Archive for the ‘Operation’ Category

The Joy of 10m

Here is a recent report from my DXKeeper log of activity on 10m from my high-rise condo QTH in downtown Vancouver…all in the last month or so.

VA7DXC DXCC Progress 05-Dec-2011

Band = 10M, Mode = MIXED, Status = Worked or Requested or Confirmed

001: 6Y Jamaica
002: 9M6 East Malaysia
003: BY China
004: C6 Bahamas
005: CO Cuba
006: CX Uruguay
007: D4 Cape Verde
008: E5-S South Cook Is
009: EA Spain
010: EI Ireland
011: F France
012: HI Dominican Republic
013: HK Colombia
014: HL Republic of Korea
015: HP Panama
016: HR Honduras
017: JA Japan
018: K United States
019: KH0 Mariana Is
020: KH2 Guam
021: KH6 Hawaii
022: KL7 Alaska
023: KP2 US Virgin Islands
024: KP4 Puerto Rico
025: LU Argentina
026: P4 Aruba
027: PA Netherlands
028: PJ2 Curacao
029: PJ4 Bonaire
030: PY Brazil
031: T32 Eastern Kiribati
032: TG Guatemala
033: UA0 Asiatic Russia
034: VE Canada
035: VK Australia
036: VP2-M Montserrat
037: VP2-V British Virgin Is
038: XE Mexico
039: YB Indonesia
040: YV Venezuela
041: ZF Cayman Islands
042: ZK2 Niue
043: ZL New Zealand

The Condo DXCC 100

Outgoing QSLs at VA7DXC

Outgoing QSLs at VA7DXC

Ok, so we’re getting close. I’ve worked 84 DXCC, 49 confirmed with about a dozen or so outstanding QSL requests. There will be two milestones I guess, one once 100 are worked and obviously much later, when 100 are confirmed. 100 verified is something I’m not even thinking about at this stage. Last weekend’s CQ WW DX CW test was a boon to my totals even for a puny station like mine. New ones included 6Y, CX, HP, J7, PJ4, TG, VP2M, and VP2V. My CW is improving but I still need ‘assistance’ hi hi.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a true CW op though. I’ve grown up with computers all of my life and a mode like CW, that for most can be sent and decoded much more easily by computer is just another digital mode to me. The fact that it can be sent by hand and heard by ear is to me beside the point. If it were physically possible to send RTTY or PSK by hand does it mean we should do it that way all of the time too? Just because it is physically possible to do something doesn’t mean it is the best way to do it though, why make it harder for ourselves?

However I truly appreciate the personal enjoyment factor in sending by hand and decoding by ear, it is a pure hobbyist pursuit, much in the same way people restore old automobiles etc. There are obviously more efficient ways to restore the automobile but the enjoyment is garnered in the act of doing it by hand. However in situations where accurate communications is paramount i.e. contests, then sending and decoding by computer is the future. CW is the ultimate ‘digital’ mode, with extremely narrow bandwidth and a concise shorthand all of its own that allows a quick exchange of information. If CW was promoted more as a digital mode to new hams then you might actually eventually coax some into being ‘true’ CW ops. Automobile hobbyists don’t start with the most complex of restorations, they start with their love of automobiles. Lets just love CW, regardless of what way we send or receive it.

CQ WW SSB 2010 N7BT (@W7IV)

It was with great pleasure that I had the chance to operate at Paul W7IV’s station for this year’s CQ WW DX SSB Contest. We operated with Don’s N7BT call in the M/2 category. The team comprised Paul W7IV, Don N7BT, Dick N7RO, Phil VE7YBH, Dean KW7XX, Doyle KC7GX, Gary W7GLC and myself.

This was the biggest contest setup I have been involved with so far and it was an opportunity I could not pass up. Paul’s station is a few mile outside of Bellingham in Washington, just over the border from Vancouver. He has started to build a great station on his lot and already has three towers up with a fourth on the way as I speak.

The main station was an Elecraft K3, a new rig for me but one that I would appreciate immensely toward the end of the contest. Station two was an Icom Pro II, very familiar for me as I’ve honed my contest skills at VE7NSR on a Pro III. We ran 1.5kW on the main station with a Alpha 87a and 1kW from the second station with an Icom IC-PW1.

