Monthly Archives: October 2015

More DX fun!

Well the CQ WW SSB contest ended Sunday but luckily the bands have been open since. Finally closed a contact with both the North and South Cook Island activations. The South Cook Island station was very faint but he had really good ears. Nice to have two more Islands in the log. Last night I couldn’t sleep so I got on 40m fairly late and found two DX stations booming in. One was from Italy and we had a short and casual ragchew. The other was in Hungary also with a 57. I have not worked much DX on 40m but last night was really nice conditions to Europe. I was also happy to see many LOTW confirmations from this weekend start showing up. My confirmation count has increased nicely but I am still pretty far off my LOTW only DXCC award.

CQ WW SSB Contest…Making up for lost time!

What great timing this weekend. After 10 days without HF, the CQ WW SSB contest was a great way to make up for lost time. I made over 60 DX contacts over the weekend mainly on 10m with some on 15m as well. The activity started late Friday afternoon before the 0:00 UTC start time. I made a few contacts with folks warming up for the contest. I was not able to do much after 0:00 UTC other than see the spectrum light up on the computer as i had some other duties. I didn’t get to the radio again until Saturday afternoon which as fate would have it was an especially raining day here in the QTH. I tallied 45 contacts on the 3-1/2 hours of radio time on Saturday. Sunday was another late start with only 2 hours left before the end of the contest but 10m was HOT. Contacts were very easy and very fast on 10m. The greatest DX distance was over 9000 miles to Australia. I am hoping that many of the contacts on LOTW upload their logs as I can use the DXCC credits on many entities.

I found using my RTL-SDR dongle as a panadapter worked really well in hunting for stations and in some ways was way more satisfying than following DX cluster spots. All in all the skills learned I will apply in November during the ARRL Sweepstakes. Really enjoyed radio this weekend after such a long time off the air.

Back on the air soon

just got back from my trip to China. Was able to listen to HF traffic on websdr.org but I always missed local net check-in times on Echolink. I am looking forward to getting over jet lag and working some DX this weekend during the CQWW SSB contest.

Chasing a bit ‘O DX

Today is October 10th. I celebrate by very first DX contact one year ago on the 14th. Unfortunately, I will not be making any contacts that day as I have a business trip coming up. Best I can hope for is to check in to our local net on Echolink…from China. I can also at least listen in on the bands using websdr.org

There is something about DX to the South Pacific that I really enjoy. Perhaps its the thought of being on a remote Island connected to the rest of the world only through the radio. Several DX activations are going on right now in that area. I recently made a 10m contact with Niue and yesterday the North Cook Islands came in on 12m with heavy QSB. He was coming in to the QTH here as about a 54. I sent out my call on 100W and it is still a great thrill to hear him respond. I also made a confirmed contact with Bonaire off the coast of Venezuela on 17m yesterday. This station was working a big pile-up but I managed to get through after a while.

There are a couple of more in the pacific that I am working on now…maybe I will be able to have a QSO with them later today. Conditions have been poor the last few days and today isn’t shaping up much better. The Chesterfield Island and Tuvalu activation’s are going on for a few more days so I will give see if I can pick them up.

A couple of new projects to think about…

I have been looking into making a custom air variable capacitor for an improved magnetic loop antenna. This looks like it would be entirely feasible and allow me to make a loop that could handle 100W. At 100W the voltage across the capacitor is just under 3.9kV at 14Mhz. The plate separation for this would be about 55-60mil. It would be a fairly large capacitor but it could be made fairly easily from sheet aluminum.

Just ordered a 2.5mm stereo plug to finish my wiring harness to connect my iPhone to my Baofeng HT to use with APRS. Been wanting to try Pocket Packet app for some time now and this will be my chance.

Also finished making an air choke for the 2m Moxon out of a coax patch cord. This is ready to test out with the new mast.

The California QSO Party with 20W and a Mag Loop

California by far has one of the most active QSO parties I have seen all year. I joined in on this for a few hours this afternoon using the FT-817ND with the MX-P50M amplifier and the Magnetic loop antenna. My goal today was to gauge the effectiveness of running at 20W vs. 5W in making QSO’s. I started by tuning around 20m but found the noise level was a bit high on the band and most stations were coming in weak. I switched to 15m and didn’t hear much until I adjusted the direction the loop was pointing in. Many stations working this band out of California started coming in after adjusting the loop.This was the first time I really noticed the directivity of the loop antenna.

I was using a 13.8V power supply to run the rig and the amp so I only needed 1 W to drive 20W out. Started to work the stations I could hear and almost all returned my call on the first try. Only one station reported a weak signal but by then the band had started to fade.I worked 20 stations on 15m running 20W with the mag loop (indoors!). I setup the loop with the shorter coax to run 15m thru 10m. 12m and 10m were fairly quiet so i tuned back up to 15m and closed another 6 contacts. These were my first real tests of the loop through its tuning range and I was able to verify it was working well.

I moved back to 10m and heard nothing then tried 12m. I heard a station on 12m from Chile and once again adjusted the direction of the loop and noticed the pickup in signal strength. On 2.5W at 15m I was getting 30W out and made the call. He picked me up right away and gave me a 54 signal report.

This experience has verified the performance of both the large loop from 20m thru 15m and the small loop from 15m to 12m. 10m remains elusive but the band is really hit or miss lately.

I am confident now that on the 20m-12m bands I can make reliable contacts using 20W on SSB using the amplifier and the mag loop antenna.

Moved to the FT-450D and made a few more contacts on 15m and 20m for the QSO party and made one 10m contact to Argentina. All in all a fun afternoon of HF.

Next up is to take to the outdoors with this setup and take some measurements using solar charged battery power.

What was I thinking???

So I get the 1000V 150pF capacitor to get 40m running on the magnetic loop antenna. I installed it with no issue and then tried to tune the 40m band. Swept the whole range of the capacitor¬† and did not pickup an increase in noise indicating I had it tuned in. I got the Mini60 out and ran a sweep at minimum capacitance setting on 40m. It found a match at about 6.8Mhz…clearly way to low. The extra 30pF was enough to knock it out of tuning range. Sigh…

Looking around I could not find a 120pF 2kV capacitor so I ordered another one at 1kV. This will limit operation to about 15W.

I was also having problems tuning the 15m band all of a sudden. As I was checking why this was happening, I noticed that the capacitor was binding near the end of its tuning range. Last time I had opened up the capacitor box I noticed that the screws holding the 6:1 reduction gear in place had come loose so I tightened them. Doing this without checking for alignment caused the binding. So the good news is that a simple adjustment and I got 15m with the large coax loop back.

Everything but 40m is working now with this antenna.