SFI > 250 or bust!

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Everything ON5ZO / OQ5M has to ventilate about ham radio.

In one word? NOTHING

Then why a post? For the archives. My memoires.

I was looking forward to this weekend. Not so much for the SSB contest, which I mostly do because I’m loyal to the UBA (and yes almost any contest beats no contest) but also for the CQ 160 CW contest. The UBA contest comes to a halt at night, the 160m contest thrives at night.

But for the third year in a row the strong winds made me keep the tower down. Friday there were some pretty strong gales. And overnight and at sunrise, the wind was blowing even more fiercely out here. So I was glad I didn’t crank the tower up.

The wind was predicted to settle around Saturday noon, which it eventually did. And for a moment I contemplated to crank up the tower one level and drop my 160m plans and focus on the UBA DX SSB. But then it started raining. Then pouring. Cats and dogs. Which in turn tempered my enthusiasm to go outside. Once again: no contesting. Thanks lousy WX. Weird to say but I start to get used to it by now.

I think the 40m dipole and the yagi have drifted apart yet a few more degrees by the wind. Coming Sunday another round of strong gusts is announced (+90km/hr). So why even bother? The new climate does not favor crank up towers and field day style operations. The new climate sucks.

This is something old that I kept on editing when things progressed. I just put it here for the records and hopefully not for future reference.

That dreaded QRM that popped up in last year’s WW SSB (note: that’s the 2014 edition) seems to be gone for now. At least in its nastiest form. Knock on wood. There might be a general increase in noise since I first put up a wire here in 2003. I think. I haven’t got actual measurements to prove that. Since the fierce QRM came suddenly a year ago I have been very focused on noise. I may hear high noise levels now that might not even be there in reality. I don’t know what is acceptable by nature.

It’s hard to find the source of a problem if it isn’t always there. It only occurred when it was dark outside so I concluded it was most likely related to either a street light or a neon sign. But I live in a rural village with little commercial activity and the closest neon sign is 1.3 km away. Another thing I noticed was that it didn’t start together with the street lights. Nevertheless it went away at or about the same time the lights went out in the morning. Last fall, about a year ago (fall 2014), I went up to the shack evening after evening for a while to listen but it never showed up. So I gave up. But in a contest after sunset, it sometimes started wiping out 80 completely, rendering 20 useless. It affected 160 and 40 but those bands were still manageable. It was hard to listen through it in CW and it killed my ears in SSB. I never heard it when listening (RX only)  at random times. Yet it was almost always there during nighttime in a contest. So I started to think I triggered the QRM source by emitting 1 kW of RF power.

During the IARU HF Championship 2015 the QRM was there when I was running USA late in the evening. There is a street light on a pole about twenty meters from the tower. I can see it through the window from the corner of my eye when looking at the PC monitors. Suddenly that light went out and then the QRM level dropped significantly. The light came on a few seconds later and along came the noise. It happened a second time somewhat later. This more or less confirmed my theory that I activated the QRM by putting out RF myself. Don’t ask me if or how it’s possible.

I was glad I finally had something to blame. But I was (and still am) not really sure that was the real culprit. Both neighbors to the left and right have those aquarium lights in their fish tanks. And what if someone around here has grow lights for some purpose? What about some new TV sets? Those devilish power line adapters the ISP’s put everywhere? People watch TV at night. But probably not as late as the time of the QRM. It had to be something related to darkness as it wasn’t there in broad daylight.

But that particular streetlight wasn’t really broken and it’s hard to report ‘a street light that might possibly cause QRM on the HF bands and sometimes goes out just to come on again by itself’. The utility company’s technician might think I’m pulling his leg. I briefly considered a slingshot to shorten the lifetime of the bulb. But that’s not my style. A double barrel rifle? I’m one of the few around here without a gun so that would require an accomplice with aiming skills. And deaf neighbors.

