Portable Power

There are a lot of options for powering your station while operating in state parks! Here are a few that I’ve personally used.

Deep Cycle Lead Acid Batteries

These are a great, general purpose option if you aren’t limited by weight. For the price, they’re hard to beat if you want a lot of capacity. Marine batteries, tractor batteries, golf cart/RV batteries can all work great. The downside? If you can’t drive right to your operating spot, the weight makes it really hard to justify. Lugging an 80lb battery along with all your other stuff can really cut down on your motivation to get out and activate parks.

I primarily use mine when I’m going to be operating from my vehicle. Many of you probably have the same problem I do – when my car is on, I have S6-8 noise levels on HF. That doesn’t help much when trying to pull out a weak station! So, I’ll load my big Exide deep cycle AGM into the backseat of my car (something like 45AH of usable power at 100w SSB/CW duty cycle) When I get to a park, I shut off the engine, put the battery and radio on the tailgate or a picnic table and start operating.

One word of caution – be careful with the charger you use. An AGM like the one pictured above has fairly strict charging voltage requirements. Even though some big box store chargers claim to have an AGM setting, when I’ve checked them they have not been anywhere near the correct charging voltage. Check your battery’s manufacturer for their recommended charging voltage, and make sure your charger is supplying it. I use a high quality Noco brand charger

Lithium Battery Packs

Different brands of LiFePo4 batteries

This is what I use most of the time. The main reason?  A very high power-to-weight ratio. A 12AH LiFePo4 battery weighs less than my radio! There are other benefits too. LiFePo4 batteries maintain a very stable voltage until they are nearly discharged. That means you can use most of the battery’s rated capacity before your radio reaches it’s voltage cutoff threshold (normally 13.8v, +/- 10 or 15%). A lead acid battery’s voltage will tend to drop as you use it, so even though it has a similar or higher rated capacity to a given lithium pack, you may not be able to use it as long before your radio starts to complain.

Bioenno 9AH LiFePo4

They do take a special charger, some of which will depend on the brand.  Bioenno makes a great line of self-contained LiFePO4 packs which have built-in charging circuitry, overcurrent protection, and discharge protection. You buy the battery and a wall-wart style charging cable, and you’re all set. But…all that convenience comes at a cost. Expect to pay ~$150 for one 12AH battery and charger. For me? It’s worth it because everything is built into the pack. They’re available through Amazon, HRO, and various other retailers.

Charging a Zippy 4.2AH 4S2P LiFePo4 pack, with a balancing charger

An alternative is to use R/C plane batteries, like the Zippy brand sold by Hobby King. They are less expensive (around $60 for an 8.4AH pack), but do require a special balancing charger. You’ll also have to install your own connectors. I use Anderson powerpoles for all my power connections, which make everything interchangable between all my gear. They can be a bit tough to install on the r/c packs, since the power cables tend to be larger gauge (10 or 8 AWG), and very, very fine stranded almost like welding cable. The open sided 45 amp powerpole inserts make this process much easier. The primary benefit of the Zippy packs is more flexibility in charging rates, and their lower cost. I used these for a number of years before eventually moving to the bioenno packs.

Internal Batteries

Windcamp batteries installed in an FT-817

Some radios, like the KX2/3, and FT-817 have a place to install internal battery packs. These can be NiCd, NiHm, or lithium packs. I’m not a big fan of using the stock NiMh internals like those in the FT-817. Some people like them, but in my experience they don’t have enough capacity to be useful doing much more than listening. I replaced mine with some aftermarket LiPo packs sold on eBay by Windcamp. They aren’t too expensive ($70/ea), and have to be charged through a supplied battery cover instead of through the normal rear plug on the 817. But they work great! Each one is 3AH capacity, which lasts for a week or more worth of satellite passes (which is primarily what I use my 817s for these days). It’s nice to have everything self contained in the radio – and they charge much faster than the stock batteries.

The downside? They ship direct from China, so expect to wait up to 2 months for delivery. Don’t wait until the last minute to order them before a trip!

Other Tips

Don’t forget battery maintenance! If you aren’t using them often, make sure your lithiums and lead acids are stored at the proper voltage – letting them drop too low can severely damage the battery, leading to diminished capacity or even needing a replacement.

Use standardized power connectors like Anderson Powerpoles. Being able to interconnect all your gear to whatever power source you choose to bring along for an activation is worth the trouble of installing the connectors! Do yourself a favor and buy one of the purpose-built crimping tools. They aren’t expensive and make the job easy.

An anderson powerpole power splitter (homemade)

Something else that would be a perfect for for sunny Florida is solar power! That’s on my list to experiment with. I do know at least one ham who operates often using an FT-817 and two Harbor Freight solar panels. Some of you might already operate using solar power, or have other tips I haven’t mentioned – if so, share some pics and your ideas with us on Facebook!

73 de nj4y

Logging and Log Submissions

I thought it would be worthwhile to do a short post about log submissions.

You can do your logging just about any way you want, personally I find it easiest to just jot down who I’ve worked, what park they were in and the other qso details on a notepad while operating. Then, I can type the log in later.

