Posts Tagged ‘Hamstick Dipole’
Just a few weeks ago I blogged about QSO Party Colorado Style, being that Texas is my birth state and where I lived until around the age of 32 (I’m a few days away from 45) I decided I would spend some time operating in the contest. While I do realize after operating in two QSO parties in less than four weeks, what I’m going to say next may not make sense, but I don’t consider myself a serious contester. In the four years I’ve been licensed, I’ve only ever operated in a handful of contests and have only submitted logs two or three times. Perhaps I’m more of a casual contester.
The reasons for my lack of contest involvement could be the same as anyone else’s. I don’t always have hours and hours to dedicate to operating a contest and when I do I may not want to spend all the time operating in a specific mode or band. But both the Colorado and Texas QSO parties occurred when I had several hours to devote and I enjoyed operating in both to represent my home state and birth state proudly.
Unlike the Colorado QSO party, the Texas QSO party is two days long (12 hours on Saturday and 6 hours Sunday). Of the total 18 hours, I estimate I operated about 5-6 with the majority of that time spent on Saturday.
Being the casual contester that I am, I eased into my Saturday morning just like any other Saturday. I grabbed my first cup of coffee and followed up on the news. Of course the BIG news was where did the bus sized satellite crash? Since I didn’t hear anything crash through my roof I assumed it was not anywhere near Colorado. I quickly read through my Facebook, Twitter and Google+ threads and by that time it was time for cup-o-coffee #2 and a more suitable time to turn on the HF rig and get the computers fired up.
Over the past few weeks, HF conditions have been extraordinary and the week leading up to the Texas QSO party weekend was no exception. I’ve read tweets and other blog postings talking about openings on 10, 12 and 15 meters. This is great news for those US technician class hams who have an HF rig. Remember you have HF phone privileges on 10m from 28.300 to 28.500. Listen around the 10m calling frequency of 28.400. In addition to phone, you also have RTTY and data privileges from 28.000 up to 28.300 including the JT65 frequency of 28.076. There is no reason you can’t get in on the fun as well. Want to know more about JT65? Check out my practical amateur radio podcast episode #46 you’ll find tips and links for this awesome mode.
Anyway, as I said HF conditions have been amazing and fingers crossed I would have no trouble working Texas from Colorado. As I was applying my second cup of coffee, I tuned around 20m listening for other Texas stations. I figured I would start off by using the “search and pounce” method and then find an open frequency and “run” for a while. As I tuned up the band and then back down all I heard was static and the occasional high powered net controller running whatever net happened to be taking place at the time. I checked Twitter and even tweeted that it appeared band conditions were really poor and the contacts were just trickling into the log book. Keith, G6NHU shared with me a blog article he had written earlier explaining why the HF bands weren’t playing well. By the way, if you don’t follow Keith’s blog….you should. Keith has an ongoing project called QSO 365, as he strives to have at least one QSO per day in 2011.
After stepping away for a few hours to get a few projects done around the house, I returned to find the afternoon conditions much improved. I quickly worked the stations up and down 20m and then found me a spot around 14.280 and began calling CQ Texas. I found I could get brief runs going, but it was mostly still slow going. At the end of Saturday evening I had managed to work 40 Texas stations in 28 unique counties. The stations I worked all commented on my strong signal. I was running 100w into my hamstick dipole. I must also admit their signals were all fairly strong as well with true 59+ readings. I only had trouble with a couple of mobile stations, but worked them in the end.
My two most memorable stations worked on Saturday would have to be NA5DV and NU5DE but of course for two different reasons. NA5DV was operating from the Battleship Texas which is anchored just beside the busy Houston ship channel and near the San Jacinto Monument. As a child we would visit the Battleship Texas every few years and I have very fond and dear memories of climbing on and exploring around this incredible ship. The Battleship Texas was commissioned in 1914 and served proudly defending the United States of America and representing the great State of Texas in both WWI and WWII. Working a ham station on board this beautiful lady and eventually getting the QSL card for my collection was the highlight of the day.
Yes, I said I had two memorable moments on Saturday, NU5DE (yes that is a vanity call sign) is a naturist amateur radio club near Austin, Texas. After working this station, I tweeted “Just worked NU5DE. This is a naturist ham club. I’m not sure how they were dressed, but I kept my clothes on”. Hey…amateur radio is for anyone and everyone. If this is the lifestyle they enjoy…then I’ll only take my hat off to them. ha ha
After a somewhat sleepless night and getting up/staying up from midnight to about 3:30 AM, I worked some RTTY stations and then got started with the Texas QSO party again on Sunday mid morning. I worked another 15 stations to top out at 55 total stations worked and earning a total score of 3,740. My total Texas county count was 32 of 254. I did manage to work my birth county (Henderson) and the county where I grew up (Anderson) along with counties I’ve lived in including Smith, Dallas, Travis and Williamson. But I’m not really a county chaser.
