ON5ZO – OQ5M

I know you’ve all been anxiously waiting for my next post. I know y’all stare at the RBN for my call to pop up. I know the hordes are chewing their nails off awaiting their turn for another QSO with the elusive OQ5M… But it just doesn’t fit into my mood and schedule.

The first six months of the year were productive: I was QRV in most contests. Then there was OT70 and ON18FWC. Those two special events made me reschedule or cancel many things just to be in the shack and on the air. Big fun yielding thousands of contacts!

We did a four man CW Field Day in June and finished second with more Q but five less multipliers. I really would like to know what mults ON6CK/P worked that we didn’t. And where. And when. And how. Should we try again in 2019?

I did IARU as OP0HQ (20 CW) in July. Then four weeks of sweating my butt off with tropic temperatures approaching 40°C at times. Not quite the time to be in the shack – not even taking propagation into account. Highlight: my longtime mail-pal and MA contest-beacon W1EBI came to visit for about 36 hours between WRTC in Berlin and flying home.  Then I did EUHFC in early August. And then: nothing. Nothing ham-radio.

I tried to do some fun family things in August. And we also did round #2 of the house’s total makeover. Another two weeks of moving stuff outside, tearing down ceilings, breaking up floors, grinding in walls, put power cables and coax and UTP in, watch the plasterboard go up and apply layers of joint fillers (not the green herb but the white powder… well not that white powder either…). Then another few days to finish walls, glue wallpaper, paint paint paint and then some painting.

And I also changed jobs. Did you know a bad employer can bring you down? New job: once again it brings the need for me to reinvent myself again as a teacher. And the workload that goes along with that.

Last week I scratched my head trying to remember where the cables had to go after a few special setups the first half of 2018. Then I launched the station for CQ WW RTTY. I was glad to see everything still worked. Even RTTY! After four (yes 4) contacts I had enough. With poor conditions and the tower down…

Last Sunday was the annual biggest ham fair in Belgium. ON4BHQ was the driver and I provided the company. My impression was that it was a calm edition with possibly less people there. Maybe less commercial stands too? That’s a totally subjective impression not backed up by official statistics. I was glad to meet a few of the familiar faces and found three like-minded souls when it comes to FT8. I was called a dinosaur by a no-coder because I still prefer CW over anything else while ‘he’ (?) worked DXCC in FT8 in a nick of time. Heck I don’t even have an appetite for the stuff in the ‘else’ basket. Difference: this dinosaur can boot a PC and install software too while he can’t copy a dit from a dah.

So it’s clear that I haven’t been in a radio mood. I guess propagation is what it is right now so I just don’t bother too much for now and hope to do some of the fall contests (both WW, LZDX). And be QRV a lot in December. I hope I’ll have a few calmer weeks then and that everything from 10 MHz and below is sizzling.

73!

As of today my website runs on HTTPS. You should see the closed padlock icon in the address bar.

This won’t make much difference to you except that HTTPS is supposed to deliver the content faster than plain old HTTP. And google supposedly ranks secure pages higher. Yay!

Thanks to my hosting provider and the Let’s Encrypt certificate authority and a WordPress plugin (Really Simple SSL), the transition took just a few mouse clicks.

I never felt more secure…   ☺

 

With the absence of real achievements to brag about, this will have to do.

By now I know I am pretty accurate when it comes to logging, but it’s cool to find my callsign listed in two ARRL documents: the Accuracy Index Tables for the 2018 edition of the ARRL DX CW (link) and SSB (link) contests.

I find accuracy important because I count it among the essentials skills a complete contester should have. Even my six year old could log contacts if I showed him how. But for now what he’ll type won’t make much sense. Clean logs and log checking reports that won’t turn my cheeks red – how do I do that? It’s actually pretty simple if you follow a few rules.

  • KNOW CW! Yes, learn how to copy CW so that you don’t put any nonsense in the log.
  • A contest is not a casino. Don’t gamble. Ask for repeats until you’re sure. Only confirm and log the contact when the copied info makes sense.
  • About making sense: THINK! After ten years of log checking for both UBA DX contests, I have seen people logging the most crazy impossible BS. Callsigns like ‘portable five’ are logged as /P5. Yeah right. Or logging a call from a country 12000 km away on 80m at high noon. Or serial exchange #358 when only ten minutes into the contest.  Stuff like that. You don’t write this in your log if you think about it when you log the contact.
  • And finally: at least try to be accurate if you want to. If you just want to write down some characters because you don’t care: feel free.

After the OP0HQ operation for this year’s IARU the following issue came up. It’s also a problem in other contests. What to do with guys and gals who mix up WAZ and IARU zones or send a serial number? Of course you can try to talk the station into giving the exact exchange. But this isn’t always successful. It almost never is! Especially on CW. KNOW CW – remember?

Contesting’s number one rule: ‘log what is sent’. In most of these cases I simply break this rule and log what is supposed to be logged and not what is being sent. Luckily this situation only occurs a handful of times in a contest – if that. So why do I break the unwritten rule? A bit of gambling after all.

Someone who messes up the zones or doesn’t know what the proper exchange is, is highly unlikely to submit a log. So a cross check of ‘log what is sent’ is impossible. I have no idea what the log checking software does in such a case, but I reckon that the contact will be flagged as bad. So I just avoid that a genuine contact gets removed or worse: penalized because of the other party’s stupidity.

Suppose along the way or after the contest he or she finally gets it and alters the contacts in his log before submitting the Cabrillo file. Suppose he sent 5NN 003 and not 5NN 08. I have 003 in my log. Which is what he sent during the contact. But by the time his log ends up on the contest sponsor’s log checking platform, his log shows 08. What will happen with my QSO? Right: it’s flagged with a bad exchange. I lose a contact because he goofed up. Suppose one of my peers takes a look at my log checking report. I bet he won’t think much of my accuracy skills…

Not much to say about this most enjoyable contest.

I had a great time operating this one, as always. Fun factor? ✔

I used the ‘Post score to distribution server’ function in N1MMLogger+ to get the score cross-posted to the two online scoreboards. Enhanced contesting experience? ✔

Yes it was warm in the shack with our tropical summer 2018 but it has been worse and it was bearable. I had a fan running at max RPM. Operator coolness? ✔

More than 1200 QSO in 12 hours! Average rate +100 over the whole contest? ✔

Rate graph made by N1MMLogger+

I had fun competing with the others via the real time live score. That really helps me to stay focused and in the chair. It seems that the Russian platform is still more popular than the North American equivalent.

I still don’t have the tactics nailed for this contest. I think I did the most S&P ever which might explain that I have more mults than usual. I didn’t do SO2R because of the band switch limitation (which is cool because it adds a twist). But I must think it over as that might be the only way to improve.

The biggest surprise came five minutes ago while trying to put this year’s score in perspective. It seems my claimed 1330 Q / 330 mult / 438900 points is my best score in this contest. During the contest I had no idea about that. There you go. Personal record? ✔

Overview of my scores in EUHFC

Here’s an update to my Big Antenna Question from two and a half years ago.

In short: nothing has changed. TLDR people can quit.

  • I still use the OB11-3 for 10+15+20, on the tower since Spring 2007, never a problem.
  • I still use the Optibeam 40m rotary dipole, on the tower since Spring  2011, never a problem.
  • I still am very happy with how these two antennas perform given their dimensions.
  • I still use homebrewed temporary wire antennas for WARC (triband inverted V, sloping dipoles, ground planes with elevated radials, delta loop).

However, there are some things that did change. First of all: there is no budget for fancy expensive toys (anymore / for now). Instead I now cook dinners in a contemporary kitchen with slick design and modern appliances. And I take a shower in a luxurious twenty-first century bathroom. And the living room is about to get a giant makeover too. Choices, choices…

The Big Antenna Question is still valid though. I can tell you that not a single day goes by that I don’t look at my tower and ask myself that very same question again: what should I so? One antenna covering everything with gain from 7 MHz to 50 MHz would be so nice to have.

