A 630m Maritime Adventure

It may not have been the YASME but the recent voyage of the HAKUNA MATATA had all of the radio fun that one might ask for during the mid-summer doldrums! (more later for those too young to recall the YASME)

Crewed by Mark (VA7MM) and YL May (VE7MAY), Toby (VE7CNF) and XYL Nancy, the 31' Benateu recently completed a 14-day circumnavigation of Georgia Strait's Gulf Islands. This is a yearly adventure that has been successfully completed for the past few summers and looks as though it may now be an annual tradition.

Normally, the crew kept up regular radio contact on HF as well as on VHF when possible but this year saw a major departure.

In previous summers, near the end of the voyage, the crew has always visited us here on Mayne Island for an afternoon of vittles and libation before heading for home. There is always a good amount of time spent recalling the past-year's radio activities, winter projects and reminiscence of the 'good old days'. Last year, just as the party was ending, I jokingly suggested that 'next year', it would be cool to work them from the boat on 630m.

Although there was no immediate commitment, I knew that the seed had been planted, and with three of the four crew being engineers, I suspected it might be hard for them to resist, and ... just before departure, the local bunch of 630m ops were put on alert to be watching for CF7MM/mm on 475 kHz CW as they would be attempting to work us from three different overnight anchorages during their summer voyage!

Evidently Toby had been working quietly during the winter to make this become a reality. Here are some pictures of the system along with Toby's (the system's builder) comments.

Variometer and matching transformer
I have attached photos of the CF7MM/MM 630m setup on Hakuna Matata. The lower black toolbox holds a variometer with selectable taps and a matching toroidal autotransformer with selectable taps. At the base of the antenna is another series loading coil.

Wire vertical and loading coil
The antenna wire is 14 ga 38 ft long with plastic Unadilla "END-sulators" at each end. Ground was the boats's cast steel keel and a couple of 30 ft wires near the gunnels. The rig is an IC-746 with my power-mixer transverter. Transmit power was about 20W TPO.

Toby (VE7CNF) working the pileups!
Tuning and matching was done with a resistive voltage divider setup, signal generator, and portable oscilloscope. Once the matching was figured out, I could re-tune the variometer to give a dip on the transverter's RF voltmeter and check that we had the same RF voltage as with a dummy load connected.

The antenna equivalent circuit is approximately 100 pF in series with 27 ohms. Coil losses were 23 ohms for about 50 ohms total load resistance, so the matching autotransformer was not used. The base loading coil is approximately 170 uH and the variometer is 950 uH, for 1120 uH total inductance.

QSOs were made at anchor from Boho Bay (49 29.808N 124 13.857W near Lasqueti Is), Silva Bay (49 09.047N 123 41.670W near Gabriola Is), and Winter Cove (48 48.621N 123 11.575W near Saturna Is).
The route, heading north from Vancouver
Stations worked on CW were VE7SL (Steve on Mayne Is, 12 to 48W TPO), VE7BDQ (John in Delta, 4 to 25W TPO), VE7VV (Roger in Victoria, 10W TPO), VE7CA (Markus in North Vancouver, 70W TPO), VA7JX (Jack in Campbell River, 100W TPO). Both VE7SL and VE7VV were also worked using LSB phone from Winter Cove.

Some of the contacts are shown below. Note the transceiver is not really on 160m ... it's just the i.f. for my 630m transverter!

I was impressed with the strength of ground wave signals given the low transmitter powers and EIRP's well below 5W. Received signals ranged from S1 to S9+10dB and copy was easy for all QSOs. QSO distances ranged from 10 to 142 km. We had low receive noise levels in all locations, with Silva Bay being a little noisier than the others due to many nearby boats and some shore power lines.

We tried disconnecting the gunnel ground wires and leaving only the keel, and found that the antenna capacitance and resistance did not change. When we disconnected the keel and left only the gunnel wires, the antenna capacitance dropped to about 87pF and antenna resistance dropped by a few ohms. It appears that the keel provided most of our ground coupling to sea water and it would have been a sufficient ground on its own.
It would have been interesting to compare signal reports with different ground arrangements. Next time...

