Friday, January 29, 2010

PY0F makes it a rare country - on a rare band!

I had the pleasure of working Thos EI2JD's station on Wednesday night. I put in an hour for the special event station EI7DAR for SOS Radio Week. After I wrapped up on 160m SSB he asked if I wanted to try a bit of CW. I have only used a straight key so far so I was a bit daunted by the paddle, but gave it a try anyhow. We heard PY2XB/PY0F on 1.811 and wondered if there was any chance he'd hear us. It didn't take long to find out.

I tapped out my callsign - having first slowed the morse transmission down a bit from Thos's 35wpm+ - and he came back to me straight away. 559 both ways and suddenly I had worked Fernando de Noronha, an island in the Atlantic off Brazil. Of course I am not QRV on 160m at home so this was my first CW contact on 160. Nice to get a new country in the bag.

PY2XB (Fred) is well used to working far-flung locations and Fernando de Noronha is no different. See Fred's details on his QRZ page.

I've had a few interesting bits and pieces in the log since I last blogged. One of the most interesting was 7X2/UA6GO/MM. He had quite a pile-up so it took a while. He was a Ukranian on a ship in Algiers! I worked him on 40 metres.

Also worked on CW this week were San Marino, Turkey and tonight I worked Bermuda on 20 metres just as the band was closing. He was OH1VR/VP9. Thanks!

Current stats:
CW: 37 countries worked
Phone: 78 countries worked
US States worked: 26 out of 50
AG eQSL: 36 countries confirmed
Total QSOs logged: 823

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Azerbaijan makes it 800 contacts so far

A few weeks ago I posted an email to the Dundalk Amateur Radio Society list about an operator in Azerbaijan called Vlad who is a bed-ridden invalid. 4K9W might have had to move into a state care home after the death of his mother, leaving his amateur radio hobby behind, were it not for the gallant and remarkable efforts of the ham community around the world, who responded with generosity to an appeal to support him. So he now has a helper in every day for a total cost of $350 per month, which is funded, it seems, by Vladimir's amateur radio friends and supporters around the globe.

You can read more about Vlad on his QRZ page and also on his blogspot page.

I had the pleasure of working Vlad this morning on CW (morse) on 17 metres. He was calling CQ and I came back to him and he answered. I am very glad to have him in my log, and to hear that he is QRV (apparently daily!) and still operating from his own home under the tender care of his home help. Thanks Vlad - you are my first Azerbaijan contact. I'm very glad for that. 73. By the way, he was my 800th logged contact. Not bad in less than three months.

Also new today was ZB2EO, also on 17 metres, in Gibraltar. I hadn't worked Gibraltar before, so to do so on CW was a pleasure.

At this moment I have the following statistics:

CW: 29 countries worked
Phone: 78 countries worked
US States worked: 25 out of 50
AG eQSL: 35 countries confirmed
Total QSOs logged: 808

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Aruba on CW makes it 19 countries in just three days

Yes, you read it right. 19 countries on CW since my first CW contact on Monday. Not bad at all. I didn't think it would be that many but Thos EI2JD was here this evening at my QTH and looked it up on my logging software. (I didn't know how to do that, thanks Thos!)

Anyhow, I worked Aruba this evening on 18m CW. Nice. It's an island in the Caribbean. The station was P49V whose name is Carl. He was weak enough with me and it took me five or six attempts but he got it in the end. It's a new country for me in any mode but particularly nice to work it for the first time on CW. I have 77 countries on SSB but only 35 of them are authenticity guaranteed on eQSL.

There were a lot of people calling him, especially from Europe, as you can imagine. But I'm thrilled. Above is a photo of the morse key which I borrowed from Pat EI2HX. It's an old key, World War II vintage, and it's excellent. I am planning to do the morse test at the Coolmine rally on February 14th. I have to receive and send back three minutes worth of text at a speed of 5 words per minute, although that is very slow so I might ask for a quicker speed. Then I have to receive and send back nine strings of five numbers, and finally a string of punctuation marks. There are eight of these in total and I already know six.

If I pass the morse test this will entitle me to apply for a two-letter suffix callsign, and the next ones which are going to be given out are EI7KB, EI8KB, EI9KB, EI2KC, EI3KC etc etc.

Should be easier to send five characters as a callsign than six!! Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wow! A Polish guy living in England who knows Dundalk!!

Just worked a very interesting QSO on CW on 80m. I was chatting with a Polish operator called Artur who was in England. He was M/SP3CW and he once lived in Dublin and has friends in Dundalk, where I work! Small world eh? Well thanks to Artur for sending me CW really slowly so I could type it all out on the screen. He even knew the pub down at the docks - I reminded him it is called the Spirit Store! Great QSO and I have to say I'm thoroughly enjoying CW so far.

My very first CW (morse) contacts on the bands

Last night I made history for myself by making my very first contacts using Morse Code (CW). I have a very nice old morse key borrowed from Pat (EI2HX) which I will be using in my morse test which I am planning to do in February at the Coolmine rally.

I recorded the event for posterity on video, which you can see in the UStream player at the bottom of this blog. I had a sugar papa (Poland) station calling me but I don't think we finished the contact properly so the first official contact was SQ7MRV who, I have to say, was very patient with me. I was slow, so he slowed down to try and match me, but with QSB I found it difficult at times. However, we exchanged reports and he even got my name after a couple of attempts at sending it, so thanks for being my first CW contact!!

I also got a Stateside contact on 40m. He was K3JLM. I had three contacts into Ukraine, one into Serbia and one into Slovenia. Thanks all for working me. I hope to be more active now on CW and try to work some exotic ones!!

--... ...--
-.. .
. .. ---.. --. .... -...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oregon station beams long path to Africa - gets Ireland instead!!

There was some interesting activity on 20 metres last night after the band had closed. It seemed to open again in places to the States. At around 7.45pm I could hear a weak Stateside station calling CQ. He was KI7M, based in Oregon on the Western side of the United States. He was calling for Africa, but the extraordinary thing was that he was beaming "Long Path" - ie, he had his beam pointing westward across the Pacific. And I still managed to hear him!!

So, hearing that he was calling CQ and looking for traffic, I spotted him on the DX Cluster. I thought that might help his cause!

Next thing I know, he's calling me! He obviously saw the spot on the cluster and said, "is there an Echo India 8 on the frequency?" and I grabbed the mic and hollered at him. I was quite weak back to him. I think he gave me 4 and 5 as my report and I had to call my name and spell it out several times before he picked it up. His name is Terry and he was working a 3-element Steppir (pictured above). I can't remember what power he was running but I gather he was working a Yaesu FT-1000MP, the same radio as mine. Thanks for the nice contact Terry and I hope you got some Africa!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Two new countries in 24 hours - Kuwait and Cuba!!

Last night, very late, I switched on the radio when I saw that 9K2CQ from Kuwait was being spotted on the cluster. I spun up to 7.137 LSB and surely enough I could hear him. Needless to say he was working a bit of a pile-up. But that didn't deter me from calling him and before long, he answered! I have only a half-size G5RV because I don't have room for the full size, but the half-size seems to get me out very well on 40m. His name is Mohammed and at 00:37 (yes, way after midnight!) he became my first Kuwait contact. Thanks Mohammed.

Tonight I worked into Cuba for the first time, on 40 metres. Visitors to the blog might have seen on the live webcam that there were some late, but weak, transatlantic openings on 20 metres tonight. I was hearing CO6LC coming way up and down with QSB on 20m at 14.260 USB. I called a few times when he seemed to come up but he was fading so much with QSB I have no idea whether he heard me or not. Then I saw CO6YI spotted on 40 and he was working quite a pile-up, so I flicked between the two to see if I could work either. Eventually, I heard CO6YI call QRZ during a quiet patch and I shouted "Echo India 8 Golf Hotel Bravo". He said "who is the Echo India 6?" I said "Echo India 8 (with an emphasis on 8!) Germany Hotel Bravo" and he said "Echo India 8 Charlie Hotel Bravo you're 5 9". I thanked him for 59 but said it was "guatemala honolulu bravo" and gave him 59 also. Deadly stuff. First Cuba. Thanks Yulian Gomez (pictured above) in Sancti Spiritus in Cuba!!

On top of all this, I made a nice contact into Scotland tonight and he has just given me an AG eQSL bringing me to 35 AG countries so far !

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Another good day on the bands - and another two new countries!!

It started out as a very ordinary day, with very little activity on the bands. Indeed 20 metres seemed very quiet and there were no exotic spots to be seen whatsoever. My first contact of the day was LZ10ARDF who I had worked previously on 40. It was a special event station of the Bulgarian Federation of Radio Amateurs. Then I worked SV7HRJ/2 in Thessaloniki. So a normal enough start.

Then it started to get interesting. I worked into Kazakhstan to UN7QF who was genuinely delighted to work into Ireland because it was his furthest contact of the day.