After the initial post of December 2015, I had been soliciting some comments about SteppIR and UltraBeam. It’s pretty clear that people confirm my concerns. A few quotes from what people told or e-mailed me:

About some UltraBeam model:

On 30 and 40m It has not any F/B at all, it’s like a dipole at the moment… [snip]… modify the DR and RF dimensions so I can get some GAIN and F/B, low SWR all bands.

And:

It is strong but very heavy and difficult to put in the tower, quite bad manual to install it.

And:

If I had to do it again I would not get it, just a 3El and a dipole for 30-40m.

One person said:

I know at least fifteen Belgian hams using SteppIR antennas and all of them had a problem, from coiled up and jammed conductive ribbons to electronics failure in the control box.

Another UltraBeam owner was happy with his antenna, although he called it too big and reported a lack of communication from the Italian factory.

I must admit I’m not too keen on doing business with Italian companies simply because I have heard more of these stories, not only for ham radio products. There has been a major change in the UltraBeam camp though. The German WiMo has taken over the brand in December 2017. They offer most of the products and took over the production process which they moved to Germany too. I much rather deal with a German company. It’s within driving distance, I speak some German and I’ve been a long time happy customer for WiMo. So that eliminates the communication and cultural issue.

Another thing that has changed: since two years or so OptiBeam also makes log-periodic yagis. Their model OBLY14-5 could suit my needs if I decided to abandon gain on 40+30m. And it has no 6m either. OTOH there is no real advantage over the OB11-5 then. Except that I think it has less visual impact. But then again not enough difference to matter.

The other OptiBeam antennas that have 5 or 6 band coverage are either too big and heavy or only have two elements per band which would be a step back. And that is out of the question.

So today I still am where I got stuck three years ago. I still have a strong desire for one antenna that covers 40+30+20+17+15+12+10+6 with proper gain. But I still prefer a (modest sized) static aluminum antenna over a dynamic plastic one with tons of moving parts. And these two criteria can’t be reconciled.

Since everything is performing great and my wire antennas work for the occasional WARC QSO (mostly 30m for now), I won’t be making any change soon. That OB11-3 is really a great antenna for being such a simple small tribander. I think that’ll be hard to beat.

Maybe upgrading to OB11-5 and 40+30m dipole from OptiBeam would be the best thing to do: cheapest and most foolproof with spare parts available in any serious local hardware store.

Anyway: I probably won’t. Or maybe I will?

I’ve been an ARRL member since 2002. I became a member as a newbie under impulse of one of my local club’s members. I was young and still had a lot to learn… Wouldn’t happen today. He argued that ARRL members enjoy a discount when applying for DXCC or an upgrade sticker. That’s what I did but soon after I lost interest in the DXCC award program and especially the money machine driving the endorsement sticker factory.

I did enjoy reading QST though. Even if half of it is either an ad or VHF/emcomm stuff that I mostly don’t even read. However for two or three years now, I don’t find that many interesting material in QST anymore. This spring I ploughed my way through almost a year of unopened QST wraps. Much to my surprise, I worked down that stack quite fast.

I am not bashing the ARRL because they can’t do that much for me as a non-US ham. I’m not putting down the editors of QST because they really do a fine job. It’s me: what’s in it is either old news or cannot raise my interest.

I don’t even keep the magazines. Once a year I offer all my QST magazines to a ham friend two towns away. He reads them and I think he then offers them to his club’s library.

A one year membership with 12 editions of QST costs $ 76 or € 65. It’s not that I can buy a new rig or amp with that so it is not a burden on the budget. But a while ago I adopted a new rule (not just in the hobby, in all aspects of life): I don’t spend money on something I have no use for. And I have no use for an ARRL membership and I will not miss QST.

The only thing I will miss is the online archive with the product reviews. But then again it’s not that I use that often (less than once a year) and in case of emergency I’m sure one of my US friends will be happy to forward a PDF.

The digital online QST is not my thing either. I’m not on the digital train yet (no smartphone, no tablet, no e-reader). I prefer tangible stuff. On the other hand there are so many online resources I consult that don’t even have a paper equivalent. This needs some reflecting.

