Sunday, December 28, 2014

A little bit of fun on top band in Stew Perry

Difficult as it might be to believe, my inverted v system for 80m/40m/30m actually has some resonance on 160 metres. Resonance, as you know, does not automatically equal good performance. If you could see how the 80 metre v is dog-legged around my garden, you might have a greater appreciation of what I mean! Being able to operate on top band does not mean being able to operate well. But in order to put my system to the test I had a go at the Stew Perry contest on 160 metres last night.

I did okay. I worked 45 QSOs. I managed to work as far away as Lithuania, and worked Sweden, Iceland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Finland and a few QSOs into the UK. I was entering on a non-competitive basis, although I may well submit a log in any case. A few stations had difficulty hearing me and needed either my callsign or locator square repeated. The Italian station had a lot of trouble copying my square and the QSO took a couple of minutes. Aside from that, it was quite enjoyable. I participated for about two to three hours, on and off. My total claimed score (according to my N1MM+ log) is 129 points.

Below is a video taken early in the night and features a QSO being made:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Having a little bit of fun in the ARRL 10 metres contest

I am dipping in and out of the ARRL 10m contest this weekend. Low power mixed. Running 100 watts into my Antron 99. Did some CW after this video. Conditions have faded a wee bit.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Doing a little bit of JT65 over the weekend

When there's no big dxpeditions on and no particularly rare DX to be worked, sometimes it's nice to unwind with a bit of digital mode action. I personally like to do some PSK and occasionally some JT65 on such occasions. I find digi modes relaxing. I don't need the linear on and I can work at a fairly relaxed pace. Last night, I made a couple of QSOs on 80 metres using JT65 running just 15 watts. I was surprised at how quiet the band was. There was no DX on, but I didn't mind. Today, I was decoding JT65 on 20 metres and even made a QSO into Greece using the WSJT-X software. Here is a screen shot:

Earlier, I made a couple of ragchew QSOs on 10 metres CW, using 100 watts and my Antron 99 vertical. I had a chat with VE1DX, Paul in Halifax, and WA2DTW, Steve in Pennsylvania. I find that I can now ragchew on CW, and although I still miss words, I am much more comfortable than even a year ago.

Friday, December 5, 2014

South Georgia - so near and yet so far

Mike VP8CMH was active briefly from South Georgia Island yesterday evening as VP8SGK. He did, after all, manage to get to the island but his operation was extremely brief and, sadly, he chose 15 metres instead of 17 or 20, so there was no chance for EI. When I arrived home from work, I did briefly hear him. All I heard was "Victor Papa Eight" and then noise. I heard nobody calling him. He was working simplex. Several spots suggested Africa and Middle East were working him, but hardly any EU, and definitely no EI.

I had worked Mike as VP8CMH/MM on 17m CW and 20m CW over the previous evenings, and found him quite workable. Unfortunately when his brief moment on South Georgia finally came, he was on 15m. So that was an opportunity to work an All-Time New One that sadly didn't happen.

I worked him on Tuesday evening when the ship was moored alongside South Georgia. That's the irony of the situation. I know I could have worked him when he was on the island, but by the time he got there, 15 metres was closed to Europe.

Ah well. What can one do? It's another of the 31 remaining DXCC that I need that will have to wait for future activations. In the meantime, there are probably a few dozen people out there who have Mike in their log from VP8/G and are delighted. So well done to those who made it in.

And for those who didn't? Our day will come!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Galapagos Islands - all bands now worked!

Galapagos Islands.
Last night, I worked HC2AO/8 on 30 metres at a few seconds past midnight. This was the last band that I needed Galapagos Islands on. I first worked this DXCC in May 2013 and now have all HF bands from 10 metres through 80 metres worked. I still need 160 metres and 6 metres, but I have Galapagos on all the HF bands on which I am active.

The current operation from Galapagos is fantastic. HC2AO/8 alone has given me seven band slots. HC2OGT/8 and HC2AWT/8 have both given me a slot apiece. And HC2AO/8 has already confirmed a few of my slots via Logbook of the World. Happy days.

Monday, December 1, 2014

CQWW CW 2014 - a brief summary of DX contacts

I dipped in and out of CQWW CW 2014 over the weekend. I was not active and will not be submitting a log. However, as always, I find this contest fantastic for working new countries on bands and slots and that proved to be the case again. Here is a summary of the contest activity:

Four new DXCC on 80 metres: 9K Kuwait, A7 Qatar, VP9 Bermuda and XE Mexico.

7O2A Yemen (rare one) worked on three bands - 10, 20 and 40. New country on 40 metres!!! The 40 metre QSO was made near the end of the contest through an intense simplex pile-up. Here's a video taken immediately after my QSO when lots of contesters were still trying to work him:

9Y4/VE3EY Trinidad and Tobago, new country on 10 metres.

Three QSOs with VU4KV Andaman and Nicobar - two contest QSOs and one RTTY contact on 17 RTTY. New country on digimodes. They went QRT at the end of the contest!!

HC2AO/8 Galapagos - worked on 10m and 15m.

5K0A Providencia - 10m CW.

A few non-contest QSOs:

TG9AHM Guatemala - 12 metres SSB - new slot.
TG9IIN Guatemala - 10 metres SSB - new slot.
VP8CMH/MM Falklands - 17m CW.

And just to finish, here's a video showing the signal from 9K2HN on 80 metres. I had worked him just after the contest started, at 14 minutes past midnight on Saturday. This was his signal on Sunday:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Update: five new countries on 80 metres in two days!

There is an update to my previous post! Last night, I managed to work 8Q7DV in the Maldives on 80 metres CW, although it was a bit of a struggle to be honest. I was first logged as EI2EZ, due to the persistent callers who never listened and QRMed me despite repeated efforts to get my call through. Not satisfied with the busted call (and with some encouragement from EI6FR!) I decided to go at it again. It took me another hour to get in again, and in all that time the signal from 8Q7 was quite QSB, so it was fairly readable at times and then quite unreadable. Nevertheless, I finally got in with EI2KC this time.

I also worked OD5NJ in Lebanon on the same mode, and to my surprise I found that I didn't have Lebanon on that band. So in the space of less than two days, I have five new DXCC on 80 metres.

