Saturday, October 30, 2010

Licenced one year ago - celebrating my first radio birthday!

It's a historic day today for me. I received my licence on October 30th 2009 so therefore I am celebrating a year on the air today. And what better way to celebrate than with trying to work some new DX in the CQWW contest?

I remember that having passed the test on October 6th last year, the wait for the licence seemed to go on for ever. But eventually on Friday evening, just as I was heading home from work in my car, I got the magic call from Comreg and my first foray into ham radio began.

And what a great year it's been. I've worked some great DX. I have 100+ countries worked on three bands and am not far off the mark on one more - 15m - and that's the band I've been concentrating on today to try to get more countries into the bag and make it 100 on that band. I was at 83 before the contest and I've already worked a few new ones today.

Hopefully some time over the weekend I will get some action with the EI0W contest team who are working hard in the CQWW contest as we speak.

In the meantime, thanks to all those I have worked over the past year. I have 4,156 QSOs in my log, plus another 67 so far in CQWW. To those I haven't worked yet, I look forward to meeting you on the bands!

73 for now,
de Anthony EI2KC

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mexico, Mauritius, Gibraltar, highlights of another great day with six new countries worked on 12m

Heading into the weekend I had a total of just 42 countries worked on 12 metres. In fact, just two weeks before that I had added another six onto my previously miserly total of just 36.

However, I am now coming out of the (Bank Holiday) weekend (Monday included) with a grand total of 65 countries worked on 12m. I added six of those today, having notched up 17 new ones yesterday. Today's countries included some very decent DX I might add. Three of those DXCCs which I worked in a row were countries starting with the letter M: Mexico, Montenegro and Mauritius! Nice.

Difficult as it might be to believe, OE Austria was a new country for me today on 12, followed closely by ZB2 Gibraltar and CN Morocco. So all in all it's been a terrific weekend on that band, which was thoroughly enjoyable. When I put out a CQ at lunchtime I found the band open to the States and got plenty of North America and even one Canada into the log. So thanks everyone for a really great weekend.

Here are those who made it into the log today (Monday) with new countries on 12m indicated with (N): UT3IW, W8CD, DL6XA, N2LQ, RX6LDX, N8DX, W2YJ, DJ6TK, DK1QC, DL3HRW, DK5DC, OK8YD, N3QW, DL9IU, DM2DXA, DL2AMA, W1HT, N2WK, XE3N (N), 4O50A (N), 3B8DB (N), VA3PL (new band slot),  WA4FLZ, AB1KW, K3LRH, K1NOX, OZ8ABE, OE2LCM (N), ZB2FK (N), CN8KD (N), IT9/LY5W, 5N7M (had Nigera already on 12m!!), DL5ZL, DL4ZM, DL2RU, RA7A.

Hopefully conditions will continue as they are, or even show an improvement, over the winter. Right now the sunspot number is 57 and the SFU is 82, so those are good numbers for ham radio. Check yourself regularly at

That's all for now folks. Unfortunately I am back at work tomorrow and for the rest of the week so very little time, if any, for openings on the daytime bands. :(

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When all the buses come along at once!

There's an old saying here in Ireland, usually related to Dublin buses, but not exclusively. It goes something like this:

"You wait around for an hour for one to come, and then two come along at once!"

In a way, I can relate that to the twelve metre band. Having been licenced during one of the longest lulls in sunspot history in 2009, I have had precious few openings to enjoy on 12m, so my country total on that band was (and I reiterate was) quite low. Until, that is, this weekend which has seen spectacular openings.

The long and short of it is that I have added 17 new countries to my 12m total in just one weekend. Starting into the weekend I had 42 countries worked, six of those being relatively new ones worked in the previous fortnight. Now, at the end of the weekend, my total is up to 59. Almost every country I worked was a new one, or so it seemed.

