Sunday, October 28, 2012

Great fun @ CQWW 2012

Logging new DXCCs like there is no tomorrow

As blogged before I was planning to use my new HexBeam to hunt some new DXCC during the SSB CQ WW contest. With the station manager I had agreed upon two timeslots: Saturday late afternoon and evening and Sunday morning.

I went out to a deserted large parking lot near where I live, taking both my HexBeam and my 10m 4 element yagi (the converted CB antenna) and of course the alu mast - one that does not need guying.

Checking the conditions Saturday afternoon, I saw that most of the activity was on 10m. So I set up my 4 element yagi at about 10-12m high (33-36ft) and listened around. 

PH0NO - with 4 element yagi @ >10m (>33ft)

At first (around 16:00 CET / 14:00 UTC) I mainly copied NA stations and I worked a couple without any problems. Then I spotted DP0 on the cluster. I turned the antenna southwards and worked my way through the pile-up, logging my first Antarctic contact. Cool!

Not much later I logged another new one: V2. Then I went on to work a number of NA and SA OMs (some new DXCCs on 10m). I maintained an e-mail contact with PD7YY who lives nearby and has a 2 element 10m beam at his QTH. He was also looking for interesting DX on 10m and helped me find some new ones. Although I have a cluster app on my phone it is not as handy as my PC apps, so the extra e-mail spotting was a welcome addition. It also increased the chasing atmosphere ("hey, did you already get V3? he is on 964 now").

The Caribbean and Central America were gaining strength and I worked a lot of new entities in that area. I stayed on 10m until around 19:00 CET. I took a short break, then I started to build my HexBeam. It took me quite some time to change antennas (taking down the yagi and setting up the Hex). I was back on the air around 20:30 CET checking 15m and 20m with the Hex. It was very lively everywhere. Looking for real DX I in the end only worked 9 stations in the next (and last) hour but amongst them 1 new one and 3 "new band ones".

I was thrilled with this experience - accustomed to working from home with a sloping wire (no chance on getting through a pile-up towards DP0 - or even copying him). With the beam I could always work a station if I could hear him. With a bit of patience (only using 90w) I could find my way through every pile-up.


Another day, the same yagi...

The next morning I went out again to the same spot. Again 10m was alive, so I set up the yagi once more. I started around 9:00 CET (8:00 UTC due to winter time) and heard lots of DX. PD7YY was online as before and we exchanged results and spots for the next three hours through e-mail.

It was amazing how easy I could work new ones with the beam, even exotic ones like North Mariana Islands (never heard of them before), Guam and Hawaii. Even VK was "no worries mate - too easy".

One thing I did not manage to do is to rigorously test the HexBeam. There was just no time (and no point) to put it up with 10m going berserk.

All in all I logged 95 calls in 27 zones during the two time slots (7 hours radio time in total). They represent a smashing 24 new DXCCs to me and another 14 new band DXCCs.

DX worked: 6Y, 7Z (HZ), 8P, 9V, 9Y, A7, AH0, AP, B, BM, C5, CN, DP0, DS, E2 (HS), EX, EY, HK, HQ, J3, JA, JT, KG6, KH7, KP2, LU, NH2, NP4, P4, PJ2, PJ4, PU, RW0, T6, TO, TR, UK, UN, V2, V3, VE1/2/3/5/7/9, VK, VP5, VR, VU, W0/1/2/3/4/7/9, XE, XV, YV, ZD, ZF, ZS
The most challenging pile-ups (at least the way I remember them) were towards 9V, V3 and AP.


Stations worked - red = 10m, orange = 15m, yellow = 20m
It sure was fun. I wish I could have an antenna like that at home....

Thanks to PD7YY for the e-mail support!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Finishing and testing portable hexbeam

Folding antenna by DL1ELU  
(links to multiple posts to share my experiences at the bottom of this post)


Okay, so that is what the kit I posted earlier has become: a hexbeam - a 6 band antenna (6-20m) with 2 elements per band. It took me about 2 days to build it using the kit designed and produced by DL1ELU (http://www.foldingantennas.com). He produces custom build plastic parts making this a very well built antenna (much much better than my home brew cobweb).

