Posts Tagged ‘Contests’

13 Colonies success!

The 13 Colonies event ended on Tuesday and for me, it was right down to the wire but I was successful. I was able to contact all 13 colonies and the 2 bonus stations for a clean sweep along with 2 bonus stations. I really had no plans on participating in this event but while I was headlong into the Canada day RAC contest I kept hearing the 13 colonies stations calling CQ. I then decided to give this event a shot and honestly I had a blast. In this event, you contact the original 13 colony states, you have a choice of CW, SSB or digital or any combination of these modes. My goal was to contact all the states using CW and that almost happened but more on that later. As mentioned in my previous post on the first day I scored 9 of the 13 states and at this point, I was not even considering the 2 bonus stations. Over the next few days, I narrowed my search to just 3 stations that were needed. I was on the hunt for K2C Rhode Island, K2D Connecticut and a bonus station GB13COL from England. I was in the game for the bonus station in England as the day before I was able to get the bonus station WM3PEN in Philadelphia.
With only 3 stations to get in the log the challenge began, I had DX Summit running in the background checking for spots. Since I wanted to keep my CW stretch going it seemed the remaining station's spots were either digi or SSB! The other issues I ran into were when K2C and K2D were operating CW they were lost down in the noise floor. I could hear clear as day the stations working them but the Colony stations were silent. The other issue was with GB13COL was rarely operating CW and I was determined to make all contacts using CW.
My operating strategy was to find the needed stations calling CQ before they were spotted, this was exactly what happened with K2D in Connecticut. He was calling CQ and was weak but there and so I gave him a shot and low and behold he came back to me BUT he was not able to copy my reply. We tried a few time but he then began to call CQ again so it was not a "true" contact. The propagation gods were smiling on me as his signal jumped to about S8 BUT the spotting network gods were laughing at me because he was just spotted and the crowd was growing fast! I tried to throw my 100-watt signal in the fray but the Endfed antenna did not stand a chance against the kilowatt and a beam. The name of the game was to wait for an opening as I hoped the big guns would make their contact and move on.
K2D's signal was starting to fade again, this was how 40m was treating me most of the time. Now the crowds started to die down and he was just calling CQ with no response. He was at the noise floor again and I was having no success. He then jumped to S8 again and I gave him a go and finally, I was in the log!
It was now time to concentrate on K2C in Rhode island and from the comments on the spotting network, K2C was not on all that often......hmmm this is going to be difficult I thought and I had to snag him before he was spotted. There were times when he was spotted in the CW portion but the pileup was crazy, it actually sounded like a super rare DX location was on the air. I was constantly checking DX summit on my laptop in the living room for K2C hoping if I pounced early the pileup would not be at the crazy point yet. My dear wife commented to me that I looked like a stalker when it came to hunting K2C!!
Evening came and in the past, I noticed that GB13COL had been spotted in the evening using CW,  so I went to the shack in search of GB13COL before he was spotted. I was on 40m searching the waterfall for signals and there was one that popped up. I tuned them in and it was K2C......OMG no spots yet, this was my chance to make a clean sweep and get my final Colony using CW. Where my ears deceiving me....he was calling CQ and no takers. I tried calling him but nothing he had no copy and continued to call CQ. I knew it was just a matter of time before he was found and then spotted! As Steve Martin would say "I'm a wild and crazy guy" and it was time to be that person! Normally while on 40m my power is set to 40-50 watts. The reason for this is any higher than 50 watts odd things happen to our washing machine, LED lights and so on in the house. I figured if things go wonky in my home it may be happening to those around me. Thus my power on 40m does not go beyond 50 watts......or at least until now.
I looked to the left and then to the right......with an evil grin on my face the power was cranked to 100 watts. I turned the lights out in the shack and with my head lowered but still a grin on my face I put my call out.......it was answered by K2C and he was in the log. With the lights still out I looked out the window to make sure no homes were on fire, all looked good and I was thrilled.
I had accomplished my clean sweep of all 13 Colony stations using CW and it was now time to set my sights on GB13COL.
I was not determined to work the final bonus station using CW. I had 2 days left to hunt, track and get GB13COL in the log but from following the comments again on DX Summit this final station was rarely operating CW and seemed to hang out on digi and SSB. I tried very hard when they were CW to even hear them but absolutely nothing was heard. I now had one day left and during the day I tried and tried when they were CW and again nothing was heard.
Evening came and they were spotted using FT8..........I am going to give them a go as CW was just not going to work out for this station.
Into the shack I went and started the PC and then the radio and low and behold there they were on the waterfall. Before transmitting I observe the waterfall to see a who is transmitting where. There is no sense jumping into the fray if I am transmitting overtop of someone else as this way neither of us is heard. About 5 minutes went past and I was not in the log yet and then my call came across with a signal report from GB13COL! I was thrilled and sent my report back to make the contact complete and just waiting for his 73RRR BUT I then I saw that GB13COL was transmitting again with my signal report as he did not hear my report. NOOOOOOO so again and again I sent my report and nothing and eventually he started to call CQ again. I was not in the log.....well not yet I was this close and not giving up. I stopped transmitting to get a feel for the waterfall and find a clear spot. I found my spot and after a few minutes of calling he came back to me and I was in the log!!!!!
This was a nice challenge spread over a few days and for sure I will be taking part in this event next year. It's time to send off for my clean sweep plus 2 bonus station certificate. All but one were contacted using CW but I know for sure that GB13COL would not have made it into the log if I waited for a CW contact.

