SFI > 250 or bust!

The new year continues to bring some low band fun. On several occasions I heard nice signals from the US of A on Top Band and I worked quite a few. Two new states on 160: Utah and Missouri. Maybe more but I didn’t keep track. I’ll find out when I upload to LotW.

The direct QSL cards are coming in already and I received a few emails too for QSL cards and LotW uploads. Strange, because each morning there are at least two other Belgians on 80/160. Let’s hope that the conditions like I experienced a few times over the past two weeks will return in the upcoming contests. ARRL DX CW could give 160 WAS as serious boost.

Again I worked a few dozen JA on 30 which might soon initiate a steady flow of direct QSL request from Japan. I could have tried 30m for USA but that is late at night, before their bedtime. I chose to go to bed in time myself and get up early. I shouldn’t end the holidays more tired than I was when they started.

One morning the amp showed much reflected power on 80. How could that be? SWR had risen to 1.9:1 where it was 1.2:1. Although Top Band shares the feed point, it was not affected. As it turned out the 2.5mm² copper wire and the radials turned into a pencil sized popsicle. The ice had detuned the antenna. When the sun was up I lowered the wire and pulled it back up. The ice cracked and some pieces fell on my head. I took a broom and walked along the elevated radials to remove the ice. Antenna back to normal. Later that day bigger chunks of ice fell off the yagi and 40m dipole. Those pieces were bigger and made more noise as they hit the frozen lawn.

There was another technical issue. I put up a 30m vertical dipole that is rather close to the shack. Usually I use a horizontal dipole farther away. Whenever I keyed the rig, the WAN connection dropped. This is not a biggie. During for the short while I’m running 30m I can do without internet and all its applications. But there are other people in the house who like to read their mails and surf the web after breakfast. I have used this antenna in the past but I have replaced the router / Wi-Fi access point a few months ago. At first I didn’t blame this device. Since the LAN part of the network was working fine and the router told me that ‘WAN cable was not attached’, I suspected a problem with the TV coax cable or the cable modem. I tried google to find a link between cable access and 10 MHz but I didn’t find any.

One dit and the WAN link dropped, and a LED on the modem went out. It took half a minute to recover. One morning I took the effort to actually check the purpose of the LED on the modem that went out as soon as I touched the paddles. It was in fact the LED that indicates whether the modem is connected to an Ethernet device. Or if the UTP cable was plugged in or not. Hmm. I took a few clamp-on ferrites and choked the DC power lead and the UTP cable coming from the modem. I placed the ferrites as close to the router as possible. That cured it. I could now crank up the power to a full kilowatt and still the WAN link wouldn’t drop. Before even 100W broke the connection. This box with two dozen ferrite clamps has served me well over the years. Another legacy from my days as a broadcast tech. I can tell you that the box doesn’t contain two dozen clamps anymore. Many are in use in the shack to cure RFI problems. With success!

Three things I remember from almost four weeks of having fun on the low bands:

  • I’m addicted to the RX loops. They really help. Maybe two or three QSO could not have been made without it, but it sure made the other contacts much easier.
  • Top Band propagation has been more than OK lately. To my standard that translates to: working into USA almost daily. Everything better is a treat. Like the HP1 and P4 as new countries. I hope these conditions stay during the coming contests. Especially CQ 160 and ARRL DX CW. Asking for improved propagation might jinx it.
  • On many occasions the RBN shows that the bands are open for DX. Yet there is no one active. Or at least nobody capable of and willing to transmit. This is especially true on weekdays. Weekends are better.

Since the holidays are over, I took down the antennas and lowered the tower. I feel that I was becoming too hooked on the bands again. So I might overdo it. Cold turkey for three weeks until the UBA SSB and CQ 160 CW contests.

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