Sunday, August 30, 2020

Contest blunder

There you go. Just when you think you're a experienced contester you make a big mistake. I got into the shack early in the afternoon and checking out propagation. I noticed some stations that called CQ WW on 20m FT4, so obviously some digital contest was going on. I quickly moved to the settings of WSJT and switched on WW contestmode and started to make contacts. In the mean time I tried to find the rules for this contest. I found a page here: It opens now but at that time I only got a 404 message. So I tried a couple of times but no luck. No problem, I assumed a WW contest always last for 48h so I could continue the fun. Suddenly I noticed there were a lot less stations on air. Well no problem, could be a change of propagation? I also noticed stations did send reports instead of the usual contest exhange, I was confused. Then I found the contest times on a contestcalendar. The contest was over at 11:59 UTC....well it was....12:13 UTC. I'm sorry for those stations I confused....they probabely think I'm still a LID,

Luckely I had some nice QSOs as well. I continued to check propagation and despite there was no SSB/CW signals on the 10m band I saw some stations active on FT8. One station I saw is well known to me but I haven't heard or contacted him for quite a time. It was EI2KC Anthony. We quickly made a FT8 QSO and had a small chat via messenger. Anthony is a well known writer about ancient Ireland and I'm happy to see he updated his blog again recently. So he made a entry into my blogroll again. Well, about 10m QSOs, I recently try to optimize my receive on SSB. The IC-7300 has so many possebilities and filters it is just a way of trying to find the right setting which is personal for everyone. When a signal is just audible it makes a huge difference what filter configuration you use. And in contest situations it could be completely different. So I was listening for small  SSB signals on 10m this afternoon when I came across the huge signal from EA7EU Pedro. Actually he was the only SSB signal on the entire 10m (SSB) band. Pedro and I made a nice QSO and connected through twitter to continue and view some photos of his ED7O conteststation. Well, because of the nice contacts I forgot about the mistake made earlier and feel a lot better now...

6m DX results ES-season 2020

Although I concentrated on the 4m band for contacts and DX this season, the 6m band was open very often. When there was nothing to be heard on 4m I was on 6m (always keeping an eye on KST-chat and the DX cluster for 4m propagation). There are some HAMs in the Netherlands that have worked and confirmed over 200 DXCC on the 6m band, but most of them were already DXing there in the eighties of last century I think. From what I heard and read propagation was really good those years and worldwide contacts could be made. I really didn't experience anything else as ES (single hop or multihop), MS and Tropo propagation on 6m. So it is still a big challenge to get 100 DXCC anyway. At the moment I'm at 83 DXCC on the 6m band after this season. 17 to go for 100...will it take a few seasons or another 10 years? This is about the new DXCC I worked on 6m this year...

I was really late this season. The PE75FREE activation in May consumed all radio time. I've been thinking about mounting the 5 element 6m ZX-Yagi into the tower again but plans changed when the idea of a duoband beam came up. Well you know the story by now and otherwise you need to check the archives of this blog.

First real DX was with UN7ZO (Kazakhstan) on the 16th of June. Confused about the call on the QSL? Well it seems Dmitriy just changed his callsign...

Next day on the 17th of June I worked ZB2IF (Gibraltar) for a new one. I never heard or seen stations from Gibraltar on 6m before, I wonder why? But now I got one in the log.

OD5KU (Lebanon) was worked at the 21st of June. Heard him many days after the QSO. Evidence of a good station and active operator. And good propagation to the middle east of course...

ZA5G (Albania) worked on the same day a half hour later. New one for me on 6m.

The 21st of June was my DX lucky day since I worked C31CT (Andorra) another 6m new one.

First transatalantic DX of the season was made with PZ5RA (Suriname) at 30 June. Wrote a blogpost about it and am very happy with this contact. It proves the antenna is working well.

