The Log of a “Presto-Style” Eight-Hour Sailing Adventure

Image OC Transpo Sailing.jpg

On July 17, “Sassy’s” land-auxiliary (i.e., the CRD Jeep) was being called for other portaging duties, but no so its regular old driver. Yet, the weather was inviting for a sail up-river. I reached into my pocket and there it was… the “OC Transpo” “Presto” card. What follows is the actual log of the eight-hour “Presto”-style sailing adventure that ensued (the asterisk (*) indicates each time the “Presto” card was being put to use):

  • 14:10 EDT: walking to the bus stop at Elmvale Plaza
  • 14:18 EDT: hop on 86 to Baseline*
  • 14:29 EDT: taking picture from the bus of new structures in Hurdman Station
  • 14:38 EDT: at Laurier stop
  • 14:45 EDT: hop on 97 to Bayshore*
  • 15:28 EDT: at Bayshore bus terminal and walking across Haydon Park to the NSC
  • 16:20 EDT: at the docks in the marina at the NSC
  • 16:49 EDT: undocking and motoring out the marina
  • 17:15 EDT: on full sail in 5-10 Kts East Wind (heading: 315ºM)
  • 17:19 EDT: taking picture of the Sun through the clouds
  • 17:30 EDT: Abeam of the K4 marker, turning around and tacking back a few times
  • 18:25 EDT: dowsing sail and motoring towards the marina
  • 18:55 EDT: moored back at the docks
  • 19:30 EDT: leaving the boat
  • 19:39 EDT: taking picture of a Samuel-Adams floating over the docks
  • 20:25 EDT: leaving the NSC and walking to Bayshore bus terminal
  • 20:31 EDT: taking picture of the NSC at sunset from Haydon Park
  • 20:56 EDT: hop on the 97 to the Airport*
  • 21:28 EDT: at Laurier station
  • 21:35 EDT: on the 86 to Hurdman*
  • 21:40 EDT: at Hurdman station
  • 21:48 EDT: on the 86 to Elmvale*
  • 22:00 EDT: at Elmvale Plaza, walking
  • 22:10 EDT: showering.

My fellow commuters would have had a hard time trying to guess where I was going or coming from, and so would have the boaters on the river with whom “Sassy” crossed wakes…

 

Feeling the Magic – 6m Contesting QRP-Portable

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Over the weekend I tried my luck in the CQWW-VHF Contest. I operated only in the “Magic” 6-meter band”, QRP/P, from the backyard of the QTH (FN25ej): Icom 703 @ 5W & the Buddipole at 16Ft. The key was the Bencher BY-2. Contacts were logged with only three stations, all within 30 min on Saturday at dusk (close to 00:00z):

  • VA3SY (ON, FN25nn), CW at 62 km (38 miles), bearing 72 degrees.
  • WB4WXE (AL, EM74dm), SSB at 1,473 km (921 miles), bearing 219 degrees.
  • K4PI (GA, EM73oq), CW at 1,515 km (947 miles), bearing 214 degrees.

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At the QTH and with the equipment used, the band remained closed for most of the duration of the contest. The stations worked were the only ones heard.

Scanning the band to hear only the background noise and the occasional steady spurious signal was not too enchanting. Hence, while still monitoring the 6m band in the 703, the 706MKIIG was fired-up on its side, and 40 QSOs were logged in the NAQP-RTTY in the 80, 40 and 20m bands.

The background noise in 6m was very low, except for Sunday morning where it raised close to S5 to later decrease back to zero around noon. It is possible that this might have been due to the arrival in the early morning of a CME announced in Spaceweather.com: “Geomagnetic storms are underway on July 16th following a CME strike at 0545 UT.

 

“Radio-Virgin” Islands in the National Capital Region

 

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Quite surprisingly, within the Ottawa National Capital Region, there are numerous islands that still awaiting qualification within the “Canadian Island Activators” program (http://veislandactivators.blogspot.ca). Some of them may be private or off limits and others may have further integrated to the “main land”.