I'm delighted with how the inverted v is performing, despite all its shortcomings. The important thing is that it's resonant, and that makes a huge difference.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Three new countries on 80 metres in 24 hours

I'm delighted to see that winter propagation is good on 80 metres. I've worked three new countries on that band in the space of 24 hours.

Yesterday morning I worked VP2EIM Anguilla on 80 cw.
Last night, to my great delight and with not much effort, I worked VU4KV Nicobar, also on 80 cw, battling against an EU pile.
And just now, this morning, I worked HC2AO/8 on 80 metres cw. You can see his signal strength in the video below. He was struggling to hear EU because of QRN and as soon as I stopped making this video he disappeared from the QRG. Lucky me!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

FT4TA Tromelin dxpedition is QRT. My thoughts

Members of the FT4TA team in action.
The FT4TA Tromelin mini dxpedition (I have to call it that, because there were only seven ops) finished on Sunday night, November 9th. I am glad to say that I have at least eight slots with them, with a possibility of two or three more. I reckon I have only the slimmest chance of being in their log on 30 cw. They were very weak and there was a lot of QRM. It might not have been my callsign that I heard. Time will tell. They have not uploaded the last three days' logs due to lack of internet on Tromelin, and are planning to do a final upload some time today (Monday) from Mayotte. As I said, time will tell!! I definitely worked someone using the callsign FT4TA on 15m CW, but a few of us who worked them on Thursday are not in the log. Is there a log missing, or was it a slim? There was also a 20m CW QSO that I am not entirely certain about, but I'm keeping the fingers crossed.

This was a tough dxpedition to work. Part of the reason for this is because they were a small team - seven ops running four stations. They managed over 70,000 QSOs in ten days. Not bad. Conditions for them were very challenging. When they tried to work North America only, the EU jammers would start causing deliberate QRM (DQRM). Mind you, the DQRM was there at many times when they weren't working NA/SA only, including the now famous (or infamous) EAHSYL, whoever that is. I doubt that they are even based in Spain, but their efforts to send what might be EA5SYL never work because they send four dits (a H) instead of five (a 5).

I am very, very glad to have been at the radio on two weekdays during this activation. I had a week's holiday and was in the lucky position to be able to call them on their first day of operation. Indeed, after just a short time trying on 10 metres SSB, I worked them on that Friday morning using my trusty Antron 99 antenna, a fibreglass vertical antenna that is also used by many 27 Mhz CB operators around the world. I worked FT4TA on a +39 Khz split. Amazing stuff. I also managed a QSO on 17 metres SSB that evening, meaning I had them in the log twice on their first day. But then the weekend came, and all hell broke loose. The pile-ups grew massively. The CW pile-ups were 25 Khz wide. The SSB pile-ups, in some cases, were 50 Khz wide. All the weekday workers were playing radio for the weekend, and it became almost impossible to get a QSO. By the most extraordinary luck, they QSYd from 20 metres SSB to 20m RTTY, and I called them before there was a big pile-up. I managed a QSO at 00:40 (twenty minutes to one in the morning) on Sunday morning, November 2nd. Happy days. Now I had three slots and two modes - SSB and RTTY.

I was fully sure that the pile-ups would start to settle down as we went into the Monday, but they didn't. The intensity of the piles remained, all through the week, right up until the moment they went QRT. This eighth-most-wanted DXCC, a small island in the Indian Ocean of Madagascar, was in huge demand around the globe. In fairness to the FT4TA team, they did make an effort to work different areas of the world. After spending the whole of each of the first few mornings working EU, they would then ask for NA/SA only in the afternoon. Incredibly, European operators started moaning about this on the clusters, asking such things as "why NA only" and suggesting that the Tromelin ops were favouring the US because that's where their sponsors were located!! And not a word about the fact that they had spent the whole morning working Europe only. There is an increasing belligerence among EU ops that I don't like. They want it all. They want to work the DX on the bands and slots that they need, without taking cognisance of the needs and aims of the dxpedition and other hams around the world. And when the dxpedition does something contrary to their wishes, they put up nasty comments on the cluster. It's clear that some hams need to grow up. And what about the usual request spots? Oh my god. If I see another "please 20m RTTY" or "Good time for EU 40 CW" etc etc, I will throw all my equipment in a skip and take up fishing. Do they think the dx ops are sitting there, in a shack in Tromelin, watching the cluster, wondering who wants what slot? I don't think so.
After the final log upload today, I find I have a total of nine slots, which is
fantastic. I am missing a 15 cw and 20 cw QSO. Who can complain?
I worked several more slots, including 10 CW, 17 CW and 12 SSB, all of which are in the log, but I will have to await the complete log update to see what my final tally is. I gave up chasing them at the weekend after they asked for slot chasers to stand by to allow people who needed it as an ATNO (All-Time New One) to call. But on Sunday night, I was informed that EI and G were working them on 20 SSB and as most of EU wasn't hearing them, I gave them a holler and bagged that slot too.

It's difficult to complain about a dxpedition. These are people who invest huge amounts of their own time and money to activate a rare DXCC for the benefit of the ham community. So I will keep my complaint very short. They kept disappearing from a band or slot without warning. Sometimes they would just say "QRX" and disappear for five minutes, or QSY somewhere else, or just disappear completely. This was bad operating, and very frustrating for the huge pile waiting to work them. However, given the small team and the huge demand for them, I sure understand why they would need regular breaks. They must have been exhausted.

It's wonderful to have this rare one in the log. In most cases, DXCC in the Indian Ocean are relatively easy to work from EI. But the intensity of the pile-ups and the unfortunate QRM and regular QRXing made this a difficult one to bag. Well done to the FT4TA team for seeing it through to the end. Remember, you can't keep all of the people happy all of the time. But you've certainly put a smile on the face of this operator!!!

Paul, VK4MA, has some very interesting thoughts also on the dxpedition.

Friday, October 31, 2014

FT4TA Tromelin logged on 10 metres SSB - DXCC #309!

This is FT4TA Tromelin on 10 metres SSB a few minutes after I logged them as an ATNO (All-Time New One). This is my 309th DXCC logged. It was very pleasing to get them on the first morning of operations, especially with the pile-up being so huge. I used 400 watts into my Antron 99 vertical antenna. After a short while calling on various splits, I decided to pick 28.524 (39 Khz up) and sat there for about seven or eight minutes before I heard the magic words:

"Echo India Two Kilo Charlie five nine".

