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Everything ON5ZO / OQ5M has to ventilate about ham radio.

Send meaningful CW by hand and drink from glass simultaneously = success.

Send meaningful CW by hand and pour drink from bottle into glass = fail.

Conclusion: drinking goes without thinking (hey that rhymes) but pouring a glass full takes concentration. As does sending meaningful CW.

Fact: I’m not much of a multitasker.

No worries. There is a detectable heartbeat. It even approaches overdrive sometimes. But you can’t detect much RF being radiated. That does not mean there is nothing happening here. I just don’t feel like writing much, and honestly there isn’t much to be written on the ham radio level. Not YET!

About two weeks ago I reassembled the WARC vertical with its elevated radials. I had a sunrise ball on 30 on Saturday (like I said, two weeks ago). The 10 MHz path to W6/7 is still there. Darn that sunrise comes pretty early on a weekend with no contest! But it was fun so why not do it again on Sunday? A bust. I got hardly any replies to my CQ and the RBN showed pretty low values. What a difference a day makes!

Belgium wouldn’t be Belgium if the nice spring weather wouldn’t suddenly exaggerate and produce thunder and lighting. So I had to unplug the whole shebang again. And when the station is unplugged and disconnected, you don’t just hop into the shack for a quickie. Luckily I took precautions as one severe lightning strike took out cable TV and internet access for a few hours. No damage at my place but a CATV node in the neighbourhood got taken out.

Now that Dayton is behind us and the Big News got out: over the last month I spent quite a few hours testing the brand new N1MMLogger coming out. Don’t ask me when. I had the privilege to be part of a team that got to try the Dot Net version and look for bugs. I haven’t had the chance to run a contest with it but I did log 150 ‘general DX’ contacts in CW and it seems to work. Everything old is still there – at least what I am using, and there are some new and reworked features. I also worked closely with N2AMG who is part of the select team that actually writes the code. He was the lucky one *wink* to rework the WAE code and provide the new QTC interface. I only tried CW so far but I guess it’s ready to use. I would use it. I will use it. Although you can test all you want, there will probably something that you don’t think about that pops up in a live situation.

What else? Gee either I forgot or there just isn’t something to report. Apart from the job that pays the bills and the household/garden/kids, I have been working on a hardware project for future use. But there still is a lot of work to be done. Mostly construction and welding.

I also finished the log checking for the UBA SSB contest. And I pre-processed the CW logs in order to start the actual checking. Once again I came across some pretty darn ridiculous user errors. And it still is next to impossible for some people to synchronise the date and time on their logging computers. Oh well, I stopped ranting about that here for now. It’s just much easier to fix the errors myself with the help of Marc ON7SS than to mail back and forth trying to get the operator to fix it. Or make him understand the problem.

Next week: WPX CW. Unfortunately I have an event at work on Sunday *grouch grouch* so it’ll be SB-something. I have yet to decide what. If anything because early predictions once again mention thunderstorms. Reminds me of the 2010 edition

PS: 2410 spam comments blocked in three weeks time!

You probably noted a big hiatus between this and the previous post. Say what? You didn’t even miss my writings? I find that hard to believe.

It’s been over four weeks since my last QSO. It’s not that I didn’t want to make contacts or play radio. Quite the contrary. But I decided to tackle a few big garden projects and get it over with. The plan is to do all the obligatory dirty and heavy chores before summer and have fun while doing light pleasant work (mostly ham related!) during the holidays. And be in the shack a lot. ‘A lot’ being: when social life permits.

After expanding the garden with a few hundred square meters last year, I still had to deal with a difference in height of seventy centimetres between the old and new garden. The biggest part got levelled last September with two truckloads of clean soil. But where the difference was too big to level it, I decided to build a retaining wall.

I had to make a concrete foundation to support a wooden structure that in turn holds panels of tropical hardwood. I chose this solution because it was half the price of any other alternative. Like concrete stacking blocks or pour myself a concrete wall in a mould. The cheapest solution was putting down prefabricated concrete L shapes. But these weigh 250 kilograms each. I can lift some weight but not this. The gabion that seems to be popular these days, was even almost three times the price and that’s without the foundation needed for the iron frame to stay in place.

