Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Still catching up on the weekend....

Sunday was my birthday, 43 years old, that means I must be getting close qualifying for membership of the QCWA (Quarter Century Wireless Association)! So, instead of another day operating in the WPX contest, we had a family outing to the hills and forests north west of Valencia. Although this was a family outing, I was able to persuade my wife to see if we could find the way to the top of the "Garbí". We did, and wow! not surprised its chosen to house all of this artillery:

This is the highest point on the first line of hills behind Valencia and has a 360º view for miles around. Well, I imagine it does anyway, it was pretty hazy on Sunday:

Nice site for radio, its on my list of places to come back to. I had my 2m handheld with me, could access a fair number of repeaters but there was nobody around.

After lunch, we strolled along the road a bit to the cliffs, a couple of miles away. I've been to this place before, and every time I go, keep thinking the same: I have to come back here with the portable HF gear. This place must be amazing! The dropoff depends on where you are, but certainly from around 45º to 150º, there is a loooooong sheer drop.

And a bit suprising for me, although here is lower than the top of the hill, I was able to get into more repeaters from here. Here's me trying not to fall over, 2m handheld on hip:

Thanks to my girls for a great day out!

Monday, May 28, 2012


My first time in this contest. For many years I have always been away for this weekend. It's memorial day weekend in the USA, and for a long time was the weekend chosen by the company I work for to hold its annual USA sales meeting. This is usually held in a sunny place, some kind of resort in order to make things a bit nicer if possible. At least twice, I was operating from the Bahamas as GM7CXM/C6A while the contest was on, but alas, that was in the days where my CW ability was even less than it is today. The last weekend in May often coincides with my birthday, too!

For the last few years, I've been here, but always doing other things. This year was no exception, sunday was my birthday and saturday we had guests at our villa. But, there were a couple of stations I really wanted to work!

One of them was Dave, AE5XQ. Dave is a friend of mine from the contest club at Torrent, and currently lives and studies in Dallas, TX. He had the opportunity this weekend to operate with his own call from the NR5M station. This is a huge station and I guess a dream for most of us mortals to be able to work from there. I managed to get a QSO with Dave on saturday morning. Here's a photo he sent me of the SO2R many rotator controllers can you count here?!?!?

Next stop was to try and work my friends at the Arizona Outlaws station of K8IA/N7RQ, using the callsign of Mike, KC7V. I was lucky enough to visit a group of the outlaws in a trip to Phoenix some 4 years ago and was wonderfully hosted by Bob K8IA and a great group of contesters from the area. Bob and Sandy run a compact single tower station which does extremely well and at 1902 on saturday, got them in the log too. Here's what the antenna system looks like there:

My morse is pretty terrible, but I did also manage to get contacts from Cuba, England, Italy, Kazakhstan, Jersey, Belgium, New Zealand, Brasil and Hawaii. A laughable effort for a seasoned op, but a good result for me! Thanks to all of those folks who slowed right down to meet my speed, it really is appreciated.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


As part of the ongoing expansion of the port of Valencia, one of the biggest in the Mediterranean, a new plan was approved several years ago to make a major new expansion to the north. During last year, the basic work to make the new harbour walls was finished, and the aerial view of the port now looks like this:

The snaking L to the top right of the photo, plus the smaller wall that sticks into the middle of it, are the main parts of the extension.

I went to visit last summer, with the hope of being able to drive along the new north wall and try out this almost unique salt water location with my mobile. My current location, in the Marina Juan Carlos 1, is good, but a bit close to the coast for anything west. This is especially true for the low bands, where the "far field" needed to obtain a low pseudo-brewster angle should be ideally 100 wavelengths. At the marina, I only get close to this on 10 metres.

However, it wasn't to be. The area was still under construction and under no circumstance would they let me in. It's understandable, although I was a bit disappointed.

Fast forward 9 months to today, when I decided to go and have a look and see how things were progressing.

It was obvious, driving along past the TCV container terminal, that I was still not going to be able to go along the north part. It seems that somehow, and in spite of the economic gloom, there is money to build the new cruise terminal, a rapidly booming business here. Lots of heavy works machinery and lots of security in what is already a restricted area. So I headed along to the south part to see what was what. And lo and behold the gate was open! I drove in up to the end where a workman was getting ready for lunch. I parked up and stuck the antenna on:

This is looking over to the north wall. Conditions weren't great, but I managed to rustle up a few europeans and a stateside station on 15. And after chatting to a local, got a call right back from a JA0 near Tokyo, giving me a 59 signal report.

Here you can see the earthworks in the cruise terminal, and the city and mountains in the background:

Unfortunately I didn't have much time but before leaving, I took this shot which shows the narrow strip that basically means the car was in the middle of the sea!:

Maybe time to petition the Port Authority for a key to the gate? Watch this space!

