ON5ZO – OQ5M

If you start with simple targets and lower the bar so that you can walk over it, contesting can be a quite relaxing experience. So I decided not to chase some position in the rankings – which is useless in a DX contest from my location and with my setup. In stead my goals were to have fun and try to work some new goodies for 5BWAS. Mission accomplished! In retrospect I wonder why I have gone assisted. With no intentions to S&P and actually ran about all the time, cluster wasn’t needed. Though it makes for some moving words on the screen and I could follow VP6DX and try to work them in between. Anyway here’s the result:

Band    QSOs    Pts  Sec
   1,8      13      39    7
   3,5     254     762   38
     7     234     702   40
    14     692    2076   57
    21      50     150   19
Total    1243    3729  161
Score: 600.369

  SETUP:
> short coil loaded inverted V with feedpoint @ 21m AGL
> elevated inverted L, feedpoint + 2 elevated radials 4m high
> vertical dipole sloping away from the tower to USA
> Optibeam OB11-3, 3el fullsize @ 21m AGL
> Optibeam OB11-3, 3el fullsize @ 21m AGL
> TS-850, ACOM 1000, microHAM stuff, N1MMLogger

Last year I made over 300 QSO on 15m. Most of them in a very fast run late on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t meant to be this year. The 15m band let us down. I didn’t even check 10m. Rich NN3W @ N3HBX summed it up nicely on 3830: "…and took comfort in the fact that conditions cannot. possibly. get. any. worse. than. this.". Right on! Even 20m was so-so. It was good but of course it can be much better.

I tried 160m on my Sunday sunrise. No go. I CQ’d away until KB1H spotted me BEFORE he worked me. A small pile up followed in which KB1H was the first caller but I am deaf on 160m so I couldn’t capitalize the spot. Sorry for those who called. K3LR was in there but I picked another call and he didn’t return after that QSO. K1ZZ asked to move from 80m to 160m just after my SR when I had QRT’d on Top Band. Hey, it worked! N4YDU asked the same earlier but his proposed QRG on 160m was occupied so that was a show stopper. I don’t think either Nate or myself have the signal on Top Band to make this happen.

80m was a nice surprise. I think I was about the only ON on that band. Maybe on 160m too? There is a handful of guys in Belgium with VERY BIG low band setups both for RX and TX but if it’s only this little shrimp that shows up you’ll have to settle for that. The problem is that each spot generated a packet pile up but with most signals zero beat and of the same level it was hard copying so I tried to get them to call up. The rate was halved because of the QRM on my QRG. I picked a call and sent the report but in the mean time people kept calling cluttering my signal so I had to repeat.

I made the most of it. I even got CA and OR coming in with pretty good sigs. It was a thrill to hear my friend Denis K7GK calling me for a new state for 5BWAS. I owe him a beer now. Note to self: stop making these pre-test bets or stop underestimating the force of your 80m vertical. Speaking of which: I couldn’t put it up on Friday so I skipped the lower bands the first night. That fitted my "easy does it" approach for this contest. Two weeks of ab-so-lu-te-ly no wind but on the afternoon you want to set up your station a strong wind shows up. Strong enough to mess with my flimsy 80m vertical. It consists of telescopic aluminum tubing and another 7m of fishing pole. I have been thinking to replace it with something more sturdy but a) it is such a killer antenna for its size and low cost and b) I have limited space. Hence each contest @ ON5ZO is a fieldday.

The sloping vertical dipole on 40m once again did its job. I didn’t bother to put the second one up with the switching unit to make it work for LP openings but I couldn’t resist checking out the 40m LP propagation to the west coast on Saturday. I heard a bunch and was excited to hear Denis K7GK @ K7ZSD calling CQ. He was weak (would return way stronger on 80m) and I called for quite some time. I even thought of going outside and move the sloper to the other side of the tower so that the sloping angle would favor LP. But it was so cold I decided to call a few more times. Bingo! If there had been a pile up I wouldn’t have made it. A bit lower in the band was K7RL with a better signal and a MUCH bigger pile up. In the end the LP opening died and K7RL just CQ’ed in our faces until QSY. I heard a few more W6/7 but I only remember these two because I worked one and the other had a pretty good signal. I wasted some good 20m time but who cares when you’re in it for the fun. I can work 20m any day but 40m LP to W6/7 does only work for me when the Big Guns are on.

I can be brief about the higher bands: Ten is not even born, 15m is still dead and 20m is having a midlife crisis. Nothing special there except for some good runs on 20m Saturday afternoon. It was very boring and slow on Sunday so I quit around 1700utc and lowered the tower. With the beam at only 9m high I can tell you that it’s hard to get beyond the east coast. The big West Coast guys were S7-S9 or more when the yagi sat 21m above the ground but they were gone when it was down.

Where were SD and ID? Not worked. I only worked 1 DC station. Thanks to all the W/VE stations for an enjoyable contest.

It’s been quite a while since my last post but I wasn’t active at all in the hobby. Professionally I was too active but I think the pendulum is about to swing the other way. Less duties, more ham! Last Saturday we went for a long walk in the woods including pick nick and late in the afternoon I fired up the rig and made about 160 contacts in CQ WPX RTTY. I would have made some more on Sunday but suddenly I felt ill and sick and took a raincheck. Quite honestly I was fed up with RTTY after two hours on Saturday.

This weekend is ARRL DX CW. I will be on but I will maximize fun and try to relax. Like last year when we were working in the garden and I made just over 1000 QSO’s in between. That was fun and I want to do that again this weekend. Except for the working part  ;o)   So I won’t be on for 48h – I don’t even think there will be 48h of continuous propagation between EU and NA. I won’t be pushing the limits and if I’m tired or things get too slow I will bail out and get back later. I’m hoping for some nice runs, a couple of 100+ hours would be welcome. It’s been over 6 weeks since I did some CW. So I need a quick fix. And bagging some nice new states for WAS on 40/80 would be thrilling. And what about 160m? I don’t have high expectations for that band so each QSO is a victory on Top Band. We’ll see what gives.

Oh yeah… Ducie VP6DX is on! I missed VP6DI in 2002 (living at my folks’ place: no antennas) and missed VP6D in 2003. We just moved here and I didn’t have any real antennas. I’m not sure about the dates but missing these two expeditions to a new DXCC was a traumatic experience so retaliation was at hand. During lunch I looked up the peak times when they logged ON in the previous days. Great info on the site, just like 3B7C last year!

Then I raised the tower this afternoon. The tribander and WARC dipole are 21m above the ground. They were on 20m with quite a loud signal (S8 or more). Three calls and OQ5M was logged. A couple of minutes later ON5ZO got logged too. The sweetness of owning two calls. Hey, I pay almost 120 Euros (180 US$) to the Belgian equivalent of the FCC for those 2 licenses! No you can’t have a 2×1 vanity call (OQ5M) without paying for a regular call (ON5ZO). It’s a package deal that costs twice as much. But I digress.

Logging them so soon on 20m wasn’t satisfactory so off to 17m. They were weak and I tried for almost one hour and a half. Normally my limit is 15 minutes. If the DX isn’t in the log by then, I’m gone. The online stats say 1700utc was the time when they logged the most ON on 17m and 5 minutes before that time mark I worked them and a few minutes later I worked them with the second callsign. On 15m they were also weak but I managed to work them twice in less than a minute. Having some gain (3 el full size) compared to the dipole on 17m pays off. So I’ve worked them on 20, 17 and 15 in CW with both my callsigns. Next target to bomb my Ducie frustrations away: 30m, 40m and I wonder if I can work ‘m on 80m? I didn’t put up the 80m vertical and the 160m dipole yet. Too much wind this afternoon and motivated lacked. I will do that in the morning when 40m fades to the US of A.

Yes, a big box full that needs to be processed. I think that’ll be a job for next month when it’s Easter holidays. I must remember to charge my GlobalQSL account with 2000 (3000?) cards before they’ll raise the price. There are quite some OO5ZO cards that come through after more than 2 years. Those are still labeled. I limit my job to printing labels and leave the sticky part to my mom and aunt who do that job for me while having coffee.

on5zo_was

The XYL and I went to buy a frame for my WAS award. It’s framed and on display in the shack. Yesterday I got a direct QSL from a KI4 with a kind note that I was his first European contact. It was on 20m SSB during the UBA contest. First EU… Hard to believe – not that I don’t believe what he says it just feels weird that it’s me of all hams who brings him his first EU contact. Oh well, it happened before ("First ON", "First ON on 30m" etc) and each time I wonder where everybody else is. Granted: 30m CW when it’s open for DX seems to be exclusive terrain for OQ5M (me) and OT4A who must be louder because he was plenty of gain there.

