Monday, March 30, 2020

#CQWW WPX SSB 2020 review

Event: CQWW WPX SSB 2020
Section:  Single Operator All band SSB low assisted
Logger: N1MM+ newest version
TRX: Icom IC-7300 100W
Antenna 1: Inverted-V 2x20m @12m apex
Antenna 2: Multiband vertical @16m
Antenna 3: 4 elem. 10m LFA beam @14m

Tradionally the last big contest of the season for me. I hate to complain but it was really a struggle to me in the end. Normally you have a good chance to work the rare DX at the end of the contest but not this time and so I called endless times to DX I really wanted to work without being heard although some of the DX was really 59 here. Not that I didn't have my luck, I did make it to 5Z4/G3AB from Kenya and 5T5PA from Mauritania. And a whole lot of USA and Canada. Once again VY2ZM came back on my CQ on 160m, not the first time, if you sneeze on 160m Jeff will hear it for shure! I was glad the 10m band opened on both Saturday and Sunday and spend a lot of time there, although Saturday was way better. Made 53 QSOs on 10 including a lot of South America. I had some runs on 80m like always but it didn't hold on unfortunately although my signal was really strong obviously, ask fellow blogger OQ5M Franki ;-) I worked him on 160m and 80m. Especially the last hours Sunday evening didn't went successful, it was like my signal vaporized although nothing was wrong....stations were all S9 but it was just too busy on the bands, too much splatter, too many calling. Is it a psychological game? If you think your signal isn't heard it will happen...well that's SSB's difficult.

 Not shure why the analyzing site did take 5Z4 as ODX. I made several QSOs to Brazil and Paraquay
at about 11000km. Also worked Japan which is 9000km from here.

Heard ZM1A on both 40m and 20m, but unfortunately no luck this time. Not blaming him as he was in a constant pile up. Same counts for KL7RA who was really strong on both 40m and 20m but too many calling. However I heard a lot of stations from China who were only calling but despite their strong signal couldn't hear many. So that brings my question to the use of a big amplifiers...I heard many stations with big signals but rarely hear them replying to any stations. What is it worth to use a lot of power if you don't receive most of the stations?? It is only causing QRM making it only hard for others. It would be really much more fun if everyone was using moderate power like 100-400W. If you can't hear it you never work it, even not with 2KW.

But who am I to write about that. I have reasonable receive, a lot less noise compared to a city station. But never used more as 100W power. I think the antenna is much more important...if it radiating well and propagation is good 100W or less is more enough to work all over the world.

Enough complains. the CQWW WPX SSB is always a fun contest with lots of DX that can be worked, even with a modest station.
It is really great to hear so many voices on the band in this age of FT8 digimode. It is proof that SSB isn't dead yet!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Benefit of doubt - Ascension Island

I've been trying to work ZD8SC for months now. Since there are always big pile-ups I didn't contact him yet till yesterday evening. After trying to call for about an hour I finally got a free spot in the waterfall and a response. However like many times before someone else is transmiting right at my frequency when in QSO, probabely not receiving my signal. FT8 purists would say this is not a valid contact because ZD8SC didn't come back with a 73. However, we exhanged reports which a valid enough for a contact. I think I transmitted RR73 for at least 50 times after this till he transmitted ZD8SC QSY twice. I think he must have seen my RR73 but didn't want to disrupt next QSOs. I've experienced this kind of contacts a few times before and always was in the log. So I wrote Steve an e-mail if he could confirm I'm in the log. However I know internet on Ascension Island is difficult. I hope he will respond in the end anyway....till then I have logged the contact for a new one on 60m and an ATNO.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

#CQWW WPX SSB 2020 - COVID-19 Virus

I was just thinking ahead towards this weekend. One of my favorite international contests of the year "Papa Echo Four Bravo Alfa Sierra".
will be on. The CQWW WPX contest is all about prefix hunting. In the past the PE4 prefix was special but at this time there are several more that have this prefix. So listen carefully for my call, I'm not PE4B, I'm PE4BAS

I just checked the CQWW WPX website and discovered I was nr. 1 in the Netherlands last year. Not a bad accomplishment. I hope to equal last years score this weekend....all depends on propagation and time...

The contest is something very welcome as distraction. COVID-19 takes a heavy toll on everyone including my family. Although I doubt everyone takes this seriously. Most HAMradio operators are "old timers" and they are very vulnerable to this virus. Still some people think it is no more as just a flu. Yes, old people are dying of flu as well, but COVID-19 is a virus and if we don't take precautions a lot more people will die compared to the flu. Young people are affected as well, be warned, nothing is shure in this world now!
On the other hand: It is a law of nature, the strongest will survive. However the human race is the only species that takes care of the weak and try to heal them whatever it takes! Strange isn't it?
There are some more strange things and my wife are still working despite the risk of contamination. You read about isolation and what people do in their unexpected free time everywhere, but most people are still doing their daily jobs here. The strange thing is that young people keep their distance, do understand the importance......but old people don't seem to get it. That at least is my observation and experience right now...the question is why?? They are the most vulnerable....
More strange things.....although I have a technical repair job I wear gloves all the time now. We did take precautions, only one customer at a time in our repair shop, regulary cleaning everything customers touched and more precautions every day. My wife works with elderly people.....but her management does not find it important to take precautions as long as she or one of our family is not ill. She doesn't have to wear a mask or gloves.....strange....
Well just a few strange things we encounter, I'm shure there are more....
I hope, you readers and everyone else, will stay healthy and wish everyone all the best....

Sunday, March 22, 2020

#10m propagation 22-March - Falklands

ODX Falkland Islands 13000km. ZS6NL has been worked by my FT8 robot. My signal was heard in south America according the map but no contacts. I did one small switch to 12m were I worked ZS1SC myself.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

#10m propagation 21-March - Chile

Beautiful weather here. Other chores were more important. My FT8 robot did a good job catching fish in a ES opening today. Made 15 QSOs. Received Chile well but they didn't hear my signal....

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

2 mods on the IC-7300 I might consider

There are two things that are quite irritating on the Icom IC-7300. First is the loud relay clicking and second is the loud fan sound when transmitting. Although the IC-706 fan is at least as loud it didn't botter me since I was used to it, but with another fan it can be silenced....

The relay clicking can be solved easily with some putty:

The fan can be exchanged with the Noctua NF-A8 PWM, it gives considerable less noise.

Another small mod would be a shorter and thicker PS cable. I notice a considerable voltage drop with the long original cable. It gives some power drop from the radio at full power.

My IC-7300 is only half a year old. I have to wait till the end of august 2021 because I don't want to void the 2 year warranty. I might think different at that time.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Thoughts about the DK7ZB 5 (6) band quad

I'm still looking for a good solution to build a 5 band quad. However I made some unsuccessful attempts in the past (27 years ago). The main problem is how to tune the reflector for max. gain/front-back. There are several tips that can be found on the internet, most are theoretically but in real life it almost couldn't be done. So in the end it's trail and error.

A while ago I came across the DK7ZB quad. It's quite a different design and easier to build. The drawback might be the open line that feeds the director but when using a autotuner and a 1:1 balun it could be easier to accomplish. Another option would be connecting it to the ladder line of the inverted-V through a remote switch.The specs are almost the same as any other 2 element 5 band quad.

Specs of the DK7ZB compared to a Big Signal 2BS-5B tradional quad as example:

BandGain dBdF/B dBGain dBdF/B dB

I just took the 2BS-5B as example since this quad is popping up everywere on the internet these days. But there are many other manufacturers selling 2 element 5 band quads with almost the same specs. I could have picked any other one as example.

PDL2 quad used in 2008 @PE4BAS
I've seen quads that use aluminium wire as radiator, I really don't like that although without question
it is a lot lighter as insulated copper wire. The main advantage of isolated cu wire is that it is cheap and strong. The disadvantage is that it is heavy, you need a strong construction to hold it. But to make a strong construction for a quad antenna is not easy. It is expensive as well if you want to buy special fabricated glasfiber tubes.

Personally I just want to experiment to see if this quad would be interesting to have in my tower. But it shouldn't cost me too much. So, the idea is to use cheap glasfiber telescopic fishing rods and 1mm alu welding wire because of the weight. This way the antenna might be a bit flimsy but good enough to test things. If the prototype antenna is doing the job for me I can always decide to invest more money in a final version.

