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I just worked them Long Path on 20M SSB. Their signals were especially good between 0145 – 0215 UTC, but it looks like they have been workable by 6’s between 0130 – 0230 UTC.

They are most likely just running 100 watts and a vertical – and not even near the water. They will be setting things up properly during their daylight today.  It will be really interesting – because if this is true – then we will be in for some huge fun with great signals – and another TO4E type DX-pedition. Now they have to go back to Glorioso and show everyone how that one is done – hi hi.

Now I can relax and enjoy this DX-pedition to the fullest. I probably won’t even bother putting up any other antenna – just work them on 160 – 20M if I can.

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Stu, K6TU has updated the FT4TA propagation prediction “widget” on his propagation service web site. He updated this this morning – based on up the minute propagation prediction changes and current conditions. The great news is that signals have increased on 20 and 15M, but show as being a bit weaker on 40, 30, 12 and 10M. I’m OK with this – 1 Q on 20M (as I did with E30FB for my most recent ATNO) is what I want. And I am pretty confident that after they work all of EU and East and Central US – we should do well on 20M on the West Coast. Stu thinks they will have very good signals here.

There is a shift for sure, and the “money bands” seem squarely on 20 and 15M for my QTH and station. I ran my prediction using a very detailed station configuration at both ends – and ran a “point to point” prediction. I’ve been “toiling” about what antennas to use – but its clear – my 3L 20M yagi up 55′ should be a good go to antenna for an ATNO, and I will also put up the 3L 15M yagi later this afternoon – and be fully ready to roll on 15M.

This is where my station will sit for the next two weeks – and I’m still very curious about 40 and 30M in the morning gray line. I still believe one or the other band will offer something exciting – along the lines of what TO4E did, but time will tell.

Tomorrow rain is forecasted – so I need to get some work done today. Luckily, the mast and rotator and wires are in place – all I have to do is put the yagi together on the mast, and I will be fully ready to roll.

Fingers crossed!

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Every now and then I have to remind myself that the phased verticals are really worth keeping up vs. a high dipole on 40M. The reason? The high dipole does look like it has more gain, but on 40M – the lower takeoff angle and the decent front to back means the “apparent gain” (what the signal sounds like) will be at least equal between the two. The Inverted Vee is a real stinker for DX – but would be an awesome antenna for say, WAS or checking into state side nets.

Its a shame HFTA can’t handle verticals – because this would tell the rest of the story.

One of the best reasons to keep the phased verticals is that I have a second antenna to use for ATNO’s, should something go wrong with the 20M 3L full sized yagi – or the support that its on. So – there is the “backup” aspect. Secondly, maintenance is FAR easier on the ground than up in the air – even though cranking the AB-577 up and down can be done (with antenna repairs included) in about 1/2 day. I have learned to take my time when doing repairs – because there always seems to be something else that needs to be improved – so its worth taking it slow and deliberate.

Which reminds me – my tower, the AB-577 can be rotated from the bottom, so – if my rotator ever stopped working, I can easily turn the yagi toward the ATNO that I need. Typically, ATNO’s come in on one path or the other – so the worst that would ever happen is that I would have to hand turn the antenna twice a day, but that would be very rare. Usually I just park the antenna in one direction for an ATNO.

I also have backup parts for everything – a backup rotator, lots of aluminum and a second Array Solutions Stackmatch II. I even have extra coax and rotator cable, so if anything goes wrong – I can fix it within a half day, easily.

One thing I like about the phased verticals is the ability to instantly switch directions – NE, SW and SE/NW. I like this MUCH better than using a rotator.

Today and tomorrow I will be putting up another antenna on my second mast – which is a temporary “Field Day” style mast – and will leave this up for FT4TA and K1N. The next announced DX-pedition will be VK0EK. There will be a few other new one’s to work in 2016 – but its too early to count on anything happening beyond VK0EK at this point. But I expect two to be activated in 2016 that I need.

 

The “Web” Dipole

October 28, 2014

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I have figured out one easy and great way to get some gain for FT4TA on 17 – 10M. Well, up to 3 dB gain on 10M, 2 dB of gain on 12M, and regular dipole gain on 15 and 17M. The 17M element is aluminum, and the other 4 elements are wire. They all run side to side. The takeoff angle is 20 degrees for 17, 15 and 12M, and 15 degrees for 10 Meters.

