Posts Tagged ‘VE7CA’

630m – The Path To VK

Roger, VK4YB


I've been exchanging e-mails lately with Roger, VK4YB, in Queensland, Australia.

Roger is located about 30 miles from the ocean and has been the only VK signal that I have been able to hear on 630m WSPR mode. He seems to have the strongest signal out of Australia on 630m with his 90 watts and 120' tree supported wire vertical. John, VE7BDQ, has been heard twice down under with his modest station running at the allowable 5W EIRP limit, being reported in the fall of 2015 and again this spring. As well, John has heard Roger, the only signal from VK that either of us has copied.

I would like to be able to run some schedules with Roger in the fall, when transpacific paths should peak again. With that in mind, construction has begun on a new 630m transverter that will allow me to drive my present FET amplifier at full EIRP. Our schedules will utilize the JT9 weak signal mode, similar to JT65 but designed for the noisier LF and MF bands. It uses about 10% of the bandwidth that a JT65 signal requires, about 15Hz, and gains about 2db more sensitivity. A two-way QSO, under the best conditions, would take four minutes if all went well. A typical exchange of the required information, if initiated at my end, would look something like this:

                    VK4YB VE7SL
                    VE7SL VK4YB -20
                    R -18
                    RR 73
               73 73 (not really needed but indicates RR received)

The path from my end is difficult as I am on the east side of Mayne Island and in Roger's direction, about one mile from a 600' hill directly in line with VK. Any RF heading Roger's way will need to leave here at a fairly high angle, which is likely the case anyway considering the low and short (in terms of wavelength) inverted-L antenna.

The path profile from here to the open Pacific Ocean is shown below, with my end being on the right edge, just behind those two hills. The rest of the obstructions are on Saltspring Island and then Vancouver Island, before hitting open water.

VE7SL To VK4YB courtesy: Hey What's That Path Profiler
The most consistent west coast signal to reach own under is from Larry, W7IUV, in Washington state, operating experimentally as WH2XGP. Larry's path is a little more forgiving although his inland location certainly doesn't help. His first obstacle is about 10 miles away and about 2,000' higher. I would guess that his signal is well above that before reaching those mountains and the remaining higher Cascade peaks would not interfere.

W7IUV To VK4YB courtesy: Hey What's That Path Profiler

 To VK4YB courtesy: Hey What's That Path Profiler

The path from John, VE7BDQ, already heard in VK, is also easier than from here. Not far from the water, John has a pretty clear shot across Georgia Strait, giving his signal lots of time to gain altitude and clear those pesky Vancouver Island peaks.

VE7BDQ To VK4YB courtesy: Hey What's That Path Profiler
VE7CNF's (Toby) path profile is similar to mine in that he is confronted very early with a hill to clear. Once over that his signal should be well above the mountains.

VE7CNF To VK4YB courtesy: Hey What's That Path Profiler
VA7MM's (Mark) path profile looks a little better than Toby's as there is a little more distance for his signal to gain altitude before passing over Vancouver Island. Markus was also able to detect VK4YB's WSPR signal earlier this spring and is looking forward to the fall tests with Roger.

VA7MM To VK4YB courtesy: Hey What's That Path Profiler
VE7CA's (Markus) path profile is probably the best of all of us on the west coast as he is located high up on the hills to the north of Vancouver along with an open shot to the ocean.

VE7CA To VK4YB courtesy: Hey What's That Path Profiler
I think my only advantage here is my quiet receiving location as it's going to take some brute-force to get over those nearby peaks. Like many of those operating from the suburbs, higher noise levels really take their toll on weak-signal reception and that will be the biggest obstacle for those operators in the city. Twenty years ago, this would not have been nearly such a problem!

VK4YB Path To Pacific courtesy: Hey What's That Path Profiler
Shown above is Roger's path to the Pacific and illustrates one of the reasons why he has the best signal into North America on MF! Although 30 miles from the ocean, there are no obstructions, yet ... coming soon is a 120' cell tower, directly in line with North America and less than 1000' from his antenna. Hopefully it won't cause any problems other than being a dreadful eyesore.

As the solar activity slowly abates (but not this week!), propagation on 630m will slowly get better and better ... hopefully along with increased levels of Canadians transmitting on the band, and lots of stations in the USA. It is hoped that our enthusiastic neighbours to the south aren't too far away from getting the band fairly soon. Better get those soldering irons warmed-up so you are all ready to go!

A Second West Coast Lightwave Adventure

51km Path courtesy: https://www.google.ca/maps

Toby, VE7CNF, successfully inaugurated his lightwave station earlier this week, on Monday night, completing a nice two-way CW contact between West Vancouver (CN89) and Mayne Island (CN88). The distance spanned was approximately 51km (32 miles), crossing atop the western edges of Vancouver and then across the Strait of Georgia, the body of water separating mainland BC from Vancouver Island.


The details of Toby's homebrew lightwave equipment are described on his web site here and are similar to the station at this end ... also described in earlier blogs. This was the same path covered in my two previous lightwave QSO's with Markus, VE7CA, described here.

Monday evening's weather was clear and calm but at this time of the year, true darkness is a long time coming. With a full-moon just a few nights away, the sky never did get very dark it seemed. I set up my end of the path late in the afternoon, just in front of the house.


            VE7CNF/7 end showing the busy-looking site in operation.



Accompanying Toby to the mountain lookout location were VA7MM, his YL VA7MAY and Markus, VE7CA who initially scouted out and found this nice site for our original lightwave contacts. Thanks to Markus who snapped a picture of the diehard lightwave crew!

VA7MM, VA7MAY and VE7CNF
One thing that I noticed on Monday night was the very loud QRM coming from the sodium vapor lighting used on the ski hills just above Toby's location. The resolution of my Fresnel lens was just not sharp enough to be able to isolate Toby clearly without also being saturated with the lighting noise ... from my end, the ski-hill lighting appeared just above his deep-red LED.

Although Toby's signal was very strong, the lighting hum was strong enough to cause some receiver front-end desensing and slightly modulate Toby's CW signal with a touch of AC ripple. I did not notice this hum when working VE7CA at the same location a couple of years ago. It's possible that there was no snow on the ski-hill at the time and the lights were not turned on.


Moving the receiver just a few degrees to the west made a huge difference, as the hummy background noise level returned to the quiet hush of a dark sky.

Toby's recording of my signal is much cleaner as there are no bright lights when looking towards Mayne Island. It is really interesting to hear the rapid fading, almost a flutter, on my CW signal, as the light passes through various levels of ever-changing haze above the water.


Midway through our one hour QSO, Toby reported that my signal had dropped measurably as had his signal on my end. Although I could see no obvious clouds in the path, I did notice a red glow out in the Strait that had not been there earlier. When I turned off my transmitter, the glow disappeared, indicating that there was indeed some low level haze that had crept up on us, and enough to cause some signal absorption on the path. Thankfully signal levels returned to normal, and actually were a bit stronger, about fifteen minutes later, when the haze thinned and the skies had grown a little darker.

Towards the end of our QSO, I had the chance to test out my #2 receiver. It was built so that I could do some NLOS cloudbounce testing here on the island, without having to separate my main system's transmitter/receiver pairing. At the time, there were no lenses available from the overseas manufacturer, so my quest for a suitable lens led me to a local 'bargain style' hardware importer (Princess Auto), who had a good supply of $5 lenses. The lens seemed to function well in my local tests but it had never been put side-by-side with the higher quality lens in my main transceiver. As it turned out, the $5 lens worked very well, easily detecting the 51km signal although it didn't sound quite as loud since the receiver I built for it was intended to interface with my laptop and lacked the additional audio amp I had built for the main system.

A final interesting observation was made, when on a whim, I placed a large cardboard shield over the bottom quarter of the transceiver's receiver lens. The signal strength didn't appear to change at all. I gradually blocked more and more of the lens but astonishingly, was still able to copy Toby's CW with all but a 1" strip of the lens completely covered! This would tend to indicate that we would be able to communicate with a very much smaller Fresnel or optical glass lens, such as a 4" or even a 2" inch magnifier. As I commented to Toby on CW, the possibilities for experimentation are endless.

All-in-all it was a very successful evening and the mountain-top gang seemed to enjoy the outing as much as I did, and ... the QSL is in the mail.


Hopefully there are other VE7's in or around Vancouver that might be interested in throwing a signal over this way some night ... I'll leave the light on for ya!

Local Lightwave Activity / A New 630m Resource Site





Toby, VE7CNF, has sent me some mail indicating that his new lightwave system is ready for a two-way test!






His system is very similar to the ones built and deployed by myself and Markus, VE7CA, in late 2013. The culmination of that activity is described here, in 'On Making Nanowaves - Part 6'. Our lightwave QSO and homebrew gear were later described in a 'how to' article in the 'The Canadian Amateur' as well as in the newest edition of  'The Radio Amateur's Handbook' (2016).

Toby describes his most recent pre-QSO backyard testing:

The lightwave gear appears to be working well. Focus looks good and the
finder scopes are doing their job. There's a reflective sign high up on a
hydro tower 170 meters away that's handy for testing. It lights up bright
when the transmitter's on it.

Back scatter off the clouds above my house worked too. I heard my CW beacon, audible 339, off a patch on the clouds about 1 degree wide. I don't really know if it was clear air scatter from closer by, or scatter off the clouds, but the spot was small. That's with the tx on the front deck, and rx in the back.

I used Spectran to check the noise from city lights in my area. At QRSS10
speed there are spectral lines at 540, 600, and 660 Hz. They aren't too
strong, but those are some frequencies we should avoid.

VE7CNF's lightwave system - TX (L) & RX (R)
As well, Mark, VA7MM, is also putting together a similar system to join the fun ... it's great to see new local activity!

Hopefully the weather will co-operate enough to allow us to make a two-way QSO later this week. Plans call for Toby to set up near the same location in West Vancouver used by VE7CA as it offers a clear LOS path to Mayne Island, 54km to the southwest.

54km Georgia Strait crossing (courtesy: https://www.google.ca/maps)

 *****************************************************

Rik, ON7YD, has set up a new website devoted to information specific to 630m. His 472kHz.org site looks as if it will be a valuable resource for those looking to get information and a start on our new band. At present, there is some really great information regarding transmitters, antenna systems and calculating E(I)RP levels. Have a look!

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