Working all alone and not exactly being an experienced mason or woodworker, this took quite some time. I spent most of the Easter holidays working ten hours a day. Believe me the urge of being in the shack after that was completely absent. That said, I would do it completely different if I had to start over. Live and learn I guess.

After the wall was mostly finished, I had to haul another truckload of soil from the front of the house to the back of the garden and distribute it to split the remaining difference in height and fill all the gaps. I really wanted to get this job done and seed grass so that all the dirt will be turned into a nice green lawn. Not only does it look better, but no matter how many acres of grass you have, that square foot of dirt is way more appealing to the kids. Even more appealing than the climbing tower with slide I also put up last month. It feels strange to bury wooden poles in concrete knowing they won’t be supporting any part of an antenna.

So the sooner all naked soil is turned into lawn, the sooner I won’t have to chase the kids out of the dirt anymore. You can see read I’ve done a lot of work. Luckily the weather was very cooperative. Warm to hot, mostly sunny to very bright sunshine. I even got a light sunburn on the nose. And of course when you roll out the anti root foil, the wind pops up for your enjoyment. It hasn’t rained a lot lately and I had to sprinkle the new lawn quite a bit but I did three big patches so far and each patch was green after two weeks with the seeds germinating in under a week. Thanks to warm weather, sunshine and keeping it moist.

I still need to remake and put up the low band antenna. I won’t be needing it before IARU in July since I can’t do WPX due to a work related activity on Sunday. Bummer so I think it’ll be a SB40 effort. I also need to reinstall the WARC vertical. I haven’t bothered because there have been T-storm warnings off and on and we’ve even had a few real thunder and lightning shows already so I keep the coaxes unattached.

To round up: time for some radio activity, or at least do some station related work outside!

I wasn’t really sure what to do with this one. Certainly not an all bander. I’ve had it with 40m SSB. Furthermore I took down all the radials and dismantled the feedpoint of the 80/160 antenna. Add to that the nice warm sunny weather that was announced, which made  the thought of working on some garden projects tempting. On the other hand I’m trying to recover from a knee injury. Nothing bad but since I didn’t bother to take care of it and went on and on, it only got worse instead of going away. Doctor’s advice after a CT scan was to rest and certainly not to stress the knee. The work I had in mind involves digging holes, driving the wheelbarrow, haul concrete blocks etc. So spending the daylight hours in the shack and the night in bed would fit the doctor’s prescription.

The only knot to untie was: SB15 or SB10? I have the feeling that for general coverage my antenna works best on 15 since it’s 1.5 lamba high. It’s too high for ten meters for most places. I could of course crank it up half way but that would limit me if I decided to switch bands after all. Add to that that A/K values were pretty high the days before. So I decided to do a SB15(A) entry.

I started Saturday well after sunrise. The band was open but the rate was low. I noticed that the bandmap was filling way faster on ten meters. Wrong choice? I got called by nice DX and a steady stream of JA callers. A steady stream is not a pile up. As the band opened up, the QRM and splatter grew and the occasional frequency fight had to be fought. One nasty situation occurred with a Chinese station. I had turned the antenna to the USA but B4L suddenly sipped through. He bumped into my spot and settled there. I turned the beam back to the east and he was loud. I tried reasoning but he didn’t reply. Not to me and not to any other caller. I was under the impression that he was deaf as a post. Or a rock, since a W6 station spotted him later on commenting: “another rock that can’t hear”. Since rate was slow and I had no other place to go to, I sweat it out until he was gone.

When the band opened up to the west with loud east coast stations, the rate picked up but it wasn’t really fun. It was too slow and too much SSB-ish. I don’t remember any special events and I took a long break to water the newly sown patch in the lawn, have dinner, play a while with the kids and put them to bed. I played some more after sunset and went to bed.

