My Most Recent QSO's

Sunday, January 31, 2010

SKCC 4th Event Summary

I had an "empty spot" in the Midwest while working this event. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't work a "0" station. I heard "one" in Kansas (on 80 meters) and he tried his very best to pull me out of the swarm but couldn't get my last letter. We could never have exchanged the basics for the entire contact (and on 80 meters) I was amazed he could even hear me. It seems my signal either bounced just before or just after the Midwest. Changing bands back and forth just didn't work for me.

I worked everything else (9 out of 10)

I especially liked this event because a "straight key" puts everyone on an "even" playing field and the vast majority of stations were sending less than 15 wpm. It was a pleasure to exchange the "basics" with club stations. Everyone had VERY good fists with excellent spacing and always matched the others stations speed. I even heard contacts being made up on the "top" of the 40 meter band where it's common to hear new operators. These people were professionals!

My state contacts were: New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah, California, Montana, and Washington. I was especially happy to work the Washington and Montana stations. Washington was a little over 2,000 miles and Montana very near the 2,000 mile mark from here.

This "straight key" celebration has got me back into the habit of using my Bunnell key. I really don't enjoy working any station above 15 wpm. and it was SO pleasurable to work these guys that I will only use a "paddle" on the DX frequencies now. Although these exchanges were "standard" (name, qth and club number) there wasn't the rush onward to another "quick" station like some major contests.

I really like the "personality" that only comes with a "straight key".

Thursday, January 28, 2010

2,000 + Miles Again

The sun has been smiling on me since the beginning of the new year.

In the last 23 days, I've worked three different stations on 20 meters at better than 2,000 miles and a few days before Christmas, I actually worked a DX station in Italy at 4,724 miles.

Yesterday, I worked another Washington State station. NG7Z (also K3Y/7) is located in Bothell, Washington (near Seattle) and had a fantastic signal here on the East coast! (599) He was at 2,121 miles.

A day earlier, I worked N6WK in Santa Ana California. He was a K3Y/6 operator. He was at 2,038 miles.

But my prize catch, and the longest distance yet, was a QRP station!

I worked KD6SX on January 14th at a distance of 2,127 miles.

He wins my six miles!

George (KD6SX) is located in the small "gold rush" town of Oroville, California at 500 ft elevation. I realize this is a rare event but it shows the possibilities of QRP power under the right conditions. A few sunspots and the right time of day causes some really good "bounces" across the country.

George was also using an Icom 703 @ 5 watts but a three element beam. I was using my 20 inch indoor Isotron antenna.

Update: Worked Paul ( K3Y/7 ) AGAIN this evening (1-29-10) on 20 meters (different frequency this time) and got a 569 report! He has an unbelievable signal (599+) here on the east coast!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SKCC California contact @ 2,038 miles

I love a "straight key" and use my "100" year old Bunnell key on most of my CW contacts. It was given to me "free" (postage paid) by an anonymous ham from an estate collection. I consider it priceless and I will pass it along to another deserving ham in my very senior years.

The "Straight Key Century Club" is celebrating their 4th anniversary this month with operators transmitting from all 10 zones. Sad to say, I wasn't aware of it, but it seems every day I hear the special K3Y call on the bands. (this has been a very difficult month because my son in law had a heart attack at the age of 33).

Yesterday evening around sunset (that magic hour of ham radio) I worked an additional 2 stations in the club event. This makes 5 out of a possible 10 that I've worked now with QRP power and a simple indoor antenna.

Yesterday evening, my first was the K3Y/7 station in Washington State and then, almost immediately afterwards, I worked N6WK in Santa Ana California. Gordon (N6WK) is the #6 operator and also one of the founders of the SKCC Club. (K3Y/6)

He holds the SKCC # 3T.

I haven't been making a conscious effort to work these stations. But when I hear those special 1x1 calls, they just seem to shout at me on the air. In the last few weeks I've worked the California, Washington, New York, Wisconsin, and Virginia stations. It's surprised me.

My son in law had a "stint" placed in the main artery into the heart and is improving slowly but he's still very much a worry with his current health. I was called there a few days ago and worried I might have to do CPR (which would have surly killed him anyway). I was fortunately spared that option when the paramedics arrived. To look at him, he's in excellent health, in great physical shape but only 33 years old.

I'd appreciate all you guys and gals out there to keep him in your thoughts and prayers. My daughter and her husband have 5 kids to rear between them.

Up Date:...worked K3Y/1 in Rhode Island this evening. (this makes my sixth for the club).

Update...worked K3Y/8 in Reed City Michigan on 1/27/10 @ 2028z (7052 MHz)
I now only need # 3-5-0 for the certificate.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Prince Edward Island at 1087 Miles (VY2MD)

I've been thinking a lot lately about the thrill of unusual contacts on the radio. Yesterday I worked a new Island. This was only my second contact in this part of the country.

Prince Edward Island is sort of "out there by itself" and when I heard this new call sign (VY2) I didn't recognize it as a Canadian station. Every Canadian station I've ever worked has had the VE prefix. (and this is about number 30 for me).

I seem to have a "pipeline" into the northeast and get unusual signal reports at distances around a thousand miles in that direction. I can actually draw a "line" into this part of the northeast with the 599 and 579 reports. This afternoon my RST was 579 with my 5 watts of power. (QSB and QRN was really terrible on the Canadian side but my RST at the beginning was still 579)

It's a real thrill to me when I work station like this one because I don't think there's a lot of hams on this island.

When I think back on my best contacts over the last several years, I think of a camper set up on a picnic table somewhere near the Appalachian Trail, an operator transmitting from an old submarine, a ship on the Great Lakes, an airplane (those are really rare), a lighthouse, or dozens of stations celebrating and promoting "special events".

Other times it's just an operator with an extremely good "fist" and his spacing, his abbreviations, his choice of words in the QSO, or the subject matter. Despite all the DX out there now as the bands are picking up, it's still a thrill for me when I work something unusual.

This afternoon, Prince Edward Island fell into one of those categories.
(picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

KN0WCW/9 FISTS # 10000 cc# 1380

There are two stations that I've always hoped to work since I earned my ticket many years ago. One is the ARRL (W1AW) club station in Newington Connecticut. (I worked it last year) The other is the FISTS "club station".

This morning I worked Dave (KB9MLE) who was the operator of the "FISTS" club station transmitting from Goshen Indiana. He was using a "/9" on the end of the club call.


It took me a moment to decipher his call (it caught me totally unexpected) when he returned my call. (Know CW ie KNOW CODE). All I heard at first was the CW (the mind plays funny tricks on me at times). But then we exchanged the "basics" and his personal sign and number. I did the same with my club and CC numbers. I'll send my card to the Buro in the morning and display the KN0WCW card on the blog when it returns.

This is a card I'll cherish for many years.

Morse Code has become controversial these days. There was quite an uproar, a few years ago, when "code" was dropped as a requirement for a ham radio ticket. I've even mentioned CW "as a dying art" to prospective hobbyist. Hence....(and I'm glad to see it) this clubs "play on words".

But the "new ham" numbers have been slowly increasing the last few years. And remarkably, so have CW operators. I realize it's NOT for everyone but I can't imagine ham radio without it.

It's a personal choice and one with (hopefully) no "good or bad" connotations.

I guess it's from my Navy days, but I consider Morse Code operators a "special" type of people. CW op's are a unique "sub culture" within ham radio. We use unique procedures and abbreviations. TU ILBCNU HIHI GUD LK B4 1TTW IMI CUL AGN ...this list goes on and on.

In the Navy, I remember dark cloudy nights when I bounced a light off the clouds to ships over the horizon. (fifteen miles) I remember sending CW via the masthead lights and using infrared filters during night operations with "bird farms". I once used "wig wag" with a semaphore flag. (at about 5 miles). Maybe it's just a "survival instinct" but CW can be sent with LOTS of different mediums. You can send CW with a mirror at nearly 100 miles on a bright sunny day.

Regardless of your choice of modes (code or no code), we're ALL still ONE big happy family. There's more than enough room on the bands for all of us. (we have out special 30 meter band) I know this sounds biased but, if you're NOT using code, you're missing out on a lot of VERY unique fun.

I'll be looking forward to getting this card back.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2 X QRP Contact @ 2,127 Miles

This evening I worked my second QRP station on the West Coast. It was my "first" for this year (at this distance) and to make matters even better, it was another "QRP" station using another Icom 703 at 5 watts. George (KD6SX) lives in Oroville, California. I've worked only ONE other QRP station at better than 2,000 miles so........ I was elated at making this contact.

This week, I've been working a LOT of QRP stations in the New York area. The solar flux has finally reached the "90" level and I've been trying to listen in the morning hours before eating breakfast to make a few contacts. This week I've worked TWO of the "Straight Key Century Club" special event stations.

George (KD6SX) is also a SKCC member, as well as a FISTS member and a NAQCC member.
I love working these "multiple club stations". It's nice to see those certificates hanging on the wall in the computer room.

Speaking of computers, my old computer "crashed" last week. It's been stressful transferring my "log books" and "data" into a new one. My former ran on Windows XP and this one is using Windows 7. It's a LOT quicker but there's always a learning curve with a new system. I think it's going to work out just fine.

Working this new QRP station in Northern California relieves a little of the stress.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My 2009 Summary

I'm pleased with my QRP contacts this year. Despite the many people that discouraged me with comments like "you won't make many contacts" and "they send so fast you'll never be able to copy them", I've found QRP to be the only mode I'll probably ever use in this hobby. Since retirement, I've made over 500 contacts from my "simple station" located near the State Capitol building here in West Virginia.

Considering my elevation of about 640 ft, with two small hills (400 ft) on each side of me, and an "eleven story apartment building" next door, I haven't found any of the above "moaning and groaning" disclaimers to have any truth in them. I also operate with the disadvantage of using an "indoor antenna" because of "historical regulations" in this area.

There are times when I'm not on the air for weeks and I don't work a lot of "contest stations" but I worked 254 new stations last year (of which 147 were fellow QRP operators) and increased my DX contacts by 14 countries. I also earned my "1000 mile per watt" award.

I worked my first DX station (Rome Italy) on 40 meters this year. (that says a lot about recent propagation). Most of last years contacts were with a solar flux in the upper 60's and mid 70's.

My DX contacts last year were: Italy, France (2), Bulgaria, Portugal, Luxembourg, Germany (3), Czech Republic, Austria, Southern Ukraine, Belgium, and the Baleric Islands (off the eastern coast of Spain). I worked 6 different islands, 5 lighthouses and 9 club stations.

I'm not into "statistics" and I'm sure some QRO stations (with big ears) work this many stations in a week, but they don't have any more "fun" than I do with my QRP station. Despite the DX contacts last year, I still get the same "bang" out of working every station and sending my QRP suffix with my call sign.

There's STILL nothing like making a 2 X QRP contact with another station and I get the most excitement from these contacts. I worked a QRP station this year "coast to coast" in Canada.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming year and more QRP contacts and have developed friendships with several European Hams. I feel like we're all part of a big family on this small "big blue marble" in the universe. Radio has enlightened my view on life and has made me more conscious of "having much more in common than we have differences" with all people in the world.