Monday, January 19, 2015

Ground-Mounting the Tarheel Screwdriver



I have finally dispatched the tripod! The Tarheel is now mounted at ground level on a 10 ft. galvanized pipe driven about 8 feet into the ground (thankfully the ground is sand...). So now the radials extend horizontally rather than drooping down 3 or 4 feet like before. My SWR on 80m and 10m is still way out of whack -- the antenna will not tune under 1.5:1 below 5 MHz or above 26 MHz or so -- but 40m up to 12m I can tune it to 1.2:1 or better.

There was some very bad RFI on 17m the other day, getting into the upstairs stereo so loud that I could here it downstairs in the shack. This has been greatly improved, and I'm still operating without any sort of RF ground system and only 8 radials @ 9 ft. each. The next items on my To Do list are to increase the number of radials, hopefully longer than 9 ft., and to install some ground rods at each end of the coax to ground the antenna and all the equipment inside.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

DXCC Challenge: Halfway there!


Just noticed that I passed the 500 mark for DXCC Challenge. Yay me! :-)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

XR0YJ Easter Island


Didn't know about the XR0YJ Expedition until I tuned across them on 12m. Already have Easter Is. confirmed on 20m (by card), and worked on 40m, 17m, and 10m. Now in the log for 12m. The QRZ page says they will be uploading to LOTW after they return to JA.

Shakedown

Everything works, for the most part. I've pretty much concluded that the high SWR on 40m and lower is simply an installation anomaly. While it tuned 40m just fine in Texas, it never could tune above 15m. Now 40m is an issue, but I can get it as low as 1.5:1 on 12m, thus allowing me to turn on the heater if needed.

The plan of attack is:

  1. Get the antenna off that stupid tripod! A more permanent ground-mounted installation and more/better/longer radials should help.
  2. Move it away from the vehicles. Currently it is sitting a few feet from the Faraway Inn E150 cargo van, which is a lot of metal. Not helping, I wouldn't think.
  3. Replace the coax -- this run of RG8X is pushing 15 years, and has been outside the whole time.  When I order supplies for the low-band dipole I will add however much more I need for a good run to the Tarheel. Probably going to go with LM400.
  4. Ground the hell out of everything -- radios, antennas, and anything in between. The RFI into the stereos is a problem, I'm sure the neighbors are scratching their heads.

Until I get my SWR issue resolved, I'll be spending a lot more time lurking on 12m and 10m (the latter requiring barefoot power and the K3's ATU), slowly chipping away at whatever I come across. Which is a lot, since damn near everything is needed on those bands; I'm currently sitting at 8 DXCC confirmed on 12m, 42 on 10m, so there's lots of catching up to do.



In other news...

Kitten discovers the one warm spot in the shack -- my PS-430 12v supply.


Friday, January 9, 2015

HNY!

Hello 2015! 
The Tarheel was brought out of storage and set up, all the cables run, all the pieces of the station unboxed and connected. I'm now QRV from CKFL.

My first Cedar Key QSO at 1848 on December 31 (W100AW, 15m CW); the first of 2015 was with RI1ANR at Novo Airbase, Antarctica (20m CW @ 0330).

I'm currently operating 30m~15m. If band conditions a right I will try 12m and 10m. Hell, maybe even 6m. Just without the amp -- the analyzer shows the Tarheel tunable to SWR 1.2 or lower down to about 8.7 MHz; the upper end of the tuning range is around 22 MHz. That will have to be worked out. Made 24 contacts for 20 countries in the first seven days of 2015, including Order of Malta (1A0C) for all-time #205 worked.

The shack is going to be minimalist for a while. My new office is a lot smaller than the last so I need to keep the radios near the end of the desk in order to have better access to the rear panels of the K3 and KPA500. I'll beaving the NRD-515's and all the rest of the radios boxed. The mic is going to stay packed, too, unless and until I play in a phone contest. Or I may dig out the Heil Proset and get that working again instead. Right now I'm happy making almost every QSO with a straight key.