Sunday morning, QRV around 0700utc. Switched on the amp and heard a crackling and buzzing sound. Uh oh! Troubles! High voltages arcs? It was intermittent but it didn’t go away during the warm up period. I could not trace the source from the front so I walked around the desk. I heard it again but it wasn’t coming from the amp. It was coming from the window? I turned around and saw a HUGE wasp bumping into the window, trying to get out. How did this giant wasp get in here? I opened the window and gently guided the wasp into freedom. I hope this was a one off mistake and not the first of many insects in the shack.

Things didn’t work well on my band of choice. Surely the band was open. I even had a nice QRG. But there were no callers and S&P yielded not many new stations. Everyone seemed to be on Ten Meters once again. I called CQ in vain and with the rate meter showing a lousy 25 QSO / hr, I switched everything off. I decided this beautiful WX and free time could be better spent trying the oldest son to ride his new big bicycle. That went well until we discovered that riding is easy but stopping is not. Here ends today’s cycling lesson. My knee was happy. I traded the bike for pots and pans and made spaghetti for lunch. To compensate for the lousy bike coaching the oldest and I played with the fire engine and police helicopter while the youngest took his afternoon nap. Then it was time to do some more contesting. No goals, no stress, no pressure. My hope was for a fast long high rate run with those snappy American operators. That’s the only time I like SSB.

Once again I noticed that no spot means no rate. A spot means some rate. Two consecutive spots make for some sustained rate. Late in the afternoon with 900 contacts on the counter and fed up with chirping splatter sounds, I cracked and went to Ten Meters. Sure enough: me being fresh meat and some spots so soon after my first CQ there I had 250 QSO on Ten too. My best rate so far this weekend. It was time to go to fifteen meters again. And I got lucky there too. Around sunset things improved and after sunset the band exploded. High sustained rate (+100 is high for me on SSB) and tons of west coast. During slower moments (read: between two spots) I looked some of them up. Many were using trapped multi-band verticals, random wires with tuners and even one attic dipole. Hail to thee, Lord Propagation! I had a few KL7 callers, I asked if they were truly in Alaska. Same with Hawaii. Crazy! Around 2200 utc signals weakened and soon after the band was going down. I still had more than one hour until the end of the contest so I went to 20m. But that band didn’t have loud signals and seemed noisy so I worked a few friends and went to bed.

Maybe I should have done some work on Saturday and play Fresh Meat on fifteen on Sunday alone? After all the best times were late on Sunday. Oh well. Coulda-shoulda-woulda.

Some figures about my score on 15:

  • 1300 QSO (yes a round number).
  • Of which 711 USA (almost 55%).
  • Worked 98 Canadians of which 17 from VE7.
  • 4x KH6 and 6x KL7. A record in one contest (single band makes it even more remarkable).
  • Most worked WPX:
    • VE3 = 34x
    • W8 = 23x
    • K7 and K9: a draw with 19x
    • N2 = 18x

This ends the season. Now two months off until WPX CW. Time to get that garden nice and clean.

I really love this contest. Everyone can work everyone, it’s only twenty four hours. There is always enough activity yet the bands are not overloaded. Not too far away from the targeted area for the low bands, and not too close for the higher bands. What’s not to like? With good propagation to boot!

One of the best moments since last summer for setting up on Friday. Steel blue sky. Sunny. Absolutely wind still. Warm. I took a lawn chair, placed it near the tower base and let the electric winch do its job. Yes the chairs are already out on the terrace. That’s how good the weather was the last fortnight. We’ve had worse summers. Let’s hope it’ll stay or get better.

I took a false start because I was over-confident in my setup. I didn’t care to prepare and check the software but for some reason I loaded the wrong CW messages for the F-buttons. My bad. Lost a good minute and then off I went. I maintained a steady stream of QSO on 10+15. Not too fast, about 120/hr so I tried using radio #2 intensively. The more contacts you make, the harder this becomes as the serial gets longer. And people not always copy 5NN1589 right away. That kills the smooth SO2R operation. A fixed and predictable 5NN14 is more fit. Conditions were very good and there were plenty of stations to work, even non-UA. Great! For hours on end the rate stayed well above 100.

