Sunday, 22 May 2022

Saturday Night on the Bands...

Yesterday evening I decided to drive to Fort Henry and see what I could do on the bands for our clubs bi-monthly QRP Sprint.  The weather has not been the best here this long weekend, in fact we have had three people killed in a severe wind storm by falling trees that afternoon.  Luckily, the area I live in escaped the worst of it and had no damage.  Later in the day it was all over and things were already back to normal.

During the day the bands had been filled with deep QSB and near constant huge static crashes.  As a result I wasn't too sure how things would turn out that evening, but it was very nice out, and the temperature was 22C under beautiful blue skies.  

The propagation numbers for the evening were:  SFI=166, SN=110, A Index=10, and the K Index=2.
As is now usual for me, the radio was my KX3 set at 10w, and Hamsticks for my antenna.

At 2300 UTC I started on 20m, and first up was Luis, EA4TL, immediately followed by Rubens, IU1HJF. I ended up with 29 contacts, including YV1SW in Venezuela, and KP4M in Puerto Rico.  Other contacts were made out to Washington State, Louisiana, and Texas among others.  It ended up being a really good night on the hill.

Here are my contact maps by band, 20m on top and 40m below:

Friday, 20 May 2022

Friday in the Park...

Another day in the park, and another day of bad bands and deep QSB.   The propagation numbers today were SFI=173, SN=154, A Index=10, and the K Index=3.  The good news is that it was blue skies, sunny, and 22C, which certainly made up for those cold activations I did last winter.

Today was probably a good example of when not to use QRP power levels, but I still managed to have a successful activation, it just took longer.  As usual I was running 10w with my KX3, and hamsticks for my antennas.  There was no room at the activation site to set up a EFHW or a dipole.

It took me over an hour today to make 16 contacts, my slowest day far.   The QSB on 20m and 40m was terrible, quite possibly the worst I've heard it this year.  S9 stations disappeared in nano-seconds...never to be heard from again.

I only managed to get 2 contacts on 40m, and they were both local.  I must have called on 40m for 20 minutes with no luck before I moved to 20m which turned out to be a bit better, but you still had to work to get the contacts.

It's a long weekend here in Canada, so hopefully the bands will improve so we can enjoy ourselves!

Here's todays QSO map:

Stay Safe out there!!

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Bad Bands?...

The bands do not seem to be very good these days.  The propagation numbers, while they look good, certainly don't perform the way you would expect them too.

During the day on Saturday the propagation numbers looked good, but contacts were pretty rare. Where I could hear stations calling (and there were not many), they were very much in my noise floor, and I was not able to work them.

On Saturday evening I decided to go to a local park and do a POTA activation, and to be honest, after my attempts during the day, I did not think I would get the 10 contacts to successfully activate it.  Man, was I wrong!

The propagation numbers in the evening were:  SFI=153, SN=120, A Index=7, and the K Index=2.  

I started at 0001 UTC, and in 44 minutes using my KX3 and a set of Hamsticks for 20m and 40m, I made 47 solid contacts, including two out to California, and a DX contact with Manuel, EA1GIB, in Spain.  Not too bad for 10w!!

There was some QSB, and I did have a S5 noise floor on 40m, but the stations kept coming. In the end it was a great night.

The night's QSO map:

Monday, 9 May 2022

A Beautiful Day...

What a great day it was, the temperature got up to a fantastic 23C.  I couldn't let that go to waste, so it was off to play some portable radio with the KX3.

Once again the actual propagation numbers belied how the bands were actually performing.  Propagation numbers this morning were:  SFI=119, SN=89, A Index=6, and the K Index=1.  However, there was very deep QSB on 20m which certainly didn't help matters.  It took me exactly 30 minutes to make 20 contacts, the furthest of which was in Washington State.

After 13 contacts I moved to 40m and made another seven contacts there.  I had been sitting on 14.297, and out of nowhere a noisy Over-the-Horizon Radar (Russian or Chinese??) started up on that frequency and that was it.....time to QSY to 40m.  The IARU Region 1 Monitoring System has been trying to keep track of these interlopers, who seem to keep popping up all over the 20m, 15m, and 10m bands.  I am going to suggest that this will continue as long as the conflict in Ukraine continues.

Apart from the QRM and the bad QSB, it was very nice to be able to operate outside in shorts and a t-shirt again.  

Todays QSO Map:

Saturday, 7 May 2022


A new rig found its way into my shack this week, a new FT-891.  What an amazing little rig it is, 160 - 6m in a compact package.  Along with the rig a LDG Z11 Pro II showed up.

This rig will not replace my KX3 for portable operating, for one thing it's quite a heavy little rig, but it will be more a back up rig in the shack.   

