Category Archives: Ham

VHF Contesting

So few months ago I joined the local VHF contest group – Drowned Rats Radio Group – M0HRF. Not quite used to a local amateur club actually doing amateur radio after the few years spent in Radio Society of Harrow but all going very well so far! Great to socialise and play radio with a great bunch of very enthusiastic lads.

We took part in the July 2015 RSGB Field day and came 2nd in our category – here’s a picture of some of our big twigs and the certificate:

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We also came second in the 2m Backpackers event – next year first for sure!!
 
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My First SOTA Activation

With current HF conditions being very poor I was looking for something radio-related to give new challenges. A superb article by Tommy Read M1EYP in the August 2015 Practical Wireless on the Summits on the Air (sota) programme really grabbed my attention and excited me. I won’t explain SOTA in detail – look here http://www.summits.org.uk/tiki-index.php?page=SOTA+Chasing+for+Beginners or here http://www.sota.org.uk/AboutSOTA  But HF amateur radio, open-air, mountains, pile-ups – what’s there not to like!

I purchased the very capable mobile Yaesu 857 rig, a Tracer Power http://www.tracerpower.com/tracer-lifepo4-battery-packs.html powerpack (which comes with a powerpole connector – very convenient), and some antennas and light-weight antenna supports from www.sotabeams.co.uk . My nearest sota summit is Wendover Woods G/CE-005 in the Chiltern Hills near Tring which is at a massive 267m ASL (lol) – http://www.sotawatch.org/summits.php?summit=G/CE-005

So last Saturday I drove to the woods and parked in a convenient lay-by near the mountain bike centre. It was a beautiful sunny day – lovely to be in the open air playing radio! A short walk to the trig point and I set up the antenna and rig – after some adventures trying to guy the sotapole I eventually just secured it to the trig point with bungee cords.

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I started out on 40m with a bandhopper two dipole antenna and conditions were actually very good. I used the sota goat app on my iPhone to spot myself (self-spotting is acceptable and recommended for sota) and the hamlog app on the iPhone to log contacts as I had forgotten a pen or pencil!). I worked stations in England, Wales, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland – see full log below. I then switched to 60m using a half-wave end-fed dipole and had another few contacts. 60m conditions were much noisier and difficult compared to 40m which was quiet with most calling stations being 59+. You need 4 contacts to officially activate a summit.

 

 

Here’s the log:

08/08/2015 0929 7.191MHz   SSB DL0SY/P
08/08/2015 0939 7.191MHz   SSB M3FEH
08/08/2015 0940 7.191MHz   SSB G0FEX
08/08/2015 0942 7.191MHz   SSB G8MIA
08/08/2015 0942 7.191MHz   SSB GW4CQZ
08/08/2015 0943 7.191MHz   SSB M0MDA
08/08/2015 0944 7.191MHz   SSB DL2EF
08/08/2015 0945 7.191MHz   SSB DK7ZH
08/08/2015 0946 7.191MHz   SSB DK5WL
08/08/2015 0947 7.191MHz   SSB MW0URC
08/08/2015 0948 7.191MHz   SSB M0TVU
08/08/2015 0949 7.191MHz   SSB ON7DQ
08/08/2015 0950 7.191MHz   SSB PC2B
08/08/2015 0951 7.191MHz   SSB G4AFI
08/08/2015 0956 7.191MHz   SSB GM4COX/P
08/08/2015 0958 7.191MHz   SSB PA7ZEE
08/08/2015 0959 7.191MHz   SSB PA3CDN
08/08/2015 0959 7.191MHz   SSB G0RQL
08/08/2015 1000 7.191MHz   SSB M0SGO
08/08/2015 1001 7.191MHz   SSB M3ZCB
08/08/2015 1002 7.191MHz   SSB M1MAJ
08/08/2015 1047 5.3985MHz SSB GW4BVE
08/08/2015 1055 5.3985MHz SSB G0RQL
08/08/2015 1058 5.3985MHz SSB G8ADD
08/08/2015 1100 5.3985MHz SSB G4WSB
08/08/2015 1101 5.3985MHz SSB M0VCM
08/08/2015 1102 5.3985MHz SSB G0TDM

The scenery around the trig point is very beautiful – here’s a few more pics. Unlike the actual Wendover Woods centre, which was packed to bursting with picnicking families and activities, the trig point field was empty – a solitary walker and two mountain bikers were the only visitors in over two hours.

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6m Squares Worked

This is a great website (http://wg7j.reinalda.net/gridmapper/gridmapper.php) that enables you to display the 6m grid squares that you have worked. Actually you can display for any band, mode etc but I use it to show the 6m squares as think it’s really interesting to see where the Es cloud have formed.

