AA8IA Amateur Radio

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Down in the Dumps

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I’m beginning to feel sorry for myself. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it goes. It was about this time last year that I swore I’d make improvements in the coming year and learn to prepare better for contests. Nothing at all happened.

It’s now late October and the first big contest of the season is upon us this weekend, CQWW DX SSB. I still have the same shitty [there is no better word to describe them] dipoles up in the air. What I’ve got is a 100-foot long inverted-V parallel dipole with the apex at 35′ and a 42-foot long flattop parallel dipole with one end at 12′ and the other end at 30′. It’ll do okay for the up and coming ARRL Sweepstakes, but isn’t going to amount to anything as far as DX contests go.

I had high hopes of putting up some combination of a 40/80m inverted-L. A 160m vert is out of the question because I simply don’t have the real estate for a good radial system. Every week this summer I pondered what I should do, but that’s all I did was ponder.

I also thought about trying to find a way to get a Hexbeam at the top of a solid 40′ tree (it used to be much taller until I had the tree guys come and take off the top). But, alas I don’t know of anyone local to hire for such a job. And no, I wouldn’t think to ask other hams to assist. That’d only come back to bite me in the ass if they should fall or get electrocuted — I like my home and prefer to keep it.

I have had tons of time to record audio files to use for the SSB exchanges in N1MM, but I never did it. So I’ll lose my voice two hours into a contest and then be miserable for a few more hours until I decide to throw in the towel.

I’m still plagued by random RF that wipes out my CAT/digital interface. On 80m SSB if I use my Heil headset and handswitch my audio will sound horrible due to RF getting back into the audio chain. I end up having to use a stock mic and my Sennheiser headphones [I prefer them to be honest]. SSB contesting is tedious.

For six months I thought about purchasing the NS roofing filter from ACOC and then sending my radio off somewhere to have it installed, but I didn’t want to be without my radio for who knows how long.

I still haven’t got a proper hole cut through the block in order to bring cables in. So when it’s time to play radio I’m pulling the damned coaxes in from outside and through the sliding glass door. As you can imagine, the electric bill is higher because of this — and in the winter it gets chilly down in the basement with the wind blowing against the sliding glass door that isn’t fully closed.

My antenna mast is more portable than stationary. I can’t raise my dipole to 35′ if there if its windy. It’s not guyed well enough to withstand 30 mph sustained winds let alone 50 mph gusts.

10/15m had been great the past few weeks, but currently the conditions are mediocre on those bands and probably will remain so for CQWW DX SSB. I’ll be trying to make DX contacts against the overwhelming masses of tribanders, monobanders, kilowatt amps and true contest stations.

Really, sometimes I wonder why the hell I do it. I’m a masochist I guess. I’m a pawn on some contester’s chessboard to be sure.

Hope to work you this weekend!

Written by Mike

October 27th, 2011 at 9:11 pm

A Rough Radio Weekend

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During the past week I swapped out my ~105′ ladderline-fed doublet for an Alpha Delta DX-LB Plus. I finally got the LB up in the air on Friday, with the help of some family. The LMR-400 I’m using to feed it is heavy, and the LB Plus itself is heavy, so it was causing the mast to bend pretty good without guy wires above 25′. As a stopgap measure I tied a piece a rope to the top section and secured it down in a way that would bring the mast back to vertical.

The LMR-400 was purchased from a place who had premade 50′ sections with N-connectors used for wireless backhauls. Not only do I not need LMR-400 on HF, but I also don’t need N-connectors on HF. This just causes me to have to use adapters to connect it to antennas and radios. The current LMR-400 likely has water breach. The N-connector on one end can easily be twisted, and there is intermittent connection of the ground. I ordered some RG-213/U with PL-259s which should be here this week.

