Sunday, February 28, 2010

Two great bands - 15 metres and 12 metres

I was up early this morning. Well, early for a Sunday! At 9am I switched on the radio and could hear that both 15 metres and 12 metres were open. Nice. It was bright and sunny too, which is a big deal in this part of the world. Yes indeed folks, sometimes it feels as though there's a semi-permanent layer of clouds covering Ireland.

I took a brave decision pretty soon after I switched on the radio. I was going to CQ. Big deal you say? Well, CQing in CW is a big deal for me, having only acquired a morse paddle a couple of weeks ago. I am fortunate to have a loan of a Kent paddle from Pat EI2HX and it's a beautifully crafted piece of kit. So I sat on 24.897.5 and called CQ CQ CQ de EI8GHB and pretty soon there was fast action.

Now if you've been following this blog (and I completely understand if you haven't because, let's face it, watching paint dry is more interesting) you'll know that I recently discovered just how fantastic a band 12 metres can be. Two weekends ago I worked VU2PAI in India on 12 metres and when I gave him 59 I meant it. He was like a local 2 metre station. Fantastic. But that was SSB, and he was the one calling CQ. This time, things were different.

I might have been disappointed at the fact that I didn't get any great DX if it wasn't for the fact that I enjoyed the hour I spent on 12m. It was a great experience. OK, I was making mistakes and having to send the old question mark on more than a few occasions, but the guys who came back to me were all patient and understanding with me. For the whole hour I worked 28 stations, ALL of which were either in Ukraine or Russia. Not a single other entity was heard during the hour!!

It built into a pile-up at times, so I had to work most of them quickly, just repeating their callsign and giving a report and then turning it back to them for my report, and then giving 73 GL TU. (In layman's terms bye bye, good luck, thank you!)

Now I am aware that many Russians and Ukrainians learned CW in school so they're at a distinct advantage, but nonetheless as I said, they were acutely patient with me. I think they were glad of the action on 12m too. For me it was a delight to hear such activity so early in the day. Anyway, to all the stations I worked, sorry if I sounded a bit like an amateur, but maybe that's because I am!!! (Literally!!)

But the fun didn't stop there. I later turned to 15 metres where I worked more Ukraine and Russia but also a healthy dose of Stateside. It was on that band that I worked my first FM station - Martinique. He was FM5AN and was in the French contest. We exchanged 59 reports. I also worked VU2PAI (yes, the same gentleman mentioned above) on 17 metres. He was working a split on SSB and got me after about five or six calls. Another great contact and a sign of good conditions on that band. Later I worked into Africa on 15m CW, getting into Senegal and Morocco. The latter, 5E50SA, I have now worked on SIX bands in CW. So thanks guys for the special event station.

20 metres was lively this evening, but seemed to die off a bit prematurely compared with recent nights. My last contact there on CW was K1VT at 21:03 UT. Thanks Jack, and thanks for the speedy AG eQSL. Much appreciated.

I look forward to more action on 15m and 12m, and of course 10m when it opens. I am now set up on 6m and over the weekend I took time to CQ on 50.150 USB and 50.005 CW just in case there was any kind of a lift, but nothing came back. I hope to grab some European action on that band very soon.

Anyhow, that's all for now. Thanks for looking in. And just a quick mention to Derek from Drogheda who is studying hard for the exam for his licence. Derek, you seem to be well on top of things. Keep studying hard and you'll get there. I know what it's like to be on the "other side" so to speak. Best of luck.

73 de EI8GHB

CW: 71 countries worked
Phone: 84 countries worked
US States worked: 43 out of 50
AG eQSL: 42 countries confirmed
Total QSOs logged: 1,367

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I finished designing my new QSL card - here's a sneak preview

I have finished designing my new QSL card and have uploaded it to the printer. I am waiting to hear back from them to make sure everything is okay to go ahead and print it. I am getting 1,000 cards printed and hope to get a good lot out via the bureau when I get them into my hand. Here is the front of the QSL card. It features the ruins of Mellifont Abbey, near my home QTH in Drogheda, Ireland. It was founded by Saint Malachy (the same guy who predicted all the popes!) in 1142AD and was at one time the largest Cistercian Abbey in all of Ireland.

