After the Ontario QSO Party

April 20, 2015

Well it was fun…

I had very limited time to participate in the event due to some non radio commitments…  I was able to get about 2 hours in on the Saturday evening and never made it back into the shack for the Sunday portion…  I did manage 14 contacts total between SSB and CW split almost evenly on 40m and 80m…

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I was operating with the Flex 1500 (Elecraft T1 Auto tuner, 4:1 balun and 55 foot end fed longwire with 4 radials) which as you know has been the same setup I have used here for about 18 months now… 

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Operating strictly in the Search and Pounce mode  was my choice of operating styles so….  If I heard you…. I called you but I was only looking for OQP stations just so I could give out the “OTT” (Ottawa) multiplier…  The score was nothing to write home about but it was a fun way to spend a few hours…  With the noise levels on 80m I was shocked that so many actually heard me well enough to copy the exchange (59 OTT or 5nn OTT)

I seem to have lots of time to play radio but it seems the weekends are all shot till the summer holidays….  Monday to Friday loads of time for DX’ing but Saturday and Sunday always seem to be booked….  My summer break will see the camper heading out for  Field Day in Eastern Ontario then heading to a location in Western Quebec for the RAC Canada Day Contest… Its going to be 2 weeks of camping with a couple of Radio Events splitting up the time…

After that Liz and I will be doing some short camping trips (within 200km of home) and the radio gear will be going along but the operating time will not be as much as I would like, but it will be more than she wanted it to be…

There are some plans in the works for the CQ WW SSB Contest in late October but for now its still just me thinking out loud…  Nothing carved in stone yet…  It depends on how well the camper behaves itself over the summer camping trips….

My ongoing quest for my QRP CW DXCC is going fairly well.  43 confirmed so far and I am awaiting LoTW Confirmations for another 15.  A few of those will not be confirmed and a couple more might get confirmed on EQSL but this is something that is not going to happen overnight.  I am impressed however how far my CW Signal has made it using  “5w and a wire”…  Although I am still not a CW Fanatic I have to admit that the mode does get a signal through…  This winter i hope to start into working for my Triple Play award which means I finally will have to figure out the digital modes…

In the meantime have fun playing radio…

73bob

Upcoming event- The Ontario QSO Party

April 16, 2015

It figures….  This weekend ( April 18th-19th )is the weekend of the Ontario QSO Party and “Murphy” comes for a visit to the VA3QV shack.  A non radio item has snuck into my schedule and I will be busy both days of the contest.

If some of you however need the rare multi “OTT” I will be available for the looking in CW and SSB on Saturday evening from about 1930 EDST to around 2300 EDST.  Best bands would be 40m and 80m.  The tuner can also load the wire on 160m but with only 5w output its not really that efficient.

The Ontario QSO Party Website can be found here

I will not be submitting a log so this is not me trying to solicit contacts… but rather me trying to give out some contacts to help the contestants in their efforts to make a clean sweep of all the Ontario Multipliers

However I do advise all participants to submit their logs as sometimes a low score is enough to get some wallpaper for the shack (as you can see from the below image)

ve3ramOQP2006

VE3RAM ( Ottawa Valley Mobile Radio Club ) operated as Multi OP Station from the grounds of the Science Museum in Ottawa for the event.  We demonstrated Amateur Radio to the General Public and also had fun doing it

Good luck to all the participants

73bob

Some days the wire works…

April 15, 2015

… And yesterday was one of those days…

I managed 7 #QRPCW contacts with 7 different #DXCC entities on on 3 continents…  One contact was a new one for me, Three others were new ones for me in CW and the other three were countries that I have contacted in the past.

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One was already confirmed via Logbook of The World and EQSL for a new #CWDXCC

Once again there will be some of you out there who insist on telling me that “Life is too short for QRP”…  Well you might be right but my log begs to differ….  Don’t get me wrong….  I would love to have a beam and a tower along with a KW….  Hell, even having the room to stretch out a windom would be great… But at the end of the day….  What I got is working and its working fine…

CU down the log….

73bob

Trying to work the world with “5w and a wire”…

April 8, 2015

After re reading this the first little bit might appear to be a bit of a rant….  It was not intended as such…  so if I offend anyone by the content ….  sorry ………. (In advance)


So far April has not given me a great amount of contacts but it has given me 4 new ones for the log IF they might get confirmed on Logbook of The World (LoTW)…

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That of course would be in a perfect world…. 

