Posts Tagged ‘TI7’

QSL cards for TI7/K2DBK

When I returned from my operation as TI7/K2DBK in Costa Rica last summer, I didn’t receive any QSL cards immediately. I wasn’t very surprised by that, as I hadn’t worked all that many stations, Costa Rica isn’t a particularly rare entity, and I assumed that for the stations outside the US (where it’s a little less common), they’d be QSLing via the bureau or Logbook of The World. Since I had no cards that I needed to respond to, I focused my efforts on getting my operation approved for DXCC credit and getting a certificate so that I could upload the contacts to the Logbook of The World. As I wrote (here and here), that turned out to be an interesting challenge, but I was able to get that approval.

I didn’t really think about QSL cards after that until a few months ago, when I started receiving QSL requests via the ARRL DX bureau service. As I’ve written in the past, the bureau is a way to exchange QSL cards which, while inexpensive, can be quite slow, so lag of 6 or 8 months between the operation and the time to receive a card via the bureau isn’t terribly unusual. (Sometimes it can be much, much longer. I’m still receiving QSL cards via the bureau for my operation from Grand Cayman in 2007, and others for operations from home back to 2001. The bureau service itself isn’t quite that slow, but often folks like myself will discover after a few years that a particular card is needed.) When I first received those bureau cards, I realized that I had to create a QSL card but it wasn’t a high priority, as I wasn’t planning to send cards out via the bureau for at least a few months.

Things changed about a week ago when I received the first of several directly mailed QSL requests. Although it’s common to send a QSL card relatively soon after a contact, particularly if it’s sent “direct” (meaning mailed directly to the station, not via the bureau), sometimes stations will not realize until much later that they “need” the confirmation, or, as I’ve done, sometimes they simply forget at the time of the contact. Regardless of the delay, I have always made it a point to respond to direct QSL cards as soon as possible (normally I’ll send out a return card the day after I receive one). Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that because I still had the creation of the QSL card for my TI7/K2DBK on the “to do” list. The receipt of the handful of direct requests (all of which were from non-US stations) was the kick that I needed to get going designing my card.

I’ve always designed and printed my “special” cards myself, because the number of cards that I typically need is usually so small that it’s not worth it to have them professionally printed. There are a number of tools that can be used for the actual design, but for me, the hardest part is always coming up with an attractive layout. However, I’ve come up with sort of a standard that I’ve used on multiple cards, and I try to follow that now for each new one I create. I’ve followed that “standard” for the latest card, which is to use a background image shot with one or sometimes two “inserts”, along with a QSO information block. I’ve always used my own photos, not a “stock” photo, as I think it makes the card more personal. I usually include a picture of myself on the cards because I think that makes it even more personal.

When I first started printing the cards, I though that I’d use a gloss “postcard” printer stock (like this from Staples), separate the postcards (they are set up for 4 on a page that have perforations to make separation easy) and just mail them. However, I realized that the size of each card was bigger than the standard QSL card size and I had trouble fitting them in some envelopes. As a result, I wind up using a paper cutter to trim the cards down to about 5.3″ x 3.5″. Most likely the next time I buy paper stock for my printer I’ll just use plain “everyday” inkjet photo paper since it should be a bit less expensive.

With a card designed, I printed off enough copies on my inkjet printer to respond to the direct requests, and I’ll be working on responding to the bureau cards next. I think that this particular design worked out really well, and the color of the sand on the beach is light enough so that I can just use a regular pen to fill in the QSO information in the information box and it’s quite readable.

TI7/K2DBK officially approved, Part 2

Please read Part 1 for the beginning of the story and some background.

Based on the information that I’d previously described, I sent an email to the Logbook of The World (LoTW) desk at the ARRL in mid-June briefly explaining what I’d learned and asking what would be needed for them to issue a certificate so that I could upload my contacts. (Briefly, each contact is “signed” using a digital certificate to ensure that it’s valid. The ARRL issues a certificate to an operator when it is satisfied that the contacts were made legally.) I got a quick response back which referred me to the ARRL’s Reciprocal Operating page which gives the requirements needed to operate from different locations around the world.  The information provided for that page links to OH2MCN’s terrific site that has details for hundreds of countries. The information on his site is largely provided by hams who have operated from those locations, but sometimes it’s not always completely up to date. (As an example, you can see my contribution to the entry for the Cayman Islands, which in turn has been updated since I wrote to Veke.)  Unfortunately, the information for Costa Rica did not include the updated details regarding SUTEL (and still doesn’t as of the time that I’m writing this.) I responded back to both the LoTW desk and the DXCC desk (since the DXCC desk is ultimately responsible for determining if an operation is “legal”), but did not hear back from them prior to leaving for Costa Rica.

