Saturday, December 29, 2012

A break from radio over Christmas

As you might have noticed, it's been a while since I updated the blog. I haven't been very active at all on HF, although I have maintained local activity here in Drogheda on the UHF and VHF bands. I had a busy and enjoyable Christmas and have been trying to clear a backlog of QSL cards, both direct and via the bureau.

The latest QSL card in the letterbox yesterday was from 3D2C,
Conway Reef dxpedition, confirming seven band slots.
I must say the bureau cards have become an absolute chore. I've been receiving over 200 cards for the last number of deliveries and it takes a while to get through them all. I've decided now that I will only be sending return cards via the bureau TWICE A YEAR - there simply isn't enough time to do everything! I have to prioritise direct cards, and I am a big fan of ARRL's Logbook of the World, which is by far the best and easiest way to QSL in my humble opinion.

There have been a couple of wind storms this week which have given my antennas a good battering, although at this moment in time everything seems to be fine.

In 2013, I hope to be one of a number of EI hams activating a new special event callsign, EI13CLAN, which is in celebration of a big event next year called "The Gathering", which aims to promote and celebrate all that is Irish. You can see more information about The Gathering on this website.

The special callsign EI80IRTS, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society, will cease to be active on December 31st 2012, just a couple of days away, so if you hear the call on the bands, work it quickly before it's too late!!!

In the meantime, you can read more about EI13CLAN on Meet you on the bands in 2013!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My QSO with Norman E51E in South Cook Islands

I was pleasantly surprised today after seeing Norman Banks (5B4AIF) spotted on 20m from South Cook Islands as E51E to hear him quite well when I pointed the beam at him. Within a short time, a huge pile-up had developed, and he was unable to hear anyone. So he started working by numbers. Having started with 0 and working a few, he went to 1 and there weren't many 1s either. Pretty soon he was moving onto 2.

The above video shows my first call at him - the camera was running but I really didn't expect to get him with my first call. If you listen carefully you can hear that I hadn't even cleared my throat properly for the call. He heard me first call and I was in the log in no time.

Sorry about the loudness in the video, but I didn't realise how close I was to the camera at the time!! You can hear my whoops of delight at the end. South Cook Islands (E5-S) are 15,700 km from me, in the south Pacific Ocean. I was beaming northwest, on the short path, with the SP7IDX broadband hexbeam, running 400 watts. It was a new country for me on 20m.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Puerto Rico NP4A booming on 80 SSB

Above is a short video showing the huge signal from NP4A on 80 metres SSB. This is Pedro working Europe across the Atlantic at after 11pm local Ireland time. I was listening to him on my Butternut HF6V vertical antenna. Incredible signal. I had worked him a few minutes previously, and he gave me a new band slot.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

KH6MB Hawaii worked in Ireland with 100 watts

Above is a short video showing my QSO with KH6MB on 20 metres (14 Mhz) CW this evening after dark. There was a bit of flutter on his signal, but as you can see, I managed to nab him with my first call using just 100 watts.

Perhaps this video might serve as encouragement to some EI stations to go and learn "the code". I know some people will find it tough, but if you learn it you will also find it very rewarding, as your DXCC count will  increase dramatically.

In fairness, KH6MB is generally relatively easy to work when he's on. I have worked him in the past using just 100 watts and a vertical. My first QSO with him in February 2010, using my old callsign EI8GHB, was with my trusty Butternut vertical. I was thrilled to have worked him on 10 metres SSB in October of 2011, when that band was in brilliant shape.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rotator up, ZL9 worked twice again, and HV0A

It was a good day in the shack here today. I could hear ZL9HR, the Campbell Island dxpedition, on 17m SSB on the long path. They were light enough, not moving the needle much. Within a couple of minutes I was in the log. It really was an easy QSO. That was 9.58am. A half an hour later - having tried for a short time on 40m CW without success - I tried on 15m CW. Again, they were better on the long path. I was calling 3 Khz up, where others seemed to be calling them, but then I heard ZL9HR working EI6FR, Declan, who is based in Dublin.

The ZL9HR Campebell Island dxpedition team
So I messaged Declan on Facebook assking for the split and he said he worked them 7 Khz up. So I went up to 21.042, and could indeed hear him working one or two Europeans. So I went down slightly, to 21.041.2 and within a couple of minutes I could hear "EI2KC 5NN" coming back through the ether! It was my sixth slot with ZL9, which was more than I could have anticipated. Thanks for the help Declan EI6FR! The ZL9HR dxpedition has since gone QRT, so six slots is my total. I am a happy man.