Monday, February 22, 2010

252 QSOs, 84,000 points in the ARRL CW contest

Well, what an interesting weekend that was. I hadn't planned to take part in the ARRL CW contest, for various reasons, including the fact that I have a young family and I am only learning to use a CW paddle having just acquired it a week ago. In fact, on Friday night I switched off the radio at midnight, just as the contest was beginning, and went to bed.

On Saturday morning, however, I found myself up early and listening on the bands and noticed a lot of CW on 15m so I started belting away and opened a new contest file on SD (Super-Duper) and before long, I was working the contest. I managed to notch up a fair few contacts in various spurts of activity on Saturday and Sunday. I worked four bands - 80m, 40m, 20m and 15m, with more QSOs on the lower bands than the higher ones. In fact I'd say I had less than 20 on 80m. I finished last night, Sunday, with 252 contacts and over 84,000 points, which is not bad for a rookie low-power station. As I often say, it's incredible what you can do with 100 watts and a 30-year-old vertical !

I maintained good contact throughout on 2 metres with the local "big" contest station, EI2JD (Thos) in Clogherhead. He finished with about 670 contacts and 500,000 points. A fantastic performance which demonstrates the level the larger stations operate at.

I'm enjoying the CW. I've a long way to go before I can have a QSO at 25 wpm, especially on receive, but that will build up slowly over time. I would strongly advise anyone with a licence to try the morse because it does open up a whole new area of the hobby, and in some respects, a whole new world.

Somehow on Saturday I managed to find time to help Tony EI4DIB construct and erect a 6m dipole at my QTH!! It was a more hands-on installation than usual. I helped cut the aluminium to the right length and soldered the plug onto the coax - yes, big deal eh? Three cheers for Anthony! When we tried the dipole with my Icom 706MkII we found the SWR to be flat on 50.150 and a good bit up and down, so I was delighted. I made my first ever contact on 6m shortly afterwards. Not surprisingly, it was EI2JD, who turned his beam towards me and we exchanged 59 reports. I'm looking forward to hearing some openings on 6m and to working into Europe and, who knows, maybe beyond, in time to come . . .

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Some nice comments about my CW - and the blog!

I have had some decent contacts on CW in recent days, many of them on 20 metres after dark, up until 9pm or so when the band is pretty much closed.

I got this lovely email from K3TX who I worked the other night at around 8pm on 20m. I had emailed him to say sorry that the QSO was quick but he was very weak and I was just starting with the paddle. Here was his reply:

Tony, had you not told me on the air I couldn't have guessed you weren't a long-time CW operator. All I ask of you is keep with it - I hated CW at the start; learned it only because it was required for the licence. As I used it I kept improving and liking it more to the point where (after 50 years) I very seldom use a mike. Receiving is the easy part - it just comes with practice. Good sending whether with straight key, bug or paddle - note I say GOOD sending - is the hard part; since yours was, under QSB conditions with the band closing for you so far after sunset, very easy copy, if you're a beginner on CW, my congratulations. 73 and hope to work you soon again. Dave, K3TX

Earlier on tonight I worked Steve KC2SIZ at 8pm on 20m CW. He sent me the following email just now:

Thanks for the QSO earlier today. I also wanted to write to compliment you on your fine blog. I enjoyed reading it very much and it’s a cut above most of the ham radio related blogs I’ve seen. Well done!

Thanks also for pulling me out of the noise earlier today. You did get my callsign correct. With any luck we’ll have a chance to chat again when we’re both receiving each other more clearly.

All the best,


Thanks indeed Steve. Yes it can be quite difficult working the states on 20m at such a late hour with such weak signals and with noise on the band. I hope we can have a better QSO on the band soon. 73 for now.

Current stats:
CW: 60 countries worked
Phone: 84 countries worked
US States worked: 27 out of 50
AG eQSL: 41 countries confirmed
Total QSOs logged: 968

Monday, February 15, 2010

EI7GVB & EI8GHB to upgrade to shorter callsigns after passing the morse test!

