ON5ZO – OQ5M

The sunrise operating on 40/80m yesterday turned out to be a non-event. I got in the shack at 06.30z which is my sunrise to find 40m and 80m full of USA stations working ARRL Sweepstakes CW. They were quite loud so that’s a good thing on my 80m vertical. I took it down and didn’t find anything wrong. My plan is to look it over next weekend but the WX forecast predicts strong winds and rain. WW CW approaching and WX declining fast – sounds like a repeat of 2006. Oh my!

Anyway with the lower bands showing no activity for the Ukrainian DX contest I went to 20m and had some rate. Then off to 15m where I didn’t manage to get rate but got called by YC1KAF, HS0AC and 9M6XRO. I even managed to call ZM2B and log him without repeats. Great! Then it was time to do an urgent repair in the house and quit the contest with just over 500 CW QSOs. Funny: a not too serious period in a small contest using CW gives me relatively more rate and contacts than SSB in the biggest of ‘m all (CQ WW SSB).

Interesting and enjoyable reading I found through 3830: the 8P5A story in CQ WW SSB 2007.

Don’t expect any updates soon. My holiday is over and I’m back to work so the level of radio activity will be quite low the coming days (weeks?). Who’s reading al this anyway???

I’ve been playing on 17m lately and I must say the band seems to improve. Solar numbers don’t tell yet it feels better. I worked LU / W / HS on 17m one day at about the same time and the next day got into W6 with at least a dozen true W6 (QTH = CA). All this with 600W or less and my rotary dipole at about 9m high around 1600utc. 17m is a great band – I like 30m a lot too. And I’ll start loving 12m when SFI allows.

This morning I fixed my 80m vertical and made the vertical part 2m longer. While my hands were dirty I did some jobs in the house too. Then off to the shack. First impression: there is something wrong on 80m. SWR almost flat over 200kHz. Before I had a nice dip covering about 100kHz with 2:1 SWR bandwith. It feels something isn’t right. I played a bit in Ukranian DX: on 20m, 40m and stayed up long enough to type this ànd get on 80m.

Normally I don’t have to repeat but this time even EU stations ask for a repeat. So there is something wrong on 80m! Yet I get called by US stations as far as Texas (on their grey line). And I got called on 80m by a 8P and a VP9 – so maybe it isn’t all that bad? Still I need to check that 80m antenna before CQ WW CW in 3 weeks.

Jerk of the weekend: SN5G. Around 23.50utc I am called by a K2. He wasn’t very strong but I could copy him easily because there was no QRM. No QRM, until SN5G fires away without checking. Away goes the DX. I still managed to work the K2 and engaged in a frequency fight but I let him have the frequency – "be the better man" and let him be the moron. Wonder if he got called by 8P and VP9   ;o)

Almost 2AM local here so I’m off – CU at my sunrise – that is in less than 6 hours   :o)

Yesterday I processed a batch of buro QSL for OQ5M. It has come to the point
that I find this a complete waste of time and money – both invaluable resources for expanding my station and make contacts. Now there is still a
pile of incoming cards left for OO5ZO and ON5ZO. Those will be paper cards
until the stock runs out and then I’ll switch to the GlobalQSL service. The
price per 1000 cards is about the same as having QSL cards printed but I
don’t need to buy/print/stick labels and sort/send the cards. Clearly a
winning service for people like me. Don’t get me wrong, I like QSL cards but
the volume has become too big.

Today Jeff KE9V blogs about Morse Myths. That’s a topic
of interest to me, being a CW fanatic. I guess the most silly myth must be
that CW on the amateur bands is dying. Sure, commercial morse has been
abandoned in favour of more ‘modern’ ways like satellite phone etc but on
the ham bands it is alive and kicking, rest assured. The strange things is
that it is mostly hams that don’t know or use CW are the believers. Anyone
who tunes in the CW subbands knows better. Most and best DX always pops up
in CW, it is THE mode for small stations with a limited setup (PSK? yuk!)
and to me it is a vital part of the hobby.
–…   …–   
-..  .    —  -.  …..  –..  —

I’ve been reading 3830 closely over the last day and three things really strike me.

