Sunday, November 24, 2013

Worked #302 overall, #200 on 40m and #70 on top band

A great day. It's late, so I will make this quick. I worked FIVE new countries in a row on 40m CW this morning, all of them in the CQWW contest. They were as follows - all worked in the space of about ten minutes:

Agatti Island, Lakshadweep Islands, where VU7AG are based.
HD2T Ecuador
KH7XX Hawaii
V25A Antigua & Barbuda
9Y4/VE3EY Trinidad & Tobago
TX8B New Caledonia

That last one, a brilliant contact using just my Butternut vertical, was my 200th country worked on the 40 metre band!

The morning got better when I logged VU7AG on 12m CW, a brand new DXCC, and country #302!! I later worked them on 30m CW also, so two QSOs with this new DXCC.

Tonight, I worked 4L5O on 160m, my 70th country on top band. It's amazing what can be done with limited antennas. My 80m/40m/30m inverted v system (only 30 feet up at the apex) has some resonance on the bottom of 160m. Delighted to get this one.

Other highlights today: J88HL 20m SSB - I now have 17 slots with this dxpedition!
XZ1J - worked on 15m SSB and 20m SSB. Total of eight slots. Only seven in the log. They busted my call on 10m CW and have me as ES2KC.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A brief moment in the sun with J88HL dxpedition

I just noticed that I am top of the EIs in the Clublog league table for the J88HL St. Vincent dxpedition! It's quite unexpected as I have some tough competition. And I realise that it will be very short lived. However, it's nice to be on top for once!!

I got up early this morning (6.15am) to try to work J88HL on 80 metres, as I failed to even hear them yesterday morning. Declan EI6FR told me he felt they were stronger earlier in the morning yesterday. He had worked them at 6.55am local time. Sure enough, after a bit of comet Ison spotting with my binoculars, I returned to the shack at around 6.45am to find them just on the limits of audibility on both the Butternut and the dipole. I had to wait until 6.54am for their signal to come up sufficiently. I called them and heard 5NN but was completely unsure of the QSO. So I called them again at 6.56am and this time I was a little bit happier. Right now at 7.15am they are covered by noise here and impossible to hear. Hopefully that's slot #10!

You know the saying - 'The early bird catches the worm'! It's so true.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Two new countries on 80 metres today

It was a good weekend on the bands, but today was rather special. Most of the weekend's contacts were made on the higher bands, which is somewhat unsurprising given the very high sunspot numbers. (Today the sunspot number is 282!). But today's two very special contacts were on 80 metres, which is a difficult band for me. I use either my Butternut HF6V vertical or a severely dog-legged 80m inverted v dipole with a maximum height of 30 feet at the apex.

I got up early to see if I could work the J88HL dxpedition in St. Vincent on 80m CW as a new country on that band. I could see they were active on 3.525 on the Reverse Beacon Network, but when I got to the radio I could hear nothing. I sat for a while listening on frequency while doing other things on the computer. Nothing. Not one bip.

A short time later, around 7.20am, I decided against all odds to try to listen to XR0ZR in Juan Fernandez on the same band, same mode. I thought I could hear him very weakly on my dipole, but I had a lot of QRN here and I didn't rate my chances of hearing him properly, never mind work him. But for some reason I sat on the QRG and went about doing a few bits and pieces on the computer.

My four slots in XR0ZR's log, including 80m CW!!!
Around 7.45am, I could hear him with a lot of QSB and flutter, and some of the time I could hear his full call "XR0ZR UP". A few EU stations, mostly G and DL, were calling him exactly 2 Khz up. So I decided to put on the Acom 1000 linear and call on that frequency.

After only a couple of minutes, I thought I could hear "KC 5NN" but nothing else. I called again. This time, I listened on the sub receiver and there was nobody else calling him on 2Khz up. I thought I heard "KC 5NN" again, so I gave "RR EI2KC EI2KC 5NN 5NN TU". Unsure as to whether it was a good QSO or not, I decided to log it as a precaution, and to try to work them again.

At the local time got nearer to 8am, XR0ZR came up in strength, but faded out about five minutes past and went into the noise. At that stage, with all Europe in daylight, I must have been the last one hearing him!

This afternoon I decided to check their online log, and, much to my surprise and delight, my 80m CW QSO is in their log! That was DXCC #133 on 80 metres.

But it didn't end there! Tonight, having waited for several nights for the chance, I finally worked Z81X in South Sudan on 80m CW. He has had huge pile-ups for the past few nights on 80 CW, but tonight his pile-up seemed to die down after an hour or so. I finally nabbed my chance. I could hear that he was listening about 1.5 Khz up so called him there. It took several tries to get him. He sent "EI2?" and I gave my call several times. I heard nothing. I gave my call twice again. I thought I heard "2KC 5NN". So I gave the call again and 5NN. And eventually I heard "EI2KC 5NN". This time I gave several RRRs and several 5NNs and TU.

Two new countries on 80 metres in one day. Not bad for a very severely dog-legged antenna that's not up high enough!!