I didn’t get an opportunity to even attempt to tune the 10/20/160 wires. The antenna doesn’t resonate inside the band edges for any ham band. Although, my LDG tuner will very quickly tune up on 10m through 20m. I was also able to tune up on 160 around 1820 khz. I can tune up on 40m as well, but there is RF floating around in the shack. I’m not sure if it is due to the close proximity of the antenna to the shack, the bad shield connection on the coax, or a combination thereof. So I can’t run 100w on 40m right now. I’ll worry about that once I have the new coax in place. I can tune on 80m, but only in the SSB portion. Not good — I prefer CW.

It rained most of the weekend. Fortunately there was no lightning, but there was no way for me to know whether there would be lightning. T-storms were forecast. So it was always in the back of my mind that I may have to quit any contest I was operating in this weekend. The noise on 40/80 was rough.

I attempted to operate in the WAE CW contest this weekend. I didn’t do as good as last year, but I didn’t put the time in either. I missed some opportunities because I couldn’t operate on 40m without the RF taking out my keying interface every time. So it was a 10-20m contest for me. Unfortunately, there was no Europe to be heard on 10m. On 15m I felt the conditions were mediocre at best. I did make some EU contacts, but there is no way in hell I would consider it to be good propogation on 15m this weekend. Others in Ohio who worked this contest wouldn’t agree, but they are also running high [and often directional] antennas and high power. 20m was good though, and that is where I made most of my contacts.

I worked a few MDC stations for that QSO party, but try as I may I just couldn’t find many on the air. I worked what I heard though. The MDC QSO party is like the WVQP — a handful of in-state stations who have all the fun working the casual people who run across them, but in my opinion there aren’t enough in-state MDC stations to make the contest fun for those out of state. Contrast that with the FLQP, GAQP, TNQP, OHQP, PAQP, CQP, and the 7-land QPS, where there is plenty of fun to be had for both in-state and out-of-state stations.

On the bright side, I was offered some help by my niece’s husband to relocate the current antenna support to another part of the yard farther away from the house. We’ll do that in the next month or two. We’ll dig a hole and cement a pipe into the ground and then mount the 50′ Max Gain Systems mast to it. I’ll put the DX-LB Plus on top, and perhaps I’ll stick a single-band wire below it. We’ll get some solid end supports in the ground as tall as I can get them… above 10 feet at least. Hopefully I can figure out how to do this in a way that allows me to use pulleys on it to raise and lower the wire(s) rather than having to retract the mast for maintenancce or during inclement weather. The 50′ mast has 8′ sections, while my current mast has 6′ sections. So, retracted it will be more difficult to work on things using the 50′ mast. And I definitely need to get that DX-LB Plus tuned for resonance inside the band edges of as many bands as I can.

Written by Mike

August 15th, 2011 at 10:08 am

Par 6m Stressed Moxon

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I received my Par 6m Stressed Moxon today. Had it together in 10 minutes and up on the mast at about 25′ another 10 minutes later. Now all that is left is to actually hear some activity.

Using the WA3TTS for comparison, with the Moxon pointed towards PGH I was getting an S9 sig on WA3TTS. With my HF wires I would get S2 or less.

I heard K8LEE and another station on tropo today as well as WA4VUT, W2TG and a few others via Es. C6ANP/B was about S9+10 a little earlier. Heard W9DR/B and some other beacons as well.

I only have an armstrong rotor, and it’s a real pain in the neck to find an opening if you don’t have the luxury of easily turning your antenna. The F/B ratio on this Moxon is quite impressive. I might want to make something equivalent to the Par Omniangle for the sake of hearing omnidirectionally.

Hopefully we’ll start seeing some good E-skip pretty soon on 6m and I can try out the Moxon some more

Written by Mike

May 3rd, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Antennas,VHF_UHF

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Modeling my 80m wire using EZNEC

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I’ve played around with EZNEC briefly before, but not enough to have really learned anything useful. But, yesterday I decided I’d install it again and attempt to do some really basic modelling of my current primary antenna.

