More 6 m across the pond …

Six has been open across the pond again tonight. Signals have been as strong as never heard before. So after my rant yesterday it seems the propagation god decided to send a good opening to JO73 today … maybe I should complain more often. ;-) Sorrily it was very localized, i.e. only grids FN85 & FN86 in Canada could be worked. Whenever we are lucky to get an opening at all the signals are usually just above the noise. Not so this time: VY2ZM/FN86 was real 599 on my K3′s calibrated s-meter and VE1PZ/FN85 made it up to 569 on the meter. Only made a QSO with VE1PZ after he was calling CQ without an answer. Otherwise I would not have called him (and didn’t with VY2ZM) as I had already worked him during an opening a few years ago. Rather leaving the opportunities to the other guys for whom it could be a new one. Just wished everybody would think that way!



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Massive 4 m opening and a bit of 6 m NA

Six meters opened into North America tonight but once again bad luck overhere. Briefly heard AC4TO with about 419 and K4RX with 529 but couldn’t raise their attention. A pity as both would have been new squares. Always have the impression JO73 is the blackhole during such openings. Seems skip distances are always right to reach G, ON, PA then jumping over our heads and only eastern Europe getting the propagation again. :(

Muf-20-07-2014-rauBesides this ES conditions were outstanding during late afternoon and evening (although 2 m did not open). 6 & 4 m have been open until well after midnight local time across Europe. I didn’t do many QSOs as I was mainly looking for new squares (but none found). Picture left shows just 4 m cluster spots mapped for a 10 minute period around 16:50 UTC. Seems a lot of German guys have fun on 4 m now, too. We got a special permit to operate the lower 30 kHz of 4 m, i.e. 70.000 to 70.030 MHz, from July 1st to August 31st 2014. Practically almost all QSOs have to be done using split as the rest of Europe is usually doing their operations around 70.200 MHz. I did not become QRV yet due to the short time frame. Nevertheless a big THANKS to DARC for their persistance to make 4 m happen in DL. They are further working on a permanent permit to use the band in Germany. So hopefully next year we might have more spectrum access and for a longer period, keeping fingers crossed! ;)

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Did a few QSOs on RTTY during the weekend in DMC and NAQP contests mainly to further test N1MMLogger+. It’s a quite stable product already, only finding minor things still that do not harm contest operations. To be honest I cannot even imagine to ever go back to the “classic” N1MMLogger anymore as all the small new features of NL+ make life so much easier and more comfortable. ;-)

Was looking for new US states in NAQP but sorrily none worked (still missing 11 RTTY confirmations in LoTW for my WAS Triple Play Award, CW & SSB full house already, of course ;-)). 15 m closed early, condx were rather poor compared to the last few days & weeks. 20 m was well open during the night, worked a number of CA stations there. Amazing sigs at times taking into account they can only use 100 W in the NAQP.

As I was using 500 W and cluster my few QSOs were just good for a checklog:

                North American QSO Party, RTTY - July

Call: DH8BQA

QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 5

 Band  QSOs  Mults
   20:   85    43
   15:   18    11
Total:  103    54  Total Score = 5,562

For DMC made an entry in the 12 hours class. Had a nice JA run Sunday morning. :)

                   DMC RTTY Contest

Call: DH8BQA

Class: Single Op 12 HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 10

 Band  QSOs
   40:   20
   20:  116
   15:  177
   10:   23
Total:  336  Total Score = 133,056
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I did not really plan to enter this year’s IARU HF Championship. We do some station sharing for the bigger contests between Uwe, DL3BQA, and me. In the past both RUSDX and IARU-HF were for the same OP (either Uwe or me) within the same year. To make that more fair we just recently decided to swap things, i.e. I had the RUSDX this year so Uwe would take the IARU this year, next year the other way round. Sorrily Uwe could not make it into IARU-HF due to short-term QRL, a pity. So I took the chance to do a non-serious effort just to hand out a few points and chase all the WRTC participants. ;-) All in all about 16 hours for radio besides some other obligations.

