Tuesday, December 18, 2018

DX - December 2018

Second Op Jack says: "XT2BR is listening for JA stations.
Why aren't we calling, Pop? My name starts with JA."


Who I've worked in December (KX2 CW @ 5W).

Medium-Rare Wave

I've been playing with mediumwave DX a lot lately, using the NRD-515 and Kiwa Air-Core MW Loop. It's not very often that I do this, I don't know why. The 515 has a pair of custom Kiwa filters (3.5 kHz and 8.0 kHz bandwidths) that I installed back in the mid-90's when I acquired this radio. This is the first time I've used this gear since moving to Cedar Key. It still rocks. There is still some good stuff on the AM dial late at night!

Sunday, December 9, 2018


Against all expectations, I actually did find a floor beneath all the wires and dust bunnies.

Friday, November 30, 2018

DX - November 2018

DX I worked in November (all CW).

QRP DXCC total (worked) is now at 64 entities, up from 58 when I left off in August 2017 - six new ones out of 24 contacts. I can live with a 25% ATNO rate. Lol!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mail Call!

Received from buro 20-Nov-2018

Monday, November 19, 2018

Early operations from NA-076

At the moment I'm working on a makeover for the Cedar Key Historical Society's web site, and as I was flipping through old photos I came across this healthy dose of Hallicrafters goodness! Click the photo to enlarge it.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Back again.

I've been tuning around since Wednesday with the little rig (at 5 watts) and a short wire (poorly matched) at the ass end of the sunspot cycle. Could it get any worse? 🤔

Making a few contacts, added a couple of new ones for the QRP DXCC chase (8P9 and VP2V) bringing me up to 60 worked. But damn, it's hard to make Qs! So much easier with the KPA500...

The KX2 is an amazing radio. I'm making this my main rig until I accomplish two goals: get the Tarheel and ground radials installed, and work QRP DXCC. I don't think I'm going to get 40 new ones by the end of the year, but maybe by February and the Orlando fest. The Tarheel screwdriver, though... that would definitely help with the DXCC goal.

I've been working in WordPress for a couple of clients and loving it, so this blog may be undergoing a major redesign soon.

The Jackonaut has called dibs on my office/shack, so he's the Second Op now, relieving the Tiny Brown Kitten of those duties.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

New QRP Personal Best: E51DWC (South Cook Islands)

I have been working E51DWC (op Milan, OK1DWC) on several bands (10/15/17 CW, and 15 Phone) at 100 watts. I finally heard him calling CQ on 12m phone just past midnight UTC with few takers. Could I have been at the right place at the right time for a change?

Since South Cook Islands is one that I need on 12m, and since everyone knows QRP phone doesn't work when the DX is buried in the noise, I bumped the K3 output power to 100 watts and called about a dozen times. But no love, he was weak and the QSB was pretty bad, so I decided that this wasn't going to happen.

I reset the K3 to 5 watts... and just as I took my fingers off the Power control and was about to switch bands his signal peaked at around S5. I grabbed my Mike, dropped my call after his CQ, and he came back right away with a "Whiskey Whiskey Two, Whisky Whisky Two?" I repeated my call, he returned with a 59 (yeah, sure...), we exchanged signal reports, and in the log he went! At 5 watts. On a "dead" band.

As with all our prior QSOs, Milan uploaded to ClubLog very quickly so I have proof I wasn't imagining it all.

According to Google maps, Rarotonga is a bit over 6,175 miles from Cedar Key, or 1,235 miles per watt. This crushes my previous personal best QRP DX record, TX6G Austral Is. from West, TX (5,093 miles, 1,018 miles per watt) by about 25%.

I'm starting to wonder whether I really need that KPA500 after all.

VOACAP shows that I was indeed at the right place at the right time -- 12m is strong to E51 in our (local) late afternoons and early evenings; my 10m contact with E51DWC was at around 2100 UTC, which fits this model as well. Good to know.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

March 2017 and into April... plus some thoughts on QSLing.

So March was pretty good to me. Getting the antenna outside was a big help, naturally. Working 47 countries with an indoor wire was something of a miracle, but they were easy countries - lots of Caribbean and Euro DX, mostly in the CW contest, but nothing I would consider exotic, much less new. Moving the wire out of doors and just outside my window I only added another 35 countries, but that included four ATNOs: VP6EU on Pitcairn, J5UAP in Guinea-Bissau, 5U5R in Niger, and TU7C in Cote d'Ivoire (that's "Ivory Coast" in 'Murican). I was still getting a lot of noise, possibly because of the short (approx. 10 ft.) coax run and close proximity to power lines in the front of the house, so this past Sunday I relocated the antenna to the back of the house, noticeably improving the noise situation.

So we'll see how this works. Bands took a dive for a few days but are coming back following a major solar event on 01/02-April. As of today (04-April), my DXCC count is 226 worked, with 210 confirmed (more on this later), and the DXCC Challenge total on LOTW is 774. My 80m DXCC count took a big jump from single digits to 29 confirmed, and I'm within spitting distance of 100 on 30, 17, 12 and 10.

And while I'm on the subject of confirmations... I've had a bit of a shift in my opinion on the whole concept of "countries confirmed." For the couple of decades as a radio amateur I held the belief that a QSO only "counts" when you have a card in your hand. This made sense at the time because that was the only way of knowing whether the DX didn't blow your call (or vice versa). Then along came Logbook of the World; now we had a second "official" metric for determining whether you had a DXCC entity confirmed. All well and good. At this time these are the only two methods acceptable to the ARRL to qualify for their awards, and since it is their award they get to make the rules. But while you can have a card in hand or an LOTW confirmation in your account, even then it doesn't officially "count" until you pay the ARRL a fee. This is where I call BS.

The fact is, I know that I worked a station if, 1.) The contact is in my log; and 2.) I have a card or an LOTW confirmation. If I decide not to pay the ARRL to get the credit applied to my DXCC account, does that mean I don't have a confirmed contact? Of course not. It only means that I can't use that contact for an award that, for the most part, is meaningless to me. I reject the notion that I need to pay the League (or anyone else) in order to have my achievement validated.

Then comes the matter of other, alternate methods of confirmation. We have several online resources -- eQSL.cc, ClubLog, HRDLog.net, QRZ, and all the online logs of individual stations and DXpeditions -- that can be used to match one's log entries with those of a DX station. These don't count for the ARRL's DXCC award, of course, but if ClubLog, for example, shows a QSO match between my log and the DX station's log, that's all the confirmation I need to know that the QSO was good. Whether or not the ARRL accepts it as a "real" confirmation is irrelevant unless I want their fancy piece of paper to hang on the wall.

At this moment in time, I actually have that fancy piece of paper hanging on my wall. It's there only because I long dreamed of earning DXCC since I was a kid. It took me many years of intermittent operation to achieve it, but sometime in 2013 I finally got 100 entities confirmed on LOTW, I entered my credit card info on the ARRL web site to pay for the 100 credits needed to get the DXCC Mixed award. A few weeks later I received my cardboard tube in the mail, dutifully put the certificate in a nice big frame and hung it on the wall of my shack where it remains to impress all who enter. Meaning, of course, only myself.

Since getting my DXCC Mixed award I have received more LOTW confirmations (a lot more, in fact) and many more paper cards, but I have never paid to apply these credits to my account. I currently have 210 countries "confirmed" to my satisfaction through one or more of the methods listed above. However, even though I can easily qualify for several additional DXCC awards and endorsements for individual modes and bands, according to the ARRL I only have 100 countries confirmed because that's all I paid them for. So who do I believe, the ARRL or my own very meticulous records? Thanks, but my own word is good enough for me. I'll keep the $125 or so bucks and pass on the wallpaper for now.

