The Best Two Antennas I Have Ever Had

For all low bands, 160-30M, my own designed “Modified Bobtail” is a very clear winner. I’ve blogged extensively about this antenna, and the best antenna tuner for this antenna – and my favorite antenna tuner of all time is the Palstar BT1500A. Every feature, knob and button is useful and perfect for the Mod Bob.

The best yagi antenna I have ever had was the N6BT DXU-32. It is also a real masterpiece, with 2 elements on 40 and 3 on 20M, you can easily make DXCC Honor Roll in 10 years or less with this bad boy.

If I had this antenna when I started my DXCC chase, I would have made Top of Honor Roll in 15 years and VK0EK, Heard Island would have been my last one. Bouvet – 3Y0E and Glorioso – FT5GA were activated and I missed both. The reason? My antenna. I don’t have the best QTH for antennas, but I did hear 3Y0E but never heard FT5GA with my antennas – which was a single vertical for the low bands and  20M moxon only up 30′.

Which leads me to tower – even with the N6BT DXU-32 only up 50′ on the amazing military mast system AB-577, I worked anything and was first in many pileups (with my ACOM 1500 amp – which I still love even though I replaced it with the equally fantastic SPE Expert 1.3K FA).





ZS3D and ZS6CCY on Mod Bob – 40M

Dani, ZS3D and ZS6CCY were 59 on the Mod Bob tuned for 40M, so I have just confirmed that its as good or better than the broadside direction on the DX Engineering DV-40-P. I broke through small pileups and was first in in both cases.

What was especially cool was that this was during a major solar storm – with a radio blackout in progress. I am very confident that taking down the 40M array won’t affect me working 3Y0Z at all. SO – in the next couple weeks, my latest antenna “escapade” will be done.

Mod-Bob vs. DX Engineering DV-40-P

My DX Engineering DV-40-P 40M phased array just gave up the ghost (SWR went high and there is no directionality), and while its most likely a gopher who has chewed on a wire, the two elements are really too close to the Mod Bob. It is possible (but much less likely) that transmitting on the Mod-Bob has fried a component in the DV-40-P. 

Since one of the two 40M elements is less than 10′ away from the Mod Bob its in the near field of the Mod Bob which means it no doubt distorts the patterns of both antennas, which makes both less effective than what the models say.

The broadsided direction of the Mod Bob right now is E-W, pretty much 90 and 270 degrees.

That’s great for ZS, but the broadsided direction for Bouvet is 130 degree-ish, and the 40M broadsided direction is perfectly aligned for Bouvet.

The plots in the DX Engineering DV-40-P manual show that both the broadsided pattern is not as good as the Mod-Bob on 40M, and that its also 1 dB less gain wise. What is really interesting is that the Mod-Bob is only 1 dB down from the DV-40-P’s end fire direction (Mod-Bob in broadside):

In fact, if I move two of the Mod Bob’s elements – which means they replace the 40M vertical elements, I pick up 1 dB and get a better pattern and direction for Bouvet.

The Mod-Bob has become the only antenna that I use much any more, and its very easy to maintain. My only DX hope these days is working the last 13 on 160M and Bouvet, and since 40 and 30M could be the “godsends” for the West Coast, the Mod Bob has become even more important than my 40M array – which I have really loved.

I am quite confident that I will work them on at least two of the low bands, and also on 20M with my 2 element 20M home brewed yagi.

I think I know what I’ll be doing one of these weekends soon. I have to take down the 40M array and move two Mod Bob elements. Doing this will knock out my great ZS LP path, but Bouvet is the only game in town for me now. On 160M the Mod Bob pattern is omni directional, and on 80M there is the same pattern as the DV-40-P, so the little that I give up taking down the 40M array means I gain so much more with moving the two Mod Bob elements.

Dilemma solved.

Field Strength Meter

I’m going to use this new old stock Simpson panel meter for a field strength meter. I’m thinking of making it Arduino or Raspberry Pi based so it can be made wireless – have the sensing circuit out in the yard and it sends data and have the meter in the shack. Kind of a weird digital – analog mash up.

There are many circuits out there that are either analog or digital, so this could be a lot of fun.

The “Bouvet Bounce?”

A few months back, revised their prediction to show a “plateau” or “knee” in their Cycle 24 prediction, and the NOAA site just kept their previous prediction which shows how under performing this cycle has been.

Of course, this is like a Festivus Miracle, that right when you need the cycle to hold on just a little bit longer, it does.

If you look carefully at 2004 – 2006, you will see that there was this “last gasp” of upward activity before we hit bottom, so it is not that abnormal. The irony is that these DX-pedition planners just happened to hit the peak of Cycle 24 while on FT5ZM, and will probably get the best of this down part of the cycle for 3Y0Z.

This chrt doesn’t even have the big jump we have seen the past few days – where the SSN almost hit 100, which is quite amazing – but look what happened late 2005 – and then right at the turn of the year into 2006 – where conditions also swung really low.

