Monday, September 27, 2010

Some great DX comes at the least expected moments

Most DXers have served their time, so to speak, CQing and rag chewing and trying to make contacts during the lean times. I was licenced (October 2009) during one of the lowest sunspot lulls in the past century. So I've been there, done that, worn the t-shirt. Now don't get me wrong - I don't mind working Europe and Russia. In fact, I just like making contacts on HF, no matter where they are. After many years of being a listener, being able to talk to these guys and gals is a great pleasure.

However, I am interested in working DX, especially as the station is fairly limited. (One vertical, one longwire and 100w for HF). So last night, when I started putting out a CQ on CW, I wasn't expecting much to be honest. After 5 minutes of CQ on 20 metres I heard nothing. The band appeared to have died around 10pm, which is unusual. I was working the USA at midnight a few days before on the same band. So I QSY'd to 80m, where to my surprise I was getting strong signals from Russia, and also Ukraine and Europe. So that was OK. But then the contacts dried up. So I tried 40m, thinking I might grab some DX there. After about eight minutes I had made just one contact. It was after 10pm and with work in the morning, I was thinking of heading to bed.

But before I powered down the shack and everything in it, I decided to give 30m a go. With 20m dead, it was highly likely 30m would be gone to sleep too. To my surprise, I worked a few. There was an Oscar Kilo, an Echo Alpha QRP, a SM, an OE, another OK, and then . . .

Dit dah dah dah, dit dah, dit dit dit dah dah . . .

JA3? Japan, at this hour of the night? Surely I am getting his call wrong. PA3 maybe? So I give "JA3?" and, sure enough, he comes back with JA3FYC. Wow! Japan on 30m at 10.13pm!! I have him 559, he gave me 579. It really made the whole night! It gave me a lift, so I decided to carry on for a few minutes.

Next to call after the JA3 was 7N1PRD/0, also in Japan! Two in a row. Well that was just magic! He was a bit weaker, so I gave him 539 and he gave me 559. Surely now was the time to go to bed, with a big smile on my face!!

But moments later I spotted something on the DX cluster. A 9M6 station - East Malaysia - working Europeans! I QSY'd down to his frequency and, sure enough, there he was, 9M6XRO/P, listening up! He was on 10.107.6 so I put 10.108.5 into the second VFO and put the split on and gave a call - EI2KC.

He came back straight away with EI2? so I gave him the call three times, fearing he might be working another EI2! He got me though, no problem, and gave me a  599! I gave him a 559 and tnx and GL and GD DX and all that and said 73. A new country in the bag, late at night on 30m. That was one great night. And what's more, the op, John, is on an island, Sebatik Island, for an IOTA expedition, and is there for just four days, September 24-28. Great to get him in my log!

I worked three new countries on 30m, bringing my total worked to 60. I know Japan and East Malaysia were two, but can't figure what the third one was. But I didn't care. I went to bed with a huge smile on my face!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A great time at EI7DAR radio night

A great time was had by all at the Dundalk Amateur Radio Society's first Radio Night in a long time last night, Thursday, in the club's Castletown Road headquarters. There was a great turnout - some said the best ever - and there was tea and conversation flowing as radios were set up to activate HF and VHF. And there was even some demonstration of ATV / microwave equipment.

The club was delighted to have some new visitors in the form of some short wave listeners, some 11m operators and even the manager of the local community radio station Dundalk FM.

Seamus GI4SZW works a contact on 20m watched by (from left): Joe SWL, Brian Cowley SWL, EI4KC Brian, Larry 2I0LRY and (far right) Michael EI1581.

A recent repair to the roof of the club's premises enabled members to utilise the radio shack which had been off limits for a number of months. The club has a HF radio with power supply and a speaker. It's an old Icom 731. I brought my recently-acquired Icom IC-735, which had previously belonged to Fr Padraig O'Kelly, a former President of EI7DAR, who is now sadly silent key. Brian EI4KC brought his newly-acquired Icom 756Pro and that was the radio which was utilised for CW contacts which were made on the 30 metre and 40 metre bands.

2I0MMT Mickey enjoying the evening.

Charlie EI8JB and John EI6GHB at the radio night

Probably the most enjoyable aspect of the whole event was the whole social element. The tea flowed, mainly thanks to club Treasurer, Jim 2I0SBI who always ensures a good supply of clean cups and hot water on the boil! And the conversation was great as old faces and new met up in Dundalk. The club is lucky to be located near the border with GI land, and so has a large membership of both EI and GI enthusiasts. A large turnout from both areas ensured a great night, and the large numbers could have been bigger because some members were unable to attend!

