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!
The bands suck … right? If you look at the solar conditions, they’re no good, right? Can’t hear anybody, right? Behold …
Those flags represent the stations I heard on FT8, 80 through 17 meters, this evening. Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, loads of Europeans, Australia, Oman … what more do you want? Could I work them all? Unfortunately, no. But I worked a bunch … twenty-one of them. With a better antenna … you never know. But they’re THERE … and they’re WORKABLE … by SOMEONE! Might be you! The right time and the right place!
Turn the radio on … don’t sit and complain. They’re there! They’re waiting!
I was just looking at my QSO confirmation rates … not too bad, actually. With the advent of electronic QSLing, the percentages are really pretty high, I think.
I track QSLing on two sites, primarily … Logbook Of TheWorld and QRZ. I also upload to EQsl and ClubLog, but seldom visit. I do that mostly for others. On LOTW my confirmation rate is a bit over 66% and on QRZ.com, it’s a whopping 76%.
Obviously, for the “biggie” awards (ARRL and CQ), the LOTW logbook is the major one, but just look at those percentages. I don’t have any numbers, but I guarantee you that I never approached that before electronic QSLing … maybe when I was rare DX, but not as a lowly US ham.
Looking back on it, as a DX station with US managers, I was pretty isolated from the confirmation part of the hobby. I really didn’t care about that aspect of hamming. I just had a blast operating. Without the burden of LOTS of cards arriving in my mailbox, I was continually on the air when I was free. That being said, I still got a LOT of QSLs sent directly to my overseas mailbox … mostly foreign hams and HUGE stacks of bureau cards. I remember getting an entire mailbag of VQ9 (Seychelles) cards one time from the Russian Bureau at Box 99, Moscow (I was the VQ9 bureau). They got answered, but it took time.
Nowadays, it’s a lot cheaper. Essentially free. Back in the “good ole days”, all QSLs went either via the bureau or direct. With the cost of postage now, it’s just not a viable method for most hams.
Times change and we just have to change to keep up. I think LOTW was a great idea, and I’ve never had any problem, either setting up an account or using it, but I DO miss all the paper QSLs. Sigh … times change for sure.
I worked two new countries this evening, both on FT8 … Oman on 40 meters and the Falkland Islands on 30 meters. Yes, Virginia, there is life left in the ham bands.
I also went ahead and updated the firmware on my IC-7300 with no problems noted. I don’t know why so many people have difficulties with this … if you follow the manual step-by-step, it’s hard to mess it up. DO remember, however, to save your configuration before upgrading, unless you want to go menu diving and setting up your whole operating environment again.
I downloaded MMTTY and integrated it with N1MM+ in preparation for the RTTY contest tomorrow. I haven’t tested it live on the air yet, but it should work fine. Tomorrow will tell!
Wow … three posts today! Maybe I should have saved up and dribbled it out more slowly. Oh well, I hadn’t posted for a while so I guess this makes up for it.