Monday, November 29, 2010

Now to concentrate on 80 metres and 30 metres

I wrapped up CQWW CW at 23.30 with a half hour still to go on 555 QSOs having worked 77 countries and 19 zones on five bands. I had 133 QSOs on 15m, 160 on 20m, 132 on 40m, 120 on 80m and 10 on 160m. My claimed score is 251,062 points.

That's by far my best achievement in any contest I've worked so far from this QTH. I will enter the "low power all band assisted" category. It all shows what can be done with an old Butternut vertical and 100w. On right is a screenshot showing my contest logging software SD by EI5DI.

Here are my standings now with all the bands after the contest. Note that I didn't work anybody on 10 metres because to be frank it was not open at all here during CQWW at the weekend.

160M: 30 DXCCs worked (+3)
80M: 72 (+12)
40M: 120 (+11)
30M: 82 (+4)
20M: 135 (+5)
17M: 104
15M: 101 (+11) (Finally got over the century on 15 - very happy!!)
12M: 65
10M: 35
6M: 53
2M: 10

So that's now four bands on which I have worked over 100 countries - 40m, 20m, 17m and 15m. 10m and 6m seem a long way off right now, but who knows what next summer will bring! Hi hi!

Over the course of the next couple of months I will turn my attention to 80 metres and 30 metres and see if I can notch up the century on those bands. I will also work 160m, but only portable, from one of two shacks owned by two 160m operators. Look forward to meeting you on the bands!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wow - what a brilliant contest!

The CQ WW CW contest is still on as I write this. I am doing it now because I won't have time tomorrow with work. I've worked 408 contacts so far in CQWW as I write and have notched up a tonne of new countries on various bands.

One of the highlights was ZD80 - Ascension Island - which was my 100th country on 15 metres and was also a brand new country, not having been in my log before yesterday.

Here are the highlights of the weekend. I scrawled notes about each new country as I worked it. I got a rake on 15m, some new ones on 80m and even some on 20 and 40.

On 15 metres, the following were new - EX Kyrgyzstan, EA6 Ballearic Islands, OM Slovakia, ZA Albania, LY, Lithuania, ZD8 Ascension Island, VK Australia, LX Luxembourg.

New on 80m were: 4L Georgia, UK9 Uzbekistan, D4 Cape Verde.

PZ Suriname was new on both 20m and 40m and A7 Qatar was a new one on 20m.

 And a nice surprise for the weekend, given that my random wire is not very effective on 160 metres and I only made 7 QSOs on that band, was OH0 Aland Island. Great stuff.

I will give another update when the contest is over (if I get time!)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kermadec Island - how am I going to do this?

There's a fairly popular DXPedition on right now. The whole world is listening, up and down the bands, for the sound of ZL8X, in either voice, or CW, or even digital. Yes, Kermadec Island is on the air.

Where is it, I hear you ask. Well, near New Zealand is the best way to put it. In the first day and a half the team had notched up nearly 40,000 QSOs. Needless to say, lots of New Zealanders, Australians, Japanese and Chinese are working them. And, it goes without saying, the EIs, who are just about as far away from ZL8X as can possibly be, are struggling to get into the DXPedition log.

 As of this moment in time, there are just nine Echo India calls in his log. Three of them - EI7BA, EI9O and EI8H - have worked ZL8X three times already! All the others, including EI9FBB, holder of EI's first and only ten band DXCC, have them once.

And poor me? Not at all. Not only have I not worked them, I'll be honest in saying that I haven't been able to hear them most of the time. There were fleeting moments on Sunday when I heard ZL8X on CW on 40m and 30m, but they were extremely weak in QSB and the pile-ups above them - as much as 10kc up, were massive.

The challenge for me right now, considering I have no ZL whatsoever in my log, is to get them, even if only just once!! And what arrived via the bureau in recent days, in amongst 122 cards from various nations? Only a card from 3W6C, Con Co Island DXpedition in Vietnam, which I worked - just the once! - back in April. It was a timely reminder that just one contact can make the difference between working that new DXCC or not.

So I will take that as my inspiration as I try to get ZL8X into my log at least once before they wind up there in early December. By the way, the best grey-line time for working them on Sunday was 4.30pm Irish time. Sunset here, sunrise there. Because I work during the day, that's a grey-line opening I'm going to miss most days. Plus there's CQWW CW this weekend which will probably obliterate the bands. So it's going to be a challenge, no doubt.

If I find myself coming up to December 5th and with no ZL8 in the log, I will have to resort to other tactics, which may include visiting a couple of local "big-gun" shacks and getting them portable!! I'll let you know how I get on.

Other interesting DX on right now includes D44AC - Cape Verde - who I worked on 40m and 20m CW last night, giving me a new entity on both bands. Also there's C50C in the Gambia who's been working big pile-ups on 40 SSB over the past couple of nights.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lots of QSL cards sent via bureau - but only to those who say they are in a bureau!!

I've been a busy little bee on these winter nights. With only 80m and 40m to entertain me in these long winter evenings - yes, its that time of year when 20 metres is closed by 7pm - I've been catching up on some writing some QSL cards.

I've worked quite a few contacts on 30 metres recently. And the chances are that if you worked me in the past week on that band, you will be getting an EI2KC QSL card via the bureau some time in the next while. However, there is one fairly major caveat to that. You must be in a bureau! Or, at the very least, you must state that you are in a bureau.

I'm always amazed at the number of stations listed on who give little or no information about how to QSL. Some of these stations undoubtedly don't want QSLs in the post or via the bureau. Others might not be proficient with computers and might not understand how to fill out the various fields in

I have one simple rule about my QSLing. If you don't state that you are in the bureau or say something about QSL via buro somewhere on your page, then I won't send a card. And that's because I could be wasting a whole pile of QSL cards sending them off to people who are not in bureaus and then I get a pile back a year or two later marked "not in bureau"! So if you want a card via the bureau, just add a line somewhere on your QRZ page saying that you are in your bureau. Thanks!! There are 72 cards gone to the EI outgoing QSL manager in today's post (see photo above showing direct cards on left and parcel with bureau cards on right). This batch of 72 cards represents LESS THAN HALF of the contacts I made on 30m in the past week. I would gladly send one to everyone I worked, but many have such sparse information on their page that I dare not even try!

By the way, on the subject of QSL cards I received a direct card today from the States for a CW QSO made on 20 metres in July. It contained a two dollar bill - my first! Usually it's two singles, but I got the first two dollar bill today so it's interesting how there are so many "firsts" for someone who is a relative novice like me. The 2 dollar bill is pictured on right.

If you need a QSL card for any contact we've made, drop me a line on hamradioireland (AT) gmail (DOT) com.

73 for now and thanks for dropping by!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nine new ones on 30 metres thanks to a big pile-up

I visited the shack of Thos EI2JD on Friday afternoon for a bit of work on the bands. He posed a question to me which was very interesting: "What band do you most need countries on?" Apart from 10 metres, which was pretty dead at the time, the next "busy" band which I most needed to build up countries on was 30 metres. So we connected up his 30m vertical to the antenna switcher and loaded the amp for 400 watts and I started CQing - in CW mode of course.

Within a few moments I was already getting attention. So much so, in fact, that after working just one contact I had a big pile-up. So, for the first time ever, I was able to call "EI2KC UP" and split so that I was listening up one KC from where I was transmitting. In this case I was TX on 10.107 and RX on 10.108. The pile-up was sustained and loud and so I worked them quickly with just their callsign and 5NN (599). In the space of about an hour and a half I worked 145 QSOs. It was great fun. The pressure was intense at times, especially where I was trying to pull a quiet one out of the QRM and someone would keep calling over them.

The total new countries worked in that time was nine. 

Once again, thanks to Thos for the use of his station!

Here are the latest band standings with me:

160M: 27 DXCCs worked (+14)
80M: 60 (+5)
40M: 109 (+6)
30M: 78 (+13)
20M: 130 (+1)
17M: 104
15M: 90 (+7)
12M: 65 (+23)
10M: 35 (+4)
6M: 53
2M: 10

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Another home-brew project - a leg-strapped morse paddle


The rain clouds had been gathering all day. The forecast says there's going to be heavy rain, strong winds and flooding. Not a day for the great outdoors. However, the indoors suited just fine! Having disassembled two old bits of computer hardware over the past couple of days, I had lots of bits and pieces and odds and ends lying around.

Said items were a very old CD writer and an old film scanner. I retrieved those parts which I thought might be useful and will discard everything else. There were some nice bits of plastic which suited some sort of homebrew project. So I set about putting together a project. I have already made two single-lever paddles on blocks of wood, one of which I use here in the shack as the main CW key, and one which is my mobile/portable key in the car.

This new one would become a leg strap-on, if I ever needed it ! I managed to retrieve a jack and cable for this key from a broken headset (mic and headphone combination). Other bits of that might come in handy later too! I had a gazillion little screws in a box, or something approaching that number ! Having tried a couple of scrap metal objects from the defunct computer hardware, I finally settled on the old hacksaw blade as the most reliable material from which to fashion the paddle. You can see the blade in position in the above photo which shows the construction in its early phase. Some drilling into the plastic was required to get screws into the correct position to not only hold the paddle in place, but to give it some security and keep it in position.

