Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not a spot to be seen....

Here is a picture of the Sun today....not a single spotspot to be seen. We are still well and truely at solar minimum.

For the record, the solar flux reading for today is 68. Not really up or down....about the same as before.
In a recent ARRL e-mail, W7TJ wrote..."I have been on the air 44 years, and never have I seen a cycle with such a long extended bottom. Usually the bottom is brief, maybe 6-9 Months of low Sunspot numbers and Solar Flux Values in the Mid 60s. The rise and fall is and has historically been short. Looking back (depending on where one measures) there is a very long and stretched bottom spanning 1 1/2 to 2 years. Graphically instead of a "V" we have a "U" with a long flat bottom."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

EI3EBB, Watson 2000 & antenna work...

After a slightly shorter absence from the airwaves compared to me, Alan EI3EBB is coming back on again. So after he installed a new Watson 2000 vertical on the chimney, it was time to help out with a bit of tuning.

The EI3EBB 'antenna farm'. Diamond X510 on the left and a Watson 2000 on the right.

The Watson 2000 is a 3 band fibreglass VHF antenna. On 50 MHz, it is a half wave (claimed 0dBd gain), on 144 MHz it is a 2 x 5/8 wave (4dBd claimed) and 432 MHz, it is 4 x 5/8 wave (6.4 dBd). The overall lenght is 2.5 metres so the claim that it has the same gain as a half wave (3 metres) on 50 MHz is a bit optimistic.

Adjusting the 50 MHz radial on the Watson 2000

50 MHz......It has 3 ground planes with one of them adjustable for tuning the antenna to 50 MHz. The initial test showed that the VSWR was lowest up around 51 MHz. After adjusting the radial for maximum lenght, the lowest VSWR was at 50.7 MHz. The VSWR plot was as follows...

The 1:1.5 VSWR bandwidth seems to be around 0.9 MHz and the 1:2 VSWR bandwidth was 1.5 MHz. The final result is that the VSWR for the SSB portion of the band is 1:1.4 to 1.6 which should be ok. It's not that we had much choice when it came to tuning anyway because if we had adjusted it any further, the radial would have fallen out!

144 MHz....The VSWR meter suggested the following...


This suggests that the aerial was slightly too long. Certainly, the VSWR looks a bit high for the FM part of the band where this type would normally be used. As there was no way of adjusting the VSWR on 2 metres, we had to leave it as is. Did adjusting the 6 metre radial affect the VSWR on 2 metres?? We didn't check.

432 MHz....We had no equipment to check the VSWR on this band.

(Note...The VSWR was checked with a pretty cheap meter. A days later, we took some readings with another meter. While there was some differences, the VSWR minimum point stayed the same. There was nothing to suggest that the graph above is not accurate)

50 MHz.....It's way too early to say how this aerial performs on 6 metres. The only way we had of testing it was to listen to the EI0SIX beacon and compare it to how I hear it at my place. On paper, we both expected the beacon to be a lot stronger at EI3EBB's location. He is roughly double the height above sea level that I am and he is near the top of the range of hills that I have as my horizon. In addition, he is using an aerial that is resonant and should have nearly the gain of a dipole while I am just listening on a non-resonant CB half wave. If I was hearing the beacon at 319 to 419, I would have expected it to be maybe 539 at EI3EBB's place?

Instead, the beacon is very weak at his house. Why??
Is it the Watson 2000? It's hard to believe it's that bad. Anyway, it seemed to have got a good review here.
Different path???.....I looked at some maps and we have almost the same path (EI3EBB - 168kms - 38 deg / EI7GL - 183 kms - 34 deg). If anything, the path for Alan looks slightly better in that the Knockmealdown mountains look like more of an obstruction for me.
Local obstructions???......EI3EBB has some high ground to the East but at 38 degrees, he should be clear of most of it. Is there some sort of 'plateau' effect?? Is the aerial just in a null spot?

Updated 25th Nov 2008......We did a few tests by going mobile around the roads near EI3EBB's location. We used a loaded quarter wave magmount on the roof of the car and an IC706 parked on 50.052 MHz CW. Now, the tests were a bit subjective as we had ignition noise, noise from the car's electronics and there was some fading on the signal as well. Yet, we still got a good feel for what could be heard.

Area 1) Around EI3EBB's location which is about 500 metres back from the brow of the hill and at ground level, would be around 5 metres lower. The signal was very weak, maybe 319, 419 max.

Area 2) Near the peaks of the local hills (~2-3kms away, 40m higher and 15m higher) to the East and West of EI3EBB. Here the beacon was around 539, nice solid signal and a lot stronger than with the Watson 2000 at EI3EBB's place. (On the hill to the East, the signal did not really get strong until we cleared the trees)

Area 3) The strongest signals by far were along the Northern slopes of the Eastern hill. The signal peaked around 559 here, amazingly strong for a beacon that was around 165 kms away. I have seen this with VHF signals before where the signals on the downward slope of a hill in the direction of which the signals are coming are often stronger than at the top.

Conclusions....??? Still nothing definite. We established that the Knockmealdown mountains (direction of EI0SIX) are visible from the Watson 2000 on the roof. If there is any 'local' high ground in the way, it's not much. We tried just holding the magmount out a skylight on the roof so that it was close to the height of the Watson and doing some tests by comparing it to the Watson with a coax switch. We could hear the beacon a little bit better with the Watson. So, in other words, we were hearing the beacon 'a bit' better on what is supposed to be a resonant half wave antenna than a loaded quarter wave with no ground plane. Perhaps it's a bit early to come to any firm conclusion on the Watson 2000 but for the moment, on 6 metres at least, there is certainly no 'wow' factor.

144 MHz......Compared to the Diamond X510 which is nearby, the Watson is a bit down as expected. The only tests done were listening to local repeaters and they seemed fine.

(Notes....Limerick Repeater on IC706. X510=s'9+10', Watson=s'9').

432 MHz.....No tests done.

So, EI3EBB in IO52ta is back on 6 metres...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Number of EI stations...

While I was looking around the Comreg website today, I found some information about the numbers of EI stations. The graph covers the period from 2003 to 2008. It might be worth pointing out to any non-EI visitors to this blog that here in Ireland, we have Radio Experimenters licences rather than Radio Amateur ones.As you can see, a fair drop from 2003 until 2006 and now it has remained steady. Why the drop? I seem to remember something about Comreg removing anyone who had not renewed their licence from their database?
Whatever the reason, there are currently about 1,500 EI stations with a licence. When you consider that the majority will probably not be active at all and another section who will rarely use the radio, there are probably only a few hundred active EI stations out there on the bands.

When you spread out that few hundred accross all of the bands, different days and different times of day, perhaps there are not so many of us after all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 Irish award

I found this by accident today when I was looking at something else (...the joys of the Internet :o))

Steve, EI5DD has set up a new website about the EI CASHOTA award....Castles And Stately Homes On The Air. The news release on their website is only from last Saturday so I presume it has only just been announced?
Perhaps it is of interest to a limited number of people but it sounds like an activity that would be ideal for a radio club. Anyway, it kicks off on the 1st of Jan 2009 if you are interested.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Echoes from a bygone era...

