M0TTB Blog
MØTTB on the air - Blog
Irregularly updated news of my exploits on the air.

My current DXCC list is 316 (Confirmed 316)
All time DXCC 318

Last 10: 3B7 - Agalega & St Brandon Islands, Z6 - Kosovo, FT/J - Juan De Nova Island, 
VK0H - Heard Island, VP8G - South Georgia Is, VP8S - South Sandwich Is, ZL9 - Auckland & Campbell Is, 
VK9W - Willis Is, 4U - United Nations HQ,  C2 - Nauru, TI9 - Cocos Island,  ZL7 - Chatham Is
Click below for live weather from my QTH in Watford, Hertfordshire
Live weather from Watford

2013 - QRP

by M0TTB - Andy on 01/07/13

2013 is here, and I am having a good try with qrp this year, 3w PEP to be exact. Ups and downs so far, although the unpredictability is part of the appeal. I'd like to get 100 dxcc entities this year with 3w. So far, I've had a handful of EU and one W and a CO. I don't call M0TTB/QRP but I do tend to drop in the fact that I'm QRP and 3w. I'm not one who thinks my choice of low power should enforce everyone else to qrx whilst I get the qso, same as if someone with a low dipole should expect those with yagis to make way for them.

Obviously I'd go loopy if I stuck to QRP all the time, especially if there's a new one or new bandslot to be had, so I may still be QRO some of the time. As opposed the last couple of years, I'm not going to be prominent in the clublog band leagues for phone.

Next new one of the horizon... well fingers crossed for VK9L. Lord Howe has proven tricky for me over the last couple of years, the upcoming JA dxped to VK9L may change that but I suspect they will be working a lot of fellow JA's.

My 2012 12m goal achieved!

by M0TTB - Andy on 12/23/12

I was getting a bit worried, not many days left of 2012, and still 2 to go to get 200dxcc for the year on 12m.

Yesterday I picked up OA for 199, and then today, after quite a bit of calling, I managed to get TI for #200. It was a good challenge, as it took me to about a week of the end of the year to achieve, and for much of the year I was not hopeful that I'd reach 200. Losing my hexbeam and mast for a month didn't help either, losing a 'banker' 7P dxped was a blow.

Didn't get SM on 12m all year!!! If I had ended up on 199, the missing SM would've haunted me for years to come. Fortunately it is just a quirky omission, rather than a disaster.

Hexbeam back up

by M0TTB - Andy on 12/19/12

At last, I'm back on HF after the mishap in November.
New base dug out, about a cubic metre in size, rsj buried in concrete. Scam mast securely bolted to the rsj. New aluminium tubing section to fit in top of mast, 2m long, 1/4inch wall thickness!!

Treated myself to a new rotator, a Yaesu G1000-DXC... considerably faster in rotation than the old G450, and optional one press rotation.

Hexbeam assembled after receiving the 3 replacement fibreglass spreader sections from Ant, also replaced the old 10m element with a new one that Ant had supplied a few months back that I hadn't used as yet.

Hardest part was getting the hex on top of the mast!! A tricky business with a hexbeam. In the end I mounted the hexbeam on to a 10ft aluminium pole and sidled that across to the scam mast and, from a step ladder, moved the hex from the temporary pole to the rotator, which was about 10ft off the ground.

A quick tune on the bands with the antenna at about 20ft proved all was well, with effectively flat swr on all 5 bands. Unfortunately rain is curtailing the finishing touches, which are getting the rotator coax loop tied,  refixing my Davis anemometer and elevating mast to full height with the guys (which will be examined carefully!!).

5T with improvised antenna

by M0TTB - Andy on 11/28/12

Managed to get the temporary antenna up today, despite wind and rain. A cb antenna replaced my 2/70 vertical, and it needed to go up quick as a holiday is looming. I didn't want to miss an easy new one, and 5T should be an easy new one.

So, the sirio gain master went up at around 28ft to the base... and I started up my HF shack again. SWR seemed fine on 10m and ok on 12m. The worrying thing was that I couldn't hear any activity on 10 and 12m... a look at the cluster revealed not much was happening for anyone.

However, I found 5T0SP on 10m, weak signal but he improved a touch and I managed to work them... so I was very happy with that. They were weaker still on 12m, but they started up on 15m, and I thought I'd have a go... courtesy of my Palstar ATU. Amazingly, I worked them without much fuss, and I'm starting to like this good buddy vertical. I only put the antenna up for 10 and 12, so 15 is a real bonus.

More on unscheduled mast/antenna lowering.

by M0TTB - Andy on 11/23/12

An update on my antenna incident.
During a violent squall on the 21st, my Scam 12 pneumatic mast toppled over... it didn't plummet, it didn't land on anything other than flat lawn, but the hexbeam obviously suffered a bit, brushing into an oak tree on the way down. Seems as if a guy rope attachment came adrift at the top of the mast, possibly down to a knot to the hook being lose... no evidence of an actual break in the rope.

The base of the scam mast (bolted to an acro prop buried in concrete) seems to has swivelled and flipped out a bit, the acro bending as the mast keeled over. The brackets/plates holding the mast to the acro slipped, although they have not bent at all. With the acro bent, I will have to abandon that base and dig another, probably using an rsj as a ground post next time.

The scam mast seems fine, and retracting the sections whilst it was horizontal was far easier than I feared, no bent sections and the air released when compressing came out of the exhaust at the base of the mast rather than any leaks in the sections. I won't fully know if it is 100% until I get a load on it and raise it vertically... but I'm fairly confident.

Each (of the 6) hexbeam fibreglass spreaders is made up of 3 sections... I have lost just 3 sections in total, 2 of the thicker sections and one tip section. And that's it, and Ant MW0JZE is coming to the rescue with service above and beyond the call of duty.

To sum up, no big problem, except digging new base in a different position, probably more central in back garden... which could well have a number of benefits.
1: More centrally placed, the antenna will no longer be slightly over my property boundary, and I don't have to rely upon goodwill of neighbour.
2: Less visual impact to a number of neighbours and from main road.
3: Far more room to play with as far as guys being placed at proper angles.
4: Far more room available if I fancy a larger HF antenna, as turning radius of even full size 20m elements on a longish boom would be well within my property boundaries.

The only bad news is that my HF activity is at an end for the time being... ZL9 is not a big loss, as I'd pretty much given that one up due to being away at the time. The 5T dxped and not making 200 on 12m in the year is a hard one to accept, so I'm going to see if I can get a cb vertical up next week and put some sort of signal out on 12m and 10m.

Just to recap on the excellent PT0S dxped, I got them on 5 bands... 4 of those very early on in the dxped. With LoTW credits already confirmed, I'll certainly be donating some extra money when I come to using their OQRS.

And finally, a big thanks to all my friends for rallying around with offers of physical help... greatly appreciated.


Antenna and mast mishap

by M0TTB - Andy on 11/21/12

Bit of an antenna and mast mishap today. I think 2012 is all over for my HF shack, hopefully be back in early 2013. Bit of shame, just 3 dxcc short of 200 for the year on 12m

St Peter & St Paul Rocks

by M0TTB - Andy on 11/11/12

Certainly didn't expect to get PY0S in the log as quickly as that... in fact within minutes of them starting up on phone on 17m today. I'm glad I did it quickly, the pile-up quickly took on gigantic proportions rapidly. This dxcc was never going to be too tough given the almost total water path between G and the rocks, and I was confident that I'd get it at some stage.

Previously, I had the PY dxped to Western Kiribati as a new one about a month ago on a couple of bands, and hopefully 5T should be in the log by the end of November. Sadly I may miss the ZL9 dxped, unless I crack the pile-ups very early on (little hope of that), or right at the tail end of their dxped, if they are still there.

My 12m challenge of 200 in the year is getting close but still 10 short, and it's touch and go whether I'll do it. Silly dxcc to get includes SM! Hopefully the PJ2 guys will get on 12m at some stage, and 5T should be likely later in the month. One glaring omission from my 12m count, not just this year but any year, has been 8P... amazing, I was even starting to think 12m was forbidden in 8P...but at last I picked up 8P6NW on 12 to lay that one to rest.

I recently purchased a new watt meter, the Alpha 4510, less for qro monitoring, but more for my intended bash at qrp next year. It really is a good design, and as accurate as anything that you can realistically purchase... in fact leagues ahead of the over-rated bird meters for ssb pep readings.

