ZP – Paraguay #135 on 6 m

Another day without any ES overhere. Was not very sad this time as I could spent all afternoon in bed trying to recover from a flu I caught on Friday and not fearing to miss anything on the bands. ;)

Surprisingly there was another small ES + TEP opening late evening (after 20z). Very spotty, never more than one signal at a time. Obviously spotty from the other end, too, as both PY’s heard were CQing along without (m)any takers as long as I could hear them which was not more than 2-3 minutes each.

PP1CZ (with a well known DXer calling him blind, i.e. out of turn :():

PY2XB:

Saw ZP6CW spotted on the cluster so parked the RX on his frequency. Some 20 minutes later he indeed came out of the noise and up to 559 for some 40 or 50 seconds only – enough to nail him for a new DXCC. 8-) He was gone so fast again I didn’t even manage to record him … As he reliably confirms through LotW I might be able to apply for my 50 MHz DXCC soon, currently 98 DXCCs confirmed via LotW. Have a few more QSL cards laying around so already > 100 confirmed but they are all in some unsorted staples of QSLs (lots!) and I’m not going to sort through them anytime soon. ;)

Posted in Audio recordings, DX, Propagation, VHF | Comments Off

TJ – Cameroon #134 on 6 m

Propagation sucked today. Six and above stayed closed all day long. Thus I had to rely on Meteor Scatter to work something new. The Camb-Hams are currently active as GS3PYE/P from the Isle of Mull, IOTA EU-008, in the relatively rare gridsquare IO76. I had worked them on 6 m during their 2013’s expedition already but the QSOs on 4 and 2 m via MS this morning provided a new square on both bands. Also LA4LN who was in JO29 for a few days contributed a new square on 6 m. 8-)

TJ3SN_Front5At 18z 6 m opened slightly to the south providing an ES link down to TJ3SN. Had to listen for quite some time to catch the 2 minutes when he was finally audible and fighting my way through the pileup. Great to work a new one even under rather bad condx! One and a half hour later there was TEP propagation into South America again. This time PP1CZ was active himself, not just his beacon, so I did work another new gridsquare on 6 m. :)

Before switching off the radio around local midnight I made a small “tour” around the HF bands. 15 m was still wide open into the U.S. Think the overall higher MUF due to Sporadic E (also if it did not reach 50 MHz much) helps HF propagation, too. Have to think about which category I’m going to start during WPX-CW in 2 weeks. Will it be a single band entry (and if yes which band?) or rather going SOAB? I know I can’t win the latter one so this would be just for fun or reaching some personal goals, i.e. cracking last year’s score

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More 4 m and first 2 m Sporadic E this year

4m_muf_map_15.05What an interesting day! Just worked two OH1’s on MS for a new country and square before leaving for QRL in the morning. So could only watch all the fun on the cluster and DXMaps website. Seems 6 & 4 m were wide open the whole day. When I finally had the chance to escape QRL early afternoon the 4 m band was still wide open, see map (it only shows spots with MUF > 70 MHz for the last 15 min … that’s 80 spots alone!). From here it was open to Malta still and the 9H’s were producing some endstop signals at times. Unfortunately it was very selective so “just” that path open. Nevertheless fun to listen to the guys down there for almost 2 hours. 9H1GB was only running 4 watts into a 5 ele Yagi and peaked s9 several times! That’s the joy of Sporadic E, even small signals will sound like big guns if the skip is right! And sure Malta is an ES hotspot. ;-)

9H1BT:

9H1GB (QRP):

After sigs getting stronger and stronger (9H1BT being s9+40!) it was time to check 2 m. It took no more than a few minutes after QSYing and putting out a few CQs until the band opened. Worked IT9ZVL with marginal signals and much QSB. He was only in for 40 seconds but still enough to complete the QSO. 8-)

Nothing else here, seems it was much better further north and west. Anyway, good to catch the first 2 m ES from here and sure hope it’s a good omen for the upcoming season. After last year’s desaster we could all use some nice long openings this year, don’t we? ;)

Later on 4 m propagation switched more westerly which allowed me to work EA6 for another new country on 70 MHz. :) But it took almost 20 minutes until I could finally raise the attention of Gabriel, EA6VQ, and complete a CW contact although he was up to s7 most of the time! Wonder if he’s got an RX problem …

EA6RF:

EA6VQ:

So not too many QSOs today, seems it was rather a quality than a quantity afternoon. ;-)

------------------------------------------------------------------
 TIME  CALLSIGN      LOCATOR TX     RX     BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
05:39 OH3DP          KP1ØTT  R26    26     4 m.   FSK4  MS    1019
06:09 OH1MN          KP1ØFO  26     R26    4 m.   FSK4  MS     963
12:44 9H1BT          JM75EU  599    599    4 m.   CW    ES    1927
12:48 9H1CG          JM75FW  599    599    4 m.   CW    ES    1918
12:50 9H1GB          JM75FU  579    599    4 m.   CW    ES    1927
13:15 9H1GB          JM75FU  55     59     4 m.   SSB   ES    1927
13:41 IT9ZVL         JM68PC  55     55     2 m.   SSB   ES    1678
14:36 EA6RF          JM19KM  57     59     4 m.   SSB   ES    1746
15:01 EA6VQ          JM19HN  579    559    4 m.   CW    ES    1751
------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted in Audio recordings, DX, Meteor Scatter, Propagation, Sporadic E, VHF | Comments Off

