18 October 2007

Complete Bust....

We arrived in Jamaica ok, and on Friday morning set up and started testing.

Everything was great. Receiver worked, antenna was nice, we were collecting signals all over the world from on the ocean.

Then we tested the transceiver.

It worked, but we could not more than a couple of watts out of the rig at extremely high SWR.

I didn't have any other equipment to test the rig available so we spent about an hour trying to figure out the problem, tried a few transmissions and discovered the rig got very hot, very quickly.

At 1300 local time, we called it quits.

The luggage and the rig were "lost" in transit on the way back, but was delivered late last night.

Some time this week, I'll check the rig on the bench. I suspect some thing got bounced out of place internally at this point.

The antenna and cable will be checked as well to determine the problem.

For anyone who listened for us, thanks.

No QSLs this time :(



05 October 2007

Jamaica DXpedition 2007 is a GO!

Who: NØNJY/6Y5, KBØIRW/6Y5 (Rick and JoAnne Donaldson)

What: Jamaica DXPedition 2007

When: 12-14 October 2007

Where: Runaway Bay, Jamaica, West Indies

Why: For FUN! Island DXpedition (Celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary and 18 years as hams together!)

QSL: Home call (NØNJY)

Operational Times: APPROXIMATELY 17ØØ-21ØØ UTC on Friday and Saturday, and 17ØØ-2ØØØ on Sun

Frequency: Split frequency operation during operations hours on 14.19Ø +/-1Ø KHz, TX, Listening 14.2ØØ – 14.23Ø (+/- 1Ø KHz)

Equipment: ICOM IC-735, Alinco Power Supply, Home brew antenna (Pictures on blog site for equipment)

Blog site with much more information for comments, and QSL information etc is located at: http://jamaicadxpedition2007.blogspot.com/

Thanks everyone!


Rick Donaldson
US Callsign NØNJY
Jamaica Call NØNJY/6Y5

03 October 2007

QSO with N0NJY/6Y5 and QSLing with us


We will be using split frequency operation at around 14190-14210 KHz during our operations. Please try to listen for where I am listening. I will vary the listening frequency slightly over the three days of operations. I will try to include everyone I can hear.

Portable and QRP stations will have priority. We will try to respond to everyone in the given amount of time. Please be aware we have some limitations on the times we may operate due to the location we are operating. The location is a sea-side bar, which is under a thatched roof and is in use in the evenings, but not during daylight hours. Thus, please do not be disappointed if we need to "go QRT" without catching you. Try the next day.

Please note we are not taking a computer for logging, it will all be done by hand (just like the Good Old Days!) so be calm and let's make this a fun DXpedition!

Good luck and good DX HUNTING!

QSL cards:

Just wanted to let everyone know. We have not yet designed or created QSL Cards. We will do so when we return depending upon the number of QSOs we do.

Most likely we will have some photos done from the area, of the hotel or something cool to look at and have the cards made specifically for this trip only, when we return. We will QSL to anyone under certain circumstances.

All stations send QSLs to our home call. Mostly we will be using my call sign based on our spectrum privileges. So, QSL to my home address (check the FCC database).

1) If you're a US Station, send me a QSL card with your information, and an SASE.

2) If you're a foreign station, please provide return envelope for standard sized QSL card, and return postage!

3) SWL stations who wish to receive a QSL card, send a letter providing the following information, and a return envelope/postage to us at our home address:

A) Date, time and Frequency of the QSO

B) Station callsign with whom we are communicating (I will generally try to give their call for confirmation)

C) Provide details of your SWL station (type of radio, type of antenna)

D) Signal reports. Either use standard SINPO or RST codes - Both are fine, but provide this for my signal report

4) We will NOT use eQSO at this time since I am not currently set up to use it for this dxpedition and probably will not use it. Hard-cards are best for us and perhaps next time we will e-card.

Now for the GOOD NEWS

As of this moment, I have in my hands copies of our Jamaica Amateur Operator's license.

JoAnne's call sign will be KBØIRW/6Y5
Rick's call sign will be NØNJY/6Y5

We will be departing on 9 October 2007 from Colorado Springs, CO and should arrive sometime that evening in Montego Bay, Jamaica, West Indies.

Operating Dates will be Friday - Sunday, 12 October 2007 through 14 October 2007
Operating Times will be ROUGHLY from 1900 UTC through 2300 UTC depending on weather conditions, propagation conditions and how much we've had to drink... (just kidding)

Look for us somewhere around 14190 KHz, listening either up or down about 10KHz give or take (we'll let you know when we start calling CQ and on and off throughout the QSO).

Wish us luck, and know that we will be thinking of all of you while we're on the beach in Jamaica!

Best of 73 to each and everyone!

Rick Donaldson, NØNJY/6Y5
JoAnne Donaldson, KBØIRW/6Y5

02 October 2007

More licensing information

Well, bad news.

I've just had several emails going back and forth with Jamaica Spectrum Management Authority. Although they have processed and mail our license, via registered mail, the US Postal Service seems unable to locate or deliver the information to us.