Here, identified by name and Grid Loc. position, are all those I was able to find to date (there can be more). They are all properly named and positioned in maps or charts available in the web. Some are “water-locked” but some are readily accessible by land:

In the Rideau River:

  • Nicolls Is. (FN25DG50) (different from ON193 Nicol Is.(EN68FT89))
  • Long Is. (FN25DF67) (different from ON257 Long Is. (EO30KR38))
  • Cummings Is. (FN25DK93)
  • Camper’s Is. (FN25DH63)
  • James Is. (FN25EC49)
  • Sanders Is. (FN25ED37)
  • Clifford Allen Is. (FN25DJ72)
  • Crystal Guillot Is. (FN25DJ83)

In the Ottawa River:

  • Lower Duck Is. (FN25EL92)
  • Chaudière Is. (FN25DK30)
  • Lemieux Is. (FN25DJ29)
  • Bell Is. (FN25DJ29) (different from ON239 (FN05DD52))
  • Lumpy Denomee’s Is. (FN25DJ19)
  • Nichols Is. (FN25DJ19)
  • Young Is. (FN25DJ19)
  • Merril Is. (FN25DJ19)
  • Kedey’s Is. (FN15VL33)
  • Alexandra Is. (FN15VL25)
  • Slide Is. (FN15VL23)
  • Victoria Is. (FN15VL22) (different from ON123 (FN25DK))
  • Killally Is. (FN15VL21)
  • Crane Is. (FN15VL21)
  • Chartrand Is. (FN25BJ20)
  • Haycock Is. (FN25BI29)

Crow Lake – QRP DX and an Unforgettable Paddle to Snake Island

CrowLake

Last week I joined the family at a cottage on the shore of Crow Lake (FN14QR). From there, with the KX3 at 5W and the Alexloop, on July 4, I was able to make the following CW contacts in 20m: J68GD, EA5BYP, V4/KE1B, K2G, W5FMH.

The following day, with my son Nicolas in the hard-hull yellow kayak shown on the picture and myself in the inflatable Sevylor Rio – we paddled together the 1.25 (2.30 Km) nautical miles (nm) from the cottage to a small island in the middle of the lake, and back to the cottage for a total of 2.5 nm (4.6 Km) – an unforgettable paddle.

Close to the water-line we were greeted by blooming plants of “northern blue flags” (Iris versicolor) and on the island Nicolas found veins of crystallized feldspath with dykes of dark diabase.

Back in the cottage, affixed to one of the walls, was a map produced by the “Great Bobs and Crow Lakes Assotiation” clearly indicating the islands in Crow Lake: we had paddled past “Gull Shoal” all the way to “Snake Island” (FN14QR60), faring between “Green Island” (FN14QR61) and “Bertrim Island” (FN14QR50).

All the Crow Lake islands, having been identified by name and clearly indicated in an existing map, now beg to be qualified and activated for the “Canadian Island Activators” program (http://veislandactivators.blogspot.ca).

VA3PCJ Field Day “1C ONE” QRP & Afloat From the Ottawa River

“Sassy” – actually, “Sassy Gaffer” – is a 2010 Com-Pac SunCat 17 gaff-rigged, trailer-sailer mini-cruiser, researched and acquired for solo-sail and gunkhole the inland waters of Eastern Canada. She is a dream to solo-sail, solo-rig, solo-tow, solo-launch and solo-retrieve. She sails from the marina of the Nepean Sailing Club on the Ottawa River. Her preferred site for anchoring in the Ottawa River is the cove at Pinhey Point, some 8 nautical miles (~16 Km) from the marina. There “Sassy” can swing free while at anchor well inside the cove, on the lee of the shores offering  3/4-circle protection from wind and waves (the cove is open to the south-east).

On June 24 2017 at 7:00am “Sassy” undocked from her slip and took the auxiliary channel to mid-river at junction marker KNB. There she hoisted sails and tried to sail up-river but was met by head winds from the west at about 10 Kts and she ended motor-sailing most of the way. She dropped anchor in Pinhey Point around 11:00am in 8-10 feet of water, well inside the cove.