The transatlantic path opened more often now and a the 2nd of July I worked PV8DX and PV8AZ (Brazil). I found this QSL on the QRZ page of PV8AZ. I think  the stations know each other well, they are in the same QTH Boa Vista.
WP4G (Puerto Rico) was worked on this day as well, not a new one though...

In the morning of the 4th of July I worked 7Z1SJ (Saudi Arabia) for a 6m new one. I remember I saw him, worked him and never saw him again. It has to be a lucky propagation lift at that moment.

On the 9th of July I worked JW7QIA (Svalbard) early in the evening. Wrote a blogpost about it. Wish I could work him on 4m as well. Hopefully that will happen another year...

And finally the last new one on 6m was a fast contact with the digimode FT4. I was just lucky to work HB0WR (Liechtenstein) in the morning of the 26th of July.

The above station are the most interesting for me personally. But besides that I worked a few other interesting DX stations. To name a few: FG8OJ (Guadeloupe), W4TAA, W2PKY, K4CVL and many more from USA, JA1GAP, JH4IFF and JA5EXW (Japan), 4Z5LA (Israel), UN3GX (Kazakhstan), HZ1SK (Saudi Arabia)

Yes, it certainly was a interesting ES-season!

Friday, August 28, 2020

End of a season...

Not only the end of the ES-season but also the summer is ending. Most swifts are already gone on their journey to Africa again. This short video was made a few weeks ago, when a lot of young swifts were landing on my antennas.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

4m band DX challenge (ES) season 2020 results

This was the first year I actually am seriously DXing on the 4 meter band (70 MHz). And I was having a blast. The ES-season started early this year and counted some great openings in May,. Unfortunately I was busy with the PE75FREE activation and did not have any time before to build the planned 70MHz yagi. When PE5TT Marcel showed the installation of his 4m/6m duoband beam and told the DX results he had I immidiatly searched for building plans. I found a nice design from YU7EF for a 10 element 4m/6m duoband beam which fitted on the boom I already had. Well regular readers of this blog have been reading about it. So this post is about what is achieved in the 2020 ES season on 70MHz.

First QSO on 14 June was on a local FM channel (70.450) with PA3GAZ and PE0XJ. After that I had to wait for propagation. My first QSO outside Netherlands was with DL1OBF at 17 June. On 18 June I had my first QSO with OZ1DLD (Denmark) on CW!  There was a nice opening at 19 June which gave me a lot of DXCC in the log. First real DX (well what is real DX?) was with TF8SM (Iceland), it looked like the band was already closed but then I received him on the back of my beam, after turning the signal was pretty good and we made a QSO. EA8DBM (Canary Islands) is my best DX so far with over 3000km, the QSO was easy and I could decode him almost a whole afternoon at 2 July. 9H1TX and 9H1FL (Malta) were worked at 14 July. A lot of other European countries already in the log. So, another few new DXCC was going to get difficult I thought.

But then ZB2GI from Gibraltar appeared on the band and was contacted on 26 July. On that same day I saw EA9IB from Cueta&Mellila (Africa) spotted on SSB. I didn't have high hopes since I lost him once before. But propagation was in our favour and like you switch a light on and off the propagation was rising for a moment enough the make the contact. Then the ES-season went on slowly, there was some ES but not in the direction of potential new DXCC.

The Perseid meteor shower was appearing and I decided to switch over to MSK144 to support luck. It was a honour to work my fellow blogger GM4FVM Jim (Scotland) on meteorscatter as one of the first on 4m from that DXCC. I especially worked some Scandinavian stations on MSK144. One of the best was after a nice sked with SM4KYN on 70.137,5Mhz MSK144, the only frequency allowed in Sweden, .

Right now I don't think there will be any more good openings on the 4m band, so I consider the ES-season for closed this year. I worked 31 DXCC. It is more as I hoped for since so far I think only about 55 DXCC can be worked on this band (not shure, if someone knows the exact numbers?).