WRTC 2014 FAI was able to snatch all 59 WRTC stations (202 QSOs in total) to qualify for a few of the Activity & Participation Awards. Band by band breakdown shows 35 wkd on 40 m, 57 on 20 m and 55 on 15 m. N1S was worked on all 6 band/mode slots used, ufb! A big number of guys with 4 or 5 slots, too. All stations worked on at least 2 slots except for K1O whom I could only work on 20 CW, never heard them anywhere else. Wonder if they had some problems or just the wrong choice of bands vs. times? Was also thrilling to watch the live scoreboard and see things evolving. ;-) These ladies and gents really are the world’s top-notch contesters! Even the “worst” team did some 3.100 QSOs with just 100 W & a tri-bander plus dipole in 24 hours and the leaders made some 4.500+ QSOs … wow! These are figures us normal guys just dream about. ;-)

Besides chasing the WRTC crowd I made some “normal” contacts, too, i.e. handing out points here & there. Did a few runs on 15 CW but not too much, about 80% of all QSOs were done by S&P due to the above mentioned chase. Used the cluster this time not to miss any WRTCs (as this was my main goal and reasoning for being QRV at all) so this entry goes into the M/S class as the IARU-HF does not have an assisted class. I did not take care of the 10 min band change rule for M/S so it might well be I will get reclassified to a checklog or even get “disqualified” for too many band changes within 10 minutes. A quick look into the log revealed at least 5 rule violations – so be it, no serious entry. ;-)

Here’s the overall result of this part time activity:

                    IARU HF World Championship

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SO(A) --> M/S HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 16

 Band  CW Qs  Ph Qs  Zones  HQ Mults
  160:    9     11      1       15
   80:   24     26      5       22
   40:   88     23      8       31
   20:  137     82     15       30
   15:  216     78     25       38
   10:   31     23      8       19
Total:  505    243     62      155  Total Score = 563,115

Elecraft K3 + KPA500 = 500 W, 160 m lazy loop, 80 & 40 m dipoles,
20 m 4 ele YU7EF Yagi, 15 m & 10 m 6 ele G0KSC OWA Yagis each
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Two ATNOs worked

During the last two days I worked T88KH, Republic of Palau, on 15 m SSB and V73NS, Marshall Islands, on 15 m CW for two all time new ones. DXCC total up to 292 now, slowly moving to the “magic” 300. ;-) As I am not too serious about HF DXing (more of a VHF & contesting guy), i.e. I would certainly not spend hours after hours, days after days, just to work a new one, I am quite happy with the results. ;-)

6 m has been dead dead dead again during the last few days. This morning at least saw a small and very localized opening into Spain when I finally managed to work EB4IC in IM78 for square #605. Have been chasing him for quite a while now. AFAIK he’s the only active station in IM78.

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YA – Afghanistan #131 on 6 m

Lucky guy overhere! Finally caught T6DD on 6 m today for DXCC #131 and square #604. He has been quite active during the last few weeks but the skip was never right. But this morning it finally did fit. :) So it was good to monitor his frequency besides doing the VHF contest. ;-) As he’s using LoTW the QSO is already confirmed, too. :)

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DAØHQ in July’s VHF contest 2014

We had the honor to activate DAØHQ on 2 m during last weekend’s VHF contest. DAØHQ is the German Headquarters station during next weekend’s IARU HF World Championship. So we used the call to be active on 2m, too, and hand out this year’s special DOK HQ14. DAØHQ is a mandatory station to be worked for the DJ60DXMB jubilee award so it’s been a rare opportunity for the VHF-only guys. ;)

Contest         : DARC VHF-, UHF-, Microwave contest, July '14
Callsign        : DA0HQ 
Category        : Multi Operator - Single Transmitter (MS) 
Band(s)         : Single band (SB) 144 
Class           : High Power (HP) 
Locator         : JO73CE 

  144   456   0  79  173908   381.4   381.4 
TOTAL   456   0  79  173908   381.4   381.4 
           TOTAL SCORE : 173 908 

Operators       : DG1BHA, DH8BQA, DK7YY, DL3BQA, DL5CW 
Soapbox         : Handing out the HQ14 special DOK ...

