My Most Recent QSO's

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rainbow Trout on the Grill

Bright and early again this morning, fishing in the same stream, at about the same time, I pulled a trophy Rainbow Trout out of the same pool!

I'm just ecstatic about working (W7GVE) , on the same frequency (actually 7058.02) this morning!! I wasn't hearing a thing on the band (normally a very bad sign) but in the distance I hear another #7 call. (1400z--1425z) Ed lives Golden Valley, Arizona near the California border and about 1,814 miles from me.

He was working another station (which I could barely tell was there) and on about the "third" exchange I heard his call sign very distinctly. WOW....second day in a row and THIS time...., loud enough to try another QSO!

I think he could hear me a little better than I could hear him but (although he was QSO'ing at least 15 wpm with the other station) he immediately QRS'd to about 5 WPM.

And this was a key factor in making the contact this morning!

QSB was still a factor, which at times, was very difficult to overcome.
This morning, we exchanged Name, QTH, RST, FISTS #, and "Area Code". He knew my name (I think he reads blogs).....hihi. He remembered yesterdays exchange and commented on the antenna and being QRP in West Virginia.

This was still a difficult contact (at least for me) but a "valid" one for "club" purposes.....

I sent a "note" in the mail yesterday, but this morning I'll send a REAL card!

I got a nice "e-mail" (right after this QSO) from a ham in Wisconsin. (W9GOC).

He was startled by my QRP signal...


"Your CQ was coming though nicely on 7.058 this morning - - certainly a 599
report. I'm afraid I didn't record the exact time - - I was just
passing the shack while dealing with the preparations to dash off to the office
- - but I'd estimate the time as ~7:20 local, which should be ~13:20 UTC
29Jan2009. I realize this is not quite as rewarding as a genuine
QSO, but at least you know your signal is getting as far as Wisconsin!

I wonder if he likes Rainbow Trout?

I know yesterdays post mentioned me leaving for a long trip and I would probably not be posting for awhile ....but this mornings QSO was something to crow about!
I should be posting again around the first of March.....(really)

I'm on a real high right now and enjoying the fish!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Big Fish at 1800 Miles

I'm not hearing a lot of stations the 7058 frequency in the mornings?? (at least at a short distance).

But this week, I've been a little lax because of some important, upcoming travel plans. I'll be leaving soon, and will be gone for about a month, before returning home.

However....the stations I've worked this week have been interesting. I chased WB2MIC (in Vermont) for a couple of days because I knew he was collecting "area code numbers". (I could hear his QSO's with other stations)

But 40 meters been like a tree full of squirrels.....

I'd hear him perfectly 5 minutes and then he would totally disappear into the noise. And then the other day, while he was working another station, I regrouped and gave him another call. This time....someone tuned up "right on frequency". . Fortunately, for me, he moved up 15 kc to avoid the QRM and I caught him on the end of another QSO.

We exchanged "area codes" and I was a happy camper.

Then there was WD1W (Chris in Manchester Vermont) . I haven't worked a lot of Vermont stations and now there are TWO contacts, fairly close together.
And another QRM problem....

I've QSY'd several times over the years but I thought it unique he sent "PSE I will find a good freq...b bk AS ? ". A few moments later we connected again, and he sent "PSE QSY up Sixty" QSL ? (it's unusual to spell out a frequency). I don't remember the original frequency (maybe 7053) but we had a nice conversation afterwards on 7060 which I enjoyed very much.

This morning I really strained my ears...... but couldn't copy everything (no matter how hard I tried) from another station. Ed in Golden Valley Arizona (W7GVE) was barely above the noise and was VERY difficult to hear. I tried everything.....My most desperate move (when everything else fails) is the use the "reverse mode" on the receiver....... I've been able to work some "really, really, weak signals like this...but NOT today.

I've said before: "Ham Radio is a lot like never know what you're gonna catch when you throw the line in the water". This big fish was 1800 miles from me.

Unfortunately.... he got away. (fishing is like that)

I sent Ed a "card" (not a confirmation QSL) this morning, with an explanation about him getting off the hook. I could tell he sent his "FISTS" number but I couldn't copy his Name, QTH, or our RST's. (just the call sign for the most part) NO e-mail address on QRZ so can't confirm.

I DID send my info but wasn't able to tell if he copied.
Ed's seems to be "quite the contester". I suspect he had a "beam" pointed at me but my signal just wasn't strong enough to make it 1800 miles today.
Today is probably the last entry I'll make this month. I'll be in "parts unknown" during the entire month of Febuary. I'll miss writing (and especially my QRP CW contacts).
It will be nice to "return" and get the "key" back in my hands.
I'll start making entries again in March.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My Best QSL Card

A few weeks ago, I commented on making a 2,020 mile contact into San Diego, California. I also mentioned using headphones and the "quite operation" of the telegraph key. Honestly....I think 90% of the long distance contacts (especially with the current band conditions on 40 meters) will be in the late and early mornings hours.

This afternoon I received my QSL card from WB6HGJ.

The notes on the back of the card read:

John....QRP QSO's (even one way) have great meaning for me !! Your card has become part of my QRP "photo album" collection! I was running about 90 watts with the old Collins--it was a ruff copy but a lot of true QRP work is that way!! Hope to catch you again!! VY 73 Guy.

ps...I use a FT817 for qrp.

I feel the same way...... because this distance is rare for a 5 watt station using an indoor antenna!

It's not only rare for me to work California (QRP on 40 meters), it's also rare to have a station to hear me at this distance.

I was right about his rig...It's a Collins 32v2-75a4 and he was using an inverted V Antenna.

You need a set of "ears" like this to hear 5 watt signal on the East Coast!

I'll also keep this card in my photo album.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

World Radio Network

I once listened to "Shortwave Radio Broadcasters" with a simple regenerative receiver hooked to a few feet of wire for an antenna. I'd plug in the headphones, tweak a few knobs, and spend hours listening to Radio Moscow or Cuba during the cold war days. The BBC, Radio Netherlands, Christian Science Monitor, and CBC were essential for keeping informed in that turbulent time period of the world.

It's still possible to do that, but "shortwave operators" have been overwhelmed with expenses and operating costs that make them a money hungry, time consuming, wasteful endeavor these days. The Voice of America doesn't even have a North American broadcast now.

Whereas a lot of broadcasters used to run schedules, many times a day, in different languages, it's becoming difficult to hear an English broadcast more than once an evening.(and sometimes just once a weekend). Given bad band conditions, you miss that one transmission, and you don't hear any news or music from that particular part of the world.

Now there's an answer to these problems on the Internet.

I've listened to XM Satellite Radio for several years, mostly for music...but also for political views and information on the world. It's a rare medium with much more variety than anything on the shortwave bands and especially the AM Radio bands. (AM Radio has become nothing but a cesspool of propaganda from the "nuts" that have it all, and plan on keeping it that way).

I find it very offensive to hear the same old stuff (?) on at least three dozen stations every night when trying to re-capture the "magic" of those regenerative reciever days.

XM Satellite Radio now has a program called "World Radio Network" (station #135) on thier service. I've been listening to it for several weeks now and I'm able to, once again, hear "shortwave stations" from all over the world. I've put a link to the "network" on the right hand side of this site under "Ham Radio Sites of Interest".


Clicking here will allow you to hear all those "International Shortwave Broadcasts", again, without having to worry about missing the "one" transmission an evening. It's not the same a hearing it "live" on the air (it looses some of it's "magic" in this mode) but it's there.

It's nice to casually listen to them while working on the computer.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My 300th Contact

I've been logging my Ham Radio contacts into my "Microsoft Outlook Program" for a few years now. I like the "search features" and with the right "format", I've found nothing that works any better for my radio hobby.

I create my own "custom" categories within this system. My "favorites" are "FISTS, NAQCC, SKCC, QRP, QRPp, and DX. You can create as many as you like....and at the end of the year, it's easy to find ALL my contacts and sort them out into ANY group. I also like the ability to "cut and paste" e-mails and pictures sent to me.

This morning I ran a search for this years contacts. (2009) and found 16 in the log. Ten of those are FISTS members, two of them are QRP contacts, three of those are "more than once contacts", there are 11 states, 3 "Area Code Award" contacts and.... my longest 40 meter contact yet... into California.