At shortly before 11am Tony EI4DIB and Pat EI2HX arrived at my QTH to help me put up the Yaesu G-450C rotator. Thankfully we had done a lot of work on Wednesday, including the wiring, and we were all ready to get it on the pole and under the hexbeam. It only took about an hour, but thankfully the hexbeam is so light that I could manage lifting it off the pole, and back onto the rotator, on my own.

Within a short time I was turning the beam from inside the shack and watching the signal meter as the various signals came up while the beam was turning towards them. First into the log was 3B8CF on 15m CW, followed shortly thereafter by J28NC (Djibouti). I was absolutely chuffed, upon turning southeast for HV0A, Francesco in the Vatican City, to work him on my FIRST CALL on 17 metres SSB through a simplex pile-up. He was a signal strength of 30dB over 9 here, as you can see in this short video, which I made immediately after working him:

Others to make it into the log before the bands closed this evening were SU9VB, Vlad in Egypt, on 17m CW with just one call using only 100 watts. I also nabbed 5X1NH, Nick in Uganda, on 20m CW. He has been very active, and has given me five bands so far. 

I did not participate in the ARRL 10 metres contest, and I'm so glad about that because propagation on 10m  is awful. I could only hear a few signals on the band today. It wouldn't have been much fun to be trying to ratch up a decent QSO rate in that contest . . .

Friday, December 7, 2012

ZL9HR worked in the narrowest of windows!

This morning I had a real dilemma. I was in the shack at about 7.50am and could see that some European ops were spotting ZL9HR (Campbell Island) on 17m CW. So I switched on the radio and listened but could not hear anything, except for the occasional slight hint of CW way off in the noise.

The problem? I had to go to Dublin today, and was planning to leave at 9.15am, to meet friends at 10am in the city. The dilemma was simple - either the signal from ZL9HR needed to come up, or I wouldn't get to work them.

While making breakfast etc. I kept an ear on the radio in the shack. I could hear tones way off in the murk, but nothing that would allow me to work them or copy them. I had the hexbeam pointed long path (although there is less than 300km in the difference between SP and LP because ZL9 is almost exactly opposite Ireland). There had been nothing on the short path. So long path seemed best.

At 8.45am I had to do the daily "school run". By that time, the signal from ZL9HR hadn't improved. I could return to the shack at 9am, but would have to leave again at about 9.15am. I did the school run, and to my pleasant surprise, when I returned at 9am the signal from Campbell had improved slightly. They were NOT moving the needle at all, and the QSB was considerable.

I had the linear ready for action, and listened around and it seemed he was generally listening 2-3 Khz up. I heard him working an EA6 and so I decided to call slightly below where the EA6 had worked him. Within no time at all, I could hear - quite faintly - "EI2KC 5NN" and came back with my usual "RR EI2KC 5NN TU". And that was it - I was in the log, with just moments to spare before heading out the door. I made a very quick video (below - excuse the poor quality, but it was made in a rush) showing his signal strength, or lack thereof! Having logged him, I switched all the equipment off, shut the computer down, locked up the house and set the alarm.

And boy, did I have a smile on my face while driving to Dublin!

That was slot number four for me, on top of 20m CW, 20m SSB and 30m CW. The dxpedition finishes on Sunday, so any more slots will be a bonus but I am very happy with what I have. ZL9 is my 281st DXCC worked from this humble station.

Tomorrow morning, if the weather is good enough, I will put up my Yaesu G-450C rotator onto the mast to turn the hexbeam - not on my own, of course, but hopefully with the help of Tony EI4DIB and Pat EI2HX. Up to now, I have been using the "Armstrong Method" HI HI. You can see a video of my new rotator below:

Monday, December 3, 2012

ZL9HR Campbell Island worked on two slots

Above is a short video of the ZL9HR Campbell Island dxpedition on 20m CW, just a couple of minutes after I worked them for a brand new country. I am chuffed to report that ZL9 is my 281st DXCC worked. I also nabbed them on 20m SSB a short time later.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

5T0SP Mauritania dxpedition booming on 20 metres

This is a short video showing the 5T0SP dxpedition to Mauritania in Africa, booming in with a big signal on 20 metres SSB. I was listening to them on a SP7IDX broadband hexbeam pointing roughly south. I had already worked them on that slot, and have since worked them on nine other slots too.