May 10, 2013
I’m so glad that I have achieved Honor Roll, and that that is out of my way. It really did become a pain in the ass – even though the finishing year was probably the most exciting DX year ever. Now I can just experiment and try new things without feeling like I am on the “Honor Roll ATNO Watch”.
The new Moxons and the “Big Signal From a Small Lot” vertical are all working well, and the first QSO I had with the 20/15M Moxon was Z81X – South Sudan, and the first on the 17/12M was A61Q – so – both in the zone where I went crazy at the bottom of the cycle with the low “Franken-Moxon” that I botched back then.
Today I added enough clamp on ferrite choke beads to my vertical feed, and also read K9YC’s excellent papers on building effective 1:1 current chokes – so will implement them as time goes by.
I also tried to add more radials to the vertical, but that threw the SWR off on several bands, and I realize that I have to add them and then retune the LC circuits at the base. Its trickier than I had expected. I think I will still add another 30 or so radials anyway – the wire is just in a pile and won’t be used up in the trees any more – squirrels just keep eating the support rope, and I just don’t have the room. That and the neighbor cut down that old ratty 70′ Monterrey Pine – glad to see it go – but it was a major support for wire antennas. No problem – I really like what I have now. Its “good enough” to do what I want to do now – and passed the ME / AF tough zone test already!
I’m also working on Heard Island, and that is going much better than it had been – we are making good progress now.
Its been a spring with more socializing, and it just seems “lighter” than when I was so OCD about Honor Roll. I guess it was actually pretty stressful!
April 25, 2013
This was the best conference ever – in fact – my favorite ham radio convention ever. Since I am not at all interested in going to Dayton – Visalia is my big event each year, followed by Pacificon. Bob, KK6EK was presenting his new book on DXA, and its covers Kure, K7C and especially Clipperton, TX5K:
Dean, N6BV liked his “TEAM HFTA” ball cap and was happy to oblige my silly request to ask him to “present” my Honor Roll plaque to me:
One of the highlights of the convention was Dean, N6BV showing my QTH as “Difficult Terrains” in his “HFTA Notes” presentation:
I met so many people, including Paul, N6PSE and Steve, K6SGH and many others – who are all great guys. My presentation “Honor Roll in One Solar Cycle: A Little Pistol Adventure” went very well, and now I am updating it and making it better for Pacificon 2013.
April 18, 2013
I just received the Honor Roll Plaque today:
Which is perfect timing, because tomorrow I drive to Visalia to the International DX Convention. Since Dean Straw helped me so much and his HFTA program was the catalyst for me snagging the last 7 entities last year – I had two funny ball caps made:
Dean calls me an “Extreme DX-er” and shows my challenging terrain in his HFTA presentation – which he will give at Visalia, and I have been singing the praises for HFTA in my presentations, so this is why we are “Team HFTA”.
Dean has agreed to take a picture – where he is presenting my Honor Roll Plaque to me – and where we wear our hats.
What a great way to kick off Visalia – and what a fun year it is to be taking a lap around the victory track.
Bob, KK6EK will also have his DXA book available – and he used my “Visual History of the ARRL DXCC Program” on the cover.
Visalia is going to be a blast!
April 14, 2013
My antenna farm has always been somewhat “underwhelming”. I have been a little pistol throughout my DX-ing “career”. Typically, I have had one small yagi and one vertical. Here is my 17M yagi – which actually works fine on all bands – 20 – 10M. It works a lot better than expected on 20M. The other antenna is a 160 – 30M top hatted 50′ lowband vertical with 64 buried radials – (which are under those planter boxes). By the way – that trellis on the deck, planter boxes and deer fence and gates are all home brewed. I just love building stuff.
The yagi is cranked up to 45′ – and HFTA says that this is the best overall height for the last 9 that I need.
The star of the yagi show is a home brewed “floating guy ring”. Since I use the armstrong method to turn the yagi, I needed a floating guy ring – and a trip to the local hardware store yielded this “closet flange” – which is what they use to put your toilet on and bolt it to the floor. The silver ring easily swivels around, and this works great for this application. And it was only $7.