July 31st. By coincidence there was another flickering light on the other side of the garden. Also about thirty to forty meters from the tower. I completed an online form to report broken streetlights. I do that often when I see a flickering light in a wide radius around the QTH. The power company usually fixes these lights within a few days. So one summer evening just after dusk the utility technician came with his truck-mounted cherry picker. He parked and blocked the street. That’s why they come at night. Not to hinder traffic. I saw the guy climbing in his elevator basket and up he went. I rushed down the street to tell him about the light and my specific problem. I couldn’t care less that my street is a dark hole and that the lamp is totally broken. But it mustn’t flicker. Try explaining ham radio and short wave reception and QRM to a stranger in a few words. The kind technician was very cooperative. He agreed to wait up high on the pole while I went in to check for noise after he replaced the light bulb. Which is a problem because the noise wasn’t always there and popped up at random times only. After replacing the lamp and visually inspecting it he told me that it was a very old model showing its age, making it prone to flickering and arcing. Let’s hope he and my hunch are right.

Later that summer I got hold of ON3DI’s spare FT-817. Thanks for that OM. I walked around on a couple occasions, with the TRX on a strap over my shoulder and holding a piece of wire in the air. Since it was dark I put on a fluorescent safety jacket. People passing by slowed down and looked at me from their cars as if they had seen an alien. I went up and down and around the block but I didn’t really capture that specific QRM. Not then and not on the transceiver ever since that one particular light bulb got replaced. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

A few weeks ago there was another bulb flickering. Just across the street, about ten meters from the living room. And another one three hundred meters from here. And another one almost one kilometer away. They have all been replaced by now. I guess the guy processing the online street light trouble tickets knows who I am by now.

There is one problem that has been there for years that I might track down one day. It’s audible on 20/15/10, loudest on 15 meter and it becomes very loud when I turn the beam from the Caribbean to PY. So when at 300° (USA) it is weakly there but it doesn’t block signals. It gets louder at 270° to become very loud at 230°. It’s not really a show stopper, more a nuisance. Signals sip through. And the yagi is not often pointed beyond 300°. I also noticed this noise when walking around with the FT-817. It’s loud at my front door. And that’s at 270°. That’s also where the coax for broadband and digital TV is. And at 270° there is a coax tap on the pole across the street. By the way: The Panasonic TV makes a lot of noise around 21 MHz. I followed the coax wire in the house to the TV, that’s how I found out. The TV noise itself goes away completely on the FT-817 when I pull the 230V power plug out of the socket. That’s when I’m standing next to it. I should listen in the shack on the yagi and then detach the AC power. But the TV noise is not the other noise I pick up. That noise has been there for ages, even in the dark ages of the vacuum tube TV, long before the LED TV.

Somewhere someone recently said that antenna restrictions won’t kill ham radio but switching electronics will. Well, it doesn’t have to if the design and construction is done right. By accident I came across this item by ON7EQ. Scroll down and look at the last picture. EMC? What EMC? Damn you spectrum polluters! 

Not much to say about this except that it was a bad year for the hobby when it comes to activity levels. I missed a few major events due to stormy weather and the workload and stress of changing jobs. If can’t influence the weather but I hope to be there again in 2016.

Not a bad 2015 when it comes to results. First place in Region 1 Field Day CW and my first wooden plaque ever from a DX contest (RAEM).

2015_overview

The two last weeks of 2015 have skewed the numbers for the rest of the year. I made 2800+ CW only contacts starting half December as one of the ON90IARU team. Since it was me who made these contacts from here, I included them in the statistics. However without this incentive I would have made far less contacts (especially on 30m) and would have had far less active days on the counter.

2015_days

Trivia:

  • 17% SSB, 83% CW
  • Zero contacts in digital modes in 2015
  • I should log QSO #250 000 pretty soon!
  • A massive two QSO on 6m, which is 100% increase from 2014 (only 1 then).

This to me is the best CW contest after WAECW (yes the QTC game). Why? You actually need to copy something that can’t be predicted. Not before the first contact anyway. A serial number and your lon/lat coordinates. That’s 123 50N04O from me to you. It’s only a twelve hour contest so it doesn’t wear you out nor does it put a burden on the family calendar. Scoring is distance based (YEAH!!!) and there are no multipliers. CW only. What’s NOT to like???

I have always done this very casually, kicking in just before sunrise. And I have always said I should do this one from the start. And so I more or less did this year. After all, this contest offered me my first real wooden (or any other material) DX plaque. It’s like an IOU to the contest sponsors. Tower up one level? Check! 80m vertical wire hung as inverted L? Check! Ought to be good enough for some fun. Alarm set after two hours sleep? Check and a very bad idea. The contest starts at 1AM local and I wasn’t feeling happy after a such short nap. My brain’s lubricant’s viscosity was high. I had a hard time copying the (seemingly) QRQ exchanges especially without the otherwise mandatory 5NN to synch the human CW decoder. After a few rounds the engine ran warm and the dits and dahs fell in place.

