Thursday, December 30, 2010

An inverted V dipole for 30 metres

Signal strengths on the 30 metres band using my Butternut multi-band antenna don't seem to be as good as those on, say, 20 metres and 40 metres. So I took it into my head that I should construct a dipole for 30 metres. And, with my limited space, I immediately knew it would have to be a so-called "inverted V" variety. For the uninitiated, that's basically a wire antenna in the shape of an upside-down V!! Simple eh?

When I rang Tony EI4DIB, my "rigger" as Pat EI2HX likes to call him, and explained what I'd like to do, I could tell Tony was instantly fascinated and excited by the whole plan. While Tony doesn't do much HF himself, he loves setting up antennas for other operators, and does so with great enthusiasm and energy. He gets great joy out of seeing other operators get on the air, or get better radiation than before!

And so the plan was hatched. But there was one catch. Tony asked the question: "What materials do you have for this dipole?"

"Erm," came the hesitant reply. There followed a lot of head scratching on the part of EI2KC and soon I said with excitement, "I have wire!!!"

"Do you have coax?" he asked. "No," came the reply. "Do you have plugs?" he asked. "No," I said again, solemnly. The whole plan was beginning to look decidedly dodgy. "Do you have a dipole centre?" he asked. "Erm, no, sorry," says I.

Thinking the whole dipole idea was "out the window" as they say, I was surprised when Tony interjected, "Not to worry. I have a dipole centre, some coax and some plugs that you can 'borrow'."

He's good like that. So good, in fact, that Pat also calls him my "sponsor". Too right Pat, but Tony likes to be paid with plentiful coffee and sticky buns. Next time I'm in the home bakery I'm going to buy a whole tray of sticky buns for my rigger, Tony.

We got to work yesterday, Wednesday, and soon had the makings of a decent dipole. I used reconstituted wire from my old half-size G5RV. Glad to be putting RF through that wire again, I can tell you. It was my first proper HF antenna. We took the pole supporting my longwire down and attached the dipole and soon we were getting the leg lengths right. It's not perfectly flat on 10.115 where I wanted it to be resonant but it's a decent job and nothing the tuner won't flatten in a jiffy.

A test over the last 24 hours has proved that it is better than the Butternut, although only marginally. In most cases signals are about an S point or maybe two stronger than the vertical. Last night I could hear Australia VK on the inverted V although he was very weak. I couldn't hear him on the Butternut. I wasn't able to work him, however, because he had a big EU pile-up calling him. But nonetheless it proved that the antenna installation was a success and it did what it was supposed to do - to improve my RX on that band. And this morning, just to prove it's really working, I had a QSO with JL1QOC on the new V. And to top it all off I worked a SV9 (Crete) on 30 metres which was a new country on that band, bringing my total countries worked on 30 to 93. Just seven off the big century now. Hopefully Tony's latest installation at my QTH will help me get over the line.

Hopefully I will grab a photo or two tomorrow and put them on here to show you our excellent work. Thanks again Tony. I'm sorry to say I've lost count of how many sticky buns I owe you . . . !!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My first ever aeronautical mobile /AM contact

I just made my first ever aeronautical mobile contact. I saw RV6LMG/AM spotted on the cluster on 14.164 and decided to give him a call. He was quite weak but within a short time he was asking "who is the Kilo Charlie station?" I gave him my call three times but he still had difficulty so I gave it thrice again and this time he got it.

RV6LMG/AM spotted on the cluster
I wasn't able to sustain a decent QSO with him, and he had quite a lot of people trying to work him, so I did not ask him where exactly he was flying to and from nor what aircraft he was in. A cluster spot said he was in an Airbus A320 35,000 feet above Russia!!

There are lots of firsts in amateur radio and that was a nice first for me.

RV6LMG is, according to, Sergey V. Sushko. Somebody who spotted him on the cluster described him as "Lt-Col.Retired" so maybe he's an ex-military man. I look forward to a QSL if there is one!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Eve arrival - a QSL card from Nicaragua

This is the last update before Christmas! So if you're reading this on or before December 25th, have a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year and I hope you get plenty of nice DX into the log over the festive period.

The postman had one more delivery for me before Christmas. He arrived this morning, Christmas Eve, with a card from Nicaragua. The station worked was H74LEON, and the card confirmed QSOs on 20m CW, 17m CW and 30m CW. Nicaragua (YN) is a new country for me, bringing my total confirmed by paper QSL to 51.

Last week I received a beautiful card from 5V7TT, the Dxpedition to Togo in Africa. I am delighted to report that I have now confirmed Togo on 40m SSB, 30m CW, 17m CW and SSB, 15m CW and SSB, 12m CW and SSB and 10m SSB.

The photo above shows me with these two nice cards. The picture was taken by my first harmonic, who is ten years old, and a budding Short Wave Listener. I must go now - I have to make sure the antennas don't get in the way of Santa and Rudolph landing on the roof.

Ho ho ho . . .

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An interesting meeting at Newgrange

I had to go to Newgrange, a 5,200-year-old Stone Age monument in the Boyne Valley near Drogheda, early this morning to take photos of the sunrise during this six-day solstice period. I left Drogheda at 7am and called through the Dundalk Repeater to be greeted by Mickey 2I0MMT in Newry who kept me company for the journey. Shortly we were joined by EI6GHB John and EI7GEB David who were both mobile and it pretty soon transpired that they too were heading to Newgrange.

John EI6GHB and David EI7GEB at Newgrange for the EI0Z activation.
With the roads in hazardous condition after a snowfall, needless to say we were all taking our time but I wondered if it was just the early hour or had I heard correctly - THREE hams heading to Newgrange? Turns out that while I was heading there to take photos the other two were part of the EI0Z portable group and were heading there to activate Newgrange on the HF bands.

And so I get to write about two of my passions - ancient Ireland and ham radio -  in the same blog post! It was a beautiful morning at Newgrange, despite the snow on the ground. The cloudy start lifted and the sun shone into the chamber of the monument for a number of minutes and all who were in there were delighted that they had seen the annual solstice illumination. The passage and chamber of Newgrange are built so that the light from the sun at sunrise at the time of the Winter Solstice shine into the chamber interior. Given that Newgrange was built 5,200 years ago, it is truly remarkable that it continues to function today. Read more about this and all the other monuments and myths of Ireland on my website

I stopped to have a chat with the two guys before leaving Newgrange and asked them to get into a photo just for the record, and they kindly obliged. John reported that the bands were quiet but they were hoping that things would liven up a bit. Hopefully they did. Congratulations and best wishes to the EI0Z group who have so far completed a number of activations, including Slane Castle and the Loughcrew Cairns for autumn equinox.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

9Q50ON Congo was more difficult than Kermadec Islands!

