First Stop on the u.RAT World Tour: EBARC in El Sobrante

I will be giving my first Maker – Ham presentation at the EBARC meeting this Friday:

7:30pm, Friday, August 11th, at the El Sobrante Library on Appian Way

This will be my “warm up” for Pacificon, and several Diablo DXers will be on hand



The “Bouvet Bump”?

Last night we had great 40M polar path DX to Europe. This is a big deal for the West Coast – having lived on the East Coast I can tell you the difference – we took EU DX for granted  when I was WA2QHN. In fact, I wasn’t a DXer, but EU was easier to work than Hawaii – I remember KH6 was a treat in NJ – where here at KY6R its like a local.

FT5ZM had the peak of Cycle 24, and its funny – they (3Y0Z) are getting the last gasp uptick before the sun sets on this cycle.

Conditions for Bouvet should be “good enough” between now and then.

As long as we don’t end up in a terrible war.

Summer in Orinda

Summer in Orinda can sometimes be 30 degrees warmer than San Francisco, where I work. It’s less than 20 miles away and a pretty short BART ride.

Even just 5 miles away, Oakland and Berkeley can be 20 degrees cooler.

That finger of fog comes in through the Golden Gate bridge and comes in directly toward Berkeley’s Greek Theatre. It then comes over the hill once the SF Bay proper fills up with fog.

This means it will be gray and cloudy and dark in San Francisco and in some parts of the East Bay, but when I get off work and arrive at the Orinda BART platform, I have bright sunlight and cool clean air conditioned air.

These are my favorite days of summer.

Who Will Be Featured on the 2017 Cover of QST – October DX Special?

I think of all the awards, this one cover of the legendary QST Magazine will always be my favorite. I was completely surprised and taken aback by it. In fact, it was such a big deal for me personally that I did not even plan on going to Dayton (until I was urged to go only weeks before it took place, and I got the “nudge nudge, wink wink). Bob, KK6EK won the Cover Plaque Award to boot. Just amazing.

Another complete surprise is the wonderful ARRL DXCC Yearbook. Its now a PDF only affair – so is not quite as prominent as the 2016 October QST article, but I’m betting the ARRL will keep it on their site as they do QST now.

So, who will be on the cover of this years October QST – DX Edition? I don’t remember any big deal DX-peditions since that first quarter of last year – so it will no doubt be a surprise.

If all goes well with 3Y0Z, I will bet we will see 3Y0Z also in all of the magazines and publications and winning awards by this time next year. Besides being the only interesting DX News this year, they also have an epic project with an epic price tag. That price tag alone is huge DX news . . . .

I will get to “consummate” all of this at Pacificon, where I had given 10 years of presentations that led up to both DXCC Honor Roll and then VK0EK. I have always chronicled my journey in my Antenna Forum Presentations – showing what I did to meet my operating goals as far as antennas were concerned.

Now I move onward and upward to the Maker and Ham World, so it will be nice to use this years presentations as my “gateway” to my next chapter in this wonderful hobby.

The History of the DXCC


Click on the image for a full sized chart . . . 

Its hard not to wonder where the DXCC program is headed when polar places cost more than $700,000 to activate. Political set backs have proven to work themselves out – in some cases it took 20 years before a place was activated (China and Albania). In some cases it was purely administrative (Navassa), and with Heard Island it was cost and logistics – these are not easy projects to put on.

The NCDXF just awarded 3Y0Z $100,000, which I predicted a long time ago, and they certainly deserve it. The organizers have 10 Top 10 Most Wanted and just as many DX-pedition of the Year awards to boot under their belt – if anyone can get you in their log, they can. Since there is nothing else rare planned in this “DX Year”, I fully expected that they would get such an award.

For the good of the DXCC Program and its future, I sure hope the smaller teams gain traction and get creative, because I believe that this 3Y0Z DX-pedition will represent a big turning point and a bell weather in DX-peditioning. I do not think this cost is going to be sustainable – and I base that on actuarial figures. DX-peditioners and DX-ers are getting older, and from a percentage perspective, far fewer are getting into this aspect of the hobby than leaving. It will always be a supply and demand situation, so that’s what will dictate where this is headed.

Mike, KJ4Z and I share the opinion that we will be headed back to the days of small teams and single world travelers – and that Mega DX-peditions have for the most part seen their best days. I know I welcome that – I really like DX-peditioners like Vlad, UA4WHX, who just shows up and puts many in his log. In fact, Vlad still is the #1 DX-peditioner who has put the most ATNO’s in my log.

20 years ago, part of the reason VK0IR were able to keep costs down (relatively speaking) is because they found available berths for a reasonable price on a scientific ship (The Marion DuFresne). I hope more enterprising DX-peditioners also go back to that sort of planning.

Chuck Brady, N4BQW (SK) activated Bouvet by himself, but that was during a time when a scientist / astronaut had access and the right connections to do so. I worked Chuck for quite a few ATNO’s – especially in the OC-PAC part of the world. Sadly, there are  very few left in the ham ranks with that sort of connection, and the current administration is all but wiping out climate science, meaning forget about US teams to piggy back on a US scientific mission – there will be fewer. I predict that if DXCC is going to continue, it will be because countries other than the US jump in and activate the rare one’s – especially the polar ones.

I still wonder who will take the place of those DX-peditioners entering their 70’s, and the Baby Boomers are already there . . . and in fact, the world wide DX Community is made up of mostly Boomers, so all at once the DX Community will drop in numbers over the next 10 – 20 years at a dramatic pace.

What will be the remaining supply, and what will be the remaining demand?

ARRL Guide to Antenna Tuners

This is a decent book which covers all of the different kinds of commercial – and a few home brewed antenna tuners (couplers). It is a high level book and offers  practical explanation of why you might choose one model over another and also whether or not you would use an internal or external or tuner in the shack or out at the antenna.

There are some especially useful pages (for my application):

  • 3-3 shows variations on the LC circuit that I have in the u.RAT, proving while simple, its still a viable antenna coupling circuit – its just not very versatile. If you were to use an LC circuit at the base of a single vertical, the unbalanced LC circuit is all you need – especially if you are setting it up to be a mono band antenna. The u.RAT circuit as it is covers 80, 40 and 30M just fine – but whenever you try to also include 160M, things get a whole lot more interesting . . .
  • 8-3 shows the losses when using different types of coax and also when having the tuner at the antenna or in the shack. Now I’m very happy that I decided to put the BT1500A right at the antenna – it is as low loss as I can get and is a versatile as I can get as far as it being a Low Band antenna coupler. I could not have made better choices
  • Chapter 14 covers Balanced Antenna Tuners very nicely

The Best Antenna Coupling Presentation by W0QE

Excerpt from Palstar BT1500A balanced antenna coupler.

I did a few Google searches for “LC Antenna Tuner” and found the best presentation on the topic yet:

It is just packed with so much useful information – and it covers the topic at a level that reminds me that I still have a lot to learn. In fact, it pulls everything that I have been thinking about into one presentation and offers the reader a way to go back to the books and study each area one at a time (which I will do).

The ARRL publications and the W8JI web site does cover some of this but not all in one place, and not in the same scope and scale as this presentation.

In just the first pass, I have learned that just having one variable capacitor and one roller inductor is fine if you are coupling / matching a limited frequency range, but that you will usually need at least three components if you want a wider range tuner. It also confirmed that there are high pass and low pass designs and that the Palstar BT1500A is a very unique coupler, and that me having it at the base is a very good decision and that for all of the low bands it does in fact seem like the right decision.

So, when someone asks “What is the best antenna tuner?” the answer is “It depends”. I also like how Larry describes what most hams call an antenna Tuner a Coupler instead.

One very important thing that I learned is that the SPE Expert 1.3K FA amplifier will be fine if I use its internal ATU in conjunction with the Palstar BT1500A at the antenna. The SPE manual says to never use the ATU with another antenna tuner – but what they don’t say is that they mean another ATU. What you don’t want at high power are two ATU’s trying to find a match and getting confused. Since I go out back and set the BT1500A manually right now – if I needed to cover more of a band using the SPE ATU I can. On 80 and 75M this would be very useful, but its a moot point on 160 and 30M since I never go more than say 20 khz across either of those bands. And since 80 and 75M are my least favorite bands, all of this is pretty much moot. Of course, if 3Y0Z miraculously bangs in on 80M, well, I will learn to love that band.

I will be reading and re-reading this presentation for some time. Its awesome. He also has a series of videos: