N3MK Canoe Expedition 2002

PSK-31 in the Boundary Waters

August 23rd - August 31st 2002

BWCA 2002 QSL CardPODXS 070 Club070 Club APE


Another Great Trip!

    It was another great year in the Boundary Waters.  Thanks to everyone who made the effort to dig my signal out for the 070 club APE award!


More details of the trip


LOGS 2002:    PSK-31    C.W.


  It's almost time for another expedition to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. I've been making the trip for 8 years now and will probably continue to travel there for many more years. There is nothing like the quite like the BWCA.  The tradition in our family goes back to the early '70s. See www.bwca-adventures.com for information on previous trips.

    Last year I made my first PSK-31 expedition (2001) which turned out to be an incredible challenge. The hard drive in my pen computer suffered several crashes, my flexible solar panel was damaged and variable sun conditions made operating very difficult. I even managed to lose my only pair of eyeglasses in the lake. Still I managed to make 17 contacts last year.

    This year I'll be working with a different set of equipment. I now have an FT-817 for all band operation and a Fujitsu Lifebook P notebook computer for PSK-31 operation. I was hoping to use the tiny Sharp Zaurus PDA for this trip, but initial versions of a PSK-31 program from Edson Pereira showed that the PSK-31 routines would need to be re-written for integer calculations instead of floating point to operate efficiently. The program hasn't been completed.

    The FT-817 has been a great rig for me. However, current requirements are much higher than the PSK-20 I used last year. The internal battery pack has 1700 mAh cells in it which will only allow for a limited amount of operating time. I'm looking into some type of external power pack. I've settled on using 2 12v 5 Ah gell cells. That's 8 lbs of cells but we will be base camping most of the time so I should be ok. Two gel cells will last for days in case the sun doesn't make a showing.

    FT-817 High Power Mod: I've performed the high power software mod found on www.mods.dk . I thought it would add a bit of insurance if propagation is rough while I'm out there. The mod  seems to work well. I ended up using completely different numbers in the menus probably due to different part tolerances in the rigs. I've settled on the settings of 10, 5, 3, 2 watts. I can change any of these settings on the fly. The rig does get a bit hot  but it will be running in a fairly cool environment.  I'm going to attach a small heat sink to the back of the rig for extra insurance. 

      During battery testing I found that NiMH was not very happy with the high current demands required for a 10 to 15 watt output. They seemed to resist an output of more than 7 watts, a current of around 2.5 amps. The gel cell on the other hand happily supplied the current required up to the maximum output of the rig.

    I'll be taking my 80 meter warbler along with me because I've had several requests to attempt warbler to warbler contacts. August is about the worst time of year for 80 meters but I'll give it a shot. I'll call CQ on at least a few days at 02:00. Warblers keep an eye out for me.

    The Lifebook is a true wonder. It has a Crusoe 800 MHz processor, 256 MB RAM, 20 GB drive a 1280 x 768 screen and a built in DVD/CD burner. All this fits into a 3.4 lb package. For this trip I'll be swapping the DVD drive with an extra battery to provide up to 14 hrs of operating time. The Lifebook does not have built in serial ports but instead has two USB ports. I purchased two USB to serial adapters. I'll be using one adapter for the trip for the CAT interface. PTT is controlled through CAT. Last years hard drive disaster taught me that I'll need to be extra careful with the laptop. The laptop will be in a cushioned case inside the Pelican waterproof box. 

    I'll be using my trusty solar panel from last year.  The flexible solar panel was damaged on the trip out to the BWCA last year. A rivet in my luggage caused a deep dimple in the panel. Amazingly the panel still puts out full power. I've tested the panel with my Lifebook computer and it seems to charge the laptop just fine. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to power the FT-817. I'm testing an 5.0 amp 12v gel cell for use on this trip.

    Thanks to a posting on eham.com last year I found a great way to raise the delta loop. I screw an eye screw into a golf ball (hopefully not liquid filled) and tie it to the end of my fishing line. Then I simply cast it over the tallest tree I can find. The weight of the ball pretty much guarantees that it will drop to the ground. Once I find the golf ball, I cut it off the line and attach the apex of the delta loop to the fishing line. Then I just reel the line in until the apex is at the top of the tree and tie off the fishing line.  It's best to have a couple helpers around to help keep the delta loop from getting tangled while it's being raised. The loop consists of about 77' of wire fed with 300 ohm ladder line fed at the base. Two ropes are used to create the delta loop. It should look like a triangle with the base at least 7ft above the ground.  I usually stake the ropes into the ground so I can easily pull them up and rotate the loop when I feel the need. I use the ZM-2 tuner to tune it up on any band. The delta loop is by far my favorite antenna. 

    In addition to the delta loop, I may try a wire vertical antenna. I'll hang about a 1/2 wavelength of wire for 40 meters. The counterpoise will be about 50 feet of bare copper wire running into the lake. This could prove interesting.

Hint: If you try the golf ball method and miss your target, don't  try to reel the line in with the gold ball still attached or it WILL get tangled in the trees.. Cut the golf ball off the line before reeling it back in.


     The current equipment list includes:

Fujitsu Lifebook PYaesu FT-817GP 1800 mAh AAEmtech ZM-2Trusty Unisolar solar panelPelican water proof cases



Waiting out a rain storm Don, N3MK

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