Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Video: patience pays off and Brazilian special event call logged

I was listening to a Brazilian special event station, ZZ80PR, on 40 metres tonight. After the crazy European pile-up had died down, I noticed that he was a bit stronger on my Butternut vertical than on my 40m inverted v dipole. So I decided to sit tight and give him a call . . .

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Photo of the radio shack all lit up at night

Above is a photo of my radio shack at night, all lit up. I was prompted to do this by Tony EI4DIB who posted a similar photo of his shack in the dark on Facebook. I decided to do the same thing. It took a bit of setting up. The handheld 2m/70cm radios do not stay illuminated, so each of those needed to be lit up quickly before the shot was taken. Also included on the top right is my new digital SWR meter, which is nicely backlit in blue. There are a couple of mic keypads lit up in the photo too. There is some reflection on the computer keyboard from the IC-756PRO and also my Kent dual paddle is lit up by the screen of the Icom IC-746.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

CW touch keyer - demonstration and review

This is a video I made to review and demonstrate the CW Touch Keyer. This is a twin morse paddle, but not in the traditional sense in that it has no moving parts. It operates purely on the basis of touch. This video shows the unit in operation and I give it a bit of a review.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Will we ever work KH5K Kingman Reef again?

Kingman Reef (KH5K) pictured in 2003
A disturbing report from Dx-world.net suggests that most of Kingman Reef, an isolated reef in the Pacific Ocean and one of the rarest DXCC entities with the designator KH5K, is now almost completely submerged. The eighth most wanted DXCC is now mostly under water, and probably too dangerous to visit.

Quoting Rich KY6R and citing a report from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, DX-world.net reports that much of the reef is awash, and that the two land masses making up the reef lie only three feet above water level:

The U.S. F&W report suggests that Kingman Reef is now too dangerous to visit:

“The work site on the reef flat was very shallow with water depths of 1 to 7 feet at high tide, and just a few inches of water at low tide. The two small rubble islands that comprise the only land masses at Kingman Reef lie merely 3 feet above sea level. They are frequently awash by waves and offered no shelter during removal operations. The severe sea state and environmental conditions at Kingman Reef are unpredictable, and forecasts are relatively unreliable at the isolated central Pacific reef. Such uncertainty constrained safe operations, and the team determined that mobilizing the full shipwreck removal team and all floating assets, including the 185-foot barge and large crane, from Palmyra to be staged at the Kingman removal site, presented an unacceptable risk to crew and resources. Instead, a subset of the crew traveled to Kingman Reef from Palmyra Atoll on the tugboat Sarah C with a transport scow in tow.”

Rich told DX-world.net that he thinks it's now "time that DXAC seriously consider deleting Kingman Reef."
Kingman reef was last activated in the year 2000 by the K5K dxpedition. There is some doubt right now about whether it will ever be activated again.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New video: a mini Russian single-lever morse paddle

In this video I demonstrate one of my miniature Russian single-lever morse paddles, which I purchased on eBay last year for around 20 euro apiece. These are light and dainty little keys, but very effective and easy to use. They would be quite transportable for SOTA or other portable or mobile activities.

Here is a link to the seller's page on eBay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/wwwww337

He often has them for sale and seems to have a stock of them. Well worth the small spend in my opinion!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pictures from the annual radio rally in Coolmine

Ark EI9KC and Adam EI5JQ manning the EI0PL/SP7IDX hexbeam stand.
John EI6DN and Pierce EI4CI.
A portion of the crowd at Coolmine.

Tony EI4DIB and Ben EI4IN.
Dundalk EI7DAR President and Chairman Tom EI9CJ and Thos EI2JD.
Tom EI6K and Sean EI9CBB.
Tom EI6K and his son Tony EI6EQB and me in the middle. Tom was licenced in 1952.
Tom EI6K and Ger EI4HOB. Myself and Ger chat on the Dublin
repeaters during the evening commute most days.
Southeast Network . . . Antonio EI2KG, Declan EI4GJB and David EI6GVB.
Buying and selling at the Phoenix Amateur Radio Club rally in Coolmine.
Enjoying the Coolmine rally.