Conway Reef & others

by M0TTB - Andy on 10/01/12

Now managed to get in the 3D2C log on 20, 17, 15 and 12m ... The 20m one was rather dubious, I was only 50/50 confident I got through and I didn't put it in my log book, although noted the details. The dqrm was horrific as usual, seemingly from South Eastern EU. I didn't waste much much time on 20m ssb for 3D2C.

A more enjoyable highlight from the weekend was 10m on saturday morning, with the BY0 (Tibet) activation... happy to get through on 10m ssb, I later found them (specifically BD5QDM) calling on 29.600 FM with a great signal and worked him there. Despite his strong signal, and a cluster spot by myself, it seems only one other EU got through to him on 10m FM. I did hear a VK6 calling as well.

I'm not a dedicated 10FM person, but I will wander up there and see what's about, having maybe half a dozen qso's on there over the last year or so.

With the higher bands doing well, I put out a few calls on the bands to stir up activity and had smallish pile-ups of my own with North America.

Conway Reef

by M0TTB - Andy on 09/28/12

This was always going to be a tough one to crack...and the first few days have proved that. They have been loud enough on most bands, but the pile-up have been deep and extremely wide! I can't think of too many recent dxpeds that have been so hard to crack, possibly T31A to Central Kiribati was similar... and I think it was that one that prompted me to move to a hexbeam.

Anyway, I did get 3D2C today, on 12m ssb... tough going, and was never confident. I had spent time in pile-ups for them on 10,12,17 over the last few days with nothing to show for it, I was fairly confident with a brief foray onto 20m ssb last night but the heavy dqrm was the killer...often I can get around that, but it was crippling here last night. Even on 17m ssb earlier today, there was persistent dqrm, but 3D2C was audible through it, with a nice signal.

When they closed down their 17 ssb activity (whilst very strong to EU) and moved to 12m, my heart sank, as they were far weaker there and 12m isn't the hexbeam's forte.

On 12m, as usual, their listening spread was very wide, in fact far wider than their stated 5-20, I work them up 25, and they were working up 30 at times. However, on 17m earlier they were definitely working those who were tx'ing above the band edge... I know it can be easy to drift up in all the excitement, even I ended up on 18.1675, which is too close on usb even with my narrow ssb bandwidth. Fortunately my IC-7700 doesn't tx out of band, so I cannot commit the greatest sin for a radio amateur, operating out of band.

Conway Reef took me to 250 dxcc in the year, but more importantly boosted my year count on 12m, which is now 161 in my implausible goal to get 200 in the year.

Yesterday was successful in one aspect, in that I worked Antarctic on 10m for the first time...and that was a struggle as well.

More cheer last week on 10m, with new ones for the band in the shape of H44RK and FO4BM.... H44RK was going by numbers, and FO4BM was caught early in his activity, and got him first call simplex.

NH8S and 5W

by M0TTB - Andy on 09/09/12

2 new ones in a day, I didn't think that would happen again.
The much anticipated dxped to Swains Island is finally under-way, and a pretty tough path from G. However, it's a big dxped and well equipped, so they are putting out a healthy signal and have the ability to hear less than healthy signals such as mine.

As expected, the pile-ups from EU are fierce, with the worrying high percentage of imbeciles who constantly call when the dx has a partial call (or even a full callsign!)... It hardly ever pays off for the culprits and is nothing other than a waste of time for everyone. I suppose I am fortunate to come from a part of Europe where dignity and decorum often comes naturally... had I been born and raised in a Southern EU country, or over to the South East EU, maybe my natural inclination would be to not care about anyone buy myself and have the 'me, me, me' mentality and excitable temperament.

Anyway, all quite restrained when I managed to get NH8S on 17m phone on Saturday evening... the propagation had clearly fallen away for much of Eastern EU, and with the dxped calling 'EU up 5', there wasn't even the frantic search to locate the last worked caller.

Earlier in the day, I tried but failed on 17m phone, the op at their end was really struggling, and I'm afraid the cluster monkeys had a field day with him. But the good news was that 5W0QQ was operating a bit further down the band, and I picked up 5W for a new one. And 5W has been a bit of a thorn in my side for a couple of years, often hearing a 5W very strongly and being confident but getting nowhere, and another this year who was jumping from band to band, and going qrt just when I felt very confident. It's a bit ironic, but this 5W was quite weak and I didn't feel overly confident.