I found this website by accident today. It shows some old QSL cards from EI stations during the 1930's to 1950's. Certainly, working conditions must have been very different back then with most of the equipment home made or ex WW2 military gear in the 50's.

The QSL above is the card from the original EI7M station. It was re-issued some years back to the East Cork Radio Club who now use it in contests.

Friday, November 14, 2008

VQLog...Progress of editing the VQLog logging program

This is a scratchpad for me to keep progress on my editing of the VQLog logbook program.

a) When I examine all of the QSO's imported from Fastlog, my callsign and locator are missing from each record. So, if I do a search under 'blank' callsign, I get the correct totals for DXCC etc. When I do a search under 'EI7GL', I only get totals based on the entries that I have edited already and put in my call and locator.

First QSO...3rd Oct 1986!

Fri 14th of Nov 2008...Checked up as far as and including...31/10/1987...QSO Nr.00181
Sat 15th of Nov 2008...Checked as far as 20/12/1987...QSO Nr.00296
With 300 QSO's checked up as far as the end of 1987, I have noticed 2 things....
1) DX on 144 MHz SSB. Lots of contacts into ON, PA and F on 2m. It kind of got me thinking about 2m ssb again! But then again, things were different in 1987. There were a lot more stations on 2m ssb then. If I had the same conditions now and was using the same gear, would I work as much?? I kind of doubt it.
2) Loads of 10 metre contacts in November 1987. Most if not all F2 layer. Lots of Europeans, some USA and DX. 1987 was getting close to the peak of that solar cycle. Huge difference in conditions between then and now...November 2008 as we are just passing Solar minimum.
Sun 16th of Nov 2008...Checked up as far as 17/06/1988...QSO Nr.00365
Mostly Summer Sporadic-E contacts around Europe on 10 metres with some DX stuff as well. Two contacts caught my interest...
1) TQ6JUN...a special event station on 10 metres on the 6th of June 1988, 40 years after the D-Day Normandy landings, an event that is now 60 years ago.
2) FY0EK on 10 metres in the Ariane Space Centre in French Guyana.
Mon 17th of Nov 2008...Checked up as far as 23/10/1988...
Finished up until the end of 1988. A few things stood out...
1) Lots of 10m Sporadic-E contacts...especially West Germany!
2) Contacts with what was then the Soviet Union...UR2 (Estonia), UP2 (Lithuania)
3) Contacts with East Germany (Y22)
4) And on the local scene, Charlie EI5FK reading the IRTS on 10 metres every week! Guess there must have been more EI stations on 10m back then.
Tues 18th Nov 2008...Checked up as far as 02/07/1991...
1990....My first 50 MHz contact! Iwas using a home brew Meon transverter with a might 0.25w o/p!! Antenna was a half wave dipole in the attic.
1991...April....I built an amplifier for the Meon. Output power 4 watts....QRO at last!
1991...June...With 4 watts and the attic dipole, I worked loads of Europeans on 50 Mhz via Sporadic-E that month....SM, OH, OE, OZ, DL, LX, ON, I, HB9, PA, G, GM, LA, CU3. What was obvious from the logbook is that this is still a new band with lots of people using transverters and the typical power level was around 10 to 20 watts. At this time, countries like Spain did not have access to the band. Another unusual feature was that all Italian stations were confined to a small segment within the band.
1991...July...Unusual contact...worked EJ7FRL on 2m on the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse off the SW coast of Ireland. Built a 2 element yagi for 50 MHz and put it up outdoors, ~6 metres above ground level. Big improvement in reported signals.
Looking at VQLog, I had done this editing process before but only got as far as July 91.
Wed 19th Nov 2008...Checked up as far as 30/10/1991...
1991...October...Nice aurora on 28/10/91. Worked several stations on 6m ssb even with 4w to a 2 el yagi. Some nice DX contacts on 10m as well, conditions are good.
Thurs 20th Nov 2008...The 1st logbook is now checked....Checked up as far as 16/03/1992.
1992...7th of February. An amazing day for VHF propogation. In the afternoon, I managed to work AI1K, K1TOL & VE1YX with my 4 watts and 2 element beam! Propogation was F2. Later that evening, 2 metres opened up with contacts down to Spain and a tropo duct into PA & DL. It's amazing to think that it is possible to get a contact from Cork to Berlin at 144 MHz with just 25 watts and a small beam.
VQLog notes (mainly for my own use...)
1) When I imported the log from Fastlog to VQLog, all the information transferred ok. However, when I check each individual qso, my call is missing from the callsign field. My locator is missing as well. I need to edit each qso and click on the pull down menu to put in my call and locator.
2) When I put all of the qso data into Fastlog back around 1998?, I left out a lot of contacts like countries on 10m that I had already confirmed. At the time, I just wanted to get a logbook up and running asap. However, when I got qsl cards from some of those 'omitted' contacts, I got a 'not in log' result and I had to go looking for the contact and then adding the contact to Fastlog. This time, as I edit the log, I will put everything in from the paper logs so it an accurate reflection on what I have worked (....with the exception of repeater qso's)
3) I had a lot of info in the comment field in Fastlog that I used to track various things...DIG, WAS, WAB, etc. I need to edit each qso anyway to put this information into the correct field for award tracking.
Friday 21st of November....Checked up as far as 27/03/1992...
1992....3rd of March....Nice tropo opening on 2 metres down to the West coast of France...IN96,97, JN05,06,07. One station in IN96 gave me a 5/5 report when I reduced my power to o.5 watts!
1992...16th of March...My 1st contact on 20 metres....6 years after I got my class A licence! Guess I wasn't too interested in HF back then ;o)
1992...March...Lots of nice DX on 28 MHz. I have VK5EK logged as having a 5/9+15dB signal. Plenty of signals from the West coast of the US as well. I have a note in the log saying that solar flux in mid-April was 130.
Saturday 22nd of November.....Checked up as far as 10/05/1992...
1992...10th of May...Big aurora. Worked loads of G stations with my 4 watts and 2 element on 50 MHz. Also managed to work a G and a GW station on 28 MHz via aurora but the signals were very weak.
Sun 23rd Nov.....Checked up as far as 8/6/1992...
1992...17th of May....Big tropo opening on 2m to G/F/PA/GU/GJ. Tried a test with GP4IPA in Guernsey....he gave me 5/9+20 with 25 watts, 5/9+10 with 3 watts and 5/8 with 0.5 watts.
1992...May...Loads of Sporadic-E on 50 MHz. Managed to work 5B4 in Cyprus on double hop with my 4 watts.
Mon 24th Nov.....Checked up as far as 5/7/1992...
1992...22nd of June...Big Sporadic-E opening on 2 metres. Filled nearly 4 pages in the log......31 DL, 32 SP, 2 OE, 1 HA, 15 YU and 2 OK.
1992...June....I noted one unusual contact where I had worked GW0PLP in Wales on 28 MHz via tropo! We were both using verticals. Distance about 270 kms.
Tues 25th Nov.....Checked up as far as 27/7/1992...
1992...July...Nothing special except I was out portable a lot in West Cork and Kerry on 2 metres....Bear Island, Hungry Hill, Mangerton, Caherconree and IO41 square. Also had my first contact on 70 cms.
Wed 26th Nov.....Checked up as far as 13/9/1992...
Thurs 27th Nov.....Checked up as far as 3/10/1992...
Looking through the log, I have lots of little notes made. One typical note was regarding an antenna test. Not long after I got my licence, I built a little low power attenuator that would go up in 1 dB and 5 dB steps. I know that on 144 MHz, it's not super accurate ;o) but good enough to get a rough idea of what is going on. The test in question involved John, EI6AK. He had a colinear at about 10 feet out in his garden. He made a note of my signal at various power levels. A few days later, he moved the colinear to the roof of his house. By noting the amount of power that I needed to achieve the old signal levels, I estimated that his signals had improved by around 7dB....the equivalent of running 50 watts instead of 10 watts! A worthwhile improvement and proves that height above ground level is really important at VHF frequencies.
Fri 28th Nov...Checked up as far as 24/12/1992...
1992...7th & 8th Oct...Some nice tropo ducting on 144 MHz into Europe. The one contact that stands out is OK1VEI using 25w and a 7 element. An amazing distance for tropo.
1992...Oct...Built a colinear for 70 cms and put it in the attic. Performance is pretty impressive compared to a simple dipole. What becomes obvious is that 432 MHz signals are nearly always weaker than 144 MHz signals and they certainly don't go around hills so well.