I didn't believe it was me. I paused. It came again.

"Echo India Two Kilo Charlie five nine".

I went back to him and gave him "roger, roger, Echo India Two Kilo Charlie, five nine, five nine, QSL".

And I was in the log! 

The pile-ups on 10 SSB, 12 SSB, 15 RTTY and 17 CW are humongous. The CW callers on 17 metres are way up as far as 18.108 and beyond, completely obliterating the digital portion of the band. I will try for some more slots when things calm down a little bit!

Update: Just now at 18:50 after returning from trick or treating with the kids, I've worked FT4TA Tromelin on 17 metres SSB. I got them on 18.155, with their QRG on 18.130.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tromelin - let the games begin!!!

The Tromelin island (FT4TA) dxpedition has officially begun. Unfortunately conditions have not been favourable this evening for Ireland, so I will have to wait to see what tomorrow brings in terms of hearing this rare DXCC. Tromelin is the 10th-most-wanted DXCC and hasn't been activated in 14 years. Good luck to all the DX hunters trying to get FT4TA into their log!

I haven't been doing much blogging lately, but I have been reasonably active on the bands. Here's a very brief update about what I've been working:

VK9DLX Lord Howe Island - dxpedition prolonged and continuing - 8 slots.
VK9XSP Christmas Island - Polish dxpedition to VK9/X - 12 slots.
5R8M - excellent dxpedition to Madagascar - 13 slots so far.
ZK3E/ZK3Q - two-man Polish dxpedition to Tokelau - three slots so far, which is brilliant because there are only two of them and signals are very, very light most of the time.
XX9R Macau - very difficult to hear most of the time. Managed 12m CW so far.
KG4WV/KG4DY Guantanamo Bay - managed two slots so far. Easy to work from here.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

S01WS worked again as I receive their QSL card!

My QSL cards received from S01WS Western Sahara.
I managed another new band slot with S01WS in Western Sahara today. I worked them on 12 metres CW with my trusty Antron 99 vertical antenna. This brings to eight the total number of slots I have them worked on. Only a couple of days ago I received QSL cards confirming six slots. I have worked them twice again since requesting the card!! I would be very glad of confirmations on Logbook of the World, but I'm not sure if that's going to happen. Although I didn't have much time in the shack today, I did manage to work the following:

E51XIW South Cook Islands - 20 metres RTTY (new one on digi modes)
9N7CJ Nepal - 20 metres SSB (new slot)
TR8CA Gabon - 10 metres SSB (new slot)
T30D Western Kiribati - 20 metres CW (new slot)
C21GC Nauru - 17 metres CW (new band)
3D2YA Fiji - 20 metres CW

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Interesting signal reports from my mobile setup

Yesterday, at lunchtime, I decided to test out the HF setup in the car, which I have recently reinstalled. I gave out a CQ on 14.005 with 100 watts through my roof-mounted Watson Multi-ranger antenna. I didn't actually want to make any contacts. I was happy enough just to look at the signal reports on the Reverse Beacon Network. And that's when it got really interesting!

As you can see from the photo on right, I was parked against a wall with a fence on it, and behind that is a big factory unit that it perhaps 30 feet tall. The front of my car is facing roughly east-southeast, so the factory is pretty much blocking me to the west-northwest. And what was my best signal report on the Reverse Beacon Network? VE2WU in Canada, which is where my signal should have been worst. Perhaps the fence was reflecting my signal strongly onto the long path? I had good reports from Belgium and Germany too, which should not be so surprising. But 54 dB snr from Canada is a damn good report, the sort of thing I mightn't even see with my hexbeam and 400 watts pointing directly to Canada!

Perhaps one of my readers can shed some light on what might have made my signal to Canada so strong?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Quick update: C2, ZD9, VK9/X logged, E3 confirmed

Yesterday evening I arrived home from work knowing that any radio time would be severely curtailed. I had to read the IRTS news at 8pm on EI2MOG, and then had a meeting to go to which would last from 8.30pm until after 10pm. When I got home, I received messages from fellow DXers EI6FR and EI6IL that C21 was on 30 metres with a good signal, and that ZD9XF was on 10 cw. I had to eat my dinner!! Food came first.

Final approach to Nauru island, where C21GC is active.
It turned out not to be a bad decision. When I returned to the radio, I managed to work C21GC on 30 metres CW within two minutes!! Great going. A second slot with this new one. Then I went to 10 metres and, using my Antron 99 vertical, began calling Nigel ZD9XF on a split of about 2.5 Khz up. After about five minutes or so, he came back to me with "EI2KC 5NN". I gave him "TNX NIGEL, UR 5NN 5NN TU". Another slot with the southern Atlantic island! Unfortunately my doubtful QSO with him on 80 metres on Saturday morning is NOT in his online log. So I will have to try again, if he turns up on 80 in the mornings before his departure from the island this coming Saturday. No pressure eh?

A short time later I turned the hexbeam to 80 degrees and I could hear VK9AN quite well on 20 metres SSB. I punched in a 5 Khz split and began calling. It took just two calls to get into his log! Wow. Easy peasy. Sometimes that's the way it goes....... Three new slots in the space of about 20 minutes. And all before I had to read the news and leave the shack!

Upon reading Ark EI9KC's blog where he said that E30FB had confirmed his QSO on LoTW following an OQRS payment, I did the same, and now find that my two QSOs with this All-Time New One are now confirmed on LoTW! Wow. Brilliant stuff.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Some nice confirmations in via eQSL

Saipan, Mariana Islands, for a QSO on 20 metres CW.
TZ6BB, Mali, for a QSO on 30 metres CW earlier this month. Thanks Nando!
YV4NN Venezuela, for a QSO on 6 metres!! Chuffed with that one.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

C21GC Nauru in the log - new country for me, #308!!!!!

Within the past couple of days, I was thinking how I had missed a couple of chances over the past few years to log C2 Nauru. And up pops a one-man dxpedition to that Pacific Island, starting today! I kid you not. Stan LZ1GC is there as C21GC from today until October 14th. He was spotted on several bands today. 15m CW - no signal here. 10m CW - no signal here. 17m CW - barely audible on the absolute limit and impossible to have a QSO with. Then, up he pops on the Reverse Beacon Network on 14.010. I have the antenna pointed at 8 degrees already. I dial down to 14.010. He is there!! 559 with flutter. I put the split on. I sit on 14.011.5. I call.

