New Trick: 6 meters

an old dogThis past weekend was the ARRL’s June VHF Contest, and for the first time, I got on 6 meters. None of the HF rigs in the house handle six meters. On Sunday morning, I did try plugging the Yaesu 817nd into my attic antennas, but I wasn’t able to get any of them to tune up (nor would I have wanted to try QRP through a long, mismatched feed line at 50Mhz).

Just for the heck of it, I tried the radio in my car, a headless version of the Kenwood TS-2000. I knew it would work 6m, but I was doubtful that I’d pick up much using my vertically oriented screwdriver antenna from the parking lot next to the house. That parking lot is surrounded by other houses and is line of sight to nowhere. I knew that weak signal modes use horizontal polarization on VHF, so I figured I’d have a pretty stiff cross-polarization penalty and be down 4-5 S units.

To my surprise, I heard a couple ssb conversations, right where they were supposed to be. Their grid locations were next to mine, but I was happy to hear anything. I cranked up to 100w and worked them without a problem. Next, I spun the dial down to 50.080 and started scanning for CW. I pounced on a few signals, got impatient, and ran a clear frequency for the next fifteen minutes, picking up ten additional contacts.

I had a few errands in the middle of the day, and got back into town around 6 pm. I couldn’t do much about the car antenna’s vertical polarization, but I was able to add some elevation by parking on top of the Fairfax Metro Station parking ramp. In principle, I had line of sight to mountains in the Appalachian chain. The car also has a 2m/70cm gain antenna, and I tuned around in the weak signal portion of those bands, picking up a few more ssb contacts, but no cw. I have a feeling that most people were on 6m and that the cross-polarization was a bigger issue at higher frequency.


Around 7 pm, the 6-meter band seemed to improve, and I starting hearing Canadian stations. In the next hour or so, I worked three provinces (AB, SK, and QC) and ten US states out as far as MN and TX (see the map). I am sure some of these stations had elaborate antennas, and when they would pan away the signal would drop to nothing.

This experience has convinced me that there might be signs of intelligent life at and above 50 Mhz, and that this would be worth doing again, but with better antennas. One option would be to try this contest next time (June or December) from W3NIH, using the 2M/70cm AZ/EL rotatable antenna and the STEPPR for 6m.  Another option would be to head to the mountains and see if I can put together some yagis (maybe combine it with a SOTA activation?)

In other news, I’ve been travelling a lot for work, so I didn’t write up the CQ WPX CW. I hopped in for part of the second day of the contest and logged 273 contacts. Most were entities that I had worked before, although some were on new bands. I did notice a new entity in the LOTW right after the contest, though: Saba & St. Eustasius. I guess it makes sense that St. Eustatius hears well.


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