Lets hope these big swings bring one last great big uptick when 3Y0Z is on the air.

There is still that QRZ.COM page for 3Y0I, but I remember the strange 3Y0G non event, so I still put my biggest hope on 3Y0Z.

After Bouvet, I will only need Glorioso to have them all. If they add Kosovo to the list (and I expect they will at some point), that will be a chip shot, so while I’d welcome a new entity, its no big deal as far as ATNO’s go.

I’ve gotten to the point where I believe Glorioso won’t be activated for quite some time – so I have to keep busy with other things – else I’d grow cob webs in my shack like I did during the last cycle bottom.

I’m betting on irony – that Glorioso will be activated at the bottom of Cycle 24 and that I will work my last QSO DXCC wise using a friends super contest station – in fact – I might do that and bring a bottle of champagne just because it would deserve that moment.

I do expect that I will work the last 13 on 160 before I work Glorioso, that seems to be the way its headed.

I’ll guess a year when I’m done with DXCC – 2020 – or 19 years after becoming a DX-er, and just a few years before I retire.


Autumn Equinox Conditions Predict Good 3Y0Z Conditions

About an hour before this screen shot was taken (2300z – ish) I was listening to local California hams on 40M SSB when all of a sudden the band went long – and it was like someone pulled a switch. Now – SO1WS is coming in S7. It was very cool indeed.

This is exactly how the autumnal equinox conditions start, and on cue – we are there. I’m going to bet that the morning LP to ZS will improve, but that night time short path to Africa will start improving. [UPDATE: ZS stations on the Long Path this morning – 9-4-2017 were quite good – not as good as usual, but the path is opening again]

I worked ZS8M in September, 2010, and here is what the solar cycle progression looks like between then and now:

I worked Pierre at 0409z on September 16th, 2010, and we were just barely coming out of a horrible several year bottom of cycle 23. I say horrible because I wasn’t a serious low bander – besides 40M, in fact, I had just missed 2 years that some say were the best on 160M. In 2010 I was still 3 years away from Honor Roll – so the higher bands had priority at KY6R.

What is most encouraging is that conditions (that haven’t felt all that great for some time now) are actually about what they were when I had my QSO with ZS8M. He had a very compromised antenna and 100 watts, and so – 3Y0Z in comparison will be at the other end of the spectrum.

So – this is pretty good news – and fingers crossed that we stay in the “bump” predicted by NOAA and others.

The “Mysterious” 30 Meters

This is my favorite book on radio propagation. Ian covers all bands and the theory is described in a way that is very easy to understand – and this is a fairly abstract and complex topic. ALL DX-ers need this book!

This is THE classic book on Lowband DX-ing. Get your copy because the ARRL is not going to come out with another version – this was John’s last edition. At least that’s what I was told by the ARRL. Its gets very technical, but it stands as one of the top books in my library – the learning experience has been outstanding.

What is very interesting is that the ON4UN book only covers 160 – 40M. This means that its pretty “hard core” low band. I know the feeling – if you are really worth your salt, you will work half way around the world on 160M. I worked FT5ZM and VK0EK on Top Band, and both are more than 11,000 miles away. There is only ONE entity that is farther away, and that’s FT/W – Crozet, and I do not expect to ever get a chance to work Crozet on 160M in my life time. As I understand it – Crozet will never see a mega DX-pedition, but will occasionally see an odd scientist visiting.

The joke amongst low banders is that 40M isn’t a low band – its more like 20M . . . (but I disagree and also feel that 30M is more of a low band than a high band) . . .

What really is interesting is how little information you can find on 30M. During the middle of winter during the years just before the last sunspot minimum, 30M was just awesome. Its “sweet spot” seemed to be in and around the TO4E – Europa DX-pedition in 2003:

I’ve drawn a box around the years where I remember 30M being awesome and a lot like 40M in the early morning in the Fall and Winter in the years 2003 – 2005. I remember that like 20M, 30M died and was closed at solar minimum. So it seems that that is why some say that 30M behaves like 20M some years.

I looked at my log and Clublog and cannot find a definitive pattern at all regarding 30M. I was thinking that 30M was best at the same time as 40M, and in a way it is – which is to say that 40M is by far the “best” DX-ing band if you want to work the world during all years of the sunspot cycle. I think 30M is not quite as good – because I do remember during the last bottom of the cycle that even 30M as dead when 40M offered some life.

I’ve always avoided 80M, but I need to start paying more attention. I earned DXCC on it and then stayed away.

I have been told about 2 years at the bottom of the last cycle when “160M was like 20M” – and boy am I ready for that.

This is why the most exciting times for me are at the bottom of this cycle – not in these “doldrums” where the numbers can be good or bad – but the disturbances have ruined things more than not.

However – I do notice that the aurora chasers have been very happy for what seems like years now.