A few things of note:

  1. Primary antenna is a 105′ long inverted V with the apex at 37′ and the ends at 0′. Yes, you read that correctly — ends at 0′. There is an approximately 39′ section of 450-ohm ladderline feeding this, which then runs into a DX Engineering 4:1 current balun and then into my LDG AT100Pro tuner. The center support is at ground level of the basement of our ranch home. The antenna wires are parallel with the back of the house and are approximately 13′ from the back of the house. The length of this wire is oriented nearly N-S (about 10-12 degrees W of N. Broadside would be nearly E-W (about 10-12 degrees S of W
  2. Secondary antenna is an Alpha Delta DX-EE, which is a shortened [using a coil] 40m dipole with separate parallel dipoles for 15 and 10m. This is about 11′ off the ground on one end and 35′ off the ground at the other end, with a slight droop in the middle due to having no center support and the weight of the LMR400 that is attached to it. This ends of this dipole are oriented NW-SE. Broadside to this antenna would be SW-NE.

My first antenna was the DX-EE. It worked well enough for being so low, but only on 20m through 10m. It would tune on 80m but lacked any efficiency. It tuned fine on 40m, but it’s shortened and really didn’t perform like I wanted it to. Because I primarily like domestic contests, I wanted/needed to have 40m/80m performance. That is why I decided to put up the Vee.

Obviously these are both compromise antennas because they are shortened antennas for the lowest bands I want to use them on. Besides, they are way to low to the ground.

At any rate, when I got the 80m wire up I was pleasantly surprised at the performance. I was having great fun in the domestic contests and considered this antenna to be a great success. I was hearing and working stations very well that I couldn’t even hear on the DX-EE. Life was good.

I then participated in the ARRL International DX contest this year (CW) and realized how poor even this antenna is for non-domestic contests. So far I haven’t found a way to really improve upon that as far as antenna design / height goes. But I decided to do some modeling in EZNEC of the basic 80m Vee itself, as it is erected in my yard.

What I saw in EZNEC shed some serious light on things.

3.525 Mhz 3D plot with ends at 0′. Mostly omnidirectional with some favorability in the direction parallel to the dipole.

3.525 Mhz 2D plot with the ends at 0′. Max gain -0.5 dbi (-2.65 dbd).

3.525 Mhz 3D plot with the ends at 8′. Omnidirectional.

3.525 Mhz 2D plot with the ends at 8′. Max gain 5.07 dbi (2.92 dbd).

Lifting the ends off of the ground 8′ results in not only a more omnidirectional pattern but a remarkable improvement in maximum gain to 5.07 dbi (2.92 dbd).

Certainly this reveals that what the experts tell you is true — GET THOSE ENDS OFF OF THE GROUND! In my case, it looks like I would gain 5.5 db by simply elevating the ends of the dipole. This has to be the cheapest and easiest 5 db that I’d ever gain.

Similar remarkable results can be seen on the 40m (7.025 Mhz) plots for this same antenna, visible below.

7.025 Mhz 3D plot with ends at 0′. Pattern fairly omnidirectional but favors 45 degrees broadside to the wire.

7.025 Mhz 2D plot with ends at 0′. Max gain -0.11 dbi (-2.26 dbd).

7.025 Mhz 3D plot with ends at 8′. Omnidirectional pattern.

7.025 Mhz 2D plot with ends at 8′. Max gain 5.97 dbi (3.82 dbd).

NAQP RTTY contest is this weekend. I’m hoping to get the ends elevated up off the ground before the end of the day today.

Written by Mike

February 25th, 2011 at 11:57 am

Posted in Antennas,Posts

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Alpha Delta DX-LB Plus – Part 1 : Arrival

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Some preliminary babble…

I had mentioned elsewhere on the site that I’d like to have a 160m antenna. I had given consideration to an inverted-L or a Marconi T, but I came to the conclusion that not only would I not be able to create a vertical section of reasonable height but I also would have difficulty extending the horizontal portion as far as it needs to be and have a proper anchor point for it. And if I could manage to secure the horizontal end, it would be facing a direction that I don’t particularly care about. [It is my understanding that there is some bit of directivity towards the direction that the horizontal portion runs from the vertical portion]

I’d lie if I said I wasn’t interested in 160m DX or working working all states on 160m, but now is not the time to do that. I do, however, want to be able to make my presence known on 160m during the ARRL 160m contest and some of the QSO parties that have 160m as an operational band.