First 4 m ES opening + 6 m ES/TEP link

Father’s Day is a public holiday overhere so I had the chance to be at the station early morning already. Sporadic E season has started and the whole day saw massive ES propagation over all of Europe. MUF went up quickly and also 4 m opened early. Unfortunately I was too close to the reflection zone so the party was rather between OH/ES and G/PA/W-DL during the morning. So only made a few QSOs into Scandinavia on 6 m but nothing new worked. Also worked Udo, DK5YA, for a new square on 70 MHz tropo. Despite 500 km distance CW signals were loud enough for an easy QSO. But it took a bit longer nevertheless as the OIRT QRM from the back of the beam was enormous!

Around 11:20z 4 m opened into the West and propagation path’ were a better fit then. First QSO was with Richard, GU8FBO, thus a new DXCC right for the start. 8-) It took another 20 min until the band opened into more inhabited areas of the U.K. and I could enjoy a great 10 min pileup. ;) Afterwards there were some other small and patchy openings allowing a few more contacts here and there. The following guys made it into the log:

------------------------------------------------------------------
 TIME  CALLSIGN      LOCATOR TX     RX     BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
11:20 GU8FBO         IN89QK  57     55     4 m.   SSB   ES    1238
11:42 G8HGN          JOØ1FO  55     55     4 m.   SSB   ES     948
11:42 G4MKF          IO91HJ  57     57     4 m.   SSB   ES    1076
11:43 G4FUF          JOØ1GN  59     59     4 m.   SSB   ES     943
11:44 G3PFM          IO8ØXS  59     59     4 m.   SSB   ES    1142
11:45 GW3LEW         IO71PS  59     59     4 m.   SSB   ES    1287
11:46 G3NPI          IO92MA  59     57     4 m.   SSB   ES    1030
11:47 G3VXM          IO9ØLT  59     59     4 m.   SSB   ES    1074
11:47 2EØNEY         IO81VK  59     59     4 m.   SSB   ES    1130
11:48 G7SVF          IO9ØIS  59     59     4 m.   SSB   ES    1092
11:49 G4AJC          IO91VJ  59     59     4 m.   SSB   ES     998
11:50 G3ZEZ          JOØ1NT  57     55     4 m.   SSB   ES     897
11:51 G8VYK          JOØ1FO  55     55     4 m.   SSB   ES     948
12:01 EI8IQ          IO62SF  57     58     4 m.   SSB   ES    1391
12:02 M5MUF          IO92JP  59     57     4 m.   SSB   ES    1033
12:10 GWØIRW         IO72XD  599    599    4 m.   CW    ES    1232
12:35 EI4DQ          IO51WU  59     59     4 m.   SSB   ES    1512
12:42 EI3IO          IO63WF  599    599    4 m.   CW    ES    1349
------------------------------------------------------------------

Worked a bunch of new squares during the opening, too, but hey, that’s not too difficult having just started collecting on 4 m. ;)

Here’s a nice audio recording. Had to cut out a bit as my own voice monitor was off and I didn’t want to bore you with listening to silence inbetween. ;-)

Running a nice 4 m pileup:

Also heard a number of beacons. Most of them audible for a few minutes, then vanishing while the next one popped out of the noise. A pity that the active GM stations could not be heard/worked while GM8RBR/B was in. Also a pity nobody was QRV on OY!

EI4RF/B:

GB3BUX/B:

GB3MCB/B:

GM8RBR/B:

OY6BEC/B:

MUF went down during the afternoon and also 6 m was calm. Sporadic E took another peak in the evening and linked into TEP first into South Africa and later into South America. Although there was nothing new to work such openings are always fun and make for the fascination of the “Magic Band”. ;-)

------------------------------------------------------------------
 TIME  CALLSIGN      LOCATOR TX     RX     BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
17:02 ZS4TX/6        KG47UR  579    HRD    6 m.   CW    TEP   8521
19:23 PP1CZ/B        GG99UR  529    HRD    6 m.   CW    TEP   9692
19:26 PY1RO          GG87LB  559    579    6 m.   CW    TEP  10090
------------------------------------------------------------------

 Made a few more audio recordings, enjoy!

ZS4TX/6:

PP1CZ/B:

PY1RO:

Posted in Audio recordings, DX, Propagation, Sporadic E, VHF | Comments Off

Wrong W1AW Worked All States Award received :-(

Was happy to find another letter of the ARRL in the mail box today. Could only have been the applied for W1AW WAS and indeed, it was. ;) But very unhappy as it is not what I applied and paid for! :( I also worked *all* of the additional territories and applied for the according endorsements and the web application form correctly calculated total costs including the endorsements and of course I also paid for them but somehow they forgot to print them onto the certificate. :-(

wrong-w1aw-was

So waiting for their reaction now after informing the awards manager and asking for a corrected replacement. A pity they did it wrong after all the great work they had done with the Centennial activities …

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My first week on “four”

sp3rnz-qsl-4mHaving spent my first week on the new for me 4 m band it might be a good time to sum up my first experiences. As anticipated the band is very interesting. Despite running QRP only into a small 5 ele Yagi tropo QSOs up to 550 km seem to be no problem although most of the time with very deep and long QSB. Depending on whom you work CW is quite doable while with others you have to do digital modes, i.e. JT65, to gain a few more dB’s. Also Meteor Scatter is surprisingly easy! Reflections are a bit longer than on 2 m and although higher in frequency I don’t see much difference in comparison to 6 m. But it seems on 70 MHz it can all be done with a lot less ERP than on 2 m.

