Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Telegraph Apparatus

Only $15.95 for a Vibroplex Bug? I'll take two!

From the 1945 Radio Shack catalog.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

WPX Mixed #400!

I just received LOTW confirmation from R5AJ, and with it my 400th prefix to qualify me for the WPX Mixed award. Until very recently I was completely unaware that I was even close; in fact I was unaware of how many prefixes were needed -- I simply never chased after prefixes in the same way I do DXCC countries. But I guess they just accumulate over time.

I doubt I'll apply for the award any time soon; I'll probably wait until I also qualify for the CW and SSB awards plus whatever other endorsements I can get at that time, then do it all at once. Next up: WPX CW -- just 54 needed to reach the needed 300 for that award. I'm already well past the required 160 prefixes required for the WPX Mixed North America endorsement.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2014 ARRL International DX Contest (CW)

I managed to squeeze in a few hours here and there over the weekend to make 290 contacts on 40m through 10m for 180 total multipliers and a score of 156,600 points. Since I knew this was just going to be a casual DX-chasing effort for me, I used the DX cluster and submitted as Single Op Unlimited.

Two all-time new countries (3B8VV in Tunisia and YJ0OU in Vanuatu) bring my DXCC Worked total to 179. I started the contest with 73 confirmed on CW; by Monday morning the total was at 98.

Both ionospheric and local conditions were pretty good during the test. There must have been some auroral activity; every signal I was hearing from northern Europe on Saturday morning had a distinct flutter, difficult to copy but at least there were signals making it over from that part of the world for a change. Never did manage to work Svalbard, though. Locally, for once the only noise to plague me this weekend was generated by the neighbor's dog and the infernal train.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


From 6 confirmed on CW in June 2013 to DXCC eight months later! The 5J0R DXpedition to San Andres Island has the distinct honor of being my 100th confirmed DXCC entity on CW.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

In Which Your Humble Narrator Worked FT5ZM Amsterdam Island Against All Odds.

The FT5ZM DXpedition is without question the biggest operation since I've been back on the air. It stands at Number 5 on DX Magazine's Most Wanted list, so we knew it was going to draw some huge pileups, and with the pileups the flotsam and jetsam of ham radio that we get with every big DXpedition. And right from the start it was chaos. After a few days had yet to even hear FT5ZM, only the pileups and the jammers and tuners. I gave up all hope of working this one.

Almost a week into the operation, KB2YAN texts me that he worked them on 30m CW. This gives me hope. The next night (03-Feb UTC) I work them on 17m CW. I think. Hard to tell, between their weak signal and the lids. Had to wait until the next ClubLog upload to be sure. This happened the next day, and I was in the log for 17m. Band #1 in the book!

The following night (04-Feb UTC), they were a bit stronger on 40m. Dropped my call a few dozen times before I heard it come back to me. I think. Same deal as before -- waiting for ClubLog. The next day... no ClubLog upload. I think they were trying to give me a stroke.

Later that evening (05-Feb) I get them on 30m CW. I think. A pattern here is developing. Work them, lie awake all night wondering if they got my call correct, praying for a quick ClubLog upload.

The afternoon of 05-Feb, ClubLog is updated and I'm in their log for 40m -- Band #2 in the book! -- but the last QSO uploaded was hours before my 30m QSO, so the wait for that one continues.

That evening (06-Feb UTC) around 0230 I decide to give 20m a try. The band is mostly dead... except for FT5ZM on 14023 and a few stations calling him up the dial. I find the lower edge of the pile, wait until I hear "FT5ZM UP NA", drop my call once and right away hear "WW2PT TU 599". No way. I send my call again and get "WW2PT WW2PT 599". Send my report, get a "TU", and sit there for a few minutes in disbelief. I'm running 500w to essentially a dummy load of an antenna and I just worked FT5ZM on the first call. I think. Meanwhile, another ClubLog upload confirms (so to speak) my 30m QSO the night before. Band #3 in the book!

Next afternoon, ClubLog is updated again and I'm in the log for 20m. Four bands in four days. I do the happy dance. At least in my head because I'm at work and they already think I'm strange.

So now (08-Feb @ 1700) I sit on 15m, the last band my antenna can tune well enough to let me use the amp, barely hearing FT5ZM in the noise. I may be too late to work them on a fifth band, but I plan on sitting on 21023 kHz hoping for propagation to improve, allowing one last chance to work Amsterdam Island before they pack it in.