Another first for me was using WriteLog. I found it a little clunky at first and I missed the better designed bandmap and rate meters that N1MM has but am beginning to appreciate the text entry and editing capabilities.

Tower 1 has a SteppIR MonstIR Beam our main 20 & 40m antenna and a few meters above that, the pride of the station, an OptiBeam 80m 2 element yagi. Tower 2 was a SteppIR 4 element Yagi, this would become our main 10 & 15m beam.

I operated during the daylight hours alongside Paul, Don, Dick and Doyle, taking turns to operate or log. On Friday evening we went head first onto 15m hoping for a run of JA’s that never materialised. Conditions were not optimal and things only became tougher at night though Dean and Phil did manage a decent run of VK’s on 20m and JA’s later on 40m.

On Saturday morning I helped Phil finish his shift logging EU stations and then got a chance to run on the K3 toward Europe. 20m was choc-a-bloc, bloody nuts it was! I decided to start searching for mults and this proved fruitful, upping the scoring with the minimum of Qs. In fact I love searching and pouncing and after nearly two years of low power ops from the condo and VE7NSR I feel it is a skill I have honed well. I also love the K3’s sub receiver, having a second dedicated knob for it is really handy. While trying to bust one pile up you can be easily listening for the next mult.

After a break and some logging time it was back to operate station two on 15m on hopefully a run to Asia. Again the runs were in short supply so picking off the mults from the cluster was the way to go. With Doyle spotting new ones, we got every country and zone we could possibly get into Asia at that time on 15m. Tiring in the evening I gave Phil and Dean a hand as they started out on another tough night on the top bands.

The final day of any of 48hr contest always brings out a sense of urgency and it was no different this time round. From the get go I was in the seat on 20m to Europe getting a few runs here and there and at the same time trying to pick off a few more mults, highlight was 5Z4EE answering my call! Again the K3 is awesome for this, I can be calling on one freq and easily tuning around for new mults on the sub receiver.

For the runs it was a case of finding the minimum of space and just elbowing your way onto a frequency. There is no other way to put it, you need to push your way through the crowd and make room, nobody else going to do it for you. This was the coldest, hardest lesson I learned all weekend.

After lunch I sat and logged with Paul as he worked into Asia on 15m. At last we got the runs I felt we deserved. We worked simultaneously into South America as well, flipping the SteppIR 180 degrees as required, picking off some new zones and mults in the process. The JA’s woke up from their slumber and in the final three hours we clocked 60, 70 and 100 Qs each hour with the rate clock tipping well over 200/hr at times.

We also had VKs and ZLs calling from the side of the beam and worked numerous new mults including Cambodia and Vietnam. The logging was frenetic. Paul would CQ on one frequency and I would observe the spots, check if they were dupes or new mults in the log, stack a few up and pass him the frequencies. He’d line them up on VFO B, work’em and then flip back to the calling frequency. Those last few hours were lots of fun, even if I was only logging! I would happily do that for hours on end if the runs are good.

Highlight of the afternoon was spotting V6B in Micronesia on the cluster. We were working South America at the time, hit 180 on the SteppIR and worked him first time, busting the pile-up as all the ‘big’ east coast continued to struggle…….we had a good chuckle about that one!

Though the guys would admit they had set their sights a little higher we still turned out a good performance for a non-big gun station. Thanks to all the guys for a fun weekend, hopefully the first of many.

Claimed Score (as submitted to 3830):

Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
------------------------------
  160:   28     4        3
   80:  137    23       35
   40:  463    29       63
   20:  573    35      106
   15:  650    30       88
   10:   96    10       16
------------------------------
Total: 1947   131      311  Total Score = 2,259,062
--------------------------------------------------------

-

Pacific Northwest DX Convention 2010

This years Pacific Northwest DX Convention was held in Burnaby just outside of Vancouver, presenting a great opportunity to meet new people and hear some great ideas. The agenda was packed with a variety of talks and presentations spread over a weekend at the end of July. I had initially written a really, really long article on the Convention but felt I couldn’t do justice to each and every presentation so I’ve decided to give a brief overview on the presentations that really stood out to me.