The VA3PCJ station operated from “Sassy” from 2:00pm EDT to 7:00 pm EDT. After a frugal dinner and few hours of sleep during a calm overnight swinging at the anchor, radio operations resumed at sunrise for about 2 more hours. Breakfast-time was followed by a dinghy passage to land for a visit of the Pinhey Estate gardens. Field Day is as much about testing emergency radio equipment as it is about making amateur radio known to the public. The 14 meter telescopic pole towering over “Sassy’s” stern cause some boaters to approach in their dinghies to satisfy their curiosity, but the real crowd had to be met on land. After several nice chats with bikers and other visitors to the Estate, an archeologial dig was spotted behind one of the old buildings. This resulted in a long exchange about Archeology, Paleontology, Science and Life in General, including sailing and, of course, Amateur Radio with a young archeologist and Professor Ian Badgley, who kindly explained the significance of having found at the site large stromatolite rock formations.

Back in the boat, the afternoon weather forecast was found to be less enticing than expected. Hence, “Sassy” weighed anchor around 11:00am. The sky was overcast and towering clouds loomed in the horizon. Wind was from the soutwest at around 10 Kts with gusts peaking at 20 Kts. With her sail fully deployed, “Sassy” took advantage of the gusty breeze and settled in a long beam-reach on starboard tack all the way to the marina. Conditions for sailing this portion of the Ottawa River in such a straight path are rarely so perfect: without burning any fossil fuel she made the distance back to the marina in a time shorter than the previous day. She surfed over 2+-foot cresting waves that occasionally pounded “Sassy’s” starboard bow but she was already securely moored to her dock when a thunderstorm with drenching rain and 40+ Kts gusts crossed the river from the southwest.

In the end, 50 contacts had been logged for the ARRL Field Day: all CW, most in 40m, some in 20m, mostly Ontario and north-eastern states, but also OH, IL, MI, MN, KY and PR. The PAR EndFedZ tribander was rigged at the stern of the boat with the 14-meter long telescopic pole, but it only lasted a couple of hours as the waves from motorboats rushing past caused it to come crashing down. It was soon replaced by the homebrewed W3EDP Jr. rigged as an inverted V at the mast of the boat. The radio-rig was the KX3 set at 5W, the key was the Palm single paddle. Also, the ATU in the KX3 was by-passed. Instead, the Elecraft T1 tuner was used remote.

The VA3PCJ Field Day station was inside a sailboat. However, it could hardly be considered “marine mobile” because the boat was in inland waters and hence not “marine”. Mostly for this reason it is debatable whether such type of Field Day stations should be best identified as class “1B” (i.e., portable) or class “1C” (i.e., mobile). The Field Day rules state that Class “C” is for mobile stations “in vehicles capable of operating while in motion and normally operated in this manner. This includes maritime and aeronautical mobile.” while Class “B” is only indicated as pertaining to “one or two persons portable“. It can be argued that a vessel swinging at its anchor, while clearly not “underway”, is nevertheless very much “in motion“, actively responding to wind and waves within the limits of its rode. Also, “Sassy” is “normally operated in this manner“. Furthermore, operating QRP equipment from a small sailboat afloat a river seems much closer to operating “marine mobile” than to operate “portable” from a park on land. Thus, it seemed more plausible for this station to be identified as “1C” rather than “1B”. There was also at least one precedent supporting this decision: in Field Day 2016, Bill WB2HLM, using similar equipment and conditions, successfully operated a “1C” Field Day station from a sailboat not much larger than “Sassy” (seemingly a Catalina 22) while moored at the marina of the Otsego Sailing Club in Cooperstown, NY (WB2HLM page in QRZ.com, http://www.arrl.org/soapbox/view/9465 and http://wb2hlm.wixsite.com/mysite/ham-radio).

