Author Archive

Will Cycle 24 Break Record Sunspot Count?

Count of 208 was recorded 9 November 2011
Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) Image
North American Polar Paths To Europe And Japan 

Good afternoon from the Shell Beach shack after a winter’s morning rain shower leaving behind a partly cloudy sky with a temperature nearing 55 degrees plus or minus a few degrees.

Right now, I’m listening on 15m while machines speak to machines in the mechanical language of RTTY under the control of RadioSport operators, who undoubtedly are smiling ear to ear. The pain of the chair seems less painful when Cycle 24 maybe approaching a record count?

I never paid attention to auroral data and, with critical polar paths playing a fundamental role in the success of RadioSport scores across the globe, I finally get it.

NOAA Explains
Auroral data is as important as the solar flux indice, sunspot count, and both indexes. Each measure gives a reasonable guess at what I can expect on a given RadioSport weekend as NOAA explained it this way, “Energetic auroral particles (primarily electrons) not only produce the visible aurora but also greatly influence the properties of the ionosphere and are connected with strong electrical currents (as much as several million amperes) that flow in the ionosphere and connect along the geomagnetic field to a dynamo process at high altitude in the magnetosphere.

NOAA further stated, “Thus, this same display provides a similar “best-guess” estimate of the geographic locations that may be subject to geomagnetic fluctuations that result from electrical currents flowing in the ionosphere, or the radio propagation paths that maybe degraded because of increased absorption of the radio signal by the disturbed ionosphere.

In Sum
The potential for a storm increases as the number of sunspots increase and the possibility of a record count is approaching. Although, I’m a little perplexed because I’m not hearing much CW activity given current conditions? Those RTTY operators get all the luck!

73 from my Shell Beach shack.   

My #hamr Weekend Update

Winter Maintenance

Good evening from the Shell Beach shack as the Kenwood TS850S listens on 20m CW through a trapped vertical between a pair of condominiums. I’ve noticed a significant uptick in activity as the weekend roller coasters into Sunday. Truly, it is good to hear signals on 15 and 20m with a bangin’ sunspot count of one hundred and sixty seven!

If this number remains stable through the night into tomorrow my plan is CW all day long.

In the meantime, our break in weather has allowed time for antenna maintenance and one reflector on the KLM, 3 element 40m yagi, at SL’s antenna ranch is going through corrosion treatment. Our local marine environment is terribly corrosive and fighting it is an on going test of patience. The climbing standing wave ratio reached a point of diminishing performance.

We are taking down one element at a time instead of the entire antenna. This afternoon all the hardware on the rear reflector featured in the photograph was removed for cleaning and/or replacement. Additionally, alkaline was removed from tubing intersections and intersections were thoroughly cleaned. Likewise, linear loading hardware was removed with contact at elements given a good scrub with wire brush to remove deposits.

John is going to check intersections for continuity prior to re-installing the removed reflector.

I’m stoked to see best numbers in a long time and looking forward to tomorrow’s CW marathon session inside my Shell Beach shack.

Life is wireless.  

ARRL Vintage Amateur Radio Equipment Exhibit

Credit goes to Jeff, KE9V for illuminating this terrific video about vintage Amateur Radio apparatus taped at League headquarters and narrated by ARRL Engineer, Bob Allison, WB1GCM. As mentioned at Smoke Curls, the 4 minute video is well worth your time, if for nothing else, actually hearing what a spark gap transmitter sounds like! It sounds like an electrical shock gone wrong.

ARRL Vintage Amateur Radio Equipment Exhibit: While it’s important to look forward to tomorrow, it’s equally important to understand the evolution of radio equipment that was used on the Amateur Bands; from the earliest “spark days” to the dawn of digital technology. By delving into the past, one can learn to appreciate the hard work, determination and experimentation that brought us one step at a time, the technology we enjoy today.

73 from the Shell Beach shack.

RadioSport Resource | North American QSO Party Database

Database Contributors KL7RA, K5TR, KM3T, and N5KO
Measuring Continuous Improvement With Help From W6SL

Good morning from my Shell Beach shack with enough radiant solar energy outside to power at least one linear amplifier for a year. I was reading over at Explorersweb an article about 5 ways to get outdoors in 2013 and came across this quote, “what gets measured gets done.”

My goals are still fresh and keeping them sticky through the year is a small objective that leads to ultimate success.

In the meantime, the crew over at the National Contest Journal developed the North American QSO Party (NAQP) database and I can take a ‘big picture’ snapshot in addition to comparing month statistics.

The data suggests that my Q production is up in January and down in August. Is this related to seasonal propagation with skip going long earlier toward the East coast and with solar production on the decrease does this mean moving to the low bands earlier this winter?

Does the data further suggest activity is seasonal with an uptick in operators inside our warm shacks during the winter months in comparison to the summer?

I’ll have to answer my question next weekend when the NAQP CW swell livens up wireless wavelengths on a national scale.

73 from my Shell Beach shack.   

2013 #hamr GOALS

First, I want to thank you for supporting and encouraging my efforts through the years because I wouldn’t have made it this far without all of you!

Presently, I’m listening to Outlands composed by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo founding member of the French house music duo Daft Punk. The cut is digitally delivered from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. It is both motivational and inspirational as a year concludes and a future of limitless possibilities opens.

Jeremy Dean wrote a 10 Step Guide for Making Your New Year’s Resolution in PsyBlog and his guide is a good schematic for realizing my goals. Dean’s first recommendation is, “for big results, think small.”

My first goal is to continue experiencing ham radio in the great outdoors. I’d like to visit several locations within our county and, now, with everything in place there are no more excuses. I’m striving for my peak experience on an island in the Santa Barbara channel for later in the new year.

My second goal is to experience at least one digital mode. The 21st Century is here and it ain’t going nowhere. My most likely mode is PSK31 or RTTY for hardware and output requirements. It is time for me to join 21st Century ham radio because digital modes continue attracting #hamr innovation.

My third goal is to complete a project started earlier in the year. I own a KLM KT34A four element tri-bander and the antenna is waiting for me like a good teacher. One of the best methods at learning is hands-on experience and I want learn inside this practical classroom. Likewise, there is a 55 foot crank up tower patiently waiting for attention.

What are my impediments? Where is the monster under the bed?

I posted the movie trailer After Earth because Will Smith said, “…[I]f we are going to survive this then you must realize that fear is not real. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real but fear is a choice. Do you know where we are?

There is much more and that experience is waiting.

Going beyond the shack door and Happy New Year! 

Beach Boys ARC | On The Edge Of A Continent

Satellite perspective of our operating latitude and longitude on rocky outcropping.
The city sign amplified our ham radio experience in the great outdoors. 
Buddipole antenna system configured for 15m CW pointing north to south.
Yaesu FT100 with power supply connected to Bencher Paddles almost ready to launch signal.
Fred, KI6QDH spinning the dial on 15m SSB with Bob, K2YAZ waiting for  Ryan, K6RQT to log a QRP contact.
Ryan, K6RQT getting ready to fire up his homebrew 1 watt, crystal controlled transceiver using matched long wire.
Beach Boys ARC participants (L) to (R) Fred, KI6QDH, Scot KA3DRR, Radio Dawg, Ryan, K6RQT, and Bob, K2YAZ.

We could not wish for a better day while experiencing ham radio in the great outdoors. The temperature did not rise above 60 degrees with sunny skies giving way to partly cloudy and no wind from any direction.

I packed earlier that morning wondering if the park would be full of visitors and locals? Everyone likes taking their dogs for a walk around 10 o’clock in the morning. I wasn’t disappointed. However, not only were we going to experience ham radio in the great outdoors, this was an opportunity at acquainting our general public with wireless communication as well.

Our operating location was chosen for its rugged terrain and proximity to the ocean. I would like to credit PT0S St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks DXpedition for their inspiration. We attempted to a limited degree to approximate operating conditions. I learned that ambient noise level increased substantially at high tide. The noise of breaking waves against rocks is loud making CW copy difficult without cans.

Next time, will wear cans and need to make a box for a speaker and head set jack, when operating near the ocean. It is good practice to share the experience with our general public as well.

I can only praise the performance of the Buddipole antenna system and ease of assembly in the field. Also, for transparency, I’m not sponsored by Buddipole to promote its product line on my blog. The same can be said of DX Engineering as well, however; I’m passionate about both of these companies and want them to continue succeeding into the future.

On the other hand, I’m beginning to understand why DXpeditions spend a great deal of time preparing for their operation and the impact of not being prepared. For example, I could have tweaked the FT100 side band menu settings instead of doing this in the field, lesson learned. Also, I forgot to open the vent valve on the Honda EU2000i gas tank and it stalled about an hour into operation.

Beach Boys ARC participants successfully logged two CW contacts at 100 watts into the Buddipole. We contacted Oklahoma and Florida receiving respectable signal reports from by station operators. Ryan, K6RQT and Bob, K2YAZ called CQ on several occasions without success. However, RQT’s homebrew 40m crystal controlled, one watt transceiver with matched long wire antenna will be back in the field in the near future.

In the meantime, I learned about being prepared prior to actually operating in the great outdoors and, anytime, is a good time, to take ham radio outside of the shack. Overall, Beach Boys ARC participants enjoyed a few hours under the ionosphere operating ham radio from a rocky outcropping while sharing the best hobby on the planet with the general public.

73 from the shackadelic near the beach.  

Beach Boys ARC On The Edge Of A Continent

Good morning from the #hamr shackadelic zone where ham radio collides with the spirit of having fun and experiencing life in the great outdoors.

The Beach Boys ARC later this morning will set up wireless gear on the edge of a continent. Currently, beach weather is off the hook and conditions are stellar with blue skies while Cycle 24 rages above our craniums. It is the kinda of day that explains why I love living on the central coast of California.

Our gear list —

  1. Yaesu FT100.
  2. Paddles for Morse code.
  3. Boom microphone for single sideband.
  4. Buddipole antenna system.
  5. Honda EU2000i generator.
  6. Table.
  7. Chairs.

I want to tweet a few photographs into our #hamr network, high definition video using a small Sony Cyber Shot camera with mini tripod for stabilization, and an Olympus D-550 digital camera for still photography.

Additionally, wavelength conditions and SpotCollector with Reverse Beacon Network inputs, suggest 15m and/or 20m as open toward the east and south of Shell Beach. My best guess at operating frequencies —
  • 14.055 KHz plus or minus 10 KHz (CW)
  • 21.055 KHz plus or minus 10 KHz (CW)
  • 14.300 KHz plus or minus 10 KHz (SSB)
  • 21.300 KHz plus or minus 10 KHz (SSB)

The Beach Boys ARC is looking forward to launching their signal from the edge of a continent while experiencing ham radio in the great outdoors.

73 from the shackadelic near the beach. 

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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor