Saturday, 31 March 2012

CY9M - An update

From the official website:

The logistical aspect of activating St Paul island is now very much ongoing and a work in progress. No wonder it’s been seven long years since this DXCC entity was last active when you consider the island has nothing resembling human day-to-day, take for granted “luxuries”.

Now the group insurance and landing permit are formalised, we’re getting to work on the actual transmitting side of things. We know the east side of the island has a great take-off to EU and AF, whilst on the west there are excellent paths to NA, SA and AS. Initial thinking was to set up two camps at either side of the island, but this is proving a huge logistics problem, primarily because an overgrown and intertwined forest blocks all routes – and since we are active for a relatively short period, assembling quickly at one location seems more likely. We will update nearer the time on chosen location.

We sincerely thank and acknowledge the numerous organisations, clubs and individual donors who realise the task ahead. You too can help us get CY9M on air by checking out the official website.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

CQ Contest......the aftermath

It was not a bad weekend on the bands and the new radio and headset worked a real treat.  This was without a doubt my most successful contest to date. 

SFI was 103, A Index was 10, K Index was 2, and the SN was at 65.  Not great, but we've all worked a lot worse.  Amongst a hell of a lot of other contacts, I managed to score three new countries:

Turkey - YM7KA on 15m
Namibia - V55V on 10m
Cyprus - P33W on 15m

Every country in Europe was worked with the exception of Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden.  Never heard any stations from those countries at all.  The behaviour on the bands was great, and I heard no band police in action, what a nice change that was!

However (and there's always a "however"!!), I did hear some raised voices and frayed tempers over some peoples inability to communicate serial numbers in English.  I guess some people don't realize that not everyone speaks English, and that some actually have a language of their own.  Oh well, I guess some people just need to learn to slow down and chillout once in a while.

RMS Titanic

I came across the following while checking a callsign on today, and I thought it would be of interest to some of the readers of this blog.  Here it is:

"RMS Titanic, the world’s largest passenger ship at the time, sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, following a collision with an iceberg at approximately 0245 on the morning of April 15th 1912. 1,517 people lost their lives in the tragedy.

The 100th anniversary of the sinking will be marked by several special commemorative event stations at ports associated with the ships maiden voyage. These include Cobh, formerly Queenstown (EI100T), Belfast (GI100MGY), Southampton (M100T), Cape Race (VO1MCE) and a maritime mobile station (VE0MGY), at the site of the sinking.

Throughout 2012 EI100T will be operated regularly from Cobh ("Queenstown"), Lower Cork Harbour (IO51UU). Cork Harbour was the last port of call of the Titanic on her maiden and final voyage.

During the weekend of April 14th & 15th 2012, a significant special event station signing EI100T will be operated from Cobh town to coincide with the Titanic commemorations.

The Cork Radio Club sponsored Titanic Award will be available to radio amateurs who work EI100T on at least two bands or modes during 2012, with a special endorsement to the award if you work EI100T during the weekend of April 14th & 15th 2012."

Friday, 23 March 2012

World-Wide WPX Contest - SSB

Well the big contest starts tonight at 0000Z and runs till 2359Z on Sunday.  This is always a fun contest with the bands full of great DX.  If you can't work your DXCC this weekend you're just not trying.

I've been spending quite a bit of time learning the new rig, and I've finally got comfortable with it.  This week I added a Heil Proset Elite Headset with the HC 6 wide response microphone element to the kit, hardest part of this was adjusting to using a foot switch as I've always had a hand switch.  This headset is light years ahead of my last Heil set, the dual traveller, which I also really liked, but there is just no comparision between the two headsets. 

As I write this we are having a moderate solar flare which is reaching M1.0.  The SFI is 102, the A Index is 6, the K Index is 2, and the SN at 86.  Not the best for the contest, but I've done it in much worse conditions.

The Rules can be found HERE.

Good luck to those taking part, and lets hope the band police take the weekend off.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Successful Launch and Flight

A balloon like VE3RMC-11
VE3RMC-11 was launched  successfully at 0930L this morning from Wingham Airport in very light winds.  In the first two minutes the balloon climbed to 902m and remained over the airport.

I had a phone call from a very happy Richard-VA3VDP just after it had launched. 

The balloon tracked in a South-East direction, and 26 minutes into the flight it was at 10,002m, and nearly a third of the way to its intended height.

At 1111L the balloon burst at 29,013m just short of its 35,000m target, and 39 minutes later it touched down in a farmers field about 23 Kms (as the crow flies) south of Wingham.

Looking at the APRS tracks of the chase vehicles it looks like a successful recovery of the payload was carried out.

Well done Richard!!  We look forward to hearing the details in a few days.

Track of VE3RMC-11

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Balloon Launch is a go!

The Space ADS-B Receiver Experiment (SABRE) team will be launching a high altitude balloon about 0900L on Wednesday, March 21st at Wingham, Ontario to test the satellite payload.

The Royal Military College launch team is now in place at Wingham and no doubt pouring over tomorrows weather and winds aloft charts. 

I'm sure all will be fine and that Richard's balloon launch will be a great success. 