So while I used to believe "it only counts if you have the card," technology today allows me to revise that opinion to mean "it only counts if you can prove you're in the other station's log." Because, when you boil it all down, that's really all the card did in the first place. Thankfully, we can do that now through several different online systems with far less expense and delay. If someone thinks a QSL doesn't count because I didn't pay the League, tough cookies. I just don't care.

Does this mean I'll never apply for additional DXCC credits again? No... I really want a 5-Band DXCC plaque (also a childhood dream), and the DXCC Challenge appeals to me as well, so when either or both of those requirements are met I'll most likely pony up the dough for those awards, and also catch up with all the other awards and endorsements I qualify for at the same time while I'm at it. But for now if someone asks me how many countries I have confirmed, my answer will be "210," regardless of what anyone else thinks. Because it's true.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The road to DXCC on 80m is long and slow...

...but I'm trying. Ten new ones confirmed since last month, all from the two ARRL contests.

That makes it a total of 26 now confirmed on 80. Since 1988. Sigh. Maybe I need an antenna longer than 24'.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

DXCC #226: TU7C Cote d'Ivoire (and a new band slot: 9G5X Ghana on 17m)

Two more from Africa on 17m...

TU7C Cote d'Ivoire finally came back to me with the correct call after several exchanges of "WA2PT 5NN." Good signal around 1530. ClubLog upload followed after about an hour. Great operation! DXCC #226 in the log!

Update 16-Mar-2017: Second Band (15m)!

Later, the British crew at 9G5X Ghana was pounding in and gave me a new band slot (I'd already worked and confirmed 9G5ZZ on 20m back in Texas, May 2014). Woke up Wednesday morning to find a match on ClubLog.

Update 18-Mar-2017: Second Band (15m)!

Bands have been quiet (possibly too quiet...) the past few days, with SFI around 70 and SN at 0. My 24' end-fed and 100W is not giving me much love on any of the lower bands, at least not in the general direction of Africa. Even on 20m it is difficult to copy 5U5R, 9G5X, and TU7C; it seems like 17m is this antenna's sweet spot. That's cool, I need to concentrate on filling in some band slots on 17 anyway, though I sure miss busting pileups on 40m with the KPA500.

Update 16-Mar: LOTW from 9G5X is in!

Friday, March 10, 2017

DXCC #225: 5U5R Niger

Second ATNO of the day -- 5U5R in Niger! Another case of 17m QSB and the EU wall made this a tough one. I knew from the cluster that it was spread out as far as +5 from the DX frequency, but I couldn't hear any of the EU stations and very, very few stateside callers. The DX, however, was pretty strong, his signal picking up as the afternoon went on. I couldn't figure out where to place my call, though, so I parked my ass on one frequency and waited for him to come to me. This took hours, on and off, until I finally got him at 1947 UTC. The expedition's online log updated soon thereafter, and a smiley face under 17m CW relieved me of the anxiety of wondering whether my call was blown.

DXCC #224: J5UAP Guinea-Bissau

I've been chasing J5UAP Guinea-Bissau for a couple of days (along with 5U5R and 9G5X), pulling what's left of my hair out. Then today happened... got after just a couple of calls on 17m at 1514 UTC. No upload to ClubLog, wasn't sure if the Q was good... then I found his own online log (www.cqafrica.net) which was updated after a few hours. Boom!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

2017 ARRL International DX Contest (SSB)

Total DXCC: 28
New DXCC: 0
New Band Slots: 11 (?)
Category: SOAB-L Unlimited

No surprises or big moments, and frankly I wasn't really feeling like working a phone contest, so I didn't spend but a few hours total time at the radio this weekend. Band conditions seemed weak Friday night (local), only one QSO on 40m. 

