Wednesday, November 25, 2015

ARRL 10 metre contest win - and a new record!

Much to my very pleasant surprised, I received a certificate in the post yesterday from the ARRL telling me that I had won a section of the 10 metre contest in 2014. I checked my log and sure enough I had made 341 QSOs that weekend. I remember enjoying that contest - even though I was not participating competitively, rather just dipping in and out when I got the time.

The certificate from the ARRL confirming my first place award.
All of my contacts in the ARRL 10m contest were made with my Antron 99 vertical antenna and 100 watts or less. Needless to say I'm thrilled to win, and did not expect it at all. (In all honesty, I may have been the only entry in the section).

After I announced my win  on Facebook, Declan EI6FR informed me that I also now hold the record for EI in that section - Single Operator Unlimited Mixed Mode, Low Power. I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've ever held a contest record, and it makes the win all the sweeter.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A frank admission - I called out of turn and was admonished

I was a bit too hasty this morning trying to work the S79C Coetivy Island IOTA dxpedition on 15 metres SSB. It was an example of how it's important to listen properly to the DX before calling. I arrived on his frequency - 21.260 - and immediately heard him, saying what I thought was "Sierra Seven Nine Charlie, listening five down for number two". So I called. And I heard him telling someone they were calling out of turn. Then I called again. This time, I heard "Echo India Two Kilo Charlie, you are not number three, I am looking only for number three".

I have to admit I was embarrassed. I am not in the habit of calling out of turn, and as a very public figure in ham radio I try to conduct myself to the highest standards.

I listened as he moved quickly up the numbers (there was no pile-up) and he came back around after a couple of minutes to number zero, number one, and then he was calling number twos again.

So I called again.

He still refused to work me, because I had called out of turn the first time. I was very embarrassed. The worst thing was, he used my call sign again, and admonished me, so anyone listening would have heard it. I hung my head in shame..... I was deeply embarrassed.

I sat back from the radio, reflecting on how my haste in trying to work him meant that I hadn't listened to him properly at the beginning. And I was punished (I might say rightfully) for calling out of turn. I wonder if every dxpedition did that how quickly the pile-ups would become discplined!

Reflecting on my behaviour, I suddenly heard him giving my call sign and asking if I was still on the frequency (5 down). I replied in the affirmative. He said "Echo India Two Kilo Charlie you are five nine and in the log. Please co-operate". I apologised for calling out of turn and gave him a report and thanked him.

Now there's true ham spirit!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Willis Island VK9WA in the log - ATNO - DXCC #316

I wasn't able to update the blog yesterday because I was busy but I managed to work the VK9WA Willis Island dxpedition. This was an All-Time New One (ATNO) and my 316th current DXCC worked (318 total).

I was listening at 8am on 17 metres CW and there was no signal from them at all. However, they were being spotted by lots of European stations, so I felt they would come up in signal strength as the morning went on. After 8.30am I began to hear them, and by 9am they were lifting my needle and sounded quite clear. I worked them at 9:05am local time (also UT), with a split of more than 6.5 kHz. I had decided not to move around, but to try to find a trough in the pile-up. This paid off because it took me less than ten minutes to work them. Here is a video I made a couple of minutes later:

Last night, I checked the online log and although it had been updated, my call sign was not there. I checked for variations, and did find an ES2KC in the log, on 17m CW. This is not the first time I have been wrongly logged as ES2KC. I'm 95% certain this is my QSO.

I would like to get a few more QSOs with them, but work means that I am unable to be at the radio in the middle of the morning when their signal might be strongest.

I was encouraged on Sunday morning to hear them strong on both 15 CW and 17 SSB, but I didn't manage a QSO and had to go to music. On Sunday afternoon they had a nice signal on 30 CW. So we live in hope.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Some nice SSB contacts - Svalbard and Australia

Contrary to popular belief, I do sometimes enjoy some phone activity on amateur radio. I do, in fact, own a microphone, HI HI! Today I gave the voice a bit of exercise and enjoyed about an hour of phone activity on 17 metres. I worked mostly European and Russian stations, with a new North American stations in the log too.

Separately to that run, I enjoyed a couple of nice contacts. One was with JW7VRA in Svalbard on 20 metres using just 100 watts. Here's a video of that contact:

I also had a nice QSO with Tim VK3TJK in Victoria, Australia, also on 20 metres. He was booming in on the short path. It sounded at times as if all of Europe and half of Russia was calling him. Here's a video of the moment my call was pulled out of the pile and the ensuing QSO:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

3B7FA St. Brandon in the log - another ATNO, #315

St. Brandon is a remote archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
I knew 3B8FA was heading to St. Brandon in the Indian Ocean for some holiday-style operation as 3B7FA. I knew from reading the blurb about it that it would be tough work trying to get him as an All-Time New One (ATNO). The main reason for my apprehension was the fact that Patrice (Pat) operates generally only PSK63 or SSTV, with some occasional SSB activity. And I knew if he appeared on air all of Europe would be calling him.

There were some major 3B7 activations in 2007, but that was before I got my licence, so I missed out. I've never worked this entity before.

And so, when Pat appeared on 15 metres PSK63 yesterday (Wednesday), there was chaos. He was on simplex  and they kept calling and calling and calling him, with no time for listening. How was anyone going to make a QSO? I could occasionally decode Pat's reports in the gaps, but most of the time it was impossible to know who was being called or worked.

And when he appeared on the same band and mode again today, I didn't expect much, except QRM. And so it went, for a while, until he started calling "UP". So I tried split and called him one kHz or so up from his own TX QRG. This didn't appear to be working. Then I noticed his own TX frequency was moving about, and so a game of cat and mouse ensued.

This went on for ages, until I finally figured it out. He wasn't listening on a split. What he was trying to do was to get people to spread out so that he could pick out individual streams on the waterfall. A clever ploy! I picked him up a few times, moving around, but couldn't get that magic QSO.

Then I saw Erik EI4KF calling him and I saw the following (I didn't get a 100% decode, but close enough):

EI4KF TU  599tg99 EI4KF  pse c rt-- 

So I called immediately where Erik had worked him. Here is the somewhat imperfect print of the QSO:

3B7FA de EI2KC EI2KC  k
¨wci I
EI2NU  5599 EI2KCapse K
14:19:43> Main
3B7FA de EI2KC 599 599 EI2KC TNX K

  QSL TU 73!!
It initially looked like EI2NU but the second call is handy because if there is QSB you get two chances of seeing what he is actually sending.

I honestly didn't think I had a chance of getting Pat into the log, given the QRM, but I am chuffed and delighted to say that DXCC #315 is in my log. It's a great relief and delight for me.

I later saw Pat's print (briefly) on 20 metres SSTV, a mode I have only used once or twice in the six years I've been licenced. I did try to work him but being at the "back" of Europe, so to speak, I didn't have much of a chance against the big continental stations, some of whom, again, called and called and called with no time for receiving or decoding...... I sent what I thought was a fairly apt image given my interest in photography and ancient Ireland. It shows Newgrange, a 5,000-year-old Stone Age monument near where I live. I'm not sure if Pat received the picture of Newgrange, but ah well, I am happy with one QSO. Actually, over the moon.

UKEICC 80m contest was great fun

I took part in my first UKEICC contest last night, on 80 metres CW. This was a one-hour contest and was great fun. There was lots of activity and after starting late at around 20:10 UTC (I had to drop kids to music!) I immediately got callers after a quick CQ.

Many of you will know I am not a hardened contester. I am simply unable to devote 24 or 48 hours of my weekends to contesting due to family and other commitments. And that's what makes the UKEICC contests so attractive. They are one-hour contests on a week night.

Above is a quick video I made during the contest. The time zipped around very quickly. After an initial flurry of callers, my CQs went unanswered, so I went hunting. Contest activity is allowed from 3.510 up to 3.560 and there were plenty of stations on air. The furthest I worked was UT2II in Ukraine.

One of the brilliant aspects of this contest is that you have to upload your log within an hour of the end of the contest - and the results are made available within two hours of the contest finishing.

The results show me in 16th place out of 32 entries in the low power section. Not bad. I'm happy with that. The contest is scored by distance, and the exchange is your four letter maidenhead locator square - in my case IO63. There's no need to send 5NN. For results, see this page:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

HA/HG ITU Gold award received!

Having worked all the special HA/HG ITU stations, I qualified for the gold award, which I received this morning. I don't usually chase awards but this one was very worthwhile. Thanks to all the stations for being on air.