1992...Oct...Bought a 2nd hand Diamond X510 dual band vertical and put it up on a 15ft pole. Comparing it to the Slim Jim that I had outdoors, my signal improved to stations in Cork City by around 5 to12 dB. Probably a combination of more gain and less obstructions like the house in the way.
1992...6th Nov...Worked EI5FK on 70 cms. My path to EI5FK's is very difficult as I have some very high local hills in the way. Charlie could hear me When I was using the indoor colinear but nothing with the outdoor Diamond. That's the thing with 70 cms, it can always suprise.
Sat 29th Nov...Checked up as far as 10/06/1993...
1993...5th Feb...More nice tropo on 2m. Some of the best ducting seems to occur in the early hours of the morning. DC3QB who is using an indoor 9 element yagi!! Later the same evening, I work G0NXD who is on the 19th floor of a block of flats in Birmingham using a J-stick on FM. Amazing when you consider that the signal had to come over the mountains in Wales.
1993...7th June...Yet another 70 cms suprise. Worked EI5HG who was near the local car ferry. Nothing unusual in that as it is local. What is suprising is that from that location, which is completely blocked from Cork City, EI5HG managed to work EI3EBB in the city on 70 cms yet they could not work on 2 metres. One possible answer is that the 70 cms signals were bouncing off the large IFI/NET building to the North while the 145 MHz could not??? Without beams, it would be impossible to prove. Still though, it proved that sometimes the 70 cms signal will get through while the 2 metre signal won't. It is supposed to be for this reason, i.e. the ability of the shorter wavelenght signal to bounce off objects, that 70 cms is often supposed to be better in cities than 2 metres.
1993...10th June...Big Sporadic-E opening on 144 MHz. 99 QSOs...10 countries...38 squares.
Sun 30th Nov...Checked up as far as 22/06/1993...
1993...11th June...I had recently built a 70 MHz to 144 MHz transverter. The o/p power on 4 metres was only 0.2 watts. During a QSO with DK2ZF, I tried transmitting on 70.200 MHz with the 0.2 watts and using the 2 element 6 m beam. DK2ZF said he could hear my signal. Amazing...
1993...15th June....Did some tests with EI3EBB (10 kms to the West). Both of us listened to another EI station on 144 MHz about 120 kms to the North. There was a lot of fading on the signals. Sometimes, the signal got weak with both of us at the same time. Other times, it was strong with me and weak at EI3EBB's location and vice versa.
1993...16th June. Worked UZ2FWA (Kaliningradsk) on 10m/6m crossband. i.e. I was transmitting on 50 MHz.
Mon 1st Dec...Checked up as far as 16/07/1993...
I had a bit of a scare with the log. I thought I might have entered some of the QSO times incorrectly, i.e. putting in local Summer time instead of UTC. The way Logbook of the World works is that it looks for a match within a 30 minute window. If my contacts were 1 hour out, then they are useless. After digging out some old QSL cards, I was able to confirm that all the data that I had entered was correct! Phew.....!!
The problem stems from my very first paper logbook. In the space for time, it just says 'Time' and not 'UTC'. So not knowing any better when I started, I logged everything in local time. This was fine in the winter but everything was 1 hour out in the summer. Eventually after a few years, I started keeping everything in UTC. Fine as long as I can remember when I started to use UTC all of the time. The problem is that I have forgotten!
Lesson......always keep your logbook in UTC, not local time!
1993...4th July. Make my 1st 4 metre contact with EI7M/P who is 120 kms away. I was using 0.2 watts from the transverter into a home made 2 element yagi in the attic.
Tues 2nd Dec...Checked up as far as 01/05/1994...
1993...12th August. Worked an Italian and German station on 2m SSB during the Perseids meteor shower. Some of the bursts were 10 seconds long allowing a complete QSO to take place. Also listened on 70 MHz to an expedition station in Scotland. There were some very impressive 10, 20 and even 50 second bursts on this band.
1993...18th August. Nice tropo opening on to the North West coast of France. Worked F1EMX on 70 cms SSB who was using 10 watts and a quarter wave antenna in his attic. I was using 10 watts into the colinear in my attic.....attic to attic on 432 MHz!!
About 3- minutes later, I managed to have a 2m to 23cms crossband QSO with F5PAU. I was holding the 23 cms yagi in my hand and pointing it at the window with the cable going to a scanner. 530 kms on 1296 MHz.....Amazing.
1993...Oct...Some nice conditions on 10 metres. One contact that stands out is with KD2RZ who is using 5 watts from a car in a parking lot in New Jersey.
1994...Feb...Some interesting contacts via the Russian RS-12 satellite....up on 15 metres and down on 10m. The doppler shift was low enough that it was a pleasure to use.....not like the current crop of 432/144 MHz satellites.
1994...Mar...It was from here on that kept using UTC for all Summertime contacts.
Wed 3rd Dec....The 2nd logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 29/05/1994 (13:33)...
Thurs 4th Dec...Checked up as far as 03/05/1995...
Sat 6th Dec...Checked up as far as 13/05/1995...
Mon 8th Dec...Checked up as far as 05/06/1995...
Tues 9th Dec...Checked up as far as 25/06/1995...
Wed 10th Dec...Checked up as far as 18/07/1995...
Fri 12th Dec...Checked up as far as 29/07/1995...
Going through the logbooks is slow going. I left out loads of contacts when I was first typing up Fastlog. For example if I had one of the more popular countries worked on one of the HF bands, I didn't put any more from those countries into Fastlog. I'm pretty sure that once I finished the initial process of typing up Fastlog, I put in all subsequent contacts after that. This was probably sometime around 1997?
Sun 14th Dec...Checked up as far as 23/09/1995...
Tues 16th Dec...The 3rd logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 05/04/1996...
Wed 17th Dec...Checked up as far as 22/05/1996...
Thurs 18th Dec...Checked up as far as 13/06/1996... Time for a break from updating! Approx 20% done. At this rate, I won't have the log updated until sometime in mid-April :o(
Sat 20th Dec...Checked up as far as 19/09/1996...
Sun 21st Dec...Checked up as far as 19/06/1997...
Mon 22nd Dec...Checked up as far as 24/07/1997...Judging by the log, I must have entered all of the original entries from the paper log into Fastlog sometime in late 1996 or early 1997. There are a lot fewer contacts omitted now when I am checking. Because of this, I have to enter less data and it is getting easier and faster to check the log.
Tues 23rd Dec...The 4th logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 30/08/1997...
Wed 24th Dec...Checked up as far as 11/05/1998...
Sat 27th Dec...Checked up as far as 13/08/1998...Just passed the 30% mark.
Sun 28th Dec...Checked up as far as 05/04/1999...
Mon 29th Dec...The 5th logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 06/07/1999...Just passed the 40% mark. From about late 1998 onwards, I have plenty of contacts for DXCC band countries that were never confirmed. In some cases, I never even sent a QSL card. I'm not sure if it is now too late to get these confirmed or if there are just too many of them??
Tues 30th Dec...Checked up as far as 13/11/1999...
Wed 31st Dec...Checked up as far as 18/03/2000...
Fri 2nd Jan...Checked up as far as 11/04/2000...
Sat 3rd Jan...The 6th logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 29/06/2000...Just passed the 50% mark!! A lot of the contacts in 2000 consist of pile-ups and contests which are very quick to check and edit. Estimated completion date....early February 2009?? A lot better than the old estimate of mid-April 2009.
Sun 4th Jan...Checked up as far as 29/07/2000...Just passed the 60% mark!!
Due to a head cold, I checked a lot of the log today. At this rate, I would expect to have the log finished and checked by the end of January.
Mon 5th Jan...The 7th logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 09/09/2000...
Tues 6th Jan...Checked up as far as 08/12/2000...Just passed the 70% mark!!
Wed 7th Jan...The 8th logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 06/01/2001...
Thurs 8th Jan...Checked up as far as 03/03/2001...
Fri 9th Jan...Checked up as far as 09/06/2001...Just passed the 80% mark!!
Sat 10th Jan...The 9th logbook is now checked...Starting on the last and current logbook...Checked up as far as 15/11/2001...
Sun 11th Jan...Checked as far as 24/12/2001...Just passed the 90% mark!!
Mon 12th Jan...Checked as far as 13/09/2003...
Tues 13th Jan...Finished!! 2 months and 23,029 QSO's later...
(Note to self....Any contacts for 2008 onwards are in VQLog and there is no need to edit them).

DX, DXCC, VQLog and a mountain of QSL cards...

Now that I am getting interested again in the radio scene, I took the time to actually read through the September issue of Echo Ireland properly, the Journal of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society. I had been getting it all the time I was QRT but I paid little attention to them. Looking at the current issue, 2 things caught my interest....

1) The HF Happenings column which covered nearly 4 pages. It's written by EI9FBB who appearently is in Cork and it's obvious it takes a fair bit of work to put it together. I'm not sure if after reading it, I'd go try chasing DX again ;o) but a good article all the same.

2) DXCC awards gained by EI stations, especially the single band ones. This was the aspect that I used to be interested in.....getting DXCC on a band rather than just using a combination of bands. Each band has it's own characteristics and the challenge for me was to see if it was possible to get DXCC on each band using just 100 watts.

The chart in the magazine is shown below...
The suprising thing for me is that there are only 13 EI stations with single band DXCC's. Somehow, I thought it would be more.

Anyhow, it got me thinking again about all the stuff that I have worked and never got confirmed. I remember that when I was on the air before, working the DX was sometimes the easiest part. The logistics of trying to track what was worked, what was confirmed and what I needed to get confirmed was a nightmare.

Fastlog.....back in the late 90's, I started using a Logbook program called Fastlog. It was a simple DOS based program but it was excellent. No nonsense and it was great for VHF operation as well as it was easy to keep track of locator squares worked. In fact, if I wasn't interested in getting stuff confirmed, then I'd have probably have stayed with it.

However, the logistics of tracking QSL cards was a nightmare. What to do? Back around that time, the ARRL started up their Logbook of the World program, a novel way of getting contacts confirmed electronically. Just upload your log and it looks for matches with others that have uploaded theirs. Every match is a confirmed contact, no need for QSL's!! The problem was that Fastlog was not a compatible program.

I had around 20,000 contacts logged in Fastlog and I wasn't going to type 20,000 qso's into a new logging program!! So, I chose VQLog. It was very much a VHF orientated logging program and it was able to import the Fastlog program data. The problem however was that although it imported the data ok, I still had to open every contact and edit it to get VQlog to accept it. A lot easier than having to type in all the data but with 20,000 contacts, still a lot of work :o(

Present status.......I had begun this long process before I went off the air. When I run VQLog now, it tells me I have worked 48 countries on 10 metres when I know that the figure should be around 230. So, the current plan is....
1) Learn how to use VQLog again.
2) Get the data on all 20,000 contacts up to date and correct.
3) Get going on Logbook of the World. Upload the log and see what I have confirmed. There are something like 75 million QSo's up there, surely I'll have a few matches!!

QSL's.........Only at that stage will I even start looking at QSL's again. I have unopened packets of QSL's here that I have received over the last few years so there might be a few confirmations in there as well. If you are reading this and you are waiting for a QSL from me, then sorry, but you'll have to wait! I guess that after 4 to 5 years, you have probably given up on that QSL anyway ;o)
eQSL.......This was another thing in the IRTS Journal....a list of DXCC confirmed on eQSL. I checked out the website and appearently, I have 831 eQSL's waiting for me. All I have to do is pay some fee and I can retrieve them. Considering they don't count for DXCC purposes, I really can't see the point. Maybe it might cut down the number of outgoing QSL cards?? Is it still a novelty like it was 4 to 5 years ago or is it now more mainstream? Is everyone using it?? Regardless of whether it is or not, it's way down the list of things to do.

Monday, November 10, 2008 small is too small??

I came accross a video clip on YouTube last night showing the BS7H expedition to Scarborough Reef in 2007. You might consider that some of these small DXCC countries might be small islands, some palm trees with a few inhabitants....maybe the odd lizard running around....but...this???

I know it's rare....and I'm sure a lot of people were delighted to get a contact with this station....but it's only a few rocks in the middle of the ocean!! Maybe I'm after getting sceptical after my absence from the DX scene for a few years ;o) ......but to call it a seperate DXCC country seems to be really stretching credibility a bit.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nov 2008...10 metres in Cork, Ireland (EI)

Now that I have a reasonable aerial again for 10 metres, I am going to record my observations for the month....

