My Most Recent QSO's

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My 115th DX Country - Australia

I worked my 115 th DX Country on March 4 th, 2017
My "straight line distance" to Australia is 10,0007 miles.

That's 2,000 MPW with 5 watts of power. 

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I've been hearing VK3CWB in Mildura Australia for several evenings on the 30 meter band; and always at around 22:30 GMT. I rarely hear stations at this distance, and when I do, they're usually far too weak to work. Besides, the solar cycle is near the bottom of the current eleven year lull right now.

I've been a licensed HAM for more than 25 years and I had all but given up on ever putting this country in the log book. My operating locations, in all these years, have been, at the very best, marginal, with indoor stealth antennas. I use five watts of power (QRP) and a 50 ft. piece of Radio Shack speaker wire (indoors) for an antenna. This simple station does have it's limits, or so I thought....

Although I hold both DXCC and WAS awards from the NAQCC Club, previously I've made only three, of what I call "deer in the headlights contacts". I'm very happy to say this new contact makes number four.

Moz -VK3CWB - has an interesting philosophy about working QRP  stations. 

"Its not the QRP which is important, it's the enthusiasm, endeavor, application and belief that things can be done simply which I really admire. And of course, if you run QRP there must be a persistence and a "never say die' attitude which is also most admirable".

This was a pre-arranged contact, the result of an e-mail which I sent him the previous day.

I heard him calling me the moment I tuned to the pre-arranged 30 meter frequency at the appointed time. He heard me the moment I tuned up the QRP rig. He returned my call on the first attempt. We had a short conversation about his 30 meter two element "Moxon" antenna. I expressed my gratitude for his patience and willingness to make a successful contact at this distance.

This was not a "599 and TU 72's QSO" --  Our conversation was a "solid "559(both ways) 

I was thrilled to make such a nice contact but afterwards (e-mail) Moz explained to me that he was using the "long path". I've heard the term, but being a "simple wire antenna person", I didn't fully comprehend it's significance. Australians (and I might add, most of the rest of the world) use kilometers for their measurements. The truly remarkable thing about this contact was that he was pointing his "beam" the direct "opposite" (towards the west) in the direction of West Virginia.

Most operators would have taken the "shortest path".

His straight line distance (long path) was 24,000 kilometers, and if I understand correctly, he must have bounced his radio waves across the Indian Ocean, Saudi Arabia, France, and the North Atlantic before it reached me in West Virginia.

As I noted earlier, the contact with VK3CWB is what I consider my "fourth" eye awakening QRP contact.

My first was several years ago when I worked A45XR in Oman at 7,429 miles. He was using a double element "delta loop" for an antenna. I worked him on both 17 and 30 meters in 2013; and was my most distant contact until now.

My other two "deer in the headlight" stations are ZD8X on Ascension Island. The operator on this "very large pile up" took the time to send me a computer "print out" of his log book. He noted my call sign and drew me a congratulatory "seal of approval".

The other station was R0FA on Sakhalin Island. This operator actually stopped the "pile up" when I spotted him on a DX Cluster. It's amazing the effect "QRP at 3 Watts" can have in the "comments" section. Hi Hi  -  He made a special effort to congratulate me (on the air) and a moment of silence.

In a category "all it's own" was a "portable packet contact" with the Russian Space Station R0MIR. I dropped a letter in it's "mailbox" while sitting in a cow pasture near Charleston WV. I was using a handi-talkie (VHF) with a Hewlett Packard "palm top computer".  At sunset, I visually followed it across the sky with a small 3 element beam.

I have new hopes of working a New Zealand station now, or possibly the Russian Arctic station at the South Pole. I've heard them both but they're much too weak for me to work...  well maybe ?

I continue to be amazed at the kindness and courtesy that some DX operators extend to those of us in the QRP community. Working with 5 watts and simple wire antennas isn't easy. It's challenging but very rewarding. I love it !

Friday, March 3, 2017

My 114th DX Station

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I worked this station on 20 meters this afternoon. Just when I think I've worked all the DX I can, another one surprises me. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The ARRL DX Contest - DX Country # 113

I worked my 113th DX country with a contact to V26M in Antigua and Barbuda during the ARRL DX Contest a few days ago. I worked ten DX stations within the first hour.