Within just a moment he comes back "EI2?" and within a short few moments I was in his log!! Wow. I managed to get in before he was physically spotted on the cluster. Lucky me, because when he was spotted the QRM became huge. I made the webcam video below a few minutes after working him.

C21 is my 308th DXCC worked. I'm delighted to have logged Stan on his first day of activity. It can be difficult to work such one-person dxpeditions in the Pacific. And, as the cluster spot proved, there can be considerable QRM too. Delighted now to finish off my weekend with another All-Time New One (ATNO) in the log, and so soon after E3 gave me my last African DXCC.

A map showing the location of C2 Nauru in the Pacific Ocean.

The entire continent of Africa worked in less than five years

As you might have been reading in the past week, I worked Eritrea, the last country on the continent of Africa that I needed. Today I've made a special map of Africa showing each DXCC (country/entity) and the date of my very first QSO with that country. It's been a heck of an adventure. If you told me when I got my ticket in October 2009 that I would have worked the entire African continent in five years, I would have laughed at you. Did I ever dream that Somalia AND Eritrea would be activated? Not in a million years. And yet, here we are, a month shy of five years, and I have the whole of Africa in the bag. I can't believe it myself.

By its very nature, Africa is a difficult continent for the ham. For Ireland, it's not too far away, so a lot of countries on the African continent are fairly workable. It's just that many of them are rare because there are few or no radio amateurs. Many many African countries are poor. Most don't have proper infrastructure. Plenty don't have electricity outside of the major cities. Some, like Somalia, are run by pirates. So one thing that the radio amateur will notice about African countries on the air is that many of them will be activated by European operators who are there on business or maybe for charity work. One of the sad facts about Africa is that, for political and other reasons (including corruption, war and famine), many of its indigenous people are unable to get licences and become radio hams. I know that we shouldn't get political in this hobby, but sometimes it grieves me to the core that it is so. I wish that there could come a time when all the African countries will be on the air regularly, each one by native operators, not by visitors from different parts of the world. In the meantime, I am grateful to all the individuals, and indeed dxpedition teams, that have gone to great lengths to give out rare ones to us DX hunters. Thank you.

My first QSO with Africa was with 6V7S in Senegal on November 12th 2009. As we entered 2014, I needed only two DXCC - S0 Western Sahara and E3 Eritrea. S0 became active with S01WS which is a club station in Western Sahara. I worked them on numerous bands. So it was down to Eritrea, the last one needed. And I had resigned myself to the fact that it could be years before that came on the air. However, there was light at the end of the tunnel when it emerged Zorro JH1AJT would be going there with the Foundation for Global Children and might be able to operate from E3. That did transpire, and eventually at four minutes to midnight on 18th September (2014), I worked Zorro as E30FB on 20 metres SSB. Fabulous. Fantastic. The culmination of a great adventure.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

DX chasing is not a pursuit that has regular hours!

DX chasers are a rare breed.  I mean the really serious ones. When all the rest of the world - hams and non hams - are tucked up in their beds nice and warm and snug, we are in the shack, at the rig, bleary-eyed and unkempt, chasing a slot with the latest "rare" one. And that's how it has become for me. I used to be able to hunt new ones and band slots during the day, but with 307 DXCC logged, the slots and bands and All-Time New Ones become rarer and rarer, and one has to migrate to the lower bands in order to nab these slots.

Nigel G3TXF in Cape Town bound for Tristan Da Cunha.
Here in Ireland, there are approximately 1,500 licenced radio amateurs. Of those, there are probably about 200 hams who operate on HF to any degree, whether it be every day or twice a year. Of that 200 (and that's only my own very rough estimate), there are only about 30 dedicated DX hunters. That's 30 Irish people out of four million who dedicate themselves to this unique pursuit. And I am one of them. Does that make me special? It certainly makes me weird, especially in the eyes of all my non-ham friends! The non-DXing hams, while not spending hours in pile-ups, at least understand what DX chasing is, and are forgiving towards the HF nuts. But the rest of the world is oblivious to our unique hobby.

Having got up at 6am yesterday morning to hunt DX, I was exhausted by the time 11pm came around. My duty for the weekend is to watch out for Nigel ZD9XF on CW on the low bands (40m and 80m) and to try to work him there. I didn't think I had much hope of getting up during the night if he did pop up. Nevertheless, I set up DXwatch to send me emails if he appeared on 80 or 40. And I left my phone volume up full so I might hear the alerts if they came. And come they did.

At around 01:27 local time I received email alerts to say he was on 80 metres, on 3.501. I managed to get up out of bed and come down to the shack. I switched on the equipment. I could hear nothing. I looked on the Reverse Beacon Network and could see that he had quickly gone back to 30 metres, where he had been for a while. Damn. 80m missed. I went back to bed.

At around 2am or so there were alerts for 40 metres. He was on 7.001. Back down to the shack in the darkness, exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open. I could hear him! I listened to the split. There were people calling him 1 Khz up, and 2 Khz up, and even 3 Khz up. Damn. Big pile-up. I tried to find out where he was listening but it was too spread out. I called him 2 up and then 2.5 up. He was working north and south America mostly, although there were still plenty of other Europeans suffering from insomnia like me..... After a short while calling, and not being able to figure out any discernible pattern to his movements, I realised that the pile-up had become so big that there were people calling him 8 Khz up, on 7.009, and at that moment I was struck by a revelation:

"Murphy, what the hell are you doing here, at 2.30am, trying to work a country that you have worked already (albeit on other bands) when you could be in bed like all the normal people?" So I switched everything off and went to bed. It just wasn't worth the effort. I would be exhausted for the rest of the weekend.

At exactly 7am, I received a phone call from Declan EI6FR. "Nigel is on 40 metres, I just worked him 3 up. He's on 7.001."

"Has he got a big pile?" I asked.

"No," was the reply.

"Right, thanks," I said, and the call ended.

Down to the shack again!