Yet another direct QSL from Japan today, also 20m phone in the UBA contest. Strange. Is there really so little DX activity from Belgium? There are a lot of guys with bigger antennas and more power. Yesterday I went to visit a ham friend to offer him my old VHF 11 el yagi. He said he wonders why I always get spotted and he doesn’t. It must be that I’m not too weak. I didn’t get spotted in my barefoot-low-wire days. I was listening to K5ZD’s CQ WW 2007 audio recordings. We had contacts on 20, 40 and 80m. I can assume that I rock on 20m. But I was surprised about how loud I sound on 80m at K5ZD’s. I shouldn’t be ashamed compared to the other signals he recorded. That cheap and simple vertical! Too bad I can’t deploy it when the wind blows. Speaking of which: yesterday and last night were bingo again. Strong winds, I’d label it a minor storm. I’m watching TV news as I type this: two towns were hit by tornadoes. One of those is Lier, home of the OT5A M/M contest site. I hope they didn’t suffer any damage! WX has been VERY bad since end December. Fingers crossed for the upcoming contests (ARRL DX CW and UBA CW).

I am in a foul mood. Hence the spiced up language.

I have a pretty high "breakdown voltage" but the fuse is about to blow! I had a really hectic week at work. Last week before mid-term break so the kids were pretty anxious and restless. Too bad this energy doesn’t translate into a studying / working frenzy. It felt like kindergarten at times.

My Thursday was a killer with 14 hours ‘on the site’ where someone almost got hurt in a voltage related accident. I couldn’t help it. All is well in the end but it was a nasty situation. On the domestic level company A was supposed to call me this week to solve a problem that has been here since they installed the device 5 weeks ago. Nothing heard – problem persists.

And today craftsman B came to do a job ordered over 7 months ago for which we begged him to come several times in the past half year. He came… and left. To cut a long story short: I was so stunned I couldn’t even be angry and raise my voice. But he said he’ll return by noon which is less than 3 hours away. My problem is that the XYL isn’t here to be a soundboard for my rants and raves. That’s about to become HIS problem: I hope I will be so F* P* Off that I finally will settle this once and for all. Right now I am so hyped up that I’m a genuine Menace II Society!

The good thing about this state of mind is that it helps you to make decisions. Maybe rage isn’t a good advisor but I ordered my K3. Yes: a K3/100 kit, the transverter I/F to use the RX antennas and a 500Hz roofing filter. Read my lips: THE ORDER HAS JUST BEEN PLACED. I asked not to ship before June to stay focused on my professional duties.

To end with a brighter note: my LotW WAS standings now say "zero contacts submitted". I got a mail from the LotW help desk that they’re on the case. Nevertheless I got a true blue nice paper WAS award in the mail. Now I only need to buy a frame to display it on the wall. Good thing I can do that myself and not have to rely on some silly lame @ss bozo!

Here’s the deal in detail:

Band      QSOs    Pts   Sec
   3,5      95     177   23
     7      77     166   23
    14     261     670   39
    21       4      8     3
    28       1      1     1
Total     438    1022   89
Score: 90.958

The 15m QSO’s were: ON7LX, ON4BHQ, ZS2I who was CQing and Ron "Always there" VE3AT. He called me on 20m and I asked him to QSY. He told me I was S7 in Canada. TNX for the multiplier!

I tried moving a couple of Americans from 20m to 15m but that didn’t work. I wonder when 15m will support intercontinental propagation again. Can we expect a couple of hours NA-EU propagation by the end of 2008?

What else? I applied for LotW CW WAS and upgraded my DXCC to #200 CFM via LotW. No more paper! There’s something fishy about the WAS standings now. It seems I only asked for 1 state. I should keep an eye on that.

And GlobalQSL announced that they’ll raise the price of their service March 1. Could that be part of the business model? Get people on board with cheap rates and then -bang- adjust the price setting. I picked up a box of incoming QSL last Friday. Two month’s harvest is a shoe box full of cards to process and reply. I’ m not going back to sticking labels, that’s for sure. The GlobalQSL folks probably know that too.