It's lunchtime Monday and finally I've got a chance to come up for air! Yesterday myself and Brian EI7GVB sat the Morse test at the Phoenix Radio Club rally in Coolmine in Blanchardstown. I suppose it would be a lie to say we weren't both a bit nervous, but the examiner, Dan Lloyd EI3AE, put us at ease by making a bit of banter before the test began.

Thankfully we both passed, and were relieved and delighted. Having passed the morse test, we are now entitled to apply for an 'A Licence' or a CEPT1 class licence, which means we will have a shorter callsign, with a two-letter suffix instead of the current three letters. So we will both be upgrading over the next couple of weeks all going well.

Coolmine was my first rally and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great to see all the equipment for sale - everything from state-of-the-art HF transceivers to mobile antennas to amplifiers to speakers and microphones to coax and plugs!!

I'd like to express my gratitude to Pat EI2HX for helping me with the morse and for lending me his J-38 morse key which has enabled me not just to practice sending morse, but to make some excellent contacts as well. Thanks Pat. Thanks also to Thos EI2JD who, as I might have mentioned before, is a constant source of advocacy and help.

Sadly, not many amateurs bother with CW any more, with very few doing the test. This is regrettable, especially because it opens up a whole new world in the hobby. No matter what people tell you as an amateur radio operator, CW may be a bit dated as a mode of communication but it is a FANTASTIC way to make contacts on HF.

I have already made DX contacts on CW that I haven't been able to make on SSB, including working Hawaii on 20m on Saturday evening last. So if you're thinking about morse, think no more. Download Just Learn Morse Code and also login at LCWO and start practicing receiving morse and when you get to the stage when you learn all the letters and numbers and some of the abbreviations, grab a morse key and start sending!!

The photo shows myself, Anthony EI8GHB (left) and Brian EI7GVB (right) at the Phoenix Club rally just after passing the morse test. Photo by EI2JD.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A great day - 12 metres open to the states & worked Tajikistan, Nigeria and Hawaii

What a day it's been. 15 metres was well open all day. In fact, right now, at 18:30 UT, I can still hear a weak stateside station on the CW portion of 15m. Then 12 metres opened also, with plenty of activity.

My first contact of the day was EY8MM in Tajikistan, a new country for me. I worked him on 15M SSB. He was followed by 7X4AN, Mohammed in Algeria, also on 15M USB. I worked Z32AJA in Macedonia on the CW portion of the band and trhen worked W4RM on SSB, 59 each direction. Not bad for 100 watts and a vertical. But it got better.

As I said, 12 metres opened and I heard K5RQ on CW so called him and worked 559 each way. My first CW contact on 12M and my first Stateside contact on 12M. Shortly after that, at nearly 2pm, I worked VO1KVT, Ken in Newfoundland, on 12M SSB. I added Samos, Greece, to the tally with SV8FMY on 24.947.

I worked into Florida also on 12M SSB. Alex K4ADR was very weak and I gave him 41 - he gave me 51. But a good contact all the same. I nabbed Canada on 15m CW with VE3JM and, on exactly the same frequency a while later I got 5N50K, Nikola in Nigeria. I have seen 5N50K spotted many times but he was never strong enough for me to work so I was very glad to get him in the log.

Jim WX3B, who I have worked many times, popped up on 15M CW and we were 599 each way. The last contact up to now was probably my best. I worked KH6MB in Hawaii on 20m CW, my first contact into Hawaii. That's his 2 element vertical yagi pictured above. He is nearly 7,000 miles from my QTH so that was a nice contact. Thanks to everyone who worked me today. It was an active and pleasurable day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dundalk Democrat highlights SOS Radio Week

The Dundalk Democrat newspaper carries an article this week about the EI7DAR Special Event Station for SOS Radio Week at Clogherhead:

MEMBERS of Dundalk Amateur Radio Society organised a special event week to highlight the work of the RNLI lifeboat at Clogherhead and raised n250 for the crucial rescue service in the process.
The society, based at Castletown Road, ran the station beside the lifeboat station in Clogherhead from where they spent nine days making contacts all across the globe to raise awareness of the RNLI.