Sometimes it’s easier to just log directly in the computer (like during a pileup). If conditions are good or it’s a big contest, that’s how I’ll normally do it. N1MM or similar contest logging programs make it easy.

We’ve provided ways to submit logs however you choose to record them. If they are on paper, you can type them after the fact into the provided web form for submission (link at the bottom of this page), scan in and email your logsheet, or even mail the paper copies to us for scoring. (If you can, use the web form, it makes life easier for the scoring guys 🙂

If you use a computer for logging during the event, you can export a cabrillo file (a common file format for contest logging) and email it to us.

Whichever way you choose to send in your logs, we do require that you fill out a contest Summary Sheet for each park you activated during the event. This has your location and callsign details, total calculated score as well as details on any bonuses you earned. You can email that file to us at logs@flspota.org, using your callsign in the subject line.

The Summary Sheet lets us quickly sort through each contestant, and your actual qso logs (in whatever format) lets us verify your score, claimed bonuses, etc. so be sure to include both!

That’s the basics, check out flspota.org/logs for everything you need to log and submit your scores for Florida State Parks on the Air! The Summary sheets and a PDF logging template are provided at the top of the page.

Don’t forget to email us your activation plans so we can let other participants know where to look for you on the air! Check out flspota.org/activations for details.

73,

Matt, nj4y

Getting ready for 2018 FLSPOTA, April 7…. and 8th!

Hey everybody! There’s just a couple of months to go before this years contest on April 7-8. We’ve been working to get everything updated on the website to reflect a few changes. Based on participant input from last year, we’ve tweaked a few things in the rules for this year:

Yes you read that right. April 7-8…based on comments from last year, we decided to make this year’s a 2 day event! 8 hours each day (during park hours) on Saturday and Sunday, the first full weekend in April.

Added digital modes! Hopefully this should help with the downturned solar cycle. There are now categories for Digi, SSB, CW and Mixed.

Bonus scoring has changed. Bonus points are now added separately after totaling your QSO points/multipliers. This includes the K4LKL +10 bonus. This will simplify the scoring process for both you as participants, and also the awards committee. It also allows us to add other bonus opportunities like…

A satellite bonus! +35 points for making a satellite qso either from the park you’re activating, or with a station in a park (for chasers).

See http://flspota.org/rules/ for the full details.

Additionally, I’ll be setting up a regular mailing list for operators, and migrating the yahoo group to there over the next week or so. Yahoo has had enough issues where I think we’d be better served using a mailman system like QRP-L etc.

Updates will be posted here and on Facebook at https://facebook.com/FLSPOTA/

And as always, send your activation plans to activations@flspota.org and we will feature them on our activations page.

A big thanks to Corey, N1COR for helping out with a lot of the work behind this. Looking forward to this years event!

Finally – Results from the First Annual FLSPOTA!

In Park

Low Power

Single op

  • Mixed
    • 1) KW4MG
    • 2) N4KGL
    • 3) N6MRS
  • SSB
    • 1) N1COR
    • 2) W8RD
    • 3) KD2JA

Multi-Multi

  • SSB
    • 1) W4OT
    • 2) W4AVM

QRP

Single op

  •  Mixed
    1) K3TW
  •  CW
    • 1) N8NN
    • 2) W8RDG

 

Home Station – Florida

Low Power

Single op

  • Mixed
    • 1) KM4BAO

DX

Low Power

Single op

  • Mixed
    • 1) VE2GT

Full score breakdown:

CALL QSO’S BONUS MULTS SCORE QTH FL PARK POWER MODE CATEGORY
KW4MG 147 10 3 471 OLR LOW MIXED SINGLE
W4OT 35 20 2 110 PRC LOW SSB MULTI
N1COR 92 92 LOU LOW SSB SINGLE
W8RD 43 43 HNY LOW SSB SINGLE
K3TW 20 20 CRA/CRP/COO/WIT QPR MIXED SINGLE
VE2GT 4 10 3 42 QC LOW SSB SINGLE
N4KGL 16 10 2 42 SGI LOW MIXED SINGLE
N6MRS 13 13 CCR LOW MIXED SINGLE
N8NN 11 11 GRF QRP CW SINGLE
KD2JA 7 7 OLE LOW SINGLE
KM4BAO 2 2 4 FL LOW SSB SINGLE
N4XDI 3 3 CFG LOW MIXED SINGLE
N4BLH 3 3 SEB LOW SSB SINGLE
W4AVM 3 3 HIL LOW SSB MULTI
W8RDG 2 2 OSC QRP CW SINGLE

Web-to-Cabrillo log submission

Participants using paper logs now have another option to submit their logs after the contest!

The preferred method for submitting paper logs is by using the Web-to-Cabrillo form provided by Bruce, WA7BNM at http://www.b4h.net/cabforms/fspota_cab3.php.

This form will be activated for log submissions after the contest is over.

A huge thanks to Bruce for working with us on short notice to incorporate our contest into his log submission system. You are still free to use the hardcopy logsheet and score summary sheet provided on the log submission page at http://flspota.org/logs

However, by using the Web-to-Cabrillo form, the scoring process will be made much easier for contest committee…which for you, means quicker results after the contest is over!

More activation plans!

Here’s the most up-to-date version of the planned activations list! Looks like we are going to  have a really good turnout. Thanks to everyone for sending me their info, keep it coming!

N1COR, Lake Louisa (LOU) – Corey, N1COR is planning to activate Lake Louisa for the contest on April 1, operation on 20m phone, other bands possible. More details on his blog: http://n1cor.com/2017/03/planned-activation-for-florida-state-parks-on-the-air/

W4AVM, Hillsborough River (HIL) – The members of the American Victory Radio Club will be activating Hillsborough River State Park for the contest on April 1.

WD4RCC, Collier-Seminole State Park (COL) – Check spotting cluster for bands/modes.

N4BLH, Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Sebastian Inlet State Park (SEB) – 10m planned.

N8NN, Lake Griffin State Park (GRF) – Operation will be single operator, QRP

W8RD, Honeymoon Island State Park (HNY) – Single operator, low power. 20m and 40m SSB.

KW4MG, Oleta River State Park (OLR) – Single operator.

N4KGL, Saint Andrew’s State Park (AND) – Single operator.

N6MRS, Colt Creek State Park (CCR) – Single operator, low power CW.

KI4NBE, General James A. Van Fleet Trail (VFT) – Single operator, low power SSB.

W8RDG, Oscar Scherer State Park (OSC) – Single op, QRP CW only, 20 & 40 Meters.

N4DXI, Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway (CFG) – Single op, low power. 20 m SSB primary, also 15 and 40 SSB. CW possible if condx demand.

K3TW, Citrus County Area Parks (COO, CRA, CRP, WIT) – Single Operator, concentrating on CW, 40m, 20m and 10m.

*****BONUS STATIONS*****

K4LKL, Daytona Area Parks (Possible TOM, FAV, BCR, WOG) – Single operator, low power SSB. 20m primary, with capabilities for 40m-10m if condx require.

K4LKL, Withlacoochee State Trail (WIT) – Single operator, low power CW. 40m-10m as condx require.

​73​

– Matthew​ kk4fem​

Second K4LKL Bonus Station at Withlacoochee State Trail (WIT)

Here is the final list of bonus station locations for Saturday!

*****BONUS STATIONS*****

K4LKL, Daytona Area Parks (Possible TOM, FAV, BCR, WOG) – Single operator, low power SSB. 20m primary, with capabilities for 40m-10m if condx require.

K4LKL, Withlacoochee State Trail (WIT) – Single operator, low power CW. 40m-10m as condx require.

Planned Activations List Update

Here is the most up to date list of planned activations that clubs and individuals have let me know about. If you have any additions, let us know in the next few days – we’ll add you to the list so chasers know who to look for!

We are planning to have another K4LKL bonus station on the air from at least one, possibly multiple parks, with operations primarily on CW. More details to come as plans are finalized!

You can find this page at http://flspota.org/activations/
———————————————————————————-
N1COR, Lake Louisa (LOU) – Corey, N1COR is planning to activate Lake Louisa for the contest on April 1, operation on 20m phone, other bands possible. More details on his blog: http://n1cor.com/2017/03/planned-activation-for-florida-state-parks-on-the-air/

W4AVM, Hillsborough River (HIL) – The members of the American Victory Radio Club will be activating Hillsborough River State Park for the contest on April 1.

WD4RCC, Collier-Seminole State Park (COL) – Check spotting cluster for bands/modes.

N4BLH, Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Sebastian Inlet State Park (SEB) – 10m planned.

N8NN, Lake Griffin State Park (GRF) – Operation will be single operator, QRP

W8RD, Honeymoon Island State Park (HNY) – Single operator, low power. 20m and 40m SSB.

KW4MG, Oleta River State Park (OLR) – Single operator.

N4KGL, Saint Andrew’s State Park (AND) – Single operator.

N6MRS, Colt Creek State Park (CCR) – Single operator, low power CW.

*****BONUS STATIONS*****

K4LKL, Daytona Area Parks (Possible TOM, FAV, BCR, WOG) – Single operator, low power SSB. 20m primary, with capabilities for 40m-10m if condx require.

​73​,

– Matthew ​ kk4fem​

Update on Paper Log Submissions

Due to an oversight in integrating the FLSPOTA contest with the LM log conversion software, the contest committee has made the decision to allow paper log submissions for the contest next Saturday (April 1st).

To facilitate this update, we have created a paper logsheet and score summary sheet, which can be downloaded and printed by contestants who intend to use paper logging during the contest.

Logsheet: http://flspota.org/files/flspota-logsheet.pdf
Score Summary: http://flspota.org/files/flspota-score-summary.pdf

Instructions for completing and submitting these forms can be found on the log submission page.

Remember, all logs must be submitted (or postmarked) no later than 14 days after the contest date. We hope this change will make the contest more enjoyable for all participants!

Any questions/comments may be directed to kk4fem@flspota.org

73, and look forward to working you on April 1st!

Matt, kk4fem