I’ll have to check the contest calendar to see what future contests catch my eye and match my available time. But the Colorado and Texas QSO Parties are a must for 2012.
Until next time…
73 de KD0BIK
I’m amazed that nearly four years into the wonderful hobby, I still find myself getting ‘as giddy as a schoolboy’ with some accomplishments in the amateur radio hobby. Of course, this is just a reminder how how truly awesome this hobby of ours really is.
My first QSO as a licensed ham was made on 18 August 2008 on a local 2m repeater with WA0DFW. I had only had my license a few days, but had spent time listening on the local repeater. I took the advice of Gordon West and clearly stated, This is KD0BIK looking to make my first contact as a licensed ham. Mo came back to me and we had a nice QSO. Within about 5 minutes the rest of the afternoon repeater crowd had joined in and I was ‘smack dab’ in the middle of my first roundtable. Mo was kind enough to invite me to send him a QSL card, which he would reciprocate to mark the occasion of my first ham radio QSO. By the way, I made my first HF contact a little over a month later during a 10m DX contest. The station was ZW5B (a contest station) in Brazil.
If you have followed my blog over the years and also listen to my podcast, The Practical Amateur Radio Podcast you know I live in an HOA restricted neighborhood. My restrictions state no outside antennas other than satellite and small digital TV antennas. The policies also state permission must be received from the architectural review committee so they can approve placement of these antenna types. So how do I operate HF?
I think the answer to that question is probably best answered in a future blog posting, so please stay tuned and I’ll add that to my long list of items to blog about. I’ll just add that my antenna setup is as stealth as I can get it and do most of my HF operations on a 20m hamstick dipole. This hamstick dipole has gained me many DX stations in my logbook. I also have a Hustler 6BTV vertical which I use for 10, 30, 40 and 80m. The 20m hamstick dipole really outperforms 20m from the vertical. But I’ll save that discussion for another time.
I grew bored with what was on the “boob tube” (TV Set) and decided to go down to the shack to see what I could conjure up on the HF bands. I had been working JT65-HF earlier in the evening and decided to see what was biting. Within a half hour I had answered about four CQ’s and decided I should probably turn the radios off and head upstairs to read and study for the extra class license I’m working on. My self-control just doesn’t allow me to study in the ham shack. Before I know it, I’ve turned on a radio or two and have Twitter, Facebook and Google+ all up and I’ve wasted time I could/should be using to study. But before I shut down I decided I would answer one more stations CQ. After all, why work just four stations when you can work five?
Much to my surprise the next station I saw calling CQ on JT65-HF was a VK station. Without hesitation, I double-clicked on his entry and hit the “Answer CQ” button. A few seconds later my Yaesu FT-897D started the 50 second transmit cycle. This was one of the longest 50 seconds of my life and of course I would need to wait another minute to learn if the VK station copied my signal. While I’ve worked many DX stations before on SSB, PSK, RTTY…this would be the first DX station using JT65-HF. Fingers crossed, the next thing I would see would be his report to me and after his transmit cycle I wasn’t disappointed. He had copied me and gave me a signal report of –20. The complete JT65-HF QSO was complete a few minutes later after I sent his report (-16) and the final 73. VK3BM became my first Australian JT65-HF contact and I was very pleased.
It wasn’t until this morning I realized the JT65-HF contact I had made with VK3BM was actually much more impressive. VK3BM became not only my first JT65-HF contact in Australia, but my first Australian DX contact and of course my furthest contact ever made from my home QTH station at a distance of 8,760 miles. I’ve been as ‘giddy as a schoolboy’ ever since realizing this.
While I know my station has been heard many times in and around Australia from using WSPR (this was also exciting the first time), I’ve never actually managed to have a true two-way contact until now. While JT65-HF may not be a voice mode and it doesn’t provide for “rag chewing” QSO’s, it does provide an exchange of callsigns, locators, and signal reports all in real-time with an operator on both ends.
Remember, you don’t need a tall tower and high priced amplifiers to work DX. Also, just because someone says “no you can’t have an antenna” doesn’t mean you still can’t get on the air and work DX stations like I do. You just have to be smarter and have a lot of patience. Yes you can do it.
So….what’s stopping you?
Until next time….
73 de KD0BIK