It was part of the 'SOS Radio Week' celebrations where amateur radio stations in different parts of Ireland and the UK set up special stations to raise funds for the lifeboat institute.

Read the rest of the article on the Democrat website

Monday, February 8, 2010

Worked my first CW trans-Atlantic contact on 80m

I was glad to work Stateside on 80 metres tonight. I have a very limited setup on 80m with my multiband vertical not great for DX on that band. I have worked Stateside before on 80, but only once or twice.

Tonight I saw K9KU spotted on the cluster and could hear him so I gave him a go and after a couple of attempts he sent back "dit, dit dit, dah dah dah dit dit, dit dit dah dah dit dit" - "ei8?" so I gave him the full call. He had a bit of trouble hearing me though with my 100 watts. But it was nice to make the contact into Wisconsin, which is, by the way, a new state for me! That brings my total to 27 worked out of 50.

I spotted K9KU Larry on the cluster, with the comment "Tnx patience new CW op" and he obviously saw it because he spotted me and said, "tnx qsl is ok". So good ears Larry, and thanks for working me!!

Update: Later last night I worked Brazil PY7ZY and Aruba P49V. I had worked P49V before on 17m CW so this was a new band. Thanks to both for the good ears!

The Sun is really crackling back into life !

Have a look at this spectacular image of the sun. In the centre of the image is sunspot group 1045, which has burst into life, emerging from nothing over the past few days. says the sunspot group is crackling with M-class solar flares. The sunspot number at time of writing this is 51, the largest I've seen it since the start of the current cycle, Cycle 24, a few months back.

But that's not all. On the left limb of the sun (arrowed) you can see that another group of sunspots, 1046, is emerging, so it's exciting times up there, and exciting times down here as we amateur radio enthusiasts might well benefit from a lift in activity in the ionosphere. Last night I worked Canada on 20 metres at 8.38pm local time, long after the band usually closes. 20 metres was noisy last night, perhaps resulting from an increase of electrons coming from the sun. It went quiet shortly afterwards. There was a lot of QSB also but I managed to work VE3YJ with 57 and 55 reports each direction.

One amateur radio astronomer has captured the "sound" of some of the energy bursts from the sun. Hear some audio clips of what these bursts sound like at

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A little bit of a giggle on the cluster!

I saw this on the cluster just now. I thought I'd share it with you. I don't think it needs any explanation!!

Three new African countries in one day - all on CW

Today turned out to be an interesting one on the bands. This morning there didn't seem to be much to whet the appetite so I thought it was going to be "one of those days". However, as the day progressed things got interesting.

I worked A60ISG, a special callsign, on 17 metres. He was weak but I worked him after a few attempts. That is only my second contact into United Arab Emirates, so I was happy to get him.

In the afternoon I worked HV0A, in The Vatican, on 20 metres. I had previously worked Francesco on 40m. I didn't have to try very hard either. I just tuned the frequency and shouted and he came back to me straight away.

The three Africa contacts started with ST2AR, Robert in Sudan, on 15 metres CW. This was one of the surprising factors of the day, the fact that 15 metres was open, and there seemed to be lots of activity in the CW portion of the band. Another interesting feature of the day was the fact that 20 metres stayed open until after 7.30pm, with darkness coming a whole hour or more earlier. 17 metres was open until about 7pm. It was great. Anyhow, ST2AR heard me after a few attempts and I was delighted.

The second new Africa country for me was Zambia. I worked 9J2BO (Brian) on 15 metres CW also. Late in the day, at nearly quarter past 6, I worked ZS6BQI on 17 metres, at a time I would have expected the band to be closed. There had been two Zulu Sierra stations on the SSB portion of 17 but neither heard me above their pile-ups. I was particularly delighted with South Africa because I have been pretty "deaf" to ZS from my QTH over the past couple of months. I see ZS spotted on the cluster regularly but usually cannot hear them. So a great day's work. I also made contact with W0VA on 15m CW so was pleased with that too.

The image shows ZS6BQI's QSL card image shown on his page.

Current stats:
CW: 43 countries worked
Phone: 81 countries worked
US States worked: 26 out of 50
AG eQSL: 38 countries confirmed
Total QSOs logged: 875