According to our friend, Nadine at SMA, the package was mailed on 17 September. I have found nothing in my mail box, and no one at the house has seen any registered deliveries, or pink slips in the mail box since I told them to keep their eyes open. They have been bringing the mail in like clockwork every day, and there has been nothing.

So, this morning I started the long, and idiotic process of trying to communicate with people who don't know what they are doing at the USPS. My assumption is they don't know what they are doing, because they told me that they can't look anything up without the "number". Not being specific myself, I asked the lady in Jamaica for "the registration number" (which is what the local postal person asked me for). She sent me a six digit number.

I dutifully called the USPS back and gave the number to the same lady I'd spoken to earlier. She said... "And...?"

I said, "And.. what?"

She asked, "Are there any letters?"


"Well, I need something in front of or in back of the number to do anything with it".

Apparently there is a prefix and/or a suffix -- what she was unsure of. It would seem to me that a tracking number is somehow associated with a name. Doesn't that seem somewhat reasonable to you? She said, "no, I can't use this number".

I guess their databases aren't as good as they think? Well, I've responded back to Ms. Nadine for more information and currently, the situation is looking pretty bleak.

Well, the bright side is, even if I can't transmit from Jamaica, I can always sit on the beach and drink rum. :)

Thought just occurred to me -- did they mail the package to my home in Colorado, or to the Hotel in Jamaica?!?!?!?! (Sent an email to that effect)

21 September 2007

License information - quick update

This past Friday I received an email from a nice lady at the Jamaica Spectrum Management Authority. In the letter she told me that on Monday our licenses were being sent. She stated we ought to have them soon, hopefully within a week or so.

It's cutting it rather close, as our trip is on the 9th, so, if the licenses do not arrive by the time we depart then we won't be taking equipment :(

With a little luck, and some help from the postal service we will -- we hope -- see them before the week is over next week. Today is the 21st, and we don't leave until the 9th, so we have some time still. Wish us luck.

Tonight, I am getting some rest, and early in the morning, before most of you are even thinking of waking up, I will be headed into the mountains with my wife, our backpacks and a tent where we will spend the weekend and look at the mountains, and deer. See you when we get back.

Until next post, 73!!!!!


08 September 2007

Rig and Antenna

Well, finally downloaded the pictures out of my camera. Here's a copy of one of the images, showing the antenna in the background.

In the left foreground is a Shure 444D, which I probably will NOT be taking now, since it weighs in at a couple pounds, and the hand microphone is much lighter. The SWR meter won't likely be going either.

The rig is actually the one that will be traveling with us. In the background, you can see the antenna set up in the yard about 40 feet away. It's 10 feet tall, roughly, and about 14 feet across.

It tested very well, and I was able to tune it down to 1.1:1 SWR at the frequencies I wanted to use. I'll add a few more pictures below, giving some details of the construction of the antenna.

The next image is just of the antenna set up on Saturday, Labor Day weekend. You can see most of the antenna, tripod and a couple of wire dipoles in the background behind the portable dipole itself. The coils are clearly visible here along with the center supporting T-section. Click on any of the pictures for a larger image.

Each of the two pieces of PVC piping are roughly 4.5 feet in length, and they are cut into two pieces each. One of the bottom sections has a pvc coupling glued to it, as does one of the upper sections. The top section, of the bottom half has a set of screw-in adapters, allowing me to shove the smaller pvc piping into the coupling at the mid point. This allows for a heavier (1.25" dia.) lower section, and a lighter piece at the top. I could cut other pieces of piping to extend the height of I wised. I have no intention of taking more weight than I have to though!

Above you can see the details of the center tee-section. An SO-239 connector is mounted physically onto the center of the Tee. On each end of the Tee are bolts, attached internally with wiring that is soldered or screwed down to the SO-239. The end caps are glued on permanently. There are bolts centered on the end caps, which are held with lock washers, flat washers and a set of internal, and external hex nuts. The bolts are actually threaded-stock that is #8, 32 threads per inch. (I think.. I'm writing this from memory, but the thread size is the same thread size that fits an arrow head onto an aluminum shaft.)

The black stripe on either side is electricians tape, and if you look carefully, over the top of the Tee, you will see a couple of fiberglass rods that are connected together, and taped over the Tee, then again taped to the antenna rods (arrows) at either end to give some support to the threaded stock going through the arrows and the Tee-section.

Above you see another view of the center Tee-section, the connector and how I used electrical tape to hold the fiberglass rods to the antenna sections.

Details of the coils. This coil is made from 1.25" OD PVC, with end caps, there are 31 turns of #14 AWG stranded wire wrapped tightly around the aircore. End caps are NOT glued, but taped heavily with electrical tape (in case I needed to later modify things, or I had issues with connectors coming undone). On the ends are pieces of threaded stock matching the arrow inserts I used, held internally with lock and flat washers, and hex nuts, and on the outside as well. The coil wiring is attached internally with small spade lugs, and tightened down very tightly. Externally, arrow shafts are screwed to the end of the coils.

