Near miss – 11742km on 10m JT65

This evening CA3SOC (Chile) was calling CQ on 10m JT65. I called and called him - he called CQ about 14 times - but I was unable to raise him. At the start he was -16dB S/N but in the end was down to -22dB S/N. I was copied in Sweden at the same time, but that was no compensation.

Earlier in the afternoon I worked an E74 on PSK63, my first ever QSO on PSK at that speed. I am finding real-time keyboard operating in PSK modes quite "challenging".  Whenever I use the keyboard e.g to write this blog, I make lots of errors that need correcting. This is hard on PSK31 and PSK63 in real time.   JT65 and JT9-1 are a lot easier. Currently I am using Digipan software which is simple and basic for PSK modes. I am using WSJTX V1.3 r3673 for JT65 and JT9-1.

Roger Lapthorn, G3XBM, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cambridge, England.

Some operating time in the park.

The setup in the car
It was a great day today even though they called for rain  it was just overcast and very nice cool temps in around 17C. I was off work today and after I had completed the chores around the house it was time to get out in the outdoors for some ham radio. Since there was a chance of rain I decided to not set up outside and get rained out but instead I took my car and set up the Elecraft KX3 mobile from one of our near by parks on lake Ontario. I set out on my way and checked and double check all my items (last weekend I forgot   a coax connector and the portable op's came to a fast end) I arrived at the park around 13:00 local time and began to call CQ 20m I had no takers and decided to spin the dial to see who I could find. I did come across some DX stations calling CQ but was not able to be heard and some had very long waiting lists wanting to contact them. I then came across Bernie KB4JB from Florida and we had a very nice 20 minute QSO. The CW speed was in around 14 WPM and both of us were able to share station, location and other information before conditions changed and we both faded out. The KX3
20m mobile whip 
operated just fine for over an hour and a half on the internal batteries at 5 watts output. At one point during my QSO with Bernie for some reason my KX3 key was just not sending what I wanted. As time passed in our QSO I noticed my headphone cord was under the KX3 Key and causing the troubles. Once that was dealt with the code improved minus the headphone cord! I only made one QSO for the outing but it was a long one and the speed was at a very comfortable.  The antenna was a mono band 20m whip, the power was 5 watts from the internal rechargeable batteries and the radio as was mentioned the Elecraft KX3. It was time to head home and get dinner going for Julie's home coming from work.

Mike Weir, VE3WDM, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Ontario, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

IARU HF World Championship 2014 Results

Click to Enlarge - I am towards the bottom!
A couple weeks ago the IARU HF World Championship 2014 was held.  It started at 7:00 AM local time on Saturday morning and ended 7:00 AM local time on Sunday morning.

I have been wanting to work a big contest, and I was able to squeeze a few hours of "shack time" into my schedule on Saturday.

I hit the ground running on Saturday morning right when the contest started.  I did a bit of band hopping for the next 90 minutes.  Then I was able to get back on about 3:00 pm local for an hour, then back on again about 11:00 pm local for an hour or so.

I worked 55 stations during this limited operating time.  I worked mostly stateside stations, but I was able to pick up a couple DX contacts as well.

The only HQ station I worked was W100AW - which was a thrill.  I also worked stations in Canada, Bermuda, Europe, Jamaica and Brazil.  I also worked Hawaii several times, which I had never done before.

Here is the breakdown per band:
40 Meters: 34 Contacts
20 Meters: 5 Contacts
15 Meters: 15 Contacts (This would have been more productive if I had more time in the afternoon)
10 Meters: 1 Contact

The good news about my high noise level at the QTH is that if I can hear them, I can almost surely work them.  I think I only called 2 people that I did not end up working.

I operated "search and pounce" the entire contest.  Starting at one end of the band and working my way to the other end.  One thing I found interesting is that I would finish scanning from end to end, then start over.  On the next pass I would hear stations I didn't hear on the first past.  Very interesting!

The other thing I was happy to see is that I was not last!  I uploaded my scores to 3830scores.com and as you can see in the image above, I was not last.

I will officially submit my score to the contest, just to eventually see my call sign in print.

This was very fun!  I know I will never by a big gun contest station, but contests are a great way to improve your CW speed, operating skills, and have lots of fun!



Burke Jones, NØHYD, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Kansas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Back from Skye


It is back to the real world after a great week in the Isle of Skye with almost constant sunshine, temperatures topping 28°C (83 °F) and very humid conditions. Some great walks with the wife and the dogs to some new locations, the highlight was watching a school of porpoises playing in Loch Bharcasaig.


The cottage was booked last year primarily for our holiday requirements with no thought of radio operating as this has come later. As I feared in my previous post my unpreparedness meant disappointing operating as 2M0NRD/A

Located on the main tourist route up the Waternish peninsula I didn't want to have any unsightly aerials up at the front of the property. It is situated part way up a hill side and knew there was a wooden fence at the rear and to the right separating it from the neighbouring croft. I had taken a couple of 6 meter long fiberglass poles which I could bungee cord to the fence and then string the OCF dipole between them or alternatively use one of them to hoist the M0CVO Magitenna as a sloper. These poles and wires would be largely be obscured from view by the cottage.

The rear fence runs north to south, meaning the main lobes of the antennas would be to the west and east, not ideal for any ‘inter-g’ UK operating, so I had planned to use the side fence. What I hadn't spotted on the photographs was the overhead power line running on that side of the property. I could have put them up but opted for safety and used the rear fence.


I set up base in the spare bedroom at the back of the cottage but I really didn’t get to operate very much. We were out and about during the day and I did dabble on HF for an hour or so on some evenings. I could certainly hear a lot more than I do at home with very little noise and had some very strong signals coming in. I made a few QSOs but other than the contesting I am still finding my feet as an operator and being mike-shy I find the HF bands intimidating. I struggled to find a free frequency but did call CQ on 40m and 20m but with no response even after several minutes, eventually giving up as I was invariably swamped by another operator.

Last week was also the start of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, not only did I see some of the stadiums and venues while driving up to Skye but I also heard the special event station GA14CG operating out of Stirling on 40m some evenings. It was a huge S9+ signal and despite several sustained attempts I was unable to break the pile up. Seems they were beaming south and being north of them in Skye I stood little chance being at the back of their Cushcraft X-240 with just 50W and my OCF dipole being end on in their direction..!

Having holidayed in Skye before I was aware of the terrain but having surveyed the cottage using Google Streetview it seemed nicely situated. Upon arriving at the cottage it became apparent that the mountainous terrain was a bit more imposing than Streetview had shown, so not unexpectedly the 50MHz UKAC on the Tuesday evening was a disaster!

I spent the best part of an hour tuning around the band, occasionally hearing faint voices in the static but nothing legible. I vainly called out “CQ Contest” for a while but nothing was heard, even using the tuned dipole – even if I had managed to build the planned Quad beam it is unlikely I would have fared any better. 

The cottage was meant to have broadband and Wi-Fi facilities but a fault meant this wasn't working all week, coupled with no mobile phone signal left me feeling cut off, ironic really given the founding principle of amateur radio communication. I did do some digi-modes but without an NTP connection the error in the laptop clock (several seconds a day) meant I was initially too far out of synchronisation for JT65 or WSPR until I realised I could use the clock on my Garmin GPS which I use for geocaching. Doh!

It is likely we will be going back next year and hopefully will be a bit more experienced as an operator and will be more prepared. 

Oh and here are the porpoises I mentioned earlier


Andrew Garratt, M6GTG, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from East Midlands, England. Contact him at [email protected].

FOBB 2014

I ended up staying home, working from the shack and forgoing my bumblebee number. The weather was partly a factor as one minute it was sunny and five minutes later it looked like it was going to downpour.

The real issue was my back. I woke up this morning with a stiff lower back. Nothing incapacitating, but sore enough that hiking to my FOBB destination while carrying all my gear, and then setting up would have been no fun. Added to that was the fact that my sore back has also slowed me down somewhat, so if I would have had to dismantle the station in a hurry, it would have been a problem.

Even from home, on the good antennas, band conditions seemed to stink. I didn't hear a lot of FOBB'ers, and those I did hear were pretty weak. Giving out a 559 was generous today. I managed to work 15 stations.

I sure hope band and weather conditions and my back are better for the Skeeter Hunt!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

KX3 antenna failure

I read on the M1KTA blog that an antenna lead on one of his Elecraft KX3 units has failed. I know these have seen some harsh portable field use but I would not have expected this.  I have owned an FT817 for close on 14 years and, touch wood, it has never once failed me - still the same PA, same everything.

In my view, the KX3 is overpriced (over here in the UK) and not well built for rugged field use. I don't doubt it has excellent features and an excellent receiver, but it is still over twice as much as an FT817ND which covers DC to blue light, out of the box ready built. The KX3 is a mess for leads, coming out all over the place. The FT817 is neat, rugged, and compact.

For me, the FT817 still wins.

Roger Lapthorn, G3XBM, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cambridge, England.

The Noise Whisperer




This past Friday, I had a very pleasant visit from Roy Charlesworth from B.C. Hydro. Roy is the Hydro's noise mitigation man for naughty power lines and made his way to Mayne Island on the morning ferry from the mainland.

For the past several years, I have been plagued with severe power line noise to my northwest, virtually killing my opportunity to take part in most 6m openings to Asia. The one or two small rain showers that we might get here in the Gulf Islands during the sporadic-E season, will often wash away enough of the power line crud to quieten things down for a few hours but as soon as the sun is back and the day heats-up, the noise always returns. For the same reason, the lines don't seem to get noisy until around 10 a.m., giving me some early-morning opportunity to listen to a dead-quiet band.

Earlier this spring, I contacted Roy and was added to his list of places to visit. He assured me that he would be over to check out my situation sometime during the summer. Roy is now officially 'retired' from Hydro and was doing similar noise mitigation work at that time. Once retired, Hydro found that his unique skills were still very much in demand and have rehired him on a 'work when you want' contract basis, allowing Hydro to still chip away at the list of complaints.

I recall, not too may years ago, when any complaints to B.C. Hydro about power line noise where just  ignored and the only way they would act was if ordered to do so by Industry Canada. With the confusing  bureaucratic channels involved, most amateurs just gave up and lived with the noise. Fast track to modern times, where all responsibility for noise mitigation has been placed in Hydro's hands and they are bound by IC mandate to deal with customer noise complaints.

It was apparent when first meeting Roy that he was very familiar with amateur radio 'noise problems' and very knowledgeable about their causes. After demonstrating the noise being heard on 6m on my own receiver, he then deployed a rather unique piece of test gear, a Radar Engineers Model 240 RFI Locator receiver. The 240 tunes from 1.8-1000MHz and is capable of displaying and saving the spectral display of the offending noise signal.



According to Roy, there are many possible causes of power line noise (cracked insulators, poor grounding, loose clamps... etc) and each one has a unique spectral signature.


Being able to see the signature and compare it to the actual suspected source goes a long way in helping to find and cure the problem. Before departing to search the local area, Roy's final check was to check my own house for any possible noise. A quick sweep of the electrical service panel using yet another receiver indicated all was well.

Roy also mentioned that he prefers working with hams since, compared with non-ham noise complainants, they seem very knowledgeable about noise in general and often have narrowed down the source for him...even providing the number of the offending power pole. I had also provided Roy with the numbers of two different poles. I was pretty sure about my number-one candidate pole but not so sure about number-two. Using the sharper pattern of my 9 element 2m Yagi, I was able to get a very good bearing on the noise source.

After being gone for most of the afternoon, Roy returned to explain what he had found. To my delight, he had found three noisy poles within my local neighbourhood, but to my surprise, none were the poles I had suspected! All three however, were on the same bearing as my prime candidate pole, but much further away than I had thought. He also confirmed what I had told him earlier, that all other directions were very quiet. He explained that he would file his findings with Hydro who would create a work order for eventual physical inspection and (hopefully) resolution of the problem. He would also contact me again once that had been done, to see if the noisy poles had been fixed.

I think we are most fortunate, here in B.C., to have a dedicated one-man power line noise mitigation man, in the person of Roy Charlesworth. He is clearly passionate about his task and understands just how devastating power line noise can be for radio amateurs. Unlike many regions in the U.S. where utility companies can stonewall amateurs for years and years, we presently have a very efficient recourse when power lines behave badly.

I sure hope Roy doesn't retire for 'real' anytime soon as I'm not sure he would be easily replaced!

To learn more about power line noise see:




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

Continuing JT65/JT9 today

When we get back from shopping I shall return to JT65-HF and JT9-1 modes hoping to work more stations. Yesterday, staying on 20m, I worked 4 Europeans running 2.5 or 5W. JT65-HF is very intuitive and works well. Althought I have had JT9-1 QSOs on 10m in the past, I suspect the rig stability is "challenging" and JT65-HF gives me a better chance. JT65-HF is some 4dB worse than WSPR but the TX period is only 48 secs (1 minute TX period but actual TX is less) so may be better with QSB?  JT9-1 is a narrower bandwidth mode than JT65-HF and is about 2dB worse than WSPR. Of course, JT65 and JT9 are proper QSO modes.

Sunspot count today is 76 (decent) and 20-30MHz conditions are supposed to be "normal" so there could well be some F2 (as well as Es) on 10m today. JT65-HF and JT9-1 on 10m are calling I think.

The great advantage of WSPR is you can set the rig running and monitor things in another room. JT65 and JT9 seem to require "hands on" operation, which is fine.

Roger Lapthorn, G3XBM, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cambridge, England.

Battery problems and a solution


My Chinese Li Ion battery "ol' Blue" (upper right) has given up the ghost, much the same as Mike VE3WDM has written over at his blog.  In my case, the battery will not take a charge.  The output from the wall wart charger is perfect, but no matter how long it's connected to the battery, the battery itself will not charge.

I suspect either a faulty cell or perhaps a fault with the little regulator board that's inside the blue shrink wrap. So the decision had to be made.  Even though the price is relatively cheap, do I buy another Chinese battery or try something else? Do I go back to hauling around my small, but heavy, 5 Ah sealed lead acid battery?

I have a charger that will handle 18650 type Li Ion batteries, as these are what go into the tactical flashlights that I keep in my CERT pack and my radio "Go Pack".  So I figured that since I already have half of what I need, that I would go a different route this time.

I purchased a pack of 10 type 18650 batteries (upper left) from an American vendor.  The ones I bought are 3.7V and have a rating of 5300 mAh.  I also purchased two of the 4 cell holders that you see above. This gives me two 14.8V, 5300 mAh batteries. All I had to do was solder on the connector that goes directly into the KX3.

I tried them out today and they seem to work without any problems.  I will use a fresh charged pack tomorrow for FOBB and will see how long one pack lasts before I have to switch over to the backup pack.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Series Seven Episode Fifteen – Programming with Chirp (27 July 2014)

Series Seven Episode Fifteen of the ICQ Amateur / Ham Radio Podcast has been released. The latest news, Martin (M1MRB & W9ICQ) and Colin (M6BOY) discuss the joy of working and operating a special event station as GA214CG comes live and Martin (M1MRB & W9ICQ) reviews Programming with Chirp.

  • Thai hams get special permission for 6 metres
  • UK CubeSail Amateur / Ham Radio Satellite
  • Wirral Grammar School for Girls launch 434 MHz balloon
  • Top Ten finish for UK Team in WRTC
  • Spanish 5 MHz experimental period extended
  • Andorra joins 5MHz allocations
  • New Zealand Amateur / Ham radio Brass Monkey Contest
  • Communicate with 'walkie talkie' dongle
  • New Amateur / Ham radio Licences in Ireland
  • 144 MHz channels to be used for the Commonwealth Games
  • 20th Commonwealth Games, Galsgow 2014 Special Event

Colin Butler, M6BOY, is the host of the ICQ Podcast, a weekly radio show about Amateur Radio. Contact him at [email protected].

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