Things were not too fast and I switched between 80 and 40. I might have overestimated the importance of these first hours from here. I only worked a handful of Americans on 40/80. In my memory I seemed to have worked more in previous editions, at my sunrise. But I might have romanticized this somewhat. So when it comes to big point DX contacts, it was a bust. I lingered on 40m to catch a VK/ZL at my sunrise (major points!) but it wasn’t meant to be. There was PY4XX I believe. And always happy to hear those fluttery UA0 signals coming in from high up north and far east. That’s *cha-ching* 150 points or more.

Conditions on the higher bands (20 and 15) were ok but not fantastic. Ten meter was pathetic. You can take those 28 MHz monobanders down, big boys. Over and out there for predictable and rock solid propagation. CU in eight years or so. I tried ten meters but had to switch between twenty and fifteen to keep things going. I remember one of my fastest hours was in this contest: 178 or so? Well, not this time. Not by far.

I ended up with 760 contacts or so. That of course is my best so far in this contest. Weird to say that in a year where I missed many contests and did most only for fun and not competitive at all…

Like I said a few days ago: I need a 30m antenna. Something that does not need the tower cranked up. Something that does not clutter up the lawn. Something that doesn’t need installing after and removing before every contest. Something that works.

Two years ago I did an effort with the remains of the broken trapped WARC dipole, but it wasn’t a success. Exit traps. Resonant elements are the way to go.

A permanent WARC antenna

Talking about lawn cluttering… My old 40m DP aluminum radiator has been on the lawn for years. I didn’t have the courage to cut it up. I think I made that antenna ten years ago, January 2006. I put it against a wooden post and used the spruce tree hedge as a support for two elevated radials in gull wing configuration. That was also the base of the trapped WARC vertical mentioned above. So if I would trim that aluminum radiator down from 40m to 30m, I could reuse it and just put two tuned radials in the spruce trees.

 

Post, gull wing radials, quick mount-detach system

Quick mount-detach system

And so I did. The antenna analyzer showed a clear dip and the antenna kinda worked. The initial test proved I could work DX with it, although the RBN didn’t pick me up. I concluded that just like the previous WARC effort, it doesn’t work too well and eats up more power than gets radiated.

I had another old 40m antenna around: a wire dipole I used as a two element vertical sloper array suspended from the tower. That was before February 2011 when I put up the rotary dipole. I trimmed that wire dipole to 30m and put it up last weekend when the tower was up one level for the 9A CW contest. I left the 30m GP in place for real time A/B testing.

Saturday morning I was active on 30m with both antennas and guess what? Everything I heard on the sloper was almost as loud on the GP. And RBN picked me up on both antennas. Must have been propagation the week before? The GP is a little less noisier. I worked more than fifty (+50!) JA’s that morning on 30m. With about 500W and the RX loop for dicercity RX.

What did we learn?

  • When conditions are right, the 30m morning opening to JA is rock solid.
  • The GP works as well as the sloper but doesn’t need the tower.
  • The GP with two elevated radials in gull wing configuration is a winner, as long as you stick to apples-apples comparisons. Of course a yagi high up the tower will be better.
  • The GP for now is a keeper for 30m.

Wednesday December 23, 3.30am local time and I can’t sleep. That’s what I get from sleeping under the roof when it’s half a storm: I actually don’t sleep. Too much noises from rattling window shutters and the utility cables (3x 400V and one TV coax) from the pole across the street to the side of the house is bumping against the roof tiles. It’s perpendicular to the wind so it swings, hence it hits the side of the roof all the time.

It has been a very windy few weeks. AGAIN. Temperature records are smashed one after the other and I dug up my shorts. Two days before Christmas and we hit 14°C again yesterday. Along with the everlasting wind and strong gusts. I know I am repeating myself. But that’s because for the third time in a row we get a warm windy season that is marked winter on the calendar but is more of a late fall or early spring. I saw a butterfly just the other week.

