Welcome 2013

Now that the old year is behind us, I have the feeling that 2012 is the year that has passed the fastest for me in all my life so far. I knew that I wouldn’t have much time for ham radio in 2012. And the lowest number of days I was active reflects this (Y2K doesn’t count since I got my HF ticket late October).


How many days active (making at least 1 QSO).
How many days active (making at least 1 QSO).

Still I made almost 26k QSO. I did not expect that and looking back I wouldn’t have guessed so many contacts would have made it in my log. Only 635 non-contest QSO on the WARC bands. Which means I did almost zero casual DX’ing and 97.5% of the contacts is made in contests during the weekend. Contests can be planned and the weekends can be reserved. Which is exactly what I did earlier this week: take the virgin 2013 calendar and block about twenty weekends or so, some of which are mandatory (UBA 2x, WPX 2x, ARRL 2x, WW 2x, RDXC, WAECW, IARU, EUHFC)  and participation in the other depends on time management, the mood, propagation and WX (wind and lightning).

Breakdown by band.
Breakdown by band.

The number of contacts on ten meters is also cut in half. Just like propagation on the highest HF bands from end 2011 to 2012. What’s up Cycle 24? And I have no clue where all those Top Band QSO come from!

Two thousand twelve was a very busy and stressful year with quite a few unforeseen domestic inconveniences (things do break, jam, leak, crack…) and one predicted (the birth of QRP #2). Although I wouldn’t call the latter an inconvenience. This all means that when there is a slot of free time, I did not always make it into the shack like years ago because there is a long list of tasks waiting to be executed, problems to be solved, broken items to be fixed, dogs to be walked, kids to be played with. Diaper Duty! Another issue is the weather. Normally I am very active 24/7 the last weeks of December. This year the wind prevented me from doing so. I lowered the tower on Monday 24th which was a good thing because the night from Monday to Christmas, it was a stormy night here with strong gusts and it has been very windy ever since. A few days ago I was pouring water from a can into the dog’s drinking bowl. I poured it from waist height and the water landed not in the bowl but one meter further. The wind just blew the water away. I seem to remember the very bad spring made for a lower tower and hence no DXing fun too. Summer wasn’t great either with wind and constant T-storms or at least the threat thereof. I hope for calm, dry and sunny weather in 2013.

Breakdown by mode.
Breakdown by mode.

As you can see from the figures, I am still very CW oriented and only sometimes I hook up a microphone. EL2LF is my only RTTY contact because I support the voodudes. Too bad they quit.

Surprised to see that after more than five years, my blog here is still up and the number of hits has reached a constant value. Very kind of Bas PE4BAS to put my in his list of favourite blogs. He’s right though: not too much pictures here. There is a reason. Laziness. When I do take pictures, I need to hook the camera up to the PC, copy from CF card to laptop, resize pictures etc. And a big part of the items are written during my lunch break when I don’t have my camera at hand to unload the images. Another reason for not showing pictures is that I’m not always proud of how things look. My mechanical skills and tools are very basic and I’m the king of the “temporary solution become permanent”. I try something by hooking a few things up. If it works I tell myself that I’m going to remake it, nice and clean. Just like the temporary 80/160 feed point that has been working nice for over three years. Or the way I installed the RX loop for CQ WW CW. Believe me, you don’t want to see how I quickly put that together to test. Yes it works but it looks like sh…

For 2013 I hope to have more time outside of the contests. Planned projects are (in no particular order):

  • Rearranging the 80/160 feed point so I can unhook 160 easily
  • Rearranging the elevated radials (but how?)
  • Give the RX loop a permanent place (but where?)
  • Make ‘front end saver’ that shorts the RX input when TXing
  • Etc etc etc

