Ham Goodies on the Way

Right after 3Y0Z I will turn the phased 40M array into a dedicated RX antenna – especially for 160M.

After 3Y0Z I will replace the 2 element 20M yagi with this antenna. I will do a few mods – one is to build a couple “air coils” with old HF2V coil stock that I have, and also add 30M. I looked at the Optibeam 30/40M rotatable dipole, but found I could do this same thing for 1/2 the price.

The good news is that while I will have to wait a month before I can make these station changes, I can spend the weekends leading up to 3Y0Z preparing for the post 3Y0Z work. I will literally do the swap the weekend after 3Y0Z shuts down.

I have a 3 day weekend this coming weekend, and the weather looks great – in the 60s and sunny.

I’m so glad I spent the holiday week I had off working on 3Y0Z antennas and cleaning up the work shop and kayak / bike shack. I also sold two kayaks and a bike and several pieces of ham gear that was unused and in a closet. A VERY productive week. I kept thinking “better do this now – you never know – it could start raining (we have been tending towards drought lately again), and I also thought “what if youget sick”.

Literally as soon as that work was done – it started raining like crazy and I got a bad chest cold / flu.

I feel like, really smart!

DXCC Honor Roll is a Really Big Deal

Recently I’ve read a few blogs and a few QRZ pages where they opine one way or another about DXing “awards”, which I really believe are personal “operating activities”. Some care for them, some don’t.

There are five activities / awards that I am most proud of, and it helps that years have passed now and so that I have an “evolving” perspective. I think its human nature to always be most focused and put highest priority on what we are striving for and that sometimes past accomplishments are relegated to history and maybe even taken for granted. Maslow’s Hierarchy I would guess . . .

Its been 2 years since VK0EK and everything associated with that big multiyear effort. I am starting to relegate that to ancient history. I know I will work 9BDXCC and DXCC on 160M, and while its the latest and hottest iron in the fire, I’m just trying to get it over with.

The ONE accomplishment that I still can feel really proud of is the DXCC Honor Roll. There is something so unique and special about it – its just the way the program evolved and the history behind it that has that “certain something”. Its like the best Baseball Card Collection.

This list has waffled around a bit, and I need to update my QRZ page to tweak it a bit, but here are the accomplishments that I think deserve some bragging rights:

  1. DXCC Honor Roll – this really is THE epitome of DX-ing for me. Oddly enough, Top of Honor Roll feels like a second place in comparison. It was just getting to the top that still means something to me. Top of Honor Roll is like looking around at the top of that hill – just a little bit more of the same. To add meaning, I was going through a divorce with children, and the “OCD” aspect helped me get through that ordeal – it was like the best therapy I could get
  2. 160M DXCC – this one is pretty amazingly close to Honor Roll – from the West Coast and because my QTH means its a miracle I can make this
  3. 9BDXCC – this one is in lock step with 160M DXCC and tests your antenna, propgation and operating knowledge
  4. DX Coffee Best Communication Award – they designed the award around my TX5K efforts and which I then went on to perfect during VK0EK. Sadly, most DXpeditions still think there is some valor in keeping a lot of hat goes on in a DXpedition hush hush – like they are some CIA or FBI covert operation. Some DXpeditions are lousy at communicating and thus have issues fund raising. Good communication is the BEST way to fund raise – whenever I see a DXpedition whine about not raising enough money I roll my eyes because the fastest way to lose is to try to “guilt” people into donating. Communication = “Buzz”.
  5. DXpedition of the Year Award – at one point I felt this was my biggie. Its not because I was a co-organizer and I did not go on the trip. I am sure the DXpedition happened the way it did in large part to my efforts, and I know that after TX5K I had to do a lot of very hard work to get past some issues that arose in TX5K that could have tanked VK0EK. But with 2 years behind me – I look at the plaque and realize that it was really for the team members who went to Heard, Honor Roll was 100% me

These are the things I do not have to get apologetic about – the things I know deep down were serious accomplishments. I also am coming up on 59 years old, and have been saddened by recent events where one famous DXpeditioner or another DXer passed away at this age or near it. Several contester and DX publication legends have also just passed. It makes me double down and appreciate what I have done and that I did it later in life. DXCC is an anachronism, and while I have some feeling that its will get a lot harder to do starting in about 10 years, there is something so lasting and powerful about it – that it might survive all of the challenges in money and access that threaten it.

 

Radio 2018

Rich O’Rielly, 2018

A very good friend and artist in Santa Cruz, California has designed perhaps my favorite radio poster of all times.