I considered taking a subscription to NCJ. That would be a compromise: half the price (but also half the number of issues), and maybe that pure contest-related content might be more a match to my interest? And what with online (PDF?) issues of CQ Amateur Radio Magazine?

I think I will let my ARRL membership expire.

As much as I love to build simple antennas (and use ‘m of course!), I’m not too keen on antenna modelling. I have the classic ARRL books. When I started out people told me these were ‘must haves’. Well, I have ’m. ON4UN’s Low Band book is on the shelf too, a reference I consider way too theoretical for my purposes. A targeted Internet query results in tons of useful and megatons of less useful information. That is how I have made most of my antennas. I’ve got the basic antennas in my head right now.

I have bought a license for EZNEC somewhere around 2003-2004 according to my mail archives. I even went to a EZNEC workshop lead by ON7PC. With a crappy third hand salvaged laptop I remember. Laptops were still very expensive back then. BTW: ON4CCP / OT1A was there too.

I never made much use of this and I haven’t installed the old version nor an upgrade. Recently I have been trying again, mostly under impulse of M0MCX who regularly posts MMANA movies. Come to think of it: was ON7PC’s workshop for EZNEC or MMANA? I think I have the notes lying around somewhere… The good thing is that MMANA is free.

I have been trying a few things and learned a lot along the way. I’m not an antenna n00b, I just don’t model. But now I put my teeth in a very specific problem. Something I dabbled with in the past: a second antenna to widen the footprint in single band contesting. Already seven years ago – wow – that I tried that (it was with a Moxon for 15m). It wasn’t a big success and I remember it was too much hassle for what it gained me (pun intended). I must admit the antenna back then might not have been optimally constructed.

Anyway I thought it was time to give this another shot for a second 14 MHz antenna. There were a few options available. These options were limited: I have restricted space and the antenna needs to be small and light. No real yagis then. Which would be the best option of course but I don’t have a second tower.

I spent much time researching. I know from experience with my 40m flat top dipole that horizontal polarization is the way to go, IF YOU CAN REACH THE MINIMUM HEIGHT. I’m not looking for NVIS.

Achieving the proper height for a horizontally polarized antenna is the key to success.

I could use my field day winched tubular mast and reach 10-12m easily. But this one was constructed for wire dipoles and isn’t made for heavy antennas so a light two element yagi is the biggest I dare to go.

I considered a two or three element yagi with inverted V wire elements. But I don’t have the space to get the supporting ropes for the dipole legs far enough to keep the apex angle big enough.

Of course there is the famous Moxon. But I’m not too keen on buying yet another bunch of aluminum tubes for something that either won’t ever get finished or get used one time only to decide it isn’t the way to go.

You can also put a Moxon rectangle in the vertical position and make it all wire. That eliminates the need for a tall support (min. 10m above ground) and the tubing purchase problem. I could use two of my recently acquired Spider-poles to support both long legs. Rather that than starting to mess with cross-braces and the likes. There’s also the popular vertical dipole array but that seems to be a thing to put near salt water which is 120 km away from here. So even if I knew horizontal would be better, practical limitations drove me to the vertical. I modelled a few things, even a three element GP yagi each with a set of elevated radials sloping down. But the modelled output said it would not be worth it when it comes to gain and pattern. Especially since the triband yagi works great in all directions. I work lots of stuff on the back and the side of the beam too.

In the end I came up with a three element vertical yagi with three 12m fiber glass masts. The driven element being a vertical dipole, and a passive reflector and director. With some fiddling I even modelled the impedance to be capacitive (R – jX) so a coil across the feedpoint should make a 50 ohm resistive match possible. Yay! The plots looked great. But I was disappointed in the low gain. F/B is fine but I’m out for gain.