4m-wkd-1st-weekThe most challenging part of doing 4 m is certainly finding QSO partners. 70.200 MHz is the “international” calling frequency but our temporary allocation only allows the usage of 70.150 to 70.180 MHz. Thus without any special openings that produce activity and people scanning the band it’s rather difficult to raise a soul. Sure the ON4KST chat helps. But would appreciate more activity by DL’s! ;)

So far I made 40 tropo (black on map) and 7 MS (blue on map) contacts into 33 squares and 9 countries being active on 5 evenings and a bit of Sunday daytime. Looking forward to my first Sporadic E opening now, it’s about time, isn’t it? ;)

Posted in Meteor Scatter, Propagation, QSLs, Tropo, VHF | Comments Off

Small Aurora tonight

Had a rather small Aurora opening this evening with signals fast in & out. Worked:

------------------------------------------------------------------
 TIME  CALLSIGN      LOCATOR TX     RX     BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
17:05 LAØBY          JO59FW  55A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR    784
17:13 SM5KWU         JO89IP  57A    57A    2 m.   CW    AUR    734
17:15 SM4GGC         JO69RK  57A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR    696
17:19 SK4AO          JP7ØTO  52A    51A    2 m.   CW    AUR    829
------------------------------------------------------------------

Unfortunately nothing on 6/4 m via Aurora. But worked a few more 70 MHz tropo QSOs.

Posted in Aurora, DX, Propagation, VHF | Comments Off

First 4 m QSOs done

Finally found a bit time late this evening and worked my first two 70 MHz tropo QSOs with Greg, SP3RNZ, in JO92 (300 km) and Marek, SP2MKO, in JO93 (267 km). Also tried with SP9HWY in JO90 (465 km) whom I could copy a few times up to 529 but unfortunately he couldn’t copy me. We are running about the same power and antennas but Jurek suffers from high noise levels in his city QTH. So we will have to try again with him during the next few days. Tropo condx are also not very stable right now, lots of QSB on all (VHF) bands …

Posted in Propagation, Tropo, VHF | Comments Off

DFØFA results DARC May VHF contest ’15

Back from the “mountain”. Well, “hilltop” is certainly a better description for our location about 100 km north-east of Berlin near the German-Polish border. ;) Expected bad weather but after all we were quite lucky! A few guys already made it into the field on Thursday evening (Friday was a national holiday in Germany) and had bad luck as it was raining quite strong during the night. Starting Friday morning the weather improved and stayed ok until Sunday evening. We even had a few hours of great sunshine and I even caught a small sun burn. :)

df0fa_mai_2015

Condx were not too good. Although running with 2 antenna systems again we did not do any more QSOs than during last year’s May contest. That was a bit disappointing as we had hoped the second system would give an additional advantage as was the case during September. Yes, it sure helped beaming into different directions at the same time but condx and/or activity was down compared to last year. Nevertheless great fun and some nice DX worked …

Contest Report from DF0FA in JO73CF at 144 MHz
==============================================

Contest : DARC-May-Contest 2015
Date    : 2015 May 02 to 2015 May 03
Section : 02 - 144 MHz Multi OP
QTH     : Mühlenberg Luckow

Co-OPs  : DG0ZB;DG1BHA;DH8BQA;DK7YY;DL3BQA;DL5CW;DL9USA

TX      : Elecraft K3 + ME2HT-PRO + HLV-1000, 750 W
RX      : Elecraft K3 + ME2HT-PRO + MGF 1302
Antenna : 2x8 ele DK7ZB + 4x6 ele G0KSC, 10 mAGL, 90 mASL
Log     : Win-Test 4.12.0 (report in TACLog after log conversion)

QSOs    :  435
-invalid:    2     Points/valid QSO
-valid  :  433     QSO-points (*1)    :     163192           377
WWLs    :   73     WWL bonus (0)      :          0             0
DXCCs   :   16     DXCC bonus (0)     :          0             0
----------------------------------------------------------------
                   Total score        :     163192           377

ODX     : IK8YSW in JN70FP at 1400 km

Worked World Wide Locators:
JN19:   1  JN70:   1  JO11:   1  JO44:   3  JO64:   3  JO82:   2
JN37:   2  JN76:   3  JO20:   2  JO45:   1  JO65:   3  JO83:   1
JN38:   1  JN77:   1  JO21:   4  JO46:   2  JO66:   1  JO84:   2
JN39:   4  JN78:   3  JO22:   1  JO50:  17  JO68:   1  JO90:   5
JN47:   4  JN79:  12  JO30:   9  JO51:  13  JO70:  18  JO91:   2
JN48:   6  JN86:   3  JO31:  25  JO52:  16  JO71:   8  JO92:   1
JN49:  11  JN87:   1  JO32:   5  JO53:  14  JO72:   9  JO94:   1
JN57:   2  JN88:   9  JO33:   6  JO54:   2  JO73:   9  KN08:   1
JN58:   8  JN89:   3  JO40:   6  JO57:   1  JO74:   1  KN09:   1
JN59:   3  JN97:   1  JO41:  10  JO60:  14  JO76:   1  KN18:   1
JN67:   1  JN99:  10  JO42:  18  JO61:  31  JO80:   4  KO02:   1
JN68:   3  JO10:   1  JO43:  24  JO62:  29  JO81:   1  KO11:   2
JN69:   6

