Mills on the Air

It is still two months from now but Rob PA3BXR are in the middle of preparing our activity for the Mills on the Air weekend on May 10th.
We will be operating the special event station PA6MK from Windmill "De Blokweerse Wip" which is one of the 19 windmills of the Unesco World Heritage Kinderdijk.

In the Alblasserwaard, the area to which Kinderdijk belongs, problems with the water level became more and more apparent from the 13th century. To get the rid of the excess water in the poldes, long canals were duged. These canals are called "weteringen" and you can find them all over Holland. This method remained sufficient for only a few years. The ground level fell yet again because of a structural issue (veen) and the level of the river rose at the same time, soan additional way of keeping the correct level of the water in the polders was required.
It was decided to buid a series of windmills which would pump the water into a reservoir (boezem) until the level of a nearby river has reached a level that pumping the water into that river was possible again.

The "Blokweersche wip" was originally build around 1532. It was set on fire bij the Spanisch troops during the "Eighty Years" War and was rebuild at the beginning of the 17th Century.The last restoration took place in 2001 after the windmill was partly destroyed during a fire in 1997.
Up on today the windmill is operational and is still pumping water from the Blokweersche polder to the Nederwaard Canal.

For more information on the windmills, please visit the Facebook pages of De Blokweerse Wip and the Unesco World Heritage Kinderdijk. And don't forget to like those two pages to stay informed!

new trip

At the moment I'm quite busy planning some hamradio activities.
First of all, in 3 weeks time the PACC Contest takes place. As always I'll be particpiating with our local club PI4VAD. Because we're not having a good winter location yet, we need to setup everything just for that weekend on another nearby location. But I think that's part of the challenge and fun!
Yesterday we visited the location to make the final decisions about the antenna setup and locations of the two shacks.

This week I've also booked a trip to Madeira Island. I'll be operating from the CR3L shack during the CQ WPX SSB Contest as single operator all band (low power) as CS9/PD3EM parallel to Helmut DF7ZS. As Helmut is defending his world title, I'll be operating on the second best bands ;-)

We'll arrive on Madeira on March 25, so we'll both be QRV on the bands ahead of the contest. But we won't be active all of the time as Helmut is so kind to show me some of the great places of Madeira.

I'm also busy planning the upcoming Mills On The Air activation from the World Heritage Kinderdijk.
Together with Rob PA3BXR we'll activate the windmill "De Blokweerse Wip", one of the two visitors windmills at the famous Kinderdijk.
We'll be QRV on Saturday, May 10 as PA6MK.

Iceland

The last two weeks I traveled across the southern part of Iceland together with Arie PA3DUU.
We enjoyed the beautiful landscapes between Reykjavik and Höfn and we have seen some amazing nature during our trip.
We arrived at a rainy Kevlavik airport and it took some time before we got our Spiderbeam mast from behind the closed the "Odd Luggage" doors. After that we had to hurry to drive to Reykjavik because we wanted to be in time for a great dinner with our TF hamradio friends, arranged by Seli TF3AO. After that we visited the TF3IRA club station.

The next day we drove to our first cottage near Hveragerði. Time to setup the mast and enjoy a little bit of hamradio. We woke up the next morning with 10 cm of fresh snow on the ground so we did some nearby sight seeing. The next day we went to Geysir and Gulgoss, two of the must-see landmarks in the area. One of my hamradio friends, Heimir TF1EIN lives close to our cottage and of course we payed him a visit that evening.

After 3 nights it was time to move to our next location: Kirkjubæjarklaustur. A 250 km drive over roads covered with snow, just on the last 3 km the snow was completely gone. And during our trip the temperatures changes from around 0°C to -16°C and back ..... That's the weather on Iceland: it changes by the minute and kilometer ;-)
We also stayed 3 nights at this cottage and enjoyed the landscape during the daytime. In the late afternoon and the evening we had some fun on the bands again. Only on the second night we had to lower the 12 meter Spiderbeam mast as it was bending in a 90 degrees angle (Yes indeed, the top was horizontal at about 8 meters height) due to the 9 Bft storm....

After Kirkjubæjarklaustur we moved further east to the town of Höfn where we stayed in a small and very good Guesthouse with a great view over the bay and surrounding mountains. The next day we visited the Glacier Lagoon Jökulsárlón and in the afternoon we setup the antenna to do some nice pile-ups (again) on the bands. On Saturday we went out together with Þorri, a local photographer who I should have met on my trip 2 years ago. We had a great time taking photographs on a glacier.
At night we should go out to see and photograph some Aurora if the conditions would allow it. But all the magnetograms and predictions stayed as flat as it could..... so no Aurora again! But we went out and did some great night time photography at The Horn. The photo on front side of our QSL card is taken there at the black beach with a great moon-rise and a lot of stars.

On Sunday our two day drive back to Reykjavik started, with an overnight stay at a Hotel in Vik. Luckily we planned it as a two day trip. A layer of snow and ice on the road shouldn't be a very big problem but when it starts to rain... it gets extremely slippery. 5 km of that kind of road takes a lot more time to drive to Vik ;-)
The next morning we started at the famous wool factory and shop in Vik and after that we payed Jón TF1JI a visit at his summer cottage before we moved on to Reykjavik.

The last evening on Iceland we spent in Reykjavik where we visited Seli TF3AO before a 4 am wake-up call at the hotel because we had to be at the Kevlavik airport on time for our flight back home.

Thanks a lot to all my friends on Iceland that we have met for their great hospitality and the warm welcome they gave us. We have seen and experienced a lot more of Iceland because of you all!

Mills On The Air: Kinderdijk

Next Saturday, May 11th, we will be activating Windmill "De Blokweerse Wip". This windmill is one of the 19 windmills of the Unesco World Heritage Kinderdijk.