More details of Toby's 630m transverter as well as a practical 630m antenna tune-up procedure can be found on his website here.

All-in-all, I think the 630m operation was a great success and very likely the first-ever 630m marine mobile operation on that band, as I don't recall this happening anywhere else over the years. It was also a great way to pay homage to the band's original maritime heritage where its quality groundwave and skywave capabilities were used to advantage for so many decades safeguarding mariners worldwide.

Maritime mobile operation on the amateur bands has some great history behind it, including the yacht YASME. In the mid-50's, Danny Weil was the first ever amateur to undertake DX'pedition style operations via sailboat, as he visited numerous rare islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific.

Danny on the YASME - courtesy: www.gm3itn.co.uk
Original YASME QSL -  courtesy: http://hamgallery.com/

His exploits were regularly published in CQ magazine at the time and always made for exciting reading as Danny would eventually wreck three YASMES over the years! His adventures laid the groundwork for future island-hopping DX operations such as those undertaken by Gus Browning (W4BPD), Don Miller (W9WNV) and all that followed ... I'm sure they would all have enjoyed working the HAKUNA MATATA as well!

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

AmateurLogic 12th Anniversary Sweepstakes

It’s just about time to celebrate another birthday at ALTV. We’ve teamed up with Icom and MFJ for another great giveaway. Get the complete details at: www.amateurlogic.tv/contest

George Thomas, W5JDX, is co-host of AmateurLogic.TV, an original amateur radio video program hosted by George Thomas (W5JDX), Tommy Martin (N5ZNO), Peter Berrett (VK3PB), and Emile Diodene (KE5QKR). Contact him at [email protected].

The VK3BVW Winter DX Survey

courtesy: VK3BVW

Every once in awhile I get the yen to tune through the international SW broadcast bands as my interest in good old, basic SWL'ing, is rekindled.

These bands are certainly quieter compared to when I first discovered the magic of radio and started DXing at age eleven using a lovely old all band cathedral-style GE set up in my attic-high radio shack ... no longer just a boring attic bedroom, but one with walls plastered with QSLs from all over the world.

It was an amazing experience and one that obviously has left a lasting impression. There were hundreds and hundreds of stations on SW, throughout all of the HF bands but the highest I could tune was 19mc. on the old General Electric beauty ... who knows what was missed up higher as this was the peak of Cycle 19 and HF was on fire!

As the huge decline in international SW broadcasting over the past few years continues, I'm always pleasantly surprised to see that there are still a lot of nice DX targets to hunt for.

I was particularly excited to read Rob's (VK3BVW) just released blogspot, describing his fall listening project from down-under. Being the DX season down in Australia, Rob decided to do daily bandscans of the low HF international SW bands (4.8 - 10MHz) to see what popped-up from day to day, which was actually afternoon to afternoon, since his listening was done between noon and 4PM local time. The project may be viewed here along with a nice introductory video ... in all, a huge effort by Rob with a lot of helpful details to go along with the logs.

While there be sure to visit the rest of Rob's SW blog ... there's a lot of good stuff here to get your SWL juices flowing!

His survey results are very encouraging for those of us that may have thought that there is just not much to be heard when it comes to international SW broadcasting. As Rob points out, even though these logs reflect what was heard in Australia, most, if not all should be hearable in North America as well, even more so as we approach the DX season in North America.

So pull up your chair sometime after dark, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, and take a relaxing tune through the SW bands with Rob's list in hand ... see what you can find, and perhaps rekindle that early fascination in SW radio outside of the ham bands that may have hooked you many years ago. You may also find this broadcast frequency database helpful should you run across something unknown.

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

Shortwave Radiogram

In March 2013 The Voice of America (VOA) started an experiment called the VOA Radiogram which transmitted digital text and images using the powerful 50 year old analog shortwave broadcast transmitter at the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station near Greenville, North Carolina.

The idea was anyone could receive the radiogram on any shortwave radio, even an inexpensive portable one with no SSB capability. By feeding the audio from the radio to a computer, either by a audio lead or even using the a microphone the listener could decode the text and images using simple software.

I had seen mention and reports on social media of people receiving them but somehow never got around to trying it myself.

