Beautiful November

I used to think October was my favorite month, but I realize that here in Northern California, most of October feels like the final winding down of summer.

Wow, the colors this year are even better than last, but they are much shorter. They started much later and seem to be  in a hurry to drop off the trees. It’s a lot like an Ice Wine, where the last grapes or dry farmed tomatoes are picked, where they might not even seem as large or bright colored as previous fruits, but which have a rich, almost hearty rustic taste.

Our Ginko tree is just starting to burst into its bright yellow – gold color, and back in December 2012, just months before I made Honor Roll, (where the last of the gingko trees leaves were on my roof) did a video of the Diablo DXers and I launching a 40M dipole up 70′ into my trees (actually my neighbors trees without them finding out!).

That antenna garnered me my last ATNO towards DXCC Honor Roll – with Monk Apollo, SV2ASP/A.

Funny how the yellow gingko leaves make the perfect segue to my next blog post!

CW: Always the King for DXing

This morning I called VK9MT on FT8, and he was -15 dB at best, -18 dB at worst, but I decoded him. He kept calling CQ even though there were a ton of people responding. I made one mistake  (forgot to click on even / first) but someone on the ON4KST Chat helped get me straight fast.

On Top Band I still don’t think VK9MT is hearing all that well – many call him – and his rate is very slow – maybe 1 QSO a minute. I also noticed that with QSB, the QSO’s on FT8 dragged on.

SO my initital exuberance for FT8 as a DXpedition mode is now “not so much”. This is because a good DXpeditioner on CW – and with a decent RX antenna with reasonable noise level can crank out QSO’s much faster.

My entire career has been keeping up on all of the latest in Hardware and software technologies, but there is this truly wonderful feeling I’m having about CW aka Morse Code. It’s a truly digital mode that is so short in it’s exchange, it’s amazing how useful it is after all these years.

Telegraph during Victorian times was the first technical social network, and it is certainly relevant in ham radio today.

Viva el CW!

ARRL International Grid Chase 2018

Wow – this going to be incredibly fun. I might do this using just 100 watts and FT8. In fact, I’ll bet FT8 steals the show on this one. The ARRL is genius in recent years regarding operating activities. The Triple Play, then NPOTA. I’ve struggled to not partake because I’m trying to wrap up DXCC.

But FT8 and this new Grid Square 2018 operating activity, especially using my KX3-Line might be too much not to get hooked. It will also be a lot more casual than DXCC.

Its like the CQ Field Award, but the ARRL is advertising it as a follow up to the highly successful NPOTA.

I think its pretty brilliant and will be a huge success.

Top Band Whack a Mole

The elusive Top Band QSO Mole . . . 

I’ve been up early hoping to work VK9MA, and I have heard them each morning – the first morning quite well after sunrise, but I had an issue with my matching circuit. The next day I fixed that after work.

Right now I’m hoping their signal will come up some so I can have a clear QSO – the worst is to think you made a QSO but aren’t sure. If they do stay on the island as planned, I will have 6 or 7 more mornings to try to work them – so I’m not panicking, yet. This is still way better than VK9MT – who were chased off the island. I hope this team gets to stay for the duration.

We have rain static this morning (S9+ noise on my TX antenna, but RX antenna seems OK), but I still hear them. I can clearly hear “Up 3”, but if he came back to me I’d be lucky to hear my call. We are half way through grey line as I write this, and I can only hope that we get what we had a few days ago – where he was the strongest up to 1/2 hour after sunrise.

DXCC on 160M is a real accomplishment from the West Coast, but more importantly, from my QTH surrounded by hills. I do need to work every Top Band activation between now and KH1 to make DXCC and 9BDXCC.

Until then, I feel like I am playing Top Band Whack a Mole, and I’m wondering how the hell I even made it to 90 – hi hi

3Y0Z and Inverted L as an All Band Antenna

With the High Pass Tee tuner at the base, I can easily switch the tuning of the Inverted Vee to work on all bands. This is great because it gives me bands that I wasn’t bothering with with 3Y0Z. I have concentrated on 160 – 20M, and want ONE QSO with 3Y0Z. Once I’m in the log, I’m done. The 3Y0Z web site has nice propagation predictions, and while they hve to be taken with a grain of salt, its important to think in terms of probabilities. https://www.bouvetdx.org/propagation/

The site shows 80, 40, 30, 20 open with 20M the best and 40M second best. I have two elements on each of these bands. I had been thinking anything above 20M would be a waste of time, given that we are almost at the bottom of the cycle, but the site says that 17 and 15 might have very short openings, but decent propagation.

The West Coast had a big advantage on Top Band for FT5ZM and VK0EK, but this time around, the West Coast will have very nice openings on 160M because we will both be in the grey line at the same time – but competition from the East Coast and EU will be fierce – much more than with the aforementioned.

The Inverted L wont be great above 30M, and because 20 and 40M will be the “money bands”, I can see me getting one QSO on 20M nd an insurance QSO on 40M.

The low bands will have a great grey line during our evening. Once EU and the East Coast gets theirs, we should be in great shape.

On 20M and above, the high bands will be dark when the US has daylight and at the end of daylight on Bouvet. Since the high bands go quiet just after sunset in the Northern Hemisphere and stays open longer in the southern hemisphere during their summer, we will have good conditions and probability to work them.

 

 

High Pass “Tee” Network

The new KY6R Inverted L matching unit at the base of the antenna. It is the Palstar AT5K High Pass “Tee” circuit, and being at the base – while the extra capacitor might introduce some loss, having the unit at the base of the antenna most likely makes up for that.

Larry Benko, W0QE, in his FB antenna coupler slide deck:

http://www.w0qe.com/Papers/Antenna_Tuners.pdf

On page 39 tells the story, and I think answers my question that I posed yesterday. I think at high power, the stresses on my previous two component circuit were just too much. I tested on RBN, and the antenna was radiating and seemed to do well, but if the antenna coupler can’t handle a 160M pileup – you are forced to address this immediately.

Having the three components seems to alleviate the overloading of the components at high power. I will say it has to do with range and stresses imposed on the components – where either the voltage or current was too much for the single L and single C. I saw no signs of arcing – but its hard to examine the capacitor in the weatherproof enclosure, so I will guess that this circuit caused too much stress on the capacitor and the current choke took the brunt of that:

If you have a more technical or better answer – please let me know.

Palstar AT5K Equivalent at the Base of my Inverted L

I have all of the Palstar components now in this T configuration at the base of my Inverted L, and it did have the characteristic of a T tuner, which is the three controls reach a sharp V as far as where the SWR goes low.

This was my previous circuit, and it caused core saturation in my 5KW Balun Designs 1:1 Current Choke. When I first tested this – it was short enough of a test where the cores did not saturate. I have no idea if the new AT5K equivalent circuit will withstand transmitting for lengths of time in a pileup without saturating the core again.

If anyone out there knows why this circuit would stress a three core 5KW 1:1 current choke, please let me know. I can only guess it’s high voltage or high current.

I do know that it was “too good to be true” that the antenna had decent SWR in the CW portion of 160M and SSB portion of 75M. I have never seen that and the Palstar BT1500A showed that 160 and 80 require very different tuning.

The tuner at the base now behaves this way. You tune for 160M, and have to retune for 80M.

I will find out tomorrow morning when VK9MA is on 160M again and I’m battling in the pileups – unless I get a surprise and something is on that I need. Fingers crossed!