Saturday, December 24, 2011

Activating PAFF-035 - Kootwijk

Weak conditions especially on the higher bands
On my way home I passed Kootwijk and decided to try an activation of the nature parc. I found a reasonable spot on the northern edge of the park in due course.

Setup at Kootwijk

When I started it was still light outside (16:00 local time) so I tried the higher bands first. 17m was rather quiet with 7 contacts in 15 minutes. 4 of those called in from outside EU (EC8, VE3 and K2, K7).

20m was more lively with 17 contacts in 15 minutes but signals were weakening quickly except for Spain and Portugal. One DX station called in from VE5.

40m provided the most activity this time. The reason for that must have been the early sunset (with Dec 23 being almost the shortest day here). Still, activity levels were not very high and signals not as strong as they can be on 40m - mostly around 57/58. 28 OMs called in on this band in just under half an hour.

In total I made 52 contacts with OMs from 22 different DXCCs. Maximum distance was 7800km into Washington state.

Tnx all for calling in.
Lars, PH0NO/P 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Activating PAFF-040 - Duinen Vogelenzang

 A very windy activation near the sea

Today I was near the sea shore, near a Dune nature reserve known as Vogelenzang (PAFF-040). This area has not been activated before. To me that constitutes a good reason to spend some time there on the radio - apart from the fact that it is a very beautiful area to be in.

The two main challenges today were so-so conditions and a very strong wind.

Challenging wind..

I started out on 10m hoping to catch some DX but that did not work at all. Some European stations tried to call in but conditions weren't good for Europe. On 15m there was more activity with good conditions into Spain and Portugal. VE1 was the DX station on this band.

On 20m condtions were okay for a while throughout Europe until QSB started kicking in. The maximum distance was set by an OM from VE5. Asiatic Russia was present this time with one station only.

I finished the activation on 40m but that was quite a challenge. I had to extend my antenna pole to cater for the longer wire which therefore took even more pounding from the strong wind. The angle under which the wire antenna was blown did not enhance the quality of the antenna (judging from the signals and the SWR). At one point the wire was blown off the pole altogether - leaving me wondering for a few seconds why all the signals went down to S1...

In the two hours of operating I made 133 contacts with OMs from 32 DXCC. A lot of familiar callsigns by now but also a number (34) of OMs I have not had the pleasure of meeting before. Luciano I5FLN was the only hunter who visited on all bands.

Thanks all for calling in.
Lars, PH0NO/P

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Activating PAFF-031 - Speulder- en Sprielderbos

With two hours of spare time near PAFF-031 I decided to try and find an operating spot. PAFF-031 is very challenging for a radio station as it is a dense forrest. From the picture you can see that I found a little bit of space in between the trees.

Operating in between the trees

Conditions weren't really impressive. The fact that the antenna was in between the trees will not have contributed. I was active on 15m, 20m and 40m. Most activity was on 20m this time.

In two hours I have made 121 contacts with OMs of 29 DXCCs. For some reason there were no stations from Asiatic Russia - normally a number of OM's call in. One real DX came by in the shape of VE5, making for 6700km of maximum distance - and a new Canadian state for me.

Thanks all for stopping by.
Lars, PH0NO/P

Monday, November 28, 2011

A busy activation of PAFF-044 (Arkemheen)

DX on 15m, regular traffic on 20m and crazy pileups on 40m

With some unexpected free time on my hands I headed over to PAFF-044 (Arkemheen) on November 18. Arkemheen was one of the few unactivated WFF areas in PA-land left and the last one relatively close to my QTH.

After studying the map I found a nice operating spot near a water pumping station. I was hoping to set up my antenna directly on the water's edge. Theory and my experience tells me that this helps getting ur signal across the globe (I noticed this for example in June when I activated PAFF-014). However the water I was hoping to use was hidden behind a dike that was only accessible by bicycle. So I set up my station directly behind the dike. I had beautiful views from my operating position that got even more special when the sun set and fog came in.

Setup at Arkemheen

I started out at 15:00 local time - a good time for the higher bands. I decided to start on 15m hoping on some DX passing by. Of course I was greeted first by Luciano I5FLN. In the following hour I worked 80 stations including DX from North America (up to Arizona) and Puerto Rico - max QRB 8800km.

After an hour I decided to go down to 20m - usually the busiest place for WFF. There was quite some activity, so no time to get bored. I worked 79 stations in one hour. Luciano was again the first OM to pass by. Conditions were okay - good enough for strong signals from stations throughout Europe. Apart from a booming visit by W1YY/7 (Washington state, 7800km) and only 2 stations from Assiatic Russia there was no DX to be found.

Sunset and fog at Arkemheen (PH0NO/P on the right)

It was just past 17:00 local time and it was getting darker - so, time to move lower once again. I went to 40m to find out conditions were very good on this band. Starting at 17:20 I worked almost 100 stations in one hour. After a couple of minutes the traffic was so crazy that I had to call by numbers - a new experience. Apart from a couple of OMs that don't grasp the concept of numbers or simply don't listen this worked very well. When I had to close down my station to head home, there were still stations calling. Crazy. Really.
And Luciano? Of course he came by on 40m as well. Other duties kept him from being the first one this time though.

The stats for this activation: 242 stations (254 contacts) from 38 DXCC entities in 3 hours of activity with a maximum distance of 8700 km into Arizona.

Thanks everyone for calling in!
Lars, PH0NO/P

Friday, October 28, 2011

A long activation of Nunspeet - PAFF-033

Using three different bands for short and long distance QSOs

Wednesday October 26 I had planned an activation of PAFF-033. The difference with other activations up till now was that I had quite a bit of time on my hands and that I knew a few days ahead that I would use this time for an activation.

Using Google Maps I had already checked out the area for a good operating spot. I had found a few spots and it turned out that the first one I went for was good enough. The area is mainly covered by a dense forest, which is not the best condition for a radio operation. I found a bit of space, just enough to keep the antenna free from the trees on the northern part of the park.

I was visited twice by park attendants. This surprised me somewhat as the park is not a high profile park at all. The first one did not understand what I was doing but decided it would not be harmful for the park. The second one turned out to be an inactive HAM.. small world.

Station set-up @ PAFF-033

The previous days I had had a lot of fun on 10 meters (my favourite band) so I decided to start there and see how many hunters would be present there. As I hoped, there were a number of DX stations calling in (US, Canada, Brazil and I stumbled upon PJ5) - 10m is great for DX. PY1SX set the maximum QRB for the day (9600km).

For Europe the conditions on 10m weren't that great so after one and a half hours (and only 33 contacts) I went down to 20m. This is a very busy place for WFF. I worked 192 stations in just over 2 hours. As always most of the OM's were from Russia (EU and Asiatic), Italy and Ukraine. A few DX stations came by as well - JH8, UA0, UA9, VE6, UN9 and 4Z. 
Quite a few of the WFF hunters have become familiar callsigns, some are in my log for all my 6 activations.

When 20m started to get slow, around 18:30 local time, I decided to give 40m a try. It was a challenge to find a quiet spot but when I did I worked 69 stations in one hour. 40m nicely closes the skip gap 20m and 10m leave behind (between 250 - 700km).

At 20:00 I closed down the station and headed back home. By that time I had greeted 288 OMs (some came by on more than one band - some even on all three - hi Luciano :) from 43 different DXCC entities.

Thanks all for stopping by and calling in. See you at the next activation.
Lars, PH0NO/P 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Activating Terletse Heide - PAFF-042

With another small gap in my agenda  I was able to head over to the WFF park Terletse Heide on Tuesday late afternoon. The area comprises of an airfield (mainly used by glider planes) and surrounding fields. It is a rather small nature park in between Veluwezoom (PAFF-019) and De Hoge Veluwe (PAFF-005). The area is surrounded by a low fence and trees with the official entrance on the east side of the park via the airfield main building (Terlet entrance).

With the limited time I had available I decided to enter the area from the west and look for a low profile corner of the park. I found a spot that was reasonably free of trees within the park's perimeter.
I took a chair this time, which made the operation a lot more comfortable than previous operations where I was on foot and sat on a rock or fallen tree.

There was no activity at the airfield that day (as far as I could see) and I was able to operate for 2,5 hours without seeing another soul. The weather started out rather grey but soon improved with quite some sunshine until the sun set around 17h CET.

Conditions on 20m were good this day. The advantage clearly being good signal reports on both ends (frequently 9+10dB or more) and a few DX contacts. The disadvantage was the amount of QRM from neighbouring stations.

I started out on a frequency that turned out to be near to a DXpedition RX frequency (I learned this later from I5FLN, Luciano, who was so kind to post a spot on the cluster already at the beginning of my activation). When I moved up 10kHz the amount of QRM was manageable.

My power cable was not functioning properly due to a loose fuse contact. This caused the radio to shut down a number of times at the start of the activation. Somehow I managed to fix this after half an hour or so.

During the 2,5 hours of operation there were quite a number of stations visiting (227 in total), from 35 DXCC entities with DX from the US and Canada as well as quite surprisingly (to me) one ham from the east coast of China (8800km) - my first contact with a Chinese station!

