Posts Tagged ‘propagation’

Pacific Northwest DX Convention 2010

This years Pacific Northwest DX Convention was held in Burnaby just outside of Vancouver, presenting a great opportunity to meet new people and hear some great ideas. The agenda was packed with a variety of talks and presentations spread over a weekend at the end of July. I had initially written a really, really long article on the Convention but felt I couldn’t do justice to each and every presentation so I’ve decided to give a brief overview on the presentations that really stood out to me.

Early on the Saturday morning after an interesting insight into the IARU, Karl KL9A, gave us his propagation predictions. I’m an avid reader of Karl’s column in the National Contest Journal (NCJ) and looked forward to his presentation here. Karl’s articles always strike a great balance between knowledgeable and lively writing and his presentation at the convention was no different. So what are those sunspots doing?

Well, they’ve been here long before civilisation and will probably outlast civilisation, there will always be sunspots, just not always in the numbers we would like! Not only is there the regular 11 year Schwabe ‘solar cycle’ but Karl also described the various other cycles of Hale, Gleissberg, Suess and Halstatt, showing solar activity patterns over hundreds and thousands of years.

Pacific Northwest DX Convention 2010 attendees

Pacific Northwest DX Convention 2010 attendees

Predictions put Cycle 24 in the ‘weak’ category with a peak mean daily sunspot count of 90 in 2013. Considering that less than two years ago we regularly had 25 or more sunspotless days in a row, then I am not going to be complaining about a ‘weak’ daily mean of 90 sunspots!

In the afternnoon we had a standout show from Don VE6JY and Mitch VE6OH about Don’s superstation in Alberta. The guys really wowed the crowd with their tales of construction and destruction! With 27 towers on site, VE6JY’s antenna’s are subject to the harsh rigours of  Canadian winters.

What impressed me the most about the VE6JY station were the multitude of monobanders all constructed on site.  Other than the radios themselves everything at the station is either created or recycled from scrap and auctioned items, including their crane. Yes, to make servicing the 4 element 80m monobander that much easier Don purchased a wheeled crane at auction! You can read that great presentation here on his site.

The final presentation that afternoon came from Ward Silver, NØAX. Ward is a writer and regular contributor to QST and NCJ. He is also involved in editing the ARRL Handbook and also wrote the Ham Radio for Dummies book. His informative presentation not only covered issues relating to contesting but also education. In his role as educational writer, Ward was particularly interested in the challenges in writing for hams of varying technical abilities and backgrounds. He also hoped that advances in real time contest scoring would bring a new breed of younger hams to contesting.

Bill N7OU and Bob W7YAQ discuss Tokelau

Bill N7OU and Bob W7YAQ discuss Tokelau

After dinner and a photo tour of ARRL HQ we had the presentation that I had been waiting all day for. Bill N7OU and Bob’s W7YAQ excellent adventure to Samoa and Tokelau. I won’t go into too much detail, as they’ve presented this trip numerous times and it also the subject of a great article in this month’s QST, however this DXpedition featured everything including remote atolls, tsunamis, ever friendly locals, cold beers and of course thousands of QSOs!

As I’ve said before I love the adventure that comes with small DXpeditions. There is a certain gung-ho attitude amongst dxers of this breed because compared to the big multinational dxpeditions these little adventures have less at stake. When things go wrong smaller dxpeditions are more flexible to change as was the case for Bill and Bob when they were stuck in Samoa for a number weeks. Of course smaller dxpeditions can’t get to the real hardcore DX entities, but with the smaller operations, getting to that remote island or atoll is more than half the adventure!

Other highlights from the convention included K7BV Dennis’ 6m adventure to San Andres Island and K9JF Jim’s travelogue about the ever popular Friedrichshafen hamfest in Germany.

As a newcomer to the hobby it was very enjoyable to meet in person all those ops I have worked numerous times in contests in the past year and half. At last I can put some faces and great personalities to those ever familiar callsigns. Conventions like these are a great reminder that the world of amateur radio doesn’t end outside our shack door.

ARRL Field Day 2009

The North Shore Amateur Radio Club (NSARC) this year operated as a 2F emergency operations centre station. Usually the club organises a field event on Cypress Mountain but this year it was felt it would be better to showcase the communications room at the North Shore Emergency Management Office (NSEMO). NSARC maintains a number stations in the room as part of an agreement with the NSEMO, in effect creating our club station.

This years station, VE7NSR comprised of the following:

Icom IC 756 ProIII with a SteppIR 3 element yagi on 20m.
Icom IC 756 ProII with a inverted V dipole on 40m
Icom IC 7000 with an assortment of yagis on 6, 2 and 70cm.

We also operated the IC 7000 as a Get on the Air (GOTA) station with the callsign VE7EMR. This was radio fed into an N4PC loop operating on 80m.

This was my first field day as a licensed operator so I decided to jump straight into the deep end. I had signed myself up for a nice spot at around 9.30pm on the Saturday evening. Little did I know that I would remain the rest of the night, fortunes swaying with the changing band conditions.

I arrived early at 7.30pm hoping to sit around for a while and soak it all in. I hadn’t operated for over two months as work commitments had meant my weekends were tied up. As no other newly minted hams had showed up my first task was to fire up the GOTA station and score a few bonus points. I’m not sure of the exact amount of points but I believe it was standard scoring per QSO and then a bonus for each 20 QSOs. All the stations were using N1MM for logging but as I was switching the callsign to VE7EMR it was easier to paper-log than create a second instance of N1MM.

In about two hours or so with a few breaks I racked up about 25 QSOs on 80m. The band was poor at first, but around 9pm it came alive as more and more regional field day stations were switching over to 80m with the setting sun. I decided to call it quits on the GOTA station once I had filled out a page of a standard RAC logbook. This was my first time operating on 80m.

Switching to the 20m station things were a lot slower than I expected. The number of QSOs dropped considerably after 11pm. I kept plugging away logging a few Hawaiian and Alaskan stations and a few west US coast stations that had slipped under the radar earlier in the day. At about 12.30am I heard a Japanese station call CQ, he had a queue but an orderly one at that. Running 100w in poor conditions I knew I wasn’t going to bust the pileup.

I moved up the band and had a listen around but it seemed the band had gone long with little or no North American activity. At about 1am I decided to come back to the JA station. The queue was still there so I knew I would have to play the waiting game.

I have no problem pounding on the door of a DX station, but I’m more of a sly fox than a big gun. Its all about timing. Every station is going to call when the DX calls ‘QRZ’, there’s no point calling then. Listen to the rhythm of his QSO’s. Maybe the DX has a QSO that goes awry and the natural rhythm of the QSOs is upset, you should be ready to pounce on this ‘dead air’. At about 1am I bagged JE7YSS.

Throughout the event all of our QSOs were logged in N1MM. To highlight the stations contacted and provide a visual representation of the days proceedings club member Luke VA7LWE had designed a piece of software that interacted with the log in N1MM. His program ‘Visual QTH’ will listen for log traffic that N1MM generates over IP. (N1MM will send log contacts over IP to other instances of the software on the same network so as to keep the logs upto date on each station if running multi-multi, this avoids dupes).

Luke’s software extracts information from the log and correlates it with information from the database. Each QSO is presented as a point on a global map and with distances between your QTH and the station contacted calculated. The software also pulls up a QSL card and website of the station contacted (if available) and displays them in a scrollable list. To top it off the software announces each contact in cw and computer generated voice! We had the software running from a laptop projecting onto a large screen in a room adjacent to the radio-room. This allowed visitors to visualise the QSOs as they were being made. Read more about Visual QTH here.

At about 2am I switched over to 40m on the second 756 station. Things were slow here and once the Asian shortwave broadcasters kicked in around 3am the band became unusable except for a little sliver between 7150 and 7200. Having never operated at this time of day before I decided it would be beneficial to stick around and watch how the bands develop if only for educational purposes.

With sunrise calculated for around 4.20am I expected conditions on all bands to change considerably before, during and after this period. I was especially interested to see how 20m would shape at this time in the morning, but it didn’t. I kept monitoring 20m, up and down the band. Nothing. Around 6.30am some Florida stations were weakly heard but far too weak to work. It took another full hour before I could begin making contacts again, working a few in far southern Florida.

Gradually the pace of the QSOs quickened as the band opened up on the South East US. However what surprised me was how long it took for 20m to ‘warm up’. It was a full four hours after sunrise before the band would be what I would call ‘usable’ at about 8am. Granted I have never experienced 20m at this time of day before but it was a bit of a surprise.

With a only hours left in the event and a QSO hungry shift coming on stream in the morning I decided to call it quits and head for my bed. It was a very enjoyable night overall. I really familiarised myself with the ProIII on this event and I’ve found a comfortable operating zone with the controls I need the most, VFO, AF gain, noise reduction, passband tuning and notch. If every radio only had those I’d be happy.