Worked DXCCs:
9A :   1   HA :   4   OE :   9   ON :   4   S5 :   3   SP :  35
DL : 292   HB :   3   OK :  48   OZ :   3   SM :   7   UR :   1
F  :   2   I  :   1   OM :   9   PA :  11

Top 10 QSO-points:
20150503 0507 IK8YSW         59   330  59   051 JN70FP     1400
20150503 0059 TM2F           599  305  599  037 JN19PG      877
20150503 1146 HB9GF          59   415  59   452 JN37WB      821
20150503 1037 UR7DWW         59   401  59   202 KN18EO      769
20150503 0117 S56K           599  308  599  131 JN76KI      766
20150503 0253 9A1CMS         599  319  599  074 JN86DM      761
20150503 0521 ON4KHG         59   335  59   055 JO10XO      761
20150503 1211 HB9W           59   420  59   313 JN47IK      753
20150502 1407 F4FCW          59   009  59   004 JN38FO      748
20150502 1936 HB9EFK         59   218  59   212 JN47PH      745

Remarks:
IK8YSW was worked on a good Meteor burst. Another good reflection
from LZ1V but unfortunately no complete contact. Elsewise average
to bad condx.

Heiko, DG1BHA, made a few Microwave QSOs as well reaching 11 QSOs on 3,4 GHz and another 22 QSOs on 10 GHz. As good as it was to have rather nice weather it also meant that the ugly weather front was too far away to allow any Rainscatter QSOs this time.

Posted in Contesting, VHF | Comments Off

Temporary permit to use 4 m in DL again! :-)

German BNetzA informed today (Amtsblatt 8/2015, Mitteilung Nr. 412/2015) that they allow German class A radio amateurs to operate on 4 m again during the upcoming Sporadic E season. 8-) Effective from today the permit is valid until 31 August 2015 allowing transmissions between 70.150 and 70.180 MHz with a maximum bandwidth of 12 kHz and 25 watts ERP with horizontally polarized antennas. Everything on a non-interference basis.

So it was good to install the duoband antenna a few weeks ago already. ;) I also built a coax based diplexer for 6/4 m during the last few days doing lots of measurements and learning quite a few new things along the line. Will try to report about that during the next few days here on the blog, too.

When going the 700 km home again this weekend to do the VHF contest on 2 m with the guys as DFØFA I will take the chance to also install the new coax cable and hopefully do my first ever 70 MHz QSOs as well then, even if only on tropo. ;) Sure my new ME4T-PRO transverter (just arrived last week!) will do a superb job. We’re using it’s 2 m sibling ME2HT-PRO for our VHF contesting and it indeed is a great piece of hardware with excellent technical parameters! So hope to see you on 4 m soon …

And please look for us as DFØFA from JO73CF on 2 m during the contest this weekend!

Posted in Contesting, Equipment, Propagation, VHF | Comments Off

WPX-SSB 2015 raw scores published

wpx-ssb-2015-claimedRaw scores for this year’s WPX-SSB contest were published yesterday. Seems I can be proud of placing 1st out of 6 participants in Germany, 2nd out of 52 in Europe and 6th out of 85 worldwide! 8-)

The points differences to the guys before and behind me is big enough that I don’t expect any changes in the placement after the final log checks. So it seems all the efforts and endurance especially on Sunday paid off. ;)

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Centennial Points Challenge Award

Unexpectedly something in the mailbox again today! :) That’s for sure one I’m really proud of and one of the few that will find it’s place on the shack wall! I really like all the new designs of ARRL, be it the Centennial Awards or all the new style contest awards! 8-)

DH8BQA-Centennial-Award-TOP-Level

Being active in the ARRL’s Centennial QP activities chasing the W1AW portable stations but also being very “radio-active” in general last year provided the chance to reach the top level with it’s needed 15.000 points easily. Besides extra points for the W1AW contacts every ARRL member was worth points (me too!) so a lot of the “normal” QSOs done during the year 2014 counted, too. I placed 3rd out of 1.475 German single operator participants on the leader board. 8-) Didn’t expect to receive the award that fast as I had only applied for it 2 weeks ago. ARRL staff is obviously doing a great job getting all the paper out the door! Now waiting to find the W1AW portable WAS Award and the plaque which I also applied for in the mailbox, too. ;)

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SP DX contest certificate received

SP-DX-2014-DH8BQA Found the winner certificate for my last year’s entry in the SP DX contest in the post box today. I have to admit I liked the “old design” of the contest certificates much better!