In the Alblasserwaard, the area to which Kinderdijk belongs, problems with the water level became more and more apparent from the 13th century. To get rid of the excess water in the polders, long canals were dug. These canals are called "weteringen" and you can find them all over Holland.

This method remained sufficient for only a few years. The ground level fell yet again because of a structural issues (veen) and the level of the river rose at the same time, requiring an additional way of keeping the correct level of the water in the polders.

It was decided to build a series of windmills which would pump the water into a reservoir (boezem) until the level of the river had reached a level that pumping the water into the river was possible again.

In 1869, the windmills received assistance from a steam "mill" or pumping station, which was replaced by a diesel pumping station in 1927. The pumping station was not able to function properly in the second world war, because of lack of oil. The windmills proved their usability and functioned again as never before.

The "Blokweerse Wip" was originally build around 1532. It was set on fire by the Spanish troops during the Eighty Years' War and was rebuild at the beginning of the 17th Century. The last restoration took place in 2001 after the windmill was partly destroyed during a fire in 1997.
Up on today the windmill is operational and is still pumping water from the Blokweerse polder to the Nederwaard Canal.
We would like to thank the millers Wim and Cees van der Wal for their hospitality.

Rob and I are operating on HF and VHF on Saturday May 11th from around 8 UTC until about 16 UTC. We will be using PA3BXR/MILL as our callsign. Locator: JO21hv. Occasionally you may hear one of our ham radio friends on the mike.

New FSK/CW interface

It has been a while since I posted an article on my website... Way too busy with all kind of things both inside and outside my shack ;-)

I recently started to build a FSK/CW interface for portable and holiday style operations. The interface is build with the kit from Bob W3YY. I made one change as I wanted to see the serial communication on the interface. So I've added three LED's for PTT, CW and FSK.

For RTTY decoding just one-way audio is necessary, but when I change my mind and want to do some other digital modes, I've added two-way electrical isolated audio via two 1:1 600 Ω transformers.

In the mean time, my father has been taking care of the case. He drilled holes in the front plate for the three LED's and a few more in the back plate for all the connectors.

With a couple of days all will be mounted and ready for a first test. Hopefully with some nice weather so I can test it outside in the fields.

HAB Payload

It has been a while ago since I retrieved the BallastHalo 4 Balloon but the last few months I regained my interest to High Altitude Balloon (HAB) experiments.

Almost every week one or more High Altitude Balloons are launched in Europe by radio amateurs and students. The balloons are made of Latex or Mylar with a parachute and payload underneath.
In the payload the hardware varies but always contains a GPS, micro-controller and a small transmitter. Most payloads also have sensors (eg. for temperature and air pressure) and sometimes photo and video equipment on board.
All the European HAB payloads uses small 70cm band transmitters with an output power of 10 or 25 mili Watt which can be tracked with a receiver capable of SSB reception and a PC for decoding the rtty data.

A lot of information about High Altitude Balloons and the technique can be found on http://ukhas.org.uk/. Tracking and balloon position can be viewed live on http://spacenear.us/tracker/.

At the moment I'm busy designing my own High Altitude Balloon payload. It's build around an Arduino Uno micro controler. On the bread board you can see the Radiometrix NTX2 70cm 10mW transmitter, UPU/uBlox GPS , Parallax Pressure/Temperature sensor and a SD card module for storing all the data.
The final goal of the design is to replace the Arduino Uno with the Pro Mini (the small PCB on the bottom of the photo).

When the payload and software are ready I hope to launch my HAB into near space. Near space is a lot higher than airplanes do. They fly at an altitude of 10km and High Altitude Balloons go above 30km. The current Amateur HAB altitude record is almost 43 km (42687 meter)!

website update

Yesterday my hosting provider had to do an urgent update on some of their servers. Due to that update, my website was not accessible anymore.

I had to tweak some of the core files on the webserver to get my access back to the Content Management System. After that I was able to update and tweak some more to get the website up and running again.

The website is back to normal operation as of now. Only on the backside I have a few small problems left to solve.

QSLing

Yesterday I received a package in my mailbox with the TF/PD3EM QSL cards for my last month holiday activities on Iceland.

The QSL cards are again printed by Gennady UX5UO. The QSL cards are very high quality, printed in full color. I've designed the QSL cards myself and sent a ready to print design. The colors are exactly as intended, even with photo's that can be messed up when the wrong color profile is used. When you can't design it your own, Gennady will do that job for you. Gennady delivers QSL cards fast and with great service! More information can be found on his website http://www.ux5uoqsl.com/

At the moment I'm busy writing and sorting more than 1000 outgoing QSL cards that will be sent via the bureau later this month. If you want a QSL card for my TF/PD3EM operation, please sent your QSL card via the bureau or direct to my home address.

Back from TF

Time flies when you're having fun..... It is 2 weeks ago that I returned from my 9 day trip to Iceland (TF).

Iceland is an amazing country with beautiful landscapes and very nice people. I've visited great places like the Jökulsárón Glacier Lagoon, Gullfoss Waterfall and many other with amazing Lava fields and black river beds and beaches. I also had the chance to photograph some Aurora during one of the first nights after I arrived on Iceland.

It was great to visit Heimir TF1EIN, Hal TF3GC and have some great time with Seli TF3AO in Reykjavik and at the TF3IRA Club station.

As a Ham I took a rig with me, the Yaesu FT-450 and a HyEndFed wire antenna for 20 meter. Next time I'll bring antennas for more bands ;-) I had much fun on 20 meter during both the rag chewing and pile-ups.

A special QSL card is being printed at the moment and will be ready in a few weeks. You can QSL direct and via the bureau for my TF/PD3EM operation.

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