But it inevitable slows down as the evening rolls into the night. Between 0100 and 0500 utc the activity dips as does the operator’s energy level and it coincides with the urge to sleep. I was longing for a nap but I resisted. I took a few short breaks. One to get a snack because I was hungry. I was glad to stretch my legs. Another short break to put on a sweater and long pants over my shorts because I was getting cold. And one forced break to go ‘meditate in the small shack’. While I didn’t take an official nap I had a ten minute black out.

I was glad that I had another fast hour when I started mining the unspoiled terrain on 80. An excursion to 160 did not produce much surprises. I kept alternating bands and use the second radio as much as I could. When I moved to 160 I got a few W/VE calls there with the best signals from that region in a long time. All signals in the clear. No QRN / QSB. Too bad not many stations from NA / East Coast were on.

Around sunrise I really felt miserable. Every cell in my body was screaming for a nap. Inevitably the usual question arose: why do we do this to ourselves? Furthermore my oldest son decided to trade his bed for my spare operating chair in the shack. The blinking LED bars on the amp were fascinating to him for a short while but soon he started needing attention. I reacted a bit cranky. I felt tired, hungry and with sunrise in progress and a blatant shortage on low band mults – it just wasn’t the right time for quality time between father and first born. Thank god for TV and the cartoon channels. And a banana while I was downstairs.

The low bands were empty soon after sunrise. Except for fourty which I ran while skimming twenty. After a while I moved to twenty as a run band and did S&P on 15 and then run 15 and S&P 10 and so on and so on. I don’t really remember much anymore. I was on auto pilot and I was really focused on increasing the QSO count with radio #2. I must say that it is very exhausting to operate like this. And you forget more of what happened. The longer numbers make short snappy SO2R a bit hard. And sometimes it seems that more and more CW operators are able to copy callsigns and ENNxx with xx being a predicable prefilled exchange, but nothing like 5NN2135 at 32 WPM.

Yes it was fun. And I topped my own Belgian record for CW HP by almost two million.

I’ve never done this one seriously. Some years I make a few QSO but mostly nothing. It’s SSB and there are many other contests this period. Like ARRL CW, UBA CW, RDXC and even WPX SSB. Yet this year I wanted to do more than usual yet not a full time effort. The tower was still up 2/3rd so I strung the 80m GP as an inverted L in stead of straight up when the tower is telescoped to the max. I decided to forget all about 160. After all I did not intend to spend the night in the shack. I just wanted to work the big guns on 80 around my sunrise.

But you know me… S&P is nothing for me. W4PA used the term ‘a rate hog’ back when he was still writing. So I tried running. I’m sure I wasn’t putting out a killer signal on eighty. But conditions were not too bad. Apparently I was trespassing on a frequency that seems to be property of some US Blabbermouth net where people without callsigns talk for hours on end about who knows what. YES I ASKED IF THE FREQUENCY WAS CLEAR, two times like I always do! I don’t get it. I found a clear frequency because there aren’t many people on the band. I ask two times if the QRG is clear. I hear nothing close to my TX frequency. I fire up a few CQ and then these contest bashers show up.

Even a much desired packet spot didn’t help. Some people called me, but I just couldn’t copy them under the QRM. A few minutes later I did a last S&P round and the op at W3LPL told me ‘I called you a few minutes ago but obviously some people didn’t want us there’. I guess the bunch of lids must have been very loud in the USA since they were pretty loud out here.

I moved to 40 and tried to get a run going. Finding a clear QRG was not as easy as on 80, but since 20 seemed to be open already after EU sunrise (did it close?), many people left 40 for 20. Again a double check for a clear frequency. Off to the races. Soon my RX is clogged with S9+40dB mayhem. Cause: less than 1 kHz away some French bunch talks about the weather. The weather for heaven’s sake! Since my run got torpedoed I took the time to listen to what they had to say. I know I’m strongly biased but why would one talk to a friend a few hundred miles away while the band is full to the brim with DX? The fact that it’s warm and sunny really needs to be communicated and ham radio definitely  is the best way to do that. NOT! I’m a contester baby, and I will never understand that people get on the air on a contest band during a contest and NOT take part in it. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

So Saturday started with a pretty uneventful sunrise. I worked a few early birds on twenty and was amazed by the strength of the signals this time of the day. But I went outside and worked in the garden for about an hour and a half. The beautiful spring weather is a welcomed change from the wet and windy months behind us. What’s that coiled up piece of wire doing here? Oops, I forgot to roll out an elevated radial that I took down to facilitate the job in progress. I did so before going back to the shack.

