Wednesday, March 22, 2017

EI call signs and the missing 'FU's

When licencing authorities in various countries are issuing amateur radio call signs, they tend to avoid ones that might be associated with bad language or any inappropriate word. These would usually be 3 letter words that would be part of the suffix after the number.

In Ireland, there is less of a chance of this happening as the Class A calls have just two letters and the Class B calls all end in B.

I heard of the following story some time back but I never knew if it was true or not.

Back in the mid 1980's, one person from Cork kept ringing the then Department of Communications about getting a licence once he had passed the 12 word per minute morse test. The Radio Experimenters licence as it was back then would have been a very small part of the workload for the staff in the Department and it probably got very annoying for someone there to have someone from Cork constantly ringing about his licence.

He was eventually issued the call sign EI3FU.

So back to the inappropriate calls. The suffix FU could also be seen as shorthand for 'F*** YOU'.....You can fill in the blanks yourself! :o)

It could be seen as someone in the Department sending a subtle message to the recipient,,,,,,and they even issued the number 3 to let the person know the number of letters missing ;o)

It was hard to know if the story was true as while the current call book only shows one FU suffix, others might have gone off the air in the meantime.

That was until recently! The IRTS published some old newsletters on their website in March of 2017 including an old EI call book from 1986. All of the late F call signs would have been new then so they would all be shown.

Upon examination, sure enough there is a pattern. From EI2 to EI9, all of the suffixes are listed... FQ, FR, FS, FT.......FV, FX, FY and FZ. All there except for FU......except of course for EI3FU! :o))

It seems as if there was someone with a mischievous sense of humour working in the Deptartment back in the 1980's.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

9N7EI (Nepal) worked on 30m & 40m

In mid-March of 2017, there was an Irish expedition to Nepal where the 12 man team operated as 9N7EI. They were on air from the 10th of March to the 19th of March with a stated objective of reaching 30,000 contacts. In the end, they managed 30,384 with 12,025 unique call signs.

This is a breakdown of their contacts by band...

With the Solar Flux down around 70 and with no sunspots on the sun, there were very poor conditions on 28MHz. The maximum number of contacts were logged on 18 MHz.

What's also noticeable was just how important CW is when the conditions are poor with the mode making up 57% of all contacts.

From my own experience, the signals from 9N7EI were pretty weak and the pile ups seemed huge. It might be fine for someone with a beam and an amplifier but it's another story with just an 80m dipole at a low height and 100 watts.

I listened on and off for them over the first week but I had no hope of cracking any pile up. I really didn't have any interest in sitting at the radio for an hour calling in the hope I'd be heard. It was more of a case that while it would be nice to work them, I wouldn't be too bothered if I didn't.

On the 17th of March, the conditions on the HF bands seemed above average. I had worked 5U5R on 17m and 9G5X on 12m during the afternoon and later that night, I came across 9N7EI on 30m calling CQ at 22:09 UTC. The CW signal was really weak and was dipping in and out of the noise. I put on the headphones, waited for their signal to come out of the noise and I got them first call.

Just after midnight, I came across them again on 40m. Again, weak and buried in the noise. I had noticed before that when I was doing ground wave experiments with EI6AK, my signal on 40m with a CB vertical half wave seemed to be reasonable. It seems to work as a short loaded vertical. So I tried it and 9N7EI seemed slightly stronger on receive. I matched it with the ATU and again, I played the waiting game and called them when they came out of the noise. It took a few calls but I got them eventually. I must have been really weak at their end so fair play to whoever was there for listening to signals buried in the noise.

I think that because the band was just about open, the signals were coming in at a low angle. The high angle of the 80m dipole wasn't great so the vertical CB antenna had the slight edge with the lower angle of radiation. The gain of the antenna must have been several dB down though on a proper 40m vertical. A quarter wave on 40m is 10m. The CB half wave vertical antenna is 5 metres in length and it has no ground plane system to speak of.

This is the VoaCap prediction for the band at the time of the contacts. Seems like the path between EI and 9N wasn't the best.

Three things struck me about the contact.

1) The signals were so weak that SSB would have been impossible. It was only possible by using CW.

2) The contacts were at 22:09 and 00:14. A lot of the Europeans might have gone to bed at that stage which helped.