  1. There are a lot of guys basicaly telling the same thing as I did: too wide signals on the air, and IDing with ‘QRZ’ is annoying.
  2. There are some claimed scores reported by easy mults that I completely missed (A45WD, FM1HN, WP2MDG, KL7RA and probably more). Some of these were actually M/x so I wonder if they did some S&P and if so if they care to work non-mult 3-pointers as well? I can’t imagine they would not have heard me. I’ll give KL7RA the benefit of the doubt on that one, of course!
  3. For my own league: how do you pull THIS off? Yet I didn’t work him. Strange…

Glad the contest is over. Never thought I’d say that but this one… I don’t know what to think. The rates were horrible. I only had one fast hour of 117Q/h. That was 11.00 to 12.00utc on Saturday. Next bests are 98 and 89 and that’s it. In the biggest contest of the year. Compare that to all the CW contests I did this year where I have several +100 hours in a row. My conclusion? It seems that for SSB contesting you need more power than 1kW and more than a tribander up at 21m above the ground. Conditions were not too good but they have been all year so that can’t play. Maybe the OB11-3 does not play as well as the KLM KT34XA? It’s at least as good on 10m and better on 15m but maybe slightly less on 20m? But then again it has worked great in the CW contests.
One thing I am sure of: Viva CW!

The score is way down compared to last year.

  • 2006:  1508 QSO – 114 cty – 35 z  =  420.180 points claimed.
  • 2007:  1360 QSO – 107 cty – 32 z  =  378.219 points claimed.

The operating was a real QRM fest. And splatter! A couple of times I had a decent run going and then – whoops, all RX wiped out. On many occasions I knew there were DX stations calling me even with fairly good signals but when the QRM is S9+20dB you cannot copy those. I compiled a list of stations with VERY wide modulation that came (too) close to me.
My first run was early Saturday when the band was still closed but I thought to stick on that frequency and reserve a spot for when things got hot. A couple of CQ’s in vain and then there was OH0JFP firing away on my frequency. He’s forgiven as he couldn’t hear me but his CQ raised a small UA pile up.
Then at 06.19 along came UA3SAQ about 3kHz below me. 3kHz is a fair margin you say? Sure but with 12kHz wide signals I could move. He could hear me as he worked me right before he started to run.
At 08.00 OL5M was only 8kHz wide but of course a show stopper. 08.06 EW6GF popped up less than 1kHz away. That set the tone for what was to come.

Oh yeah, when you make a remark to those guys about how they are greedy for spectrum they don’t seem to understand. Standard reply is that they did ask if the frequency was in use. Errr, that was not what I was saying!
On Sunday at 06.20 LZ9W was 10kHz wide and at 07.20 ES375UT was 8kHz wide but he blamed the ‘strong propagation’ (sic). At 10.23 I was finally working more than one JA but RZ3LC decided to crank it up and with his 8kHz wide signal: exit JA. 10.25 was closer to home ànd someone who actually spoke / understood English. G6PZ was running East which is right over me but 8kHz wide and S9+40 although more than 2000Hz away. His reply to my remark that he wiped away all signals on my running frequency? "Well that’s great thank you". DUH!
Most funny guy must have been IZ8CKT who was more than 8000Hz wide but said -and I quote- his radio was only 20W at the moment. Another guy who doesn’t seem to get it.
My ‘measurements’ for the occupied bandwith were done like this: I zero beat the signal, move up/down until the QRM is manageble and multiply the offset by two. So in fact the bandwidth might even be bigger but as long as you can hear what’s under it…
And when I finally found a new multiplier towards the end (FS/K1XM at 17.52utc) YT5S wiped away the confirmation. Thanks for that mate! I think K1XM logged me and got my call correct but these impatient jerks just spoil all the fun.

It wasn’t all that bad and there were some nice things too. Being called by nice (double) mults for instance. Especially at the point where I realized I didn’t have a single VK or ZL in the log. Too bad ZL6QH quit! Then at 10.09 on Sunday ZM2M called me followed right away by VK4WR. That’s so sweet: 4 badly needed mults in half a minute. Again I didn’t work Alaska – hello guys?

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EDIT: I forgot some irritating other things:

  • Those #{|@{|@{   ‘last two’ callers… Normally I just ignore them until they give me a full call but in a contest this hurts the score.
  • Everyone just going ‘QRZ’ in stead of just giving their call. This goes just as fast and makes things go smoother.
  • Beiging called by ‘Mobile station calling’ or ‘QRP station calling’ – why not simply give me your callsign in stead of making me repeat that very same sentence?