My “tower” is a military surplus AB-952 mast system that cranks up. I have eleven 5 foot sections that interlock together, but only use 9 of these – for safety sake. When I had a stack of two of the 17M yagis, I did use all 55′ of mast, and guyed it in two places. At 45′ I only need one set of dacron rope guys. I bought this in Portland, Oregon and the entire tower fit in the back of my BMW X3!
The vertical switching arrangement is documented in a 1979 QST article that is also in the ARRL Vertical Antenna Classic book – by Dave Hollander, N7KR and his article was called “A Big Signal From a Small Lot”. He used a 60′ vertical, but my goal was to get a half wavelength on 30M – which – with the hat – really makes a killer half wave 30M vertical. It is 3/8 wavelength on 40M, a quarter wavelength on 80M, and a tiny antenna on 160M – but still better than the MA-160V. I switch in some inductance from the coil for 160 and 40 (thats what those taps are), and for 80M – a 500 pf “doorknob” capacitor, and 30M is a direct connection. The switch is an Ameritron RCS-4 four position switch and is perfect for this application.
The vertical is my Cushcraft MA-160V mounted on top of a 30′ Channel Master steel push up mast. I have the whole thing on a hinge base, and so, it is easy for me to raise and lower and work on the vertical. I did not use the MA-160V’s top loading coil or “stinger” because I wanted to turn the MA-160V into a multi-band antenna. The top hat has eight 4′ spokes. I do plan on adding 30 more radials – bringing my total up to 94 soon.
On the air – both antennas work great. EZNec modeling shows 4.3 dB gain for the 17M yagi, and some gain on the other bands I use it on. The vertical has a 25 degree TOA on 160 and 80M, 20 on 40M, and 15 on 30M – with slightly compressed lobes. It is not very efficient on 160M, but will be good enough to get to 160M DXCC. It is a great antenna on 80 – 30M.
Good enough to get to 9BDXCC
Typical 1/4 wl 80M vertical for DX-ing
Quite good on 40M
Excellent on 30M
I had a 40M dipole up 65′, but a squirrel ate through the support rope and it came down. Since this was the second time that has happened – I decided to only put up antennas that were self supporting, and which no critters can get to them. No more wire up in the trees for me. I expect to get to Honor Roll #1 with this setup and the complete “K-Line”. The biggest goal I have had as far as DX-ing is concerned was mixed “regular” Honor Roll – in fact, the other awards (8BDXCC and Challenge) have just been time fillers along the way. I’m not in a hurry to make Honor Roll #1 – because it happens when it happens, and even IF it happens. I am sure I will at least be able to stay on the Honor Roll – so that plus working toward 160M DXCC – (to get to 9BDXCC) are the two things I am doing now. I’m in no hurry now – which is a huge relief after busting my butt to get to Honor Roll. Now I am just having fun with no self imposed pressure.
I think this simple antenna farm is all I will need.
March 26, 2013
In 2012 I worked 7 ATNO’s and landed on the ARRL DXCC Honor Roll. These were all “rare” entities – HK0/M, EP, E4, 7O, Z8, ZL9 and SV/A.
In December 2011, after feeling the “DX Doldrums” for years, I installed HFTA and started analyzing why I couldn’t hear critically important entities that had been activated in the previous 3 or so years (and which other locals heard and worked them). The mystery was solved, better antennas went up higher, and then, in a fit of extreme luck – new activations popped up out of the woodwork like mushrooms. It would become the most exciting and critically important year of DX-ing for me. Sure – I have worked many more ATNO’s in a year – but WOW – does it get tense towards the end of the road. Those who have 300 and think the rest of the trip is like the first 300 sure have a real experience to go through. Its almost unbearable after 325 . . . I almost said “The hell with it” – more than once. One bozo posted on eHam that “Honor Roll is easy – it just takes time”, and he isn’t even on the DXCC list at all (let alone the Honor Roll list). Another bozo posts how easy it is – and he uses a remote super contest station. He has made a few attempts – (as a DX “Cop”) – to tell me how to DX correctly- and he is in the 200′s. Well, no duh! Everything is easy I guess – especially when you are just talking about it – heh heh. Actions truly speak louder than words – especially with DXCC Honor Roll.
Here we are in 2013 – almost April, and we have nothing that I need announced. There is a rumor that a rare one will be activated this year, but by March of last year we at least had HK0NA already in the bag, the “surprise” 7O6T 2 week lead time announcement, and the 6 month lead time ZL9HR announcement. HK0NA had been announced months in advance, but EP, E4, Z8 and SV/A were total surprises.
So, here we are almost April 1, and NOTHING. Of course, what I need now are the one’s that haven’t been activated for 13 or more years, and for good reason. Cost and accessibility are the reasons. Three would probably be easy:
KH5K – Kingman Reef
KP1 – Navassa
VP8/S – South Sandwich
The rest will take some serious antenna strategy:
VK0/H – Heard Island
FT/Z – Amsterdam / St. Paul
FT/T – Tromelin
E3 – Eritrea (probably the hardest out of all of these)
FT/G – Glorioso – since it was activated in 2008, it will be a long time before I can expect it again . . .
One thing I have noticed – it seems there have been a number of proposed activations and rumors that have been dashed – due to changing politics or cost and access. Its not a good trend, and even has me believing that I might be one of the last people to make regular Honor Roll in a while. I think anyone who started say after 2005 is going to have a much harder and longer wait than my 11 1/2 years.
But – hope springs eternal – even though my first card checker predicted the closing of access to many US OC-PAC posessions – I still worked all of them. Many which turned out to be the last activations – and its been years already (i.e. KH1) . . .
So – which ATNO will be next?
March 13, 2013
The application that puts me on the ARRL DXCC Honor Roll just completed, and so now my LOTW stats looks like this:
It took 11 1/2 years of hard work and a ton of persistence and patience. I learned a ton, and the only thing that really matters is the antenna – everything else follows and is “Priority #2″.. I have never stuck out a pursuit like this before, and participating really helped me get through a period of chaos in my life – death of two parents plus a divorce. This might have been the only period in my life where a total “OCD” like pursuing Honor Roll was a good thing. The DXCC Pin and Plaque are on order, and I expect the pin soon – and the Plaque in 6 weeks or so. I like the “trophy” I built myself, which follows the “home brew” ham radio ethic:
I hope you see some of the humor in it – I do everything with a sense of self effacing humor in it – (if you don’t know that already). I’m a seriously silly person . . .
The journey was truly the reward, and I built this trophy because my Assemblage Art pays homage to the art and craft of radio – which truly is still “magic” as much as it is science to me. Some of my other plaques are in the garage collecting dust, but the one thing that is “coveted” is my QSL card collection. I have an archival photo binder with acid free pages.
One thing that has changed greatly since 2001 is that there are more online / digital resources that chronicle an achievement like this. For example, QSL cards are physical things that come and go – and take up space. They are not immortal – because I have seen some DX-ers (who are SK) QSL card collections being sold off on eBay! They can be lost in a flood or fire. So, now that there are Blogs like this one – I can scan my QSL card collection and write about them – like I do in the DXCC Sleuth Blog, and who knows – maybe one day immortalize my quest and story with an “eBook”. More than the plaque, the silly LOTW “bingo / scorecard” is the real deal, as are the “DXCC Standings” web page that lists and ranks active participants.
So – the digital “awards / rewards” have now become equally important to me as the old physical ones. That I never expected – even being a computer programmer by trade for the last 32 years! Storing something in the cloud on a disk that is managed by someone with a subscription service is an excellent backup method.
Anyway, today I am walking on air. I am very proud of this accomplishment. And relieved too!
February 20, 2013
Replace the lyrics from “Lotta Love” by Neal Young with “Lotta Time”, “Lotta Money”, “Lotta Work”, “Lotta Determination”, “Lotta Patience” and then you have the picture. I will attempt to rank what I need in order of probability that they will be activated – (FT/T, FT/Z, KH5K, KP1, E3, VK0/H, FT/G, 3Y0/B, VP8/S):
I think I might get to Honor Roll #1 sometime during Cycle 25, and the predictions for Cycle 25 are very grim. Sunspots be damned. Even though Cycle 25 has one prediction that its peak won’t be any better than an SSN between 7 and 20, that won’t matter. People will still go and activate it. Heard Island in 1997 was during a solar minimum (SSN = 9) and they worked 80K Q’s. I worked ZS8M on 40M in September 2010 (SSN = 20), J28JA in April 2009 (SSN = 0) and VU7RG on 40M in 2007 (SSN = 15). All of these were done either at grey line or during an equinox – actually both!
