Grand Marais, Mn in Cook County, 110 miles up highway 61 from my home in Duluth.  Early to bed and up at 1030 utc to make this trip.  I expect to be on the air by 1700 utc. Temperature 1 degree F, calm winds and a 20% chance of snow.


 The Bing Maps Link

Because of the distance I do not very often go to Grand Marais, Mn but I do have a fondness for this town.  Not only does it have three lights to report, it is town of artists and artisans, and it is where I tested and received my Tech and General the same day.

I will be setting up in my car in the parking lot.

GM 17-12-12--1

Looking out of my car window I see this somewhat bleak scene with dry grass, little snow, ice on the bay and with the lighthouses centered.  This is a harbor for pleasure boaters including fisher/men/women where the parking lot has lots of room for trucks and boat trailers.  And it provides a good meeting place for young people out of school.

On the drive up, which took 2 hours and 45 minutes there was snow, slippery highways, deer crossing the road and crazy people in SUVs, but I made it without any dents or dead deer.

On  the way into Grand Marais I got a call from AE8S, Jerry who I had talked with the day before and who was hoping for a contact from Grand Marais.  We stayed on 14.271 till I got within sight of USA 330, USA 1382 and USA 1383 and shared these with Jerry.  My FT-857d seemed to be working well although it showed a small swr indication on the graph so Jerry listened while I pressed the tune button on the LDG yt-100.  When the tuning completed Jerry saw an increase from S1 to S8.  Quite remarkable I thought.  If I ever get another yt-100 I will mount it solid in the car near to the feedpoint of the vertical whip.  Until then it need to stay in the trunk under the ft-857d.

60 contacts today in three hours.  Ok for me. Thanks for the QSOs and for your patience.

I shut down at 2000 utc and headed home.  Lake effect snow again, no deer, one knucklehead SUV driver and a bimbo left turning in front of me, but I made it with no dents, just a bit of rearrangement of the contents of the front seat and trunk and the smell of burning tire rubber.

I suspect it will be many months before I take that drive again.

73  Steven, KD0ETC


26 December 2012.  At dawn the temperature is 1 F, cloudy with a forecast high of 17 F and light breeze.  Light snow.  While still at the condo I plug in the radio, press on and the radio comes on but the the audio is all broken up.  I try the tuner and it does not like the cold and stalls partway.  While the car is warming up I get three water bottles and fill them with hot tap water and I get the hair dryer. I tuck the hot water bottles around the radio and tuner then plug the dryer into and extension cord.  I set it in the pack and let it run on low.   A few minutes later I unplugged the dryer and left for Canal Park.  When I got there the radio and tuner worked fine.

Aerial Lift bridge and lighthouses



In this photo by mcleod6699 Canal Park is on the left of the bridge.  The three lighthouses are visible at the ends of the piers and on the right near the lift bridge.  The photo was taken at a time when the lift bridge was undergoing refurbishing so you can see canvas covers on the lower right.  The Duluth Ship Canal is  1,720 feet (520 m) long and 300 feet (91 m) wide.

Canal Park is less than three miles from my condo, an easy drive to downtown Duluth where at this time of year the parking lots in the Canal Park area are free of charge and free of the crowds of tourist who come to Canal Park to see the ships, the canal. and the Aerial Lift Bridge in operation, eat and shop at the many stores.  The Sault Ste Marie Locks close at the end of December so at this time of year we will not be seeing any salt water ships at the canal.  However, Lake Superior Shipping continues with seven arrivals and departures scheduled for 26 December in Duluth and many more for Two Harbors and Silver Bay and Superior, Wi.  Check the details at  Duluth Shipping News  or   Boat Nerd.

Paul R Tregurtha


Arriving at the parking lot at 1541 utc I saw that the bridge was up, and soon the bow of the Paul R Tregurtha came under the lift bridge.  This photo, from Duluth Shipping News during the summer shows the ship coming into the canal from Lake Superior with USA 237 behind the bow.  (My photos with my iPhone 4 are not near as good.)


The Paul R Tregurtha, at 1,013 ft (309 m) length, 105 ft (32 m) beam and 56 ft (17 m) depth is the largest lake carrier.

I check in first with the YLSystem on 14.332, receive a good signal report 57 then 59 from NV4U, Ron and move on to my own frequency, 14.271 that was clear on both sides. My goal was 70 contacts by 2000 utc.  Eventually, by 2014 utc, I have shared the three lighthouses with 70 hams coast to coast with one Swedish and one Italy contact and NV4U again on 14.271  Thanks Ron.  I do not always remember the names with the callsigns I hear, eventually some get pounded into my thick head, but for the others please be patient, I am trying.




December 23, 2012, Lighthouse Christmas Lights for the Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society continues with a short, 30 mile trip up the North Shore to the town of Two Harbors, Mn.

TwoHarbors Lighthouse USA 861

Temp is 10 degrees F, clear sky and light breeze.  I did not want to set up outside today, partly because of the wind and temperature, but also because there are no tall trees near the parking lot to support my antenna.  And ok, partly because  I am taking it easy before Christmas.

I parked my car in the parking lot near to this lovely brick lighthouse.  It is owned and maintained by the Lake County Historical society and they operate the keepers quarters as a Bed and Breakfast plus they keep the light operating.  The now official lighthouse is this square structure on legs out at the end of the breakwater.  Not so pretty, but functional.

steven at breakwater USA 1024

Operating from my car I ran 100 watts all day fed by both the starter battery and a 20 Amp/hr SLA in the trunk right next to where my radio resides.  I could not run th

e FT-857d from the starter battery for long before the voltage would drop and the audio would begin distorting forcing me to start the engine and keep it idling.  This causes a bit of ignition noise so I prefer to keep the engine off.  The SLA solved that problem so today I only ran the engine when I wanted to warm up a bit.


