Friday 23rd October
Two updates in 2 days!! 15, 12 and 10m were humming today, just like the old days. Lots of activity, VK's on 10m and all sorts of other goodies on bands that have had tumbleweed floating around them for too long. 2 new dxcc for me, with 3B8DB on 12m and XV9DX on 15m. Other nice ones in the log for me, were C91VM (he of the $5 qsl card fame) on 12m and Andre C56YK on 15m, who oddly enough was one of my few previous successes on 12m back in the spring.
Unfortunately, none of this propagation can be really be attributed to actual sun spot activity.... albeit the solar disk has a few promising magnetic signatures dotted around, and a minor sunspot cluster.
Thursday 22 October
15m and above has been alive over the last week or so, and not just contest stations warming up for this weekend's cqww dx ssb contest... which is the big one. I managed to work Jesper OX3KQ at long last, having spent much time in the past slugging it out in pile-ups trying to work him on 20m with no joy. And up he pops on 15m last Saturday and a decent relaxed qso for a new one as a result. Today, 15m was really buzzing, but I nosed up to 12m and managed a new on with FR1AN in Reunion Isles, there's something extra satisfying with it being on 12m.
I have made plans to raise my humble antenna by about 15ft, which should (in theory) give me an extra 3db rx and tx), but may have other hidden benefits in terms of noise and angle of radiation take-off in certain directions.
Tuesday 22nd September
I thought I'd celebrate hitting the 150 dxcc mark with an entry in my laughable blog. Two new dxcc in 2 days, with a hard fought Z29KM on 17m and a far easier 5R8FU on 17m today. 5R maybe as close as I get to the FT5GA dxpedition, which has perked up considerably in strength all of a sudden, as if their amplifiers turned up a week late. There's plenty of time to go, so you never know.
My new Icom 7700 is performing admirably, no complaints at all. I may investigate using a Heil PR-781 with the 7700, as this microphone seems to perfectly suit this transceiver. I waved farewell to my trusty IC-756 Pro III on Sunday, good luck with it, Graham.
A couple of cards from the latest bureau batch, and a big surprise in finding the card of V51AS .... which is not one of the easiest to come by, and I'd basically given up hope on that one. Not too sure what happened to the $$ and the SAE I sent, or who actually sent it to the bureau (rumour has it, Frank sends off a large batch to certain stations in a country, and they distribute them). Anyway, however or whatever, I have V5 confirmed, so all is good. I seem to do quite well with Africa, I think 23 African countries confirmed now, with 4 or 5 still due in.
Wednesday 9th September
Long time no entry. I have reached the heady heights of 148 dxcc, oddly enough working 2 HK stations on the same evening. So, with the CE, I am making headway into South America at last, central America still totally eludes me. Yesterday was a particularly good day, with my long awaited card back from R1AND Antarctica... the first card seemed to vanish but the second one did the trick. A nice card as well, so who can begrudge a few $$ spent. Also got the card back from the tricky Mali dxpedition, TZ6EI, whom I worked first call during a monster pile-up... but the mitigating circumstances were that they just decided to work by # and started with 0, and I struck lucky by choosing the upper end of their 5khz listening zone.
Yesterday was even more impressive as I took delivery of my brand new Icom IC-7700. I had to have a 30min rest after unpacking the thing! It's a real monster compared to what I'm used to operating. It's a joy to use, as it should be, and the bands are no longer a pain to listen to... it really is a quiet receiver on the bands, except for the wanted signals that pop out of nothingness. The effects of my near neighbour's plasma have been neutralised and I do not need to give up on 17m and 15m when they have it on... in fact I can't tell if they have it on unless I switch out the amazing noise blanker. The dreaded plasma also caused some high noise levels on 20m, and these have been removed now, at no loss to the wanted signals on the band. Basically, this radio allows me to use the bands whenever I want, rather than dodging around my neighbour's tv viewing habits.
I have to be honest and admit that I have a plasma (have had one for 4 years), as they simply produce the better image at 42inch and above... this will change over time, and plasma is not a progressive technology.
Anyway, the IC-7700 has more than lived up to my hopes, and surpassed a number of them. A few HF qso's today have also confirmed that the tx audio is up to scratch... you can set it all up and it looks right, but you never quite know what it is like at the other end.