Since I have experience with the 42′ Alpha Delta DX-EE dipole, and since I think it is well constructed and has performed quite well for me, I figured I’d throw down the nearly $200 for the DX-LB Plus dipole. This is shortened 160m/80m (shortened) that will also handle 40/15m, with additional parallel wires for 20m and 10m operation. My DX-EE tunes 30/17/12 and I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a match on these same bands with the DX-LB Plus without too much loss.

The dipole arrived and is still packed up. When I removed it from the box I was surprised at how heavy it was. It’s well constructed. The wire is heavy and of course the addition of the inductors makes it even heavier. I suspect that if I don’t manage to get the dipole erected in a way that the two ends are 180 degrees from one another, it’ll probably cause the top section of my Max Gain Systems mast to bow.

I really can’t stand wiring up the parallel wires. And I really don’t want to think about tuning and pruning it so that it’s resonant inside of the CW sweet spots of 160m and 80m, especially since the 3:1 bandwidth is very narrow.

I’m still debating whether I should put this up as a flattop oriented E/W (broadside N/S) or as an inverted V. Either way the center will be @40 feet. If it is an almost flattop, the ends will be at about 30′. If it is an inverted V, it’ll really be rough to have the ends very far off the ground — probably no more than 10 feet, although I’ll strive for 13-14 feet.

As constructed and delivered, it is intended to be fed with coax. However, I do have the option of feeding it with 450-ohm ladderline (~45 feet) into a DX Engineering 1:1 current balun, through an 8′ piece of RG-213 into the radio. If I have too much trouble tuning the antenna, I may opt for feeding it with ladderline as it will make it easier to tune. Of course, feeding it with a random length of ladderline into a balun is not quite the same as feeding it with only ladderline and tuning it with a tuner that accepts balance feedline.

Already I’m losing ambition, just like I did with the DX-EE. It took me three weeks before I ended up putting the DX-EE together since I had to string the additional parallel wires through their standoffs and secure htem at appropriate points. In this case it’s going to be even more difficult since I’ll be dealing with trying to get it to be resonant in a specific small portion of 160m and 80m.

I’ll write more as things progress

Written by Mike

October 14th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

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160 meter antenna for limited space

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When I first got back into the hobby I had no ambition of operating 160m. I had never had a proper antenna for 160m in the past. My experiences revealed that it was very difficult to hear stations on 160m.

Times have changed. I’m interested in a challenge. I’m interested in Contesting. I’m interested in DXing. Furthermore, after doing some reading I realized that there are times when 160m is better (nighttime, winter, solar cycle minimum). It very well could have been that the combination of a lack of proper antenna plus exploring 160m during the summer and/or at the height of the solar cycle caused me to come to the wrong conclusion about 160.

Now that I’ve pretty much decided upon a plan this fall to get my 100+ ft doublet (technically not since its terminated with a balun and 8 ft of RG-213 after the ladderline) up in the air permanently, it’s time to move on to thinking about possibilities for 160m.

I’m ruling out a dipole for 160m for multiple reasons. I lack the space for anything even approaching an efficient 160m dipole. A dipole isn’t the best antenna for DXing 160m, especially if you are unable to get it up in the air above 65 feet. An inverted-L seems to be an extremely popular antenna for 160m, and from the reading I’ve seen it’s doable here. I could potentially get the vertical section of an inverted L up about 45-50 feet. And I would have enough horizontal space to run the horizontal portion of the L out the remaining distance. I’ve read about 1/2w loaded inverted Ls, but the 1/4w inverted L is simple and effective. I’d probably go with what is best documented, and that would be a 1/4w with a good radial system. This antenna would be a wintertime-only antenna. After the mowing season is over I’d throw out as many long radials as I could out from the end of the back yard up into the side yards. I have no experience creating matching systems or anything like that. I don’t have an antenna analyzer, and an analyzer certainly would be a useful tool to have.