Besides doing the contest we exchanged the 15 m rotator, too. Now having a KR-2700SDX rotating our “monster”, i.e. a 6 ele OWA Yagi on a 15 m boom. The 2700 can take a bit more load than the old 2000 so having a better feeling now. ;-)

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Sporadic E on 2 m

ES-02.07.2014Finally a good opening this evening. It started with a lonely EI3KD being 59+20 while calling CQ on 144.300 MHz. Worked him with just 8 W as the PA was still off. :) No other ones around. After he faded I put out a few CQs myself which were answered by EI4DQ, thanks Tom! Band closed afterwards to open up again 15 minutes later. Could work another 3 QSOs before sigs faded again. Another 10 minutes later it opened once more when EI9JS answered my CQ calls. All in all very patchy but with strong signals. While I was able to work into IO51 only at the beginning IO53 worked into other parts of Germany. Later on all shifted and EI7IX (new square #489) was pounding in very loud. Was a pleasure to listen to him for a while. As there is not too much activity in Ireland you can afford to take the time for such things. ;) Did hear EI6GF in IO62 several times in CW but sorrily he could not hear me :-(, would have been another new square, too.

Log excerpt:

QSO by DH8BQA on 2 m.
Type of propagation: ES        Mode: All mode
From 02/07/2014 to 02/07/2014  Distance over: 0 Km.  Page: 1
02/07/2014  18:40  EI3KD    IO51VW   59 59  SSB         1515
02/07/2014  18:47  EI4DQ    IO51WU   59 59  SSB         1512
02/07/2014  19:03  EI7IX    IO53FT   59 59  SSB         1565
02/07/2014  19:09  EI3GYB   IO53OT   59 59  SSB         1516
02/07/2014  19:10  GI6ATZ   IO74AJ   59 59  SSB         1326
02/07/2014  19:22  EI9JS    IO53QX   59 59  SSB         1503
Number of QSO listed: 6

Made a few audio recordings again. Whenever you hear silence it was me talking. Audio monitor was off, sorry for that.

EI3KD (CQing): 

EI4DQ (in QSO with me): 

EI7IX (with a string of QSOs): 

EI3GYB & GI6ATZ (in QSOs with me, both on same frequency): 

EI6GF (CQing, but did not hear me despite 700 W and a 9 ele LFA): 

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J3 – Grenada #130 on 6 m

Caribbean was open again tonight. Sorrily the skip was not right so could only hear half of Europe working all the DX but nothing here. J38DR was finally audible for about a minute weak and with lots of QRM but I was lucky enough to catch him for DXCC #130 on 6 m. No luck with 8P6SH and OA4TT who were worked by other locals and would have been new ones, too.

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600 on 6

Back from Friedrichshafen. It was a great convention again and good to meet so many people. Really appreciated the nice feedback after my lecture as well as all the people knocking on my shoulders to tell me they use one of my solutions described elsewhere on this website. ;)

After being back home switched on the rig to work 9K2/SP4R in LL39 as my 600th grid square on 6 m, yeah! :) CT3FT in IM13 an hour later provided #601. Sorrily none of the Caribbean DX was workable overhere.

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HAM RADIO Friedrichshafen

logo-hamGoing to leave for the 600 km trip down to lake Constance tomorrow to join the HAM RADIO International Exhibition for Radio Amateurs in Friedrichshafen. Will hold a lecture myself during the CTU (Contest University) about antenna switching & station automation topics. Hope people will like it! ;-)

What makes the HAM RADIO most enjoyable all the time is the social aspect. It’s always nice to meet people in person you know from many QSOs or just a single one and shake hands or exchange anecdotes with friends. Looking forward to it!

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IARU 6m, Ukrainian DX Classic RTTY & All Asian DX contests

ukrdxclrttySpent the last weekend alpha/beta testing N1MMLogger+ in different contests trying to find bugs. Makes a very good impression so far (not many bugs found) and I really like all the new features! There was a nice presentation in Dayton on it, too.

