Saturday, August 13, 2011

AquaPac for the win!

I went kayaking yesterday with my friend Bill and decided to bring my Kenwood TH-D72 APRS radio along for the trip. My usual rule is never bring anything in the boat you can't afford to lose, but I was making an informed exception here. I really like the D72, it performs well, has a built in GPS receiver, and the user interface is very straight forward. Unlike the Yaesu VX-8DR, the Kenwood is not water-proof so I used an AquaPac vinyl bag made for marine handhelds to try and protect it. My inadequacies in kayak handling were revealed in stark relief once we got out of Corson's Inlet and out in the Atlantic Ocean. I flipped the borrowed sit-on-top kayak on multiple occasions when hit by 2-3 foot waves in the surf zone. The AquaPac has a lanyard attached to it which I clipped to the boat, and it did not let so much as a molecule of sea water touch the radio. Kayaking in the surf is pretty physically demanding, by the time I was done I felt like I went a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. At one point my buddy Bill noted that I had been towing the floating D72 behind my boat "like a buoy" for about a half mile. I was that tired, only thinking about the next paddle stroke. Tiredness aside, it was an awesome day and I really want to do it again!

Here is the track recorded on, it doesn't look like much but it represents about 5 hours of paddling.


Kenwood TH-D72

Yaesu VX-8DR

Friday, August 5, 2011

QRP at the beach

Erika and I went down to Cape May today for a kayak eco-tour, which was excellent. Our guide was a PhD candidate biologist (who is defending his dissertation next month...good luck buddy!) and he was very knowledgable and chatty so I learned a lot about the salt marsh ecosystem. I provided comic relief by unintentionally stepping backward off the boat launch and going for an unplanned swim. Fortunately, the cameras had already been put away so that comedy went undocumented. After the kayak adventure we went to Cape May Point State Park so my wife could spend some (planned) time in the water. The concrete structure in the background is the remains of an artillery battery from World War 2. Along with the shore battery across the bay at Fort Miles in Lewes, Delaware (now Cape Henlopen State Park) they guarded the approach to the bay and ultimately, the Delaware river.

Erika loves the beach, me not so much, but I did arrange alternate entertainment by bringing some radio gear and operating from the beach while she was in the water. I was using an FT-817ND transceiver and a Buddipole antenna (configured as a vertical dipole) along with a small solar panel to keep the radio charged. Murphy also tagged along, much to my chagrin. I set the Buddipole up for 20 meters according to the tuning guide in the manual but could not get the resonance point below 15.5 MHz. Tomorrow's project involves using my antenna analyzer to characterize the BuddiPole for my favorite frequencies and creating a tuning chart. Why the voltage regulator from the solar panel to the radio wouldn't work is a complete mystery; when I got home I tested the unit and all associated cables and everything was performing beautifully. Thirdly, my go-box is waaayyy too heavy, slogging across the sand with it was more of a workout than I cared to endure outside of the gym. We stopped at a store on the way home and I got a new camera bag for my DSLR and repurposed the old bag as my new 817 ops bag. I shed a lot of contingency items and stuck with the basics, with a considerable reduction in mass. It would have been nicer if the propagation on 20 meters had cooperated, but there was a lot of fading (QSB) and I was unsuccessful making any contacts using SSB. Next beach trip I'll use CW, hopefully with better results.