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I have those events every now and again when you see me mention that I contacted a New one and the next day I get a LoTW and/or EQSL confirmation…  Well thats what I need to hope for with my last 4 contacts as all 4 of them if confirmed would be “new ones” for me.  BUT… and there had to be a but…. according to the QRZ.com pages only one of them uses Electronic confirmations….

cqmaps_sample_twitterThanks to CQ Maps for the use of the Graphic.  If your looking for a new map for your shack… Why not deal with a ham?


So I upload my logs to LoTW and EQSL hoping that one day I get an unexpected confirmation from someone  who might of had a change of heart and join the 21st century…  Every now and again I do get confirmations from years gone by…. and they are greatly appreciated….

In retrospect I guess I am the Polar Opposite….  I know they are not on LoTW or EQSL and I sent anyway…. The eternal Optimist that I am….

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The one nice thing about being a QRP Operator is that for the first big award (the QRP DXCC) all we have to do is submit our logs and they take us at our word…

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Again thats why the QRPDXCC is different than the regular DXCC….  For all the other awards they have to be confirmed by LoTW or QSLs same as you 100w + folks…

This posting also reminds me that I have enough credits to apply for a lot of paperwork….(QRPDXCC, Mixed DXCC, Phone DXCC along with CW WAS (QRP) and Phone WAS) but would they all fit on the wall in the Motorhome?   Oh Well…  One of these days…  If I ever get a nice shack that does not have concrete walls or wheels… maybe…

So why not QSL using Electronic Media?  I was looking through my logs trying to wonder why not….  In a few cases I’m guessing lack of internet or computers….  A few of my non confimred QSOs have no real data on QRZ other than their callsign so I am guessing that there is a lack of something there….  But for the most part….  When I look them up on QRZ.com I see pictures of towers…. fancy beams….  new radios…. really Big Amps…. now this  means to me that money is not a concern and also with all the uploaded web pages etc also neither is the internet….  This would be the same guy that wants me to QSL Direct with 5 greenstamps to cover the cost of his postage and the printing of the card…

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Heck …if I thought it would do any good I’d send him the 5 bucks just to get him to confirm the gosh darn QSO on LoTW…

Well so much for my mini rant….

As you know the bands have not been that good (or at least stable) for the best part of a month since the big solar flare up and storm in Mid March…

I am hearing stations but not making that many contacts….  Stations with a s9+ signal report seem to be dropping down into the noise in mid transmission… On the bright side it makes for shorter QSOs (get the basics done before the signals fade again) but it also makes for less QSOs as if the strong signals are fading then you can only imagine what a QRP signal is going to sound like at their end…. static…

I will be staying at QRP Levels here at home with the Flex 1500 and I could improve my antenna system slightly but any changes I made would really just mean running more radials out and I have as many as I can have out in my backyard without tripping over wire when I walk already….  A few years ago when I used the FT 450(dialed back to 5w) and my FT 817  along with the S9 43 foot vertical with all the radial criscrossing the back yard the reports were great.  Not really sure if that was the extra radials or the band conditions at the time…The wire is a little longer now…. there are less radials out and I am using the same feed line from the 4:1 balun to the shack…

Hopefully before the camping season starts the bands will settle down a bit.  At this time I do plan to take a few trips to various locations in Ontario this summer and operate from different locations…  A few might be SOTA style locations and others just a nice place to sit for a day or so and play radio…  Having the band conditions cooperate would be a big bonus…

73bob

First Portable Op of the year

April 3, 2015

After a slight delay (had to charge the battery pack) I walked over to the grounds of the Canada Science and Technology Museum which is a short 10 min walk from my home.  I was able to find one picnic table that was in a snow free area but it was a bit wet…

I attached my Buddipole Vertical  with the universal mount to the end of the picnic table and ran one elevated vertical in a west direction across the other picnic table and then to a tree…

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I could hear some stations on 40m in the US voice areas but it seemed no one could hear me…  Changing the tap on the coil and shortening the counterpoise I was able to hear lots of stuff on 15m and 17m but again no one could hear me…

Changing the coil tap again for 20m and this time as well as unwinding the counterpoise to make it just a bit longer had me listening to lots on 20m.  This time success….