Twenty-Fourteen was productive for me even though there were several months that I was QRT. The DXCC totals that I'm starting 2015 with:

DXCC Totals
12/31/2014
CfdWkdCfdWkdCfdWkd
Mixed17020480m112617m5786
CW14918740m11213515m105135
SSB10513330m598912m611
Digital608220m13016810m4152

A big +74 country gain on CW, from 75 confirmed at the beginning of the year to 149 at the end. All that key slappin' paid off! Passed 100 on CW, Phone, 40m, 20m, and 15m. And finishing off Triple Play a few days before moving to Cedar Key was a great way to end my 5-year, off-and-on operating stint in Texas.

My 2015 plans: put some wire in the air for the low bands, at least 80m and 40m; connect the Macbook Air to the K3 so I can finally put the old Dell desktop out to pasture; start chipping away at QRP-DXCC and QRP-WAS; and most importantly, install a good ground system. Like, soon.



Latest eQSL design for Cedar Key, FL operations:


That is, I believe, the No. 16 channel marker. North Key is in the background, one of our favorite boating spots. I'd really like to operate from one of the little outlying islands here in the Cedar Keys. But when I'm actually setting foot on one of them I'm reminded that they're full of things that make me itch. Still...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Greetings From NA-076!

Life doesn't suck.

Almost two months at our new QTH. Time to start thinking about antennas. The Tarheel screwdriver served me well in Texas where trees were few and wire antenna possibilities fewer. But now...


Among these marvelous, 100% organic antenna supports are three somewhat equidistant trees that should be adequate for a 100' inverted-V dipole. I'm leaning towards an Alpha-Delta DX-LB Plus for 160m-10m (less WARC bands).

Yes, a pre-built wire antenna that isn't particularly cheap ($190). Rolling my own is a possibility but I know I'll never get around to doing it, so I'm not coughing up extra money because I'm an appliance-operating novice, but rather because I want to get on the air, like, right friggin' NOW!!!

I had great luck with a DX-CC 80m-10m dipole, it was my main antenna for years in NJ. the DX-LB Plus is just a bit longer with an extra set of coils for 160m. The antenna and 100' of RG213 will cost about $300 -- not cheap but not a huge amount.

The Cushcraft R7000 is in storage; I think that will go up eventually as a second antenna. The Tarheel will be set up as well; it will also be perfect if and when I start operating from some of the islands here; there are 15 different entries shown on the US Islands Award directory for little islands in Levy County (including the one I live on). Have Boat Will Activate!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

DXCC #204: S01WS Western Sahara, and a Farewell to the Lone Star State

On the phone with Big Brother KB2YAN last night when he says "Western Sahara on 40." So I tune the Tarheel and spin the dial. There he is, maybe 559. Dropped my call, heard it come back, in the log. Checked ClubLog just now and it's a match!


Possibly the last DX contact I will make from Texas as we're packing up and moving to Cedar Key, FL (IOTA NA-076) in a few days. A fitting end to my operations from the Lone Star State which gave me 193 countries worked and 158 confirmed (so far) in about 18 months of total operating time between June 2009 and September 2014.

I'll miss much about Texas -- the excellent people I've worked with at Time Manufacturing for four years, the exploring around Central Texas and Hill Country, the fun trips to San Antonio to see the SA Symphony Orchestra at the Majestic -- but above all I will always remember Texas as the place where my love of ham radio was rekindled. It was here that I first dove into PSK and other sound card digital modes, and where I finally achieved my goals of making CW my primary mode, earning DXCC and Triple Play, and confirming that there really is no basement at the Alamo.

Thank y'all!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 2014 Wrap-Up

DXCC: Five new ones worked in July, but only added one in the Mixed Confirmed column (9V1YC Singapore). Just 20 new band slots confirmed, and 3 more on CW.

DXCC Totals
7/31/2014
CfdWkdCfdWkdCfdWkd
Mixed16620380m102617m4984
CW14218640m10713415m103135
SSB10513330m558912m611
Digital608220m12416810m3852

Last 10 New DXCC Worked
203SAINT PIERRE AND MIQUELONFP/OH5OHO7/21/2014
202GEORGIA4L8A7/13/2014
201WEST MALAYSIA9M2TO7/9/2014
200THE GAMBIAC5II7/8/2014
199AZERBAIJAN4J0SFR7/6/2014
198SINGAPORE9V1YC6/22/2014
197SAUDI ARABIA7Z1SJ6/22/2014
196OMANA42A6/21/2014
195MALAWI7QNL6/7/2014
194ALBANIAZA/ON4CCV6/7/2014

WAS: Rhode Island on phone is in the book, so now just need WV on CW for Triple Play.