At some point later, I'll do a separate article on details of how to build the coils, the arrows and the antenna parts, then assemble it, but probably not until I get back.

On the left is the actual power supply we're using for the radio. It's going to make a NICE addition to my ham shack (even though JoAnne thinks she's getting it.... :)) It's an alinco, weighs in at about 5 pounds and can handle 32 AMPS! Woot, I can run a couple of rigs at once off that.

Well, that's about it for the day. Enjoy the pictures. Please, if you're reading this, make a comment so I will know and take the survey on the bottom of the page.

Thanks and 73!


05 September 2007

License Update

As of a couple of weeks ago, our daughter, son-in-law and three grand children have temporarily moved back into the house with us, so we've got extra eyes watching for the licensing from Jamaica.

Last Monday, the Spectrum Management Authority contacted me via email, and asked me to go ahead and fax to them the paper work so they could process our licenses, so they would be ready to go when they received the check and original copies.

So, I did that. I'm hoping it will expedite things so that the licenses do come by the time we're ready to go.

Today is 5 September - so we have just over 30 days before we depart. I'm very confident that the licensing will show up before we leave.

More Antenna testing

On Thursday of last week, I pretty much finished manufacturing the parts I needed to assemble the antenna we're planning on taking with us. Thursday evening, I fired up the rig for the first time on Thursday evening and made a half dozen more contacts with it, then Friday even we did more.

Over Saturday, Sunday and Labor Day Monday, I had the rig set up in the back yard on the deck, with the power supply we were planning on using, as well as various microphones. There were no really noticeable differences on audio quality (except when I actually placed the desk mike I was using, a Shure 444D back into High Impedance mode... not sure how I switched that off) and got "Audio is 100% better with that setting".

The normal hand mic seems good enough, and of course it is very light, so it's going. A brass key will go along, but likely will not get used.

I made a couple of dozen contacts from Canada, to Florida, to Bogotá, Columbia and several other places, including Maine, Massachusetts, Texas, and a few other places I can't recall at the moment. Signal reports varied from 5/4 to 5/9 and at least two that were 5/9 +20 db. I am very happy with the testing of the antenna.

The really cool part about the weekend (ok, WARM part!), it was very warm and I had to use an umbrella every day to keep the sun off, and of course, drink a few cold beers to "get me in the mood". We also snapped a few pictures which I will insert in the next few days of the antenna, power supply and the rig. I think I got at least one of JoAnne doing some reading at the rig. Might put that up if she "approves". :)

31 August 2007


We couldn't really come up with a good antenna to use, and buying one like I wanted to take was really cost prohibitive. I've tried to keep spending very low for this trip, so we decided to design and build an antenna ourselves. I think I mentioned that we had several ideas, including curtain hangers and similar ideas.

What we finally decided to do was a coil-loaded dipole. It had to be lightweight, short when transported, and easy to put together, and work on basically one band. If you're not dealing with multiple bands, that makes it much easier.

Wire antennas are out because we don't have a place to string them at the hotel where we're headed. Besides, we wanted to do our operating at on near the beach and not in the room. Otherwise, we'd just have asked the hotel to let us string a wire antenna.

So, what we came up with was a tuned dipole, made from aluminum arrows, PVC piping, some screws, washers, arrow inserts, an SO-239 connector and some wire for coils.

I spent the last few days reworking some cheap aluminum arrows into ordinary tubes, cutting off the nock end, removing the plastic insert that you screw the arrow head into and cutting them to the proper lengths based on calculations I did.

Last night I assembled the whole set up after finishing some short pieces of tubing for tuning, and placed the antenna assembly up on a short, 5 foot pole, on top of the trippod we'll be using, connected a 30 foot piece of coax, and fired up the rig as it will be carried, including the microphone and power supply.

It took me rougly 2.5 hours to get the antenna arms the right length and I kept showing high SWR of 1:3 or so and I couldn't seem to get it down. Finally I took the end tubing off from the coils outward, and placed a 30 inch piece in place. The SWR dropped down to 1.25:1, so I replaced that tube with a set of extension antennas from some old handheld CB radios and started slowly increasing and decreasing the length of the arms by first 1/4" then by 1/8".

After another flurry of jumping down off the deck, moving antenna robs, jumping back up on the deck, and setting the meters, checking SWR (I repeated this process at least ten times) I was down to 1.2:1 and I stopped there. I chopped a bit off of a couple of arrow-rods, and replaced the whole thing, then responded to a fella in PA calling CQ. He gave me a 5 and 4, then a 5 and 9 report. I was happy.

Here I was pushing 35 watts, on a home brew dipole practically sitting on the ground and I was getting a 5 and 4 report. Then I turned the antenna slightly and both his signal and mine went up.

A bit later, I called CQ and was answered by a Ham in New Jersey. I'm sorry I didn't write down the first call, but the second one was WW2QQ and he gave me a 5-4 then a 5-7. I think I can call that a successful antenna. The real test will come sitting on a beach in Jamaica, with a cold beer next to me, on the beach.

