Graham Bell felt like when his first phone worked (hi hi).

However, receiving (listening) from the headset did not work. After some googling, I found a hint – set bluetooth headset soundcard as a Default device in the Control Panel -> Sound -> Recording Devices settings. That helped right away so the next step was wiring the headset to the transceiver.

After disassembling the headset, I removed existing battery, speaker and mic and soldered new thin wires to the connecting pads.

Headset with wires


For TX (audio out) – I added a 1:25 resistive divider to decrease the output voltage off the speaker wires and to match the voltage requirements of Yaesu; and soldered the speakers wires to it. For RX (audio in), I needed to match Yaesu output to the headset mic. After some experimentation, a combination of two SMD capacitors to both pins and a small resistor in series to avoid overloading and to provide DC isolation finally worked.

Finally, I added a new bigger OEM Li-Ion battery (insulated with black tape) and a USB charger PCB with a switch to improve on portable operation time of the headset.

Li-Ion battery with a charger PCB

The headset, battery, charger, and the existing CAT BT control PCB all managed to fit into a small plastic enclosure. Some hot glue helped to secure them in place.

The boards sit on top of the battery / charger; to isolate the layer I cut a small sheet off a thick polyethylene water jug.


The enclosure is secured with two small strips of a velcro tape. The battery can be charged via a USB connector; the switch turns on/off the bluetooth headset.


The PTT is controlled by the software via the CAT control. Now to chase DX with WSJT QRP mode!



Just got an email this morning from FCC about approved allocation of a new callsign as per my application – WA4PAW.

Obtaining US callsign / license

Had a great time stopping by the Broward ARC meeting in Ft.Lauderdale last night; met a great bunch of very friendly hams there.

Even though reciprocal agreements between US & Canada allow VE3 hams to operate, I though it may be a good idea to attempt a US amateur license exam and obtain a callsign from FCC given the opportunity. So I showed up at 6:30pm at the club, and then wrote and successfully passed both Technician and General exams.

Each exam was only 35 multiple-choice questions (fairly easy ones compared to the Canadian Basic exam). To pass, 26 correct answers were required. There was one question I didn’t have answer for – how many hams are required by FCC to open a club. I guessed 3 and the right answer was 4.

There was not much time left to attempt the final Extra exam this time, plus I was not preparing for it, so will probably give it a try next time.

Now having the exam papers submitted to FCC, a random sequential callsign is to be allocated within 15 days.

73 for now!



Heard in Hawaii – 4,732 miles per watt

Great ops and good band conditions make it happen. Just a week after a 1,200 miles per watt QSO, there is now a 4,732 miles per watt QRP QSO with Massimo KH6ZM in beautiful Hawaii (Grid: BK29ik).

2016-03-08 03:57 KH6ZM 40m 7.054 CW BK29ik Hawaii MASSIMO A ZENOBI

Massimo used a kW into a 2-el Yagi but received me on a beverage antenna with cascaded preamps. He was coming 599 into Florida on my 7′ long mobile 40m hamstick. My 1 watt across 4,732 miles landed a 559 report and encouraging comments.

Thank you Massimo for a QSO!

Very 73’s!


1,200 miles per watt

What else to do on a leap day? Try to do something you never had time for, of course! For instance – QRP!

The conditions were outstanding on 20m today. Worked a good friend of mine in Toronto 1,200 miles away on SSB using just 1 watt of power both ways just before sunset.

The reports were 519 or rather 509 but still fairly decent copy on both sides. He used a low-hanging dipole and I had a 7′ tall hamstick on the roof of my car.

The following calculator courtesy of N9SSA can be used for quickly estimating distance between two stations: http://www.hoffswell.com/n9ssa/mpwcalc.html


CQ 20 DE VA3PAW / W4 / QRP

Had a few minutes after lunch to test how well the hamstick whip antenna is working. Well, it’s working!

5W QRP into hamstick


My position is shown incorrectly as I should’ve added /W4 instead of /4 during the call.

The farthest station seems to be VE2WU near Montreal, QC! Not too bad for 5W QRP into a mobile whip.

Paul VA3PAW / QRP / W4 mobile

Mobile shack

Happened to be in W4 (Florida) this winter so I took my FT817 with me. Thanks to reciprocity between Canada and the US, I can operate using my Canadian callsign while in the US.

Being in a car country, it looked sensible to me to set up a mobile shack. My VE3 elmer has had a great success with MFJ miniature hamsticks mounted on the trunk of his car so I started looking in that direction too.

After quick research on what’s available at HRO online, I ordered two versions of MFJ hamsticks: miniature 3′ and longer 7′ hamsticks for the most popular bands. For the base, I ordered a mighty MFJ-336T mag mount with 3/8″ mount.

The first one to arrive and to install was MFJ-1620 – 7 feet tall antenna for 20m. The fiberglass base is about 4 feet long and is hollow inside. A stainless steel whip that screws on top is adjustable.


When fully extended, it resonated nicely on 13.540 MHz (perfect 1:1 match!) which was way too low… After shortening the whip by about 4″ the center of resonance shifted towards 14.060 QRP CW frequency (with the lowest SWR about 1:1.2). Could not get it match 1:1 anymore.

The whip is very hard to cut. After some trial and errors, the best tool happened to be a triangular file. Cut through the steel half-way then snapped it easily.

While busy with all this hard work, I did not notice it got really dark outside and the 20m band faded away. After scanning back and forth, a weak but workable signal of ZL3GA emerged and my tiny 5W signal just barely made it across the Pacific (7,220 nautical miles!) . Not bad for QRP with a mobile whip!

The 40m was alive and kicking so the next one to install is a 7 MHz hamstick.

The length of the whip makes driving a bit difficult – have to watch out for clearance, low hanging tree branches, etc. Also, at speeds of more than 45 mph, the whip starts buzzing in the wind.

Photo of my new mobile shack:

Mobile QRP

Hope to see you on the air!


Kenwood TS-520 for sale (UPD: SOLD)

UPDATE: The rig has found a new shack. 

My beloved Kenwood TS-520 is for sale. I haven’t been using it much ever since I moved on to QRP / portable and digital modes so it is time to let it go.

Comes with VFO-520 and SP-520 (speaker). Also included: spare tubes, power cable, VFO cable, MFJ hand mic, user manuals.

All in 100% working condition, non-smoking environment. For more information, please contact me at my QRZ email address or post a comment in this blog.