CY9, D6 and Spratly again

by M0TTB - Andy on 08/11/12

Been a while, and a bit of the summer doldrums on HF, with things livening up late July and August with a few nice dxpeds. CY9 was a new one for me, and a great dxped it was too. I was confident of 20,17 and 15m but didn't think 12 or 10m would be likely with those bands being rather dead to North America....however, they appeared on both and I managed them on both bands, so a 'full house' for me with my 5 band hexbeam (ok it has 6m, but more a fun thing with just the two elements).

Then another Spratly dxped was announced with just two ops, but very good ops and a decent paper qsl card route with Tim M0URX...which is more than can be said for 9M0L, where qsl details were vague, and my card has seemingly disappeared, and my emails to their new email address unanswered. So, as much as I defended the 9M0L team when they were active, it does seem it was pretty shambolic on the whole.

So although I had Spratly in the bag on 15 and 17m already this year, it wasn't sheer dx piggery that drove me to work Spratly again on those bands, it was for a paper qsl covering those bands. In the end, and they are still active as I type, I amazingly got 5 bands with 9M4SLL. I was happy enough with 12m, but 10m today was the icing on the cake. So an excellent dxped, and even the W's don't seem to be complaining about this one!

On to Comoros, D64K dxped, and that was never going to be a big challenge... long duration dxped and a pretty easy path, 4 bands 17-10m already in the log, and just 20m left, which can be a bit tough when higher bands are giving high qso rates for this dxped, as they don't really venture on to 20m that often during 'my' day. Quite honestly, and I've probably said it before, I'm really not too fussed about 20m, seems full of degenerates... I don't hear music dqrm or serious dqrm on any of the other bands, it's just 20m.

Other than my overly ambitious aim of getting 200dxcc on 12m in a year, I wasn't going to charge around the bands this year with year listing in mind, ... it seems to have gone that way anyway...currently 241 dxcc this year, and close to 200 on 15m this year. I don;t think that's too bad with a couple of bent elements on each band.

CQ Magazine DX marathon

by M0TTB - Andy on 06/01/12

Back in January I submitted my entry into the CQ Magazine 2011 DX Marathon. Today I found out that I came joint 2nd in the world for ssb, which was a nice surprise. I did check the high claimed scores a while back, and I seemed a distant 3rd, but clearly there were some problems with some qso's submitted by the guy above me, and he slipped back to a score of 300.

However, I'm a little bit disappointed that I lost a point through a zone not being accepted. I've been back and checked my submission and I still can't fathom out what one of the 40 zone submissions was deemed a problem, they all seem pukka to me, all the N. Amercan zones were covered correctly and the tricky Russian ones such as #18 and 19.  Never mind, didn't make any real difference, clear second or joint second, it was better than I hoped for.

Back to the radio and it;s all been a bit quiet. Been picking up some new ones on 6m, including a hard fought KP4. The Bhutan dxped wasn't a big lure for me, but did get them on 12m for a new band slot.

With sporadic E season upon us, it's time for me to pick up some missing EU from this years 12m tally.

Update:  John K9EL was happy to answer questions as to reductions in submitted/claimed scores...my downfall was that HRD's country list, although up to date, puts both PJ2 and PJ4 as zone 8, as opposed their true zone, which is 9. A PJ2 was chosen by the log to scoresheet transfer programme for zone 8. Nobody's fault but my own for not examining the final submission for any mistakes.


by M0TTB - Andy on 05/15/12

Have to admit, 6m has never set my pulse racing...never had a dedicated antenna for it. I've picked up some summer sporadic E pickings around EU, with EA8 and EA9 the best, but I can't remember hearing anything more distant than that.

I had even planned to remove the 6m element of my hexbeam the next time I lowered it, after a few comments that it may not help the 17m element.

I had been having a nose aroung 50MHz over the last couple of weeks, mainly because I had a chat with Taher 3B8DB and he said he was getting into it.... 3B8 would be nice on 6m. Alas, it was not Taher that I came across today, although he was spotted but not heard here, I did hear FR4NT amongst a pile-up of G's and others. My amp wasn't on, and without expecting any joy, I gave a couple of calls... and low and behold I worked him.

