Monday, October 27, 2014


CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB

Call: EA5ON
Operator(s): EA5ON
Station: EA5ON

Class: SOSB/10 QRP
QTH: Vilamarxant
Operating Time (hrs):

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
   10: 1352    34      116
Total: 1352    34      116  Total Score = 484,950

Club: EA Contest Club


For the last 6 years I have operated CQWW SSB as part of the ED5T multi single
team. We love this and have a great time putting on the show.
This year however we had a serious problem right after ARRL phone. One of our 3
towers came down in a storm, bring down our 2 element yagi for 40, our 2 x 4
element stack for 15, and the base of our 160m inverted L. Our team, including
myself, are very busy doing other things right now and the tower is still not
back up yet. So, no antennas for multi single.

In the meantime, my good friend Paul GM0OPK, who has a house near Valencia,
asked if I would be interested in using his newly installed 6 element ultrabeam
in a contest. He is not a contester but wanted to see how his station would
play. I thought about it and since I have been thinking about doing a Single Op
entry for a while, decided to accept his kind offer.

Paul's station is not designed for contesting. It has one single yagi, a TS990,
and an OM2500 amp. Its principally used for DX and ragchewing when he's here in
Spain while taking time off work. I decided that the best way to use this
station for a contest would be in QRP, where I could use the high gain beam to
make up for my very low power, plus use the dual receiver to enable me to call
CQ while doing search and pounce on the second receiver.

Paul was here a month before the contest and I went up one afternoon to discuss
what I would need. I took up a new Yahama CM500 boom headset, which we set up on
the Kenwood, and decided that all I needed other than that was my laptop with
the N1MM logger installed.

A week before the contest Paul texted me to say he hadnt been able to find any
flights but was still looking. I started thinking of Plan Bs but thankfully on
the Tuesday he managed to book tickets and on the eve of the contest I drove up
after a long day at work, set up the PC, moved the furniture a bit, and went off
home for dinner and bed.

A 6am start on saturday, only to be greeted by Paul with bad news: the
Prosistel rotator was acting up and there was no way to get the controller to
tell you where the beam was heading. He had tried in vain to control it with
the PC program but to no avail. So, I turned the antenna while Paul was outside
watching it and when it was pointed on EU, he called me to stop and we left it

A very slow start as usual. Worked a few east med stations and then after a
long and frustrating time of having a VK6 call CQ in my face, finally managed
to make the contact. Then the band started opening and I was able to work UA
and JA stations for a couple of hours, all on S+P. I found out after trying to
call a few double mults in vain that the antenna wasnt where I thought it was,
after that every time I used the rotator I went outside to check the beam
heading visually. Only a few degrees can make a fair difference on a 6 element
antenna so even the visual method wasnt great. Then, an hour later as I was
trying to use the quick reverse feature, the stepper motors got into a fuddle
and started an interminable cycle of changing back and forward. I couldnt get
the controller to respond so ended up pulling the plug and then doing a reset
of the whole thing. It worked fine after that but no idea what had caused it.

At midday I had a couple of hundred QSOs in the log and a number of zones and
countries but missed out on a lot of mults just not able to get through the
pileup with 5w. However when the band opened to the states it was quite a
different story. I was able to work everyone I heard, many on the first call. I
tried running, no real luck until around 7pm when all of a sudden I managed a
run to the US for about an hour and a half. Not the rates I'm used to at ED5T
but I still managed to leave when the band died with 678 qsos in the log and
188.000 points.

At night, I checked the spanish record and saw it was at 852 qsos and 319000
points. Its also the EU record. In spite of my good qso total, the record
holder had managed 34 zones and 137 countries back in 2002 and I was a long way
away from those totals.

Sunday morning was pretty much a repeat of saturday but having the beam under
control meant I was able to work double mults such as VU2, AH2R, and 9M4DX,
plus a few other countries. The band was so crowded that I'm sure many
potential countries were buried in the noise. Running assisted would probably
be a good thing under conditions like that, maybe next year? But S+P was
slower, I had already worked most of the big guns, and had to dig deeper into
the QRM for contacts which then took longer to complete. By lunchtime my score
had crept up a fair bit but was still not close to the record. However once
again in the late afternoon conditions picked up to the states and I was able
to end the run well over the previous record. After a short rest and some food
(I hadn't eaten in 10 hours) I took a tour up and down the band to work all the
south american stations I could hear, adding another few mults to the total.

