Monday, November 25, 2019

#cqww cw 160m QRP

Event: CQWW DX CW 2019
Section: Single Operator 160m QRP unassisted
Logger: N1MM+ / CWskimmer
Station: Icom IC-7300 at 5% (5W)
Antenna: Vertical with CG3000 autotuner

Like last year I thought to try 160m QRP again. This year with a better radio (IC-7300) and the surprisingly unintentionally coupled antennatower/vertical antenna. I only took part for a few hours saturday evening/sunday morning/sunday evening aiming at 100 QSO. It went surprisingly good although it sometimes took me a lot of calling and repeating my call. Sometimes they mixed me up with EA4BAS which is sounding totally different in CW, however I can imagine when you only get 4BAS you're guessing. When I started N1MM+ saturday I thought I already figured out how to use CW/CAT control via one USB cable, however it seems I only configured FSK RTTY. So it took me a while to figure out what settings to use for CW but I managed to get it right in the end. The IC-7300 has adjustable very small filtering and it is very quiet to listen to especially with a very small filter. Listen to, yes, I actually listened and didn't do everything reading CWskimmer. I can't figure out calls send in CW but I can perfectly hear my own call, TU, 5NN and 14. I tried calling CQ once sunday morning but that didn't work out so all contacts are made S&P. The way I did it was tuning up the entire band and at the end tuning down working all the stations I could hear.

I didn't make use of the DX cluster since it has no use with QRP, you can only work reasonable loud stations. I was very surprised I could work VY2ZM (Canada) and S01WS (Western Sahara), VY2ZM was real 599 here. Over all,  DX with QRP even with CW is just very difficult. 160m QRP, I think, is the most difficult section of them all. But with some patience and perserverance you can make a reasonable amount of contest points.

I know this is different from other parts of the world, Europe consists of so many DXCC it is no problem to work this amount of countries QRP. 37 in total. Strangly I miss Italy?? I didn't hear any Italian station on 160m. Can you imagine? It is almost impossible to not hear Italy on any HF band.
Listening is very important on 160m, especially with CW. With the small filter I used I could hear a station almost every KHz and for the first time ever in a contest I could hear stations, even the weak ones, without being disturbed by other signals. Something that isn't possible with the old IC-706 or the FT-817. I enjoyed this a lot and hope to do another effort next the mean time I should really consider to learn some more CW...

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Friese 11 steden contest verslag

This is a dutch language contest, however open for international traffic. But since the content is only interesting for the dutch I'll write it in dutch for archive purposes.

Event: Friese 11 steden contest 2019
Section: Outside region 14
Logger: N1MM+ 
Station: Icom IC-7300 100W
Antenna: Inverted-V apex 12m

Een gezellige contest met als multipliers de 11 steden van de beroemde schaatstocht + klunplaats Bartlehiem. Voor uitwisseling vermeld je het regionummer en plaatsnaam, waarbij de plaats bepalend is voor het regionummer. Nog steeds vind ik dit het leukste Nederlandse contest waarbij je de gekste plaatsnamen tegenkomt. Jammer genoeg is het aantal deelnemers beperkt. Vooral de echte contest stations kijken een beetje op deze contest neer en doen liever mee aan grotere contesten. Dit jaar werkte ik "maar" 71 stations en dat is dan weer beduidend minder als afgelopen jaar. Maar wel werden alle multipliers gewerkt en dat is dan wel weer erg leuk. Vooral de laatste 2 multipliers waren een uitdaging. PI4ADH die in Workum zat was erg zwak en kwam op mijn CQ terug, helaas kon ik hem maar net boven de ruis uithalen, uiteindelijk lukte het gelukkig wel. Als laatste had ik ( en ik niet alleen ) Dokkum nog nodig. Die kwam het laatste half uur toch nog opdagen en dus lukte het om alle 12 multipliers te noteren.

Toch was het af en toe wel erg rustig. Voor mij tijd om eens te kijken naar mijn eigen signaal over langere tijd via de webSDR van universiteit Twente. Interessant om te zien dat mijn signaal langere tijd heel erg hard is om dan voor een aantal minuten volledig te verdwijnen. Dit is ook te horen op mijn opname van de webSDR die ik ongeveer het eerste half uur van de contest heb gemaakt. Op deze opname verdwijn ik volledig en erg snel rond de 15 minuten, daarna ben ik er pas weer 5 minuten later maar erg zwak. Wel een mooie gelegenheid om mijn modulatie te beoordelen op leesbaarheid als het erg zwak is. Daarna verdwijn ik weer om rond de 22 minuten weer op te komen. Erg interessant om dit te zien en horen, ik ben dus niet constant in heel Nederland te horen al had ik die indruk soms wel...

Uiteraard heb ik op een willekeurig moment ook nog even over de band gedraait van 3,6-3,8 MHz om te zien wat er allemaal te beluisteren viel. Dat vond ik nog wel tegenvallen, maar oordeel zelf:

Van mij zou de contest wel wat korter mogen. Na het eerste uur is er weinig meer te beleven. Aan de andere kant is het altijd een verassing en best wel spannend of de 12 multipliers gewerkt gaan worden. En dat lukte nu pas na 2,5 uur. Alle bij elkaar heb ik er weer van genoten. Tot volgend jaar...