160m is a challenge for DXing. But I could potentially create a 160/80m combination inverted L if i were ambitious enough and try my hand at some DX on 80m as well.

I must have bookmarked 30 different websites documenting various inverted-L antennas today. I’ve still got plenty of reading to do. Noise on 160m receive is also often an issue. I venture to say a beverage would not be doable here. I could run a beverage many hundred feet downhill into neighboring land that doesn’t belong to me and nobody would ever know. But I question how useful it would be if it’s laid out in the woods and would be continously decreasing in elevation at the bottom of the gulley. Seems like way too much work. If I can get a 160m inverted-L up for transmit, then I’d probably just use that antenna for receive and see if I enjoy 160m enough to try and improve the receive side of things over the course of the next year.

Yep, I think I’ll put some effort into getting an inverted-L up. Seems like a useful antenna.

Written by Mike

September 1st, 2010 at 6:51 pm

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80m Inverted V ready for the OHQP

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Raised the 80m inverted V today. 38′ apex and ends just inches from the ground, 12 feet away from the back of a two-story house doesn’t sound optimum does it? Well, it does if you consider the alternative for 80/40m operation. The only other antenna I have is a Alpha Delta DX-EE (a 40-10m parallel dipole which is shortened on 40m, total length 42 feet).

The DX-EE would tune up and both 40m and 80m, and it hears just as well as the V on 40m. But on 80m it doesn’t hear worth a damned, nor is it efficient. No surprise there.

This V is fed with 40-something feet of ladderline into a DXE current balun, and then 8 feet of RG-213 into the house to the tuner. (I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting ladderline into the house)

The 80m inverted-V is magnitudes better on 80 for reception, and all signs tell me it is magnitudes better for transmit as well. It has been up for two other contests.

The previous times I had it up, I could only get the tuner to tune it on 80m, and I expected better given that it was fed with mostly ladderline. I took special care today to get the ladderline a foot away from the fiberglass mast, the back deck, and the bush at the bottom where it comes under the porch. I also moved all the rolls of wires and tools that were setting an inch away from the balun. Something I did has now allowed it to tune on every band I’ve tried (not 160m, didn’t even bother to try that). So, as it stands now it tunes up pretty easily on 80m-10m including 12m. I will check out 17m/30m later.

During the OHQP I certainly want to make as many Qs as possible, but I particularly want to be able to snag as much action I can in-state from the different counties. Without a decent 40/80m antenna that just wasn’t going to possible.

I think everything is ready to go. I want to make some changes when Fall arrives. I have been thinking long and hard about ways to get the inverted V up a little higher, including ways to get the ends up off the ground 8 feet or more. Currently this is a portable/temporary setup — The ends are inches [or less] from the ground. I want to move the fiberglass mast another 20 feet out away from the house. Without forking out cash for a new mast I likely won’t be able to go any higher than a 38 foot apex. But certainly raising the ends up off the ground makes it much safer for people out on the lawn as well as lessens the chance that deer will get tangled up in it and pull the whole contraption down. The other [more important] benefit is that doing all of this would provide me with better tuning and quite possibly some increased performance.

Yes, I realize everyone and their mother has at least one tower, at least one beam, at least one amp, and a half dozen talls trees in their yard to facilitate stringing up antennae. This guy doesn’t. Truly a modest station. I’m not alone, but if you’d hear every ham tell it they have the best station on earth. I just don’t make any bones about the fact that I’m running strictly with wires and am trying to improve upon a wire-only antenna system as much as possible.

Written by Mike

August 27th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Ordered some antenna stuff

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Sure, I can make a dipole… I know how, and I have. But i’m not in the mood. Plus, Alpha Delta makes some good dipoles.