Early on the Saturday morning after an interesting insight into the IARU, Karl KL9A, gave us his propagation predictions. I’m an avid reader of Karl’s column in the National Contest Journal (NCJ) and looked forward to his presentation here. Karl’s articles always strike a great balance between knowledgeable and lively writing and his presentation at the convention was no different. So what are those sunspots doing?

Well, they’ve been here long before civilisation and will probably outlast civilisation, there will always be sunspots, just not always in the numbers we would like! Not only is there the regular 11 year Schwabe ’solar cycle’ but Karl also described the various other cycles of Hale, Gleissberg, Suess and Halstatt, showing solar activity patterns over hundreds and thousands of years.

Pacific Northwest DX Convention 2010 attendees

Pacific Northwest DX Convention 2010 attendees

Predictions put Cycle 24 in the ‘weak’ category with a peak mean daily sunspot count of 90 in 2013. Considering that less than two years ago we regularly had 25 or more sunspotless days in a row, then I am not going to be complaining about a ‘weak’ daily mean of 90 sunspots!

In the afternnoon we had a standout show from Don VE6JY and Mitch VE6OH about Don’s superstation in Alberta. The guys really wowed the crowd with their tales of construction and destruction! With 27 towers on site, VE6JY’s antenna’s are subject to the harsh rigours of  Canadian winters.

What impressed me the most about the VE6JY station were the multitude of monobanders all constructed on site.  Other than the radios themselves everything at the station is either created or recycled from scrap and auctioned items, including their crane. Yes, to make servicing the 4 element 80m monobander that much easier Don purchased a wheeled crane at auction! You can read that great presentation here on his site.

The final presentation that afternoon came from Ward Silver, NØAX. Ward is a writer and regular contributor to QST and NCJ. He is also involved in editing the ARRL Handbook and also wrote the Ham Radio for Dummies book. His informative presentation not only covered issues relating to contesting but also education. In his role as educational writer, Ward was particularly interested in the challenges in writing for hams of varying technical abilities and backgrounds. He also hoped that advances in real time contest scoring would bring a new breed of younger hams to contesting.

Bill N7OU and Bob W7YAQ discuss Tokelau

Bill N7OU and Bob W7YAQ discuss Tokelau

After dinner and a photo tour of ARRL HQ we had the presentation that I had been waiting all day for. Bill N7OU and Bob’s W7YAQ excellent adventure to Samoa and Tokelau. I won’t go into too much detail, as they’ve presented this trip numerous times and it also the subject of a great article in this month’s QST, however this DXpedition featured everything including remote atolls, tsunamis, ever friendly locals, cold beers and of course thousands of QSOs!

As I’ve said before I love the adventure that comes with small DXpeditions. There is a certain gung-ho attitude amongst dxers of this breed because compared to the big multinational dxpeditions these little adventures have less at stake. When things go wrong smaller dxpeditions are more flexible to change as was the case for Bill and Bob when they were stuck in Samoa for a number weeks. Of course smaller dxpeditions can’t get to the real hardcore DX entities, but with the smaller operations, getting to that remote island or atoll is more than half the adventure!

Other highlights from the convention included K7BV Dennis’ 6m adventure to San Andres Island and K9JF Jim’s travelogue about the ever popular Friedrichshafen hamfest in Germany.

As a newcomer to the hobby it was very enjoyable to meet in person all those ops I have worked numerous times in contests in the past year and half. At last I can put some faces and great personalities to those ever familiar callsigns. Conventions like these are a great reminder that the world of amateur radio doesn’t end outside our shack door.

Quick update

Just back from Bowen and then straight off into the Pacific Northwest DX Convention this weekend. I’ll do a full write up about my experience lugging the shack across Howe Sound plus I’ll step back a few weeks and give a brief overview of my effort in the IARU contest earlier this month.

In the meantime I’ve been playing around with some of the great images I shot on Bowen for use in a possible QSL card, whaddaya think?
bowen