Monday, March 28, 2011

Morserunner...a CW contest simulator

An 18 month absence from the radio hasn't done much for my CW skills. At first, very rusty yet after a few minutes, it starts coming back. I guess it's a bit like learning to ride a bicycle, one you can do it, you never forget.

As well as listening to CW on the various bands, one of the ways to brush up on your CW is to use a contest simulator.

I came across Morserunner a few years back and it's a novel way of listening to morse. It basically simulates operating in a CW contest and you just use the function keys on the PC keyboard to control everything. As it is all off-air, there is no pressure and you can make as many mistakes as you like.

Friday, March 25, 2011

10 metres...Thurs 24th March 2011

After the good conditions on 28 MHz yesterday, I tried listening again the next day on the 24th of March. The band was a lot quieter though. No SE Europe or Middle East.

The first signal heard was Z22JE in Zimbabwe at around 11:00 followed soon after by the Z21ANB beacon on 28250.2 MHz.

The band was pretty quiet though. Then I came across WA4FC/B in central Virginia on 28231.1 MHz running 5 watts to a vertical. Other than that beacon, there was no indication that the band was open to North America so I put this spot up on the Dx-Cluster. While the Dx-Cluster gets a fair bit of abuse with lots of rubbish spots, it's invaluable for the likes of 10 metres where a unusual path can open up.

Also heard was ZS6TQ and then VP8LP in the Falkland Islands. The VP8 station seemed nice and loud so out came the microphone from the drawer...plugged it in...and gave him a joy :o(
There were just too many stations calling him. So, I just the radio on in the background and about 10 minutes later, his signal seemed to peak and I tried again....and success! :o)

My first contact since July 2009. I have worked Falkland Island before on 10 metres but it was still nice to see that my signal was heard way down in the South Atlantic....even if it was only a 5/3 ;o)

Also heard were ZR1ADI (South Africa) and LU5FC....but the level of activity was still well down on yesterday.

....and finally, I heard 5N7M on cw. Really weak. He was 219 and peaking 319. There was no point in calling since I wouldn't be sure if I would hear my own call coming back.

So again, I left the radio on that frequency.........and about 15 minutes later, the signals got strong enough to try. After a few attempts, 5N7M was in the log....Nigeria on 10m cw :o)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Back on the radio & conditions on 28 Mhz...

Turned on the radio again today after a long absence. Looking at my logbook, my last contact was in July 2009! Back then, the talk was of solar minimums and how poor conditions were.

Today, the Solar Flux Index is at 100 and the 28 MHz band was in fine shape. There was plenty of genuine F2 propagation about with signals coming in from SE Europe / Middle East / Africa / South America / SE USA.

Considering I was only listening with an old simple half-wave CB vertical antenna, I was suprised at how strong some of the signals were...especially the beacons running only a few watts.

This is a list of what I heard on 28 Mhz today...
South East Europe...SV3AQR/B (Greece 4w vert), SV5TEN/B (Rhodes), IQ8CZ/B ,  IT9EJW/B (Sicily 3w), 5B4CY/B (Cyprus) , SV0XCC/9 (Crete), SV2AHT/B
Mid-East...HZ1DG (Saudi Arabia), TA4AU
Africa...EA8CTF , ZS1AX , TJ3FC (Cameroon) , D44AC (Cape Verde Is) , TR8CA (Gabon) 
South America...PU2TGK , PU2UEO , LW4EU , YV5DTJ , ZP5DBC
Caribbean...FM4NB (Martinique)
USA...W4TIY/B (Georgia) , KB4UPI/B (Alabama 5w) , KJ4QYB/B (Alabama), W3HH/B (Florida 12w)

Other unusual signals heard were...
1) G0IVZ in Cornwall...just about audible....either weak tropo or F2 back-scatter?
2) Illegal Fishing Buoys.....or at least that's what I think they were as suggested by this IARU piece.
The ones that I noticed were in the 10m beacon band. They transmitted a carrier for a few seconds and then gave a CW id. The ones I noted were...
28191.4 cw ident was 'CT' with a very bad chirp
28225.0 cw ident was 'EI'
28255.0 cw ident was 'DK' for their location???