I stuck to the bands from 1200 to about 2030 UTC. The bands were in good shape. It struck me that the rate was only so-so but grew exponentially after a packet spot. Then it calmed down and it was waiting for the next packet spot. Again so Sunday morning on 80 at sunrise. The usual suspects were loud and one call was all I needed to log the contact. Yet my CQ remained unanswered. I was about to give up when someone spotted me. A short burst of mini pile up and then nothing again. I had the same happening again on all the bands: modest rate but a spot got things going. And if no fresh spot arrived, things could slow down again. So having your call in the bandmaps seems to be vital these days, more so on SSB than on CW.

This knowledge seems to drive people to packet cluster cheerleading or even plain self spotting. Once again I noticed a few hardcore self spotters / cheerleaders from my own country. And why not throw in a shopping list like ‘LOOKING NORTH DAKOTA’ commentary to the spot? The Belgian dual callsign system makes it easy to spot yourself with a legit callsign that is your own yet different from the call you use in the contest. I’m easily aggravated and it’s in my blood to get cranky for nothing, and although it shouldn’t this pathetic DX cluster abuse pisses me off. But just like in everyday life, standards are dropping faster than atmospheric pressure over the eastern Atlantic. Self control? Respect? Honor? Striving for perfection? Just look at traffic, waiting lines, crowded events etc. And don’t get me started about spelling and grammar on the Internet or elsewhere for that matter! A sign of the times. The pendulum seems to be swinging very far away from the equilibrium and in the wrong direction. At least to me. But I digress.

Was it fun? Yes. It’s always a pleasure to be greeted by friends whom we’ve never met. I really like the fast snappy and strictly to the point mini-pile ups with W/VE. I wish it could always be like that. But it still is SSB and I prefer CW. Moreover my modest station plays much better in CW than on phone. I’ve had it with SSB for now. Especially 40/80. The splatter, the QRM, the brutality of this to the ears – CW is relaxation but this isn’t. I kick ass on 40 in CW but the same setup is worthless in SSB.

I’ll probably do SB15 in WPX SSB. Because any contest is better than no contest. Except for the IOTA contest.

This one was almost a week ago! I didn’t feel like writing something because… because of many reasons but mainly because it’s hard not to repeat oneself in this niche market of ham radio blogging. Here we go, in short.

Weather was good. For a change! The tower was still 2/3rd up after the ARRL DX CW a week before. I cranked it completely up on Saturday morning and unhooked the 160 wire so I could hoist up the remaining 80m wire in an optimum fashion.

The Belgian participants can pick between 6/12/24 hour categories. I used to do 12 but since a few years I’ve been doing 24. Because I suck at planning breaks. You can catch some sleep nevertheless without missing too much. I stuck to this plan this year too. I might have planned the sleep at the wrong time. What’s new? But I was tired and things went too slow to keep on trying.

Belgians seemed to be absent. Or at least I didn’t see too many spotted and didn’t hear many. Small country, few hams, not a real contesting mentality and passionate CW contest operators are scarce around here. My only concern was local fellow club member OR5T whom you probably worked in the past as ON4ALY. He was omnipresent on the air as I S&P’d, he called me when I was running and I saw plenty spots for him. And he always gave big numbers. At a given point he was handing out bigger numbers than me. That was after a break that I had planned to be short but that turned out longer since I fell asleep. Told‘ya I was tired. I needed to catch up since I thought he would be in my category. Hard to catch up in the middle of the night in this contest. The average rate was pretty low still I managed to catch up and decided to catch some more sleep. I caught up once, I’ll do it again.

Then the sun rose. SR on 40/80 was a bust. No VK/ZL. On 80 I’m not used to working into Down Under, it’s always a treat. But in CW on 40? Strange I didn’t work one. Other than that it was fun. The result is about the same as least year; slightly better with a dozen more mults. But not as good as record year 2012 where participation was massive. I think participation was a bit down this year. I made 1477 real QSO with quite some dupes (not counted).