Remember my participation quite well as it was lots of fun chasing the guys all on backscatter. Being located directly at the DL-SP border there is no chance for any sky wave propagation into Poland on 10 m (except maybe some Sporadic-E into the southeastern-most parts of the country with 500-700 km distance … but even then it must be a very good ES opening with high MUF to enable short distances which is not common at all that time of the year). Thus relying entirely on BS with weak signals was a challenge at times but almost all of the SP guys are very good operators so no problem. And it was even good for a new country record. 8-)

Also thought about participating in this year’s contest again, maybe on 80 m, but due to the bad weather before Easter (the contest conincided with Easter again this year) I rather spent Saturday and a bit of Easter Sunday completing our antenna builds. So maybe next year again.

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Japan International DX Contest CW

No radio activity here since Easter. Had a marker in my calendar that JIDX-CW would be this past weekend. Wasn’t in the mood to participate on Saturday, thoughts were rather in a QRL project I’m handling right now. Also saw on the cluster that condx must have been awful. Sunday morning saw me in better mood so I switched on the radio. Heard some weak JA signals on 10 m so gave it a go there. Some of the JA1’s and 4’s were rather loud (meaning S4-5) but most of the JA’s were down in the noise making it serious weak signal work. But I like a challenge every now and then. ;-)

                    JIDX CW Contest

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SOSB/10 HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 3

Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Mults
-------------------
   10:  45     24
-------------------
Total:  44     24  Total Score = 2,112

Comments:
Elecraft K3, KPA500 + 6 ele OWA Yagi

After all it should be good enough for the country win again. ;) Last year’s condx were even worse and I made only 13 QSOs but that was enough to win 10 m DL … being the only DL participating. :-D

Besides the few contest QSOs I used some time to further “test-drive” the new WARC antenna. Although condx were rather bad the JA’s on 5WØ (Western Samoa) were some easy catches on 12 & 10 m CW. Amazing as the path is almost directly over the Northpole! ZL7E on 15 m RTTY was a new digital DXCC country, nice. Easily working some good Caribbean DX like HK, 8P, ZF, FM, YV, etc. late in the evening (almost local midnight here) on 18 MHz was much fun, too. A 2 ele *is* good bang for the buck! 8-)

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Antennas, antennas, antennas

6-4-duoBeen busy the week before Easter with some antenna work. Weather was just awful with heavy storms and even snow on two mornings! So I prepared the new 6/4 m Dualband Yagi indoors and could only mount it on Good Friday thanks to the help of Heiko, DG1BHA. It’s now where the 10/6 m Dualband Yagi used to be. Unfortunately the 1/2″ coax cable is broken, must be water in there somewhere. :( Of course I left all my cable reserves back here in Cologne so 700 km away. Oh well … will prepare a new one before going up to the station again beginning of May and change the cable then. The new antenna has a bit more gain on 6 m than the old one and also offers 4 m, both on the same 5 m boom. Keeping fingers crossed German RegTP will allow us to work 4 m again this summer! Would be great to gain some experience on that band, too. ;)

Casekow-20150404-00099We also used the time to dismount the old 5 ele 6 m Yagi on top the 20 m Yagi and repair it. Brought it up above the 15 m Yagi then. On top of the 20 m beam is now a 17/12 m Dualband Yagi. We had to use the existing other antennas (i.e. the 10 m Yagi on 12 m) and match them to put out a signal on these two WARC bands somehow. Believe me, having just 2 resonant elements on both bands now is a night and day difference compared to the matched somethings from before. ;)

Although I once again missed to pack the camera (doh!) I took some photos of Heiko doing all the heavy lifting on the masts using an old smartphone. Left shows him just finished with mounting the new WARC beam and now fixing the coax up on the 9 m high platform. Right shows him up above the 15 m beam (on a 15 m boom) mounting the old 5 ele 6 m Yagi (4.5 m boom) normally used by Uwe.

IMG-20150404-00104  Casekow-20150405-00134

I also took a short video clip of Heiko preparing the ropes to get the 6 m beam up for mounting above the 15 m beam. Just to show some dimensional comparison. ;) And it was quite windy, too!

So quite some work done in the 3 days that we could use weather-wise. After changing out the coax in 3 weeks I hope we can “just use” everything for a while then. Time to think about additional stuff now, isn’t it? ;)

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CQ-WPX-SSB 2015

Another WPX-SSB is done. Although not planned I managed to take Friday off and drive the 700 km to the station the night from Thursday to Friday already. Was certainly the better choice than driving after QRL on Friday evening arriving Saturday morning and then starting right into the contest. ;-) So I had the chance to do the station setup without hurry and also spend some time with Uwe, DL3BQA, discussing strategies, etc.
As I had the choice of band this time (we usually do 2 single OP entries as 2 guys is simply not enough for a serious Multi-OP entry) it was back and forth between 15 and 10 m for me. Conditions were quite bad during the last few days and weeks. Even on Friday there was no propagation to the U.S. at all. I nevertheless choose to go for 10 m (yes, the addictive thing ;-)) hoping that the high speed solar wind stream expected to hit the Earth this weekend (received the warning email by Australian IPS Space Forecast Centre just Friday evening, too) might have a small positive impact (as already seen several times in the past) before condx would really go south afterwards. And of course this could be the last contest where 10 m is usable at all! Me on 10 m meant Uwe was going to do 15 m as DMØY where condx should be much better. After all we had sun spot numbers > 100 and a solar flux of almost 140 was not too bad either. But A index was up to 16 … ouch! My last WPX-SSB 10 m entry from Germany was 2012 with comparably bad condx so about 700-800 QSOs should be possible nevertheless.