I finally made it into the 9Q50ON log today, on 17m CW, on the last day of the Dxpedition. I cannot tell you how relieved I am. I have been trying for a number of nights without success on 30m and 40m and 20m but never made it through the pile-ups.

The Dxpedition is to celebrate 50 years of the independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo and was operated by a number of Belgian hams. Hence the callsign 9Q (Congo) 50 (50 years) ON (Belgium). On right is a photo showing the location of the Dxpedition in Kinshasa.

Anyway, this morning he came up on 17m CW and was louder than I'd heard him before. It still took me 30 minutes to make it through.

Ten minutes in, he came back with "2KC?" and I gave him my callsign three times but he came back again with "2KC?" and then after I gave him the call another three times he said "DL2KC?" and I got the impression someone from Germany was QRMing me. Before I knew it, 9Q was working someone else and I was left fuming at the fact that I had missed the boat because of the QRM. What made matters worse was that a few minutes later he appeared to QSY from 17m to another band and disappeared. Needless to say I felt pretty gutted. He could hear me, and was trying to work me, but someone kept calling over me and he had to give up.

Just before I left the house, I gave one more listen around the bands and when I came back to 17 metres, there he was again, calling CQ up 1, and louder than before! Within a couple of minutes I had him in the bag. The relief was palpable. A quick phone call was made to EI2JD (one of the local big gun DXers) and when he answered I gave a big "Yeehaw!" down the phone. His immediate reply was, "you got him!!!". "Yes," I said, "on 17m CW". "Well done," was the reply from the more experienced DXer, who, I might add, has 9Q50ON on SIX band slots!! Well done Thos.

According to the Dxpedition website, they have taken down some antennas and may be active around midnight tonight with a couple of stations. Too late for me, who has to work tomorrow. And because I had to spend most of the day out doing other things, I'm really glad that I got him this morning. Relief and joy!!

PS: I've just checked Clublog and there are 25 EIs in the 9Q log, not as many as got into ZL8X. Of those, 15 only have one QSO, so that's three fifths! I feel better now . . .

PPS: EI7BA has TEN band slots. How does he do it? (Congrats John!)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bad news I'm afraid - CY0 Dxpedition further delayed

Maybe I should stop writing about it. Then it might happen. Sable Island is notoriously difficult to get to. Landing a plane there depends on a lot of things, mostly weather and the availability of a good pilot and a decent plane. Plane and pilot are now available to the CY0 Sable Island Dxpedition team (following a faulty plane last month) but now the weather is against them.

It is with a fair amount of sadness that I read this afternoon that the CY0 Dxpedition has been postponed again, for at least a week. Conditions at the "beach runway" are not expected to be suitable for a landing for at least another week. Sadly, this means the CY0 team have to put their equipment into storage and they are returning to the US mainland for a second time.

You can see a full statement relating to the current difficulties on the Dxpedition website. In the meantime, the following information pertaining to the challenges of landing a plane on Sable Island might be of interest to you:

We have experienced first-hand the challenges of accessing Sable Island. Sable is uniquely located in the North Atlantic where the cold Labrador currents and the warmer Gulf Stream currents meet. As a result, Sable is subjected to unusual and unpredictable weather conditions and the "window of opportunity", at times, for a landing may only be a few hours. Access in Winter conditions creates additional challenges. Anyone traveling to Sable Island must be patient. Conditions that must be met include:
- beach must be free of standing water and not overly wet sand
- wind velocity crossing the island must be acceptable
- ceiling must be adequate
- no icing conditions
- no fog (large problem during Spring, Summer, and Fall, but low problem during the winter)

 All I can say right now is "damn!". But not to worry. It will happen when it's supposed to happen. Those interested in rare DX are encouraged by the fact there is much to be worked at present, including 9Q50ON in Dem. Republic of Congo, ZD9T in Tristan de Cunha (if you can hear him!) and VK9NN at Norfolk Island, nearly as far as Kermadec.

Also keep an ear out for 5X1NH in Uganda, 7P8RU in Lesotho and OR4TN in Antarctica who was spotted on 30m CW earler tonight.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

ZL8X Dxpedition ends - roll on Sable Island CY0 tomorrow!!

Sable Island - DXpedition begins Monday (hopefully!)
It is with mixed feelings that I write this blog. The ZL8X Dxpedition to Raoul Island (also known as Sunday Island), the largest of the Kermadec Islands near New Zealand, has come to an end. The team of operators are no doubt exhausted and I can just picture them right now, eating a barbecue and sipping wine together before they leave Kermadec for the long flight home to Germany.

Of the Dxpeditions I've worked so far, which have included Iraq YI9PSE, Palestine E4X and Togo 5V7TT, I have to say this has been by far the most difficult, with the single exception of Con Co Island, Vietnam - 3W6C - with whom I made just one QSO (but one that I am proud of!).

At the best of times, ZL8X was only barely audible. I found them easiest to work on 40m CW, a contact which only took a few minutes. 20m SSB was difficult. I didn't even know they were there until Thos EI2JD called me on 2 metres to tell me. The 30m CW contact which I THINK I made today (emphasis on I think - only 80% sure of QSO), was perhaps the most difficult. I've been trying for days. Sometimes I couldn't hear him at all, and wouldn't call. Sometimes he would come up out of the muck, only to work one of the apparently billions of hams calling him in a massive pile-up. But today, as I said, I think I worked him finally. They usually update the log at the end of each day so I might not know until after midnight tonight whether I was successful or not. If I did get through, that would be three band slots with a 25-year-old Butternut vertical and 100 watts from my trusy Yaesu FT-1000MP. I did say before it started I would be happy to get them just once - so three times would be nice. At this moment in time, only 43 EIs have made it through. That's just one more than yesterday, and the lucky one was EI9KC, Ark, a follower of this blog. Congratulations Ark, well done.