I've had my main rig, the FT-950 for 12 years now, and while it's a fantastic radio, I simply do not use it to its full potential.  I'm no longer contesting these days and I feel it's just a waste of radio sitting on my bench.  It will probably be on the market soon.

Tomorrow I'm off to the park for our club weekly meet-up, and will be taking the FT-891 to give it a first work out to see what it can do.  Stay tuned for news on that.

Stay safe out there!!

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Another Sunday in the Park...

Getting up early on a Sunday morning, and going off to play radio, is starting to become a habit!!  It was a great day, blue skies and not a cloud to be seen anywhere.  In fact it was 18C when I was in the park, not too shabby for the 1st May around here.

My antenna today was, surprisingly, not a hamstick.  I used what I call my WG0AT antenna, a 41' radiator, and a 17' ground radial.  It's attached to the radio by a BNC to Banana Plug adapter, and not with coax or a Balun.  Steve, WG0AT, kindly provided me with the details of this antenna after I saw a video of him using it on a SOTA activation.

It works on most bands, and tunes down to 1.5:1 for many of them, a couple were 2.1:1.  I can not use it on 80m, 17m, or 12m, it just won't tune them at all.  It's not really an issue as I don't normally activate on those bands anyway.  I must try this antenna with a 4:1 Balun and see what changes with it.

So how did I do?  Well let me start off by saying that the propagation was not the best (that's also becoming a habit!!).  We had very noisy bands with deep QSB, signals were S9 one minute and gone completely the next.

Propagation numbers for today: SFI=120, SN=50, A Index=18, and the K Index=3.

However, I did manage to work three stations in Florida, WB4TDH, N4II, on CW, and N4Y on SSB.  All three were taking part in the Florida QSO Party.  Best contact of the day goes to G7SQW, Andy, who was activating a park in the UK, and my mighty 10 screaming watts grabbed him on my first call.  I'm very pleased with that contact, especially considering todays conditions!

It looks like we have a wet week ahead, so I will have to squeeze any of my planned POTA activations in between the rain drops.....the good news is that it isn't snow in the forecast!

Stay safe everyone.

A nice spot to play radio! 

Sunday, 24 April 2022

Sunday morning in the Park...

The propagation numbers this morning seemed to be a lot better than they were yesterday, so off I went after breakfast to the Marshlands Conservation Area, POTA VE-5143, and set up to activate the park.

Let me tell you that the propagation numbers that popped up on the space weather website, had nothing to do with what was actually experienced on air.  The published numbers were:  SFI=160, SN=118, A Index=12, and the K Index=1.

It took me 90 minutes to make 14 contacts on three bands, 15m, 20m, and 40m.  Not at all what I expected when I started. That is the longest amount of time I have ever spent on an activation so far.

The radio of the day was my KX3, but I swapped out my normal mag-mounted hamsticks on my vans roof, to a light-weight camera tripod mount.

This setup uses one 17 foot radial, which I left attached for the whole activation.  Furthest contact was on 20m and was with Mike, W5NXK, in Lufkin, Texas, 2100 kms away.  So I'd say the proof of concept test went well, regardless of the poor band conditions.

There are a couple of things I need to do for the next time I use this setup.  Firstly, I need to find a good way of securing the tripod so it doesn't tip over.  Today was fine, we had zero wind.  

Secondly, I need to add a few more ground radials. Yes, it worked with just one radial, but we all know it needs more.

Today was another was the first time I activated this year and didn't sit in the van, I actually setup outside on a small portable table.  Yes, spring is here!!

Close up of the actual mount

Todays QSO map 

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Results - QRP to the Field...

Today is the QRP to the Field event and I joined Bob, VA3QV, at Lemoine Point to do a bit of QRP'ing.  The bands were in an absolute atrocious state.  In fact we couldn't even work a local station, Jelle, VA3JDG, on 40m who was, in a straight line, only eight kilometres away.  Jelle was running 100w, and we still didn't hear him.

The propagation at 10am local was: SFI= 163, SN= 101, A Index= 6, and the K Index= 4.

We did hear some stations on MI and OH calling CQ POTA, but we could not work them at all.  Bob's screaming 5w SSB just wasn't cutting it this morning at all.

It was disappointing, but we still got to play radio in the great outdoors, and Bob got to check out his portable gear, and make sure it worked and had everything he needs. So all was not a total waste.

Hopefully tomorrow morning will have better propagation and we will be able make a few portable contacts when we meet up at Lake Ontario Park for another portable operating session.

Bob, hard at work trying to make at least one contact!

Bob's Xiegu X5105 in action.