Saturday, February 28, 2015

A few nice cards in from the IRTS bureau

I got a delivery of QSL cards from the IRTS bureau today, and there were some nice countries included in the small pile. I'm particularly pleased to receive cards from 5W1SA Samoa, A52AEF Bhutan and AH0BT Saipan. I got several cards from South Korea, which is unusual, plus some from Japan, and one from 9H Malta, OH0 Aland Islands and 3A Monaco.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Some improvements made to hacksaw blade key

I have now mounted my home-brew hacksaw blade Morse paddle on a steel base, added a nice red handle (made of insulating tape of course!) and fixed the spacing a bit so that it better meets my satisfaction. It's working well, although the spacing gave me some interesting problems during a QSO with PW0F on 40m CW, when it seemed to send random extra dits and dahs seemingly without input from me!! I would ideally like to tidy up the wiring a bit but it's largely complete and I've made a number of QSOs with it. Here's a QSO I had with a German operator in Dominican Republic using the newly-mounted key:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New (modified) home-brew hacksaw blade single-lever Morse paddle tested live with QSO on 30 metres

This is a video showing my new home-brew single-lever hacksaw blade Morse key in action. I decided to test it "live", with the webcam running, by CQing on the 30 metre band using 100 watts. First station into my log was DL0BZA. I enjoyed using the key. It has no weight, so holding it down is required during operation, which is not ideal. I have a couple of steel bases, one of which I hope to "stick" it to, in some way. The morse key is a modification of one which used a much smaller hacksaw blade. I also improved the contacts. I may make further modifications in order to get more use out of it.

The key was made with spare parts lying around the shack. The wooden base is off some old bookshelves. The contacts are nuts and bolts supported with eyelets - the type that you crimp onto your DC wires to connect to your power supply. The hacksaw blade required sanding because it was painted blue and a proper connection was not being made. Here are a couple of photos from the construction phase:

The new contacts were made from bits and pieces lying around the shack.
The hacksaw blade during sanding. The eyelets are in place.
The hacksaw blade being filed and sanded.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Another milestone - 200 countries confirmed on eQSL

I've reached another milestone tonight. I just checked eQSL and I have reached 200 countries confirmed. Fantastic. It's taken a while, but I got there eventually! Below are some of the new cards I've received via eQSL for some nice DX contacts:
Mali on 80 metres.
Reunion island, worked on 80 metres SSB with 100 watts!
Galapagos on 80 metres CW.

DXing on the edge . . . longest QSO attempt in history!

Most of you have normal lives, and normal hobbies, like football and fishing. Me, I do ham radio, euphonium playing and other geeky stuff like taking photos of stones in the middle of the night. Here's how I spend some of my nights. This is an example of how difficult it can be to log that "new one" on a band. In this case, PW0F on Fernando de Noronha, on 80 metres, the only HF band I hadn't worked this rare one on. He kept busting my call. It took me several minutes to make him get it right. In all fairness, he stuck with me, despite my exclamations of despair. This is cutting edge ham radio - working DX from a small garden. Quote of the video - "this will be the QSO of the decade if it happens".

By the way, you have to go to 3:23 in the video to hear the "start" of the QSO. From there, it gets interesting and my exasperated expressions get more colourful!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

TI9 Cocos Island, DXCC #311, in the log

Hot on the heals of the K1N Navassa Island dxpedition, there's a new dxpedition, albeit a much smaller one, to Cocos Island, which is a National Park belonging to Costa Rica, on the Pacific side of central America.

This one started badly because the propagation took a dip yesterday when they started operations, and it was impossible for all but the biggest EI stations to hear them. After a short time working USA/EU, they started working Central and South America only.

But this evening, a new opportunity presented itself. They were on 20 metres SSB, working 5 Khz up. I logged them after just a couple of minutes of trying, at 19:51z. That's DXCC #311 in my log!!!

The pressure is off, but I am however still chasing them on a second slot, 17m CW, where they are calling EU only.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Finally, after five days trying, K1N logged on top band!!

Just a quick update about Navassa. I now have 13 slots, and all bands from 10m through 160m except 30m. This morning, with my severely compromised inverted V system for 80/40/30, I managed to work them on top band on CW. I have been trying for five consecutive mornings, and finally heard the sweet sound of "EI2KC EI2KC 5NN 5NN" on 1.826.5. I went back with "RR 5NN 5NN 5NN" but he came back again with "EI2KC EI2KC 5NN" so I went back again with a string of 5NNs and he said "TU K1N UP". Wonderful stuff.

They're now not difficult to work on some bands, although 20m RTTY yesterday evening was extremely busy over about 15 Khz of band, with an equal mix of NA and EU calls. So needless to say I didn't make it. I tried for a while late last night on 30 metres CW, the only band apart from 6 metres where I now need a QSO. Again, he was working NA and EU and I didn't get in. Antenna tear-down is on Saturday, so I will be hoping to try for a 30m QSO before then.

Below are some videos I've made during this dxpedition:

Saturday, February 7, 2015

K1N Navassa logged as All-Time New One (DXCC #310)

I know I haven't blogged at all so far in 2015. There is a very good reason for this, which I will explain at the end of this post. But I have to tell you that I logged K1N Navassa as an All-Time New One (ATNO) this week, DXCC #310 in my log. Furthermore, as of this morning I have four slots, including 40m CW, and to my great delight, 80m CW. Below is a video made just after my QSO on 80 metres this morning:

The pile-ups have been huge, which is not surprising because it is the second-most wanted DXCC (the most-wanted according to some sources!). I didn't have much time to try them early in the week but now that I have more time I am being rewarded. I have made CW QSOs so far - on 20m, 17m, 40m and 80m. My 40m QSO was at 00:27 this morning and only took me two minutes! The 80m QSO at 07:38 this morning was the same!! I heard my friend Declan EI6FR going through and went about 1Khz above where he called and in no time at all I was in the log. Several Irish stations made it through this morning - EI8H, EI9FBB, EI6FR, EI2KC, EI6IL and EI8FH. As always, they peaked on the grey line and this was the best chance to log them. They are DXCC #167 on 80 metres for me. I'm really delighted with that.

The next challenge is TI9, Cocos Island, which begins this month also. In the meantime, I will try to log Navassa on the high bands.


A while ago, I made a decision about this blog which I didn't publicise. Life is busy on this side - hectically busy at times. I found that I was not getting any time to write about the things that I most love to write about - Irish mythology, monuments, astronomy etc. I was putting time and effort into this radio blog that could be put into writing other things. In August 2014, I started writing a novel. I tried to write every day, even though some days that was only for five minutes! The novel is now finished, but I am still writing other projects related to Mythical Ireland. I have also been taking a lot more photos. I found going out into the landscape was very conducive to writing good material. And all that has been very rewarding for me, and Mythical Ireland is the subject closest to my heart. (No - believe it or not, amateur radio is not my main hobby/interest!!!!) I have continued to indulge in radio, and DXing, but naturally with 310 countries logged I have less interest in repeating DXCC bands and slots, so generally I tend only to chase new countries and new slots. I hope and intend to continue in the hobby of DXing, and I am rarely in the car without having 2m and 70cm switched on. However, I have found that this re-prioritising of my life has worked very well in terms of my writing, which has flourished. I am now trying to find a publisher for my new novel. And I am trying to put together another non-fiction book about Irish mythology. So although you will still hear me in the pile-ups and I will continue to enjoy amateur radio as much as possible, blogging about it has to take second preference to my duties as an author. I'm sure (and I hope) that you'll all understand.