Got on 80 & 40 last night and worked about 15 stations around 2300/0000. Signals were pretty STRONG … some peaking well above S9. Most of the contacts were East Coast and Midwest. I did hear W6B in LA, but wasn’t able to get in. Eighty meters was the real workhorse, and that’s on my 31-ft vertical … not the most efficient of antennas.
The higher bands were crappy! Twenty was really bad here at my QTH. Usually, in the afternoon when I get home around 1430, there’s a few CW stations going, but all I could hear was the ARRL CW practice transmission and a few stations down in the mud.
Looks like solar activity is “heating” up a bit. Propagation has been erratic, but last night I got on for a while and was pleasantly surprised.
I didn’t work anything new or spectacular, but as you can see, I was certainly being heard all over.
According to the predictions, we’re due for a rocky time in the next few days from some pretty big solar storms. But … don’t rely on the predictions … turn on the radio … the bands are always open to somewhere.
Next item … a RANT! One thing I noticed last night was that some ops are running way too much power. A couple of stations were running so much power, they were distorted and you could actually hear it “crackling” in their audio. Luckily the JT modes are robust … you could copy in spite of the splatter. Please, watch your power!
Not literally … I meant that conditions improved quite a bit over the past couple of days. Forty meters really seems to be the workhorse, but twenty had its moments. I was working JT-65 and JT-9 with one hand, while doing some catching up on paperwork with the other and the waterfall was full, with stations stacked on top of stations. I would transmit a CQ and at least two stations would decode coming back to me. Midwest, East coast, and Europe were all workable. Lots of fun!
Yesterday afternoon, I adjusted the hamsticks for my truck using my handy-dandy MINI60 Antenna Analyzer. Yes, I parted with my hard-earned cash and I must say, I’m really pleased with the device. It’s well-built and does what it’s supposed to. With the Bluetooth linked to my smartphone, It’s easy to see where the resonance is … the answer is just a scan away. I’m hoping to get some portable operations in from some nearby parks soon, now that the weather is nice.
I did get on yesterday afternoon, using JT-9 and had propagation into the US and Europe. My signal reports were not great, but were obviously sufficient for QSOs. I was hearing them much stronger (in most cases) than they were hearing me. I have GOT to get out this weekend and try to get my Cobwebb antenna put together and raised. Now that the weather is improved, I really don’t have any excuses. I guess it’ll REALLY upset me if it doesn’t perform better than my homebrew wire vertical!
I’ve been looking at the SARK-100 MINI-60 Antenna Analyzer and AM impressed. I have a MFJ-295 and it works fine, but a graphical analyzer (with BlueTooth now, as well as USB!) and functional PC and Android software is almost too good to pass up at the price point (~$140). If I keep on like this, I’ll eventually talk myself into springing for it. That’s how it usually winds up!
Well, I’ve been somewhat of a slacker … my last sustained activity was in February. I just had an accumulation of things that couldn’t be put off any longer that took precedence. I’m still not out of the woods, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!
I have managed to get some JT activity the past couple of days. Yesterday, in particular, seemed to be pretty good propagation during the early afternoon, but I didn’t have the time to get much operating done. Ah, well … I can only hope!
The weather is decidedly more cooperative lately, so maybe I’ll have a chance to get the cobweb antenna up, and do some portable operations from the truck as well. I checked out my FT-817ND and the associated mobile and portable goodies the other evening, and I think I’m OK there.
I got a couple of QSL cards this week, too! That’s an unusual occurrence for me nowadays. Back in the “good old days,” it was NOT unusual to get a few cards every week. Of course, when I was rare DX, I used to get LOTS of cards every week. Times change.
Well, I’m about finished my lunch break at work, so let me get back to work. See you later …
I sat and listened to a DX station working split last night. Most of those calling listened to the instructions and were calling above the DX’s transmit frequency. I never DID hear the DX, myself. There were so many calling on his TX frequency, and of course, the self-appointed traffic cops sending “UP … UP” (without IDing, of course), that I couldn’t hear the DX. There can’t be THAT many clueless people out there, can there? Oops … silly question. Of course there are! Don’t people LISTEN anymore? Where’s my blood pressure medicine?
Eighty meters was pretty good at the QTH here last evening. Made contacts on JT9 up and down the East Coast. The QRN was minimal, and some stations were pretty strong, too. It’s the best I’ve seen it in quite a while.
It amazes me that my 31-foot wire vertical loads so well on 80 meters, too. The LDG tuner grinds a bit, but it does find a match. I don’t want to think about the efficiency of that antenna. The inverted-L is a disappointment though … nowhere near as good as the vertical and much noisier. I had the thought last night that maybe the coax is not up to snuff. It’s probably around twenty years old, even though it’s only been in use for maybe five years. I think I’ll substitute a new piece and see if that makes any difference.
I’ve got a new MFJ-1835 Cobweb antenna, still in the box. The weather hasn’t been cooperating since it arrived, and I’m hoping for some reasonable temperatures the week before Christmas, because I’m taking vacation then. I’ve read some pretty good reviews, and am really interested in experimenting with this antenna.
Well … that certainly was a sucky weekend, propagation-wise. I didn’t have a chance to get on Sunday, but I certainly had no luck on Saturday. Not one of the better efforts on my part.
Sunday, the XYL and I went over to the eastern Shore of Virginia (about an hour and a half drive via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel) to attend a choral concert. The daughter had a solo … WOW! Can that girl sing! Very proud parents. She’s a member of the choral group at Virginia Wesleyan College, where she’s a Junior.
I’ve gotten on the past couple of evenings to work some JT QSOs, and have had some interesting contacts, but even there, activity is a bit light. All I can do is keep on trying … that’s all any of us can do. Even the CW pickings have been slim.
Well, so much for my musings. I’ve got a radio club meeting tonight, and may get a bit of operating in before that, but I’ll have to see how that goes.
Sunday evening, after all the contests and QSO parties had been turned off, the bands were dead. Sound familiar? “Oh the bands are terrible … there’s nobody there … I think I’ll sell the rig …”.
Geez, guys … just try calling CQ! Everyone moans and groans and tunes from one end of the band to the other and hears nothing. That’s because everybody is listening! Put some RF into the void! Wake someone up!
I tried a CQ on a dead 20 meter band and worked six stations before I had to pull the plug and go to bed. They’re out there … listening! You’ve got to put a line into the water to get a bite. Don’t be scared … throw in!