Sassy’s was tracked in APRS for the entire length of her trip witha TH-D72A on board (with rubber ducky plus a RatTail). Positions were relayed courtesy of the following stations: VE2REH-3, VE2RUH-3, VE3LTI-1 and VE3OCR-2. The Smartbeaconing while sailing parameters were the following:

  • Low speed: 2 kts
  • High speed: 10 kts
  • Low rate: 3 min
  • Fast rate: 15 sec
  • Turn angle: 25 deg
  • Turn slope: 25 (250)
  • Turn time: 10 secs

The first of the following three composite pictures shows the radio equipment; the second shows the environment at Pinhey Point and the third, “Sassy” at her best:

FD2017-1

FD2017-2

FD2017-3

And for those who read up to the end, here is a short video taken with the iPhone while “Sassy” enjoyed the breeze in the afternoon of the 25th:

 

 

VA3PCJ/VE2 & Canada Day

The old Jeep Liberty CRD – whose license plate actually is “VA3PCJ” – made it to Montréal and was up to its call performing many errands and moving large boxes (see the attached).

Driving in Montreal is not for the non-initiated and both Goggle Maps and the Garmin were of great help. Nevertheless, construction was pervasive through most of the city and more than one ramp had a “BARRÉE” sign without Google or Garmin having taken notice of it.

In the morning of July 1st., prior to check-out time, with the Alexloop and the KX3 inside the hotel room, VA3PCJ/VE2 was able to complete 14 CW QRP QSO’s in the RAC Canada Day Contest held during Canada’s 150th “Canada Day”.

MTL

Canada Day QRP and /VE2

Tomorrow I am meeting my Vancouverite daughter at the Dorval Airport in Montreal. She is the one that made this beautiful and philosophical engraving for one of my birthdays:

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I plan to take her shopping and spend most, if not the entire, day helping her relocate at her new appartment in downtown Montreal. She will eventually be moving there and I can hardly wait for my VE2/VA2 new callsign…

Hence, if I ever get a chance to be on the air during RAC Canada Day, it will be as VA3PCJ/VE2, operating QRP indoors with the KX3 and the Alexloop, somewhere from the FN35 square.

73 de Jose VA3PCJ/VE2

 

Field Day Afloat

This year for Field Day, WX permitting, I may try something different: following Bill WB2HLM in FD 2016 (http://www.arrl.org/soapbox/view/9465), I will try to operate a “1C ONE” (QRP) station from “Sassy Gaffer”, while swinging at her anchor in the cove at Pinhey Point (FN25ak). The anchorage at Aylmer Island is plan B and plan C is the dock at the Nepean Sailing Club marina. Rig: KX3 & 5W w/P-Box own battery, Ant.: PAR EndFed tribander or W3EDP Jr.

73 de Jose VA3PCJ.

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In Appreciation More Than Bragging

I am very much aware of the limits in my own abilities as radio-operator, as well as the limitations in my radio equipment, and more precisely, my challenged antennas. Hence, it came as a huge surprise to have been awarded two CQ WW DX Certificates for having placed First in Canada in two 2016 CQ World-Wide DX Contests in the ALL SO QRP category: the 2016 CQ WW DX Contest CW (https://www.cqww.com/scorescw.htm) and the 2016 CQ WW DX Contest SSB (https://www.cqww.com/scoresph.htm).

My first reaction is that much of the credit for both these results ought to be given to the much abler colleagues with much better radios and antennas who either refrained from participating, participated much shorter times or did not submit their logs at the end of each contest. The rest of the credit ought to go to all the radio-amateur stations – mainly powerful ones – who struggled with my challenged QRP signals at the other end of each QSO.

Here is an article I posted last December about my equipment and participation in the 2016 CQ WW DX CW: https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/3322/. Also, here is another posted October 2015 with my impressions after participating in the 2015 CQ WW DX Contest SSB: https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/a-qrp-shouting-weekend-at-the-shack-the-cq-ww-ssb/. My participation in the 2016 CQ WW DX SSB would not have been much different than that in the previous year, except for the fact that in 2015, with almost four times the score, I had placed fifth in Canada in the same category, which further supports the considerations in the above second paragraph.

My appreciation to all for these results, which are unlikely to ever repeat themselves:

First Place in Canada in two CQ

Rediscovering the Smartbeaconing™ Parameters

It’s been long since I had last used the TH-D72A to draw a track in aprs.fi, and I had since forgotten the meaning of all the Smartbeaconing™ parameters. It was time to try to rediscover them:

Smartbeaconing™ is a proprietary algorithm designed to save on resources when sending position updates in the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS). It was first conceived and developed by Tony Arnerich KD7TA and Steve Bragg KA9MVA in 1998 (http://www.ciinet.org/paul/aprs.html). In essence it allows more frequent transmissions the fastest the movement and the changes in position.