I'm happy. Except for one thing. The antenna isn't as "sturdy" as I'd like. I had to reinforce the center piece (PVC T-section) and the arms on either side with a fiberglass rod extending on both sides.

I'm concerned that the thread-stock I used is too small, but 8-32 screws are prettu much what fits into then end of arrow, so, I am stuck with that. They will probably hold, and I might be able to make the threaded portion a little longer to give it a bit more support, but the inserts aren't very long to begin with. I'll work something out, even if it is a string-eyelet type set up to give a little suspension to the arms of the antenna.

This weekend I'll set up the rig and operate from the back yard for a few hours each day and see what this antenna will do... or maybe we will climb Pikes Peak and set up there for a few hours!


Rick Donaldson, NØNJY

30 August 2007


Does this look right to everyone? :)

Split frequency operation during operations hours on 14.19Ø+/- 1Ø KHz, TX, Listening 14.2ØØ – 14.23Ø (+/- 1Ø KHz)

Operation will consist of calling CQ DX on our calling frequency and announcing our call, QTH and “Listening between 14.2Ø and 14.24 KHz” (or whatever is called for if the chosen frequency is busy).

Radio will be preprogrammed with some VFO frequencies to listen on when we shift the VFO up and down.

Headsets will be used by both operators during QSO recording and conversations, so that extraneous noise will not interrupt us, nor will our radio traffic bother other resort patrons nearby.

One operator will record data, other operator will do contacts. We can switch off as necessary to give voice breaks and bathroom breaks… and someone has to get the drinks occasionally. (One must take all things into account in a tropical resort!)

A listing of local frequencies is on the next two pages, for emergency operations, International Groups, Caribbean groups and local HF groups in Jamaica. Both High Frequency as well as VHF/UHF frequencies are listed.

Our handie-talkies will be programmed with local repeaters for local repeater operations.

(Suggestions, comments welcomed)

29 August 2007

Location, location, location

As it is in marketing, houses, and businesses a location for DXing appears to be one of the most important aspects of getting contacts. From a purely DXer's point of view, whomever you communicate with needs to be somewhere that you want or need for a contest, or award.

From the Hunted aspect, that is the DXer that goes to some distant location to send his signals, the location has to be within reach, and the person or persons setting out on the trip have to make sure that everything falls into place.

JoAnne and I are finding this out daily. In our case, we chose the location prior to deciding to do DX. So, we've got a couple of good advantages. Our trip is paid for, whether we can operate our radios or not. No sponsors (if anyone wants to, certainly contact us with information!) and little else to worry about except getting there, and of course, getting weight down, building an antenna that is both transportable and will work, replacing a power supply... et cetera...

So, let me tell you a wee bit about the resort where we plan on spending our vacation.

It is a little 80-100 room hotel on the northern coast of Jamaica in Runaway Bay, St. Anne called "Club Ambience". This place is not a five star hotel, nor should anyone planning on heading there expect it to have room service or some other amenities you might find in the more expensive places.

What you WILL find for your cost is an all-inclusive price for food, drink, soda, water, room and entertainment. There is a night club, three bars, a swimming pool, and some awesome staff members at Club Ambience. The staff, without exception are helpful, great people. They have an entertainment staff as well, whose sole job it is to keep you busy and involved in things.

There are talent shows where the staff and guests get involved, doing everything from comedy to singing, to Shakespeare. There are sports, volley ball, Cricket and some staff-guest competitions (including beer chugging!) and some interesting things that I'd have never thought to do to entertain myself!

This resort is considered about a three-star place, and it has a separate house attached, with it's own pool that can be rented privately. There is outside dining at least once or twice during the week -- with lobster and other interesting meals, this of course, costs a bit more.

Your drinks, alcohol, or otherwise, are part of the cost, so tipping is appreciated by the staff but it's not "required". If you have Google Earth (download it for free) you can zoom in on the hotel yourself at 18˚ 27’ 47” N Lat. 77˚ 27’ 35” W Long. The image has changed slightly since the picture was taken. There is another walkway cover from the main bar to the eastern building (one part of the hotel).

If you look carefully at the northern most portion of the place, you will see a long walk out to the ocean, with a round building, that's a night-time bar area, and where we will be setting up our radio operations. We've already obtained some permissions to operate there, and we shouldn't have any trouble during the day.

My main reason for writing today is to tout the location. I think they are an affordable vacation, and in a good location. It's quiet, no children, adults only, not "wild" like some places we've heard about, and the staff and hotel are pretty awesome.

Here's their contact information:

P.O. Box 2Ø
Main Road
St. Ann, Runaway Bay
Jamaica W.I.
Toll free USA:
(8ØØ) 822-3274

Operated by:
Jemara Resorts Inc.