3) I wonder if people are prepared to listen to a signal that is buried in the noise. Sometimes it seems as if people are just attracted to the strongest signals....a bit like moths to a flame. How many will sit and listen to a signal buried in the noise and wait for it to get strong enough? This thought struck me later that day when I noticed a EA9/DL... station with a huge pile up. A bit too big for just an EA9 station. The one thing that he had was a big signal.

In the end, a total of 71 EI stations managed to work 9N7RI with several on different bands and modes. They are shown below......

Expedition website...

Friday, March 17, 2017

Spanish Award...14th Antarctic Activity Week...February 2017

Back in late February, a bunch of Spanish special event stations popped up on the HF bands to mark the 14th Annual Antarctic Activity Week. It ran from the 18th to the 26th of the month. It seemed a bit strange that special event stations in Spain should be marking an Antarctic week. Perhaps it's because of the Spanish research stations located on the continent?

It really was very well organised with 9 stations on air and an excellent support website where logs were being constantly uploaded....

Of all the websites dedicated to radio awards, this one is certainly one of the best.

These were the 9 stations...

I like the one with the Polar Bear......especially as there are none in the Antarctic! :o))

The top award was the Platinum which required working all 9 stations which wasn't too difficult.

I worked all the stations on CW and made an effort to work them on as many bands as I could.

AO5ANT was one of the hardest to work as the DX cluster shows that there was little or no 80m CW activity and he only appeared on 30m for a few hours on the 17th. EH5ANT was only on 20m CW for 2 days.

One of the interesting results of chasing these stations was that I learnt something about propagation. Notice how there is almost a complete lack of stations on 17m (18 MHz). I could hear them sometimes but they were very weak.

The centre of Spain is about 1,500kms from the south coast of Ireland. 1,500kms seems to be fine for signals on 14MHz and below but too close for 18MHz and 21MHz.

This was the propagation prediction map at the time...

It clearly shows that while 20m (14 MHz) was open to Spain from Ireland, the distance was too short for 17 and 15m. I believe that EG5ANT may have been in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa so it's probably no suprise that he was the only one I worked on 17m. The distance in that case was close to 2,000kms.

On the top 100 lists on the website, I was the only EI listed. It's interesting that the many of those in the top 10 were far enough away (2000kms+) to make use of the openings on 17 and 15m. i.e. Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, etc.

Diplomas will be awarded in four different categories depending on the number of special stations contacted by the applicant (or received in case of SWLs)
BRONZE DIPLOMA... For contacts with 3 different Special Event stations, whatever the mode or band used.
SILVER DIPLOMA... For contacts with 5 different Special Event stations, whatever the mode/band.
GOLD DIPLOMA... For contacts with 7 different Special Event stations, whatever the mode/band.
PLATINUM DIPLOMA... For contacts with ALL 9 different Special Event stations, whatever the mode/band.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Solar Forecast...9th March 2017

Ever since the 1st of March, the conditions on the HF bands have been pretty poor. 21 MHz struggles to open and even the signals on 7 and 14 MHz have been weak. On several occasions, I've had to make sure I didn't have the attenuator switched in.

It looks as if a quiter side of the sun is coming into view which should improve things.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Results of the IRTS 80m Evening Counties Contest...Feb 2017

The IRTS 80 Metres Evening Counties contest was held on Tuesday the 21st of February. It was only one hour long and ran from 8pm to 9pm (20:00-21:00 UTC).

The results have just been HERE

A total of 35 station logs were submitted which accounted for 781 QSOs.

I stayed on cw for the duration of the contest and this was my result...

Results:  80 Metres Evening Counties Contest, 21st February 2017
Total Score calculation: Entrant in EI/GI
Total Valid QSOs: 16
CW QSOs with EI/GI stations: 10*8=80
CW QSOs with stations outside EI/GI: 6*2=12
QSO Points: 92, Multipliers: 6
Total Score: 552

Out of the 32 counties in Ireland, 11 were not in anyone's log...

Some are small counties and might be expected to be missing. But Galway and Limerick???

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

F2 Opening on 28 MHz to Africa on Wed 1st March 2017

With the Solar Flux Index down around 75, the 10 metre band is more or less dead every day at the moment. It was a bit of a suprise on the 1st of March 2017 when signals from Africa appeared on the band.

The first signal I heard was TR8CA in Gabon on 28 MHz SSB and later on 29 MHz FM. This was followed soon after by S01WS in the Western Sahara who I worked on cw.