Previous 1993 attempt to build a quad on 11m, it didn't work well...

Sunday, March 8, 2020

#10m propagation 8-March

There was less to hear on 10m FT8 compared to yesterday. ZS6BUN was copied a few times but no others from South Africa. Only contact could be made with DF9JS from Germany despite I (well my robot again) have been calling a lot of stations.

It occurs to me that I have been heard on Faroer Isl. again just like yesterday. Strange as my antenna is pointing south. But since I was copied in Scotland as well I think it has to be genuine. Signal at OY1OF was -7dB at 10:13 UTC, the path must have been to be really open.

11 years ago in the previous solarminimum this kind of propation research or probing was something you couldn't even think of. I was just active with WSPR at that time but don't see any posts about using WSPR on 10m from that year. My first post about 10m WSPR was 10 years ago.... WSPR is nice and able to deeply decode signals. But FT8 comes closer to real world signals...and closer the real propagation paths....

Saturday, March 7, 2020

#10m propagation 7-March - South Africa

My FT8 robot did some nice work on 10m again. Worked ZS6AYE, ZS95SARL, ZS6SJR, ZS6DPL.

Lot's of European stations heard, and I (well my robot) was heard by lots in Europe but only a QSO with EA5YI and PA8D was made. There was much QSB but I have the idea not everyone has a good receive these days. Even 10m is affected by all kind of electrical noise from appliances surrounding us. I have free sight to the south and so no noise in that direction. But if I turn the beam to the west I have a lot of noise probabely from solar panel optimizers. So unfortunate....

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Remote DX @PE4BAS

iPhone SE with Google remote desktop chasing DX...
Chasing DX is something special. You need to choose the right time and keep an eye on the cluster.But it doesn't tell all. There can be surprises so you need to keep alert an eye or ear as well.

Chasing DXpeditions is almost an art and in the past years was time consuming and you need a special skill. Not everyone has that skill because most of it is patience....besides that you need a lot of time. I remember hours and hours of calling and trying to find were the DXpedition was listening. Sometimes I was lucky, sometimes not.

But since FT8 was born chasing DX is easier, not that time consuming anymore and even stations with a modest setup can chase... Another big advantage is remote operation, using a smartphone, tablet or computer you can actually DX everywhere you want. Using teamviewer or google remote desktop or similar it is easy setup, just take over the desktop at home and there you go. There is only one disadvantage, you need to keep your station on when away from home. Personally I don't like that and so I only work remote once and a while. Today I decided to work remote since it is probabely the last day we can try working VP8PJ from South Orkney Islands. Tomorrow they will dismantle the stations and get ready to go home. My experience is that working DXpeditions is easiest at their last day of operation. However there always is a risk they have to leave early due to unexpected weather changes or any other cause.

The idea was to check 20m and 15m during my breaks on the job. But all I VP8PJ. Yes I saw countries all around me making contacts. I even saw a cluster spot from Portugal that there was almost no one coming back on FT8 F/H. But really I didn't see VP8PJ at all on both bands. I really thought something was really wrong so at my lunchbreak I did some calling on 15m which resulted in DX with Oman and Indonesia, nothing wrong with my station. But it was not before 16:30 UTC that I saw VP8PJ slowly coming through. So I did try to make it.....but others did as well. It was only until I was already at home before, after a few unlucky responses, I got the final RR73. At least one mission accomplished. When I was at diner I got a message from neighbourstation PA4O that VP8PJ was visible on 10m....this was really unique. I knew I had only a few minutes to try since this kind of propagation never last long. Luckely I was at home since remote switching of antennas and turning the beam is not yet implemented here yet ;-). To make a long story did happen.

Monday, March 2, 2020

#60m band DX February 2020

France is allowed to transmit now on the 60m band since the 14th of February. And not only France but also the french territories. So, it is possible to work a lot of new ones on the 60m band since this month. The downside is that 60m becomes more and more overcrowded. It is already difficult to find an empty spot in the waterfall to fit you TX signal. Then we had a lot of wind this month which forces me to work with my less as good multiband vertical on top of my lowered tower a number of days. Still DX could be worked, propagation was excellent again at times...

