Tuesday, 29 October 2013

What a weekend......

The weekend in one word?  Outstanding!  The bands were just simply incredible with both 10m and 15m just rocking with wall to wall DX.

It started early Thursday morning when Don VE3MNE and I hit the road and travelled up Hwy 38 to Leggat Lake, about 75 Kms north of Kingston to my brother-in-laws cottage.  Leggat is a medium sized lake and sort of remote.....well, it's off the beaten track. It's very quiet electrically there with very little to no noise like we get in the city.

Once we had arrived and unloaded our trucks it was time to get the antennas up.  Don used his Chillycon Mk.2 antenna with six 16' radials.  We also put up a 2m 5/8 ground plane antenna so we could hit our local repeater and talk back into Kingston.  My initial choice of antennas are what we now call the VA3QV, first seen on Bob's Blog.

Now Bob uses this antenna all the time and has good results with it.  I couldn't get it to work to save my life.  Don was working DX hand over fist and I couldn't get the VA3QV to even tune.  I even added and then subtracted radials and changed the coax, but still it did not work for me.  The radio in use was a FT-857D with a LDG YT-100 tuner.  By this time Bill VA3WOW had arrived from Belleville, so outside we went and swapped the VA3QV for a 66' long wire with a "pile" of 16' and 31' radials.

While the 66' long wire worked, it was not to my liking and the tuner was taking forever to tune.......I knew I could do much better, and it was now getting dark, Don was still working DX hand over fist, and frustration was starting to settle in!  Outside we went again, only this time it had started to rain, and put up my 31' antenna in a sloper configuration with, once again, a "pile" of 16' and 31' radials.  Hallelujah, it worked just fine, and the DX started to roll in. 

Thursday evening was just a feast of DX as everyone was on the air testing and checking out their antenna systems for the weekend contest.

Most of Friday was taken up with more tweaking of the antennas, adding and subtracting radials, elevating them, and putting them back on the ground.  We also took time out to explore the other side of the lake, and had a good long walk doing so.

Bill VA3WOW chowing down!
Don BBQ'ed a great steak supper on Friday night and as he did so the bands went very quiet.  Other contesters were also off to eat a good meal and grab an hour or two rest before it all kicked off at 0059 UTC.   Steak, mushrooms, peppers, and a very nice red wine were on the menu. 

After supper we stocked up on dry wood for the stove and got things cleaned up ready for the contest.

At 0059Z the bands just exploded!  I started off on 15m and Don was on 10m.  We just never stopped logging stations.  15m was simply wall to wall DX, with hardly a gap between them.  It was actually quite hard to sort things out at first as our ears were not used to the deafening calls of "CQ Contest".

It was  great to hear so many hams on the bands, I can't remember when I heard a contest kick off like this one did.  Because of the great band conditions and superb propagation we had many inexperienced contesters on the bands working.  This is great to see, but many of them didn't even know what a "zone" was.  You would think before entering a big contest like the CQ WW SSB Contest a person would read the rules, and hopefully listen.........and listen again........and listen again to what the other guys are exchanging.....but many did not do that.

VE3FCT in front and VE3MNE on the far side
On Saturday evening, just as the grey line was going through us, Don worked 15 Japanese stations one after the other.  He thought he had died and gone to DX heaven!

We also worked seven Moroccan stations between us, and over 20 Brits.  There were also a good number of Scottish stations we worked, including one in the Orkney Islands and another in the Shetland Islands.

Many stations, and especially those from one particular country, were running so much power that they were talking way past what they could actually hear.  I doubt very many of the stations calling them actually got through to them, the big guns called CQ over and over with little response.  Perhaps one day these guys will learn that you can do wonders with 100w and a long piece of wire up in a tree. 

My Philosophical question of the weekend is why is it that the station you "need" is always weak, and is always parked right next to a super station pounding out a 1.5k signal into stacked Yagi's ??

Of course it wouldn't be a contest without hundreds of "band police" on the bands.  They seemed to be everywhere on the weekend, and of course the LIDS were also out in full force.  Why, for the love of God, do these idiots insist on tuning up right over a QSO?  Do these individuals really think that's how things should be done?  I'm sure if we tuned up over one of their QSO's  they would all scream loud and long!

My prize for the most polite operators must go to the Germans. It was a delight to work them.  It was always please and thank you from them. The Romanians were also very polite as well.  One Romanian ham actually apologised to me for his poor English......which was perfect by the way.  I told him if he thought his English was bad he should hear my Romanian!

This weekends total was 131 countries worked, including three new ones:

C37NL from Andorra
UP2L from Kazakhstan
9K2HN from Kuwait.

Just an outstanding weekend!

Don VE3MNE cruising the bands
Hmmm....which wire goes where?????????

The quiet before the storm


Sunday, 20 October 2013

There's No Life Like It !!!!

It was another great weekend on the bands!  As well as operating from the home QTH shack, many of us here in Kingston went out on Saturday and Sunday to activate the local islands for the annual W/VE Island QSO Party.

On Saturday Tim, VA3TIC, and Derek, VE3HRW, activated Howe Island, ON-023 and Dave, VA3ORP activated Washburn Island, ON-289.  Both activations were a great success and both had many QSO's, both local and DX.

On Sunday myself and Dave, VE3DZE, took the Wolfe Island ferry right after the club breakfast.  Dave activated Wolfe Island, ON-009 and from what I hear had a blast, especially after he was posted on the DX Cluster.  Dave was using his FT-450 and a 31' vertical with four 16' radials.