The VFO (encoder) knob is by far the best I have ever 'twiddled', and I have used a few over the years, being very particular about their feel and weight... I well remember using lead putty to get a better weight with a few VFO knobs in the past.
Saturday 15th August
Newsflash: Just worked CE, in the shape of a Lighthouse operation XR1A, I'm over the moon!!
It was a long wait as XR1A was working by numbers, and I found him calling #4 and things were very busy. I drifted off for half an hour and worked ZZ6Z on SA-023 in PY land. I went back to XR1A and he was on to #7 but there seemed to be an outbreak of anarchy with a real undisciplined EU zoo and the dx inaudible. I drifted off again and had my doubts that this would be my first CE.
A very strong ZL4 popped up on 14.208 but was being clobbered by another EU zoo chasing an HK portable operation 2Khz up, which was a shame as I fancied my chances. Going back to XR1A's frequency, he was just finishing with #8 and moved on to #9, so I'm not going anywhere now. East EU was falling off now, and with #9 being a bit scarce, it wasn't long before he went to #0 and my competition is meagre with #0 being, with a couple of exceptions, fairly scarce in EU outside of G'land. I was on the voice send button straight away but beaten by one of the few EU #0 calls, can't remember which, another try and I do hear him come back with M0, but it's not my suffix. Then he calls cq again and I go for it and I hear that sweet sound of your callsign coming back to you, QSO tied up with the i.d. # of his lighthouse just north of Antofagasta at FG46SV
Nice one!! Chile probably doesn't do much for most people, but it's just 'one of those countries' that means a lot to me.
Curiously, although I expected to work a lighthouse or two over the weekend, a big surprise was working one on 2m FM, namely GB0NLH at the Needles Lighthouse on the Isle of WIght... it's the only lighthouse I actually know.
Sunday 12th July
Another delay in updating my blog, but I haven't been too active over the last 6 weeks or so. My PSU for the Kenwood TS2000 expired, and I haven't even been bothered to get that sorted out, but have my old reliable TS-711E back in use. The HF bands are still pretty hard work and even the recent reasonably sized sunspot 1024 didn't push flux levels up or have any impact that I could notice. I had a bit of fun on 6m and have been enjoying a bit of dx on 12m at times, with KP4, C5, PY and a few others. I still haven't worked a single station in Central America, although I haven't heard too many and I'm not one to be on the radio after 9pm or so, so that cuts down my chances nor does it help in working CE, which I am so desperate for. In fact, other than eastern South America (PY, LU, CX, ZP, YV and PZ), I really haven't had any joy at all. So, I think a bit more evening operating on the bands is in order....especially when my mate Graham 2E0YAZ seems to be working VK every evening ;-)
I chased up, as good as I could, some of the QSL cards that I should've had back by now, and several have gone AWOL through sticky fingered postal workers along the way. Fortunately, there are some true gentleman out there who sent me a card despite my card, SAE and $$ going missing, So a big thanks to Chai E20WXA and Robin DU9RG. Greece seems to have been a bit of a QSL black hole for me, with all of my cards to SV and islands vanishing, which is a bit of a surprise. However, on the whole I have had around 85% returned, which is pretty good going. Another bonus was a few cards from the bureau arriving for my old M6 callsign, which was a bonus that I didn't really expect and gave me confirmation of Brasil, Turkey and Asiatic Russia. At the moment I tend to concentrate on paper confirmation from outside of EU but I'll have a bash at building these up in the near future.
Thursday 21st May
Well, it's now one year on air, albeit less than that as far as being active on HF, as I didn't get my HF sorted until June 2008. Anyhow, it's been a while since I updated my bloggy thing.
Been to two radio rallies since the last update, the luxurious Kempton rally in great weather and Stockwood park (Luton) in 'invigorating' weather!! both were great days out though and good to put a few faces to voices.
