Hurricanes and stuff

Eighty meters was pretty good last night. I worked quite a few stations on FT8 mode … all of them North Americans. FT8 is still crowded, to the detriment of JT9 & JT65. I find it puzzling that JT65 seems to be the preferred mode, since JT9 is more bandwidth-efficient and a more robust mode. I usually don’t see many, if any, JT9 signals on the waterfall, so I resort to calling CQ. Sometimes I get a bite … sometimes I don’t.

I DO see the allure of FT8, though. It’s fast. True fact … JT65 & JT9 are like watching paint dry! But … I like being able to do radio while working on other things that have to get done. Hey … radio is radio … right?

Today is the Virginia Beach Hamfest, but I’ve decided to give it a pass this year. I’ve just got too much going on today that has to be done. I’m filling in for the Pastor at church tomorrow, and need to polish up my sermon and a few other things before then.

It looks like we have dodged the worst of Irma here on the Virginia coast. I really feel bad for Florida, though. This has the potential to devastate a lot of Florida. Our prayers are with the people of that state.

73 de Dick N4BC


Even though the storm track is still unknown, our Emergency Operations Center here in Tidewater Virginia is already in storm preparation mode. Since I work for the city communications folks, we have started assessing our readiness. Right now, we’re charging up spare batteries from our stocks. What we’re looking at is mainly a rain event, with all the ensuing flooding. there’s one apartment complex here that usually has the ground floor under water after major rain events.

Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma, predicted to turn North over Florida.

Our infrastructure should be OK. We just upgraded to the latest Motorola system version (R 7.17, if you’re interested), so everything has just been tested and is running fine. All sites have emergency power, so now we just wait …

The upcoming weekend is busy for me without all these complications. The XYL is having cataract surgery … it’s the Virginia Beach Hamfest on Saturday … I’m preaching Sunday at my church … lots going on. I will be on call as well.

73 de Dick N4BC

WSJT-X 1.8.0 rc2

The latest release candidate of the WSJT-X software incorporating FT-8 mode has been released (rc2), and it seems to have cured my power output problem. I worked several stations on 20, 17, and 15 meters this afternoon and everything looks ok — JT65, JT9, and FT8 all worked great.

The bands seem OK today … much better than the recent past. Hopefully I’ll be able to get on later this evening to see who’s about. It’s a dreary day outside with thunderstorms in the forecast so that might put a damper on later operations but hey … that’s ham radio, isn’t it?

73 de Dick N4BC

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

Looking up …

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.

So, I’ll catch you later.

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


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

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