Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Delighted to have a QSO with famous blogger Bas PE4BAS on 40m

I was delighted to have a QSO with the famous amateur radio blogger, Bas PE4BAS, on 40 metres on Monday. We had an 11-minute chat on lower side bands. Bas wasn't strong with me - a 53 maximum - and I had some local electrical noise (probably Christmas lights!) on the first QRG, 7.107, so we then moved to 7.110 where we had better luck.

Bas is blogging about ham radio longer than me and his blog has found worldwide fame. We worked in December 2009, when my call sign was EI8GHB. This latest QSO was our first conversation in over six years, and our first with my call EI2KC.

Bas PE4BAS in his station in The Netherlands.
In addition to being a great blogger and a passionate radio amateur, Bas is also a really lovely guy. A great ambassador for the hobby.  I'm already looking forward to our next QSO.

In the meantime, if you haven't seen it already, don't forget to visit Bas's blog here:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Enjoying some European contacts using JT65 on 80 metres

I had a little bit of fun on 80 metres tonight using the low power JT65 mode. Having chased some of the special event IARU and YOTA call signs during the day, I found the bands a bit dead this evening and decided to see if anyone was on JT65. To my surprise, 3.576 was quite busy with signals. So I gave it a go.

The above video was made while making a QSO into England during a good run of contacts. I had eight QSOs tonight - which might not sound like much - but every QSO on JT65 takes at least four minutes, so it's not bad. I had contacts into England, The Netherlands, Germany and Austria. All QSOs were made with 14 watts from my transceiver, transmitted into my home brew 80 metre inverted v dipole.

All of the stations that heard my signal on JT65, reported on pskreporter.info.

My small signal was heard all over Europe and even in the United States, as you can see from the above map. One of the great joys of using JT65 is because it's a slow-paced, relaxing mode, you can do something else while making contacts. In this case, I was making a YouTube video! The "live" recording caught me unawares towards the end!

A portion of my log today, showing a lot of IARU and YOTA SES contacts.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Storm Desmond takes his toll on my hexbeam

The latest winter storm to pass over Ireland, called Storm Desmond, brought extremely strong winds and heavy rain to the country. Unfortunately, my hexbeam did not make it through this one. It has survived many storms, but Desmond was too strong.

Three band wires snapped during the storm.

As you can see in the above photo, I've lost three out of five bands due to the storm. Three separate band wires snapped during the high winds. The hexbeam has a great ability to flex in strong winds, and even with the wires placed in such a way as to allow for this flexing, sometimes the strain on the antenna is just too severe.

At the moment, I am able to use 20m and 17m, but there is a higher SWR on 15m, 12m and 10m.

I'm not sure what I will do to repair the antenna. I feel that maybe stronger wire is part of the solution. I'm just glad that there are no ATNOs (All-Time New Ones) coming up this month because I don't know when I will get a chance to repair it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The EI2KM contest team - CQWW CW 2015

CQ TEST . . . EI2KM team and supporters during the CQWW CW contest.
This is a photo taken during the CQWW CW contest with the EI2KM team at the QTH of Doug EI2CN in County Louth. From left to right are Brian EI8EJB, Declan EI6FR (with headphones, operating the radio), Stephane F5UOW, Anthony EI2KC, Adrian EI2KJ (seated with beard in foreground), Alain EI2KM/F8FUA and Doug EI2CN.

Below you can see some more videos from the contest. The first one shows me operating on 80 metres, using (for the first time) a four-square receive antenna. What a joy that was!

And in this video shot by Alain EI2KM (F8FUA) you can see a better view of the station.

Monday, November 30, 2015

CQWW CW contest 2015 - a great effort by EI2KM

I had the pleasure of taking part in the CQWW CQ contest 2015 with the EI2KM team. We were based at Doug EI2CN's QTH in County Louth. We used one transmitter only. Our final QSO count was over 4,100, with a claimed score 4.8 million points.

Operators were Alain F8FUA, Stephane F5UOW, Doug EI2CN, Declan EI6FR, Anthony EI2KC and Don EI6IL. Our best band was 40 metres, with over 1,000 QSOs.  Next best was 80 metres, with 919 QSOs, we had 938 while 15m. We made 452 QSOs on top band. We had the pleasure of using a four square receive antenna on the low bands. Equipment was an Elecraft K3 and contest software was Win-Test.

Rates were good a lot of the time, with nice pipelines to North America at times on 15m and some great action on 40m. Declan EI6FR ran through the night from midnight Saturday until around 6am Sunday morning on the low bands.

I have to say it was a real pleasure to hear the likes of HS0 Thailand, YB Indonesia and such far away places calling me on 40 metres. 

But it was a very sociable occasion and in addition to the contest activity there was plenty of chat among radio friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

ARRL 10 metre contest win - and a new record!

Much to my very pleasant surprised, I received a certificate in the post yesterday from the ARRL telling me that I had won a section of the 10 metre contest in 2014. I checked my log and sure enough I had made 341 QSOs that weekend. I remember enjoying that contest - even though I was not participating competitively, rather just dipping in and out when I got the time.

The certificate from the ARRL confirming my first place award.
All of my contacts in the ARRL 10m contest were made with my Antron 99 vertical antenna and 100 watts or less. Needless to say I'm thrilled to win, and did not expect it at all. (In all honesty, I may have been the only entry in the section).

After I announced my win  on Facebook, Declan EI6FR informed me that I also now hold the record for EI in that section - Single Operator Unlimited Mixed Mode, Low Power. I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've ever held a contest record, and it makes the win all the sweeter.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A frank admission - I called out of turn and was admonished

I was a bit too hasty this morning trying to work the S79C Coetivy Island IOTA dxpedition on 15 metres SSB. It was an example of how it's important to listen properly to the DX before calling. I arrived on his frequency - 21.260 - and immediately heard him, saying what I thought was "Sierra Seven Nine Charlie, listening five down for number two". So I called. And I heard him telling someone they were calling out of turn. Then I called again. This time, I heard "Echo India Two Kilo Charlie, you are not number three, I am looking only for number three".

I have to admit I was embarrassed. I am not in the habit of calling out of turn, and as a very public figure in ham radio I try to conduct myself to the highest standards.

I listened as he moved quickly up the numbers (there was no pile-up) and he came back around after a couple of minutes to number zero, number one, and then he was calling number twos again.

So I called again.

He still refused to work me, because I had called out of turn the first time. I was very embarrassed. The worst thing was, he used my call sign again, and admonished me, so anyone listening would have heard it. I hung my head in shame..... I was deeply embarrassed.

I sat back from the radio, reflecting on how my haste in trying to work him meant that I hadn't listened to him properly at the beginning. And I was punished (I might say rightfully) for calling out of turn. I wonder if every dxpedition did that how quickly the pile-ups would become discplined!

Reflecting on my behaviour, I suddenly heard him giving my call sign and asking if I was still on the frequency (5 down). I replied in the affirmative. He said "Echo India Two Kilo Charlie you are five nine and in the log. Please co-operate". I apologised for calling out of turn and gave him a report and thanked him.

Now there's true ham spirit!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Willis Island VK9WA in the log - ATNO - DXCC #316

I wasn't able to update the blog yesterday because I was busy but I managed to work the VK9WA Willis Island dxpedition. This was an All-Time New One (ATNO) and my 316th current DXCC worked (318 total).

I was listening at 8am on 17 metres CW and there was no signal from them at all. However, they were being spotted by lots of European stations, so I felt they would come up in signal strength as the morning went on. After 8.30am I began to hear them, and by 9am they were lifting my needle and sounded quite clear. I worked them at 9:05am local time (also UT), with a split of more than 6.5 kHz. I had decided not to move around, but to try to find a trough in the pile-up. This paid off because it took me less than ten minutes to work them. Here is a video I made a couple of minutes later:

Last night, I checked the online log and although it had been updated, my call sign was not there. I checked for variations, and did find an ES2KC in the log, on 17m CW. This is not the first time I have been wrongly logged as ES2KC. I'm 95% certain this is my QSO.

I would like to get a few more QSOs with them, but work means that I am unable to be at the radio in the middle of the morning when their signal might be strongest.

I was encouraged on Sunday morning to hear them strong on both 15 CW and 17 SSB, but I didn't manage a QSO and had to go to music. On Sunday afternoon they had a nice signal on 30 CW. So we live in hope.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Some nice SSB contacts - Svalbard and Australia

Contrary to popular belief, I do sometimes enjoy some phone activity on amateur radio. I do, in fact, own a microphone, HI HI! Today I gave the voice a bit of exercise and enjoyed about an hour of phone activity on 17 metres. I worked mostly European and Russian stations, with a new North American stations in the log too.

Separately to that run, I enjoyed a couple of nice contacts. One was with JW7VRA in Svalbard on 20 metres using just 100 watts. Here's a video of that contact:

I also had a nice QSO with Tim VK3TJK in Victoria, Australia, also on 20 metres. He was booming in on the short path. It sounded at times as if all of Europe and half of Russia was calling him. Here's a video of the moment my call was pulled out of the pile and the ensuing QSO:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

3B7FA St. Brandon in the log - another ATNO, #315

St. Brandon is a remote archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
I knew 3B8FA was heading to St. Brandon in the Indian Ocean for some holiday-style operation as 3B7FA. I knew from reading the blurb about it that it would be tough work trying to get him as an All-Time New One (ATNO). The main reason for my apprehension was the fact that Patrice (Pat) operates generally only PSK63 or SSTV, with some occasional SSB activity. And I knew if he appeared on air all of Europe would be calling him.

There were some major 3B7 activations in 2007, but that was before I got my licence, so I missed out. I've never worked this entity before.

And so, when Pat appeared on 15 metres PSK63 yesterday (Wednesday), there was chaos. He was on simplex  and they kept calling and calling and calling him, with no time for listening. How was anyone going to make a QSO? I could occasionally decode Pat's reports in the gaps, but most of the time it was impossible to know who was being called or worked.

And when he appeared on the same band and mode again today, I didn't expect much, except QRM. And so it went, for a while, until he started calling "UP". So I tried split and called him one kHz or so up from his own TX QRG. This didn't appear to be working. Then I noticed his own TX frequency was moving about, and so a game of cat and mouse ensued.

This went on for ages, until I finally figured it out. He wasn't listening on a split. What he was trying to do was to get people to spread out so that he could pick out individual streams on the waterfall. A clever ploy! I picked him up a few times, moving around, but couldn't get that magic QSO.

Then I saw Erik EI4KF calling him and I saw the following (I didn't get a 100% decode, but close enough):

EI4KF TU  599tg99 EI4KF  pse c rt-- 

So I called immediately where Erik had worked him. Here is the somewhat imperfect print of the QSO:

3B7FA de EI2KC EI2KC  k
¨wci I
EI2NU  5599 EI2KCapse K
14:19:43> Main
3B7FA de EI2KC 599 599 EI2KC TNX K

  QSL TU 73!!
It initially looked like EI2NU but the second call is handy because if there is QSB you get two chances of seeing what he is actually sending.

I honestly didn't think I had a chance of getting Pat into the log, given the QRM, but I am chuffed and delighted to say that DXCC #315 is in my log. It's a great relief and delight for me.

I later saw Pat's print (briefly) on 20 metres SSTV, a mode I have only used once or twice in the six years I've been licenced. I did try to work him but being at the "back" of Europe, so to speak, I didn't have much of a chance against the big continental stations, some of whom, again, called and called and called with no time for receiving or decoding...... I sent what I thought was a fairly apt image given my interest in photography and ancient Ireland. It shows Newgrange, a 5,000-year-old Stone Age monument near where I live. I'm not sure if Pat received the picture of Newgrange, but ah well, I am happy with one QSO. Actually, over the moon.