Rich O’Rielly and I have known each other virtually for many years. Rich and I met through a friend whom I’ve been inspired by in my art, Jack Howe, also of Santa Cruz.

My childhood friend and artist Mark Grey, who at one time was the San Jose Sharks team artist, lives in nearby Los Gatos. Mark and I started “The Monster Club” back in NJ when we were kids, and we Drew pictures of Monsters.

My son Trevor is a student at UC Santa Cruz, and my other son Graham and his girlfriend Megan both graduated from art school at CCA in Oakland a few years back.

I’m trying to arrange for a fun artists dinner at Posto in Santa Cruz in late February, after 3Y0Z.

Wow, 2018 is already marching on!

Cushcraft D40 Plus 30M

After 3Y0Z my 2 element 20M yagi will be replaced by a Cushcraft D40 up 60′ and with a 30M wire added as a “fan dipole”. EZNec says keeping the wire spaced apart using the insulators I will be receiving today is fine. My model has the full sized dipole – so the coils might present some issues at the feed, but I actually expect it will be just a wire trimming exercise.

The patterns for both 40 and 30M look great, and so I look forward to the next phase in my antenna saga – which is the “almost done with DXCC” phase. Its “Post 3Y0Z” and perhaps only 7 QSO’s away from being completely done with DXCC.

It certainly wont be the end of DXing though – that’s for sure. 40M alone would keep me on the air, but I suspect while its like watching the grass grow – I’ll still be on 160M early mornings with coffee and 40M most other times. I do need to really try to get more into 30M.

More 40M Array vs. Doublet Testing

Karel, OK1CF was one of my very first DX QSO’s back in 2001, when I got into DXing. I just worked him with an easy 59 each way. That was on the phased vertical array because the end fire NE direction is over the pole. The doublet is aimed SE.

The doublet is now receiving RI1ANO exactly better than the phased vertical array with the same level difference as the OK1CF test – because it is in the right direction. The broadside directions on the DX Engineering DV-40-P just don’t match the end fire. The end fire array and doublet are comparable. The broadside array direction pales in comparison.

Is The ARRL DXCC Operating Program Still Relevant?

There are actually flying bikes and eBikes and other types of bikes that beg the question “Are these still bikes?” and “Is this still considered cycling?” Double plus points for using it in a brewery name . . . 

There is hardly a thing in this world that hasn’t been affected by technology in recent years. The DXCC Program stayed relatively stable during my years working towards Honor Roll – 2001 – 2013. But just barely. The biggest changes were a few entities were added and removed, but that was no big deal. Radio’s and connecting radios with networks were in the incubation stage. DXpeditions were not revolutionized – they had been planned and carried out the same way they did them since 1997 and VK0IR, maybe even before. DX Clusters were considered a potential DXCC killer at one time – but it was a non existential threat.

A few years later, and Remotes were allowed. I watched many OT’s and OOT’s claim that DXCC was DEAD.  Today, I read a ham who said that FT8 has the potential to kill DXCC because if it is used as a remote then anyone can set one up in P5 and then anyone can earn Honor Roll or Top of Honor Roll. It has been declared an existential threat . . .

That is a poorly thought out argument. The real existential threat to DXCC is the cost and access to activate an ultra rare entity. North Korea, Syria, Turkmenistan and Mount Athos are examples of entities off limits due to man’s folly. In a day they could be made common place garden variety DX. But Bouvet, Heard Island, etc will never be made easy. At $750,000, Bouvet is a bell weather – is this the beginning of the end of being able to activate some places? I think yes IF we insist on only large scale projects. 3Y0E was one man in a tent. Scientists visit there yearly …

The problem is NOT DXCC, its aging MEN who want to hold onto some “olde tyme” idea – when things were better – Ham Radio V1.0 (and each of us have our description of what that is – heh heh). We might not be ready for Ham Radio V2.0. But the problem is the operator, not the technology.

Another existential threat is the fact that the DXCC is made up of aging Boomers who seem to be going SK regularly. That will certainly have an impact and my crystal ball is cloudy after 2028…

And if the DXCC Program needs an occasional rule tweak, so what, that’s been the rule, not the exception (bad pun intended).

I will admit – the ARRL DXCC program is an anachronism. One reason many get into it is the lore of days gone by – there is the romance of adventure, the changing world map, etc, etc. We seem to be able to handle changes in the world map – where the list changes, but very ironically, we cannot handle changes in technology as well. And this is a technology based hobby!

I think the problem is most people think that the DXCC program is a contest and an award. It really is NOT. It is an Operating Activity where YOU compete against YOU.

