That’s right folks, I went to NEARfest. No, not the progressive rock festival but the New England Amateur Radio festival held every spring and fall in Deerfield NH. It’s considered to be New England’s largest and most attended hamfest. If you’re an amateur radio operator in the Northeast then there is no way you never heard about it. Due to other things going on in my life, it was either play in the New England QSO party (NEQP) or NEARfest. I can’t do both so I went to NEARfest but for only Friday.
Even though it’s not true, I’ll just say I’ve never been to NEARfest. I’ve been to Hosstraders which was the name of the hamfest before but I was very young and didn’t really pay attention to anything that was going on.
I left early Friday morning in hopes of getting there early. Further east I got, the more traffic started building up for those who are commuting to the Boston area. I got to the Fairground around 8:00 with a line of 20 or so cars of those who didn’t have tickets to “Get In” the fairgrounds. As the gates opened I was impressed in how fast people and cars were herded into the fair grounds. I was expecting a long wait because I assumed they were going to “inspect” everyone’s tickets. They did a great thing and sold tickets to every car in the waiting line.
Upon entering and parking, I wanted to shop right away to scoop up any deals before anyone else did. However I found out that most of the tailgating vendors were in the line with me and still had to setup. So the walk around the fairgrounds was to get a layout of the land. As more tailgaters and vendors were lining up I went around again and started purchasing stuff
My Shopping List
- 250pf Variable Capacitor (Antenna Project)
- Toroids – Various sizes and types (Antennas / RFI projects)
- MCX to SMA connector (RTL-SDR)
- Soldering Station (Grounded Variable Temp)
- Various RF connectors
- RG-213 cable
What I ended up purchasing:
- Rigrunner - Well within my price range
- MH-31 Handheld Dynamic Mic ( For my FT-736R)
- 250pf Cap (not the butterfly type like I was hoping)
- Toroids – Two tailgaters were selling various toroids. Wasn’t sure of value but purchased anyway
- Various sizes and values of variable caps – They were cheap enough
- MCX to SMA cable
- Battery for my Motorola XTS3000
- RG214 cable
So I purchased some stuff that was not on my list. Who doesn’t
To be honest I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up. For the most part everyone was friendly and you can see the “cliques” forming. All the military stuff was in one area, all the whackers had their light shows parked next to each other and it appeared that it was more of a social gathering of hams than a “Flea Market”. I was expecting NEARfest to be similar to the Swap/Sale section of the QRZ forums with everything marked up because it’s “Vintage”, “Rare” or “Barley Used” but I was glad to see that most of the tailgaters and vendors had decent prices with a sprinkle of those who think their equipment should go for as it were new.
When it comes to anything amateur radio related, I expected the smelly ham, the mega obese ham, the scooter ham, the mega nerd and the high visibility whacker ham. What is a Ham Fest without them. I was expected to see them, I did and I am used to that. However this year I saw quite a few “Boston Marathon” hams to point where I could have made a drinking game for every one I saw. I guess by wearing the neon yellow (or blue) jacket you’re telling everyone in eyesight that ”I was there man”. I am not sure of a reason to wear that jacket other than at the Boston Marathon or to show off that you were at a tragic event. I’m still not clear as to why someone would constantly wear it. Haven’t notice people wearing previous years jackets like what I saw this weekend.
On another note, I got to meet and have a very small chat with Burt Fisher (K1OIK), who is a known in the Amateur Radio world for his youtube videos, some of which are very controversial. Some might find him to be offensive, a trouble maker and demeaning to amateur radio but I really don’t think so. I may not agree with everything he says but he is just a person with an opinion. With differences aside, He has a lot of very informative videos so I give him credit.
I would have to say that I had good time. However I wouldn’t return unless I had a reason to go that would make the effort worth it. I could have purchased all the stuff that I got from the fest online for similar prices including shipping. If I had a bunch of stuff to sell or was looking to purchase a big ticket item such as a transceiver, amplifier or antenna rotor then I can see it worth returning. If you’re active in amateur radio in the Northeast, then I would at least go once.