Worked All States
AwardTotalAwardTotalAwardTotal
Basic *5080M2717M30
CW4940M4915M39
Phone5030M3312M2
Digital *5020M4810M23

WPX
AwardTotalAwardTotalAwardTotal
Mixed53380M2017M55
CW37340M24415M206
Phone19730M5812M7
Digital13120M29810M84

Monday, July 21, 2014

DXCC #203: FP/OE5OHO St. Pierre & Miquelon

I've found propagation to be pretty poor from Texas to the VO1/CY9/FP part of the world, at least for me. This is the first FP station I've actually heard and it was a pretty tough one to work. No ClubLog, QRZ, eQSL or LOTW.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

DXCC #202: 4L8A Georgia, 15m DXCC, and the IARU HF World Championship

Another minimal contest effort with 67 QSOs, all CW. One of them was a new country for me -- Georgia, courtesy of 4L8A on 20m. I'll take it.

The contest also netted me my 100th confirmation on 15m (S567O in Slovenia). I'm now 3/5 of the way to 5-Band DXCC.

Update 4-Aug-2014: 4L8A comes through on LOTW for #167 confirmed (mixed)!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

DXCC #201: 9M2TO West Malaysia

Working from home today, and lucked into 9M2TO on 15m around 2pm local time. Not what I would have guessed to be the best time to work into East Asia, but there he was. He last uploaded to LOTW on 21-May-2014, so we'll wait and see...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

DXCC #200: C5II The Gambia

How sweet it is!
JA1UII and JE1WVQ have been QRV as C5II and C5JA from The Gambia. Until 09-July. That's in a few hours, and time was running out. I had a very weak copy on C5II yesterday evening, too weak to even drop my callsign. I figured that would be my last chance. But by luck or providence I happened to be home this afternoon and saw him spotted first on 20m (no copy at all), and then on 17m where I was able to log C5II for my 200th DXCC entity worked!



Triple Play #149 - One to go!

Rhode Island on phone -- and with it the phone portion of Triple Play -- is in the books! West Virginia on CW is the last one I need.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

DXCC #199: 4J0SFR Azerbaijan

"Safari" DX-activators club station 4J0SFR heard on 15m CW late this afternoon very weak. I had to use almost all of the K3's magic bag of tricks to pull this one out of the static: bandwidth dialed down to 200 Hz, DSP Noise Reduction on the 1-3 setting, RF Gain throttled back, phones clamped to my head in binaural mode... all this made a very difficult to copy signal pretty darn readable. Got him after a few calls, sent my call a couple-three times to make sure he got it and once I heard it repeated back to me correctly I gave my "TU 599 dit dit" and hit the log submit button. #199 worked is in the bag. US QSL manager, no mention of LOTW on his QRZ page.

Of Triple Play and Antenna Maintenance

About time! I worked 13 Colonies special event station K2C in Rhode Island on phone and their QRZ page promises QSL via LOTW! That will be the last one for the phone portion of Triple Play. Now I just need West Virginia on CW. It kills me, I have QSOs in the log for both RI on phone and WV on CW (even have a card for RI), but the Triple Play award requires LOTW verification. Rules are rules. Unfortunately, West Virginia's second ARRL Centennial operating slot isn't until October 22, so to get this done soon I need to find another CW op in WV that uses LOTW. It could happen, I guess...

And another "about time!" -- almost a year after Tarheel sent me a replacement mounting bracket, I finally got around to swapping it out. The new mount fits perfectly. Now I can send the defective mount back and clear my conscious, as I promised to return it to them 11 months ago.

While I had the antenna broken down I did the recommended maintenance -- removed the plexiglass cover, clean the coil with alcohol and a ScotchBrite pad -- and took to the tripod's mast with some sandpaper to remove the black powder coat that I neglected to fully remove when I first set up the antenna in 2009. Now I know there is a good electrical connection between the mounting bracket and the ground radial plate.

I'm still missing a few radials, lost to the lawnmower no doubt, but I seem to be hearing a little better than I have been of late. Maybe it's just coincidental and the bands have simply improved the day I did antenna maintenance. It could happen, I guess...

Either way, I was able to add a few needed countries to my 17m count -- Romania, Belarus, Samoa, Philippines, Greenland -- as well as a few more of the 13 Colonies stations.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June 2014 Wrap-Up


Not a very productive month for QSLs, though it was nice to see the 9J2T Zambia DXpedition's LOTW upload come through (got 'em on 40, 30, and 20). Azores (CU2BV) and United Arab Emirates (A65BD) brings me up to 99 confirmed on 15m.

DXCC Totals
6/30/2014
CfdWkdCfdWkdCfdWkd
Mixed16519880m102617m4476
CW13918040m10613415m99131
SSB10513330m538312m511
Digital608220m12116510m3752

Five new ones worked, leaving me just two shy of 200...

Last 10 New DXCC Worked
198SINGAPORE9V1YC6/22/2014
197SAUDI ARABIA7Z1SJ6/22/2014
196OMANA42A6/21/2014
195MALAWI7QNL6/7/2014
194ALBANIAZA/ON4CCV6/7/2014
193GHANA9G5ZZ5/25/2014
192ISRAEL4X4AK5/25/2014
191EAST MALAYSIA9M6XRO5/18/2014
190SAN MARINOT77C5/18/2014
189PAPUA NEW GUINEAP29NO5/17/2014

Still no love from RI on Phone or WV on CW...

Worked All States
AwardTotalAwardTotalAwardTotal
Basic *5080M2717M29
CW4940M4915M39
Phone4930M3112M2
Digital *5020M4810M23

...and a few more prefixes. Yawn.

WPX
AwardTotalAwardTotalAwardTotal
Mixed51580M2017M48
CW35540M23915M195
Phone18830M5612M6
Digital13020M28610M83

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

eDX100

I haven't really been keeping track too closely, but it appears that 4Z4AK's eQSL that I received in May was #100 for me on eQSL.net. So in the end it took about 6 months longer to reach 100 confirmed on eQSL than it did using LOTW. Haven't decided whether I will apply for the actual award yet.

#100

DXCC #196, #197 & #198: A42A Oman, 7Z1SJ Saudi Arabia, and 9V1YC Singapore, and the All Asian DX CW Contest

Courtesy of the All Asian DX CW contest on June 21-22, I nabbed the three above-mentioned countries for all-time new ones, bringing me even closer to the 200 Worked milestone.

I also worked A65BD, my second contact with the U.A.E., who verified quickly on LOTW to give me my 164th country confirmed; and E20AX Thailand, another country previously worked but not confirmed. Waiting for ClubLog to be updated to see if I made it into the E20AX log OK before sending for a QSL.

My biggest bonehead move of late was to continuously call 9M6XRO, only realizing later that East Malaysia in not in fact Asia but Oceania! Sorry OM!

Update 06-Jul-2014: E20AX is matched on ClubLog. No LOTW, though.


Update 07-Jul-2014: A65BD is matched, too!


Update 31-Jul-2014: 9V1YC in the book!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Something Old, Something New...


My haul from this years Ham-Com in Plano wasn't nearly as bountiful as the previous two trips (a Tarheel antenna in 2009, and a Flex 1500 last year). Still, I was just as thrilled to see a copy of Martti Laine OH2BH's Where Do We Go Next? I missed out on this years ago, and it's been out of print for a while. I think I saw it on eBay once for an obscene price. The person selling this copy was asking $6. After I got home and sat down to start reading it I saw that it was signed and inscribed by the author to the original owner (I presume), Bill K9IW.


The only other thing I left Plano with, besides an ARRL golf shirt that my XYL bought me, was a copy of Circuit Simulation and Analysis. Been wanting to learn more about using circuit design software for some time. I have LTSpice installed on my PC but have no idea how to use it. I reckon this should show me the way.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

DXCC #195: 7QNL Malawi

Finally heard 7QNL! He was so weak I was less than half-sure he got my call correct -- I heard "WW" and "T", so I figured I'd send an exchange and worry about working him again later if I heard him better. I got a "TU" back from him and logged it. Today the log match came through on ClubLog. Good thing, too, because it appears to be one of Remco's last QSOs from Malawi.

#195 worked all-time mixed, #176 on CW, #81 on 30m.