Played a little on 20m for an hour Saturday afternoon (local), then that evening (UTC Sunday morning) I decided to cherry-pick some needed band slots on 80m. I went to bed Saturday night with 7 new ones on 80m, plus four more that I worked in the past but still need QSL'd. Not sure if I picked up any new ones on other bands, wasn't really paying attention except on 80. 

Had a good hour between 1900 and 2000 on Sunday afternoon (local) working 15m. Nothing at all heard on 10m whenever I checked. Noise levels are still higher than I'd like but I'm definitely hearing better with the antenna outside hanging off the Jackite pole.

In the end, I added 6 countries to my YTD DXCC total (now at 59 since going QRV on 24-Jan). Now waiting for some LOTW magic -- my 80m confirmed count was at 17 before this contest.

I did get to use the Yamaha CM500 headset for the first time. It worked well except for RF getting into the audio on 15m. That's when I switched over to the MH2 hand mic which worked fine. Might be time to get the Heil boom mic out of storage. If nothing else it will give me a place to hang the headphones...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

DXCC #223: VP6EU Pitcairn Island

I've been watching the VP6EU DXpedition since it began operations a couple of weeks ago, but I could barely hear them with the indoor wire so I had pretty much lost hope. Then yesterday happened. I decided to put my ass in gear and at least get the window feedthrough panel in place so I could throw the Ultimax end-fed up as a temporary solution. I took some doing finding someone was a saw to cut the panel to the proper length; I had to put a PL-259 on a short coax run using some angel-hair thin solder; and finally I needed to move my desk (with everything on it) away from the window. All done without too much trouble.

With the 31' Jackite pole I bought last year zip-tied to the front deck, the antenna zip-tied to that, and coax attached, I was in business. I'm still getting a lot more noise than I did at the last QTH, but the signals are noticeably stronger when they don't have to pass through a steel roof. It seems like the K3's ATU is getting a better match, too. Still can't run the amp, so 100 watts is what I have to work with for now.

Right off the bat I easily worked VE3VSM/HR9 Honduras (Roatan Is.) on 20m, PJ7AA  Sint Maarten on 17m, and ON4UN Belgium on 40m. Okay, all working. The hunt for VP6EU was on.

I kept my eye on the cluster until I saw VP6EU spotted on 17m just after local noon. He wasn't terribly strong but above the noise level by an S-unit or so. Dropped my call once and got him. No. 223 in the log!

Among the other current DXpeditions that I've been able to check off the list today is TX5T Austral Island on 15m. I had Austral on all bands 80-10 from the TX6G operation a few years back while I was in TX, but this is another new one for my Cedar Key QTH. Also worked 5K0N on San Andres Island on 17m this morning.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Spent about 30 minutes chasing PJ2ND on 40m just to see if I could work him at 5 watts with my end-fed indoor wet noodle. Finally got him at almost 1am local time (0550 UTC). This is my first DX country worked QRP with the KX2. Got LOTW confirmation the next morning.

Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 ARRL International DX Contest (CW)

Total DXCC: 44
New DXCC: 0
New Band Slots: 3
Category: SOAB-L Unlimited

No outdoor antenna at the Paroda Ave. QTH, but I had the UltiMax end-fed strung around the shack for a few weeks. Prior to the contest I had limited results -- the occasional Caribbean  and Central American station here and there. So when the contest weekend rolled around I had pretty low expectations. Due to RF issues when running 500W (mouse moving around the screen on transmit, all sorts of beeping and menu openings, etc.) I kept it at 100W and had no problems, as long as I kept my hand off the mouse when transmitting; otherwise I'd get macro repeats and other weird happenings.

Wkg condx...

I started out on 40m around 0230 Saturday, immediately started working into Europe, as well as Madiera Is. and the usual Caribbean big guns (and a few little guns) Eventually got KH6LC in Hawaii, the only Pacific station worked during the test. Only put in four hours, picking through the cluster. Since I wasn't after a big score I chose not to work any country twice per band. Went to bed with 19 countries in the log.

Saturday afternoon I spent an hour and change making 5 QSOs on 15m and one on 20m before running around town. Back in the shack that evening (UTC Sunday morning) and got TA3D Turkey right off the bat, then a bunch more Europeans. Later on I tried 80m and managed to work some more Caribbeans (US V.I., Aruba, Bonaire, Turks & Caicos, and Curacao) and France.

Sunday afternoon and evening (local) between 1945 and the end of the contest was mostly spent in and out of the shack, bouncing between 10m, 15m, and 20m before ending on 40m. At this point I was pretty surprised to have made more than a handful of contacts, so I set myself a goal of working 30 countries. Then 40 countries. Then 60 QSOs. Then 10,0000 points. Then 12,000 points.

Ended the weekend with 65 QSOs for 44 Countries, 65 mults, and 12,675 points. Not bad for 100w into a 24' piece of wire inside a house with a metal roof. 😎

Monday, February 13, 2017

No. 200!

...and that, my friends, is #200 confirmed! 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Elecraft KX2

Announced (or at least leaked to the public) just before its grand debut at Dayton last week. I held out for four (4) days before blowing the rent money.

Brother K2JK asked me, "Why do you need a KX2?" As if that's a relevant question...

Friday, April 10, 2015

March 2015

DX - I was not quite as active in March as I'd been in Jan/Feb, but I ended the month with three all-time new countries and a YTD DXCC total of 164, up 13 from the end of February. Had a fine run of African DX, some easier than others. Here's the highlight reel:
  • E51UFF North Cook Islands: ATNO #216. Worked op LA5UF on four bands (40/20/12/10), always weak but always in the log on first or second call. No ClubLog or LOTW. 
  • E30FB Eritrea: ATNO #217 - This was tough, took a week before finally get in the log on two bands (12/20) in one day (15-Mar). Matched on ClubLog.
  • A71EM Qatar: ATNO #218. Fairly easy, LOTW confirmation in three days. Tnx Juma!
  • 9Q0HQ Dem. Republic of Congo: Worked on five bands (40/30/20/17/12) but the 17m QSO is missing from their online log. I'll take four. 
  • 7QAA Malawi: Five bands (20/17/15/12/10), all ClubLog matched.
  • 5Z4/DF5ZP Kenya: Second band (15) for the DF3FS/DF5ZP operation. No LOTW, apparently...
  • 5Z4LS Kenya: ...but Nick G3RWF thankfully does use LOTW! Worked him on 12m and got LOTW the same day for DXCC Mixed #178.
  • FR5DX Reunion Island: This was a nice catch! I was just tuning around the 20m phone portion and stumbled upon Erick in QSO with another op. Dropped my call after they were finished and got a 58 report back. No ClubLog/LOTW.
  • V5/G3TXF: Only heard Nigel on one band (12) and got him in the log. ClubLog matched, LOTW confirmed a few days later.
  • KG4HF Guantanamo Bay: Added two more bands (30/15) to the three QSOs in February (20/17/12), although the 12m QSO was busted. So this operation ended with four bands matched on ClubLog and confirmed via LOTW.
  • 4Z5ML Israel: Finally found a 4X who uploads to LOTW! Thanks for DXCC Mixed #179, Alex!
Last 10 New DXCC Worked
216N. COOK ISLANDSE51UFF3/4/2015
212COCOS IS.TI9/3Z9DX2/19/2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Overheard on the Internet

Via Brian McDaniel on Google+ Amateur Radio community.
Actual SKYWARN exchange tonight:

Station: Net Control (&(AS*#^# This is K(^&A%^&@T&*#

NCS: Station Calling, you are not making it into the repeater.

Station: (&(A(*)(~~9&

NCS: I'm sorry, can you go to high power?

Station: I'm on &WT^JY#KW(Q(*QOI$OIJ% Over.

NCS: Please call one more time. This is KA1AAA.


NCS: Ok, I got most of that now. Go ahead.

Station: No traffic.