Solar Flux figures (Red line) for May 2008 to Nov 2008. More or less at or just below 70.

Solar Flux figures....
As of the start of November, we are just coming out of the sunspot minimum and conditions are very poor. Probably not the best time to get going on 10 metres again ;o)
The solar flux at the start of the month is around 69 which is very low. Direct F2 propogation would seem to be unlikely at the moment.

Tues 4th November 2008.....
Nothing at all heard on 10 metres. Listening to 11 metres, I heard some weak signals from North Italy and Spain. This was probably weak Sporadic-E, unusual for this time of year.
Wed 5th November 2008.....
Around mid-day, there was a weak Sporadic-E opening on 10 metres. I heard...
OK0EG on 28.282.46 MHz (1,690 kms). Signal about 419 (OK0EG beacon ten watts)(OK Beacon Website = 28,2825. OK0EG, nr Hradec Kralove, LOC JO70vf, ASL 240m, Ant Dipole omni, ERP 10w)
DL0IGI on 28.205.13 MHz (1,460 kms). Signal about 419. (DL0IGI JN57mt BEACON PWR 48W). The website suggests that it was 150 watts but the DX cluster confirms that I heard it ok.
I1M on 28.180.50 MHz (1,490 kms). This one was very weak, about 319. Nearest town = Bordighera. Locator = JN33UT. 5 watts to a 5/8 GP???
On 11 metres, weak German and later Spanish CB stations were heard. All signals heard were typical of single hop Sporadic-E.
Thursday 6th November 2008........
Very quiet today. Nothing at all on 10 metres. Heard a very weak Spanish station on 11 metres. Most likely weak Sporadic-E.
Friday 7th November 2008........
Another very quiet day. Nothing at all heard on 10 metres. On 27 MHz around noon, there were a few weak stations. One from Germany, one from France and one Spanish. There was very little activity and very little was heard at any one time. It was almost as if there was weak Sporadic-E conditions and only occasionally, it would get strong enough to allow propogation. Almost as if the footprint was very small and it would change very fast.
Saturday 8th November 2008.......
There seemed to be a good bit more activity today. Even the DX cluster had loads of spots. When I first checked, 10 metres was dead yet there were signals on 11 metres. As usual, it is very difficult to identify where these CB stations were coming from but they sounded Italian and Spanish. A CB station from Poland was also heard. Most of the signals were pretty weak, s '1' to '2'. The strongest station heard was s '5' but that was exceptional.Eventually, 10 metres opened up but the signal were a lot weaker than those on the CB band. I heard a ZS6 in Johannesburg but at best, he was 3/1. On the CW portion of the band, there was a OK/OM contest on as I heard CT1JLZ (max 419) and 7X0RY (max 419). An OK station was heard as well calling one of these stations.All of these signals were probably Sporadic-E although the ZS station was probably a combination of Sporadic-E for the first hop to the South and then F2 after that. Listening for the last few days, the band seems to open around mid-day. With the Summer Sporadic-E, it often seemed to open in the early morning or evening as well.
Sunday 9th November 2008.......
It was very poor today. Even though I could not listen at midday, both 10 and 11 metres sounded completely dead. Even the DX cluster had very few spots, especially from the UK or Northern Europe.
Monday 10th November 2008......
Nothing on 10 metres today, even the cluster seemed quiet. Down on 27 MHz, there seemed to be the typical weak signals around midday.....Italy, France? and Spain. The guy in Italy was running 400 watts!! Crazy power for what is supposed to be 'Citizen Band' radio :o( Anyway, even with his 400 watts, he was pretty weak so the band was just barely open. No big signals...just a few 3/1 to 4/1 signals.
Tuesday 11th Novenber 2008......
Today turned out to be pretty reasonable on the radio. Around 10:30am, I had a look around the CB band and there was a strong signal from someone near Paris in France, Sporadic-E without a doubt. Checked the Dxcluster...not much on 10 metres. Tuned around 28.2 MHz and starting hearing at last!
Beacons....I heard the OE3XAC beacon (JN78sb - 1750 kms) on 28.188.15 MHz, DL0IGI beacon (JN57mt - 1460 kms) on 28.205.19 MHz and the DM0ING beacon (JN49ax - 1170 kms). All of these beacons are more or less due East (95 deg) from here. Then the band began to open up to the South-East. Next signal heard was the F5ZWE beacon (JN02tw - 1240 kms) on 28.242.9 MHz. It is a very distinctive beacon with it's slow cw and pips between messages. This turned out to be the most consistent beacon of the day making an appearance on and off for around 2 hours. Next signal heard was the DK0TEN beacon (JN47nt - 1330 kms) on 28.258.03 MHz. This was just after 11am and that was the last German signal that I heard for the day. Just as I was tuning up out of the beacon band, I came accross 2 QRSS or very slow speed beacons. The first one was I1YRB (JN33sf - 1530 kms) on 28.322.19 MHz, weak but audible when it gave it's ID at normal speeds. Almost on the same frequency (28.321.95 MHz), there was another QRSS beacon but because it was so weak and because the other beacon was so close in frequency, it was impossible to identify it. As far as I can tell....all I got were "iv....jn55v....qrss....3". on up to the SSB part of the band. F4FAZ was there with a big 5/9 signal from a location to the East of Marseilles. That was big signal! Either no one was on or the footprint of the Sporadic-E propogation was small?
Beacons....Back down to check the beacons. Heard the EA4Q beacon (IN80wc - 1400 kms) on 28.263.0 Mhz near Madrid. Heard the F5ZUU beacon (JN24il - 1270 kms) on 28.241.62 MHz with only 5 watts from the South East of France.
DX....time to look around the cw portion of the band. Came accross a signal on 28.024 MHz....weak cw but the transmissions were very a DX or contest station would be. Call sounded unusual so I knew it must be different....listened 2 to 3 times before I got the call 100%....7Q7BP in Malawi, Southern Africa!!...somewhere in the region of 8500 kms!! Even though he is not too strong, I give him a call with 100 watts...get him first reports...7Q7 in the log!! My 1st contact on 10 metres in about 5 years ;o)
Tune around again...hear F5JLH on cw. Keep tuning...another weak cw signal...sounds unusual again and it's long! Listen a few times again to make sure....3B8DB in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean!! Give him a call...get back 'EI7??'...try again...gets it, exchange reports and 3B8DB is in the log! So maybe this CB half wave isn't so bad after all? Certainly, in the direction of 7Q7 and 3B8, the antenna is not clearing the house and is obstructed somewhat by the house itself. Without a doubt, working them on cw made the contacts possible. If it had been on SSB, I might have worked the 7Q7 but I doubt if I would have worked 3B8, the signals were just too weak for that. The unusual thing is that later when I checked my logbook, I had worked 3B8DB before on SSB on 10 metres...back in July 1988...20 years ago!! I see that back then I was using a home brew J-stick half wave so my aerials haven't improved much in that time ;o)
50 MHz....time to have a look around on 6 metres even though the CB half wave is poor on that band. Tune around...EI0SIX is there as usual....keep tuning..another signal! It's the EA3SIX beacon in JN01vo (1370 kms). Although that was the only Sporadic-E signal I heard on the band, conditions must be reasonably good if the MUF has gone as high as 50 MHz.
Back to 10m...and this period from 12:00 to 13:00 was the busiest part of the opening with the following heard.....IZ1GLX (cw), EA1ABT (ssb), F4DPT (ssb), CT1BH (ssb) and EA4GL (ssb). Eventually the signals began to fade out. Around 13:20, I found an unusual beacon.... C30P on 28.256.0 from the Principality of Andorra in the Pyrenees (JN02sm - 1280kms). I found this beacon by accident because it is very easy to miss it. It transmits for a short period giving it's ID and message and then it stops for about 1 dots, no signal, nothing! Unless you happen to be listening at the right time, you would never know it was there.
