Posts Tagged ‘20m’

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):

 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


Spring Clean

Well I somehow managed to wangle a few days off work this week so I decided to tidy up the shack and antenna installation.

Paid a trip to a store here in east Vancouver that sells everything made from bamboo. They have a huge selection of bamboo poles in various widths and lengths from 6ft to 10ft and for the measly sum of $5.86 grabbed a half dozen 1/2″ x 6′ poles. The plan was to replace the ugly PVC poles I use for my balcony loop with something ‘prettier’ and a bit more stealthy.

I also dropped by Burnaby Radio and picked up some nice flex-weave antenna wire and a few other odds and ends. The chunky ugly speaker wire that usually forms my loop was about to go SK.

Within an hour or so, I had setup the poles and a new loop configuration. This configuration with the vertical sections folded back on themselves presented a slightly higher (though still tunable) SWR than normal but not by much. However not to worry as the new flex-weave wire is so much easier to handle that I decided to just try another new configuration. The goal of these new configurations is to present as much wire as possible to the open front of the balcony. Previous versions had the loop folding around inside the balcony but the more wire out and away from the building the better.

Though not scientifically conclusive by any means I ‘felt’ my latest configuration, with the loop criss-crossing at the front of the balcony, provides a better S/N ratio and more ‘get-out-ability’. I followed up the installation with a few PSK31 Qs on 20m with reports from two Asiatic Russian stations reporting a 559 and a 557. Not too shabby considering conditions on the band have been generally quite poor for the past few days.

VA to EI

So it has been a very long while since I have posted here and there is much to talk about.

Unfortunately work commitments have curtailed much of my air time this winter and spring, however it has been developments abroad that have kept me on the air.

As an Irish citizen holding a Canadian callsign I cannot unfortunately apply for a CEPT certificate in Canada. Those are only available to Canadian citizens.

So to be able to operate in Europe and Ireland I must contact each jurisdiction I would like to operate in. My plan was to operate in Ireland on my trip home to family over the Christmas period, so I contacted ComReg in Ireland to apply for a temporary (12 month) visitor callsign.

The usual scenario is for a temporary callsign to be issued but because I was an Irish citizen and was able to provide a permanent station address in Ireland (parent’s family home) ComReg informed me that if my qualifications checked out with Industry Canada that they would be more than happy to issue a life-time Irish callsign.

After a couple of weeks waiting ComReg issued EI8GNB.

Now with callsign in hand I needed to assemble my travelling station. Along with my IC7000, AH-4 and Acer netbook I also purchased a Gamma Research HPS-1a power supply. This little puppy puts out enough power for 100W SSB and about 35 to 40w in PSK/RTTY and it’s no bigger than a small paperback book, perfect for travelling. The whole station fitted into a nice Lowe Pro Classified 200 AW camera bag that I would use as my airline carry-on. I placed a length of coax, feedline and antenna-wire in my checked suitcase.

Shack in a Bag : (clockwise from top left) Icom AH-4, Icom IC-7000, Gamma Research HPS-1a, headset/mic etc.

Shack in a Bag : (clockwise from top left) Icom AH-4, Icom IC-7000, Gamma Research HPS-1a, headset/mic etc.

Travelling during the holiday period is troublesome at best but I was also worried about all this electronic gear I was carrying. I found however that if I unpacked the major components into separate scanning trays that airport security never had a problem with the stuff.

I would put the AH-4 and rig in a tray on their own for scanning like you would with a laptop and I rarely had a problem. However I do advise to carry about a photocopy of a manual page for any suspect objects. The AH-4 did draw the eye of security screeners a couple of times but with manual in hand and a little explanation things were smoothed over instantly. Funnily enough the ’suspicious’ level seemed to be higher in European airports rather than in the Canadian and US airports I passed through.

Once in my parents home, time to setup the antenna. They have a standard square shaped backyard that provided about 1500sq ft. Hmmmm, simple dipole anyone? I cut some of my antenna wire into a simple dipole just over 34ft in overall length, with a run of 10ft of 450 ohm feedline in the middle down to the AH-4. I also made sure it was off-resonace, the AH-4 does not like high impedance resonant antennas. I strung the antenna from a upper floor bedroom to the permanent workshop building on the other side of the garden and offset it away from each wall with insulators and a length of plastic cable. Height above ground varied from about 20 to 10ft enough for the upper bands but probably creating a general upward omnidirectional pattern on the lower bands.

The AH-4 had no problem tuning the antenna on every band except 160m!

Over the course of two weeks I made dozens of PSK contacts all over Europe working about 30 countries including the US & Canada. The bands seem so much more alive in Europe than they do in the Pacific Northwest and there always seems to be somebody calling CQ, so there is never a shortage of QSOs.

I also managed a couple SSB QSOs as well, the highlight was working Gunther VA3GA on 17m. Conditions were poor for that QSO with lots of QSB, late in the day in Ireland, but with 100W on that simple dipole all the pertinent information was exchanged easily.

The ARRL RTTY Round-Up was also on over the holiday period and I made over 80 contacts again including the US, Canada and highlight making P49X in Aruba! Not bad for a wire antenna and 40w.

Holiday 'shack' setup with my Acer Netbook. Running RTTY with N1MM during the 2010 ARRL RTTY RU.

Holiday 'shack' setup with my Acer Netbook. Running RTTY with N1MM during the 2010 ARRL RTTY RU.

Now that I know I can pack up the station into one bag I’m looking for many more opportunities to do holiday style DX operating, I can’t wait for the summer to come.

New Rig Workout

So having received my gracious gift from St. Nick it was now time to set it all up.

I have also purchased an Icom AH-4 tuner and this will become the focal point for future antennas.