My trusty Kenwood TS-711E has been retired to the outside shack, and has been replaced indoors with the less than beautiful, Kenwood TS-2000. Still, the TS-2000 isn't quite as ugly in real life as it appears in pictures on the web. Having 70cms at my disposal has been surprising, the repeaters that I can pick up seems to stretch a bit further than those on 2m, with clear signals from GB3PY in Cambridge. The actual activity on the 70cms repeaters is greater than I had imagined, and the behaviour considerably better on them than the urban 2m repeaters... so a nice civilised retreat for many people.
Since my last update, my on air activity has been sporadic but still had some good qso's along the way. A fair few new dxcc worked as well. I suppose the real notable breakthrough's have been to the People's Republic of China and to Taiwan (both now confirmed with a card). Several dxpeditions have been worked, notably the easy S04R and the more testing C91FC.
Several more African countries have been worked, with Nick 5X1NH , Romano TY5ZR, Alain TR8CA amongst them. An odd one during a contest (I know!!) was Valery 5Z4/RW1AU Although he was in the RU contest, he really didn't sound like it, being very chatty and polite to all callers. He was a huge signal as well, operating from the 5Z4RS club station in Nairobi.
Another welcome catch was Peter ZD7FT, whom I had been chasing for a number of days on 17m, but was always a little weak at my end. Finally he popped up with a nice strong signal and I managed to work him.
I have now created a page to show some of the QSL cards I have received HERE
Tuesday 7th April
A bit of break for me, with a week away on holiday, but now down with a nasty head cold which has had an impact on the hearing in one ear.... so now HF sounds a bit odd, as if I've messed around with the filtering on my transceiver. I had to quickly back out of a 2m FM chat tonight as my voice was going ...from previous experience, the best way to lose your voice completely is to have long chats on the radio when you have a cold.
Still, managed a chat with Dennis ZS1AU on 20m, which was my first to Cape Province... although I think some of the ZS regions may have changed a bit since my SWL days.
I did arrive home from holiday to find a few nice QSL cards on the doormat, notably VK6LC's card but also cards from 9M8Z and 7Q7AH. The 9M8 card was from his UK manager... I completely understand the need for some to have QSL managers (dodgy postal workers nabbing your $$ et al) but I just don't get the same satisfaction from receiving them in that manner.
Just before my holiday, I picked up PY and LU, the former being on 15m. A new one for me came in the shape of Dave VP5/W5CW on 17m.
Tuesday 24th March
A slightly quieter time on the bands for me since the celebrations of working my first VK. I continued to enjoy the 15m evening openings to South America, working Amado ZP8VAO for a new dxcc and Helmut LU1YU for a new LU state of Neuquen for me.
I picked up a couple of easy new dxcc, if not in particularly rewarding fashion during the RDX contest, these were V47NT and EY7AF. The EY went nicely with Fedor UK9AA who I worked on 17m the day before, so I'm knocking off those tricky 'new' ex Russian Federation countries.
Anyway, the big one over the weekend was Valentin R1AND at the Novolazarevskaya base in Antarctica on 17m. Strange one in that he wasn't under a big pile-up and even had to call cq, despite being on the cluster. He wasn't particularly strong but I gave a half-hearted call not expecting any reply and managed to work him first time, and it seems others had similar joy. A nice touch to this one was that Valentin was in my old SWL logs from 1996 as R1ANZ at the Mirny base. If you had told me then that one day I would work him for real, I would have laughed in your face.
Today I was suffering from some local qrm on the bands, probably next doors tv or pc but it cleared at around 14:00 and I used the opportunity to work Peter J5UAP in Guinea-Bissau. This West African country borders Senegal, which allows Peter to nip across the border from his main QTH and work as rare dx instead of the more common 6W. Then, on 20m, I finally managed to get through to the huge signals of Steve 9M8Z, who I had tried for many hours over the last week or two to get through to. Typically it was first call this time and a pleasing 'great signal' from Steve as extra reward.
I'm getting a nice flow of QSL cards at the moment, so I may create a page to show some of these. Latest ones to arrive include a very nice 'Dracula' card from YO2MHD from Transylvania, KH7XS, VP8LP, VA7AAW, VR2XMT, K6YRA and the PZ Suriname dxpedition.
