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.