28 August 2007

Morse Code Watch

I saw this on the news links from below on the bottom of this page. I got quite a giggle out of it, and obviously the writer of the quickie little article is 1) Not a Ham, 2) Barely a Writer, and 3) Obsessed at being obnoxious about things that he finds obnoxious. :)


Another link to another complainer

27 August 2007

Icom IC-735

The Icom IC-735 is pictured on the left. This is the rig we'll be using (rather it is an image of a similar rig).

The radio tunes from 500 KHz to 30 MHz, and has a transmit output of up to 100 watts on the Amateur Bands.

When I obtained the rig, I got it from another friend of mine, Phil, AI4DQ and Harry, VE7JH. Along with the rig came a tuner, power supply and a semi-matching speaker. I'll be taking only the rig and an Alinco power supply (profiled here) to reduce the weight. Since I got the rig a couple of years ago, I have made a lot of contacts on various antennas around the house. Currently I use a tri-bander beam, and a multi-band vertical antenna, as well as a couple of wire dipoles. Each antenna seems to have it's own set of conditions under which optimum performance occurs. The real problem is that my dipoles aren't well aimed due to the yard arrangement. Instead of a good East-West radiation pattern, it's more SW-NE which somewhat limits by best signals from areas to which I generally communicate.

The rig has traveled across country with us, going from Colorado, to Kentucky, Michigan, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and to the Renaissance-Festival in Phoenix one time a couple of years back. It has traveled up into the mountains with me at least once on a weekend camping trip where I was at 11,000 feet and made a few contacts from up there. Normally on the Jeep I use "Hamsticks", a series of vertical antennas for various bands. I have one for each band. They are decent, but I'm sure there are better antennas than those.

No matter which antenna I use however, the rig performs outstandingly. It's rather old, but it was well taken care of before I owned it, and I try to keep it clean, and free of dust. With a little luck, anyone who is interested in connecting up with us will be talk to that rig on the other end.

Jamaica Licensing Information

The following information is regarding dealing with getting your Jamaica Operating permit. You must be a licensed Amateur Radio operator in your country of origin. The following information is accurate as of today, 27 August 2007. There is other information on the Internet which IS NOT ACCURATE ANYMORE. This is very important, because the fee has increased in the last couple of years, the Spectrum Management Authority has MOVED to a new location in Kingston apparently, and I'm not entirely sure of who the Commissioner is now.

So, if you're planning a trip there in the next year, this information should be valid at least until next year. Also, Gerald Burton, 6Y5AG, of the Jamaican Amateur Radio Association advises me he believed that my license should be good for one year only from the date it is created. However, just as I was writing this, I received a note from Nadine at SMA who stated that the US $20.00 fee is for licensing that is good for THREE MONTHS ONLY. So, folks need to take that into account as well!

Licensing Information: 17 October 2ØØ7, will be mailed with bank checks to Spectrum Management Authority, Jamaica, with copies of US Licenses, passport information, etc.

Spoke to Jamaica SMA a couple of weeks ago, and obtained the correct address and fees.

JoAnne’s Technician license should be in the mail, and we should see it within a few days. According to the lady I spoke to at the SMA, it should take less than two weeks for processing, and delivery of my Jamaican permit. We will apply for her Jamaican permit as well, but not until she has a new, valid copy of her license. Her old license still shows her as a “Novice class”.

(Update: JoAnne’s technician license came in the mail on 2Ø August 2ØØ7. I am mailing her package on the 21st of August in the evening in the hopes that her license will be returned within a few days of mine. Again, our plan is going through, unless we do not receive our licenses in time, then we will simply plan again for next year.)

The following is the cover letter being sent, along with copies of NØNJY’s passport, US Amateur license and a verified bank check for $2Ø.ØØ US currency.

Required Information With License Application:

- USD $2Ø certified bank check payable only to: Spectrum Management Authority
- Copy of your home license
- Copy of your passport (just the photo page showing passport number etc.)
- Form C
- Cover letter

The proper Address for Jamaican Spectrum Management Authority (Essentially this is the “FCC” of Jamaica):

Spectrum Management Authority
2nd Floor
Victoria Mutual Building
53 Knutsford Blvd
5, Jamaica W.I.
Phone: (876) 929 - 855Ø / 852Ø

Web site addresses for Spectrum Management are:
http://www.sma.gov.jm/contact.htm (Contact information)
http://www.sma.gov.jm/index.html (Home Page for SMA)
Application forms can be found here:
The proper application for an Alien Permit is here:
There is a processing fee of $2Ø.ØØ in US Currency. It MUST be on a certified Bank Check. It MUST be made out to “Spectrum Management Authority”. You must include the items listed above, or you will not be granted a license. Remember you’re dealing with a government agency, give yourself plenty of time. We did not have that luxury. We knew at the end of July, 2ØØ7 that we were going back to Jamaica, and we already had the trip planned for October 2ØØ7 even before we decided to do the “DXpedition”.
I will say that each of the officials with whom I spoke were quite helpful, pleasant and extremely happy to hear that we were coming back to Jamaica for yet another visit. Obviously, tourism is a very large part of the economy for Jamaica and they do depend on the inflow of cash to their economy. A large part of convincing people to return is having a good attitude. I’ll always return to Jamaica when I get the chance, I’ll never go back to Paris because of attitudes. Thus, when you hear a government employee speaking kindly and helpfully, you tend to wonder what they are up to. In this case, they simply want your business, and they definitely want to make you feel welcomed to their country.

I'm not sure of the number of Hams in Jamaica, but it appears there are at least 100 or so. Some have responded to help requests from me, some have not, but all that have were helpful, kind and supportive. The people in the SMA were all pleasant -- and they reminded me of what Government workers OUGHT to be like, rather than some of the cynical, upset, and sometimes just rude people we run into in the US from time to time.

Site Notes

I forgot to mention. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and take the little poll there, and check out the news links for Ham Radio!

Power Supply

The power supply for the Icom IC-735 is very heavy, probably close to 30 or 35 pounds. I deemed that way to heavy if I want to take, say.. shoes or clothing with me. Thus, I put out some emails to folks in the local ham community for information and advice.

I had several suggestions from several sources including Bob, K0NR. All of them were reasonable, but I settled on the one below. Wes (K0HBZ) responded with a type of supply. He sent me back an email with the following notes:

"There's only ONE power supply to have -- Alinco DM-330MV -- $149. They're incredible, I have two (actually three but a lightning strike damaged one of them) and have been using them for several years. I run my backup HF station (Yaesu FT-847) and all other 12vdc radios and equipment in my shack off it. 30A continuous, 33A peak."

Armed with that information I started searching for the power supply on the internet, found one at Ham Radio Outlet for $129.00. I ordered it and it arrived the very next evening, and I tested it on my rig that evening, made several contacts, received good reports and deemed it more than adequate.

The output on the back consists of two heavy duty terminal connections with knurled banana-plug type connectors. I built a cable and connector for the IC-735 to the power supply. This particular system can supply 32 amps, is a switching supply so is significantly lighter than a supply with a transformer. There are, as you can see, other outputs on the front for other devices.

One of our main concerns is taking communications equipment into Jamaica. I've been assured by Jamaica's Spectrum Management Authority, and some local Jamaican Amateurs we should have no problems. Obviously our licenses will accompany us, as well as copies in the equipment.

The second major concern is carrying the gear with us. We have pretty much decided on hard-sided luggage with wheels, so that we can still take one bag each, plus our carry on backpacks. I've read all sorts of things about putting equipment into luggage, and then worrying about it. However, I made several hundred trips from Washington, DC when I worked for the White House Communications Agency, carrying (not counting my OWN bag) on Vice Presidential trips, up to 25 separate cases, boxes, suitcases and other transports, at one trip. I never ONCE lost a piece of luggage or equipment. It always seemed to arrive, occasionally late, but it got there. So, I'm going to "trust" the airlines to do a good job and get our stuff there.

Unlike many other folks who ship equipment in early, we don't have that luxury, nor ability and it would most likely cost us even more money than just carrying it in. Between our two bags, we ought to be able to shift our weight around enough so that neither bag is overly heavy and the equipment will be divided up between us. This should reduce the weight for both of us, allow us to carry enough clothing and our normal trip stuff with us and let us still get our equipment there, and back home again.

The other thing is JoAnne has to drag her own bag through the airport once we collect things from Customs and I don't want her struggling with extra weight. I don't mind being a little heavier on the Bag-Side, but, don't really want to take 75 pounds in one bag. No clothes then!

Sometime soon, I'll weigh the whole shebang (once the antenna is completed) and see what the total weight, plus coax will be, then work out the clothing requirements last.

As of last Friday, we hadn't really picked an antenna yet, but have looked at several things, including a purchase of a W3FF Buddipole -- at a cost of almost $400.00. While it appears to be a very cool antenna system, extremely portable and used by several DXpeditions, we decided that was a bit out of our price range. Besides, having been a communications guy for a long, long time, and setting up almost anything in a pinch as an antenna, mostly wires, zip cord and military equipment, it was decided we build one and use as much stuff from home as possible and keep the price down. This of course, didn't preclude us from purchasing a few items at a hardware store this past weekend.

After a bit of brain storming over a couple of beers at our favorite food place, and quite a bit of drawing on napkins, we came up with a design, some calculations and then tried to come up with some kind of simple hardware we could make into an effective antenna.

We decided the following:

1) Multiband homebrew dipole.

2) It had to be light, shortened and we needed to be able to stand it in a free-standing mode with a tripod or some sort.

3) Wire dipoles were out because of the previous site surveys showing little or no antenna supports available (trees!) and we wanted something sturdy enough to stand on its own with little sag.

4) The antenna had to be fairly easy to assemble.

5) It had to be reusable, and it has to actually LOOK good as well.

We tried some extendable/expendable curtain rods and some fiberglass tent poles that are held together with an elastic string through the middle. Both sagged considerably, and were weaker than we expected. The curtain rod idea was good, but we weren’t going to use the rods as radiating elements, and couldn’t come up with a good way to put coils in place. We tried inserting wooden doweling into the curtain rods, then started thinking about the interaction of the metal with the actual antenna. That wasn't going to work well.

The fiberglass poles were just a bit heavier than we wanted, and again, with not a good way to mount things. They sagged as well, more than I thought was usable. Putting a coil and some wire along the fiberglass shafts would have worked fine, and simple electrical tape to hold it would have worked well, but the antenna would have been 16 or 18 feet long, even with the loading coils and it would have sagged miserably.

Then the idea struck us to use aluminum arrows. JoAnne had already mentioned arrows once, but as is typical for me, I was thinking one thing and she was thinking something else. I was looking at SUPPORT (and thinking wooden) and she was actually thinking of the technical aspects of using ARROWS (and thinking METAL -- Duh on me!).

So, on Sunday (yesterday), we purchased a handful of $3/ea shafts, removed the plastic arrow head inserts, and cut off the fletching and nock end of the shaft. This left us with a set of hollow aluminum tubes. Next we inserted metal inserts.

At this point, I only finished a few of the shafts yesterday afternoon, and we went off to a birthday party for one of our grandchildren. (Side note: We gave her some walkie-talkies, with a Morse code button.... so we're starting her EARLY, she's four and already knows her alphabet, so we figure by next year she will be getting her Technician license!)

Today, using a program found at K7MEM’s site, I calculated a slightly shortened, loaded dipole antenna. http://www.k7mem.150m.com/Electronic_Notebook/antennas/shortant.html

The actual “design” of the antenna will be similar to the W3FF Buddipole, including a tripod to hold the antenna up.

The center feed will consist of a T-section of PVC pipe, an SO-235 connector, loading coils for 20 meters and coils made from PVC pipe, end caps and associated hardware, screws and threaded arrow shafts. As of 27 August, the antenna is partially built and we expect to do some hard testing on 1 September 2007 to see how the antenna works.

My thinking is that we will use PVC piping as the mast section, cut into shorter pieces for transport in our suitcases on the trip. We'll use some PVC couplings to connect the pieces into a longer piece. The tripod we're going to use isn't the most sturdy thing in the world, but it was an old camera tripod and should hold this antenna up with no problem.

To build the coils I will be using short pieces of PVC pipe with end caps on each side, drill holes for the wire, and run the wires to hardware inside the pipe, allowing me to screw the newly made "Arrow Elements" to either end (on the end caps) of the coil for center loading on the antenna. I'll install an SO-239 connector on the T-section, to allow easy connection of the coaxial cable and probably install, if necessary some kind of ferrite beads at the connector to prevent RF from radiating from the coax.

Having tested some of the arrows by screwing them together already, I found that this is a very STURDY antenna element and shouldn't sag very much at all. Calculations are as follows:

Total length of dipole: 16 Feet long
Element Length Before coil: 4 feet each side
Secondary Element (Coil Plus element): 4 Feet each side

Coil specs:
Inductance: 8.76 uH
Diameter: 3 - 1/4"
Length: 1 - 5/8"
Turns: 10
Wire: #12

More to follow on this antenna. When I get it assembled, I'll try to post some pictures of it all set up so you can see what it looks like. We should be able to tune the antenna more carefully once it is put together, by adding or subtracting some length off the ends of the elements.

I think I'm going to call it a "DX-Stalker" because the arrows I'm using are made by Easton, and are called "Stalker" arrows. They are camouflaged. Perhaps we'll call it "DX-Prey" since, we'll be the DX station!

24 August 2007

Communications Plan

Having spent the majority of my military career doing "expeditions" and "deployments" with massive amounts of communications equipment to every place from desert, mountain and jungle locations, to Five-Star Hotels' roofs I consider myself to be very well trained at setting up emergency communications equipment, and operating under sometimes extreme or emergency conditions. At least twice in my life, I've operated radio systems while taking fire from enemy combatants. So... ok, let's just say that setting up a radio system, an antenna and a power supply ought to be an absolute cake-walk in a tropical destination. Ought to be.

Old habits, however, die hard. One of the things I used to do for deployments was to write up communications and operations plans for our communications units, and generally write trip reports after-the-fact, to provide valuable "Lessons Learn" information for the next groups of folks who would follow in my footsteps.

Thus, I have written a full blown communications and operations plan for "DX Jamaica 2007". Now, it might seem a little over-blown to do this, since there are only two operators, and only one of us is probably actually going to do most of the operations. On the other hand, my wife is learning the ropes, so it should give her some guidance, and for others who would love to do such a thing, a plan for them to examine and perhaps glean information from when they do their own mini-dxpedition.

That's what this site is about. I will be posting the plan here, in little pieces. For our purposes it is a full manual, containing even emails back and forth to the hotel where we will be staying, as well as emails and letters sent to the Spectrum Management Authority of Jamaica (the Jamaican equivalent of the Federal Communications Commission).

