First CW QSOs of the Season from Outside the QTH

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Last weekend I was able to operate /QRP/P (albeit as a “fixed station”), from the deck of my son’s house in Rockland, ON (in Prescott-Russell county). I used the KX3 @ 5W with the PAR EndFedZ “Trail-Friendly” tribander up the S9v43 pole.

I managed to log a few CW stations in three simultaneous contests: OQP, MIQP and CQMM (one the advantages of transmitting manually is to be able to send different exchanges as required by each contest: OQP: “599 PRU”, MIQP: “599 001 ON”, CQMM: “599 NAQ”). Of course, I never expected to do well in any of them (my only hope for a win was to be the only station from PRU in the OQP – a hope that was quickly shattered when I oveheard VA3SY giving the PRU multiplier from Alfred, ON).

The highlights of the weekend were the three VE3 stations in the OQP that did answer my call: VE3FN (ESX), VE3MGY (ELG) and CG3CX (TBY), the several DX stations logged for the CQMM (3 PY, 2 CO, XE, VP5, KP2, F, I and GW) and the YL station from OR (YL stations are worth 10 points in the CQMM): Paula NX1P (a dedicated professional engineer and radio-amateur with a great page in QRZ.com).

BTW, the ‘old logger brought back to life within a box by El Capitan‘ did an excellent job and wished there had been more QSOs to log in the OQP…

Within a Box, El Capitan Brings an Old Logger Back to Life

The Ontario QSO Party (OQP) will be on the air the coming weekend, and I had been looking for a logger program suitable to keep the log during the contest.

The OQP website lists several programs that follow the specifications of the contest: http://www.va3cco.com/oqp/software.htm. However, I prefer to use a MacBook Pro laptop (running OSX El Capitan), and none of those listed would run in a Mac OSX environment.

One of the recommended programs is a DOS program: the “OQP Contest Logger” developed 17 years ago by Kevin VE3SYB. The latest version (v.1.07.1), dating from 2007 can be downloaded as a .ZIP file (“oqp1_071.zip”) from http://www.ve3syb.ca/software/oqp/download.html

I may still have around some old machine able to run DOS, but I decided in favour of a different approach: the DOSBox (http://www.dosbox.com). This is an x86 emulator program that simulates an IBM PC compatible computer running a DOS operating system.  Further than that, its latest version (v.0.74) can run in several different environments, including the Mac OSX.

Interfacing the DOS OQP logger with the radio from within a Mac, if at all possible, may be a difficult proposition. However, I like to do all my CW exchanges manually and will not need any of the keying functions in the DOS OQP Logger.

First, using OSX commands, in the local directory of the Mac HD: /Users/[my_name]/, I created a new directory called “dosprogs”: /Users/[my_name]/dosprogs/, and within it another called “oqp”: /Users/[my_name]/dosprogs/oqp/, inside of which I unzipped the oqp1_071.zip file.

When installed and run in the Mac environment, the DOSBox App shows a DOS window with the once familiar DOS prompt pointing to the Z: DOS drive: “Z:\>”, which contains all the DOSBox files.

Next, I let the DOSBox identify ~/dosprogs (in the Mac) as the C: drive (in DOS):

Z:\> MOUNT c ~/dosprogs [RET]

DOSBox responded with this answer:

Drive C is mounted as local directory /Users/[my_name]/dosprogs/

I logged the C: drive:

Z:\> C: [RET]

C:\>

And then I logged the OQP subdirectory:

C:\> CD OQP [RET]

C:\OQP>

Next, I ran the Logger’s CONFIX.exe file:

C:\OQP> CONFIG [RET]

This runs the configuration program, which also creates a subdirectory using the year as its name, in which all files pertaining to the OQP of that year will be output.

Next I ran the actual logger program:

C:\OQP> OQP [RET]

OQP
Using the Logger is quite intuitive. Also pressing Alt-H brings a useful help window. Only glitches to solve in the Apple were that the “fn” key needs to be pressed to operate “up” and “dn” to change bands.

After exiting the OQP.exe program, the program POST.exe needs to be run to output all logs and summaries in their different formats:

C:\OQP> POST [RET]

The .CBR, .ADI and .SUM files are named using the county abbreviation transmitted during the contest and are output to the C:/OQP/[YEAR]/ subdirectory. Hence,  they can then be directly accessed within the Macintosh environment at:

/Users/[my_name]/dosprogs/OQP/[year]/[County].CBR
/Users/[my_name]/dosprogs/OQP/[year]/[County].ADI
/Users/[my_name]/dosprogs/OQP/[year]/[County].SUM

TextEdit can then be used to adjust the heading and change its name its name as required for submission to the contest authority.

GL in the OQP Contest! – you too, Maclubbers (…Mac lovers?).

