Monday, February 20, 2012

I may not be a big contester, but . . .

. . . I decided to have a bit of fun in the ARRL DX contest (CW) at the weekend. I had lots to do with the family but where I found time I logged some QSOs. I finished the weekend with 404 QSOs in the log. I had 119 Qs on 15 metres, 130 on 20 metres, 44 on 40 metres and 106 on 80 metres. I enjoyed 15m and 80m the most. I had 42 multipliers on 15, 38 on 20, 14 on 40 and 24 on 80, I worked 50 States (US and Canada) over the weekend with a final claimed score of 141,246. I will enter single op assisted high power. I had great fun. Not imagining I will win anything, but the participation brought me a lot of satisfaction.

On 15 metres, I was only short 9 states, KY, LA, ME, MO, OK, SC, SD, UT and WY. I was very happy to get DE, VT, TN, NV, KS, ID, IA, and CO among others.

On 80m the highlights included DE (Delaware) and five of the Canadian states.

10 metres was an utter disappointment. On Sunday afternoon the band sounded dead at my QTH.

I had hoped to make a QSO on top band with my 40m inverted V and 100 watts (pushing it, I know) but the band was in awful shape. 40 metres was a bit of a struggle, particularly on Saturday night but improved somewhat on Sunday night. 80 metres was very enjoyable, I even had a couple of pile-ups going after someone spotted me on the cluster.

Anyway, it just goes to show that contesting is not just for power lids!! It can be an enjoyable pursuit. ARRL DX is a good way to notch up your states. Look out for the phone portion of the contest on March 3rd and 4th. Polish off those microphones!!!  See more details here:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Let's have a little game - guess the rig

OK, that's all I'm giving you. It should be enough for those of you who are familiar with the various makes and models of transceivers to guess first time. But just one caveat - I want the exact model !!!!!!!!!!! Answers can be left as a comment below. Good luck. By the way, there is no cash prize HI HI . . .

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Two brand new DXCC today - Somalia and Rodriguez Island

This photo was taken immediately after I worked 3B9/OE4AAC on 17m CW showing the split.
A ham friend of mine remarked to me, just yesterday, in an email, "You should start trying for Somalia 6O3A . . . I bet you will work him". Well, the opportunity to try working Somalia presented itself today, so I gave it a bash. After a good time trying, on 17m CW, I finally heard that magic code coming through the headphones . . . "EI2KC 5NN". Well I was completely overjoyed. Somalia is the 40th most wanted DXCC (out of a total of 343) and because of the terrible situation in that country it is very difficult to activate. I watched a TV programme about Somalian pirates one time. The whole country is one big mess. It's devastated. Hardly anyone has running water or electricity. But that didn't deter Darko J28AA from going there and activating this rare one. And I, for one, am so glad he did.

This evening, I saw 3B9/OE4AAC spotted on 17m CW. I had been trying him on 30m CW this morning without success. But this time he was on 17m, so I swung the MA5B minibeam towards him and could hear him. I figured out that he was listening roughly 1-2 KCs up, so I worked hard to keep up with where he was listening. After about 10 minutes I heard him working a station on 18.079.2 so I called him there and out of the noise I could hear "2KC 5NN" so I gave my call again, "R R DE EI2KC 5NN 5NN TU" and he came back "EI2KC 5NN TU". Yeesss!!!! Two brand new DXCC in one day. Not bad at all.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Some of Ireland's top DXers - and me !

This is a photo taken at the Coolmine radio rally in Dublin on Sunday. Pictured are some of Ireland's top Dxers . . . and me !! The line-up is as follows: Anthony EI2KC, Ark EI9KC, Don EI6IL (and junior op) and Thos EI2JD. These four bandits have been known to chase rare DX until they are bleary-eyed! In recent times these four callsigns would have been regularly seen in the top 10, and indeed the top 5, in the Dxpedition league tables. It is a great privilege for me to know these guys. Ark is the newest big Dxer in Ireland and in a short time he has amassed a huge number of DXCC entities in his log. He is doing brilliantly, and his callsign can be heard in almost every DX pile-up. Don and Thos have been on the DX circuit for a while longer than the 'Kilo Charlie' gang. Both of these guys are brilliant Dxers, and are often in the top 3 in the league tables. Both have superior stations also. And they are great at giving help and advice. Us novices need mentors after all ! It's just a pity that Dave Deane EI9FBB, who was at the rally, wasn't in this picture. He was the first EI operator to be awarded 10-band DXCC. Thos was the third! So you can see we were in good company.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My latest purchase: new Watson 4-way antenna switch

I attended the Phoenix Radio Club annual rally in Coolmine, Dublin, this morning. It was great to catch up with so many hams, and to meet some faces whose callsigns were familiar but whom I hadn't met in person before. I went to the rally with the intention of only purchasing items which I required, and decided I wouldn't get tempted by anything fancy. I managed to stick fast to this resolution.

I decided if there was a nice morse paddle I might invest, but there was not. Next on the list was an antenna switch. I have three HF antennas running into the Acom 1000 linear which is in turn connected to the Yaesu FT-1000MP. Up until now, I have only had a two-way antenna switch, so if I needed to use a third antenna I had to disconnect one and connect another.

So I purchased a Watson CX-SW4PL, a four-way switch, for 69 eurp. It is a very nice looking piece of kit (see picture) and there is a bit of weight in it too. It is rated to handle 1.5kW of power on HF, so more than sufficient for my needs.

I also bought 20 metres of RG213 coax, in the hope of installing my 8-element 2 metre beam sometime soon, and some PL259's and a back-to-back. That was it in terms of purchases.

I was glad to meet all the hams, including Ark EI9KC, Don EI6IL and Thos EI2JD who had travelled to Dublin with me. We posed for a photograph - some of Ireland's top DXers were in that little group - and me!!

Also glad to meet Billy MI6ETE who had travelled by train from Coleraine in GI land, and Nick EI7GOB who I had spoken to many times but had never met. Tony EI7JN, another big Dxer, introduced himself, and we had a good chat.

Congratulations to Hugh EI9GZB who sat, and passed, his morse test at Coolmine this morning. Hugh is in the process of setting up a very nice HF station at his home and we look forward to working him on the air, on phone and morse, in the near future. Congratulations Hugh, and well done. I never doubted that you would pass the test. Liking morse code is half the battle and your love of it means it was easier for you to learn. I hope you like your new callsign when you get it!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Six bands confirmed via Logbook of the World

I now have DXCC confirmed on six bands, having reached the 100 mark on 15 metres this week. I recently passed the 100 DXCC worked mark on 12m, giving me five bands, and now this latest achievement makes it six.

I cannot, however, apply for the ARRL five-band DXCC award, because this award only takes 80m, 40m, 20m, 15m and 10m into account, and I have not yet achieved DXCC on either 80m or 10m. However, this has not dampened my spirits at all. I am very much looking forward to the challenge of notching up more countries on both 10m and 80m, although in the case of the latter the band will be closing with the advent of summer.

It was HS0ZIV, in Thailand, for a QSO on 15m SSB in January of this year, who gave me the 100th QSL on 21 Mhz, and enough to allow me to apply for DXCC on that band. I am now eligible to apply for nine awards: DXCC mixed, DXCC CW, DXCC Phone, DXCC 40m, DXCC 30m, DXCC 20m, DXCC 17m, DXCC 15m and DXCC 12m. It's going to cost me a few bucks, but it will be nice to have a few certificates on the shack wall, especially as this was all achieved exclusively with LoTW, and with no help (so far!) from paper QSL cards.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Random shack photo number 1 - Motorola GM360

