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!
December 26, 2012
Its taken me 11 1/2 years to work 330 (current) entities plus 4 deleted on the DXCC list.I am one away from the most important award I will ever earn in ham radio – and one that I view as the crowning achievement – even more than Honor Roll #1. I say this because ham radio and DX-ing has been a total diversion in my life – one that has carried me through many challenges and which has probably acted as a form of therapy. During the last 11 1/2 years, I went through the death of two parents, plus their old age declines in health (and taking care of them), a divorce, having to move from my old house to another one in another town, two major dips in the economy, several shitty jobs – basically enough to make you just want to quit.
One shining light has been to meet Kat and start over again in Orinda. This is the number one reason I made it through all of this. DX-ing has offered an important escape and diversion, as has making art and riding my bike / taking hikes / sea kayaking. When you go through rough times – you truly have to fight your way back – and this is when you may not have the energy needed.
Keeping my mind occupied with the DX chase – and over coming major obstacles – like having my QTH down in a bowl and surrounded by massive power lines was no minor feat:
(Click on the image for a real “eye opener”) . . .
I was able to learn and use HFTA and EZNec to build new antennas and get my antennas high enough to get the signals just high enough above the noise to get out of the “ESP Zone”. I learned how to take old aluminum and turn it into several antennas, including the best antenna I have ever had, the 17M stack:
I have even learned that when you get something as simple as a 67′ doublet up 60′ – you can work the world and even bust pileups on all bands between 40 – 10M pretty easily. So the lowly dipole is a GREAT antenna – but it MUST be up high enough. High and in the clear is most definitely the goal with any antenna for HF. A year ago we were in Oregon getting what would prove to be the “enabler” of my antenna success:
I think the best part of all of this has been propagation. Man has tamed and explained many scientific mysteries, but the number of variables and vagaries of propagation is what keeps me interested in radio. It is true magic in my book – and this magic is what has been the single most critical element in allowing radio to act as a pacifier – something I can get so lost in thought over that all of my daily problems go away.
So now I sit one QSO away from the most coveted and important award. I am oddly not in a huge hurry – as I have been, but I’m more like a kid waiting for Santa Claus – who is guaranteed to arrive, but you just don’t know exactly when.
The first announcement of a new DX-pedition will be the best news and set me up for the win, and until then, I can try to chase the long shot – which is SV2ASP/A, Monk Apollo. There are at least three rumored DX-peditions that will happen in 2013, and while it seems very strange that nothing big (that I need) has been announced for 2013 yet, I feel it coming. One DX-er has stated on the DX Forum on eHam that I will earn HR by June 1, 2013. Now there’s a great thought – and a wonderful way to start a new year. I actually have had the same kind of idea, except my gut feeling was that I would make it by July 1, 2013. Since I had worked 3 ATNO’s that only had a month’s prior announcement, it could happen as early as February – but that’s a real long shot.
Anyway – right now I’m feeling like I’m taking the long slow final lap around the winners track – and it feels great.
October 4, 2012
I am the North American Pilot for the upcoming ZL9HR Campbell Island DX-pedition, so I have put together an analysis for those across North America who might want to plan and strategize how and when to work ZL9HR. I center my analysis on San Francisco, Denver, St. Louis and Washington DC, but will also highlight other cities away from this “center line”. Please also check Dave, K3EL’s excellent analysis on the ZL9HR web site – under plans. Here is a great way to get started doing your own local analysis – just use this web site:
I can only hope that we end up having the same “propagation spike” that we had a year ago about the same time that Zl9HR will be active. If we do – then these predictions will have seemed ultra conservative. Generally speaking, much of OC – Asia will have the best conditions and have the best chance at working the team on all bands. North America should fare well, with VE7, and Hawaii in the best position. Alaska will have short – but good openings. Conditions are quite good on the West Coast, Good in the Rocky Mountain States, but will more of a challenge for the Central and East Coast states. It is very obvious that those with at least a 3 element yagi up 50′ or so and running 1000w or more CW will do much better than a dipole up 33′ with 100 watts. The probability of 100 watts to a dipole up 33′ SSB has a poor probability – in almost all of North America. Again – if we get a spike in propagation (and believe me, we are long overdue for this and its not at all out of the question), then my estimates could have proved to be way more conservative than actual.
The official propagation page for ZL9HR is located here:
My intent with this page is to compare and contrast North American time zones – with the hope that it helps you get at least one Q. I’m hoping to set some expectations – so you won’t be surprised when the DX-pedition starts and you wonder why the team isn’t on such and such a frequency. Personally, I have always wondered why Pilots did not communicate more than they have. Blogs seem to be the perfect way to do this. Your feedback is very much appreciated.
For all plots, a 3 element yagi up 50′ at Zl9HR is assumed. Even if they don’t have a mast that goes up 50′ – they have dropping hills going away from where they will be placing their yagi’s – and Dave, K3EL gave me this important tidbit of information. (Thanks Dave!).
THE WEST COAST – Centered on San Francisco
Propagation conditions should be good for the West Coast. If you are running a triband yagi up 50′, with 500 watts SSB – centered on the San Francisco Bay Area:
Treat this diagram as a baseline, and please remember that the team will most likely only be on the island between 1600z and 1000z at best – and that is why I have hatched out those hours.
Here is that same antenna, but this time CW:
The West Coast will not have much time (if any at all) for the low bands to ZL9HR. VE7 and Hawaii will fare better in this regard. 160 M and 80M are not very likely “south of VE7″, but as always watch the spots and tune – as in all dx-peditions, everything is subject to change!