I asked my friend, Dean, N6BV about the gain – and he thinks the 3 dB gain (11.33 dBi) is because the 17M element acts as an Extended Double Zepp. And the size of the 17M element (25.9′) does in fact fall within the 10M band as an EDZ. I’m not sure why there is some gain on 12M, but that’s a bonus I am more than happy to accept.

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It is a simple fan dipole – all elements are horizontal and they are 6 inches apart. The feed will be a 1:1 current choke. With the antenna only up 35′, this is a great and easy solution for both FT4TA as well as the upcoming K1N Navassa DX-pedition.

Just for laughs – I might see if maybe adding a reflector for 17M adds any F/B to any of the bands above 17M. If it does, then the antenna will be a 17 – 10M 2 element yagi when I am done with this! Imagine 4 dB gain on 17M and 2 or 3 dB on the other bands – that would be awesome. Stay tuned – I will be doing more modeling tonight – but alas – its time to run to work.

(Click on the images to get a larger / readable view) . . .

DISCLAIMER:

I enjoy designing and building antennas more than working DX, but I use the DXCC program as a “marker” or way to test my antennas in a competitive situation (pileups) and see how well they work. I have submitted applications and earned awards – because I do find that level of participation useful. I only chase 160M DXCC and Honor Roll #1. I also know that propagation predictions are “iffy” – but I enjoy them as others enjoy gambling at slot machines – hi hi . . . I change my antenna farm at least 4 times a year, and tweak something on a monthly basis. So as you can see – tinkering is the number one reason I stay active in ham radio. The learning is what drives me and keeps me active.

If I didn’t like tinkering so much – I would have a SteppIR yagi that works on 40 – 10M for sure. Not the largest though – because I love my AB-577 military mast and have become a military surplus junkie when it comes to “towers”. They are just way too cool  . . . . And the SteppIRs are heavy. The other reason I do what I do is that I can fix anything myself and do it in hours – not days or weeks. No need to wait for UPS – hi hi. This means my “back up plan” is in my full control. I have backup rigs, antenna parts, etc, etc. Trusting one antenna to do it all is IMHO dangerous. I’ve never run over to a club or friends station – but my neighbor an world class DX-er, Oliver, W6NV has offered his station for my use. I should have taken him up on his offer for me to try to work FT5GA – Glorioso. He worked them and I didn’t – and he is only 5 miles away from me. Ugggh.

I am very lucky to have had such mentors as Dean, N6BV, Tom, N6BT, Jim, K9YC and Stu, K6TU in both the antenna design and modeling and the propagation prediction areas of my ham radio endeavor. I have also have been very lucky to have my very close friend, Dr. Bob, KK6EK as a mentor in DX-pedition planning. I have enjoyed many discussions with Paul, N6PSE and enjoy all of the “point / counterpoints” along the way. Its been a blessed adventure, and these guys are my “homies” right here in Northern California!

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I am going to start this propagation analysis using Dean Straw, N6BV’s propagation prediction tables. The main reason – he shows the strongest paths – LP or SP, and by denoting the LP path using an (*) asterix. He also shows all other areas of the world at the same time – so in a sense – you get everything all in one chart. 20M is listed above, and it surely reminds us of the long path direction – and especially in the AM gray line – which jives with a very strong South African path that I have experienced all summer long – and even going into this fall. Even though there seems to be many SP openings during the West Coast night fall, I will bet I make a Q on 20M at 1400Z on the 20M LP. However, since I have worked E3 recently on 20M SP – as long as FT4TA looks for West Coast on our SP at night – it does seem quite possible. The big problem – and this is a theme throughout all of these predictions – is that the rest of the world has 24 x 7 stronger openings. FT4TA operators will simply have to call “West Coast Only” quite a bit to combat that and stick to their guns.

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Dean shows 17M as a “money band” for the West Coast – with a lot of nightly LP openings. Now that would be awesome – 17M LP because the rest of the US will be into darkness. The problem is that EU has an even better shot – so it will be very important for FT4TA to call for “West Coast Only”. I hope they even have one station dedicated to ATNO’s on one “money band”.

