It occurs to me that I got ahead of myself with my last post about operating on six meters from Cyprus — I forgot to mention that about six weeks ago, I acquired a Cypriot callsign: 5B4APL. Up to this point, I had been operating as 5B/AI4SV, but in February I sat the licensing exam. The new callsign is not that much shorter, but it is much more appropriate since I will be based in Cyprus for at least the next two years. Many thanks to CARS (Cyprus Amateur Radio Society) for guidance on how to prepare for and take the exam. I think there were twelve of us who took the exam that day, and I’ve already met a couple of them on the air.

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Some antennas and a contest

This is a state-of-the-shack update. I’ve finally got a few temporary antennas up and am beginning to make contacts from the home station including a tiny bit of contesting.

The first antenna I tried from home was the Buddipole. Before taking it into the field for SOTA operations, I practiced with it one afternoon on the roof. It happened to be the weekend of the Ukranian DX contest, so I did a quick spin through 20m and worked about five stations one after the other with my FT817. I was happy to make any contacts, particularly on a crowded band. No doubt some of the credit goes to the Ukranian operators and their ability to pick out weak signals.

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VAQP 2019

Last weekend was one of the highlights of my ham radio experience even though I spent most of it shivering and hunched over a pair of paddles on a frigid mountaintop.

Mike, KA4CDN, and I decided to mount an expedition with the goal of activating rare counties for the 2019 Virginia QSO Party. We poured over spreadsheets of prior year activity and looked for places where we might camp on the intersection of two or more counties. We came up with a few possibilities, but ultimately decided to check out Rocky Mountain, which lies at the intersection of Nelson, Rockbridge, and Amherst counties. Additionally, it is centrally located in Virginia, which we thought would give us the best chance of picking up the many multipliers (95 counties and 38 independent cities) in the state.

The Bottom Line

To cut to the chase, despite poor propagation, we did better than we thought we would: more than 850 QSOs and broad coverage of multipliers throughout both Virginia and North America. Best of all, we worked a bunch of people we knew including at least ten members of our home club, the Vienna Wireless Society.

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I’m jotting down some notes about this year’s ARRL DX CW, with the hope that I’ll remember them next time I operate the contest (although that will probably be from the other end, as DX from Cyprus next year). First a summary, then some bullet points.

I worked through the weekend, but with time off for errands and sleep. My rig was a K3 running 95W into a dipole up about 13m fed with ladder line into a 4:1 balun fed with about 2 meters of 9913F7 coax to an LDG AT100pro2 tuner. Overall, after de-duping, I had 503 contacts (1 each on 10m and 160m, 64 on 80m, 144 on 40m, 199 on 20m, and 94 on 15m) and 225 multipliers. I worked a bunch of new ones, and hopefully we got each others’ calls right and those contacts will eventually match up in LOTW.

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VWS Field Day 2017

Photo of VWS field day site including multiple operating positions.
Antennas set up at VWS Field Day 2017: the mobile-mounted VHF station (left) and multiband hexbeam HF station (right).

Over the summer, I managed to get back to Virginia just in time for ARRL Field Day with the Vienna Wireless Society. The trip itself wore me down – I had just spent a few weeks in the US, returned to Madagacar for a week (just long enough to get back on local time), and then back to the US for Field Day. However, because my brain was still on East Africa Time, I was unusually perky for the midnight to 8 am shift on 80m.

Our best year yet

Our numbers were just compiled and reviewed at the last club meeting; a really polished analysis is available online.  This year we did much better than last year; this year’s score of 12,302 points blew past the club’s 2009 all time record of 10,958 as a class 4A station. We essentially doubled the QSO count from the prior year, with all four stations pulling hard through the night to keep up the rate.

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2017 PODXS 31 Flavors Contest

The psk31 amateur radio contestFor a change, I have stayed put in Madagascar for a few weeks in a row, and on the weekends, I have taken part in a few contests: the PODXS 070 Club’s 31 Flavors digital contest, and two CW contests: JIDX and CQMM. In this post, I rant on about what it is like to work psk31 from Madagascar and then review my experience in this year’s 31 flavors amateur radio contest.

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States and Provinces versus number of bands worked.

Conditions over the previous week have been good, so I decided to put in an effort on the ARRL INT DX CW contest this weekend. I knew from experience that I would not be able to work around the clock since the US and Canada are not typically in range in the morning, so I anticipated being able to get some sleep from about 4 am through early afternoon, which was fine with me. Reviewing recent logs and VOACAP predictions, I mapped out propagation paths and figured where I would point the hexbeam, and more or less stuck to that plan. Over the course of the contest, I put in about 23 hours in the chair.

I was effectively limited to three bands: 15m, 20m, and 40m. Ten was almost uniformly dead, and my 40m loop is very inefficient on 80m. Bands faded in and out more or less as predicted including some good spans of working the west coast on long path in the afternoons.

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CQ WW SSB 2016

zonesConditions were up and down over the weekend, but not so bad as I had expected. At times, I could hear, but not be heard with 100W, so again a bit more power would have been helpful. I was probably on the air for about 24 hours out of the contest period, but did use some spotting assistance, so I won’t enter in the classic category this year. Tactically, that puts me at a disadvantage, but since this was a casual operation, I’m not too concerned about score.

I am aware of one other station from Zone 39 operating in the context, FR4NT. If cluster spots are any indication, he did a great job, with long runs particularly into Europe.

I ended up working 94 DXCC entities, some of them new to me. Through the magic of an excel spreadsheet, here they are: Aland Islands, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Asiatic Russia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bonaire, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Canary Is., Cape Verde, China, Corsica, Crete, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, East Malaysia, England, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Russia, Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Guam, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kaliningrad, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madeira Is., Malta, Martinique, Mexico, Micronesia, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion Island, Romania, Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Senegal, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, USA, Wales, West Malaysia, and Zimbabwe.

Prep for CQ WW SSB

zone39I should be able to put CQ zone 39 back on the air this weekend, at least for part of the CQ WW SSB contest. I’ve had a ton of travel and a few other projects over the last few months, and have been off the air except for portable operations outside Madagascar. Timing is good this weekend, though, for me to get on the air as 5R8SV from the house in Antananarivo.

I think the ionosphere may have taken my inactivity as a personal affront, because it seems to have tanked. Not having really paid much attention to propagation conditions for a couple months, I am stunned by how far the averaged sunspot number has plummeted (to 12!).

I just ran some simulations for the upcoming weekend, and 100W with a hexbeam may be marginal for Europe, much less the US. I hope some of the higher bands will pop open here and there, but I am not expecting much.

I just looked at conditions over on solarham and hope that the choppiness of the last few days will settle down for the weekend. We’ll see!

storms-hoI should be in Madagascar in a few weeks, but I’m not sure whether I’ll be at home in Antananarivo or in the northern part of the country. There’s a chance I’ll be in Nosy Be, if so, I might be operating that contest QRP portable. While lower power might be a challenge under these conditions, Nosy Be is on NW corner of the island, and surrounded by salt water, so maybe worth a shot.