Saturday evening saw a somewhat localized opening to CT/EA/F and later to EI so I used N1MM+ to log about 50 QSOs in the IARU 6 m contest. Changed over to the Ukrainian DX Classic RTTY contest afterwards for a few hours during the night and another few hours Sunday morning to make it for the 6 hours category:

              Ukrainian DX Classic RTTY Contest

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SOAB-6 HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 6

 Band  QSOs  Mults
   80:    8     9
   40:   43    29
   20:   99    48
   15:   37    22
   10:   16     9
Total:  203   117  Total Score = 111,384

After doing some other stuff I made a few additional QSOs in the All Asian DX CW contest Sunday afternoon and evening:

                   All Asian DX Contest, CW

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SOAB HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 4:30

 Band  QSOs  Mults
   20:  102    62
   15:   48    38
Total:  150   100  Total Score = 15,000

So all in all some 400 QSOs during the weekend incidentally. Things are summing up. ;-)

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Caribbean 6 m openings today

Six meters has been very quiet during the last few days and weeks. This year’s Sporadic-E season is one of the worst I every experienced. :-( Nevertheless we finally had a small Caribbean opening this afternoon lasting for about half an hour and another one for about an hour in the late evening. Unfortunately no new ones worked. Heard P43K up to 53 a few times on 50.110 MHz but as usual it’s a mess on the calling frequency and no chance for a QSO. A real pity as that would have been a new one on six.

Made a few audio recordings. Signals were much stronger during the evening opening. KP2/K3TEJ pounding in at 559, KP4EIT up to 57 …





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CQ World Wide VHF Contest 2013 certificate received

dh8bqa_cqww_vhf_2013Another contest certificate in the postbox today. Was not aware they are now handing out the awards for winners per square. ;-)Didn’t do many QSOs in the CQ WW VHF 2013 as condx were rather poor. Besides this the contest is not well known in Europe so activity is usually rather sparse. You really need a good opening on 6 meters to have some fun. On 2 meters it’s even more difficult (participated on 2 m once in the past as a QRP hilltopper).

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I have not done any serious RTTY contesting in the past. Have been chasing a few DXpedition slots on RTTY lately using the built-in features of the K3 or IC-7100, i.e. sending RTTY from memories. Using this method I also handed out a few points now and then in a few RTTY contests but usually no more than maybe 20 QSOs.

rttyBeing alerted on the BCC (Bavarian Contest Club) mailing list that the RTTY-LDC (Long Distance Challenge) which I already handed out points in in past years was renamed to the DRCG-WW-RTTY and now had even easier rules I thought it might be a good idea to finally set up MMTTY and N1MMLogger with the K3 to do some integrated RTTY contesting and try it out in this one. As it turned out it was very easy to do, configuration took about 20 minutes including on-air tests and figuring out how the digital interface in N1MMLogger works. Using FSK is certainly a plus as you don’t have to mess with audio levels for transmit. ;-)

Enjoyed a nice Saturday afternoon and evening with a few friends BBQ’ing and after being back home around 11:30 p.m. local time I started the adventure. ;-) The contest has 3 different time shifts so I had about 2,5 hours left until the night break. Did continue Sunday morning to fill up 6 hours in total as the contest has a nice 6 hour category. Result is below, will be interesting to see how I compared against others in my first more or less serious RTTY contest. ;-)

                    DRCG WW RTTY Contest

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SOAB-6 HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 6

 Band  QSOs  Countries  Call Areas
   80:   20      10          0
   40:   24      14          0
   20:   95      22         12
   15:   79      18          9
   10:    9       5          0
Total:  227      69         21  Total Score = 255,060

Club: Bavarian Contest Club

BTW: The Elecraft KPA500 did a very good job running full power RTTY key down at about 600-650 watts all the time, even during slow times which meant calling CQ for something like 15 seconds, listening for 4 seconds, no replies and calling again. So a duty cycle of something like 75%. Can really recommend it for serious contesting.

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QSL of the month – 70 cm Aurora confirmed

sm7gvf_70cm_auroraThis time I had another VHF/UHF goodie in the QSL pile from the local QSL manager. Kjell, SM7GVF, confirmed our Aurora QSO on 432 MHz done back in July 2012. What makes it so special is 2 things: a.) It’s really very seldom that Aurora condx are good enough to still reflect signals on 70 cm. During the last 25 years of being active on VHF/UHF myself I just made 2 Aurora QSOs on 70 cm, this was one of them (although I have to admit I’m not that active on 70 cm). b.) With Aurora being a backscatter mode you usually need high power for such QSOs. This one was made using just 20 watts (70 cm PA sold) and a 19 ele Yagi. ;) Yes, it has been a very good AU opening, we worked down to S5 & 9A from here on 2 m at the same time. Nevertheless it is something very special to this VHF addict. ;)

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Sporadic E … finally!

There was a nice long ES opening on 2 m today but too far south, i.e. between F and LZ/SV. Hoped all the time the ES cloud would move a bit but not much happened. Then I heard stations south and north of me working DX on 144.300, just nothing heard at my QTH. Suddenly Heiko, DG1BHA, who was in his garden QTH just 5 km away, worked IW9HII in JM67ft. I could not hear the Sicilian at all while he was 59 with Heiko – very localized opening! About a minute later he popped out of the noise for me, too, but never got stronger than 53. Worked him at 16:29z (1.714 km), heard him calling CQ another time and he was gone again. So the opening did not last longer than one and a half minutes … but at least there was an opening. ;-) Reports are on MMMonVHF. Otherwise this ES season does not look any good so far …

6 m did not provide too many QSOs today, either. Finally managed to work JO40 for a new square via Tropo (thanks to DL2FDL for the patience, needed about 10 min to complete) and was called by CU3EQ afterwards on double hop ES. 3.500 km is a nice distance but worked him before already and he was quite weak. With the ES down south there was a nice skip into the Mediterranean so I listened for a while to Martin, ISØ/DK7ZB (yes, the antenna designer) who was participating in the UKSMG contest and doing quite well. Will meet him in Friedrichshafen at the HAMRADIO fair in 3 weeks.

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Current antennas


Leaving the QTH this evening we had a wonderful blue sky for a change and after closing the gates and looking at the antennas I couldn’t resist to take a photo although not too good a quality as taken with an old smartphone. ;-) What you see left to right is our 6 ele OWA Yagi for 15 m on a 15 m boom about 50 m away from the station. Next are 2 x 10 ele DK7ZB 2 m Yagis with elevation mounted vertically and currently used for EME. The tower did carry a 4 x 10 ele horizontal array for moonbounce before but we had to disassemble it a while ago to save the antennas as the H frame was broken. Hope to put it back up in the near future. The big chimney (about 18 m plus antenna mast) has a 6 ele OWA Yagi for 10 m with an 11 m boom as well as a horizontal 10 ele DK7ZB 2 m Yagi on top used for TR, AU, ES & MS. Mounted sideways to the small chimney is the remote mast featuring a 4/4 duoband Yagi for 10 & 6 m as well as a 9 ele LFA Yagi for 2 m. Rightmost is the last tower carrying a 4 ele Yagi for 20 m (just a 10 m boom) and a 5 ele Yagi for 6 m. The big chimney also holds the 80, 40 & 30 m dipoles (all Inverted-V) as well as the apex of our 160 m full-size lazy loop.

Plans are to mount a new/better 6 m Yagi above the 15 m beam and something dualband for 17/12 m above the 20 m beam. Also need to install some better lowband antennas, especially for receive (maybe just temporary solutions during the winter). So as you can see still plenty of work left for the future. ;-)

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Holiday activities … getting things done

Img_5734It’s been a while since my last blog entry. Reason is simple: I am on holiday 700 km away from home in JO73, about a hundred kilometers north-east of Berlin, where we have our contest station. Have been busy doing several station upgrade projects with focus on remote usage capabilities. Weather permitting (we had some ugly rainy days overhere) I upgraded the VHF remote antenna mast last week. I added 2 platforms to the mast to take away load from the rotator so mounted it on the lower platform now with a thrust bearing on the upper platform instead of just the rotator on the mast top. Installed a new 2 m antenna, too, and extended the mast another meter. Yes, not that much but hey, every meter counts! ;-) Many thanks to Heiko, DG1BHA, who assisted whenever I needed a helping hand!