I've been seeing India several times on 60m but unfortunately didn't have a chance to contact any.  Luckely VU2CPL showed up on the evening of the 2nd with good signal and not too many takers. Sometimes you're lucky! I finally got India in the log now.

Guadeloupe was the first DXCC from the french territories I could contact. I'm really lucky to have a IC-7300 with filtering on max. width. Since Jean-Pierre was transmitting almost on 3200Hz (from 5357kc). Most old radios would have missed receiving him, certainly my old IC-706. The side effect of this was that contacting him was easy on the evening of the 13nd

Gabon is no french territory but the operator is french. It looks like the french finally found the 60m band even in Gabon. TR8CA is the first station I saw transmitting outside the FT8 allocation on F/H mode in both FT8 and FT4. Worked him above 5760KHz FT8 on the 14th.

Willy ON4AVT was active from Senegal last year as 6W7/ON4AVT but unfortunately I was not able to work him on 60m. He did his best and I even got a QSL which I treat as a SWL card. He probabely saw me or someone else made the contact for me, but I did not. So I was eager to work Willy this year since he's active again on 60m till the end of March. I did hear him already the first evening when he was just testing the antenna, but he didn't see me unfortunately. Then I saw Willy at several evenings with good signals but still, even after calling many times, I didn't get a contact. In the mean time we both discussed a possible QSO and operating tips on a Dutch internet forum. I suggested he should try F/H mode on another frequency but till now Willy thinks he's not able to do that without making errors. Anyway, I saw him calling at the evening of the 24th, he made it with my neighbourstation PA4O Peter so I should have a chance. I asked Peter to monitor my signal to see if I was not doubling with another station, he told me to move up a little.....and with a lot of effort on Willy's side and mine we did make a complete FT8 QSO.

TU5PCT Cote d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast. Totally by surprise he appears on 5760 FT8 with 5 MSHV multistreams at the evning of the 25th. It seems to be a habit to be on 5760 KHz with a DXpedition these days. The problem only is that countries that have channels to operate on like the UK and USA do not have a chance to work them. However, is there another option these days? After the contact I switch back to 5357 KHz and find VP8PJ, V47 and CN8 calling with a zoo of callers in the opposite time slot making it totally impossible to make any contact.

The evening of the 26th brough much DX and rare stations. I suddenly saw replies to CN8SG  from Morocco again, and a few moments later I had a strong signal appearing from him. However, it seems he got bored from all the stations calling. I imagine the only thing he sees on screen is replies to him in the same color. I noticed he was carefully picking stations and even replied to CQs (another color). I saw him picking stations that were transmitting very low  and very high in the waterfall so I decided to call at around 2900Hz. Just a gamble....but it worked.

Have seen FM1HN from Martinique Isl. a few times last weeks. But you can imagine the pile-up for this station. I couldn't sleep and at 3 in the morning (2 UTC) I had to go to the toilet. I decided to look for DX for a few minutes and saw Julien struggling to get replies. The band was really open and several DX stations were on including a zoo of followers. I could hardly find a open spot to call but persisted till he finally came back to me and got me in the log. And of course Julien is in my log as well ;-)

Then when I was chasing the South Orkney Islands DXpedition VP8PJ I suddenly saw HP2DFA from Panama calling. I actually was surprised he came back on my call and we managed to make the QSO. From Omar's QRZ page I learned he was a 11m operator long time ago. Have to search for my old paper logbooks from that time since I think I could have made a QSO with Omar before long time ago.

VP8PJ is the call from Alan VK6CQ, team member of the South Orkney Island DXpedition. This call was issued to Alan for operation from the British Antarctic Territory. Since the team was unable to get their own callsign they use this call. Working VP8PJ on 60m would be no problem a few years ago but a matter of luck now. They are not using F/H mode so making QSOs in FT8 is not going very fast. Regular readers do know I made the contact at 28 Feb.
It was a new one on 60m and a ATNO as well.

Working DX on 60m is really great. I don't really care about confirmations though. It is the fun to contact new countries on this band and especially the ones that have a story to tell. Above I only described the "new on 60m band" QSOs. Besides those I made a lot of other interesting DX as well.