Sure enough, I could hear "ZD9XF Up" on 7.001 and decided I would try 7.003 as my transmit frequency. Within two minutes I could hear the magic code in the noise.... "EI2?"

I gave my call twice.

He came back "EI2KC 5NN".

I gave "RR EI2KC 5NN 5NN TU".

And, just like that, I was in his log. It seems that my decision to go back to bed in the middle of the night was well justified!!!

PS: As I write this, it's nearly 11am now and already my 40m QSO is in Nigel's online log:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Winter is coming and it's time for 80 metres!

Birds on a wire . . . Starlings sitting on the apex of my
inverted V system. The 30/40/80 legs are perpendicular to
each other. I trimmed the 80 v for resonance at 3.510.
I know it's still only September. And yes, the weather has been largely very good here in Ireland. We are getting an Indian summer. However, the days are getting shorter rapidly. It's past the equinox now, and as the days contract in length, it's time to start thinking about winter and the lower bands. Yesterday evening, having analysed my nest of V dipoles, I could see that my 80m inverted V was resonant at 3.4 Mhz. Too low. It needed to be shortened. So I trimmed some wire off each end and got it beautifully resonant on 3.510 Mhz. Nice! Time for some winter time DXing on 80 metres.

Yesterday morning, I managed a QSO with YV8AD on the upper part of the band using 100 watts. Hopefully I will be able to work some DX on SSB in future as I now find that even on the upper part of the band the antenna has an SWR of around 4:1. I know this is technically too high, but it means it can be tuned fairly easily, and I might get a few hundred watts out with the linear.

I took this screenshot immediately after working HC2AO on 80 metres.
As you can see, I was almost exactly on the greyline.
I got up at 6am today in the hope that Nigel ZD9XF would be on either 40 or 80 metres from Tristan Da Cunha. Unfortunately he was QRT. So I decided instead to see what DX was "on offer" HI HI. I worked PJ5/OL8R with 100 watts on 80 cw. That was a handy contact. Then 8R1AE popped up from Guyana on 40m CW as a potential new one so I started chasing him. That turned into a mammoth affair as I battled with all the German, French, Czech and other European stations. It was tough going. He is a slow op on the CW key, but had a steady rate and managed the pile-up without too much fuss. At around 7.15am local time, I saw on the Reverse Beacon Network that HC2AO was CQing on 3.504 Mhz. I went straight down there like a shot, but could hear nothing. Damn. Had I missed him again, for a second morning in a row? Then the RBN spotted him again, this time on 3.508. Up I went and sure enough, there he was. He tried to work a SM station several times but eventually had to give up. We were approaching greyline. I knew this was the perfect moment. I pounced with "EI2KC". Immediately he came back with "EI2KC 5NN BK". I gave him the usual five nine nine and I was in the log. Another new one on 80 metres, and it's not even winter yet! That's country #147 on 80.

I went back to 40m to chase the 8R1. It took a long while, but eventually at 7.50am I managed to get him in the log. I think one new one on 80 and one new one on 40 is a very good result for an early morning. I can see myself going to bed early and setting the alarm for 6am more often during the coming winter. It can be very rewarding.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

E30FB Eritrea QSOs confirmed on Clublog already

I'm delighted to see that my two QSOs with Zorro, E30FB, have already shown up in Clublog. The statistics make for interesting reading. During his time in Eritrea, Zorro made only 19 QSOs with Ireland, and there are a few of us with more than one QSO, so he might only have worked 15 or 16 separate EI stations. I'm thrilled to see that both my 20m and 10m SSB QSOs are in his log. Hopefully he will upload to Logbook of the World before too long. Thanks again Zorro for a wonderful activation, and for giving me the last country I needed on the African continent. Cheers!

YV8AD Venezuela makes it #146 on 80 metres!

I woke up at 6.30am to see if Nigel ZD9XF was on the low bands. Unfortunately, he was QRT since about 01.30z. I could hear HC2AO weak on 80 CW and he would be a new country, but unfortunately he went QRT as soon as I started calling. So I had to do something now that I was awake and the grey line was approaching!

I could hear YV8AD on 3.750 on my Icom IC-756PRO
I saw YV8AD spotted on 3.750 SSB and decided to have a listen. The band was not too noisy, and I could hear him at a 5 and 5. I went down a few KCs and tuned my inverted V with the 756PRO's internal ATU. The V is resonant right down at the bottom of the band, so it was a barefoot effort only. I called, and straight away he came back "Echo India Two Kilo Charlie, good morning Tony, you are five and six, five and six roger". I was delighted that he could hear me at all. I gave him 5 and 5 and just like that, country number 146 on 80 metres was in the log. It's not too often that I am able to work DX on SSB on 80 metres. Thankfully, I was close to my greyline, and he wasn't busy. Plus, there's not much between here and Venezuela except salt water, which helps.

Thankfully, I also managed a QSO with TY1AA on 30m CW. I need TY on 30, 40 and 80 (and of course 160!) so I was glad to get at least one low band QSO seeing as how they are QRT tomorrow.

Monday, September 22, 2014

ZD9ZS Tristan Da Cunha Island logged on 10 metres SSB

I managed a QSO with ZD9ZS on 10 metres SSB during a relatively short opening from Tristan Da Cunha into Ireland. I worked him with my trusty Antron 99, a cheap and cheerful vertical antenna that cost less than 90 euro and which has helped me bust many a pile-up on 28 Mhz. ZD9 became the 244th DXCC worked on 10 metres. Below is a video showing his signal a short time after I logged him:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

E30FB Eritrea in the log a second time

It might be the 17th most wanted DXCC, and the last bastion of the "needed list" on the African Continent, but I managed my second QSO with Eritrea today. A mixture of luck and persistence paid off in the end. I was not in the shack when the cluster reports said Zorro E30FB was working UK and EI on 28 Mhz. I was at my usual Sunday morning band rehearsal. I play solo euphonium with Drogheda Brass Band. We are practicing for the North of Ireland Band Championships on October 18th. Loads of EI stations were working Eritrea on simplex. There was no propagation to the rest of Europe apparently. Should I make some feeble excuse and leave band rehearsal to go to the shack and work Eritrea? Sometimes, this is the dilemma faced by the serious DXer. It's not possible to be in the shack at all times, when there are rare openings to rare countries!!