 

Notice: the above short article is not intended as a tutorial for running DOSBox in a Mac or even on the use of the “OQP Contest Logger”, but merely to celebrate the fact that DOSBox does readily permit the use of such venerable DOS program in a Mac modern environment.

“Hear Ye! Hear Ye!”… SKCC Tx4

From a recent posting in the SKCC Yahoo Group:

“Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Gather ’round and pay heed to the news of this day! Let there be revelry & celebration for yet another Centurion has advanced to the Tribune Tx4 level of SKCC achievement !!!  Jose, VE3DTI, SKCC# 7020T, has achieved the coveted 2nd generation SKCC member achievement known far and wide as the Tribune Tx4 award. The Tribune Tx4 award is earned by SKCC Centurions who work 200 other Centurions, Tribunes, or Senators.”

SKCC Tx4

Sassy’s Journey to Canada, Seven Years Ago

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Last March 18 was celebrated as Sassy’s 7th birthday, and it is only fair that I try to relate the complete story of her migratory journey to Canada.

Early in 2009 I was resting back in the living-room of a posh and ridiculously expensive executive apartment in Port-of-Spain, reflecting about my return to Canada and my future life as a retiree – retirement was then less than a year away.

I was trying to make up my mind on a very important matter: what boat I was to get for my last years as solo-sailor. Three years before I had sold “Vándor”, the last hull ever built for the Alberg 22. For seven years it had been a very able and faithful sailing companion. However, it was too heavy for towing and cumbersome to launch and rig when single-handed. I was looking for a smaller sailboat, preferably a trailer-pocket cabin-cruiser that I could completely manage by myself and suitable both for fresh water cruising as well as gunkholing. I also wished it to be brand-new, as I did not want to spend much time doing maintenance. After much debate and research I honed on a few designs still in production: Montgomery 17, Precision 18, Sanibel 17/18 and the Com-Pac Sun-Cat 17. The latter particularly appealed to me because of its Mastendr® hinged mast design. However, I had never sailed a cat-rigged boat and wondered about its handling.

Late in September I was to attend a meeting in Washington, D.C., which as it happened, was to become the very last large Managers Meeting of my career. My return flight to Port of Spain was scheduled via Miami. Hence I decided to stop in Florida for a couple of days, fly to Tampa and pay a visit to the “Hutchins Co., Inc.” shipyard in Clearwater. For many years the Hutchins Company has been manufacturing unique designs of fiberglass boats under its “Com-Pac” proprietary brand. The company is a family enterprise, something that particularly appealed to me in these times of large and impersonal corporations. Gerry Hutchins together with his brother Richard have continued the business started by their father, Hutch, and already being carried on by a new generation of Hutchins: Tyler and Mathew.

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They did not have any Sun-Cat ready to go in the water, but a couple of SunDay Cats were sunbathing in the front yard. One was Tyler’s who kindly invited me onboard for a test-sail. The SunDay has the same hull and rigging as the Sun-Cat, their main difference being only the size of the cockpit and the cabin. We launched at the Seminole Boat Ramp at the west tip of Seminole Street, sailed under the Memorial Causeway and even ventured under the Gulf Boulevard Bridge at Sand Key, FL., but never quite made it into the Gulf of Mexico. There was not much wind and the sail lasted for just a couple of hours, but I was able to launch and rig the boat, try her in all points-of-sail and see how the boat handled in light winds. By the time we hauled her out my mind was made.

Clearwater 02

The following day I visited the yard and saw several Sun-Cat boats in different stages of assembly. I placed the order with Gerry and returned to Port-of-Spain for the last month of my official assignment with the Pan American Health Organization. Gerry would later be extremely patient and compliant with the many requests for detail that I would email to him during the following months. Eventually, arrangements were made for a return to Clearwater in March to take delivery of the boat.

Once back in Ottawa my attention turned into finding a suitable vehicle to tow the Sun-Cat. My preference was for an SUV 4WD, automatic, preferably with a diesel engine, and when I learned that a couple of Jeep’s Liberty 2006 RGB were for sale at “Capital Dodge” in West-Ottawa, I went for a test-drive and bought one on the spot.

In March I drove the Jeep from Ottawa to Clearwater. I did the trip south alone, but Martha flew to Tampa to join the adventure from there on. Together, we spent a few days visiting the west coast of the Florida Peninsula, sampled the local seafood and enjoyed the large Clearwater Beach with its superb sunsets over the water. We also discovered the amazing Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL (http://thedali.org).