DL1ELU has an eye for details. This is not only apparent from the antenna parts but also from the manual. Each and every step is described and comes with a tick box - so you know where you left off. This works very well for me as I tend to race things, ending up with making the wrong decisions, not measuring accurately or putting things together in the wrong order. No chance for mistakes here.

From the manual of DL1ELU
To give you an example of Christian's approach: he knows that it is difficult to measure a long piece of wire accurately. He thinks it might be a good idea to put a small plastic pin in the ground, use some copper wire and attach both your measuring tape and the wire to this pin. To support this idea he actually put a small piece of fibreglass and a piece of extra copper wire in the kit and shows you in pictures how to use them.
Brilliant.

Note that the kit really is a kit: everything needs to be handled, prepared, put together, etc. The plastic parts are still connected together, the way they came out of the mould. Reminds me of those little toy plane kits I had as a kid. 
That kept me busy for two days but without the normal frustration (thanks to the manual). It was a pleasant pass-time.

I am aiming to use the antenna in the CQ WW contest this weekend. Before today I was able to put the whole antenna together except for the elements. I did already add the support wires and the element clamps and I prepared all the elements (collection of wires of the right length combined into drivers and reflectors per band).

This morning was my only time slot for testing this antenna this week. So I started this morning with unpacking the folded antenna, adding the elements and getting the whole thing up in the air (using my home brew alu mast).
Alu mast attached to the car - pushed out to abt 9m (30ft)
Using my FT-817 as analyzer I quickly checked the SWR on all bands. It was really acceptable, <1.5 on all bands. I think the antenna can still be improved on a few bands (the dip is now outside the phone segment on several bands) but I did not have the time now to tweak the antenna - I wanted to do some on the air testing.

The first test I did is one to bring a smile to a ham's face: I fired up the FT-857 (abt 90W output) and listened around. I heard a couple of stations from Asia and Oceania. So I pointed the beam north-east and started calling DX on 15m. The first station to answer was Ben, ZL1CAH. 

Imagine that!

I have never worked ZL using phone before (not counting an old 11m QSO 20 years ago). Ben was not very strong - an indication conditions were not super - but he gave me a 55 anyway.

Then I worked 2 JA's before I had to pack everything together and get back to my normal duties.

Nice sight: the result of hard work and a good kit

One test is not really statistically significant so I will have to do some more tests and probably some A-B with my tried and trusted HyEndFeds. Theory and gut feeling tell me however that this antenna is worth the hassle of bringing a larger mast and the folding and unfolding process if I want to hunt DX.

About the folding: I still have to figure out how to get the unfolding done efficiently. Today was my first try with the folded antenna - without the elements but with the support wires. It took me 30 minutes to get the thing untangled. I am not looking forward to doing the same again now the antenna has an extra 80 meters of wires attached to it.

UPDATE: Being more experienced with the folding process I am now quicker in setting up the antenna. Description of how I do the folding is here.

Will post more in the future when I have more experience with this antenna.
Like this post: more experiences with the portable hexbeam (December 2012) 
or this one: out with the hexbeam, having fun (December 2012) 
or this one: more hexbeam activity in the sun (March 2013)
or this one: out with the "hex" again - logging a lot "new ones" (August 2013)
or this one: a few hours fishing DX - catching new ones (October 2013)

-- I have become a very enthusiastic user of this DX-chasing-yet-portable-antenna.

Friday, October 19, 2012

New project @ PH0NO

A few weeks ago I got myself some new HAM material. 

Now I have found the time to work on it. Let's see if it turns out to be as good as it looks on paper. 

Okay, bets are on.. what is this:


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Third new one: PAFF-069

Four band activation of Ugchelen Hoenderloo

Knowing I had some time to spare at the end of the day yesterday I studied the map of PAFF-069 and found an operating spot that would allow enough room for setting up an extended fibreglass pole (for 40m). PAFF-069 is a forest, hence not the most friendly environment for setting up antennas.


Ugchelen Hoenderloo - PAFF-069
The weather was not very pleasant with rain and gusty winds. This makes operating from a park less attractive. On the other hand there are not a lot of people in the park with this kind of weather, assuring that there is at least some room left in the few open spots (free of trees) of the park.

The spot I selected on the map was very suitable so I was able to operate all bands including 40m. This time the antenna wire stayed in place even though the wind did its best to blow it of the extended pole (see picture).


Strong winds


I started out on 10m. Although I heard a couple of stations I did not work any. Going down to 15m activity level started to increase. It still was not very busy - logging 24 OMs in 20 minutes and DX was sparse. Bob WX4QN in Tennessee set the maximum QRB to 6900km.

On 20m activity was plenty as always. Signal levels were good although there was also little DX on this band. I logged 93 calls in about 50 minutes before going down to 40m. 40m was 200khz of QRM. Using two different frequencies - trying to get away from the QRM - I was able to log 25 calls in about half an hour. When I had enough of the QRM there was still some time left. So I tried 10m once again and logged one call from CN. Then I finished the actvity on 20m with another 30 contacts.

Operating spot @ PAFF-069
In total I logged 173 calls from 31 DXCCs in about 2 hours radio time. A lot of familiar OMs passed by. Sandro I0SSW and Luciano I5FLN came by on 3 bands. DX came in from W4, W1, UA9, UN, 4X and CN.

See you all next time.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Second new one: PAFF-060

A bit more time in Bergherbos: 4 band activation

With a bit more time available than yesterday I went over to a nature park that borders on Germany: Bergherbos PAFF-060.


Bergherbos, PAFF-060

I did not know the area but found an acceptable operating position using Google Maps. Bergherbos is almost completely covered with trees (hence the name "Bos", meaning forest). The spot I found was not perfect as I was partly under a line of trees but it was the best I could find. The wire did get stuck in some tree branches at one point, but luckily everything stayed in one piece.


Tip of the antenna in between the branches
I planned to operate for about 2 hours, so I had some time to try different bands. I started on 15m as the cluster showed some activity there and it is a band that allows for DX to the west around the time I was active. It was busier than yesterday. I worked 34 stations in just over half an hour. Amongst them DX from UA9, W4 and W6. The last one was a pleasant surprise. It was Wayne NN6R that I worked once before about a year ago on 17m. I don't work stations in CA that often and 9100km is quite a distance to cover when /P. The band was just opening over there so propagations weren't really stable but a QSO was possible anyway.

When 15m slowed down I went down to 20m. It was very lively there with some QSB but still very strong conditions to some parts of Europe, like Russia, Poland and Hungary (a lot of 59+). I worked 84 stations in 45 minutes. DX came in from the east: JA, UA9, UN and 4Z. JA7AYE again set the maximum QRB to 9200km.

To enable contacts on the shorter distance (150-600km) I set up my extended mast and my end fed for 40m. I worked 34 stations in 20 minutes there. Conditions on 40m weren't very strong but good enough for the short / medium distance.
Before heading home I tried 10m as I saw some activity on the cluster. Listening around on the band I noticed signals were very low (S1) but I did give it a try for a couple of minutes. In the end only one OM from Pennsylvania came back to me - but I did activate PAFF-060 on four bands. Not bad.

In the end I logged 154 calls in just under 2 hours radio time. A couple of OMs came by on two bands but only Luciano I5FLN and Sandro I0SSW came by on three.

Thanks all for passing by.

Activating a new one: PAFF-055

Short first visit of Deelerwoud - two bands activation

With the new list of reference published there are a lot of PAFF regions that are screaming to be activated. With an unexpected but small gap in my schedule I headed over to an area yesterday that was along my route and that I knew, so I did not have to look for an operating position (losing precious time).


Deelerwoud - PAFF-055
Deelerwoud is an area that is part of a large nature area in The Netherlands called De Veluwe. A number of PAFF references are located in this area, e.g. PAFF-042 is bordering this park.


Operating position at PAFF-055
Seeing activity on the higher bands I set up an end fed wire for 15m. On that band I worked 26 stations in less than half an hour. Amongst them DX from VE3, UA9 and 4Z.
When 15m started to slow down I quickly changed the end fed for a 20m version. On that band things were busier and I worked 62 stations in 40 minutes. DX came in from the east only with JA7, UA9, UN and 4Z.

I did not have the time to go down to 40m, so there are less short distance contacts in the log.

A lot of familiar calls are in the log again. Alexander RV9UCN and Michael 4Z5AV came by on both bands. Nobuyasu JA7AYE set the maximum QRB to 9200km.

Thanks all for your calls.