You can track the balloon on APRS.FI (click here) which will have the callsign VE3RMC-11, and the chase team will be beaconing as VA3VDP-9.  I'll post more details as I get them from launch control.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Canadian Islands Award Program

Every summer for the past four years the ham radio group I belong to has activated several islands. Last summer was no different, we activated five of the Canadian Islands around the Kingston area over a two month period. According to what records we could find most of them had not been activated for several years, and a one had never been activated at all. This was done so we could take part in the Canadian Islands Award Program.

It was a lot of fun, the days were hot and sunny, but there always seemed to be a good breeze blowing of the St. Lawrence or Lake Ontario to keep us cool and the bugs down while we operated.  It's a great way to keep hone your portable operating skills.

What amazed us was the demand for these islands. On one remarkable Sunday afternoon we worked hundreds of stations calling us as we operated portable on Simcoe Island. In fact at one point we did 139 contacts in 58 minutes after some kind soul spotted us on the DX Cluster. It was a great afternoon.

This coming summer will be no different for us, we already have plans to activate three islands- Milton, Garden, and Iroquois Islands. Milton has never been activated before so we are expecting a good response to its activation.

The downside to all this is that the management of the Canadian Islands Award Program does not do a good job in promoting the activity. Last year we sent in five activation notices to the webmaster to be placed on their news page. Not one of our activation notices was ever dealt with, or posted on their website, and we have since heard from several fellow activators who have had a similar experience.

Now I did complain via email to the program manager and coordinator, and he kindly phoned me in return and we had a splendid chat about several issues. I understand that these guys are volunteers and that they do this in their spare time….Don't get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with this. But come on, if you’re going to run an award program at least keep your website up-to-date, and list upcoming activations so that the ham community can see what is going on.

It’s been nine months today since the website was last up-dated, and in fact one page, the “Activators & Chasers & Expeditions” hasn’t been up-dated since 25 April 2004!! It’s one hell of a way to run an award scheme, in fact it looks like the award scheme is actually dead from the way the website looks.

The Canadian Islands Award Program is something Canadian hams should be proud of, it showcases our outdoors in all its glory. 

The Americans have the US Islands Award Program as well. Here’s a link to their website...............quite a difference eh?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Balloon Launch - March 20th or 21st

The Royal Military College of Canada will be launching a high altitude balloon at 0900 local, on Tuesday, March 20th, or Wednesday, March 21st, depending on the weather and the winds aloft.

Major Richard Van Der Pryt, VA3VDP, hopes that the balloon will reach 109,000 feet before it bursts.  Two vans will be used to track the balloon after it has been launched from Wingham, Ontario.

The balloon is equipped with an APRS tracker, and will use the callsign: VE3RMC-11, and it's very nice to see the RMC callsign being used once again.

This launch is part of an experiment being done for Major Richard Van Der Pryt's Phd Thesis. 

Best of luck with it Richard, we'll all be watching !!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Just another weekend...........

The bands were certainly not in the best of shape over the weekend with large solar flares and CME's screaming towards us, but it was still a good weekend DXing......well, any weekend is good if you can spend it chasing DX!

The new FT-950 certainly helped, I'm amazed at the performance of this rig.  The ATU will not handle the mismatch, so I now have a MFJ-949E manual tuner in line with the rig so I can tune up my 40m OCF on 15m and 17m.  Works like a charm.

The hard thing to remember is to put the tuner back on "bypass" so the ATU can work once I have finished on 15m and 17m.  So far I haven't screwed up.

This weekend I managed to put 8 DX contacts, including another two new countries in the log.  This weekends catch was:

PJ7PT in Sint Maartin on 10m.
ZD7FT in Jamestown, St. Helena on 17m.

And on 15m I worked:

CO8LY in Santiago de Cuba.
F4DSD in St. Martin de Crau, France.
CT9/RC5A on Madeira Island.
HA5JI in Budapest, Hungary.
IZ5HPQ in Toscany, Italy, and
ER4DX in Otaci, Moldova.

I'm pretty confident that I'll do quite well during the CQ SSB DX Contest at the end of the month......hopefully the bands will improve before then.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

ARRL DX SSB Contest 2012

Another great contest weekend is over, and the bands were in pretty good shape, but there was some pretty deep QSB at times.

I played at it for a few hours on Friday and Saturday nights, and most of the day on Sunday.  I managed to log over 200 contacts in 63 countries and put three new countries in the log.

Funniest incident?  How about a PA0 in the Netherlands asking a N5 station in Texas to "please speak English".   I thought the Texan was going to have a fit!

I actually heard VA3QV this weekend on 40m, but didn't get a chance to work Bob. 

For the most part behaviour on the bands was pretty good, but the LIDS were still out in force tuning up over active QSOs.  Do the guys who do that ever listen before they press tune?   I don't think they do.

Overall I'm extremely pleased with the new FT-950 and the way it performed over the weekend.  I've still got a few things to master and remember how to do....such as working split, but the filters really make a huge difference in the pile ups.

I'm looking forward to the CQ WW DX SSB Contest at the end of the month and giving the rig another good workout.