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.


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!

DXA and 5K0T

5K0T is on the air and running with DXA – so if you’d like to get in their log or just follow along, here is the URL:

160M: The Inverted “Fishing Hook”

My antenna now looks like some weird Inverted J or Inverted Fishing Hook (?). Its similar to the “AKI Special” antenna documented on page 9-72 of the ON4UN Lowband DXing Book. It is now 60′ tall at its apex, and then the wire trailing down skirts the very large Blue Spruce that its top wire is pulled up to. A year ago, the Diablo DXers helped me launch a rope in that very tall tree, and this time I used plastic covered guy  wire so the squirrels won’t eat it.

The vertical section of the Hook is a 41 foot Spiderbeam aluminum pushup mast – very heavy duty and mechanically and electrically bonded.

I’m pretty sure it actually has less of a horizontal component and is between an Inverted L and a vertical – which is a very good thing. It still has some, so it has a nice range of take off angles – where too low a take off angles would be bad for me down in my bowl QTH.

Its 121′ total, and is resonant just above the 160M band, which is no problem with the AT2K tuner.

You can see how the tuner will get stressed on 80M, but the other bands where the tuner will have a very easy time would be 60M, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10M.