The uBITX V6, winter weather and power outages

Yesterday, a weather front moved through the area that dropped temperatures from an unseasonably high of 50F to 25F in the space of a couple of hours.  Fronts like this always equate to high winds here at our altitude. This time, it packed a little snow as well.

Last night, around 22:00 local, our power went out due to a fallen tree further down the road.

Here at SWLing Post HQ, we don’t panic about power outages. As I’ve mentioned before, our refrigerator, freezer and some of our home lighting is solar-powered and off-grid–we also rely on passive solar heating and a good wood stove to keep us warm and cozy.

Without fail, I always use power outages as an excuse to play radio on battery power.

This morning, the uBITX V6 transceiver was already hooked up to a LiFePo battery on my desktop, so I simply turned it on and started tuning around the 40 meter band, where I had recently logged a few POTA contacts. Problem was, the band was absolutely dead, save a couple weak stations. After thinking about it a few seconds (keep in mind this was pre-coffee) I put on my boots and coat, walked outside and confirmed my suspicions: the antenna feedline had become detached from my external ATU box.

The winds were strong enough last night, that the ladder line pulled itself out of the banana connector jacks on the side of the ATU box. This happens quite often during periods of high winds and is a bit annoying. Of course, I could secure the feedline in such a way that it would easily survive high winds without disconnecting, but frankly this is an intentional design choice. You see, when a black bear walks into my feedline, it easily disconnects before the bear gets tangled, up, frustrated and yanks my antenna out of the tree!

Trust me on this: bears and antennas don’t mix. I speak from experience.

After re-connecting the antenna, I fired up my portable alcohol stove (the one you might have seen in this post), boiled water, and made a fresh cup of coffee to take back to the shack.

I turned on the uBITX once again and found that the 40 meter band was chock-full of strong signals.

It’s time to go chase a few more parks today and plot my next POTA activation.

Frankly, I’m in no hurry for the power to be restored.  It’s a wonderful excuse to play radio.

Readers: Anyone else enjoy radio time when the grid goes down? Please comment!

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15 thoughts on “The uBITX V6, winter weather and power outages

  1. Petr

    “when a black bear walks into my feedline, it easily disconnects…” well black bear also needs antenna for his transceiver and joy, SO …just you have to make agreement with him to put antenna back to your sockets when his ham radio activity is ended. :):)

  2. Thomas

    Hello Thomas,
    Thank you for your job, I really like your blog, really interesting !
    I’m about to order a ubitx v6, but I was wondering how good is the reception of this device ? Compared to a RTL-SDR or the SDRPlay RSPDx ?
    Cheers !

  3. Jim

    When the grid goes out, the radio comes on because all the local electrical noise is gone!

    BTW, have you operated your V6 in CW mode? How’s the keying, pretty rough?

    Also, how much does the rig weigh?

    1. Thomas Post author

      I think the rig ways a tad over 2 lbs and, yes, I’ve used it in CW mode. In my opinion, it’s not ready for prime time on CW. Timing is a little off, but it may have already been solved in the firmware. I need to update.

      1. Bruce Feldman

        Perhaps this will help with the CW problems:

        From Lou KI5FTY, posted on the uBitx Forum:,,,20,0,0,0::Created,,%23cw,20,2,0,39852896,ct=1&ct=1

        “Found the problem with the transmit with trailing tone. In memory manager you can set CW DELAY (TX-RX) and it was set to 0. One would assume no delay. Not true, it must use some system default. Changing it to 1 (10ms) shortened the relay hang time to an noticeable amount and the wave form looks ok. 2 Questions:
        1) is that a bug or undocumented feature 😉
        2) why would there be tone output while the relay is closed but no keyup?”

  4. 13dka

    Of course I have at least one of of my portables in my hands as soon as the power goes out! 🙂 It doesn’t happen very often usually, but there’s a lot of construction work in my village currently and they are laying a huge underground high voltage line through the North German sticks, which means last year we had a few power outages. 3 of them were cutting out half of the Schleswig-Holstein west coast, several counties at once. I’m already happy about someone blowing the house’s main fuse but if all local QRM sources are turned off in a 50-100km radius, that sure doesn’t get much better SNR-wise. 🙂

  5. Giuseppe Morlè

    Ciao to all,
    I’m Giuseppe Morlè from Ponza Island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy …
    when I was born in 1961, there was no electricity in my house … at the age of 6 I finally had electricity in the house and I could use my grandmother’s radio, a Telefunken mod. Domino, from 1956 that my grandfather had connected to a battery that he used when the electricity was off … the radio was the only way to receive news in the evening …
    I remember perfectly the evenings with the oil lamp as light during thunderstorms and the radio that informed us of the arrival of the ship on the island …
    good memories of a finite time, the green light of the Domino valve illuminates my little room and I spent hours listening to Radio Luxembourg on medium waves …
    Greetings to everyone.
    Giuseppe Morlè iz0gzw.

  6. Mario

    Great story Thomas about a great hobby. Nothing like spending a cold winter’s night in the shack by the radio. You know sometimes a snowstorm brings good propagation with it, can remember 10 and 11m bands opening during a snowy winter night.

    1. Andrew

      Although in a past, using tube radios had the advantage you could also use them to keep your hands warm 🙂

      As for the antenna; it may be possible to use a piece of elastic band to create a “fuse” when pulled the ladder line would in turn pull the elastic and get back in place after, if pull is excessive the line will then unplug; easy and may avoid going out too often 😉

      Oh and as for bears … Thomas, there’s a trick from Charles Wenzel (techlib) which you may use to keep them (and deers and …) away

  7. Jack Dully

    I live in Yonkers,NY on The East Coast in an apartment of a 3 story building.I use to have a quiet 43’dipole and a 80′ # 12 long wire antenna with a selector switch in my apt. and both ant. mounted on the roof,with new building owner the antenna’s had to come down.I remember listening very clearly the Voice of Vietnam one night during a blizzard we were having ,on my plugged in IC-R75 when the lights went out.I changed gears and got my headlamp and a few other battery lights on,swapped over to my Eton E-1 with four D cells and back to 6175 to hear Vietnam again, it was even cleaner on battery power.We didn’t get our lights back for a few days but for me with a batch of new Duracell ‘s around,I really didn’t care.I took a look outside at the snow drifts ,which were beautiful,didn’t see any bears or cubs and felt safe and warm out of the wind.I had a warm Borden eggnog with rum and started slowly spinning my tuning knob and wondering what country I’d hear next..Thomas,thanks for a great article

  8. Paul Evans

    The power came back on at 08:43 ET down the road here 🙂 We ran through the night on the whole house (20kW) generator. It’s erie to see the whole valley dark, except our lights glowing as usual. I can warn you when the power’s coming back because I saw them send a ‘spy’ pick-up truck up the road and when it returned very quickly I thought ‘all’s OK’. Power came back on two minutes later! The Duke Energy outage site was overloaded last night shortly after I reported the outage from here and it kept returning to ‘select your state’ page!!


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