Thanks for reading,
Jeff – NT1K
I’ve been wanting to do a SOTA (Summits On The Air) activation for quite some time and I finally had the chance to go so I took advantage of it. For those who don’t know, SOTA is “Summits On The Air”. Take your equipment, climb a mountain (or hill) with your gear and make at least 4 contacts in order for it to be a successful activation. What’s great about SOTA is that it gets you off your butt and go outdoors. Another great thing about it is that there is a website where you are allowed to self spot so at least others know where you are. After you are done you upload or enter you logs into the website and you can start competing with others in the area and possibly get awards.
In my last article, I made a 3EL Yagi using a tape measure that I didn’t use other than waving it around like a mad man in my back yard. I built the Yagi so I can participate in outdoor activities like radio direction finding and SOTA. So for the past month or so I’ve been itching and looking for any excuse to use this antenna. Nick (K1MAZ) mentioned that he was going to activate Mt. Norwottock after he gets out of work alone. Since my night was free and available, I contacted nick to see if I can tag along which he said sure.
Since this was last second, I ran around the house trying to locate the things that I would think I need for a SOTA activation based off of what I’ve read from other peoples SOTA adventures. I took along my Yagi, Two 2M HT’s, adapters, lots of tape, extra stubby antennas, multi-tool, knife, stuff to keep me warm. Away I went into the dark to drive to “The Notch”.
Here is a map of the State park. The line is red is that path from the visitors center to the summit.
Here is the APRS map of our hike. You will notice that we sort of took a wrong turn. Trail markers are a lot harder to see at night! After we fixed our headings, the climb started and I realized a couple minutes into the “climb” that I am out of shape. I kept stopping, huffing and puffing while Nick was having no issue with the climb. I wasn’t sure if it was all due to being out of shape or wearing very thick clothing .
Once we reached the summit, I was hot to trot so I immediately got the Yagi going and left Nick to assemble his HF wire antenna. I should have helped him but I was a little to excited and wanted to get on the air right away. After making the bulk of my contacts, I’ve stopped to help him finish installing the antenna.
This was the setup that I was using. My homebrew 3EL Yagi and the Wouxun kg-uvd1p handheld.
Since there was cell/data coverage on the summit, I spotted my self on the local clubs FaceBook page and thought I spotted myself on SOTAwatch. Got on 146.520 Mhz (AKA National calling freq) and started calling CQ. As there is little to no activity around here on 146.520, I decided to stay on that frequency as it was not causing any harm. Not even a minute of calling CQ, I was contacted by ED (KB1NWH) from his QTH 22Mi away from my location as well as Mike (N1TA). At the point I was assuming that they and some of the SOTA regulars in the area were going to be my only contacts. I was wrong… One of the people that worked me or saw my post on Facebook went on the local repeater and announced that I was up there. That opened up the flood gates and I worked the following
- AB1RS – Rich
- KB1PWH -
- WD1S – James
- W1MSW – Matt (SOTA Jerks)
- N1FDC – Phil
- KB1VPN – Jake
- K1YO – Bob (Mobile)
- KK1W – Jim (SOTA Jerks)
- WI1N – Charles
- WC1Y – Rory
- KB1JFQ – Chuck (SOTA Regular)
- WW1X – Rockwell (SOTA Regular)
- N1KXR – Rich
A total of 15 Contacts on VHF.
All these people coming out to work me made all the troubles I had getting up there worth it. I was going up there thinking that I wouldn’t have enough contacts to make the activation count but thanks to those listed above, I now have 1 activator point.
I’ve learned a lot by this one trip. The tape measure yagi turned out to be a success! Almost everyone that contacted me on VHF was strong and DFQ.
I plotted out all the contacts I made based on their address on QRZ.com, Two of them were mobile stations so I just put markers to area where they reported they were.