I waited, knowing I would not be home until around 1.30pm. At that stage, he was still on ten metres, but was working Spain and Italy among others, and was now split. I tried for a short while, but had to do "dad's taxi" for my sons, who were going to a birthday party. I dropped them off and scurried home again. Back at 2.05pm. Zorro was still there, but slow QSB meant I could only hear him some of the time. I decided to try him on the Antron-99 vertical antenna. It's done fantastically well for me in 10m pile-up situations before. And it didn't let me down this time. Within a few minutes, I was in his log, for the second time. What a thrill !

Also in the log this evening is VK9AN, on 17m CW. They had a nice clear signal (only an s3 on my needle, but sounded more like a 579). It only took me two calls to get into the log. They were working up about 1.4 Khz. The video below shows the signal from Christmas Island just after I worked them:

Friday, September 19, 2014

E3 Eritrea, last country on African continent I need, is in my log!

I had the most wonderful night on amateur radio last night. It reminded me of all the best things about our hobby. I pointed the hexbeam at North America at around 11pm on 17 metres SSB and started calling CQ. I worked a lot of stations, including one or two from South America. The furthest west I worked was into Wyoming, which was nice. A lot of the stations I worked were also using a hexbeam. This very capable little wire-beam antenna is becoming very popular. And who could blame a ham who is short of either cash or real estate (or both) from choosing it, given its great performance?

Zorro JH1AJT is in Eritrea as E30FB.
Anyway, after a while I could see that Zorro E30FB in Eritrea was active on 20 metres SSB, and knowing that it would be an all-time new one (ATNO) if I could get him, I had to leave 17 metres and turn the beam to 120 degrees and set the QRG to 14.245. I had guessed that he might be working North America only, and was disappointed to hear that that was the case.

Zorro is in Eritrea as part of a Japanese delegation and has something like 30 meetings scheduled for his short stay, which is to last less than a week. He is squeezing in his ham radio operations between this hectic schedule. He had been on 15 metres SSB on Wednesday afternoon and 20m SSB on Wednesday evening, working, respectively, EU and then NA. The same pattern was evident yesterday, Thursday, when he had worked a huge EU pile on 15 in the afternoon before calling for NA on 20m in the evening.

And so it was that I found myself sitting at the radio, listening to this rare DX working Stateside station after Stateside station. In a way, it was pleasurable. It was great to hear this very rare DXCC being activated. But it was frustrating having to sit by and watch, knowing that a QSO would be possible if only he was working Europe too. Unfortunately, he was being QRMed by music for a short time, as you can see in this video, which was shot about 15 minutes before I made my QSO:

I knew I would have a chance of a QSO if he allowed it. I nearly made it Wednesday night, but he thought I was AI2KC and when he heard me say "Echo India", he said he was working North America only. And this is one of the great questions about operating etiquette - do you call when he is generally working NA, or not at all? More specifically, if he does not say "North America" at the end of every CQ, do you call from Europe?

Having heard him work a HB9 station, I felt that it was worthwhile giving it a shot. When he said "North America", I would not call. When he said just "QRZ?", I would call. And that was my pattern. It was easy to hear the split because the American operators are far more disciplined than many of their European counterparts. There was still plenty of indiscipline, but it was much less predominant than in an EU pile-up.

I followed his QSX up and down. He would spend a few minutes on one QRG before it got too hectic and then move to another "quiet spot". Before too long, I heard him say just "QRZ?" and called him on the split where he had worked his last US contact. Then, the magic words came through:

"Kilo charlie, kilo charlie?"

"Echo India Two Kilo Charlie."

"Echo India Two Kilo Charlie, you are five nine."

"Thank you Zorro. You are also five nine in Ireland. Thank you so much for taking me in! 73!"

And he thanked me and I was in his log and suddenly, at 00:56 local time, I was in the log of E30FB and the last country I needed on the African continent was in my log. This all-time new one is DXCC #307 worked from this station. To say that I went to bed with a big smile on my face is an understatement! My fellow DX friend Mark EI6JK got a QSO immediately afterwards, and as soon as was he logged, Zorro started calling for North America only !!!

As they say, that's the way the cookie crumbles! This time, it crumbled in my favour . . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

VK9NT Norfolk Island in the log on 15m CW (short path)

Norfolk Island is a very small island off eastern Australia.
A short time ago, I managed to work the VK9NT Norfolk Island dxpedition on 15 metres CW. He is very light here on the short path, and inaudible on the long path. He is working everything from EU to Africa to Japan, so I really didn't think I had a chance. But I heard a couple of stations working him just one KC up, so I knew that he didn't have a huge pile-up. I had the hexbeam pointed at around 10 degrees and gave him a shot. Within a short time, I heard (with flutter and fast QSB) what I thought was 2KC 5NN so I gave "EI2KC EI2KC ?" and he came back and gave me "EI2KC EI2KC 5NN 5NN" and then I confirmed with "RRR EI2KC 5NN 5NN 73 TU".

Fabulous. That's only my second ever QSO with this DX entity. I worked VK9NT in May 2013 on 12m CW, my only other QSO with Norfolk. I'm glad now that I recently repaired the 15m wire of my hexbeam, which had been broken for some time!

Here's a short video I made shortly after my QSO showing just how weak VK9NT was. As you can see, he is not moving the needle at all:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Video - full CW QSO with VK7VR in Tasmania

This is what I love doing in the mornings! I love to find the VK and ZL stations on the long path and have a chat with them, usually on CW. This is Phil VK7VR in Ulverstone, Tasmania, with a good 579 signal on the longpath (beaming 260 degrees). As you can hear, he's in flying form on the key, and a great operator. It was lovely to get a ragchew with him before heading to work. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

CY0C one-day dxpedition worked on two slots!

The CY0C one-day expedition to Sable Island was thankfully relatively easy to work last night on both 20m SSB and 17m CW, providing two new band slots for me. Unfortunately due to QRM, my callsign was logged as EI3KC on 20m SSB, despite me attempting to correct it. However, my QSO on 17 CW was good. I will send an email to have the 20m SSB call corrected.