Plot:

3L_vertical_yagi_1

Wires in MMANA:

  1. driven element
  2. reflector
  3. director

3L_vertical_yagi_2

Time to get the hands dirty. Measuring and cutting wires, taping the copper wire to the fiber glass pole, winding a matching coil etc. Time to put the fiber glass poles up straight. Alone – as usual. It was not a very windy day but gusty enough to make the poles go banana-shaped. The real problem that day in July 2018 was the drought. We haven’t had much rain (if any) the last couple of months but it has been smoldering hot. The soil was bone dry and very hard. The screw in anchors didn’t screw in smoothly. Instead of driving the screw peg into the ground the soil came up as dust and the spiral didn’t have much grip. In fact I more or less just drilled a Ø 25mm hole. What a contrast with last winter when the lawn was wet. Read more about that here. A mild gust tore the 30 cm long anchor out of the ground. The fiber glass pole fell over. Luckily it fell into a beefy Robinia tree which broke its fall. No damage but it did break my spirit. I cancelled the work and went back to the drawing board a/k/a the modelling software.

Next thing to check: how does this three element vertical yagi, with less than 6 dB gain, compare to the yagi at 21m high? First: when in the same direction, it isn’t really an addition. It’s useless as the vertical wire yagi doesn’t even fill the gap between the two lobes of the yagi.

3L_vertical_yagi_3

Now what if we point it the other way. The following plot shows a situation where the big and high yagi is facing East and the vertical wire yagi is facing West. Hardly a success, no? 

3L_vertical_yagi_4

This plot makes it clear that this isn’t really a useful addition to a great yagi. And I judged it too big and complicated given my garden (no place for guying).

I moved the three fiber poles away on the lawn and went looking through my stock of aluminum tubing and huge collection of antenna parts. I was almost convinced I had the parts for a HORIZONTAL Moxon. I’d have to use the big winched field day mast then. I was trying to avoid that in my already jam-packed garden but in the end it’s easier than three fiber poles that I can’t guy and much more stable with the huge homemade ground stakes. Lesson learned.

Let’s model. MMANA came with an example model of a two element yagi. That’s more or less comparable to a Moxon and will do for this theoretical comparison.

3L_vertical_yagi_5

This could actually be something: 3L yagi at 21m, 2L yagi at 10m. The dip between the lobes is filled. Now what if I turn the antennas away from each other?

3L_vertical_yagi_6

This is cool, no? If this model works in real life, I could have fun in SOAB especially right now: summer 2018, when 20m opens up to all over the world after my sunset.

But wait. Before doing all the work that might end up to be in vain… What about the simple flat top dipole λ/2 high? How does that compare?

First off: comparison of dipole and two element yagi, both at 10m high:

3L_vertical_yagi_7

Truth be told: the difference in gain is not worth the hassle for me right now. Dipole modelled 6.76 dB and the yagi at 9.76 dB. So if we make the construction lighter by going from two element yagi to flat top dipole, we could raise the dipole two meter. What does that do?

3L_vertical_yagi_8

I think these are similar results; the difference probably can’t be detected in a ‘real life on the air’ situation.

So what if we combine the dipole (at 10m for convenience) with the big three element yagi?

3L_vertical_yagi_11

I think this is worth a shot.

About the 3 el vertical wire yagi: a nice theoretical modelling exercise. No more no less. Proof:

3L_vertical_yagi_9

The above image shows the three element vertical wire yagi in red. Look for the tiny lobe. The blue plot is my three element yagi at 21m high. The green plot is a flat top dipole at 12m high, the brown plot is that same dipole at 10m high.

I should have done these modelled comparisons right away. Just for fun. Let’s move the three element vertical wire yagi to the beach:

3L_vertical_yagi_10

The red plot is this antenna in my garden. The black plot is this antenna on the beach, assuming salt water as perfect ground. Impressive. This antenna could kick butt. But I’m pretty sure the sand won’t keep the screw-in tent pegs tightly in place either.

In the end I settled for a flat top wire dipole with the feed point somewhere just above ten meters high. I used this in the 2018 IARU HF contest on the 14 MHz band. This dipole works great at this height. Not comparable to a yagi of course. It’s impossible to know the outcome of the contest if I wouldn’t have used this supplementary dipole. But I feel that it helped to cover some of the dark zones in the tribander’s pattern.