Saturday
Got up at 5:20z and the band already showed first signs of live. First QSO was with 9N7CC. Seems the Polish guys installed a nice setup there on “the roof of the world”. First hour brought some 35 search & pounce QSOs which is a little more than to be expected normally. Activity was quite good but signals could have been better. Backscatter was rather weak, too. Also no direct path JA opening. Worked JA7OWD on sidescatter beaming 90° (direct path would have been 45°) around 9z. Only two ZL’s worked, too. ZM2IO later “complained” I did not hear him when he called me. :( Sorry Holger, usually my RX is very good compared to many others and I am able to dig out all the weak guys. This time condx were no good to ZL …
At 10z it was as if somebody had switched on the ionosphere! Suddenly a very good short path opening into JA although already totally dark overthere. Managed to work 37 JA’s in the following 2 hours. Sorrily not more, they certainly already QSY’ed down to 15 and/or 20 m by then. Fascinating stuff as this is normally the time when JA would open long path. Not so this time … Seems the old saying stays true: There ain’t no meters like ten meters. ;-)
At 12:30z again VE9AA opened the band into North America. Good to chat with you for a few moments, Mike, always much appreciated. :-) And yes, good to see NA open at all! Fearing the worst I was really positively surprised! Of course it was not as good as during WWDX-SSB last year but still nice with numerous QSOs into the East Coast. There were just a handful of Mid-West stations and only a few (but strong!) guys from the South-West, i.e. Southern California and Arizona, making it into the log. Nothing from the North-West, though. The band closed around 19:30z direct path (300-320°) but was still usable on scatter beaming skewed path to 270° (Caribbean) for another hour! Interestingly also South American stations were strongest beaming 270° instead of the usual 240° until the band finally closed exactly 21z! Seems there was a really nice scatter point. :) It was superb for Europe on backscatter, too. Even Frank, DL8LR, running 5 watts but a good beam was a true 57 on the K3’s calibrated s-meter! 8-)
What put me down a bit on Saturday was that I was constantly about 10-20 QSOs ahead of DK3T (DO9EE & DK3EE operating) until the U.S. opening started. Checking back on them short before the band closed they were ahead almost 500 QSOs! Ouch … :-( Yes, my run rates were not too high although I had clear frequencies (asked a few callers) and also changed regularly when recognizing rate was dropping too much but I really wondered what I might have done wrong? There is a bit of station difference, yes, more aluminium in the air at Tom’s station and a bit more power and surely better location 400 km west but a commanding lead of 50% on QSO totals after the first day … wow! Seems they had much more luck with the NA opening. Went to bed with 930 QSOs in the log …

Sunday
jp3ibb_1Band started a little later on Sunday. Amazingly the first signal heard was JA7OWD at 5:50z! This time skewed path beaming 120° (i.e. A6, A7, etc.) instead of the usual 45° (no signal there). They were just above the noise but still! But it was not until 6:15z when I did the first QSO so almost an hour later than Saturday. Only made 9 QSOs during the first hour. Not a good omen. But 12 years old JP3IBB called at 7:30z with a solid 59+10dB signal, wow! Band was open to JA for a bit over 2 hours but still not too many stations in the log. Seems it was rather only the big guns who made it but most of them were really strong! Good thing is the noise into direction Japan is completely gone (although we never found out what it was!) so no limitations on that matter any more. :) Added a few more JA’s in a small long path opening after 10:30z, too. So 87 JA’s in total. Yes, not too many (with good condx we usually have some 250-300 in the log) but still better than expected when deciding for 10 m on Friday afternoon. ;-)
Sorrily there was no North America opening at all on Sunday afternoon, complete absence. Also backscatter condx detoriated constantly so it was quite a challenge to pull out all the weak guys calling in although there were some really strong backscatter signals until late into the evening. Maybe the weak guys were just running low power or QRP and simple antennas? I had to constantly check for the best backscatter point to make the most out of it. Luckily activity from South America was extraordinarily high with almost 50 LU’s and 140 PY’s worked (usually it’s only about 1/4 of those figures if at all). So that made up for it a little bit.
At 16z a weak W5BN called in and I had hopes the band might now open up into the U.S. but it was not. A quick check on antenna direction revealed he was best skewed path dir 260° on scatter. Eight minutes later K6ND (MA) called in for a dupe. Maybe he just wanted to see if the band was open but he, too, was only in skewed path. He was rather loud at s7. Wouldn’t believe my ears when N6ENU from Southern California called me 16:30z. He was very weak but we finally made it after 2 or 3 minutes digging deep into the noise. Great if you have a passionate VHF weak signal guy on the other end who simply knows how to work scatter QSOs. ;-) 20 minutes later WB5JHY and VO1SO called on scatter, too, but that was it: just 5 QSOs into continental North America and all within one hour on skewed path. For comparison Caribbean stations were rather loud!
17 to 20:20z, before the band went completely dead, was not too productive anymore but still allowed another 120 QSOs. Small surprise was 19:05z when Mike, VE9AA, called again just to tell me he could hear me. Quick check confirmed he was just coming in skewed path, too. And even that seemed to be very selective as there were no other callers.
Good news: until the band closed I managed to lower the advantage of DK3T to something like 260 QSOs. Seems Sunday was a bit better for me. :) Not sure if they worked some more QSOs afterwards (the band closes a little later for them due to their more westerly location) but that difference is quite okay for the equipment and antenna differences. Maybe we should also go for at least 3 antennas per band in the future overhere. If we only had enough space and money … :-o