The 13 Colineis Event continues……

During my adventure with the 13 Colonies event, I was able to see the advantages my Icom 7610 brings to the table. The name of the game with the Colonies event is to try to log all 13 (Clean sweep) colonies stations. At the get-go of the event for me, the stations were very easy to log but as you come closer to your last 2 colonies it became a bit more tricky. This is were my 7610 gave me a great advantage. During this event, I learned very fast that the best way to log a station is to find them calling CQ before they are spotted on a network. Once they have been spotted the crowd starts to gather and my success goes way down for a contact.
 The 7610 has what is called "Dual watch" this utilizes the two completely independent receivers in the radio. This allowed me to leave VFO A (listening with my left ear)  on a spotted frequency listening for a lull in the activity. VFO B (listening with my right ear) was moving around on the same band or different band hunting for a nonspotted colony station calling CQ. If VFO A was getting really crazy with callers but I wanted to stick it out for the just in case moment, I am able with a push of a button to mute VFO A. With each receiver you have filter, twin passband, NR, NB and antenna choices you can make to help out with you dealing with band conditions. Finally, as you can see from the screenshot above I was able to activate the "Dual scope" option and have a separate waterfall for 20m and 15m or you can do it for the same band as well. I have always been an Elecraft person (I still have the KX3 so I guess I still am) but I am very impressed with the 7610 a great bang for your buck!
At this point, I am looking for K2C out of RI and GB13COL in England and I want to continue using CW as all other stations were logged using this mode. At this point in time I have found that K2C spends little time on CW and as for GB13COL many have said they just cannot hear them and I concur. It 's getting down to crunch time as the 7th is the last day so let's see if the ham gods are smiling on me?

I Participated in Field Day 2020 — and Got the Tee Shirt!

OK, this is a cheesy blog post title. But it’s true. Here’s the picture…and it leads into more important things about Field Day.

I got the Tee Shirt!

My annual Field Day plans are spotty at best due to my wedding anniversary falling near that June weekend. I’ve participated in multi-club “big” Field Day events here in Central Mississippi in previous years. But, frankly, I don’t enjoy them. I prefer a smaller event when it doesn’t conflict with our anniversary plans. This year our planned trip to the UP in Michigan was up-ended by the Covid-19 pandemic. So when my portable ops partner, Mike N5DU, invited me to come out to his farm in Raymond, MS on Saturday, that seemed perfect!

Kyle KI5JCL making his first-ever HF contact–a Big Gun from Western PA!

He also invited a new ham in the area, Kyle KI5JCL, to come and learn more about Field Day. Kyle works in the IT field so his “JCL” call sign suffix gave me vivid memories of the days when I worked on the Big Iron, IBM mainframes at the Triangle Universities Computation Center (TUCC) while on the faculty at NC State. (For the uninitiated, JCL was IBM’s nomenclature for Job Control Language.) Kyle checked into our club’s weekly 2 meter net which is how we got to know him. This was a chance to play Elmer to a very tech-savvy, only licensed for a month, ham in our area. While a tad nervous to jump into the pile-up held by a Western PA ham, Kyle worked on him for about 20 minutes before he heard the November Five Delta Uniform phrase coming back to him. Mike and I stood and clapped heartily for Kyle as he stayed with that big fish and finally landed him. Fine Business! The ham in PA may never know how significant he was for the calling amateur on this end of the QSO.