I could hear these stations working plenty of Europeans and Americans so it was obviously a good opening. When I saw TR8CA being spotted by LA and SM stations in Norway and Sweden, then I knew something really unusual was happening. I suspected some sort of pre-auroral enhancement and the RSGB news a few days later confirmed this...

We were pleased to get the HF propagation prediction pretty much spot on last week. While Monday and Tuesday were reasonably settled, Wednesday saw the effects of solar material from a large coronal hole as it hit the Earth. The K-index leapt to five around lunchtime and there were reports of HF openings up to 10 metres. This was probably a pre-auroral enhancement, but it didn’t last too long.

This is what the K index looked like just before and after the event...

As you can see, nice and low early on the 1st of March and then the K index climbs to 7.

As is common with these type of events, the HF bands were very poor in the following days with 18 MHz just about open. 21 MHz and 28 MHz were dead.

The map below shows TR8CA and S01WS in relation to my location.

S01WS in the Western Sahara was about 2,900kms and the ideal distance for one hop F2 propagation on 28 MHz. TR8CA at about 6000kms was probably 2 x F2 layer hops so it was an interesting one to hear.

The thing about the 10 metre band is that you can never be too sure when it will open. When the Solar Flux Index is down around 70-80, it should be closed but then events like this allow the band to open, especially on North-South paths.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

UKEICC 80m SSB Contest...Wed 1st March 2017

The UKEICC run short one hour contests on 80m which are ideal as they don't take up much time.

Back at the start of February, I was on for one of the SSB legs and I managed to work 8 stations with my 5 watts into an 80m dipole. At the time, I wasn't set up properly to log stations and submit an entry within the space of an hour. In hindsight, this was a pity as there is a multiplication factor of 4 for anyone working a QRP station on 5 watts or less.

The next SSB leg was on the 1st of March 2017 and I worked 18 stations this time around, again with 5 watts. Even though I started 10 minutes late, conditions seemed much better than last time and the map below shows the locators worked...

I tried calling CQ a few times but it's hard to have much of a presence on the band with 5 watts. Instead, all of the stations I worked were as a result of calling them.

The two furthest stations that I worked were PE4BAS in JO33 and SM5CSS in JO89. I was also their best DX and the multiplication factor of 4 for them for working a QRP station would have given them a good few extra points. As can be seen below, they finished 2nd and 3rd out of 44 entries in the Low Power (100w or less) Unconnected section.

Low Power - Unconnected

  Call Pwr Grid Raw Dupe Bust NIL Good Total -- Best DX --
  QSOs QSOs Pts Call Km
1 SO7BIT L JO91 47 0 2 0 45 209 EI5KF 1915
2 SM5CSS L JO89 36 0 0 0 36 202 EI7GL 1853
3 PE4BAS L JO33 61 2 0 0 59 187 EI7GL 1107

I heard several strong French stations but none calling CQ. I got an 'EI7??' back from DL8UD in JO43 but I was just too weak to complete a QSO. Strangely enough, I don't remember hearing any GM stations from maybe it was just chance?

All in all, it was really interesting to see just how far 5 watts can go.

Results on UKEICC website.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Entry for the French HF SSB Championships

Back at the end of January 2017, I put in an entry to support the French HF CW Championships. That time, I managed 138 QSO's spread out from 80m to 15m.

The SSB leg of the French HF Championships were held last weekend so I decided to concentrate on 80m only. This has the advantage that the band would only be open to France at certain times so it wouldn't take up the whole weekend.

France from my location is between 500kms and 1500kms. That's close enough to make contacts possible on 80m SSB but far enough away that making contacts can still be a challenge. I guess I really just wanted to see what could I work on 80m SSB with 100 watts into a half wave dipole about 5 to 7 metres above ground level.

Some observations.....

1) Many of the French stations struggled to hear my 100 watts. I have no doubt that some were using amplifiers and using a lot more power than me. I think another major factor though was that the French stations would have much higher interference levels than me. Signals from other stations on adjacent frequencies would be much stronger for them because of the shorter range. They also have signals arriving from all directions where as I have nothing from the West and only have to cope with interference from signals in the UK and the near continent.

2) I expected to make around 40-50 SSB contacts on 80m. In the end, I managed 111 which was nice.

3) I expected that the bulk of contacts would be in the 500km to 1000km distance. In fact, I managed to work most of  France. These are the departments that I worked....

