I’m still hanging in there … doing my POTA and digital thing. BUT … in case you haven’t noticed … propagation has been pretty grim lately. Even so, there’s always SOMEONE to work!
My POTA totals are slowly approaching 400. I’m working one or two a day. It’s frustrating hearing the stations calling the activator loud and clear, but not hearing the activator. If it wasn’t for CW, my numbers would be a lot lower. All things come to those who wait, though!
This year, the Virginia QSO Party is the 20th and 21st of this month. I missed it last year, but this year I hope the weekend has some great conditions. I usually enter as a low power CW station. If you hear me on, give a call!
I got up earlier again this Saturday and fired up the rig. I worked six POTA stations in less than an hour … pretty good mix of CW and SSB. I even worked AC8RG on 40 and 60 Meter CW. A quick check shows that that’s my first CW contact on the 60 Meter band … 5.405 MHz marks the spot!
Before that, I worked a bunch of stations on 80, 60, 40, 30, and 20 Meter FT4/8. Mostly USA and Canada, as you would expect on the lower bands, but an occasional European there too. There’s always contacts to be made on digital. Just throw your call out there and somebody will answer … almost guaranteed!
The Solar Flux Index is in the 70s, and the Sunspot Number is up in the teens … quite an improvement over just a year ago. Some predictions say this cycle may be a barn-burner … only time will tell 🙂 .
I do notice that the general noise level seems to be a bit higher. So even though the signals are stronger, so is the background noise. Some of that is the season … summer is just naturally noisier than the rest of the year (mainly atmospheric noise from thunderstorms), but some is (I think) from a more “excited” atmosphere due to the rising solar cycle.
I’ve been adding a few POTA contacts most days. I’ve seen more and more CW activations and, with the noise levels on the lower bands, it’s copyable when you can barely hear the SSB signals. In lots of cases, the CW signals are effectively not even moving the S-meter, but still good copy.
Along with the increased noise levels, there’s some pretty nasty QSB, or fading. I can be hearing a station well enough to copy 100 percent one second … reply to them … and they come back multiple S-units down, sometimes inaudible. Hey, that’s the way it goes!
I’ve been keeping up my FT4/8 count, too. There’s always a few contacts to be had there. Those keep up the QSO count 🙂 .
Not a lot has changed in the past couple of weeks, radio-wise. I’m still working lots of digital modes (including CW) and enjoying it. FT4 activity seems to be increasing … probably since the FT8 segments are so crowded. PSK and Olivia activity is still sporadic, but I did notice some nice signals on 20 meters around lunchtime today … strong and lots of them!
One of my coworkers just became a ham last week. He attended an outdoor testing session, to comply with the social distancing recommendations. He passed the Technician and General class licenses, and was formally granted KO4DBF after about a week’s time or so.
Our club held its first virtual club meeting last night, using Zoom. Last week I attended our QCWA chapter meeting via Zoom as well. Looks like Zoom is the preferred method of social interaction now. At work, we’re using Microsoft Teams, but I like the Zoom interface better.
As a matter of fact, I’ve got two Zoom meetings later this evening. First, our Scout Troop, and then after that, our church Choir. We’ve been doing virtual meetings for Scouts for several weeks now and it seems to be working well. The choir meeting is more of a social thing rather than musical … just to keep in touch while in-person services are suspended. Our virtual church services are on FaceBook live.
Christmas is nearly upon us, and I am so far behind the power curve that I will never pull out of my descent! This is a particularly hectic time of year, and there are never enough days to fit all the activities into. Parties, shopping, church … all demand their slice of time. I’m off all Christmas week, so maybe I can play catch up on some of the things I slacked on.
I haven’t been on the air for a while (because, see above). This morning I flipped on the rig and worked some FT4/FT8. One of the FT8 QSOs was on 20 meters with VE1GPY, who was activating a Canadian park. That’s only my second FT8 POTA contact. I also worked ol’ reliable N4CD on 20 meter CW for another park contact this morning. Most of my QSOs this morning were on forty and sixty meters.
Yesterday, there was a huge pileup on I-64 near here. Fog and freezing temperatures caused a 70-car junkpile. I lived in Southern California for years, near the coast, and I know you can’t drive the posted speed limit in the fog. The problem is, stupid drivers behind you don’t follow that rule and have a tendency to run over you. At least we didn’t have to worry about fog freezing on the bridges in San Diego County!