Top Band Gold Mine? CQ WW CW This Weekend!

This weekend is the CQ WW CW Contest, and its lining up to be a potentially great weekend for me and my 160M DXCC pursuit. Here are the entities that I need that will be on the air and that are (usually) easy (when conditions allow):

  • Nicaragua
  • Turks and Caicos
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • Antigua and Barbuda (I have this but my call was busted in the ARRL DX SSB Contest – and while its probably a good counter, I will go for a non busted QSO
  • St. Lucia
  • Trinidad and Tobago

Here are the one’s a little bit trickier, but I have worked others in this part of the world on 160M:

  • J5T – Guinea Bissau
  • Canary Island
  • Cape Verde
  • Azores
  • Madeira
  • Senegal

So – there are quite a few more than the 9 that I need to get to 100, and the best part is that they will be active before and maybe after the contest.

It would be great to “sail into” 9BDXCC!

Top Band: The Race to 100!

I’m not sure what it is – when I was 9 away from Honor Roll, I was kind of “annoyed”. I guess making over 300 ATNO’s made me feel I already was a “serious DXer”. Its kind of like that last semester at college – where you already have a job lined up and know where you are going and what you will be doing – it looms so much larger than being at school – finishing the last semester is a pain in the ass.

Top Band is not a band you can rush through. You can “sprint” to Honor Roll in 11 years easily – I did it with a very modest station and not so great QTH. Top Band has a way of forcing you to have patience – its almost impossible to know when you will have favorable conditions, and there are no prediction engines that even let you guess. I have had days where its is dirt simple to work a new one followed by months with nothing.

I’m surprised at how excited I am to only have 9 more to go before I get to 9BDXCC and DXCC on Top Band. I am actually enjoying this more than I did working the last 9 toward Honor Roll. I’m guessing because its a real achievement – and also that I have the patience to savor it instead of being in a rush.

I am not at all regretful that I rushed to get to Honor Roll. I’m very glad I don’t need BS7, P5, EZ and at least a handful of others – those could turn out to be once in a lifetime achievements.

TO2SP: Top Band #91

I was pretty confident I’d get this one – mainly because these guys are great operators and they would be there until the end of the month. In fact, they already seem to be getting bored. now I also see many West Coast getting through.

The signal was Q5, but not as loud as I would have expected. Conditions have been really weird on Top Band lately – last month I snagged two very easy one’s in succession and they were loud – now its a struggle even to work the stuff that should be easy. But I even hear J5T, but not with that “confidence” that makes you jump in the pileup.

The best thing is to hear your call come back very clearly – quite often you don’t get that on 160M – at least not with the really distant ones. Of course, now that I have worked him – his signal will come up and it will be so easy it will be a joke. In fact, his signal is now rising to the point where I can hear him through the noise on the TX antenna.


3Y0Z Backyard Field Day

My 20M home brewed yagi that I designed using YW. My feed is a solenoid (hairpin coil) plus 1:1 Balun Designs current choke.

20M is on it’s final legs as far as this solar cycle is concerned.

I’m on my final legs as far as DXCC goes, and I’m quite sure that in a year from now I will only have ONE more QSO to go. (Don’t get me wrong – I will continue chasing DX on Top Band until I go permanently horizontal, its just the “work” aspect of DXCC that I’m burned out on).

I’ll just leave the antenna in this position until just after New Year’s day, since the only thing I need on 20M is Bouvet for a new one. I fully tested this antenna when it was over the shack, now it’s mostly over ground and a deck and away from the roof of the house.

If 3Y0Z’s propagation charts can be trusted, or even if they are “close”, I will be only one away from Top of Honor Roll by February.

Top Band has been weird. I worked #89 and 90 in rapid succession last month, then the tap ran dry.

Luckily, there are more than 10 entities that I need that at some time this year and next, will be activated and it will again be easy.

Once I make DXCC on 160M and 9BDXCC, I’ll sell the SPE amp and go back to the Elecraft KPA500 and KAT500. This is because I am sure I won’t work Glorioso with my own station.

I’ve been a ham since 1973, when I was 13 years old, and with an absence from 1977 to 2001, I have only less than 5000 QSOs in my log.

I have always been a shortwave listener more than anything, but will have earned DXCC Top of Honor Roll and 9BDXCC with barely 5000 QSOs when all is said and done.

Offa Rex

This is an amazing and “hauntingly beautifully” album.

We had a fantastic bike ride today – 35 miles, which is just enough for me to be considered “serious”. All along the ride I was hearing this album – with several songs taking their place in my mind as I looked at stunning fall colors of yellow, gold, red, orange, crimson, rust and anything else possible.

Last week I wrote about Widdecombe in the Moor – and that was triggered by hearing “The Old Church Yard” by Offa Rex.

The ride goes from Orinda through Lafayette and to The Forge in Danville – where we had one of the best thin crust pizzas and an amazing hoppy beer by Fieldworks of Berkeley.

The air was quite “snappy”, but the sun and fall light was just gorgeous.

Oh – and before we left I got the 20M yagi positioned and ready to go up in its new place. Tomorrow is antenna day this weekend!

A Tree and a Wire

This is one of my favorite ham radio memories.

Jack, K6JEB, one of the nicest and fun hams I know, combined with another best friend, Peter, W6DEI and other Diablo DXers have helped me launch wires in trees. This is the Blue Spruce Tree that I just moved my 160M Inverted L top wire to, and the tree is more than 60′ tall, and its base is 10′ higher than the Inverted L’s 41′ mast, but to keep the wire from touching the tree – you have to go out from the boughs, which means you can’t go all the way to the top.

That launch is what got me to Honor Roll on New Years Eve 2013, and that launch was just after Thanksgiving. That launch was for a 40M dipole that ended up being 60′ at the low end, and 70′ at the high end, and which worked Monk Apollo, SV2ASP/A for the win!

So – now that I am again closing in on another big DXCC goal (9BDXCC and DXCC on 160M), I wax reminiscently about a tree and a wire!

This Weekend is 20M Weekend

I have a really nice home brewed 2 element 20M yagi that is only up barely 30′ and which hangs over my garage roof. When I put it up, it confirmed something that Tom, N6BT mentions in his excellent book, “Array of Light”, and that is that an antenna over a roof will be affected by anything in the house that is metal, and even the house itself – that the antenna see’s the house almost like it sees ground.

I know this is true for two reasons:

  1. Until I got the antenna “enough” higher than the roof, the SWR was dramatically off, as was the resonant frequency. Above a certain point, the antenna behaved as modeled and designed
  2. The antenna turns on my garage opener

Now that I moved the horizontal wire of my 160M Inverted L, I can move the 20M yagi back to where I had the N6BT DXU-32, and get it up almost 50′. It will not be over the roof and will be over ground. I will get rid of that annoying RFI with the garage door opener.

Here is a secret that you won’t hear from an antenna manufacturer, but if you design and build your own antennas, you will experience. When you multi band a yagi, you typically drop the gain of each band by 1 dB. This means a 2 element yagi that is 4 dB drops to 3 dB (maybe a little less) when you add a second band, say 15M. Of course, you get 3 dB on two bands, but staggering elements is fine – but does cause interaction – mostly beneficial, but you pay a price. I also think Moxon’s are great antenna’s , but they are much harder to build where they retain the shape they need to have to be effective – at least at 20M. On the higher bands is gets easier to fabricate so they maintain their shape. My point is that a 2 element yagi is a really great antenna, and its where you pick up the most gain over a dipole – and is a fairly compact antenna that does not require a big tower.

Its predicted to be a sunny weekend, so I’ll have moved the 160 and 20M antennas right between two rain storms.

Not bad for a late Fall weekend!