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 ( 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.