UKEICC 80m contest was great fun

I took part in my first UKEICC contest last night, on 80 metres CW. This was a one-hour contest and was great fun. There was lots of activity and after starting late at around 20:10 UTC (I had to drop kids to music!) I immediately got callers after a quick CQ.

Many of you will know I am not a hardened contester. I am simply unable to devote 24 or 48 hours of my weekends to contesting due to family and other commitments. And that's what makes the UKEICC contests so attractive. They are one-hour contests on a week night.

Above is a quick video I made during the contest. The time zipped around very quickly. After an initial flurry of callers, my CQs went unanswered, so I went hunting. Contest activity is allowed from 3.510 up to 3.560 and there were plenty of stations on air. The furthest I worked was UT2II in Ukraine.

One of the brilliant aspects of this contest is that you have to upload your log within an hour of the end of the contest - and the results are made available within two hours of the contest finishing.

The results show me in 16th place out of 32 entries in the low power section. Not bad. I'm happy with that. The contest is scored by distance, and the exchange is your four letter maidenhead locator square - in my case IO63. There's no need to send 5NN. For results, see this page:


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

HA/HG ITU Gold award received!

Having worked all the special HA/HG ITU stations, I qualified for the gold award, which I received this morning. I don't usually chase awards but this one was very worthwhile. Thanks to all the stations for being on air.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fantastic band conditions for CQWW SSB 2015

CQ contest . . . EI2KC taking part in CQWW SSB contest 2015.
I took advantage of excellent band conditions during the CQWW SSB contest to work some new band slots and enjoyed dipping in and out of the contest. I wasn't actively participating, so to speak, but did enjoy my limited activity. All my activity on the 10 metre band was carried out with my Antron 99 antenna. It's a fabulous antenna on that band when conditions are good. And conditions were surprisingly excellent.

Here follows a summary of the nice contacts made (including a few that were non-contest QSOs):

4L0A Georgia - 10m SSB - new band slot.
XW1IC Laos - 10m SSB - new band slot.
SK3W Sweden - 10m SSB - new band slot.
AH0K Mariana Islands - 10m SSB - not a new slot but fab condx meant I got him with one call!
V47T St. Kitts & Nevis - 10m SSB - new band slot.
HG150ITU Hungary - 20m CW - last of the HA/HG special ITU call signs needed for gold award.
CR6T Portugal - 15m SSB - can't believe I needed Portugal on 15 SSB - new band slot!
TK/PB8DX Corsica - 15m SSB - new band slot.
C91B Mozambique - 17m SSB - operated by my friend Beth MW0VOW. New band slot!
4U70UN United Nations HQ - 12m CW - new country on 12 metres. Delighted to hear them strong.
4U70UN United Nations HQ - 17m SSB - new band slot.
A71CV Qatar - 40m SSB - new band slot.
4O3A Montenegro - 80m SSB - new band slot.
VK4SBB Australia - 10m SSB - not a new slot but an indication of the fantastic propagation.
C37N Andorra - 10m SSB - new country on 10m!!
TK/PB8DX Corsica - 10m SSB - new band slot.
4U70UN United Nations HQ - 17m CW - another slot.
VP2V/N3DXX British Virgin Islands -10m SSB - new band slot.
4U70UN United Nations HQ - 20m CW - new country on 20m!!!
KL7RA Alaska - 15m SSB - a late QSO and a nice surprise at 19:21 local time - new band slot!
JD1BNA Ogasawara - 30m CW - a non-contest QSO. New country on 30 metres!!
4U70UN United Nations HQ - 30m CW - a second new country on 30m!!

Below is a video I made during the contest. It shows my QSOs with A73A (Qatar), VU2PAI (India), VR2XAN (Hong Kong), VU2CPL (India), B1Z (China), A61ZX (United Arab Emirates), and VK4SDD (Australia), all on 10 metres, and all using the Antron 99 antenna.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Qualifying for the Hungarian ITU 2015 award

I don't normally chase awards, but having worked a number of the special HA*ITU/HG*ITU stations, I decided to see what might be involved in getting an award. When I looked up their online log, I found I'd had enough QSOs with the various Hungarian ITU stations to claim a bronze award, so I set myself the task of trying for at least silver, if not gold.

The special call signs are on air to celebrate the Telecom World Conference which is being held in Budapest this year. For the various award categories, and how to claim them, see this page.

To claim the gold award seemed like a difficult task. To get gold, you have to work EVERY station on the list at least once. They are listed in the image on the right. When I made out a list, I found that I was short five or six stations. Gradually over the past 48 hours I have worked lots of them and by today I found I only needed three more. One of these was the elusive HA1ITU, who is apparently using QRP home brew CW equipment. He finally popped up on 20 CW and 17 CW and I nabbed him on both bands. The chirp from his equipment suggested to me that he was indeed on a home made transceiver. The last one needed today was HG150ITU, who I nabbed on 20 metres CW. The logs are not yet all up to date, as can be seen in the above image, but I do have all the stations worked at least once, and some of them several times. This will be the first award that I have hunted for. I'm looking forward to getting it.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

EI2KC - chasing DX to the edge of my sanity

Homer Simpson shows exactly how I felt when I worked TX3X.
It has to be said that DXing on the HF bands is definitely not a pursuit for the faint-hearted. It requires skill, patience, and, perhaps more than anything, time. The TX3X dxpedition to Chesterfield Islands in the Pacific Ocean is ending tonight. Antenna tear-down is at 22:00UTC. As of this morning, here in Ireland, I did not have a QSO with them and had never worked Chesterfield before. I needed it as an ATNO (All-Time New One). The pressure was enormous.

I have been trying to work them since Friday, October 2nd - a whole ten days ago - without success. Every day, in the morning and in the evening, and sometimes (when I wasn't working) all day long. And every day I've been disappointed. Propagation was poor since about a week ago. Some days I could hear them, on 20 metres CW especially, and sometimes SSB. I never heard them on any other band. Not once. This was a tough one. Many times when they were "workable" into western EU, they would suddenly announce "QRX" or "QSY" or, on one or two occasions, they just disappeared without explanation. This was extremely frustrating for me, and for many other ops in EI and in the UK. After five or six days, only the very biggest stations in Ireland had them logged.

It came down to the last weekend. Yesterday (Saturday), I could hear them well on 20 metres CW and they didn't have a big pile-up so I was confident I could work them. But, just as their signal peaked, they announced "QSY RTTY". Nnnoooooooooooooo!!!! My attempt to work them had been foiled, again. Their signal was OK on RTTY, but they had the whole world calling them, and even the big EU stations were not making it into the log. It was JA after JA after JA. I hadn't a hope.

I had actually begun to resign myself to the notion that here's one new DXCC that I wouldn't be logging. I had begun to philosophically convince myself that I was beat. There was a conversation going on in my head like this: "Well, only the big guns got them. You're a small pistol, and even though you have worked the rarest ones, the miracles don't always happen. You have to accept the limitations of your restricted station and the fact that you are operating from a small garden in the middle of a housing estate."

When the alarm went off this morning (Sunday), I immediately checked the DX cluster. No sign of TX3X on any bands that I could hope to work them on. So I had a bit of a lie-in. But I couldn't sleep, so I got up and headed to the shack, thinking that I should at least keep the radio on the right frequencies in case they popped up. So on one VFO I had 14.023 on CW and on the other I had 14.185 USB. Fingers crossed.

Then on Facebook, Gerry EI9JU said they were on 14.185. I listened in. Yes, I could hear them. But could I work them? I had tried before without success. I began calling. Then I heard "Echo India" but I could hear nothing else because a contest station was working on 14.183 and obliterated the TX3X. A few minutes later I was calling again and this time I heard something along the lines of "Echo India Two Kilo Charlie you're in the log already, but you're 5 and 9". I went back with a "roger roger roger Echo India Two Kilo Charlie you're 5 and 9, 5 and 9. There was QRM and I could not hear you previously. Thanks for the new one!"

Of course giving him a 5 and 9 report was a bit overzealous on my part, because at best he was a 5 and 3, but that's the way exchanges are generally made with rare DX. They don't bother logging accurate signal reports in most cases. Many dxpeditions use contest logging software, which automatically logs 599 on CW and 59 on phone.

I was delighted. Relieved. Ecstatic actually. I shouted "woooohoooo" at the top of my voice several times. My youngest, Finn, came running into the shack and asked me why I was shouting. I told him I had just worked Chesterfield Islands and gave him a big hug. I doubt that he, or any of my kids, understands why I get so excited about making contacts on my radio. But that's how it goes for us DXers. In the above video, made immediately after my QSO, you can hear the excitement in my voice at having worked them.

A short while later I went to 20 metres CW, where they had a decent signal on 14.023. About five minutes later, I could hear 1KC? and then something like IZ1KC? and figured it was me he was trying for, so gave my call several times. Eventually, I heard the magic "EI2KC 5NN" and I gave him "R R R 5NN TU" and I had two QSOs logged within the space of 28 minutes. Fabulous.

I cannot describe the feeling of relief and ecstasy at having worked them. I was under serious pressure with this one. The days were ticking by, and they were proving impossible to work. When it comes down to the last morning, you wonder if they're even going to be active on the bands where you need them. I was even wondering if a CME might trigger some Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance (SID) and knock out the bands completely. In the end, I needn't have worried. Two QSOs is more than I could have wished for even yesterday.

Here's a video of my CW QSO. You can hear the squeals of delight:

Yet again I have proved a few things:

(1) You need to be absolutely mad in the head to be a DX chaser, especially if you have a small station;

(2) You need to devote hours, and sometimes days, to logging an ATNO;

(3) The reward is all the greater when the chase is tough.

And I can tell you that today, EI2KC is beaming from ear to ear. That was the toughest ATNO chase I've had in the six years I've been licenced.

TX3X Chesterfield in the log - DXCC #314!!!

TX3X Chesterfield is finally in my log!!! I worked them on 20m SSB and 20m CW. I am over the moon. Last day of a 10-day operation. Relieved, thrilled and delighted. Full update later.

Sometimes you've just got to live in hope

It's down to the last day of TX3X and I still don't have a QSO. It's not for the want of trying. I've spent hours upon hours monitoring their frequencies this week, and a couple of times I was sure I was going to get in the log. Saturday morning was the best chance. They were strong on 20 metres CW around 9.30am or so, and I didn't hear much of a pile-up going back to them. But just as they started to peak, they sent "QSY RTTY" and my chance was gone. They were hearable on RTTY, but the whole world was calling them and I woudn't have stood a chance. They came up on SSB too and again I was hopeful. At one stage I heard "Echo India" and thought I had made it, but it was another EI. This is definitely the toughest DX to work that I can remember. I am here at 9am local time sitting at the radio waiting for them to appear on 20 metres - hopefully on CW.

This is the last chance saloon. It doesn't get much closer than this. Either I work them today or I will miss the FK/C DXCC and an opportunity to log country #314. However, I am philosophical about it. The majority of the EI stations that are in the log are big stations, with large antennas and in good locations. The small pistols just aren't making it - well, one or two maybe. It has been an extremely tough dxpedition to work, and even the biggest stations only have one or two QSOs.

So today is the day that the small pistol will try once more. And hey, remember, DXing is a hobby. And it is a challenge for a ham operating from a small QTH. These are all things that must be borne in mind when chasing islands on the opposite side of the earth.......

Monday, October 5, 2015

TX3X - very difficult to work, and their operating pattern doesn't help

Is TX3X the most difficult-to-work dxpedition ever? I only ask the question because it seems impossible to log them. This is in part due to conditions. But it's also got to do with common sense, or the lack thereof, on behalf of the TX3X team. For the past two mornings, when they have been audible (and thus possibly workable) on 20 metres CW, they have abruptly gone QRT. This seems to be a trademark of this dxpedition. Sudden QRX, QRT and disappearances without explanation. To be fair, some of these were caused by severe wind which has hampered them to some extent.

However, this morning when they had action on both 20 metres CW and 17 metres CW into EU, they abruptly went QRT on both those slots, but for some unimaginable reason they remained on 20 metres SSB, with most of EU unable to copy them. That's poor form. For several mornings now, I have listened to their signal build on 20 cw only for them to suddenly pull the plug.

Overnight (our night time) they were inactive for several hours. When they finally did appear on several band slots, with EU stations working them, they migrated down to the lower bands even though they had a decent EU rate. Meanwhile, they continue to exploit the easy openings to Japan/Asia and the USA. There are still very few EIs and indeed UK stations who have managed to work them - and those who are in the log generally have super stations.

I don't normally give out too much about dxpeditions. These are hams who have paid their own money to go to a remote location to activate it for our benefit. However, in this case it seems that there is something of a lack of experience and expertise. The openings on 20 metres into western EU are relatively short - there's a chance in the morning and there's a second chance around tea time here in Ireland. TX3X don't seem to appreciate that. Several disgruntled EU ops have complained about the persistence with SSB over CW on the cluster today. I have NEVER heard them on SSB since the beginning of the dxpedition. And even the big stations have only heard them weakly. On CW, however, I have heard them several times. As I write this, they have stations on 40m CW, 40m SSB and 20m SSB. The USA and Asian stations are having a great time. The EUs are really struggling to get logged, albeit with the exception of the southern EU stations in the likes of Spain and Italy, who seem to have propagation to the whole world at all times of the day, night, and year, in all conditions!

The above video shows their signal on 20 cw a few mornings ago, and just when they were strong into EU, they were working the JA stations. An example of naivety in relation to openings?

Just as I published this post, at 12.35pm local time, they are back on 20 metres CW, but their signal is really, really light. This is not a dxpedition for western Europe I'm afraid . . .

Edit: Now, at 13;00 local time (12:00 UTC), they are on 28 Mhz SSB looking for Europe!!! What madness.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The next ATNO? - TX3X Chesterfield Islands coming on air

Chesterfield Islands, in the Pacific Ocean three days' sailing from New Caledonia, are being activated beginning, hopefully, tonight, by the TX3X team. This is potentially an All-Time New One (ATNO) for me, if of course I can get them into my log. I'm looking forward to giving them a call. I'm sure the pile-ups will be huge.

Chesterfield Islands, with the DXCC designator FK/C, is the 21st most wanted DX entity, according to Clublog. It's just behind Glorioso (FT/G) and just ahead of KP1 Navassa, which fell considerably in the most-wanted rankings following the K1N dxpedition there earlier this year.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Video: chasing Tuvalu on 20 metres CW. Will I be able to make it through the European QRM?

This is what I do most of the time on amateur radio - I chase rare DX. In this case, it's T2GC on Tuvalu island, which is an island in the southern Pacific Ocean. As you can see, it's hard work finding where he is listening, and in this case his RX QRG is moving all the time. So I have to spend a lot of time spinning the VFO looking for his split frequency. I lose the split though, and have to go searching for it. Having not found it, I decide to call above the pile-up (at 2:40 in the video), but hear a K2 beneath me going back to him, so I spin down to 14.013.5 and call him there. Soon I am back on target. At 3:56, you finally hear him asking for EI2. I call a couple of times, but he still comes back with EI2, the best indication possible that other stations are just calling over the top of me, ignoring the fact that he is looking for EI2. But with a bit of persistence I am soon in the log. This one took just over four minutes, but I have been known to spend an hour (and more) chasing the rare ones.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A very nice new addition to the shack!

I have acquired a very nice new addition to the shack equipment in the form of a German-made Scheunemann Morsetasten dual paddle. And it's a real work of art. It's also lovely to use on the fingertips. Here is my first QSO on the new paddle - with JR3IIR, Hiro in Japan. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

QRP portable on PSK31 - five watts and five QSOs!

The car at Red Mountain with the antenna on the roof.
This evening after work I finally got a chance to test my new portable set-up for real. Previously, I had only tested it in the main shack connected to my home antennas. But today I wanted to give it a REAL test. So I took the portable station in my car to a hill about two miles from where I live called Red Mountain, just overlooking Donore village in County Meath. I wanted to run five watts only on either digi modes or CW, running off a separate battery, not the car battery. I didn't know what to expect . . . or even if it would work properly, although having tested it at home I felt it would.

It took me a few minutes to get everything out of the box and connected up. Eventually I would like to make a proper "go box", but for now I have to connect all the leads and that's OK. It only took a few minutes. I was using the Watson Multi-Ranger antenna on the roof of the car. I decided to use PSK31 so I didn't bother connecting a mic to the radio, or indeed the K1EL keyer. All I had to do was connect the radio to the battery, the antenna to the ATU, and the Signalink to both the computer and the radio. Oh, and I used the new Icom CI-V interface so that HRD could read the frequency and mode from the rig.
Everything fit on the passenger seat. It was a little uncomfortable because
I had to turn sideways to operate, but it all worked very well.
With all that done, I tuned up and then started CQing on 14.070.85 using just five watts. I was chatting to a couple of the local guys on two metres also. After five minutes of Cqing there was nothing, so I was thinking I might change to CW, but all of a sudden a F5 station was calling me! So I successfully made a QSO with him. I finished, thinking how delighted I was to have successfully made a contact with five watts when a German station called me. I worked him too. Then an Italian called me and I logged him. In total, I worked five stations in half an hour. The last one was the best DX contact - into Ukraine. 
Working DL9KW Karl-Heinz on PSK31 with 5 watts.

It was great fun - and very rewarding. The location helped. The hill falls away steeply towards the east so there would be good take-off into Europe. I packed everything away into the EI2KC portable case with a smile on my face.

I'm hoping to do more portable work soon - perhaps with a couple of the local hams in tow. We could maybe bring a flask of tea and some sandwiches and biscuits and make a nice social event out of it too...

Just a couple of things I need to do for next time. I need to get better clamps or connectors to keep the power lead connected to the battery. I also need to get a shorter RJ45 cable to connect the Signalink to the rig - it's too long currently. 

EI2KC selfie . . . in the car doing QRP PSK.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Trying to work Brazil on 20 metres with 10 watts. Will I make it?

Above is a video I made last night of my attempt to work PV8ADI in Brazil on 20 metres using just 10 watts. Will I make it through with my almost-QRP power? Or will I be just too weak for him to hear? Watch the video to find out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Video: Working Colombia (HK1MW) on 17 metres CW

Above is a quick video showing me working HK1MW in Colombia on 17 metres CW. I was running 350 watts at the time via the Acom 1000 linear amplifier into my two-element SP7IDX hexbeam.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Reminiscing . . . video from my second day as a ham

I'm doing a wee bit of reminiscing today. I came across this video on YouTube from October 30th 2009, which was the day after I received my ham licence. Here I am having a chat with Harald DJ8RP in the Black Forest on 20 metres SSB. It's nice to look back at a record of the early days of the hobby for me.

Friday, September 18, 2015

E6GG Niue Island dxpedition on 20 metres

This is E6GG Niue Island on 20 metres CW. I worked them a few minutes previously on a tight split. It was a nice bit of lunchtime DX, after working D67GIA Comoros Island on 15 metres CW this morning.

Monday, September 14, 2015

My portable HF station is almost complete!

I've been trying to put together a portable HF station, one that I can bring to another location and set up easily. As you have read recently, I was working on getting the Signalink USB connected to the Icom IC-706MkII for digital modes, which is working successfully. I also got the K1EL WKUSB winkeyer working with N1MM+ on the Acer netbook. I was shopping in Lidl the other day and came across a metal file box which I thought might fit everything. So I bought it. And I was right - everything fits in it!

This is me with the entire EI2KC portable HF
station in one box, at EI4DIB's QTH.
In order to test the portability of the station, I packed it into the box and brought it to Tony EI4DIB's shack to hook it up to his HF dipole antenna. There I am, pictured on right, with the case containing everything needed - the IC-706MkII, LDG tuner, Signalink USB, K1EL Winkeyer, morse paddle, Acer netbook and all associated cables.

A few things are still missing from the setup at this stage - an antenna, a PSU and an interface dongle. I spent a good bit of time yesterday trying to get a Prolific dongle to work with the IC-706MkII without any success. So I will order a proper CIV interface on the internet. In the meantime, this does not matter too much as I can work and log QSOs in phone, CW and digital. I just have to be careful when changing bands and modes to ensure that I manually change these items in the software.

All in all it took about five minutes to get the entire station set up on Tony's shack bench, and within a couple of minutes of putting out a CQ on 40m PSK31, I made a QSO. Happy days.

Below are a couple of photos taken during this nice Sunday afternoon visit of one ham to another ham.

The portable HF station sitting in front of Tony's lovely VHF radio array.
In the above photo, you can see (in front of all of Tony's radios!) the Icom IC706MkII on left with the LDG autotuner sitting on top. In the middle is the Acer netbook. It's not very powerful but it's small and can comfortably run FLdigi and N1MM+, which are both free programs and both are great. On the right of the computer is my EI2KC home brew Hacksaw Blade CW Paddle (Mark II) and right of that is the K1EL WKUSB winkeyer. A simple but effective setup, capable of being taken anywhere in a box.

Working a station from Tony's shack using the portable gear.
So I still have a few pieces to get. I've been told the West Mountain RigTalk dongle is very good for Icom CI-V interfacing, so I might get one of those. I need to get my own portable power supply. I would like to get one of the small switch mode PSU's that the like of Watson supplies. And then to finish it off I'd like to have a portable antenna. For now, the Watson Multi-Ranger whip antenna for the car will have to do. But down the line I'd like to get a Sota pole and something like a multi-band dipole for easy portable setup. Something like the "Iona dipole" demonstrated in this video from the EJ7NET activation of Inis Mór in 2013 might do the trick:

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Got the Signalink USB and IC706MkII working together

Inspired by my recent trip to Gola with the EJ7NET team, where we mostly used small rigs, I am aiming to set up an entire portable station - something that I could bring on such a trip. I have the IC-706MkII. I have the LDG auto tuner. I have the K9EL keyer. I don't have a small switchmode PSU - I had to borrow one for the trip. But I dearly wanted to get digi modes up and running. I never knew, however, that it would be so easy!

The "portable" station set up in the shack. Icom IC-706MkII, LDG auto tuner,
Signalink USB and Winkeyer USB.

I looked up the Tigertronics website and opened the Signalink USB up and re-wired the jumpers. They had been wired for my old Yaesu FT-1000MP, which I sold a couple of years ago. What I didn't realise was that I could use an ordinary RJ45 ethernet cable to connect the Signalink box to the rig. The beautiful thing (one of many) about the IC-706MkII is that it has TWO microphone sockets - one underneath the front of the rig, and one at the rear. The upshot is that I can keep the microphone connected at the front and the digital cable connected at the back - there's no need to unplug one to use the other.

So I connected everything up and downloaded fldigi. I didn't want to use HRD because it's already interfaced with my Icom 756PRO. Within minutes I had fldigi installed and running - and decoding signals from the IC706MkII via the Signalink. Wow. But it got better . . .