But there's no time to reflect on what's passed. We have to look forward. With all the excitement about ZL8X, I forgot to mention another Dxpedition, ZK2A, Niue Island, which is now finished. I couldn't hear them on any band slot at all, unfortunately, but they have now moved to VK9N, Norfolk Island, not far from the above mentioned Kermadec Islands, so here's hoping!! For more information see their website.

In addition to the above DXpedition is 9Q50ON, a special event DXpedition to Democratic Republic of Congo, currently on air, running from December 3rd to December 13th. Right now I am listening to him through much QRN on 40m CW working a pile-up. Again, hope is a great thing! More information about the goings-on in Kinshasa can be obtained by having a peep at the 9Q50ON website.

But it is with great anticipation that I await the Sable Island DXpedition (see main picture above) which is due to begin Monday night at 2100 UTC. Because it's in the Atlantic, east of the States, I would hope (and I stress hope!) that it will be a lot easier to bag than ZL8X. With any luck I might just nab them on perhaps 12 metres or 10 metres, so here's hoping. This is a much smaller DXpedition than Kermadec, so they won't be on as many band slots simultaneously, but we'll keep our fingers crossed that things get under way on time, especially as the event has already been delayed by a month due to a faulty plane. For updates, keep an eye on the CY0 DXpedition website.

Here are their planned operating frequencies:

1.826 up (down for JA)
1.843 up

3.523 (up or down)

3.585 up

3.781 up (and JA window)

7.023 up
7.135 up or down
7.050 up or down

10.106 up

10.140 down
14.023 up
14.130 up
14.190 (alternate)
14.080 down
18.072 up
18.145 up
18.108 down
21.023 up
21.295 up
21.089 up
24.892 up
24.945 up

28.023 up
28.450 up
28.089 up
50.090 up
50.125 (listening freq.)

It's unlikely that we will hear them on 6 metres hi hi, but one can always hope!!

In the meantime, we wish N0TG/CY0 Randy, AA4VK/CY0 Ron and WA4DAN/CY0 Murray all the best for the DXpedition and we hope they hear us in the pile-ups!

Vy 73 and best DX to all of you from Ireland.
EI2KC Anthony.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yeeeessssss!! - EI2KC makes it into ZL8X log - TWICE!!

When the Kermadec Island Dxpedition began on November 19th, I knew it would be a tough battle to get into their logbook. This is partly because of the huge distance to Kermadec, which is 1000km northeast of New Zealand. It's 10,700 miles (17,200km) on the short path (if you have a beam!) The second reason is my humble setup, the 100 watts and a Butternut vertical.

As luck would have it I have been stuck at home for three days due to heavy snowfall which has made it difficult to drive anywhere. This is very unusual for Ireland, but the fact that I am working for home put me in front of the radio at times when I would otherwise be in the office.

One such time was around 4.30pm yesterday, when as it just so happened that both Ireland and Kermadec Island were on the so-called "grey line". It was sunrise there and sunset here. After some shouting, I managed to nab them on 20 metres SSB. Quite an achievement. Didn't expect to make it into their log at all, but to get in on phone was quite rewarding. I haven't even been able to hear them on most bands at any given time of day or night.

But this morning at 9.25am, having been trying for a while, I managed to work ZL8X on 40m CW as well, making it two band slots. That's their 40m four square in the picture above. It goes without saying that I was over the moon. My 20m SSB QSO has been confirmed on their online log. I hope to see 40m CW in there tomorrow morning after their once-a-day log update.

I'm so thrilled, really. At this moment, there are only 32 EIs who have made it into the ZL8X log. This compares with hundreds of G, GW and GM stations. Congrats to EI7BA, John, in Cork, who has made NINE band slots!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This is utterly fascinating - a German radio amateur (DK6NP) heard echoes of his own call 46 seconds after TX

I am bringing you this from the website It is a story about a German radio amateur, Peter Brogl, who heard echoes of his own CW transmissions on 40 metres - FORTY SIX SECONDS after they were sent. There are some recordings also which I have linked at the bottom. Really fascinating stuff.

LONG-DELAY RADIO ECHOES: During the geomagnetic storm of Nov. 27th, a brief but intense G2-class event, amateur radio operator Peter Brogl of Fürth, Germany, experienced a strange phenomenon. Forty-six seconds after he transmitted his call sign at 7 MHz, he received an echo of his own transmission. "At first, I thought someone was playing tricks on me," says Brogl, "but I changed frequency, re-keyed my call sign (DK6NP), and got another echo." This went on for more than an hour, enough time for Brogl to make several recordings. First reported in 1927 by Norwegian civil engineer Jørgen Hals, long-delay radio echoes are rare and poorly understood. Unusual propagation conditions linked to solar storms is one of many possible explanations. Radio operators, if you experienced any similar phenomena on Nov. 27th between 1800 UT and 19:30 UT, please report your observations to Peter Brogl for correlation.

Click here to hear the audio files of the strange echoes

Wikipedia page about long delay echoes
Possible explanations of long delay echoes

Monday, November 29, 2010

Now to concentrate on 80 metres and 30 metres

I wrapped up CQWW CW at 23.30 with a half hour still to go on 555 QSOs having worked 77 countries and 19 zones on five bands. I had 133 QSOs on 15m, 160 on 20m, 132 on 40m, 120 on 80m and 10 on 160m. My claimed score is 251,062 points.

That's by far my best achievement in any contest I've worked so far from this QTH. I will enter the "low power all band assisted" category. It all shows what can be done with an old Butternut vertical and 100w. On right is a screenshot showing my contest logging software SD by EI5DI.

Here are my standings now with all the bands after the contest. Note that I didn't work anybody on 10 metres because to be frank it was not open at all here during CQWW at the weekend.

160M: 30 DXCCs worked (+3)
80M: 72 (+12)
40M: 120 (+11)
30M: 82 (+4)
20M: 135 (+5)
17M: 104
15M: 101 (+11) (Finally got over the century on 15 - very happy!!)
12M: 65
10M: 35
6M: 53
2M: 10

So that's now four bands on which I have worked over 100 countries - 40m, 20m, 17m and 15m. 10m and 6m seem a long way off right now, but who knows what next summer will bring! Hi hi!

Over the course of the next couple of months I will turn my attention to 80 metres and 30 metres and see if I can notch up the century on those bands. I will also work 160m, but only portable, from one of two shacks owned by two 160m operators. Look forward to meeting you on the bands!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wow - what a brilliant contest!