List of DXCC worked on 4m, season 2020

Monday, August 24, 2020

JT9 activity days review

Event: RDRC JT9 activity days 2020
Software: JTDX 
Logger: HRD4/5
Station: Icom IC-7300 50W
Antenna: Multiband Inverted-V 2x20m open line fed, apex 12m agl, HF vertical 16m agl
Total distance worked: Approx. 235000km

I've participated in the JT9 activity days organized by Russian Digital Radio Club last weekend and enjoyed it very much. At first I had to get used to the 60 second periods again, it is so slow compared to FT8 or FT4. But it picks up such weak signals and it is easy to find a empty spot in the waterfall even when the frequency is crowded since the bandwidth of the signal is only 15Hz. And it was crowded! I think there was a lot of interest in using JT9 this weekend even from DX stations. I think 20m was the most occupied band although I made QSOs on 80,40,30,20,17 and 15m. I've been listening/looking at 160m, 12m and 10m but so far only on 10m I saw one station from Poland which didn't seem te receive me unfortunately. no signals seen on 160m and 12m. I had something else that didn't occur before to me as far as I can remember, I had some strange fading all the time, at least from the waterfall it looked like that. I couldn't see it on the S-meter and couldn't hear it from the audio signals. If anyone knows what it is causing? You can see it on the picture above, I had this all the time on 20m and 17m. Not on other bands. Could it be influence from nearby strong FT8 signals??

In the end I made 85 QSOs from 27 DXCC. Unfortunately I was unable to be on air during the morning so I probabely missed VK and ZL. That doesn't matter since I enjoyed the DX anyway. Hope to participate again next year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

JT9 activity days 'Make haste slowly' 22-23 August 2020

I'll certainly try to take part in this relax JT9 activity. It remembers me of the time before FT8 was invented. It takes some time to complete a QSO but you can do it with less power and the mode is certainly more reliable.

Dear Fellow Radio Amateurs,

We invite fans of digital modes of radio communication to JT9 activity days 'Make haste slowly' which will take place from 00:00 UTC Saturday August 22 to 23:59 UTC Sunday August 23, 2020 on HF-bands from 160 to 10 meters. Repeated QSO can be made on different bands.

The obligatory condition of each QSO is to preserve in adif file of the Log: the received WWLocator. The occupied places will be distributed according to the sum of the distances to correspondents.

We announce the following prize contests:

• 'A picture is worth a thousand words' - The winner of the contest will be awarded RDRC pennant for the largest number of QSOs with correspondents who are at a distance of more than 10.000 kilometers.
If the number of QSO is equal for two or more participants, when determining the winner the sum of the distances will be taken into account first, and then the number of bands on which these QSOs were made.

• 'As the call, so the echo' - One pennant of the RDRC will be drawn in a lottery between the participants in this competition with a result of over 100,000 kilometers.

• 'Half a loaf is better than no bread' - One pennant of the RDRC will be drawn in a lottery between the participants in this competition who will show the best results on each of the bands.

Certificates of JT9 activity days «Make haste slowly» in electronic form will be reawarded with all participants at whom the sum of distances up to correspondents will exceed 50.000 kilometers.

All certificates for contests and days of activity are loading on site

Reports in adif-format (.adi) should be sent to e-mail address 01-10(at) before 23:59 UTC on August 28, 2020. The report file should be named by your callsign (for example RK3DSW.adi). In your letter specify the last name, first name, WWLOC.

We are waiting for you on August 22 and 23 on the band frequencies for JT9!

JT9 Activity Days 'Make haste slowly' RULES:

73! - Russian Digital Radio Club

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Bouncing signals on meteor trails

Sikhote-Alin meteorite (Muzeeaquarium, Delfzijl)
The perseids meteor shower certainly increases the meteor scatter activity on both 6m and 4m bands. Actually I concentrated on the 4m this time since it is a challenge and a first time this year. The 4m MS frequency is 70.174MHz and most operators use the digimode MSK144. You can either use WSJT-X or MSHV software, others have tested MSHV is more sensitive decoding with MSK144. So MSHV is what I use this year and with great success.