The possibilities are endless and I plan to always continue logging my "radio contacts" in this system!

This morning, as I was looking at the "numbers" I realized that WA0FU in Jacksonville Florida was my 300th Contact. I've talked to Bob twice this year and it's especially nice to see his "Weirton, WV" info on the QRZ site and also his NAVY experience.
Bob also uses the E-QSL system and I've sent 2 cards to him on the site.

As I was looking at my "DX" contacts, I noticed two stations (Cuba and Puerto Rico) on the E-QSL membership list. I worked both those stations from the Outer Banks of North Carolina last year. It will be nice to get those "cards" (I'll have them printed on nice "card stock" and add them to my collection).

If you haven't looked at the E-QSL site will be surprised at the "growth" this month. They have taken a BIG jump in membership!

Monday, January 19, 2009

E-QSL DX Cards

This weekend, I worked a few stations in the North American QSO Contest, and was pleasantly surprised to see them listed on the E-QSL site, when I logged on last night. I don't use them often but...really don't understand why more Hams don't take advantage of this service!

Especially DX Contacts!

The last DX card (I exchanged) cost me nearly $5.00 to get to Moscow Russia and back so the "E-QSL" site is a GOOD idea to reduce postage costs.
My station (actually in Poland) made the "distinct statement" on his QRZ site: "Don't Send US dollars, My Postman Loves Them". (That's something to think about the next time you "slam" the US Postal Service, but I think, common in a lot of the world) That's the reason I needed to send the card to a manager in Moscow before it could be confirmed and returned to me from Poland.

In addition to the two envelopes, US postage stamps, and 2 IRC coupons. (Oh...did I say it took 3 months to recieve them?) was VERY close to 5 bucks a card!
An E-QSL card (yes...printed on a NICE postcard) would have cost me a buck! It's pretty much a NO brainer for me.

I'm not a big collector of "cards"....but there are times when they're memorial ("Special Event Stations" and a nice long "QRP" contact). But why not leave the option open for E-QSL cards?

I'm just as happy with a nice e-mail (with a picture attached) so
I think, especially for DX contacts, they're worth some serious thought!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2020 20 Meter Contacts

This weekend was the North American QSO Party and I quickly worked stations on 20 meters (just to give out a few contacts) at distances of 1,000--1,500--and (yes) another 2,020 mile contact into San Diego. (actually two of them).

The San Diego station (K6AM) was especially surprised to hear my "QRP" status.

Many times (when time is precious) I'll try to work a few "contest stations" (it seems always on the weekends).

But this morning, I've been listening for Steve (N0TU) in Colorado. He hikes with the "goats" (Peanut and Rooster). BBBrrrrrrr.....I bet it was cold out there today!

The band just isn't UP today and I've heard very little on either 20 or 30 meters.

It's often been said that Amateur Radio is a lot like fishing. You never know what you're going to catch when you throw the line in the water. It's certainly true today....

On a positive note: (a few days ago) I worked a station (QRP) in Mass ( I can never spell that name) but the call is N1PQ and the name is Peter. We couldn't hear each other very well but exchanged the basics.

I got a bigger kick out of the 5 watt signal at 600 miles, on the 40 meter band, than I did with the "California" stations on 20 meters. It was a little more of a challenge....

I considered the fishing a little better in this stream....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2009 Area Code

I usually don't spend a lot of time on the 80 meter band, but last night I had a delightful conversation on the FISTS frequency. I had been (I know this sounds insane) calling CQ at 1 watt with the hopes of nabbing a QRPp station. Here in the city, with the power line noise, (on 80 meters) that usually means a station at about 150 miles.

And then I heard N2ESE in New Jersey (400 miles) call out.... but another station got to him before I could crank up a few more (5) watts and return his call. As Gary talked with the other station, I realized the conversation was revolving around a "new" FISTS award for contacting 100 other stations with different AREA CODE phone numbers. (it's listed in this months "keynote magazine")

Since I made over a hundred contacts last year...... this is an option for me!