Setup of the tuner and radio was pretty straight forward. Power is supplied to the tuner over a control cable that plugs directly into the IC-7000 and all tuning functions are accessed from the front panel “Tune” button. I set up a simple 16m wire loop on the balcony and the AH-4 had no problem tuning it to 1:1.5 SWR from 40m to 6m. 40m prodced some RFI which tripped a GFCI in the apartment but other than that no other issues or complications arose.

The loop is bascially just folded around the balcony. Right now I don’t have the supports to fold it in the manner that I would like but that is something I will rectify after Christmas.I based the design on WX7G, Dave’s, 3d folded loop antenna for 10m, I’m hoping to perfect the concept for HF operations. Remember my balcony is only about 40sq ft or about 8ft by 5ft (2.4m x 1.5m), in a highrise apartment surrounded by concrete and steel in a downtown setting at 140ft up.

I patiently waited for the 20m band to open one Sunday morning and eventually worked a couple of stations in PSK31 up and down the west coast all easily on 25watts. If this was all I could do then I would still be a happy ham. Just being to get on the air in the apartment is a great for me, anything after that is a bonus.

It took a while before I got used to the macros in DigiPan and it has a couple of quirks that you need to be aware of, especially the RX and RXANDCLEAR functions. If you don’t use the RXANDCLEAR function you risk sending your last macro again as I found out a couple of times while transmitting. Other stations were still happy to work me as I fumbled with the mode. And this is the thing with PSK, as a relatively new mode, everyday I go on the PSK bands I always come across other ‘first time’ QSOs, everyday. I also love PSK63, I love the speed, I love the QRM busting nature of it. Sometimes PSK31 can a bit finickity if soundcards are not calibrated spot on, PSK63 being wider blows that problem away while still being a relatively narrow bandwidth mode. I may try other programs aswell but Digipan works well on my lightweight netbook and I think DM780 might be a bit OTT for this machine, might try FLdigi or PSK31.

I have exclusively used the IC-7000 on HF and have not done any TX on V/UHF at all. But I didn’t get the radio for the extra bands, I got it for the IF DSP which I feel is comparable to that in the Pro III. The IC7200 has the same DSP but doesn’t have the graphical interface that the clearly better IC7000 has. I love the interface, being an Icom man it took no more than an hour to find my around the rig, the screen is awesome, just awesome. I have it in the white screen mode as I find it more legible in variable light conditions and from odd angles.

So it was another Saturday afternoon I found myself on the PSK bands. It was the weekend of the PSK Deathmatch and I was working stations on the east coast US even though my balcony faces NW. At about 3.40pm a weak signal appeared in the waterfall, a JA station calling CQ, and nobody was coming back to him. I pumped up my RF out to about 35watts and gave it a go. He came back to me with a 529, weak but readable, he copied me better than I could read him, a product of all the crappy urban noise I must put up with, but the QSO was made none the less. The JA station was soon followed in the log by a UA Asiatic Russian station whose eQSL I already have in my Inbox.

In less than a week I have gone from no station or rig to intercontinental DXing with a compromise, temporarily installed antenna and 35w or less. HF dead, don’t think so.


I had always wanted to put a bit of time into this one. In the end I worked a bit of the Friday evening, most of Saturday daytime from VE7NSR, along with VA7JMO as a Multi-Single.

Ran for a time on 40m and 80m on the Friday evening and Saturday though mostly S&P. Was the first time doing any significant running on sideband. It was lots of fun and not as scary as I thought it would be. I’m always worried about screwing up callsigns but it never became an issue.

I used the the ProIII’s built in DVK, as setting up the DVK from N1MM would be painful. Getting the audio levels right out of a sound-card can be difficult. The ProIII DVK delivers audio indistinguishable from that of live on-air audio, plus it’s really easy to setup. It is a pity that there is no way you can key the ProIII DVK directly over CI-V from N1MM like you can with the Yaesu FT2000. I think I might buy the Better RF ‘I-Mate’ which allows you to key the DVK memories externally.

There were lots of highlights for me. I enjoyed running but I think it is better suited to a lower noise environment. There were so many stations I just could not pull out of the mud, especially on 40m. DX wise the highlights were working ZL and VK stations with low power on 40m and 15m for the first time. In fact the first contact was on 40m, with a wire dipole at 100W, not bad for a solar minimum.

VE7NSR SteppIR 3ele: This is our workhorse antenna.

VE7NSR SteppIR 3ele: This is our workhorse antenna.

15m was a blast on the Saturday. It was like a DX expressway. I don’t know was it the case that 20m was so busy that many stations moved up or were conditions that bit better? I think it was more a case of the former to be honest. Bands will sound dead if nobody is operating on them.

20m was tough. Europe was tough even after the wall of east coast stations dissipated, so much splatter. Picking off the JAs in the late afternoon is fun though, turns the tables on our east coast cousins who can pick off the Europeans at ease. It’s nice to be able to pull up into a minor pile-up on a JA station and work him first time round as stations further east struggle. Such was the case on 15m for the VK and ZL stations I worked along with FK8GM in New Caledonia and E51JD in the Cook Islands, it’s all ocean between here and there.

I tried working 9M8Z but to no avail on 15m or 20m. After the contest was over I wondered why. I loaded up Google Earth and pinpointed my station and his. 9M is on roughly the same 300 degree path from VE7NSR as the JA stations are. However the take off angle is a lot lower and Cypress Mountain looms high on that horizon, oh well!

Total contacts were 238 for 54,366 pts. Usually good enough for a cert. in the M/S category in BC but looking at the 3830 list it seems VE7SV are entering as a M/S this year as opposed to their regular M/2 or M/M. I don’t think we could catch their 2700 contacts!