Monday, July 14, 2014

EJ7NET Day 2 - Poor propagation but good weather

Our second day on Cape Clear (and our first full day of operation) was marred by poor band conditions. Propagation was almost non existent. We were hoping for good pile-ups on 20m and 15m after the contests finished at 1pm, but instead we found a dearth.

Rolf activating SOTA as EJ7NET/P
In the morning, while the contests were still ongoing, Rolf HB9DGV decided to activate the summit of the island as a SOTA, so most of us accompanied him to the peak on what was a glorious day. The poor band conditions were compensated somewhat by the excellent weather! Rolf made several QSOs on 30m CW before going to 40m CW, where he had plenty of contacts. In fact, he stuck at it for a couple of hours. W
The activation took place at the site of a megalithic passage-tomb, a stone monument dating from around 5,000 years ago.

Liam celebrates the first JT65 QSO
after several hours of trying.
Liam EI7DSB spent a great deal of time on JT65, but it was a several hours before conditions allowed for a QSO to be made. The main action was on 20 metres CW, where conditions picked up in the evening time to allow a good run. At times, EU, USA, Japan and Asiatic Russia were being worked, but at other times the band was quiet. There is a dedicated 6 metre station, attached to a two-element beam. Two contacts into Spain were made in the morning time but apart from one or two other fading signals, nothing else was heard on this band for the rest of the day. Hopefully we will get at least one good opening while we are here.

Bernie making contacts on 30m CW in the shebeen.
Bernie HB9ASZ had some luck on 30m CW, with a steady if somewhat slow QSO rate. Late in the evening, I went on 80m SSB while Declan EI6FR worked 40m SSB and plenty of stations from Ireland and UK were logged. Some of the team went to the local pub to sample the Murphys stout, and even though I was working 20m CW, I still got to see most of the World Cup final, in which Germany beat Argentina by one-nil.

Don't forget to keep an eye on the IRTS Facebook page for regular updates, and also watch out for video updates on my YouTube channel.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

EJ7NET 2014 - Cape Clear IOTA dxpedition day one

This is my second expedition with the Westnet DX Group. In May of 2013, we went to Inis Mór on the Aran Islands (EU-006). This year, Cape Clear island (EU-121), off the coast of County Cork, was the target. It's the most southerly piece of Ireland. You cannot get further south.

I had a 5.30am start, in order to do a final check on what I had packed for the trip, have a shower and breakfast, and get to Declan Craig EI6FR's house in Dublin by 7.30am. As it happens, I arrived there at 7.15am. We left at 7.30am with a four-hour drive ahead of us to Baltimore, Cork, from where we would catch a boat to Cape Clear. There's motorway all the way from Dublin to Cork these days, but not from Cork to Baltimore! We passed through Clonakilty and Skibbereen on the way down.

The rugged cliffs of Cape Clear Island.
At Baltimore, we met Rolf HB9DGV and Bernie HB9ASZ, and it wasn't too long before the other dxpedition members arrived - Liam EI7DSB and Tony EI3HA (our chef). The boat trip was unremarkable. It was a bit choppy in a couple of places but generally a fine trip across through murky weather. It had rained in Baltimore. We got off the boat and loaded our gear into a big van taxi and soon we were at the house, unloading all the stuff again. It's a fantastic QTH. The house is beautiful. There are enough beds for all six of us, although Bernie in true style maintains that an IOTA dxpedition is not a proper dxpedition unless you are sleeping in a tent, and so proceeded last night to set up his tent, in which he actually did sleep!

The M0CVO dipole supported by a 12-metre Spiderpole,
with the full moon rising last night
The first job was antenna installation. We put up two Hari trap wire verticals, one covering 30, 17 and 12m and the other for 40, 20, 15 and 10m. They were taped to two Sota Poles. We also erected an off-centre fed dipole, made by M0CVO. This one covers 40m through to 6m. Antenna analysis by Liam EI7DSB showed some little problems, and after some adjustment, everything was fine. The Diamond HB9CV 2-element beam for 6m was then assembled and installed. We have a dedicated 6m station which we will use to monitor that band for the entire time we are here. Three of the stations are in the sitting room, while a fourth has been installed in the shebeen - a little outhouse with its own bar.

With the IARU HF Championships and the WRTC contests on, it was impossible to find action on the main bands, so the first QSOs were made on 17 metres and then 30 metres. Tony EI3HA made the very first QSO of the activation with another IOTA station on Orkney Island EU-009. I sat on 17m SSB for an hour and enjoyed some fantastic short skip conditions into Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.

