This is 2017

A new year is just an arbitrary transition. So I picked up my 2017 HF activities where I left them in 2016. That is: on 160, 80 and 30m. I hang out on the other bands more than enough already in the contests. And for the low bands, I need the antenna tower cranked up. Which is the case now. I’m having holidays and there is no wind. I’m not active during the day though. Mostly too early in the morning when I wake up and my housemates are still asleep. I don’t set an alarm but my biological maybe-there-is-DX-on-the-low-bands-bell rings. Sometimes I try the bands late at night before going to bed. I like this pattern this time of the year. And in this stage of the solar cycle. I did set my alarm once this week. For a sked with my long time pen-pal (mail-pal) W1EBI. He recently renewed his 160 antenna and Top Band turns out to be a slot that we haven’t worked each other. He’s in my log 152 times already and this QSO on one sixty is #153. I got up early and he stayed up late.

I’m not particularly keen on 160. It’s a tough band. Propagation is spotty and when the RF is able to travel to some DX place you need good antennas to effectively get it there. And even then signals are not strong and the other side also needs good stuff to get the job done. I know that some low band literature calls operating the higher bands ‘like shooting fish in a barrel’. But I like to be sure I will eat and not bait the line in vain to catch nothing in the end.

But I also like to do something I don’t do too often. So I hang out on 160 for a while. And I worked quite some DX there. The year started good with a new one Top Band: HP1XT as QSO number two for 2017. I kept thinking: why does that Polish guy send a dit too much? But it was indeed HP for a new DXCC. Later on I worked P49X. I thought I had a P4 from working all these contests but LotW says no. So that makes two new countries on 160. W00t!

I worked some more Americans too. The problem is that most sane people are in bed so I don’t work too many. Shooting fish in a barrel during the day on 10m with SFI = 150 is more productive. Ain’t gonna happen soon. So I worked an new state on 160. AA7A brought me AZ. I didn’t keep track so maybe there are more new states for 160 WAS. I’m at 34/50 now. But I’m not chasing the WAS 160 award. Just like on 80, KH6 and KL7 will be virtually impossible. I heard a KH6 on 80 once. In an ARRL DX CW contest. Just my luck. WAS 80m is now at 45/50. This week I worked K7CF on 3.5 MHz. He’s in Idaho. Yet another new state. And it’s getting better. Five minutes ago I discovered that I recently worked Kansas for another new one on 160m: KU1CW in the Stew Perry contest. So it’s safe to say that the low band propagation is seriously picking up. And that my modest stuff works for modest DX.

That also leads to some frustration. Every day my signals are picked up by RBN skimmer receivers in remote places. Yet no one comes back to my CQ. I have mentioned it in a previous post: it seems to me that activity during the week is declining in favor of the contest weekends. Two days ago the propagation on Top Band was really good to the USA. Yet it were the same four Americans who were spotting the same dozen Europeans for two hours on end. If that kind of conditions had been present in a major contest, we would all feast on the low bands multipliers. I admit that I’m guilty too. I don’t have to work for two weeks and I’m on the bands. But as of next week, my activities will yet again be limited to the contests.

Below is an RBN map of this week. Time is just after my sunrise  which is 7.40 utc or so. Normally a PJ2 and KP3 skimmer pick me up too but not at the time of grabbing the image. At my sunset, VK4CT copies me too. But not while he’s in daylight. Anyway it doesn’t happen too often that I’m heard in ZL on 3.5 MHz.

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But then this passes on the spotting network:

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I heard that someone was calling me. Presumably this one. But I couldn’t even make up a single letter or number. This has been a problem from the beginning with this antenna. I’m better heard than I can hear myself. Alligator. I could pinch off 3dB of the transmit power. Maybe the other side was QRP? I put up the RX antennas. It didn’t help for this one. Miracle antennas – do they exist?

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