Here’s how I know I repeat myself:

WX is bollocks

and here:

Penguins are my soulmates

Look for 9ACW in there and you’ll see I didn’t do it because strong winds prevented me from cranking up the tower. This year I badly needed a shot of CW contesting after missing LZDX and WWCW mainly because of this too. I read the WW CW comments on 3830 and from G over DL to OZ/OH, everyone was mentioning the wind or storm. Either they got damaged antennas or had to lower crank up towers to prevent it.

This year the wind was supposed to be less the weekend of the 9A CW contest. Just for the weekend. So I decided to skip 160m and crank the tower up only one level. Just for fun, nothing serious, but actually made a few contest QSO.

And that’s what I did. I made 770 QSO. I did sleep. Even more than planned. Propagation was only so-so. Ten meter is a goner. Especially with  A/K indexes that were pretty high with a peak during the contest. And participation seemed down overall. I’ve had more fun in this one.

After the contest I took down the tower and the 80m wire (and the new 30m antennas – plural, more on that in another episode). Because, you guessed it, Monday would be very windy. And it was. Tuesday would bring even more wind and stronger gusts. And it did. And it worsened during the night. Which is right now.  And that’s why I find myself typing this instead of sleeping and dreaming…

Better luck next time?

Abstract: what should I do?

ON5ZO operating profile:

  • Main goal in amateur radio: work DX in CW. Either on the contesting bands as well as on WARC.
  • Most of my contacts are made in the contests but I do appreciate casual DXing and ragchewing.
  • Try to generate pile ups (yeah right, in ON) rather than breaking them. I have given up the DXCC chasing and stay clear from the moron induced mess when a rare one pops up.

Here’s the deal

Since I find myself on the regular bands for more than 90% of my time in the contests, I like to hang out on the WARC bands outside of the contests. The 30m band is my favorite. A simple CQ with any simple antenna brings truckloads of DX from all over the world. Often at the same time. It seems that 10.1 MHz almost always works.

Until 2011 I had a tribander and a WARC trapped dipole above it. That WARC dipole did a great job given its simplicity and size. I was often active since I had immediate access to 30/17 and 12 which was pretty much closed between 2004 and 2011. A dull week night, an hour to spare on a weekend without a contest – a few quick contacts were logged on WARC. Anecdotal evidence: I installed my brand new tower and my first real antennas and my very first QSO with that was NL7G on 12m. Late 2004, 100W.

But somewhere in late 2010 a trap blew and I found myself without a permanent WARC antenna. The good thing was that OT1A offered me the most important parts to complete a 40m dipole. I put that above the tribander and my 40m rates and scores went through the roof. Another proof that a good dipole at reasonable height kicks butt. In that respect, the new antenna was an asset.

But soon after I started missing my WARC antenna. I made a simple parallel wire inverted V and hung that on a low band pulley. That worked fine for what it is. Even with a sharp angled apex. Even when not too high. The problem is that I need to take it down for a contest because the pulley is used for the low band wires. And then after the contest, back up goes the WARC wire antenna. I got so fed up with that field day routine I just didn’t bother anymore. A direct result of losing easy access to the WARC bands was that I just wasn’t active anymore between the contests. Later on I converted the remaining half of the WARC dipole to a ground plane with the inverted V triband antenna as a set of elevated radials. That worked as in “resonant in the band with very low SWR”. That didn’t work as in “hear and work DX”.

And now I’ve had it. I feel I’m missing out on a lot of fun and I don’t enjoy the hobby as much as before. So I need to fix this and regain access to the WARC bands without an extra antenna. But how? I have given this a lot of thought over the last two or three years.

What do I (not) want?

  • All I have now (40 > 10 on the tower) but with WARC included. Six meters is a bonus but not a priority. I don’t want big and heavy antennas. It shouldn’t take too much wind and needs to be as stealthy as a tribander on a tower can be.
  • Price is not an issue. By which I mean that if a certain solution costs more than a comparable outcome, I am willing to pay for it but only if it makes for a better antenna system in any way.
  • I do not want to end up with less performance on the regular bands.
  • I do not want more mechanical load on and visible impact from the tower. ‘Less is more’ does apply here. Full size elements for 40 are out of the question.