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My first contact was with AC4MV in West Virginia at a distance of 600 miles from Ottawa.  He was the Net Control Station for the Maritime Mobile Service Net on 14.300 and he had no trouble hearing my 5w signal when he called for checkins.  We chatted for a while and then he went on with the Net Operations.

Next contact was with VA4GD located in Pinawa Manitoba on 14.140.  This is the frequency for the Trans Canada Net and they meet on weekends and Holidays for a cross Canada 20m SSB Net.  Remembering the Canadian bandplan that we are allowed voice that low in the band.  They do accomadate US stations and Canadian Amateurs in the states by accepting CW calls as well.  This QRP Portable contact was at a distance of just under 1000 miles.

Last but not least found me chatting with K9UA in Wisconsin.  I heard a new net controller on the Maritime Mobile Service Net and thought that I would see if he could hear “5w and a buddistick”…  At a distance of  700 miles I was able to get in and be heard….

About 90 minutes after I got there it was time to pack up and head home…  The test was successfull proving that the gear survived the winter with no issues.  The FT 817 behaved itself and the buddistick performed well on 20m but even with a good SWR on the other bands it was just not meant to be…

This is a good case for multi band antennas when you go out as you don’t want to set up to find out the antenna you brought is for a band that we don’t seem to have conditions for today…  I tried 15/17/40m today with no luck… Good thing I had 20m as the fallback…

73bob

 

 

Taking my own advise

April 3, 2015

You might remember a posting of mine about a week ago about checking you equipment before you headed out to the park for that wonderful first outing of the year???

Well I decided as its nice and sunny in Ottawa today and the temps will be in double digits (15 deg C) that I would grab the backpack and try (hoping that the path has melted enough) over to a local park and just set up with the FT 817 and my buddistick and try and make a couple of QRPSSB contacts.

August23_westonpark4In this pic from last year the coil is set for 40m as its not tapped

I did check the gear and although the 11.9 volts in my battery pack might have been enough to run the rig for a while I think its better (especially if the band was open and I was having fun) to leave with a fully charged battery…

All the rest of the gear was good but… its been a while since my last outing…  October 9 2014 was a Summits on the Air activation with VA3PCJ (who you might hear on the air as CX7RT) from Mt Morrisette QC.  I could of sworn I charged the battery when I got back so either I forgot to or… just sitting for for 6 months in my backpack the voltage dropped from its normal 12.5v to 11.9 v… 

Its hard to believe that I have not operated portable for 6 months…  That proves that we had a very hard winter… OK getting a knee replacement might also have kept me indoors but…

Either way its time to charge it up and perhaps I might get out later today or on Monday (as I have plans for Saturday and Sunday…

Try and enjoy the nicer weather

73bob

Snippets from the weekend

March 30, 2015

cq_logoAll in all it was not a bad weekend for a SSB QRP Operator… I gave out contacts in the CW WW WPX Contest over the weekend but did not really compete and will not be submitting a log…

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I managed to give out the rare “VA3″ prefix out to 40 different stations in 19 different DXCC entities and 4 continents.  (NA, SA. EU and AF)  As I was only using the “Search and Pounce” method that meant I managed to get up to 28 (by my unofficial count) multis for the event.  I roughly calculated my score at around a booming 2100 points.

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However it seems that I goofed with the setup of HRD for the contest as when I went to create the CABRILLO file to submit as a check log the log would not give me the sent and received serial numbers.  They are there but they don’t show in the log file I am trying to upload on line.  I was able to upload my complete log (minus the exchanged serial numbers) for the event to LoTW and EQSL and HRD Log so if anyone needs confirmation they can look at my HRD on Line Logbook which on part of my QRZ.com info page.