Friday 20th March
Well, the big news is that I have finally managed to work my first VK...and who should it be, but Mal VK6LC who caught bits of my callsign last August., and on 17m again. Decent qso, and he was delighted when I told him that he was my first VK and that I had a bottle of champagne for this very event...and I have, and it will be consumed this evening. VK isn't rare by any means, it isn't the furthest dxcc from here, but there's just something special about VK, even more so than ZL... although there'll be another bottle of Mumm ready for when/if I work ZL.
Other recent highlights have been the evening openings (around 18:30-20:00) to South America on 15m, where I have picked up ZP, LU, PY. On the reliable, if rarely loved, 20m, I picked up Allan 7Q7AH and worked Jack W7JK close to Seattle ... amazing that Washington state isn't a new one for me! I seem to do quite well to the North West Coast of North America, with VE7 a couple of times already.
Sunday 15th March
Had a shack visitor today, when Mick M6CHS popped around to 'steal' some RG213 from me ;-) He must have caught me with a bit of alcohol inside me when I said a tenner for about 20m of it. To be fair, he's a local just starting out in radio, so a very friendly price was appropriate.
Anyway, on the bands, was there some sort of far eastern activity day? There were loads of YB's around, and accompanying DU, 9M and V8. Great stuff, as that's an area I have really struggled to work... and YB/DU/9M always got me excited in my SWL days, so great to work them, especially DU9RG who has plenty of entries in my old SWL logs. I worked Robin DU9RG, Chai E20WXA in Bangkok and Pri YB0ECT in Jakarta.
Saturday 14th March
The bands seemed a bit better today, after the last 2 days with some wondering if their antennas had fallen down. I have to own up and admit that I now have full legal output at my disposal for those dark times when 100w will not get me through. Ron at Vine Antennas proved just why he is so respected, by getting an Acom 1000 to me within 24hrs. If I had phoned earlier in the day it would've been 24hrs delivery.
The Acom 1000 has lived up to it's amazing reputation of being simple to install and even simpler to operate. With just 20w out from my transceiver, it will give full UK legal limit of 400w, the amplifier makes no clunks nor a any other audible signs that it is operating when you tx, it is solid as the rock of Gibraltar. There have been no signs of any TVI to myself or neighbours, giving proof that this amp puts out a very clean signal... helped by just 20w drive. Nothing is under any strain (other than my desk!), be it the transceiver or the amp, and a long service life of both can be expected.
Anyway, back to the bands and 17m was quite lively, with Frank V51AS worked. Down on 20m and two new ones for me were Andy 3DA0TM and Gil TO2T, the latter catching a few out as that prefix shows up on many logging programmes and clusters as the exotic Amsterdam & St Pauls Islands DXCC, as opposed to Guadeloupe that it really is. Still, Guadeloupe is exotic to me but it's always been FG to me. I make absolutely sure I know where the station is before calling... no disappointment then.
Thursday 12th March
K6YRA Allen couldn't evade me forever, and today I finally got through to his station in L.A on 20m (so California worked at last). The good thing with K6YRA is that you'll know exactly where he will be and at what time. I found Al in my old SWL logs from many years ago, and that was on 12m. It could be a while before we hear W6 on 12m.
To add to this major event for me, on 17m I worked 6Y5/WE9V who was still active at the contest station over in Jamaica and I picked up a new one in the ET3AA station operated by Abel at the Ethiopian Amateur Radio Society, who have the terrific acronym of EARS.
Friday 6th March
The higher bands are still quite good and I have stretched my DXCC count to hit the 100 mark, the next 100 could be just a tad trickier!!. A few contest stations are flexing their muscles before the ARRL phone contest this weekend, which was how I came across the strong signals of WP4U Carlos on 17m. I was rather pleased spot and work the 5I3A club station in Dar Es Salaam Tanzania operating on 17m the other day. Getting in first before he was on the cluster helped. So the band openings to Southern African provided me with another nice one.
Friday afternoon, and I partook of my regular fruitless calling to K6YRA, and had the pleasure to hear a local call him and work him first time... but I can't complain, the local to me was using a decent antenna system on a tower, and maybe more. If you're a 'pop gun' station, you can't be too competitive on the bands, you just have to do the best you can and make the most from your limitations... and making the most out of limited space and other domestic restrictions is all part of amateur radio.
