Sunday, 15 April 2018

Durham Radio

I have just received this sad news.....

"We regret to inform you that Durham Radio Sales & Service Inc. after nearly a 25 years in the industry - closed its doors forever at 3:00 PM on Saturday, April 14th. We would like to thank our dedicated staff, loyal customers and friends for your continued support and for many great years in this hobby. Unfortunately, times have changed and it has become impossible to remain competitive in this industry without making drastic changes to our business model. We have decided that it would be better to close the business rather than change the products we carry and reduce customer service.

If you need product support please contact the manufacturer.  If you've recently ordered something and it did not arrive, please track your shipment to make sure it's on the way. If tracking is not available please contact your credit card company for a refund.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

QRP to the Field 2018

QRP to the Field is an annual operating event to encourage QRPers and SOTA stations to get out of the house and operate portable from the field or a local summit.  Find a nice operating location for yourself, or combine it with some buddies for a day-long adventure. QRPTTF encourages participation by QRP hams of all skill levels. 

Both CW and SSB is used in this event.  CW speeds are usually in the 13-20 wpm range. 

It takes place Saturday, April 21, 0800 to 1800 EDT.

The event uses the standard QRP frequencies, and the Nebraska, Michigan, and Ontario QSO Parties are being held the same weekend, so there should be lots of traffic to work.

For more details see HERE.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Great News....CQ SOTA!!

Summits on the Air (SOTA) is coming to VE3 land !!!   Starting on the 1st April the VE3 SOTA Association becomes active.

This has been a long time coming.  The process was started 10 years ago by Martin VA3SIE, and finally we've got there.

There will be around 1000 summits available for activation, the majority of them up in North-West and North-East Ontario.  But.... there are over 100 available in Southern and Eastern Ontario.

This is the URL that will hold the VE3 Summit Date:   It will not be active until 0001 on April 1st.......and that's not an April Fool's Joke !!

Friday, 23 March 2018

The Great Trek

In a previous posting I mentioned that I would be operating at night from some pretty rare grids during my trip.  This may be of interest to those of you taking part in this years ARRL International Grid Chase.

Hopefully these will be of some interest to those chasing Grids.  Some of these are in the middle of "nowhere", and probably haven't been activated in decades, if ever.  The ham population in some of these grids is zero.

I have checked the ARRL site to see if any of these grids have been activated for the Grid Chase, and most of them are shown as having zero contacts so far.  So this trip will be a good opportunity to get them on the air.

Those Grids will be:


My plan is to operate during the evening from my campsite using wire antennas and my Buddipole system.  I'll also be on battery power, so I will operate as long as the battery lasts.    I'll post a few frequencies here before the departure date in May.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

VE3FI and 60m

Just a general statement here:

I do not now, or in the past, have an antenna that will load up on 60m.  Today I received over 20 eQSL's from European stations looking for confirmation of QSO's last February.

If it was just one or two eQSL's I would write it off as honest screwups when entering the call sign in their logs......but 20+....Hmmmm!!

So, if you had a 60m QSO last February with a station using the VE3FI callsign, I can 100% guarantee that you where not talking to the real VE3FI.

Apparently Long John Silver lives !!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

ARRL International DX Contest - SSB

Not a bad weekend on the bands, even if the propagation numbers were not the best.  We started off Friday night very slowly, contacts on 40m and 80m could be heard, but they where way down in the mud.  In fact it took about an hour before things got better, but for most of the weekend I had a S7 to S9 background noise.  They recently built two new houses across the road from me, and boy are they RF dirty!!

Saturday morning we awoke to SFI = 66, SN = 11, A Index = 6 and the K Index = 1, no different from the night before at 0000 UTC.

Given the late date in the current solar cycle there was lots of good DX to be had out there.  Both Saturday and Sunday the go-to bands where 15m and 20m.  The majority of my contacts where on 15m....I had a great run there.  Lots of EU and Russian stations in there as well as most of the Caribbean islands.   The EU stations where in there early in the morning and late in the afternoon, the remainder of the day it was the Caribbean and South Americans who kept me busy.  No new countries in the log this weekend though.

