10M-RTTY & skimmer spots analysis

Moving house is slowly taking over priorities overhere so as sad as it is seeing the still good condx I decided to skip the ARRL-10M next weekend and concentrate on moving things over to the new house. Uwe, DL3BQA, will step in instead. Keeping fingers crossed he can make something out of it, propagation forecasts for next weekend look good. ;)

Not to miss the radio feeling I at least spent some time yesterday in the 10M-RTTY contest. It is quite unique in allowing just 100 watts output max. Sorrily activity in this one is not very high. I did some 70 QSOs using low power first but after lunch decided to go high power, i.e. switch on the KPA500 for about 600 watts output. Thus my log does only qualify for a checklog but running with high power *is* simply more fun. ;) Condx were not as good anymore as last weekend (plus distortion due to Aurora again) but still allowed a reasonable QSO total of 350 RTTY QSOs in a bit more than 8 hours overall operating time.

wz7i-rtty-skimmer-spots-dh8bqa-07.12.2014It’s a pity there are not more RTTY skimmers yet. WZ7I in PA, U.S. east coast, was the only one across the pond spotting me yesterday. Analysis of it’s spots on the reversebeacon.net website (see screenshot left) nicely shows how the band opening evolved. Wesley’s skimmer saw me at 11:52z for the first time with -3 dB. That was the same time I worked my first U.S. station with K5ZD calling in on skewed path beaming the Caribbean for best signal strength. A few more “-” spots followed until 12:22z the first +3 dB spot that can also be seen on the screenshot. That was the time I swung the beam direct path! It took another 10 minutes until the first reasonable signal strength spot with 20 dB. Another 10 minutes later the band was finally well open. The last spot shown is 16:54z at 27 dB, afterwards the band rapidly closed. I was seen a single time again half an hour later at -2 dB.

So the skimmer spots nicely confirm what I had learned during the last few years already concerning the DL – NA openings: The band opens skewed path beaming South America and/or the Caribbean with weak signals about an hour before it is open direct path. Interestingly it’s the same from the other side of the pond as I learned during my visit to Carol, N2MM, during WPX-SSB earlier this year. There you have to beam to Africa to hear the first European signals before the band finally opens. So the scatter reflection zone seems to be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean half-way between Portugal and the Caribbean …

The direct path opening takes about 20-30 minutes to evolve into full signal strength. And after the opening the band closes almost abruptly. Usually backscatter signals vanish about an hour or so before the band closes although DX signals are still strong (this cannot be seen from the data above, of course). The variation in signal strength has different reasons. One is QRM that lets the skimmers think the noise level is higher thus the SNR shown in the graph will drop. Another one is the shifts in propagation and corresponding reflection elevation angles. This is were a stack with switchable antennas would come in handy. ;) And third there might be a bit of variation due to antenna direction. I.e. around 15:30z +/- I did turn the antenna a bit more north (295° to 310°) as the U.S. mid-west opened. With a 6L yagi it might already have an influence although beam-width is broad enough to not show it like that. So possibly rather a combination of all 3 factors that came into play then.

Of course one has to pay attention to not over-analyze things. ;) But sure enough skimmers are a great tool to learn and/or confirm certain things. Thus let me take the opportunity to say a big “Thank you guys!” to all of you spending time and money to make those tools available to the public!

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wwdx-cw-2011-certificateNow that another week of QRL is gone and the weekend is here maybe it’s time to sum up my this year’s WWDX CW contest entry between packing moving boxes. ;) Condx were excellent so my choice of band had to be 10 m, of course. As a reader of this blog you know I’m an absolute 10 m addict, even in sunspot minimum. Back in 2011 when we built our big 6 ele OWA Yagi I took part in the (then still new) SOSB10 QRP (A) category aiming for the world record. Sorrily SU/HA3JB had decided to do the same thus it was “only” 2nd place world and a new European record (see left). That did indeed hold for 3 years but is going over to EA4KR now as per the preliminary results. Congrats Julio!

This year I was running HP (A) and had a really great time! Last year I made almost 1.400 QSOs with the same setup and quite nice condx and didn’t think I would ever be able to do much more. Condx are winter-typical at the end of November compared to WWDX-SSB in October meaning about 2-3 hours less time when the band is open. That is cutting down QSO totals, of course. Another “problem” that arises from the later time in year is there is no common window with zone 1 (KL7) anymore, likewise for zone 31 (KH6) on shortpath. Even with great conditions the band simply closes an hour too early overhere (and opens an hour to late overthere). Thus if all goes well only 38 zones are workable. Z31 could be worked as number 39 via longpath but I had no luck this time.

