Monday, October 31, 2011

Each DXpedition QSO makes someone happy...

I remember a conversation way back when I was on the D68C expedition to the Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean. John G3WGV and Mark M0DXR were talking about the pleasure that people get from making contacts with DXpeditions. Mark summarised it in a way that I've always remembered, "for each QSO we make, we're making someone happy". It's a magical way of looking at it and it would be nice to think that it is true.

I was reminded of this reading Dave Richards' AA7EE's blog about his QSO with T32C on 80m with a homebrew QRP and a 40m dipole! It's a great story but what makes it even better is that the operator from T32C, Franky, ON7RU read the blog and commented on it! What really makes it is Dave's clear surprise and pleasure at making the QSO.

Having operated a few DXpeditions over the years, I can safely say that it's stories like these that make it all the more enjoyable. I remember back at 3B9C, I randomly strolled over to a spare station which was free and put out a call on 10m FM on 29.600MHz. A fair few came back and I worked my way through. Soon, I heard a familiar voice calling me, MW0TTU.

Mo, MW0TTU is the aunt of my friend Kelvin, GW4TTU and we had worked many a time on VHF from the South Wales hills. Simply, I replied without callsigns, "Hello Mo, what a lovely surprise, you're five and nine in Rodrigues".

It was lovely to hear Mo's surprised voice as she said "Who's that? Who's that!". Of course I explained quickly and did the more formal exchange of reports and then got back to the pileup, but it was a magical exchange.

It's the QSOs like that that really surprise people and make them happy.

CQ-VHF magazine available as a digital download

When I lived in Canada, I regularly bought a copy of CQ-VHF magazine. Edited by Joe N6CL, it's an accessible, enthusiastic and informative look at the VHF/UHF scene.

When I moved back to the UK I occasionally looked at subscribing, but the costs to ship it to the UK were pretty high. I happened to look again the other day and was delighted to see that I could subscribe to the magazine as a digital download for a very reasonable $18.

The Fall 2011 issue should be available this week and I am looking forward to browsing it on my iPad!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sirio 4000PL mobile antenna ready for 10m FM


I mentioned earlier in the week that I had my suspicions that the Comet UHV-6 antenna wasn't working that well on the FM segment of 10m. Unsurprising really, as I trimmed it for the SSB section of the band! In any event, the UHV-6 isn't flexible enough to go under the barrier at the station car park. What I needed was a good flexible whip which would bend easily.

I enquired of some friends about good 27/28MHz whip antennas and had the Sirio range recommended. I looked at the Sirio 4000PL which looked promising. It arrived a couple of days ago in a very long cardboard tube, prompting a good-humoured 'what HAVE you ordered now, Tim' message!

I installed it on a magmount yesterday and plumbed it in. This morning I drove over to Faringdon with Lawrence and the cats (it was the cats' annual checkup at the vet - happy to say that all was well). Driving back, once the cats had stopped miaowing so vociferously, I tried a contact and was able to have a brief contact with US7IOG. Then this afternoon as I drove over to the farm store to get some bird food, I was pleased to make a quick QSO through the KQ2H repeater in New York.

Looks like it's working well and it will be fun to have 10m FM available in the car. I may need to look at a diplexer, so that I can simultaneously use the HF and VHF/UHF antennas. 

But first, I think I'll make sure it goes under the barrier at the station ok.....

Monday, October 24, 2011

The return of 10m FM

Well, of course it never really went away. Over the last few weeks and days, I've hearing people talking about what they've been working on 10m FM. Occasionally when I've been in the shack I've put the rig on 29.600MHz FM and have heard a good few stations coming through. Many people have reported making QSOs through a US repeater (New York?) on 29.620MHz. This evening, coming home, I drove outside the car park, under the low barrier and put the Comet UHV-6 antenna on the car ( it's too tall to fit under the barrier). As I drove home, I tuned around 10m FM. Fascinating! The most distant station was, and I think I have the call correct, was KF7EZ/M in 7 land! He was looking for a friend of his in the US 4 call area! I tried to call him and let him know he was being heard in the UK. Also heard VA3QRM, a W2 in New Jersey and W5AF (I think- I wasn't writing calls down!). Not entirely sure how well the UHV-6 works on 10m FM. Fascinating listening and I'll repeat the exercise tomorrow. Hopefully I will make a QSO before long. And in the meantime, I must remember to take the big antenna off the car before I head in tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sneaking a QSO with T32C

The T32C Dxpedition to Chrismas Island (T3) has been going for a little while now. What with one thing and another, as well as poor conditions, I haven't really listened very much. Having said that, I've been in regular e-mail contact with some of the team which has been good fun. They are doing a great job and are amassing a huge QSO total; over 170,000 QSOs at the time of writing. Neville, G3NUG will be delighted!