N5DU has a small separate building adjacent to his home for his ham shack, an almost perfect setting from my point of view. It’s in the country on a family farm acreage where there are no deed restrictions on antennas (except internal approval in the household unit, of course) and with almost no RF noise. The N5DU team used a Kenwood TS-590SG feeding an Ameritron ALS-1306 amplifier, an MFJ ATU feeding a Windom about 30′ up among trees. We also exercised a digital station, first on a Xiegu 5105 and then on an Icom 7200. The digital station fed an MFJ-2982 vertical. FT8 was the digital mode of choice. We rotated among the voice and digital stations and…well, all of the snacks and great food Mike’s XYL had on hand for us.

Kyle KI5JCL in his natural habitat: operating FT8 at a laptop keyboard!

While we didn’t mark any achievements on the scoreboard of this “non-contest, contest” that is Field Day, the N5DU team (led by Mike, frankly) finished with 328 points over 268 contacts. We were missing our CW op, Mike K5XU as well as Thomas N5WDG on this one!

Not terrible but a good event for us

Getting a good group together to share knowledge, skills and suggestions is always a good thing. I have learned a great deal from Mike N5DU, especially on style of operating during a contest. It’s not always about points, Boom! Boom! Boom! But working with ops who are either just getting started or who just stumble across something like this Covid-19 lots-of-teams-working-separately-at-home Field Day is important too. The ARRL’s temporary rule modification to allow home stations to work each other make a notable difference on the band waterfall displays. Watch this video, especially of Mike spending a few moments (and likely losing a couple of contacts during the time where he was clipping along at a 93 contacts-per-hour pace).

Mike N5DU demonstrating Good Operator practices with QRP Op Call

It’s fairly obvious that power makes a difference. We were able to hold frequencies and work them for an hour at a time. Having a tower and beam in addition would’ve just underscored that situation. We moved from QRP on digital to upwards of 40 watts or so on the Icom 7200. In some ways, the need to “handicap” contest stations will make a huge difference in the long run for highly competitive contests. But on Field Day 2020, I was just glad to participate in a small team, learn from one another, and getting a Tee Shirt to commemorate the event. Thanks for the gift, N5DU!

What is wrong with this picture???

I am operating in the CW CQWPX contest today and just can't contact anyone. Yesterday all was good but today NOTHING at all. Have a look at the above picture and see if you can see what's wrong. It took me some time as I kept overlooking the obvious.

Land (er, FREQUENCY) Grab (Part 1)

This article is part one in a multi-part series.  Part 2 is located here: One Aspect of Amateur Radio: Good Will Ambassadors to the World.  Part 3 is located here: In Response — Can’t We All Just Get Along?

 

We’ve all heard it at least once:  no one owns a frequency.

By law, amateurs must keep the transmissions from their station within the bounds of the allocations granted to license-holding operators–within these bands that are allocated for amateur radio use.  Amateurs are expected to follow band-plans, which guide us to which mode can be used in a band.

Subbands — Band Plans

There are many decades of constant refining of the standard operating procedures–perhaps we can call them, traditions–that, for the most part, work out pretty well for most amateur radio operations on our precious allocations in the radio spectrum.  Each band–a slice of radio spectrum between a lower frequency and a higher frequency–is made up of subbands.  These subbands are slices within a specific band (allocation), in which amateurs participate in two-way communications by using a particular mode of transmission, like single side band or CW.

For instance, Morse code enthusiasts use CW (continuous-wave modulation, i.e., A1A) between 14.000 MHz and 14.150, which is the subband that exists in the larger allocations known as the 20-Meter Band.  The 20-Meter Band is 14.000 MHz to 14.350 MHz, and the regulating bodies (such as the FCC in the USA) have directed through law that voice modes cannot be used between those subband frequencies from 14.00 MHz to 14.15 MHz. Voice modes can be used from 14.15 MHz up to 14.35 MHz, with certain license class variations. Read the PDF from the FCC: FCC ONLINE TABLE OF FREQUENCY ALLOCATIONS

CW is not the only mode allowed in the 14.00-MHz-to-14.15-MHz subband.  The regulations stipulate that a number of data modes can be used in this subband. There are specific requirements that a mode must meet, in order to comply with regulations–these are known as the authorized emission types.

Gentlemen’s Agreements

Amateur radio operators, decades ago, began discussing, then agreeing to, agreements between all operators as to where specific modes can be used, so those operating the different modes do not trample on each other’s transmissions.  These agreements are known as our band-plan gentlemen’s agreements.  They exist to help minimize interference–QRM–and to help foster good operating procedures between the different groups.

The band plans that have evolved through the decades are not regulations, and do not mean that any particular group of amateur radio operators own any frequency or subband.  A mode does not own a particular subband.  Amateur radio operators are not encouraged to start transmitting a mode that is typically found in that subband, if someone else is on that frequency using a mode not expected.