Last year certainly nobody would have thought of propagation still being as good as it was now, yours truly included! After the SSB leg I’m sure almost everybody was hoping for similar condx in the CW leg and keeping all fingers crossed they had, yours truly included! And yes, we were indeed lucky! ;) I went to bed Saturday evening with 1.030 QSOs, 148 DXCCs and 38 CQ zones worked. That’s been a plus of 300 QSOs compared to last year. Wow!

After having had such a great first day I did check the CQWW records page and saw that the German category record would possibly be in reach. Some 1.800 QSOs and a few more multipliers would be needed to break it. *That* was my big motivation for the second day! Unfortunately conditions went down quite a bit on Sunday. There was Aurora in the North (with VHF QSOs done just 500 km north of my location) and distorted conditions. The German Aurora warning beacon DKØWCY showed K=4 and A=14, ouch! Although sunspot numbers as well as solar flux were still high it meant the band just opened three quarters of an hour later into North America and closed more than an hour earlier than Saturday. Not to speak of almost no west coast QSOs. This did cost me about 100+ QSOs which would have been needed to surpass the German record including some reserve for the log checking process. :( So after all my final result of 773k points just scratched the current 777k record of Stefan, DL1IAO (a great OP who won 3rd place in this year’s WRTC by the way). Oh well, maybe in 9-10 years again. ;)

Despite not breaking the record I’m really satisfied with the result! I would never have thought it would be possible to do almost 1.800 QSOs (including dupes) being SOSB and taking into account I am an average CW’er at best. I definitely recognized that the small CW pileup trainings I did operating special event station DM5ØPCK every now and then during the last few weeks & month’ helped a lot with my CW abilities. I’m also proud of myself having surpassed all the other German big guns like DK3T with DK3DM (big station with 3 antenna systems), DK2GZ, DL5CW, etc., all really great OPs! DK3T’s multiplier total didn’t look like being assisted although he first posted his result as being (A). Certainly just an error, meanwhile it is listed as non-assisted on 3830 as well as CQ’s preliminary results page. Even with different categories I’m still proud of my performance compared to DK3T as he had just 80 QSOs more. Taking the station size difference and Bud’s CW abilities into account I am more than happy with my results. Yes, DK3T *is* a kind of benchmark for me on 10 m as you might have recognized in past blog entries already. :) Other benchmarks are the big German M/M stations: DR1A had just 20 QSOs more than myself with an almost identical multiplier total while DFØHQ had even less QSOs and mults than myself! Both have a lot more aluminium in the air than me. Seems I did a few things right. ;)

So here’s the final result. As usual I put a detailed SH5 analysis online, too.

                   CQ Worldwide DX Contest, CW

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SOSB(A)/10 HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 26.5

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
   10: 1755    38      153
Total: 1755    38      153  Total Score = 772,786

Club: Bavarian Contest Club
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Already 20.000 QSOs this year and still counting …

DBZ__20000_HitsJust saw that I already made my 20.000th QSO this year this evening. Thanks everybody worked! This is by far my most “radio-active” year in my ham career so far. And there are still a few more QSO chances (i.e. contests) to come. ;)

Having another week of holidays now I arrived at the station this afternoon to install all the equipment for next weekend’s CQ WWDX CW contest (*the* CW contest of the year) and also made a few more QSOs using our SES callsign DM5ØPCK which is valid until 30.11.2014. Was lucky to catch a few more VU4KV slots, too. Condx were rather bad during the last few days but came back nicely today, even worked a few west coast guys on 10 m although the band closed early (well, getting into winter condx now). Hope for some great propagation during the contest, really keeping fingers crossed! If so you will certainly find me on 10 m single band again.

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VU4 – Andaman & Nicobar Islands #298

100th blogJust worked VU4KV on 30 m RTTY for another ATNO. They were spotted before on 40 m CW but it turned out to be VU2UR running a nice pileup. :) Glad to catch them on 30 m rather easily now after they had been calling NA & SA only for what felt like ages. ;)

BTW: This is my 100th blog entry, too! Never imagined to blog so regularly when I started with the new webpage layout just 10 month’ ago. ;)

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qsl_neu_1It’s been quite a while since my last blog entry. Reason is very simple: a lot of QRL and not much interest in playing radio. Basically only worked a few W1AW portable slots here and there and a very few DX QSOs during the last 2 weeks, that’s all I did. But I spent every evening printing and sorting QSLs to finally get rid of all my QSL “debts”. I haven’t done any serious QSLing for the last 2,5 years (yes, shame on me) so it finally was time now. ;) I do send a card for every new band/mode slot worked and up to 5 QSOs per card. But I’m already thinking of just answering incoming cards starting from 2015 onwards, at least for all the contest QSOs. That might save a bit I can imagine. Will see. For now about 9.600 cards are prepared to be sent to the DARC QSL bureau … Besides QRL and QSL I’m also preparing to move house so rather spend the little available spare time packing lots of moving boxes than playing radio. ;)

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FT4TA – Things are getting out of control :-(

As you might know the FT4TA expedition is currently active from Tromelin Island, #10 of the most wanted DXCCs. I “only” worked them on 15 & 12 m so far as I know they will QSL thru LoTW, that’s the important thing for me. It’s not been a new one as I had worked (and confirmed) FR/F6KDF/T back in 2000 already (with 100 watts and a dipole, it was indeed easy back then). Although beeing one of the most wanted I think things are really getting out of control. Their CW pileups are up to 20+ kHz wide. So effectively one station is taking 20+ % bandwidth of the smaller bands like 17 & 12 m. SSB pileups are a minimum of 20 kHz, at times they were reported listening over a 50 kHz split range on the classic bands. I like DXing and I can understand all the people who are eager to work a new one (you never know if that DXCC will ever be active again, it took some 14 years since the last expedition). Nevertheless I think what they are doing is just too much, certainly not only for my taste. :( I would plead for a bit more pileup control (maybe too easy to say sitting on the other side) and thinking of all the other people wanting to use our small bands …

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Marconi Memorial Contest ’14

Was busy with a few other things over the weekend but managed to squeeze in a few QSOs every now and then Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Worked some nice DX, too! Hope to have a bit more time next year again for a more serious entry …

 Contest Report from DH8BQA in JO73CE at 144 MHz
 Contest : Marconi Memorial Contest
 Date    : 2014 Nov 01 to 2014 Nov 02
 Section : 01 144MHz Single OP
 QTH     : Woltersdorf

 TX      : Elecraft K3 + K144XV + OM1002, 700 W
 RX      : Elecraft K3 + K144XV
 Antenna : 9 ele LFA Yagi, 9 m AGL, 59 m ASL
 Log     : TACLog by OZ2M, 1,995

 QSOs    :  152
 -invalid:    1                                 Points/valid QSO
 -valid  :  151     QSO-points (*1) :    60166               398
 WWLs    :   47     WWL bonus (0)   :        0                 0
 DXCCs   :   14     DXCC bonus (0)  :        0                 0
                    --------------------------              ----
                    Total score     :    60166               398
 ODX     :  TM0W in JN36BP at 929 km
 Worked World Wide Locators:
 JN36:  1   JN68:  2   JN88:  9   JO42:  3   JO60:  9   JO72:  3
 JN37:  1   JN69:  6   JN89:  6   JO43:  2   JO61: 10   JO73:  1
 JN39:  1   JN76:  3   JN97:  2   JO44:  1   JO62: 14   JO80:  4
 JN47:  3   JN77:  1   JN99:  5   JO50:  4   JO63:  1   JO83:  1
 JN48:  3   JN79:  3   JO20:  2   JO51:  4   JO64:  1   JO90:  1
 JN49:  2   JN85:  1   JO31:  2   JO52:  1   JO65:  1   JO92:  1
 JN58:  3   JN86:  3   JO32:  1   JO54:  2   JO70: 14   JO93:  1
 JN59:  3   JN87:  5   JO41:  1   JO59:  1   JO71:  2

 Worked DXCCs:
 9A  :  1   HA  :  6   OE  :  4   OM  :  9   OZ  :  1   S5  :  5
 DL  : 72   HB  :  2   OK  : 40   ON  :  2   PA  :  1   SP  :  6
 F   :  1   LA  :  1

 Top 10 QSO-points:
 20141101 2214 TM0W          599 054   599 200     JN36BP    929
 20141101 1755 9A1N          599 014   599 107     JN85LI    894
 20141101 1847 HB9GF         599 027   599 112     JN37WB    817
 20141101 2136 LA0BY         599 050   519 004     JO59IX    785
 20141102 1012 S54LANE       599 129   599 284     JN76BD    784
 20141101 1822 S50C          599 021   599 179     JN76JG    771
 20141101 1850 HB9FAP        599 028   599 190     JN47PH    741
 20141102 0837 S57M          599 100   599 248     JN76PO    737
 20141102 0830 S51ZO         599 099   599 299     JN86DR    734
 20141101 1956 ON4TX         599 038   599 057     JO20EP    731
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4th of July Week – 13 Original Colonies Special Event Award

4thjulyweekawardShown right is the latest addition to my awards collection: The 13 Original Colonies Special Event Award 2014. Every year during the 4th of July week there are special event stations in the 13 original colonies of the United States. I got into the event “by accident” last summer and after finding out more about it on the event homepage I had quite some fun chasing them during the few days they were active (although condx were quite bad … typical summer doldrums). Sorrily I didn’t manage a full sweep but just 10 of the 13 and one of the two “sister” stations. But you can apply for the award with even just a single contact … but of course that would be no challenge. ;) They change the award motive every year. The theme for 2014 was “Revolution War Era Colonial Currency“. The award is printed on parchment paper and looks great (sorrily the scan above doesn’t reflect it nearly). Next year’s theme will be the “Founders and Patriots of the Republic“. Hope to catch them next year again …

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The QRM festival … a.k.a. the CQ WWDX SSB contest ;-)

Well, what shall I say? Never thought it would be possible to do more than 2.000 QSOs single band on 15 m from our station (station record so far was 1.800 QSOs). Not even dreamt of > 2.400 (including dupes)! Conditions were excellent, especially on Sunday afternoon. QRM was really heavy at times. No idea how that shall work in the next few years when all the people who now populated almost a full MHz of bandwidth on 10 m will have to squeeze into the lower bands as well!

Thought I would have the run of my live when I had already worked 110 QSOs in 28 minutes Saturday afternoon but then IK6LBV popped up (see below). :( So it would only be 174 QSOs as the best 60 minutes rate.

Sorrily I missed the VK9X double mult. Whenever I checked their frequency they were burried in heavy QRM. :( Think I missed 2 or 3 additional mults, too. But was great to be called by KH8, FK, VE8 (z1), HP, etc. just to name a few of the juicier mults. :) Also great to be called by KL7RA Sunday morning (09z) when beaming JA … ;) Speaking of JA I had the impression that the JA opening on Sunday was worse than Saturday (weaker sigs and only 85 QSOs compared to 205 on Saturday) while with the US opening it was the opposite, i.e. better on Sunday than on Saturday (much stronger sigs). Just my perception or did others experience the same?

Something to think about: Popping up on one’s QRG and trying to steal it *IS* unsportsmanlike behaviour! :( I will start calling names now as as I’m really pissed off by those guys, sorry. IK6LBV popped up just 350 Hz away from me. He was 59+ and didn’t react at all after I told him. If he didn’t hear me he must have been running at least 100 kW and that’s already assuming a bit of QRM for his benefit. IK7CMY was 600 Hz away. After I told him the frequency is in use he was silent for a minute or two then started all over again. That repeated for about half an hour. S52OP was just 400 Hz away and 59 on backscatter, too, but stopped after 15 minutes (he certainly realized that I won’t move). WK1Q 700 Hz away ignored me completely. But maybe I just have too bad an RX (Elecraft K3 with 1.8 kHz roofer) … what are others using then?

Don’t get me wrong guys. I know this can happen in the heat of the battle. It happened to myself, too. But I immediately moved after the other guy told me! Yes, that meant I was without a run QRG for almost 2.5 hours Sunday afternoon (couldn’t hold the one used before, QRM got too heavy over time) and certainly lost 100-150 QSOs but that’s life and part of the game. I really do not have a problem if that happens when the other guy is just s2 and really cannot hear me. If he has better propagation I loose. Part of the game. But don’t tell me you don’t hear me if you are s9 and stronger! 400 or 800 Hz simply won’t cut it. Please leave 1.2 to 1.5 kHz space. Even then you will still leave lots of your signal in my passband but usually that’s handable somehow.