This contest was a complete and absolute contrast to the last time I tried 10m
qrp in a contest, 2 years ago in ARRL 10m. In that contest, I couldnt make any
contacts at all with 5w, changed to LP, and abandoned after only working 50
stations during the saturday. The conditions this weekend were simply fabulous,
I'm sure the best I've ever seen 10m and probably will take a long time in
seeing again.

Thanks as usual to all that made it happen. For all of those who took the time
to pick my signal out of the noise. To the family for not missing me too much.
And most of all, to Paul and Tracy for coming down and hosting me in such a
great way, it is really and truly appreciated.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Last entry in February, uff. Does that mean I've not been playing radio? No, but means I've not had much time to do any updating. And actually, less time to play radio as well.

The first event after my last entry was my participation in ARRL SSB. I entered 15m HP and had an absolutely amazing time, working over 2000 stations and only missing 3 multipliers (the usual Canadian ones). I had a good head to head race with EA7KW down near Seville and while he pipped me to the post in the end, we had a great time.

However the sad news is that 3 days after the contest, the 80' crank up tower holding the 15m stack and the 2 ele yagi for 40m came crashing down in a storm. No damage to persons or property, and the tower will be salvageable, but the antennas are complete scrap. Juan has done a good job on repairing the tower and we can get around 70' of it to be serviceable again, but for the time being we have no antennas and the tower is not installed back on its base. It has come at a time when all of the TCC members are very busy with other things in our lives and we just haven't had the time, energy, or inclination to do anything about it. Such is life.

As far as the IARU contest goes, we have decided that since we can't take part on 15m, we will take part in 10m SSB instead, since the 10m stack and the optibeam are still working perfectly. We look forward to operating as part of EF4HQ on 10/11 July. Propagation of late has not been good on 10m but we are holding our breath and crossing our fingers just in case :). No other hints as to what EF4HQ has in store, but we are going all out this year to win the HQ category after two years of second place.

In the car, no news ones worked but I did get Myanmar confirmed. My new working hours mean that I cannot come on the radio at lunchtime any more, however I do finish work a bit earlier and in theory will get radio time after work. In practice I am never managing to finish work on time and getting a bit fed up of the situation. Lets see what happens. Today I did manage to get 3 hours of morning grey line operating done, conditions were pretty good considering today is our summer solstice and that the SFI is not particularly high.

As for new antennas, I started a project of comparing different types of vertical antenna and radial systems. However I am finding inexplicable problems to get some of the quarter waves to work and also the GTU is functioning very erratically. More news on that front if I ever get there.

On 20M I have a new antenna which arrived 6 months ago and still haven't had a chance to test. This is a high power end fed vertical for 20m made by the dutch firm . The idea is to hold it up using a 12m spiderpole from Spiderbeam with a base made by a couple of local guys in EA5 which fits under the car wheels, specially adapted for the spiderpole. Lets see if I get a chance to test it out one of these days.

I also received another "new toy" the other day, a four square controller by Comtek, now run by DX engineering. This will need four new 15m verticals, plus I need to cut all the control lines, so it won't be on the air for a while yet I reckon. But looks very promising for 15m contesting from the port!

And the last new toy, received about 10 days ago, is an Elecraft KX3, a great little software defined radio with almost everything incorporated inside, for easy low power operating while out and about. I bought it primarily for the bicycle, but it's first outing was last week for the anual DVGE trig point contest. I worked around 50 stations on 40m just running 5w and a vertical, not the best antenna for local 40m work but its what I had. It'll take a while for me to get used to all the possibilities this rig has to offer but my initial reaction is very favourable.

No photos of any of this stuff. My trusty old BlackBerry has been pensioned off and I now have a Windows phone, which I haven't even tried to plug into the computer yet to download pics. Maybe later.

And lastly, in reply to a petition from German ham Marcel DF1MP, here's a parts list for some of the pieces I use on the car:

Hustler ball mount for the roof:

MFJ 1664 screwdriver:

MFJ 1979 long telescopic whip:

I guess there are more places too.

That's all for now folks....

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Receive antenna experiments at ED5T

This weekend is the CQWW 160 phone contest. With one thing and another, we decided not to actively operate in the contest. However, Elías EB5KT and myself arranged to go up on Saturday night and take advantage of the fact that there was a contest on, in order to do some RX antenna tests.

ED5T is at a great location for the high bands. Our stacked yagis for 10 and 15 metres do great, as does the tribander for 20. We are at the top of a ridge with a nice drop off to most areas of ham population. However, on the low bands, we do not have enough height for good horizontal antennas, the ground is poor for vertical antennas (mostly bedrock), and it is extremely noisy on reception.

