Sunday, 29 March 2015

CQ WW WPX Contest 2015

Well, it's over for another year............let's hope CQ Magazine manages to survive and sponsor it again next year.

Conditions when we kicked off at 0000Z Saturday were just great.  Within minutes I had worked ZL2IO in 10m and got him on the first call with 10w.  New Zealand was quickly followed by Moldova, San Marino, French Guiana, Japan, and Morocco, and I had a blast!

After a few hours sleep and coffee with the boys, it was up and at them again Saturday morning.  The propagation numbers for the morning were SFI=137. SN=109. A Index=8, and the K Index= 3.  Bands were very noisy and had some QSB.  On 20m I could only hear US stations calling for Europe, 15m was full of Europeans calling North America, but they weren't hearing us calling them.  The only decent band was 10m and that was full of Caribbean stations, and I think I worked them all.

Again my three big bitch subjects have to be mentioned.....Hispanic stations giving their callsigns at triple the speed of light.  These guys need to understand that if we can't make out your callsign we are not going to work you.  Then there were the LIDS tuning up right over the calling stations....why do they do this?  And then there were those "Alligator" stations again who were all being received here at 59+++ yet they couldn't hear the stations replying to them at all.  More proof that 1500w is no better than 100w at times.

The main band in use on Saturday was 10m and it was pretty good.  I had the occasional foray to 15m and 20m but really didn't have enough luck there to stick around.  40m opened up in the evening and I made a few good contacts into Europe there.

Sunday was a waste of time.  The bands never seemed to open here, and when they did they had some pretty good deep QSB on them.  The propagation numbers on Sunday were the same as on Saturday.  10m and 15m seemed to be totally dead most of the time with not a station to be heard on them, and 20m was full of US stations calling CQ looking for Europe.

My final score was 134 contacts with 110 multipliers, and I worked 81 countries.  So I guess overall it wasn't that bad.....the lack of constant action just made the weekend drag on and I found that it just wasn't very enjoyable this year for me.

So, when's the next contest ???????

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Problems with an IC-7000

One of the members of the Frontenac Radio Group, my local club, had an issue yesterday with his ICOM 7000.........the radio would turn off as soon as he modulated on transmit.  After an incredible period of frustration checking coax connectors, RF feedback in the shack, too much mic gain, too much compression and reading the service manual for clues he ran across an article in QRZ that mentioned a possible voltage drop.

Interestingly, as soon as he spoke into the mic on full power (100 watts) the current should be about 15 to 25A and the voltage should remain constant at 13.8 to 14.0 volts, if not , the ICOM shuts down and then reboots in a few seconds.

The ICOM power cord has two (2) 30A inline fuses. The article suggested that one should pull them (they are auto style bayonet type) and check the lugs for any corrosion or water damage.  He pulled both fuses and thoroughly cleaned the lugs and reinstated them back in the power cord. Voila, he had full power and the rig did not turn off.

It seems the ICOM is very voltage sensitive below 13 vdc and will automatically shut off. When he tried to power up the transmit mode there was a demand for high current and the resistive contacts made by the fuse blades dropped the voltage below 13 volts and the rig shut down. 

So there you have it, an easy fix to a very frustrating issue.  Hopefully Derek's experience will save you from learning some new swear words if this happens to you and your IC-7000.

Monday, 23 March 2015

WL2K Mobile

The VE3CLQ digital Go-Box
It was a pretty good day yesterday, the Frontenac Emcomm Group held their first WL2K deployed exercise of the year after doing a lot of RMS Express classroom work, and I deployed up to Perth Road Village, about 28 km north of Kingston.

We had eight stations up and running on the air, several from their home QTH and several from deployed locations around Frontenac County.  Over the past 18 months we have been building up a digital network here so we can stop using the archaic ARRL message forms and take Emcomm into the 21st Century.

So far in Frontenac County we have the following Gateways and Nodes:

VE3UDO-7, located in Clarendon Station this Node covers all of Northern Frontenac, most of Northern Lennox-Addington County, and a good portion of Lanark-North Leeds.

VE3FPN-7, the Node is located at the Sydenham Firehall and covers all of Central Frontenac as well as most of Central Lennox-Addington County.