Signals slowly get weaker until the only signal left on the band is the EA3TEN beacon in JN01vo (1370kms) at around 13:40. Eventually even that fades until there is nothing left on the band. Tune down 1 MHz and there is a French station on the CB band at 5/7! Also heard over the next hour were some Spanish and Portugese stations until even these fade away.
Conclusions on todays opening...
1) The Sporadic-E started in the East and slowly moved to the South East and then South. I've seen this happen before on 6 metres during the Summer months.
2) Like the other days in November, the Sporadic-E signals seemed to peak around noon. During the Summer months, there are often 2 in the morning and one during the evening.
3) The 7Q7 and 3B8 contacts were no doubt due to a Sporadic-E hop from Ireland to somewhere near Spain and from there via F2 to the DX stations. It really does emphasise the importance of Sporadic-E for DX contacts on 10 metres during sunspot minima. Sporadic-E allows stations at my latitude (~52 deg N) to get access to F2 propogation which is possible from Southern Europe.
4) My cw is rusty!! Ooooo... ;o)
Wednesday 12th November 2008.....
Today was in many ways almost the same as yesterday except that there were fewer signals. The CB band began to open up around 11:00 with a station in Belgium heard. Checked out the beacon band on 28 Mhz and the following beacons were heard....DL0IGI (JN57mt ), DM0ING (JN49ax) and DK0TEN (JN47nt)...all pretty weak signals. Eventually, these beacons and the activity faded away around. The band seemed closed arond 12:00 except for a single French CB station down on 27 MHz, all alone with a 5/7 signal!! It was almost as if the footprint of the Sporadic-E propogation was coming down in a small area of France and there alone.
At around 13:00, the band began to open up again with a weak Italian CB station making an appearance. Back up to check the beacons and the French beacon F5ZWE in JN02tw makes an appearance on 28.243.0 MHz. It peaks at 529, not too strong but it was still the strongest beacon heard today. It is also seems, like yesterday, to be one of the most persistent as when I check back 30 minutes later, it is still there although it was bwginning to fade at that stage. I also had a listen for the C30P beacon as it is in the same locator square. It was audible when it made it's appearance but pretty weak.
After about 13:30, the signals faded out on 10 metres but the CB band seemed to be busy with weak Spanish stations for at least another 2 hours.
Overall today, the CB band stayed open longer but the signals on 10m and 11m were a lot weaker. Yet again, all signals seemed to be due to Sporadic-E propogation.
On a side note, I also heard a CB station from near Thurles in Tipperary on tropo. His signal was around only about 4/1 but at a distance of around 100 kms, it suggests that this old CB half wave may not be so bad after all.
For the record, the solar flux was at 71 today, no real change from last week.
Thursday 13th November 2008.....
The band opened up today just after 10:00 UTC. Some CB stations from Luxembourg and Sweden were heard around 10:20. That was the first time that I had heard a Scandinavian country this month. Checked the 10 metre band also and the following beacons were heard over the next hour....OE3XAC (JN78sb), DL0IGI (JN57mt), LA4TEN (JO28wl - 1160 kms), LA5TEN (JO59jp near Oslo), DK0TEN (JN47nt), SK5AE (JO89kk) and SK0CT (JO89xk). After this (11:20), signals began to fade. It was almost as if the band had been open but the the MUF was only high enough to support propagation to 2 areas....1) the Southern part of Norway and Sweden and 2) the southern part of Germany.
11:40..the German beacon DM0ING (JN49ax) makes an appearance. The French beacon F5ZWE (JN02tw) shows up as well indicating that the band is opening towards the South-East as well.
11:50...with the exception of a few weak beacons and some weak French CB stations, both 10m and 11m sound very quiet. A beacon from North Germany is heard....DB0UM in JO73ce, only 4 watts into a vertical!
12:04....the LA4TEN beacon is still there. It has been in and out for around 90 minutes.
12:10...another French beacon, F5ZUU in JN24il with only 5 watts to a vertical, F5ZWE is still sounding well (519).
12:20...the band begins to open up further South with EA4Q (IN80wc) in Cuenca near Madrid.
12:50...the F5ZWE beacon is now peaking 549, the strongest beacon all day. Considering it is in the same locator square, I tune and wait for the Andorran beacon appears albeit weakly.
Bands seem quiet though and the propogation moves back East again...OE3XAC (419) and DM0ING show up. On SSB, DB1NT is heard.
13:40...check the CB bands...very quiet.
13:45...F5ZWE/B is back again!! What a great little beacon! After that, things fade away until around 15:00, both 10m and 11m seem dead.
I later found an interesting map which shows most of the beacons above.
18:30...check the DX-cluster and notice that EI2IP spotted a strong PY (Brazil) station around 17:30. Would I have heard it if I was here??? I doubt it as I have a hill in that direction. I have often seen that before on 6 metres and on 10 metres....anyone here on the South coast of Ireland seem to be able to exploit openings to South America when the band appears dead. It's almost as if the signals are coming in at an extremely low angle. Any hills in the way or if you move inland, you lose access to these openings.
Friday 14th November 2008.....
Band opened up around 10:30 with some very weak CB stations on 11m. Checked 10 metres and heard a very weak beacon just below 28.2 but was unable to ID. In the next 10 minutes, I heard a CB station from France and one calling himself 20ET??? which would suggest Norway?!?! If it was, it was the only signal I heard that far North all day.
10:47...The French beacon F5ZWE/B makes an appearance with a good 529 signal. A few minutes later, C30P appears. Also heard is a weak CB pirate on 28.235 MHz :o(
11:10...EA4Q near Madrid appears with it's 5 watts into a ground plane antenna.
11:20...Spots on the DX Cluster suggest that the EA4Q beacon is been heard near Berlin and in central Italy. This would suggest that Sporadic-E region is over France and to the South of it also.
11:30...The French beacon F5ZWE/B is still there but soon fades as the propogation becomes mainly from the South.
12:00....and 12:30....the EA4 beacon is still there, by far the most consistent beacon of the day.
13:00...I see a G3 station in England spotting some CT beacons on 50 MHz. I tune around (...with my CB half wave!) and heard CT0SIX weakly in IN51ne on 50.031.7 MHz.
13:20 and 13:55...EA4Q/B still going strong at 519.
14:14....Portugese CB station heard.
Not long after that, the band begins to close. Open for about 4 hours and mainly from the South to South-East.
Saturday 15th November 2008.....
Around 10:15, I started hearing some CB signals on 11 metres, all very weak. Around 10:26, I checked the DX Cluster and noticed that EI2IP (~40 kms to my North-East) had spotted IT9BLB in Sicily on 28 MHz SSB with a 5/9 signal at 10:06! I listened on this frequency (~10:28) and I could hear a very weak signal. Did the signal fade?....or was it that I just wasn't hearing it??? When I first saw the spot, I thought....Sicily on 10m at 5/9 = F2 propogation. But, it didn't fit.......1) Solar flux is down around 70 anddirect F2 from this latitude is unlikely 2) If there was F2, I'd have expected something further away, out around the 3,500 to 4,000 kms mark like TA or 5B4. Sicily is about 2,400 kms from here and angle of radiation for F2 propogation would be around 8 degrees. Most of the signals that I have been hearing recently on Sporadic-E are around 1,500 kms away which would suggest that they are coming in around 4 degrees. How come I wasn't hearing signals at 8 degrees elevation???
