As some may know, I’ve had the desire to have a QSO with a US ham using a home brew rig. It all started a few years ago when I worked a ham in Maine using my RockMite 20. I had been operating a special event station at a vintage vehicle rally, and, as it was a two day event, two of us were camping for the night. My friend went to investigate the beer tent, so I decided to hook up my RockMite to the small multi-band vertical antenna attached to the towing hitch of the caravan we were operating from. I had said to my friend, as a joke, that by the time he came back from the beer tent, I would have a US station in the log. To my surprise, my joke turn in to reality! I had a nice but nervous CW QSO with N1WPU in Stockton Springs, ME. I really couldn’t believe it, my RockMite puts out about 330mW.
Along came Kjell LA1KHA’s challenge and I got interested in RockMites again. I built a rig for 30m to take part in the challenge, but I decided that I should build a rig for 20m to try to gain more QSO’s for my score. My 9V battery was getting pretty tired by the time I had my new RockMite based PP3 challenge rig for 20m ready for it’s first activation, the rig was putting out about 90mW. I gave out a few CQ’s from G/NP-008 with my new rig and Barry N1EU answered. I couldn’t believe my ears, so I asked for a repeat, sure enough, I had heard right, it was Barry from near Albany, NY. I have a certificate for this contact from QRP ARCI marking the 36,000 miles per watt QSO. (I didn’t use the rig again until earlier this year and amazingly Barry N1EU worked me again for another PP3 powered transatlantic QSO!) I’ve also had another RockMite SOTA QSO, this time on 30m with Bill W4ZV.
All the above contacts were special, but for me, I was always slightly annoyed that the contacts were made with rigs that I had built from kits, all of them were RockMites from Dave Benson, K1SWL.
I set myself a challenge to have a proper home brew QSO with a US station. To spice things up a bit, I decided to build an SSB rig as I have built lots of CW rigs, but none for phone. The resultant rig is my BITX20 which I wrote a post about several weeks ago (On cloud nine!).
In recent years, I try to get on the air for my birthday, usually from a SOTA summit. I decided some weeks ago that I would activate Ingleborough on my birthday and make an attempt for my home brew transatlantic QSO. I looked at the propagation predictions and it seemed that an afternoon activation would give me the best chance on 20m. A higher band probably would have been better, but hey I only had 20m to work with! I sent Barry N1EU a message saying that I would be activating Ingleborough and I would really appreciate a call (I know that Barry has good ‘ears’!). Barry promised that he would try to listen for me.
I was just about to leave my QTH yesterday at lunch time when a message came through from Barry saying that he was heading out to W2/EH-001 to try to chase me from there.
The weather was horrible on Ingleborough, it was cold, wet and windy. I reached the summit a little bit behind schedule and I fashioned a bit of shelter from a Poundland tarpaulin (I’m gonna order a proper tarp with my birthday money I think!). I was a bit late getting on air, but luckily my smartphone was actually being cooperative and I was able to self spot. Conditions to Europe on 20m seemed very poor, most stations were reporting heavy QSB, however a steady stream of Eu stations were logged. Then, through the noise, I heard a very faint ‘summit to summit’ followed by a call sign that I recognised - N1EU! Again, the QSB was in evidence (possibly my antenna blowing around?) but we managed to exchange reports and complete the QSO! I had another punching the air moment which I caught on video.
Not only had Barry N1EU made my wish come true for a home brew transatlantic QSO, he had also given me a nice summit to summit contact, which completed W2 for me, pushing me up to Silver Mountain Hunter status! Thanks for the nice birthday present Barry!
Time had come to pack away the SSB rig and break out my birthday radio - a RockMite 20 that I built years ago, my first RockMite and the one which I had used to contact N1WPU. In recent years, I have only used this radio on my birthday, it’s my special little rig
I called CQ a few times and then N7UN answered with a good signal. I gave Guy 599, and I received 559 in return. I’m not sure how much power the RockMite was giving out, the same battery had been powering my SSB rig. It’s safe to say that the rig would have been putting out around 300mW or less, so a QSO over 3000 miles was pretty good in my eyes! Despite quite a number of further CQ’s, I had no other takers.
Another day filled with radio magic!
I celebrated the activation with a glass of “Stateside IPA”
73, Colin M1BUU
(New challenge needed … )