March 11, 2014
There are some ARRL DXCC awards that make a lot of sense. Honor Roll and 5BDXCC (with endorsements) make the most sense. Honor Roll means that you are trying to “collect them all” – which is a classic type of award that many pursue in many different hobbies (coin collecting, stamp collecting, bird watching, etc). Honor Roll #1 makes sense, but for me – just staying on the Honor Roll is my near time goal. HR #1 may or may not happen, but I will try for it anyway.
5BDXCC – with endorsements is a good award because it forces you to flex your antenna muscles and become proficient with propagation and learn how to master some very different and interesting situations. It also forces you to understand the solar cycle – and so there are a lot of great scientific lessons to be had with this award.
Then there is the DXCC Challenge. This one makes the most sense for someone in Europe – who has access to more entities than someone on the West Coast, and also makes more sense for someone on the East Coast. It makes little sense for us on the West Coast – at least as far as “terrestrial” 6M, 2M, etc QSO’s are concerned. Even on 160M, the West Coasters can make DXCC on 160M – but it gets harder to make all band slots on 160M on the West Coast than it is in Europe and the East Coast.
I have seen a great “uptick” in people particpating in the DXCC Challenge. The levels are good, but the ultimate goal of winning the DeSoto Cup on the West Coast seems like a total exercise in futility. I started particpating while waiting for the next ATNO. Honor Roll is by far the most important to me. None of the other awards compare. The next most important award is DXCC on 160M. That goal is more important and a greater challenge than 8BDXCC and the 2000 level of the DXCC Challenge. DXCC on 160M (on the West Coast specifically) in some ways comes pretty close to Honor Roll itself as far as “level of achievement” is concerned.
I don’t begrudge anyone for playing whatever award game they like – because there is no such thing as a “level playing field”. But recently I stopped paying for band fill QSL’s and just rely on LOTW – because DXCC Challenge is not at all worth all of the QSL money you would spend on it.
There are days where I really wish the ARRL did not start the DXCC Challenge and Honor Roll #1. I think neither really mean much. When I ask myself “How much is enough?”, Honor Roll plus DXCC on 160M would be enough. DXCC Challenge and even 5BDXCC fall off the list if I had to only list awards that are “musts” for me.
The other thing is the “ball and chain” affect that DXCC Challenge has – it really draws you to the radio 24×7, and recently I have become aware how bad it is to sit down all day at work and then come home and sit in front of the radio. I would rather spend my radio time on 160M with morning coffee – and chasing ATNO’s and testing new antenna projects. Other than that – I will be back on my bike trying to lose the last 25 pounds I put on because I sat in front of the radio way too much since 2001!
March 9, 2014
I have a handful of some excellent high powered transmitting components – that I can use on my 160M vertical. I have two Jennings very high voltage vacuum variable capacitors – UCS 400 – which is 10 – 400 pf and rated at 10 kv, and a UCSL 1000 – which is 1000 pf rated at 3 kv.
I also have a really cool old variable inductor, so the big question is – what components whould I use to build a remotely tuned base mounted LC or T or other circuit.
My goal would be to take the 160M antenna and be able to tune it for any frequency from 160 – 10M.
That’s a tall order, but with some experimentation – I think do-able. The one mechanical thing to figure out is how to “drive” the remote control – I will look at a printer servo motor first – since I have one in a junker HP printer. Or maybe an electric screwdriver motor or RC airlplane servo motor. Stepper motors seem too expensive.
March 7, 2014
The AB-577 is the “bigger brother” of my AB-952. I found one late last year and had to pass on it, but very luckily, I just found another. I had been kicking myself for months over letting that other one go, but will make sure I get this one.
I will keep the AB-952 as well – these buggers are the best. They are fantastic as fixed towers, and I love rotating them from the bottom. They are very strong and their wind load characteristics are excellent.
Hopefully I will have one of these baby’s here at the ranch within a couple of weeks – the fellow has to take it down – then he will call me to go pick it up.
March 7, 2014
I am very, very pleased with the new yagi. There is nothing greater than being able to communicate with parts of the world that used to be a real struggle, but now easy. Its taken me years of experimenting and learning to get to this level.
Back in Decemember 2011, it was obvious that my 20M Moxon up 30′ was not cutting it. HFTA illuminated the problem and gave me the answer – I needed height. As I always do – I went for as much height as I could – but this limited what I could put up. I started out with a Cushcraft A3S, and that antenna mostly got me to Honor Roll. But I had this funny feeling that its specs were highly overrated, and I did not like the traps. Between the compromise spacing and the traps I figured it was no better than a Moxon. At the time it was up 45′, and with a rotator at the top – I worried how that could crash through my roof.
