Category Archives: Travel

Datawake: Steven’s new “floating lab”


Photo: Steven K. Roberts

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steven Roberts, who shares the following update:

Hi, Thomas!! Thought I’d send an update… I did in fact find a buyer for Nomadness, and have since gone to the Dark Side… for 8 months, I have been living aboard my Delta 50 named Datawake. The sale of Nomadness was via the geek grapevine… last Spring I built a power cart named Shacktopus, and West Mountain Radio used my story about it as their quarterly newsletter. A fellow on the East Coast read that, followed the links, recognized my bike, saw the Amazon 44, and bought it… and he is now preparing to head down the Pacific Coast.

Photo: Steven K. Roberts

Photo: Steven K. Roberts

Here’s the new ship, and the console now includes four HF rigs, D-Star, a few SDR devices, crosspoint audio routing with web interface, electronics lab, and networking goodies. Nice to be back on the air after a year without a proper skyhook!

Amazing, Steven! You have a super power in your ability to turn boats, bikes and pretty much anything into mobile techno-wonders! What craftsmanship!

I love Datawake and appreciate the tour with photos and details you’ve posted. I noticed the Icom IC-7300–perhaps we can have a QSO someday on the air? I’ll look forward to any report you may have about the IC-7300 as a maritime mobile station.

We look forward to future updates!

Recap of Great Smoky Mountains NPOTA activations


Last week, I attended the W4DXCC convention in Sevierville, Tennessee. The road trip afforded me several opportunities to make NPOTA activations through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

LowePro CS 60 Closed

I took my field kit which included the Elecraft KX2, QRP Ranger battery pack (not pictured), and EFT Trail-Friendly antenna.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


My first stop was the Ocunaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, NC, where I had planned the “two-fer” activation of the Great Smoky Mountains (NP26) and the Blue Ridge Parkway (PK01).

First thing I did was ask the park ranger on duty how I could find the footpath to the point where the two parks overlap. Turns out, I had at least a one mile hike ahead of me.

PK01  and NP26


I love hiking, so that wasn’t a problem.


The only problem was I hadn’t accounted for the hike in my plans, so I knew I would be a little late for the scheduled activation time.

When I reached the Blue Ridge Parkway, I ventured down to the river where I found an excellent spot to set up my field kit.


Thankfully, within thirty minutes, I had logged 15 contacts. I quickly packed up and attempted to catch back up with my schedule.

Thankfully, the Elk were elsewhere today!

I was grateful the Elk were elsewhere Thursday!

Back at the ranger’s station, I learned that the Ocunaluftee Visitor Center is also another National Park entity: the Trail Of Tears (TR12). I had no time to deploy my station once more, but made a mental note to add it to activations on my return trip.

NP26 and TR01

Next, I hopped in my car and drove to the Newfound Gap parking area where the Appalachian Trail (TR01) crosses the Great Smoky Mountains Park (NP26).

The view there was/is amazing:


The area was packed with tourists, so I decided to hike up the Appalachian Trail (AT) to escape the bulk of the crowd.

img_20160922_150632201I hiked at least one mile up the narrow and steep AT before finding a suitable spot to set up my gear. It was a tight operating spot, but I managed to hang the antenna and position myself in a way that wouldn’t block foot traffic on the AT.


I logged 18 stations in the span of about 45 minutes.

I also took several breaks to answer questions about ham radio from hikers.  I was particularly happy that one family took sincere interest in what I was doing and their young kids were fascinated that I was making contacts across the globe where there was no cell phone coverage nor Internet.

I packed up at 20:30 UTC, hiked back to my car and  managed to arrive at the conference center in Sevierville in time for dinner with my friends.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My activations on the return trip, Sunday, included the same locations as Thursday.


TR01 and NP26

Instead of heading north on the Appalachian Trail, I decided to head south. I was running late to activate the site and knew if I headed north I’d have a long hike ahead of me. Once again, there were a lot of visitors at the site–many were there for a Sunday morning hike and were making their way (quite slowly) north. The southern route had no foot traffic at all, so I headed south.


I found a suitable site to set up radio, but only because the trail was so quiet I could sit in the middle of it. The entire time I operated, I only encountered one hiker who was absolutely amazed I was making contacts across the continent when he hadn’t had cell phone reception in days.

I logged 14 contacts in 45 minutes.

NP26 and PK01

Next, I headed back down the mountain to the Ocunaluftee Visitor Center to the same site where I set up before.


