The Pits …

I see the sunspot number is still at zero … where it’s been for the last three weeks. Those scientists much  smarter than me say it’ll be there for at least the NEXT three weeks, too. Ah, well … even with secret rites in the dark of night, I don’t think we can make any difference. We just have to wait for old Mother Nature to crank up the next solar cycle.

BUT … as I noted last weekend … even with the numbers as abysmal as they are, there’re always QSOs to be had. Contest weekends, especially, seem to light up the ionosphere.

Our DMR net (TG 31515, Tidewater VA) yesterday evening was a bit sparse … only four of us checked in. It’s pretty much the doldrums of summer now. People are on vacation, outside doing family things … you know the drill. This weekend we’re looking forward to scattered thunderstorms and rain. A typical summer weekend. At least it’s been cooler the past few days.

Not much ham stuff going on this weekend that I’m interested in. The North American QSO Party for RTTY is happening. I haven’t participated in that in forever, so I might dabble a bit there. I’ve got to get me a thicker cushion for my shack chair, though. The IARU CW contest last weekend was murder on my butt!

Well, enough blather! Have a great weekend and do some radio!

73 de Dick N4BC

IARU HF World Championship

I had a fun time Saturday morning  in the IARU HF contest. I made 141 CW contacts … all search & pounce. I had a higher score this year than last year, so I did improve. I had a birthday party to attend Saturday afternoon and evening and then church on Sunday morning, so my radio time was limited to Saturday morning only.

Propagation was good. I had contacts on all bands, 80 through 10 meters. There were lots of good, strong signals. Eighty and forty were noisy, as is normal this time of year, but there were always contacts available.

I have to say that the IC-7300 was a pleasure to use. The bandscope and filters were so useful. That and N1MM+ made the contest fun! I used my 100 watts, homebrew vertical and tuner and was pleased with the results. I do wonder, though, what I could have done with a “decent” antenna? I remember the old days of paper logs, dupe sheets, and manual keying so well. No comparison nowadays.

I would encourage you to participate in contest operation, especially if you’re new to the hobby and haven’t tried it already. It can be a bit intimidating, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a good way to work new countries/prefixes/counties or whatever. Maybe it’s not for you … that’s OK too, but you’ll never know unless you try it.

73 and Good Luck de Dick N4BC


This weekend was the CQ WW WPX Test, CW. As you can see, the bands were pretty busy …

20 Meter Band on Saturday
40 Meter Band, 45 minutes prior to end of the contest.

Imagine if it was like that every day!

I dabbled a bit and worked 80-some stations over the two days. I also took breaks and worked a few FT-8 contacts, too. Not in it seriously, but just keeping my CW hand in.

This was the first time I’ve hit the CW heavily with the IC-7300 in a major contest, though, and I’m really impressed. It is a real pleasure to work CW with this rig.  I never experienced any overload, even though the bands were booming. The filters are superb, and I could pull out just about any station I tried. Judicious use of the RF gain is the secret!

The only problem that I didn’t resolve was with the N1MM+ logger … I could not get the Telnet working for the packet cluster. It worked the last time I used it … not this time though. Telnet works fine with SpotCollecter in DXLab, so I dunno?

An observation … although they were there, the 50 wpm ops seemed to be fewer. There were lots more stations sending at an easily copyable 25 – 30 wpm.

There were good signals on 80 through 10 this weekend. I checked six meters several times, but if there was an opening, I missed it. Not only good signals, but some good ops, too. It was a pleasure to participate.

My setup was the IC-7300 with 31-foot homebrew vertical and an LDG AT-100ProII tuner. Nothing special. I was hearing North America and South America and the Caribbean pretty well, but Europe was pretty sparse, propagation-wise (for me). Nothing at all out of Asia or Africa.

There was some pretty violent wind, rain, and lightning on Saturday night, but I’d already pulled the switch and gone to bed. Didn’t bother me a bit.

So … now the contest is over, and the bands are back to normal. See the picture above? I just checked, ten minutes after the end of the contest, and there are only five or six CW signals visible on my 40-meter spectrum scope … . What a difference forty-five minutes makes!

Field day is coming up next month. I guess that’ll be the next big thing I’m involved with. I’m looking forward to it!

73 de Dick N4BC



I was all fired up to work the Virginia QSO Party last weekend. I got comfy at the operating position, tuned to 40 meters, and … didn’t hear a single Virginia station calling! Scratching my head, I wondered if propagation could be THAT bad.

Oops … turns out that the QSO party is this coming weekend, not last weekend. I managed to transition to Daylight Savings Time correctly, but managed to be a weekend off for the VQP. Oh well, I’m too old to be embarrassed!

Got on last night and worked a bunch of FT8 stations … some DX but mostly USA … 80 through 18 meters. I even heard some FT8 signals on 15 meters, but couldn’t make the QSO.  Kept trying to get Easter Island, but never could connect. I tried. Most of the stations he worked were tailending, and I’m not quite sure how that works on FT8. I’ll Google the answer later to see if I was doing it right.

It snowed again here last night. Wasn’t supposed to be any accumulation, but we got 2 or 3 inches at my house. Meteorology is obviously not an exact science!

73 de Dick N4BC

ARRL Ten Meter Contest

Well, I hope you had better luck than I did! Just before bedtime on Friday night, I listened a bit on 10-meter CW and I heard a beacon and two stations within 20 miles of me … nothing else, and I went on to bed. Saturday and Sunday, I tuned around several times during the day and evening, and … nothing. Just a couple of unreadable maybe signals down in the mud on CW.

So, it looks like it was not to be for me. I think ten meters had a dagger through its heart this past weekend. But, I’ll see you on the lower bands!

73 de Dick N4BC