While the majority of missing departments were in the 1000km to 1500km range, I still got a good spread.

4) The strongest signal was F5MUX in Brittany. This was no doubt due to the 500km distance and the sea path for reflections.

5) It's only when I checked the distances on the map that it became obvious what a big country France really is. It seems odd how someone in Brittany can be only 500kms from Ireland and still be 1000kms from the South-East of France.

6) The path to France on 80m was open from about 30-45 minutes before sunset. Any earlier and the signals were too weak as the D layer in the ionosphere absorbed too much of the signal. It might be possible to work someone earlier on say a quiet band but not in a contest....not with my set up anyway. The same applied 30-45 minutes after sunrise.

7) In contrast to the CW contest, I used the SD contest logging programme for the SSB contest. It made things so much easier as it makes checking for potential duplicate contacts so much faster. The only problem I had with it was that it wouldn't accept TK5KP in Corsica as a valid contact with points and multiplier. After the contest, I tried closing and re-opening the programme and editing that contact but to no avail. When I put in a dummy French QSO in its place, it worked ok. I then replaced the dummy French callsign with the TK5KP qso, it accepted it fine. I'm not sure what was wrong but it worked out in the end.

8) Post contest, I had to edit the Cabrillo log file like I did for the CW contest so that the French website would accept it. Other than that, the entry process was simple.

Overall, the 'Coupe de REF' French HF Championships contest seemed to be a pretty good one as contests go. It was also my first SSB contest in about 15 years ;o)

Additional info...
1) French HF Contest website

Monday, February 20, 2017

EI6AK - - EI6BA - - EI7BA - - EI5FK

Pictured at a recent birthday celebration...Charlie EI5FK, John EI6AK, John EI7BA and Tom EI6BA.

Charlie EI5FK has been quite on the radio scene of late but was one of the top VHF operators in the country for well over 20 years. Charlie has worked anything and everything on the VHF & UHF bands from 50 MHz to 432 MHz.

John EI6AK is resident on 40 metres where he's always a big signal and has worked the world on the band.

John EI7BA is one of the top DX-ers in the country and is active from 6m to 160m. If there's an expedition somewhere, you can be sure 7BA will probably work them on more bands than anyone else.

Tom EI6BA is not on air at present but was very active in the VHF contest scene before when he would set up a station on some of the high spots around Cork.

Photo courtesy of John, EI6AK.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Award Cert for the Wild Atlantic Way Award

On Friday the 17th of February 2017, I worked EI11WAW on 80m cw and this was the last one that I needed for the Wild Atlantic Way Award.

According to the awards manager Dave EI6AL, over 70 certificates have been issued at this stage and this was the first one to an EI station.

It's also the first one that has been endorsed for all contacts on CW as this wasn't available up to now. The other endorsements available from now on will be for SSB and Digital.

These are the bands that I used to contact the 9 WAW stations...

EI55WAW...CW...20m & 40m
EI77WAW...CW...17m, 20m, 40m & 80m
EI99WAW...CW...20m, 30m & 80m

What has been interesting about looking for these stations on the HF bands over the last 7 weeks is that I actually learnt something about propagation.

1) I had assumed that I could work EI stations on 80m at almost any time. That wasn't the case. With a low solar flux and the daytime critical frequency only getting up as high as 5.5 MHz, the MUF at night dropped pretty low. This had the effect of creating a skip zone on 80m so that I couldn't work other EI stations that were too close.

2) I had assumed that working other EI stations on 20m or 17m would be very difficult. I'm not sure if it was weak Sporadic-E or F2 backscatter but I could often hear the WAW stations on 14MHz and 18 MHz. The signals were pretty weak....down at a kind of level where a contact was possible on CW but not on SSB.

Overall, it looks like it is a very successful awards scheme and is certainly getting a lot of interest. If 70+ stations have already applied for the award after just 7 weeks, then surely that figure will be in the hundreds by the time the award scheme finishes at the end of 2017.

More info about the Wild Atlantic Way Award in this previous post.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Activity levels on CW for the EI Wild Atlantic Way stations

Just out of curiosity, I had a look at the number of CW spots on the DX cluster for the various Wild Atlantic Way stations... EI11WAW to EI99WAW. It's probably fair to say that the more active a station is on cw then the more cw spots should appear on the DX-Cluster.