Excessive bandwidth: IO5O, UW8SM, E77A. These are only those guys that affected me directly during running as they splattered from 4-10 kHz away. I’m sure there were some others, too.

Overall it was still LOTS of fun and a very enjoyable event. For sure something to remember during the next few years while heading down into sunspot minimum and being happy if you manage to work at least a handful of W1’s and 2’s on 15 m during a contest. ;-)

Now here’s my result:

                   CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SOSB(A)/15 HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 32.5

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
   15: 2364    37      135
Total: 2364    37      135  Total Score = 946,172

Club: Bavarian Contest Club

SH5 analysis is available here. BTW: Uwe, DL3BQA, even did 20 QSOs more as DMØY on 10 m from the 2nd shack at our station. He had quite some fun, too. ;)

I’m eager to see how my good friend Oliver, DL2ARD, finished. He will certainly have well over 3.000 QSOs on 15 m (same category). He is “only” about 360 km away from me, that means about 300 km more southerly and 200 km more western. His station is located on a high mountain and he also has a bit more aluminium in the air than me. ;) Of course Oliver is a superb operator, too! I listened to him Saturday evening after the band had died overhere and he was still running the U.S. for almost another hour! Amazing …

Now hoping that condx will hold until CQ WW CW and ARRL 10 m as well!

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Pre-contest condx

Condx came up nicely since Monday. Flux and sunspot numbers did a big jump upwards. Yesterday saw a really nice 10 m opening. I had a lot of fun running NA on 10 m for 2.5 hours continously. Even had a caller from SoCal who was a good 54 with his 100 watts and a 4 ele. QRP stations from the U.S. east coast produced solid 59 signals, even a guy running just 10 watts into a small whip from his mobile in the mid-west was a solid 57. But you know, if ten is open even a wet string will work the world. ;) Now just keeping fingers crossed condx will make it through the weekend, too! Today was even a bit better during the day but now into the evening Aurora’s coming up again. So we’ll have to see what’s left of propagation tomorrow morning and how fast it recovers.

Our station will see two single band entries in CQ WW DX SSB this weekend. As Uwe, DL3BQA, has the choice of band this year he will go for 10 m as DMØY while I will be active as DH8BQA on 15 m then. If you hear us please give us a call. Every contact is much appreciated! Good luck everybody …

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Short-lived but intense Aurora opening

We had another short-lived but intense Aurora opening this afternoon/early evening. Signals were very strong, SM4IVE was peaking 59A+20! It didn’t extend much south but nevertheless always enjoyable to work those other VHF enthusiasts. ;-)

20/10/2014 16:37 LA3BO    JO59CD    57A 56A  2 m.  CW    AUR   707
20/10/2014 16:41 GM3WOJ   IO77WS    52A 55A  2 m.  CW    AUR  1257
20/10/2014 16:45 SMØNKZ   JO99IQ    59A 59A  2 m.  CW    AUR   773
20/10/2014 16:46 OH5LK    KP3ØON    59A 58A  2 m.  CW    AUR  1134
20/10/2014 16:52 SM4GGC   JO69RK    59A 59A  2 m.  CW    AUR   696
20/10/2014 16:56 LAØBY    JO59FW    59A 59A  2 m.  CW    AUR   784
20/10/2014 17:13 SM4HFI   JP7ØTO    57A 57A  2 m.  CW    AUR   829
20/10/2014 17:18 SM5KWU   JO89IP    57A 57A  2 m.  CW    AUR   734
20/10/2014 17:34 SM4IVE   JO79SD    59A 59A  2 m.  CW    AUR   667

Being local I used our IC-7400 dedicated to 2 m, a smoothly run GS35 amp and our trusty 10 ele DK7ZB Yagi at 21 m above the ground (top-most antenna on the big chimney in the photo on top of this page).

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WAG ’14

wag-qsos-per-hourThe Worked All Germany Contest 2014 is history now. After doing 1.923 QSOs last year with superb conditions but only keeping my butt 23 hours in the chair the goal for this year was to finally break the 2.000 QSO mark from our medium sized station and make it through the whole 24 hours, of course. I managed the latter but to be honest it was really difficult. I was not well prepared, i.e. not enough sleep the days before, too much QRL, a.s.o. I really had some senior moments especially Sunday morning when rates were low and microsleep caught me a few times. Sleep depriviation did not help with my not too good CW, too, so please excuse me for all the repeats needed. My mind simply switched of at times after receiving the first 2 or 3 letters of a caller. ;)

wag-qsos-cumulatedSo what about the other goal? Yes, I knocked down the 2.000. But this as well was real hard work as condx were much much worse then last year. An X-flare just before the contest was going to wipe out condx. Especially Sunday was really bad. 10 m stayed closed overhere until almost noon and even then only allowing QSOs up to UA9 and the more southern path’. Backscatter was bad, too, but got better again in the afternoon. Also North America opened again during the last contest hour on 10 m but only for the big guns and no high rates possible. Saturday was a lot better but even with a good 10 m opening right at the start of the contest it did not produce the same rates like last year. So I quickly QSYed down into the other bands.

wag-qso-deltaAs can be seen from the charts left and right (click them to enlarge) I lost a few QSOs at the beginning compared to last year. I made up for it later on and at times was ahead 185 QSOs (spent more time on 40 m working nice DL pileups). But the bad condx on Sunday let that edge shrink hour after hour. :(

Bad condx also meant bad points average as less DX was worked. I couldn’t get anything going on 20 m SSB at all. In general it was much more fun on CW so I might change over to the CW-only class next year instead of Mixed. ;)

Having my goal of breaking the 2.000 QSO mark I did not pay any attention to multipliers, just worked what came across. Yes, that’s not the right strategy for a high total score but this was not what I was aiming for this time. ;) For scoring high you need a high QSO total as well as a high multiplier total. Both together will only work with SO2R techniques … something left to try in the future. ;)

After all the new antenna setup (see below) surely helped a bit at least against the bad conditions. Here’s the score summary …

                    Worked All Germany Contest

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SO Mixed HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 24

 Band  CW Qs  SSB Qs  Mults
   80:   342    259     42
   40:   300    239     44
   20:   202     17     43
   15:   240    138     42
   10:   182    103     44
Total:  1266    756    215  Total Score = 1,171,320

… and a more detailed comparison of 2013 vs. 2014 (claimed scores each):

Worked All Germany Contest Comparison 2013/2014
Data point                 2013            2014
SSN                         149              60
K-Index                     0-1             2-4
A-Index                       2            9-13
QSOs                       1923            2033
Mults                       244             216
QSO-Points                 5788            5448
Total points            1412272         1176768
Best 60 min rate            170             152
Best rate band              80m             40m
Equipment           Elecraft K3     Elecraft K3
Antenna 80 m       Inv-V dipole    Inv-V dipole
Antenna 40 m       Inv-V dipole    Inv-V dipole
Antenna 20 m       Cushcraft X7    4L Yagi (hb)
Antenna 15 m       Cushcraft X7    6L Yagi (hb)
Antenna 10 m       6L Yagi (hb)    6L Yagi (hb)

Detailed SH5 analysis is available here.

Believe it or not but I slept a continous 15 hours after being home again and having been awake for 36 hours. Seems my body was in demand … ;) See you all in WWDX-SSB next weekend!

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VK9L – Lord Howe Island #297


Worked the VK9DLX guys on 12 SSB, 15 CW & 20 SSB without any trouble … thanks for a new one, guys! I’m sure there will be a few more band/mode slots in the log during the next few days … having holidays now and a bit more time to play radio. ;) The WAG contest is going to start 15 UTC today for 24 hours. Hope to work you!

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No QSOs this week but one – ZS on 6 m

This week has been quite busy at work again so I was not in the mood to do any amateur radio in the evenings. I even ignored VK9DLX becoming active from Lord Howe which is a new one for me and should be easy to work, they are good guys there! But they will stay for 2 weeks so I can certainly work them next week when up at the station anyway for WAG and WWDX-SSB and preparations in-between. And pileups should be a lot smaller by then, too. ;)

There was just one evening I switched the radio on, Tuesday. That was after Sandro, DD3SP, a good friend about 80 km south, told me he had just worked ZS on 6 m through an ES + TEP link. With my usual luck of course nothing was heard overhere. Yes, those 80 km *do* make a difference, sometimes even on 10 m but especially so on 6 m. So I kept the frequency of ZS4TX/6 running in the background while doing other things around. About half an hour later he suddenly came up, peaking 559 for a few seconds (certainly MS reflections) and being about 529-539 for a few minutes in total. After a few repeats we made it a complete QSO before he vanished into the noise again. Just my 2nd South Africa contact on the Magic Band and KG47 a new square. :)