The CQ WW CW contest is still on as I write this. I am doing it now because I won't have time tomorrow with work. I've worked 408 contacts so far in CQWW as I write and have notched up a tonne of new countries on various bands.

One of the highlights was ZD80 - Ascension Island - which was my 100th country on 15 metres and was also a brand new country, not having been in my log before yesterday.

Here are the highlights of the weekend. I scrawled notes about each new country as I worked it. I got a rake on 15m, some new ones on 80m and even some on 20 and 40.

On 15 metres, the following were new - EX Kyrgyzstan, EA6 Ballearic Islands, OM Slovakia, ZA Albania, LY, Lithuania, ZD8 Ascension Island, VK Australia, LX Luxembourg.

New on 80m were: 4L Georgia, UK9 Uzbekistan, D4 Cape Verde.

PZ Suriname was new on both 20m and 40m and A7 Qatar was a new one on 20m.

 And a nice surprise for the weekend, given that my random wire is not very effective on 160 metres and I only made 7 QSOs on that band, was OH0 Aland Island. Great stuff.

I will give another update when the contest is over (if I get time!)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kermadec Island - how am I going to do this?

There's a fairly popular DXPedition on right now. The whole world is listening, up and down the bands, for the sound of ZL8X, in either voice, or CW, or even digital. Yes, Kermadec Island is on the air.

Where is it, I hear you ask. Well, near New Zealand is the best way to put it. In the first day and a half the team had notched up nearly 40,000 QSOs. Needless to say, lots of New Zealanders, Australians, Japanese and Chinese are working them. And, it goes without saying, the EIs, who are just about as far away from ZL8X as can possibly be, are struggling to get into the DXPedition log.

 As of this moment in time, there are just nine Echo India calls in his log. Three of them - EI7BA, EI9O and EI8H - have worked ZL8X three times already! All the others, including EI9FBB, holder of EI's first and only ten band DXCC, have them once.

And poor me? Not at all. Not only have I not worked them, I'll be honest in saying that I haven't been able to hear them most of the time. There were fleeting moments on Sunday when I heard ZL8X on CW on 40m and 30m, but they were extremely weak in QSB and the pile-ups above them - as much as 10kc up, were massive.

The challenge for me right now, considering I have no ZL whatsoever in my log, is to get them, even if only just once!! And what arrived via the bureau in recent days, in amongst 122 cards from various nations? Only a card from 3W6C, Con Co Island DXpedition in Vietnam, which I worked - just the once! - back in April. It was a timely reminder that just one contact can make the difference between working that new DXCC or not.

So I will take that as my inspiration as I try to get ZL8X into my log at least once before they wind up there in early December. By the way, the best grey-line time for working them on Sunday was 4.30pm Irish time. Sunset here, sunrise there. Because I work during the day, that's a grey-line opening I'm going to miss most days. Plus there's CQWW CW this weekend which will probably obliterate the bands. So it's going to be a challenge, no doubt.

If I find myself coming up to December 5th and with no ZL8 in the log, I will have to resort to other tactics, which may include visiting a couple of local "big-gun" shacks and getting them portable!! I'll let you know how I get on.

Other interesting DX on right now includes D44AC - Cape Verde - who I worked on 40m and 20m CW last night, giving me a new entity on both bands. Also there's C50C in the Gambia who's been working big pile-ups on 40 SSB over the past couple of nights.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lots of QSL cards sent via bureau - but only to those who say they are in a bureau!!

I've been a busy little bee on these winter nights. With only 80m and 40m to entertain me in these long winter evenings - yes, its that time of year when 20 metres is closed by 7pm - I've been catching up on some writing some QSL cards.

I've worked quite a few contacts on 30 metres recently. And the chances are that if you worked me in the past week on that band, you will be getting an EI2KC QSL card via the bureau some time in the next while. However, there is one fairly major caveat to that. You must be in a bureau! Or, at the very least, you must state that you are in a bureau.

I'm always amazed at the number of stations listed on who give little or no information about how to QSL. Some of these stations undoubtedly don't want QSLs in the post or via the bureau. Others might not be proficient with computers and might not understand how to fill out the various fields in

I have one simple rule about my QSLing. If you don't state that you are in the bureau or say something about QSL via buro somewhere on your page, then I won't send a card. And that's because I could be wasting a whole pile of QSL cards sending them off to people who are not in bureaus and then I get a pile back a year or two later marked "not in bureau"! So if you want a card via the bureau, just add a line somewhere on your QRZ page saying that you are in your bureau. Thanks!! There are 72 cards gone to the EI outgoing QSL manager in today's post (see photo above showing direct cards on left and parcel with bureau cards on right). This batch of 72 cards represents LESS THAN HALF of the contacts I made on 30m in the past week. I would gladly send one to everyone I worked, but many have such sparse information on their page that I dare not even try!

By the way, on the subject of QSL cards I received a direct card today from the States for a CW QSO made on 20 metres in July. It contained a two dollar bill - my first! Usually it's two singles, but I got the first two dollar bill today so it's interesting how there are so many "firsts" for someone who is a relative novice like me. The 2 dollar bill is pictured on right.

If you need a QSL card for any contact we've made, drop me a line on hamradioireland (AT) gmail (DOT) com.

73 for now and thanks for dropping by!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nine new ones on 30 metres thanks to a big pile-up

I visited the shack of Thos EI2JD on Friday afternoon for a bit of work on the bands. He posed a question to me which was very interesting: "What band do you most need countries on?" Apart from 10 metres, which was pretty dead at the time, the next "busy" band which I most needed to build up countries on was 30 metres. So we connected up his 30m vertical to the antenna switcher and loaded the amp for 400 watts and I started CQing - in CW mode of course.

Within a few moments I was already getting attention. So much so, in fact, that after working just one contact I had a big pile-up. So, for the first time ever, I was able to call "EI2KC UP" and split so that I was listening up one KC from where I was transmitting. In this case I was TX on 10.107 and RX on 10.108. The pile-up was sustained and loud and so I worked them quickly with just their callsign and 5NN (599). In the space of about an hour and a half I worked 145 QSOs. It was great fun. The pressure was intense at times, especially where I was trying to pull a quiet one out of the QRM and someone would keep calling over them.

The total new countries worked in that time was nine. 

Once again, thanks to Thos for the use of his station!