Wiring was a bit tidier than in my previous projects. I managed to solder the wires to two screws which are holding some M-shaped metal strips into place either side of the paddle. Further to all this, I found another piece of plastic into which I drilled holes for screws which made a "lid" or cover for the key so it doesn't look too messy. You can judge the finished product for yourself.

I have found after putting out a CQ on 40m and working eight or nine contacts that it is quite "dainty" and light to the touch. It requires the gentlest of manipulation and works like a dream. I also fashioned a leg strap from a velcro strap which came with one of the kids scooters! You never know where you can pick up materials from a home-brew project!

That's all for now. Comments, constructive criticism etc welcome below.

PS: I will not be mass producing these items for the ham market. This is truly a unique one-off construction!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A little bit about DXpeditions - Togo and Sable Island

With all that's been going on I never gave you an update about two recent DXpeditions. The first, 5V7TT, to Togo in Africa, ended recently and I'm glad to say I managed a reasonable effort in terms of getting them into the log on different bands. The first time I worked them on 15m SSB, was historic, because it was a brand new country for me.

Here's the summary for EI2KC in the 5V7TT log:

15m SSB, 17m CW, 15m CW, 17m SSB, 12m SSB, 40m SSB, 30m CW, 10m SSB, 12m CW

So that's seven bands in total. Not bad. I tried hard one evening to get them on 80m CW, but it just didn't happen for me, and for some reason every time they were on 20 metres I was not in the shack!


All the Echo Indias were looking forward to the CY0 DXpedition to Sable Island, mainly because of the fact that due to its location in the Atlantic it would have been an easy target on most bands for even modest stations like mine. Originally due to start at the end of October, the team were disappointed to learn that the aircraft which was due to take them to Sable Island had a part that needed replacing. This set the DXpedition back by a number of weeks. The new dates are 6-13 December, but to check for any updates keep an eye on the CY0 website at

Monday, November 1, 2010

CQWW - hello world, the bands are alive !!

Only those radio enthusiasts who have spent the last month or two living a caveman existence in a deep cavern beneath the earth won't know that last weekend the biggest radio contest of the year was taking place.

CQWW (the phone portion - CW to follow next month!) began at midnight Friday night and ran for 48 hours and saw some contest stations working solidly for 48 hours and other less competitively minded amateurs just picking off one or two DX stations on various bands.

I fit into a different category altogether. It's the "Do five and a half hours for your contest team, do another eight hours from your own shack, and spend the rest of the weekend getting ready for Hallowe'en" category.

While I was able to devote a certain amount of time, quite sporadically I might add, from my own shack, due to family commitments I am not able to devote 48 hours to any contest, not even CQWW. Not that I mind. I still had a great weekend because I got to work a whole rake of new countries on various bands, I got to work the contest from the EI0W contest station in Clogherhead, and I even got to go trick or treating and watching Hallowe'en bonfires with the kids. Now how many of you can say you had such an action-packed and varied weekend?

Having worked about 200 QSOs on Saturday at various periods with my EI2KC callsign, I was scheduled for Sunday morning activity with EI0W, the contest team of the Dundalk Amateur Radio Society (EI7DAR). So I arrived in the station (owned by Thos EI2JD, pictured above) at 7am Sunday morning (having not retired from CQWW activity until 1.30am Saturday night/Sunday morning) and began my stint for the team.

I picked up some really great DX and a pile of new countries and zones, all multipliers in the contest. Contacts included VK, C9, JW, JO, B7 on 15m and the catch of the day for me was definitely S79K, the Seychelles, on 10 metres! EI0W team manager Thos even managed to catch a bit of sleep as I nabbed country after country and zone after zone.

Our most prolific bands during the weekend were 160m, 40m and 15m but there was activity on all the HF bands. Other club members made appearances during the weekend and many were given a stint at the mic to help improve the scores. They included Charlie EI8JB, Seamus GI4SZW, Tom EI9CJ, Mickey 2I0MMT, Mickey 2I0EIB and Brendan EI1429.

After the Hallowe'en activities (my youngest son, aged 2, was dressed as Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story!!) I retired to the radio again to work another 50 or so QSOs Sunday night as the contest drew to a close. After importing my contest log into my station logging software, I was delighted to see that I had picked up a few new countries. I worked two new ones on top band, five on 80m and seven on 15m, bringing my 15m total to 90 DXCCs worked.

Highlights for me at home were C7 Andorra on 80m, P4 Aruba on 15m, W7 west coast USA on 20m, RW9 Asiatic Russia on 80m, D4 Cape Verde on 10m, and OY Faroe Islands on 80m. Other highlights might come to mind when I review the log !

All I can say at this point is roll on the CW portion of the contest on November 27 & 28. See (hear) you then!!