New battery power for my FT-817

I have long wanted/needed to upgrade my battery power for my Yaesu FT-817. The prompt came when the internal battery died. My choice was the kit put out by Windcamp; a 3000mAh internal LiPo battery and new battery compartment lid for the radio that comes fitted with a PCB and charging circuitry that allows the supplied mains charger to charge the battery while inside the radio.

The parcel arrived from China beautifully packed. The battery and the new replacement lid came packaged in very nice plastic cases, which, together with the instructions and charger, all fitted into a compact cardboard box for shipping.

The contents of the parcel.

After extracting the individual components from their packaging, it was time to think about installing the battery into the radio.

It is a tight fit but the components plugged together as intended. Note the PCB on the underside of the new lid.

When the battery and associated wiring was all nice and snugly fitted, I popped the lid closed and got ready to charge the new LiPo battery.

The new lid in place and ready for charging.

The charger has a double-coloured LED to indicate the state of the charge: red for charging and green for a completed charge. The initial charge takes around 5 hours to accomplish.

According to the supplied documentation, the rated voltage of the battery is 11.1V, with the output voltage range stated as between 9 and 12.6V. The maximum output current is 4A.

Now to test it in the field.

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Springbrook National Park dissapointing

Sunday 21st May 2015 was to be a good opportunity to work some Park to Park contacts as the VK5 mob had organised a mass activation to coincide with the WIA AGM. So I decided to activate Springbrook summit VK4/SE-011 and Springbrook National Park VKFF-0463.

The only problem was that Cyclone Debbie had washed away all bridges leading up to Springbrook. The only access road was a back road through the Numinbah Valley. So my wife and I set off nice and early on the 1 hour 40 minute run, but missed the crucial turn and ended up going the normal way up, via the Gold Coast. By the time I realised my mistake it was too late; we were committed.

Just as we drove into the Springbrook National Park, we encountered a road block. Those manning it told us what I suspected. If we wanted to reach the summit we’d have to retrace our route back and go the back route – an additional 40 minutes they told us. So we decided to set up the station along the banks of the river just inside the boundary of the park.

My shack for the activation. Nice cover at least.

My rig for the day was the Yaesu FT-817 with an LDG Z-100 Plus ATU, 7a/h gelcell and an endfed antenna supported by a squid pole. My paddle was the Pico Paddle from Palm Radio in Germany.

This was the first time I used my new Sherpa pack. Fabulous.

All went well and I heard loads of traffic on 40m, all working the various VK5 parks. It was the first time I had been working against pile-ups! Fortunately I was able to tail gate a few contacts and worked two parks: Gerard VK2IO in VKFF-1278 and Rob VK2AAC/2 in VKFF-0004. That was the end of my SSB contacts as my 5W was no match for the 100W stations I was competing with. So it was out with the Pico Paddle and within a few minutes I worked Mike VK2CCW and Ian VK2BJT. CW is really great as it allows you to make contacts despite being low power.

I wasn’t able to activate the summit for SOTA; that will be another time now as I have unfinished business. But we did get to log four contacts towards WWFF and saw first hand the damage a cyclone can cause.

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These are some of the trees that were up-rooted during the cyclone.

FT-817 Escort for portable work

I came across mention of the FT-817 Escort on You Tube recently and decided it looked like just the thing I needed. So I ordered one from Portable Zero (http://www.portablezero.com/). It arrived, together with a Sherpa Pack that I also fancied, in about a week.

 

The contents of the package, with a good set of instructions.

Installing the side rails and fold-out stand was easy enough, with no dramas at all. And the completed job looked real cool.

I ordered mine in military green; it also is available in black.

The stand eliminates one of my dislikes of the Yaesu FT-817: it’s hard to read the display when out in the field or even in the shack due to the lack of a tilt stand. The escort also offers protection for the knobs, which are easy to damage or move while in the field.

The stand tilts the rig up nicely. It folds away easily too for transportation.

I have enjoyed using the rig now in the shack and look forward to taking it on an activation.

The radio is use in the shack.

Activating Fort Lytton, VKFF-0179

I decided to activate Fort Lytton National Park  on Sunday 23 April 2017 for two reasons: firstly it has never been activated before and secondly, it’s considered to be the birth place of Queensland’s military history.

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The above picture is of the Fort’s parade ground.

This coastal fortress served as Brisbane’s primary defences from 1881 until 1965. It was even used during WW11, when some 89 US submarines were docked here for repairs during the war.

There is an interesting museum there now, including a good display of military radio’s, which I particularly liked.

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I was fortunate in finding an excellent operating position, right alongside the river under a gazebo. The picnic bench was just perfect and it was unoccupied.

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Being a first activation meant that I was able to make a quick ten contacts, on both SSB as well as CW. The rig I used was my FT-817 that tuned an end-fed long wire by means of an LDG auto tuner. My key was my new pico paddle, which worked beautifully.

The weather was perfect, the exhibits were wonderful and the activation was a success. Will need to revisit this site again sometime.

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Denmark Hill Conservation Reserve VKFF-1529

Saturday 8 April was the day chosen to head out to Ipswich and activate Denmark Hill Conservation Reserve VKFF-1529. I chose this park as it happens to be around 30km from my QTH as well as the fact that it hadn’t been activated before. This would be sure to arouse the interest of hunters.

On arrival, I was amazed to discover that the club house of the Ipswich and District Radio Club borders the Reserve. They were holding a meeting when I walked past in headed into the think bush.

It wasn’t long before I came across a picnic bench which would make an ideal operating position. So I assembled my gear and prepared to put out my first CQ. That’s when the giant mozzies began their attack. I knew then that I should have packed in some insect repellent. I added it to my check list for next time.

