Sunday, December 31, 2023

2023 highlights, 2024 goals

  Like every year traditionally I post the highlights of this year and try to make some goals for next year. 


This was an interesting year DX wise. I can't remember I ever worked this much new ones on HF. I count 17 ATNOs featuring many from the Pacific. And I worked 14 new ones on the 6m band which is incredible. Actually I thought I would have less radio time but overall I don't think I spend more or less radio time compared to last year. However I did make less blogposts? Could I have less inspiration or did I spend more time working DX instead of typing stories. I really don't know. This year was the long awaited DXpedition from Bouvet island, but unfortunately it didn't happen for me. I have been chasing them but only saw them once too weak to work them. I believe I was not the only one and from what I read on the internet several people are trying to do another effort to transmit from Bouvet. Hopefully I will have that second chance. 


I wrote a few postings about VarAC, the digimode communication program. It is really an interesting piece of software but not for everyday use for me. When using VarAC you can meet some interesting stations, at least that is possible. The other side is that most of the stations on VarAC are just monitoring. I have mixed feelings about the use of this kind of software and think that it is still missing something, only I cannot think of what? Besides that there is one setback which is the use of VARA. VARA-HF is made by someone else and VarAC is build using this digimode software. A kind of signal provider. It is like the phone company that uses 4G transmitters and antennas from someone else. VARA-HF can be used free but has a speed limit in that case. You can also buy the VARA software package and speed will be increased. In that case it is possible to send photos to other VarAC users. It would be far better if VarAC had its own digimode protocol.


 Well, I seem to have some skills as I build a nice duoband beam for PB7Z Bernard, including installation on his tower. It worked out well and also Bernard worked some great DX this year on 6m and 4m. Talking about the magic 6m band, one of the true highlights of this year was certainly working 3 VK6 (Australia) stations on 6m. This might happen again or never again? We will only know in time. You know how it is on the 6m band, magic just happens... I never thought I would work 14 new ones on 6m after I passed the 100 DXCC mark last year. My total DXCC count on 6 is now 123. 4m was also open at times, but since only a few DXCC are allowed on this band I only worked 2 new ones. Next year I probably work Italy as new one since they obtained access to the 4m band as well this year.


Probably my biggest interest within the hobby. Always looking for better designs, experimenting. The experimental square multiband halo (kind of variation on the cobwebb design) is doing great. It is not a directional antenna but seems to get out well on DX. I recently tested it using a webSDR in New Zealand to review signal difference between my inverted-V and the halo on 20m. So far there was not much difference. Sometimes the inverted-V was stronger while a few moments later the halo seems to be stronger. I still plan to do a proper test with WSPR and simultaneous transmissions. I also made an inverted-L antenna which I still have to really test. Unfortunately at the moment I've so many antennas but only 2 cables to the tower and only one 2-way switch at the base of the tower. So far I can only switch 3 antennas max. I have some multi antenna switches ready to fit at the bottom of the tower though so I can switch more antennas from the shack. In the mean time my colleague PD8HW gave me his Sirio gain keeper HW, he is installing the 5/8 wave version. I'll replace the 1/2 wave GP on top of the tower in the new year, the new Sirio is probabely not giving me a bigger signal but it looks a lot better on my tower hi. And yes I'm also active on CB, not a lot but I like to listen out for some local stations and have a chat once and a while. Antennas installed in and at the tower at the moment: CB GP, multiband halo, duoband 4m/6m beam, 10m LFA, Inverted-V doublet, Inverted-L with CG3000 autotuner, I am able to transmit/receive from 1,8-70MHz with these.

2023 Projects

One of the highlights certainly was building a new YU7EF duoband 6m/4m beam for PB7Z. It was my second build of this antenna and certainly a success. I also build in a long wanted item in my rotor control box, the ERC V4 USB rotorcontroller. It is now possible to control the rotor with the computer. Giving me the opportunity to remote control it as well via the internet. I have some other projects waiting but still time is an issue of course.


My goal for a long time actually. Learning CW. I started learning before a few times but didn't come far. You really need to practice everyday. I started a few months ago and try to learn 10-15 minutes each day. So far I see a slow progress. The problem still is to automate, I need too long to think what letter it should be. Besides that the usual problems are encountered. The difference between H and 5 and B and 6 are the most common faults I make. Oh well, we keep going in 2024. I'll let you readers know how I progress.


A personal highlight was visiting the Burum Inmarsat groundstation open day together with my dad. I don't think he will be around for a long time so I try to do things together we like to do. He is and was always interested in my radio hobby even though he has nothing to do with technology at all. Another highlight was our family vacation to Winterberg from were I operated QRP digital with some surprising contacts.

2024 goals

I had no real goals for 2023 except may be starting learning CW seriously. My goal for 2024....might be making my first CW QSO without the use of a computer decoder? No other goals actually, I'm planning to have fun only. 

Well my dear blogreaders, I wish you all a very good, prosperous and healthy 2024.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Eastern Kiribati 3 times in a row - how to fund DXpeditions


After trying for some days in the last weeks I was getting really disappointed I could barely hear this station or work them at all. It seems propagation is not that good or this is some radio blackhole for me in the Pacific. Really.....I worked VK, ZL, KH6 with no problems at all but working T32, no way. Now I took 2 days off the job to do things around and in the house and of course have some time to try for T32 for the last time. Unfortunately I haven't got all the time of the world for just my hobby.

Then today I was up early. I decided to work some on 20m FT8. Within moments I worked 3D2AG Antoine from Fiji and some ZL an VK stations. This would be an excellent time for T32. And yes, I discovered their great signal this time on 14091. Within about 10 minutes of calling I was able to make the contact finally! An ATNO for me. Later on I did the trick again on 15m, calling just once I was in the log. And later in the morning a third contact was made on 10m longpath. Not a bad day today.

So, how does this Rebel DX group fund their DXpeditions? They tell everyone they pay everything from their own pockets. Are they multi millionaires? No, although their language is a bit rough they are just very smart. Everyone can do it. You only need to have the guts to do it and of course you need some money to start. These guys just charge €6,- for any of their DXpedition confirmations (LotW/QSL) , not per QSO but pay once get all. Not a bad price except if you only made 1 QSO it will be expensive. How many DXers will buy the confirmation? I believe the T32TT DXpedition already hits over 200K QSOs, that includes dupes of course, Many will try to work them on many bands. How many unique calls will be in the log? A wild guess estimated 200K/7=28K?? I really don't know and this will probably remain a mystery. But let's say half of these stations seriously want to have the confirmation. 14000 x 6 = 84000 euro. This looks like a large amount of money, but of course they need to live and need to buy expensive fuel for the next DXpedition. Don't forget you need all kind of permits, they are not free. You need to buy some new equipment as well once and a while. If you don't want to get rich but just want to do it as a lifestyle (job!) I think this can be managed, I might be wrong about the numbers though. Could be more or less,,,

Personally I'm strongly against buying a QSL or confirmation. This is just a hobby not a commercial business. But the Rebel DX group does not lie about this, they clearly communicate to everyone that if you want to have the confirmation you need to pay. When the money is in their own pockets.....they fund the DXpedition from their own pockets. That's not difficult to understand is it?

What do you think about this way to fund DXpeditions from rare DXCC?

Related posts:

Friday, December 22, 2023

The ultimate portable setup with bluetooth

My prototype still has wires...

   If you follow this blog you know my greatest wish to build an ultimate portable station is to get rid of all the cables between the radio and computer when working digimode. This all should be wireless so you can leave your battery and radio in a bag and just place it anywhere. Connect an antenna, switch on your phone/tablet or laptop connect with the radio and get on the air. I've been experimenting with this a few years ago. The prototype is still working but can have some upgrades like a better bluetooth module and power supply directly from the radio. I have skills but am not that gifted in electronics. I wished someone would pick up my ideas and fabricate something decent. The recently I found this post:

   The design BG6LH made is roughly the bluetooth modem I am looking for. He made a working prototype which is far more sophisticated compared to my idea and it does get power from the radio. Unfortunately he doesn't sell a complete kit, only the idea. You can find it on BG6LH's github page:

   There are 2 things in this design that I would call setbacks. First this digimodem will always consume power from the radio even when it is off. So a switchable battery is recommended. Although I see in the lastest update that there is an automatic power off build in I'm not shure this solves this problem. I would install a manual miniswitch to switch off power that is obviously coming from the ACC jack. Second is the JDY-67 bluetooth module. It should have a firmware above 1.3 and you need to program it first. From the github page it is not really clear to me how this is done.

Please bare in mind that BG6LH does notice that this is a kind of prototype with work in progress. Personally I really think this is a very interesting device that hopefully will be in production somewhere in the future. You never know if this is appearing on Aliexpress or any other Chinese site soon...

