Sunday, September 30, 2012

ZD9UW Tristan de Cunha logged as a new DXCC

ZD9 Tristan de Cunha in the south Atlantic is the 49th most wanted DXCC according to So when plans were announced for two British amateurs to travel there to activate this rare one, EI2KC was getting excited. Unfortunately, one of the pair, G3ZAY, was unable to make it, but Robert, M0VFC, has made it and was on air a short time ago on 15m SSB as ZD9UW.

Robert M0VFC is operating from Tristan de Cunha as ZD9UW.
Pretty soon he had a big pile, but was listening up 5 to 10 kc, which is not a huge split really. I felt like I had a chance. I switched on the linear and turned the hexbeam south and pretty soon I was calling on 21.335 with 400 watts. After less than 10 minutes, I could hear 'who is the Echo India three?' I thought maybe he was listening for me and I said 'Echo India Two Kilo Charlie' and he said 'Echo India Two only' and soon I was in the log for a brand new DXCC!!

That's nine new DXCC in less than three weeks, and all worked with the new hexbeam. The more I use it, the more I like it. Robert was not strong, and there was QSB on his signal, but he was strong enough to work and to be heard in EI. This is a brilliant hobby, with so many rewards.

Working ZD9 made up for the lack of time I had over the weekend for radio. The couple of times I sat down at the radio to try to work 3D2C on Conway Reef were brief, and sadly there was considerable QRM on both 20m SSB, where music was being played over them, and on 17m CW, where, at one stage, there were THREE CW signals QRMing them. Very sad. Let's hope they're back on those slots tomorrow and that all the lunatics are off at work or back at the asylum!

Six slots with Conway Reef but less time now

I now have six slots with Conway Reef. At least I hope I have six. I worked them on 15m SSB yesterday morning and I wasn't 100% sure that they said EI2KC, but I will wait for a log update. My other five QSOs are in the log alright.

I find the hexbeam is doing a terrific job. None of the slots took more than half an hour to work, and, honestly, in some cases I was only calling for a few minutes. I did try 10m CW yesterday for a while, but with musical activities to attend to over the weekend I have less time for radio. The split was incredible. They were listening 25kc up at one point. So as you can imagine, the pile-up calling them from EU must have been significant. I will wait for the pile to calm down before trying them on 10m.

I still need them on 17m CW, where there seems to be a dearth of activity. And surprisingly, I also need them on 20m SSB. I am listening on their QRG on 14.190 right now and, unfortunately, someone is jamming them with a slow scan signal. This is an unfortunate and regrettable side of the hobby, where disgruntled individuals cause QRM on a DX station.

Ah well, we need lots of patience in this hobby. It is usually rewarded, but sometimes not. I am glad to say I am enjoying Conway Reef 3D2C so far. Being unemployed does have its upside!! In between hunting for a new job, I can be at the radio during the daytime, something which was impossible while I was working full time!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

3D2C has only started - and they're in the log!

I am a very happy man. The 3D2C Conway Reef dxpedition has only just started. I could hear them quite well on 20m CW (14.020 listening up) with my hexbeam pointed due north. So I put on a split and started to call them. Within five calls, I could hear 'EI2KC 5NN' coming back through the ether. So I gave him 'RR EI2KC 5NN TU' and he was in the log! That's DXCC no. 273 for me, with eight new ones being worked in the past fortnight.

It always takes the pressure off a bit when you can work a dxpedition on the day it starts. There is always the anxiety of wondering if they will have to go QRT early, as happened with the JX5O dxpedition to Jan Mayen Island in July 2011. So although the pile-ups are always quite extreme at the beginning, it is nice to be able to break through the pile to give oneself a measure of peace of mind!