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The rig I was using was my trusty FT-817 with an LDG auto tuner and end fed long wire antenna that was supported by a squid pole. I mounted the pole to the support for a dust bin that was conveniently situated nearby.

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I usually operate CW but decided to stick to 40m and 20m SSB this time: what a difference it made. In the short space of half an hour I had made 11 good contacts. With CW I’d be pleased to have made 4 in that time.

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Delighted with my results, and reeling under the concerted efforts of the mosquitoes, I packed up and headed for the car. Along the way I came across the site of some dinosaur footprints. There was a well presented display that explained the history of the site and its rich fossil field.

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This was a most enjoyable activation, especially as the weather was good; we have had plenty of flooding and chaos thanks to Cyclone Debbie.

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Activating Mt Coree, VK1/AC-023

One of the things I like most about the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) is that it is bounded by no less than 48 summits that are all within easy reach. Note I said easy reach, meaning that they are not too far away from the city and not that they are easy to climb or to reach the summit.

Sunday morning 1 November was the day Tony VK1VIC and I decided to activate Mt Coree, a 4-pointer summit that straddles the ACT/NSW border.

This plaque let us know the significance of these summits.

This plaque let us know the significance of these summits.

Two things I found attractive about this summit; one was the fact that it is worth 4 points, the other is that it is accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicle all the way to the top.

Tony picked me up at 0840 and I packed my gear into his Holden Colorado 4×4. Because I wasn’t going to be doing a great deal of walking, weight wasn’t going to be a major factor on this activation. This meant I could take my Yaesu FT-817 (for voice work) as well as my Elecraft KX1 (for CW). My antenna was, as usual, my trusty Buddistick vertical.

The weather forecast was for showers and a possible thunderstorm, so we were hoping for the best as we headed out of the city towards the mountains. It is this unpredictability that I find so attractive with SOTA: you never quite know what you are going to get.

Once we left the bitumen the going got rapidly more interesting. The first few kilometers were on excellent gravel roads that had obviously been well cared for. Then as we got closer to Mt Coree, the going got decidedly rougher. I could see the necessity for a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Hitting the dirt.

Hitting the dirt.

This was going to be interesting, I could tell.  Signs tell a lot.

Cliffs and mist ...

Cliffs and mist …

 The weather closed in even before we reached the summit.

Looking mystical ...

Looking mystical …

Dense cloud cover engulfed us, making it all but impossible to locate a good spot to erect my antenna. Then the wind picked up, reaching near gale-force strength I’m sure. I like to set up my station near some rocks that I can use for sitting on; I located something suitable very close to the trig beacon and lookout tower. I erected the Buddistick, ran the counterpoise and connected up the KX1. It tuned up beautifully, the readout telling me I had an SWR of 1:1.

Time for my fist call. For this, I chose 2m FM with my Yaesu FT-250 hand held as Andrew, VK1NAM, I knew, was waiting up Mt Stromlo ready for a summit-to-summit contact.  That done, it was time to concentrate on 40m. Keen to achieve activation at the very least, I decided to switch to the FT-817 and SSB. Contacts with VK7CW and VK1DI quickly followed. Then it was time to switch to the KX1 and CW. Even though I only had 1 watt at my disposal (power was being supplied by six AA cells) I made contact with VK2UH, VK7CW (again) and VK2IO.

By now we were getting really wet as the rain had started in ernest. To make matters worse, the wind was really howling and I had to hold the Buddistick up with one hand, so strong was it blowing. This was making operating my key really difficult, so it was time to call it a day.

Tony was of a similar mind, having achieved the required number of contacts as well, so we packed up and headed for the safety of his truck.

Another successful SOTA activation; one that was challenging to say the least. But that’s what I like about SOTA – every contact really is precious.

Three summit SOTA activation.

Sunday 9 August 2015 was the day I was to add serious numbers to my SOTA scores. This was the day Andrew VK1NAM and I activated three – yes three – summits.

We set off at 0715 for our first peak, Mt McDonald (VK1/AC-048), which is situated some 18km west from my apartment in Canberra City. Although this is only a 1 pointer, it is nevertheless 789m in altitude. From the car park at the base of the mountain, the round trip up on foot would take around two hours.

Andrew VK1NAM leading the way up. He has been there before!

Andrew VK1NAM leading the way up. He has been there before!

I had decided to press my Yaesu FT-817 into operating this time instead of my Elecraft KX1 because one of the aims of the excursion was to participate in the 6 and 10m SOTA challenge. I set up my Buddistick antenna, tuned it up on 10m with my Hendricks BLT tuner and put out a call.

Me listening for contacts.

Me listening for contacts.

After about an hour, it was time to pack up, head back down and make our way to our next summit, Mt Taylor. I was happy with the 9 contacts I made.

If I thought the going was going to get any easier, I was dead wrong. Mt Taylor (VK1/AC-037) is 855m high and took about 45 minutes to climb. Boy, with a full backpack, the going was difficult and required constant stops to suck in air. But the view over the city made it all well worth it, even though this summit also only scores 1 point.

I managed 11 contacts, which I was delighted with. On the way down, we walked passed a bunch of the locals, who have us quizzical looks and a wide berth.

This is kangaroo country!

This is kangaroo country!

At 1430 we made our way to our final summit for the day, Isaacs Ridge (VK1/AC-041). Here too, the going up on foot was difficult and required all of my sapped energy to make it to the top. Boy, we are made to work hard for these one-pointers!

Working the last 7 contacts for the day.

Working the last 7 contacts for the day.

By the time we packed up and headed back down to the car, it was getting quite cold. I was more than pleased with the 27 contacts I had made.