All I have to do is browse my log to see the comments:

LZ1ND SSB - New country on 12m!
T77C CW - New country on 12m!!
Z30U SSB - New Country on 12m!!!
HI3/W1JNZ SSB - New Country on 12m!!
EA9EU CW - Very strong - new country on 12m!!!!!
EA8CAC CW - New country on 12m!
EA3NO CW - New country on 12m!!
ST2DZ SSB - New country on 12m!!
E74A CW - New country on 12m!!
3V8SS SSB - New country on 12m!!
YO6EV CW - New country on 12m!!
DL6UNF CW - New country on 12m!!!
9A2SY CW - New country on 12m!!
YL2UZ CW - New country on 12m!!!
IS0AFM CW - New country on 12m!!

You can see a screenshot of some of my log comments and also the relatively short space of time in which these new countries were worked.

There are two more countries which made it into the log but which at the time I didn't know they were new ones, so I can't say what they are. Nevertheless you can see that conditions have been great. Probably the best ones were ST2 Sudan, 3V8 Tunisia, and IS0 Sardinia. Nice to get those prefixes into the log on 12 metres.

So you see all this talk about the sun and sunspots and solar flux index and such apparent nonsense is really very relevant to the hobby of amateur radio. The solar flux is 84 right now and the sunspot number is 43. If things stay like this, or improve, we could be facing into a decent winter on the bands, which would be in complete contrast to last winter when the openings were as rare as hen's teeth. Or Dublin buses!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

EI9FBB is the first EI ever to attain 10 band DXCC

Warmest congratulations to EI9FBB, Dave Deane, who has become the first EI to attain 10 band DXCC. A remarkable aspect to Dave's achievement is that he was only licenced in 2004, and therefore achieved in six years what many hams will struggle to do in a lifetime.

Even more remarkable is the fact that he worked his 100 countries on both 17 metres and 12 metres using an Antron 99 - an 11 metres (CB) antenna. Needless to say I'm greatly heartened by this because I too use an Antron for some of my contacts.

Dave features on the front cover of this month's Echo Ireland magazine, the publication of the Irish Radio Transmitters' Society (IRTS). He has made history in amateur radio in Ireland. The first is the first and nobody will ever beat that.

I have sent congrats to Dave by email. He deserves all the praise and all the glory he is getting right now, because attaining 10-band DXCC from a modest property is not an easy achievement. He worked some of his 160m top band contacts portable, and this summer had a fantastic season on 6 metres, working 91 countries (well beating my total of 53 hi hi !!!). You can read all about Dave's fantastic achievement on page 5 of this month's Echo Ireland.

Congrats again Dave.

PS: You might be interested to know that EI9FBB will be one of two Irish hams, the other being Paul EI5DI, who will be part of the huge T32C DXpedition to Christmas Island in September/October 2011. Another nice accolade. All I can hope is that somewhere among the huge pile-ups which no doubt will be encountered from Christmas Island, Dave will hear my puny little EI2KC signal in there in the muck!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Finally, after an age, the sunspot cycle starts to excite amateurs

For a while there in 2009 and early 2010 it seemed as if the sun had gone into sleep mode. Or worse, shutdown mode. After a good sunsport Cycle 23, it looked to all intents and purposes as if Cycle 24 was never going to arrive. 2009 was one of the poorest years on record for sunspots, with a total of 260 days (71% of the year) without any sunspots whatsover.

This of course is bad news for radio amateurs, who rely on sunspot activity and the associated interaction of solar material with earth's upper atmosphere, for decent propagation on the bands. I was licenced in October 2009, right in the depths of this awful depression. Not that it was a complete disaster for me or anything. I was working decent DX throughout the low period, but very little of it on 10m and 12m where one could expect gerat DX in the "good times" with 10 watts of RF through a string of wet spaghetti strung from the back of the rig.

But, as the song goes, "Times, they are a changin'". Right now the sunspot number is 61. What we would have done to see figures like that a year ago! If the sun could be bribed into life, every amateur on the planet would have had his or her hand in their pocket, reaching for the wallet! But put your money away for now. The sun is coming to life of its own accord, without financial reward. Only 45 days of 2010 (16%) have been without sunspots.

