Saturday, 19 August 2017

Not the day I had hoped for......

The 20m Antenna
Well, we had high hopes for a good day of activating and chasing lighthouses......that was not too be.  At 1020 UTC the propagation numbers were:

SFI= 80, SN= 41, A Index= 21, and the K Index= 5......not the numbers you want to see on a big event day.

We also had a S5 to S7 noise floor at the operating site.  It rained heavily for about 20 minutes while we set up our gear.......just what we needed !

Once we were up and running the bands were in a disgusting state, between the high noise floor and the very deep QSB we had it was very difficult to work anyone.   In fact we had two SSB stations and a Digital station on the air and made a grand total of 4 contacts all day.....including one, solitary, lighthouse station in Florida, K4PIL.

However, having said all that, we did have a good time out there - but then again, any day outside playing radio is better than being home with a large "honey-do" list.......

My antenna for the day was my MFJ 17' collapsible whip, up at 8' with a 17' counterpoise.  Radio was my FT-897D, with my FT-817 being used for VHF work.

I hope the propagation...and weather... improve a great deal for next weekends W/VE Island QSO Party.  I'll be out for that event as well.  Details will be posted here later in the week.


The 20m station using an FT-897D


VE3ULC operating the digital station

Friday, 18 August 2017

ILLW coming up

Coming up this weekend in the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend.   This event is sponsored by the AYR Amateur Radio Group in Scotland, and they have been running it since 1993.

This year I will be activating Pig Point Lighthouse on Amherst Island, a light which has never been activated before, so hopefully the propagation and weather Gods will cooperate with each other and allow us to have a great day on Saturday at the light.

I'll be using the usual Lighthouse frequencies and using the VE3FI callsign.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Sunday QRP'ing

Jim VE3ULC in todays operating tent.
It was a beautiful day here in Eastern Ontario, in fact it was warm enough to go on out to our Field Day site.....which is now no longer under water, but still real soggy in some spots.....and play some portable QRP radio.

The bands were not in too bad a condition.  The propagation numbers as of 1757 UTC, 13 August were:   SFI=70, SN=11, A Index=11, and the K Index=2.

The was the usual stuff going on, tuning up over QSO's and LIDS a plenty.  Lots of European stations were on 20m, I tried to work 9A3ON in Croatia, and SV9NNK in Crete.  Both stations copied VE3Fox......but couldn't get the "Italy" at the end of the callsign no matter what phonetic I used....so they're not in the log.

I did manage to have solid QSO's with EI8BLB in Ireland, and EG8HKT in the Canary Islands, both of which made my day.   Not too shabby for 5 watts into an MFJ 17' collapsible whip antenna with one 17' elevated counterpoise.

Next weekend we're off to activate the Pig Point Lighthouse on Amherst Island for the ILLW weekend.  We'll be QRO for that event with the FT-897D.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

It was a WSPRing type day.....

Not much going on at the homestead yesterday so I did a bit of WSPRing after cutting the grass.  I haven't been on WSPR for a few weeks as my computer developed a disliking to that program.......

Propagation as of 2242 UTC, 11 August, was:  SFI=69.  SN=11.  A Index=8 and the K Index=3.

Here's my 20m map:


Not too shabby, signals getting out to either end of the earth, from Eureka, Nunavut, to Australia, and New Zealand.   Very pleased with this.   Antenna is a 148 foot inverted L long wire up at 50' and my FT-817ND at 500mw.






Saturday, 5 August 2017

An interesting Go-Box

Jim - VE3ULC brought his recently built go-box over to my QTH yesterday so he could check it and a newly built OCF dipole out.

The finished box
Interesting piece of kit, he's built it into a small Pelican Case and it has a FT-817, speaker, a Raspberry Pi, a small hi-def screen, and enough battery power to last a week.

He's built a lightweight 40m OCF dipole to go with this kit, and we put it up 25 feet into one of my tall trees to test it out.   Putting the analyzer on it first we found it was very good on all bands.....including 2m...... but it will not tune at all on 15m.

We ran it through several bands on various digital modes and it works just great on all of them.   Next Friday we plan on getting out to one of the local parks and doing some portable work with our gear, and hopefully Jim's gear will pass and exceed our expectations.