One thing I found interesting as it was a glitch I never noticed before….  When working on 15m (ssb)  (for no reason as I had made lots of contacts on 15m earlier) my computer suddenly locked up in mid transmit… I keyed up and got the VA3 part of my call out then everthing was frozen up before the QV got out…  I did a reboot and tried it again and sure enough it happened again…

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Now at one time just after I got the Flex 1500 I did have an issue of RFI on 10m where I would interfere with my Bell Internet but after re routing the feed line from the antenna to the Elecraft T1 Tuner that feeds the Flex it had stopped…

After a few reboots I just gave up and decided that the software had somehow glitched and the usual fix for that is just to delete the existing software and re install it.  I also decided to do it later as I just did not want to mess with the problem any more…  After supper I decided to come back downstairs and just not bother with 15m as it was working fine on the other frequencies and to my shock it was now working great on all the bands (including 15m) so it fixed itself…  I continued on and made a few more contacts on 15m before calling it a day…

Not counting the computer frustration I did have fun making contacts in 4 different continents with 5w and a wire.  Normally my DXing is now done in CW which is a more efficient use of my QRP RF signals… Its been a while since I got a sore throat from screaming my callsign for hours at a time…

As I touched on the Electronic QSL  earlier here is the first confirmation from the CQ WPX that was waiting for me this morning when I checked my email

VA7BEC_EQSL

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As I have mentioned before I enjoy the combination of EQSL and Logbook of the World.  It nice to have the graphics of EQSL along with having NOT to wait for the cards to come in from the Buro for confirmation for Awards and its much cheaper than the QSL Direct route especially at today’s postal rates…

LoTW_2It was a good start to the week (or a good finish to the weekend)…. Hope everything is going food for you…

73bob

 

 

Back to basics… QRP/p 101

March 26, 2015

The snow is finally starting to melt… The days are getting longer and also a bit warmer….  Soon the “Portable Operating” season will be upon us… Will you be ready?

Lets go through some of the basics… Yes I know that you know what to do… I’m just reminding you…

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Check your backpack- Now is the time (not when you get to the park) to check to make sure all your gear is intact for that first trip of the season.  Radio? Check, power cable?, Check, Battery charged? Check, Antennas? Check, COAX? Check, Logbook and pen? Check, Weighted line to get over the trees? Check….

Most of this is just common sense or so you would think… BUT you would be suprised how many time I have left home to find out that I had the radio, but forgot the battery….  had the radio and the battery but no power cord…  I once spent 30 minutes getting the weighted lines over the highest tree branches ever… just to find out that the RG58 coax was not in my backpack… and I think once or twice the microphone which fit on my 817 and my 897, was at home with the 897 when I needed it with me in the park with my 817…

Making sure your CW Key is packed would be good thing as well (if you operate CW)

I think you get my drift…

Now you might of noticed I said antennas… yup…. Even though you have been at your favourite operating location for years now we don’t know how kind “Mother Nature” was to your antenna supports (trees) over the winter.  Be a shame to find your tree sitting on the ground and no way to get your antenna up in the operating position…  I always carry two different antenna styles with me just in case.  My favourite antenna is one of my End Fed Half Waves… PAR_outofthebox-475x475

I have had great success with the Par End Fed line of antennas but… also in the backpack is my Buddipole Vertical just in case where I’m operating from has a lack of natural antenna supports (trees).

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Both these antennas can cover 6m to 40m with a tuner (depending)  and both have done me proud on more than one occasion…  Hawaii with the Par on 20ssb and Greenland with the Buddistick on 40 ssb.  Not to bad with QRP ssb.  Signal reports were not outstanding but they did hear me…and make it into my log.

On the subject of antennas…  Keep your feedlines as short as you can.  COAX can be lossy in longer runs and to be painfully honest when you are starting with 5w you just can’t afford to lose any power out…

FT817_no_coax_back_1If you look closely here you might notice that I am using NO Coax in this set up.  The Radio to the Tuner uses a combination of adapters and then to connect the antenna to the tuner I am using a double male PL259 connector.  It has worked fantastic for me since I configured it this way…   When I have to use the Buddistick I have a short (4′) section of RG8X that I use to connect the Buddistick to my Tuner.  I like to have the antenna clamped to one end of the picnic table and I sit at the other.  That way I normally don’t get tripped up by my radials (counterpoise) when operating…

Another point to remember is that its better to spend time on the air, rather than spending time getting on the air…  Keeping it simple gets you on the air sooner.  When I head out to the park I figure I have around 2 hours before I have to pack up and find a washroom.  I would rather spend as much of that 2 hours making contacts …than trying to get the antenna up….  Keep that in mind….