A screen shot of fldigi. I haven't used it much yet, but I already like it. 
I decided to try to CQ - on low power, which I think was either 5 or 10 watts - using PSK31. Immediately an EA2 came back to my call! I hadn't even set up the macros, so I had to manually type out my QSO. But I didn't mind. I was so delighted to get the digital modes running so easily.

I haven't been using fldigi for long - but I already like it. The installer was less than 5MB. It's a free program. It was easy to install and easy to get going. The macros are very easy to set up. I like the fact that it has a sort-of "super browser" (like HRD) built in, on the left-hand pane, showing live decoding of the various signals on the waterfall.

So a couple of things remain outstanding before I can say I have a fully portable station. I need a small PSU. I also need something like a Sota pole and an antenna - preferably a multi-band dipole such as the "Iona Dipole" that Gordon GM7WCO used on Gola. Then I will be completely set up. Oh - I also need a case or box in which to put all the equipment. But I will figure that one out in time.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Enjoying some QSOs on my old Icom Ic-706MkII

This is a video of one of the QSOs I made on my old Icom IC-706MkII, which, despite its visual blemishes, is still a fantastic little radio. It has a very good receive and I also have a CW filter in it. Here I am making a QSO with Vasil UR5VHN in Ukraine on 20 metres CW, running 100 watts into my hexbeam antenna.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

My video from the EJ7NET Gola Island trip

This is a video put together from pictures of the recent EJ7NET activation of Gola Island, Co. Donegal. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Video from our activation of Gola Island by Gordon GM7WCO

This lovely video featuring a mixture of photos and video footage with music from the EJ7NET activation of Gola Island was created by team member Gordon GM7WCO. We hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Video - 40 metres SSB pile-up as EJ7NET nears QRT time

What a phenomenal last evening on Gola. I sat at the radio after dinner with the last radio and antenna remaining and started working stations, slowly at first, many from the UK. But as the evening wore down the pile-up got bigger and bigger and bigger, until I eventually had to split. I'm not sure what the QSO count was but the conditions were fantastic. It sounded at times like all of Europe was calling.

This is me at my very best. I love SSB pile-ups. I like giving everyone the chance to get in the log. Sometimes this requires me to calm things down, when some stations are calling out of turn. But generally it was quite orderly and I hope that everyone that tried made it into the log. This is just a snippet of the action, from early in the pile-up. As you can hear, I struggled a bit with the German mobile station, but I made sure I got him 100% right before moving on . . .

EJ7NET Gola pile-up on 40 metres SSB

We spotted this video of last night's 40m SSB pile-up on YouTube. Thanks to the HAM RADIO channel.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

EJ7NET Gola Island activation is QRT with 4,500+ QSOs

It's the end of the Gola activation. The EJ7NET operation from the island is now officially QRT. All stations have been dismantled and the antennas are put away. We had a fantastic run on 40 metres SSB this evening, with great conditions into the UK and Europe and a sustained pile-up. I was glad to have had the opportunity to work the pile for a couple of hours and it was exhilarating.

These are our final statistics. As you can see, we had a huge amount of action on 40, 30 and 20 metres, with total CW QSOs dominating at 3,252 compared with 1,299 phone contacts. We managed just 17 QSOs on 6 metres, which was not bad considering the band never really opened. 15 metres was a huge disappointment, but we got some nice runs into Japan on 17 CW on Monday and Tuesday around lunchtime which helped build up the total. 30 metres was a real "bread and butter" band, with almost constant activity. We feel that our location close to the Atlantic Ocean certainly helped our Q rate.

We celebrated our significant total with a nice meal cooked by Tony EI3HA consisting of half pounder beef burgers washed down with a glass or two of red wine.

The weather turned inclement again and it was raining while the antennas were being taken down. The team has to retire early because we have to be up at dawn so that we can get all our gear down to the pier where the boat back to the mainland arrives at 9am.

Gordon made a few videos of me running the 40m SSB pile-up. Because I'm on limited mobile phone data, I'll wait until I get home to upload them so look out for a further update tomorrow.

Empty desks . . . the Gola activation is now QRT.

EJ7NET makes over 4,000 QSOs in three days

It's official. EJ7NET's Gola activation has logged over 4,000 QSOs in less than 72 hours. The station tear-down takes place this evening at around 18:00 local time. We might get a couple of hundred more by then. There was another opening to Japan on 17 metres this afternoon, with about two dozen or so JAs logged.

Rolf operating portable from the cliff tops on Gola Island.
EJ/HB9DGV/P on Gola.
To celebrate our success, the EJ7NET QSL manager for the Gola activity, Rolf HB9DGV, brought his Elecraft KX1 to the top of the cliffs on the western end of the island and made about 30 QSOs as EJ/HB9DGV/P. He was running just 3 watts into a Sota dipole. Two of the QSOs were transatlantic.

While Rolf was up on the summit, accompanied by Declan and Gordon, Liam had a good run on 40 metres SSB, working mainly UK stations, helped by Tony who took over and continued the run.

Spectacular dawn on Gola as we exceed 3,000 QSOs

The dawn broke on Gola Island, off the Donegal coast, this morning at around 6.40am. As you can see, it was worth getting up early for. We've exceeded 3,000 QSOs here at EJ7NET, and in fact we're almost at 3,500, which, given the conditions, we're well pleased with. Remember that we're a barefoot wire antenna operation. There are no linears or beams at EJ7NET. The best DX yesterday was a run to JA on 17 metres and there was a VK6 on 20 metres. We have 16 QSOs in our 6 metre log, which I think is more than we had on Cape Clear last year.

The team is in good spirits. The food continues to be excellent, and the camaraderie is great. We hit 80 metres last night but found it somewhat disappointing. I was on 80 cw around midnight working whatever stations were there to be worked. We have to remember it's still only August, so the wintertime DX is just not there on 80 and it has been quite noisy, even at this QTH which is removed from all the electrical interference of busy civilisation.

We're planning tear down this evening, as we have to leave the island in the morning. So if you haven't worked us yet and want to get us in the log, it has to be today!

Our QSL manager for this activation is Rolf, HB9DGV.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Views of our lovely QTH on Gola Island EU-121

With the heavy rain having abated today, there was an opportunity to wander about Gola Island. This presented a chance to get a couple of photos of our operation headquarters at Portacrin Cottage. As you can see, it's very close to the sea. If you look carefully enough at the top image, you will see the slightly forlorn Sota pole - the one we repaired this morning after overnight damage. It's holding up well despite continuous stormy winds.

The above photo was taken from the east, looking towards another island in the distance. There are quite a few smaller islands in this area which are uninhabited and might make for possible future locations for IOTA activity. Just saying! ;)

Liam EI7DSB and Gordon GM7WCO hard at work in the shack. The satellite
dish is NOT one of our antennas!

Rain, wind and mixed propagation. Oh, and antenna damage!

It's Monday morning and overnight we've had some very strong wind. As a result, there was some slight damage to the antenna system. The Sota pole holding up our 20/15m wire vertical broke in the wind and needed to be repaired, while the 30m wire vertical came loose from its pole. However, a short time later we were up and running again.

Sunday night was good on the bands, with decent action on 40, 30 and 20. Most of the activity has been on CW, but Liam EI7DSB is quite active on SSB, especially on 20 metres. We passed the 2,000 QSO mark last night. There was some action too on 6 metres. We made 11 QSOs, some with EI stations and there were some Europeans who made it into the log, including several from Croatia and Italy, and one each from Poland and Slovenia. We will keep a listening watch on 50 Mhz during our stay using a dedicated FT897 and a two-element beam.

Band conditions this morning are not that good. After a promising start with a good rate on 20 cw, the action died off. 30m has been OK, and 40m has been very hit and miss.

I've received information from Peter EI7CC that Gola Island was in fact activated before, by Paddy EJ7GK, in 1997. So we're not the first!!! Thanks for the information Peter. At least we know now!

The food has been excellent, thanks to our chef, Tony EI3HA, who has been looking after us very well. We will surely put on a few pounds while we're here, sitting around working radio and eating all the time!

I took a walk to the western end of the island with Declan EI6FR yesterday. There are fantastic views from the top of the cliffs out into the Atlantic Ocean.

A splint is added to support the broken Sota pole.
Roast beef for Sunday dinner. Yum.

A card EJ7GK to EI7CC from his Gola activation in 1997.
Anthony EI2KC at the edge of the cliffs on Gola.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Weather terrible, but band conditions good

Just in case you thought all I was doing was taking photos and blogging,
here's a photo of me operating on 20cw, with Liam on 40 SSB behind.
It's the second day of our operation at Gola Island and the EJ7NET team is in good form. The QSO rate on 20m and 30m CW this morning was pretty good. Declan EI6FR was first up (as usual!) and was on 30 cw. I joined a while later on 20 cw and found the going pretty good. There is slow fading of some signals but generally Europe and Russia were reasonably strong, and there was a good few QSOs from the UK as well.

The weather is terrible. It's raining heavily and has been for several hours. However, this has not dampened team spirits, especially with decent propagation. We are about to set up the 6 metre beam so hopefully we might make a few QSOs on that band during our activation.

We have passed 1,000 QSOs already which is great. We're hoping band conditions will remain good so that we can work as many of you as possible.

My view from the 20m CW station!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Excellent start for Gola Island activation

Three stations active tonight from Gola.
We've had an excellent start to the EJ7NET Gola Island activation. At 10pm local time, we already have 550 QSOs in the log, mainly on 40m, 30m and 20m. Conditions on 20 have been strange, with Liam EI7DSB commenting that sometimes the band appears to be shutting down but then comes alive again, and some stations are affected by deep QSB. 30m has been flying, with several contacts into Japan. I had an hour or so on 40cw, and it was hopping. I had to run split because there was a good pile-up.

The QTH is excellent. It is located on a rocky bluff overlooking the ocean, with excellent take-off, particularly towards Europe, but with no real blockages in any direction. Proximity to salt water is undoubtedly helping us.

Tomorrow morning we are setting up a two-element beam for six metres, and we intend to monitor that band during our stay, with a dedicated station, perhaps running beacon mode until there might be an opening.

Gordon GM7WCO brought his Pro II !!! Lovely.

Rolf makes the first QSO from Gola Island for EJ7NET

Rolf HB9DGV makes our first QSO, with F5TBL, on 30m CW.
Rolf makes the first QSO of the EJ7NET 2015 activation of Gola Island, Co. Donegal. We believe this may be the first ever amateur radio contact from this island. Do you know if it was ever activated before? Any information to hamradioireland@gmail.com.

The EJ7NET team has landed on Gola Island, Co. Donegal

The EJ7NET 2015 team (l-r): Anthony EI2KC, Rolf HB9DGV, Gordon GM7WCO, Liam EI7DSB, Tony EI3HA and Declan EI6FR on the boat just before landing on Gola Island, Co. Donegal.
The EJ7NET Westnet DX group has arrived safely on Gola Island, off County Donegal, for what we believe might be the first ever amateur radio activation from this island. The IOTA designator is EU-121 and the Maidenhead Locator square is IO55tc.

We have brought all the gear ashore and three stations are being set up for action. We have made our first few QSOs on 30 metres CW and expect to get a 20m SSB station up and running this evening. We also intend to monitor 6 metres and hopefully make QSOs there, starting tomorrow.

The team is led by Declan Craig EI6FR, and comprises this year of Rolf HB9DGV, Gordon GM7WCO, Liam EI7DSB, Tony EI3HA and me, Anthony EI2KC.

The weather was good for antenna erection and the living quarters are nice. Expect further updates between now and Wednesday morning, when we leave the island to return home.

The first antenna, a multiband wire vertical, is erected
by Rolf HB9DGV and Declan EI6FR.