This morning, NZ4Z was absolutely booming in from Kentucky on 20 metres SSB. As you can see from this video, he was 20dB over s9:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Unusual (if completely accurate) cluster spot

I just worked VU2NKS on 17 metres RTTY a few minutes ago. He gave me a new band slot. I had worked him on 20m RTTY yesterday with about 80 watts. But just after my 17m QSO today, I saw the following information on the cluster:

I presume this is some station auto-spotting my QSO? I'm not sure I like this type of spotting, even if it is accurate. He spotted me, even though it was not my frequency. And he spotted me twice. Anyone else see this type of cluster spot lately?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

FT5ZM Amsterdam Island confirmed on LoTW

Today I received confirmation of ten band slots from the FT5ZM Amsterdam Island dxpedition which took place in the spring of this year. I'm delighted to see a 40m CW slot in there too. And in among all the FT5ZM QSLs there is also a confirmation from FR4NT, Cyril on Reunion Island, for our 80m SSB QSO last week. Delighted with that.

The FT5ZM QSLs brings my total number of countries confirmed on Logbook of the World to 292, out of 306 worked.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reunion Island on 80m SSB with 100 watts!!!

Ham radio, and DXing in particular, never ceases to throw up surprises. I've just worked Cyril FR4NT in Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean on 80 metres SSB with my severely dog-legged inverted v with its apex at just 25 feet high!! I had been listening on his frequency (3.792) for some time, and he never had more than a few European stations calling him at any time. But then he went quiet and I thought he was gone.
Reunion Island, worked tonight on 80 metres SSB.

All of a sudden I heard him again and an LA2 station was rag chewing with him. I was able to get my 80m inverted v tuned on the top end of the band (not on his QRG of course!), which is quite surprising because it is only resonant at the very bottom of the band.

So, with who knows how much of my rig's 100 watts actually radiating from the antenna, I called him just as the LA2 said good night to him. Immediately he came back and said "who is the kilo charlie?" I couldn't believe it. It wasn't easy to get into his log, because I was in his noise, but he persisted with the attempt which I was very glad about. After a number of times trying, I could eventually here "I think it's echo india two kilo charlie, is that right", to which I gave "roger roger roger, you are five and five, five and five, QSL".

He said "you are five and seven in my noise level, roger" and soon the QSO was complete. Cyril gave me country #144 worked on 80 metres. I never would have made it through with any sort of a pile-up, but it goes to show what a combination of good conditions and a lack of QRM can do when you have low power and a seriously compromised antenna!

I look forward to trying to get a few more new countries into the log on 80 metres over the winter time.

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,

Monday, April 21, 2014

Very happy to receive XR0ZR Juan Fernandez LoTW confirmations

I have just received QSLs via Logbook of the World for my four QSOs with XR0ZR, Juan Fernandez. This is my 284th DXCC confirmed via LoTW. I am particularly thrilled to receive confirmation for my 80 metres CW QSO. That was an incredible distance to work DX using my dog-legged compromise inverted v antenna. I worked them at 7.46am on 18th November 2013. It was one of my most memorable QSOs on the HF bands!!

I participated in the IRTS 2 metres counties contest today from the home QTH and had a bit of fun. I made 31 QSOs with 11 different counties. I used my Icom IC-746 and my Watson W300 vertical. My best QSO was with Co. Galway.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A busy time . . . but still making some QSOs

I have to apologise for my apparent lack of activity lately. I've been very busy. Some of you might know that I play solo euphonium with the Drogheda Brass Band. We won our National Championships last weekend after a hectic schedule of rehearsals that forced my radio activity to take a back seat. We beat three other top bands to reclaim the title which we had lost last year. You can listen to our performance of the testpiece, 'Variations on Laudate Dominum' here:

We will represent the Republic of Ireland at the European Championships in Perth, Scotland, on May 3rd, so I still have a busy schedule of practices for the next couple of weeks.

I have been making some contacts, but only one or two per day. I worked three QSOs into A3 Tonga, a couple into KH8 American Samoa, and also a couple with Vlad UA4WHX, who is currently portable on Easter Island, signing as CE0Y/UA4WHX. Just now, I made a QSO with 3B9FR in Rodriguez Island on 17m SSB, a new band slot. Here is a video shot immediately after my contact:

And finally, I would like to say 'get well soon' to my very good friend and antenna rigger, Tony Allen EI4DIB, who is currently in hospital. All your ham friends in Drogheda and the wider world wish you a speedy recovery Tony. We hope you get back home soon and that you are on the road to better health.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

VK9MT Mellish Reef - my three QSOs are in the log!

Delighted to see my three QSOs with VK9MT Mellish Reef in their online log. My 15m QSO had been missing due to a technical glitch, but I got word today that it was in there. I consider myself lucky to have worked this ATNO (All-Time New One) on three slots, especially considering they went QRT early due to stormy weather. Congratulations to all the EI ops, and indeed everyone else, who made it into the log. Job well done! VK9/M Mellish Reef is currently the 22nd most wanted DXCC, according to Clublog.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A short video about importing LoTW QSLs into Logger32

I had only just uploaded today's log to ARRL's Logbook of the World and when I logged into my account I noticed that three of the QSOs had already been confirmed. So I decided to make a short video showing the process of importing LoTW QSLs into the Logger32 programme. 

The above is a brief self explanatory video on importing LoTW confirmed QSLs into Logger32. The error that popped up during the import is explained in the short video below:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A brief introduction to a couple of features of Logger32

I recently added a new desktop computer to the shack to replace my old laptop. I decided to change my logging software and to give the much vaunted free program Logger32 a try. Having briefly installed it and tried it out on the laptop, I knew there were some issues that I would need to get ironed out before changing over to it. Gladly, I got a lot of help and advice on Logger32 from Declan EI6FR and some help also from Don EI6IL. Within no time, I had it up and running on the new PC and imported my old log and started logging new QSOs with it.

The above video is a brief attempt to show just a couple of features that initially I hadn't a clue how to use, but which, once explained, became second nature. The first is how to connect Logger32 to the DX cluster. The second is how to rearrange the columns in your Logbook page. I tried to make mine look exactly like my old log for the purpose of familiarisation. 