Unlike my Thursday activation, contacts trickled in very slowly. It took over one hour to log 11 contacts. Propagation was very strange: the only stations I worked on the 20 meter band–a total of four–were located in Idaho and Slovenia.


You can *almost* see my antenna hanging from its first location.

Once, I even re-deployed my antenna, thinking that may help. I managed to raise the entire 35′ length into an ideal tree on the bank of the river. It was completely vertical with no slope. That did, perhaps, help snag my final two contacts.



Despite the fact I was running late and I had struggled to make the minimum ten QSOs required for the NP26/PK01 activation, I decided to also attempt TR12 (Trail of Tears).

I hiked back to the Ocunaluftee Visitor’s Center and found a quiet spot, once again, near the river. I was happy with my operating location and the fact the antenna deployed with no problem.

Sadly, though, this activation was not meant to be. Even with multiple spots on the DX Cluster, I stopped operating after having only worked four stations in 45 minutes. If I hadn’t been on a schedule, perhaps I would have stayed another hour.

I didn’t let this bother me, though. I knew the TR12 activation would be a gamble and I was happy to have provided four NPOTA chasers with another NPOTA catch for the day!

All in all, I worked a total of 64 stations en route to and return from the W4DXCC conference. I call that a success, especially since I was able to enjoy some excellent hiking, scenery, weather and I even had a few opportunities to promote ham radio to the public. Of course, I feel like each time I do one of these activations, it also hones my emergency communication skills.


Speaking of the W4DXCC, the conference was amazing as always and I’m happy to have been a part of it. For the second year in a row, we hosted a “Ham Radio Bootcamp”–a day-long tutorial on all aspects of ham radio. Once again, it drew a large crowd.

Vlado (N3CZ) demonstrating the IC-7300 functions and features at the Ham Radio Bootcamp.

Vlado (N3CZ) demonstrating the IC-7300 functions and features at the Ham Radio Bootcamp.

Each year, the convention operates as KB4C in a dedicated radio room. This year, we had two IC-7300 transceivers on the air.

Each year, the convention operates as KB4C in a dedicated radio room. This year, we had two IC-7300 transceivers on the air simultaneously.


We had at least three antennas available including this excellent hex beam.

If you’re into DXing, contesting, or you’d simply like to make some new friends in the community, I would encourage you to put the W4DXCC conference in your calendar for 2017!

Back at the dial again…!


Many of you might have noticed I’ve been absent on Facebook/Twitter , slower to correspond, and not posting quite as often this summer.

Yes, you guessed it: I’ve been on the road again.

Starting in mid-May, we made our annual pilgrimage to Dayton, Ohio, where we hosted an inside exhibit at the Hamvention, made some NPOTA activations, and visited the phenomenal National Museum of the USAF.

The LNR Precision LD-11 and QRP Ranger during a National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activation in Ohio.

The LNR Precision LD-11 and QRP Ranger during a National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activation in Ohio.

I then returned to the shack for one week, frantically finished a few projects, then hit the road again.  Headed even farther north this time….Destination: Canada.

The Udvar-Hazy Center houses a number of large aircraft including the Concorde, the SR-71 and even the space shuttle Discovery.

The Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center houses a number of large aircraft including the Concorde, the SR-71 and even the space shuttle Discovery.

Stopped in the Washington, DC area for a few nights and spent the better part of one day at the Udvar-Hazy Center. The aviation geek in me was in the skies––wow, what an amazing place!

By June 5th, i was just outside Québec City in the town of Beaupré.

My station on Field Day operating as VE2CQ.

My station on Field Day operating as VE2CQ.

While in Québec, I participated in a Field Day event with the incroyable members of the Club Radio Amateur de Québec. I practiced my French, the club members treated me like one of their own––hosting an excellent lunch and dinner––and I even got a few hours on the air as VE2CQ.

Oh, and you might recall a post from June in which I shared photos from an aerial display in Québec City featuring the Snowbirds. It was our first time seeing them, and it was, as you might expect, just spectacular.


We spent the rest of June and part of July in Québec, then made our way to Prince Edward Island via New Brunswick and Nova Scotia where a rustic off-grid cabin awaited us.

The view from our off-grid cabin on PEI.

The view from our off-grid cabin on PEI.

While the condo in Quebec had all of the radio interference one would expect, the off-grid cabin was blissfully quiet, free of radio interference. As you might imagine, I played a lot of radio…


I also sampled a lot of Island craft brews!