I carried on and went to Simcoe Island, ON-022, via the small three car cable ferry.  At the last minute I chose a different route, I used my IC-703 with 10 screaming watts, and a Buddipole erected as a 10m dipole on a 16' mast.  The 10m band conditions were superb!  The European DX was right across the band, and I had an extremely hard time finding a spot to call CQ.

Over the next three hours I made eight DX and a pile of local Ontario contacts.  What amazed me was the fact that every DX contact was made on the first call!  DX stations in the log today are:

SP7UWL -Tomasz in Bodzentyn, Poland
LY75RMD - Club Station in Vilnius, Lithuania
G0MTD - Steve in Workington, UK
F4EPR - Dave in Chalindrey, France
G4ZWY - Steve in Bromyard, UK
M0VKC - Nige in Malpas, UK
M0DZH - Malcolm in Barnsley, UK
GM4SSA - Hans in the Shetland Islands, Scotland

It was a beautiful day, 14C under blue skies with a little wind.  This is the second year I have operated this event from Simcoe Island, it's very peaceful and the cows don't bother you at all.

Dave and I met up on the way home and missed the big ferry home causing us to have an hours wait, but that just gave us time for a coffee and a chance to compare notes.  Off we went to the General Wolfe Hotel and enjoyed the chat (guess who the island is named after?).

This week will be spent getting the portable gear ready for this coming weekend and our five day weekend at the Brother-in-Laws cottage on Leggat Lake.  VE3MNE, VA3WOW, and myself will be taking part in the CQ WW SSB Contest from there.  I'm really looking forward to this coming weekend.  Stay tuned for a full report.
The neighbours come visiting!
The view of Wolfe Island from the small ferry

Buddipole in action


Monday, 14 October 2013

Great Weekend on the bands

Finally, the propagation Gods smiled upon us this weekend!!  The HF bands have been just singing with signals, and mostly good DX signals. 

The best band all weekend just had to be 10m.  In fact I spent most of my time there on Sunday and Monday.  There were many comments about not hearing 10m open world-wide like this for many, many years.  There were times it was a challenge to find an open spot to call CQ the band was that busy.

Lets hope we have a repeat of this in two weeks for the CQ WW SSB Contest.....wouldn't that be a blast!!

Best contact of the weekend?  It had to be TX5D in Raivavae, French Polynesia.  Broke the pileup and got him on the first call.....made my day!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

2013 W/VE Island QSO Party

Coming up on October 19th and 20th is this years edition of the W/VE Island QSO Party.  This event is sponsored by the US Islands program, and is held each year to help promote both the Canadian and US island programs to amateurs.

This year the Frontenac Radio Group will be activating four local islands around Kingston: Howe, Wolfe, Amherst, and Simcoe Islands.  This will be the first time we have considered getting all four islands on the air at the same time.  Each island will hopefully have at least two HF stations, including 6m.

The rules for the event can be found HERE.

What is most embarrassing about all this is the fact that the US Islands program (USI) do all the work for this event, and our own Canadian Islands Award (CIsA) program does nothing at all to promote it.  In fact it is not even mentioned on the CIsA website, but given the fact that the website has not even been updated since August 2012, it's hardly surprising. 

Nobody will ever be able to convince me that no Canadian amateur activated an island this summer, and that the CIsA webmaster received no email updates advising them of any activations in 2013. 

Just for the record, over the past three summers the Frontenac Radio Group has activated over 14 islands, including three already this year.  Two weeks before every activation we have emailed both CIsA and USI advising them of the up-coming event.  Only USI has ever responded to our emails, normally within 30 minutes to an hour.  The CIsA webmaster has responded once only, and that was three weeks after the event.

Perhaps somebody should come up with another Canadian island activation association that will actually do the job....and if you think activating islands doesn't attract much attention, have somebody spot you on the DX cluster and wait for the wall of calls to hit you.

Anyway, get out there on the 19/20 October and activate one of your local islands, it may be your last chance to get out and operate portable before the snow flies!!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

CQ WW SSB Contest

It's been a quiet couple of weeks around here due to the fact I've been as sick as I've ever been.  Somehow I managed to get the latest flu bug that is going around.  It's not very nice at all, you ache from head to foot, and every joint and every bone hurts, but you have no runny nose or cough.  Anyway, after a trip to the local emergency room I'm finally feeling better, and got the all clear from the family doctor today.

Coming up on my radio calendar soon is this years CQ WW SSB Contest, this year held on October 26th and 27th, and runs the full 48 hours. 

This year myself and a couple of other hams are heading up to my brother-in-laws cottage on Leggat Lake, about 60 Kms north of Kingston.  It's beautifully RF quiet up there as it is quite far from civilization. So we are all hoping to be able to hear, and work, the weak ones for a change.

Our plan is to go in to the cottage on Thursday the 24th, and stay over until Monday the 28th.  Five days of ham radio!!

There are no antennas up at the cottage so we will have to get them in the air as soon as we get there.  The plan.....so far.....is to have a 31' vertical, a 80m OCF Dipole, a 66' longwire, and what we in Kingston are now calling a VA3QV (see here).  This should do us just fine....and we will have a Buddipole, with enough pieces to build three of them!

This is the same cottage we use each year for Winter Field Day at the end of January, so we are looking forward to having running water, a BBQ, a working toilet, and hot showers this time we are there.  Of course this will just spoil us for this coming January's Winter Field Day!!

The rules for the contest can be found HERE.  This contest is always great for working DX, and lots of it. The  propagation looks good for that time period as well, so hopefully it will be a successful contest.

The cottage in mid-winter