Jim VE3ULC on the miniature key pad.
Don - VE3MNE supervising our testing

Friday, 28 July 2017

Rumour Control.........

Hmmm.......rumour has it that the VE3FI Van will be heading to the west coast again next year in May.

I wonder how many 2m repeaters I won't get a response from in 2018???  It was pretty dismal in 2014 when I drove across, and I imagine with the growth of the digital repeaters it has become even more dismal....but we shall see.

Not sure of the route yet......but it won't be via the Trans-Canada, but I have decided to do the northern route through Ontario.  I've driven the Lake Superior route three times now so it's time for a change.

I'll post more details as I solidify my plans.





Thursday, 27 July 2017

W / VE Island QSO Party 2017

VE3DZE on Simcoe Island
Coming up is this years W / VE Island QSO Party, sponsored by the US Islands Award.

The event runs 15 hours from 1200 UTC, 26 August to 0300 UTC, 27 August, and the Rules for the event can be found HERE on the US Islands page.

Participation by Canadian amateurs has been pretty dismal over the past few years and the disappearance of the Canadian Island Award (CIsA) website did not help.  However, in case you don't know, out of the ashes has grown another group of guys who have formed Canadian Island Activators with the intent to carry on from where CIsA left off from.

The one item the organizers do ask is that you submit your event log.  Last year only three Canadian stations did so.  
 
I've participated on this event for the past six years and have had a blast and I'm sure you will too if you take time to take part.  This year I will be operating from Simcoe Island, ON-022, and hope to work a pile of you on the air.


Islands on the Air


One of the main purposes of the Islands on the Air (IOTA) program is to promote activity on the bands, not just on HF but on VHF and UHF.  It’s also for clubs and individual operators.  

IOTA is an outstanding program for the activator, chaser, and contester as well.

Coming up this weekend is the 2017 version of the RSGB IOTA Contest.  The contest starts at 1200 UTC on July 29th, and ends at 1200 UTC on July 30th.


This years rules can be found HERE.


Let's all hope that the propagation Gods are in a good mood and allow the bands to open and play nice for us all over the weekend.  It's about time we had some cooperation from them.

Monday, 24 July 2017

A Beautiful Day.....

Rick, VE3ORY, and his portable set up
What was supposed to be a rainy day turned into an alright one, yeah it was a bit cloudy and the wind was blowing about 30 kph, but it was warm and no bugs......and no rain!

The day started off on a good footing when we showed up for the ferry, only to be waved right aboard, and it sailed within minutes of turning our engines off.  I don't think there were more than 20 cars on board.

We ended up going to a small park just down the road from the Winter Ferry Dock, it's called  "Canal Dock Park", and it's pretty small.  It does have lots of trees as well as some benches and picnic tables though....which all came in handy.

Rick, VE3ORY set up a digital and CW station using his 20m & 40m dipole and was soon on the air. I set up using my MFJ 17' telescopic antenna with a 17' counterpoise for 20m using some Buddipole parts and started to call CQ.

We spent 6 hours on the island, operated 17m, 20m, and 40m, and only made 20 contacts between SSB, CW, and Digital modes, but we had a lot of fun doing it.  Paul, VE3IKY, came over from his house on the island and paid us a visit, and Greg, VE3PJ, arrived and spent the day with us as well.

The bands were in terrible shape with some minor (G1 level) geomagnetic storming going on, and I guess we were actually lucky to make the contacts we did.

The setup of VE3FI on the island.
Remember, any day out playing radio is better than mowing the lawn at home !!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Island Activation

Wolfe Island Ferry
This coming Sunday, July 23rd, the Frontenac Amateur Radio Club will be activating Wolfe Island, ON-009. Wolfe hasn't been activated since very early 2016.

The last time we activated Wolfe we made a remarkable two HF contacts, hopefully we can do better this time if the propagation Gods are all aligned correctly.

We will be on from 1500 UTC till 1900 UTC, or until the contacts stop coming our way.

Callsign will be VE3FRG, and the SSB frequencies will be:
7.250
14.250 - 14.260
144.200
Digital Frequencies will be:
7.080
14.070



Wolfe Island location





Saturday, 15 July 2017

New Radio

There's a new addition to the shack these days.  I bought a new FT-817 and Z-817 tuner from Radioworld last week....and I'm having a blast with this rig.

This is the second 817 I have owned, and I should never have sold the first one....but I did.   Anyway, it was time to get back into the QRP field, even though the solar cycle is on the downward slide to zero sunspots.

Today was the first time I've had the rig on HF.  It didn't take me long to make some good contacts.  First up was PY5QW in South Brazil (8,222 km), and IZ1UKF in Genoa, Italy (7.002 km).  Both contacts done with 5w into my 148' inverted L longwire antenna.  Feeling pretty pleased with those.

Propagation numbers today as of 1632 UTC were: SFI=91, SN=58, A Index=4, and the K Index=1.

Looking forward to next weekend when my club is doing an island activation, we'll see what I can do with it then.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Crappy Bands.....

Not a very good day yesterday on the bands for the IARU HF World Championships, they were very noisy and the QSB was also pretty bad at times.

At 1249 UTC the propagation numbers were SFI=81, SN=25, the 'A' Index=5, and the 'K' Index=1.  Not too bad numbers for this stage of the solar cycle, but they didn't translate into contacts.

There were a few surprises however.  I decided to start on 15m, which hasn't been very active for  months, but my first contact was with CR6K in Portugal and was closely followed by PP5BZ in Brazil.  Both these contacts were made using my 148' inverted L long-wire antenna.  I made a few more 15m contacts before moving to 20m.

There seemed to be a lot of EU stations running a lot of power, they had some great signals at this QTH, but they couldn't hear anyone going back to them.  People need to remember that the "power" is in your good antennas, and if you can't hear them - you can't work them.

I did manage to put a new one in the log in the late afternoon, 4U1WB, the UN World Bank station from Washington, DC....not really DX, but a new one nonetheless.

W1SYE also made it into my logbook, they were located on Nashawena Island, and were taking part in a first activation of the island for the US Islands Award, so I could resist helping them out with a contact.  The island is MA-002.

Nashawena Island

Saturday ended with 32 contacts in the log, not a very good day, but.......given the state of this solar cycle, I bet the next few years will be even worse, so enjoy it while we can....

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

IARU HF World Championship 2017

Coming up this weekend on the bands is the IARU HF World Championship.

Always a great weekend for gathering rare DX into your logbook, but given the lousy propagation we have had over the past few months I wonder if we will actually hear any DX?

The event runs for 24 hours, from 1200 UTC on July 8th to 1200 UTC on July 9th.

Rules can be found HERE.

Good Luck!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Canada Day Contest 2017

The bands were not in the best of shape at all.   Most of my contacts were done on 20m with a few made on 40m, 80m, 6m, and 2m SSB.  Nothing at all was heard on 10m or 15m.

There was lots of deep QSB and the bands were quite noisy, but I managed to put 122 contacts in the log which I'm happy with considering the conditions.

I actually did hear the ever elusive Bob, VA3QV/VY2, but wasn't able to make a contact with him.  Nice to hear him as it proves he's still alive and out there "somewhere".

As usual the contest was slow and friendly, with many comments, other than the mandatory exchanges, being passed back and forth.  This must be one of my favourite contests along with the Winter Contest.

Now to get ready for next weekends HF World Championships........

Monday, 26 June 2017

Field Day 2017.....or Noah comes to Grafton?

The 2m and 6m beams
mounted on a 32' ladder.
It was an interesting field day weekend, we had everything from high, humid heat, to torrential rains and flooding.

Our normal field day site is located on Hay Bay and has been our "home" for this event for 12 years.  However, this year we were, and still are, flooded out of the site due to the high water levels in Lake Ontario.  This necessitated a move or a cancelled field day.  Cancelling this event was never a real option to us, therefore we moved it to a piece of available property in Grafton.

Several of our club members went in to the site on Wednesday morning to check it out and walk the property to decide where we could put up our various antennas to cause the least interference for our operating as a 5A station.

All was well for Wednesday and Thursday, people started to arrive and get things set up and the camp established.........and then the rains hit.  Overnight we had 3 inches of rain in 12 hours and the creek, which runs through the property, rose 3.5 feet in 8 hours.  This was the highest recorded rainfall in 100 years.

Rick's set up, before the rain.
Rick, VE3ORY, found himself and his equipment in the middle of flooded area, while myself and Don, VE3MNE, found the roof of our operating shelter collapsed under the weight of the water and our equipment soaked.  Not a good thing!!

Friday was spent drying out equipment and gear, moving camps and setting up new antennas away from the water.

Thankfully by Friday evening we were set up and could relax.  Don, VE3UNA, had made reservations for us at the Buttermilk Cafe in Coburg, 15 minutes the road.  We had a great dinner with some new ham friends there, and the food was fantastic.

Rick's set up AFTER the rain !!
By 1400 local on Saturday we were primed to go, and things went well.  The propagation for Saturday was:  SFI = 72. SN = 22.  A Index = 5 and the K Index = 2.  The band seemed to be in good shape.  On Sunday the numbers were better.  Given our current position in the current Solar Cycle, the numbers weren't too bad.....we've had worse.

Operating wise we did pretty good, our final QSO count was 1,498, which beat last years score by 150 QSO's.

One item that stands out this year was the use on the air of the most stupid phonetics possible.  Some people using these had to repeat themselves several times because the receiving station just couldn't understand them.  It pays to use the standard ones - people know them.

Very few west coast stations were worked this year, we just didn't hear them at all.  In fact, none of our five stations worked any callsign on the west coast or the prairies.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the great lemon cookies Rick's wife, Sonya, sent with him.....they were a great hit!  Also mention should go to Mark, VE3EOG. who's tea making skills improved over the weekend to the point it was actually drinkable!

And lastly, many thanks to the May family, Steve, Joann, Kelsie and Sydney for allowing us the use of their property, and to Don and Richard who also came out to help and keep things under control.

VE3EOG at work on the 40m station


The 40m and 80m operating shelter and the "Bunkie"


The CW station with Rick, VE3ORY in control

Sunday, 18 June 2017

WSPR

Just had my ham radio computer fixed, and I'm back up on WSPR and PSK-31.   Lots of fun today on WSPR, the bands weren't too bad, but nothing was getting into Europe on any band.

Here's 20m today at 1430 UTC, June 18th.


Field Day Preparations

The preparations continue for Field Day.  This year we have to travel 90 minutes to Grafton, Ontario, to a new site, due to our normal site being still underwater.

My garage currently looks like a cross between a Radio Shack Warehouse and a Camping Store.  There is gear everywhere!!  I hadn't realized that our Club owned so mush equipment.  With some luck I may be able to cram it all into my van.

We're all hoping for little to no rain, and that the propagation Gods smile upon us both days.

Don VE3MNE, Jim VE3ULC and I are heading out on Wednesday morning to have a good look at the property and to try and figure out where we can site and hang our antennas.  As usual we plan on operating as a 5A station, made up of three SSB stations, a CW, and a digital Station.

We are going to have to change up the antenna list this year.  The line-up is now three 80m OCF dipoles, a 40m and 20m fan dipole, a 20m beam, two 31' verticals, a four element 6m Yagi, and a ten element 2m beam.  All day Friday and Saturday morning will be spent getting these antennas in the air.  




Sunday, 4 June 2017

Field Day 2017

Well, we had hoped the water level was going to go down and allow us access to our normal field day site on Hay Bay...........but apparently the Gods had other ideas.  At the moment, the water is continuing to rise, it's currently 3.2 metres above last years level, and at a 100 year high for the region.  Right now there's no sign it is going to start going down much before July.

It's very depressing to see our usual field day property in its current state, it's 60% under water, and you can fish for large Carp on what was the front lawn.  Its owner, Don VE3MNE, has spent 20+ years working on the property - improving it, maintaining it, cutting grass, and all the things you do at a cottage.  The really sad part for us all is that Don retired in March and was looking forward to spending this summer out on the property......and that's not going to happen this year.

This will be a big change for the VE3FRG Group, instead of field day at Hay Bay, we will now be forced to operate from a piece of property near Grafton, Ontario, about one hour and twenty minutes west of Kingston.  Thanks to Jim VE3ULC, for arranging this for us.

With this move comes a number of issues, the biggest one being how to sort out antenna layout and interference in a place we have never operated before.  All good challenges for us and I'm sure we will do fine.

So, a weekend with tarps, tents, radios, and a new location.......it's going to be fun !!

Our 2017 Field Day site location