Below is a picture of all the 6m squares I have worked (224) since being licensed (click to see large picture). A red square means the QSO is unconfirmed in LOTW whilst green is confirmed.

6m squares

Happy New Year

Been a while since the last post due to Christmas and New Year when not much radio was done. Last week was spent skiing in Font Romeu Catalunya and the only radio activity was opening the local repeater F5ZEZ on 145.6625 with my Icom IC-90 handheld. Repeater had a  few local QSOs on it – especially in the mornings.

Look closely and you may see the repeater (or not…):

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Back in Blighty I had to pop to Lynchy’s to get my Yaesu DXC 1000 rotator controller repaired which was not turning on. Turned out to be a faulty capacitor – must have been a Friday afternoon fabrication job as the controller is less than two years old and has hardly been used.

However I took the opportunity to pick up a Sark 100 antenna analyser which is a very useful piece of kit. Read (and watch) all about it here: http://www.hamradio.co.uk/accessories-general-antenna-analysers/adonis/mydel-sark110-vector-impedance-antenna-analyser-pd-5427.php

Here is what the SWR and Impedance at 80m looks like on my trapped inverted L described in previous posts:

80m

Recommended as a very useful tool if you do anything with antennas beside extending your handheld’s telescopic for the local repeater!

How to be a Successful HF Dxer Part II

Welcome to the second of an irreverent and not too serious look at how to be a successful HF DXer.  Last time we look at how we defined DXing, what is a DXCC entity, band slot and the fundamental steps you need to take to start DXing. Today we’ll look at how you cam maximise your chances of filling bands slots.

The DX Cluster is a much abused but very useful tool to see what DX is on the bands at any moment. The Cluster is simply a list of DX stations, their frequency, time spotted (you always “spot” to the cluster), the spotting station and a comments field. Originally this list was propagated by packet radio on 2m – however this method has now gone the way of DR-DOS (i.e. obsolete but one of two people still run it and consider it to be the future). 99.9% of people now access the Cluster using an Internet connection. Technically the Cluster program is a telnet application (you what?) and it really comes into its own when you have an always-on broadband connection. Run the cluster 24/7 and you will have a record of what has happened and what is happening at the moment on the bands.

I’ll not explain the details of how you set up the Cluster program here but googling DX Cluster will give you loads to read and going to www.bcdxc.org/ve7cc will fast track you. The ve7cc program is the one I use so help is available if you go that route.

You will need to “filter” the spotting stations or else there will simply be too many station spots on the screen to comprehend. I always set my filters so that US and Canadian spotters are excluded (too many of them, I’m not interested that Japan can be heard in Iowa,…) along with Italian spotters (too excited, always spotting that North Korea is 59+60 on top band at noon). You may think it is a wise move to only allow UK spotting stations – it is if you want one spot every 10 hours.

The Reverse Beacon network (skimmer) has really taken off in the last two years. These are automated programs that decode stations sending CQ using CW, RTTY or other digital modes and report them. ve7cc contains an option to turn on these skimmer spots so you can get an immediate indication that a station is on the air even before it is spotted by a human. Some people don’t like this degree of automation – however it can give you 30 seconds advantage to try for a station before the EU pack descends and chaos reigns in the dx zoo.

Let’s move on to Contests. Yep, those guys shouting 59 569 all over the bands when you just want to chat with your mate in the North about your latest hospital appointment (you have heard about telephones?).

Contests are very useful to the DXer as the good contests mean that a lot of stations will enter including rare DX stations. The QSOs are quick and especially on the 2nd day of a 48 hour event you can often work the DX station on 1st or 2nd call as the big boys will have bagged him by then. Contests take place on all the HF bands except 30m, 17m and 12m (so-called WARC bands – google it Joe).

You can safely ignore all the RSGB contests (working loads of G3s will not improve your DXCC count) with a couple of notable exceptions. The Commonwealth CW contest in March is your best chance to work VK, ZL etc with NO EU QRM. The contest is limited to Commonwealth countries and try as they may to persuade the DX station otherwise Italy and Ukraine are not in the Commonwealth. Hence Luigi and Vlad have to sit and weep at their 10KW stacked yagis station while you work ZL3 with a Yaesu 817 and a miracle whip (ha ha!). Even if you don’t do morse you can use programs like cwget and cwtype to decode and make the exchange (again google them Joe).

The other useful RSGB contest is the IOTA in July which normally has a big turnout of stations on islands – some from exotic locations like Anglesey. Oh no, wait the IOTA committee in its infinite wisdom don’t consider Anglesay to be an island while the UK is…

Good places to see what contests are on are http://www.hornucopia.com/contestcal/index.html and http://www.sk3bg.se/contest/index.htm.

Well if the Cluster and Contests don’t improve your DXCC score there’s always your local 2m/70cm  to play with. Bip Bip!