As usual, the downside was the usual large crop of "tuner-uppers" doing their business right on top of the DX - I guess these LIDS just don't know enough to move off frequency a couple of Kc and do it there.   On the plus side I didn't hear any band police out and about - how refreshing.

All-in-all a great weekend, over 200 contacts in the log, and now we wait for the last weekend of the month when we have the CQ WW WPX DX SSB Contest, and get to do it all over again.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Spring Plans.....

Well it's time to start planning another radio adventure!!!   In the planning stage is a trip out to the west coast following basically the same route as my last trip out in 2014.  That is, crossing the prairies using the Red Coat Trail.

It's a 1,300-Kiolometre (810 Mile) route that approximates the path taken in 1874 by the North-West Mounted Police across southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, in their quest to bring law and order to the Canadian West.

It's a very scenic and relaxing route that I think is far superior than the Trans-Canada Highway....mainly because of the lack of big trucks and the slow speeds on this route.  No rushing here.

Due to the early time of year I'm planning on travelling, none of the provincial parks or commercial campgrounds are open.  So, I have been having fun trying to find places to Boondock at along the way....not very easy let me tell you !!  Hopefully the RCMP know the difference between "Resting" and "Camping".

I'll be taking my portable HF radio gear with me, both QRO and QRP variants, and I'm looking forward to making some great contacts along the way, as well as some SOTA activations out in BC.....I'm also planning on setting up at a beach campsite, probably Jordon River on Vancouver Island, for a few days and working as much South Asian DX as I can get.   On the actual trip, both ways, I will be operating at night and handing out some very rare grid squares for those taking part in this years ARRL International Grid Chase.

Stay tuned for more details!!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Winter Field Day Wrap Up...

Overall it wasn't a bad was just that the propagation Gods never came out to play.   At 1330 UTC on Saturday, the propagation numbers were:   SFI = 69, SN = 0, A Index = 8, and the K Index = 2.

What the numbers didn't tell us about was the very deep QSB and the extreme noise levels on the bands.  I had a constant S8+ on 40m all weekend for example.

It was extremely frustrating hearing the typical morning American "hemorrhoid nets" on 40m coming in at S9 +30db, while most of the stations calling CQ WFD where way below the noise floor, very hard to pull out, and all dealing with massive QSB.

My antenna for the weekend was a 31' vertical with two 31' elevated radials, and two 16' elevated radials, all into a 4:1 Balun.   This was mounted on the back deck of the cottage we where at.  On the Friday evening before the event kicked off I did manage to work an Italian - IK2BCP, and two Belgium stations,  OP2A and OP4U...all of whom had lovely signals.....then it all went to hell  for the Field Day.

Saturday morning started off poorly as I couldn't get the antenna to tune up very was taking ages for the ATU to work and sort out the SWR.   It turned out that the collapsible mast had in fact collapsed overnight in the wind and I was working with a compromised antenna.  It took five minutes to fix that issue and we were back on the air.

It was very interesting to listen to the difference of WFD this year compared to WFD nine years ago. This year a good number of stations had large pileups, nine years ago you where lucky to hear anyone calling CQ WFD.

One thing that did get my blood boiling over was a W9 station calling for relays as he couldn't get the information off of some stations trying to work him.  Relays??  In a contest ?? Really ?? Hmmmm !!!

I heard very few Canadian stations on this weekend, it could have just been the conditions, as the event was well advertised.

So, a good weekend.....lots of good food, friends and a decent bottle of Scotch.  Thanks to Dennis VA3DOY for coming out and paying us a visit, and finding us a supper venue on Friday evening.  Who knew "uptown metropolitan Westport" was so up market ??

Thanks go out to the many stations who struggled to work us, as we struggled to work them.  See you back at it next year!!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

VE3 SOTA Update...

There's another update on the VE3 SOTA Association just been posted on their Blog.  It's available to read HERE.

By the look of things it seems we are getting very close to the first VE3 Activation Day which is fantastic news.

