October 20, 2017
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It’s been awhile since I have seen real big DX pileup. That was the case yesterday afternoon with Annobon Island on 20m SSB. I was not able to make a QSO. The operator was working split and listening up 5 to 20. Most of the stations responding were stateside and while many were well behaved the number of lids and cops on the frequency made it extremely difficult for all operators. I am a strong believer in the DX code of conduct.
The IC-7300 waterfall makes it fairly easy to see where the DX station is listening. When he calls QRZ the waterfall becomes almost solid in a band between 5 to 20 kHz. It dies out when he answers and then the answering station comes out in the spot he was listening. Some monitoring of this will tell you where he is listening to maximize your chances of him hearing the call I hope to see this op again this afternoon as he is only QRV for a few more days.
October 18, 2017
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For the past three or four months I was having great success early in the morning with 40m JT-65 contacts to Asia on the 1/4 wave vertical antenna. The band would be great at around 6:45 am and be open till around 8:30 am. Japan especially would be easy to make contacts with on JT-65.
I have been noticing a definite shift in early morning 40m to Asia. First, I should note that JT-65 activity has dropped off quite a bit now that FT-8 is getting so rapidly popular. Just in the last few weeks I have noticed a drastic reduction in the number of JT-65 spots showing on pskreporter. The second observation is that the band seems to open to Asia a bit later now from about 7:30 am to about 8:30 am.
So this morning I started out trying JT-65 and made two contacts to Japan but there were very few signals on the waterfall. FT-8 had much more activity overall. I switched to FT-8 and started calling CQ DX and the first response was from Indonesia. The next 8 QSO’s were from Japan.
Overall, I have mixed felling about this. I enjoy the early morning pace of JT-65. I can check my emails while checking the bands. FT-8 takes quite a bit more work and attention. One other effect is that FT-8 is a bit more difficult to close a weak signal QSO. It is easy for the signals to drop below the noise floor and disappear between transmissions.
September 25, 2017
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The vertical beam is definitely directional. Unfortunately, I have no way to measure the gain. What I have noticed is that when I run this antenna on JT-65 I see much stronger reports from the direction the beam is pointed to versus the backside. Same goes with WSPR results. The antenna is also receiving well based on yesterdays WSPR challenge results as well.
I did some A/B switching between the beam and the 20m vertical while running JT-65. The beam sees signals coming in from Europe (very weak just above the noise floor). These disappear entirely when switching in the vertical. This could make a very nice antenna for next field day as it is easy to setup and from my QTH would cover much of the US my pointing due north.
Here is a picture of the antenna deployed in my backyard:
These pictures show how everything is connected:
At the feedpoint I have the homebrew 1:1 current balun. Each vertical element has two 18 foot radials laying on the ground. The two radial sets are connected by an 18.7″ ft wire. Pretty simple really.
July 14, 2017
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Made my first two DX contacts to Australia today on 40m FT8. I need to get used to the faster pace but otherwise looks like it works pretty well. I added the FT8 mode to HRD logging software and am uploading the contacts as “DATA” to LoTW.
June 4, 2017
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I reconfigured what has become my main antenna, the 40m 1/4 wave vertical. This is still a temporary installation but I am growing increasingly happy with the results I am getting. I frankly can’t remember the last time I used the horizontal end fed. I have had to roll up the radials on occasion to mow the yard and have not yet deployed my permanent radials. Currently I am using the 30 foot travel mast from SOTAbeams to support the vertical wire and have four 27 foot radials deployed. I am using my homebrew 1:1 current balun at the feedpoint and running to the shack with 50 ft of RG-8X.
If I get the chance I’ll start operating around 6:30 am local time on 40m JT-65. I can usually snag several contacts in Japan with the occasional contact into Australia, Indonesia or the Philippines. The action is over by about 7:30am local time as the band closes quickly after sunrise.
Saturday afternoon, I was checking the bands and came across a strong VK station on 17m SSB. We exchanged signals reports in the 54 to 55 range. I moved over to JT-65 and found that there was DX activity including another VK contact. Today Sunday I am finding about the same conditions, great 40m propagation to the far east in the early morning and some light DX into Europe & South America on 17m in the late afternoon.
May 27, 2017
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I made a 20m SSB contact to Guadalupe in the Caribbean yesterday which got my unofficial DX count to 100. It is unofficial because I don’t have the electronic confirmation either though QRZ or LoTW. My official tally is 85 for DXCC and 88 for QRZ DX World. It has taken awhile to get here and the new antennas I have been testing help quite a bit. Wish more folks could confirm either through QRZ or LoTW!