Below is a video showing the signal from 3D2C on 14 Mhz CW working EU at the time:

Update: Thursday September 27th - 3D2C worked on 15m CW also.
Friday September 28th - 3D2C worked on 17m SSB and 12m CW

Monday, September 24, 2012

A quick update on the DX

Since my last posting I have had more success working DX, and the more I use it the more I become convinced that the hexbeam is a great antenna. Here is a brief summary of the DX in the log:

My hexbeam (pluys 2m/6m beams and Butternut) under the stars.
I worked VK9CS (Cocos Keeling) again, this time on 17m CW, with just two calls.
This was followed by T8XX (Palau) on 15m SSB for a new country on that band.
The same day, I worked T8XX on 20m CW.

3D2GC in Fiji provided a brand new DXCC for me when I worked him on 15m CW. He was very, very light and to be perfectly honest it's possible I am not in the log, or have a busted call.
However, when I later worked him on 17m CW, I was definitely in his log this time.

T8XX made it into the log again, this time on 12m CW, giving me a new DXCC on that band. VK9CS got into the log on a third band, this time on 20m CW.

Just this morning, I worked VK7CW, Steve in Tasmania, on 17m CW using just 100 watts. This was followed a short time later by T8XX again, this time on 15m CW, also with 100 watts.

Later, I worked BD7IS in China on 15m SSB using just 100 watts for a new slot, and then YB0ETC in Indonesia on 10m CW for a new slot there. Glad to hear 10 metres in good shape!

Friday, September 21, 2012

VK9CS - Cocos-Keeling Island - in the log with 100 watts!

I am delighted to report that I just worked VK9CS on Cocos Keeling Island on 12m CW, using just 100 watts into my hexbeam. I had been trying him for about 20 minutes and he was weak, and of course I had to leave the shack, to drop one of the kids to preschool! When I came back 15 minutes later, the signal from VK9CS had gone up, peaking 579 at times.

I decided to work him with 100 watts while the linear was warming up. He came back 'EI2?' after my first call! I gave him the call twice and he came back 'EI2C?' and before long, I was in the log!

This is the same operator (JA1PBV) that gave me VK9XS, Christmas Island, within the past week. The hexbeam is working beautifully. I have nabbed FIVE new DXCC in a fortnight, all five of them in the Pacific/Oceania area. Brilliant. Really delighted.

Below is a video showing the signal from VK9CS just after I worked him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A day in the life of EI2KC on the bands

As many of you will know, I was made redundant from my job as a newspaper editor over two months ago. In that time, I have been looking for a new job. While looking for a new job, I have also been trying to complete my next book, 'Newgrange - Monument to Immortality', which is being published next month.

The new hexbeam attached to the back wall of the shack. Also visible
are my Butternut vertical and the inverted Vs.
For a while I was relatively inactive on the bands, but have recently found, especially with the kids back at school, a bit of time for radio. Since the hexbeam went up here almost two weeks ago my hit rate with the DX has gone up dramatically.

To give you an idea what sort of DX I am working, I thought I would give you a run-down of the complete log for today, September 18th, 2012. I will exclude the three non-DX or non valuable QSOs in the log. Times are local

5W0QQ - Samoa - 20m SSB 08:26
AH0KY - Saipan/Northern Marianas - 15m SSB 10:56
JG8NQJ/JD1 - Minami Torishima - 17m CW - brand new DXCC! 11:25
AH0KY - Saipan/Northern Marianas - 17m SSB 12:57
KP2/K5WE - Virgin Islands - 20m CW 13:01
Z60K - Kosovo (but not a new entity yet) - 15m SSB, 15m CW, 20m CW, 17m CW 13:08-13:24
BH4IGO - China - 20m CW 15:18
P49T - Aruba - 15m SSB 15:44
JW9HH - Svalbard - 17m SSB 16:03
YB9/DJ7XJ - Indonesia - 20m CW 17:33
VK2DX - Australia - 40m CW 21:08
A92IO - Bahrain - 40m CW 21:11 - new band slot, thanks to EI3IO Dave!
VK7RF - Tasmania - 20m CW 21:25
JH3EUJ - Japan - 20m CW 21:40
JA6BJV - Japan - 20m CW 21:44
PY6AM - Brazil - 20m CW 21:46 (on the long path!)
VU2JOS - India - 20m CW 21:49
JA2IU - Japan - 20m CW 21:51
JA9BFM - Japan - 20m CW 21:55
VK7BO - Tasmania - 20m CW 21:58
T8XX - Belau - 30m CW 22:40 - new country on 30m!