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Finally the moon and stars were aligned and this morning we were able to put the Optibeam back up on the tower.

After hauling all the ropes, toolkit, harness, and accessories up to the roof, we positioned the antenna on one of the guys:

Vic then headed up the tower with the other end of the rope (the one you can see hanging from the centre)

The rope was threaded through the rotator cage and back down to where I was. This was used to form a V, together with the guy wire, and between the two of us we pulled it up while resting on the V. No photos of this, we needed all our hands for doing the job!

Once up, and after a false try because the mast wasn't pulled out high enough for both U bolts to fit over, the antenna slotted into place:

This is the dangerous part of the operation, the antenna is completely free and any shift in balance or a strong gust of wind can make the whole thing come down to earth. Luckily it all went without any problem.

Once tightened onto the mast, the mast has to be lifted up high enough to allow the rotator to be mounted (if you check the above photo, you can see the mast goes down through the centre of the rotator cage and down into the inside of the tower). This is a tricky job for one person, to lift the weight of the antenna and mast and have a free hand to tighten the side bolt which holds the mast in place. To do this, we fitted a climbing grip on the end of a rope and fastened it inside the bottom of the mast. The rope then went up to the top of the cage and then back down to where I was. I pulled on the rope to raise the antenna/mast, with Vics help, and then held it fast while he tightened the lateral bolt to stop it slipping back down. Once done, we hoisted the rotator (a Yaesu G-650C) and fitted it:

Once fitted, it was a case of easing the mast down into the rotator and tightening everything up:

And with that, the fitting was done!

A thousand thanks to Vic EA5KV without whose help this would have been a whole lot more difficult.

And now, time for DX, 10m is wide open!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Yesterday evening I was back up at the club. We have a couple of pending problems there, which need sorting before much more time elapses.

One of them is our internet connection. The club does not have a telephone line and in spite of being right under a cellphone repeater, 3G and even GPRS mobile internet is intermittent at best. When contesting, we hang a USB internet connection out of the window and that's usually OK for cluster connection, but there are times when we would like or need a faster and more reliable connection.

Our techie team has decided that, in collaboration with club president Angel (EA5CVS) we should try and make a point to point wifi link from Angel's house to the club. Whilst the distance is not too great (around 1/2 km) there is a pine forest between the two points which makes things a bit trickier. Last friday we did the first tests and this friday we continued.

While Vic (EA5KV) and Elias (EB5KT) were at Angel's, this is what we were using at the club end:

Yes, that IS a router strung up on a rope halfway up a tower.....!

Once we got the other end working and "seeing" the router, we tried to use our secret weapon, the Bazooka:

Actually, its a long 5 GHz yagi inside a tube, homebrewed by Elias.

We set it up and ground level:

From L to R, Belar (EA5YI) Elías (EB5KT) and José (EA5GS)

No joy.

Since we couldn't climb the tower, and while we were trying to tackle the other problem, the boys went a-hunting for other wifi links in the area with an old Bi Quad we made for another experiment. Here's Belar on the roof of our club building:

No joy there either.

And in the meantime, the rest of us were searching for something that is making white noise in the ham shack and giving us S7 on 15m. After lots of RF sniffing, we are 99% sure its coming from the traffic camera TV repeater we have as a "guest" on our tower. Time to call the council......

It wasn't all lost time though, here's José giving WinTest the once over after installing it on one of the PCs:

Will we ever manage to get rid of the noise? Will we ever manage to get a proper wifi link? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

6 metres is open! Thanks to Fredy EA5YJ for the alert through his facebook-connected "twit" which I read on my blackberry. Ahhh, technology! I worked a string of central european stations, my first contacts on 6 this year and maybe even in a couple of years. Which would explain why, when I made the first contact with an austrian station, I drew a blank when he asked me for my grid square. Oops. I did then remember, at that location I'm right on the line between IM99UL and IM99UK. I gave the second, but I think all those grid hunters are just interested in the first 4, so, who cares. Anyway, nice to be back on 6, even if it is only sporadic-E. I still haven't made a single real DX contact on the magic band. Will cycle 24 ever wake up enough to let us have a crack at it?? Watch this space.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


After a few years on my tower, the spacer insulators which keep the tips of the 20 metre Moxon elements at the correct distance, started to fail. Finally one of them broke and in January, Vic (EA5KV) came round and took the antenna down for me. One of the insulators had snapped completely and the other one was not far off going the same way. Here's what it looked like:

You can see in the foreground the broken insulator. Apart from changing the antenna characteristics, it also in the long run would have let to more 20m element failure.

Here's a close up of the insulator after being removed:

The UV had done a lot of damage. Apart from having become brittle and snapped, it also left a gooey mess on one of the ends which had to be cleaned up.