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TMC – The Makrothen Contest 2014 on 10 m

Well, to be honest I did not have that one on my contest radar. Yes, I knew it existed but was not aware it was this weekend. While doing a few other things I saw Mike, VE9AA, spotted on 10 m on the cluster. Believe it or not, this was the reason for me to switch on N1MMLogger+ and give it a go – I just wanted to work Mike. We had quite a number of contacts in past years and although we have never met in person nor have exchanged many emails I consider him a friend. Might be because of similar mindsets and radio likes. ;)

So after being in the game anyway I thought I could maybe spend an hour in the contest and see how good condx on 10 m are. You know it could always be the last 10 m opening in this now declining sunspot cycle. ;) After one hour and quite a nice rate for RTTY circumstances I thought why not do a full hundred. And after that it was just 45 minutes left until the end of the contest so why not stay in the game … ;)

makrothen-naWhat I like about TMC is it uses grid squares as exchange. Being a VHFer by heart I really like that stuff! :) Furthermore TMC is one of the few contests that is really distance based. UFB! There is nice software out there like VE3NEA’s DX Atlas used to create the grid square maps you see above and below and plot what you’ve worked. Although certainly not representative the North America map nicely shows a mixture of population centers as well as propagation. While it was good to see 10 m opening up into North America propagation just allowed QSOs into the eastern half of the continent. WO7V in DM41 was the only exception and he was really weak. Later on I was able to log a few more AZ stations in the Arizona QSO Party on 10 m with some of them peaking 59(9)+10 but only the big guys. So it was certainly all about antenna and propagation elevation angles and profiting from good antenna height.

makrothen-euAnother interesting point might be all the Europeans worked. They do not provide many points, i.e. working into JO20, 21, 22 (Belgium and Holland) is just 600 km from here. Compare that to the 6-7.000 km into the U.S. east coast, 9.000 km to the U.S. west coast or those 12.000 km down to Argentina or Brazil. BUT they usually need much more work as they all come via Backscatter so are usally rather weak, too. But hey, that’s half of the fun for a VHF proficient weak signal guy, isn’t it? ;)

So to cut a long story short: Nice to work Mike again. ;) Nice to see 10 m open. :) And finally 2,5 hours of good fun!

                  Makrothen RTTY Contest

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SO/Single Xcvr HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 2.5

 Band  QSOs
   10:  140
Total:  140  Total Score = 714,508

Elecraft K3 + KPA500 + 6 ele OWA @ 18 m height
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Nice 10 m condx again but no luck on 6 m

Today saw much improved condx again although the forecast told otherwise. ;) Ten was wide open, even into the U.S. West Coast late afternoon and well into the evening. The California QSO Party was going on so lots of stuff to work … made some 40 QSOs into CA just on 10 m in about an hour total operating time … great fun! Unfortunately I didn’t log them as a real contest including counties so no way to send a log in. Would I have known before then of course … ;) Could also add a few more W1AW portable band/mode slots due to the nice conditions. Really keeping fingers crossed to have such propagation (still or again) during WWDX-SSB later this month as well as during WWDX-CW at the end of November!

Six had some very good TEP propagation, too. As is usually the case it only extends north to S5, 9A and sometimes south DL. For it to be usable up here we need the help of Sporadic E to get into it. Not sure if it was ES or maybe just a very long meteor reflection but I could hear V51YJ on CW for a bit over three minutes starting strong with real 599 out of a sudden and then slowly dropping down to an S2/3 signal for the remaining two minutes (yes, sounds like the characteristics of a long meteor burst). No luck catching him, too big a pileup, but as I had already worked Namibia before no problem. Unfortunately nothing from the ZS’s overhere, even during those 3 minutes.