Here are some highlights from the weekend:

J88HL St. Vincent - Eight slots, including 40m SSB.
PY0FF Fernando de Noronha - 10m SSB - new country on 10m
T33A Banaba - 20m SSB and 17m CW before they went QRT
KH8/WD5COV American Samoa - 20m CW for a brand new DXCC, #301!
TG9NX Guatemala - 12m CW, new one on 12.
XZ1J Myanmar - 15m CW - only my second ever QSO with this rare DXCC.
3DA0ET Swaziland - 10m and 12m CW.
FR/DK9PY Reunion Island - 17m CW and a new one on 17 metres.
XR0ZR Juan Fernandez - 15m SSB and 80m CW
Z81X South Sudan - 80m CW - new DXCC on 80m, #134!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Yeehaa!! Wallis & Futuna makes it 300 countries worked!!

Oh wow. This hobby never ceases to throw up surprises. Just when you think there couldn't possibly be another new country to be worked in the space of a week or so, up pops FW5JJ in Wallis & Futuna on 20m SSB and I can hear him on the short path! What a start to Monday morning. Will I get him for DXCC #300 before I go to work, or will I have to wait for another day?

He is light on my hexbeam, but I can hear him through the flutter. The beam heading is about 345 degrees. He's working French stations. The Acom is warm and ready. He finishes working the French station. I call. He picks up a Foxtrot Cinque. They exchange reports. I call again . . . silence. And then, after about five seconds . . . "Echo India Two Kilo Charlie Five and Nine"!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Roger roger, thank you, you are five and five. Thank you for a brand new country".

"No problem. Seventy Three. Fox Whisky Five Juliet Juliet....."

What a fantastic week it's been for DX, and a tough challenge to get them into the log. 5J0R San Andres was relatively easy as #296, worked first on November 2nd and on another 14 slots since then. On the same day, I managed to nab K9W on Wake Island beaming over the pole at around 7.10pm. It was a lucky break. They didn't have a pile-up and I got through fairly easily. But I have failed to get another slot since then! T33A Banaba was DXCC #298 last Friday evening just before 7.30pm local time on a skew path of about 250 degrees. They logged me as EA2KC. I'm sure they'll correct it, but I wouldn't mind an insurance QSO just to be safe. Last night at 5.43pm local time I bagged Juan Fernandez (Robinson Crusoe Island) on 10 metres CW for #299. And this morning, I have made the #300 mark.

Just over four years into the hobby and I have worked 300 of the 340 current entities. Just 40 to go. That might sound easy, but the DXers know the last 40 are the toughest, because they're usually the rarest. So I can't imagine I will be bragging about #340 any time soon!

But that's not to say I won't enjoy the challenge of trying to work them all . . .

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Juan Fernandez logged - 299 countries - getting close now!!!

It's been a heck of a week here at the shack of EI2KC. Having worked just two new DXCC during the entire summer period, I find myself in the remarkable position of having worked three new ones within the space of a week. First it was K9W Wake Island on 20m SSB. Then T33A Banaba on 20m CW. This evening, I am delighted to report that I have logged XR0ZR Juan Fernandez Islands on 10 metres CW. That's country number 299 in my log. Brilliant stuff.

I honestly thought I wouldn't make it into their log tonight. It was after dark here and the band should have been closed, but they were pretty audible even if they weren't doing much to the needle on the 756PRO. I decided to sit on a QRG and call there, instead of hunting around. I listened to a few QSOs and he seemed to be working two to four Khz up. He was on 28.008.2 and I sat on 28.011.9. It took about 20 minutes but eventually I could hear "EI2?" and went back with the call and pretty soon I was in the log.

To be honest, I didn't think this would be a particularly tough one. We have good propagation from EI into South America most of the time. Wake and Banaba are a different story. I have spent a lot of time this week listening for them and only hear them in short bursts. I need to work Banaba again because they bust my call and have me logged as EA2KC. Ah well, we'll see what happens. I'm sure they will give me the QSL anyway.

More targets for the coming weeks that are needed as new ones would include: VU7 Lakshadweep Islands; KH8 American Samoa; FW Wallis and Futuna. Fingers crossed it won't be long before the magic #300 makes it into the log.

Happy hunting folks. See you in the pile-ups!!!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

5J0R San Andres on 17 RTTY makes it 15 slots!

This is a short video showing my Icom IC-756PRO decoding 5J0R on 18 Mhz RTTY just after I had worked this wonderful dxpedition for a 15th band slot.