Not bad for a day dipping in and out of the radio spectrum! I am particularly impressed with how the hexbeam is helping me to hear the weak Pacific stations that I might have found more difficult with the MA5B minibeam. I have worked four new DXCC in a week, all of them in the Pacific - VK9XS Christmas Island, V73NS Marshall Islands, JD1 Minami Torishima and 5W0XT/5W0QQ Samoa.

Monday, September 17, 2012

At least two, and possibly three, new DXCC today!

Despite suffering wind damage during a storm, the hexbeam was still proving its worth this morning when I pulled in two distant rare DX signals and nabbed the latest brace of DX entites for the EI2KC log. I saw VK9XS on Christmas Island spotted on 21 Mhz CW on the cluster. I sat on his QRG and could hear nothing. Not to be disappointed, I checked that the beam was pointing at him and then busied myself doing other things at the computer while still keeping an ear on the radio.

Marshall Islands, from where V73NS was transmitting
on 15m CW when I worked him as a new one.
A while later, I heard a weak CW signal coming up out of the noise. Pretty soon I could hear 'VK9XS UP', so I put the split on and tried to listen where he was working. It was difficult, because the pile was big and I wasn't hearing some of the Europeans he was coming back to. But eventually I had it bang on and pretty soon I heard 'EI?'. He had me as EI12KC initially but after a number of overs he came back with 'EI2KC 5NN' and I had a new DXCC in the log.

Less than 40 minutes later I started hearing V73NS from Marshall Islands, also on 15m CW, and gave him a call with 400 watts. He was very weak with a lot of QSB but pretty soon I was in his log too, making two new ones in less than an hour.

Also worked today with the hexbeam were VK8CAW (Australia) on 15m CW, DU3/N0QM (Philippines) on 15m cw, VK9XS (Christmas Island again) this time on 17m CW, and a couple of 9M2s, a couple of 9M6s and a DS4 in Korea. Nice!

I am grateful to Tony EI4DIB and Pat EI2HX for helping me make repairs to the hexbeam, and to Tony for his persistence in uncovering the cause of a fluctuating SWR. Thanks gents!!

Tonight there is a Z60K team on the air, from Kosovo. This is not a DXCC entity, at least not yet. I worked them on 20m SSB on the basis of 'work now, worry later'. If Kosovo becomes an entity any time soon, I will have it in the log!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Delighted with NH8S Swains dxpedition results

The NH8S Swains Island dxpedition has gone QRT about three days earlier than expected. However, I am very happy with my results, having worked them on a total of nine band slots.
The 'league table' showing the top EIs in the NH8S log.

The last of those slots was on 15 metres SSB last night, but this morning I see my callsign is busted and I am listed as EI3KC. The result of this is that I appear to be in joint second place among the EIs who have worked NH8S, but in actual fact I should be joint first. I am not complaining though! I am extremely satisfied to have worked this rare and distant dx entity on so many slots.
My call was busted on 15 metres SSB.

The new hexbeam has certainly helped with that, and I managed two slots using the RTTY mode, one on 20m and one on 15m. I did not hear them on 40 metres at any stage, nor did I hear them on 12 metres, but only a couple of EI ops seem to have nabbed them on those bands so I am happy enough.

Below is a video showing how strong NH8S was on 20m SSB on my hexbeam a couple of mornings ago.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Swains in the log on 30m CW

I was the happiest ham alive this morning when, with all of Europe calling the NH8S Swains dxpedition, they picked my call out of the pile-up!! It took a while to work them. They were on 10.103, listening approx 3kc up, but I worked them 2.5 kc up. They kept calling "EI2 EI2" and of course I was QRMed but I just kept giving my call and eventually I heard EI2KC 5NN ! So I gave them 5NN and TU. So thrilled. I spent the rest of the morning with a smile on my face!!