Just because some other operator is using the subband for a mode not in compliance with the gentlemen’s agreement, don’t purposefully try to eject that operator.  At the same time, the gentlemen’s agreements exist to help amateurs avoid interference with others that are using different modes.  Thus, the operator who has chosen to use a non-standard mode for a subband known to be used for some other mode should move that operation to the subband identified to be for that operator’s current mode of transmitter emissions.  In other words, do not QRM another amateur radio operator, and do not cause confusion and frustration by barging into a subband for a mode that you are not intending to use.  Use the mode expected in the subband of your current operations.

This concept is especially helpful when we consider weak-signal operations.  If a very strong, loud teletype transmission begins in a subband that is set aside for weak-signal propagation modes like WSPR, then it defeats the efforts of the operators making the attempt to have successful weak-signal two-way communications.  Thus, the teletype transmission should be made in a subband where teletype operation is expected and acceptable.  And, WSPR should stay in the subband where people expect to find WSPR signals.

This concept is also applied to VHF or higher bands.  Why?  If repeaters are parked on known repeater subbands, then weak-signal single-sideband communications can take place in a subband where repeaters are not allowed.  By allowed, though, I mean, by agreement with gentlemen’s agreements.  Regulators have stayed out of the amateur radio operations except by creating regulations at a high-level–for instance, the FCC stipulating that voice communications are not allowed between 14.000 MHz and 14.150 MHz, in the 20-Meter band.

The Frequency Grabs by the WSJT Developers, Planners, and Leadership

With several current release candidates of the WSJT-X software by Joe Taylor, the group of developers and leadership have programmed into the WSJT-X software a set of NEW default frequencies.  These new frequencies are in addition to their current pre-programmed frequencies that the amateur community now identifies as, The FT8 Subbands.

The new proposed frequencies are right on top of other subbands where other modes have been operating for decades (such as PSK and Olivia, and many others).  There was no community discussion, except within the WSJT community.  And, when someone protested the take-over of other well-established subbands, those protests were shot down.  The stated reasons included, “Well, those other modes are not very active or popular, because spots are not showing up on various spotting networks.”  Such reasons break down on deeper consideration–for instance, most spotting networks are not programmed to automatically identify Olivia transmissions.  CW, PSK, and FT8 are programmed into scanners, but other modes are ignored.

This behavior, considered rude, arrogant, presumptuous, and anti-gentlemanly (referring to well-established gentlemen’s agreements) has happened before, with the initial release of FT8.  They (the WSJT-X developers and leadership) simply picked a frequency slice of each subband, without true collaboration with the wider amateur radio community.

When this columnist and fellow amateur radio community member, attempted a discussion, the retort from an official representative was an absolute dismissal of any protest against the choice and method of frequency options within the WSJT software. While the software marks these frequency as suggestions, only, these defaults are used without question by the operators of said software.  And, the mode is so fast that there’s no human way of truly monitoring the frequency before use, to see if some other mode is in operation.  Besides, weak-signals that are present but cannot be heard by one’s ear, might well be in operation.  Subbands exist to keep QRM from covering up the weak signals of the mode expected at that frequency.

Enter the IARU…

The IARU has decided to step in and join the discussion.  “The International Amateur Radio Union has been the worldwide voice of radio amateurs, securing and safeguarding the amateur radio spectrum since 1925.”  The IARU guides regulating bodies like the FCC, regarding the administration and rule-making pertaining to amateur radio.

The IARU states, on their website,

The radio spectrum is a priceless natural resource. Because radio waves do not respect borders, the use of the spectrum must be regulated internationally. This is accomplished through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialized agency of the United Nations. Through World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs) held approximately every four years the ITU revises the international Radio Regulations which have the force and effect of a treaty. The Radio Regulations allocate the spectrum to different radiocommunication services such as broadcasting, mobile, radar, and radionavigation (GPS). The most recent WRC was held in October-November 2019. The next one is not yet scheduled but is expected to be held in 2023, so it is usually referred to as WRC-23.

New uses of the spectrum are being developed every day. This puts enormous pressure on incumbent users who are called upon to share their spectrum access with new arrivals. The allocation process is extremely complex, especially when satellite services are involved.

Reportedly, from first-hand communication from one IARU representative,

WSJT-X RC3 has 14074 kHz again for FT8. IARU is intervening. Stay tuned. I am asking for further suggestions.

73 Tom DF5JL
IARU R1 HF Manager

This is very welcomed news!