VE3FRG-7, this Node is located in South Frontenac and covers all South Frontenac, the Frontenac Islands, the City of Kingston, South Lennox-Addington County, and Northern Jefferson County in New York State as far south as Watertown.

VE3MNE-10, this Gateway is located in West Kingston and covers a very large area.  The Gateway is able to connect to all of our Nodes.

VE3DTG-10, this Gateway is located in Central Kingston and is able to connect to our Nodes.

The Frontenac Club recently authorized the purchasing of equipment to build two portable Nodes which will help fill in a few holes in our coverage, and they will be able to be moved and placed where they are most needed to extend our coverage in an emergency.

All of our WL2K Gateways and Nodes operate on 145.070 and are on the air 24/7/365.

My Digital Go-Box consists of a Motorola CDM-1250 VHF radio along with a Coastal ChipWorks TNC-X and a ACER Notebook.  It performed very well.

We had a few learning experiences, we found that the Gateways will support heavy traffic with little problem.  The Nodes did get overloaded so we have a few issues to work out there.  Overall we passed the traffic we were supposed to with only a few hiccups.  It was a good training exercise and I'm looking forward to the second half of it in April.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Aurora Bounce

Interesting times on 6m tonight.  I spent a pleasant hour bouncing signals off the Aurora.  There were many stations calling from all over the US and this was the first time I have ever heard the Aurora Flutter.

Aurora Flutter normally occurs when radio signals are reflected from the auroral curtain.  SSB signals that are reflected sound very raspy, sound like the other operator is talking in a quiet whisper, and are difficult to understand and tune in.

At 2300 UTC the A Index was at 100 and the K Index was 7.  I have never seen the A Index that high before.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Your Answer To Your HOA.....

Once in a while a person's HOA gets a bit "uppity" about the supposed "stealth" antennas you're using, especially when a neighbour complains about it.  Well have I got an answer for this for you !!  

How about a portable antenna system that is mobile and can be folded, and rolled away.  This allows you to use it at night when those complaining neighbours are fast asleep.  

This system is available for a good price at your local friendly Russian Army Surplus Store.  Order it quickly, they're going fast!!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

P5 Activation February 2016

This just in:

That Dom 3Z9DX had written permission to operate amateur radio from a VERY wanted DXCC entity. Today, we can reveal that entity is North Korea (P5).

Dom 3Z9DX explains he has received a further letter from authorities in Pyongyang inviting him to a final meeting to discuss [and for he to accept] rules by the North Korean military and the relevant telecommunications department.

This meeting will take place in December with activity planned for January or February 2016.

According to P5 telecoms, Dom will be permitted only three bands (20-15-10) likely using a multiband vertical from a secured place in Pyongyang with two government supervisors over-looking 24/7.

Activity will last for 5 days.

At the moment this is a solo expedition to the #1 Most wanted entity using SSB only. He is working hard behind the scenes to get one more op (CW) to join him.

Please realise this project is a work in progress and to understand that it may only be Dom who operates from North Korea.

More updates / website throughout 2015.

I never expected to see this activation in my lifetime, but I don't think very many of us will get this P5 callsign in our logbooks. As this solo DXpedition is only for 5 days, and it is the number one most sort after country, and has been for many years, I can only imagine the pile-ups, deliberate QRM, LIDS, and band police that will be out and about in full force during those 5 days.  I hope I'm wrong, but history has shown (K1N for example) I'm probably right.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Ottawa Trip......

Had a great day yesterday, a road trip to Ottawa was on the menu.  It was good to finally get out of Kingston for a day after months of freezing cold weather and numerous feet of fallen snow.  The trip up to Ottawa was great, bare dry roads and a beautiful blue sky.  The temperature actually rose to +8C.......a heatwave !!

2m was pretty active, and I managed contacts in Perth, Westport, Franktown and Ottawa.  Much different results from last summer's cross Canada road trip.