Here is a somewhat scary picture – running 100 watts SSB to a dipole up 33′:
If you are running 100 watts to a dipole up 33′, CW:
My advice – if you are running 100 watts to a dipole – you really need to be on CW! Finally, lets look at 1000w CW to a 1/4 wl vertical at each end – just in case we get some low band action:
The team does list the low bands on their plan – schedule:
I will keep you up to date on what happens when they get there. I expect this to be one area where we will need to communicate through the Pilots. The good news – they are there during their summer – with the longest days of the year to operate, but this is going to really be a challenge for them to try to cover all bands for the entire world. The higher bands seem the most realistic for just about everyone.
From my QTH (Orinda, CA) where I have the East Bay / Oakland hills between me and the Pacific Ocean, I will be able to take advantage of plenty of available take off angles:
This shows that the East Bay / Oakland hills are a bit of a blocker for me as far as the strongest low angles are concerned. Those on “the other side of the hill” – in Oakland, Berkeley or anywhere on the East side of the San Francisco Bay – or especially along the West Coast or in the hills above the West Coast will have a very seriously strong path. But even from my QTH – at the bottom of the old dormant volcano at Sibley / Round Top – a dipole would suffice and give me very good signals to ZL9HR.
The pileups will start out very large, but with really good management of the pileups and propagation, this should be a dx-pedition for the record books!
ROCKY MOUNTAIN – Centered on Denver, Colorado
Conditions will be a little rougher than the West Coast, but still very much workable for many hours during the day on the higher bands.
Here is the forecast with your station running 500 watts to 3 element yagi up 50′:
And the same antenna and power but CW:
Your station with 100 watts, a dipole up 33′ and SSB:
The same dipole, but CW:
And finally if there are two 1/4 wl verticals with you running 1000w, CW:
CENTRAL STATES – Centered on St. Louis, Missouri
The Central States will find it tougher to work than the Western half of the country. Here is 500w to a 3 element yagi, SSB:
And with CW:
Here is 100w to a dipole up 33′ and SSB:
And the same 100w to a dipole up 33′ – but with CW:
1000 watts to a 1/4 wl vertical, CW:
EAST COAST – Centered on Washington, DC:
Here is the 500w 3 element yagi SSB plot:
And in CW:
If you have 100 watts to a dipole up 33′ and are running SSB:
And finally, 1000w to a vertical:
Hawaii should have the best conditions – on all bands – as far as the US is concerned. In fact, so much so that it makes no sense to show more than just the 500 watt SSB plot with a yagi up 50′:
Alaska should also have good conditions – but I am somewhat surprised at how short their openings will be:
I am pretty sure that it has to do with the fact that Alaska has their absolute shortest days while ZL9HR will have its longest days. Alaska will only have 5 or so hours of daylight at the time of this dx-pedition, so this is somewhat similar to Scandinavian conditions.
SELECT NORTH AMERICA CITIES
Dave, K3EL, uses a baseline of 500 watts SSB to a yagi up 33′ for his predictions on the ZL9HR web site. I will do something different – since the Eastern half of North America will benefit from CW and having that yagi up 50′. The rest of these plots are for 500 watts to a yagi up 50′, CW. Lets look at
Salt Lake City:
New York City:
If your city or operating conditions are not listed, then I highly recommend that you run your own analysis using the VOACAP online tool and plug in your parameters.
Shameless plug – please make sure to donate to this very rare and very expensive dx-pedition. It hasn’t been activated since 1999, and it may be another 10+ years before it is activated again!
September 14, 2012
I have finally avenged the one entity that I missed that caused me great grief, South Sudan. Luckily, two guys are there – Jim, K7QI who has the new call Z81A, and Diya, YI1DZ who has the new call Z81D. I worked Diya after emailing asking for a sked. He returned my email right as I was running the analysis in VOACAP:
and the DX Watch spots at the time:
It happened so fast I just couldn’t believe it. This is the way things have gone this year – banging out the DX ATNO’s after years of frustration.
I worked Diya on 20M SSB at 2357 utc on September 13:
you are in my log and thanks for 51, I can hear you better with other antenna inverted L but with the dipole antenna I cannot get your signal clear, noise level high.
So it’s Good one and will do another one with other band or same may be tomorrow.
Whose next? ZL9HR?
What a great, great hobby!
September 2, 2012
Wow – I really lucked out. Carl, AI6V, brought the 5 element 10M KLM yagi down from Nevada City to Pittsburg, so it was easy to go pick up. Its a 27′ boom that is 2″, and the DX Engineering BEP-4B boom to element plates will fit the boom and the elements perfectly. The leftover aluminum from the Wilsom M520 that I purchased from Carl a few months back, plus this new aluminum is enough to make this killer 4 Element 20M Monobander:
I will most likely build it and wait to put it up after we hit the peak next year of Cycle 24. This yagi cost $175, and so I will end up with 4 killer antennas for the price of $325. In fact, there is plenty enough aluminum left over to build more antennas as well!
If I were to buy a 4 element 20M yagi like this – it would cost $600.
I also fixed the low band vertical – so it plays on 160M now without any trouble – even at 500 watts from the amp. I was able to find a tap to tune it to the low end of 160M:
All of the other bands easily tune up with the tuner in the shack. That switching arrangement that I had played with earlier this year was over-complicated and unnecessary. This is a much more elegant solution.
Now I can’t wait for 160M dxpeditions to start – which will be pretty soon!
Today was a very good day – perfect weather, and backyard antenna fun. I can’t wait to use my new drill press on this project.