M0TTB Bloggy Thing Archive for 2011
Click below for live weather from my QTH in Watford, Hertfordshire
Live weather from Watford
Monday 17th October 2011
Autumn is here now, after that odd week at the end of September and start of October that saw us have temperatures into the mid 80's. I was lucky enough to have chosen that week for a holiday on the North Norfolk coast.
Up until that holiday, I was probably spending too much time on the radio, and a break was a good thing.

Fortunately my week off didn't clash with any juicy dxpeditions, although I missed the last few days of the 4W6 dxped, and I may have got them on 12m if I had been around, but no big deal, 20, 17, 15 and 10m was a good tally.

No shortage of new ones since I got back, with YJ and FK on 20m, as well as currently having T32C on 20, 17, 15 and 12m. I know some G's struggled a bit with the 3D2R dxped, but I was lucky to get them on 17 and then 20m without too much problem. Toughest nut to crack was RI1FJA... often heard at huge signal levels, but tricky to actually get in his logbook.

Found HK0/DL5YWM calling without answer, very early on in his dxped, on 12 ssb one evening and picked that up easily.

With the great band conditions on 15, 12 and 10, I finally managed to work all states. The last 3 needed were, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. All 3 were excellent qso's as well. The final one was WY, and that came about during one of my rare forays into calling CQ.... couldn't believe my ears when I heard it was a WY!!

In fact, I have been calling cq frequently over the last week. One morning I had a run into VK, that was nice!! Mostly calling on 12m, where mornings produce nice runs into JA/HL/VK/BY and later in the day W and VE. Plenty of prolonged qso's amongst them. However, it really hurts when I cannot pull a callsign out of the noise, that's something that doesn't occur when you're a hunter/chaser.

Friday 16th September
Where to start with my latest hexbeam exploits? The 5 new dxcc's seem obvious but I think I have had even more pleasure from some unforeseen bonuses of putting out a stronger signal and hearing more on the bands... the most pleasurable is of being someone's first 'G' on the bands, notably from VK. My first VK was memorable, I remember every tiny detail of the qso, I never imagined I would ever be a VK's first 'G', but it has happened twice in the last 2 days, one on 15m and the other on 20m. I assumed that this sort of thing only happened to 'big guns'. Another bonus is of picking up qso's when I working someone else... suddenly I'll hear 'M0TTB, up 5' or similar, never really experienced that too often before.

A minor side-effect has also been of receiving more SWL reports from listeners... as an avid former SWL, this is worth a lot to me.

Being able to hold a prolonged qso with someone in ZL, is yet another benefit... discussing England's (in my opinion perilous and short-lived) position as the top cricket team in the world and suchlike. Forget about extra dxcc and breaking pile-ups, the benefits of putting out a respectable signal provide so many other benefits.

However, new dxcc are there for the taking... but even then, I had a decent qso with Dick 3D2BA in Fiji for a new one. The other 2 (I already mentioned ZK2 Niue below) were dxpeds but it was only fitting that the first op I spoke to on the 4W6A dxped was Ant, MW0JZE, manufacturer of my new hexbeam. A pretty good advert for the antenna.

In fact I've had 3 hex to hex qso's, and all exotic stuff.. VK, KH6 and now 4W.

And just picked up that elusive TU on 15m, for 3 new ones in a day! That will never happen again,

Wednesday 14th September
Wow!! ZK2AB worked first call this morning on 20m, can't believe it. Massive bunfight with unruly Southern EU countries, but Steven gets in the clear and announces that he's resorting to going by numbers, and starting at zero. I called, and when  I released the ptt I expected to hear a wall of other zeroes, and others! but it was deathly silent until Steven came back with my callsign. A pleasant qso ensued, with S9 both ends... and his signal here was a genuine S9. So the first new one with the hexbeam.

I had raised my hexbeam to it's full height first thing this morning... I reckon about 44ft to the base of it, with the 20m element up at around 48ft. I worked a host of VK's and a ZL4 on 20m long path before working ZK2, and all were relaxed qso's where genuine RST reports were given... I was S9 or S9+ every time. Propagation was good, but the hex surely played a big part.

Major irony yesterday on 20m, when I worked the builder of my hexbeam, Ant MW0JZE, whilst he was at VK8NSB's station en route to the 4W dxpedition... even more ironic that I don't have a GW on 20m, but loads of VK8's ;-)

Although I can't do A-B comparisons between the hexbeam and my old TGM minibeam, I can A-B between hex and my old G3TPW Cobwebb. I had previously done A-B tests with the TGM and Cobwebb, so I can get some feeling as to how the hex compares to the old TGM.

Saturday 10th September
Where did the summer go? Can't believe the last entry was from May.
Anyway, my antenna plans have come to fruition at last, with the Clark pneumatic 12m Scam mast having been erected and in use for the last couple of months. And as of 9-9-2011 an MW0JZE manufactured (G3TXQ designed) broadband hexbeam is up at over 40ft. Unfortunately I'm not in a position to do A-B comparisons with my old TGM antenna, so only long term use will indicate any improvement. Too early to tell, but some of the Autumn dxpeds to the South Pacific may enlighten me!

Without doubt the broadband aspect is great.... I have taken my ATU out of line, as it is redundant. I can go from the bottom end of 20m to the top end without any fiddling about. Similarly, my Acom 1000 doesn't need as much tuning when I change frequency within a band. I'm also led to believe that rainfall is not going to detune the antenna to such a large extent as it did on the TGM minibeam.... so that's a big plus.

The Broadband hex is a large beast for an urban environment, being 21ft across..

Thursday 12th May
I haven't been quite as active on the bands of late, so new dxcc have come to a grinding halt, other than the P29VCX island hopping dxpedition, which I finally manage to get through to on 20m. Still, some very pleasing qso's on HF since my last update, probably the highlight being long path with NH7O on 10m, a new one for me on 10m and a new zone for 10m. Talking of cq zones, I notched up all 40 on 17m for the year, the last 2 being KL7 and JT.

I do have some major antennas plans about to come to fruition, notably replacing my little TGM MQ-26SR with the ubiquitous G3TXQ broadband version of the Hexbeam. Reason? Well it's better! I'm not that interested in what the Internet says about the hexbeam, although it's invariably good other than the usual jerks on eham who can't imagine anyone not having room for a yagi with 27ft+ elements. The clinching factor to me is that I can hear VK's using them in the mornings and putting out signals comparable to their neighbours who are on at the same time using far larger antennas, and that applies to W's and ZS's who I have worked using Hexbeams. I'm not hearing any VK's using minibeams such as MA5B's or TGM's. Besides which, the G guys I'm often in pile-ups with, have Hexbeams and usually fare far better than myself.

A Hexbeam is the very largest antenna I can accommodate, and then it may be pushing it just too far and it will be on the market with the sad but often seen comment 'selling due to being too large for QTH'.

In addition to the Hexbeam, which is on order from Ant MW0JZE, first to arrive will be a Clark Scam 12m mast. This is a fully refurbished example, so the fear of leaky seals will not arise for some time. So even if the worst happens with the Hexbeam, I can still get the TGM up nearly 3m higher than it is at present, and cope with the director kit being added.

Thursday 21st April
Another big gap in updating, I'm just not a natural diary/blog keeper I'm afraid. At least when I do add something, it's more than the odd paragraph.

Since my last entry, back in the cold days of late winter, I've had some very pleasing dx chasing on the bands. Putting the exotic stuff to the side for a moment, I've finally got my embarrassing bogey dxcc worked, namely XE Mexico. Lack of XE's in my logbook has been annoying me for a long time. Ironically the first XE was worked a day after my last blog update, so here's hoping something wonderful will turn up tomorrow in my logbook. XE1HH Klaus was my first XE, worked on 17m... not entirely hopeful that I'll ever see a card back from him though. However, like London Buses, when one comes along, plenty of others were right behind. In fact I currently have 7 XE's in my logbook, on 17, 15 and even 12m.