Here are the latest band standings with me:

160M: 27 DXCCs worked (+14)
80M: 60 (+5)
40M: 109 (+6)
30M: 78 (+13)
20M: 130 (+1)
17M: 104
15M: 90 (+7)
12M: 65 (+23)
10M: 35 (+4)
6M: 53
2M: 10

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Another home-brew project - a leg-strapped morse paddle


The rain clouds had been gathering all day. The forecast says there's going to be heavy rain, strong winds and flooding. Not a day for the great outdoors. However, the indoors suited just fine! Having disassembled two old bits of computer hardware over the past couple of days, I had lots of bits and pieces and odds and ends lying around.

Said items were a very old CD writer and an old film scanner. I retrieved those parts which I thought might be useful and will discard everything else. There were some nice bits of plastic which suited some sort of homebrew project. So I set about putting together a project. I have already made two single-lever paddles on blocks of wood, one of which I use here in the shack as the main CW key, and one which is my mobile/portable key in the car.

This new one would become a leg strap-on, if I ever needed it ! I managed to retrieve a jack and cable for this key from a broken headset (mic and headphone combination). Other bits of that might come in handy later too! I had a gazillion little screws in a box, or something approaching that number ! Having tried a couple of scrap metal objects from the defunct computer hardware, I finally settled on the old hacksaw blade as the most reliable material from which to fashion the paddle. You can see the blade in position in the above photo which shows the construction in its early phase. Some drilling into the plastic was required to get screws into the correct position to not only hold the paddle in place, but to give it some security and keep it in position.

Wiring was a bit tidier than in my previous projects. I managed to solder the wires to two screws which are holding some M-shaped metal strips into place either side of the paddle. Further to all this, I found another piece of plastic into which I drilled holes for screws which made a "lid" or cover for the key so it doesn't look too messy. You can judge the finished product for yourself.

I have found after putting out a CQ on 40m and working eight or nine contacts that it is quite "dainty" and light to the touch. It requires the gentlest of manipulation and works like a dream. I also fashioned a leg strap from a velcro strap which came with one of the kids scooters! You never know where you can pick up materials from a home-brew project!

That's all for now. Comments, constructive criticism etc welcome below.

PS: I will not be mass producing these items for the ham market. This is truly a unique one-off construction!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A little bit about DXpeditions - Togo and Sable Island

With all that's been going on I never gave you an update about two recent DXpeditions. The first, 5V7TT, to Togo in Africa, ended recently and I'm glad to say I managed a reasonable effort in terms of getting them into the log on different bands. The first time I worked them on 15m SSB, was historic, because it was a brand new country for me.

Here's the summary for EI2KC in the 5V7TT log:

15m SSB, 17m CW, 15m CW, 17m SSB, 12m SSB, 40m SSB, 30m CW, 10m SSB, 12m CW

So that's seven bands in total. Not bad. I tried hard one evening to get them on 80m CW, but it just didn't happen for me, and for some reason every time they were on 20 metres I was not in the shack!


All the Echo Indias were looking forward to the CY0 DXpedition to Sable Island, mainly because of the fact that due to its location in the Atlantic it would have been an easy target on most bands for even modest stations like mine. Originally due to start at the end of October, the team were disappointed to learn that the aircraft which was due to take them to Sable Island had a part that needed replacing. This set the DXpedition back by a number of weeks. The new dates are 6-13 December, but to check for any updates keep an eye on the CY0 website at

Monday, November 1, 2010

CQWW - hello world, the bands are alive !!

Only those radio enthusiasts who have spent the last month or two living a caveman existence in a deep cavern beneath the earth won't know that last weekend the biggest radio contest of the year was taking place.

CQWW (the phone portion - CW to follow next month!) began at midnight Friday night and ran for 48 hours and saw some contest stations working solidly for 48 hours and other less competitively minded amateurs just picking off one or two DX stations on various bands.

I fit into a different category altogether. It's the "Do five and a half hours for your contest team, do another eight hours from your own shack, and spend the rest of the weekend getting ready for Hallowe'en" category.

While I was able to devote a certain amount of time, quite sporadically I might add, from my own shack, due to family commitments I am not able to devote 48 hours to any contest, not even CQWW. Not that I mind. I still had a great weekend because I got to work a whole rake of new countries on various bands, I got to work the contest from the EI0W contest station in Clogherhead, and I even got to go trick or treating and watching Hallowe'en bonfires with the kids. Now how many of you can say you had such an action-packed and varied weekend?

Having worked about 200 QSOs on Saturday at various periods with my EI2KC callsign, I was scheduled for Sunday morning activity with EI0W, the contest team of the Dundalk Amateur Radio Society (EI7DAR). So I arrived in the station (owned by Thos EI2JD, pictured above) at 7am Sunday morning (having not retired from CQWW activity until 1.30am Saturday night/Sunday morning) and began my stint for the team.

I picked up some really great DX and a pile of new countries and zones, all multipliers in the contest. Contacts included VK, C9, JW, JO, B7 on 15m and the catch of the day for me was definitely S79K, the Seychelles, on 10 metres! EI0W team manager Thos even managed to catch a bit of sleep as I nabbed country after country and zone after zone.

Our most prolific bands during the weekend were 160m, 40m and 15m but there was activity on all the HF bands. Other club members made appearances during the weekend and many were given a stint at the mic to help improve the scores. They included Charlie EI8JB, Seamus GI4SZW, Tom EI9CJ, Mickey 2I0MMT, Mickey 2I0EIB and Brendan EI1429.

After the Hallowe'en activities (my youngest son, aged 2, was dressed as Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story!!) I retired to the radio again to work another 50 or so QSOs Sunday night as the contest drew to a close. After importing my contest log into my station logging software, I was delighted to see that I had picked up a few new countries. I worked two new ones on top band, five on 80m and seven on 15m, bringing my 15m total to 90 DXCCs worked.

Highlights for me at home were C7 Andorra on 80m, P4 Aruba on 15m, W7 west coast USA on 20m, RW9 Asiatic Russia on 80m, D4 Cape Verde on 10m, and OY Faroe Islands on 80m. Other highlights might come to mind when I review the log !

All I can say at this point is roll on the CW portion of the contest on November 27 & 28. See (hear) you then!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Licenced one year ago - celebrating my first radio birthday!

It's a historic day today for me. I received my licence on October 30th 2009 so therefore I am celebrating a year on the air today. And what better way to celebrate than with trying to work some new DX in the CQWW contest?

