Rough Copy …

I was working POTA stations in the upper reaches of 40 meters, and you wouldn’t believe how rough the copy was … or actually, maybe you would. Summertime is here … terrible deadly thunderstorms in the Midwest … the general elevated noise levels in our normal environment … all combine to raise the noise floor on the lower bands to the point where many signals are on the cusp of being unreadable. Quite a few of the stations are using low power and compromise antennas. That, coupled with the heterodynes from AM broadcast stations, drive you to distraction. The QSB tantalizes you by raising the signals above the noise and then just when you’re ready to copy something critical, dashing them down into the mud. Life is hard 😀 !

But … help is available! Today’s SDRs really have the capability of pulling some of them out of the hash (I have an IC-7300). Yesterday, I resorted to using all of the bells and whistles I could … auto notch, noise reduction, twin passband tuning, RF gain, tone controls … even the outboard audio filters in my speaker enclosure. All helped to give me just enough of an edge to copy some of those “unreadable” stations. DSP RULES!

So, what’s the moral of this story? Use all the tools that you have available! Yes, many of the older radios have beautiful sounding audio and great sensitivity, but today’s modern radios offer many tools that were not even dreamed of when those radios were designed and built. We truly live in amazing times!!

73 de Dick N4BC

A Bit of Hope

We had some good news last night at the club meeting from Charlie, WB4PVT. T-Mobile is putting up a new tower and they seem agreeable to hosting our 2-meter and 70-centimeter repeaters on it. Both repeaters have been homeless for a couple of years after losing our previous site. Quite a bit of the meeting was taken up with discussion of this topic. We don’t have a lot of details yet.

We’re also seeing a positive turn in membership after several silent keys in our membership over the past few months. Unfortunately, with the aging of the ham population, it seems to be an inevitable trend.

73 de Dick N4BC

Low Bands

Last night was a good night on the lower bands … 80, 60, 40 meters. I had 22 QSOs, mostly on 80 meters, and mostly FT8. There were two CW QSOs mixed in there. I worked VP9/AA1AC in Bermuda on 40 meters and VP2MKG in Montserrat on 80 meters. Both had moderate pileups going, working split, and I got them on the first call. The VP2 was a new country for me with my N4BC callsign. I think I’m up to 95 confirmed with that newer callsign.

80 meters stations that heard me
40 meters stations that heard me

The low bands seem to be the place to be during the solar minimum. I was decoding stations all over the world … Asia, the Americas, Europe … they’re out there! I don’t have a superstation, either. I’m running 100 watts to a 31-foot homebrew vertical. Not a model of efficiency. My tuner is working overtime! But it works!!

I guess the moral of this story is … put a signal out there. Get some wire in the sky. You won’t catch any fish unless you get a line in the water. Good fishing!!!!

73 de Dick N4BC

Reminiscences

Yesterday evening, I was home alone, sitting in the living room, and outside it was nasty … almost dark, a chilly drizzle, foggy … nasty! As so often happens in circumstances like that, my mind drifted back to earlier times … reminiscing about friends no longer with us.

For some reason, my mind dredged up Max DeHenseler, HB9RS. Max passed away in 2014 after a 50-year “career” in ham radio. He was 80 when he left us.

Max, HB9RS

First licensed at twelve, he went on to make a name for himself in ham radio circles. Look him up on QRZ.com as HB9RS for a full description of his activities and honors. He operated all over the world, thanks to his job at the United Nations as their Chief Cartographer. He was instrumental in establishing 4U1UN, the United Nations HQ station.

I first ran into Max on the air when he was ET3RS in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was living in the Seychelles Islands, operating as VQ9D. Almost every day, Max could be found on the air, and we sort of made it a habit to listen out for each other and chat about the things that hams chat about 🙂 . It was usually a pleasant interlude from the huge pileups we both used to generate. Being fairly close (geographically), we could override the QRM. Max left ET3-land eventually, and returned to UN HQ at New York.

Max’s QSL Card at ET3RS

One year, George, VQ9GP and I flew back to the US on vacation at the same time and Max graciously invited us to stop by UN HQ in New York City for a reunion and tour. George and I showed up and we had a great time and a great tour.

Unfortunately, that was the last time I saw Max … our paths just never crossed again. That happens a lot in our hobby. We’re so far-flung and distant from each other, we develop friendships without ever meeting physically.

Max was such a gentleman and great ham, I consider myself privileged to not only have been his friend, but to actually have met him. I wasn’t disappointed when that happened. He was the same great guy on the air or in person.

73 de Dick N4BC

The Aftermath …

It’s always interesting to get on the bands on the Monday after a big contest, and last evening was no different. The FT8 crowd was there … 80, 60, & 40 were full of FT8 signals … 20 and above were dead here. CW was a far second place …

BUT, the interesting thing …

I could not find a single RTTY signal, anywhere. Just the evening before, it was wall-to-wall RTTY with the ARRL RTTY Roundup going on. I don’t know if they were all burned out or if they only fired up that mode during contests. I suspect some of both!

I dove in and worked a bunch of North American FT8 QSOs, with some Caribbean islands thrown in for good measure. I also worked a few CW contacts as well. Had some enjoyable chats there. I try to pick the best-sounding fists. I’m getting too old to try and parse poorly sent, poorly spaced CW. Running words and letters together is NOT GOOD!

Sorry for my mini-rant there … have a good week and get on the air! Enjoy!!

73 de Dick N4BC