All my 6m contacts since 2003 – all modes. Need to focus on Caribbean next season!
It’s been a while since 48m has been consistently good in the UK. However those days are now back. Here’s how Radio Merlin International was sounding on 6305 kHz this afternoon.
Radio Merlin International 6305 kHz 1600 utc
With current HF conditions being very poor I was looking for something radio-related to give new challenges. A superb article by Tommy Read M1EYP in the August 2015 Practical Wireless on the Summits on the Air (sota) programme really grabbed my attention and excited me. I won’t explain SOTA in detail – look here http://www.summits.org.uk/tiki-index.php?page=SOTA+Chasing+for+Beginners or here http://www.sota.org.uk/AboutSOTA But HF amateur radio, open-air, mountains, pile-ups – what’s there not to like!
I purchased the very capable mobile Yaesu 857 rig, a Tracer Power http://www.tracerpower.com/tracer-lifepo4-battery-packs.html powerpack (which comes with a powerpole connector – very convenient), and some antennas and light-weight antenna supports from www.sotabeams.co.uk . My nearest sota summit is Wendover Woods G/CE-005 in the Chiltern Hills near Tring which is at a massive 267m ASL (lol) – http://www.sotawatch.org/summits.php?summit=G/CE-005
So last Saturday I drove to the woods and parked in a convenient lay-by near the mountain bike centre. It was a beautiful sunny day – lovely to be in the open air playing radio! A short walk to the trig point and I set up the antenna and rig – after some adventures trying to guy the sotapole I eventually just secured it to the trig point with bungee cords.
I started out on 40m with a bandhopper two dipole antenna and conditions were actually very good. I used the sota goat app on my iPhone to spot myself (self-spotting is acceptable and recommended for sota) and the hamlog app on the iPhone to log contacts as I had forgotten a pen or pencil!). I worked stations in England, Wales, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland – see full log below. I then switched to 60m using a half-wave end-fed dipole and had another few contacts. 60m conditions were much noisier and difficult compared to 40m which was quiet with most calling stations being 59+. You need 4 contacts to officially activate a summit.
Here’s the log:
08/08/2015 0929 7.191MHz SSB DL0SY/P
08/08/2015 0939 7.191MHz SSB M3FEH
08/08/2015 0940 7.191MHz SSB G0FEX
08/08/2015 0942 7.191MHz SSB G8MIA
08/08/2015 0942 7.191MHz SSB GW4CQZ
08/08/2015 0943 7.191MHz SSB M0MDA
08/08/2015 0944 7.191MHz SSB DL2EF
08/08/2015 0945 7.191MHz SSB DK7ZH
08/08/2015 0946 7.191MHz SSB DK5WL
08/08/2015 0947 7.191MHz SSB MW0URC
08/08/2015 0948 7.191MHz SSB M0TVU
08/08/2015 0949 7.191MHz SSB ON7DQ
08/08/2015 0950 7.191MHz SSB PC2B
08/08/2015 0951 7.191MHz SSB G4AFI
08/08/2015 0956 7.191MHz SSB GM4COX/P
08/08/2015 0958 7.191MHz SSB PA7ZEE
08/08/2015 0959 7.191MHz SSB PA3CDN
08/08/2015 0959 7.191MHz SSB G0RQL
08/08/2015 1000 7.191MHz SSB M0SGO
08/08/2015 1001 7.191MHz SSB M3ZCB
08/08/2015 1002 7.191MHz SSB M1MAJ
08/08/2015 1047 5.3985MHz SSB GW4BVE
08/08/2015 1055 5.3985MHz SSB G0RQL
08/08/2015 1058 5.3985MHz SSB G8ADD
08/08/2015 1100 5.3985MHz SSB G4WSB
08/08/2015 1101 5.3985MHz SSB M0VCM
08/08/2015 1102 5.3985MHz SSB G0TDM
The scenery around the trig point is very beautiful – here’s a few more pics. Unlike the actual Wendover Woods centre, which was packed to bursting with picnicking families and activities, the trig point field was empty – a solitary walker and two mountain bikers were the only visitors in over two hours.
I recently revamped my Flag antenna which has served me so well for MF dxing in this very suburban London location. It was around 8m by 3m but I made the vertical sections longer and the horizontal section slightly longer as well so it is now 9m x 4m.
The major change was that I constructed a balun. I had been using a balun made for the Flag antenna by eBay seller kafa2500 which was well made, waterproof and reasonably priced – however i thought I would have a go myself. In the end I ended up making two baluns which i’ll describe and show here.
Remember the purpose of the balun is two fold – primarily to transfer the wave energy of the desired signal from the antenna to the feeder cable – RG58 in my case. The second purpose is to prevent common-mode currents flowing along the balun which could cause RF problems in the shack. The latter is not an important consideration for the receive only paradigm. The balun will not help with directivity or nulling. The energy is transferred by the balun using magnetic induction which is a manifestation of the Work form of energy transfer – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_transfer
The first balun was constructed using a pair of largish monocular toroids picked up a the Kempton ham rally, bound together in a box picked up for £1 at the same rally. The windings ratio is 11:3 using 24 swg magnet wire from Maplins. I was intending for 12:3 following advice from N2VV but could not get the 12th turn through! Believe me it’s not critical. The SO239 and phono antenna sockets I had in stock. Here’s a close-up picture of the beast:
and here is how it looks with the box top screwed down- all connections are wrapped with self-amalgamating tape with black electrical tape on top and liberally smeared with vasoline to further combat water ingress, especially the box top screw holes.
For context a picture of the garden showing part of the Flag antenna wires and balun box:
This new Flag antenna works very well with excellent signal/noise characteristics from LF up to 26 Mhz and beyond. It also delivers a decent signal strength hence not necessitating the use of a pre-amp.
I also made a similar balun with an Amidon binocular toroid BN-73-202 kindly sent to me by N2VV. The BN-73-202 is very highly thought of by serious low band dxers. I aimed for the same turn ratio but think I ended up with 10:3 – again it works very well but for the moment I am long-term testing the larger toroid model. Here’s a picture:
I think the reason people complain about low signal strengths from Flags and lack of coverage above 4-6 MHz is purely down to the choice of toroid and the turns ratio used. You can’t just use any old toroid and a random turns ratio – source a proper high quality toroid and use an appropriate turns ratio.
I had a play in last weekend’s major CQ WW CW contest – staying on 10m all the time. Goal was to work as many DXCC and CQ zones as I could. I ended up with 28 zones and 79 DXCC worked. The link below shows the QSOs graphically:
Gear was Icom 756ProII/Cushcraft MA5B mini-beam at 9m and Writelog software for rig control, cw decoding and keying.