The antenna is a 6.6 foot whip on top of my car. I use it on 20 meters and up with an LDG Yt-100 auto tuner.  To change bands I used to get out, use a clip to short part of the loading coil and hope for a low swr.  Eventually I rewound the coil using rg-58 coax and rely on the tuner to make the match.  I use a solid mount bolted to the roof, then comes a quick connect, next a foot of 5/8 inch copper pipe, the coil wound on pvc.  Above that is a two foot piece of hollow fiberglass rod covered first with the braid from rg-8, then wrapped with black electrical tape.  Shrink tube would have been nice but I did not have any the right size.  A brass cap with a locking screw tops that in which a stainless steel cb antenna rod from radio shack is inserted.  I adjust it for a low swr on 14.3 MHz (1.7 this time).  This set up is unaffected by rain or snow.  Press the button and I change bands.

On the drive up to Two Harbors I heard N1QLL (Quebec Lighthouse Lighthouse) from USA 597.  Thanks, Jerry for the new one.  Hope you stayed warm

Again I started my CQ at 1630 utc and a few minutes later was chatting with Roy, WB7BBI in Texas who posted me on DX Summit and I was off and running.  Four hours later I had 73 contacts in the spiral notebook log for another good day of sharing these two lighthouses with other hams.

I was operating on 14.339 all this time and along toward 2000 utc I received an email asking me to qsy since I was interfering with a net on 14.340.  I had heard no request to move from any operator on the radio so I was ok with getting the message this way and was glad to move off 14.339 to give them room.  I tried 15 meters with no success, had a brief qso on 14.267 then organized things in the car and went qrt at 2045 utc

Trying 17 meters while on the road home I had a couple of contacts to keep me company.  A good end to a fine, busy day on amateur radio.

After Christmas on the 26 I will activate the three lighthouses at the Duluth, Mn ship canal, USA 237, 238, 240.


Steven, KD0ETC

December 22, 2012 began cool at 5 degrees F with a forecast high of 22 and a light wind from the west.

Point Zero USA 499

These were good conditions for the 1.5 mile hike out Minnesota Point to the Point Zero Lighthouse, USA 499.  USA 829 at the Superior entry is also visible so I activate two lighthouses from this position.

I like the hike to Point Zero, it is mostly flat along the sandbar, the trail runs through an old growth pine forest and it is not too far so I can do it easily.  This being winter my pack got a bit heavier than normal since I was carrying a blanket and extra clothes to wear once I sat down to operate the radio.  Later, back at the house I weighed the pack and found it to be 31 pounds.  That is 5 pounds more than I prefer, so I will have to get more strict on what I carry. There is a coax extension cord I seldom need, the hand mic now replaced by the Heil Traveler headset, a few spare parts.  That all may be 3 pounds.

I set up near the base of a large red pine in which I wanted to place my vertical dipole.  I carefully laid out the throw line and antenna, hooked the weight to my hiking stick, took aim at the top of the tree and sent the weight up toward the top.  The line made a hiss as it left the bag, thankfully not tangling at all which would ruin the toss.  It looked like a good toss, not all the way to the top, but a good 50 feet up at least.  Grabbing the weight I gently pulled the antenna up to the peak without a problem so the wire was hanging as a vertical dipole with the lower arm of the dipole (defined by the common mode choke) 18 feet off the ground.

On the ground where I planned to sit I put down a piece of black plastic on the snow, then the foam pad followed by the blanket.  The pack was open next to this, my water, sandwich and logbook to my right.  The iPhone on my lap, headphones and knit cap on I took my seat at 1645 utc where I would be for the next four hours.

Tuning 20 meters in search of a frequency I came across Ron, K1PEC who I have talked with many times who was operating a special event station for the Mayan apocalypse.  Ron was ready to conclude his event so he generously let me have 14.281 which served me well for the rest of my time.  Thanks again, Ron.  Soon Ron was followed by contacts from East coast to Gulf coast to the West coast, Alaska and the Midwest.  Canada was well represented and there was one contact in Puerto Rico and one Austrian contact.  Eventually by 2030 utc, with the sun out and the temperature of 22F I had shared USA 499/829 with 76 hams.

I began transmitting at 100 watts receiving consistent 59 signal reports so I soon reduced power to 50 watts to extend my time.  With my battery pack I expect about 3 hours of qso time, but this reduction gave me another hour.  My batteries figure about 15 Amp/hrs max and today I recorded a usage of 11.7 Amp/hrs and 166 Watt/hrs.  It was interesting to see that the meter recorded a peak amperage draw of 15 amps, much greater than I expected on SSB.  The only way I have seen close to 15 Amp/hrs out is when I discharge the batteries completely with a 12 volt ligh bulb load.    I recharged the batteries that evening and recorded a charge of 13.2 Amp/hrs with 225 Watt/hrs.

I walked back along the beach, avoiding the icy, slick trail in the woods, taking advantage of the hard, frozen sand along the shore of Lake Superior. Minnesota Point with USA 829 in the distance

In this photo in the far background is the Superior Entry Lighthouse, USA 829.  It is there as a little smudge just above the left side branch of the pine.  The beach grass and drift wood hold  snow while you can see by the waves that Lake Superior is unfrozen.  Eventually we will see ice piled up on the shore, and occasionally as the ice drifts with the wind there will be ice quite far out on the lake, but Lake Superior has not frozen over complete for many years.

Along this shore there is a small layer of ice on top of the sand near the water.  That part is slick.  Above that the sand is on top of the ice so the surface is hard and safe to walk on.  I stayed on the beach for the mile and a half back to the car.

Bing maps has a nice image of the area where I set up.

Next lighthouses will be in Two Harbors, Mn

73, Steven, KD0ETC