The VK0EK to 3Y0Z “Transition” . . .

When I was in the main drive of my DXCC Chase, I actually marked time by the ATNO – callsign. Pretty interesting thing. Its almost like what company you worked at during what year(s).

After the Heard Island VK0EK DX-pedition, I had two DXCC ATNO’s (Bouvet and Glorioso) to get to Top of Honor Roll, and I had 9BDXCC and DXCC on 160M to achieve. Today the door shut on 9BDXCC (its completed), and while I might have some fun on 6M – (since the UrbanBeam covers it very nicely) – its “all over but the DXCC #1 shouting” . . .

I’ve been wanting to change my station and antennas since VK0EK almost 2 years ago. I was patient, and I ramped up for 3Y0Z, and of course, that fell through. While at Dayton a year ago – where VK0EK was awarded DX-pedition of the Year, I stumbled on the UrbanBeam and US Towers ALM-31, and the images of both were stashed in the back cobwebs of my brain. I’m no longer counting on a Bouvet activation – but its still possible. Glorioso is the French Team’s “Navassa” . . . One day both will be activated – but I expect the wait could be up to 10 years.

SO – as soon as 3Y0Z announced they had to abort their mission – the cobwebs cleared out and I was “On a Mission”. That Mission just ended – I have my “post DXCC” station and antennas. I have a new rig that has the features I wanted, and am now embarking on my next phase of this fun hobby.

I recently read about a ham who just threw in the towel after making Top of Honor Roll. I do understand that to a point – but I knew from the start that there would be an end to my DXCC years – and so along the way I did think about that and mentally prepared myself for it. Plus – since I like building stuff and experimenting – I have always had a multi-dimensional take on the hobby.

Onward!

9BDXCC, Finally . . .

Maybe Friday the 13th is a Good Luck Day? My last LOTW credit that I needed – and the hard QSL card that had to be checked by an Online DXCC App + mailing that JT5DX card to Newington finally happened. Both took WAY longer than normal – as if to mock me – heh heh

My $10.50 160M little metal plate has been ordered – and in days I will proudly affix it to my 5BDXCC Plaque.

Solar Cycle 24: The “Big Thud” . . .

I had anticipated that as soon as 3Y0Z would have been over, we would be where we are now. I fully expect two years of being at the bottom – but I was happy to hear 3B7A on 20M CW and SSB last weekend. That at least shows that good DX can be worked at the bottom of the Cycle. Here is what I worked ATNO wise between 2007 – 2009:

VU7, D60, BS7H, 1A0KM, 3B7C, TX5C, VK9DWX, K5D

The best bands – 40, 30 and 20M

So, all is not lost, but the high bands will be pretty darn quiet for a good 2 years now.

$1100 a QSO?

Dollaradio Station – 100 North Palmetto Avenue, San Francisco – Built about 1926, In order that Captain Robert Dollar could communicate with his steamship line. In 1927, the station received the first word from Admiral Byrd of his establishment of a camp on the Bay of Whales, Antarctica.” – from The Pacifica Historical Society

The final nail in my Elecraft K-Line’s Coffin was being 2 away from Top of Honor Roll and with no new ATNO possibilities for a year – probably two (in my estimation). I wanted in one radio what I had in my K3 Plus SDRPlay RSP2Pro. That is exactly what I got in the Icom IC-7610 – and quite a bit more. One thing that the rig has is a built in SD Card reader / writer and audio recorder – and I will be using it a lot more than I expected. Here is a great example – using the NCC-2 and two Wellbrook phased loops – just by turning the PHASE knob in the AM BCB band (1300 khz) – I can tune in a Chinese speaking station – then an Indian speaking station – and then I go back and forth. [As an aside – look at how multi-cultural we are now – I can tune across my local AM band and hear Cantonese, Mandarin, several Indian dialects, Spanish and English]

Having several thousand dollars invested in an amplifier and high powered auto tuner makes no sense – because since all I will be doing is having the occasional band fill – but will be 99% of the time an SWL (with a big ear on the ham bands), then my latest move makes all the more sense. After many great years with the best DXing integrated line of gear (Elecraft K-Line), it was time for something new and different. For these last two – I will visit my neighbor with a nice bottle of whatever he likes!