I was delighted, FR isn't too difficult but it is proper dx... so my interest in 6m has now increased dramatically. OK, 2 elements isn't pile-up busting on 6m, but I can do 400w if needed (it wasn't today). I suspect my main problem will be one of hearing the dx.

Not much else... I found E4 on 12m before anyone else at the weekend, heard him asking if the frequency was in use and got in there at the very start, which always helps.

Picked up 6O on the 5 bands I use... In fact it seems ages ago now. Finally got 3A on a band other than 20m, picking up world traveller Vincent 3A/F4BKV on 20m & 17m... the bonus was a new one for LoTW.

6O - Somalia

by M0TTB - Andy on 05/08/12

Quite surprised to get through so easily last night on 20m, even more surprised to get them after about 2 calls on 10m this morning. I have to say that the pile-ups for 6O haven't been as wide and deep as 7O, but then again 6O isn't in the same league as far as rarity value.

I also picked up 7O a bit belatedly on 20m last night, and that wraps it up for me for 7O, I use 5 bands, I have them on 5 bands... I do not know morse code and, as easy as it is to set up, I will not use a pc decoder/sender for the sake of mode fills or even a 'new one'.... just one of my own personal 'standards' that I certainly do not demand of others.

Talking of personal 'moral codes', I had an interesting one a few weeks ago in a pile-up, when a gallant 'G' told the dx that M0TTB was calling. It was a chilvarous thing to do and the thought was appreciated... but had the dx taken any notice (fortunately he didn't) and worked me, it would not have gone in my logbook. Again, just one of my 'things', the dx has to hear my callsign from me for it to go in the logbook. If someone say's there's an M0 calling, fair enough to some extent, but the suffix is the key.

Similarly, other than a ragchew scenario, I wouldn't disrupt a big pile-up by trying to put anyone else through, as they may have the same 'code' as myself. Even in a non dx pile-up situation, I would only give the prefix at most. So, if I know you well, please don't be offended if I don't put you through with your full callsign, nor ask me in a serious dx pile-up situation... it's not the done thing. Then again, chances are that 'you' will get to the dx before me ;-)

LoTW WAS confirmed, good old WY7QP  (Wyoming) came good quickly and I applied for WAS today, as well as applying for dxcc on 10 and 12, with a few endorsement stickers for other bands as well.

Surprise new one - Minami-Torishima

by M0TTB - Andy on 05/06/12

These days, for the most part, I expect to know when I'll get a chance at a new one...as most of my needed dxcc are going to be dxpeditions. However, JD1 Minami-Torishima is an odd one, there's usually someone operating from this tiny bit of land for large parts of the year, but I have never heard one before.

Today 12m ssb was doing well, plenty of good signals from far east Asia, AH0, JT, BY, BV and others.... but I noticed a spot down the cluster list that just came up as Japan, but noticed the /JD1 and just assumed it was another Ogasawara operator (loads around at the moment). Then I started listening to him, and he was signing as Minami-Torishima OC-073. A few were calling but nothing like there should be, presumably most were warapped up in the big pile-ups on 12 for 7O and AH0, so I gave it a shot and got through without any problem, 5/5 each way. He disappeared within 10 minutes.


by M0TTB - Andy on 05/05/12

I hope I'm not jumping the gun on this, but it looks promising with Wyoming on 20m earlier. As with South Dakota a few weeks ago, it was a case of me being ready for QSO parties from the required states.

I found WY7QP quite early but they were fairly weak and with a domestic pile-up. Then the op changed to a yl and was a touch stronger but their frequency was now surrounded by very strong Italians in a contest, even on the back of the beam they were strong.

Fortunately the qso's started drying up for the contest stations and I guess they moved to 40m or somewhere but it was tough to get through the U.S. pile-up. An S5 and a DL were calling with me, and I think the S5 put up a spot telling the dx that EU were calling...it did the trick, as the yl op called specifically for the S5, and he made a point to say a couple of other EU were calling. I got through next, and made sure WY7QP knew there was a DL calling... and she duly called him in and worked him. I supsect we we all very keen for WY on LoTW, and a little bit of team work got us all through.

7O? Had them on 10m earlier today, so the 17,12,15,12 and 10m... not sure I have the patience to slog it out on 20m.