When Gary (N2ESE) finished the QSO, I sent N2? and few times (I really didn't think he would hear me) and surprisingly, he returned my call!

Gary is a GOOD operator....I think probably one of the best I've ever heard on the bands. And he immediately commented on the Isotron Antenna's and our previous CW QSO's on the 4o meter band. (We've talked 3 times now). Our conversation carried on for well over half and hour and it was pleasant, motivating, and encouraging to realize he was looking at either his "log book notes" or my BIO on QRZ while sending CW. (I'm not there yet)

I just can't say enough good about this guy!

Every conversation we've had, has been on the FISTS frequencies, and every conversation has been about the club....and yes....we exchanged "AREA CODE" phone numbers.

I've never met a more professional CW operator on the air!

His "fist" is extraordinary, his choice of words and abbreviations are exemplary, his spacing is perfect, and his CW speed always matches the other operator. What else could anyone ever expect of a quality CW operator?

After our QSO, I listened as he continued on with a few other stations (one of which was in the 25-30 wpm range). It was nice to work him again and I always look forward to hearing him on the air.

I'll be exchanging "area codes" with other operators now!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ahhh...The Taste of FOX

It's been awhile since I've "bagged" a "pelt" on the "Fox Hunts". There are two every week. (One on 40 meters and one on 80 meters). Last night I bagged the 80 meter (N4DD) fox near the end of the contest when he quit using the "split" to transmit and recieve.

I'd been listening to him most of the night (0200-0330z) but couldn't pull him out of brush. There were lot's of barking from many hounds....three of us in WV caught him!

Ahhh......taste of roasting fox on an open fire is REALLY fine!

Thursday evening, Dennis (N4DD) will be running through the woods again but this time... 40 meters. My gut feeling is that he will be a little too close on 40....maybe the other fox will be at the right distance.
There's a permanent link to the "FOX HUNTERS" on the right hand side of my web page. ----->

This is a GREAT contest to work a few QRP stations!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Canadian Cold WX QSO

I've worked several stations in Canada recently, and this morning, I added another to my log book. (Number 14 to be specific).

I've been listening on the QRP frequencies, the last few days, with the hopes of working a few more "low power stations". The North American QRP CW Club (NAQCC) is sponsoring a QRPp (less than 1 watt) event this month. I probably won't work many (just don't have the antenna for it and there's a lot of noise here in the city) but it's always fun to listen and hope....(I've worked a few)

This morning, I heard W5VYN near Dallas Texas (900 miles) but he couldn't hear me well enough to continue the QSO. (we exchanged name and QTH before the band shifted) and then I caught VE3HEQ in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada.

The band was shifting a little, but all in all, we copied each other at the 559 level and talked for a quite awhile about the weather. Clive (VE3HEQ) said it was VERY cold up there, and he was expecting a lot MORE snow, and a lot MORE cold weather this week. As a matter of fact, it's supposed to be below freezing (and in the single digits) very soon.

I get into Canada very well for a QRP station with an indoor antenna. This last year, I kidded several guys about my signal getting some kind of weird bounce off the "gold dome" of the Capitol building, which is just up the street from me. I get an odd "spike" into the Northeast for some reason.

I've worked a QRP station in Canada at the 1000 mile range (VE1IBA in Kinston, Nova Scotia ).
But the most interesting contact I've ever made in Canada (and the ONLY contact like this I've ever made) was a station conducting a "Maritime Net" on the far side of Lake Erie. The net control officer (VE3GGO) was checking in ships sailing on the Great Lakes (Canadian stations can operate in the CW section of the 40 meter band) when he asked for "anyone, any mode (CW)" for a "check in"....I jumped at the opportunity for this unique QSO.
He returned my call and QTH (which he responded with in SSB) and we exchanged a few pleasantries. I've worked several ships on the Great Lakes but this contact was the most interesting of them all.
I'll be keeping my ears on for the "NAQCC QRPp" stations this month...with a little luck, I might even work a few. The NAQCC contest ends on the last day of January.
Clive (VE3HEO) is member # 2976

Monday, January 12, 2009

Peanut and Rooster Video About Straight Keys

If you haven't seen Steve's (NoTU) new web owe it to yourself to take a gander at this one. The recent "ARRL Straight Key Night" was just for "communicating with character" and Steve (and his goats Peanut and Rooster) put together a shining example of how much fun can be had with old vintage CW gear.

