This journal is a record of my building, and operating an amateur radio station capable of world wide communications from Central Florida.
The Radio Ranch: A small 5 acre hobby farm just north of Ocala Florida. Marion County is a major world thoroughbred center with over 1200 horse farms, including about 900 thoroughbred farms, totaling some 77,000 acres (310 km2). Ocala is well known as a “horse capital of the world.” “Postime Farms” and Ocala serve as host to one of the largest horse shows in the country: H.I.T.S or “Horses in the Sun”, a Dressage/Jumper event lasting about two months which generates some 6 to 7 million dollars for local Marion County economy each year. The show features classes for over 100 different breeds, including Tennessee Walker, Paso Fino, Morgan horse, SaddleBred, Draft horse and the American Quarter Horse. Other equine events in the area include cowboy mounted shooting by the Florida Outlaws, as well as endurance rides, barrel races, “extreme” cowboy events, jumper shows, trick shows, parades, draft pulls, rodeo events and more. The nearby community of Silver Springs developed around the Silver Springs, a group of artesian springs on the Silver River. In the 19th century, this site became Florida’s first tourist destination. Today well known for glass bottom boat tours of the area, Silver Springs is owned by the state of Florida and incorporated into Silver Springs State Park in 2013. Other nearby natural attractions include the Ocala National Forest and the Florida Trail. Manmade local attractions include Wild Waters water park; the western-themed Six Gun Territory operated in the area until 1984.
I have always been a “Mac” guy, but it has been difficult to do all the things you want to do in amatuer radio and stay in the Mac environment. Running a FlexRadio 6300 has meant a windows computer needs to be the centerpiece of the shack, until recently. I have the Maestro control head and that makes it possible to run the Flex without a pc. However, if using a logging program with rig control, a pc is back in the picture. Now – with the addition of a dynamic antenna that needs band data info to model the elements, additional pc programs are needed (ddUtil) to send band data from the Flex to the Steppir control head.
Enter MacLoggerDx and dogparkSDR. Don Agro, VE3VRW, has now created a complete solution for the Mac user that wants to run a FlexRadio, Steppir dynamic antenna and stay in the Mac environment. Logging and station control, including rotor control, all seamless. No PC (windows), no driver nonsense, no windows port configuration, no intermediate virtual software to facilitate comunication. It all works over ethernet.
The KIO hex beam has worked well here at the K2ADA Radio Ranch. Now that we are here most days, I began thinking about an upgrade. Since my primary rig here is a Flex 6300, a multi band yagi or log periodic interested me. Both would “listen” to all bands with a single coax run and I could open multiple slices on the Flex. However, both also have compromises. A mono band antenna for every band would of course be the ultimate, but I didn’t want the multiple towers and switching that would be required.
A dynamic antenna. The Steppir has been around for awhile now. The 3 element (w/ 40m option) will not pose a problem for my Universal 50ft tower and Hygain rotor, and after several months of thinking and rethinking, I pulled the trigger.
Assembly is really straight forward but the instructions could use some attention. Steppir has updated the documentation of each option and sends each as an addendum to the basic build. This is a little confusing and requires a lot of extra work to assemble the antenna correctly. A phone call to one of the Steppir techs cleared everything up and the build took me about 3 days. Working several hours a day.
Here are some photos (thanks Annie) of the assembly, and the removal of the hex and raising of the Steppir:
Steppir needs to rethink their assembly documentation
KIO Hex beam.
Steppir element tubes
Steppir boom and EHU (stepper motor).
The entire boom assembly
40m driven element
a 60ft lift was used to retrieve the Hex antenna and replace it with the 3 ele Steppir
the completed Steppir is visible in the foreground
Thanks to help from a neighbor, we raised the Steppir, and attached it to the existing mast
I’m getting use to the time it takes the Steppir to “remodel” itself for each frequency change. Signals have been strong and reports have also been good.
I’m really loving the FlexRadio 6300. It’s a joy to operate, and the display makes easy work of spotting stations on the recent 6 meter openings. Flex just announced the Maestro Control Console. Here’s more info from Flex:
● Optimized workflow for contest/DX operation
● Desire for SDR benefits with physical controls
● Simple portable/remote operation
● No need for a PC
Maestro provides just the right physical controls (knobs and buttons) along with a brilliant 8 inch HD touch display to allow you to operate efficiently anywhere on your home LAN from the shack to the patio. Some of the world’s top contest/DX operators helped us design the control surface ergonomics and workflow. Whether you are a serious contester or a casual operator, we are confident you will find that Maestro will enhance your operation as well.