Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 2015

My first full month back on the air since moving to Cedar Key. My goal of working 100 countries before the end of January fell a wee bit short with 98 worked, many of them on 12 and 10 meters (49 and 17 new band slots respectively). LOTW confirmations are rolling in at a steady clip -- a total of 47 new band slots confirmed in January, 18 of them on 12m. I'm starting to dig this band.

Only two all-time new ones this month. Got 1A0C for DXCC #205; now if only they'd update ClubLog, the last QSO uploaded was from July 2012. JY9FC was strong (S7+) on 12m Saturday morning 31-Jan, in the log as DXCC #206. Damn, new countries are get harder and harder to come across after 150...

Great C5X operation by the Brits, got them on 40, 30, 20, 15, 12, and 10 meters. Super-fast daily LOTW and ClubLog uploads. Just a great operation all around.

No contests for me in January. I really wanted to participate in the NAQP CW test but had other commitments. The North American Sprint is coming in a few weeks, that might be the first of the year. I've never worked this contest before. First I need to upgrade to N1MM+.

I've been thinking a little bit about 6m and VHF/UHF lately. But thinking more about 5BDXCC, so I think an 80m dipole will have to come first since that's the only band for which the Tarheel is really deficient.

The Tarheel is now permanently ground-mounted and working well despite a minimal radial setup. Cedar Key is unbelievably quiet and this antenna is really doing well for its small size. I really shouldn't be wasting this opportunity to put up something bigger, though.

This month I returned to a written log/notebook. Still do the computer log, that's integral to my station and will always be the primary log for counting DXCC points and uploading to LOTW and ClubLog, but I really started to miss the hand-written log and all the notes and comments, the kind of personal thing you can look back at in years ahead and reminisce. I just can't do that with a computer log, too antiseptic.  So I started jotting down notes and QSOs in a spiral notebook, keeping track of my YTD DXCC total, noting propagation conditions, band openings, and whatever else crosses my mind while at the key.
The end of the month tally:

DXCC Totals

Last 10 New DXCC Worked
200THE GAMBIAC5II7/8/2014
197SAUDI ARABIA7Z1SJ6/22/2014

WPX (Confirmed)

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.


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


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

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...