Everyone was pretty much “From The Valley” and all contacts I’ve had were crystal clear. I had a backup two meter radio and I should have used it to compare using the rubber duck to using the yagi but that thought escaped me.
HF Side of Things
Nick was more interested in the HF side to the hike. He brought along his FT100, MFJ Tuner, G5RV and coax. When we reached the summit area, Nick when right to work putting up his antenna in the dark. He didn’t get the antenna as high as he wanted it (8-10ft off the ground) but used it anyways. Once everything was set, Nick spotted then went on the air.
Here is a little video I took.
At first all the locals were calling and then some of the SOTA regulars started contacting him as well.
Between 80M and 40M, Nick had 15 contacts and I had 7.
This was just a quick last minute thing for me so I didn’t have much time to plan. I quickly gathered anything that would fit in my pockets of my cargo pants and was more worried about staying warm than anything else.
Even though the Yagi I was using didn’t weigh much and it didn’t give me an issue during the climb, It started to “feel” heavy while I was using it. Holding that and the radio at the same time made logging contacts very difficult. Not sure if it was me or the cold weather but the radio kept changing frequencies which made things a little more difficult. I am going to modify the yagi so I can put it on a Tripod and I am going to make it so the radio can be mounted to the tripod as well and use a speaker/mic to make contacts.
Overall I had a great time and I want to do it again with VHF. If I keep doing it, I might pickup some portable HF gear.
Thanks for reading
Things have been kind of slow since Field Day. I Don’t have the drive to pickup the microphone (or practice on the key). It doesn’t stop me from doing stuff in the background. I was looking at my station and was disgusted by how it was setup. I had equipment on top of equipment and a rat’s nest of wires behind my desk.
I recently saw an Antenna Tuner” come up for sale on eBay that matched what I needed which consisted of having a variable inductor and that it can handle at least 1000 watts. It was also within the price range that I could afford so I took a chance.
It was the Heathkit SA-2060A tuner. After reading review after review, I put this on my list of potential tuners. The only complaints I hear about this particular tuner is that the hardware becomes loose after use. Since they are kits when they were first sold, The build quality depends on the operator who built it. When I received the tuner, I opened it up and made sure everything was tight and soldered correctly. It appears that it’s in great shape and I did no work to it other than some light sanding using a fine scotch-brite pad.
The reason I decided to get a tuner is because of my antenna(s). At the time I really have only one HF antenna which is my home-brew G5RV wire dipole antenna. Once you started getting away from 20 meters, the mis-matched antenna places a strain on my tubes that are located in the amplifier. The “tuner” should help that out.
However I had no room for it. I didn’t want to stack the amplifier or anything else on it so I decided that I need to do something about my desk to keep everyone happy. I ended up fabricating a shelf that spans across the entire desk which would allow for me to put more stuff on my desk.
I’m liking it better than the previous setup. The most important piece is right in the middle and a tiny bit easier to get to.
I had a chance to work some DX with the new layout. Here it is in action with LA4UOA (Tor in Norway)
Now I just have to clean the rest of the office.
I am debating on placing advertising on this site. I am not a fan of advertisements and wanted to keep this site AD free but running this site isn’t free. It’s not much compared to other websites but any income I can get that would offset the costs would help greatly. I also might place ads on my YouTube videos. Not looking to make AMAZING profits but hopefully enough to cover the hosting.
That’s right! I went to ARRL HQ again. With it being in reasonable distance from my QTH, how can I NOT resist on going there often. I try to go at least once a year. I also try to see and or do something different everytime I go. Last year when I went down, the Lab where they test a lot of the things you read in QST was being remodeled so I made it a point to go back when it was operational again.
Here is ARRL HQ which is located directly behind the Hiram Percy Maxim W1AW building. They have scheduled tours provided by a great bunch of Volunteers whom take pride in their work. I had the same person as last time which was Dan Arnold (W1CNI) who gave the tour. Since I was the only one there, I only expressed interest in the lab and wanted to visit the VEC so I can take care of some VE stuff. I figured to kill two birds with one stone. If you didn’t read about the last time I went to ARRL HQ, Read about it here
Here is just a part of the ARRL Lab. At lot about the product reviews you read have most likely been tested here.