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15M also looks great. These charts are helping me make a big decision. One idea is to build a 17-10M rotatable dipole and put it on a mast that I have up that can go at least 1/2 wavelength on 17M. This means I will have full QRO ability on 160-10M. I do expect at least one QSO on one band between 40 and 15M. I can’t imagine the FT4TA team won’t try hard for West Coast since they have openly and publicly stated they would on their web site. We also have an awesome pilot on duty – John, K6MM, so I expect that as long as I do my part – good things will follow.

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VOACAP online predicts 20 – 10M to be “money bands” for the West Coast, with 15M and 17M being the best. It does not offer much hope for the low bands – but it is close to what Dean, N6BV’s propagation charts say – and this is fully to be expected. Personally, and based on my past experience working all of the 3B’s, Madagascar and TO4E (Europa) during a similar time of year with similar conditions (the downslide of Cycle 23), 40 and 30M during the morning gray line Long Path must be paid attention to. In fact, I’d bet on these, plus 20M during the morning gray line – based on what I have heard personally all summer and even this northern hemisphere autumn.

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This is Stu, K6TU’s propagation service analysis, and I think I will mostly ping pong between it and Dean, N6BV’s – since Dean shows the LP – which for this DX-pedition I think will be very much critical. It does seem to jive with my on air experience given the time of year, solar activity and past actual QSO working experience. I fully expect that we will hear them on 40 – 15M and that 20, 17 and 15 will be quite good. Interestingly, Stu predicts 15M as the money band. With 10M opening nicely this past weekend – who knows, maybe 12 and 10M will be on fire. I don’t expect 160 or 80M so much, especially because the JA’s and OC, VK/ZL should do better during mutual darkness, and EU holds dominion 24×7 and on all bands! Maybe there would be a small sliver of time on the West Coast gray line – but I won’t count on it.

So – I have a small dilemma – put up a 17-10M rotatable dipole – or put up my 15M 3 element full sized yagi. Luckily, I have a telescoping support and rotator up waiting for my decision – and I have all of the antenna elements already built. I might even make a 15/10 or 17/12M 2 element yagi and get two bands for the price of one. Since I already have a full sized 3 element 15M yagi – adding 10 would be a breeze.

I have 3 or 4 days to do this – this is a fun “contact sport” – eh?

 

 

 

Navassa – K1N

October 23, 2014

Extra-Extra-News

The DX News for rare ones keeps coming. I need to go on vacation more often! Yesterday, the announcement that K1N – organized by the KP1-5 Team will activate Navassa as early as January 2015. I expected that the KP1-5, who did a superb job with K5D would also activate KP1 – sooner or later. I just did not expect it for about a year – due to the fact that there is so little time to prepare. This time frame is very good news – (for many reasons).

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The East Coast and Central states will have 24×7 band openings with S9 crushing signals. The West Coast will have plenty of opportunities, but I am guessing that we will have to wait a bit for the K1N team to work through the East and Central “walls”.

On 20M, at 0100Z, there is a time when EU will be quiet and the JA’s will have weaker signals. Almost all bands have this same sort of pattern – but I do expect that this operation will be a lot like K5D and HK0NA.

Tromelin – coming up just next week will require some extra “strength” and effort for sure. I’m betting on the lower bands on the morning grey line – and maybe even that weird 3:30 AM (PDT) 20M opening that lasts about 1/2 hour for the West Coast.

We should be getting more details on who will be on Bouvet, but for me – my “needed” list is looking pretty darned great:

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Western States Autumn

October 22, 2014

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By now, the North East US will have had their glorious Fall color show. Here out West, things are now in full swing, and will last until about Thanksgiving time.

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The weather for cycling is perfect now through the end of November, and the sights along the roads and trails are at their peak.

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Combine mountain biking and hiking and fall colors in the West, and you really have a glorious experience.

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I grew up in the North East, but moved to the West just after college. I’ve very much become a Westerner – and haven’t even been back to the North East since 1991.

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In the North East, the colors are grand and the geography somewhat subtle – at least compared to the West – where the colors are subtle but the geography is grand.

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Its almost Halloween, so here is a “ghost tree”.

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And throw in a spooky spider from a bike store in Moab.

 

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