May 15, 2017
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I came a cross a very helpful web page in determining the amount of power needed for JT-65. It is called dbCalc and allows you to enter your transmit power and signal report and then calculates what your report would have been with other transmit power levels. I tried this out today on 40m JT-65, lowered my power in half and still made several DX contacts to Japan and Argentina. You can easily measure how your signal is doing at a given power by sending a CQ and then checking the Pskreporter reports. Feed these into dbCalc and you can optimize your power settings for given band conditions. I suspect that in most cases operators are using a lot more power than necessary to make JT-65 contacts which makes it harder for weaker signals to get through.
May 14, 2017
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Most of this week was sent collecting WSPR data on the 40m 1/4 wave vertical. The vertical is holding up better to the breezy days after placing some duct tape on the joints of the travel mast. The vertical radiator is a 32 foot length of insulated #14 speaker wire. There are only four 27 foot ground radials deployed at this time. There is a 1:1 current balun at the feed point and about 50 feet of coax to the shack after that. Here is the SWR plot:
SWR is under 1.5:1 across the whole band with a resonant point 7.125 MHz. This antenna has been a solid performer on 40m without a tuner. I am noticing that the band starts opening up to DX about an hour before dusk. Last night I made several SSB contacts with Europe after 10pm local time.
Switching to 40m JT-65 at that time was very interesting as well as the propagation conditions can be somewhat visualized with pskreporter. I really tested the JTDX software last night and have gotten the hang of the user interface which is subtly different from WSJT-X. I set the IC-7100 with AGC-off and the bandwidth filter set to 3.6 kHz. Rather than search and pounce, I would look for a quiet spot at the extremes of the band and call CQ DX. This strategy worked well with many European stations answering. Over time, I can see my signals fading on the pskreporter map as eastern Europe’s morning progresses. As dawn approaches in Western Europe, stations start coming online and start to see my signal. At the same time, the opposite terminator starts approaching New Zealand and Australia and my signals starts picking up there as well. I knocked off at about midnight local time and picked up at about 7am and repeated. This time JA stations were answering my CQ and I was running a JT-65 “pile-up” with several JA stations calling at the end of a QSO.
Very pleased with the antenna performance on this band. 20m is acceptable through a tuner but the WSPR data indicates some degradation in performance over a resonant vertical or even the end fed antenna.
The winds have died down a bit here at the QTH and the travel mast has been up about a week now. The duct tape on the joints may have something to do with it. On 40m, the antenna is a winner. Made contacts on SSB to Europe in late afternoon early evening on Saturday. Making JT-65 contacts into Japan is like shooting fish in a barrel on early mornings. On 20m, I run the antenna through the tuner and also made some DX into Europe and the South Pacific. I switched between the vertical and the horizontal DXtreme end fed antenna and found that the vertical can definitely hear signals that the horizontal cannot. Propagation conditions seems to be shifting these past couple of weeks. 40m is solid into Asia early morning and Europe in the early evening. 20m has been weak in the morning but picks up in the late afternoon. 17m has been really hurting lately with some small windows opening up from time to time. All in all a good weekend of radio activity.
April 22, 2017
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Had a good club meeting this morning and chatted on quite a few and varied radio topics. Will be starting the HF voice and Digital Nets next week on 40m at 1pm local time. Voice will be on 7.250 Mhz and MT63 1000L digital following shortly thereafter on 7.060 Mhz. There is a major geomagnetic storm going on now that has impacted the HF bands. Not much in the way of QSO’s going on right now except for JT-65. Good time to play with some other projects.
Tested the new 10Ahr LiFePo4 battery this afternoon with the solar charge controller and a non-radio load (5V USB charger on 12V lighter plug). Pleased to report this battery worked like a champ and is a drop in replacement for the lead Acid SLA batteries. It is half the weight of the 7Ahr SLA battery and can provide at least 80% of its capacity without shortening the life of the battery. So I am replacing two 7Ahr batteries that provided 7Ahr of capacity at about 10 pounds with a single 10Ahr LiFePo4 that can provide 8Ahrs and weights only 2 lbs! Nice!
I ordered a USB OTG cable from Ebay. This cable allows me to hook up and SDR dongle to an amazon fire with the SDRTouch Android app. The only downside is that you need an external power source to get enough power to the SDR dongle. I hooked it up to the USB charger I was testing with the new battery and it ran fine.