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Counting down to CQ WW CW, which will most likely be SOAB(A) if WX permits. Can’t wait for a good CW contest because CW is the real mode, SSB is just passing time. It’s the difference between working a contest and enjoying a contest.

73 / CU!

Today is the first day of my autumn break (1 week) and the day before CQ WW SSB. I slept almost 3 hours longer than on a working day, I needed it. I’m having mixed feelings about tomorows’s contest. The good thing is that’s it’s a contest and it has been over two and a half months since my last contest – but that wasn’t really a success. I really need to get away from it all. More precise: get away from work and empty the head. So what better than a contest?
The bad thing is that it’s SSB. Not my prefered mode, to say the least! And though I really like SOAB, I decided to go SB20. Here’s why.

  • SSB for 48 hours? No way!
  • SSB on the low bands? No way!
  • Retune my 80m antenna from CW to the SSB subband? No way!
  • Any other SSB-friendly band that supports DX propagation right now? No way! With 15m being very spotty and 10m a total wasteland…

So here’s the deal for today: clean up the shack and operating desk, hook up the headset for phone operation, do some work around the house, crank up the tower, take a shower, (try to) make some QSOs and hopefully won’t be disappointed when the band is (seemingly) dead.

BTW: my 3830 score from 2006 is this weekend’s target. I doubt I’ll pull this off…
More after the weekend, 73 / CU as OQ5M on 20m.

Yesterday the shack PC gave a bunch of XP errors. I could not fix it and with the contests coming up, I decided to do a format C and then a clean install. Everything is working OK now in all 3 modes, even the MK2R+ and the USB device router were configured quickly.

20m seemed quite dead this evening (1800z), not too many stations and those who were there sounded pretty weak. Yesterday however 17m was ok (1500z) but then XP acted up… I hope 20m at least will have some propagation in a few days!

I decided to play some radio this weekend and entered the JARTS RTTY contest. A part time very casual entry. I am by no means an RTTY lover but any radio activity beats no activity and I remembered from last year that it was fun. RTTY people use LotW a lot which is good for my RTTY DXCC / WAS. Not that I work towards these but along the way we might get there.
Much to my surprise 15m produced good results to JA and the USA. Maybe the earlier pessimistic solar forecast was wrong? Let’s hope!

The JARTS exchange is the operator’s age. I think the average (RTTY) contester is way over 60 with roughly estimated 150 W QSO, 25 JA and the rest DX+EU for a total of approx. 300 QSO. Youngest age reported was 30, the oldest 89. The 99 numbers are for multi-op but I can’t exclude the occasional 99 year old RTTY operator.

Working this RTTY contest gave me lots of time to think about the upcoming CQ WW SSB. It’ll be SB20 HP. I hope that WX will cooperate and let me crank up the tower and that conditions are reasonable. As I type this it’s 18.30utc and while there are still US stations calling in with fair signals, I don’t know wether the band is already closing or that there is just not too many activity anymore?

That’s all for now. I’m going QRT and process the log. 73!

I’ve been counting down to cycle 24. I want sunspots, I want propagation, I want bands to open up and stay open. I want to be on 10m again!
Then K1TTT posts a message on the CQ Contest reflector with a link to this bad solar news. Say it ain’t so indeed! Two cycles gone to waste? That means I’ll be retired (retarded?) by the next decent cycle…

Various:
By coincidence I ended up on the website of the hamfest I visited a few weeks ago and saw myself with ON7WZ and someone handing out flyers. It seems that I sneak in there each year.

Last night K7GK called me on the phone to say that 20m was wide open. We tried a QSO but I immediately knew it would be a mission (almost) impossible with the tower cranked down. East coast would work, West coast with the current solar activity? Nope, phone didn’t work and CW only barely. That brings me back to the topic of this posting…

Other than this, nothing to report. QRU ES QRT

This AM, I worked 5 ZL stations in a row at my sunrise – on 80m! Plus a bunch of VK/ZL on 40m, and a loud ZL7. My verticals really do play. Each vertical has 2 (tuned) elevated radials, and I think it is the simplest and cheapest antenna to work DX.

I spent an enjoyable Saturday in the company of a visiting US ham and let him use my station in the EU Sprint CW. I think he enjoyed it and made the most of my setup. What a great hobby we have!

73 before we jump into the working week…