Ya’ know … if you haven’t tried this newer band yet, you’re missing out. It’s not a heavily used band, but there are people there. I’ve only done FT8 on 5.357 MHz (Channel 3, I think), but I’ve bagged a few new ones there. My LDG tuner tunes my vertical just fine. I have no idea what kind of efficiency, but I’ve worked all over the world with around 50 watts.
It’s an odd band. It’s shared with government and military, and they’ve got priority use … it’s channelized … the max power is 100 watts. Really an odd duck, but it is what it is. We just have to work with what the FCC allows us. Oh, and not all countries have given the amateurs the same channels, so that complicates things even more. Hey … just work ’em when you hear ’em. Try it … you’ll like it!
I got an early session on the radio as the sun was rising this morning. The solar conditions were shown as “Poor” and “Unsettled”, but there was some good stuff out there. New Caledonia, Australia, and Japan were all seen on FT8 and were making contacts with US stations. The Mayotte DXPedition (TO6OK) was really strong here on the East Coast on FT8, but there were lots of callers worldwide, and I didn’t luck out, though I really tried. I did work a new one (Belize) on forty meters, so my morning efforts were a success as far as I was concerned.
I’m not lacking stations to work, and my best success seems to be on the lower bands (80, 60, 40, 30). I’m not running anything special here … 30 to 40 watts on digital modes through a LDG tuner to a 31-ft vertical wire, through a 100-ft RG-8X feedline, with a 4-to-1 unun at the base of the antenna, and one 31-ft counterpoise laid on the ground. I get acceptable SWR on all the HF bands except 160. The fiberglass antenna support is fastened to a clothesline support with several pieces of stiff twisted wire. Can’t get much more kludgy than that!
Conditions were really nice this evening. Plenty of action on FT8, CW, and SSB on 40, 30, & 20 meters. Lots of Thirteen Colonies stations active. I think I worked about seven unique stations, and several of those on multiple bands and modes. I probably would have worked a few more, but there were some pretty active thunderstorms on and off all evening, so I pulled the plug several times. I think there’s another day of activity left, so maybe I’ll see if I can get all thirteen in the log … probably not, though. No big deal if I don’t!
The storms played havoc with my barbecuing plans for dinner, too. The chicken went into the oven instead of onto the grill. Not a good idea to be outside waving a set of metal tongs around in a thunderstorm. I can remember being at a transmitter site when lightning hit the tower … it took a while before my heart rate calmed down. The fiberglass antenna cover for the antenna that was struck looked like a burned, peeled banana. That definitely increased my respect for Mother Nature.
Oh … I calculated my ten-digit grid square (don’t know why, other than just for the heck of it). In case you care, it’s FM17SB46MH. I think that puts you in the middle of my living room. Can’t be too accurate … HA!
Last night was pretty active on the bands. The lower bands were pretty noisy, but conditions were good on the higher frequencies. I could hear a lot on six meters, but my vertical just won’t load properly there. I’m going to at least put up a dipole for six this week.
As you can see, there were contacts to be had for the picking. I definitely stayed busy. I was sort of keeping an eye (ear?) out for the Baker Island DXPedition, since they were working FT8. I did see stateside stations calling them in Fox/Hound mode, but never saw any of the DXPedition’s transmissions on my screen.
Everyone laments that “the bands are dead … Woe is me!”, but as you can see, they’re there. As an example, twelve meters … there was not a single signal in the FT8 portion of the band when I checked. So, I said “What the heck … let’s try a CQ and see what happens.” It took several CQs, in fact, but eventually I had a mini-pileup going … two or three stations coming back to me on top of each other. Dick’s sage advice #1 — “If you’re gonna’ catch fish, you gotta’ put a line in the water.” Everybody listening = no QSOs!
So, the moral of the story is … put a signal on the air! Fling yourself out there! “CQ, CQ, CQ … This is <you fill in the blank>”. Be BRAVE! Any mode … Any band. JUST DO IT!!!!
WOW … 529 visitors yesterday. I don’t know where you guys are coming from, but thanks for stopping by to read my incoherent ramblings!
Ya’ know, I’ve been hauling around several hamstick antennas buried behind the seat in my truck, and have never really used them. I’ve got a mag mount to plop on top of the truck cab, but usually when operating portable, I set up an antenna of some sort away from the vehicle. I actually don’t even remember whether the hamsticks are tuned for SSB or CW, it’s been so long since they were used.
So … my project for today is to dust them off and tune them using my MINI-60 analyzer, so I can start doing my lunchtime ops again from the parking lot.
What triggered this flurry of activity was that I picked up a six meter hamstick at a yard sale. Six has been pretty active lately, so I want to get this antenna tuned up and useful. If I’m gonna’ do one, I might as well do all of them … right? I’m also going to LABEL them with the tuned frequency.
I realize that these are not high-gain, super-efficient antennas, but you know what? They’re better than no antenna. AND … they’re unobtrusive and easy to deploy during a short lunch break in the parking lot behind the shop. If I make it easy, maybe I’ll do more operating there.