Archive for April, 2009

Tip of the week #537

See that old printer sitting in the corner, inkjet, laser, dot matrix or god forbid, daisywheel? Well don’t throw it out just yet. It’s filled with elements for your next UHF yagi project.

No seriously, after much savalging (read hammering and gnashing), I pulled out not one, not two, but four gleaming stainless steel elements from an A3 printer (that’s a B size printer for my North American chums) that had been gathering dust for over two years. One mans junk as they say…….Printer Rods

Now what to do with the stepping motor that also came out? Ultra light homebrew steppir antenna anyone? :)

Georgian Russian showdown (not that Georgia!)

So VA7DXC officially went on air, of course courtesy of the North Shore Amateur Radio Club! Previously I had operated on HF using the club callsign, VE7NSR, but today VA7DXC got its first airing. Limited to running the Pro III barefoot (100w) I attempted to get in on the action in the Georgia QSO Party.

I began around 1pm PDT and conditions on 20m were woeful to say the least. Even kilowatt stations were getting lost in the noise floor. The one low power station (<150w), was too weak to work. He would sporadically disappear for a few minutes at a time even though he was still on frequency and calling CQ! After half an hour I had a measly two contacts. I knew it was not to be an easy afternoon.

There was no real use in me calling CQ. Any CQs I answered took a couple of tries so I knew my signal down south was weak. Calling CQ in those conditions would have been fruitless I guess. With the band being crummy it seems a lot of ops just resorted to cw so there was little activity in the phone bands. A magical six stations we worked and boy did I have to work them.

All was not lost though as I managed to work my first DX with my own callsign. I had previously worked a few DX stations during the CW WPX but only as VE7NSR. At about 6pm PDT the cluster showed that a few section 6 & 7 US stations had worked RWØCD in Far East Russia. I had worked the JAs with ease a few weeks previously with 300w during the WPX contest so I felt working this guy was possible on 100w.

He was calling CQ North America but was still happy to entertain calls from Eastern Asia. I listened for quite a while before making a call. Nada. He was booming in 10 over 9, the path was good, I might have been weak at his end but he should hear me right? I kept trying every few minutes for the better part of 30 minutes, nada zip, nothing. I checked the antenna, everything perfect, he was still going 10 over 9 sometimes clipping 20 over. He had already worked a rack of stations in the 6 & 7 US sections and I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever be heard.

I gave myself until 7pm to nab him or else I would pack it in and call the day a bust. I kept plugging away and eventually at around 6.50pm RWØCD after a few tries returned VA7DXC! At last! So surprised was I by his returned call that my brain took a microsecond to adjust and then started falling over itself on air. I returned him a 59 (far too quickly) and gave him the QTH which he seemed to copy ok. I then launched into a babble about how great his signal was and how this was one of my first HF DX contacts. Thats all ok on a local ragchew running a couple hundred watts but not so when trying nab Russian DX with a lowly 100W!

He copied none of it and it stalled the QSO a bit. He called for his signal report again and my name, which I had totally forgot to give him first time round! He got it all in the end but his most interesting comment was that my signal was wavering from 55 to 57, suffering a lot of QSB.

It was all quite humbling in the end and it taught me a little lesson about letting the DX station calling CQ lead the QSO where he wants it to go. Give your RST, Name and QTH, thats all, nothing more. Let the DX lead the QSO. If he wants to talk more, let him ask, otherwise its like being back in school again, don’t speak until you are spoken to!

CQ WPX Contest

Had a great time operating in the CQ WPX phone contest over the weekend at the NSARC station. It was my first bit of HF operating and the short, rapid QSOs were a great training experience.

After a brief overview of the station from Dave (VA7AM) and John (VA7JW) I was ready to go. I did more listening than operating and operated only the stations that were either very clear and loud or were working at a pace I was comfortable with. You have to jump right in there and though mistakes were made I soon got the hang of things. In total I worked a measely 10 stations, but they all count!

NSARCs primary HF station, an Icom IC-756 ProIII into a SteppIR Yagi for 20-10m.

NSARCs primary HF station, an Icom IC-756 ProIII into a SteppIR Yagi for 20-6m.

Conditions were poor on the Saturday but picked up considerably on Sunday. I hadn’t planned to operate on Sunday but a window of a few hours opened up so I said ‘what the heck’ and boy was it worth it.

Armed with the previous days experience and access to the VE7CC cluster I started at lunchtime towards Europe. My first call was to E7DX in Bosnia, minutes later was YT2T in Serbia. I wonder do they ever call each other?

As the sun set across Europe I worked Bulgaria, Spain and the Canaries. I was on a roll and my nerves had disappeared. Remember all that hard work learning to ride that first bike? Well that was my Saturday. But do you remember the day you first rode confidently? That was my Sunday. The ‘mike fright’ had gone and I wanted to talk to the world.

In the end I worked 20 or so stations from the US, Canada, Anguilla, Mexico, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Spain, Japan and the Phillipines. There should be a few multipliers in there surely?