My Most Recent QSO's

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ascension Island

The temperature has taken a cold turn here in the valley today which meant that I would "tune around" again on the 10 meter band once more. It's much too cold to be outside.

This contact with ZD8X on Ascension Island marks my second new DX country in just a few days.

Ascension Island is literally"in the middle of nowhere" between South America and Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. It's primarily a communications hub for several countries and was a relay station for the BBC in it's heyday. St Helena is in this general area and the place Napoleon spent his last days in exile.

It took me several attempts to work this station at 5,362 miles. There was quite a "pile up" and I was surprised to hear my call sign repeated back to me with the customary 599 report.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

An Island Near Venezuela

Curacao, an island near Venezuela, is a new DX country in my log book. On November 19th, I easily worked PJ2/ N0YY and on November 22nd I easily worked PJ2/ W9NJY.

I'm amazed this station in South America hasn't been worked more than I see on the DX Clusters. I spotted it for the second time yesterday and saw very little activity following up on the site.

As most of the islands in the Caribbean area, tourism is always a factor in their economy. In the area of "space tourism" Curacao is one of the tops in the field.

The Lynx Space Plane is an interesting concept. The pilot and "one" tourist can experience "sub orbital flight" where the stars shine steadily, the arc of the earth is below you, and you experience the feeling of weightlessness. I would imagine, also, a great place to use a handi-talkie on the VHF and the UHF bands. Expected to be viable in 2014, this "sub orbital spacecraft" will take you there for a fee of around $100,000.

Both these contacts were on the 10 meter band and pushing a 599+ signal into West Virginia.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Special Event Station

I worked seventeen stations with this "Special Event Station" of the West Virginia Chapter of the NAQCC club on Wednesday afternoon and sent an E-QSL Card to those who worked me. Fort Scammon isn't well known to those living in my city, but during the Civil War, this artillery site was critical to controlling the river traffic on both the Kanawha and the Elk Rivers.

I created the above (sample) card with the simple "paint" program which comes with the Microsoft products on my windows computer. When I upload the card to my E-QSL account and enter the contact information of the stations I work, they're displayed nicely along the bottom of the card.

The 19th and 25th Presidents of the United States (Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley) directed a dozen cannons from this high spot in Charleston where "flatboats" floated precious "salt" downstream to the Ohio River. Salt was a very valuable commodity in those days for the preservation of fresh meat. The production of high quality "salt" was one of the founding industries of the Kanawha Valley.

 It took me a little over an hour to get set up and on the air but I felt this was one of only a few good days left before snow flurries begin to start flying this weekend. I used my PAR "end fed" Zepp antenna which was cut for 40-20-and 10 meters with my Icom 703 at about four watts to work stations in eleven different states.

I was able to work North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Massachusetts, Kansas, New York, Illinois, Maine, and Canada.

The most distant station I worked this day was N1NUA (Joan) in Maine at 812 miles.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Second Contact to Alaska

It's unusual for me to work a station in Alaska, so I've been very happy to make a contact with KL7QZ in Anchorage, on the 12 meter band and at a distance of 3,242 miles @ 3 watts, makes this contact even better.....

I've only worked a station in Alaska twice in all the years I've been on the radio and I had a great copy (599) on him. He was hearing me at the 339 level but we completed a QSO.

In Alaska they were experiencing a real "heat wave" with the temp being -3 (C) and going down to -10 (C) tonight.

Propagation was terrible according to all the usual forecasts, but I still worked KW7D in New Mexico and I also found HC2IMP in Ecuador (again) on the 10 meter band.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear a "nice crisp chirp" from him this time. If you remember a post from our WV Chapter outing from Hurricane WV, on the first of November, I was hearing a real "growler" at that time.

I've not worked a lot of long distance stations the last few months because I'm focusing my energy on the new club; so it was enjoyable to work these unusual stations although they're not very distant.

I've actually enjoyed the QRP contacts even more than in the past.

They're much more personal than the "handshakes" for DX contacts. Yesterday, after completing a QSO with a QRP station on 30 meters, I was contacted by WV4TN in Knoxville TN. Wayne had many friends living here in Charleston, so knew exactly where I lived, and asked me to say hello to Dave Ellis (WA8WV).

Dave is the guy with a "very nice beam" who offered it's use to me for some of my QRP contacts when we met at the Parkersburg Hamfest. I was happy to talk to Dave by phone and say hello to him from his friend in Knoxville.

I'm working a lot more stations this year, since 2010, when I first started keeping track of all my contacts.

To date, I have 2,349 QSO's in the log book. My numbers are also up from "last year" from 472 in the year 2012--- to 656 in this year of 2013. (with still 2 months to go before the end of the year).

Not surprisingly, I've worked 413 NAQCC members now out of a total of 462 QRP QSO's.

I might not be working as many DX stations as previously, but with 667 in the log book and 90 countries, I'm OK with those numbers. I'm liking those nice QRP QSO's very much and they're equal to all the handshakes I've made the last few years.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Breakfast, Bacon and Eggs, and Radio

Our monthly breakfast meeting at the First Watch Restaurant in Charleston was a pleasant gathering of kindred individuals and the spirit of radio was in our midst. I was overjoyed to see from left to right Steve (KC4URI) from Mineral Wells, and John (W8GDP), Jeff (K9ESE), Myself (N8ZYA) and Eric (AC8LJ) from Charleston.

As we talked this morning, it became quickly apparent that I’m the one with the least electronic knowledge in our Chapter. I’m OK with that status for now but I’m also inspired to learn more about the “nuts and bolts” of the hobby. I feel fortunate to have members who have not only built their radios, but also have a very good working knowledge of antennas and the ability to utilize them in nearly impossible locations. John (W8GDP) and Eric (AC8LJ) are the only members who have the space for “yard art”, as it was called today, and I quickly learned a new terminology for outside antennas. 