I ordered an Alpha Delta DX-EE (40 through 10, shortened on 40). I also ordered a Max Gain Systems MK-6-HD

Once I get this put up and test it out, I imagine I’ll buy an Alpha Delta DX-CC (80 through 10, shortened on 80). The goal is to eventually have the DX-CC set up as an inverted-V strung N/S and have the DX-EE strung NW/SE as a flattop dipole.

A flattop would exhibit some additional gain upwards (good for more local) and an inverted-V would be more omnidirectional.

I’m excited because i am pretty sure I’ll have at least one decent dipole up by FD; although I’m really hoping that by then I’ll have both AD dipoles up in the air. I really want the ability to get on 80 during the QSO parties. The DX-CC isn’t a full length dipole on 80. It’s a compromise. But it beats trying to load up this POS G5RV I’ve got.

Should have the antenna and fiberglass mast Tuesday. then I’ll have to figure out the best place to put the mast and get it secured. It’ll need guyed if I push it all the way to 35′ to secure the dipole, likely at the 20-something foot level. I haven’t decided if I’ll find a way to mount it on my back deck (which is about 10 feet off the ground) or if I’ll mount it at ground level. If I mount it at ground level, secured right above 10 feet at the deck, and have the guys in place, it should have no problems withstanding the winds here. If I mount it on the deck, I’ll likely have to guy it in two places to keep it stable enough.

Written by Mike

May 14th, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Antenna for HF – What to do?

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I haven’t ruled out a vertical antenna. A vertical is doable. I’d sure make use of it from the standpoint of DX. But, in the meantime I’d really like to put up a dipole that will perform as best as it can possibly perform.

This means I have to get it up in the air and in the clear of as much as possible. That way it has a good pattern and is able to hear something. Keep in mind, I’ve had dipoles up at various times since 1991. But during all of that time, I didn’t care whether it performed as well as it could… as long as I was making contacts. But now i do care.

If you can picture an inverted-V dipole that lost its middle support and fell down exactly 90 degrees from vertical, that is what my current antenna looks like. It’s a horizontal V, with the center supported at 12′, one leg sloping down the end of the yard at a 45 degree angle and anchored near a fencepost and the other leg sloping upwards at a 45 degree angle in the opposing direction anchored about 25 feet up in a tree.

There can be no predictable pattern; there can be no gain; and the performance is mediocre at best.

So, I want to get a dipole up for 40 through 10. I don’t have 35 foot anchor points for two ends of a 40m dipole, so I have to go with an inverted V and a push-up mast.

To add insult to injury, if I expect it to tune up and have any efficience at all it needs to be fed with ladderline. I’ve never tried to run ladderline into the house and find that it’s not going to be easy to do while isolating the ladderline from nearby objects that might affect it. If I feed it with coax, I potentially can get it to tune on more than one band — but that doesn’ tmean it is efficient. I’ve read a lot about dipoles and what happens when it has a significantly high SWR at the antenna feedpoint and you then tune out that high SWR at the end of the feedline. You end up with a situation where most of your signal is lost between your transmitter and the antenna, depending on the band.

Then there is the issue where a 40m dipole on 10m just isnt’ going to have the pattern I would want on 10m.

I’m thinking that if I get a dipole up in the air, I might construct what some call a fan dipole. Now, we won’t debate the name — although I’ll say that technically what I’m referring to likely isn’t a fan dipole. One feedpoint, two or three sets of wires of differing lengths for the separate bands that I want to have available. A 40m dipole should cover 40m and 15m (7 mhz and 21 mhz) with 21mhz being the third harmonic. then add a another site of wires at the same feedpoint for 20m and another set of wires for 10m, with each set of wires spaced far enough apart from each other so that they do not have appreciable effect on one another. I’m thinking this would likely give me a good performing setup for 40m / 20m / 15m / 10m and I could potentially work 17m / 12m somewhat inefficiently.. but maybe not.

Ok I’m just thinking out loud. at any rate, I really want to get a dipole up. I’d get a push-up mast, probably a 35 foot pushup mast. I’d use a 90 degree angle on the V.

