Saturday, January 28, 2017

CQ WW 160m Contest

Well the first evening was a bust as I spent most of the evening in the ER as a family member got taken there.  No it was not me this time.  I did manage to work K7CA in Nevada but I did not log it as I got the phone call to go to the ER.  I may have to search for NV again tonight

The states that I need to complete WAS are NV, WA, NE, MT, AK - just five more.  AK is sure to get a pileup

I did get K7CA a second time for a good QSO, but he was not in Nevada but in UT working a contest station he built.

Update: Just worked WA K7OX, N7QT, W7LD
              Also worked MT K7BG, and NV KM6JD

I also got into Luxembourg LX7I
I also worked England G3LET

Thursday, January 26, 2017

KU4XO's 2 Year Run on 160m and my current pursuit in "topband"

KU4XO two year run is shown by the chart below.  He actually started in late winter 2015 after I got into 160m in the fall of 2014.

What is notable about KU4XO's run was that he was able to do it from a small lot without any kind of a receive antenna.   He was inspired by an article written by WB6RSE in QST March 2016 Page 66-68 about the pursuit of 160m DXCC from a small city lot.   It took him  (WB6RSE) 6 years to obtain DXCC on 160m between 1998 and 2004.   He worked the 1st 60 countries with 100 watts.   His pace did step up when he added the inverted L with 3 radials.

I too, have a small lot.  My run on 160m started in 2014.  I installed an inverted L with 4 elevated radials and worked the 160m contests that winter.  After that winter I concentrated on getting to 300 DXCC and DX Marathon QRP and took a hiatus on 160m.  I took down the 160m inverted L and put up a 30m delta loop.

As one can see my 160m had a very pronounced lull from the chart below:

The run ended abruptly in the Spring of 2015.  I felt I needed more power and a better antenna.  More power came in the form of an old Clipperton L that will do KW on 160m.   I had put in a brand new set of  high voltage capacitors in the power supply.  I tested it and found that it will push 1000W with 100W of drive.  (See my post in May 2016).  I really have not had to push power past about 750W and for the most part gotten away with mostly using the KPA500 since I still had the "old reliable".  In January of 2017 I had put up a folded counterpoise (FCP) design espoused by K2AV and W0UCE (SK).  It only has a 66 foot folded counterpoise from 174 feet of solid copper wire which takes up very little space. It requires a specially designed isolation transformer.  There are many articles on this design on the net.

 I did have a good run for a few days in January but it still remains to be seen whether I can keep up this pace.   I already see that it will likely slow down.  Below is a picture of the installation of the FCP Inverted L.   The radiator is 150 feet long and I nailed the SWR without pruning.   It is reasonably  flat from 1800-1835 with SWR < 2 and then I have to add inductance above 1835.  I could remove a few inches and center the dip in the SWR to about 1.825 but fooling with the set-up might do more harm than good since the proximity of the horizontal radiator to ground might change the capacitive coupling.  I think I will leave well enough alone.  Not a big chore adding inductance through the tuner.

Here is the SWR Curve

In terms of how it plays - the stateside stations in the CQ WW 160m Contest are loud and the noise floor is about S3 during the contest.  The K9AY is down in noise about 12 dB or 2 S units.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Mission For 2017 - 160m DXCC

There - I wrote it down to hold myself accountable for it.  The inspiration, wake up call, challenge, or whatever you might call it came from fellow ham and friend KU4XO.  He finished his assault on 160m in 2016 and is now on the verge of 9 band DXCC.  He did it without a listening array and a transmit antenna for 160m built on a small lot.   It reminded me of a similar assault I made on 80m during the winter of 2013-2014 during which I rocketed my DXCC totals from 20-116 witha somewhat inefficient inverted L.   (It had to be inefficient because my impedance was close to 50 ohms and you had to be at 36 ohms to get to 100% efficiency.  Unfortunately you had to lay down 120 1/4 wave radials to get there.  I only had 1/8 wave radials numbering about 30).   Despite this handicap I succeeded.  I actually plotted the timeline as shown  below:

KU4XO had a similar handicap on 160m yet he succeeded - through effort and patience.

During all of 2016 I had not done much in the low bands.  In fact I took down my inverted L as I was concentrating on the DX Marathon Formula 5W and managed a score of 201.  I put up a 30m delta loop instead.   It was a decent effort on the DX Marathon but not good enough to break into the top 5 world wide.

Now it is time to renew the assault on 160m.   I just called the Wireman for 130 feet of 12 gage copper for the folded counterpoise proposed by K2AV and W0UCE.   I also ordered the specially constructed isolation transformer for this counterpoise design from Balun Designs.   I should have this antenna up in the air by this weekend.  Wish me luck.

Just to be clear, I am not starting from scratch (35 confirmed out of 41 worked) and it is kind of getting late in the winter.  Here are tips from KU4XO for posterity:

"New country 2016 mode break down 68 CW, 14 SSB, 16 JT65

  • Make sure to be on @ 12am -3am peak time if you can be on before then great but these are the hours that consistently put new ones in the log for me.
  • Be open to all modes, watch the reverse beacon network on 160m CW exclusively
  • Have JT65 up and running at all times with radio tuned to 1.838 when not in QSO CW or voice.  Have open to see what DX is being spotted on the digital modes.
  • Watch the DX cluster for SSB contacts I use but whatever cluster you prefer as long as it can show all modes 160m only.

This was the trifecta for me reverse beacon network for CW, JT65 for digital, DX cluster for voice. Using this method I was able to cover all modes at once.

The very most important point is (I know you probably already know this) there is DX out there on CW that never gets spotted on the DX cluster. This is where the reverse beacon network comes in. If anyone calls CQ the skimmers will pick it up before anyone has a chance to work em. That’s your chance to be the first to work em before the pile builds assuming it’s rare enough for a pile to build.

More about timing………4:30am – 8am
If you already have these four countries Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Asiatic Russia then you can sleep in unless there is a DXpedition to the pacific you can feel safe that you probably not going to miss anything. If you don’t already have these four then it is the perfect opportunity to pick em up or work the DXpedition.

Things you may not want to do:

  • checking the spectrum analyzer for signals and tuning the VFO (hunt and pounce) because you might miss something on JT65 let the cluster do the work for you. New ones on SSB are rare unless in a contest.

Another thing that helped me is having something to do while waiting for the DX to roll in. I listen to talk radio in the shack it helps me stay focused and awake ready to pounce when that new one comes along."

Thank you Matt (KU4XO) for these tips.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Snow storm in SC and My Hexbeam

The hexbeam was a mangled mess but none of the spreaders broke.  It is all back to normal now

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Evaluating the IC7300

This is one nice rig.  SDR at the price point of a Kenwood TS590.  It has a built in Panadapter - not as nice as the PX3 but quite functional.  It takes getting used to the touch screen controls.  It has a built in tuner.  Size wise it is just as small as a K3 or TS590. Audio sounds good - with the NR - QRN can be tamed.

DX Marathon 2016 - Did not break top five

Looks like I got beat out by K4AR from Tennessee with a score of 216.  It also means that I also lost out in the top spot from W4.    Better luck perhaps in 2017.  The scores from 2016 bested the scores from 2015 in the Formula 5 class.  The 2016 scores have not been screened for bad calls, pirates, etc.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Bayou Jumper is Now QRV -

This is a replica of the WW2 Era parasets constructed by the British and dropped behind enemy lines via parachute - hence the name "Paraset".   Here I am using an OHR Wattmeter to measure output RF.  Watch the YouTube video below for a taste of the receive.  Dave Anderson also constructed one and we will be demoing it at the next Greer Club meeting.