At this moment in time, there are four different groups of sunspots, 1112, 1113, 1115 and 1116, of which 1112 seems the most active right now. The solar flux index (SFU) is at 84, and hopefully rising. When it goes up into the 90s, and especially close to 100, watch for the good DX on the higher frequency bands, especially 12 and 10 metres.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lots of activity on 12 metres, and of course there's Togo

It's been a busy week on some of the higher frequencies, in particular 12 metres, where I have worked an additional six new countries since my last update two weeks ago. One of those new countries was, believe it or not, Northern Ireland, which I worked earlier this evening on 12m CW. It was a new country for him too - MI0BPB, Andrew near Banbridge - although I had to work him straight key because I was using my old Icom IC735 to make the contact.

At the moment there's a DXpedition to Togo in Africa, 5V7TT, which is continuing until October 23rd (next Saturday). Needless to say it will be a new country for many, and they've been working fairly hefty pile-ups on various bands.

As it's not particularly distant from me, it shouldn't be too difficult to get them into the log at least a few times on various bands. I have heard them on 80m CW although they were low, and that would be a very nice band for me to work them on. In the meantime, I have caught them a few times:

ALL SSB CW RTTY CALL 160m 80m 40m 30m 20m 17m 15m 12m 10m 6m
34096 16392 16360 1344 14013 242 1523 3157 2016 7078 5111 7521 4641 2800 7

The above shows their status at this moment in time. Imagine being one of their seven QSOs on 6 metres? Wouldn't that be nice? Indeed it would. Looking at my own standings on their online log, I am glad to confirm that I've already worked them on four band slots - 17m CW and SSB and 15m CW and SSB. I was trying them hard on 20 metres CW this evening but the pile-up was intense and I didn't make it through with my 100 watts and vertical. :( Not this time anyhow!

Here's my latest status (with increases from last time in brackets):

Total DXCCs worked: 178 (+2) (of which) Phone: 128 (+2) CW: 159 (+3) RTTY: 32

160M: 13 DXCCs worked (+1)
80M: 55 (+2)
40M: 103 (+3)
30M: 65 (+1)
20M: 129 (+1)
17M: 104 (+5)
15M: 83 (+2)
12M: 42 (+6)
10M: 31 (+1)
6M: 53
2M: 10 (+1)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

EI2KC made with candy letters

Made this out of candy letters purchased in a new candy shop in Dundalk. And yes, I know that's not a 2, it's an S. I did say candy letters - no numbers unfortunately.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Three VKs into the log for the CW Oceania contest

I cannot say it enough. Working VK from my QTH, with my set-up, is quite an achievement. No two ways about it. Up until last weekend, I had but five contacts into VK on HF, including the well-known VK3MO, Ian in Melbourne, who blasts into Europe most evenings with his 20 element (4x5 stacked beams) pointing at us.

Last weekend the CW portion of the Oceania contest was on. Disappointed with just one VK contact in the SSB portion the previous weekend (could I have expected any more with 100 watts and a vertical, really?), I set out to get at least another VK into the log, and perhaps a ZL which would be a first.

Unfortunately, no ZLs made it into the log and when 20m closed to VK I was beginning to think it wasn't going to happen for me. But as a result of sitting at the radio all evening on Saturday and calling at every opportunity, I eventually worked no less than three VKs. Whew! The first was VK3TDX, Steve in Victoria. When I finished working him, I spotted him on the cluster with the remarks, "At last ! Thanks !" Today, I received the following nice email from Steve:
Hi Tony

I see you gave me a spot on the cluster this weekend with the comment "At last ! Thanks!"
I guess this means you had to work hard to get me? I have to chuckle at this because in my former life in the USA as NF6V I simply could never get a QSO with Ireland! Year after year I just never heard nor could ever make it through to any EI station. When I finally got one I had to wait several years before I could get a QSL so I know what it can be like to struggle for a contact.

