Mailbox, Coffee And The ‘Stew’

Recent mail has brought two nice surprises. As I am preparing for this weekend's ARRL 160m CW affair, a certificate from the ARRL arrived ... from last year's 160m CW Contest!

It seemed that I had somehow stumbled into top score from VE7 land for the single-op, low power division and since I haven't seen a QST in decades, this came as a complete surprise.

Over the years I've always tried to test the 160m waters at contest time just in case conditions are amazingly good ... which they haven't particularly been for the past few years of solar angst. Even piddly Cycle 24, for most of its lifespan, has proven powerful enough to mess up the Topband.

The 160 contest I enjoy the most is the December Stew Perry. It's the only one that's scored fairly and QSO points are determined by distance. Compared to working something close, any of the east coast grids from out west will get you a sack-load of points ... anything off continent earns you a boat-load. My strategy in the Stew has always been to 'search & pounce' the FN and FM grids for their high value point reward. If I had more late-night staying power in any of these affairs I could probably do a better job but I've found my fondness for the warm fleece-sheeted bed beckoning earlier each year. I'm sure it has nothing to do with getting older ... right?

I honestly don't know how some guys, much older than myself, can hang in there 'til dawn. Maybe it's coffee, which would certainly do it for me. If I even look at a coffee after the noon hour, I'm still counting sheep past midnight. A late night contest-coffee for me would guarantee no sleep until the following night unfortunately.

The second surprise was a nice QSL from Mark, WA9ETW in Wisconsin, confirming our recent crossband QSO ... 630m to 80m CW. Notice Mark's receiving antenna used on 630m, just a 100' wire about 15' off the ground! It doesn't take much to hear domestic signals on 630m so if you already have the WSPR software installed and are familiar with its operation, why not set your receiver to 474.200 in USB mode and see what you can hear. There are stations from coast to coast beaconing every night on this band. Be sure to set your software to upload your decodes to the WSPRnet site so that everyone, especially the beacon operators, can see who you are hearing.

If we worked in the recent 630m crossband event and you'd like a card, please let me know ... I'll be happy to put one in the mail for you.

How I do wish that the FCC would get on with it and legalize the 630m band in the U.S.A. Hopefully the turnovers in Washington will not translate into further delays as is often the case when big governmental changes are in the works. In the meantime, hopefully we can at least work each other in the ARRL CW 160 this weekend!
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

2 Responses to “Mailbox, Coffee And The ‘Stew’”

  • Joe Cro N3IBX:

    Hello Steve,
    I’m all for the legalization of the 630 Meter Band for Amateur use here in the USA. I believe I echo the sentiments of many Amateurs here. It would be the new frontier, much like UHF was in the 1930’s, aka the old 5 Meter Band.

    Not only would it be great to actually use the band and study propagation below 500KC, but it would also promote homebrewing among our ranks. To my knowledge most of the transmitters for the band are self built and not manufactured as in other Amateur Bands.

    Just the other evening I was speaking to Harry,VE3GRO on 80M SSB and he gave me your new band segments approved in Canada along with their frequency assignments. I was glad Harry had the information so I can at least listen in for the time being. Perhaps a crossband QSO could be had as well from the 630M band to 160M or where ever.

    Thanks for your post and best regards,
    Joe Cro N3IBX

  • ve7sl Steve:

    Joe, you are right about 630m being a great band for homebrewers. There are dozens of hams in the states now using 630m but under the experimental program, hence the weird callsigns, like WI2XBQ or WH2XGP. They are only allowed to work each other and not the Canadians since that would be ‘cross service’ communications … ‘amateur service to experimental service’ . However once the U.S. gets the band, these guys will be all ready to go!

    I gather there are several changes being made within the FCC but these will probably be at top administration levels and hopefully not further delay implementation of the band for you folks.

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