Busy weekend on the radio

My radio weekend started Friday afternoon. I had several things planned for the weekend:

  • Work FT5GA.
  • Play in Scandinavian Activity Contest.
  • Finally get the antenna for 160/80m back up (easy) and working (impossible?).
  • Work some DX on the band where / when possible.

The WX was very good. I started with cranking 2 of the 3 tower sections up. Then I put up the 80m vertical, a wire hold up by a pulley on the tower. Remember that everything worked fine before I had to take it down for some serious construction work in the garden a few months ago.  From here, the MFJ-998 saga picks up again. Of course this ‘random setup’ worked fine on 80m: vertical wire and 2 elevated radials about lambda / 4. But from last year’s curse I remember that 160m is another thing. So I added some long radials, random length. There you go: “no go”. Every crime needs a suspect to get it solved so the current choke balun was the culprit. He had to go. Yes, I’m talking about THIS ONE again. You could call him the usual suspect. I replaced the 5 core stack and parallel copper wire by a two core stack with extremely expensive Teflon coax. Price is over 6 Euro per meter… Lesson learned: if big ferrite cores worth 10 Euro a piece fall on the ground, they break. Luckily the broken pieces were not broken HI. Nothing that Pattex super glue can’t fix. Honestly, this must be one of my ugliest realizations since I started homebrewing stuff. No patience to round it up and I’ve become very bored with this kind of construction projects. So I really couldn’t care. I need a permanent WORKING antenna. Period. Especially for this €|@{#@#{[{#@ project. No way back now since the box containing my previous choke a/k/a the suspect, was used to house the new one.

The thing got ready after dark so too late to put it up. I went to the shack and listened to FT5GA on 30m but it was horrible. A mess, a zoo, tuners, uppers – you name it. So I settled on 10104 and started CQ’ing. I heard FT5GA work some USA so my hope was to draw their attention. I worked a bunch of USA there and got called by a KL7. He was the loudest of the pack! Random thought: if a KL7 gets spotted on 30m, he enjoys a huge pile up from EU for an hour or two. If I get spotted by Americans on 30m, there is only one KL7 that calls me… Same holds true for VK/ZL and yours truly. Only if there is a sustainable opening to JA, I can work them for an hour on end on 30m. But no real pile up though. Side note: ZS4TX was spotted on 160m. I heard him on the 80m vertical… “Hearing” yes, but only S1 with some QSB. Still…

I got up early on Saturday to get the 80/160m situation under control. Episode 10. I’ve worked on this antenna while my fingers were freezing off, in the snow, in wond and rain so I was glad the WX was sunny and warm. I replaced the current choke, still no go. Added radials. No go. Removed radials. No go. Either the MFJ tunes for 160, or for 80 but not both. Oh yeah, neither band matched is possible too. Around noon I came up with a dramatic plan. I removed EVERY wire. Vertical part and all radials. Everything gone. Start from scratch. In my previous attempts earlier this year and last winter, I discovered a logical pattern. MFJ-998 matches ‘near resonant’ stuff but has troubles with total random verticals. Random lengths of vertical radiators as well as radials. Ugly impedances. So I took my spare 80m dipole and put it up as a vertical (dipole leg 1) with one elevated radial (dipole leg 2). The MFJ gets the job done between 3500 and 3800. Efficiency approaching zero probably but I only planned to work Scandinavia on 80m this weekend. By then it was noon and I didn’t want to waste a beautiful Indian summer afternoon so I quit. But not before fixing the 40m vertical. One of the two elevated radials got pulled out of the hedge by the dog. By accident. When he walks behind the hedge, his tail gets stuck between the radial where it rises from the feedpoint near ground to the top of the hedge. When he runs away, the wire gets pulled out of the trees. My bad: I did a poor job a few weeks ago because I was too lazy to get the big ladder out. Now that the big ladder was out to install the other radials, I fixed it firmly this time so it won’t happen again.

At 17.00 utc I started working some SAC. High on 20m there was some K7 activity. Of course: Salmon Run a/k/a WA QSO party. I jumped in and worked 12 stations from Washington state. Not in a row but off and on in between SAC contacts. I logged them as late as 2300 utc but I heard dupes until after my midnight. That was a surprise but I could feel that the tower was up only 2/3 in stead of all the way. Because SAC on 80m seemed a drag, I went to 30m again. Yes I love 10MHz a lot. I worked another bunch of Americans with very strong signals. One of them was Dan KB6NU whose blog I follow. I worked as far as W6 (real CA). A surprise because it was only 22.50 utc which I believe is noon in California. Soon after that I quit.

With only 5 hours of sleep, I found 80m abandoned for the Scandinavian Activity Contest on Sunday morning. I worked a bunch on 40m and later on 20m. I didn’t hear a single thing on 10m. I tried working Scandinavia on 15m. That wasn’t easy. All I heard was UA9 and Japan. Yes I heard JA’s on 15m. A handful. And they were S7 strong. Too bad I couldn’t work them in this one… Maybe next time? All in all I had some fun in the shack. Now I still need to work FT5GA once, or on several bands. No stress, I’m not a DXer, remember?

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