The needed minimum height on a 40m inverted V with a 90 degree angle is 21 feet. However, one would want to have it a little higher so that the ends of the V could be a few feet off the ground. A 35 foot push-up mast should do the trick nicely and allow the ends of the dipole to be up off the ground a significant distance and out of the way of humans/animals.

Then another problem arises. if you are using a push-up mast, at least in my area, you must guy it. Guying is a pain in the ass. Suddenly that inconspicuous dipole that you erected isn’t so inconspicuous when you have to have guy wires flailing around all over the place.

I want a dipole, regardless of whether I have a vertical or not. A vertical’s takeoff angle is going to be one that favors DX, and there is a lot of the US that I would like to work as well. Plus, a dipole as a general rule is going to be quieter, since a vertical is more susceptible to manmade noise. It’s only logical for an amateur radio operator to have at least one dipole in his/her arsenal, regardless of whether they have a couple of 100 foot towers with stacked arrays on them covering the bands or a nice vertical.

There are more opinions about the best antennas to have around than there are assholes, and a lot of those opinions come from assholes. But, there also are a lot of knowledgeable people out there who are willing to share their thoughts and offer some assistance. The QRZ forums have a handful of such guys. I’ve been reading a lot written by these guys. This is what is causing me so much delay in getting any antenna at all up.

I want to get some antennas up for HF that in total are cost effective, that aren’t complete eyesores to the neighbors, that will weather the high winds here, and that will fit into the limited space that i have available (65′ x 100′).

Written by Mike

May 13th, 2010 at 3:16 pm

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HF Station back on the air

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Although I’m still working on a decision regarding other antennas for HF, I decided last week to string up a dipole with the help of a friend. It is a 40m diapole in a V configuration. However, it’s essentially a horizontal V because that is my only option at present.

I dragged all of my equipment out of the mothballs and managed to get it all hooked up in a very disorganized way. I bought a Signalink USB from DX Engineering to use for digital modes. So I’m currently using a 20-amp PS, a Yaesu FT-100, the aforementioned dipole and Signalink USB, and an LDG AT-100Pro tuner.

This weekend a few QSO parties were going on including the 7th Call Area QSO Party. I made a single CW contact, almost a dozen SSB contacts, and a few PSK31 contacts.

Jay, N8SJS, encouraged me to get into the digital mode action on HF, which is why I ended up getting the Signalink USB. We hunted down signals this weekend and I made a few more PSK31 contacts and a DominoEX contact. With the help of the PSKReporter website I was able to determine that others were hearing me on the various bands on PSK. This is really handy. Jay conned me into downloading and installing Ham Radio Deluxe, which I was familar with using a few years back. This is a great program for operating the digital modes and has just about every feature known to man in it. It’s a large program suite and taxes a computer a bit, but my laptop handles it with no problem.

I ended up hearing John, AC8JB, pick off somebody on PSK right before I was getting ready to. It was cool to hear another local [he’s from Wellsville] working HF.

Although I realize the pattern of this dipole and its efficiency on the various bands is very unpredictable, it tunes up all the bands I wanted to work with no problems using the LDG tuner and I am able to make contacts. This is great, because now I don’t feel so much pressure to make a decision on other more expensive, cumbersome antennas. I can take my time thinking about what to get next.

I need to get some new coax. I’m using garbage RG8X that is at least 10 years old for HF. I have LMR-400 here and i may put that on. I need to put a coax choke in place to try and curb some RF from coming down into the shack. I also need to get everything set up on a desk and get the station grounded as best as possible.

I have a USB-to-Serial converter ordered so that i can use my serial CAT interface on the laptop [which lakes a bonafide serial port as we all know them]. This will make using HRD / DM-780 that much nicer.

Although thunderstorms were predicted all weekend, we had no T-storms and only had rain. This was great. I really enjoyed this weekend on HF and hope that by next weekend I’ll even have more fun.

Some good sites to monitor DX and band conditions:

DX Summit
PSKReporter
vhfdx.info

Written by Mike

May 2nd, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Antennas

Tagged with , , , , ,