Following the uncertainty whether the new Bazoka PRO loaded vertical antenna was working on 20m when tried at Attenberg, I needed another activation to test it and to see whether band conditions (which had now improved a little) had been the reason. The site had to allow me to erect the 20 metre dipole antenna alongside the Bazoka. Rentschen, being a large flat, grass fielded area (with little or no tree cover), not too far from my home QTH, made it a natural choice. As I had already activated it earlier in the year, so would not gain any points for the activation, but this was about testing equipment. At the same time, I wanted to try out the new digital mode (FT-8) from the summit and had prepared a windows tablet and interfaces for both audio and CAT commands to connect it to the FT-817.
The hope was, that if indeed the Bazoka PRO worked fairly well on 20m as well as 40m, it would make a great antenna to use for my trip to Hochgrat the following week where space is limited and tourist traffic is high.
So the full set of equipment would be used: the FT-817ND plus amplifier, the tripod and Bazoka PRO wideband vertical and the SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole with the 6m fishing pole. The screw-in base would also be taken along as there are no easy mast support structures at Rentschen.
On the digital (FT-8) side my windows 10 tablet with Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and interface cables would be packed.
Rentschen is a one point, low summit. It is about a 50 minutes drive from my home and therefore one of my “local” summits. The actual summit is marked by a trig-point stone which is about 100m away from the road, where I would park my car as usual. The summit is between Rottenbuch and Steingaden villages.
The trip down I could do without any GPS Navigator or maps, I have driven the route many times and indeed after about 45 minutes, I was already parked and unpacking the car. I first set up the tripod with the Bazoka antenna and then followed by putting up the linked dipole and eventually setting out the FT-817 and computer equipment. All completed without issues and by 11:15 local time (45 minutes before my alerted time), I was ready to go. First of all I tuned around 20m on the Bazoka PRO and the dipole and straight away the difference was very obvious. The FT-817 on the dipole was lively as usual and I could hear several loud stations. On the Bazoka the band was very quiet and while I could hear some of the same stations, they were at least 4 S-points down on the dipole. I then repeated these tests on 40 metres and the Bazoka PRO performed a lot better, the band was popping and the difference in signal strengths was only 1 or possibly 1.5 S-points. With the top of the vertical being about 2.5 metres off the ground and the centre of the dipole around 5 metres up, this difference is reasonable. So on receive at least, it seemed the Bazoka wasn’t going to perform well on 20 metres.
I decided to go back to the 20 metres dipole and put out some calls on 20m to get some SOTA contacts in the log and if the stations were loud asked them to listen for me on the vertical. Although I could still hear a couple of the chasers on the vertical, none of them could her me.
Once I had no more chasers waiting I connected up the tablet to try some FT-8. As soon as I started the software and selected the 20m frequency via the software a stream of decoded signals came in. I did have problems with using the software due to being outside. The sunlight on the screen made it difficult to see and to locate the mouse. I had three ways to move the mouse pointer – the tablet has a touchscreen but my big fingers made this difficult to use accurately. The bluetooth keyboard has a touchpad on it, which while it worked, moved the mouse around too quickly, when I could see where the mouse was. The best, albeit also not good, method was to use the bluetooth mouse. The problem here was once again, not being able to see where the mouse was on the screen in the sunlight but also finding an acceptable flat surface to run the mouse over. I will need to see if I can set the mouse pointer to be a lot bigger and darker and set it to move a lot slower. If I can make the WSJT-x program windows larger as well, this could help. All things learnt…
As regards FT-8 contacts – although I was receiving signals OK, after spotting on SOTAWatch I received no chaser calls, in fact no calls at all. Checking the PSK reporter, when I got home (log below), I was getting out fine with just the 5w running barefoot (no amplifier) from the FT-817, perhaps I needed to keep trying longer, however that was not to be as the farmer who owned the field came along to say he intended to mow the grass to make hay. He kindly offered me another field, still on the summit, but I decided I would pack up and leave as the time to disassemble, remove and reassemble probably wouldn’t warrant any addition contacts. I already had actions to do from my tests in any case. The vertical needs trying with an ATU and with a counterpoise, the tablet needs re-configuring to be more visible when in the open.
SOTABEAMS band hopper linked dipole.
LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.
Modified QAMP amplifier (25W on 20m, 35W on 40m).
Thick plastic painters sheet
Screw-in mast base
Windows 10 tablet with BT mouse and keyboard and interface to the FT-817.
PSK reporter Log (stations that heard my FT-8 transmissions):
The Bazoka PRO is not performing well on 20 metres. An ATU may help (despite the fact that the antenna analyser indicates a reasonable impedance across the band) or perhaps adding my counterpoise wires to the bottom of the antenna could also help it to operate better.
Operating FT-8 from a summit, has the same difficulties as operating any digital mode from a summit operation of the computer (tablet in this case), is difficult in the sunlight and mouse operation was a pain however the Tablet to FT-817 Interface worked perfectly. Some kind of stand and shade would most likely help but then make the solution less portable and hence only possible on simple summits.
73 ’til the next Summit!