What is about as much fun as to write? To be written about maybe?
Earlier this week I opened up John AE5X’s website on my smartphone. You should know that I have only recently been baptized into the Church of Swipers. Three weeks ago exactly. My classic cell phone turned 8 last summer and the human interface started disintegrating. I could still run it for seven days on one charge cycle though! I appreciated its pocket size. It was still functioning just fine yet I retired it for a few reasons.
Anyway I am not really familiar yet with the small screen (compared to my 17” laptop). So I loaded AE5X’s site to see ‘OQ5M’ popping up prominently about thirty centimeters from my nose. I was flabbergasted for a few seconds especially since OQ5M was followed by ‘unknowingly’. What have I done? What did I do? Who have I p’d off?
Closer reading soon unveiled the real story.
This is what it’s all about (starting at the 30sec mark):
I used quite a few different callsigns in 2018. Here’s an overview:
OQ5M 17171 contest + DX OP0HQ 2041 IARU contest 20m CW ON18FWC 9276 Football World Championship Russia 2018 OT70NNV 1449 70 years UBA club Ninove OT70UBA 4063 70 years UBA HF Commission ON5ZO/P 887 Region 1 CW Fieldday
That is a total of 34887 QSO which easily beats the previous top year (2014 with 28400 QSO).
I made at least one QSO on 112 days in 2018. Which is more than the double of the previous years.
Mode breakdown: 27098 were in CW, 7555 in SSB and 234 RTTY.
This means 77.68% CW – 21,65 SSB – 0.67% RTTY.
This is of course almost impossible without the use of these special event callsigns, especially in a no sunspot year.
The band distribution:
How on earth did I manage 779 contacts on a virtually dead 10m band? It seems May and June were the best months for 10m. Of course this means a lot of local EU contacts with these special calls.
This is with one tower, a small triband yagi, single wire antennas for WARC and 80+160. The OQ5M and OPØHQ contacts are made with 1200W in the contests. The special event callsigns were activated with the small 500W amp and field day was of course low power.
Now if only I could make a living by running the bands and logging contacts?
I don’t like 160. There I said it. You noise lovers can have it.
I normally don’t do this contest but the tower is up, the 160m antenna is deployed and I have time to spare. So let’s see what we can do on 160 shall we? Well, we can get annoyed for one.
My only goal was to work DX. Just for fun. So I was to use the cluster / RBN and submit a checklog. But gosh what a frustrating experience. I logged a dozen EU contacts Saturday afternoon but I quit because I had to go somewhere.
I decided to sleep first because I don’t want to work dozens of EU which will just generate a ton of paper QSL again. And my setup is not cut for Far East DX – not even taking propagation into account. QRV 03.15z for USA. I found NP2J who was easily worked. That first QSO turned out to be the highlight of this dreadful event. VA2WA was another loud one. I worked him yesterday too on Top Band for the RAC Winter Contest.
I wanted to run but each time I found a clear spot, the same thing happened three times:
- Get called by EU only with only one American station every so many contacts.
- A US station would then land on top of me and start running, obviously not hearing me.
- I could hear the American work USA, one after the other.
- I had to abandon the run and find another frequency.
I felt like Dumbo, the opposite fauna-equivalent ham radio metaphor of the Alligator: I could hear plenty on the east coast but no one heard me. I really heard many W stations and PJ2T and XE2X but no one copied me. XE2X was especially frustrating because he was rather loud and I never worked a Mexican on Top Band. But it was EU only. Some of the DX signals seemed to be slightly better just around my sunrise. I tried a couple of guys before without success but they heard me in the half hour centered around my local sunrise. But most Yankees just CQ’ed in my pretty face.
Map generated by tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer (& TNX ON3DI for the idea!)
The map above shows my log projected on the map. Nothing beyond UA4 but all red lines were worked in common darkness. So it was not the right time for the east. K0OO is farthest west.
NR3X, K3ZO and W1BB were the loudest on the band. Out of 237 contacts I logged 41 Americans under these poor conditions. And yet I am not satisfied. Probably there are Belgians who would be very glad to work a few states on 160m but don’t even have an antenna for that band.
When I walk the dog here in the neighborhood I walk drooling past a few houses with tremendous gardens which would be ideal for 160m operations (and a 80m 4SQ). Wide spread lawns for an XXL radial field. Room for beverages and some even have very tall trees lined up for phased verticals. But without propagation it would be useless too.
I wonder who (apart from me) will send in a checklog because they used the cluster / RBN? Each time I started a CQ on a fresh frequency a few EU’s would jump right on me. Some of them were running elsewhere in the band. Coincidence?
I’m doing the Winter Workout thing on Top Band. With the blessing of the weather gods who let me keep the tower and low band wires up in the sky.
I don’t know what to think. Two days ago there was some hurrah on the Top Band reflector mentioning good propagation. I replied but the mail seems to have never reached the reflector. The sentiment I expressed was (nutshell):
► Propagation good, activity poor. Not much CW signals around when I’m active yet the RBN picks me up.
► Please don’t tell me even low band people are trading paddles for keyboards and mice?
It’s good that this message bounced because that night I worked more USA than the sum of the previous days. And so I settled in the annual get up early and go to bed late routine. I focus on 160 because everything outside of EU there is a thrill and 30m because it’s my favorite band. I avoid 80 and 40 because I hang around there already in the contests. Last night wasn’t really great either. Propagation was so-so but there wasn’t much to be worked. I tried 30m but it that band turned out disappointing too. So I was about to quit and go to bed. Nevertheless I decided to launch a few CQ CQ on Top Band before calling it a day.
Suddenly I got answered by KL7SB. KL7! Ab-so-lu-te-ly a new one on 160. Good signal, easy copy – logged. A new country worked on 160. I was euphoric. I haven’t even worked Alaska on 80m! But now the KL7 box is checked on 160.
Later on I gave it some thought. It’s a new one but why is it special? Is it special? Distance between the KL7RA station (which KL7SB was operating) and myself is 7400km, beam heading 345° or so. That’s not really far away and it’s not a true polar path. So that doesn’t make it an accomplishment. Alaska is not really rare either. There aren’t thousands of hams there (?) and there are not many of them on the air at once. But it’s not one of the Dakotas or WY is it? I guess KH6 will be harder to work on 160m.
Nevertheless I am grateful that Steve KL7SB called me and I am glad to finally have worked a new one. It’s been a while. Mostly because I’m only there in the major contests and I’ve been doing SB40/80 lately in CQWW.
This morning the bands were a bust again. The K index was 4. Ouch. It peaked at five earlier today. The sun is setting over me. I think I’ll take a raincheck this time.
Tomorrow: Stew Perry. That should bring out some potent signals on the band. Including mine ☺
I miss the map display on the Reverse Beacon Website. The people running the RBN say the following:
What Happened to the Map?
Google changed its system and broke the website. They have also announced a big price jump on their map service, which would be prohibitive for us, so we’re working on a new approach using open-source maps. It’ll take a while, and in the meantime if you keep the map hidden, the other features will continue to work.
Bummer. And typical for big monopolists. But the RBN dudes provide a link to a worthy alternative:
Me likes. Personal preference: I dislike the color scheme. Some of the colors are very hard to see. And the thing might be bigger. But at least it’s a map. My signal’s footprint at a glance.