You can see it by clicking here: Peanut & Rooster Adventures

I'm familiar with some of these rigs and the first I had on the air was a Viking Adventurer that was loaned to me by a friend. I've also used some Heathkit and Drake equipment with surprising results but I didn't have the technical knowledge to maintain them. I traded them in for "solid state" light weight gear that I can easily use in the field.

Steve's video shows a wide selection of "Straight Keys" used in the contest and he did an excellent job producing this film. I always look forward to reading about his hiking and camping adventures in the Colorado mountains. He's a great radioman with outstanding survival skills.

I've never worked Steve (N0TU) in the Colorado mountains but have worked several others in this area who were backpacking and camping with QRP gear. It just can't seem to catch him in the right place at the right time.

I've also worked two of the stations on his video... (VE3CGC and WA8REI) One was driving his Winnebago in Michigan and the other was at his home in Canada. Both were operating QRP and using straight keys when I talked to them.

One of these days I'll catch Steve while he is camping and hiking with the goats....until then I'll have to be content watching those great videos. I keep a permanent link on the right hand side of this page that makes it easy to keep up with his hiking trips.

You gotta keep a close eye on those goats...they're ornery!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Another Reason to Learn Code

There are QSO's and then there are QSO's...That might sound confusing, so I'll try to explain in a little more detail....

The majority of code exchanges follow a "universal format" with the first item being how well you're hearing the other station. (RST) and then the Name and QTH being the second.... Then the Rig and Antenna, the Weather, etc. There's nothing wrong with that. (90% of CW exchanges follow this road.

But it gets a little mundane at times....

This morning, on the 40 meter QRP frequency, I had a "nice" chat with a station in Memphis Tennessee (W4VAC) . Chuck was very weak because he was only using 15 watts into an inverted "V" with the apex at about 35 feet. (Memphis is about 500 miles from me)

Although he had other rigs, this morning he was using a Tentec Century "just for fun".

And it was "fun" to chat with each other because of the challenging QSB and QRM. (yea, I know, this isn't for everyone) but this was one of the most enjoyable QSO's I've had in awhile. (or any other time)

We both missed each others "names" on the first exchange but we both realized the band conditions, and continued on for at least 30 minutes. Chuck had a "great" fist (using a straight key) and the spacing was excellent. It was a pleasure to listen, copy (90%+) and ask each other a few questions.

That's what I mean by "There are QSO's and then there are QSO's" .

And then there's "another reason for learning code"....

I'm retired now, after 10 years of working on heavy equipment, and 20 years in retail sales. It's a blessing to have time to spend on the radio now. But as a person gets older, the mind usually get a little "lax". (I've know some people that can't remember what they did at noon some days)

It would be real easy just sit down and not do "anything"......

Morse Code is an excellent "work the mind" activity (if you don't use it, you'll loose it) and it's a challenge to keep the mind active and to keep life enjoyable now.

Morse Code is one of the best activities in the world to prevent memory loss....and a good example of this, is Chuck (W4VAC) in Memphis this morning!

I really admired the guy, more and more, as we "rag-chewed". We repeated the info we couldn't copy due to conditions, we understood each other, and it was a joy to communicate.

Chuck was born in 1924....that makes him 85 years old!
He is also FISTS member # 11068

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Quiet 2020 Mile QSO

Earlier tonight, I had attempted a "fox hunt" on the 80 meter band, and was discouraged, because I couldn't hear either the "foxes or the hounds". My friend Gari (K8KFJ) at the other end of the valley, caught the "Georgia Fox" after over an hour of listening. He skinned the pelt on the "high null" of a very faint signal. I could tell a fox was in the brush, but that was about it....The 80 meter band seemed VERY long!

It was about midnight, and I couldn't sleep, so I decided to get up and fix myself a cup of tea. I shouldn't have, but I again turned on the radio and plugged in the headphones.

I tuned the rig to the 40 meter FISTS frequency.

It's now 3 AM, but when I worked WB6HGJ in San Diego, California, it was 1:45 AM here in WV. (10:45 PM in California) Marilyn slept through it all because the sound was in my headphones and the only noise in the house was the clicking of the telegraph key.)

One of the GREAT things about CW is the ability to communicate without disturbing those around you.

I thought GUY was running a home brew rig because of the CW tone, but (if I heard correctly) he was using an old Collins rig. It was a difficult copy (229 with QSB) but I imagine that was his receiver. The old "Collins Rigs" are famous for their selectivity and filtering.

(It would have taken a receiver like this to hear a 5 watt signal from West Virginia)

I couldn't find an e-mail address for GUY (WB6HGJ) but it will be interesting to see the details on his QSL card. I'll put mine in the mail this morning at daylight....

It was a short contact, because of the QSB on both sides, but one I will always remember. The "Coast to Coast" distance between us is 2,020 miles and it's also my "first" "Coast to Coast" contact on 40 meters. Until tonight, I've only worked distances like this on 20 meters.

This is RARE with the QRP power of 5 watts!

Needless to say, I can't sleep now!

We exchanged signal strength, name, location, "FISTS" numbers, and a brief comment on the rig, power, and antenna. It was VERY difficult to hear but we exchanged the basics on both sides of the conversation.

Guy's membership number is # 9909.

I'd say 40 meters is a bit long too!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My First 2009 QSO

I've been in New York again (for a few weeks), to visit friends and relatives, during the Christmas Season. But I didn't take the radio with me because of time restrictions....

The first thing I did (when I sat down for a few minutes) was to total my "log book" and look over the past year. (The previous entry was a summation of my 2008 radio events etc).

My "first" contact in 2009 was K0LUW (2245z) on the 7055 SKCC frequency. Russ was in Omaha, Nebraska. (825 miles from me) We both heard each other at about the same level (569) but when he returned my call.....QRM ate him alive.

Come to find I was sending my stats, other stations (that couldn't hear me) assumed the frequency was open and started their CQ's. This made for a very difficult contact......

Russ realized the situation and kicked in his Heathkit amp (which boosted his signal significantly)He was now pushing 600 watts into a "Vertical Dipole" (an antenna I rarely hear on the air). The frequency immediately became tolerable again.


In addition to being my first 2009 contact this year, this was also my "first contact" I've made with my (new) "100 year old Straight Key". (Only a "straight key" operator will appreciate this key). It was made between the years of 1880 and 1910 by a company in New York City. I'm very fortunate to have acquired it and will pass it along to another Ham in my very senior years.

I found Russ on the QRZ date base and discovered he used a "homemade key"

Russ is member number 1702 T of the "Straight Key Century Club" (SKCC).

"It's a Beauty"

Friday, January 2, 2009

My 2008 QSO's

Well Folks.....I'm sure some will chuckle with my summary of last years contacts. But I've had a "whale of a time" with the radio and an Indoor Antenna in 2008. I'm not a big competitor ....I spend time on the air working a few "Special Event Stations".... but mostly (90% +) QRP on the 40 meter band.

I play with the radio for one specific reason. It's FUN to me... and it's a magical thing to bounce radio waves off the Ionosphere.

It's rare to work much DX (very long range) on 40 meters but most of my contacts were on this band because "there's usually someone on this part of the band ALL the time".

In the year 2008, I've worked 144 stations. (don't laugh) Of those 144 stations, 37 of them were QRP (3 were QRPp) and 19 of those stations were DX on 20 meters!

I haven't wrote much about "skipping over the pond" a few times, but last year (with QRP power and an Indoor Antenna) I haven't done bad.

This year I've "skipped over the pond" to Jamaica, Croatia, Cuba, Portugal, Germany (twice), Spain, Hungary, Italy, Puerto Rico, the Isle of Man, and Finland. I've also worked Canadian Stations (from coast to coast) 11 times.

Some people get a real kick out of working those "distant stations" but my most enjoyment is working the QRP and QRPp rigs with simple antenna's. To each their own....but working DX "mega stations" isn't as much of a challenge to me.

Working a guy "sitting in a tent" at 2,000 miles is unique!