On our weekly CW net last night, I was hearing Jeff (K9ESE) at 599 plus 20 from his “half a watt” and using the “copper gutters” of his home for his antenna. He is also very good at using a NVIS antenna in the field. Steve (KC4URI) is also good with this technique from his home in a very steep valley from Mineral Wells.

During our breakfast gathering we talked about the things we've done in the past and the places we've either worked or visited which related to radio. I’m mesmerized to hear conversations about Latin and South America and old DC-3 planes, landing on mostly grass airstrips, to shuttle air conditioning mechanics to repair Ammonia type freezers many years ago. Ice is an invaluable commodity in places like these and without “radio”, getting into and out of these areas would be nearly impossible.

We also talked about “shipboard radio” and how important the invaluable skill of Morse code operators were to the safety of old freighters shuttling coal and bananas on the high seas. I immediately thought of Oleg (UR5FA/ MM) who is the Ukrainian communications officer on a freighter which regularly sails back and forth from there to Venezuela.

The subject of Short Wave Radio Broadcasters also surfaced while we were devouring bacon and eggs. Short Wave Radio was the inspiration for many of us in our current Ham radio hobby but sadly, most of those stations are now gone. 

It was cold this morning with the temperature just above freezing, but I still sense the Chapter will spend some time operating outdoors before the first heavy snowfall. Weather predictions are for temperatures to rise to the low sixties for the next few days.

Should we choose to do so, I’ll let everyone in the NAQCC club know if and where we will be setting up and getting on the air. I feel very good about our Chapter and am looking forward to more bacon, eggs, and radio talk next month.


Monday, November 4, 2013

A Good Start in November

On November the 1st, I drove around 30 miles westward from Charleston to meet Jim (NX8Z) at the “Wave Pool Park” in Hurricane, WV. 

The weather was perfect for our second “West Virginia Chapter” field event. It was a great day to work lots of NAQCC members all over the United States. 

This is an interesting “water park”, and in the summer months, is used by hundreds of people to cool off from the hot sun as they spend a day with their families. The swimming pool produces large “waves” and while laying on a raft or inner tube, makes you feel like you’re in the ocean.

Our event was scheduled to begin at noon.  I arrived early, and was pleasantly surprised to see Jim (NX8Z) “itching to go” with an assortment of radio and computer gear. His Buddipole antenna was in place at the rear of his truck.

I was able to set up near an adjoining picnic shelter but had trouble getting my PAR “end fed” antenna between a pair of properly spaced trees. I found it necessary to place my folding table just outside the “shelter” in the warm sun.

I like this multi-band antenna for the West Virginia Chapter events because it’s cut for 40-20- and 10 meters. Although not optimal for 40 meters, it’s very good on 20 and 10 meters. The antenna was up only about 30 feet.

We had two visitors while at the park. Jim’s friend from church dropped by and was mesmerized by his radio gear. Jim also conversed with a few people who were enjoying the sunny day in the park. His salesmanship of the hobby was excellent. My brother Mark also dropped by and I talked to him about my QRP station and all those “dits and dots” going through the ether. I deliberately tuned to the voice segment of the 10 meter band so he could listen to operators in Italy, Brazil, and England. Before my brother arrived this afternoon, I had worked a CW station in France (F5PHY) on 10 meters. The band was open, and I did it “just because I could” with about 3 watts of power. 

Before the afternoon was over, I worked 17 stations and enjoyed every minute of this event. The NAQCC members I worked were from all parts of the United States and Canada. The farthest North, at 792 miles, was VE3EDX who was running 5 watts QRP. The farthest South, at 563 miles was KK4BOB in Florida, who was running 5 watts QRP, and in the Westward direction I worked W7GB in the state of Washington. Although the initial contact was QRO, I could tell no difference when he dropped to 5 watts!

My thanks go out to Paul (N8XMS) for the late posting of our November event because I inadvertently sent the announcement to the wrong person. Fortunately, he caught my mistake, and sent out an additional club mailing which alerted our 7,000 members to our location and frequencies in Hurricane, WV.

Here’s my logbook:

F5PHY in France-KC4URI- in WV- K1AVE in North Carolina- W4DUK in Bedford, VA- W8ICN in Michigan- KM3D in Pennsylvania- WA2JSG in New Jersey-WA2KSM in New York-W7GB in Washington state-KF5J in Texas-KK4BOB in Florida-VE3EDX in Canada- W2LG in Florida- NZ1D in Florida-W1WYN in Massachusetts-and KB0ETU in Alabama and HC2IMP in Ecuador. 

I deliberately spent most of my time today working NAQCC stations on the 40 and 20 meter bands, according to the announcement in the mass mailing from Paul (N8XMS) but couldn’t help but take a “last parting 10 meter shot” at a station in South America.

I’ve heard few “growlers” over the last 25 years with this distinctive and unusual “chirp”. His signal was almost as if there was no “chirp” at all and mostly just a carrier; it was one of the few I was hearing just before I dropped my antenna. I couldn't resist the temptation to work him before the drive back to Charleston and after a few attempts, I was successful.

I worked all these stations this afternoon with about 3 watts of power. At the end of the day, I had a reserve of 75% in my Sears battery booster, which I use for DC power. It’s a brute for outdoor events and I like the built in charger and the light.

Our West Virginia Chapter continues to grow. I’m getting regular “check-ins” on our 40 meter weekly net on Tuesday nights. I’m still fishing for new members on the Sunday evening 2 meter nets from the Kanawha Amateur Radio Club in the valley. I’m seeing a renewed interest in QRP portable radio every day.

Yes…outdoor QRP operations are a blast!

Happy Trails,

John Smithson NAQCC # 2279