Conclusions
Unexpectedly good conditions on Saturday (positive phase before solar storm hitting Earth) and rather bad on Sunday (negative impact of solar wind). Made about twice as many QSOs as anticipated. Need more hardware to seriously compete with some certain guys. ;-)
Some really bad splatter signals on the band(s) again. UA9MA being 59+20 was +/- 20 kHz wide. When I told him he thanked me, retuned his PA and anticipated it would be better. Yes, it was, he was then “only” +/- 15 kHz wide! CN3A had a really wide signal (+/- 15 kHz), too. Just to name the two worst offenders. :( On the other hand there were some really loud but exceptionally clean signals, too. Yes, you can tell the difference between a K3’s (or other similarily good rigs, I’m not fixated on the K3) and an FT-1000MP’s or “modern” ICOM’s transmitting signal …
Taking the splatter issues aside I had lots of fun again! Detailed SH5 analysis is available here. Looking forward to WPX-CW now …

                    CQWW WPX Contest, SSB

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SO(A)SB10 HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 30

Summary:
 Band  QSOs
------------
   10: 1611  (incl. dupes)
------------
Total: 1576  Prefixes = 865  Total Score = 2,930,620

Club: Bavarian Contest Club

BTW: Uwe made about 1200 QSOs on 15 m on Saturday and another 400+ on Sunday. Although condx on Sunday were not as bad on 15 m as on 10 m he simply had some bad luck as he lost his run QRG a few times and couldn’t find a new one. Also rates were not too high on 15 m. Seems we need some more aluminium on that band, too. ;)

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Superb Aurora opening

au-ovation-17.03.2015Thanks to the phone alert by Heiko, DG1BHA, I managed to get out of QRL not too late yesterday evening. There was a very strong Aurora going on and Heiko being at our station had already worked over 20 stations on 2 m SSB which is really demanding and needs very strong Aurora condx – CW sure is the easier mode for Aurora as it is much easier to decode with the raspy audio distortion. ;) A few examples of how SSB Aurora sounds can be found on my Youtube channel. These were recorded during the great opening in July 2012.

I was right on time for when the Aurora got so strong it even enabled contacts into Southern Europe! This only happens about 3-4 times per solar cycle … if it is an intensive one! The current cycle is a rather weak one so this was just the second AU opening that I’m aware of that brought condx for Southern Europe, too. So it was very nice to see all the great VHF’ers in HA, 9A, etc. on Aurora for a change and even IK3VZO was worked! 8-)

What was also interesting is I had to regularly change antenna direction. Reflection zones were scattered between 290 and 70 degrees! There were times when even the G & GM stations were only audible when beaming 70°, wow! Unfortunately there was no possibility to work any UA stations until very late in the evening. It seemed the reflection zone was so far south it also blocked DX into east. When it was finally possible to work into Russia I stumbled across RV3YM in KO63. This would have been a new square but unfortunately it was not his frequency so I lost him. Never heard him back so was quite sad for the moment. But luckily condx got better again about an hour later when I finally found him CQing and bingo, #508 on 2 m worked. :)

aurora-berge-österreichI was a bit shocked when RK9AT called me while CQing! Thoughts already started spinning … oh wow, UA9 on 2 m, fantastic, this must be a new record, a.s.o. :-o But when he repeated his callsign a 2nd time I recognized he was /3 so “only” in UA3 but still some very nice DX! ;)

Around 20z it seemed to be over so Heiko called it a day with 32 SSB-QSOs in the log. I think we were below the reflection zone ourselves in JO73 then. About an hour later the Aurora was even visible down in Austria! Now that is neat! Sure the webcam’s height of 2.970 m ASL helped to extend the visible horizon a few hundred kilometers. Weather was also superb with clear blue sky during the day so that helped, too. Heiko reported to have seen some weak visual Aurora as well. Just click on the right hand picture to get to the originating website. Isn’t that fantastic? :-)

I did not think of switching on the audio recorder early enough so only two recordings this time, but both being real good DX!