After I returned, I electronically requested a certificate for my operation. As with most operations from other that a home country, I was advised that I needed to contact the ARRL with the required supporting documentation. I sent another note to the DXCC desk in early August again explaining the situation but after a couple of weeks of no response, I sent a note to Joyce, KA2ANF, my Division Director who did whatever magic Division Directors do and got me a reply form the DXCC desk. Unfortunately, the reply was substantially the same as the initial responses that I’d gotten back (referring me to the Reciprocal Operation page) and didn’t address the changes in the licensing authority. It said that even though their information was outdated, that I’d need a license or some other documentation from the local licensing authority.

At this point, it occurred to me that many of the people who I’d emailed or spoken to had operated recently from Costa Rica, certainly within the last two years, and several had been issued LoTW certificates. Since there was precedent, I figured that the best way to find out how they had gotten their certificates was to ask, so I gathered up a list of email addresses, and sent out an email, that said in part:

…I noticed that you have recently uploaded contacts from a Costa Rica operation to LoTW, and I was wondering if you’d recently obtained a certificate without a paper license, or if you had a previously-issued license that was used to obtain your certificate. To be honest, I’m hoping that you might fall into the first category meaning that there is precedent for my certificate to be issued under the same conditions.

Over the next couple of days, I got back responses from pretty much everyone I wrote to (and some that I didn’t; my note got passed on to a few others who I hadn’t originally written) and the story from each of them was the same: No, SUTEL wasn’t issuing licenses but it was OK to operate from Costa Rica as long as you were in the country legally and had an appropriate US license. N0KE, AA8HH, N0SXX, and K4VAC (which is a club) all confirmed that they’d been issued LoTW certificates based on the “new” information about licensing. Better still, I received information from several hams that included emails between themselves, the ARRL, and in some cases, between Keko, TI5KD, the president of the Radio Club de Costa Rica where the licensing information was explained and accepted as valid by the ARRL.

I wrote another note to the DXCC desk and provided this information, and waited. After another couple of weeks, I sent a reminder note (I know those guys are busy, and my issue certainly wasn’t a big one) and got a response back. They’d started to investigate, and would be getting back to me. I felt that at least they were finally reading what I’d written and there was hope. Just a few hours later, and I got back another email telling me that my operation was accepted and a LoTW certificate would be issued shortly. (It was.)

I’d like to thank everyone that I mentioned here for their help in getting through all this. In particular, Keko, TI5KD  was very patient in explaining the situation and helping me to be confident that I would eventually get through the red tape.

On a final note, I realized that in the spirit of “giving back” to the ham community, the best thing that I could do would be to get the information on OH2MCN’s site updated, so I’ll be writing to him shortly with the details that I’ve provided here (though in a more concise form).

TI7/K2DBK officially approved, Part 1

It was a lot more difficult than I’d expected, but I finally received official approval from the ARRL’s DXCC desk for my TI7/K2DBK operation earlier this year. I’ve been holding off writing about it until I had resolution, one way or another, hence the delay in writing this.The issue had to do with the licensing authority in Costa Rica. Here’s the story as I understand it.

A couple of years ago, the organization responsible for issuing all radio licenses in Costa Rica was reorganized. That organization, SUTEL, apparently revised the laws regarding all radio services in Costa Rica, but somehow they neglected to revise the rules pertaining to amateur radio. In fact, they didn’t include rules about amateur radio at all after the rules revision. As a result, they had no way to issue or renew any amateur licenses, regardless of whether those licenses were for residents of Costa Rica or for visitors. As I understand it, this was an oversight, not an intentional removal of the amateur service from Costa Rica.  Previously, for a US amateur to operate from Costa Rica, you’d have to fill out some forms and pay a nominal fee at the SUTEL offices in the capital city of San José and you’d walk out with your license. Unfortunately, after the laws were revised, there simply wasn’t a way to get a license.

I didn’t know any of this earlier this year when I decided to operate from Costa Rica. My concern was that you had to physically go to the SUTEL office in San Jose to get your license.

