Thursday, 13 June 2019

2m Under Attack....

For a long time a good friend of mine has said that if we don't use it, we'll lose it.  Well, have a read of this news out of France today.

France proposes 144-146 MHz for Aeronautical Mobile Service

The next meeting of the CEPT WRC-19 Conference Preparatory Group takes place June 17-21 in Prague 

France has submitted a paper with the subject Agenda Item 10 revised proposal for an agenda item for new non-safety aeronautical mobile applications. 

The paper says: 

"The list of bands that are proposed for study of possible new allocations to the aeronautical mobile service on a primary basis is revised by adding the band 144-146 MHz, the bands 5000-5010 MHz and 15.4-15.7 GHz being maintained."

"The decisions of previous conferences have introduced some restrictions to the use and have imposed constraints on the development of aeronautical mobile applications within some existing mobile allocations traditionally used by the aeronautical mobile applications. 

At the same time, the number of manned and unmanned aircraft equipped with sensors has grown significantly in the past 20 years together with the need of bidirectional low to high data rate communications.

Aeronautical applications like fire surveillance, border surveillance, air quality and environment monitoring, traffic monitoring, disaster monitoring, terrain modelling, imagery (visible, infrared, radar, meteo), video monitoring require non-safety communications between various types of aeronautical platforms. 

Consequently the need of non-safety data communications between various types of aeronautical platforms increases and so the need for new frequency bands."

Download PTA(19)090 France_Proposal on non-safety aeronautical mobile applications at CPG PTA # 7 - 17-21 June - Prague under Meeting Docs

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Good Weekend...

This past weekend was the 48th year of the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, and the 13th year the Frontenac Radio Group has provided the communications through our county.

The event has cyclists ride from Ottawa to Kingston on Saturday, and ride back to Ottawa on Sunday.

We had 1800 riders on the road over four different routes, and three ham clubs manning over 30 communication points.  It's a pretty big operation and takes a while to set up.

Thankfully, the weather was fantastic both days and that really helped with the smooth running this year.  Not one single major issue popped up in our sector this year.

The new VE3FRG C4FM repeater worked exactly as advertised, and we had zero issues with that as well.  Usually, we have an issue with the Lavant 2m repeater which we use for an inter-sector liaison station.  This year we had no issue getting into the Lavant repeater due to the 40' mast that VE3ORY brought along, so that was great.

As we are an Emcomm Club, this cycle tour is an excellent way of practicing deployed operating and operating under a directed net for up to eight hours a day for the whole weekend.

Hopefully, next year will go as smoothly as this year.

Here are some photos of the event, thanks to Rick, VE3ORY.

Last year we only had one of these cycles........they seem to be getting popular.

Don VE3MNE running the Net.

The 40' mast and J-Pole.

Susanne, our Cycle Tour Event Coordinator.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour 2019

Next weekend, June 8th & 9th, is the 48th running of the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, and I believe the 13th year the Frontenac Radio Group has provided communications for the event.

This year the weather isn't looking too good, but hopefully, that will change as this week progresses.  The last thing we want is rain for the weekend.

There are 1800 riders registered this year, so it will be a busy event, and a safe one we hope.

For those hams who regularly use the VE3FRG repeater here in Kingston, it will be out of service next weekend and reserved for the Bike Tour traffic only.  If you need a repeater please use the VE3KBR repeater on 146.940- with a 151.4 tone.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

New Portable Antenna....

There's a new antenna in the radio "weapons locker" these days.   I have just received the PackTenna Mini Random Wire Antenna.  One thing I must say right up front is how outstanding the service was from George, the guy behind Packtenna, he went way above and beyond to get this to me.

This antenna combines a 9:1 UNUN, winder and antenna wire in a compact unit that is quick and really easy to set up and take down.

I can't wait to get out and use this at the local park....of course, I also have to wait for some decent propagation and weather to arrive.  

I'll let you know how it performs when I get it up in a tree.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Monk Apollo

Sad news received tonight.  Monk Apollo, SV2ASP, has become Silent Key.  He was 64 when he died on May 5th. 