Since I hang out on ON4KST chat these days I learned from others as well. If you ever intend to make use of it....I didn't know of this, so better read this before you make mistakes (Tnx LA7DFA):

I learned that the KST chat is very valuable when you need specific DXCC especially on MS. My last MS contact was made with SM4KYN from Sweden, I learned that in Sweden they can only use 70137.5KHz. So we had to make the MSK144 contact there and succeed. I really didn't knew of this if I didn't had a look on the chat. Besides that we both knew we were on the same frequency and in the right timeslot calling each other.

And yes, I made random contacts but not many. And yes not every QSO did happen in the end. That is the big challenge of meteor scatter and the 4m band. A example of an unfinished contact was with YU7EF (yes, the designer of the antenna I use!) I did get his report but then a thunderstorm was approaching and I had to disconnect the antenna. I hope to meet him on the 4m band another time.

A nice page to view live meteor activity can be found here:

Meteorscatter with the use of MSK144 certainly helped me to get some new ones in the log on the 4m band, More about the 4m challenge this year later...

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Late season opening to USA

I always keep an eye on the blog of WW1L during the ES-seaon. He seems to have 6m propagation almost everyday. And always hears DX. Probabely he has an excellent location and antennasystem. Most important on 6m is being there when there is DX. This afternoon there was a  brief and very weak opening to the USA.

I think I've called CQ into the USA direction at least 50 times. The result was 1 "flag" from W4MAY from Florida. Not bad considering I use about 75W into my 5/5 YU7EF yagi.

I still hope for a massive opening between USA/Canada and Europe late evening (my evening). It is possible and we had one in August 2018. But the chance we get such propagation will be improbable every day.

There is one day left of my vacation, I have to get back to the job on monday. Last week it was too hot to do much. Some tasks were done in the morning when temperature was lower. We Dutch are not really used to tropical temperatures.

But our tomatoes are doing well. Coloring red already and actually the big red one was tasted this afternoon...delicious!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Perseids peak and getting used to MSHV

Around this time we have the perseids meteor shower which is coming back every year in August. It gives us radio experimenters a chance to experiment with software and contacts using these meteors to bounce our signals back to earth. I did some experiments in the previous years, even made a MS (Meteor Scatter) contact on 10m. If you're interested yo could read some info on my blog here.

One of the experiments I'm busy with is getting used to the more specialized software MSHV. It is not a lot different from WSJT-X but it takes some reading and configuration to get it to do what you want.

Unfortunately the last few days it was simply too hot in the shack. Temperatures rising to 32 degrees celsius (90 degrees F). And I had other things to do. But at least I managed 2  "new" band DXCC with MSK144 on the 4 meter band.

Today in the evening they expect the peak of the meteor shower, so I hope to do some more MS MSK144 contacts. If possible I might experiment with FSK441 as well.

If time and temperature allows I will try to be calling on both 4m (70.174MHz MSK144) or 6m (50.280MHz MSK144). I'll keep an eye on the ON4KST chatpage as well for anyone that is willing to make a contact sked.

Update 13-8: Just to keep in mind...

If you are beaming or looking to work stations who are West of you, then transmit in the 1st period.
If you are beaming or looking to work stations who are East of you, then transmit in the 2nd period.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

JTDX optimal decoding settings

Something I didn't write myself but I wanted to publish it here. This document was created by DB6LL Hartmut in collaboration with ES1JA Arvo. It describes best possible settings for the populair FT8 DX software JTDX.

Published with permission. Click on the picture to get a bigger one.
Since my blog also has a archive function I wonder how we look at this document in a few years? Would there still be a digital mode like FT8? I think we just experience a start from what is possible with this kind of technology. I started with WSPR in 2009, 11 years ago. What will the next 11 years bring?