But before hitting the road a small last-minute glitch had to be solved: the trailer needed a license plate. This required a visit to the offices of the State of Florida to request a temporary plate. This in turn required payment of the taxes related to the value of the trailer, taxes that I would eventually also have to pay at my return to Canada for some kind of a double-dipping tax. The trailer in question was a model specially designed for the Sun-Cat (Magic Tilt #BG4003-1″) and it had already caused a few headaches: the Canadian Ministry of Transport viewed it as a “vehicle not designed for the Canadian market being imported to Canada by a non traditional importer” and I feared that I might arrive at the border only to be told that the boat could pass but the trailer could not. As it happened, at the border I was given a form to be signed by an approved examiner and to be surrendered to the Canadian authorities when requesting the Ontario plate for the trailer.

Clearwater 04

Trip South:
– Ottawa – Washington DC (~920 Km): Mar 13-14 2010
– Washington – Fayetteville NC (~510 Km): Mar 14-15 2010
– Fayetteville NC – Brunswick GA (~540 Km): Mar 15-16 2010
– Brunswick GA – St. Petersburg FL (~500 Km): Mar 16- 17 2010

Trip North:
– St. Petersburg FL – Brunswick GA (~500 Km): Mar 22-23 2010
– Brunswick GA – Fayetteville NC (~540 Km): Mar 23-24 2010
– Fayetteville NC – Winchester VA (~550 Km): Mar 24- 25 2010
– Winchester VA – Courtland NY (~730 Km): Mar 25-26 2010
– Courtland NY – Ottawa ON (~300 Km): Mar 26-27 2010

The first leg of quasi-1000 Km was done almost non-stop in eleven hours, and the first night was spent with friends in Washington DC. The rest of the nights were spent in Hampton Inn’s where I had points accumulated from a previous life, breakfast was included and price reductions were offered to CAA members. The fact that most Hampton Inns had ample double parking was essential for parking with the trailer locked to the car hitch. Both crossings of the St. Lawrence were made at Thousand Islands.

Cruising north, along the Virginian Appalachians in early spring, was a most unforgettable experience. The trip ended at the marina of the Nepean Sailing Club, where Sassy has been hosted every season ever since.

The last act was to find a suitable dinghy. First if was a Sevylor Rio but the definitive one was a 6-foot French Sportyak II. The US importer could not possibly deliver it to Canada. Hence, once again the Jeep had to go fetch a boat south of the border. Fortunately this time delivery was made to a place closer to Ottawa: the UPS Store in Ogdensburg NY, a little over one-hour drive away.

The name “Sassy Gaffer” was a suggestion from my good friend Dr. Greg Sherman, from the marshes of Northport ON; and the design and name on the sides of Sassy’s hull were the creation of my also good friend, sailor and designer extraordinaire, Bryan Mathews from Orangeville ON. “Sassy” is obvious when one sees the lines of the Sun-Cat, which happens to also be “gaff”-rigged, hence a “Gaffer”. Also, “Gaffer” was the name of the “pirate cat” in the “Muppet Show”. I always wanted her to have a “cat” name and my initial choice for a name had been “Piqtuqsiraq” – the Canadian Lynx in Inuktitut, which actually means “the one that travels in the blizzard”.

Hibernating in her 7th Birthday

Tomorrow will be Sassy’s 7th birthday. It was in March 18, 2010 when for the first time she was lowered on her trailer and wheeled out of the Hutchins’ shipyard in Clearwater, FL, ready to be hauled all the way to Canada. Here is a picture of her on that very morning:

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And here is how she looks right now (actualy, March 15, 2017), seven years later (not much is revealed under the tarp but the hull waterline and the blue bottom are clearly recognizable):

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Sassy has been tucked under her tarp since late August. In February, and also last week, she endured the coldest nights of the winter and a great deal of snow and ice, which seems to have caused the collapse of the tarp ahead of the gallows. However, a closer access and examination will have to wait until the snow further thaws. The official launching day at the marina is the first weekend in May, but with some luck she will be in the water ahead of that date.

Happy Birthday, Sassy girl, and please forgive me for having brought you from the blond sands of Caribbean Florida to the white snows of the “Great White North”…

 

Batman’s Batradio in the Batcave of the Batsixties

In 1966, the classic TV series “Batman” was in its first season. At the onset of the 2nd episode (entitled “Smack in the Middle”) Batman is seen in the Batcave operating a radio with a microphone in its hand. The following is a composite from pics of that episode (the wording in the bubbles does not follow the original script…):

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Most of the electronics around look unapologetically fake. However, a few of the items may have been real: the one showing on the table, at the bottom-left corner of the first image seems to have the inscription “…GNER” (likely for “ALIGNER”?); the piece with a semicircular dial, behind Batman’s right arm, may correspond to a  receiver; and the one with many knobs, obscured behind Batman’s right side, could have been a vintage transmitter. Here is a blow-up from the corner of the first picture:

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