IARU HF Championship 2018: OPØHQ 20 CW

Twelve years after launching this fresh OPØHQ callsign for UBA HQ, I thought it was time to give it another go myself. Propagation does not favor SOAB, which is my preferred operating style, and there is no SBxx in this contest. So I offered my services to the UBA for this event. My band of choice was 40 CW with 20 being my second choice but all in all I was glad with the assigned 20 CW.

I wanted to put down a good result so I started thinking of a second antenna to fill the voids in the yagi pattern. I did A LOT of thinking and although less than the thinking, I performed quite some building too the week before the contest. In the end I had to scale down because my antennas wouldn’t stay up. See: Drought renders screw in anchors useless. And also because modelling made me conclude that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. There is a more detailed post to come about this.

In the running were a fixed three element vertical yagi and a Moxon Rectangle, either horizontal or vertical. In the end I settled for a fixed flat top wire dipole. A case of downscaling… It was oriented NW-SE so the pattern more or less favored the busy part of EU and the not-so-far-East. The feedpoint was pulled up to somewhere between 10m and 12m above the ground with a rope and a pulley on the main tower. The dipole’s ends were held up with two spiderpoles. I bought these for fieldday but look: having them around offers more options when building antennas any given day. I pulled the feedpoint away from the tower with a second rope running to the back of the garden. This antenna worked great. It was predicted through some basic modelling and backed up by previous experience with dipoles. A resonant dipole at λ/2 is hard to beat in the ‘simple wire antenna’ section. The yagi performed better in its ‘forward gain direction’ of course. Also because it was another ten meters higher. But the dipole clearly performed better in the nulls of the yagi’s pattern. Nulls both in azimuth and elevation. So this contest was yet another round of field day for me: wires, ropes, pulleys, fiber glass telescopic poles, hammering stuff into the ground…

WX was good although very hot. Minor risk of thunderstorms – it wouldn’t be a summer contest otherwise – but no real threats. In the end that didn’t cause a problem at all. Setup was done on Friday and I could test the dipole and the stackmatch. That too worked right away but when I came down from the shack my wife was talking about a beeping alarm on the freezer in the kitchen. It’s a three year old model (the freezer, not the wife) and this never occurred before so it had to be something with the additional dipole. I checked and indeed: only a problem when the dipole was engaged. No problem when only using the yagi. Classic solution: pull freezer away from the wall, add a few ferrite clamp-ons to the power cord (which shortened the cable which makes putting it back in place a pain between kitchen cabinets), plug AC power cord back in and test again. Alarm gone. Hello EMC compliance testers: forget your fancy anechoic chambers; just bring your stuff here and if it still works when I’m playing on the radio, it’s fine. And if your crappy designed stuff causes QRM on the HF bands: I sling a mean sledgehammer.

There were some /DL stations on 20 testing their WRTC 2018 setup. They were all very weak during daylight on Friday noon. More spotted but I could only hear three of which I logged two. They gave me better RST than I could give them.

I didn’t do much before the start of the contest. Rest, relax, take a shower, have a light lunch. Then off to the races. A picture tells more than a thousand words:

Rate graph from N1MMLogger+

The first half of the contest was pretty fast. Then it collapsed like a poorly baked soufflé.

Around 1920 utc I did a S&P scan of the band. I encountered a lot of Y8** WRTC stations and this time they were S7 and easily worked. Working one after the other was almost as fast as running. There were some other HQ’s in between so I managed to log another twenty multipliers too. After that I could go on running for another while, much to my surprise. But the inevitable moment still arrived: the band almost died from here with my setup.

I was off the air one and a half hour at night for a power nap. I planned and hoped to go 24/24h but the rate was gone, RBN showed the band did not support propagation too well, everything in the bandmap was gray and what I heard was already in the log. At the peak of the cycle you can probably go on but this time is was just too slow.

Too bad everything that followed in the second half of the contest was slow and boring. I was back on the air well before sunrise. It was not so much the poor propagation since the band was quite good given the known circumstances. It was just a lack of people to work. By that time I had already worked 1500-1600 QSO on one band in one mode. That might have something to do with it too. Maybe everyone in the contest doing CW already had OPØHQ in the log?