1) KP1 – Navassa. The same excellent group that gave us K5D is working on KP1 now - http://kp1-5.com/new/news.htm I have very high confidence in this team because they have always delivered the goods. It is #1 because the planning for it has been going on for years already. I think while it may be expensive, it will still be cheaper than entities in and around the “Roaring 40′s”. I expect to see this one in the next several years.
2) FT/T – Tromelin. I think we will see a continuation in the “series” by the French team that gave us FT/J-E and FT/G. It will be a military – ham expedition. If the French military foots the bill for their transportation, and they can fit this in as a “mission” – as they had in the past, then I expect that this could be one of the highest probabilities in the next several years.
3) VK0/H – Heard Island. This one has been announced and will only be constrained by cost. It will be one of several “Million Dollar” DX-peditions – which is a new class of DX-peditions that WILL change the way DX-peditions are funded. I can say from personal experience that the drive behind this one is what is needed to make it happen. Landing permits and transportation has been found – now, it just takes $1 million dollars!
4) VP8/S – South Sandwich. I expect that this one will be very similar to the VP8ORK dx-pedition. I haven’t heard any announcement, but I would guess that it being as high on the most wanted list as it is – that someone who was on VP8ORK is keenly interested in this one. It would be expensive – but maybe not as bad as Heard, Bouvet or Amsterdam. I still expect it to show up in the next several years. Before the Falklands War, Argentina used to have a base there. It is now under the jurisdiction of the British, and I doubt they have any plans to send scientists there or re-construct a base there.
5) KH5K – Kingman Reef. This one drives me absolutely nuts. People have been trying to activate Palmyra and Banaba – two that have been activated several times in the past 10 years, but everyone avoids Kingman Reef like the plague. There has been a persistent rumor that it will be deleted (and I think it should and has pretty clear grounds for deletion – it changed hands and doesn’t meet the minimum size rule), but besides that – there have been 4 DX-pedition leaders that just say its impossible to activate. Its the “untouchable” entity – but I think it would be as easy / hard as activating KP1. The US F&W has made these unecessarily difficult, but as I understand it – its still possible. ZL9, VK0/H, KH7 and many others are “sensitive environmental zones”, but they have been activated. I also understand that transportation is expensive and hard to come by.
I predict it will be activated within 2-3 years – or maybe (hopefully) deleted. I’d rather work it as it would be a total chip shot.
6) FT/Z – Amsterdam / St. Paul. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one is activated in the next couple of years, but transportation is the issue – as is cost. I am guessing that it is along the lines somewhere between VP8/S and VK0/H. Probably also upwards of 1 Million dollars – if the Marion Dufresne has to be used for transportation. Now – if someone finds a cheaper alternative – maybe sailing out of Australia – maybe FT/Z and VK0/H could both save quite a bit on expense. The wild card with this one is the French landing a scientist who is a ham there for a while. That would be very cool.
7) 3Y0/B – Bouvet. This one is very much in the Heard Island category. I have heard that it also carries a price tag of $1 million. I also know there is serious interest in activating it. If we as hams can crack this $1 million dollar barrier (corporate sponsorship? / grant writing skills?) then who knows . . . This is administered by the Norwegians, and I doubt they plan of sending scientists there.
8) E3 – Eritrea. This would be #1 if it weren’t in such a dangerous part of the world and if its history were anything better than what it has been – which is war, strife, corruption and violence. There are several teams waiting to go activate this, and compared to almost everything else on this list, it would be cheaper to go activate, with much easier transportation. Sure – not “cheap”, but everything is relative – some more than others.
9) FT/G – Glorioso. This one is probably #2 or something, but since it was just activated in 2009, I don’t expect to see it activated until at least 2019. Tromelin will happen before that.
I predict that it will take me at least 7 more years to get to Honor Roll #1. It almost seems that Honor Roll #1 is just plain no longer possible. I mean, how in the world can the DX community come up with three $1 million dollar DX-peditions to help me get to my goal (heh heh). . . .
One thing I have witnessed first hand is that “Where there’s a Will, there’s a Way”.