Station Work – What are your goals?

Being home in quarantine gives one a lot of time to think about future plans for the station.

My plans are coalescing now around a few key ideas I’d like to get done by October:

  • Get as loud as possible.  More contacts = more fun
    • Improve all band vertical with addition of new radials
    • Bring back 20m Delta Loop
    • Bring back DX-LB Dipole for 160-40
    • Purchase all AL-811 amplifier.  I’ve used these before.  They are cheap enough and reliable enough.
    • Get two permanently mounted RCS-4 boxes in the backyard to allow for expansion to 8 antennas:
      • 43′ All band vertical
      • 66′ 80m vertical
      • Phased 40m verticals  NE/SW
      • DX-LB 160-40m Inverted V at 40′  NE/SW
      • 20m/10m Delta Loop at 40′
      • 80m NVIS end fire wire at 8′
    • This is a setup that historically got it done for me back in 2011.
  • Get as automated as possible
    • IC7300 to become main radio and easily works with computer with just a USB cable


40m Early Net for the Century Club

I worked the 3905 40m Early Net on 7268 tonight.  Conditions were up and down right from the beginning.  I was hearing the NCS KG8WL at 40+ over S9 in the beginning by the 0245 he was down to S3.  I was able to make a few contacts, including KF7HNC (Oregon), WA1LNY (MA), NE0A (MO), W1PEF (NH), KN4EUK (FL), AA0ZP (NE).

To get membership in the club, you need to get 100 points on one band/mode combo. So by my count I got 5 points each for NE0A and AA0ZP.  This brings my total to 15 points.  I think the net is a pretty friendly group of people.  Everyone stays pretty relaxed on the net: exchange single reports, respect everyone then exchange QSLs. It’s a decent way to pass the time

Generally, I felt like I was hearing a lot better than others were hearing me.  Maybe in a week or so, I’ll get an Ameritron AL-811 amp going to get a little more juice.

On Monday, I’m going to be adding some radials to try and eek out a few DBs.  I’ve only got about 5 radials out that I was able to pull from the mud.  I’ve got the DX Engineering radial plate coming on Monday. It should really help me get the 43′ vertical sorted.  Also on Monday,  I’ll be using a new desktop microphone.  The hand mic I’m using is a little flat and unresponsive,  I’m hoping the desktop mic will pack a little more punch.


Flashback to 1997

I wrote this in 1997 for K3WWP’s. CW website.

It’s still active on his website.Hello, my name is Jeffrey Demers, I am 17 years old and an avid Amateur Radio enthusiast. My callsign is N1SNB. I was first licensed in 1994 as a Tech(-). I currently hold a General class license. I operate mainly on HF CW and VHF/UHF. My favorite mode of operation is CW! CW you say??? Yes, CW. I never thought for an instant that when I upgraded I would become interested in CW! CW to me was that useless mode that all the realllllly old-timers used. I thought I would never use it, I was going to be a SSB MAN. At the time I was having all these anti-cw thoughts I didn’t know much about equipment and antennas and didn’t have much money to spend on equipment. I wanted to get on HF, but couldn’t afford to purchase a “real” rig so I ordered an MFJ-9015 QRP CW transceiver with accessories..tuner/key. In all it cost about 220 dollars. When the equipment arrived I set up my station complete with 40 foot longwire hanging out my bedroom window. N1SNB was on the air!

In December 1994, I began studying Morse Code. I studied using code tapes from Radio Shack. Every night for three straight months I would sit down and practice code for thirty minutes at a time, trying to achieve the unattainable 13 wpm level. By February of 1995, I felt that I knew the code well enough to test, so I headed off to the local VE-testing site. On February 5, 1995 at 4:12pm I failed my five wpm examination!

If Steve, N1SG (the VE who gave my cw test) hadn’t encouraged me to stick with Morse Code and pass my test, I probably would have given up and focused on VHF stuff. Steve invited me to his station, showed me his equipment, and helped me study the code. On February 17, just two weeks later, not only did I pass five wpm, I passed the 13 wpm examination!! Below is a list of tips given to me, that were a big help when I was studying the code:
-Use more than one set of code practice tapes if possible, to avoid memorizing the tapes instead of learning them.
-Don’t study for more than thirty minutes at a time: you’re more likely to go downhill than uphill.
-Set a practice schedule and stick with it.

CW is only as hard as you want it be. If the people that cried about learning the code, spent half their crying time studying they probably would be filling up the bands at 40 wpm by now!

My first CW qso was with W9MYZ in Bigfork, MN. I proudly display that QSL card in my shack still. Even though it was the bottom of the sun cycle, and all I had for equipment was a 15m QRP radio, I made the most of it. I didn’t make many contacts, but I kept plugging out those CQ’s trying to fill those first few pages of my logbook. This is how I learned CW, I was forced into CW, SSB wasn’t a temptation. CW is such a powerful mode of operation, it is literally awesome. If you try to apply SSB to the situation described above, it just doesn’t work. Qrp+SSB+15m+ bottom of cycle=no way!!

In June 1995, I graduated to a Yaesu FT-101EE HF SSB/CW 160-10M rig. The local ham I bought it from at an extremely discounted price had “lost” the microphone, so again I was “just” on CW. With this rig new worlds opened up to me on all the new freqs. that my new radio had. It is at this point where one could officially call me an ADDICT. It was the summer, there was no school, I was on that radio probably five hours a day working any and every station I could on CW. CW was the mode for me. It was just so fascinating to be able to talk to other people in code, using such basic equipment and yet have so much fun in the process.

Finally in October, 1995 I mustered up enough dough for a microphone. What a disappointment!!!! Trying to work stations on 20M ssb w/100w and less than awesome antennas was an uninteresting challenge. I knew that on 20M CW there would be half the QRM, and twice as much DX. I also learned that 80M and 160M SSB are less than interesting for those hams that want to just call CQ. CQing on 80M SSB is usually met with anything but positive vibes. Again why bother with SSB and all the garbage that goes on in the SSB subband when I could go to the CW subband where more stations could hear me, and actually wanted to talk to me. My mic got put away except for some contests. I urge all younger hams to give CW a try, it is a great mode. Many people say CW is old-fashioned, and that it should be dropped. Many of these people have never operated CW, never will operate CW, and never wanted to operate CW. It is possible for people my age to enjoy CW. Don’t overlook it as an “old-timers” mode, it isn’t. Get on the CW bands and give it try, I think you’ll like it.

I have met so many fascinating people on CW, and had so many great QSOs it is impossible to say which were the “best” or most memorable. The feeling of great excitement when I broke my first pileup, and worked D68SE on the other side of the world comes to mind. My first QSO with Europe on 80M was with my rain gutter loaded as an antenna. My first QSO with an Asian station. I am glad I became a CW MAN, be cause looking back I wouldn’t have wanted to miss these CW experiences for all the money in the world.

Its now 1997, I still love to operate CW, and do so on an almost daily basis. Since 1995, I have made over 18,000 QSOs. I have the necessary QSLs to receive my WAC, WAS, WPX-1000, US-CA 500 and DXCC. I have WAS on separate 15/20/40/80M CW, I have WAS on 40M QRP CW as well. I have worked 158 countries on CW. CW is a great mode. It is possible to accomplish so much with a simple and inexpensive setup, using CW. During the week I am usually on 7030 kHz around 2100z daily, if you hear me, give me a call!

73! From New Hampshire
Jeff Demers

Report written in 1997 when Jeff was 17.

A Tune Around – the 3905 Century Club

Tonight I took my own Coronavirus Quarantine advice and participated in the the 3905 Century Club net on 7268.  It took me a few minutes to find the net at the appointed 8pm hour as it had moved down to 7258, but I emailed club VP Bob, KN4EUK and he set me straight as to the where and when.