We spent several relaxed weeks in Prince Edward Island, then made our way back to the States.

I’ve only been home since last Wednesday, and found quite a pile-up in the work zone, so I’m busily catching up.  However, I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I should be current with correspondence by next week.  Thanks for your patience, email friends!

And if you’re interested, just for fun, I plan to write a more detailed trip report later this summer or fall. I do have a few pics from side trips I’ll likely share in the meantime.

Yet again, we had a terrific adventure in Canada!  But it’s sure good to be back home…and back at the dial.

Anyone else done a bit of traveling this season? Feel free to share & comment!

Grundig G6 vs CC Skywave: Post Reader seeks a travel radio

The Grundig G6 (top) and C.Crane CC Skywave (bottom)

The Grundig G6 (top) and C.Crane CC Skywave (bottom)

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Neil Bernstein, who writes:

I travel quite a bit for my job and I want your opinion and your readers’ opinions on whether it is more important to have the NOAA weather radio stations or shortwave radio (with or without SSB), in a compact travel emergency radio.

At this point I’m trying to decide between the CCrane Skywave and the Grundig G6 Aviator.

Any input would really be appreciated.

Ah, the travel radio! One of my favorite topics, Neil.

I’ve used both the Grundig G6 and CC Skywave during domestic and international travel. In my opinion, both are great receivers, especially considering the compact size of each. Here are a few things to note about each radio…

(And Post readers, you’re most welcome to comment with your own additions and views.)

The Grundig G6


  • A great little unit, albeit no longer in production; you can buy a used unit on eBay or similar sites. A quick eBay search reveals that prices vary between about $75-150 US. Note: Personally, I believe anything over $80 shipped is probably asking too much for a used G6.
  • Like other Grundig portables of the era, the G6’s rubberized coating will eventually become sticky/tacky. But fortunately, we’ve posted a few proven remedies.
  • Re emergency use: this one offers SSB, but lacks NOAA weather bands

The C.Crane CC Skywave


  • Currently in production––and supported by C.Crane
  • Great overall sensitivity and selectivity (read our full review)
  • No external antenna jack
  • Mutes between frequency changes
  • This unit offers weather frequencies, useful in emergencies, but lacks SSB mode

Since the CC Skywave hit the market, it’s been my go-to portable for travel at least 80% of the time. Of course, I still pack the Grundig G6 occasionally, and even my Sony ICF-SW100.

Personally I prefer the Skywave because, frankly, it’s just better tailored to one-bag travel. I like listening to the airport tower and other comms while traveling. Since most of my travel is in North America, I appreciate the weather radio frequencies as well.

I suppose if all of my travels were outside North America, I might lean slightly toward the Grundig G6 just so I could have the added benefit of SSB reception. In truth, however, I rarely listen to SSB while traveling.  SSB may possibly be useful during civil/communication emergencies. If SSB reception and portability is important to you, another radio worth considering would be the CountyComm GP5-SSB–though, like the G6, it also lacks weather frequencies.

My opinion?

Grab a CC Skywave. It’s a great performer, very compact, and–unlike the Grundig G6–is currently in production. I’d only buy a new CC Skywave, however, since some of the early models were prone to overloading. The current production run incorporates an update which remedies this.

Post readers: Please comment with your thoughts and suggestions! What radio do you pack for travels, and why?

The Sony ICF-SW55 and the Voice of Greece: a wonderful travel combo

I’m currently in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec (Canada) and having a brilliant time. I’ve been sans Internet for the better part of a week (save a little online time at local cafés) which is why I’m quite far behind on correspondence.

The lack of Internet, though, has a positive side: it has given me uninterrupted time to surf the shortwaves!

The only bad news is that I’m staying in a condo and the radio interference is…well…a little high.

Still, I’m fortunate to have a balcony where I can relax and listen to my Sony ICF-SW55 outdoors. In truth, I’m truly amazed with the reception I’ve had each evening this week from the Voice of Greece. Though, VOG’s broadcasts have been somewhat unpredictable after their official return to the airwaves, I’m appreciative every time they fire up their Avlis transmitter and pump out music on 9,420 kHz.

I should mention that Radio Romania International is also a very easy catch and, like VOG, punches through the RFI with colors flying.

This is one of the great things about shortwave radio–even when you’re far away from home, you can still hear a familiar voice on the air.