I remember that having passed the test on October 6th last year, the wait for the licence seemed to go on for ever. But eventually on Friday evening, just as I was heading home from work in my car, I got the magic call from Comreg and my first foray into ham radio began.

And what a great year it's been. I've worked some great DX. I have 100+ countries worked on three bands and am not far off the mark on one more - 15m - and that's the band I've been concentrating on today to try to get more countries into the bag and make it 100 on that band. I was at 83 before the contest and I've already worked a few new ones today.

Hopefully some time over the weekend I will get some action with the EI0W contest team who are working hard in the CQWW contest as we speak.

In the meantime, thanks to all those I have worked over the past year. I have 4,156 QSOs in my log, plus another 67 so far in CQWW. To those I haven't worked yet, I look forward to meeting you on the bands!

73 for now,
de Anthony EI2KC

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mexico, Mauritius, Gibraltar, highlights of another great day with six new countries worked on 12m

Heading into the weekend I had a total of just 42 countries worked on 12 metres. In fact, just two weeks before that I had added another six onto my previously miserly total of just 36.

However, I am now coming out of the (Bank Holiday) weekend (Monday included) with a grand total of 65 countries worked on 12m. I added six of those today, having notched up 17 new ones yesterday. Today's countries included some very decent DX I might add. Three of those DXCCs which I worked in a row were countries starting with the letter M: Mexico, Montenegro and Mauritius! Nice.

Difficult as it might be to believe, OE Austria was a new country for me today on 12, followed closely by ZB2 Gibraltar and CN Morocco. So all in all it's been a terrific weekend on that band, which was thoroughly enjoyable. When I put out a CQ at lunchtime I found the band open to the States and got plenty of North America and even one Canada into the log. So thanks everyone for a really great weekend.

Here are those who made it into the log today (Monday) with new countries on 12m indicated with (N): UT3IW, W8CD, DL6XA, N2LQ, RX6LDX, N8DX, W2YJ, DJ6TK, DK1QC, DL3HRW, DK5DC, OK8YD, N3QW, DL9IU, DM2DXA, DL2AMA, W1HT, N2WK, XE3N (N), 4O50A (N), 3B8DB (N), VA3PL (new band slot),  WA4FLZ, AB1KW, K3LRH, K1NOX, OZ8ABE, OE2LCM (N), ZB2FK (N), CN8KD (N), IT9/LY5W, 5N7M (had Nigera already on 12m!!), DL5ZL, DL4ZM, DL2RU, RA7A.

Hopefully conditions will continue as they are, or even show an improvement, over the winter. Right now the sunspot number is 57 and the SFU is 82, so those are good numbers for ham radio. Check yourself regularly at

That's all for now folks. Unfortunately I am back at work tomorrow and for the rest of the week so very little time, if any, for openings on the daytime bands. :(

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When all the buses come along at once!

There's an old saying here in Ireland, usually related to Dublin buses, but not exclusively. It goes something like this:

"You wait around for an hour for one to come, and then two come along at once!"

In a way, I can relate that to the twelve metre band. Having been licenced during one of the longest lulls in sunspot history in 2009, I have had precious few openings to enjoy on 12m, so my country total on that band was (and I reiterate was) quite low. Until, that is, this weekend which has seen spectacular openings.

The long and short of it is that I have added 17 new countries to my 12m total in just one weekend. Starting into the weekend I had 42 countries worked, six of those being relatively new ones worked in the previous fortnight. Now, at the end of the weekend, my total is up to 59. Almost every country I worked was a new one, or so it seemed.

All I have to do is browse my log to see the comments:

LZ1ND SSB - New country on 12m!
T77C CW - New country on 12m!!
Z30U SSB - New Country on 12m!!!
HI3/W1JNZ SSB - New Country on 12m!!
EA9EU CW - Very strong - new country on 12m!!!!!
EA8CAC CW - New country on 12m!
EA3NO CW - New country on 12m!!
ST2DZ SSB - New country on 12m!!
E74A CW - New country on 12m!!
3V8SS SSB - New country on 12m!!
YO6EV CW - New country on 12m!!
DL6UNF CW - New country on 12m!!!
9A2SY CW - New country on 12m!!
YL2UZ CW - New country on 12m!!!
IS0AFM CW - New country on 12m!!

You can see a screenshot of some of my log comments and also the relatively short space of time in which these new countries were worked.

There are two more countries which made it into the log but which at the time I didn't know they were new ones, so I can't say what they are. Nevertheless you can see that conditions have been great. Probably the best ones were ST2 Sudan, 3V8 Tunisia, and IS0 Sardinia. Nice to get those prefixes into the log on 12 metres.

So you see all this talk about the sun and sunspots and solar flux index and such apparent nonsense is really very relevant to the hobby of amateur radio. The solar flux is 84 right now and the sunspot number is 43. If things stay like this, or improve, we could be facing into a decent winter on the bands, which would be in complete contrast to last winter when the openings were as rare as hen's teeth. Or Dublin buses!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

EI9FBB is the first EI ever to attain 10 band DXCC

Warmest congratulations to EI9FBB, Dave Deane, who has become the first EI to attain 10 band DXCC. A remarkable aspect to Dave's achievement is that he was only licenced in 2004, and therefore achieved in six years what many hams will struggle to do in a lifetime.

Even more remarkable is the fact that he worked his 100 countries on both 17 metres and 12 metres using an Antron 99 - an 11 metres (CB) antenna. Needless to say I'm greatly heartened by this because I too use an Antron for some of my contacts.

Dave features on the front cover of this month's Echo Ireland magazine, the publication of the Irish Radio Transmitters' Society (IRTS). He has made history in amateur radio in Ireland. The first is the first and nobody will ever beat that.

I have sent congrats to Dave by email. He deserves all the praise and all the glory he is getting right now, because attaining 10-band DXCC from a modest property is not an easy achievement. He worked some of his 160m top band contacts portable, and this summer had a fantastic season on 6 metres, working 91 countries (well beating my total of 53 hi hi !!!). You can read all about Dave's fantastic achievement on page 5 of this month's Echo Ireland.

Congrats again Dave.

