I have recently acquired a RigExpert Tiny to go with my FT-817. I thought it would expand my horizons during SOTA activations, as well as giving me additional options during holiday operations abroad.
As anyone who has dabbled in datamodes will know, it can be a time-consuming and frustrating business getting all elements of the station (rig, computer and interface) to talk sensibly to each other. The MMI of the FT-817 is notoriously unwieldy, and this adds a further level of difficulty to the whole process.
After many hours with equipment, cables and instruction manuals spread across the floor, I was reasonably confident that things were working. Indeed, I could transmit on the 817 and decode readable text on the home station. However, the proof of the venture would only come with a successful session out in the countryside.
The weather today has been very mixed, with sunny spells interspersed with torrential showers. However, I decided to make the trip to my local SOTA summit, Leith Hill (SE-002), in the expectation that I could find a suitable sunny spell to set up in. Having driven through some hefty showers en-route, I arrived to find blue sky and sunshine. So far, so good!
Taking advantage of one of the convenient picnic tables, I connected all the cables, and switched on. Tuning to 7040, the band sounded fairly empty of signals, but with lots of static crashes. I had a nagging feeling that something else wasn’t quite right either, and soon found that the CW filter was still switched in although the radio was on digital mode. A quick rummage through the manual found how to fix that, but the band still sounded empty.
Undeterred, I tried several CQ SOTA calls on 7042.2 without success. I then self-spotted, or so I believed, using sms to SOTAwatch. Unfortunately, I have since discovered that sending the mode as PSK31 causes a reject, and that I should have used just PSK – a lesson now learned.
After another ten minutes of CQing without any reply, I had a tune round. I could hear a couple of CW stations low in the band, and some SSB higher up, but no datamode stations at all. At this point I strongly suspected that something was not right with the set-up, and that I was flogging a dead horse. I was sorely tempted to pack up and leave, but the weather looked clear for a while yet, and I decided to try 30m.
Changing bands somehow switched the narrow filter back in, but that was easily sorted. At least I could now hear, and decode, various PSK31 signals. I tried calling CQ and self-spotting (of course, doomed to failure!) without success. As the storm clouds closed in I tuned across the band and found an Irish station calling CQ. I gave him a quick call, and he replied! The band was noisy with static crashes and there was deep QSB, but we managed to exchange the vital details. Exultant with success, I missed the rapidly-approaching shower until it was nearly too late. A quick apology preceded an equally quick packing-up process, and then the rain was upon me!
So, now I know that the gear works, you can expect the occasional SOTA activation with datamodes as well as the regular CW option. Of course, the weather will have an important say as to where and when, because the computer is far less resilient in the wet than the 817 and key.
I’ve now got the urge to re-activate the two nearest French summits, but on datamodes this time, so watch this space!
73 de Les, G3VQO