Golden October

Germany has been experiencing a great indian summer during the last few days. Nice high pressure zone, clear blue sky, warm temperatures … we usually call it a “Golden October”. As a VHF guy this kinda “smells” like Tropo is in the air. Suffering from a flue I was at home today so checked the great F5LEN tropo forecast and indeed it confirmed my gutt feeling, there should be a bit of tropo to the west, i.e. England. Therefor I kept the 2 m antenna beaming west this afternoon and was not too astonished when I suddenly heard G1XWX calling CQ. A few more Gs followed but no big distances, seems it was just extending a bit to UK’s east coast. Anyway, it’s always nice to add some new calls to the log and/or meet old friends again!

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TIME   CALLSIGN      LOCATOR   TX    RX    BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
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13:57  G1XWX         JOØ2TI   52    52     2 m.   SSB   TR     850
14:13  G4PLZ         JOØ2PT   54    57     2 m.   SSB   TR     864
14:25  G4CDN         JOØ2SS   599   599    2 m.   CW    TR     848
15:57  G4DDK         JOØ2PA   -06   -01    2 m.   FT8   TR     880
16:44  G4KUX         IO94BP   -13   -09    2 m.   FT8   TR    1063
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Gave it a quick check on 10 m in-between, happy to see the band open to the South at least. Besides working the SW8DX IOTA expedition I could also catch 9XØT on CW. They were extremely weak, no more than 419 at best, but had good ears and after repeating my call a few times they finally got me. 😎

Then I saw a few cluster spots about Polish guys working VHF-DX to the east thus swung the beam eastwards, too. There was plenty of activity on 144.174 MHz, the designated FT8 frequency on 2 m. Besides lots of SP2/3/9 the following QSOs were made:

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TIME   CALLSIGN      LOCATOR   TX    RX    BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
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15:38  R5WM          KO72QI   -08   -15    2 m.   FT8   TR    1421
15:41  LY3BRA        KO14WU   +05   +06    2 m.   FT8   TR     657
16:12  SP8NTL        KO11CJ   -15   +12    2 m.   FT8   TR     579
16:16  SQ8AQX        KOØØRH   -10   -11    2 m.   FT8   TR     592
16:30  UT8AL         KO61WP   -17   -16    2 m.   FT8   TR    1340
16:54  EU4AX         KO13VP   -21   -19    2 m.   FT8   TR     636
17:00  LY2SA         KO14UG   -18   -13    2 m.   FT8   TR     636
17:05  EU3AI         KO22CE   -02   +02    2 m.   FT8   TR     682
17:07  SP7THR        KO1ØAN   -15   -16    2 m.   FT8   TR     611
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While I can work the SP7/8, LY & EU guys almost every day the QSOs with R5WM/KO72 and UT8AL/KO61 were unexpected! Seems there was some tropo ducting into that area, too, although not reflected on the forecast. That once again confirms you have to keep an ear/eye on the band and not just trust any forecasts. 😉 But there was really lots of fading, no stable duct, so maybe that’s why.

Alex, UT8AL, was using just 20 watts, so FT8 shined again, according to the signal strength’ the QSO would not have been possible in CW/SSB. Signals of R5WM became as loud as +0 dB from time to time so it would have worked at least on CW, too. But he was too busy with FT8 …

Before I had to shut down and change QTH back to the YL’s one I gave a few CQs in CW on 144.300 MHz which led to the following fine contacts:

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TIME   CALLSIGN      LOCATOR   TX    RX    BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
17:17  LY2LE         KO24OQ   579   599    2 m.   CW    TR     738
17:20  EW6EM         KO54EM   529   549    2 m.   CW    TR    1068
17:23  UA2FY         KOØ4FS   559   599    2 m.   CW    TR     445
------------------------------------------------------------------

To be honest these were the more satisfactory QSOs of the day … you call yourself, no computer, you hear some whispers in the noise, try optimizing the antenna, getting it out of the noise, decoding one letter after the other to form a full callsign in your own head then realizing which fine DX just called and lay back with a big fat smile in your face! 😎

So far FT8 could not deliver that feeling. While I see it’s advantages and therefor use it, too, I really hope it will not be FT8-only in the future because people are just too lazy and make it easy by just clicking a bit around the computer screen (if at all and not automating things, automated QSOs are just machine to machine, this has nothing to do with amateur radio anymore). As long as it is just complementary I’m fine with it. If it ever turns to FT8-only (yes, there are signs of it ðŸ™) I’ll certainly need to search for another hobby. And that’s from someone who is burning for our hobby … but let’s think positive. 😉

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