Here is where a lot of tests take place. The walls, floor and ceiling are lined with metal and RF absorbing material. You also see a lot of equipment that I wish I had (A HP Network Analyzer would look really good on my bench). In the photo is Ed Hare (W1RFI) who does a lot of work in the lab and is very passionate concerning RFI (Hence the call). Very nice person to talk with and I’m glad he does what he does and he’s an asset for the League.
This is why I came down. It’s the W1AW building. It’s where all the toys are at.
Looks small but it’s packed full of fun. In the background you’ll see one of the many towers on the property. At one point this was a lonely building on a hill and now it has neighborhoods all around it and with HQ in the back. I Guess nobody can complain about the towers since they were there before their house was.
MORE TOWERS!!! Oh man I wish I had just one tower…. Okay, maybe two. A lot of these are fixed beams that are used for the ARRL Bulletins and some of them are on rotors to be pointed where needed.
Here is studio one. You have a Yeasu FTdx9000D in the foreground and you have the Icom IC-7700 in the background. I wanted to use the 7700 because of the PR-781 microphone that was attached to it. I was interested in how they hooked it up. Since I am Biased towards the Yeasu, I got to say that I really like the 7700 If by some miracle I have that kind of money the throw at a rig, I would consider getting the IC-7700 over its Yaesu counterpart. I like the nice clear screen, The VFO knob with nice and smooth, All the important adjustment that are needed are up front, None of that menu driven stuff and the audio sounded great coming out of it.
Here I am at the control of the IC-7700. Muahahahahah!! I started off on 20M SSB calling CQ, the band wasn’t open so I made a lot of US contacts. I then went on 15M finding that it also was just as dead. Not sure if I was allowed to but I played with the Rotor and had the 4 El beam pointing South East (135 Degrees) and got a lot of people calling with the occasional pileup. It was great hearing some people say, “I always wanted to make contact with W1AW. This is my first time!” I’ve also heard a couple of people tell me their W1AW stories. It’s also fun when Saudi Stations are calling me (Well… W1AW) when I’m the one fighting in pileups to contact them.
Overall has a really fun day trip. Wish I could have stayed a lot longer but was worth it. Maybe I can squeeze in another trip. If you happen to be in the Hartford CT area or you know you’re going to be. Give the ARRL a call to make sure they will be ready when you get there. Getting to use the W1AW call is fun because most times there is a pileup
Even though Field Day (FD) is weeks away, the planning of it gets me excited knowing that it’s near. Field day is the basically the main reason why I got my license. During my CB days, someone brought me to a field day hosted by the MTARA (Mount Tom Amateur Radio Assn.) on top of Mount Tom around 1995. I recall being on 14mhz using a Kenwood TS-440 and was making contacts all around the country. Compared to CB I was amazed about the contacts I was making considering I would never hear the stations, let alone make contact with them on CB. Field day was the kick in the ass to get my license and pretty much put CB behind me.
For those who don’t know what Field Day is, I would check out this website that would explain it in more detail then I could. It’s a emergency preparedness exercise where operators try to contact with as many other operators as possible. Even though you don’t have to, it’s encouraged that you bring your gear and communicate from a field, hence “Field” Day. A lot of local Amatuer Radio Clubs put on events related to FD to have fun and also promote Amateur Radio to the general public at the same time.
Last year I participated in Field Day with the Hampden County Amateur Radio Association running the digital station.
This year I will be running SSB on 40M (7mhz) with the HCRA again at Dufresne Park in Granby MA. If you are in the area. You should stop by and check it out. Go Here for more information
You can now visit the NT1K Webcam here.