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Buying QSL cards from DX stations

I received the confirmation paper QSL cards from my WRTC 2018 contacts via bureau last week. Now I ask myself, was it necessary? Is it a waste of paper? Yes, I did the request for these QSLs myself and I regret. What am I doing with all this paper? I don't really collect paper QSL anymore. Paper QSL is a thing from the past. There are other ways to confirm a contact now. I already have these contacts confirmed by LOTW. Think of eQSL, LOTW and many others. There is no need for a paper QSL anymore except for those who collect them.

Well. collect them or buy them? There is another trend going on in QSL world. Many stations are not a member from any club or society anymore and QSL bureaus are receiving less QSL cards every year. Those who still want that paper QSL in the past were proud to send them, QSL bureau or not, since the receiver would have the same costs to send a QSL in return. But these days it looks like it is big business. Not for those that want QSL exchange only but also for the post providers. Postage is expensive and a excuse for not sending any QSL. I see a trend that DX stations especially, even if they are not really rare, ask several US dollars for postage. I fact you can pay by paypal and that way it is just a matter of buying your confirmation. Personally I don't like that, I might be old fashion. But this is still a hobby and if I would buy all the QSL I need for DXCC confirmation that would a considerable amount of money. There are other ways but I know several (DX) stations that don't confirm at any online QSL service so if you want to have your contact confirmed you have to pay them first. So unfortunate....

The final courtesy of a QSO is the QSL....

These days that would be:

The final courtesy of a QSO is the confirmation...

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Unintentional tower coupling

After reading VK3YE Peter's blog recently about coupling a 28m long lightpole with a loop on 160m and 80m I think something similair happened at my antenna setup. Unintenional of course and it is only working well on 160m. Above the results of my efforts on 160m FT8 last evening. Nice to see the greyline spots, even spotted at daylight in the USA. Calling for Japan resulted in immidiate response, but after some QSOs it gets boring.....Imagine for others it is only a dream to work Japan on 160m. It is a nice side effect of course but I wonder how much the coupling affects the antenna radiation pattern on 20m to 10m.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Testing the 40m super gain antennaproject in the PA-beker national contest

Half of the dipole situated diagonal in
the garden.
Today was the PA-beker dutch national contest. This is a contest on 80m/40m only between Dutch participants. Excellent for testing NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) antennas. A project that is one of my favorites has been in my browser favorites for over 10 years now and I always wanted to try this antenna to experience it is really a miracle NVIS antenna. The original antenna was described by W4NVK in 73 Magazine from October 1969. A more modern version can be found here. Basically it is a low dipole on 2,1m above the ground. On the ground there are 3 reflectors about 21m long (dipole+5%) spaced 1,80m from the center. It should have 15dB rejection of unwanted low angle stations and noise. Vertical up forward gain would be 9dB. Well, that's all numbers....we want to hear the difference!

See part of the reflectors to get the idea

So, I built the antenna Saturday afternoon, it is a very simple antenna and it didn't took much time. When testing I immidiatly noticed less noise on the band and signals from nearby (Germany/France) were at least 1 S unit stronger compared to the inverted-V, a good sign!

I started the PA-beker contest on 80m, my inverted-V does well on that band. In the mean time I kept an eye on the MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) for 40m. Best would be 7,1MHz or higher for 300km range. But unfortunately during the contest the MUF didn't came high enough, it was about 6,5MHz on 300km max. 40m was very, very difficult to make contact on within our small country. However I managed to make a few contacts after all, although I think it is a miracle it was possible with such a low MUF. I tried to record the difference I heard between the inverted-V and the NVIS super gain antenna. After some unsuccessful recordings I finally have one without too much QRM. Listen for yourself...
At the first second you here me switching and notice some difference. At 14-24sec PD0CQ is calling PA3EVY RX with inverted-V, 25-40sec PD0CQ is making the contact with PA3EVY this time RX with the NVIS antenna.

Actually I noticed the difference all the time. All my 40m contacts were made with the NVIS antenna.
So unfortunate I only made 14 QSOs. The last 15 minutes of the contest I spotted all the Dutch stations I heard. I worked everything I could hear (except PD0CQ since I didn't hear him anymore). On 80m there were 74 QSOs including dupes, nice but it didn't have my interest this time...

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

100 years of Dutch (broadcast) radio

It is 100 years ago that dutch radio engineer Hanso Idzerda made his first official "commercial" radio broadcast with his call PCGG. One of the first that didn't transmit only morse code but entertainment programmes like music and even the weatherforecast after a while. Not only for a dutch audience but also for the english.  I can tell the whole story but you better read it yourself on wikipedea. Hanso's station was populair and he received not only reports from all over Europe but also from Iceland. The station was funded with money he earned from selling radiotubes which were made by Philips with colaboration of his own business NRI (Nederlandse Radio Industrie). NRI also made their own radioreceivers. However when 2MT, 2LO and later the BBC came with entertainment transmissions the interest from great britain was greatly reduced. Besides that several issues made him bankrupth and he lost his license. He restarted later on with another company NV Radio Idzerda callsign PF1IDZ. Unfortunately he could only transmit at Saturday night. In 1935 he finished all his radio activities. He bought a lodge and had a new job. Strangly enough he was forgotten for many years. I got an old Radio encyclopedia from 1949 in which you cannot find anything about Hanso at all. However he was still interested in the newest tech info. In the WW2 he was caught by the germans when he carried parts from a V2 rocket, they shot him immidiatly on suspicion of espionage. A tragic end....

Very interesting for dutch readers is a 4 part dutch podcast about the life of Hanso Idzerda. It is made around a find of four 78tpm vinyl LPs (fictional) and includes Hanso's voice. It might not be so interesting for foreign readers except if you understand Dutch. You can find the four podcasts here:

PCGG transmitter

I found many items and recordings on youtube about Idzerda as well. Including recordings of his first official transmission. Below a series from the Dutch Institute for Sound and Vision. It has english undertitles and some of it is english spoken:

Monday, November 4, 2019

#cqww PA6AA video

I gathered all the video and photo material from our CQWW SSB 2019 contest participation into one length video. It's quite long....enjoy!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A good start of the Sunday

Calling on what looked like a death band....

Suddenly 3B8CW Clive from Mauritius came back. Who says FT8 is not magic? I still feel the same compared to this would happen in any other's radiomagic.

Have been chatting with Clive after the contact (JT-Alert chat) and we discussed the propagation. Clive wrote me he uses a Icom IC-7610, 200W into a hexbeam. His signal only became stronger in the mean time, till about +4dB.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

10m FT8 Sat. 2-Nov-2019

I hope 10m will open today. I hear that many times. Check 10m out and call CQ! I'm happy there is FT8. This is the populair mode now and reveals DX that would otherwise be missed. Today I had a lucky contact on 10m with Z81B (South Sudan). Of course I cannot be at the radio for 12 hours a day at daylight time otherwise more DX could have been possible....

It is impossible for me to monitor every day of the week. But I think a path to Africa opens every day these days. The only problem is that there are not many stations in that continent. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

#cqww SSB 2019 PA6AA contest review

Event: CQWW SSB 2019
Section:  Multi Operator Two Radio High Power
Logger: N1MM+
Station 1: Elecraft K3s 400W
Station 2: Elecraft K3s 400W
Antenna 160m: Inverted-L
Antenna 80m: Inverted-L + dipole
Antenna 40m: 4 square + dipole
Antenna 20m: 2 element SteppIR
Antenna 15m: 4 element yagi
Antenna 10m: 2 element SteppIR

Support: PA0VAJ, PE1OEU, Feike

This is the long awaited review of the CQWW 2019 as experienced at the PA6AA contestteam. Bernard PB7Z does rent the house for a week now so we have time to build all the antennas. I brought and built the first scaffold already the monday before the contest, this was to support the steppIR. The other antennas were built over the week. We also constructed a 80m 4 square but it never took part in the contest since it was blown away by a storm already at friday evening. We also had large winds at Saturday. Something we know about but still we forget to take it in account...we need only the best hardware to setup everything. So we had a Spiderbeam pole for the 160m inverted-L that performed well, those spiderbeam poles are just way better and can stand large winds. But bad luck continued, we couldn't control the steppIR first day and after some search we tracked it down on a faulty coax and a loose connector. The 15m beam rotor broke as well so we had to turn the beam by hand. But in between we managed to keep 2 stations on air constantly. We started very well with good QSO rate but it didn't go on for the whole contest probabely due to bad propagation. The low bands were also much noisier as last year. But you can't complain much, we had to go on and we did...

Some stats: 2688 QSOs, 125 DXCC, ODX: ZM4T (18000km), 6 continents, 37 CQ zones. So, even with these bad conditions (bottom of the solar cycle) we have worked DX around the world.

PA6AA map of our contacts (click to enlarge)
When I arrived at Sunday morning there was not much going on. André PA3OES complained 20m was almost done. He had the idea to check 10m, it was pretty early actually for that band but he saw some spots I guess. Well after we switched over I took over and slowly the 10m became alive. I could work most of Europe and even some Asia and Africa, real magic. The 2 element SteppIR worked very well on that band and I'm glad we had a good antenna for 10. It didn'last forever of course...Unfortunately the QSO rate didn't hold on the low bands in the evening, it was a struggle to get some QSOs and we had the idea even with the power we used we didn't get our signal out. It certainly was not the best effort ever. But after all we almost managed to have as much QSOs as last year. And we had a lot of fun of course....

We already think about next year. Better antenna setups, better equipment....better ideas? Well we'll see what next time brings....most important is that we have fun!