Sunday, 25 May 2014

Visiting EA2BCJ

I met my friend Tomas EA2BCJ in our home town last Friday. I could not help but noticing the 3 microwave dishes on top of a 6-storey building as we approached his QTH. He explained that he runs 40m of coax from the top to his shack, most of the length is 1/2" section professional low loss type required for the UHF and SHF applications. 

His shack is a truly "man cave" with a lot of serious toys. He powered up his computer and Motorola FM 4m radio as he explained that a couple of days ago he had worked Albany on sporadic-E. He has been working that band and mode lately.

He looked at real time MUF on DXMAPs and said it was not likely to make it at the time ("the cloud is too far and the MUF is too low"). After setting up the alert on a telnet cluster and sked web, essential to work in the higher frequencies, as he explained, we called CQ without luck. I noticed the day after that his call had been picked up in Italy. He was running 20W on a homebrew resonant dipole up 3m in the tower on top of the building.

We went on to see all his /P contest antennas for 2m and various other bands and more toys and tools. Among other things, he gave me a short low loss RG-142 MIL spec jumper, which will be great for my QRP. 

During dinner, we had a good chat about all things HAM, with a good glass of his homebrew 1980s "old wine", typical of many towns and villages in Aragon, always a remmarcable experience. Among other things we discussed connectors (so far, I have soldered mine, but he favours the compression or crimped type), he also recommended the linear amplifiers from HA8UG. I told him about all my recent QRP experiences and projects (MTR v2, VK5JST antenna analyser kit and betterqrp baluns). He told me he has recently opened an online shop,

It was a lot of fun to meet Tomas again and I learnt quite a lot about some other aspects of the great amateur radio hobby!

Monday, 19 May 2014

/P hat trick weekend

With the good weather back, I managed to get out Fri, Sat and Sun to do some /P.

On Friday, I went up to the Burton Dassett Hills Country park after work. It was sunny and 22C.
I put up the 20.76m doublet as an inverted V up to 9m using a homebrew ladder line. The pole was held by the sotabeams guying kit.

Burton Dassett Hills Country park shack

M0HDF/P station
Station: HB1B, SWR/PWR meter, MFJ 901B, mini paddle, Gwhip 1:1 current balun, amplified speaker from Amazon.
The doublet worked pretty well on 40, 30 & 20m. I was not able to tune 20m with the Gwhip 1:1 current balun and I had to use the MFJ 901-b internal 4:1 voltage balun due to the high impedance.
The antenna worked pretty well on all bands, with stations calling back after my CQs. 

I enjoyed QRPs ragchew QSOs in 40 and 20m with DQ0E Norbert, F5LAW Wille, OK1FAO/QRP Jirka, SP3FJK -Marek, & HA9RP Osze. with pretty good reports.

On Saturday morning I picked up my new antenna analyser kit shipped from AU and a new Elecraft T1 ATU from the post office. In the afternoon, we went to the Barr Beacon to meet the guys from CRAC, who were doing a foundation license practise assessment.
I repeated with the same antenna. The EA & UN DX contests were going on and we worked a few EU stations on 20m, the conditions were not great. DXCCs worked: I, YL, EA7, EA5, DL, SP. I had a a few longer QSOs on 40m with DM2BRF Dietrich, F3ET Paul and G4LHI Peter.
In the early evening I worked a few more stations on the contest to test the T1 ATU with my delta loop at home. YT, OG, EF, 3Z, OK, OM and RA/UU9JK in the box.

 On Sunday, we went for our 5Km loop walk around the local Clent Hill and Walton Hill. Nice sunny weather, with a pleasant breeze. As we got to the top of Walton Hill, we met G4TCU Steve who was working the UK 2m backpackers contest. We had a brief chat to let him know we were going to be operating CW on 40m, and he commented on the 25Kg of his contest station (the majority of it being the power pack). It is an interesting comparison with our 2Kg CW SOTA /P station.

G4TCU at 144MHz backpackers contest @ Walton Hill top
Steve contacted me after the contest and shared his contest log map.

Walton Hill G/CE-002 shack
 I put up the multiband EFHW switched for 40m with the 7m sota pole and run the wire parallel to the fence as the place is a popular summit with a lot of hikers and did not want to have the wire all over the place.
It was a little bit windy at the top. With the Mountain tuner the shack was assembled in a few minutes.
We only activated the summit using Eva's call - M0HJV/P on 40m. We had limited time today as we had friends coming home for a BBQ.

Operating position

The hat and long sleeves were mandatory on Sunday as I got sun-burnt the previous day. I set the keyer to 20-21wpm. With the alert in place, the RBN picked up pretty well the call by sending SOTA in front of and after the auto CQ of the HB1B. It was a slow start, but it picked up after a while. We worked M0IML, ON6ZQ, F5UBH, G4SSH, G4FVK, PA4M, G4ELZ. After the S2S  I jumped to 7.032 and worked G0DDX/P & GM4COX.

DK2JK/P Heribert called on my frequency from DM/NW-185 at 12.04z - I gave him a 449. A few minutes later I called on his frequency (4Khz higher) an we exchange 599s, I guess the propagation must have changed or I did not zero beat him the first time around. After that  I called G4ASA/P Dave on G/TW-003, he responded to my "/P /P" very swiftly and we completed the exchange.

Many thanks to all the chasers. I was a lot of fun to work SOTA again on 40m.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Another kit in the pipeline

I got one of these in transit...VK5JST Antenna analyser

It took some research before making the final call, but I wanted something that would measure resistance and reactance. Pricewise is also very competitive and of course "the fun" of building it yourself.
The customer service of the team in Australia was top.

It might be a while before I start it as I want to build first the MTR. But it will prove a handy tool to tune my current antennas in the garden (20m & up multiband Delta loop) and 20m Doublet and others to come for /P.

I have cleaned up my desk in my front room ("home lab") and prep the ground for the build..

Saturday, 10 May 2014

MTR v2 tribander arrived today

I went to the post Office Depot to pick up my tribander this morning. Initial impressions are fb. Very good quality.
I read the instructions last night until late. I will begin the build in a few weeks. I am thinking I want some more practice with SMD soldering.

I have ordered today some new replacement tips for my soldering iron.

In the mean time, I worked some DX with the States with my G11 SDR QRP on 15m in the CQ-M international contest on cw today. It was the first time I loaded the new loop on this band. I also worked about 20 EU stations easily with my HB1B 4Watts on 20m. My cw copying is improving, not too much trouble to pick up the callsigns and exchanges.

Monday, 5 May 2014

International SOTA weekend activations

On Saturday 3May it was the International SOTA Weekend and QRPTTF (QRP To The Field) .
We drove towards Ludlow to activate G/WB-004 Titterstone Clee Hill and to try to work DX with the States.

We left the car at the car park in the quarry and walked up 5-10min to the summit (very accessible). It was partly sunny and about 16C, pleasant.
Station: HB1B 3-4W, Mountain Tuner, 20m EFHW and Multiband EFHW, Palm mini paddle, 10m fibre glass pole - the little one's backpack carrier proved very handy to hold the tuner and SWR meter.

We started on 20m at 14.00z with M0HDF and work 19 stations: DXCCs - SP, RG, LY, I, HA, F, DL, OM, S52, EA, LA, OK, DJ, SM, OH. The ARI contest was going on and was very noisy, I had to use the attenuator or wind down the IF filter, additionally there was a big buzz EMC pulse every few seconds - I guess coming from the radar system at the top of the hill.

Bill  W4ZV said that he heard me but I could not hear him despite him trying all the tricks on his K2. 15m was the band to use but my HB1B does not go that high. This is the propagation prediction he sent me the day before. Thanks Bill!!

We swapped antennas to the Multi EFHW and opened the switches for 30m - on Eva's M0HJV call we worked 8 stations in 10min: DL, F, DJ, PA and DL6AP/P.


G/WB-002 Brown Clee Hill
We arrived to the car park at 16.30z, luckily there was some people around and gave us directions to the summit. It took us about 35-40 min to the get to the top. It is a nice walk through the forest and we encountered a few very curious spring lamb on the way.
Approaching the summit..

View of Titterstone Clee Hill from Brown Clee Hill

Microwaves operators
As we reached to the top, I spotted some hams on microwaves. I walked to the top and introduce myself to Martin G3UKV, Mike G4NKC, Jim G8UGL, Kevin G8UPC. We had a nice chat about the usual things and they also asked me about the CW requirements and other aspects of the license in EA land.

I moved close to the summit trig point and assembled the shack. Bad news, we did not have Internet and as we had not planned to activate this summit there was not an alert either. In the end as it was late, we resorted to work a few stations in the contest.

When we got back to Birmingham we visited one of our favourite local take-aways, chicken and fries, it was late and we were tired and hungry after a long day.

Sunday 4th May - G/CE-003 Bredon Hill
Glorious weather, about 17C, sunny and slightly breeze. It was a short drive from home, and once there, it took us about 35min to the get to the top from the car park on the South side of the hill. There was plenty of space to operate.


 Antenna was a 20m End Fed Half Wire (EFHW) on a 10m pole slightly sloping to the west. 


We operated on 20m. I swept the band and heard a few US stations in a contest but I could not worked them. At 13:48z I started with M0HDF and worked G, SP, OE, DL, CT and RV.
After a short break for a snack we swapped to M0HJV and the conditions seemed to have improved. We worked a few more stations: SM, EA, G, DF, SP, OK, including a couple of S2S with Martin DF3MC/P at DL/MF-080 and Juan Carlos EA1AER/P - who first called on my freq and afterwards we called him on his freq and had a little chat. It was also nice to hear Peter G4ISJ who a few weeks earlier had shared with me details of his EFHW antenna design.

More sheep!!

View from the summit

There were some great views from the tower at the top. We took some family photos and walked around for a short while before we returned the car. We enjoyed very much our visit to the Bredon Hill - a must return!

Thank you to all the Chasers.