Sean EI9CBB and Don EI6IL chatting at Coolmine.
Mike EI2DJ (2nd right) and John EI2HO (right) and friends.
DX talk . . . Don EI6IL and Doug EI2CN.
Fra and Jim EI2HJB.

EI4DIB Tony and Michael EI9GGB chatting at the rally.

Southeast Communications stand at the rally.
Browsing at the Coolmine rally.
Sean EI4IP and EI2EK.
Terry EI4GLB and Mike EI2DJ chatting at the Coolmine rally.
Patrick EI4HKB, Antonio EI2KG and Dennis EI2HSB.
Among the items for sale at the rally was this Russian navy cap, modelled by Tony EI4DIB.

Looking forward to the Phoenix Amateur Radio Rally in Coolmine

A short video made on the morning of the Phoenix Amateur Radio Club annual radio rally in Coolmine, Blanchardstown, Dublin.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Still making contacts across the pond after 60 years

Amateur radio can be a lovely hobby for throwing up nice stories and interesting connections. I recently received a QSL card from Ron W8KYD in Cleveland, Ohio. Ron enclosed a copy of a QSL card that he had received from Fintan EI8C way back in 1953 - his first QSO "across the pond". Fintan became silent key in 2010, but used to run an electrical shop in Drogheda and I remember visiting his shop to get equipment fixed, probably in the 1980s. Anyway, the above video speaks for itself. Below is a copy of the QSL card plus Ron's note about it to me:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I've joined the Straight Key Century Club

Now that I am the proud owner of an SK-CC straight key - a limited edition gold-plated key (see previous posts) - it seems like a good idea to become a member of the Straight Key Century Club. I'm hoping to do more straight keying. It's something I enjoy. I'm not proficient at it, but with enough practice I will be. I am proud to carry on a tradition that began with telegraphy in the early days of radio. The SK-CC key was made by LTA in the Balearic Islands, and is a very nice reproduction of a Marconi key, similar to the one used on the Titanic. My key was number 75 of a limited edition. They are no longer manufactured. I hope to catch you on the bands soon for a straight key QSO. And forgive my mistakes - I'm still learning!!

My Straight Key Century Club membership number is 11904. You might be interested to know that it costs nothing to become a member. Learn more at the SKCC website.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Video: Using the Reverse Beacon Network to compare your antennas, and to discern band propagation

This is a short video I made today demonstrating how to use the Reverse Beacon Network to compare your signal on different antennas. The RBN is a very handy tool for the CW enthusiast and for hams interested in testing their antennas and also finding out about propagation on various bands. In this video, I use both an inverted v dipole and a Butternut vertical to transmit a CQ call on 10 Mhz (30 metre band). I then compare the signal reports spotted automatically by skimmer stations. However, on the second CQ call with the vertical antenna, I get an unexpected DX call . . . I will let you watch the video!

Monday, February 10, 2014

VHF beams taken down . . . Antron 99 back in the air!

My Antron 99 back in the air, and the 4 metre dipole.
Rooftop selfie . . .
Today the precariously positioned VHF beams were finally taken down. Tony EI4DIB helped me to remove them from the broken stub. We decided there and then that they would not be going back up today. The rotator appears to be shot and the stub pole had broken in the storms. The XY 2m beam has not had much use, while the 3-element 6 metre beam is only used during the summer E season. I decided to put back up my Antron 99, which I find to be a fantastic antenna on the high bands, most particularly 12 metres and 10 metres. In the meantime, I can think of a plan for the VHF beams. The only VHF antenna that we did put back up was my 4 metre dipole, which you can see offset from the pole supporting the Antron in the photo.

Below you can see a video of a contact I made with J38XX in Grenada. I was using 100 watts from the Icom 746 (a lovely radio) into the Antron on 28 Mhz CW. I later worked a number of North American stations on SSB and had a bit of fun.

Just this morning (Monday 10th Feb), I worked HS0ZBS on 10m CW with the Antron. Fine business!

Amsterdam Island FT5ZM update: I now have a total of ten band slots with Amsterdam. I was delighted to get them on 40m CW last night at 00:40. I also got 17 cw today, so now have them worked on all bands from 40 through 10. Is it too much to wonder about a QSO on 80 metres at this late stage?