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

#CQWW explorer / multi distributed first legal, now illigal in the Netherlands

Map with locations used for PA6AA during WW

   The PA6AA contestgroup was taking part in the CQ WPX SSB and WW SSB contests in the multi distributed / explorer section this year. You can read about the last efforts in a previous post from october here. Just to be shure after the experiment in the multi distributed section of the WPX, PB7Z asked for permission at the Dutch FCC (RDI). He had a written permission that it was allright, so taking part with one contest callsign from different locations within the Netherlands was assumed legal. Was...

After publishing the Dutch language story (most same as my blogpost) on social media and in some amateur radio magazines in the Netherlands and Belgium the RDI noticed the license holder today that after all this was not allowed following the Dutch rules. Probabely the first permission was given by someone that didn't understand what we would do, or doesn't have any affinity with our hobby.

So we did a kind of unique thing here within the hobby it seems, the PA6AA contest group was the first to take part in these sections. Our amateur radio law here isn't yet ready for these kind of experiments. Hopefully the rules will change in the future because it was a very successful experiment which we wanted to extend. Unfortunately at this time it will not be possible.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

10m LFA beam repaired


  I had some issues with the 10m LFA beam last contest. I noticed the SWR was quite high but the antenna was still working. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate, it has been raining almost every day for weeks now. But today we have seen the sun this afternoon, temperature was reasonable. Time to lower the tower to see what was actually wrong. Well, it wasn't that difficult. For some unknown reason an element of the first director went loose. It almost fell off the antenna since there was only 1 cm of the tube still in the center tube. I removed the director tube, cleaned it and slide it in place again. I made shure it doesn't come loose this time. I put the tower back up and tested SWR. Long time I had such a good SWR over 1 MHz bandwidth.

It might be a good idea to give this antenna some big maintance in summer. 

I took the opportunity to make some QSOs on the band. Did have some nice contacts in to the US, all with good signals. I broke a pile-up to KP2B on Virgin Islands. Besides that I made some nice QSOs on FT4. The 4 element LFA is a very good performer.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

HAM meets Miltitary today


See my post about the first event last year. There will be at least 22 stations active with calls PA01MIL till PA22MIL. Good luck hunting!

Update: Worked 8 Military stations in an hour spare time I had for radio this evening. PA1,2,8,10,13,16,17 and 21MIL. The last station had YL Naomi as operator which obviously attracted a lot of stations ;-) All stations worked on 80m. I've listened on other bands but was not able to hear any there.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

#ARRL 10m contest


red=CW green=SSB

In the past I was always looking forward to this 10m contest. Investigating the 10m band days before the contest and analyzing my chances to work great DX. However it looks like I have less time for the hobby now. At least I didn't have much time Saturday which resulted in only 30 contacts in the log. There was some more time Sunday. First QSO in the morning today was with 3W9A (Vietnam) when it was still dark here. The propagation was not the best, signals not really strong but stations were workable.

Unfortunately I discovered something is wrong with my 4 element LFA antenna. Normally I have a good SWR at 28.500 MHz with a bandwidth of about 1 Mhz. But now the SWR was 1,5 at 28.035 MHz and rising fast beyond that frequency. Actually on 28,500 MHz the SWR was 1:3. But still it is working... So I'm not shure what is wrong? We'll see in spring, it is too cold now for antenna work. 

With "only" 40 DXCC worked this weekend this was not my best ARRL 10 contest but certainly not the worst also. Propagation was a lot better last year...

Of course I was tracking fellow blogger VE9KK again. He has unbelievable good ears in my opinion. I could barely copy him through all the signals but it seems he had no problem with me. I remember years ago Mike was living in another part of Canada with antenna restrictions, he had a mobile antenna just outside the house to make some contacts. At that time my antenna situation was not the best as well. I never imagined I would contact Mike almost every contest 10 years later. So whenever I get the chance I will try to make the contact.

In the end I made 150 QSO in total. Most of it with stations from the USA. Of course it is an ARRL thing so it's obvious that this contest is most populair in the US. As always I had fun and worked some nice but not new DX. In a few years the 10m band will be closed often. The fun is that I think it is more of a challenge to participate in this contest in the solar minimum. 

Just an interesting note: I worked more CW contacts as SSB this year! And again I imagine I recognize more and more CW...