This is my main 70cms (433Mhz) rig in the shack. It is a Motorola GM360 giving 25 watts. I have it connected to my Watson W300 antenna into a duplexer which is shared with the Alinco DR-135 for 2 metres (145Mhz). This is the remote head of the radio - the main body can be kept at some distance thanks to the long connection lead. The functions of the radio are fairly basic but it has good receive and I can get out quite well from my QTH in Drogheda which is located on a high part of the town which is good for VHF/UHF activity. This is the first in a series of photos which I plan called "Random Shack Photo". I hope you enjoy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Two new toys - cheap but good

These are my two new toys. The Baofeng UV-200 arrived from China about two months ago and I've enjoyed it so much I decided to get the new UV-3R which is an upgrade of sorts, the main update being a dual display. Both these radios are two watt dualband handhelds. They cost around 50 euro apiece - including postage! - and take about a week to come from China.

I bought a longer dualband whip about 30cm long also which increases the gain massively. With just two watts these are great little performers. With the longer whip I was able to open EI2KPR Kippure Repeater in Dublin from the centre of Dundalk, a distance of approximately 95 kilometres! OK, I was on the top of the little hill in Ice House park, but it was impressive. I can open the Dundalk 70cm repeater EI7LHR from my home in Drogheda even with the shorter antenna.

These radios can also be used to listen to the commercial FM band. But if you leave the radio on a frequency, say 145.400, and then turn on the radio and listen to, for example RTE1, if someone comes up on 145.400 the radio automatically switches over to two metres so you can have a chat. Very nice.

They also come with a little blue LED light which is handy but runs down the battery much quicker.

They are both very easy to program and it took me just a few minutes the other day to program in 12 memories on the UV-3R which would include 70cm and 2m simplex and repeater frequencies.

The Baofeng UV-200 with the LED light on
They are small too, at just 9cm tall. The standard dualband antenna is a further 12cm. They easily fit into the palm of your hand or your pocket. The Baofeng covers 136-173 Mhz on VHF and 400-469 on UHF which includes the licence-free 446 walkie talkie frequencies. The receive is excellent. There are plenty of videos on YouTube showing these radios receiving the International Space Station. The TX range with the longer whip is very good too, although handheld-to-handheld with the standard antenna covers about a mile before degrading, depending on terrain.

These are probably the best handhelds I have owned - and I have owned only a few. They are smaller, lighter and cheaper than my previous handheld transceivers and the addition of the commercial FM band plus the little light makes them that bit more useful.

For the more adventurous ham among you the UV-3R is available in a range of colours to suit your tastes! As well as black, they come in blue, red, yellow and camouflage. I'm not why a licenced amateur would want to be clambering around in the woods for, and I'm puzzled about the military colouring, but everyone's different! Below is a photo showing the different colours available. You can buy the UV-3R and accessories at

Here are the specifications in brief:

  • Frequency Range: 136-174 / 400-470MHz
  • Dual-Band Display, Dual Freq. Display, Dual-Standby
  • Output Power: 2 Watts
  • 99 Channels + 1 Emergency Channel
  • 50 CTCSS and 104 CDCSS
  • Built-in VOX Function
  • 1750Hz Brust Tone
  • FM Radio (87.0MHz-108.0MHz)
  • LED Flashlight
  • Large LCD Display
  • Hight /Low Power Switchable
  • 25KHz/12.5KHz Switchable
  • Emergency Alert
  • Low Battery Alert
  • Battery Saver
  • Time-out Timer
  • Keypad Lock
  • Monitor Channel
  • Channel Step: 5/6.25/12.5/25KHz

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I have a feeling Malpelo will fall down the most wanted list

It is interesting to note with the current HK0NA Malpelo Island dxpedition that HK0/M Malpelo is the 12th most wanted DXCC entity in DX Magazine's annual survey, and 13th most wanted on's list. It is nice to get such a rare one on all my active bands, but no doubt after this dxpedition Malpelo will fall down the list next year.

As a matter of interest, Ireland (EI) is the 306th most wanted DXCC entity out of a total of 343 listed on Clublog. So we're not exactly what you call "rare" HI HI !