Friday, 18 March 2016

Banbury to Upper Heyford - with a stop for BERU

I needed somewhere quiet to stop for the weekend. Somewhere away from all the electrical noise that domesticity provides and also somewhere where I could be and it did not matter if I ran my generator after 8p.m.
I found that place about 3 miles south of Banbury and as luck would have it, not far from the M40 so I had Internet access which was a bonus.

Warning - 'Techy stuff' coming!

I have entered the BERU contest many times, sometimes from the home QTH and sometimes from my narrow-boat ‘Constance’ somewhere on the canal system. This year I decided to operate from the boat at a quiet location about 3 miles south of Banbury on the South Oxford Canal.
The rig used was my Yaesu FT-897 running 100w into a trapped dipole/inverted ‘V’. Power to be supplied from my pure-sine 1kVA generator. The trapped dipole is a 100w version of the QRP model which I made for my Australia trip. The laptop was running N1MM+ with a G4ZLP keyer.
The operating position

Yes, the mast was leaning at that angle deliberately, it follows the angle of the boat's 'tumble-home' and was securely fixed.

The trapped dipole was 22 feet above the canal

The ends of the 80m section were 6 feet above the canal. The cranked TV mast supports the 3G dongle

Food on the go. Can't stop...
Promlems? Yes I had one or two problems. All the kit was tested from my back garden at home. The system as tested included the generator and the power supply. When I started up on the boat I had two different types of QRM. One was fairly quickly tracked down to the Solar Panel controller, so the solar panel was disconnected. The second source (S9++) hash was a bit more difficult to track down. Eventually found to be the on-board battery charger which automatically starts up whenever it sees 240v mains. Once the QRM was sorted the background noise was not measurable on the S-meter on any band. I had chosen a quiet location, no power lines, no houses, no trains but close enough to the M40 to get excellent 3G Internet. All was set for a good BERU session except that HF radio conditions were not that good in the higher bands. Throughout the whole contest I never heard any resolvable station on 10m and only a few on 15m.
The results were a total of 59 QSOs spread: 80m - 8, 40m - 8’
20m - 39, 15m - 4 with none on 10m
After working on 40m for about an hour in the evening the 40m leg of the antenna suddenly went VHSWR. No explanation, can’t see anything wrong with it but reckon I lost a lot of points because that would have been the best band for evening working.
Bagged 31 Canadians, 12 VKs and 2 ZLs along with 9H, 9J, 9M, C4, ZS, ZB2, J34, VP9 and really fed-up as I heard AT1 calling/being worked several times but did not recognise the prefix as Commonwealth!
Overall, the kit worked well (with the exception of the loss of 40m) and the location was quiet. I found the band conditions to be unexciting and many stations were a struggle to complete. Oh well! There’s always next year…
End of 'Techy stuff'...
Once the contest had finished it was on towards Upper Heyford.
A tight squeeze under Nell Bridge

With an inch to spare on the 'water level' board

Loadsa floods

Through Somerton Deep Lock
Then a short cruise to Lower Heyford.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Back on the cut - Hooray!

Constance was due to leave the Fenny Compton Marina by the end of February. I was not quite quick enough to take a 'selfie' of my smile as I left the marina and headed south. Just to be back on the cut with the wind in my face felt marvellous.
A vacant berth
Going out...
Claydon Top Lock - a lovely spot to pause

A little dickie bird told me that Ann & Chas were on boars Moore to Life in Cropredy Marina. This called for a visit to them, tea and cookies etc. I had not seen them for some while, nor had I seen the new M2L so it was a good afternoon session.
The next afternoon I was in Cropredy and they returned the compliment. They had never seen Constance so they brought cake! It was great to see them.
The next move was to Banbury where I caught up with Maffi and had a long chat with him. I replaced the leisure batteries as I had been nursing them along for several years. Booked a blacking with Tooley's for later in the year. loafed around Banbury. Great week!
Beautiful pairs of swans in peak condition

They wanted feeding in Banbury