The location where we stay in Costa Rica is in the northwest portion of the country near the city of Liberia, and it’s a pretty significant drive to San Jose.  (The green marker is where I was staying, the blue is San Jose.)  Although Costa Rica isn’t a very large country, a multi-hour drive through a country where I didn’t speak the language (and where were weren’t planning to rent a car) just didn’t seem very appealing. What I thought I would do is to post to a couple of the DX lists to ask if perhaps there was a way to get a license online, or perhaps to see if there was someone in Costa Rica who could do the paperwork for me in advance, and mail it to me either at home or where we were staying. I got back multiple responses, both from US hams who’d recently operated from there as well as a couple of hams who live in Costa Rica, all of whom told me about the situation with SUTEL.

Among those responses were a couple that said that based on conversations between the ARRL and the Radio Club de Costa Rica  there was a working agreement in place so that for amateurs from countries that had reciprocal operating agreements in place with Costa Rica (the US does), that as long as the visiting amateur is in the country legally (a copy of a passport stamp can be used to prove this) and they held an appropriate US license (I hold an Amateur Extra class license). they can operate legally from Costa Rica. The only other requirement is to use the appropriate regional prefix, which for my operation was TI7, indicating the Guanacaste region. Based on that, I operated as I’ve previously described, and assumed that I’d have no trouble having my operation officially approved for DXCC credit (for others, of course) and getting a Logbook of The World certificate, necessary to upload my QSOs to that system. As I said, it turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than I’d expected.

To be continued…


TI7/K2DBK Post-event wrapup, part 2

This is part 2 of the series, click here to read part 1 

It’s been another crazy week at work and at home and I’d hoped to have another entry or two posted by now, but I just haven’t had the time. I’ve finally found a few minutes, so I’d like to focus on things from a DX perspective and talk a bit about QSLing.

As I’ve previously noted, the weather kept the total number of contacts far lower than I’d hoped, with the total number of contacts ending up at 87 for the week (including one duplicate who I helped out with an antenna check). It looks like I worked 22 different countries though I believe that one of those will be a busted call: I logged a caller with a “DX” prefix which would correspond to the Philippines but at the time I was working into Europe and I suspect that it’s actually a “DL” call. In terms of “best DX”, I worked into European Russia (UA) and Ukraine (UT) a few times, with the majority of the countries being in central Europe such as Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, and others in that area. I worked relatively few US states, though I don’t have good statistics on the because I didn’t get the state from all the operators that I worked. Most of the stateside contacts tended to be in the US Southwest although I did work up into Virginia and farther up the US East Coast for a few contacts.

As I mentioned in my last post, I did manage to get a full-blown pileup going a few times, and I can really understand how addicting this can be. I’d love to be able to operate from a “real” DXpedition, or even from a “primarily radio” vacation somewhere, but for now my vacation time is limited so I tend to squeeze in radio when I can. I hope that at some point over the next year or two I can get creative and find time away for a “radio” vacation.

Regarding QSLing, I got a question this week from a station asking me about whether the contacts would be uploaded to Logbook of The World. As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a big fan of LoTW, and would love to make the contacts available there. However, I’m having some issues getting a LoTW certificate issued and it’s not clear when (or if) that issue will be resolved. (This only applies to my operating from TI7.) In the meantime, if you need a card, please QSL via my home call the “old fashioned” way with a paper card. Because of the relatively few contacts made, I’m not going to have a bunch of card commercially printed but I will design and print a card specifically for this operation. My QSL information is always kept up to date at my entry on qrz.com.

If you want to check to see if you’re in my TI7 log, I’ve uploaded that to the Clublog website which you can search here. If you think you worked me and you can’t find your entry in the online log, please drop me a note and I’ll check for you as it’s entirely possible that I busted a call or two.

TI7/K2DBK Post-event wrapup, part 1

It’s been a very busy week for me both at work and at home following my vacation, so it’s taken me a while to find the time to start writing this. I’d hoped to provide a few more updates while I was in Costa Rica but I never found the time so I’ll do my best to try to remember what happened. I’m going to try write a number of shorter postings so hopefully I can get them all out over the next couple of days.

In my last posting, I’d talked about how it had been rainy all week. That weather continued, but I finally did figure out a way to get on the air for more than 10 minutes at a time.

The problem was that my initial setup was on part of the outdoor deck with everything exposed to the elements. I would have been happy to bring the feedline inside, but the air conditioning system in the house we were staying at has sensors such that you can’t leave the sliding doors open even a little without the system shutting down. Considering the temperature and humidity, that wasn’t a realistic option, so I had to operate outside and hope for the best. In the picture, you can see the antenna in the background and I’ve got the power supply sitting on the chair with the radio on a little table. As long as it was dry, this worked out fine. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay dry long enough for me to spend any significant time on the air.