So there you have it…. Some hints if you are just getting into portable operating and some reminders if you (like me) have been taking your pet radios out for walkies for a while now…

But as a final comment… remember…. The backpack always seems heavier walking back from the park…

73bob

ps… usual disclaimer….  the above are just suggestions…. The fact that it works for me does not mean that it will work for you…  you do everything at your own risk… use common sense and stay safe…

pps… Full disclosure…. I have no financial interest in any of the companies or products shown, mentioned or listed in this post.  I find they work for me and I am quite pleased and plan to continue using them…  Your results could differ…

Quality VS Quantity

March 24, 2015

…. An interesting thought….

With the poor solar conditons in the last week or so my logs have not increased by much…  A total of 17 stations in log starting on March 14th till today (March 23rd).  It has not been an easy time for operating with “5W and a wire”…

However out of those 17 contacts 7 have already confirmed via Logbook of The World and one of those was a New CW DXCC (Venezuela) which brings my CW DXCC total to 39.

YW4D_EQSL

I’m just really thankful that the “Big Guns” out there have “Big Ears” so they can pull us little guns out of the noise… 

In most cases I can’t hear the stations they are working before me…  I just toss out my callsign after the “QRZ” or the “TU” and normally when I hear “VA3QV 5nn TU”  I pause for a half second and then reply back with ” 5nn 72 TU” with a smile on my face…  The big smile comes a while later when the confirmation comes in via LoTW or EQSL because that is the proof that I was successful and that my little QRP signal made it around the world…

So even though the numbers in the log are not increasing by much the numbers in the confirmed side of the log are increasing just fine…  The last two weeks have resulted in a 41% confirmation rate  which is slightly higher than my overall 34% confirmation rate on Logbook of The World.

GMC_Canada_Post_TruckMaybe its just the fact that with the poor conditions the DX Stations are appreciating their contacts more or perhaps with the rising postal costs the idea of Electronic Confirmations is easier on the budget…  Either way… I do appreciate the faster confirmations…

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Most of my friends say “Go big or go home” and “Lifes too short for QRP”…  I say that “Size does not matter if you know what you are doing…”

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Hope to hear you in the CQWPX contest this weekend…

.

73bob

 

 

Bands below average but still making contacts

March 22, 2015

It seems that Saturday was the best of the weekend….  After the Solar Storm earlier in the week the log was pretty sparce between March 14th and the 19th.  Saturday the 21st was not bad (for a QRP Station) and I managed 9 contacts (QRP CW) with 8 on 15m and 1 on 20m.

The contest on the air this weekend was the Russian DX Contest

russiaprefixmap

Thanks to http://www.qsl.net/ei8ic for the excellent map.  I got the link from the Russian DX Site

It would of been better if I had conditions into Russia for the contest but…

Furthest of the day was KH7XX (Hawaii) on 15m cw at a distance of just over 4800 miles.  Next was YW4D (Venezuela) also on 15m cw at a distance of just over 2500 miles. A very close third was KA3DRR( California) who came in on 15m cw at just under 2500 miles.

I have worked KA3DRR (Scot) several times now and you can find his blog on my blogroll (right hand side of the page).  It makes for good reading… Why not check it out?

The other contacts were in North Carolina (20m), Georgia (15m), Texas (15m) , Ohio (15m) and Wyoming (15m).  I was doing the Search and Pounce method and trying to avoid big pileups that I knew that I could not break with my 5 watts and a wire.  As usual I was pleased with the performance of the Flex 1500 and my decoding program CW GET.  I heard more than I worked but I got everyone i tried for…

According to my logs YW4D will be a new CW DXCC for me,  I have made several QSOs with Venezuela both QRP SSB and QRO SSB but this was my first CW contact as wall as my first QRPCW contact.

I got back on the air on Sunday afternoon but had no luck and was not hearing that much…  There were a few stations in the Virginia QSO party but they were calling on 40SSB and the best I got out of them was “The Victor Alpha station??? try again… Sorry OM please try later” .  It was (in my opinion) not a day for QRPSSB.

cq_logoMy afternoons are free this week so I’m hoping to fine tune the gear before this weekends CQ WPX Contest.  I won’t be actually contesting but I will be giving out lots of contacts or at least hoping that I do.

The CQ Contest is one I look forward to as its an excellent chance for me to increase my SSB DXCC count as all the big guns are out for this one and so they will be listening for popguns like myself.  The pileups will be insane at the beginning but after the first 24 hours I am hoping to greatly increase my log.

Anyway… Give a listen and I hope (as always) to get you in the log…

73bob


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