As an addendum to yesterday's rather excited post, I have found that in the latest T33A Clublog upload, my callsign is not in their log. However, on investigation I find that the callsign EA2KC is in there for both 20m SSB and 20m CW. I am familiar with Jose EA2KC and as far as I know he operates exclusively on phone, and does not do CW. All the cluster spots for him for the past two years have been SSB only. So I suspect that Banaba have busted my call, by one character. Ah well. I will try to work them again, but if not, it's not the end of the world. I'm sure they will correct it for me.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Banaba T33A in the log - on a skew path

I am absolutely delighted to reveal that I just worked T33A on Banaba Island a short time ago. I had no hope of even hearing them tonight because they seemed to have QSY'd off 20 cw and I would have little hope of hearing them on 30m or 40m CW on my dipoles. But then I could see spots for them on 14 Mhz on the Reverse Beacon Network. I tried listening on the short path (north). Nothing. I tried listening on the long path (south). Nothing. Disappointed, I figured I would have no luck tonight. But something told me to beam back to the north path again after they QSY'd from 14.030 to 14.035. I thought perhaps they had moved frequency for a reason - maybe the new QRG was clearer? Perhaps I would hear them on the new frequency?

This is the exact beam heading I worked Banaba on. I took
this shot immediately after the QSO.
I set the VFO to 14.035, and started turning the hexbeam from south towards north with the G-450C rotator. It was sloooow. But, just as I passed southwest, I heard some CW. I stopped the beam at 250 degrees (west-southwest) and could hear - quite weakly - what sounded like "T33A UP". I put on the split and heard him working a US station exactly one up. I pressed the operate button on the Acom 1000 linear and gave him my call. He worked a K1 station. I listened on the split. 14.036.1. When he finished that QSO, I called him.

And then the magic came wafting through the air! I heard a weak and fluttery signal that sounded like "2KC 5NN". Unsure it was me, I waited. Then I heard it again "2KC 5NN". So I went back with "EI2KC EI2KC ? 5NN BK" and heard a more distinct "EI2KC 5NN TU".

A photo of the Icom with the exact split I worked T33A on.
I'm surprised, elated, and relieved. This is a tough one for a station with small antennas. Have no doubt about it. The three and four element SteppIR stations are hearing them 559 and even 599 on the evening paths, but the lowly hexbeamers are not so lucky!!

I shouted a huge "YESSS" and punched the air several times. DXCC #298 is in the log, and another of those rare ones. It's #25 on the Clublog most wanted list. And it puts me within a whisker of 300 DXCC worked.

Now I can do what I like to do on a Friday night. I'm hoping to order a Chinese takeaway and sit down and watch a movie with my XYL and maybe I'll crack open a bottle of chardonnay too!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

Winter is a good time for contacts on 80 metres

It is well known that the early bird catches the worm. It is also well known that I am fond of my bed. However, in the past year or so I have made a special effort to get up early when known DX is to be found on the 80 metre band, which is a challenging band for a ham with small antennas. Of course, 80 metres is a winter time band, and DX contacts are rare during the summer. Last winter, I finally got 100 countries confirmed on this band after taking part in CQWW CW on 80m only in late November 2012.

This morning, I got the call from Declan EI6FR at 6:38am to say that the 5J0R San Andres dxpedition was on 80m CW with a good signal. I went immediately to the shack and sure enough, he was a 599 on my inverted v dipole. So I switched on the Acom 1000 and while it was warming up I started listening for the split.

Within a short time I was calling with 400 watts. He was working plenty of Europeans. But I knew as time went on and the rest of the EU went into daylight I would have a good chance. Sure enough, at around 06.56UTC, I heard him coming back with the magic "EI2KC 5NN". And I gave him "RR DE EI2KC 5NN 5NN TU". Another new one on 80 metres, and slot #10 with this dxpedition.

But it didn't end there. A short time later I could hear them on 40 metres SSB, on 7.165, working 5 to 15 up. So I sat on 10Khz up and called for a while. After about ten minutes, he came back very clearly with "Echo India Two Kilo Charlie Five Nine". And I gave him a 59 and entered slot #11 into my log. I now have San Andres HK0-S on every band from 80m through 10m. Last Friday night, I didn't have this DXCC at all!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Wake Atoll and San Andres logged - two new ones in one day

It has been a great day on the bands here in the shack of EI2KC at IO63TQ. I nabbed 5J0R, the San Andres dxpedition, on no fewer than five band slots today, including two RTTY slots, an SSB slot and two CW slots. That was beyond my wildest expectations. Although they are only in the Caribbean and therefore relatively easy to work from EI, it was the first day of their activity and pile-ups were significant. That was DXCC #296 (official DXCC designation HK0-S).

I really didn't expect to even hear K9W on Wake Atoll, but I got a tip-off from Don EI6IL at tea time that they were weak but workable on 20m SSB and sure enough, I actually logged them with one call. I think it was because they were weak that most Europeans were not hearing them; hence it was easy to get through. I was beaming north, so right across the pole.

It's all water and ice between here and there. I was really, really chuffed, and somewhat relieved, to get them so quickly. That was DXCC #297 (official DXCC designation KH9). I've actually worked 303 DXCC entities, but six of these are deleted so the current DXCC tally stands at 297. Just three more and I will be at the magic 300 worked.

Below is a video showing 5J0R's signal on 10m CW just immediately after I worked them. Sorry about the volume level. It was a bit high for the recording.