Brian EI4KC with his recently-purchased Icom 756Pro which we used to make some CW contacts on the night. Brian and I sat our morse test on the same day, hence the similar callsigns! Once upon a time him and I were 11 metre operators, working the skip into Europe and beyond. How things change!!
Mike EI5GG demonstrates the heat dispersion from a heat sink to short wave listener Michael EI1581. Mike is one of a number of EI7DAR members who has a great interest in ATV and microwave work and regularly conducts experiments on the microwave bands with Pat EI2HX and Mark EI9FX. Silent Key Dermot EI2AK was also a big proponent of these type of experiments and the club was delighted to have his son, Brian, along as a visitor on the evening. Brian hopes to sit the exam next year. The club is soon starting theory classes in order to prepare anyone interested in getting their amateur station licence for the test. These will be conducted mainly by Tony EI4DIB with the assistance of other club members.

If you wish to participate in the classes you can contact Tony by email at ei4dib (AT) ei7dar (DOT) com or via SMS text message to 00353 (0)86 4066660.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dundalk Amateur Radio Society to begin live morse tuition

The Dundalk Amateur Radio Society is starting “Live Morse” tuition on Tuesday nights commencing at 20:40. The first class will be on Tuesday 14th September on 145.400 FM. We have decided to use this frequency as it is used by a lot of Hams and SWL’s locally in the North East. If the idea is a success we may eventually QSY to the Dundalk 2m repeater.

Our idea is to send some Morse at a slow and easy pace with good gaps between words. It is hoped to help those of you who are just starting out and those that want to sharpen up.  So please tune in to 145.400 with pen and paper at the ready. Please mention this to your Ham friends who may not be a member of the club.

Please find below possible text to be used on Tuesday night 14th and hopefully every Tuesday night as long as there might be an interest. The operator will change from week to week so the text may also change.

We will start with a few “V’s” which means you are getting ready to send. Then the full alphabet twice so you can hear what each letter sounds like twice. Followed by numbers 1 to 0 twice. Then CQ which is the start of a call for a QSO. 

The operator sending the Morse can pick a few different things you may hear when listening to HF. Tonight I have picked “ 5NN  TU “ which is the most common report you will hear and means “ your RST is 599 Thank You “. The “N” standing for the number “9” and TU standing for “Thank You”.  Last but not least is “73” which you will hear at the end of each QSO and means “Good Luck” or Good Bye”.

“ v  v  v  v  v  “

“ a  b  c  d  e  f  g  h  i  j  k  l  m  n  o  p  q  r  s  t  u  v  w  x  y  z “
“ a  b  c  d  e  f  g  h  i  j  k  l  m  n  o  p  q  r  s  t  u  v  w  x  y  z “

“ 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0 “
“ 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0 “

“ CQ  CQ  CQ  CQ  CQ  CQ “
“ CQ  CQ  CQ  CQ  CQ  CQ “

“ 5NN  TU     5NN  TU     5NN  TU     5NN  TU     5NN  TU     5NN  TU “

“ 73     73     73     73     73     73     73     73     73     73     73     73 “

(The next text to be sent will be picked by the operator on the night from any book he has at hand. This may be only a few sentences long. Please do your best to write it down letter by letter and hopefully it will end up making some sense. The operator will read out the text after he sends it so you all can see how well you have done. Do remember it is not a competition!!! )

73 de Thos EI2JD (EI7DAR Chairman)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Worked a few contacts on top band last night

It's not a band that I'm very well set up for to be honest, but when I heard a few signals on 160 metres last night I decided to give it a go. The furthest I'd worked up until last night on 'Top Band' as they call it was the UK. That was all about to change.

Part of the challenge with Top Band relates to the length of a wave, which is approximately 160 metres. It's a band where lots of space at your QTH is a must if you are to realistically give it a go. Hence the reason I don't do much on 160m - my 55m longwire is only a third of the length of a wave on 160m and is not up high enough to seriously expect DX on that band. And my 55m longwire is arranged in a Z-shaped configuration because I don't have a long garden. Another problem of course relates to noise and it's not quite winter time yet - in fact it is only autumn here and 80 and 160 are yet to come alive for winter. So they're still noisy bands, even at night. However, things should improve over the next couple of months.

So without an inverted L or a good vertical for 160m, I have to rely on my little wire to make any contacts that I make. So it was with much delight that I got Spain last night on the first call. EH1SDC was a special callsign and he was strong. He gave me 59 which was respectable considering my working conditions. Then I heard DK7EW on the CW portion of the band and he also heard me on the first call, which was nice. Detlef was based in Dusseldorf and gave me a respectable 559 report. The next and last contact of the night was the furthest I've ever worked on 160m (with the exception of PY0F Fernando de Noronha which I worked from someone else's station).  LY2J in Lithuania also heard my first call and gave me 559. Pranas was his name.

I found with these contacts that listening on the Butternut vertical was better as it was quieter than the wire. So that's how I did it, switching between the two antennae. I hope to do a bit more work on 160m over the winter months, especially on CW, so hopefully I might meet you there!

73 de Tony EI2KC

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A problem with my Watson W-25AM power supply

My Watson W-25AM power supply has a serious problem. When I switch it on everything seems fine. The voltage needle reads 13.8v and the lights are on and everything seems fine and dandy (see photo below). The PSU will power my FT-2500M and my FT-897 while both are in receive mode.