On Friday afternoon, the weather was once again uncooperative, and I was starting to think that I’d wind up leaving Costa Rica with only about 5 QSOs. However, Sharon pointed out that the deck next to the common area of the house had a pretty big overhang, and I realized that even with some of the really torrential downpours we’d had that area had stayed dry. I moved down to that location and set up the antenna there, configured for 15m, and brought out the rest of the gear to the new location.

Sure enough, after a few minutes of respite the skies opened up again, but although the antenna was getting wet, the radio, power supply, and my iPad (used for logging) were dry. (As you can see from the photo, I did have a towel ready, just in case.) I got on 15m at just about 21:00Z and called CQ and was answered by a station in Brazil. Being in Costa Rica, that wasn’t quite the DX that I was hoping for, but very shortly after that I got spotted on the DX Clusters and started getting a lot of calls from Europe. All told, I was on the air for about 40 minutes (we had plans and I had to get ready) and worked 33 stations that day. (I’ll have some details about the countries I worked in a future posting.) Although I’ve worked from a DX location before (as ZF2DK), this was the first time that I ever had what I would consider to be a full-blow pileup. I think that I did fairly well in managing things, managing to at least get enough of a partial call so that I could respond back with “the station ending in xyz only please” on almost every call. I don’t have enough experience yet to be able to pull full callsigns out of a pileup every time, but I know that’s something that comes with experience. By the second day of running stations, I could tell that I was doing better.

Part 2 of this series continues here.

Rainy season in Costa Rica

Unfortunately, Mother Nature has not been cooperating. I’m writing this from Costa Rica and we’ve have a lot of rain here. I was able to get on the air very briefly after arriving on Sunday, making a single contact on 20m mostly just to make sure that the gear was working. I got a little bit of RF into the radio (which I’d seen while testing at home) but the ferrites that I’d brought cleared that up.

The next time I was about to get on the air was Tuesday afternoon, also relatively briefly. I set up for 15m and the antenna behaved very well there, easily tuning the whole band. I worked a few stations in the US southeast (Georgia & Florida) and a relative local in Venezuala. But as the title of this post indicates, rainy season has started here and it’s been raining a lot since then.

Obviously a Buddipole will work in the rain, but the way things are set up here it’s not practical to leave the antenna up and run out in a near-monsoon to make an adjustment to a whip. Of course, trying to do that when there’s lightning around, which there has been, was an even worse idea.

Wednesday was pretty much a complete rainout, though my friends and I were able to go out on the water and jet ski for a couple of hours. (No, I did not attempt to operation TI7/K2DBK/MM). Did I mention that it rained constantly during that whole time?

Today (Thursday) started off looking bad again, raining for most of the early morning, but it did clear up for the majority of our day which included a sightseeing tour to the Rincon de la Vieja volcano. Right at the end of that trip it starting pouring yet again, and while there was a very brief respite after we got back to our residence here, it’s been raining steadily ever since along with a lot of lightning. Needless to say, no radio.

The weather forecast for the next couple of days calls for more of the same, although our touring plans are done and since we’ll be around more I hope that if we get a break from the rain for a few hours I’ll be able to get on the air.

I am disappointed that I haven’t been able to get on the air more, but I’m trying to stay positive and see if I can get on the air for at least a few more hours before it’s time for us to leave.

Quick update on TI7/K2DBK

I just wanted to post a very quick update regarding my TI7/K2DBK operation that’s coming up in a few days. I see that my announcement to the various DX Publicity sources that I’ve collected has done the job, as I’ve been mentioned in most of the major DX announcement lists. As mentioned, this is a “holiday-style” operation which means that operating will take place when I’m at the QTH where I’m staying (as opposed to sightseeing, etc.)  and not otherwise occupied with other important things, like working on my suntan, swimming, or consuming the occasional “adult beverage”. (Come to think of it, I could do at least some of those while operating, but I think I’ll skip trying to operate from the swimming pool.)

Although I wasn’t home to take advantage, I noted that 6m was open today and if that happens again while I’m there, I’ll try to get on the air on that band. However, unless there’s some indication of a band opening I probably won’t spend much time just CQing since the lower bands should be more productive overall.

I had intended to post several updates this week, but as luck would have it this was an extremely busy week at work and I got home significantly later than usual and just haven’t had the time to update. I may post a few updates from Costa Rica when I’m there at which point I may have a better idea of when I’ll actually be on the air.

Until then, I’ve got to get back to packing.


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