Furthermore I really miss a permanent WARC antenna. The homebrew triband wire dipole à la inverted V works fine but I always need to fiddle with ropes and pulleys to get it up. I gather all my courage for a contest to get the fieldday style station ready to go to war but for some DXing with unknown outcome, I’ve come to the point where I just leave things as they are and don’t bother. And don’t make any contacts. The Fritzel rotary dipole was a killer antenna for size and simplicity. Furthermore it was always available and played well until one of the traps went missing in action two years ago (link). I’m glad there is the rotary dipole for 40m now which again is the best I ever had for that band and it’s always there and plays well even when the tower is only cranked up two out of three levels in case of strong winds. And a contest antenna is more important than a casual DX WARC antenna given my operating style. Still I really love making casual DX contacts and do some smalltalks in CW. So I find myself more and more contemplating the SteppIR solution. One antenna with gain on all HF bands from 7 MHz and up with 50MHz as a bonus. Expensive yes but that doesn’t bother me if it turns out to have a big ROI, being the fun factor. Then again, I just looked it up. About €3700 for the three element, and €5400 for the four element. Pretty steep for what it is. The cumbersome aspect worries me more: it seems like a helluva job to wire it up from the shack up to the tower. But this is a one time only event. What about the durability of the moving parts? I’m petty sure the MTBF of a good stepper motor is long. But what with the conductive strip? And this is the point where I abandon the SteppIR contemplation…

I wish you all and myself a healthy and succesful 2013. May the lower troposhpere breeze gently and the ionosphere be a superconductor for RF. May all power devices keep on working and all aluminum stay up where it belongs.


17 replies on “Welcome 2013”

Hello Franki, look at your last sentences….you really would be a great novel writer. Well said. I really think you should make photos anyway, it doesn’t matter if things are not perfect. That’s the way it is for most of us. The steppIR is a nice antenna, but look at the blog of PA3C. You’ll find he got a lot of problems with the antenna every winter. And weather here is similair to yours. I recognize the daiper duty as well, I can imagine you even got less time with a second QRP (better definition: harmonic). Well may 2013 be a more relaxing year for you. All the best to you & yours for this new year. 73, Bas

Howdy Bas! I just looked at the PA3C pictures and all the problems he has with the SteppIR. I wonder if it’s an old or new model and how long it’s been up?
He sums it up pretty well: “The concept of SteppIR is nice but the system is very vulnerable.” Right on!

My OB11-3 has been up for almost six years now without any problems. What doesn’t need to move, can’t be jammed or bent. I asked if I could upgrade my 11-3 to an 11-5 but that is not possible according to OptiBeam…
OTOH I find the OptiBeam yagis with many bands and ‘vertically stacked elements’ very ugly, heavy and with a high visual impact.
Yes I want the cake AND eat it too! :o)

Hi Franki.

I’ve been reading your blog for a while and find it interesting to read. Keep up the blogging.

I was wondering what kind of program you were using to display the stats in this post and where I could get it.

Happy new year and 73 de Andreas, LA8AJA.

Hello Andreas – HNY 2013 too! Thanks for the kind words.

For the statistics, I have written a simple program a few years ago (2007?). It was still written in good ol’VB6 and I have never changed or upgraded it to dotNET. Five years smarter, it would look nicer and work better but I only use it once a year so…

I zipped it and mailed it to you. Just use the ‘Load’ button to load an ADIF, then hit ‘Process’ and the rest is available under the three other buttons. There is no helpdesk and I think most bugs are taken care of :o)

I have never made my little tools available to anybody else, for the same reason I don’t publish pictures: my code works but the GUI is often spartan and the way it works is only clear to the brain who gave birth to it = me! There is a big difference in coding a quick tool for personal use that does the job, and making a program that works for everyone and under all circumstances. Especially with ‘standards’ for file I/O like ADIF and Cabrillo. There are dozens of mutant forms of the standard and the code should work with every form.


Hi again.

I think gmail must have blocked the e-mail. I haven’t received anything. I did try to send to your listed e-mail. Not sure if you got it. Anyway, could you please try the other address I wrote here.

I don’t need any helpdesk or stuff for the program, so I wont bother you with stuff like that. It was just that I liked that kind of statistics.

I fully understand your reason for not releasing the programs public.

73 de Andreas, LA8AJA

Hi Franki!