VOA ended the experiment back in June this year a week before the retirement of the program producer Dr. Kim Andrew Elliott.  An offer to continue the broadcasts on a contract basis was declined, so a follow-on show called Shortwave Radiogram began transmission from the WRMI Radio Miami International transmitting site in Okeechobee, Florida and Space Line in Bulgaria.

The Shortwave Radiogram transmission schedule is (at the time of writing and all times UTC)
Saturday 1600-1630 9400 kHz
Sunday 0600-0630 7730 kHz
Sunday 2030-2100 11580 kHz
Sunday 2330-2400 11580 kHz
All via WRMI except for 9400 kHz, which is via Space Line in Bulgaria.

I spotted a tweet a few weeks back (can't remember who from) mentioning the @SWRadiogram so my interest was piqued, I wasn't around for this weekends Saturday transmission in Europe but had a go on Sunday for the one from America. I wasn't expecting great things due to the levels of noise and poor conditions of late.

I have the decoding program FLdigi already installed on my computer for other datamodes and for information on how to decode the radiograms (sent using MFSK32) visit this page

On the 0600UTC transmission I managed just one poor image

 but during the Sunday 2030UTC transmission I got four decent images, the fifth was lost to QRM

I also made two short videos (on hand held mobile phone so a bit shaky) which show the incoming text and images.

Andrew Garratt, MØNRD, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from East Midlands, England. Contact him at [email protected].

WAE from the Railroad Station (QRP)

Judy and I rode our bicycles from Andover to the Potter Place railroad station. I operated in the Worked All Europe contest and managed 9 countries in 20 minutes. The weather was perfect and 20 meters was in good shape.

What a day for a bike ride… a perfect August afternoon. It was nearly 80F with a nice breeze. We arrived at Potter Place around 3:00 pm. I tossed a half wave wire over a maple tree on the hill over looking the old station. There was a picnic table directly underneath. I used the KX3 on 20 meters.

The band was full of stations operating in the WAE contest. I had no trouble making contacts. I’ve changed my log to show the countries worked.

13 Aug-17 1925 14.041 SN7Q CW 599 599 Poland
13 Aug-17 1927 14.036 OM3RM CW 599 599 Slovak Rep
13 Aug-17 1928 14.031 RU1A CW 599 599 Russia
13 Aug-17 1930 14.030 DM6V CW 599 599 Germany
13 Aug-17 1933 14.030 HG5F CW 599 599 Hungary
13 Aug-17 1935 14.019 S500R CW 599 599 Slovenia
13 Aug-17 1936 14.021 DP6A CW 599 599 Germany
13 Aug-17 1938 14.023 R6AF CW 599 599 Russia
13 Aug-17 1942 14.033 ED2A CW 599 599 Spain
13 Aug-17 1944 14.039 YO9HP CW 599 599 Romania
13 Aug-17 1945 14.043 9A1AA CW 599 599 Croatia

After nearly a dozen QSOs, I packed up for the return ride. The results from operating QRP out of a backpack with a short wire must be the closest thing to pure magic. Combined with a glorious bike ride… well… it’s fantastic!

Jim Cluett, W1PID, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Hampshire, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Ham Cram Offering Free Extra Course Online

Ham Cram is accepting registrations for an online guided-study Extra Class licensing course. The course begins in late September and is co-sponsored by the Gloucester County Amateur Radio Club, GCARC.

The W1UL ham cram method has four distinguishing characteristics:

  • Incorrect answers are not studied
  • Only those questions most likely to be on the VE test are studied
  • It’s the fastest and most reliable path to a license or upgrade
  • It’s free!

This course differs substantially from the normal Ham-Cram.com independent study license prep because the Extra class pool is 50% larger than the Technician or General Class pools, making associations between question and answers more difficult. In addition the Extra subject material is more challenging.

A required book is offered for free but donations are requested. The donations will be exclusively used to enhance the ham-cram.com website. The purpose of the book is showing pool questions and answers in context.

Here is the normal (non-context) display:

(E0A05) What is one of the potential hazards of using microwaves in the amateur radio bands?