All in all it was a pleasant experience once again. Thanks to all the hunters for calling in.
Lars, PH0NO/P 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Activating Utrechtse Heuvelrug - PAFF-018

Yesterday I had some spare time (abt 2 hours) while passing the PAFF-018 area ("Utrechtse Heuvelrug"). I could not find a perfect spot quickly, so settled for a quiet spot in between some trees (refer to picture). I was able to keep the antenna free from the leaves.

Using my FT-897d at 70w output I started on 20m just after 15h CET. Thankfully I was put on the cluster soon after I started (thanks Rocco, IK6GQC!). This saves a lot of breath repeating callsign and location information.

Conditions were okay with distances limited to the usual 4000km. After less than an hour signals started to drop.

As I was using a multiband end fed wire, I decided to go down to 40m. It turned out to be a zoo from 7050-7200. I found a relatively quiet spot but still had to deal with massive QRM.

Bill, M0DXT, was so kind to put my new frequency on the cluster (tnx Bill!). This lead to a handful of contacts but the QRM made me decide to call it a day after a total operation of 90 minutes. In this time I was greeted by 92 operators of 21 DXCC entities. The maximum distance was 3800km into Asiatic Russia.

Tnx all for passsing by.
Lars, PH0NO/P

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Activating De Hoge Veluwe - PAFF-005

Pleasant weather, beautiful parc and mediocre radio conditions

On Friday I went over to national park De Hoge Veluwe (PAFF-005). This park is the most "formal" of all parks I know in the PA region. It is fenced off and has three access gates where you have to pay an entrance fee to get into the park. If you want to take your car with you (like me) the entrance is 14 Euro.

Knowing this formal setting I was curious how my radio station would be greeted. The weather wasn't exactly great (a few showers) so I counted on a low number of visitors. However this park is popular even in bad weather - which I could have known - as it hosts a famous museum. I did find a rather quiet spot with open space stretching in all directions where I could park my car.

View from my operating position....
My setup was the familiar Spieth mast attached to the car holding a 20m end fed dipole (HyEndFed). This time I was using my FT-897 allowing for a bit more power than with the FT-817. This did cause some RFI problems that were reported to affect my modulation. I kept the power around 75 watts as that seemed to be a level at which my modulation was still easy to copy.

In the first two hours there was no time to be bored at all. My voice was coarse greeting and exchanging reports with all the OMs who took the time to work my station (I wonder how other OMs cope with that after a few hours of radio time...). The last hour the amount of contacts slowed down. QSB and QRM were getting stronger.

There were a couple of park visitors that looked quizzically at my setup but I was able to work for three hours without any problems.

All in all I think the activation was a success as I was able to hand out the park reference to 168 stations located in 35 different DXCC entities. Most of the stations that contacted me were from Europe (Russia, Ukraine and Italy taking a large share) and from Assiatic Russia. To my surprise two Israelian stations joined the list as well as one VE1, making the maximum distance covered 5000km.

View to the other side of my portable station - not a bad spot at all...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Activating Parc du Verdon - FFF-034

While in the Provence I went over to Parc du Verdon to activate another WFF location. I found a place near Peyroules that was on a hill and had generally a good view except for trees and hill top to one direction.

After calling CQ for a few times I found out my modulation was terrible. Somehow the combination FT897 and Heil microphone didn't work out. The FT897 was just repaired so all the settings were back to default.
I couldn't quickly figure out how to tweak the settings so I took my hand microphone (that I always take with me for emergencies..). With some tweaking I got this working to an acceptable level.

The next challenge was the weather. Apart from quite a bit of rain I was also visited by two thunderstorms. They brought a steady S9 level of QRN and the danger of lightning. This limited my air time to less than 90 minutes. The last challenge was the level of QSB that was very high during the activation.

During the 90 minutes I worked 64 stations from 15 DXCC entities. The maximum distance covered was 4700km into Asiatic Russia. Considering I was working with far more power than during other activations (I brought my FT897 in stead of the QRP rig FT817) I expected to work more stations.

I did not have an opportunity to go back to the Parc du Verdon during my stay in France so the next activation will be from somewhere else - probably a PA region once again.

Setup with end fed wire feed point @3m - clouds are ominously black

Activities from a camping in the Provence, France

From July 17 until August 3 I was enjoying generally pleasant weather in the very nice surroundings of the Haute Provence. Of course I took some gear with me for radio-activity from France.

After trying the AlexLoop I decided to install a fishing line in one of the trees near my tent around a branch at abt 10m (30ft) height. Using this wire I could quickly install different End Fed wire antennas to work on different bands with a bit more power than the AlexLoop allows (the loop allows only 10w PEP).

The setup was far from ideal with a high mountain to the north of my location but still I was able to work a number of new DXCC entities - including ZL4 @ 18000km - as well as a number of new US states.
In total I worked 125 different stations from 41 DXCC entities.

The antenna was rather stealth - look at the pictures below to get an idea.