After the contest I decided to lower the tower again to 2/3rd because they predicted two windy days. No storm though. That forecast turned out to be spot on. Strong gusts but no problem. So with this setup, I might just make a few QSO this weekend in the ARRL DX SSB too.

See previous post: no full time effort. After a turbulent 36 hours the wind finally calmed down and the sun even came out on Sunday. The forecast showed acceptable weather the coming days so I decided to crank up the tower one level. It was still windy enough so I had to fight with all the ropes but after almost ten years, I’ve got it mastered.

I didn’t want to say it too loud but my hopes were set to 1k QSO. Around 1200 utc I started on 20m because I thought it was too early for 15/10. After a slow few contacts I decided to go to fifteen meters anyway. The rate went up but not spectacular. After about 150 contacts I went to ten meters. KABOOM! Rate bomb!

ARRL2014rate

The only two slow hours in between were when I took a break for dinner overlapping the two clock hours. By this time the winds had completely disappeared, not even a gentle breeze. I enjoyed ten minutes outside watching a very nice moonrise. I could actually hear nature in stead of the eerie noises made by the strong winds the previous days (weeks). This scenery was relaxing, the calm of nature, seeing the moon rise and knowing that the 1000 QSO were within reach with the best time for 20 still ahead and a virgin forty meters band.

It was a close race but just before the bell rang I logged my 1400th contact in less than twelve hours. In short: it was fun. Let’s hope for the end of the crappy weather and that the propagation stays with us.

After the contest OT1A asked, given the rates, if it makes a difference cranking up the tower another level, going from an antenna height of 14-15m to 21-22m above the ground. The answer is:

  • NO if you’re only in it for the fun like I was now.
  • YES if you do an all out serious effort.

The biggest difference is on 20m where the antenna of course is too low then for sustained DX runs. At a full wave it’s even so-so. If the antenna is higher, the band stays open longer especially to W6/7 and VE6/7. The difference between 2/3rd or fully up is big on that band on that path. On the other bands just like on 20 you don’t get to work the second or even third layer of weaker small pistols.

But this setup works great even at the lower height, especially given its modest size and visual impact. It works very well when it’s up all the way. Apples and oranges of course, but a modest tower, a small tribander and a rotary dipole with some copper wire for 80/160 provide tons of fun and can achieve pretty good scores. Pretty good, but not good enough to get to WRTC…

Warning: Nerd metaphor ahead! 

Freezing cold in North America and way too hot for the season in Europe. That reminds me of a peltier element.

Warned ‘ya.

It’s after 1AM local time on Saturday as I type this. By now I should have logged a bunch of Americans and Canadians already leaving my 40m antenna steaming in the cold. After all the ARRL DX CW is one of my favourite contests. But there is no freezing cold and the streak of storms bringing warm air isn’t over yet so I carve another notch in the stick. One more storm, the stick is running short. Last week on Friday (100km/hr), two days ago on Wednesday (70-80 km/hr) and right now (90-100 km/hr predicted) and things are said to get worse the coming twelve hours. I’ll be glad if I still have all my antennas functioning in twelve hours from now.

It’s useless for me to go to bed. Apart from the worrying about the tower and antennas, there are the noises like howling wind, rattling window shutters, the utility cable… And not to forget the TV distribution coax cable that run across the street from a pole to the wall of the house. This cable swings in the wind but during strong winds it moves so far that it bumps against the roof tiles. And I sleep lie awake right under these roof tiles. So I decided to stay downstairs and burn some midnight oil. I’d rather be contesting but this POS WX just keeps on sticking rods in my wheels. Lost CQ WW SSB, my low band DX season in December down the drain and in January a crippled version of the UBA DX SSB. All because of never ceasing very strong winds and a bunch of storms.