Although I was running my usual 5 watts into my indoor random wire, one of our NAQCC club members (read the next newsletter) worked Australia on 40 meters with about 1/2 watt of power. I felt lucky to make a dozen QRP DX contact in "contest conditions". Working Australia with less than a watt (1/2 a watt) under "contest conditions" is an astounding accomplishment!

Monday, February 13, 2017

My 31st DX Contact in Slovenia

I worked Slovenia for the 31st time this evening. I've worked the specific station S57V four different times. The bands are in terrible shape. 

The Solar Flux Index is 75. The A Index is 4. The K Index is 2.

The last dozen DX stations I've worked have been in the Caribbean.  (with the exception of one in the Netherlands).

Slovenia is due East at 4,679 miles in a straight line. I love the surprise of something unexpected appearing in the log book. I've always said radio is a lot like fishing. You never know what you're going to catch until you throw the line in the water.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Rainy Day at the Lodge

It's been way too long since I've been "officially" on the air for a special event. Yesterday I spent a rainy day in an old lodge in the Kanawha State Forest. The lodge is about a 40 minute drive from home. I've hiked in this forest for many years. I'm still a member of the local hiking group. Membership in the hiking club gives me access to the lodge. 

I had planned this outing to avoid a rainy Tuesday the day before. The weather forecast this day was supposed to be cool (50 degrees Fahrenheit) but dry. It didn't turn out that way... I got wet setting up the antenna but was able to move inside the lodge to operate. 

Sending out an advanced notice to the NAQCC group is a sure way to work a lot of club stations. Of the 15 stations I worked yesterday, 13 were club members. 

I've made changes to my operating mode in the last few months. I purchased a YouKit HB1B because it's so very small, it has a great receiver, and a good variable filter. For those of us with bad backs, it's a great portable radio. 

I can now carry everything I need to operate in the woods in a day pack. I've changed my tuner to a smaller model and use a small external speaker which I bought from China. I'm using a set of "palm paddles" for my key.

I bought the paddles from a NAQCC member using our monthly "swap and shop" list. (hint) Lifetime membership in the NAQCC Club is free so why haven't you joined yet?

My first contact yesterday was with NAQCC West Virginia member Steve Ashcraft KC4URI. He had a 599 signal into WV. The Reverse Beacon Network showed that I was heard by stations in Arizona and California.

My actual contacts were pretty much up and down the east coast from New Hampshire to Florida.I worked two stations in Texas and Kansas. Both had good signals into West Virginia. I'm amazed at how well a radio signal can jump into the sky from this location.

This weekend the forecast is a good one for WV with temperature predicted to be near 70 degrees on Saturday. (21 degrees C). I assume this is a fluke and we still have some very cold weather coming again in February.

I hope to get a fire going and bring some music on my next trip to the lodge. Access is only by a small footbridge, over a creek, which is slippery when wet. (be forewarned)

Monday, January 9, 2017

The European CW Association

                                                            I'm member # 3315.

I love a well designed card and the subject matter couldn't be better. I've considered Morse Code to be a form of music for many years. I received this membership card from the European CW Association this afternoon.

Samuel Morse is buried in Brooklyn New York. A statues honoring him is located in Central Park in downtown New York City. I've visited it several times.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Day at the Hospital

A "cut and paste" from an e-mail sent to a few of my best friends:  

This morning in the pouring rain, I headed to the doctor early in the morning to get the 13 staples in my lower back removed from my surgery two weeks ago. I drive a very old Hyundai and the drivers side window jumped out of the track. I barely could get it closed to keep out the rain. I arrived at the doctors office but he wasn't in the building today. (he took a long weekend). The nurse was afraid to remove the staples because she wasn't authorized to do so; and if the wound in my back should "open" back up, they wouldn't be able to close it again. 

I had to drive about 60 miles to the hospital, in the pouring rain, with the drivers side window still ajar. Traffic on the Interstate was terrible with big trucks speeding by and bad weather conditions. I decided to take the rural back-roads to the hospital. It was a good thing I did so because there was a terrible wreck on the Interstate. Traffic was backed up for 20 miles. 