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T3Ø – Western Kiribati #296

t30dAfter hearing them weakly on 12 m yesterday (using the 10 m yagi ;)) I was lucky enough to catch them this morning on 15 m CW for another all time new one, now being up to #296. The pileups are huge, CW split goes over 6 kHz, not too bad. ;) It’s a German team of well known DXers & DXpeditioneers (click picture above to visit their website) so allow me to switch once to German on this otherwise English language blog: Viel Spaß und viel Glück weiterhin, Jungs! Herzlichen Dank! :)

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cqAs I just recently discovered I might like RTTY contesting I thought it would be a good idea to enter (for the first time ever) the CQ WW RTTY held last weekend. I already did a few smaller RTTY contests during the last few month’ and really liked it. Well, the CQ WW RTTY felt a bit different. First of all conditions were quite distorted due to a recent flare. SFI up into the 200’s but that does not help anything at all if Aurora is going on so no good 10 m condx overhere up north. :( Second I really felt like QRP although I’ve been pushing the KPA500 to it’s limits, i.e. 600-650 watts depending on band. And our antennas are really not the smallest ones but I always had the feeling of always being the last in the queue of callers. Well, activity might have been a reason, bands were really full, i.e. up to 60 kHz on 40 m, 70 kHz on 20 m and even with not optimum condx up to 60 kHz on 10 m …

Usually CQ WW RTTY is *the* RTTY contest for Uwe, DL3BQA. He’s a big fan of RTTY contesting so he regularly participates in that one, of course. Naturally he had the choice of band and decided for 15 m. I had some other obligations during the weekend, too, so decided to spend a few hours every now and then and do an allband entry just for fun. Well, “allband” was rather 4 bands as 15 m could not be used, of course. ;) Good thing about it was I could systematically test out all the measures taken during the last few month’ to get rid of inter-station interference. Seems it really paid off as we did not have any serious problems at all with parallel station usage. Even 40 / 15 which is usually a really hard combination worked flawlessly except when the 15 m yagi was pointing directly to the 40 m dipole. But that seldomly happens so no issue either. ;)

Sunday late evening condx improved again and I could even copy most of the U.S. West Coast states on 10 m. Sorrily I could not raise a single soul at all. Although signals were up to 539 they just CQ’ed into my face. :( Really wondering if I might have too hot an RX overhere or if those guys are running lots of kilowatts or simply have bad receivers. Quite a frustrating situation … Anyway, here’s my tiny result:

                  CQ Worldwide DX Contest, RTTY

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SOAB(A) HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 21

 Band  QSOs  State/Prov  DX   Zones
   80:  180       0       43     9
   40:  187      19       63    16
   20:  225      29       56    19
   15:    1       0        1     1
   10:  141       8       60    29
Total:  734      56      223    47  Total Score = 599,747

Club: Bavarian Contest Club

Detailed SH5 analysis is available here.

Next up are WAG and WWDX-SSB for me. I will have a week of holidays in-between. So we’ll try to install some beverages and gain some experience with RX antennas for the low bands. Never done it before so eager to learn … ;)

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Trophy with a difference :-)

100_1133I had an information in my post box yesterday that a parcel was waiting for me at the local post office. I was very curious what it was as I could not remember to have ordered something. ;) So I went there after QRL today to pick it up. Surprise was big and pleasant when opening the parcel: It’s been a nice set of fine French wine, olives, chocolate, etc. I quickly remembered that we had won the MMMonVHF voting for the “BEST VHF expedition of 2013″ for our maritime mobile tour across the Baltic Sea activating some of the rare wet squares on 6 m (LY2AAM/mm) as well as 2 m (DH8BQA/mm) using Tropo and Meteor Scatter propagation modes. Frank, DL8YHR, was the voting’s trophy sponsor and kind enough to send this surprise parcel with a trophy with a difference. :) Many thanks! We will enjoy it for sure. ;)

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Nice 10 m opening this afternoon

Wow, 10 m is back! :) We had a very nice opening into North America this afternoon & early evening lasting for about 5 hours! Propagation forecast looked rather bad for today but luckily it was entirely wrong. ;) Ten opened up nicely as far as to the mid-west with Colorado being the western-most state I heard. Signals were very strong, i.e. 100 watts plus dipole stations from Michigan and all along the East Coast were easily hitting the S9 mark on my K3’s calibrated s-meter. Our big 6 ele OWA Yagi up 18 m high certainly helped a bit but anyway, always nice to reach across the pond on 10 m. Now let’s all keep our fingers crossed for conditions to hold thru the season. Next weekend has the WWDX-RTTY contest where we all could use some nice condx, right? Having the West Coast open up would of course be even better. ;) By the way, 15 m was still open around local mid-night here … all very promising!

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