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Hi, my name is Marty Ray and I live in central Indiana. I have been a ham since 1980 (Novice call, KA9HQK) and I enjoy DXing, and Contesting.

I got started in amateur radio at age 16. I found out about ham radio when I saw a CQ magazine at the local grocery store. (yes, they had CQ at my small town grocery store!) I was lucky to have a ham living just a block away who became my mentor....(lookup K9QHO)... I went on to graduate from Purdue University and am now an engineer.  

I hope that, someday, I too can be a good role model for a young ham!

An ice storm destroyed my antennas in 2003. As with many other hams, life intervened. I was busy with family, my engineering career, volunteer work and finally getting around to getting my masters degree, so I was virtually inactive for 10 years. After I finished my masters degree, I decided to get back on the air again in 2014.

My Station

My current station consists of an Elecraft K3s and an Alpha 78 amplifier. I also have a Ten-Tec Omni VI+ that comes out of storage on occasion. I also enjoy using older equipment. I have a Collins KWS-1 transmitter and a 75A-4 receiver which are a true pleasure to use. I also like participating in the Novice Rig Roundup events, during which I use a number of rigs, including a Hallicrafters HQ-110 receiver, a Johnson Viking Adventurer transmitter, a Heathkit DX-60B transmitter, and a Drake 2NT/2C combo. 

 

Let's talk antennas. Prior to the ice storm, I had a large 4-element quad mounted on a 72' tower. It worked GREAT. After returning to the air waves in 2014, I used a simple 46' dipole mounted at 30 feet for a few months. Eventually I began thinking about something to replace that big quad I had been so fond of. I started looking at the current offerings from Steppir, Force 12, OptiBeam, and Cubex, but before jumping back in with another large rotatable antenna, I decided to see how much I could accomplish just using dipoles. 

I had really good success in 2015 and 2016 with a pair of orthogonal inverted-V fan dipoles mounted at 68 feet. I spent the winter of 2016/2017 developing NEC models for an improved multi-band wire antenna design. I finally settled on a Lazy-H design (W8JI has some good information on curatin arrays.) 

I currently have two Lazy-H antennas and a 130' doublet. I feed these antennas with open wire line that I constructed (see http://www.73cnc.com). All three antennas are routed to a homebrew remote matching network installed at the base of the tower.

For 160 meters, my transmit antenna is an inverted-L with two elevated radials. I built a homebrew Shared Apex Loop antenna for receiving, but I decommissioned it in favor of a Beverage On Ground (BOG). When I was active in the early 2000's, I put an 800' beverage in the field behind our house every winter, but I find that this 200' BOG performs just as well with a lot less hassle. Next year I plan to add BOGs for other directions. I also have a pair of 10 ft verticals that I use with a very old, very beat up MFJ-1025. I use these to help defeat my neighbors' plasma TVs on certain frequencies.

 

CW, DXing and QRP

I operate CW on the HF bands and enjoy using straight keys, side-swipers and and bugs, (check out http://skccgroup.com). If you are interested in learning CW, check out the CW Academy sponsored by CWops. Thousands of radio amateurs have learned CW through the CWA. If you already know Morse code, traffic nets provide an excellent means for improving your skills (see below). After taking 10 years off, my CW skills were really rusty, but my CW proficiency has dramatically improved after becoming involved in traffic handling. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but when returned from inactivity, I could reliably copy text at only 15WPM. Now I can copy traffic at 25WPM, and I am still improving. (A note on proficiency: There is a difference between 35WPM contesting and having a conversation or passing traffic at 20WPM. Contesting is fun. I enjoy it. But, as I discovered, don't fall into the trap of thinking your Morse code proficiency is 35WPM based on contesting skills.)

           

Because CW is such an efficient mode, it is very popular with low power (QRP) enthusiasts (see http://naqcc.info). I frequently operate using low power and simple wire antennas. It is fun and sometimes challenging. If you have never tried it you may be surprised to discover the enjoyment of making contacts with less power than a child's night light. To illustrate what you can accomplish with modest equipment visit the website of John, K3WWP. Although not as dramatic as John's story, here is my example. When I got back on the air in August 2014, the only antenna I had was a 30M dipole at 30 feet, which I used for all bands. In October I added a 40M dipole at 15 feet (!). In November I installed a 130' OCF dipole at 48 feet fed with ladder line. Using these antennas, in the last five months of 2014 I worked 145 countries, 32 zones, and all 50 states with 5 watts. I also operated mobile and a significant number of my DX contacts were made from the car during my daily commute. 