Since my divorce in 2005/6, I have lived a life of “have only what you absolutely need”, and that thinking came about because one minute I was on 5 acres and a McMansion, the next minute a town away on a small lot. Life sometimes forces you to move fast and carrying extra baggage is just a royal PITA. That thinking morphed into what I think is a great life hack – “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” . . . its good for the soul (and the planet). The classic win-win!

The last two QSO’s to get to HR #1 – if I sat on my KPA-500 and KAT-500 represent money that could be used on something new and interesting, and so that’s where I have arrived. I’m now in my stress free / casual DXer phase  – in 7 – 8 years it will be a retirement phase.

High Power, RFI and “Stress Free” DXing

The interesting thing about DXing is the back story we all seem to have, but you only find out others have the same problems when you bring it up in conversation. After all, it’s far more interesting to talk about our ATNOs, QSL cards or new gear than say, RFI.

When I was chasing DXCC on 160M when I transmitted – especially with 1500 watts – I would turn on the Trane HVAC’s fan – which sent a chilling blast of cold air through the house. I had to turn off the heater when a new one was on the air – it was a PITA.

On the other side of the coin – when a neighbor added “something” (I’m assuming a large wall mounted plasma TV on a wall near my K9AY loops), my first 160M RX antenna became useless and swamped with noise. That sent me into a year long search for a better solution – and the phased Wellbrook ALA1530LNP’s through the DX Engineering NCC-2 has been the best solution and I am still enjoying it even as an SWL. When someone turns on the dimmer switches in the house my receiver is wiped out – and when the Trane HVAC comes on – heat or cool – my receiver is also wiped out. I’ve lived with this since 2006.

Last weekend, a neighbor down the hill – who came up to my fence when I first moved into Orinda in 2006 – (to say they could hear my transmissions in their stereo speakers) stopped by to tell me about RFI all these years later. After that initial contact, they just went away – I heard nothing. I also did nothing explicitly, but I did stay off 80M, so coincidentally, they heard nothing except possibly me checking into the Mission Trail Net but they never complained – until 12 years later! So, I did a test with that neighbor over the phone last weekend, sure enough – I found that its only on 80M, which is great because that is the least important band – and one I can avoid.

I was able to find a new Bencher YA-1 Low Pass filter – (these are harder to get these days since Bencher was sold a few years ago). I haven’t put it in line since as much as I wanted to start using my new 80M 60′ vertical, I at least know that the neighbor mostly only uses their stereo around dinner time – so its easy to avoid causing RFI by just not being on 80M at that time. But I will try the filter anyway – but I’m a little skeptical since that antenna is about 50′ from their house. The DXE DV-40-P 40M phased array is even closer – and thank God I don’t cause RFI there – or with my UrbanBeam. I might go the full distance and put clamp on ferrite chokes on their speaker wires, but I actually don’t want to get that “close” to the neighbors – I’d rather just not cause RFI from my end – if that’s possible. . I gave them my email address and asked that they just let me know when its a problem. They seem pleased with that.

The one thing I am really amazed at is how from 2006 – 2018 I was able to earn my DXCC Honor Roll and 9BDXCC (with DXCC on 160M) and have much bigger antennas and 1500 watts and not have any neighbor complaints. I never liked 80M – so maybe I was just lucky in that regard. I’m also really surprised that when I was chasing 160M DXCC I didn’t cause the neighbor RFI.

All of this also adds a very big reason to avoid using an amplifier – I’d much rather use my 100 watt or even Ten Tec Argonaut 505 at 5 watts and be able to send CW than to be an SWL only. But since I mostly just listen anyway – I’m enjoying the ICOM IC-7610 immensely as the ultimate SWL machine – its general coverage plus ham band receiver plus my antennas – barring the RFI on 80M is perfect for where I am in the radio game.

This 7610 and SteppIR UrbanBeam plus DV-40-P have injected a new and fun excitement to my hobby – and just listening to 3B7A is big fun – because I already have transmitted enough to know what I need when to make a QSO – being 2 away from HR #1 gives me a feeling of being a Master DXer who has “been there, done that”. Now I get a kick out of listening to pileups and following along. I sit back with the phones on – and am actually happy that I don’t need to bother jumping in pileups much any more. That used to be stressful – but rewarding too.