6O dpex is imminent, another surprise...and a nasty surprise for the guys who planned a big dxped at the end of the year to 6O, seems there is a war of words going on at the moment, some of it a bit sickly and playing to emotions.

V6 Micronesia & Superfluous Shack Accessories

by M0TTB - Andy on 05/02/12

Amazing, 2 new dxcc in 2 days. V63AZ has been popping up over the last few days and I was hopeful. He's not the fastest in the world but I suspect that's down to reception at his end. He does call by # and dwells a little too long on each number for my liking but that again could well be related to reception problems. Anyway, he finally reached zero, and listening across 5kHz he picked me up.

Once again I was reminded that being a zero in the numbers game isn't too bad when, and IF, they reach zero... most of EU is then excluded, no EA's, DL's or EU Russia and a host of other competitors where zero isn't a part of the suffix for regular stations.

I have to say, I've always had a giggle at those who have those wooden callsigns in their shack but I have succumb... not to old fashioned wooden carvings, but something a bit more modern and hi-tech.

In my case I was smitten by Jason VK2LAW's led illuminated shack signs, which I thought were good value at 65 Aussie dollars, including delivery. I think the clincher was the fact that he had a hex-beam logo available.
Jason can in fact design anything you want and has ready made logos for a variety of amateur radio bodies such as ARRL, RSGB.
His website is here ShackSign

7O Yemen

by M0TTB - Andy on 05/01/12

This one popped up to surprise us all, although it's quite clear why they kept it hushed up til the last minute. I guess the actual location on Socotra Island helped in terms of security for the dxped, rather than the mainland...and of course it's a very desirable IOTA.

I wasn't too confident of getting them in the log within a day of them starting, but they are in my logbook on both 17m and 12m after today. Although it's a very nice path from G to 7O, it's an even better path for much of EU, so the pile-ups are thick and deep with strong EU. The 7O team are putting out good signals and they are there for 2 weeks, so it's really not a case of 'will I work them?', more a case of 'when and on how many bands?' 

Other news, I've had Ofcom around trying to find and cure some noise I have been suffering from for the last 2 weeks. Basically, in one direction (West), I have the noise floor raised by around 5 S points on 20m and around 4 S points on 10m, my other bands are not effected in any meaningful way. The main worry is that this noise is 24/7, so not even a chance to work around it in times that I operate.

Unfortunately Ofcom could not trace the origin of the noise, although the chap tried valiantly with an array of juicy looking Rhode & Schwartz gear. The problem really is that it is simply wideband noise rather than interference where there are nice audible peaks to DF. And it has to be said, the problem is not strong in the scheme of things. They haven't closed the case, and a bit more investigation may take place, but I'm not confident this will be resolved to my satisfaction.

200 on 12m

by M0TTB - Andy on 04/15/12

A little embarrassing, I seem to have hit 200 dxcc on 12m without realising at the time, in fact I worked the new one on 12m yesterday and just realised this evening.
The new one, and #200, was 9M2ESM. It's a bit daunting, but I was hoping to get 200 on 12 in 2012, I hit 100 for the year today, so half way there. It's not quite as easy to build up the numbers on the warc bands as there are no easy picking with contests, 17m is the same but at least 17m is open basically every day.

I have a feeling I have been a bit ambitious with my 2012 12m target, especially with solar cycle 24 seemingly stalled. I do have most of EU to still work on 12m, and the summer short skip openings will help beef up my total, but 200 seems a long way off.

Wooohooo 9M0L

by M0TTB - Andy on 04/11/12

Just worked 9M0L on 15m ssb, and what a surprising way to get it... not spotted and simplex! I do keep an ear out on a dxped's publicised frequencies, and I saw the 20m ssb op had given up the battle, the 17m ssb op was still going though, albeit pretty weak. Naturally my attention went ot 15m, where prop should be favourable, and low and behold 9M0L was on 21.275 working a few stations simplex. I gave him two calls with just a G4 audible for company, and I fully expected howls from most of the EU of 'up you lid!!' but he really was simplex and no problem with the qso.

I felt gutted for the G4, he was there before me, and just didn't get through even when there didn't appear to be any competition. There was a happy 4 minutes before an EC6 decided that the world should know about it.

Received an attractive card from the VP6T dxped today.

UPDATE: Just worked 9M0L on 17 ssb as well, just a couple of calls needed.