To put things in perspective: I admit that it’s just an inconvenience. So far there is no damage here. Only a dipole that needs to be realigned with the yagi. If your entire antenna farm gets bent because of an ice storm (East Coast USA) or if there is water in your house for over six weeks, or if hurricane force winds batter your tower for weeks on end (UK), it’s a different story. But since my own frame of reference is a bit less catastrophic, having to sit out yet another contest in stead of participating in it is no fun.

To kill time and get some distraction I decided to start with the UBA DX SSB log checking. The log submission deadline had passed a few days ago. The checking went along pretty well. I spent a great amount of time coding it up in previous years so that 99% or more of the QSO can be accurately checked automatically. Only weird exceptions, busted calls, two way contacts logged on different bands (who is right?) and goofball QSO that can’t be accurately tracked by a machine require human intervention. So I let the process run and watched some TV. Then I started going through the manual part.

On two occasions the wind gusts were so hard that I went upstairs to look through the window and check if the antennas were fine. There is no window on the ground level that gives a view on the tower. It turned out they were looking OK but it’s always crossing fingers. At around 4AM local time the TV channel was having hiccups once in a while. I guessed it was a problem on the TV station’s end but changing the channel had no effect. By now the DVB / MPEG decoder showed a message that the signal was dropping out. No worries since Internet cable access was still functioning. I can live without TV but I’m hooked on online connectivity. Hooked for practical reasons, not addicted! I was getting so tired I quit log checking with the finish in sight and hit the couch. I woke up around 7 AM and wanted to check WX charts online. No internet anymore and the TV decoder still had no signal. The cable modem indicated loss of signal too. My fear was that the never ending violent swinging of the coax running across the street made the cable break. Actually if this would be the only damage, I will be glad since it’s not something I need to fix myself. A call to the utility / cable company would get things fixed. If my antennas fall down it’s a job for myself.

It was getting light outside so I raised the window roller shutter on the side facing the cable and the utility pole. It was still up there, which is good. But the connection to the junction box on the utility pole might be broken. That is something I can not check myself. As a desperate measure I did what I always do when trying to troubleshoot an electronic system: unplug AC power, count 10 crocodiles (alligators work too), plug power cord back in. I did my magic trick with the active signal splitter and the cable modem. Sure enough: all the right led’s were blinking. TV and WWW restored.

The rest of Saturday was spent inside. Trying to kill time and get my mind of the fact that I won’t be making two thousand contacts with W/VE this time. I ran some errands, watched some TV, played with the kids. The storm moved on and only the occasional gust remained. Pretty strong gusts but in the light of the recent storms, it’s all relative. By the end of the day I went outside and did a small tour in the garden. How I long for dry and calm weather so I can start all my planned projects. Some ham radio related, some just plain work in the garden. But I need to get out and not be stuck inside. I could live with being stuck in the shack running contests, but not being held hostage by Atlantic depressions.

I also managed to finish the entire log checking. Less than three weeks after the contest. A record. There weren’t as many logs as before (530 or so) and the number of contacts was down too (only 80 000 two way contacts). Checking the CW contest is much more work because of double the number of logs and at least triple the number of contacts. But for now I’ll put the SSB part in the fridge and prepare to accept the CW logs of next week’s contest.

Next week’s contest? Oh drat – current WX forecasts seem to indicate yet another increase in average wind speed and strong gusts. No storm is on the maps right now, but I really don’t trust it. It’s high time for me to do another CW contest since my last serious all out effort was CQ WW CW 2013. That’s almost three months. No wonder I have the contester’s blues. Bloody weather!

So in due time REALLY SOON I hope I can leave this streak of ditched contests and storm related post behind and start talking again about high rates, exotic multipliers, broken records, new antennas, improved radial systems, burying extra coax and control cables, added RX antennas, plans to put up an entire new yagi etc.

Who’d have thought?

 Humboldts in the wild on the coast of Peru and Chile can be subjected to some pretty wild extremes of weather. What they don’t get though is weeks of almost daily downpours and high winds. After the first week out birds were just a bit subdued, but after over a month now, they are thoroughly fed-up and miserable, much like the rest of us.

There you go. Read the full article here.