The technology of the so called dynamic antennas is appealing. They’re quite small and cover all the bands with three or four elements. That is my self-imposed limit when it comes to size. However I see many more possible points of failure. I’ve said it before: I’m a glass-is-half-empty-guy. Apart from the usual things that can go wrong with an antenna, this dynamic technology has much more to it than an aluminum tube. I don’t even include traps into the equation as well as complex loading systems à la KT34XA.

  • There is much more wiring to it. Wiring can break and the outdoor connections must be kept dry.
  • Stepper motors are quite robust but can fail.
  • The conductive ribbon can break or jam in the fibers.
  • What about the gears and sliding mechanisms?
  • What about the feedpoint where RF is applied to the sliding ribbon? Will the movement of the ribbon against the feeder cause it to wear out?
  • The controller’s electronics can fail. A normal yagi does not have electronics.

There are two major brands for these antennas. The pioneers SteppIR. The Italian copycat is Ultrabeam. There is also the obscure dynamic-antenna. They have a website but I can’t find any references.

There are many happy users for both brands. There are also many horror stories (like here and here) documented with epic fail pictures for both brands.

I know that OT1A has been a happy SteppIR user for almost ten years. Another trustworthy Belgian technically skilled  operator has told me his only regret was not having bought his UltraBeam tribander sooner. Another local ham whose opinion I trust said that his UltraBeam is a quality product yet dealing with the company to solve an issue has been cumbersome. I once sent an enquiry to UltraBeam and got no reply. After two weeks I resent the same message to get the brief answer to ‘keep an eye on the website’. That doesn’t build my confidence in them. I demand customer support Elecraft style. That too is worth a few more Euros.

What do I have now?

An OptiBeam OB11-3. Modest tribander on a 6m long boom but it works very well. It has 3/3/5 full size elements on 20/15/10. On top of that there is the OptiBeam shorted 40m dipole. Those who follow my contest adventures know what this simple setup is capable of.

Situation on the tower NOW: 32kg / 0.84m²  (tribander)  +  11kg /  0.31m² (dipole)  =  43kg / 1.15m²

The OptiBeam solution

I’m very satisfied with the OptiBeam products. They perform very well and the quality is superb. Also the company owner is very responsive and helpful. Just for comparison I studied the available models to add the WARC bands. With as many elements per band as I have now but without going to a much bigger and heavier antenna. This is the outcome.

  • OB11-5  (3 / 3 / 3 / 3 / 5 elements 20m>10m)    45 kg          1.47m²       1.799,00 Euro
  • Dual band dipole OB1-4030   14kg   0.45m²   739 Euro
  • Optibeam solution: five band yagi and 40/30m dipole. Total: 56kg / 1.92m² / 2538 Euro

Cheapest solution but heaviest, most wind load and most visual impact. Exactly what I DO NOT want.

The steppIR solution

The SteppIR antenna that covers my needs is either the DB-18 or DB-18E. Both have three elements on a 6m boom. The difference is that the E model has 3 trombone elements (2L on 40, 3L on the other bands) and the plain model has only 2 trombones and one plain element (2L on 40+30, 3L on the other bands).

  • DB-18     41.2kg      0.9m²    3980 Euro
  • DB-18E    45.3kg    1.1m²     4960 Euro

There is a difference in numbers between the SteppIR website and the specs on the German reseller’s page. I should get the exact numbers confirmed.

I think that 1000 Euro does not justify one more element on 30m. Coming from nothing, a two element yagi on my favorite band (30m) as well as on 40 should be something special. Might as well be that two elements wider apart work better than three closer to each other. But how to determine this?

The UltraBeam solution

At first my plan was to buy the UltraBeam UB40MX. That seemed nice and covers my needs. However with 15m wing span it has quite long elements. Being a single antenna with 1.15m² wind load, it is still quite heavy (63kg).

But a while ago UltraBeam released a new type of folded element yagi. The folding is done in the vertical plane instead of the horizontal plane. Maybe influenced by the Despole design? I have made a number of wire antennas where I fold back part of the antenna or just put the ends in the hands of gravity to make it fit and the principle has always worked.


Currently UltraBeam has two models available.

  • Yagi UB640 – VL1-3   4.86 boom    29kg   0.77m²       2650 Euro
  • Yagi UB640 – VL2-3   4.5m boom    35kg   0.97m²       3450 Euro

These two models are lighter and shorter than the SteppIR model. And quite a bit cheaper. And UltraBeam offers FOUR year warranty. And as another Belgian UltraBeam owner said: “It takes a day’s drive and you’re at their front door”.