I did not have time to make a video recording as I had to leave the kids to school. That was slot number four for me. They were strong for a while on 15m CW for a while in the middle of the day but I was not able to break the pile on that occasion. But I will keep trying for more slots . . .

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The ups and downs of QSLing

One aspect of amateur radio which can be both rewarding and frustrating is the exchange of QSL cards. I get a lot of QSL requests in through the IRTS bureau. Having processed some 700-800 cards over the past number of months, I had the pleasure yesterday of sorting all the outgoing cards into continents and countries so I could send them to the outgoing manager. Above is a photo showing the sorted cards. It can take a number of hours to process each incoming bundle and fill out the return card and mark everything off in the log. This amount of cards probably took about five or six hours to process. It is a time consuming business!

On the slightly less frustrating side of the QSL bureau is when you get some nice cards incoming. Today I received 183 incoming cards from the bureau. There were quite a few from the 'usual suspects' including Germany/Sloevnia/Bulgaria etc., but some nice and unusual ones too. Above is a card from JD1BMH, Ogasawara Island, which would be a new DXCC confirmed. Also on left is DP1POL from Antarctica. Other highlights include ZD8W Ascension Island, 9M2TO West Malaysia, and a bunch of cards from Japan. Nice.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Down goes the MA5B . . . up goes the Hexbeam!

Yesterday, after a long time thinking about it, I finally decided to take down the MA5B minibeam in favour of a second hand hexbeam. Although the MA5B has served me very well, being my first beam and being a big improvement over the Butternut vertical in many cases, the gain figures for the hexbeam are better and those who have them swear by them.

The Hex Team! Thos EI2JD, Pat EI2HX, Anthony EI2KC
and Tony EI4DIB. What a crew!
So it was with mixed feelings that I finally decided to swap them. My antenna team swung into action here on Tuesday and consisted of Thos EI2JD, Pat EI2HX and Tony EI4DIB, without whose help it would never have happened.

I already had the arms and the stay ropes of the hexbeam assembled to move things on a little bit. Working in a very confined space with the hex was difficult, but we worked well as a team, ironing out the problems as we went along.

We discovered too, regrettably, that my old Moonraker rotator is kaput, and had to make the decision to erect the hexbeam on an armstrong rotator for the moment. (For non hams, this simply means the pole is manually rotated, using just the strength of one's arm!!)

The whole operation took about four hours, with tea breaks! It was a lovely sunny day which made it easier and we got to work on our sun tans too HI! The hexbeam is lighter than the MA5B, and without the weight of the rotator the new structure does not need stay wires.

Upon completion, we did the SWR test. SWR is flat across the 20m band, and is around 1.5 - 1.7 on 17m, 15m and 12m. It is a bit high, inexplicably, on 10m, but at 3:1 the ATU will tune it and also the Acom 1000 will handle it if needed.

Who's a happy boy then?

Although band conditions have not been great since it was erected, I worked a good bit of DX yesterday evening and last night, and was impressed with the many 59+ signals I was seeing on the FT-1000MP. Here is a summary of DX worked:

Japan 20m CW 400 watts
Asiatic Russia 20m CW 400w
Sumatra (YB4) 15m SSB 400w
India 15m CW 100w
Svalbard 17m SSB 100w
Swaziland 15m SSB 100w
Tanzania 10m SSB 400w - new country on 10m!!
Few Stateside QSOs on 15m CW 100w
Dominican Republic 15m SSB 100w
Peru 12m SSB 400w (new band slot)
Nicaragua 15m CW 400w
Gibraltar 17m SSB 100w
St Lucia 15m SSB 100w
Venezuela 17m CW 100w