RV3YM in KO63PR, 1.261 km via Aurora:

RN3F in KO86RE, 1.523 km via Aurora:

I made some 85 QSOs in total, you can view the full log here. The most distant contacts, i.e. over 800 km, were made with these great guys:

------------------------------------------------------------------
 TIME  CALLSIGN      LOCATOR TX     RX     BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
22:03  RN3F          KO86RE  55A    57A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1523
22:18  RK9AT/3       KO86QF  53A    57A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1518
18:50  EI3KD         IO51VW  59A    58A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1515
17:54  EI4DQ         IO51WU  59A    59A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1512
18:47  GI1CET        IO74DS  59A    59A    2 m.   SSB   AUR   1309
20:13  GM4VVX        IO78TA  53A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1279
23:12  RV3YM         KO63PR  55A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1261
22:37  GM3WOJ        IO77WS  55A    57A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1257
23:39  RA3LBK        KO64PW  56A    56A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1256
22:41  GM4PPT        IO75SK  55A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1232
17:32  GM3SEK        IO74SR  59A    59A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1229
00:36  OH5LK         KP3ØON  55A    56A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1134
20:03  G7RAU         IO9ØIR  51A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1094
18:05  G4MKF         IO91HJ  57A    57A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1076
18:03  G4AEP         IO91NJ  55A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR   1043
23:28  ES6FX         KO37OW  59A    57A    2 m.   CW    AUR    970
19:23  G4DHF         IO92UU  55A    57A    2 m.   CW    AUR    969
00:00  ES5PC         KO38HJ  57A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR    966
18:00  G4FUF         JOØ1GN  57A    57A    2 m.   CW    AUR    943
17:43  IK3VZO        JN55XA  55A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR    922
17:29  G4SWX         JOØ2RF  57A    57A    2 m.   CW    AUR    864
18:28  HA8CE         KNØ6EN  52A    53A    2 m.   CW    AUR    858
18:12  F6GYH         JN27TS  55A    54A    2 m.   CW    AUR    854
23:24  G4CDN         JOØ2SS  57A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR    848
22:05  SK4AO         JP7ØTO  59A    59A    2 m.   CW    AUR    829
17:48  UR5WD         KO2ØNC  55A    55A    2 m.   CW    AUR    826
23:26  SKØEN         JO99JX  59A    57A    2 m.   CW    AUR    805
------------------------------------------------------------------

I decided to call it a day at 1:30 A.M. while the Aurora was still in full swing, although moved up North. This sure was a real fun evening! I was indeed a bit exhausted after 10 hours in QRL and another 7 hours straight on the radio but it was definitely worth it. ;-)

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Again two ATNOs wkd :-)

Haven’t been very active lately. Handed out just a few points during ARRL-DX-SSB last weekend and didn’t switch on the radio at all during the week … QRL taking it’s toll. This morning was a little different. Decided to chase the current DXpeditions like E3ØFB, 7QAA, 9QØHQ, etc. for a few new LotW slot confirmations. Doing so I ran across E51UFF on 20 CW. He was not very loud but good to see the path over the Northpole open at all. Checking qrz.com later I discovered he was on North Cook rather than South Cook. I had worked the latter a few times already but North Cook indeed was an ATNO. :)

h44ntHalf an hour later I stumbled across H44NT on 15 SSB. He had a big pileup so it was rather listening listening listening with an occassional call every now and then. Caught him about 10 minutes later for another ATNO, so up to #304 now. :)

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ARRL-DX 2014 certificates received

arrl-dx-cw-2014      arrl-dx-ssb-2014Two times post from the ARRL contest committee during the last few days. Received the ARRL-DX-CW participation certificate for doing more than 500 QSOs as a DX participant as well as the winner certificate for winning SOAB Unlimited Germany in the ARRL-DX-SSB last year. :)

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CQ-WW-160-SSB

Well, I did not plan to take part in that one. As reported earlier I have an RFI problem using the remote on 160 m. Practically this means I’m limited to about 15-20 watts output if I want to reliably transfer TX audio through the line without loosing packets or even the complete connection. Nevertheless it was itching to do some QSOs Friday evening. :) Thus I decided to do at least a few contacts with 5 watts for a small QRP entry and see what happens. After all it meant catching a few points for the club competition for the BCC, too. But 160 m, SSB & QRP does not sound like a winning combination, does it?

Well, I will certainly not go for it again. It was quite painful and I swore like a trooper several times not getting people’s attention. :( Uwe, DL3BQA, told me on Saturday about the current German QRP record and asked if I might not want to go for it. Initially I did not want to, it should be just a leisurely participation with a few QSOs here and there. But seeing it really getting in reach provided some additional motivation so I put in a few extra hours.

Condx were not favourable for DX. Besides my QRP signal not reaching very far (most of the QSOs were in a 1.000 km circle) I did not even hear much DX. Two UA9’s Saturday evening (no contacts) and only two U.S. stations heard Sunday morning, both just above the noise so did not even call. But then I stumbled across a very loud HK1T who came right back to my first call. Wow, almost 10.000 km, SSB QRP on 160 m, unbelievable! Being so impressed I started the audio recorder to at least record him afterwards.

HK1T with a real 59 signal on 160 m:

If you’re asking what about the QRP record – yes, I made it, even with a good margin. :) Let’s see what the result is good for …

                    CQ 160-Meter Contest, SSB

Call: DH8BQA

Class: Single Op QRP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 15

Summary:
Total:  QSOs = 272    Countries = 41    Total Score = 46,822

Club:
Bavarian Contest Club

Comments:
Elecraft K3, 5 W + full size Lazy Loop @ 18 m

Next contest for me will be WPX-SSB at the end of March. Will be back in JO73 then with a week of holidays afterwards to do some antenna work with the guys …

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