Img_5722Last weekend saw me putting together the new all Elecraft remote station consisting of a K3/K144XV + KPA500 + KAT500 together with the homebrew 10×2 antenna controller to access all of our antennas remotely, too. The control side has the Elecraft “front panel” K3/0 mini. Remote & control side are connected through Microbit’s RRC’s (Remote Rig Controllers). Also put a dedicated bandpass filter set inbetween to minimize station interference when somebody else is QRV locally. So we are now able to run remote and locally in parallel choosing all available antennas fully automatically, same as we do when two of us are local for the bigger contests. Have been using the station quasi-remotely during the last few days having the front panel in the same room to make sure everything’s working properly before being 700 km away again next week. ;-)

Also put together some additional ERC-M rotator interfaces by Rene, DF9GR, as well as relay cards and installed everything in the HF rotators. They work very reliably, have been using them for a few years already and no problems at all, highly recommended! I now also use the LAN option with the Lantronix modules, they work like a charm, too. All four rotators are turning remotely now although the one with the 15 m beam gave some trouble. It’s a quite old KR-2000 which got a relay card but was not turning through the controller. Turned out the pre-owner modified it and put the brake fuse into the common line instead of the brake line as the schematics said. Thus not only the break current but also the motor current flowing through the fuse so it blew after a few seconds. After that was corrected it is now turning fine, too. ;)

Last not least installed 2 additional IP (web-based) power switches to switch rotators and interfaces in the different rooms on & off remotely as well as enabling the local operators to do so, too, without needing to open a webpage first. ;-) The new NETIO-230C models are well suited for the task as they have dedicated power buttons for local switching. The old NETIO-230A which I was using until now had a more complicated method that was not easy enough for every local OP. ;-)

All in all quite a bit of stuff done so did not spent too much time on the radio itself. Nevertheless managed to work 9K2MU on 6 m for DXCC #129 as well as a few new grid squares. Sorrily I missed the 2 m Sporadic E opening on May 23, just arrived about an hour too late from the 700 km trip up here. A pity, as the band has not opened again the last days. But maybe I will be lucky during the remaining few days of holidays, still keeping fingers crossed. ;-)

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cqAnother WPX-CW is gone. Used the special call DM5ØPCK of our local radio club to provide a unique prefix.

As I had to attend a funeral Saturday afternoon I missed most of the best run time the first day. Defined this one as a non-serious entry due to the circumstances but nevertheless tried to make the best out of it. Suffered from heavy sleep deprivation at times. Well, no excuse, I did not practice any CW up front like I wanted to so still not good enough. ;-)

Conditions were rather mixed. 160, 80 & 40 m suffered quite a lot from static crashes (a few thunderstorms around Europe, typical summer QRN) making copy difficult and many repeats needed. 20 & 15 m saw some nice US openings and 10 m at least provided a few Sporadic E-QSOs within Europe although spending much time there might not have been the best strategy points-wise. But tell that to an old 10 m addict. :-) Worked half a dozen US stations on 10 m skewed path beaming SA with very weak signals. Makes exchanging serial numbers a real challenge but the more proud you are when completed. ;-)

Detailed analysis is available here: SH5 DM5ØPCK WPX-CW

15 m sure was the money band this time providing a solid stream of 3 pointers. Although skimmers confirmed I was putting out a reasonably strong signal in the target areas I generally found the rates much too low. Best hour was just 92. Lots of CQs in-between …

                   CQWW WPX Contest, CW

Call: DM50PCK
Operator: DH8BQA

Class: SO(A)AB HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 33

 Band  QSOs         Pts/QSO
  160:   22           1.9
   80:  138           2.0
   40:  425           2.7
   20:  550           2.0
   15:  605           2.4
   10:  305           1.5    Average 2.2 overall
Total: 2045  Prefixes = 874  Total Score = 3,895,418

Club: Bavarian Contest Club

Now looking forward to July’s VHF contest (first full weekend) and IARU-HF. Not sure about the latter one, it’s my turn but I might give this one to DL3BQA this year (we share the station and change RDXC & IARU-HF between OPs each year).

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