This was the standings on the 16th of February 2017 and it shows all the cw spots since the start of the year. As you can see above, EI77WAW has the most spots and this call has been very active on cw on the bands from 80m to 17m.

What's also obvious are the rare ones....EI11WAW and EI88WAW....with just 17 and 18 spots respectively.

Antarctica worked on 15 metres

During the last week, I worked RI1ANC on 21 MHz cw. He was located at the Russian Vostok base in Antarctica and the signal was quite weak...the type that is ok on cw but probably too weak for ssb.

With a Solar Flux of 75, the conditions on the higher HF bands are pretty poor at the moment with 28 MHz being closed most of the time. While East-West paths are a problem, the best paths are often North-South.

Often the higher bands can throw up suprises like this. Because the multi-hop path is just about open, the footprint can be quite small. It can allow you to work the DX without the pile-ups that you might find on the lower bands.

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 Dutch PACC Contest

The annual PACC contest was held last weekend the 11th and 12th of February 2017 and is the highlight on the contest calendar for many Dutch radio amateurs. I hadn't really planned on entering but I thought I might support the contest of a neighbouring radio society.

There are 12 provinces in the Netherlands and each one was a multiplier on each band...

I operated on CW only on 40m and 80m and only replied to stations calling 'CQ TEST'. I had a quick listen on 20m during the daylight hours but I couldn't hear any Dutch stations, only stations in Eastern Europe looking for PA stations. Obviously with a Solar Flux in the low 70's, the MUF was pretty low and the distance for EI to PA was too short for F2 propagation.

As I don't have an antenna for 160m, that just left 40m and 80m for working into the Netherlands.

40m seemed good from about 3 hours before sunset to well into the night. It was the same the next day...good until about 3 hours after sunrise.

80m was a lot more defined as it had to be dark for the path to work. It was interesting how nearly all the PA stations disappeared on Sunday morning within a 30 minute window as sunrise occurred in the Netherlands.

Of the 12 provinces, I worked 11 on 40m and 11 on 80m. I probably could have worked the missing ones if I had gone hunting for them but I was only giving out points to contest stations.

I ended up with 94 contacts including one dupe which crept in. Someone was sending PACC as part of their callsign and I mistook that to be a special contest station. In hindsight, it probably wasn't.

Some of the stations I didn't work were...
a) Ones who was sending cw so fast that I couldn't make it out.
b) Stations who were hopping around. They would call CQ....I'd check my log in case it was a dupe...but they were gone before I could call them.

1) PACC Contest

Thursday, February 9, 2017

VHF-UHF DX Book...Free download

The VHF/UHF DX Book was written in the early to mid-1990s by a team of experienced VHF/UHF DXers and equipment developers, in an effort to pass on their knowledge and stimulate further developments.

The book covered various aspects as you can see from the cover above. I bought this book when it was released and built the design in it for a 4 element Yagi for 50 MHz. I used that antenna to work 100+ countries on 6 metres during the sunspot cycle around 2001-2002.

The book is now available as a PDF and can be downloaded for free. It is 25 MB in size and can be found at this website...

This is a remarkable gesture by the book's owners and should be of interest to anyone with an interest in the VHF bands.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Silent Key...Con, EI4CE

I heard yesterday that Con O'Callaghan EI4CE from Newmarket in Co.Cork passed away.  He was 89 years old. (Notice).

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Sunday, February 5, 2017

EI55WAW in the log

From 1st January to 31st December 2017 Irish Radio Amateurs will be on air with nine special calls – EI11WAW through to EI99WAW.  Each call will be associated with one of the counties making up the Wild Atlantic Way.  Each call will have its own distinctive QSL card depicting a highlight of the county linked to the call.

Following hot on the heels of EI66WAW and EI88WAW on Friday, I worked EI55WAW on 20m cw on Saturday the 4th of February 2017. Like the other times that I have worked WAW stations on 20m, the signals were weak but I was lucky enough to just get in early before the pile up started.

EI55WAW was number eight of nine on cw so that just leaves EI11WAW (Donegal) to go. There hasn't been much activity with that call so far on cw so the most difficult one will probably be the last. Still, I have just under 11 months left to find them though! :o)

More info about the Wild Atlantic Way award in this previous post.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

EI66WAW and EI88WAW in the log

From 1st January to 31st December 2017 Irish Radio Amateurs will be on air with nine special calls – EI11WAW through to EI99WAW.  Each call will be associated with one of the counties making up the Wild Atlantic Way.  Each call will have its own distinctive QSL card depicting a highlight of the county linked to the call.