Tent also know as shack of F/PH0NO/P

Now zoom in on the white towel...

End fed wire antenna by PA3EKE

Saturday, July 9, 2011

PAFF-019 for the second time

Yesterday I was back at PAFF-019 for one and a half hour of air time. I brought my FT-817 (5W output), an end fed wire for 20m and my Spieth mast. Conditions were not very good, I think even a bit worse than last time. I did work 107 different stations from 24 different DXCC entities in 100 minutes, so I was not bored at all.

The maximum distance was this time around 3500km in the direction of Ekatarinaburg in Asiatic Russia. Apart from a few stations from Asiatic Russia I logged only European stations. Most replies came from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Italy and Germany.

The weather was very pleasant with temperatures around 23 degrees and the view nice as always. The only downside was a strong and gusty wind. One gust of wind took down the antenna after 10 minutes of operation. Luckily everything was still in one piece, so I was back on the air in no time.

Thanks to all OM's who took the time to work my small portable station.

73 44,

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Activating near home: PAFF-019

Veluwezoom - PAFF-019

After the experience at PAFF-014 I decided to try and activate Veluwezoom, PAFF-019. I took my FT-817 and a LiFePo battery with me. First I tried my new AlexLoop but did not get any response on my calls. Then I put up my Spieth mast with an end fed wire (by HyEndFed) for 20m. This gave me a couple of replies at first with a lot of QSB. It turned out conditions were rather poor. 

After a few minutes however more and more OM's found their way to my calling frequency. This time a milder pile up than @ PAFF-014 but still a nice steady stream of contacts. Conditions seemed to decline so I quit after only 45 minutes of activity. Total amount of logged contacts is 48 from 20 different DXCC entities this time. There was one VE station that made it through the European pile up.

Although I did not have my log with me (only took a few blank sheets to log new calls) I recognized a number of callsigns from the activation of PAFF-014 last Monday.

I will return to the Veluwezoom when I find the time and conditions are a bit better.

73, 44

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

PAFF-014: my first WFF activation

Activating PAFF-014: Lauwersmeer

Today I had some spare time while in the vicinity of one of the nature parks of The Netherlands. Luckily I brought some equipment with me (FT-817) and I always have a Spieth mast (fishing rod type of mast) and a couple of end fed wires with me.
It was a bit windy but the sun was shining and temperatures were around 30C. 

I found a quiet spot next to the lake and near to the sea, hoping that would help me getting my signal across the globe. 

This was my first WFF activation and as far as I am aware it was also the first activation of PAFF-014. I was really amazed about the pile-up I caused. I was never aware WFF locations were this "hot". 

In the first 20 minutes activity was steady with one station after the other coming back to my call. It was in this period that a JA7 call came back giving me a 55 report. Imagine that: 9000km with only 5 watts...

Somewhere in time someone posted a spot and then the frequency got more and more crowded. I worked a total of 154 stations in 3 hours, 90% of those in the first two hours (propagation went down in the end).

My voice was hoarse in the end but I found a very nice experience. Thanks to all the OM's that took the time to answer my call, maintaining their patience to make it possible for others to work me.

73, 44

Setup at PAFF-014 (rod w. wire)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Activity from Malmedy

This week I visited Malmedy in Belgium. I took my FT-817nd with me and was very briefly active as ON/PD0RLH/P/QRP (how is that for a short call sign ;-)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ventenna dipole versus HyEndFed vertical

After acquiring my first half wave end fed by PA3EKE (HyEndFed) I was curious how it would perform compared to my Ventenna dipole. 

The Ventenna is a portable dipole - developed in and sold from the US - that consists of various elements that you can screw together to make a resonant dipole for different bands. When I started on HF in 2010 I used this antenna in the attic to make my first contacts.

The HyEndFed is an end fed wire antenna. PA3EKE sells it in single and multiband configuration. The first one I bought was the 20m 300w PEP version.

For the test I set up the Ventenna portable dipole on a aluminum push up mast @ 9m and the HyEndFed end fed half wave wire vertically on a Spieth “fishing rod” at 12m (feeding point at 2m).
Ventenna dipole on push up mast
The dipole was turned into the direction of the station being worked.
There was a considerable amount of QSB on 20m making the comparison difficult. Outcome after 2 hours of testing:
o   Local contacts (40km range) reported 2 to 3 s-units of difference in favour of the vertical wire
o   European contacts (2000km range) reported no significant differences in the two set-ups
o   DX contacts (US and Canada, 6000km range) reported 1 s-unit of difference in favour of the vertical wire

After this test I concluded that there was no real benefit in bringing the Ventenna and the bulky mast with me when operating portable. The wire performs at least as well, is set up in no time and is omnidirectional.