Which brings us to the more exotic stuff, which included the XF4 dxpedition to Revilla Gigedo, worked on 15m. Wouldn't it have been typically ironic if I had got XF4 in my log but no XE's! Must admit, out of the dxpeds I targeted this year, the XF4 was the one I was most dubious about working... not surprising given that I hadn't even worked mainland Mexico.

The S2 dxped was picked up easily, and early on in their activity, on 15m but I didn't get them on any other bands, I got bored with a pile-up for them on 20m, when they seemed pre-occupied with W's.

The VU4 dxped was one that I'd expected to work, and after bagging them about 5 days into their dxped, I was hopeful about getting them on other bands... but with my vacation looming well before they finished, and the pile-ups being huge and unruly, I was getting a bit worried. Fortunately I got them on 17 and 20 on the day before I went on my holiday... and my holiday was nicely timed to coincide with no significant dxpeds, so I could genuinely relax ;-)

The next major dxped was the 9N to Nepal. This seemed to pop up from nowhere, and coincided with some decent band conditions. I worked them on 3 bands but one of those was 10m, which is a big bonus.

Other titbits of new dxcc, were VK9CF Cocos Keeling Isles on 17m, my days of skillfully avoiding VP2V are over, with G3PHO providing me with a 20m qso. I've never had much joy with the regular and colorful VP2V voice on the bands ;)

H44MS Solomon Isles was an interesting one. I heard him crashing through on 17m one morning, but he was returning to other guys putting out cq calls, generally the rarer ones. I even gave a bash myself calling cq, to see if I could lure him in...but to no avail. The next morning, I went into the shack with exotic H44 on my mind, switched everything on, and a quick spin around 17m found him calling cq. I think he may have had one qso before me, but he wasn't on the cluster, and I had absolutely no competition when I answered his call. A nice chat with Bernhard followed. Even when our qso ended, there wasn't anyone there calling him, I'd expected the usual deluge of Russians.

The last new one that I worked was KH8/AI5P American Samoa on the 18th April, with an early morning stint on 17m. It was big pile-up but seemed well behaved, although propagation on 17m early in the morning means that you don't get to hear that much local stuff. It took time but I got there in the end... which pretty well sums up most of my chases ;-)

And finally.... I've signed up to LoTW (Logbook of the World). I'm not a certificate chaser, but I do everything by the ARRL dxcc, and I want my qso's to be the real thing when it comes to dx, whether or not I apply for awards. I like my paper qsl cards too much to go solely down the electronic route. Getting on to
the LoTW programme is a bit trickier for non-U.S. radio amateurs, as we have to send off a copy of our licence and some other official proof of identity before they send us the precious TQ6 file.

I must say that I was impressed at how quickly everything was sorted out. I posted off my documentation to ARRL HQ on a Thursday, I received my TQ6 and was uploading my logbook to LoTW on the following Monday evening... Amazingly quick!! I got another certificate for my old M6BBC callsign, which gave me some nice bonus credits. My entire log that I uploaded consisted of 1980 qso's, and from that I received 555 confirmations, with 163 dxcc with 101 for 15m. Also 36 U.S. states. I think that's a pretty good percentage, but I guess it's down to what sort of stations you are working.

I had a few confirmed dxcc that I have not had cards back for yet, VP8ORK, XE, VP2V but they just didn't light my fire, but they will when I get the paper cards back!

Tuesday 15th February
I've done well for new ones lately with the expectedly easy S9DX dxped from Sao Tome & Principe, although I'm having no joy getting them on 12m and 10m. A nice surprise was working S9DX on 15m, 4S on 17m and XX9 on 15m, all in the space of my coffee break from work. I also picked up Len 8R1L on 15m for a new one.

I had noticed that there would be a special event station operating from the Marianas, but didn't expect to nab them so early in their operation... picking them up on 17m, almost first call. I've heard KH0 a few times in contests, and despite strong signals, I've always fallen short.

Other tasty dx morsels include a very nice chat to OA6/OE3NHW on 15m after I had picked up his cq.... a rewarding 'self found', as he wasn't on the cluster. I seem to be chatting to ZL far more often now, a chat with ZL4DH on 15m and a more prolonged chat with ZL1TBA on 17m.