Tom (DF2BO), the owner of Optibeam, is aware of this and the new version of this antenna comes with beefed up spacers. For a token price, he popped a couple of these in the post to me. In this photo, you can see the two new ones on the left, compared with the old one on the right:

Let's hope these ones, apart from having superior mechanical strength, also do a bit better against the sunlight!

Here's one of the new ones installed:

In the end we didn't manage to get it back up on the tower today, let's hope we manage to find time before it gets too hot out to do antenna work.....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The business of forecasting is a tricky one. Take weather forecasting for example. As we know, in spite of all the modern day technology available to meteorologists, there are still times when they manage to make mistakes. It’s happened to all of us at some stage, leaving the house without an umbrella because the forecast said it was going to be sunny, and getting soaked in a rain shower.

It seems like radio propagation forecasting is similar. For many years, propagation scientists have used data such as sunspot numbers, the 10.7cm solar flux data, and x-ray info, to predict how good or bad radio propagation will be on different frequencies, at different times, and to different areas of the world. Nowadays, with the advent of things like SoHo (Solar and Heliospheric observatory, run by NASA), things should be even easier. Today, I checked out the solar conditions on and saw a solar flux of 128, which should give reasonable conditions on the HF bands, but, a high A index of 24, and an X-ray count of B6.6, indicating high absorption in the D layer of the earth’s ionosphere. This absorption prevents signals reaching the higher E and F layers where they would normally rebound back down to earth.

Yesterday, with the A index around 10, conditions were already starting to decline a bit, and it would have seemed normal that today, there would be a “best band” somewhere between 17 and 10 meters, just below the MUF (maximum useable frequency). The rig was left on 20m from yesterday, so I put the 20m antenna on without much hope of anything. It was on 14180 so I tuned up the band, past 195 so as not to upset any possible DXpeditions, and parked on 14205. I heard just one lone Italian station, on a segment which is normally chock a block with stations. I called, without much hope of getting an answer, and when I unkeyed the mike, was surprised to hear a small pileup of strong stations. VK5LB, on his farm near Adelaide, Australia, was first in the log, putting out an impressive signal with his homemade rig and amplifier into a small wire antenna. He was followed by a steady stream of stations from Australia, New Zealand, USA, and the odd European, all with strong signals, until it was time to pull the plug.

So it just goes to show. Although the forecast nowadays is usually right, it’s a good idea to have an umbrella in the car just in case….or, to try a band that shouldn’t in theory be open!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Us radio hams get around a bit. Today I was calling on 17m and heard the unmistakable tones of my friend Eric, EA5GWG, from La Cañada, about 20km from where I was. He came back to me to correct the call. Yes, it was him all right, my ears hadn't deceived me, but the call was ES0GWG, in Estonia.

The funny thing was, apart from the fact that he was about 2000km away instead of 20, was that the last time I saw Eric, I was parked almost in exactly in the same spot as today, and he turned up on his bike. It was a kind of deja-vu with a difference!

Eric has family in Estonia, on the island of Saaremaa, and he is there until the autumn for family reasons, so I hope we can get him back in the log again over the summer until he starts again with the usual EA5GWG entries.

Thanks Eric for the nice surprise!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

One of the reasons I got my Icom 7000 about 4 years ago was because I was looking for a radio with better IMD performance than the IC706IIG it replaced. Under normal circumstances these rigs work OK, but when you put them on a large antenna and a busy band, receiver overload can occur and stray out of band signals get into the mixer and create false signals. Today 20m was so full of strong signals that the 7000s receiver went crazy and started giving me S9 QRM over most of the band. I found a quiet spot on 14.232 and managed to make a couple of QSOs before the inevitable happened..... an SSTV cop plonked himself down on top of us.

So to 17m I went, and glad I did because it meant I was able to make a great QSO with my old friend Kevin Mair, MM6KCM, from Lanark. Check out the youtube video of part of the conversation here . Not bad at all, 10w and mobile to mobile! Kevin and I have known each other since our early teens but lost touch until a couple of years ago when we met up again through Facebook, and our mutual friend Bruce, ZL1AAO / GM1KNP. One of these days we'll make a 3 way contact between Spain, Scotland, and New Zealand, and remember the good old days!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Nice QSOs today:
VE7EMI, from Vancouver. He was using the same radio as me, the Icom 7000, and just a wire dipole. What I liked about the contact was his obvious enthusiasm, licensed in 1978 but not active until last year when he retired and now making up for lost time. Thanks Eric!
M0HAO from England. Nothing special at first sight, but this is Máximo, better known to me as EA1DDO/HK1DX and a long-time contributor to ham radio in Spain. Check out his website for lots of interesting info. For me, the best bits are his comprehensive table of ARRL test data for a large number of transceivers, complete with an explanation of what each concept is, plus a very detailed and practical section on quad antenna design and construction. A real pleasure to meet the man on the air at last!
W4UWC, Knoxville Tennessee. George and I have been radio friends ever since I’ve been in Spain, its always a pleasure to sit back and listen to his great signal, either from his FT1000MkV + homebrew 2 x 3-500SZ, or FT2000 + quadra, all going out through the TH11 or 4 element monobander for 17m. Here’s a photo of his very well appointed shack:

And finally today, I was fortunate enough to get 7O6T in the log on 12 and 15 metres!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Welcome back after a 6 year delay!