Most people I know don’t really get that – or maybe they do get it but also slip into the belief that it is also a contest of some sort. That might be natural because the only output of any value of this Operating Activity is the knowledge and experience we get (and its a recreational experience for sure), and the only “award” really is “bragging rights”. But its only human nature to get puffed up when bragging and then it can start feeling like a contest.

The DXCC program is only still viable because people want it to be. Its a way to center ourselves and give the chase of DXing a framework – a program of sorts. It gives us some guidance and sets boundaries for our bragging rights. We can learn a lot along the way, and it can be great fun.

I know one person who chases DXCC Challenge but who has never filed for a DXCC “Award”. He is content and happy just having his electronic bingo sheet filled in, and you know what – during my 2001 – 2013 HR pursuit I dumped all of my QSL cards except one for each entity / ATNO. I also have enjoyed the online digital records as much as the cards themselves – maybe even more. That took a little doing since I was first licensed in 1973. However, I’m also a database programmer. But sometimes we hold onto emotional footholds from the past I guess – its part nostalgia and part fear (?)

99% of the people who have groused about DXCC being dead are in the very next pileup – and they will most certainly be trying to work 3Y0Z in just a few weeks. Its a gyration we go through – maybe a “checkpoint” – there are so many advances in technology that it seems normal and healthy that every now and again we have to ask ourselves “Why am I doing this?” and “Does this matter?”

I know several people who just like that rush of “winning” in the little pileup battles. There is a “rush” for sure – a sweet little sugar high you get when you’ve made it through – especially – when its rare and an ATNO.

Technology will keep marching on, and we either adapt or sit in a rocking chair reminiscing about when times were Great.

I’ll be out in the back yard goofing with antennas . . . . and then in the shack goofing with new technologies and new toys. Only because it brings a lot of joy in my life and its something I do just because its fun.

DXCC is like a non gender specific fraternity. (Pretty PC, eh?). But I do feel “akin” to others on the DXCC list in the (now) electronic only DXCC Yearbook.

As long as there is DXCC, I will at least follow along, even if I don’t actively play in it forever.

40M Phased Vertical Array ~ 40M Half Wave Dipole

The N6BT DXU-32 …

I have had two occasions where I was able to test my fantastic 40M phased vertical array against other antennas. I say fantastic only because when you compare the height requirements and maintenance requirements, the phased array has tremendous bang for the buck.

The DXE DV-40-P …

First I compared it to the N6BT DXU-32, and the DXU-32 won by it’s 4 dBi advantage. A shorty 40 two element yagi is a formidable antenna even if only up 50′ as mine was.

But the tower and safety requirements for a 28 foot boom with two 42 foot element and three 36ish elements is a major undertaking compared to a phased vertical array.

I have also had two test periods comparing a 40M doublet with the phased array, and both times they were neck and neck. I could hear and work the same stations on the short path to ZS, but on the long path, the doublet did seem a bit better. I’ve tested all paths along the broadside of the doublet, whose orientation was dictated by what trees it’s in.

I tested the doublet against the end fire direction of the array, so that’s putting the arrays best foot forward so to speak.

Enter the Cushcraft D40. It is almost exactly the same as the N6BT DXU-32 driven element. I will add 30M to it, and it will be max 13 pounds.

This means I can actually use two of my superb Spiderbeam aluminum push-up masts and get the antenna up as high or higher than my N6BT DXU-32. That antenna was up only 50′, it would be simple to go 60′ with the D40.

Think about the value proposition here: you get the best part of the fixed phased array, but rotatable so that you don’t suffer the broadside dip you get gain wise in two directions with the phased array.

I’ve only ever had one 40M antenna up 60′ before. It was a 40M doublet that I used to work my last Honor Roll ATNO, SV2ASP/A for Mount Athos. That was New Year’s Eve, 2013, or yikes! 5 years ago.

Hmmmm the interesting thing is I made Honor Roll in 11 years and will be within one if Top of Honor Roll 5 years later, and again, I’m talking 40M doublet up 60′

Now I totally understand why both Tom, N6BT and Tom W8JI says that a dipole up 1/2 well in the clear is a great antenna.

Funny how I’m loving the rotatable 40 / 30M dipole right now.

3Y0Z will be hitting the airwaves with what I expect to be a truly historic DXpedition. The cost alone begs us to ask the question if this can ever be done this same way again. I tend to think in the future it will have to be done with the Norwegian Polar Institute team that goes there or some other science mission.

But for now, my only worry is working them and evolving the antenna farm past that DXpedition.