My answer was the 20-15M Moxon – which I could raise easily up to 55′, and that was a wonderful antenna. It was every bit as good as the A3S on 20, 15 and 10 – and worked very well on 17 and 12M.
But I’ve always had this “gnawing” that I still had a real compromise – the wire and the multi-banding and the fact that the shape of the moxon – which is critical – meant that I had about 2.5 dB gain. I think the A3S probably had maybe 3.5 dB gain at most.
Now – with 5 dB gain up only 40 feet – it is “high enough” where I have broken through ME and African pileups and have even competed with East Coast stations on the short path.
But the fact that I have now had a lot experience desigining and building yagi’s – and that I took extra care to have really top notch hardware with a beefy boom and elements – is something I feel better than ever about.
When I break those pileups – it just feels like my extra work and effort over these years has paid off big time. I’m having a ton of fun with this new antenna.
March 7, 2014
The DXCC Challenge is something that I have had fun with – only because it allows you to “collect” bingo sheet squares. I have never thought that I would try to get to the top – because I simply am not at all interested in 6M – or higher for DXCC. I guess I also am starting to wane on even collecting band slots – because the whole “leaderboard” aspect of this is starting to smell like “DX Hoggery” to me.
Also – the cost of DXCC Challenge is quite rediculous, so – I will only use LOTW credits for it from now on. No more sending $3 for a band mode slot. I’m almost at 2000, and if that’s where it ends up, fine.
When I replaced my 20-15M Moxon with the new yagi, I was a little worried that I would “hamstring” myself on the higher bands. Luckily, that has not proven true at all. I am actually much more excited about the higher bands, because for the first time ever, I have a really, really great antenna on a high band. I truly am enjoying having great antennas on 40 and 20M rather than mediocre antennas cut for each band.
The 160M vertical is also a “great” antenna as far as getting me to DXCC on 160M.
I feel that Honor Roll, HR #1 and 9BDXCC – with 160M being the epitome of DXCC – a very close second to Honor Roll itself are the three “award activities” worth bothering with. I’m not sure I will do anything but just stay on top of the list once I get to HR#1.
But not to worry, I am sure it will take at least 10 more years to get to HR#1, if it happens at all.
March 4, 2014
I’ve been thinking a lot about something I mentioned in an eHam thread regarding raising money for rare entity activation. I had mentioned that rather than just try to figure out how to raise more money, maybe go a completely different route – and try to recruit scientists (or other support workers – especially the communications people) who travel to remote scientific bases.
Others seemed to like this idea, and I think it is very valid, and maybe wouldn’t even take as long as activating a place every 15 – 20 years or so. And as time goes on – it may be the ONLY way to activate a rare place – due to access, politics and cost. I personally think we have already hit “maximum capacity” as far as cost goes for very rare south seas entities. I think FT5ZM has been the “bell weather”.
So, how can this be done? It depends, and I am sure it will have to be done by hams in each country where they have remote bases. Some remote bases are permanent (i.e. Marion, Bouvet, Amsterdam, etc) and some have been temporary (Heard Island). Some used to exist (South Sandwich), and some may be built again in the future – such as South Sandwich.
The “driver” to build and maintain these bases:
- Scientific – climate change is a huge topic that garners funding
- Fishing – over fishing the planet is rapidly becoming a global concern
- As a “way station” on the path to Antarctica where territorial claims have been made by Australia, and where they use Macquarie both for scientific research as well as a way station on the way to their Antarctic claim
Think globally, but act locally. The only way this can be ultimately successful, IMHO is that the local hams in the country that supports a remote base get involved and contact the organization responsible for the remote base. And the local group might best be that countries national radio organization. For example, in Norway, it is the Norwegian Amateur Radio League.
Recruiting can be applied to non south seas entity activation – but with entities that are bound up in red tape.
I think that a national radio organization like the ARRL might help us with the US Fish and Wildlife, and maybe create a standard “MOU” of sorts. Something that can help each DX-pedition group cut through the red tape – and activate Navassa, or finally do something about Kingman.
I have to be honest – if the ARRL “Next Century” initiative doesn’t include strong initiatives for DX-ers and DX-ing, then I am not interested in donating – because to me, without a stronger commitment, better communication and direction for the DXCC program, I would rather give all of my donation money to each individual DX-pedition group struggling dearly to make these happen vs. a national organization that has left this up to the DX-ers to struggle.
In that eHam thread, someone mentioned having the ARRL set up a fund based on some portion of LOTW funds, and I think that’s a great idea. Even if they added $.25 per LOTW credit or whatever to create a DX-pedition fund and or grant – I would be more than happy to accept such a surcharge. The Colvin Award is great – but the NCDXF has become the number one “steward” of financing DX-peditions. Some days I ask why the ARRL doesn’t contribute more generously to DX-peditions (maybe via the NCDXF?) . . . .