To see where we're at on the radio front, best take a look at my profile . That will take you up-to-date pretty quickly and give you an idea of what's what these days at EA5ON.

Getting down to detail:

Still no activity from the home QTH since the Optibeam was taken down in January (big TNX to Vic EA5KV for the help). The insulators are here, more thanks this time to Tom DF2BO for the replacements. Fingers crossed, it should be up some time this month.

As usual, almost all activity is from the car. This week I had high hopes of some new ones, with YJ0VK (Vanuatu), V63AZ (Micronesia) and JD1 Minami Torishima all being active. I did not even hear Vanuatu, with most of their activity being on CW, according to the cluster. I had V63AZ in the palm of my hand on wednesday, on 17m simplex and working by numbers. But no joy. And the JD1 I worked, when I went to check him out, was not on Minami Torishima, but Ogasawara! That's not all bad news, though, I don't have Ogasawara confirmed from the car yet, so I'll be sending a card off to him.

Speaking of cards, I spent last weekend reviewing my logs and seeing about sending off cards again to those who haven't confirmed. I now have 301 countries worked, but around 20 of them are unconfirmed as yet.

The only country I couldn't find the QSO for was Bangladesh. So it was nice, when I was flicking through 15m while trying out my new beam, to hear S21B in Dhaka, calling CQ, and even nicer when he came right back to my CQ call. Here's a pic of the 15m reflector:

I also was lucky enough to work 7O6T on 17m SSB early in the week. Yemen is currently number 5 on the most wanted list and although I have it confirmed, I only have it on 20m. All intents on other bands were fruitless.

 And to finalize, today my daughter Elena had her first lesson in ham radio. Will it be the first step towards a new licencee? Watch this space!

Bienvenido de nuevo después de un retraso de 6 años!

Para ver donde estamos en estos momentos, es mejor echar un vistazo a mi perfil Eso le llevará hasta al día con bastante rapidez y le dará una idea de lo que es lo hay en estos días en EA5ON.

A los detalles:

Todavía no hay actividad desde el QTH fijo desde el Optibeam se bajó en enero (muchos TNX a Vic EA5KV por la ayuda). Los aisladores están aquí, en esta ocasión más gracias a Tom DF2BO para los reemplazos. Crucemos los dedos, a ver si se hace en algún momento este mes.

Como es habitual, casi toda la actividad es desde el coche. Esta semana tuve grandes esperanzas de algunos países nuevos, con YJ0VK (Vanuatu), V63AZ (Micronesia) y Minami Torishima JD1 todos ellos activos. Ni siquiera oí Vanuatu, como la mayor parte de su actividad es en CW, según el cluster. Tuve V63AZ en la palma de mi mano el miércoles, en simplex 17m y trabajando por números. Pero no hubo suerte. Y el JD1 que trabajé, cuando lo fui a ver, no estaba en Minami Torishima, pero Ogasawara! Eso no es del todo una mala noticia, sin embargo, porque no tengo Ogasawara confirmado desde el coche todavía, así que le mandaré una tarjeta.

 Hablando de tarjetas, pasé el fin de semana revisando los registros antiguos y ver sobre el envío de las tarjetas de nuevo para los que no lo han confirmado. Ahora tengo 301 países trabajados, pero alrededor de 20 de ellos no se han confirmado hasta el momento.

 El único país que no pude encontrar el QSO fue para Bangladesh. Pero, cuando estaba dando una vuelta por 15m mientras estaba probando mi nueva direccional, escuché a S21B en Dhaka, llamando CQ, y aún mejor cuando contestó a mi llamada CQ. Aquí está una foto del reflector de 15m:

También tuve la suerte de trabajar 7O6T en 17SSB a principios de semana. Yemen está ahora en el puesto número 5 de los más buscados y aunque lo tengo en 20m confirmado ya, quise trabajarlos en otras bandas, pero exceptuando este QSO en 17m, no pude romper el pileup.
Y por último, hoy le di a mi hija Elena su primera clase de radio. ¿Será el primer paso de una nueva aficionada? El tiempo lo dirá!
Duncan EA5ON