Some amateurs in VE3 land have been working for about 10 years to bring SOTA to our province, and it's thanks to the current crop that they were able to persuade the SOTA Management Committee to drop the 150m prominence requirement down to 100m.  If we were restricted to the p150, just about every available summit would have been located in Ontario North, and completely off the beaten track.  In other words it would have taken just about a whole two week vacation to do a simple activation.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Radio Amateur Society of Australia

Congratulations go out to the newly formed “Radio Amateur Society of Australia” (RASA).   
Their website (Click HERE) states that the organisation is made up of
active radio amateurs who want to see progress in their hobby, and that 
their primary efforts will be focused on improved education and 
awareness in the areas of regulation and administration, as well as
strong evidence based representation with their national
telecommunications regulator.

It’s great to see individuals standing up and making things right after years of abysmal performance by 
the Australian equivalent of RAC, the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA).  From articles available on 
the web it’s clear to see that many clubs feel disenfranchised with the WIA and feel there is a great need 
for change.

Much like here in Canada, many clubs also feel very disenfranchised with RAC.  We have questions too, 
what is RAC actually doing for clubs and club members?  Other than the public liability insurance, what 
value does a club (or its members) receive by being a member of an affiliated club?  Why don’t the 
membership have the pleasure of personally being able to cast a vote the RAC presidents position?

I’m sorry, but I expect a hell of a lot more for my annual membership subscription, especially at its 
current price, than what is on offer.

But, the big issue is the fact that RAC refuses to represent ALL amateurs in Canada.  They insist that if 
you’re not a paid up RAC member they do not represent you at any level.  There needs to be a lot more 
openness, accountability and leadership at the Executive level than what we see these days.

So, perhaps we need to take a leaf out go the RASA play book and form a new national Canadian amateur 
radio society, one that is not an old boys clique, or one filled with cronyism, and one that truly represents 
ALL Canadian amateurs, paid members or not.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

WFD 2018 - Getting Ready

I spent quite a bit of the afternoon sorting through portable radio gear getting things sorted out for this years Winter Field Day (WFD).......I didn't realize I have so much "stuff" !!

I have three antennas packed up and ready to go, a 31' vertical with a 4:1 Balun and two 31' radials, a 65' long wire with a 9:1 Balun, and a 17' collapsible whip, tripod mount and three 33' radials.  Those should cover all of my needs for the weekend.  I've used them all before on various outings and they all work very well, and have lots of great DX to their credit.  No need to change what works at this late date.

Two radios will make the trip with me, my FT-817ND and my FT-897D.  I received a BX-8x7 Dynamic Compressor kit V2.0 for Christmas.  This piece of gear works on the 817, 857, and the 897.  So far on the tests I have done this has lived up to its promise of pumping out an extra S Unit on transmit.  So hopefully the extra punch will help on the WFD weekend.

Two portable masts will be going with me, my MFJ 33' collapsible mast, and a 22' painter pole, along with a bag of rope and another one of bungy cords to make sure they stay up.

My shack, at the moment, has piles of gear scattered all over the floor, all waiting to be either stacked ready to go or to be put away, awaiting another suitable adventure.

There are four of us going to a cottage on Burridge Lake, near Westport, Ontario, for the event.  Hopefully the road will have been plowed before we attempt the journey.  I believe we will be using the VE3UCC callsign that belongs to the Upper Canada QRP Club, so give a listen for us.

Burridge Lake, north of Kingston.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Plans for 2018

Here we are in 2018 and wondering what surprises this year will bring.  I'm making my amateur radio plans for this year such as continuing my QRP operating, regardless of our place in the current solar cycle and continuing my portable antenna experimentation.

I'm continuing with the "do my own thing" agenda that I started back in October 2017.  I'm doing what I want to, when I want to do it....on my time and my space.  It's a healthy "no stress" way of living, and I feel a lot better for it.

The Sunday morning QRP group activities will continue as soon as the temperatures come out of the single digits and the snow disappears from the operating location at Lake Ontario Park.  This is an extremely relaxing time, lots of radio talk, lots of building portable antennas and lots of operating.  Just a great way to spend a guys should try it.

I still have a pile of islands that I want to activate and will definitely be taking part in Winter Field Day, the ILLW and the W/VE Island QSO Party.

I'm also leaning towards another long road trip home to the West Coast again this year if I can fit it in amongst everything else that needs to be done.

And as usual this year, I look forward to writing about my adventures....or lack thereof !!