I will try the Bencher YA-1 tonight and check with the neighbor. I’ll report back with my findings. I will also first try 5 watts to see if that solves the problem. Then add the filter and crank up to 100 watts.

Now I’m a “stress free DXer” . . .

3B7A 40M Propagation Study

0300z:

DX Atlas says my path to 3B7 is 353 degrees SP and 173 LP. There is no way that I am hearing them on the Short Path at 353 degrees, so I must be hearing them on the Long Path. They have been weak except a really strong “burst” for maybe 5 – 10 minutes – and it is a grey line enhancement.

I tried beaming my UrbanBeam 40M dipole toward the ZS path – which is 90 degrees but it was worse. I also tried the “other” side of due North, and that was OK – but not great.

My DV-40-P has gain in the NE – SW directions. The UrbanBeam is low, but rotatable. When I heard the strong burst it was on the UrbanBeam. This suggests that I am hearing them in a possible duct – or at least a less “unhindered” sub antarctic polar path.

So – the UrbanBeam wins this one over the DV-40-P, and it was to do with higher angle and the ability to aim in the right direction.

3Y0Z, 3Y0I and 3B7A: Harbingers of Things to Come

           

3B7A is turning out to be an important DXpedition as far as my planning is concerned, DX wise. I have tested the SteppIR UrbanBeam yesterday and today on 20M – and I heard 3B7A calling West Coast for more than an hour each day – and very readable. I’m hearing them quite well on 30M during our evening sunset. I fully expect to hear them on 40M during the evening or morning. I have 3B7 from the last 5 Star Mega DXped (3B7C in 2007) that went there – and have it on 40, 30 and 20M.

Hearing them is more than half the battle, and I am very pleased.  Even at a lowly 35-ish feet, Glorioso will be workable on 30 and 20M, maybe 17M. With the DV-40-P I fully expect to work them on 40M. I could not work them with 100 watts on 20 this morning – so it is obvious that I will need an amplifier (if I choose to work Glorioso and Bouvet from this QTH). Therein lies the rub.

Because I only need 2 more for DXCC #1, it makes no sense to bother with an amplifier – at least not right now. In fact, my neighbor, Oliver, W6NV has offered his Orinda station and his Sunol contest station for my last two. 3G9A – while on their way to Bouvet were easy to work with 100 watts and my DV-40-P. They were also easy on my home brewed 2 element yagi that was up about 40′. SO – at the bottom of the cycle, it will be possible to work the last two from my own back yard. Bouvet will be easier, but I’m a little surprised as how well 3B7A is – and know that this is the same team that will activate Glorioso.

I really like the idea that I can have my very flexible and fun station here at home – and drive 5 miles down the road to work those last two. But lets say I did get a “wild hair” and got another amplifier right before Bouvet or Glorioso – what would I get?

A Used ACOM Tube amplifier, or maybe an Ameritron AL-811H or AL-80B

Now – ALL of my antennas have an SWR of 1.5:1 or less – that’s 80-6M! This means I will NOT need an antenna tuner again, and so I would need an amplifier that has some tune-ability and protection, (and more than the Ameritron amps) – the ACOM’s have the TRI tuning method that is so fast and prevents you from having amplifier faults. The ACOM amps also have enough of a tuned circuit that as long as your SWR is 3:1 or less, you can avoid a tuner – and I am well within that range.

I have to admit – my favorite amplifier was the ACOM 1500 – even more than the KPA-500 and SPE 1.3K. The thing I really don’t like about solid state amps is that they are only as good as how fast their software can respond to an “event” that the amp doesn’t like. The ACOM 1500 first prevented you from even going that way, and on top of that also seemed less “finicky” as a solid state amp.

I do believe that tube amps days are numbered, so if I find someone dumping an ACOM cheap, I might bite. The ACOM 1000 would be more than enough – I found 500 watts to 1500 watts wasn’t too big of a deal, but having maybe 800 watts or so would be a great compromise.

But the reason why I got rid of my amp is because its so much more “freeing” to run barefoot. 100 watts direct to my antenna switch, and I never have any issues with RFI and also have no issues where high power seems to always “find” in your system.