The video is not intended to be an extensive tutorial, and is merely a novice's effort to pass on information in case someone else has just installed Logger32 and doesn't know how to use these features.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Galapagos Islands on 17 metres CW - video

Vlad UA4WHX is now on Galapagos.
One of the best-known and widest travelled single DXers is Vlad UA4WHX. He has had recent stints to places such as Egypt, Palestine, Juan Fernandez and Providencia, and his whirlwind tour of the world's DX hotspots seems to continue unabated. He is largely a CW operator and has an excellent ear. He is currently QRV from the Galapagos Archipelago, and had a beautiful signal on 17 metres CW yesterday morning. Needless to say, it didn't take me long to get him into my log. He is operating as HC8ART. The video below shows what his signal was like immediately after I worked him:

Vlad also gave me the pleasure of a 12 metres CW QSO the previous evening. Although Galapagos is not a new one for me, I still need a number of bands and slots and I hope to be filling some of those out with the help of Vlad.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

VK9MT logged for a third time, and TX6G logged 13 times

This is just a very quick update because it's late and I need to get to bed!! I worked the VK9MT Mellish Reef dxpedition for a third time this evening, on 17m CW. He had a good signal, and was working both EU and Japan. I managed to get in after about five minutes of calling. Below is a video I made shortly after my QSO. You can hear EI7NET being worked by them:

The TX6G dxpedition is just about to wind down as I write this, but they are still on 12m CW and with a good signal here at 11pm local time. I decided to make a quick video of them before they close. It's been a fantastic dxpedition. They are brilliant operators, and they kept good discipline on the pile-ups too. I am both ecstatic and surprised to have worked them on 13 band slots, including that coveted 80m slot, which only three Irish operators managed. Here is the video shot a short time ago of TX6G on 12 metres CW:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

DXCC #306, Mellish Reef (VK9MT), in the log

It was always going to be tough trying to get VK9MT Mellish Reef into my log, today of all days. Why? Because today is Mother's Day, when traditionally mothers aren't supposed to do any household chores, and my XYL, being a mother, had a day off. I was on duty today for breakfast making and also for dinner, and myself and the XYL and family had to visit her mother and my mother, as well as a visit to my sister who just had a baby this week. So radio had to take a back seat.

However, sometimes luck is on your side when chasing DX (of course, sometimes it's not!) I had been trying VK9MT this evening, after dinner, for a short while on 20 metres, but his signal faded way down. So I gave up. Some time later, I got a message from Declan EI6FR saying their signal was good on 20 CW and that he had just worked them. He told me the split, and that the op seemed to be listening progressively up, so I went up a bit from where Declan had worked them and heard someone else giving them 5NN. So I went up a little bit more, and after just a couple of calls I was in the log!

That's DXCC #306 in my log, and I'm delighted. It takes the pressure off, especially as I will be working during the day in the coming week and will be unable to work them when their signal is good on the higher bands. VK9/M is 22nd on Clublog's Most Wanted DXCC list for March 2014.

I also managed a couple more QSOs with TX6G Austral Islands. I nabbed them on 17m CW late last night (23:25) and also early this morning on 17m SSB (09:27) and the total number of slots with TX6G is now 12. Previous to this dxpedition, I only had Austral Islands on two slots. It really is a top-class operation. Below are my confirmed slots with TX6G so far on Clublog:

 I have 12 slots in total with TX6G.
UPDATE!!!!!  I just worked VK9MT again on 15 metres CW at 10:17pm local time.

This picture will speak for itself, I hope!!

TX6G, Austral Islands, worked on 80 metres CW just a few short days ago, and now confirmed on ARRL's Logbook of the World. Need I say any more? Worked at half six in the morning with a compromise 80m dipole wrapped around my 30ft-long garden. Delighted is the first word that springs to mind!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A new addition to the shack!

I'm sorry for the lack of updates this week. It's been a particularly busy week. Not least because I have been spending a lot of time installing a new addition to the shack. That addition is not a radio, but rather a badly-needed new computer!

The monitor for the new computer takes up a bit of space!
It's a Dell XPS 720, with a Quad Core processor at 2.4 Ghz, 4GB of ram, two 500GB hard drives and a Nvidia Geforce 8800 graphics card. It came with a very impressive 26-inch monitor (see picture), which has four built-in speakers for surround sound. I've had to create a bit of space on the desk for that!! I bought the PC secondhand, but it's light years ahead of my old Acer laptop (also pictured), which, although it has given me sterling service for the past eight years, is now beginning to struggle with all that I throw at it.

The PC is a birthday present. I hit the big 40 last Sunday and took delivery of the PC on Tuesday evening. As you can imagine, there is a lot of installation with a new computer, especially when trying to interface it with the radio and to get all the appropriate software installed. I now have Logger32 installed and working, and also have digi modes working with Ham Radio Deluxe.

On the radio front, I have had time for a total of ten band slots with the excellent TX6G dxpedition to Austral Islands (FO/A). I have to say that I find this to be an excellent dxpedition. The ops have very good ears but they also keep good discipline on the piles. The QSO that I would be proudest of is the early morning (6.30am) contact with them on 80 metres CW, which was both a great surprise and a fantastic delight. I also managed a couple of QSOs with ZL7AAA Chatham Island. I'm hoping VK9MT on Mellish Reef will be on the air today, and that I can hunt down my latest ATNO (All-Time New One!)

Right, I'm, off to install more software on my newly-acquired PC!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A lovely birthday present - an award from the IRTS

I received a lovely present yesterday (Sunday) for my 40th birthday. I was awarded the Sheila Piper Cup by the Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS) at its annual general meeting in Galway. The IRTS makes a series of awards each year at its AGM, including presentations for winners of various contests and for other achievements. The society also honours radio amateurs for service to the society or to amateur radio.

The Sheila Piper Cup was presented to the Society by Jim Piper in memory of his late wife Sheila.  The cup is presented for service by an individual to the various IRTS news media, i.e. Radio News, Echo Ireland, EiNews, web site, social media. This year the cup has been awarded to yours truly, EI2KC. It was accepted in my absence by Thos EI2JD, who picked up the cup itself and a perpetual plaque, both of which are already inscribed with my callsign. Here is a photo of Thos presenting the trophies to me last night:

As you can see, I forgot to take off my 'Birthday Boy' badge which I was wearing on the occasion of my 40th birthday. Many thanks to the IRTS for this wonderful honour. Of course, I will continue to do my best to promote this fantastic hobby of ours, something I've always enjoyed doing.