And I finally have EP confirmed, courtesy of the rapid qsl manager of EP3PK.

Wednesday 2nd February
Managed to snag VP8ORK on 17m today (more importantly, in their log), they weren't too bad a signal either, and as with my 20m qso, it took only a few calls but this time they got my complete callsign first time. I didn't hear them at all on 15m today, where-as they were just readable yesterday. I shouldn't be too greedy with bandfills for them, when it's clear so many are struggling to get them, notably on phone.

Bits and pieces around on the bands, with VU, HS, TG, PY, LU on 15m. On 17m  worked TI, HI, Z2, C5,FG, 4J. My 'last resort' band 20m produced, VK, J7, 8Q, with the latter 2 being new ones for me on 20m... which  means my dxcc count for 20m has caught up with my 15m and 17m totals, and thus looks more balanced.

Saturday 29th January
No more shack photos, just tales of woe and occasionally success from the HF bands. This week was one of the good weeks, I couldn't have been any more confident of working a new one in 1A (Sovereign Military Order of Malta), and it was as easy as they come...although I'd have liked them on more than just 20m.

I had less confidence with the VP80RK dxped, but low and behold they were just about readable on 20m ssb on Friday evening. Many had been saying that if you could hear them, you could work them... and that was the case here. There wasn't any trouble getting noticed by VP8ORK as there was seemingly next to no competition...my problem was that I couldn't get my suffix over to them in one go, so it was rather laboured, and they were dipping in and out. Finally I was pretty certain they had my call correct, and awaited the VP8ORK log update... still with a bit of trepidation, but I need not have feared ;-)

Another nice surprise was working EP3PK on Saturday, a great signal from Pooyan, and a new one for 20m for me. However, the best part was that he has a QSL manager in Italy (I think I've used him before), so I'm more than confident of finally getting EP confirmed... having sent cards to two other EP's that I worked previously on 15m, albeit one of those looks reliable and it's a bit early to write him off. Usual fly in the ointment is dxcc acceptability for EP's... we all know EP4MRG is useless, and an out and out pirate, who I have always ignored.

I always like working Jimmy BX5AA and often as BV100 for the centennial of Taiwan's 100 years. I managed him on 17m today, to go with 10m, 15m, which now qualifies me for their tri-band award (free of charge, not one of those, "send $20 jobs").

Nice little chat with Mike V51Q (with baby daughter in background) on 10m today.

Thursday 20th January
No excuses for not being on the bands now, as things are now pretty much sorted in the shack. The bands 20m and higher haven't been great but there's always something to pick up. In fact I was delighted to pick up 2 new ones for 15m,  those being 7P and TJ. In fact it has been quite some time since I have worked 7P. Other 15m qso's over the last few days have included HZ, V5 and 5R.

Final shack pics now.... and I think one of them will go on QRZ to replace the old brick & cobweb photo of the past.
Click below for live weather from my QTH in Watford, Hertfordshire
Live weather from Watford
January 11th 2011
Shack almost complete, underlay and carpet fitted today. Hopefully be moving some of my equipment back in this evening, so back on air shortly.
Today saw the arrival of a qsl card from ZS8M confirming qso last year on 10m ... eagerly awaited to say the very least.

Well done Pierre for hearing my

January 7th 2011
In fact I'm not on air at the moment as my HF shack is undergoing some substantial refurbishments. Hopefully it should be up and running within a week or so, and in time for Spratly (who have been slightly delayed) and South Orkney dxpeds.

Basically, so far, my shack has been at the far end of a large brick shed/outbuilding. It was not built with home comforts in mind, with no wall or roof insulation at all.
Friday 14th January
A couple of photos below of the new shack with the bare essentials now in place and operating. Now needs humanising! OK it's not as glamorous as some you may see, but for a corner of a brick shed it's not too bad, and far more welcoming than it was a month or so ago.... and a world apart from the old photo at the bottom of this page.

Wednesday 12th January 2011
Didn't quite get as much done with the new shack as I'd hoped yesterday, but the news that Spratly dxped had been called off has eased the deadline.
Anyway, barring a door knob, it's done!

Please excuse the nausea inducing lens distortion