It uses seven parameters:

  1. Slow Speed
    This is the moving speed below which no change in position is detected
  2. Slow Rate
    This is the interval for transmissions when moving below “Slow Speed”.
  3. Fast Speed
    This is the moving speed above which transmissions will occur at the “Fast Rate”.
  4. Fast Rate
    This is the interval for transmissions when moving above “Fast Speed”. )

In between the “slow” and “fast” speeds transmissions occur at intervals proportional to the actual speed.

In addition to this the “corners” need to be “pegged” to ensure that directional changes – even those taken at low speeds – trigger a position update. This is achieved by the remaining parameters:

  1. Minimum Turn Angle
    This is the minimum angle triggering a transmission.
  2. Minimum Turn Time
    This is the interval for transmissions when the direction is changed continuously. It has been recommended to be set close to the minimum interval allowed by the network: 60-120 secs. for VHF (http://www.aprs.net.au/vhf/what-smart-beaconing/). However, the use smaller values seems to be common practice.
  3. Turn Slope
    This parameter is explained differently by different sources and part of the confusion seems to be due to its name, since it is not a “slope”. Its actual units are degrees x distance / time, more precisely: degrees x speed units (https://softsolder.com/2015/01/18/aprs-turn-slope-units/) so that when divided by the current speed it yields a degree angle value that when added to the Minimum Turn Angle will produce the actual angle (proportional to the current speed) to trigger a transmission at that particular speed. The nature of this parameter can be easily appreciated directly from the algorithm (http://www.hamhud.net/hh2/smartbeacon.html). In the Kenwood TH-D72A 1/10th value needs to be entered.

The TH-D72A has two menu items dealing with the settings for Smartbeaconing™: Item 3F “SmartBcon1” for Slow/High Speed, Slow Rate and Fast Rate and Item 3G “SmartBcon2” for Turn Angle, Turn Slope and Turn Angle.

My preference is to use distance units in Nautical Miles (nm) and speed units in Knots (Kts). This is not too much of a problem since the difference from Statutory Miles (m) and Miles per Hour (mph) is only a factor of 1.15 (i.e., ~1) and with Kilometers (km) and Kilometers per hour (kmh), a factor of 1.85 (i.e., ~2).

  • For car driving I decided to use the recommendation in APRS.NET (http://info.aprs.net/index.php?title=SmartBeaconing):
    • Low / High Speed: 5 / 60 kts
    • Slow Rate: 30 min (1800 sec)
    • Fast Rate: 3 min (180 sec)
    • Turn Angle: 30 deg
    • Turn Slope: 25 (10 x deg x speed, hence = 250)
    • Turn Time: 15 sec

Here is the track of a recent road trip using these settings:

VA3PCJ-12 Jeep Track

  • For walking I found this recommendation by Adam KC2ANT in the APRS Yahoo group (https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/APRS/conversations/topics/7383). However the Salt Spring Island Amateur Radio Club (http://www.ssiarc.ca/TH-D72A_Notes.php) suggests the use of a higher High Speed value. For corner pegging I used the same values as those for bicycling:
    • Low/High Speed: 2 / 10 Kts (2 is the lowest value allowed in the TH-D72A)
    • Slow Rate: 2 min (120 sec)
    • Fast Rate: 60 sec
    • Turn Angle: 30 deg
    • Turn Slope: 24 (10 deg x speed, hence = 240)
    • Turn Time: 30 sec
  • For sailing I was unable to find a complete definition of parametric values. However, the following are values that seem appropriate for a Com-Pac SunCat 17 with a hull speed of 4-5 kts. Unfortunately, I have been unable so far to test these settings on the water due to the lack of APRS repeaters readily accessible to the TH-D72A from Sassy’s sailing waters.

I welcome the input from others, particularly with regards to the Smartbeaconing™ sailing parameters.