So, I had a look at the map again...the North-West corner of Sicily might be at the limit of 1 hop Sporadic-E. Checked out IT9BLB on the net and sure enough, he was located in Palermo on the North West corner of Sicily!! The signal that EI2IP had heard was practically near the limit of 1 hop Sporadic-E. It was coming in at an extremely low angle, probably 1 degree or less. Perhaps the signal had faded by the time I tuned in???........but I doubt if I would have heard it anywhere near as well with a vertical half wave only 4 metres above ground level and with obstructions in that direction.
It's a good reminder that 10 metres is almost in a way, the lowest VHF band. You have to get those aerials up high and in the clear so that you will have a low angle of radiation. To work serious DX on 10m, you need to exploit those low angle signals.
So, back to today...12:07...heard some Spanish CB stations on 11 metres. Overall, just bits and pieces but nothing consistent. I saw a G station spotting V51AS (Namibia) on 28 MHz SSB. I listened....I could hear something extremely weak, maybe 2/1 max. Then all of a sudden he came out of the noise...4/1 calling QRZ...I called him...nothing...and I mean nothing, he was gone. Did he turn off?? It was strange how he got so strong all of a sudden.
I began to wonder if it might not be a meteor burst that enhanced his signal between EI and say EA and then on to the F2 propogation? I know the Leonids meteor shower is supposed to peak next Monday and there are supposed to be increasing number of meteors from the 14th onwards. To check the meteor theory, I tuned to the frequency of the LA4TEN beacon that was a nice signal 2 days ago. I had heard nothing that far North today and I might hear some bursts. As soon as I tuned in though at 13:42, there it was! Very weak, about 2/1 but I got enough parts of the call for a positive ID. Meteor Scatter or Sporadic-E??? Who knows...
Certainly down on the CB bands today, I have heard bursts of signals which sound English and sound like they might be meteor scatter. Next Monday might be interesting...
Sunday 16th November 2008.....
I was missing for a lot of today. I see that an EI station spotted V51AS on 28 MHz cw so there must have been some Sporadic-E and F2 about to the South.
Monday 17th November 2008.....
First a general report....I had the radio on in the background and as far as I could tell there was no Sporadic-E all day. The DX Cluster was also very quiet.
Since today was supposed to be the peak for the Leonids Meteor shower, I had a listen this morning for 1 hour between 08:35 and 09:35 on 28.215.1 MHz for the GB3RAL beacon. I heard several pings and a very long burst but the signals were very weak and I was not able to get a positive ID. I sent an e-mail to someone about it so hopefully they can confirm what I heard.
Down on the CB bands around 10:00, I heard some evidence of some nice meteor scatter signals. One CB station in Cambridgeshire (5/7) mentioned that conditions were "very sporadic" ;o) other words, the signals were up and down. Also heard on 27 MHz ssb was someone mobile (5/3) on the M25 around London. I presume most of the CB stations just thought it was 'good skip conditions' without realising that their signals were coming off meteor trails left in the upper atmosphere!! I heard a few French CB stations as well but most were of short duration. Probably due to meteor scatter rather than Sporadic-E.
Tuesday 18th November 2008.....
Today was pretty dead on 10 and 11 metres. I heard bits of European signals on 11 metres but nothing much. I listened for the GB3RAL beacon again this morning and heard a few pings.
Wednesday 19th November 2008....
Real sunspot minimum stuff where 10 metres sounds more like 2 metres than a HF band. Bit's of Europeans heard on 11 metres. I heard one strong Swiss SB station but when I scanned around...nothing! Might have been just a meteor burst.
Thursday 20th November 2008....
Even quieter than yesterday.
Friday 21st November 2008....
Missed today. There were a few spots on the cluster for English stations so maybe the 10 metre band was open?
Saturday 22nd November 2008....
Weak opening for about 30 minutes around 11:30. Heard a few CB stations on 27 MHz, sounded French. On 10 metres, the band was open from here (Cork - IO51) to the South of France. Heard F5ZWE/B and C30P in JN02. Max 419.
Sunday 23rd November 2008...
I missed today. However I noticed that on the DX Cluster, Robbie EI2IP who is about 40 kms away had spotted several beacons in LA, SM, DL, OK. Even though I am only using a half wave, it's probably safe to say that I would probably have heard something and should count this day as an active one.
Monday 24th November 2008...
Missed today. Cluster looked pretty dead anyway.
Tuesday 25th November 2008...
Another dead day...
Wednesday 26th November 2008...
Very short opening today. 10 metres and 11 metres opened for about 30 minutes.
10:55....heard some weak CB stations in North France and Poland on 27 MHz.
11:04....heard the German beacon DB0UM in JO73ce on 28.278.7 MHz. Pretty weak, maybe 419 max. The mid point of this path was somewhere over ON/PA (Belgium/Netherlands). What was interesting was that a few minutes late, F5TMJ in the South of France spotted the SK5AE beacon in Sweden. The mid point for his path was roughly the same as mine. You often get this on 6m metres and 2 metres where there is one Sporadic-E hot spot and the propogation paths resulting from it are like spokes of a wheel.
11:25...bands dead again.
Thursday 27th November 2008...
Turned on at 10:00 and there was a weak opening in progress. Judging by the DX Cluster, it wasn't open too long anyway beforehand, maybe 20 minutes?
10:00 Heard weak Italian CB stations on 27 MHz.
10:19 Hearing weak French CB
10:40 Hearing the French beacon F5ZUU on 28.241.4 MHz. Signal is weak...perhaps 319 to 419 max.
11:15 Band has closed again. Nothing on 27 or 28 MHz.
The opening today was typical of what I have heard this opens for maybe 2 hours or so, signals are weak. However, it was a bit unusual in that it seemed to open earlier than usual.
Friday 28th November 2008...
Dead quiet today.
Saturday 29th November 2008...
Today was the first day of the CQWW CW contest. It's amazing that when there are high powered stations constantly transmitting, every possible propogation path shows up. As a result, today was unusual in that while the CB band appeared dead, 10 metres sprung to life. Perhaps 'sprung' is a bit of an over exageration in that what was spotted on the DX Cluster made it obvious the limitations of using a CB half wave vertical antenna at only 4 metres above ground level.
11:25...The band opened for me with some Sporadic-E to the South. The Spanish contest station EE2W was heard very weakly, perhaps 419 max. It was obvious from the cluster that with a better antenna at a greater height, I would have heard a lot more.
12:10...The French beacon F5ZUU in JN24 was heard at around 319. At much the same time, EI2IP about 40 kms spotted a Portugese beacon at 599. Nothing audible here. South is a direction in which my local hill begins to get nasty. Again, more height on the antenna would have made a big difference.
Other than that, I was really hearing nothing other than the contest station 3X5A buried in the noise. From the snippets I was getting, I could tell that he was not too busy with plenty of CQ Contest calls. Just left the rig on the frequency while I worked away on something else until about 12:29, he popped up out of the noise to a 549. Quick call, quick exchange and 3X5A was in the log. And sure enough, he started to fade back down into the noise again. Other than that, nothing else was heard although stuff was getting spotted on the DX Cluster by EI and G stations. Todays 6 metres, you really need a beam and /or a good site to fully exploit openings on the band.
Sunday 30th December 2008...
I listened during the morning until 12:00. Even though the contest was in full blast, there wasn't a signal here on 28 MHz. Even the cluster didn't suggest that the band was open anywhere else in the UK or Ireland. When I checked again around 16:00, the cluster suggested that the band had opened during the early afternoon. Would I have heard anything???