I finished my latest HF Happenings column today and have sent it off to the editor of Echo Ireland magazine. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The sun is crackling with sunspots right now

The sun is crackling to life at the moment. Today (February 8th), the sunspot number is (I think) higher than it's ever been during the time I have been on air. Today's sunspot number is 241, and the solar flux index is at 178. This should offer excellent propagation, with great conditions on the high bands. If you don't work the DX now, you never will !!!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Another milestone . . . 200 DXCC confirmed on 17 metres

I've just reached another milestone as a radio amateur. I checked my Logbook of the World account today to find that I've just hit 200 countries confirmed on the 17 metre (18 Mhz) band. This is the second band on which I have reached or passed two centuries, having previously hit 200 on 20 metres. 17 metres is one of my favourite bands, and there is quite often excellent DX to be worked there. It is also a "safe haven" at the weekends when there are contests on.

FT5ZM update: I am still trying to work them on 15m and 17m. Unfortunately their signal on these bands is strongest during the day when I am at work. I have tried them on 15m CW for several mornings, including this morning, with no success. However, I made up for that disappointment by working them on 12m SSB, my sixth slot.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

John EI7IG talks about emergency communications

In this video from Ham Radio Now's YouTube channel, John Ronan EI7IG gives a talk in the USA about methods of sending rapid messages during emergency communications scenarios using D-STAR. John is a leading light in Ireland behind AREN - Amateur Radio Emergency Networks - which is a cause close to my heart. A northeast region AREN group was set up a few years ago and is co-ordinated by Tony Allen EI4DIB. The purpose of AREN, for those of you who are not involved in amateur radio, is to provide communications or help with communications during disasters or emergencies. AREN groups have also assisted with comms at community events. 

You can read more about John EI7IG at his website, and don't forget to have a look at the AREN page.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A closer look at my SK-CC 75 morse key

Just a quick video to give you a better look at my SKCC-75 morse key. I've only had a chance for a few QSOs with it but they have been largely pleasurable. Right now my straight keying feels a bit clunky. I feel as if I'm using too much wrist action and can tire a bit during a QSO so I will need to sort that out. More practice/training required methinks.

On the DX front, I now have FT5ZM Amsterdam Island on five slots. Due to lack of time I have not been able to try very hard. It's been a busy couple of weeks here. But I am thrilled with five slots. I worked them on 20m SSB this evening with just 100 watts. The pile-ups are really starting to thin out on certain bands.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Houston, we've had a problem . . . in fact, two problems

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so here goes . . .
This is my VHF array, sadly damaged by all the recent windstorms. The antennas themselves seem to be fine, but as you can see the stub pole is broke, and I'm pretty sure the rotator is shattered too (it certainly isn't working!) So at the earliest opportunity I will need to get my rescue team up to the QTH for some help to repair the damage. I lowered the array this morning to try to prevent further wind damage. To add insult to injury, two of the wires on my hexbeam are snapped, the 12m wire and the 15m wire. Picture below:
You can see the 15m wire dangling down from the hexbeam here.
The wind storms started on St. Stephen's Day and there's been at least one bad wind storm every week since then. My antennas have taken a heck of a battering. Let's hope the rescue team and I can restore them without too much trouble or expense. Here's hoping . . .

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My new weapon ... a nice bit of brass

I am pleased to unveil EI2KC's latest weapon, soon to be unleashed on a QRG near you. I have just acquired this beautiful Straight Key Century Club key and am going to hit the bands . . . Keep an ear out for some pretty horrendous straight keying and it will likely be me. I have all the dexterity of an epileptic squid, so my CW should sound something like a one-note symphony gone horribly wrong.

See you on the bands!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Endless pile-ups for Amsterdam Island

For the past three mornings the pile-ups for FT5ZM Amsterdam Island on 10 metres CW and 12 metres CW have been immense. Even as I write this, the pile-up on 12 CW is almost 20 Khz wide. He is calling on 24.894 and at one stage was listening on 24.911 and above. I still haven't broken the pile with my paltry hexbeam, but I reckon the pile-ups will thin out before too long. Well done to all the EI stations who are in the log. Right now there are 33 Irish callsigns in there. Hopefully I will bag a few more QSOs before too long.

Here is a video showing some of the action on 12cw. As you can hear, he is only making a QSO a minute - the pile-up must be huge on his side: