Lessons from WAE

I’ve been working steadily to get the equipment and antenna needed for a busy fall contest season.  This weekend I participated in the WAE contest.  I made some observations that I think will help future efforts

  • I like the stacked monitors, one atop each other versus monitors side by side
  • Always have extra amplifier fuses and backup tubes
  • Use the N1MM available mults and Qs window.  I like it much, much better than using just the bandmap
  • Do more on 80m and 15m.  I have easy, in-expensive solutions for 15m – but for 80m?  My plan is an inverted-L –  we’ll see.

 

 

Planning for the Fall Contest Season

The longer COVID has gone on, the only thing that has become clearer is that there is no clear end game in sight. I fully expect to be in some lockdown this winter, coupled with no travel (personal or professional), that leaves a lot of time for radio.

As such my own ham plans have continued to evolve.

I’ve begun working on the set-up in earnest.  The hardware will be two IC-7300 radios running N1MM.   It’s going to take two months to get everything in place and get the gear here.

Below, you can see the beginning.  I’ve got a 36″ x 80″  table with a 12″ riser measuring 20″ x 48″.    On the back of the table,  I have copper pipe serving as a bus bar.  The power supplies are going to move off the main table to a small table just off to the left of the main table.  I’ve pulled the table out from against the wall by 18″ giving me just enough room to squeeze back there.

On the antenna side,  my plan is pretty straightforward.

Radio A (left) will be a multiplier radio, fully automated with N1MM:
AL-811 Amplifier
43′ Vertical with MFJ-998RT Remore Tuner

Radio B (right) will be the run radio, fully automated with N1MM
Expert1.3K-FA Amplifier
160m:  Inverted Vee
80m:  Inverted Vee (or maybe Inverted L)
40m:  Delta Loop
EU:  20m, 3 ELE Beam
EU:  15m, 3 ELE Beam
EU:  10m, 3 ELE Beam

 

IMG_2927

One of the pleasures of FT8

One thing that I’ve really enjoyed about FT8 is the ability to work smaller stations around the world.  In contesting parlance, these are second tier stations – stations that aren’t necessarily running big power and big antennas.

It’s been a lot of fun on FT8 to work, for example,  more SVs and TAs than ever before.  Guys running 100w with a balcony or rooftop antenna in Athens or Istanbul are workable.

Last night on 30m, I had a great “deep Russia” run on 30m.  Check it out:

2020-05-01,01:43:30,2020-05-01,01:44:45,UA9JLL,MP23,10.137300,FT8,-08,-14,,,
2020-05-01,01:49:30,2020-05-01,01:50:45,UA9LL,MO27,10.137300,FT8,-08,-17,,,
2020-05-01,01:52:00,2020-05-01,01:53:15,RA4LY,LO44,10.137300,FT8,-12,-06,,,
2020-05-01,01:53:45,2020-05-01,01:55:15,R1QA,KO99,10.137300,FT8,-10,-12,,,
2020-05-01,01:56:15,2020-05-01,01:57:15,UA4HJ,LO43,10.137300,FT8,-11,-10,,,
2020-05-01,01:59:00,2020-05-01,02:00:15,KE6PLA,DM04,10.137300,FT8,-08,-11,,,
2020-05-01,02:01:15,2020-05-01,02:02:15,RA9WAN,,10.137300,FT8,-09,-17,,,
2020-05-01,02:02:45,2020-05-01,02:05:15,KD4IE,EL98,10.137300,FT8,-08,-19,,,
2020-05-01,02:07:30,2020-05-01,02:10:15,W6JCH,DM13,10.137300,FT8,-07,-09,,,
2020-05-01,02:15:45,2020-05-01,02:17:15,VE7UM,CN89,10.137300,FT8,-17,-16,,,
2020-05-01,02:19:45,2020-05-01,02:20:45,UA4CCH,LO21,10.137300,FT8,-07,-20,,,
2020-05-01,02:27:15,2020-05-01,02:30:14,RW0AR,NO66,10.137300,FT8,-23,-20,,,
2020-05-01,02:30:45,2020-05-01,02:31:45,AD0WX,EM48,10.137300,FT8,-02,-03,,,
2020-05-01,02:32:30,2020-05-01,02:33:45,UA6HJT,LN14,10.137300,FT8,-16,-18,,,
2020-05-01,02:37:45,2020-05-01,02:38:45,RK4R,,10.137300,FT8,-06,-15,,,
2020-05-01,02:39:45,2020-05-01,02:40:45,R4IK,,10.137300,FT8,-06,-13,,,
2020-05-01,02:42:00,2020-05-01,02:42:45,R2DRE,,10.137300,FT8,-05,-17,,,
2020-05-01,02:43:30,2020-05-01,02:44:45,RK7C,LN05,10.137300,FT8,+00,-14,,,
2020-05-01,02:51:30,2020-05-01,03:58:01,RK4PH,LO45,10.137300,FT8,-13,-14,,,

I think this is what makes FT8 great.  It’s opened up a pretty great world for small stations.  I run simple antennas and low power but I know my signal predictability can reach most corners of the world at certain times on certain frequencies that I could not get too on SSB or CW.

FT8 with an Amplifier?

I’ve really been enjoying FT8 over the last month.  I’ve made a ton of QSOs.  Very fun.

I’ve been running about 5w from an Alinco DX-S8RT into a 43′ Vertical.  The Alinco doesn’t have easily adjusted power out – so it’s either 1w, 5w or about 80w (advertised as 100w).  I recently added a RM Italy HLA-305V amplifier into the mix.  My 5w on 40m is now about 190w. The results have been astounding.  My average CQ response rate on 40m (sample sizes of 500 QSOs in 0000-0400z hours) of stations calling me went from an average of 5 QSOs per hour with 5w to 13 per hour with 190w.

I’m tremendously happy with this station improvement.

Good Ground Systems are Expensive

This article does not constitute advice. Please consult an engineer or professional if you need help.  I read the excellent ARRL book Grounding and Bonding for the Radio Amateur to get my inspiration for the ground system I am going to describe.

I’m using the word ground system for a reason.  I’m trying to accomplish multiple things by improving my station ground system:

  • AC Safety
  • Lightning Protection
  • RF Management

I want to show one diagram from W8JI’s website below.  It’s important because it is a reasonable proxy for what I’m trying to do.  See below.

Background:

  • There is no economical way for my feedlines to come in to the house next to the utility entrance, so my feedline entrance is separate than my utility entrance (where my power comes in).
  • My house’s AC service ground rod is in my basement.

What I decided to do:

  • Currently, I have one master feedline that goes out from my basement shack to a 4 position switch.  Just before the run hits the switch, I pass the run through a UHF-UHF bulkhead box that has a 5′ ground rod beneath it.  The attachment is done with #6 AWG wire.  My 43′ vertical also has 2 x 5′ ground rods beneath it bonded to the radial field of the antenna.  The goal of these ground rods is to keep as much energy away from my house, in the event of lightning hitting an antenna or nearby area.
  • I have three Alpha-Delta lightning Transi-Traps on the feedlines (one spare, one for HF described above, and one for VHF antennas).  The Transi Traps are rated at 2KW and are able to pass DC as I use DC for antenna switching.  These are located at my basement feed-line entrance. Each one has its’ own 5′ foot ground rod.  All the rods are bonded together.  The goal of these is to shunt off transient energy before it gets to the radios.
  • The Transi-Traps entrance point is bonded to the Utility AC service ground rod that is some 40ft away in the basement via #6 AWG wire (even if I brought the feedlines into the utility entrance. The Utility AC service basement ground rod is in a remarkably inconvenient location from both the service entrance and the feedline entrance (and about 50′ further from the antennas than the feedline entrance).
  • I also employ a perimeter ground loop.  The loop is 175′ of #4 AWG Copper wire. It is bonded to both the feedline entrance point and the AC service entrance.  The depth is about 12″. At the AC service entrance, I am using the same path to ground that the phone & internet companies are using to get to the AC service ground rod in the basement, via a small bus bar outside of the house with small gauge wire. The idea here is that based on a lightning strike to the antennas or the power lines without a perimeter ground, I may just be partially diverting the energy.  It’s my Alamo.  I’ve got more to do to beef this up – getting a professional to add heavy gauge access to the AC service ground rod (I have yet to price this out).  Another improvement will be to add more ground rods to the perimeter ground.
  • Each piece of equipment I have with a ground connection is attached to the system (Transceiver,  Power Supply, Antenna Tuner) via a short run of copper braid.  They all run to one point on a 2′ stand-alone copper pipe bus bar where they are firmly secured with hose clamps.  This bus bar is bonded to the run that goes between feedline entry ground and AC service ground.

Materials totaling $517:

  • Transi-Traps.  $55.00 x 3   =  $165.00
  • Ground Rods.  $12.00 x 6 =  $72.00
  • Ground Rod Clamps  $5.00 x 8  = $30.00
  • 100′ of #6 AWG  $75.00
  • 175′ of #4 AWG  $125.00
  • 2′ Copper Pipe Bus Bar  $20.00
  • 30′ of 1/2 inch copper braid  $30.00

 

Houseground-best

Featured

About this site

Hello!

Welcome to my website about my ham radio activities.  I’ve put this website together to help me keep a record of my own ham radio projects and activities.  I’m happy your here, but I’ve primarily written this website for myself.

But I think you could find some of the interesting information. It’s a living, breathing work in progress.

73, Jeff N1SNB

n1snb

Upcoming Contests & Station Work

I’ve been getting the station in gear for a serious effort (by my standards and for my equipment limitations) for the WPX contest.   Reviewing the rules, the focus is pretty simple.  Work anybody, anywhere but there are some special caveats that apply to my situation vis-a-vis making a high score.

  • Focus on Europe on 40m.  I’m the loudest here on this band and can reliably EU and hold a frequency (in any contest except CQ WW DX CW).  These QSOs are worth 6 points.(on 20m they are worth 3).
  • Canadians on 40m/80m/160m. There are lots of easy to work, strong Canadians east of Ontario.  They are worth 4 points.
  • Maximize operating time on 40m for EU (my sunset and their sunrise).  Numerous years of operating have taught me that the final 3 hours of the contest are very important for me on 40m.  The herd has thinned and if conditions are OK, I can put together a good run
  • Maximize operating time on 20m in the late mornings, early afternoons  – I’m at my worst when 20m just opens up.  I don’t have the low angle, high power combination to make this productive.
  • Don’t DX or even chase mults.  I can waste a lot of time in hopeless pileups.  For me, these are pileups on a North-South general path – where my local topography and low power are a losing combination.
  • Related to above,  I saw an idea from a K5ZD Contest University presentation to use VFO/memories of the radio to store stations to revisit while in S & P mode.  See the presentation.

CQ MM DX Contest

CQMM DX Contest – 2020

Call: N1SNB
Operator(s): N1SNB
Station: N1SNB

Class: SOAB LP
QTH:
Operating Time (hrs):

Summary:
Band  QSOs  Prefixes
———————-
80:    9      0
40:  163      3
20:  153      3
15:
10:
———————-
Total:  325      6  Countries = 51  Total Score = 64,809

Club: Yankee Clipper Contest Club

Comments:

Great contest and it was fun to hear what sure seemed like a decent amount of
activity. Had a hard time going south on 20m, I used to have tribander fixed
south at 30′ but it was wrecked long ago.  Spent Saturday pulling the pieces out
of a swamp, including a metal detector score on the gamma match.

I’ve got a lot of work planned during quarantine time to get louder quickly in
time for WPX.

Was extra weird weekend I thought with Holy Land, Samovar,  Michigan QP, Ontario
QP, YU DX, World Amateur Day Special Event stations and the COVID-19
“stayhome” stations all happening.  The Michigan folks lost me quick
when I realized they wanted a serial number (unlike Ontario).  I drew the line
at switching between 4 different versions of N1MM!

Happy Memories from Long Ago

Have you taken a stroll down eQSL’s memory lane?  I just did as I have some historic logs and QSLs on eQSL from as early as 1994.  What struck me was that I kept operating right through college.  My senior year (2002), I had a pretty non-covert serious station in my dorm with antennas in the woods. That’s a story for another time.

My first few years in college my QSO counts dropped but they are still there.  And each year at Christmas time, there is large spike in QSOs when I was home from break.

I’m not sure if this similar for other hams, but I rarely can remember any individual DX or contest QSO. There are so many of them and often times, the best ones are anti-climatic. I don’t chase awards or QSLs – so I think DXing is more an instant gratification thing for me. I either make the contact or I don’t and I can say conclusively that I would guess 99.99% of the time I thought I’d make the contact.

But I look back at that time at home, at those logs and think what a blissful time it all was.  The contacts would start around December 15 and would end around January 10.  There are contest logs from the Radio Amateurs’ of Canada (RAC) Winter Contest, the ARRL 10 Meter Contest and the NAQP.  Beyond radio, I was home and carefree to spend my time as I wished.  Little did I know, my mother – Roberta, would pass just a few years later.

Both of my parents supported my radio hobby tremendously.  As a teenager she drove me to club meetings, she left me do contest operations from other ham’s houses, and helped fund my very modest station.  But ham radio could drive her nuts too, my operations interfered with the telephone – and when the phone range (pre-cellphone years), I knew to cease operations.  I could hear her voice upstairs right above me and the minute she hung up, I was back in business.

It’s impossible to look back at those winter QSOs and not think of my mother, and the glow of those Yaesu FT-101ee tubes in my basement.  I’d give anything to talk to that N1SNB or watch him or to know what I know now.

I think we all know that time flies by.  But did you know creating new memories (and exploring old ones) can help slow things now just a little bit?

Thank you for indulging me.  73!

 

 

1996 – A CW Flashback

Rewind back.  The year is 1996.  I was a sophmore in high school.  The radio was a Yaesu FT-101ee.  It put out a 100w and in retrospect I really loved the radio.  My mother had given me $200 the year before to be able to purchase it  (although in a kick myself moment, I threw it in a dorm room dumpster after my senior year in college after buying a Yaesu FT1000).

My antenna was a homemade vertical that worked on 3 bands (40-20-15).  I’ll need to look it up again someday in the ARRL handbook,  it was base fed with 75 ohm cable that I had bought at Radio Shack (it was all I could afford) with a modest radial network underneath it. Picture a backyard about 30 feet wide and 60 feet long with one tree.

Anyways,  I’d come home from school and fire up the FT-101ee.  I only had a general license then so I lurked around 7025-7035.  I can now admit I would chase DX below 7025 but never CQ there.

I’d start CQing.  And usually right away, I’d get callers and many were in Eastern Europe.  My favorites were the OKs, YOs, LZ, that wild signals chirping, sparking and drifting their way out of the Eastern Bloc.

I miss those home-brew signals now, I rarely hear them now.