This was my first net in 20+ years.  As a teenager, I participated in a traffic net (and was even occasionally a net control), the Granite State FM Net.  It was nightly on the W1ALE repeater in Concord NH (146.94?).  I’m talking like 1994 here.

A year or two later,  I regularly participated in the 14.247 DX Net on 20m SSB.  It was raucous affair in the mid 90s.  I remember working some great DX on the net like Mayotte and some missionaries in the Cameroon on the net.  As a teenage ham, this was BIG DX.   Sadly, I haven’t kept any of my log books or QSL cards – so these contacts are floating at the edge of my memory….

Why do I mention this?  Well, I think it means that I am ok with award and DX nets and I submit my history as evidence along with the following facts:

  1. I am a terrible rag chewer. I get bored with the pro-forma exchanges while also recognizing I don’t like talking to people I don’t know (a bad combo) – but I’m from New England what do you expect?  We’re not social.
  2. I like to make a lot of contacts.  I enjoy contesting.  I like using the radio

So what is the 3905 Century Club?  Well, apparently it’s a big deal.  Ham radio is endlessly interesting because their are some many sub-communities doing their own thing.  This is one such community.  These guys and gals chase paper (QSL cards) trying to get all sorts of different awards they list on their website, like Worked All States

I checked in.  Gary, K9GWS was net control.  He was assisted by Ralph, KG8WL.  They took checkins by call area.  There were about 75 in total.  At check-in, everyone is assigned a sequential number (1-75). When your number gets called by net control a bit of a game ensues and you signal your intention to net control to make one of these choices:  You can call any station, let those that want to call you make a try at it (“up for grabs”), or pass.  Basically, you’re just completing a basic QSO exchanging signal reports and net control verifies the contact.

As a net rookie, I was flattered to get many calls in the first pass through.  It was a pretty chill environment and even though I didn’t quite know every element of protocol, everyone was polite and welcoming.   I made about 9 contacts in total.  When my turn came up, I opted to call the loudest station I could hear,  Donnie, KG4ZOD in North Carolina.  I didn’t want to blow it and call someone that couldn’t hear me.

On their website, they list other nets on 75m SSB and some nets on other bands and even stuff on RTTY, PSK31 and CW.  I’ll have to check it out.


CQ WPX SSB Part 1 – Day 1, March 28, 2020

I’m in the midst of my Coronavirus ham radio lockdown challenge  So when the WPX contest started last night I figured I’d get on.  My brand new (and very modest) station was ready for the action.


I found my way back on line because I can’t stand being on a screen 24×7 for work, for entertainment, for talking to my friends.  Ham radio was another dimension and occassionally bland ham radio talk was better than a) political talk and b) virus talk.

Anyway back to WPX.   Conditions were rough for the tiny station but I was able to make some contacts.  One station I worked was Ric, WO4O, an old favorite of mine.  I don’t still have the logbook but Ric is from my ham golden time when I was new on HF.  During this period, I remember several of the first stations I worked (WO4O, W9MYZ, KA4RRU)

I managed about 80 contacts in the first day in a few hours of operating with the majority on 20m (41).  Add in 29 more on 80m and the balance on 40m.   It was a good reminder of how brutal a SSB contest is with 100w and really limited antennas.  But I was still entertained and pleased my signal made it to Belarus for EW6W.

While I was tuning around listening for the contest I caught a part of a conversation this afternoon on the local 146.625 repeater.  Joe, N1DQF was talking about how their had been a larger than normal group on 160m. It supported what I was feeling:  there could be a ham radio boom from the lockdown.


First QSOs in the Coronavirus Ham Challenge

After getting a very simple ham station built, I was back on the air to spend sometime on the radio during the Coronavirus life shutdown.  I mentioned in my previous post that I’d been active on the radio for years, so far I’d always come back but this had been my longest absence.  I am not sure if this new rapprochement with the hobby that I once loved would be a period of rebirth of my interest or just a farewell tour.

Previously, I looked back at all that time I spent on the radio as wasted time. But I’m not sure that was totally true.  On one hand, I hadn’t made any lifelong relationships that stood the test of time.  That was on me, I had come close but didn’t put the effort in and/or ruined them. But I had still met a lot of interesting and did some things that were quite interesting (one lasting memory is of running pile-ups as N1SNB/CYO and watching the travesty of the Tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011).

But back to today – –

I used the Reverse Beacon Network to confirm that my signal was getting out there.  I got spotted on 40m in Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, Austria and Germany.  Good sign – even though the signals were weak I was happy to see some distance with such an inferior antenna (63′ Long Wire at an average height of about 15’0.  On 30m, I showed up in Uruguay and in Germany.  On 20m, I was making it all the way across the pond.  Only a skimmer in Iceland was hearing me.

I made a few quick contacts.  OM8CW was very loud 40m CW and we connected at 2230.  I had a nice, but brief, QSO with Ayman, N9SES on 30m CW. Not long after, I connected with LZ5DB on 40m SSB.  Transatlantic contacts on 40m SSB always give me a sense of accomplishment.

It was a good start.  I was going to back on the air around 0000z for the WPX SSB contest.  SSB contests in a no sunspot situation with just 100w and a weak wire antenna are not fun.  As a small station, you’re really just making it more fun for other people.  But, who knows, maybe I’d have some fun too.

Ham Radio during Coronavirus – Day 1

Yesterday, I learned that my kids are out of school until May 7th and possibly all the way thru to the fall.  I’ve been working from home vs spending hours of my life commuting to Boston.  In short, I’ve got a lot of time on hands that if I don’t fill, I might just go crazy.

Throughout my life, I go through periods of time when I am hyper active in ham radio.  It happened back from 1994-1998 then again from 2003-2005 (in 1994 I got my technician ticket).  Then I was back on for a stint from 2009-2014.  It was during this last period I experienced the equivalent of the radio good life operating from exotic locations around the world.  By my best guess, I made more than 400,000 contacts in four years (I think it’s a big deal – permit me to brag?)

In 2014, I got into the ham business selling radio cables and equipment on several websites, including one, Amateur Radio Supplies, that is still around and has never changed much.  When I went into the business, I got out of the hobby. I sold all my gear and stopped going to club meetings. I burned a lot of friendships, a lot of business deals went south as mixing a hobby with a business was, well, a really bad idea.

Anyway, yesterday – March 26 – I decided to get back into ham radio during this coronavirus lockdown.  I got myself an Alinco HF Transceiver, and a MFJ tuner.  For VHF/UHF, I got a Baofeng UV-5R left over from my operating days.  I was $800 deep.

I still had an old Samlex power supply and Bencher paddles.  My antenna farm, however, was totally trashed.  I had an 80-10m vertical with a 4-1 balun out in the woods.  And a G5RV hanging from the trees.  Both hadn’t been used in nearly 7 years.

Today was a set-up today.  I couldn’t get either antenna to work.  For a minute the old vertical was worked and then something happened – I think I blew the balun or something.  I double checked the coax.  Everything looked fine,  not wanting to go into the muddy woods to inspect the balun, I needed to look elsewhere.

The G5RV looked more promising.  I took it down (it was hanging limply in the branches) and had a look-see.  I first put this antenna up 12 years ago.  The wire and ladder line were ok, but the connections between the two had rusted away.  Having taken it down, I quickly realized I could never get it back up as the branches had substantially grown since I first put it up.

Uggh.  I needed to improvise again.  In my earlier sojourn in the woods, I came across an old mast of light weight fiberglass it looked to be about 25ft.  I’d use that to build an end fed 63 ft long wire for use from the old G5RV components. I’d feed it with coax and use the old ladder line as counterpoise.  It took about 45 minutes to right it all up.  But when I was done, I had my first quarantine antenna system, an end fed 63 ft long wire ranging from about 25′ high to about 12′.  Not ideal, but a start.