This season indeed has become a horror winter as some quack predicted. Not because of toe biting cold and snow piling up. I wish! It’s just too darn hot this time of the year. And rain falls down by the buckets accompanied by wind and entangled in more long lasting showers and genuine storms. I’ve lost track of how many periods with storm like winds. I think four or five since December. And that’s not counting the two sudden short lived storm fronts early and end of January. And in between more wind and rain and every two weeks one dry, calm and sunny day to make you long for summer. Only to brutally interrupt the dream with yet another round of wind and rain.

Anyway these depressing depressions just won’t go. In stead they keep coming. Bringing lots of precipitation and strong winds for days on end. And another few are aligned to make both humans and penguins miserable the coming days. That means after a bunch of contests already missed (WW SSB & 9ACW) or done crippled with a low tower (RAEM & UBA SSB), my yearly round of ARRL DX CW currently also goes down the drain. It’s becoming ridiculous. I keep my fingers crossed but it seems the wind speed will be a tad too high on Friday to crank up the tower. Mind you: it’s not only because of this tower situation that the weather drives me crazy. It’s also because you just have to stay inside. And I like to be outdoors. Walk the dog. Work in the garden. Work on some DIY projects. It’s not something that you do in strong winds and continuous rain pouring down. And the lack of sunlight has other effects on the human body and soul too. Vitamin D anyone? My gloomy moods caused by this depressing WX can be traced back to my early teens. Maybe even earlier. I could never cope with this crappy weather for days on end. Let alone weeks. Or months…

Back to ham radio! I hang out on the bands anyway. Chasing R22 Russians goes well with the low yagi. What’s up with that? They are very wanted. And the WARC vertical might not be a good antenna, it makes for some DX anyway. And there’s FT5ZM. I decided not to go there anymore and leave the monkey business to the monkeys. But I can’t help it, it’s stronger than me. So I found myself trying to work FT5ZM on 10m SSB. At least: that’s what the cluster said. The operator signed ‘QRZ’ with an US English tongue. And only QRZ. Not even ‘QRZUP’ anymore. The crisis cuts deep so we need to economize. At a given point after I had tried calling a dozen times, I decided to count. Nineteen QSO and seven minutes without any ID or information on where to send. Not counting the elapsed time and contacts made during the period I was calling and not yet counting. Then the operator had a brilliant idea to ID: “FT5ZM listening 500 for North America South America’. So the trick is to only ID and give away your listening frequency when working NA/SA. Screw EU. That policy got officialised later on. And so he started working USA listening on 28500. That’s when I walked away.

Yesterday we had wind gusts up to 100 km/hr as measured by the national meteorological institute. By the time I got home this deep storm depression had already moved north. Strange: around noon before there was a light storm and by 1600 was virtually no wind. Visually all was ok up the tower. The 40m dipole still is shifted from a previous storm a few weeks ago. But it didn’t move further away. Nor did it get blown back into place. I fired up the station and did a quick RX / SWR check and everything was still working. I went down to prepare evening dinner, do some household chores and play with the kids and forgot about the shack. When I went upstairs to go to bed late in the evening, I heard all the fans blowing which reminded me I still had to switch everything off.

But what does a ham radio operator do? Switch it off? No. In stead he quickly scans the bands and calls CQ. Like on 30m. I must admit: RBN showed a few FT5ZM spots. They were very weak on 10115 but the Americans calling them were loud. So my own CQ harvested about twenty Americans. Best was Texas and a real whiskey zero. One VE1. And a HS0. And a FG. Then the cluster showed a German spotting FT5ZM on 20 CW. It was way past local midnight but RBN showed reasonable S/N values from EU skimmers so why not? I turned the antenna (being only 8m high) to 120°. I heard one EU coming back and threw in my call. Worked FT5ZM on 20 CW. It makes a huge difference if / when the EU monkeys are asleep! I decided to go to bed but then RBN showed fresh spots for them on 30. It was a welcome change that the operator signed ‘FT5ZM UP 2’ after every QSO. Thanks OM. I had a small problem copying them. They were pretty loud but an ongoing nearby QSO caused QRM. I worked them in the end for my fourth CW QSO with Amsterdam. Sweet dreams EU Monkeys. Then this EU monkey went to bed too…