A little life in the ol’ bands (and me) yet …

It’s been a while, but I didn’t fade away … I’m still here and kicking! Most of my activity has been digital modes (and I include CW in that). Just last night, I worked a station about 150 miles away on 80 meters JT9 that I literally could not detect on the waterfall … zilch, nada, nyet! The waterfall was pretty much flat except for background noise, yet WSJT-X detected and decoded the signal. Spooky magic!

The weather has been a bit dodgy lately … HOT and afternoon and evening thunderstorms. Not conducive to safe operating. I did remember to renew my ARRL equipment insurance, though. The reminder was a particular loud and near BOOM! Didn’t affect me, but it sure made me jump! this weekend’s forecast is for mid 90’s and heat indices in the low 100’s. I think I’ll skip portable operation until we get a break.

I missed field day this year … didn’t get a chance to participate at all. I had family obligations. Oh well … maybe next year. I really missed getting together with the guys. At the club meeting last night there were lots of photos and talk about how much better we did this year than last year.

I had a neighbor’s tree drop in our yard, so now it’s MY tree. I have to get out there with the chainsaw and knock it down to size. It’s not a big trunk, thankfully … about 4 inches in diameter. If it wasn’t for the hot weather, it would be an easy job.

Well, that’s enough for now. Catch you later!

73 de Dick N4BC

Updates

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, back to work … later!

73 de Dick N4BC

A Feeble Effort

Yesterday evening, around 0200Z I flipped the rig on and tried answering a few JT CQs on 40, 30, and 20. No reply. Just couldn’t seem to conjure up an answer from anybody. I finally just gave up.

I wish I had looked at PSKREPORTER to see where I was being heard. Europe, Asia, North America, South America … pretty much all over the world. Had I known that, I would have cranked out a few CQs myself. I think I just gave up too soon. Live and learn!

73 de Dick N4BC

On again!

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 …

73 de Dick N4BC

NAQP – SSB

I got a bit of SSB operating in during this weekend. The bands were not very good from my location. Noise levels were just high enough to be irritating, and I never did manage to work any stations other than 20 and  40 meters. Forty was the most prolific band, and I did manage to find quite a few stations among the squeals and heterodynes of  the AM broadcast stations.

Sunday, I worked 20 and 40 again … but JT65 this time. There was a good mix of stations on, but primarily up and down the east coast and midwest. I worked them until the band petered out and then switched off the rig.

All in all, it was a good weekend, and I had a lot of fun. I was glad to have an “indoor” hobby, since the weekend was damp and dreary. Hey, it was better than the foot of snow we had a couple of weeks ago! Ah, well … spring is just around the corner.

73 de Dick N4BC

80 Meter Activity and Antennas

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.

Hope everybody has a great Holiday season …

73 de Dick N4BC

ARRL 10M Contest

Interesting propagation on 10 meters this weekend … Saturday morning the western USA was coming in here pretty well, then the midwest opened up. I’ve never heard so many MN and WI stations :-). Ten was definitely open to somewhere most of the day. Lots of CW stations today, but not many SSB heard. About 5pm, the band started dropping out … still a few stations heard, but only the big guns.

Well, we’ll see what tomorrow brings. I’ll give it a few more hours after lunch tomorrow and see what’s going on.

Additional comments – Sunday: early afternoon brought a couple of CW contacts. One was from the local area (Virginia Beach) with a fluttery signal, and the other was a BIG signal from Tennessee. Not anything heard on SSB and later, the CW signals just disappeared. Poof!

Additional Additional comments – I ended up with 41 QSOs for a total score of 2774. I’m satisfied with that. I didn’t really hit it hard … only sporadic operating on Saturday, and then today wasn’t very good.

73 de Dick N4BC

Pretty bad …

I managed to get on last night for a while after I got home from Choir practice … pretty bad. I made a couple of contacts, both in Oklahoma on 40m JT-9. I did start a QSO with a station in Arizona, but he disappeared on me about halfway through the exchange. Eighty meters had some CW action going on, but I didn’t hear much on digital. My noise level on 80 is pretty high … I really need to see where that’s coming from. Twenty meters was dead, except for a few weak CW stations.

This weekend is the ARRL Sweepstakes, but I don’t think I will have the time to invest. I have quite a few other irons in the fire that I can’t put off, so I think I’ll sit this one out. PLUS, I’m on call for work. NEXT weekend, though, I’ll be there for the CQ WW CW test.

73 de Dick N4BC

Some CW Action this evening

I’ve had some luck this evening working CW. There were some pretty strong signals coming out of the Caribbean and Central America … ZF2, HR9, PJ4 … etc. They were working pileups (mostly into Europe with some North Americans – me being one of those). All good operators, and just knocking them off, one after another. Not the most leisurely QSOs … more “Slam, Bam, Thank you Ma’am”. BUT … a contact in the log on an otherwise poor evening is a contact in the log!

Had a little lightning and thunder in the area this evening, too. I would think that as cool as it was today, that’s unusual.

Our repeater trustee wants me to give him some help setting up and interfacing our new Yaesu Fusion repeater with our RLC-2 Controller this weekend, so I guess I will give him a hand with that. We’re finally getting it installed SOON, I hope. Seems like it’s been forever since we lost our old tower site.

73 de Dick N4BC

Looking Up …

Things were good … things were poor. I tuned the bands tonight and didn’t find much action on CW or Digital. Twenty was pretty much dead, but Forty and Eighty showed a little life. I had several contacts into Canada on 80M and a couple of statesiders on 40M. Both bands had quite a bit of QRN – not sure if it’s man-made or natural, but it was prettty high on the S-meter. JT mode is about the only mode where I call CQ. I figure if he can hear me well, we’ve got a better chance of a QSO.

In any case, I did make some contacts and I guess I should be happy about that. The Solar forecast is only FAIR for those bands, and with my antennas … . Any time you can put something into the log is a winner, right?

73 de Dick N4BC