In brief: poor -ations…

Poor motivation

Not in a contesting mood – lots of things on my mind, a lot of work to be done etc etc. I knew it wasn’t going to be fun but I won last year (12h HP category) and I’d like to make ‘m back to back. This frame of mind does not enhance the fun level.

Poor preparation

I planned to set up on Friday but I couldn’t find the energy nor the drive to make it happen. There was a pretty strong wind blowing so I decided to wait. I couldn’t get last year’s results to set a goal because the UBA web site had been down for a couple of days. I didn’t want to risk putting up my flimsy "field day" 80m vertical with the wind and having to take it down mid-contest so I made a 80m inverted V dipole in a hurry on Saturday morning. Bottom line: I was ready setting up at 13.30 local, needed to take a shower and have lunch before 14.00 when the contest started.

Poor propagation

  • 10m: 1 QSO with local ON4BHQ for the multiplier. The band was dead of course.
  • 15m: Not too many contacts (5?) and 3 multipliers. I think – don’t have the log at hand. You can always hope for DX or a local opening but it wasn’t meant to be. Bummer!
  • 20m: Very boring to end up there time after time. Plenty USA worked, 1 JA, HS, 2 YB and 2 ZL. That’s it. Lots of 3 point (non-EU) QSO though.
  • 40m: I hate that band in SSB. Period. Very low score there, no real DX. Splatter or QRM anyone?
  • 80m: Man that dipole sucks compared to my elevated GP vertical. Period.

Poor participation

CQ 160 CW, REF CW and BARTG RTTY. If I wasn’t ON and felling obliged to participate I’d skipped this one too and play in CW. Normally participation is better in UBA CW when there are more SSB contests that weekend. It was hard to get contacts. I think I made about 420 QSO or so, where it was 618 last year. 83 mults compared to 103 last year. On the other hand ON participation seemed quite OK for such a small country with no real contesting tradition and I heard and worked a lot of club stations.

Bottom line-ification

If someone tops my 12h score I think she/he deserved to win because I feel this lousy score is all I could squeeze out of it.

Yes! I just checked my LotW account and there is it… 50/50 states confirmed in CW on LotW. Thank you K7GQ for uploading your logs and confirming our 3 QSO’s. It took a while to get Nevada confirmed via the ARRL LotW system but there you go. They say that good things come to those who wait and that patience is a virtue.

No more plowing through tons of paper QSL cards to get those 50 cards. My WAS CW award is just a few mouse clicks away now. But the chase is more thrilling than the catch so it could take a while before I’ll actually apply  ;o)

Coming weekend is the UBA DX contest SSB and guess what: I am NOT looking forward to that. Nothing to do with that CW-SSB thing, we’ve left that behind. I am just so darn busy that my mind is not set to contesting. Imagine that… Add to that the WX we’ve been having for three weeks and some wind is predicted for the weekend to come, the fact that I need to set everything up on Saturday and that I need to retune my 80m vertical which is set for CW…

We’ll see. Now off to rejoice my LotW WAS achievement.

PS Hat off to those who can tell me from which nineties TV series I adapted the title of this blog entry  ;o)

Yesterday (Tuesday) was another very stressful day for those with antennas. It was a storm with 90-100 km/h gusts and a continuous strong wind. Not my favorite WX. It seems that everything survived but I was wondering: if the antennas don’t come down by the wind, how long will it take before they just wiggle apart? Another problem is that the bedroom is right under the roof and the howling wind keeps me awake. I guess it was the third night out of 5 or so that I almost didn’t sleep.

A storm with 100 km/h wind or less might seem peanuts to some but to Belgian standards it’s a genuine storm. Furthermore my QTH is situated in the clear and the wind can pick up speed from all directions before hitting the house and the tower. That is most definitely an advantage when it comes to radiating RF on the ham bands but it’s a drawback when the wind blows. And blowing it does. When there is a gentle breeze it feels like wind already here. When there’s wind elsewhere, there are minor gusts here etc. Or could that be my impression? When the tower got installed late 2004, I remember getting out of bed at night to check if all was fine when there was wind. It’s a "crank up tilt over" designed for +100 km/h when fully extended so the math says all should be fine when it’s down like right now. My conscious begs to differ. At first I tilted it over often but I soon realized that with the Belgian weather it would lie down on the lawn all too often and I gave up bothering. The good thing is that if it survives 100 km/h winds, I can sleep in confidence when the wind speed is less. sleep – apart from the noise that is!