However, a trip further up the 20m band provided me with my first qso with HS land, hearing a strong signal from HS0ZIQ John in the lovely resort island of Phucket.... and an area of the world that I have failed miserably to be heard up until now.
Tuesday 3rd March
A good day on the bands, with propagation being particularly favourable to Southern Africa, with my dwindling confidence in putting out a half decent signal having been restored to some extent. 2 good qso's for me, not the 5/9 73 type, and both new dxcc for my list. V5/DL2SL Peter has been quite active of late from Namibia but often a little weak to me. Today I caught him after his first call on 17m when things were picking up on the band. A bit later and a good solid qso with Bill ZS6CCY on 20m, one of those happy periods when the band was alive with ZS. Up until today I hadn't worked anything remotely Southern African, West Africa being the limit of my success in that direction.
As well as Southern African stations being heard well, the recent good propagation to N. America continued, with West Coast stations coming in well at times (I still need a genuine W6). A few VK's around earlier in the day on 20 and 17m and a huge signal from a YB on 17m.
Monday 2nd March
A bit of website housekeeping has seen my 2008 ramblings moved to an archive page.
Bits and bobs on HF over the weekend, and a new one in the shape of 9G Ghana this evening. There was plenty around this evening but what is out there and what I am able to work are two very different things. I did finally work the 6V Senegal dxpedition, operated by a couple of guys from Belgium. The dx resort there does look very tempting... bird photography and being 'dx' combined is very appealing.
I sent off a batch of qsl cards a few days ago, which has seen my stockpile of $ bills dwindle.
I'm seriously considering a ground mounted HF vertical planted down the garden, more to access 40 and 80m than anything. Looking at the rather common Hustler 6BTV but also pondering the SteppIR big vertical but the $ rate seems to have pushed that up to silly money.
Thursday 26th February
It has been a bit of a struggle on 20/17/15m over the last few days. I worked a West Coast Canada VE7 on Sunday but it took a few tries to get my callsign through, but we got there in the end. I made absolutely no impression on the 6V dxpedition, despite working 6V several times last year on low power. Some good dx appearing on 20m in the early evening from W6 and some nice African DX, but no much of it is strong at my end and obviously no impact if I have called. I had a free shot at a Z2 on Wednesday evening as I found him calling and not yet spotted on the clusters, but I was just under his noise level.
Today's only contact was on 17m with Rudy K2EVY in NY
I've just posted my review of iqslusa over at Eham.net. I gave Carl of iqslusa a week to get back to me but nothing heard. So I feel fully justified in giving a fairly negative of their services, albeit a bit more restrained than the previous unhappy customer of iqslusa ... I guess things have really slipped with their service over the last few months. I think I'll knock-up some new cards with a new photo.and get the very well reviewed UX5UO services. My club use UX5OU's cards and they are genuine quality, very glossy.
Weekend 21/22nd February
Long time no entry!
HF Shack back up and running after the cold weather. Playing around with the new HRD logbook and the HRDlog.net facility that puts your QSO's up on the web as soon as you enter them in the new HRD logbook, as well as showing your live 'on air' status such as frequency that your main vfo is on, mode and the radio you are using ... hence the new little boxes scattered around this site and the last 30 QSO's list on my homepage. Both are still very early in development, so things will only get better. The HRD logbook is even 'pre-beta'.
In fact the new HRD logbook is far more than just that, as it includes the DX clusters, rotator control and various other extras, even the radio control panel.
Managed to work an Indian special event station on 15m earlier, AU30SHI, so a new DXCC. No headway with the K5D expedition. I have heard them fairly strong at times but only when they are calling for #1 .... by the time the get to #0 they've drifted back into the noise.
Received my new MØTTB QSL cards last week, 300 out of the 500 were substandard printing and we'll see where we go from here... got to give the guy a chance to reply to my e-mails and the photos I sent to him showing the serious problems and hopefully rectify the problem. He did a good job of my M6 cards last year, these were the same but just a new callsign. Eham.net review being prepared in readiness though!
Tuesday 13th January
I am now MØTTB.
The wait for the results of the advanced examination is finally over, as my pass slip arrived this morning. A good way to start the new year and a new bloggy page