What ought to take place, as quickly as possible, is to rally the different interested parties, like the Olivia group, the PSK groups, the various CW groups like CWOps, FISTS, and the SKCC, and many others, for ideas and suggestions.  A discussion must take place in the hope that new gentlemen’s agreements can be made, that include the FT8 and FT4 operations, without stepping on the subbands of other digital modes.

As Tom says, STAY TUNED.

If you have suggestions, please comment. This columnist will summarize the main ideas of the comments and forward them to Tom.  You may also contact the IARU managers and let them know your suggestions.

Discussions in the Olivia community are ongoing, too.  Join in at OliviaDigitalMode.net even if you are not yet an Olivia operator.

On Facebook, you may also discuss your thoughts, in either the Olivia Digital Modes on HF group or in the Digital Modes on HF group.

If you use FT8 and FT4, voice your concerns and ideas, too.  Open dialog, without declaring war, is welcomed and hopefully will prove productive.

This article is the first in a series focusing on band plans, and gentlemen’s agreements. Please stay tuned for more installments.

 

Tomas, NW7US

Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Nebraska, USA. Tomas is the Space Weather and Radio Propagation Contributing Editor to ‘CQ Amateur Radio Magazine’, and ‘The Spectrum Monitor’ magazine.

Don’t Mess With The Field Day Rules

Given the Chinese/Wuhan/COVID virus situation, many hams are anticipating a change to their ARRL Field Day operation. I’ve also seen a number of proposals to modify the FD rules to allow for a different kind of operation. I appreciate that kind of thinking outside the box but I think it is misguided. One of the strengths of FD is it already has a set of flexible rules and operating classes, so you can adapt it to what you or your club wants it to be. See my post: ARRL Field Day – Season to Taste

Some Ideas

What are some of the proposals? The first one I noticed is a proposal to allow all Class D stations (home station with commercial power) to work other Class D stations for points. The FD rules do not currently allow this. Class E stations (home station with emergency power) are allowed to any class station. Obviously, this rule is to encourage people to develop emergency power capability (and use it) for their home station. This is perfectly aligned with the emcomm focus of Field Day.

Another proposal is to allow a “backyard operating” class, where you set up a portable station in your backyard. Of course, this is already allowed under the rules as a Class B station.

One of the more innovative ideas I’ve heard is to allow multiple stations (not colocated) to operate under one club callsign, coordinating their operation via the internet. This approach emulates a “normal” Class A FD operation, while everyone is locked down at home. This is not allowed as a Class A station:  “All equipment (including antennas) must lie within a circle whose diameter does not exceed 300 meters (1000 feet).”  This is roughly equivalent to a group of Class D or E stations working together towards a common score. Why not just operate as independent Class D and E stations, which is more like a real emergency situation?

Adapt and Innovate

Our local radio club is considering different ways to adapt, seeing this as a training and learning opportunity. We will probably encourage our members to get on the air individually, with emergency power. We will likely encourage members to work other members, providing some kind of incentive or award. So our FD may look more like a local operating event, in addition to working distant stations. VHF/UHF will probably play an important role so that we include Technician licensees. Not sure just yet.

We are all experiencing some serious challenges this year and Field Day is not going to be the same. I am a bit surprised that the first thought about Field Day is to change the rules to make it easier or somehow better. I think we just need to adapt and innovate within the existing format. Existing Field Day Rules have plenty of flexibility.

That’s what I say. What do you think?

73 Bob K0NR

The post Don’t Mess With The Field Day Rules appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

ARRL DX CW contest.

It was nice to see the bands very active with DX for me it was from 15m to 40m. The Endfed I have at the moment will not get me onto 80m BUT the new Endfed I purchased (going up in warmer weather) will give me 80m and maybe more. This year I spent a bit more time in the chair operating than I usually do. I was operating as a single operator, all band and low power (100 watts)
Score breakdown:
I was not able to snag any rare DX and in fact, I really only heard manly Europe, nothing from the middle east or Asia this year. During the late afternoon on 15m, I had Central and South America open up and I was able to get some contacts from there in the log. I only made 126 QSO's I was in and out of the chair and I really have to get to the point in my CW career to feel comfortable calling CW contest and stop the search and pounce only routine. The only Murphy moment I had was when my Bluetooth keyboard's rechargeable battery when dead. I had to hunt down my USB keyboard before continuing in the contest. The lesson learned here is to set the Bluetooth aside and use the USB keyboard for contesting.  The next contests in my schedule are the North and South Carolina QSO party contests the first weekend in March.

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