Monk Apollo was the lone DX voice from Mount Athos, in fact, I believe he was the only radio amateur there. He operated from the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Docheiariou.

Mount Athos is the 20th most-wanted DXCC entity.  

Αναπαύσου εν ειρήνη

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Smiths Falls Flea Market

Coming up this weekend is the annual Smiths Falls Flea-Market........always a great time, both for picking up bits and bobs for the shack and for the social scene that swirls around the place.

There should be a good group going up from Kingston, as usual, this year, it's an early start so we'll be looking for hot coffee on the way to help with the hour and a half drive.

I'm not looking for much this year, perhaps another RF Choke - but that's about it.

Lots of people going there looking for coax I hear - sounds like some shack re-building going on.

As usual, it's being held at the Curling Club in Smiths Falls.  The address is: 13 Old Sly's Road, and here's a map.......

Thursday, 25 April 2019

A Visitor....

We had a visitor in Kingston last weekend.......

Nice to see Russ and Pat, and to have coffee with them on their way home to New Brunswick.  See you guys in October !!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Activating Canadian Islands

It's that time of year when the ice is coming off the rivers and lakes, and when certain hams start to plan their island activations for the summer and fall.

Last year I activated Wolfe and Simcoe islands, ON-009 and ON-022 respectively.  Given the current location we are in the solar cycle I did pretty well on both activations.  The problem was that both of these islands have been activated multiple times over the last few years, and not everyone needs them in the log.

This year I've been hunting through the records for islands that have not been activated in a long time, and have come up with Big Island, ON-090, and Amherst Island, ON-021.  

There is no available record for Big Island anywhere I can find, and nobody around this area can ever remember it being on the air.  

Amherst Island hasn't been activated for 6 years, and we only made ten contacts that day due to really lousy propagation.  Hopefully, we'll do better this summer.

If you're looking for more information on activating Canadian Islands, have a look HERE.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Sunday Portable

Spent three hours last Sunday, April 7th, out at the local park with Jim VE3ULC, and Rick VE3ORY, operating portable QRP.  This was our first "Portable Sunday" of the year.

The weather, while dry and no snow, was pretty cold and damp, which didn't sit too well with Rick as he hasn't been back from wintering in sunny tropical Florida all that long.

I spent some time playing around with APRS, which is all new to me, as is the rig.  Slowly we're figuring out things, and more to the point I actually have the radio sending out beacons now.  By the way, if you get an FT2D - get rid of the stock antenna and get an after-market one.  The stock whip is not good at all.

The other thing I got to do was 2m CW.  I suppose as are most areas, 2m is pretty quiet these days, so I wanted to see what I could do.  In this location, I've never heard of anyone doing either CW or SSB on I had to try.

It took about 10 minutes of calling CQ, but I did get a response from Ron VE3GO, who was a very long 3 km from my location.......However, I'm sure that CW contact was actually long path !! 😆

The bad thing of the day was the fact that I had forgotten my 22-foot painter pole and only had an 8-foot version with me.  I used my short Buddipole whips to make a 2m dipole and made the contact on that. Worked great !!

I was so excited at finally getting back out to the park that I forgot to write down the SFI of the day.........I do know that it wasn't very good.

Looking forward to many more of these events in the local parks and on the local islands.  It's a great way to spend a Sunday.

The operating location - the back of the van.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

2018 CQ WW DX Contest - SSB

Results are in........looks like we did OK 😎

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

New Radios...

It's been a busy four weeks here in the VE3FI shack, three new radios have appeared and when I'm not on HF I've been playing around on C4FM digital VHF and UHF.  We don't have a digital repeater here in Kingston, but in my travels, I come across them on a regular basis.

First to appear was a new FT2D.  It's a great little handheld, and it really showed me the benefits of operating digital voice modes.  In simplex, using digital narrow, my signal goes about half as far again as it does in FM.   It's very easy to use and the programming software is pretty intuitive to use.  It also has GPS and APRS built into it.