First on the agenda was to drop three sealed gel cells off to Bob, VA3QV, at his QTH.  He's a scruffy looking bugger these days as he hasn't shaved all winter.  I will be taking up a collection later to buy a package of disposable razors to mail to him........  I know Bob appreciated getting the batteries, and I was surprised to hear from Liz, his XYL, later in the day just how happy she was when they were dumped in the middle of her living room......Oh Robert, you may need the mobile love shack a lot sooner than you know !!!!!!!

The gang at the Newport.
Picture (C) Chris VA3CME
After taking care of some business in town it was off to 322 Churchill Ave North, the location of the Newport Restaurant.  Outstanding Pizza, and the beer was good too !!   This spot is the monthly meeting place of the Ottawa Valley QRP Society 

Now normally I only get to see these guys once a year at Chillycon, so it was a real treat for me to be able to arrange my trip and get to see them all last night, all 17 of them which I understand is a bit of a record for attendance.  Nice to see the QRP community growing!

Bob, VA3QV said it best on his blog today....and I quote:   "You can only imagine what the QRM level is like inside the restaurant when you have 17 hams all describing their last DX contact, their latest antenna and how they did in the last contest all at the same time…".  It was a great evening.

Being back in Ottawa was interesting for me, I was stationed at CFB Ottawa South (Uplands) in the 1980's when I was flying on 450 Squadron.  What changes have gone on, how the ethnic makeup of my old stomping grounds have changed, and how the City has contracted urban sprawl!!  Yeah, I know things change, I'm just not convinced it's all for the better.

The 2m rig was pretty quiet on the way home, most hams must have been in bed!  Luckily the VE3FRG machine in Kingston was active and I spoke to Richard, VA3VDP, and Leo, VE3BLR.....and so ended a great day.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

2015 ARRL International DC Contest - SSB

What a great weekend on the bands, over 600 contacts in the log and I'm ready for bed.   The main workhorse of the weekend was usual.  20m wasn't far behind, and I also managed a pile of contacts on 15m and 80m.

The opening propagation figures for 0000Z 7 March was: SFI=127. SN=31. A=13. K=3.  Not too bad, we've all worked with a lot worse than those numbers.

Best contact of the weekend was with Herik, FR5DX, on Reunion Island, AF-016 in the Indian Ocean.  100 watts both ways using dipoles.....who needs beams???  It was an interesting contest this year as a lot of the usual suspects didn't show up for it.  I heard no JL's and no middle east stations.  One station I have worked every contest I have ever worked, D4C in Cape Verde, was also conspicuous by his absence.

The usual idiots were out in force, those that whistling over QSO's, and tune up right over the on-going QSO.  I'm sure they would just love it if we did it to them!

My other pet peeve was also out in force this weekend, those operators that insist on giving their callsign at triple the speed of light.  You hear them all the time calling and calling and calling....and all the time getting no response while all around them people are working stations hand over fist!  They never get it.

The other telling item was the very large number of stations working a kilowatt.  My experience was that those running a Kilowatt had, for the most part, crap signals and they were transmitting far beyond what they could hear.  I think the power they run is to compensate for poor antenna systems they may have.  They fail to memorize the first rule of ham radio.......put your $$ into the antenna system, not the radio!!   The stations running 100w had cleaner signals and were easier to understand and work.

I had great success with my 15m vertical.  This antenna is a $20 hamstick attached to a painter pole, and it sits up at about 11'.  It also has two 11' 8" radials on it.  With this antenna, if I could hear them I could work them.  It went beyond my expectation, especially as it was only put up as a stop-gap approach over the winter.  It may stay up now!!

Overall it was a great weekend, really enjoyed myself, and we'll do it all over again on the last weekend of this month for the CQ WW WPX Contest SSB.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

And the Season Starts.........

The 2015 contest season officially kicks off this coming weekend with the ARRL International DX Contest (SSB).  This contest starts at 0000Z on March 7th, and end at 2359Z on the 8th March.  Always a great contest for getting those DX stations in the log.

Of course the weather is perfect for radio sport activities right now, as it is not exactly conducive for outdoor activities unless you're a very well dressed Inuit.

Rules are HERE.

Having seen the SFI numbers over the past few weeks I think this contest will  be done by VE3FCT as QRO.  So let's hope the propagation Gods smile this weekend.

Good luck to everyone taking part!!