On Friday the 3rd of February 2017, I worked two more of them in the space of an hour.

First up was EI88WAW on 20m cw. He was busy working a pile up of stations and operating split. The signal with me was pretty weak so there was no hope of getting through a large European pile up. After he returned from a break, he was operating simplex and I managed to get in for a quick contact. WAW #6 on cw.

Within the hour, I found EI66WAW on 80m cw.

One thing that has suprised me is just how difficult it is to work some of the counties on cw. I have seen EI66WAW spotted loads of times but on 20m, 30m & 40m, he was way too weak. On 80m in the late evening, the skip has lengthened and Co.Clare is in the skip zone.

This time around, EI66WAW was on about an hour before sunset so he was very easy to work.

Just two more to go now on cw....EI11WAW and EI55WAW. The cluster doesn't show that many cw spots for them so it might take a while.

More info about the Wild Atlantic Way award in this previous post.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Entry for the French HF CW Contest...Jan 2017

The French REF CW contest was held on Saturday the 28th and Sunday the 29th of January 2017 on the HF bands from 10m to 80m. For stations outside of France, the object was to work as many French stations and departments as possible.

I hadn't really planned on taking part but once I worked the first few, I just kept going. In the end, I ended up with 138 QSO's on CW.

As expected, the best bands to work into France were 80m, 40m and 20m. The best DX contacts were with FY5KE (French Guyana) on 15m and FY5KE, FG4KH and FG/F5HRY (Guadeloupe) on 40m.

The antenna on my side for all contacts was an 80m dipole about 7m above ground level feed with 300 Omh ribbon cable from an ATU.

Yesterday, I downloaded a copy of the SD Contest Software by EI5DI and registered it. As with anything new, it took a while to get used to all the commands but I managed eventually to put in all the contacts.

Entering wasn't without its problems though as I got several error messages when I tried to upload it to the contest website.

a) Error found in your file : LOCATION field not found. This field must contain DX for all non french stations. eg: LOCATION: DX

......With some help from EI5DI, it seems as if the French entry system didn't recognise the standard entry for location. In SD, it is 'CATEGORY-LOCATION:  DX' whereas the French website was looking for 'LOCATION: DX'. Obvious to the eye but a robot system just rejects anything that isn't in the exact format. It was easy to edit the .LOG file with Notepad, remove the CATEGORY- part, save it and then try again.

b) At this stage, the French website thought I was trying to put up Spam with my multiple attempts so it rejected any more efforts. I was stumped for a while but I then used another browser to fix that problem. i.e. no cookies on that one.

c) Back in again but another error message...

Error found in your file : CATEGORY-OPERATOR field is not set properly. This field must contain operator-category. operator: SINGLE-OP or MULTI-ONE or CHECKLOG eg: CATEGORY-OPERATOR: SINGLE-OP
We found the string below in your log file: CATEGORY-OPERATOR: SINGLE OP     (please check the op SINGLE-OP or MULTI-ONE or CHECKLOG)

Again, it was just a case of editing the .LOG file and I changed the 'CATEGORY-OPERATOR: SINGLE OP' to 'CATEGORY-OPERATOR: SINGLE-OP'. The French system wanted a hyphen in there.

Tried again and it worked!

My first entry for a CW contest and I would guess that it's my first entry for a big contest in about 15 years.

The next question is how many of the contacts will count? How many errors were there? I used a straight key for all the contacts with some being in the early hours of the morning....plenty of scope there for mistakes ;o)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Operating QRP in the UKEICC 80m SSB Contest...1st Feb 2017

The SSB leg of the UKEICC 80m contest was held on Wednesday the 1st of February 2017 between 8pm and 9pm. As a test of a Yaesu FT-817 rig and as an experiment, I took part in it with just 5 watts into my 80m diplole.

I only managed to work 8 stations but I also didn't actually hear that many more anyway with my S7 noise level on the band.

All the stations I worked were within 500kms with the exception of GM3X who was about 750kms.


Both EI5KF and F1FPL were quite strong but they couldn't hear my 5 watts. I could hear stations in Hungary, Slovenia, Germany and Sweden but it was pointless calling them as they were relatively weak at my end.

