I am still operating when I can from my porch, using the FT817 and wire antennas; it is a modest operation, but I’ve managed over 200 contacts. By my reckoning, I’ve worked 45 DXCC entities, almost all on 10 and 20 meters. My prime times for operation are in the early morning before I go to work and in the evening around dinner time. In the morning, 20m is usually open to North America, whereas the evening favors Europe on 10m. I’ve had only a few contacts to the East including Japan and New Zealand, so I have yet to find the optimal times and band to work those areas.
There were two major developments this week that should improve my ability to operate. First, I received my toolbox. Most of my household goods are still being shipped, but I have my trusty soldering iron, volt-ohm meter and multitool, so all is good. The other welcome event was installation of internet service at home. So far, service has been excellent. I can now see where my signal is reaching in real time on the reverse beacon network and cluster sites. It’s tempting to spot myself, but I’d rather give someone else the chance to discover me and get in the first spot.
I’m now looking around for a local company that installs towers. There are plenty of towers for cell phone, commercial services, etc., in the area, so I am sure that both the materials and expertise exist. I’d like to line up tower installation (say, 45 foot or so) and ordering of a rotor in the same time frame that I am expecting delivery of the hex beam, around mid-October.
I’ve pasted in some of the small updates from that I’d previously posted on the qrz.com site:
4 Sept 2014: Well, that’s more like it. In the last couple days, I’ve logged a bunch of US contacts as well as some from Russia, Ukraine and Poland while operating on 20m early in the morning before heading to work. I noticed that I was being picked up by the reverse beacon network by stations in Maryland and Pennsylvania around 03:30Z. The first day I tried calling in that window, I had a response from a US station who clearly wasn’t hearing me very well. It occurred to me he might have interference with other stations that I couldn’t hear or that he had difficulty figuring out my start and stop of transmission. So, the next day I went to split operation. It’s not that I need the split because I’m so popular that I have a whole flock of stations to spread out; it’s just that I want to keep my very weak signal isolated from much stronger calling signals. With a five watts and skimpy antenna halfway around the planet, I did a lot of CQing, which goes again my QRP intuition, but being in a desirable location, it seems like a viable strategy. Good thing I have enough batteries to keep use them in rotation.
7 Sept 2014: In the last week, I’ve added contacts in Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Italy, Latvia, Japan, and Zambia. I also managed to finally have some SSB contacts with South Africa, ZS5AY and ZS5KDK. In the case of ZS5AY, I know that the receiving antenna was an inverted V at about 60 feet. It is encouraging to know that a more or less non-directional antenna in a good location can pick me up.
12 Sept 2014: I am getting more used to the propagation patterns and I am having more effective runs when calling CQ. I think I’m up to about 26 DXCC entities, all worked at 5W. In the last week, I’ve raised the antenna slightly, so it is about 9 meters up at one end and 12 or so at the other. With two earthward CMEs in rapid succession, I had no contacts last night or this morning and assume DX conditions will be poor for the next day or so. After that, I’m hopefully that the ionosphere will be charged up and maybe 10m will improve. My tool kit arrived in a shipment this week, so while I don’t have any other antenna or radio supplies, at least the prospect exists to be able to make something to get on other bands.
15 Sept 2014: As predicted, the second CME wiped out my prospects on HF for a portion of the weekend, with the K index climbing to 7. I was suprised that there was a short period between the two events, when I was able to get get in a run. With HF down, I turned my attention to VHF. This was the SARL VHF contest weekend and I wondered if I might have a chance at picking up activity on six meters, either from South Africa or, with the ionosphere juiced up by CME impacts, perhaps further. I chopped off one end of a four meter run of BNC-terminated coax, soldered on some wire yanked out of an electrical cord, and hoisted it up a tree. Not knowing when some Es or F2 might pop up, I listened on and off through the Saturday and a bit on Sunday morning. I know (from dxmaps.com) that there were some relevant openings, but I was off the air at the time (of course). On Sunday afternoon, I took down the antenna, soldered on some longer wire and made it a 15 meter dipole that is now slung low (since the feed line is so short) over the side yard. I now have one antenna on the front port of the FT817 and one on the rear, with four band coverage. Not too shabby. Meanwhile, the rest of the shack is sitting in a cargo container in Baltimore, and the ship that will bring them to Madagascar is cruising northward in the Caribbean. Looks like it will be about another month before the equipment hits the docks in Madagascar.