The high gain antennas commonly used can result in high exposure levels

The answer follows the question.

Here is the same question in context:

(E0A05) What is one of the potential hazards of using microwaves in the amateur radio bands?

An antenna creates by taking energy that would normally radiate from the side or back of the antenna and concentrating it in the desired direction. Microwave frequencies have exceptionally short wavelength allowing development of antennas having substantially higher amounts of radiation (gain) raising the effective radiated power in the desired direction.

Contextual usage does not make you an expert but it gives you additional insight into the question and answer pair.
Candidates complete and report on their results of assignments and participate in discussions on a dedicated email reflector. The pace of the course is initially targeted at one subelement (out of 10) per week but actual progress depends upon the pace of candidate assignment completion.

For those with commuting distance of the GCARC clubhouse in Mullica Hill, NJ (across the river from Philadelphia), the course will terminate with a two hour review session immediately followed by a VE test. However, W1UL will conduct a review session and VE test for any club in the ARRL SNJ section or any location within 70 miles of Tuckerton, NJ provided there are at least three candidates, (not all necessarily from the same club), a club furnished location for the review/VE session and the club provides two additional Extra class VEs. For people not in the Southern NJ area the email reflector used for the rest of the course will host the review.

Reserve a virtual seat for the course now since reservations may be limited.

Email urb at ham-cram dot com with reservations request and questions.

73 Urb W1UL – 67 Years a Ham

Urb LeJeune, W1UL, is the creator of Ham-Cram, a ham radio test preparation website. He writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Calling Olivia-mode Operators (from All Regions)

Calling all Olivia-mode operators with experience using the Olivia digital mode in all areas of the world:

Please join our Facebook group at the following link. We are discussing important operational changes!

If you are on Facebook, and interested in the Olivia HF radioteletype chat mode, please join the community group at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/olivia.hf/

If you want to join our discussion by way of the Olivia group on Groups.io, please feel free to spread the news, and also to subscribe to that group email reflector. We’ll start discussions, soon. Here’s the link: https://groups.io/g/Olivia

OLIVIA (Also, Olivia MFSK) is an amateur digital radioteletype mode designed by Pawel Jalocha, SP9VRC, starting in 2003, and in use by 2005. The Olivia-mode goal was to be effective even in poor propagation conditions on the high frequencies (shortwave).

OLIVIA can decode well under noise, propagational fading (QSB), interference (QRM), flutter caused by polar path propagation and even auroral conditions and sporadic-E. Olivia uses a 7-bit ASCII alphabet. There were a handful of amateur digital modes that were derived from Olivia, including RTTYM and PAX.

Outside of amateur radio two-way communication, this mode is utilized during the tests run by the VoA every weekend. See the VoA RadioGram website, VoARadiogram.net, for the schedule.

The Olivia QSO between K4SOL and NW7US 20170806 @1410UTC

The Olivia QSO between K4SOL and NW7US using 16/500 mode settings on shortwave, 2017-AUG-06 @1410UTC

The first on-the-air tests were performed by two radio amateurs, Fred OH/DK4ZC and Les VK2DSG on the Europe-Australia path in the 20-meter amateur band. The tests proved that the protocol works well and can allow regular intercontinental radio contacts with as little as one watt RF power. Since 2005 Olivia has become a standard for digital data transfer under white noise, fading and multipath, flutter (polar path) and auroral conditions.

Voluntary channelization

Since Olivia signals can be decoded even when received signals are extremely weak, (signal to noise ratio of -14 dB), signals strong enough to be decoded are sometimes below the noise floor and therefore impossible to search for manually.

As a result, amateur radio operators have voluntarily decided upon channelization for this mode. This channelization allows even imperceptibly weak signals to be properly tuned for reception and decoding. By common convention amateur stations initiate contacts utilizing either the 16/500 or 32/1000 modes and then switch to other modes to continue the conversation. The following table lists the common center frequencies used in the amateur radio bands.

The traditional channels are now under heavy use by newer modes. Thus, this Olivia group is working on refiguring the strategy for continued use and channelization. Please join us for discussion.


Thank you,

Tomas / NW7US

Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Nebraska, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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