The whole contest seemed to be a tale of two halves. Conditions seemed reasonable in the first 30 minutes but the band seemed to collapse in the second half hour. It was almost as if something happened up in the ionosphere. The geomagnetic conditions are at a storm level at present so that might explain it (K index = 5).

Looking at the results and the comments, it seems as if everyone found the conditions to be awful. Still though, it was interesting to get 8 contacts with 5 watts.

Activity Levels for the Wild Atlantic Way Award... Jan 2017

From 1st January to 31st December 2017 Irish Radio Amateurs will be on air with nine special calls – EI11WAW through to EI99WAW.  Each call will be associated with one of the counties making up the Wild Atlantic Way.  Each call will have its own distinctive QSL card depicting a highlight of the county linked to the call.

As of the 31st of January 2017, the number of page views on QRZ.COM can be seen above. As you might expect, the number of page views should roughly reflect the activity levels of each station.

There has been quite a variation in activity levels for the month of January. The number of QSO's recorded in Clublog is shown below and roughly matches the QRZ.COM views.

* Note that some stations may not have updated all their contacts yet which would explain why perhaps EI11WAW has a lot more QRZ page views than recorded contacts.

Some calls like EI99WAW have been very active on both SSB and CW and on bands from 80m to 20m which allows a lot of people to work them....both near and far.

Others have been very quiet or else they have been up on the higher bands like 20m which makes it difficult for stations in the UK and Ireland to work them. Still though, it's early days and there are still 11 months left.

More info about the Wild Atlantic Way award in this previous post.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

EI22WAW in the log

From 1st January to 31st December 2017 Irish Radio Amateurs will be on air with nine special calls – EI11WAW through to EI99WAW.  Each call will be associated with one of the counties making up the Wild Atlantic Way.  Each call will have its own distinctive QSL card depicting a highlight of the county linked to the call.

Today, I caught up with my fifth one...EI22WAW on 20m CW. There was a bit of a comedy of errors with this one. I was adjusting the morse key beforehand to try and get a smaller gap and sure enough, it jammed just before I gave a signal report! After some frantic adjusting, it got the report across ok.

The signals was quite weak but strong enough to make a contact when the European stations weren't calling.

Four more to go.

More info about the Wild Atlantic Way award in this previous post.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

World Handball Championships in Jan 2017...TM57A, TM57D, TM57H & TM57N

The 25th World Handball Championships are being held in France from 11th to 29th January 2017 and there are four special event stations on the air ...TM57A, TM57D, TM57H and TM57N.

Today, I worked the 4th station on CW.

16/01/2017 ...TM57H ...3.5 MHz ... CW
18/01/2017 ...TM57A ...7 MHz ... CW
22/01/2017 ...TM57N ...7 MHz ... CW
24/01/2017 ...TM57D ...3.5 MHz ... CW

The four callsigns H A N D spell HAND and as you can see from the image above, the four QSL cards when assembled show a ball in the centre....i.e. Handball.

From the organisers website....
The 25th Handball World Championship will be held in France from 11th to 29th January.
The city of Metz, will receive in its Arena the teams of Spain, Slovenia, Macedonia, Iceland and Tunisia. AMRA was keen to participate in its own way at this event, so the codes TM57H - TM57A - TM57N and TM57D were allocated for the period from 15 to 29/01. The four codes thus forming HAND, a special QSL will be edited for each of these indicative and the four QSL will form a puzzle as below. We look forward to your participation.

The QSL manager is Marc F-11734 and they will QSL via the bureau. See QRZ.COM

Monday, January 23, 2017

Presentation by John EI7IG at the TAPR Digital Conference in the USA

In 2016, John Ronan EI7IG traveled to the ARRL-TAPR Digital Communication Conference in the US where he gave a presentation on using APRS (Amateur Packet Reporting System) to track vehicles and bikes on the Sean Kelly cycle event.

The video of the talk was put up on YouTube in the last week by Gary Pearce, KN4AQ as part of his Ham Radio Now video series.

In the talk, John outlines some of the technical issues and difficulties in covering this large cycle event and making sure that the emergency services can be deployed where they are needed.

Additional info...
1) Sean Kelly Tour
2) John EI7IG's website

Sunday, January 22, 2017

EI33WAW in the log

From 1st January to 31st December 2017 Irish Radio Amateurs will be on air with nine special calls – EI11WAW through to EI99WAW.  Each call will be associated with one of the counties making up the Wild Atlantic Way.  Each call will have its own distinctive QSL card depicting a highlight of the county linked to the call.