It's unusual for us usually lonely guys down under in VK to be "desired" and to be on stage for pileups. It was quite frustrating for me because I wanted to work everybody but sometimes the pile was just too manysignals to hear anything so we all suffered. Even the big guns with big signals sometimes can't be pulled out because they are often on the same exact frequency as me so they cover each other up. I can give you a tidbit of advice that when you're in a pileup call a little high or low in freq (maybe 100 Hz using your TX offset). Even in the biggest pileups a weaker signal that's distinctively a different pitch from the rest can be pulled out. I just figured out this trick for the next time I'm one of the guys in the crowd trying to break through.

Thanks again for the spot and I'm happy we made the contact.


Steve VK3TDX

Well I can tell you Dr OM Steve that the pleasure was all mine. Really really great to get the VK prefix in my log especially as I am using just a random wire only 25 feet up in a small garden. I also logged VK6DXI and VK2MI.

Some good advice there on working a simplex pile-up. Experienced CW ops will know that split pile-ups, especially where the DX station is listening over a few KCs of the band, are much easier to break than those awful simplex pile-ups where the DX station is greeted with a great wall of noise. My "cheat" in Steve's case, if you could call it a cheat, was to slow down my calling. I normally call a DX station at about 25-30wpm but for Oceania, given the strength of the pile-ups, I slowed right down to about 10wpm. Turns out at least two of the VKs heard me as the intensity of the pile-up died away after the initial cacophony.

I was disappointed not to get the first ZL into my log, but there's always another time for that. Also I could not hear Oceania on 80 metres, somewhat not surprisingly.

Anyway, to Steve I say thanks million and it's great to have you in the log.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Great conditions on 2 metres Sunday night

It's been an interesting evening on 2 metres. There's a nice tropo lift on and there are plenty of UK stations working into Europe. We even jumped on the bandwagon here in Echo India as myself and Tony EI4DIB both worked into Germany on 2m FM. DL1EBQ was the station, operator Thomas. Great to get my first decent "DX" contact on 2 metres.

I had a chat with a M0RDW/M who was north of Stoke on Trent and it was as if he was local. He was static mobile. He was delighted to get his first EI into the log on 2m but this was soon followed by an ON station (Belgium) so it was a great night for operator Rich too.

I even decided to try my hand at 2m CW and eventually got GI0GDF coming back to my call from Lisburn in Northern Ireland. Thanks indeed for the 599 Ernie. You are my first CW contact on 2 metres. One more to make it into the log was MI0VKO, Dave in County Fermanagh, on 2m simplex FM.

UPDATE: After I wrote the above I answered a call through the GB3MN repeater near Stockport and ended up spending an hour working various English and Welsh stations through that repeater. It was great fun. The following were all worked: 2E0MVH, M1GWM, GW6STK, M6KBY, 2E0SAF/M, M3VUO, 2E0MAS, MW3YYQ, MW3ZVB, MW3VQJ, EI7GOB (yes, an Echo India through a UK repeater!) and M3POG. Very nice to work you all under fantastic conditions. QSL cards will definitely be sent!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Latvia makes it 100 countries worked on 17 metres!

I've just worked YL2UZ, Tur, in Latvia, on 17 metres CW, which officially makes it 100 countries worked on that band. I had been at 99 for a while there but I've finally got to the century mark. Of course, it might take a while to get the 17m DXCC confirmed by QSL card. But that's another day's work!

At this moment in time I have 100 countries or more worked on three bands - 20 metres, 40 metres and now 17 metres. My next best score is 15m, where I have 81 countries worked.

Update: An hour later I worked my 101st country on 17m - Hungary!! HA5AGS was booming in on SSB. Hard to believe I hadn't got Hungary on 17m but there you go - life is full of surprises.