For transmitting, we now have an inverted L for 160m, which appears to work, but we don't really know since we have a very high noise level and can't really tell who is calling us. In the past, we have tried the K9AY design, long terminated beverages, and the flag. None of these antennas gave particularly good results. The K9AY was forcibly located near to a metal fence which we think probably degraded performance. The beverages perhaps didn't work too well since local terrain dictates they can't go perfectly straight, nor at a fixed height from ground all along the antenna. Also, these antennas need to be installed before each contest, and for the beverages in particular, hauling two 500m long antennas through the forest and then attaching them to trees is not a load of fun. Whilst both designs work, they do not provide a significant improvement over the transmitting antenna and therefore we continue on our quest for a design more suited to our needs.

One of the tests Elias wanted to do was to use a portable receive antenna to try to find out if there are any locations close by which are better than others, either in noise level, signal strength, or both. In order to do this, he made a monoband Shielded Loop antenna for 160 on a portable pole. We used an FT857 radio with a small battery in a backpack and started testing in different locations.

The results were very interesting:

- We stopped in around 15 different places and tested for noise reduction by turning the loop.

- In most places we stopped, by turning the loop we were able to obtain a null in the noise and except when close to buildings or right under power lines, we could usually reduce from between S7 and S9 peaks down to S0 noise

- We could not pointpoint a particular direction for the noise. In some cases, only moving 10 metres produced a 90º difference in the null location. We are unable to account for this.

- In the case when listening to a frequency occupied by a station calling CQ, in most cases the noise null did not coincide with a reduction in signal strength of the station calling (máximum signal to noise ratio).

- When listening to ED5M, we were able to hear about half the stations they were working. They were using a full size 2 element delta loop at 50m (150') high for TX, plus numerous 650m long beverages and a K9AY, in an electrically quiet natural park about 100km from us.

- We sat the antenna on the top of my car and plugged into my TS590. The absence of noise made the fatigue factor usually present, neglible. It was almost like working on 10 metres. We were able to hear a large number of contest stations without any problem.

The results are not conclusive since we did not use any know reference antenna for comparison (rule nº1 of basic science). However our experience dictates that this was a positive experiment and worth pursuing. For next weekends ARRL contest, Elías hopes to have a Pennant antenna built and install it at one of the locations we found to be good, and that is reasonably close to the shack.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Visits to GM1DSK and GM0GAV

Whilst over in Scotland over new year, I made my usual pilgrimage to visit my Elmer. His call is GM1DSK, but to me, has always been Meeeeeester Steve! Steve is as active as his other commitments allow him to be, and up until now using a 100w and all wire antenna station. As luck would have it, Steve just recently got a 30' tower, a 3 element tribander, and a 3 element dual band warc beam, and the day I went to visit, it had just been installed and up and running:

Although in the photo it doesnt look too high and has tres around it, what you can't see is the nice dropoff to many of the more interesting DX áreas, as the QTH is on a clifftop with a river below. When we went to get on the air and see how it was working, Steve stumbled across 1A0KM, an entity he hadn't worked yet. Here's the moment of glory as Steve gets another "new one" in the log:

Next on the whistlestop tour, Steve drove me across to Gavin GM0GAV's place. I hadn't seen Gavin since the days when he worked in the Antartic as VP8GAV, and it was great to see him again. I knew he'd built up a good station but I don't think I was prepared to see such a level of workmanship or such a well thought out design. In the shack is nothing special, but the purpose-built house on a 4 acre plot took antenna placement into consideration at inception, something most of us can only dream about.

The first antenna you notice as you drive up is a relatively modest force 12 XR5 on an 18m high crankup tower, with a 5 element 6m yagi on top.

But as we came along the driveway, I noticed a couple of verticals laying on the ground. We then went out and had a look and it turns out to be a 2 element phased vertical on 80m. The whole field has an extensive radial system laid out under the grass. Each antenna is on a pulley system so that they can be lowered in case of high winds.

Once parked in front of the house I noticed another tower, wound down, with another HF yagi on it. This is a motorised korean made tower which goes up to 28m high and is crowned with an Optibeam OB12-4.

For top band, Gav uses an inverted L with elevated radials.
There are also 3 250m long reversable beverages, conveniently installed along field and road boundaries.
The whole system is controlled from a central switching system in a small shed in the garden.
My thanks to Steve and Gav for their time and for the guided tours (not to mention food, tea, and coffee!). CU in the pileup!!