With a little luck, we will be getting our licenses in the mail sometime in the next couple of weeks so those can be published as well. I'm not 100% sure they will arrive in time, and this entire DXpedition is contingent upon a foreign government sending our papers in a timely fashion. Normally, in many countries it takes months to process paperwork.

In our case we knew we were going to Jamaica, but not exactly when. We also didn't know in the beginning we were going to do the DX portion of the trip. The plus side of all of this is very simple, we still get to spend a week in Jamaica on the beach and in the sun, enjoying ourselves even if we can't do the DXpedition.

Otherwise, we will definitely operate from the beach for three of the days of the trip. That part is going to be as much, if not more fun than other things we have planned. Below I am providing the first few paragraphs of the trip plan. This is so that others can know our thinking on what we're going to do. I'll publish more of it over the next few days, and remember that some things are definitely subject to change -- and probably will -- before the trip is over.

One last note... We will NOT be doing any blogging from Jamaica. The internet costs are somewhat prohibitive down there, cellular phones we use don't work on the island, and I'm going to have fun not to spend my time writing a lot. I might take a lap top and record a few things, but even my logs are going to be pen and ink and paper.

More to come!


Rick Donaldson
Amateur Callsign NØNJY

Operations Plan -- first paragraphs. (Photos later!)

October 2007 -- Runaway Bay -- Jamaica DXpedition

Purpose: This plan is to provide detailed planning information for the Runaway Bay, Jamaica DXpedition and resources required to support the objective of putting up basic High Frequency communications on an island in the Caribbean Sea from 12-14 October 2007. This plan outlines specific system requirements for one or two band operations. Purpose of the expedition is to make contacts to other continents from a 6Y location, and to enjoy a vacation on the beach.

Scope: This document describes the communications capabilities to be provided by the DXpedition during a portion of our vacation. The Operational DXpedition from Runaway Bay, St. Anne’s, Jamaica will be operating during daylight hours on the 20 meter band on 14.190 KHz (+/- 10 KHz) from approximately 1200 hours local (1700 hours UTC) to approximately 1600 hours local (2100 hours UTC) on Friday, 12 Oct 2007 and Saturday, 13 October 2007. Operations will be from approximately 1200 hours local to 1500 hours local time on Sunday. Equipment will be deployed each day prior to noon local time and packed up in the afternoon to prevent interference with hotel operations, and beach activities in the evenings.


JoAnne Donaldson, US Amateur Call: KBØIRW

Rick Donaldson, US Amateur Call: NØNJY

Visit Dates: Arrival 9 Oct 2007 – Departure 16 Oct 2007

Operational Dates: 12-14 October

Operational Times: 1700-2100 UTC on Friday and Saturday, and 1700-2000 on Sun

Frequencies: Split frequency operation during operations hours on 14.190 +/-10 KHz, TX, Listening 14.200 – 14.230 (+/- 10 KHz)

Radios: ICOM IC-735, Power Supply, Antenna

Associated Equipment: Minimum necessary to bring station online (Equip. Listing)

23 August 2007

Jamaica DXPedition 2007 (October)

Hi everyone;

I'm Rick, NØNJY, and I'll be your tour guide here for a bit.

What this is all about:

In August this year, my wife JoAnne (KB
ØIRW) and I have celebrated our 30th anniversary together. We're both Ham Radio Operators, and we're going to Jamaica in October to spend a week in the sun, at a cool little resort we found on the northern coast in St. Ann's, in a little area called Runaway Bay.

Being that we're Amateur Radio Operators, and this is a vacation for us, we're taking some ham radio gear with us. If you're reading this, you're MOST LIKELY an amateur too, so please bear with me while I explain what a DXpedition is to the non-Hams among us.

DX is a term we use in Amateur radio and shortwave listening to describe "Distant Listening". Pretty much anything you listen to on the shortwave is very likely "Distance" and thus, you are usually listening to a far away location.

Hams like to collect QSL cards, post cards, confirming contacts -- which many use just as "cool collector items". Many use them for awards, like "Worked All States" in the US, or "DXCC" which means they worked a WHOLE LOT of countries found on a DXCC listing.

Jamaica just happens to be on the DXCC list, and though it is not rare or anything, it is a DX location that European and American, as well as other countries Hams want to talk to.

So, JoAnne and I are going to try to oblige a few lucky people around the world on 12-14 October.

Currently, we're awaiting confirmation of our Jamaican operating permits, and I was in contact with the Spectrum Management Authority in Kingston this very week, who assured me we should very well have our permits in hand within the next couple of weeks.

I'll be posting operating information on this blog, as well as information for other hams should they want to do something similar in the future.

So -- basically this blog is a place for us to post information about the trip, and contact information for those of you wishing to make contact with us while we're in Jamaica this October!

I'll post more information later this week, or weekend regarding what we're planning and so forth.

Anyone interested in contacting me regarding the DXpedition can certainly write to me via my callsign @ arrl.net and I'll respond as soon as I can.

Until the next post,