Update 2: A few minutes later I gave a CQ on 18.070 on CW and who was the first to come back to me? - Hungary!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

An update on propagation and the EI2KC eQSL and log standings

There was some interesting DX over the weekend and a nice increase in propagation on certain bands thanks to a Solar Flux Index that hit a high of 91 before falling again to the mid 80s where it currently languishes at 85. There was some nice propagation to Australia and New Zealand for the Oceania contest and I even managed to bag a VK on 20m where there were sustained pile-ups. He was VK4KW and I got him later on Saturday afternoon when his pile-up had thinned out somewhat. Congratulations to my near neighbour Charlie EI8JB who managed to nab a VK on 20m before getting another on 40m on a G5RV. Well done Charlie.

I tried my hand at 160m again Saturday night / Sunday morning where there were some European and Russian stations on. I nabbed two new ones - TF Iceland and OJ0 Market Reef. So I enjoyed that. One other highlight from the weekend was RI1FJ, my first Franz Josef Land (Arctic Circle) on 30m. Also on top band was the special station GM6NX/P on the Isle of Skye on SSB so that was nice too.

My eQSL tally has gone up by five countries since I last updated on that. I now have 79 countries AG. The new ones include (from memory!) Bahrain (thanks to Dave Court EI3IO/A92IO), Falkland Islands (tnx Bob VP8LP), Gabon (TR8CA), Thailand (HS0ZIN) and West Malaysia 9M2CNC who I worked on three band slots. Thanks Richard.

I thought now would be a good time to update you as to my log standings. Here's how it sits in the EI2KC log as of now:

Total DXCCs worked: 176 (of which) Phone: 126 CW: 156 RTTY: 32

160M: 12 DXCCs worked
80M: 53
40M: 100
30M: 64
20M: 128
17M: 99
15M: 81
12M: 36
10M: 30
6M: 53
2M: 9

So technically I have enough for DXCC on 20m and 40m, although I would need every card to come in for 40m! I'm almost there on 17m - just one country away - and not far off the hundred on 15m. That's not bad at all for someone who got a licence less than a year ago!

Update: It's nearly 9pm and two attempts to get 100 on 17m have failed. CV5D went QRT while I was calling him and now HK1X has just gone out with his family despite being 59 here. I wasn't able to work him through the pile-up. Damn!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

United States on top band, opening on 12 metres

It's been an exciting 12 hours. Last night just after midnight I sat at the radio for five minutes before heading to bed. Something made me head down to 160m to have a listen. There, I could hear K3ZM on CW. Surely I was missing part of his callsign? Maybe he was OK3ZM? No, he called again. It was definitely K3ZM, Peter in Charlottesville, Virginia. Not thinking I had a hope in hell, I decided to call him. I gave him a 2 by 3 call (his callsign twice followed by my callsign three times). He came back with "2KC?" And before you know it, we were exchanging reports. That's Peter pictured below with some of his antennas. (Note: I'm jealous!!)

Making the States on 160m is a big deal for me. As you might have read in a recent post, the furthest I've ever worked up to now on top band was Lithuania!! It's a bit difficult to radiate effectively on 160m with just 50m of random wire! But somehow conditions allowed a trans-Atlantic contact last night. I was thrilled. I went to bed with a smile on my face. That brings my total number of countries worked on 160m to just seven. It will be a while before I get DXCC on that band!!!

Today (Saturday) there has been some interesting propagation on the bands. The solar flux index hit 91 yesterday but has dropped somewhat today to 87. Nevertheless I've been hearing some interesting DX. For instance, Australia on 20m and 15m, working the Oceania contest (although not able to hear my call regrettably!), China on 17m CW, and a good bit of activity on 12 metres.

It was on the latter band that I sat on CW and gave a CQ and got Russia and Ukraine coming in strong with a bit of Europe too, notably Poland and Czech Republic. Interestingly I am on 37 countries worked on that band. Apart from one great opening last Spring, I am yet to hear 12 metres like it used to be in the good old days. So here's hoping for good dx to come.

Update: It's 12.45pm and I'm hearing 7Q7BP Malawi on 10m CW! Needless to say he's got a big pile-up!