As I drove about 40 miles into a small town, I stopped for a "red light" and my old 5 speed transmission would not go back into gear. It's still pouring the rain. I have the 4 way flashers blinking as the clutch pedal finally goes clear to the floor. I have a mechanical background and finally get the old car into first gear by matching the RPM's to the clutch gear and slowly ease my way off the road into the Veterans of Foreign Wars parking lot where I simply mash the break pedal to park the dang thing. It's till pouring the rain. 

The VFW isn't open. 

I walk to a "shoe store" in the immediate neighborhood. I get my "AAA card" out and call them with my "go phone". The battery is only about half charged in the go phone. There was a major "computer crash" all along the East Coast this morning due to some "hacker organization" having a little bit of fun with all of us. I barely get the basic information to AAA because the service person (help desk) had to write it all down on paper.....

I get a call into my wife who needs to drive 40 miles to rescue me. The cell phone battery is down to it's last few electrons before it gives up the ghost. I wait, and wait, and wait. I gave AAA the "shoe store phone number" fortunately, The tow truck driver finally calls (30 minutes later). He only has to drive 30 miles to reach me. It will take him another hour to reach this little town. He says he heard about a bad wreck on the Interstate. It may take longer.... 

My original appointment at the hospital was at 1:30 pm. It's noon now. It's still raining. 

My wife calls the shoe store too. She is in the worst traffic jam she's ever seen, even in New York. I give her directions to the rural back road to get to me and the car. 

At 1 pm she arrives, I leave the keys to the car under the floor mat. There is an auto shop about 3 miles from me. No one can drive the dang thing anyway, and there's nothing in it worth stealing. (the salvage value of this thing is about $400 ) . As we approach the hospital, the tow truck driver makes a courtesy call to my wife's cell phone and says he's just loaded a small gray colored old Dodge on his truck, at a Baptist church in the town, and will get it to the garage for me at no charge. (AAA is a good deal if you drive an old car). I remind him I'm driving a green colored Hyundai with "radio stickers" and a Veterans license tag on the trunk. Well... that's not good he says, I'm glad I called, and oh yes, I see it on the VFW lot now. 

We get to the hospital almost at the appointed time. I rush in while my wife is parking the car. I see a nurse in just a few minutes. She removes the 13 staples quicker than a jack rabbit can jump. I get a flu shot while I'm there and we walk across the parking lot (it's still raining) to the car and look forward to the long drive home on the back roads again.  

Can things get any more stressful ? 

Almost as soon as we drive off the hospital parking lot, the "low tire pressure" light comes on. There's been a very slow leak on the right front drivers side tire for months now. It's a mystery because NO ONE can find the leak.  

This will be a piece of cake after all the stress today. (it's still raining cats and dogs) - I keep a little battery powered "air compressor " in the trunk of the car at all times. I pull off the road, air up the tire (it was down to about 20 lbs). Despite being wet, cold, and frustrated, this should be the last of it! I'm really looking forward to the "tire light" on the dashboard going off. (it normally takes a few revolutions ) I drive about the length of a football field and the light is still blaring into my eyes.  

I pull into a little elementary school parking lot a couple of miles down the road and angrily yank the air compress out of the trunk again. I "air up" all the tires this time.

Small school kids can be unbelievably cruel. School bus drivers also have very loud horns. It's a good thing all the kids were out of "ear shot" as they got on the bus. Everything you've ever heard about "cursing sailors" is true. My previous years of Navy military service came out of me whether I wanted it to or not. I asked God for forgiveness. My wife says maybe after dinner, you owe me one.  

The rain finally stopped....  

We're home now, and after buying dinner for the wife tonight, it's 9:40 pm. 

My old Hyundai Accent will be repaired about mid-week. The mechanic will pull the entire engine out of my old car to replace the clutch. (I'm glad I gave up that trade many years ago)  

I'm glad the staples in my back are finally out. I plan to get back into shape soon. It's going to feel good back in the YMCA swimming pool and working out in the gym again. 

Sincerely Yours, 

John N8ZYA