PS: You might be interested to know that EI9FBB will be one of two Irish hams, the other being Paul EI5DI, who will be part of the huge T32C DXpedition to Christmas Island in September/October 2011. Another nice accolade. All I can hope is that somewhere among the huge pile-ups which no doubt will be encountered from Christmas Island, Dave will hear my puny little EI2KC signal in there in the muck!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Finally, after an age, the sunspot cycle starts to excite amateurs

For a while there in 2009 and early 2010 it seemed as if the sun had gone into sleep mode. Or worse, shutdown mode. After a good sunsport Cycle 23, it looked to all intents and purposes as if Cycle 24 was never going to arrive. 2009 was one of the poorest years on record for sunspots, with a total of 260 days (71% of the year) without any sunspots whatsover.

This of course is bad news for radio amateurs, who rely on sunspot activity and the associated interaction of solar material with earth's upper atmosphere, for decent propagation on the bands. I was licenced in October 2009, right in the depths of this awful depression. Not that it was a complete disaster for me or anything. I was working decent DX throughout the low period, but very little of it on 10m and 12m where one could expect gerat DX in the "good times" with 10 watts of RF through a string of wet spaghetti strung from the back of the rig.

But, as the song goes, "Times, they are a changin'". Right now the sunspot number is 61. What we would have done to see figures like that a year ago! If the sun could be bribed into life, every amateur on the planet would have had his or her hand in their pocket, reaching for the wallet! But put your money away for now. The sun is coming to life of its own accord, without financial reward. Only 45 days of 2010 (16%) have been without sunspots.

At this moment in time, there are four different groups of sunspots, 1112, 1113, 1115 and 1116, of which 1112 seems the most active right now. The solar flux index (SFU) is at 84, and hopefully rising. When it goes up into the 90s, and especially close to 100, watch for the good DX on the higher frequency bands, especially 12 and 10 metres.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lots of activity on 12 metres, and of course there's Togo

It's been a busy week on some of the higher frequencies, in particular 12 metres, where I have worked an additional six new countries since my last update two weeks ago. One of those new countries was, believe it or not, Northern Ireland, which I worked earlier this evening on 12m CW. It was a new country for him too - MI0BPB, Andrew near Banbridge - although I had to work him straight key because I was using my old Icom IC735 to make the contact.

At the moment there's a DXpedition to Togo in Africa, 5V7TT, which is continuing until October 23rd (next Saturday). Needless to say it will be a new country for many, and they've been working fairly hefty pile-ups on various bands.

As it's not particularly distant from me, it shouldn't be too difficult to get them into the log at least a few times on various bands. I have heard them on 80m CW although they were low, and that would be a very nice band for me to work them on. In the meantime, I have caught them a few times:

ALL SSB CW RTTY CALL 160m 80m 40m 30m 20m 17m 15m 12m 10m 6m
34096 16392 16360 1344 14013 242 1523 3157 2016 7078 5111 7521 4641 2800 7

The above shows their status at this moment in time. Imagine being one of their seven QSOs on 6 metres? Wouldn't that be nice? Indeed it would. Looking at my own standings on their online log, I am glad to confirm that I've already worked them on four band slots - 17m CW and SSB and 15m CW and SSB. I was trying them hard on 20 metres CW this evening but the pile-up was intense and I didn't make it through with my 100 watts and vertical. :( Not this time anyhow!

Here's my latest status (with increases from last time in brackets):

Total DXCCs worked: 178 (+2) (of which) Phone: 128 (+2) CW: 159 (+3) RTTY: 32

160M: 13 DXCCs worked (+1)
80M: 55 (+2)
40M: 103 (+3)
30M: 65 (+1)
20M: 129 (+1)
17M: 104 (+5)
15M: 83 (+2)
12M: 42 (+6)
10M: 31 (+1)
6M: 53
2M: 10 (+1)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

EI2KC made with candy letters

Made this out of candy letters purchased in a new candy shop in Dundalk. And yes, I know that's not a 2, it's an S. I did say candy letters - no numbers unfortunately.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Three VKs into the log for the CW Oceania contest

I cannot say it enough. Working VK from my QTH, with my set-up, is quite an achievement. No two ways about it. Up until last weekend, I had but five contacts into VK on HF, including the well-known VK3MO, Ian in Melbourne, who blasts into Europe most evenings with his 20 element (4x5 stacked beams) pointing at us.

Last weekend the CW portion of the Oceania contest was on. Disappointed with just one VK contact in the SSB portion the previous weekend (could I have expected any more with 100 watts and a vertical, really?), I set out to get at least another VK into the log, and perhaps a ZL which would be a first.

Unfortunately, no ZLs made it into the log and when 20m closed to VK I was beginning to think it wasn't going to happen for me. But as a result of sitting at the radio all evening on Saturday and calling at every opportunity, I eventually worked no less than three VKs. Whew! The first was VK3TDX, Steve in Victoria. When I finished working him, I spotted him on the cluster with the remarks, "At last ! Thanks !" Today, I received the following nice email from Steve:
Hi Tony

I see you gave me a spot on the cluster this weekend with the comment "At last ! Thanks!"
I guess this means you had to work hard to get me? I have to chuckle at this because in my former life in the USA as NF6V I simply could never get a QSO with Ireland! Year after year I just never heard nor could ever make it through to any EI station. When I finally got one I had to wait several years before I could get a QSL so I know what it can be like to struggle for a contact.

It's unusual for us usually lonely guys down under in VK to be "desired" and to be on stage for pileups. It was quite frustrating for me because I wanted to work everybody but sometimes the pile was just too manysignals to hear anything so we all suffered. Even the big guns with big signals sometimes can't be pulled out because they are often on the same exact frequency as me so they cover each other up. I can give you a tidbit of advice that when you're in a pileup call a little high or low in freq (maybe 100 Hz using your TX offset). Even in the biggest pileups a weaker signal that's distinctively a different pitch from the rest can be pulled out. I just figured out this trick for the next time I'm one of the guys in the crowd trying to break through.

Thanks again for the spot and I'm happy we made the contact.


Steve VK3TDX

Well I can tell you Dr OM Steve that the pleasure was all mine. Really really great to get the VK prefix in my log especially as I am using just a random wire only 25 feet up in a small garden. I also logged VK6DXI and VK2MI.

Some good advice there on working a simplex pile-up. Experienced CW ops will know that split pile-ups, especially where the DX station is listening over a few KCs of the band, are much easier to break than those awful simplex pile-ups where the DX station is greeted with a great wall of noise. My "cheat" in Steve's case, if you could call it a cheat, was to slow down my calling. I normally call a DX station at about 25-30wpm but for Oceania, given the strength of the pile-ups, I slowed right down to about 10wpm. Turns out at least two of the VKs heard me as the intensity of the pile-up died away after the initial cacophony.