Tony EI3HA serving dinner.
With only two stations on air, there was an opportunity for some of us to go and explore.I took an opportunity to walk a couple of kilometres down to some ancient standing stones, which I believe constitute Ireland's most southerly stone row! Dinner consisting of chicken curry and rice, helped down with a glass of red wine, was served by our fantastic chef Tony

Today, we are hoping to hit the HF bands in a big way after the contests are finished at 1pm. So keep an ear out for us - hopefully you will get us in your log.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

EJ7NET 2014 - we have arrived on Cape Clear and antenna installation is under way

The EJ7NET has arrived safely on Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork (IOTA reference EU-121) and antenna installation has begun. Team members are Declan EI6FR, Liam EI7DSB, Tony EI3HA, Rolf HB9DGV, Bernie HB9ASZ and myself, Anthony EI2KC. We are planning to have four stations on air, from 80m through 10m and a dedicated station for 6m. This will NOT be up and running until tomorrow, Sunday.

Liam, Rolf, Bernie and Declan decide where to put the antennas,
The first antenna, a vertical, is put up on Cape Clear.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

No, I'm not off the air. Just busy with other projects!

If you were worried that I was QRT, fear no more! I've been semi-active lately, but concentrating on other projects, mostly related to my research for Mythical Ireland. But I have been switching the radio on every day, working generally a couple of contacts each day, although granted there have been some days where I was inactive.

Since my last update there are two significant things to report. The first is that I worked another ATNO (All-Time New One) a couple of weeks ago in the form of S01WS, Western Sahara. I worked them on five band slots, and am hoping beyond hope for the chance to work them on 6 metres. I manage a 40m SSB QSO which was fantastic.

I recently changed computer and, in the process, I changed logging software. I've left Hosenose LOGic8 behind, and decided to start using Logger32. I've found Logger32 to be excellent, particularly its colour-coded alert system. This has helped me nab new bands and slots, and even that all-elusive new DXCC! However - and this is a big however - I noticed upon working S01WS that my DXCC total was at 306 current (308 all-time). It should, I felt, have been at 307. A few hours of laborious checking of my log ensued, and I can say without hesitation that Logger32 has it right, and that somewhere along the line a QSO in LOGic8 had been misintepreted as a DXCC that it was not. So my total is 306 current, and that's fair enough.

Western Sahara is the second-last country on continental Africa that I needed. Now I have just one left to go - Eritrea. Maybe it will be activated some day?

Anyway, there was a tremendous opening from EI into the Caribbean a few nights ago, and I took full advantage, despite having only my hexbeam on that band (my 3-element 6m beam is down). I managed to work THREE new countries on six metres (50 Mhz) in the space of an hour. It was fantastic! They were 9y Trinidad and Tobago, FG Guadeloupe and YV Venezuela. I am thrilled.

This brings me to #83 worked on 6m, and a tantalising 17 off the century. That might not sound like a lot, but it is on six metres!! That could take years!! Last year, for instance, I think I worked seven new DXCC on the 6m band throughout the whole season. Who knows - maybe there will be more nice openings? We can only wait and see . . .

On right is an image from FG8OJ, one of the three stations I worked on 50 Mhz to give me a new DXCC. I worked several other QSOs also, including with KP4 and HI.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Another milestone reached - over 100 DXCC confirmed on digi

Over the past couple of months, I've been watching as the number of DXCC confirmed on digital modes has been slowly creeping up on Logbook of the World. Because I am only an occasional digi user, my total was much lower than other modes. But recently I've been doing a lot of dabbling in digital, including RTTY, PSK and JT65. And the effort has finally borne fruit.

My total number of QSLs on digital is now 102
A few days ago, I saw my total number of QSLs hit 99. I needed just one more to get me over the line. However, next time I logged in it was 102!!! That was helped by my stint last night on JT65, which saw me working Brazil and Japan for the first time on that mode. The Japanese station confirmed our QSO on LoTW overnight!

Below you can see highlighted the three QSLs which brought me from 99 to 102. CT3MD Madeira Islands made it #100 with RTTY. This was followed by TI3EDM in Costa Rica on PSK31, and #102 was my JT65 QSO with JA3EGY, made with about eight watts on JT65.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dabbling in a bit of JT65 - 10w heard in Japan

Right now, I'm dabbling in a bit of low-power JT65. I was putting out a CQ using JT65-HF (version on 20 metres and, as you can see from above, my puny signal was heard in Japan!! Right now, I'm in QSO with W2ZEN (Locator FN30) and he gave me a SNR report of -21. I don't do JT65 very often. In fact, I've only used it a few times, but it is absolutely fascinating. Hopefully I'll get some nice DX tonight. I can't imagine I will make too many contacts though - it takes a full six minutes to complete a QSO properly with this mode!!!
All the stations that heard my 10w JT65 signal,