Back on 10 metres again...

Things have been very quiet on the radio front for the last few years. Looking at the logbook, the last time I was really on was back in April 2005. So I have been off the air for over 3 years! I guess it was mainly due to just a lack of interest. Certainly, at the moment, I am getting interested again but the whole 'DX' thing holds no interest for me. It might be interesting to get a few 'DX' contacts from a propogation point of view but I have no interest in starting to 'chase' countries again. I know that on most of the HF bands, I have more countries worked that I could ever hope to get confirmed.

So, what to do to get back on air? Most of my aerials have blown down or suffered some damage in the last 3 years so I am basically starting from scratch again. But what aerials to put up? What bands? My first priority was just to put up something to get me back on the air again, nothing too fancy ;o)

About 20 years ago when I first got on HF, my favourite band at the time was 10 metres. It's a band that has properties of both HF and VHF propogation and I used to be very active on it. I had an old CB aerial that was given to me years ago and which I used for a small while in the mid 90's. So, that was the obvious choice to get me going again.

Looking at the lenght, it seems to be an end fed half wave i.e. approx 5 metres long with a matching coil in the base. There is no name on it but I presume most of these aerials are much the same. The only question mark I have about it is whether there is much loss in the base matching coil? I seem to remember when I changed this aerial (half wave) for a multi-band vertical (Cushcraft R-6000)(3/8 wave) a few years ago, my signal on 10 metres improved a lot?
Perhaps I was mistaken but I still have my doubts about whether this type of CB aerial is a good performer.

So, at the start of November 2008, I mounted the CB half wave on a 4 metre pole and fed it with Westflex 103 coax. Why only 4 metres?? just so happens that I have a pole that lenght and by having it that low, it reduces the wind load on the aerial.

Looking at the VSWR readings that I was getting, it would seem as if the 1:1.5 VSWR bandwidth was about 700 khz. I adjusted the lenght so that the lowest VSWR which seemed to be 1:1.2 to 1.3, was near 28.300 MHz.


This put the upper 1:1.5 VSWR limit up around 28.650 MHz and the lower one was probably down around 27.950 MHz although I had no way of confirming this. By selecting 28.300 MHz as the midpoint, it meant that I could still cover most of the SSB part of the band, the CW section is really good and the VSWR down on the CB band is still reasonable so that will be useful for listening for propogation indicators down there. Looking at the 2:1 VSWR bandwidth, it probably goes from 27.7 MHz to 29.0 MHz, around 1.3 Mhz.

Comparison...Old aerial V Sirio Half Wave
The old CB half wave looks pretty similiar to the Sirio GPS27 1/2 as seen on this website. That site suggests a minimum VSWR of 1:1.2, a 1:1.5 VSWR bandwidth of 0.75 MHz and a 1:2 VSWR bandwidth of 1.35 MHz for it's antenna. Those figures look very close to the readings that I got for my half wave.

Odd effects...
The above VSWR readings were taken with the meter built into the Kenwood TS690 transceiver. When I placed an external VSWR meter in line, I got similiar readings. The strange effect was that the VSWR now as seen by the rig was a lot lower. In fact, from 28.0 to 29.0 MHz, the VSWR stayed around 1:1.1. It was almost as if by putting the external VSWR meter in line, it was helping to match the aerial to the rig. Almost like an ATU!! Strange...

The first good sign is that the aerial is picking up lots of noise so it must be working in some sort of fashion. There seems to be a constant S '3' noise level on AM so perhaps this isn't the quietest of radio locations. Certainly, it picks up a fair bit of noise from the PC which is about 8 metres away.

CB Bands...
Listening to the CB band, there seems to be very little activity locally. I can hear a few weak CB stations on SSB at night but due to the absense of proper callsigns, it's difficult to say how far away they are. I heard one mention that he has in Rathmore, Co.Kerry which is about 50 kms away on the far side of the Boggeragh Mountains so perhaps this aerial is not so bad after all?

Another unusual feature of the local CB band is that the churches use it to broadcast the mass service to elderly or sick people who are unable to travel to church. There seems to be several of them...

27.065 MHz...FM...S '3'...Location?
27.305 MHz...AM...S '1'...Location?
27.325 MHz...FM...S '4'...Location?
27.525 MHz...FM...S '4'...Location?
27.595 MHz...FM...S ' 6'...Location?
27.605 MHz...FM...S '7'...Location?
27.615 MHz...FM...S ' 1-2'...Location?
27.625 MHz...FM...S ' 6'...Location?
27.675 MHz...FM...S '9+40dB'.....Glounthaune, East Cork.

I have them listed here with their signal strenghts on AM as they might be useful as local signal sources. That way, if I change aerials, I can do a comparison and see if there is an improvement or not.

50 MHz...
I had a quick listen on 6 metres with this aerial and I was suprised to hear the EI beacon EI0SIX on 50.051.66 Mhz (20w & Half wave vertical)(IO63nf). This beacon is approx 180 kms to the NNE from my location here in Cork. Considering the matching coil at the bottom of the CB aerial, I would have thought that 50 MHz would have been filtered out? It doesn't seem so although as expected, the VSWR is pretty high.
The beacon is about 419 in signal strenght although it does vary slightly, almost as if there is a slow variation in tropo conditions over the 180 km path. It peaks around 519 and goes as low as 319 but is always audible.

So that's it, I'm back on the air and on 10 metres again....

Morse is sooo hard to learn....

Morse Code V Mobile Phone Texting

Came accross this on YouTube....