Second up was an FTM-100DR mobile rig, this is now about to be installed in my vehicle.  It is a dual band with built-in GPS and APRS capability.  The learning curve to use it was steep, especially as I had no experience with digital radios before.  Once you get used to it it's a nice radio, and I suggest that you get the programming software as it just makes life so much easier.

The last radio (my wife will be very happy to read that...) is an FTM-7250D mobile rig that will live on the bench in the shack.  This radio was up and running within ten minutes of arriving at the house.  I bought the programming software with it, as I did with the other two, and it certainly makes things easier.  The RX audio is fantastic. This rig does not have GPS or APRS, which is why I will use it in the shack.

Overall I have been really happy with the audio reports I have had using these three rigs.  All of them have great built-in speakers, you do not need an external speaker to hear things clearly.  Using them locally in simplex I have been really impressed with their range, it's far better than plain FM.

Many people have asked me why I chose to go with C4FM instead of DMR or DStar.  That's an easy answer.  I like Yaesu, and having read all about the hacking and jamming of the DStar and DMR repeaters in Toronto by one individual, and the fact that the one individual managed to have all the DMR & DStar repeaters shut down because of his constant malicious interference, I simply chose to stay away from those modes.  Another great feature is that I can use these rigs on analog repeaters as well.

I also looked at the list of C4FM repeaters in Ontario listed on RepeaterBook, and was pleased to see that the current list of C4FM repeaters is twice as large as the other two modes combined.

It was a big learning curve, but I'm looking forward to moving forward with C4FM.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Lousy Propagation...

As expected the propagation for this years ARRL International DX Contest was pretty bad.  At 2020 UTC on March 2nd the propagation numbers were SFI = 70, SN = 0, A-Index = 24, and the K-index = 2.

The surprise of the day on Saturday was the fact that 15m was open.  I managed to work a pile of South American stations, but none from the EU.  It seemed to be strictly north-south propagation only.....however, 20m was open in the EU, but not into South America.

There were lots of stations calling CQ, and most of them had big pile-ups answering them.  Nevertheless, most of the stations calling CQ seemed to be using far too much power and their antennas couldn't hear those answering.

In fact, I received an on-air lecture from a KP4 station who after breaking in to ask what I was running, proceded to tell me that I was wasting peoples time by only running 100w into a wire antenna, and I should just go away and leave the contesting to the "real hams".  According to this master of amateur radio, a person needs at least a three element beam and 1000w to contest properly.  The poor guy had a major heart attack when I signed QRP.... I wasn't - but it was fun listening to the idiot fly into an even deeper rage for another five minutes about the evils of QRP, and the great damage it does to the hobby.  Maybe I should mention that the KP4 had been a ham for a total of two years ..........

Sunday wasn't much different from Saturday, lousy propagation and guys who couldn't hear too well. A number of hams mentioned that this year their scores were way down from last year, in fact, most were down by more than half.  I guess that's what happened at the bottom of the cycle.

The CQ World-Wide DX Contest is coming up at the end of the month, so I better get working on a new antenna system, so I too can become a "real ham" and compete with the big boys 😎

Monday, 25 February 2019

ARRL International DX Contest

Coming up next weekend is the ARRL International DX Contest.  It starts at 0000 UTC on March 2nd and runs till 2359 UTC March 3rd.

I was starting to sweat last night as a huge windstorm swept across southern and Eastern Ontario with winds 90 kph gusting to 110 kph.  With the snow in my backyard, it would have been very difficult to get a new HF antenna in the air in time for this weekend.

Fortunately for me, the antennas manage to survive and it looks like I have no damage even after twelve hours of very high winds.

Always a great contest, with a huge amount of DX stations calling, it's now one of the few contests I will take part in on a competitive basis.  We will have to see how propagation works out for the weekend, but one can hope it will be good.

Rules for the contest are HERE.

Hope to work you in the contest!