I worked Michael Higgins, an Irishman, in Tenerife, on 17m. He was EA8EQ but his Irish callsign is EI0CL. A very nice contact in my opinion but then as an Irishman I'm biased!

My first new country of the day was United Arab Emirates. I worked A61KM/M in Dubai. I had heard him CQing but then he was spotted on the cluster and all hell broke loose. He was weak but eventually came up in signal and when I shouted he heard me. It was great to work Khalifa because he was working just 100 watts mobile. Thanks for the nice contact !!

He was soon followed by 4X4FR Rafi in Tel Aviv who was strong on 17m. That was my first contact into Israel on 17m, so thanks!

I worked VE3DDB Johnny in Toronto also on 17m which was another solid contact, 57 each way.

Then it was Fred K8CW's turn in Ohio, again on 17m. We were 59 each way. Up then was AA1KS, Rick in Eastport, Maine, who told me he was within sight of FIVE lighthouses, three of them in Canada and two in Maine. At that stage it was 4.51pm, so 20 metres and especially 18m were well closed to all except some Stateside contacts.

The last contact of the day was perhaps the best. HV0A was on from the Vatican City on 40 metres and all the world was calling him. But as the evening dragged out there were less and less stations calling him so I took a quiet opportunity to shout in and he gave me 5 and 9. So another one in the log. Thanks Francesco!

All in all, a good day.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Worked into Australia for the first time - to a jamboree!!

I saw an Australian station spotted on the DX Cluster today on 20 metres and tuned up only to find, much to my surprise, that I could hear him and that he was even lifting the needle!!

So I sat with the headphones on, listening as half of Europe shouted at him, their beams pointed at him, shoving out huge power. I didn't think I had a chance, to be honest. I did call in a couple of times, but felt a futility about the whole exercise. I was glad to sit and listen though, and as I listened I noticed that the pile-up was thinning out. I heard a 9A calling him and he called the 9A but the Croatian didn't come back. So I keyed up and said "Nine Alpha go ahead" and the 9A said thanks and worked Australia.

Then I shouted and the Australia station heard me and said "Echo India 8 again". I couldn't believe it !! Here was me with my hundred watts and my 30-year-old 6-band vertical shouting like a maniac into the mic! I gave the full callsign but he came back and said "Echo India 8 I need your suffix" so I shouted it in two or three variations thus - "guatemala honolulu baker"; "germany henry brazil"; "golf hotel bravo".

He came back "Echo India 8 Golf Hotel Brazil you are five and five!" He was also 5 and 5 and within seconds the exchange was over and we were saying 73.

The station was VI2AJ2010 - the callsign of the 22nd Australian Scouts Jamboree in New South Wales. The event brings together 13,000 scouts and leaders from all over Australia.

For the record, VI2AJ2010 is located 10,700 miles or 17,200 kilometres, from my location. Not bad at all considering my set-up. I'm chuffed. Over the moon. I knew I would get Victor Kilo (VK - Australia) before long, but as the Virgin airlines jingle goes, "you never forget your first time . . ."

73 de EI8GHB

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

AG eQSL from Oman makes it 32 countries so far!!

Just like there are 32 counties in Ireland, there are 32 countries worked in my eQSL AG log. I have this evening received an eQSL card from A41OO, in Oman, my very first contact of 2010! Thank you Khalid and Happy New Year!

For those unacquainted with eQSL, it is an electronic way of exchanging contact cards, known as QSLs. I have received eQSL cards from 32 countries AG. This means "Authenticity Guaranteed" - ie that the person who is sending the card has shown that they are a licenced operator by sending their licence to eQSL. Those who have not done this are not authenticity guaranteed and therefore any eQSLs they send cannot be used towards any paper awards.

I'm thrilled to get Oman and also very happy to have worked 32 countries so far in less than two and a half months on the air!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Video: My first mobile operation on 20 metres

I managed to squeeze a bit of radio in at lunchtime today thanks to my newly acquired Watson WHF 20 mobile whip antenna for 20 metres (thanks Jim!). I was ensconsed on the hill of Faughart overlooking Dundalk and the bay and managed to catch a bit of European action. There was good Stateside action, with many American stations blasting in, but despite me calling none of them heard me. So I sat on a frequency and managed to get a new prefix - Mike Uniform (MU) - Guernsey Island. I also got a YL Latvia station so I was happy enough.

Thanks to Tony EI4DIB for recording this from his Icom 746 at home in Drogheda.

Coldest December since 1981 says Armagh Observatory

Armagh Observatory, 2 January 2010: Armagh Observatory reports that December was colder, sunnier and drier than average.

The mean monthly temperature was 3.0 degrees Celsius (37.4 degrees Fahrenheit), which is about 1.7 degrees Celsius below average. The maximum air temperature was 11.5 degrees C on the 5th, whilst the lowest air temperature was –6.6 C on Christmas Day when there was snow lying. There were twenty-seven nights with grass frost and sixteen with air frost. Snow fell on seven days, 18th to 23rd, and 30th. Last month had the lowest December mean monthly temperature since 1981 (1.5 C).

The number of hours of sunshine was 53.3, that is, about 40% more than the monthly average.

The total precipitation for the month was 47.6 mm (1.87 inches), that is, about 40% less than the average. The wettest day of the month was the 4th, with 15.5 mm of precipitation.

Taken as a whole, the average temperature for 2009, namely 9.87 degrees Celsius, was close to the average (9.94 C) for the last twenty years. However, total precipitation for the year, namely 892.15 mm (35.12 inches) was somewhat wetter than the corresponding 20-year average, namely 818.06 mm (32.21 inches). 2009 was the second wettest year since 1981.

These data refer to observations at Armagh Observatory, which has been recording the weather at Armagh since 1795.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Late opening on 20m to the States

It's 18:45 and there's a late couple of openings to the States on 20m. I'm hearing KA1IOR, a lighthouse society station, on 14.220 USB and there's a QSO Stateside on 14.239 USB. I will keep you posted if I work anyone.

18:49: Just worked the KA1IOR station, Geoff in Massachussets. He was booming in at 59 and he gave me 59 also. Thanks Geoff. You've just made my day!!

18:52: Right now there's a station in New York (W2RE) with a FT-1000MP hitting plus ten over nine. He said there were about 8 inches of snow today 100k north of New York city. He's on 14.175 USB. There's another weaker Stateside QSO on 14.165.

19:03: W2RE is working EI9HX Patrick in Roscommon. Fair Play Patrick!

19:40: Update. Band is closed. W2RE was working a few Europe stations and chatting away but faded and faded and faded and now I can't hear him. There's nothing on the band now.

January 4th update: The image you see above is an eQSL I received last night from Geoff. Now that's quick! Thanks Geoff and thanks for the nice contact. 73.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A nice bit of Stateside action on 20m and 17m

There were good openings today on 17m and 20m. I worked five Stateside stations in all, with one or two fairly blasting in. My best contact of the day was K0DK - Dick in Bolder, Colorado, whose photo is shown here. I was lucky to get him, having failed on previous days. He called an Echo India station and I called in at the same time so he heard the two of us.

Here are the stations that I worked today:

WX3B James in Maryland on 20m
K8CW Alan in Ohio on 17m
K0LYW Jeff in New Hampshire on 17m
K0DK Dick in Boulder Colorado on 20m
WA2VUY Angel in New Jersey on 20m

The last one, WA2VUY, was the most difficult contact of the day. He got weaker by the second and it took five or six attempts for me to pick up his callsign. Thanks for the patience Angel.

Friday, January 1, 2010

First contact of 2010 is a new country - Oman! Ringing in the new year with OOs!

Oh man Oman!!

2009 was ushered out last night with just a minute and a half to go with a DX contact into Louisiana. I worked N8OO at 23:58:34 and wished him a happy new year.

This morning, I am delighted to report that the first contact of 2010 in my logbook is a DX one - and a nice one at that. A41OO Khalid was calling CQ on 14.333 USB. He is based near Muscat, capital of Oman. There was nobody coming back to him so I gave a shout. He initally thought I was Echo India 8 Charlie Hotel Bravo and then Echo Alpha 8 but he got it right after I shouted myself hoarse!! A nice one for the new year!

The Butternut HF vertical is definitely doing the trick. I got into Oman on it, and am now hearing things that would previously have been "in the muck" on other antennae. For instance, I am hearing a weak Australia station right now on 18.150 that I cannot hear on my other vertical or the wire. He is VK6LC. Very low but I can hear what he's saying a lot of the time.

It was only later today that I realised I have seen out 2009 (two zeros) and ushered in 2010 (also with two zeros) with callsigns that have two Os in them. The last of 2009 was N8OO and the first was A41OO. Coincidence . . .

At this time, I have worked 30 countries as confirmed by Authenticity Guaranteed eQSL.