Your statistics are very impressive. I also uploaded mine at my blog, take a look. Mine are simpler, though. What program are you using to produce yours?
Anyway, it was nice to cross the finish line right behind you in CQ WW SSB results 😉 and I loved the competition.
If you want my humble opinion on SteppIRs, besides the step-motor moving axis problem, take into consideration that they are affected a lot by humidity and salty air. A couple of 4Xs and a OD, all friends of mine, having installed the 3el and the 4el steppirs, complained a lot about not being able to get VSWR below 2:1 around sunrise and around sunset hours and during the whole night, just about when humidity goes to the sky !!
Still, if I had to choose a dynamic antenna, as these all are called, I would definitely choose an UltraBeam , most possibly the UB-50, costs about €2K to get here.

Cul es 73s.

Stathis, SV5DKL

Stathis, sorry for the late reply – I’ve been busy. I sent you an email with my own little tool for the statistics.
This link here tells what I wrote about it.


Hi Franki,

“Still, if I had to choose a dynamic antenna, as these all are called, I would definitely choose an UltraBeam , most possibly the UB-50, costs about €2K to get here.”

Agree with Stathis. I have Ultrabeam UB-50 for four years now and it’s working flawlessly.
No problem in winter times, no problem with corrosion even I have 400-500m straight
line to the Baltic sea shore. Yes, Baltic is not that salty as North Sea but still is anyway.
In my place antenna is often exposed for high winds and still keeping well.
If nothing changed Ultrabeam is still giving 4 years!!! warranty on their products, and
customer service is excellent.
It’s not my intention to convince you to buy this antenna, just would like to share
my experience with it.
I achieved quite good scores in major contest recent years. I think that performance of UB-50 helped me a lot.

73, Mirek SP1NY

When I first saw the U/B I thought it was an 100% shameless Stepp clone.
So the UltraBeam is of better quality than the SteppIR? Interesting. I live more than 100km away from the sea so salt is not a problem here.
It just needs to work 24/7/365 without breaking or jamming, and survive small storms up to 120km/hr. When the wind blows harder I guess antennas won’t be my main concern anymore 😉
The OB11-3 has been up almost six years now with ZERO problems. Wind, rain, snow, ice – it just works and keeps working. I DO NOT want an antenna that needs maintenance all the time. Stepper motors and brittle conductive strips winding up all the time: I do not really trust that.

I like the UB40-MX specs, 3 elements up to 30m and then a moxon for 40m. That’s more than I have now. Except on ten meters where the OptiBeam has 5 elements and the UltraBeam only 3.

Mirek, are you happy with how it works on the air? Does it ‘work’? Do you feel loud? I always feel pretty loud with my OB11-3 and even with the rotary dipole on 40.

Let me know!
– Franki

Hi Franki,
Am I happy with U/B??? Yes, because it’s (I think) the best what I can
have in my limited space.
Yes, I’m feel loud, UB-50 is really very good performer at least as good as
3 el monobander should be. May times it suprised me when I was breaking
cluster pile to rare mults during contest, obviously not calling on zero beat hi, hi.
My U/B is almost five years up in the air and no problem at all. Once I had problem with controller display (antenna itself was still working). Sent unit
to Italy and they return with new unit at no expenses as antenna was still under 4 years warranty. Customer service provided by U/B is excellent by the way.
But maybe you should consider other solutions.
1. Keep OB11-3 and buy OB4-2WARC if your tower can handle 15 kg more.
2. Sell OB11-3 and buy OB11-5, again if tower can handle 45 kg
Having one of Optibeams you can use them in SO2R with two radio transmitting to the same antenna what isn’t possible with U/B.
Check out Ranko’s 4O3A web page. He is making and selling High Power Combiner and suitable BPF’s. They are expensive boxes but with one of option above should still be cheaper than UB40-MX.
All of this is valid only in case when contesting is more important for you than DX-ing otherwise go for UB40-MX and you will no regret.

73, Mirek SP1NY

Yes, after it bounced on GMail because of the attachement, I sent the mail to the address you proposed (@C2I). I sent the mail on January 5th @19.57utc. I have just forwarded the mail again.
Let me know if you got it this time…

I just sent two simple emails to both addresses without any attachements. Let me know if that works out for you, ok?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.