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

What will the rest of the year bring…

Here we are half way through February and I haven’t really put any solid plans for the rest of the year together yet, and “She Who Must Be Obeyed” has been asking what I’m going to do with all the equipment I have put together……that's never a good sign.

There are a few fixed annual events in my calendar, such as the Rideau Lakes Cycle Bike Tour, and the ARRL Field Day, both held in June. The IARU HF World Championship and the IOTA Contest both in July, and the Lighthouse weekend and Island QSO Party both in August. I also have plans for another trip to New Brunswick in October for the CQ WW DX Contest at the VE9FI contest station.

In between these fixed events will be a couple of islands, and lighthouse activations which I hope this year to do as “micro-DXpeditions”. There are several islands and lights that have never been activated around this area, so perhaps this is the year to get them done. 

Then, as the association manager for VE3SOTA, there will be a couple of SOTA activations to help put VE3 on the SOTA map.

There may be a chance to operate as VE3FI/VE7 in September as I have to be out there for a wedding and you can never waste a trip by taking no radios.

This year I’m hoping to do most of these activations throughout the week to give me a bit more flexibility.

Of course, I’m sitting here planning all this while there’s 70 cm of snow on the ground, and it’s -12C outside without the wind chill factored in.  Perhaps I should re-think this micro-DXpedition idea and just head for Tahiti now and operate there from the beach as FO/VE3FI.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Winter Field Day - The Result.

Absolutely fantastic band conditions for the 12th Annual Winter Field Day, held last weekend.

Operating SSB QRP with 10w I used the VE3UCC club call of the Upper Canada QRP Club.   The FT-897D was dialed back to the allowed 10w, and I used both my 148' Inverted L long wire antenna and my 80m OCF dipole.

The propagation numbers never changed the whole contest.  They stayed at SFI=76, SN=27, A index = 13, and the K index was 2.

There was quite a bit of deep QSB on Saturday, but it didn't really give me that much of a problem.

Washington - East & West, LAX, Orange, and San Francisco were all worked on the grey line late on Saturday.   BC and Alberta were worked early Sunday morning.  I had no issues getting my signal heard with only 10w on wire antennas.

There were lots of new hams on the air, some did very well....including Adonis, a 10-year-old "ham in training" who made 103 contacts by himself (ok, Dad was there) !!!!!  Well Done !!!!!

There is one ham though who deserves to be singled out.  That is Joseph, AC1DD.  He was working on 7.180 and was subjected to the most despicable and deliberate interference everytime he transmitted.    The foul language thrown at him had to be heard to be believed.  The two individuals doing the abuse never gave a callsign, but they did state that one was from GA and the other from AL.   Throughout this Joseph continued to call CQ and never let the abuse affect his work.

Every time I went past this frequency I gave a listen, and it went on over a four hour period.   Of all the abuse I heard, the only, and cleanest piece of it I could write is "No Sumbitch contests on my frequency."  Almost sounds like a challenge to me 😎

Looking forward to next years WFD.

My Contact Map.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Winter Field Day

Yep, it's that time of year again !!!!   Like to play out in the cold?  The 12th Annual Winter Field Day(TM) is upon us again next weekend, January 26 & 27.

The Rules can be found HERE.

Started in 2007 Winter Field Day(TM) has quickly become a firm favorite within the ham radio community.  Think of it as the ARRL Field Day in June, only without the bugs.

If you're looking for more information or help, have a look at the WFD Facebook Page HERE.  There's nearly always an Admin around to answer questions.

Stay warm....and have fun !!

Monday, 14 January 2019

NA QSO Party 2019

Coming up next weekend is the North American QSO Party.

Rules can be found HERE.

Dates and Timings are 1800 UTC January 19 to 0600 UTC January 20, 2019 (third full weekend in January).

We're looking at snow here next weekend so this contest may be a good reason to stay indoors and stay warm.

Not much else going on in the VE3FI shack at the moment.  Too cold to do much outdoor operating, so spring had better hurry up and get here!

Don't forget that Winter Field Day is coming up on January 26th & 27th.  Details HERE.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019