However, everything goes awry when I key up on either radio. The voltage needle suddenly drops and when I release the microphone key it springs back up again but fluctuates for a few seconds before eventually returning to 13.8v position. This happens even when I turn the voltage knob on the PSU up full.

The more power I try to draw, the further down the voltage needle drops and, of course, I do not wish to damage my radios so I cannot keep the mic keyed. I tested it also with a 5w 2m handheld and the voltage didn't drop at all. But anything more (25w from the FT-2500M or 100w on HF or 6m on the FT-897) and the voltage drops like a lead balloon.

I have been told the problem might have been caused by modulation of my AC through RF from my longwire.

What I would like to know from the experienced hams and electronics experts out there is - should I find a deep hole to drop the PSU into, or can it be repaired? (Also, of course, can it be repaired cheaply and/or easily?!!)

If you have any advice that can help me, you can either comment on this blog post below or send me an email to hamradioireland (AT) gmail (DOT) com. Thanks.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hello Africa - Rwanda on 20m makes it 149 DXCCs on CW

It took twenty minutes of calling, and trying to figure out where Tom Linder was listening "up" from 14.007, before the German-born CW operator finally heard me - in Rwanda! Confused? Don't be.

Tom is DL2RUM at home in Hamburg, but he is presently ensconced in the heat of Rwanda in Africa. And, needless to say, he has been busy activating that country using the callsign 9X0TL. To be honest I didn't think I was going to get him, on any band. I told our local big DXer Thos EI2JD on Saturday that, and I quote, "I would be delighted to get him on any band. Just once!"

And so come late Sunday night, when hard working professionals like me should be tucked away in our beds, ready for the day ahead, I couldn't resist sitting at the desk in the shack with my homebrew CW paddle between my finger and thumb, trying to get this rare one into my log. Within minutes of starting his CQ, he had decided to work split and was calling "up". The question was - where he was listening? The answer was - anywhere between 1 and 2 KCs up. So it required a bit of moving around to find him. It didn't help that a few minutes in I heard him working EI2JD (the same Thos mentioned above - well done Thos) so I gritted my teeth for the challenge. I was rewarded eventually with the beautiful sound (in morse code, you understand!) of EI2 ??

"Oh yes, he's hearing me. Better be patient and not mess my call up," I thought. Yes, I've done it plenty of times. You get excited and start tapping the key or paddle with a bit too much adrenaline pumping and, all of a sudden EI2KC becomes EI3KC or EI2KY or EI2CC and then things get messy. Thankfully I was able to give him EI2KC confidently and after receiving his 599 report, I have him "R R TNX 599 599 73 TU DIT DIT".

Just looking at my log, I see that the stats are interesting. I haven't updated you in a while, but here's how it stands in terms of DXCCs worked on the various modes:

CW: 149 DXCCs worked
PHONE: 124 DXCCs worked
RTTY: 32 DXCCs worked

Total DXCCs worked to date (since October 30th 2009): 172
Total DXCCs confirmed by paper QSLs: 33
Total DXCC's confirmed by AG eQSL: 74

As I always say, not bad for 100w and a wire and a vertical!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Variety is the spice of life

Variety is the spice of life. So the saying goes. And now I am spoilt for choice. From being faced with just 80 metres and 40 metres - phone only - in the nights of last winter, I have opened up a whole new world this summer and into the autumn with bands and modes to beat the, erm, band. (Awful radio pun!)

I am now QRV on 80m, 40m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m, 10m, 6m, 4m, 2m, and 70cms. There's probably something I'm forgetting. Ah yes, top band - 160m, to a very limited extent.

And now I have all these modes. Phone, CW, PSK and RTTY. And it's only a matter of time before I hit the ROS mode too! The results are impressive. I have an impressive log these days. Between working Wales on 2m simplex, and getting new countries on PSK and RTTY, to working nice DX on CW and SSB, I have it all!!

Here are some of the recent highlights from the log (with countries in brackets for non-ham visitors):

PY2HL (Brazil) 30m CW
ST2AR (Sudan) 15m RTTY
VE9DX (Canada) 20m PSK
PJ2MI (Bonaire, Curacao) 20m PSK
HK1R (Colombia) 15m SSB
HC2SL (Ecuador) 15m CW
2W0GEB (Wales) 2m FM
MW0BEA (Wales) 2m FM
CO8LY (Cuba) 17m CW
XE1UYS (Mexico) 20m RTTY
FG5LA (Guadeloupe) 20m RTTY
KP4DKE (Puerto Rico) 15m SSB
CX7CO (Uruguay) 30m CW
ZP5KO (Paraguay) 20m CW
VO1TX (Newfoundland) 40m SSB

With a nice log like that, the only difficulty I have is pulling myself away from the radios! It's been great fun. I look forward to more great DX in the coming months. In the meantime, don't hesitate to give me a call on the radio - if you can find out what mode and band I am on! GL de EI2KC.