From the log:

  • Total USA 648 or 31.75%. Almost one out of three contacts from the US of A!
  • Total JA: 55. I don’t know how to assess this number.
  • Only 204 Russians (UA + UA9 + UA2). That’s only 10%. I think that’s low. Certainly compared to other contests.
  • Some semi-rare DX: A9, FR and V5 and also the usual DX: KH6 (2), KL7 (2), ZS, ZF, J3, HZ and tons of Latin-Americans. Twenty PY’s: probably a record in one contest for me on a single band?

I had no real goals for the number of contacts. I just had ballpark figures with accompanying sentiments. Below 1200 would be pathetic. Between 1200 and 1500 is not enough but I could blame propagation. Between 1500 and 1800 would be OK. More than 2000 would make me happy. In the end the 2k mark came closer. Each time I extrapolated the end result from the current rate, I would come short. When the bell rang I had 1992 true QSO and 2041 with dupes included. Not too bad I guess. But always room for improvement.

It was fun despite the slow last eight hours. Thanks to the UBA for having me on the team.

Two years ago I discovered these screw-in tent pegs that could be used to anchor something into the ground. I have used these quite a few times. It works great. Here’s a movie I made two years ago (August 2016 – average spring and summer for rainfall). Notice how my old and weak cordless screwdriver had no problem screwing the anchors in and how the support was really stable.

About the audio: The camera has a very noisy autofocus and the camera was less than 1″ away from my mouth and nose. Not easy shooting this while doing that.

We had a very dry spring this year (2018) and it hasn’t rained in quite a long time. It becomes problematic for plants, animals and in the end also men. Add to that the scorching heat that has baked the soil into a thick concrete-like layer. This is what happens if I try to screw in a tent peg with my new much stronger cordless drill:

Note: I used an aluminum version for the second video. More expensive but stronger. Lesson learned during June’s Field Day. When the ground is normal, these plastic tent pegs go in like a hot knife through butter. But they just break under the current circumstances. The aluminum ones don’t – or haven’t so far.

Notice the green lawn in the first video (2016) where it’s just brown and yellow in the second video (2018).

As you can see, the screw-in anchor doesn’t really want to go in. And once it’s in, it has no grip. As if I drilled a Ø 25mm hole in reinforced concrete. The dust comes up along with the ‘drill’.

So the drought has rendered these screw-in tent pegs absolutely useless. Unfortunately since I needed them for a temporary antenna setup (post to come).

Banner linked from official baker2018.net website

Gosh — very casually and almost by accident and also very easily I happen to work a so called ATNO: KH1/KH7Z (20m CW).

You know I don’t care about DXCC. And I take a long walk around the crazy mess such a very rare DXpedition causes. I simply don’t want to waste my time anymore with that ugly stuff.

5B DXCC: expensive wallpaper, bad investment

So I did not intend to work this DXCC which would be an All Time New One (ATNO) for me. Furthermore propagation sucks and this is as much over the pole as can be from here (bearing 0°). And I was having my hands full with the ON18FWC activity.

One day I ended a shift with ON18 and before shutting down I set the beam to the north pole and listened for 20 CW. They were there, S7 at best. But the pile up was more than 7 kHz wide and people just kept on calling and calling all over the place. This was exactly the reason I turned off the radio. And why chasing DX has a zero fun factor for me.

I didn’t really look for them on any other band. This time around with the sun being spic ‘n span from the dry cleaners’, the KH1 ↔ ON path is not an obvious thing. A few days later same scenario: I went to listen… Aha: the pile up was only two or three kHz wide and not so unruly. The DX called for a SP9 station that I could actually hear repeating its call and 5NN. I lowered my transmitting frequency just a tad and decided to try. Much to my surprise KH1/KH7Z came back to me. So all it took was less than a minute and sending my callsign twice.

That is with a small tribander sitting at 15m high and a shy 500W.

A few days earlier I got a text message from my buddy OT1A telling me not to forget Baker Island. I replied I couldn’t care less and I had no plans to spend time on that. I know he’s avidly chasing the DXCC program in all flavors but I don’t see his call in the online log…  ☺

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