The model with two folded elements has my preference. That means two elements on 40/30 and three on the other bands. I noticed that the boom is 1.5m shorter than the SteppIR. However, assuming the SteppIR folded trombone elements are 0.5m apart, this would save 1m if you put them in the vertical plane.

EA6NB has this antenna (see it here). It looks weird with the pale fibers contrasting against the blue sky. Especially with the black marks that breaks it into smaller pieces visually. I can’t say that this is a beautiful antenna. Not that this matters, it should be strong, everlasting and perform like a champ.

An extended version is expected with 4 elements (3 folded and one straight?) making it 3 elements on 40/30 and 4 on the other bands. That would actually improve the number of elements on all bands. The question is: what will it cost, what will it weigh, and will this antenna be noticeably better on the air than its smaller brother? But the real question is: can you trust the gain figures as stated by the manufacturers? I don’t know. And how to evaluate then?

Now what?

It took me almost four A4 pages of text to list my thoughts and options. I have been thinking about this a lot for almost two years if not more. There is of course the financial aspect (investment) but what bothers me more is the work. I simply hate doing tower work. Even with a tilt over tower. On the other hand, having all bands on a single antenna, it’s quite appealing.

What should I do? What would you do?

 

Update December 24, 2015

Here’s an update – in the works…

Stand by…

Thanks to folks running the CQ WW contest, we now have the max rates available for the last decade. Guess who’s dominating the CW ranking for Belgium (ON)?

ww_cw_max_rates

Yes I am pretty excited. But most of all amazed. And honestly it surprises me that it’s on 80, generally considered not to be an easy band. And with a good percentage of DX 3pt contacts. A massive run on 3505 interlaced with ten contacts on 40m. On a piece of 2.5mm² copper wire hanging skewed from the tower, and two tuned radials about 2.5m high. No ridiculously big yagi, no directional 4SQ, no 120 radials, no beverages, no remote RX.

And I generally send ‘TU OQ5M’ after each and every contact and send ‘5NN 14’ as a report, not ‘ENN A4’. Or any worse abbreviation. And in WW CW I run at 34 WPM – no QRQ. Maybe even 32 WPM on the noisier low bands.

So how does this compare to countries around here? Much to my surprise I beat the top Single Op HP CW rates in plain G-land, LX, DL, F, PA, SP, EA, I, OH, ES, OZ, SM. I stopped looking there. I find this intriguing.

Oh well, it’s not that I have superhuman skills. It’s just a matter of copying a call, typing it, send 5NN 14 and on to the next. Luckily there is a next. This would be impossible without a constant flow of callers. So: Thanks to those who call me!

Geez- 210 QSO in a single 60 minute hour releases a heavy dose of adrenaline. And it’s addictive. Imagine being in a sweet DX spot near the beach with DXCC monopoly…

As a closing note: I’m nowhere to be found in the SSB ranking. It’s not that I don’t try. Or that I couldn’t do it. It’s just that the exact same setup doesn’t cut it on phone. Let this be a proof for the non-believers. CW 4 EVER!

Edited Mon Nov 30th – see below

I experienced the result of the stars and planets being perfectly aligned in 2014. That was indeed an exceptional year. I even won my first wooden plaque! But 2015 is another thing. Two key factors: bad WX and changing jobs in January and February. I don’t digest change very well. And this was a dramatic change. The job offer meant a short period of thinking the opportunity over. And as soon as I jumped: away routine, enter a lot of work. Work that takes time and energy. Two valuable resources that otherwise were used for the hobby. Because running a family with two little kids is time consuming already. So I skipped quite a few contests this year and I wasn’t really serious in a few others. A top ten spot in RDXC and maybe even IARU are the highlights of 2015. Oh yes – not to forget a victory in the CW Field Day. Pick your fights ☺

Last week was the LZ DX contest. I like that one and usually do quite well in that one too. But again: not this year. The long term prepping was OK. The XYL was supposed to go to a rock show at night. The kids were staying at their grandparent’s place overnight. And the OM had the house and time all for himself to go all out in the LZ DX contest. However Friday 13th’s events got in the way and all public activities near Brussels got cancelled. And the WX had displaced my 40m dipole (again!) earlier that week during a stormy night. Moreover strong gusts were predicted for the weekend. Believe it or not but there were even lightning discharges Saturday morning, and snow and hail. So we both had our reasons for being peed off. I didn’t want to let the XYL digest the disappointment all by herself. And I in turn wanted to share my frustrations with her. So we spent the day together doing very common stuff. But no contesting.