Here is the breakdown band by band:

Aug-Dec 2014 QRP Results (worked)
BAND DXCC WAS WAZ
All 145 50 32
10 102 9 25
12 37 6 18
15 71 23 26
17 41 6 15
20 47 43 24
30 39 34 15
40 13 45 12
80 3 18 5
160 6 47 7

[note to fellow QRP ops: When I am QRP dxing or contesting I strictly adhere to constraining my power output to less than 5 watts (or <1W in the case of milliwatting), but for normal everyday operating, if the other station is having trouble hearing me, I think it is a good practice to increase power to make it easier on the other op. I typically start at 5W and then increase power if I get a signal report with a Readability lower than 5. I used to keep it at 5 watts until I received an RST of something like a 339, but I have noticed that when other ops report RST 449, instead of saying "I am reading you with practically no difficulty", what many of them really mean is "I am having a lot of trouble hearing you". So, when I hear Readability=4, I bump my power output by 6dB or so. If it's Readability=3, I add 12dB, which is 100W. ...and, yes, I have an amplifier to use when needed.]

Traffic Handling

As I mentioned above, if you are interested in CW, traffic nets provide an excellent means for improving your skills. I became interested in CW traffic nets in 2015. I hadn't given much thought to them since I was a Novice, but I ran across one and was really impressed (perhaps intrigued) with the proficiency of the operators and the way they conducted the net. 

I wasn't sure I would be able to understand all the procedures and keep up with the other stations, but Ivin N9IVI, who was the net manager for the Indiana CW Traffic Net encouraged me to give it a try. I discovered that in order to generate traffic to exercise the system, some operators play chess games by exchanging the moves via radiograms. I decided to try a game of chess with Ivin and have been involved with traffic handling ever since. I am the Net Control Station (NCS) for the Indiana Section CW net (QIN) on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 8PM Eastern. Also, I am honored to be a Radio Relay International (RRI) Inter-Area Network operator, previously known as Trans-Continental Corps (TCC). 

I have found traffic handling to be enjoyable and worthwhile, and I believe that  manual traffic handling is still relevant. I think people are too complacent and take for granted our modern day infrastructure. If checking into a traffic net sounds interesting, but you don't know where to start, get in touch with me and I will try to get you headed in the right direction. Also, Radio Relay International has a mentoring program (http://radio-relay.org/rri-announces-mentoring-program/).

In case you were wondering, Ivin won that first chess game...and the next, but I persevered and I finally manged to beat Ivin a couple of times. I am looking for someone to play outside of Indiana. If you know how to play chess, please get in touch. (Beginner or expert, it doesn't matter. I am willing to embarrass myself in front of anyone on the chess board!).  

Mobile HF

My commute to work takes around an hour, so I operate mobile HF quite frequently. Since so many hams I work are asking about my setup, I decided it was time take some photos and describe the installation. The antenna is a Tarheel 100A-HP, with an MT-1 / MT-4FB mount. On my previous car I used a 102 inch whip on top of the loading coil, but this car sits a little higher off the ground, so I am using the 6 foot whip that came with the antenna. I’m sure I am giving up a little on the lower bands, but it seems to be working great on 40M through 10M. I haven’t had a chance to make any QSOs on 80M yet, but I called CQ on the way to work a few times and checked my signal using the Reverse Beacon Network and saw SNRs of >40dB, so I think it works okay on 80M (update: I had a 15 minute QSO on 80M with WB4JTT in Hawaii(!) right before sunrise on my way to work this morning, so it is definitely working. --New update: 80M QRP mobile is working great in the mornings, I make QSOs with surprising ease, if/when I can find other early risers on the band).

More details: I mounted my KX3 to the dash using a ProClip mount, along with a RAM double socket arm and two VESA pattern 1” ball mount bases. The holes for mounting paddles on the KX3 just happen to be the right spacing for a VESA mount. Using just two screws seems to work fine, (I got the idea from Lidomounts.com). The antenna controller, (a West Mountain Radio Targetuner), is mounted on the center console using another ProClip mount. --UPDATE: After a couple of years of constant vibration, the ProClip mount cracked. I think the KX3 is just a little too heavy. Instead of replacing the mount, I bought a Yaesu FT-891, which has a head unit that is much smaller and lighter than the KX3.

I use a Begali Adventure iambic paddle with a magnetic base and a piece of 1/8 inch thick steel sitting on the arm rest. I don't have a microphone. I suppose one of these days I should break down and buy one, just in case I ever want to try SSB. --UPDATE: The new FT-891 came with a microphone and I actually used it during the Indiana QSO party.

                 

SOTA

Another aspect of the hobby that I enjoy is Summits On The Air (SOTA). After being inspired by videos posted by WG0AT and KK4NQQ, I decided to try it on a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. My first attempt (Cove Mountain) was foiled by an uncooperative black bear, but I did manage to activate Clingman's Dome. I didn't get any photos on the trail, but here are a couple of campsite/equipment photos.

Update: I returned to Cove Mountain in May 2015 and had a successful activation. There was once again a bear, but it was off the trail below Laurel falls. I really enjoyed the trip and plan to go again soon to try for another summit.

 

If you hear me on the air, stop by to say hi!

73, Marty N9SE

 

Supporter of  Radio Relay International (RRI).

SKCC: 12753S

NAQCC: 7425

CWOPS: 1562

8653568 Last modified: 2018-02-16 00:06:35, 16402 bytes

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