Monday, October 15, 2012
I spent the weekend at the ARRL Pacificon Convention in Santa Clara. Pacificon is always a good hamcon & this year it was also the ARRL National Convention, so it was doubly so.
There were several highlights, of which this is only one. I got to operate K6KPH, right there from the hallway of the hotel.
K6KPH is the amateur station operated by KPH (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KPH_(radio) , the old Marconi/RCA ship-to-shore Morse code station. KPH itself operates (at least) once a year on July 12th, "Night of Nights, when they commemorate the final commercial Morse operation in 1999. I think I may have an earlier blog post about Night of Nights. KPH is a historical monument on National Park Service land (Pt Reyes National Seashore). The equipment has been restored & is operated by volunteer members of the Maritime Radio Historical Society. KPH ops have commercial radiotelegraph licenses, but are still volunteers.
They operate the amateur station every Saturday & on special occasions, using the commercial transmitters at Bolinas scaled back to the 1500 Watts legal for ham radio & using the big commercial rhombic antennas. From Pacificon, they operated the Bolinas transmitters by remote link, while using a dipole receive antenna on the roof of the hotel convention center. It was an interesting situation, since the transmitter could be heard literally anywhere in the world where the path was open (the ionospheric conditions were right) & quite loudly! But the receive station was like your average amateur station, they may or may not hear the stations who answer them. Also, the transmitters are crystal controlled, on the CW calling frequency & not able to move around the band.
When I got there & was wandering around the vendor area, I talked to Richard Dillman K6KWO (nemonic Kilo Watt Output?) & he urged me to "sit the circuit" for awhile. I had quite a lot of trepidation - after all, the entire world would be hearing my keying mistakes! - but finally decided that it was one of the things I definitely wanted to do at the convention. I sat for a few hours on Saturday afternoon, using a vintage J-38 straight key that was provided & the old style headphones that block out no external noise at all. I did have some problems, not the least of which was that I'd never seen the receivers (there were three) before & didn't know how to adjust the volume. At one point someone answered who was too loud & I just moved the headphones from my ear to my cheekbone. In the process, one of them got turned around, to annoy the rest of the folks present. I got a bit of ribbing about that later.
I got several QSO's on 15 m, some of which were quite long, because I had to explain why the transmitter was in a different location (QTH) than the receiver & why I could not hear them as well as they could hear me. Talked to one guy in TX who answered me a second time later on, just to ask my personal callsign, so he could look up my email address & send me an mp3 file illustrating just how strong my signal actually was! I also had a DX contact from Barbados (prefix 8P6). At least I thought he said Barbados. He was pretty weak (229). After that was done, I walked over to the Northern CA DX Club table across the hall & confirmed that Barbados was indeed 8P6. So these guys are in the log & if they want QSL cards, they need to contact the Marine Radio Historical Society as listed under K6KPH in QRZ.com.
After awhile, the too-loud Morse code assaulting my ears & perhaps some stress caused my allergies to act up & my ears to clog up. At about that time, they decided to start giving me a light-hearted hard time about my backwards earphone. I'd had enough for one day. I'm seriously thinking about making a trip up to Pt Reyes (the normal receive site) in the winter, however, so I can sit their regular amateur circuit, using my own bug key & headphones & get a tour of the KPH installation.
I asked to send a radiogram to our Los Angeles Net net manager, who was not able to attend Pacificon. This is the form that they gave me!