About the same story for CQ WW CW 2015. I didn’t have the time to rest and prepare in advance. And I won’t have the time to recover from an almost 48 hour CW marathon. Furthermore the WX forecast talks about 70km/hr gusts and more on Saturday and Sunday night. That’s about the force that shifted the 40m dipole last week. With the tower down. Imagine what it would be like with the tower all the way up. That one gust might have been stronger. I was still up because the noise of the wind would prevent me from sleeping anyway. I could tell by the resulting noises (windows, blinds, doors, trees) that it was a strong one. A bit later I took the youngest dog out for a pee. He was nervous too because of the howling wind. I immediately saw that the 40m dipole was misaligned. Again. That’s the fourth time in two or three years a storm moved one of my antennas. I never had a thing shifting between 2004 and 2012. Coincidence or indeed a change in the climate? When we drove off to work the morning after, a tall tree (25m? 30m?) had fallen across the street about hundred meters away from my QTH. Gardeners were slicing it up with their chainsaws. That tree didn’t break in half. It was simply uprooted. So I guess it was a pretty strong wind. And maybe the roots came loose after intense rainfall?

This is the sucker that moved the 40m dipole.Source: www.meteo.be

This is the sucker storm depression that moved the 40m dipole.
Source: www.meteo.be

This year’s summer extended into a nice fall with even a late Indian summer. Warm and sunny and almost no wind. Even the first week of November was very nice. I heard an item on the radio news that Belgian wind farms produced exceptionally little energy in October. Jokingly I replied to myself: “No problem, they’ll make up for it when the winter contests season starts“. There you go!

It’s useless to think about all this crap too much. I just hope that after two very mild, wet and extremely windy winters (2013-2014 and 2014-2015), the stupid endless westerly pattern can be broken this year. WX should come from the east. That’s always calm, dry and sunny. Hot in summer and very cold in winter. But never windy and mostly dry land air. In strong contrast to the rain and wind coming from the Atlantic. However the coming week it’s more of the same. Longer predictions are meaningless.

As I type this, all windows and even the terrace door are wide open and the sun is shining. A load of fresh air is always welcome after a few days of having it all shut. The wind is picking up speed as predicted. I just spent an hour in the garden putting out mole traps wearing a sweater and a fleece jacket and I was sweating. Not because that is an intense physical activity. But because it’s just plain warm. My guess is that it’s +10°C. December starts in three days. Go figure.

If I can’t resume my contesting activities the way I used to, I’ll just start a blog about the weather. Or macramé. In the mean time I keep thinking about a few pending projects. How to enhance the portable field day setup. How to finish the auxiliary tilt over tower (planned for summer 2016) and decide whether to use a longer mast (3m) on a shorter tower (6m) or weld the construction longer (8m) and shorten the top tube? And most of all: if I should replace my current antennas with a single SteppIR or UltraBeam and if so: what model?

Let’s hope the world doesn’t stop turning because I’m not in CQ WW CW.

Update Monday Nov 30th:

As it turns out it was a wise decision to leave the tower down. Friday night to Saturday was windy but accaptable. Saturday was a nice day as described above. Too bad for one mole so far (RIP). But Saturday evening and night were very bad. Gusts over 80km/hr. Sunday was wet and windy but as the afternoon slid into evening, the wind was howling and the antennas were shaking again. C’est la vie as they say. We’re in for another few days of raining cats and dogs and unfortunately also very strong winds. Over 80km/hr on the forecast maps. And I’ve come to learn these are very accurate starting three days ahead. But a real winter? Calm and cold weather with a snow deck to boot? No where to be seen in Europe. And no signs of that either in the near future. Yesterday evening at the most gusty time it was 12.5°C. Go figure. No need to trade the summer tires for winter tires any time soon.

And it seems the world is still turning…   ☺☻