I’ve decided to add a webcam to the NT1K shack and it will be broadcasting whenever I’m on the air for an extended period of time. The audio will be fed from the radio so you can hear whats going on the Air. It’s the best choice since I mainly use headphones while on the radio. The camera will either be focused on the shack itself or the front panel of my radio so you can see what freq I am on and possibly see how well you come across my station.
Press the play button. If it says “Recorded Live” that means I’m not live and you’re seeing/hearing a past QSO.
If I happen to remember, hopefully you will see QSO’s with DX stations
Congratulations to those who attended the Ham Radio Classes at the Moose Family center in Chicopee MA. It was great to see a lot of people interested in either getting a license or upgrading to a general or extra.
The classes seem to go okay. It’s pretty difficult to cover all the sub elements with the time that we have but everyone stuck around and put their best foot forward.
We now have
- 9 New Technicicans
- 9 New Generals
- 5 New Extras
Some of the new generals started off with no license at all and it’s great to see all the hard work pay off. There were some who didn’t pass what they wanted to get but it’s not the end of the world. You have the book, and there are a lot of places you can ask questions for the areas you’re having trouble with. If you stick with it, you’ll have your license or upgrader sooner than you think.
From a VE Standpoint, It was the Biggest VE exam I’ve taken part in. It started off real slow as the candidates we’re all testing but then a big surge of tests started coming in which made for a busy afternoon.
Overall it was great. I’ve learned a lot about how these classes go and If I have the chance to do it again, I most likely would.
Hope to hear all the licensees on the air
I am no longer known as N1BMX. I am now known as NT1K
I decided to change my callsign from N1BMX to NT1K because I am not involved anymore with BMX (Bicycle Motocross). When people see BMX then see me, they see this huge guy that obviously doesn’t ride bicycles, let alone a 20″ Bicycle. I browse AE7Q’s vanity list quite often and saw N1DE has passed it’s grace period and is up for grabs. I’ve applied for vanities in the past that got dismissed but this time I wanted to change my call for good. So I looked the 2X1 calls and added a call that appears that no one else is applying for. NT1K stuck out to me so I also applied for it.
For those who don’t know how the vanity system works, it is somewhat simple. (continue reading…)
This year I participated in Field Day with the Hampden County Radio Association. Instead of dropping by a site and using their equipment, I decided to offer up my equipment for use as the “HF DIGITAL” station. Other than a couple of software issues, the Digital station was a success with over 170 contacts.
Here are the pictures I’ve taken from Field Day
Check out Hampden County Radio Association’s Website for information about Field Day.
I will be participating in Field Day this year with the folks from the Hampden County Radio Assocation ( HCRA ). I’m excited because I will be using my FT-950 as the site’s HF Digital station (Mostly PSK, RTTY). So if you live or will be in the Western Mass area on the 25th and 26th of June and want to see Field Day up close, we’re going to be at Dufresne Recreation Area in Granby, Massachusetts. All are welcomed, licensed or not. Please visit the Field Day page on HCRA’s website. Also check out pictures and data from prior years
For those who don’t know about Field Day, It’s basically an event that takes place on the 4th weekend of June to test emergency communications and it’s deployment. Over 30,000 operators across US try to communicate with as many other field day operators as possible. Points are awarded to operators and/or clubs that make contacts and perform other tasks that would allow for more points ( For example: media coverage, getting Non Hams on the air [GOTA], Copying/fowarding messages). Some Hams treat this as contest even though the ARRL considers it an exercise. Whatever the case may be, it’s really fun and it can get you out of the house.
I’ve participated in Field Day multiple times at multiple hosts over the years. I’ve had a Digital setup back in 2004 and had a blast. I recall being very busy using digital back then, I hope that it’s even more popular this year compared to 2004 and hope to be more busy making contacts all over HF.
What: ARRL Field Day Hosted By the Hampden County Radios Association
When: Saturday, June 25th, at 14:00 (2pm), untill Sunday, June 26th
Where: Dufresne Recreation Area, Granby MA, 01033
Why: Because it’s fun, social and you get to operate all different type of equipment.
Hope to hear or see you at Field Day!!