For me – DX-ing IS the future of ham radio, and I hope DX-ing will be vibrant in 100 years.
March 3, 2014
The 3 element 20M monoband yagi – up 40′ does win over the nested 20-15M Moxon up 55′ . But that Moxon was a great antenna – and for its light weight, small size – its a real winner. However, besides an increase in gain (which is noticeable by 1 – 3 “S Units”), the S/N Ratio is _much_ better on the yagi. By 2 “S Units”. This means that weak (EU and AF) signals are ones that I heard on the yagi – and which were buried in the noise on the Moxon. I suspect that on TX, the extra gain has made a difference – I played with breaking big pileups during the ARRL SSB DX contest this weekend – and the yagi sure seemed to result in faster first time responses – and where I was breaking a fairly decent pileup.
I also made sure to use the NCDXF Beacons for a fair comparison, and made sure that I tested NE, SE, SW and NW. I also actively looked for Eu and AF – and especially ZS – since they would prove my theories about grey line LP and SP openings – useful for Tromelin – FT4TA this coming Fall.
March 2, 2014
Wow – the full sized 20M 3 element yagi sure seems to be worth the effort. I have it up 40′ – which seems to be very safe and reasonable.
I had really rough problems at the start – trying to bring down the nested Moxon, but was able to figure out what the problem was.
I had recorded quite a bit of data with the Nested Moxon – and so can compare that with the new Yagi.
One very obvious improvement is the noise – the Moxon always required that I engage the NB – this yagi does not – its much quieter, and the strong signals are way above the noise.
March 1, 2014
I have to say, I’m a little sad that I am retiring one of the best antennas I have ever built and put up – a 20-15M nested Moxon up 55′.
I’ve been spending this past week recording as many 20M measurements as I can – so I can do a sort of “proxie” A – B test. Anyway, I have just built the absolutely best antenna ever – and this time it has two parts of “best” antenna characteristics – professional mechanical construction, plus the fact that I will have the best gain and F/B on the “money band” – 20M:
The boom is 18′ and it is a hefty 3″ boom. The 3 elements are full sized, and I will soon take close up pictures of the feed – the hairpin match and the 1:1 Comtek choke connection are as professional as possible. Very sturdy – and this entire antenna is the “zenith” of all of my antenna experience so far.
I am hoping that this will be up tomorrow – I have everything staged, and am hoping the AB-952 will happily support it at 45′, but if not – 40′ will still be very good – and better than the Moxon at 55′.
I have enough 20M data recorded – and especially this weekends contest signals – will be able to do some decent testing.
February 24, 2014
I’ve been modeling mono band and duo band Yagi’s (20M and 15M) and comparing them with the nested Moxon at 55′. I have found that the Moxon is really a great antenna that can hold its own. Even though its gain is less than the Yagi’s that I have modeled, at 55′ it captures more angles that then present some workable signal to my receiver.
I have learned that a 5 dB yagi at 30′ is not at all better than the Moxon at 55′. At 45′, the Yagi does look significantly better.
So – there is a threshold height that I need to meet at my QTH before I can see the “gain” (pun intended). For those who live on flat land or on top of the hill – you would see the gain before I do as far as how high you raise your Yagi vs. Moxon.
This is why HFTA must be used at my QTH. If you live on flat ground – you can pretty much just go by what EZNec tells you – but I think cross checking EZNec with HFTA tells a much richer story.
Anyway, so that I can go up 45′, I have decided to put up a 3 element 20M yagi on a 16 foot boom with a boom diameter of 3″. My old A3S (with heavy traps and very heavy rotator )was up at 45′ (I think), and the 2 over 2 stack also was on the AB-952 – with top antenna at 55′, so I think this one at 45′ should be OK.
I think this new antenna is probably even a little lighter than either of these two – but with full sized elements – its a pretty big antenna. The elements are very light – the boom is a bit heavy. I will need to weigh the whole thing tonight – before I pin the element plates to the boom.
Some have asked “why are you ham stringing yourself with a mono bander?”. The answer is simple. 20M is THE money band, and since I only care about making the last 7 ATNO’s (Kingman is Toast and will never be activated again), then I can get away with one antenna that kicks ass on the high bands – and use it as a rotatable dipole on the others. I am also getting tired of just DX-ing and want to start having good old fashioned QSO’s again. 20M has a lot of activity – the higher bands not so much – and Cycle 24 will start dropping into the skids again over the next 4 or so years anyway.
Hey – if this antenna doesn’t work out – I’ll put up something else . . .