Today, I caught up with my fourth one on 80m CW...EI33WAW. Five more to go.

More info about the Wild Atlantic Way award in this previous post.

Friday, January 20, 2017

EI77WAW in the log

From 1st January to 31st December 2017 Irish Radio Amateurs will be on air with nine special calls – EI11WAW through to EI99WAW.  Each call will be associated with one of the counties making up the Wild Atlantic Way.  Each call will have its own distinctive QSL card depicting a highlight of the county linked to the call.

Today, I caught up with my third one on 80m CW...EI77WAW. Six more to go.

More info about the Wild Atlantic Way award in this previous post.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rough guide to activity levels for the Wild Atlantic Way callsigns

The Wild Atlantic Way award has been running since the 1st of January 2017 and already, a number of overseas stations have worked all 9 calls.

If we make the assumption that the more active a station is then the more views they will get on their QRZ.COM page, this is a rough breakdown of the activity levels of the WAW calls so far.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Results of the 2017 IRTS 80m Counties Contest on New Year's Day

The annual IRTS 80 metre contest was held on the 1st of January 2017 and the full results are now available HERE

The chart above shows how the number of entries have changed over the years. While they are down on the initial years, they have  increased since 2014. It's good to see that the entries for the SSB/CW section have reached an all time high and now make up roughly half of all entries.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Slim Jim Vertical Half-Wave for 27 MHz & 28 MHz

Another one from an old magazine article. This design is for a basic folded half-wave vertical for the 11m CB band on 27MHz but it can also be adapted very easily for 28Mhz or 29Mhz. For 10m operation, try reducing the half wave section to 5.10 metres and the quarter wave section to 2.53 metres.

It really is a case of experimenting and see how you get on. It's likely the biggest challenge will be the mechanical construction rather than adjusting the VSWR.

One particular advantage of this antenna is that the quarter wave tuning section effectively puts the radiating element higher above ground level. This fact alone can have a significant effect on the performance of the antenna as it begins to get clear of buildings, electricity wires and other clutter near ground level.

A lot of novice CBer's get fixated on 'advertised gain' and different types of antennas whereas they should be concentrating on getting a decent antenna up as high as possible.

While the Slim Jim won't be as good as say a Yagi beam up on a tower, it should still perform pretty well.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

EI44WAW in the log

From 1st January to 31st December 2017 Irish Radio Amateurs will be on air with nine special calls – EI11WAW through to EI99WAW.  Each call will be associated with one of the counties making up the Wild Atlantic Way.  Each call will have its own distinctive QSL card depicting a highlight of the county linked to the call.

Today, I caught up with my second one on 80m CW...EI44WAW in County Mayo. Seven more to go.

More info about the Wild Atlantic Way award in this previous post.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ideas for radio clubs...

It's pretty obvious that a lot of radio clubs in Ireland and in the UK have a declining membership and many are not attractive to newcomers.

One of the more active areas in the UK is in Essex and the Essex Ham website has plenty of ideas and tips on how to make clubs more attractive and relevant.

One of these is to have a skills night where there is something for everyone...newbie and experienced alike.

It obviously may not work for all clubs but there is plenty of info on that site that clubs might find useful.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New website for the Duhallow Repeater Group

The Duhallow Repeater Group operates the 70cms repeater EI7SMR and the 4 metre Simplexer EI4SMR on Seefin in County Cork. I have put together a basic website for the group which gives some details about their systems.

You can visit it at

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 Wild Atlantic Way Award

From 1st January to 31st December 2017 Irish Radio Amateurs will be on air with nine special calls – EI11WAW through to EI99WAW.  Each call will be associated with one of the counties making up the Wild Atlantic Way.  Each call will have its own distinctive QSL card depicting a highlight of the county linked to the call.

QSL requests via Clublog or the Buro.  Requests for a Direct QSL via Clublog or to EI6AL enclosing $2, or €2 via paypal to

A Certificate will be made available for download to any station that works all nine calls,  any band any mode.  Apply by email to QSL manager EI6AL giving name and call.  A certificate can also be sent by post – send €5 ($5) to cover postage either through Clublog, direct to EI6AL or via paypal to

.My first QSO for 2017 in the log :o) ......Dave EI4BZ operating as EI99WAW on 80m CW at 00:10 UTC. Eight to go.