Now all this seems like a repeat of 2007 where we had a storm exactly this very week too. It started with strong winds migrating into a storm and this WX lasted about 2-3 weeks. Just long enough to wreck my planned 24h effort in the UBA DX SSB Contest. The wind settled in the early afternoon on Saturday so I started 3 hours late late because I had to set up the low band antennas and raise the tower. I settled for the 12h category and won  ;o)     My fear now is a repeat of this scenario. Not that I mind winning but I’d like to prepare on Friday afternoon for which the WX should be calm over the whole weekend. I have started putting myself at ease with the idea of skipping the SSB part if the UBA DX Contest. Only to make life easy on myself and the XYL when the WX once again blows (pun not intended) my contesting fun.

Other than that a small communication appeared on the UBA website:

  • The access on 160m for ON is extended from 1975 kHz to 2000 kHz with a 10W limit in that window.
  • The LowFer range 501 – 504 kHz has been opened up for ON with a 5W ERP limit and CW only.

Magritte’s famous painting "Ceci n’est pas une Pipe" pictured a pipe but Magritte stated that is was only an image of a pipe and not a real pipe.  Well, today’s writing will mostly be an image of a blog – or better: several blogs. I don’t have anything to say myself (what’s new pussycat woho hoho) but I read some stuff left and right that I have thought over. My ham activities are at an absolute low now. I don’t feel like going into the shack either because I was there all too often in December. There are about ten different threads in my head’s software that each in turn trigger an interrupt and ham radio is NOT one of them. The jargon in that last sentence is a clue about what I’m doing. Lots of work to prepare my classes so I’m counting down to the UBA SSB contest – if only the WX won’t poop the party. Pardon my French.

A new blog has emerged from ON land. Frank ON7RU decided to share his HAMventures with us. He also picked the Microsoft Live Spaces environment. It’s an honor to read that my modest blog here is one of his favorites. The link is http://on7ru.spaces.live.com. Are there any other Belgian ham blogs out there?

John K3WWP talked about the influence of the solar cycle on the 10 MHz (30m) propagation. The question was wether there actually IS any influence. I personally don’t think so after been there 7 years and neither does John who has been through a couple of cycles. That band (30m) really is my favorite DX band. Always open to somewhere and lots of nice DX there. I think out of any major DXpedition to a rare one I worked ‘m first on 30m ànd always pretty fast. Only a rotary dipole and 600W or less. I guess competition isn’t as strong antenna-wise on that band than on the other bands.

But that 10 MHz thing got me thinking about 40m. Flash back to August 2002, peak of Cycle 23, Worked All Europe CW. I was living at my parent’s place and only had a low inverted V dipole for 20m. So I put up a delta loop for that contest, making it as high and wide as I could fit in the garden. I guess the circumference was about 30m and I fed it in the lower corner with an SGC SG-230 SmartTuner. On Sunday morning when the sun came up I worked ZL6QH barefoot on first call. The S-meter said: S9+20dB. A bit later some more DX like VK came though with very loud signals and I worked USA with ease and they were loud too. This particular morning has always been the benchmark afterwards only I haven’t heard ZL6QH or any ZL for that matter that loud again though now I have a better QTH and a better 40m antenna. Same with USA: quite loud but never that loud again. Was it a sort of once-in-a-decade experience or was it just the solar conditions at the top of cycle 23? I could work W6 that morning on 20m too with 100W and an inverted V cut for 14 MHz. Now running a kW into a 3el yagi but no go.

I should note that it was my first real activity on 40m because I didn’t have an antenna before and after that it took almost a year and a half to arrive here in our own house and put up a 40m antenna. Then in April 2003 I only had an antenna for 40m for half a year and I worked many, many DX on that band but NEVER again that loud. I always thought that since 40m is considered ‘low band’ it would have been better later on in the declining phase of the sunspot cycle. So now it’s my turn to wonder: will 40m get better or not when Cycle 24 goes berserk?

I also read that Jeff KE9V has bought a copy of CQ Magazine. What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, it’s not that he buys it, it’s WHERE Jeff buys it: "…on occasion I’ll pick up a newsstand copy. When I do that I’m generally in a big-box bookstore like". Buy a ham radio magazine in a bookstore? What a concept! To my knowledge there is NO bookstore here in Belgium that sells ham literature. They don’t stock or carry it since no one will buy it. Until 3 years ago there was a chain of stores in Brussels that had a magazine called ‘CQ Radioamateur’ – in French. It had the official CQ logo on the cover and was (is?) a French magazine but I can’t Google any details on it and I gave the issues away. It was light reading and not way as thick as QST to which I get as an ARRL member. Occasionally I picked up that French mag when I took the train and needed to wait on the platform but it’s been quite a while since I last saw one. That magazine, not a train. I’d just like to pick up a CQ Magazine too when I walk into a book store!

All this is quite a lot for someone who hasn’t got a thing to say, no? Now I’m walking out. Take care!

I’m not really an active DXCC hunter but I like to grab a new one when it comes along. I’ve written about the burden of QSLing when you make a lot of contacts like I do. So May 2006 I was happy to enroll in ARRL’s LotW program. That way I planned to reduce paper QSLing and work towards the awards electronically. It only counts for DXCC and WAS right now. Too bad since opening this system for other (non-ARRL) awards might boost the popularity.

LotW versus Paper QSL

   QSO’s made  = 80397      Confirmed on paper = 13667         Ratio = 16,99%

   QSO on LotW = 78420      Confirmed on LotW  = 14393         Ratio = 18,35%

So that’s about the same ratio. Even better on LotW. However I think less than 20% is a very low confirmation ratio. I started late 2000 so let’s count from 2001 to 2007, that is a 7 year span. That should be long enough for a "buro QSL" to get here. Of course I should get more accurate numbers if there would be a way to filter out unique contacts. I worked K1TTT and K3LR etc numerous times yet only sent / received QSL for the first band/mode slot. Most of the contacts are contest QSO’s. That might explain a bit since many calls return. But all this money and time spent for 20%? I must admit that when I started until 2005, I was eager to send and receive QSL cards. But that changed when I made over 15k QSO a year. And working USA or JA on 20m is a thrill at first but that changes when you work 500 of them in a weekend. OK, 1000 USA in a weekend and 50 JA  ;o)

WAS

ON5ZO_WAS Right now I have worked all 50 states in CW and have 50 paper QSL cards to show for it. According to my logging software that is, because it would take ages to find those 50 cards in over 10 000 cards. So I’d rather walk the LotW road to WAS. My LotW pages show I have confirmed 49 out of 50 states. The only missing state is Nevada. DX4WIN tells me I have 15 contacts with Nevada. Probably more since I only have the state info either from ARRL contests or for confirmed contacts.

Now out of these 15 Nevada contacts 10 are in CW. Of those 10 contacts I have 3 paper QSL cards. It took ages to get a paper QSL from Nebraska and both Dakotas. Via the "buro" because I don’t QSL direct. These states were easy to get in LotW. But no Nevada. As soon as a Nevada confirmation rolls in on LotW, I’ll apply for WAS CW. But I’m patient, it’ll come.

DXCC

Here are my current DXCC standings as calculated by DX4WIN. This is CW only and not taken LotW confirmations into account.
Take a closer look at my WARC band standings (12m, 17m and 30m).
DX4WIN shows 154 CFM DXCC while LotW counts 153. The ARRL DXCC staff didn’t count my valid VP5-card. Well, the ON Field Checker did his job well but that one didn’t make it from his paper list into the computer @ ARRL.

ON5ZO_DXCC

And here’s my LotW DXCC score. It’s quite obvious that LotW is mainly a contester’s business since I seem to have far less WARC-band confirmations.

I have a batch of paper QSL’ed New Ones that I should submit but I can’t get myself going to look through all those boxes with QSL cards.
Furthermore I should import my LotW confirmations into DX4WIN but I’ve come to hate that program and I REFUSE to buy a so called "upgrade".

Roundup: if you’re a Nevada ham and have a QSO with me, please enroll in the LotW program   ;o)

ON5ZO_DXCClotw