I popped up to the shack briefly last night around 20:30z - mostly to have a look at VHF/UHF as conditions had seemed reasonable on the way home. Just out of curiosity, I had a look at the most recent T32C cluster spots. There were a few on 24MHz from Europe from a bit earlier, so I quickly tuned the FT1000MP to have a look. To my great surprise I could just hear them.

After a couple of minutes, the signals came up a little and I could hear that they were listening up 1. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Dropped my call in a couple of times and was completely surprised when they came back with my call!

What a great surprise. This morning, I'm pleased to see my callsign in the online log.

I may look a little earlier, if I have the chance, on 28MHz. That's a handy opening over Central and South America in the evenings. Over the years, I've worked ZL7, ZL9 and now T32 on 24 or 28MHz around that time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A very unexpected QSO

On Friday evening I was just heading up to bed and I did my usual check on VHF/UHF to see what was happening. The FM box stopped on 145.7375. The normal station there is GB3AL but the station I could hear seemed to be in France - or at least the stations using the repeaters were. Signals were fairly weak but seemed to be fading up and down. I kept listening and the box identified; F1ZPL. A quick Google search and I was amazed. The repeater is in JN24WB - over 500 miles from me!

Could I make a QSO through it? I disabled my CTCSS so that when I transmitted I wouldn't bring up GB3AL. I waited for a break in the conversation (in French) and dropped my call in. There was a pause and then I was welcomed in English!

Having had a short QSO, I was delighted to almost immediately get an e-mail from one of the group. It was also fun to get an e-mail from 2W0EAD, Alan near Newport, who could also copy the repeater.

I checked the details of F1ZPL and it is at(from memory) around 1600m ASL. The coverage area includes the Meditteranean coast. Amazing!

I'm sure this was my most distant ever 144MHz tropo QSO on FM!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Playing a little HF again






Over the last few months, I didn't have any HF in the shack other than the Anytone 10m rig. One evening a few weeks ago on Twitter I noticed that Pete 2E0SQL and Mark M0MJH were having a chat on 7MHz SSB. I quickly routed the HF aerial to the back of the FT847 so that I could listen. That worked fine! Then I tried to call them, but discovered that the FT847 wouldn't transmit in the 'new' part of 7MHz.

Well, of course that was just the motivation I needed. I got the FT1000MP out and have installed it. And since then, it's been nice to make some casual contacts on the various HF bands again. Mostly I've been looking at 28MHz with a few nice contacts made around North and South America in the late afternoons and evenings. 14MHz has been quite fun later on in the evening - I've been having a quick tune around just before going to bed and have made some nice CW contacts, mostly into the USA. Al, WA7GSK in Idaho was a nice one the other evening.

Of course, I've been listening for my friends at T32C, but conditions haven't been good to that part of the world when I have had a chance to listen.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Polar Mesospheric Summer Echoes (PMSE)

I just came across this fascinating post on Roger G3XBM's blog.

The openings from Europe to Japan - and perhaps Europe to West Coast USA on 50MHz sound candidates for this. Many years ago when I was part of the Square Bashers Expedition Group that activated squares around the UK mostly for 144MHz meteor scatter, we found that we could work well equipped Scandinavian stations such as SM2CKR pretty much any time we wanted. At the time we thought it was ionoscatter, but perhaps not.

I've got some reading to do now. Thanks Roger!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

New version of WinDV available

I was playing with my DVAP and the Icom E92 earlier in the day and I wondered if there was a new version of the WinDV software available. I'd previously been running 1.1.3 successfully. I checked over at http://www.Dutch-star.eu and sure enough there was! Version 1.3 was there. As before, installation was very straightforward. First impression was of the changed user interface, with a light blue background and and more rounded controls. The program works well. I quickly hooked up to the K6MDD repeater in San Francisco and had a nice QSO with Darryl, WA6YTD. Darryl confirmed the audio was good and that the program was doing everything it needed to. I enjoyed the option that if the station you are working or hearing is sending a lat/lon, then that is shown in terms of a Google Maps link that you can click on and see the position of the station. Easy to do, but enjoyable to use.

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