I was disappointed not to get the first ZL into my log, but there's always another time for that. Also I could not hear Oceania on 80 metres, somewhat not surprisingly.

Anyway, to Steve I say thanks million and it's great to have you in the log.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Great conditions on 2 metres Sunday night

It's been an interesting evening on 2 metres. There's a nice tropo lift on and there are plenty of UK stations working into Europe. We even jumped on the bandwagon here in Echo India as myself and Tony EI4DIB both worked into Germany on 2m FM. DL1EBQ was the station, operator Thomas. Great to get my first decent "DX" contact on 2 metres.

I had a chat with a M0RDW/M who was north of Stoke on Trent and it was as if he was local. He was static mobile. He was delighted to get his first EI into the log on 2m but this was soon followed by an ON station (Belgium) so it was a great night for operator Rich too.

I even decided to try my hand at 2m CW and eventually got GI0GDF coming back to my call from Lisburn in Northern Ireland. Thanks indeed for the 599 Ernie. You are my first CW contact on 2 metres. One more to make it into the log was MI0VKO, Dave in County Fermanagh, on 2m simplex FM.

UPDATE: After I wrote the above I answered a call through the GB3MN repeater near Stockport and ended up spending an hour working various English and Welsh stations through that repeater. It was great fun. The following were all worked: 2E0MVH, M1GWM, GW6STK, M6KBY, 2E0SAF/M, M3VUO, 2E0MAS, MW3YYQ, MW3ZVB, MW3VQJ, EI7GOB (yes, an Echo India through a UK repeater!) and M3POG. Very nice to work you all under fantastic conditions. QSL cards will definitely be sent!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Latvia makes it 100 countries worked on 17 metres!

I've just worked YL2UZ, Tur, in Latvia, on 17 metres CW, which officially makes it 100 countries worked on that band. I had been at 99 for a while there but I've finally got to the century mark. Of course, it might take a while to get the 17m DXCC confirmed by QSL card. But that's another day's work!

At this moment in time I have 100 countries or more worked on three bands - 20 metres, 40 metres and now 17 metres. My next best score is 15m, where I have 81 countries worked.

Update: An hour later I worked my 101st country on 17m - Hungary!! HA5AGS was booming in on SSB. Hard to believe I hadn't got Hungary on 17m but there you go - life is full of surprises.

Update 2: A few minutes later I gave a CQ on 18.070 on CW and who was the first to come back to me? - Hungary!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

An update on propagation and the EI2KC eQSL and log standings

There was some interesting DX over the weekend and a nice increase in propagation on certain bands thanks to a Solar Flux Index that hit a high of 91 before falling again to the mid 80s where it currently languishes at 85. There was some nice propagation to Australia and New Zealand for the Oceania contest and I even managed to bag a VK on 20m where there were sustained pile-ups. He was VK4KW and I got him later on Saturday afternoon when his pile-up had thinned out somewhat. Congratulations to my near neighbour Charlie EI8JB who managed to nab a VK on 20m before getting another on 40m on a G5RV. Well done Charlie.

I tried my hand at 160m again Saturday night / Sunday morning where there were some European and Russian stations on. I nabbed two new ones - TF Iceland and OJ0 Market Reef. So I enjoyed that. One other highlight from the weekend was RI1FJ, my first Franz Josef Land (Arctic Circle) on 30m. Also on top band was the special station GM6NX/P on the Isle of Skye on SSB so that was nice too.

My eQSL tally has gone up by five countries since I last updated on that. I now have 79 countries AG. The new ones include (from memory!) Bahrain (thanks to Dave Court EI3IO/A92IO), Falkland Islands (tnx Bob VP8LP), Gabon (TR8CA), Thailand (HS0ZIN) and West Malaysia 9M2CNC who I worked on three band slots. Thanks Richard.

I thought now would be a good time to update you as to my log standings. Here's how it sits in the EI2KC log as of now:

Total DXCCs worked: 176 (of which) Phone: 126 CW: 156 RTTY: 32

160M: 12 DXCCs worked
80M: 53
40M: 100
30M: 64
20M: 128
17M: 99
15M: 81
12M: 36
10M: 30
6M: 53
2M: 9

So technically I have enough for DXCC on 20m and 40m, although I would need every card to come in for 40m! I'm almost there on 17m - just one country away - and not far off the hundred on 15m. That's not bad at all for someone who got a licence less than a year ago!

Update: It's nearly 9pm and two attempts to get 100 on 17m have failed. CV5D went QRT while I was calling him and now HK1X has just gone out with his family despite being 59 here. I wasn't able to work him through the pile-up. Damn!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

United States on top band, opening on 12 metres

It's been an exciting 12 hours. Last night just after midnight I sat at the radio for five minutes before heading to bed. Something made me head down to 160m to have a listen. There, I could hear K3ZM on CW. Surely I was missing part of his callsign? Maybe he was OK3ZM? No, he called again. It was definitely K3ZM, Peter in Charlottesville, Virginia. Not thinking I had a hope in hell, I decided to call him. I gave him a 2 by 3 call (his callsign twice followed by my callsign three times). He came back with "2KC?" And before you know it, we were exchanging reports. That's Peter pictured below with some of his antennas. (Note: I'm jealous!!)

Making the States on 160m is a big deal for me. As you might have read in a recent post, the furthest I've ever worked up to now on top band was Lithuania!! It's a bit difficult to radiate effectively on 160m with just 50m of random wire! But somehow conditions allowed a trans-Atlantic contact last night. I was thrilled. I went to bed with a smile on my face. That brings my total number of countries worked on 160m to just seven. It will be a while before I get DXCC on that band!!!

Today (Saturday) there has been some interesting propagation on the bands. The solar flux index hit 91 yesterday but has dropped somewhat today to 87. Nevertheless I've been hearing some interesting DX. For instance, Australia on 20m and 15m, working the Oceania contest (although not able to hear my call regrettably!), China on 17m CW, and a good bit of activity on 12 metres.

It was on the latter band that I sat on CW and gave a CQ and got Russia and Ukraine coming in strong with a bit of Europe too, notably Poland and Czech Republic. Interestingly I am on 37 countries worked on that band. Apart from one great opening last Spring, I am yet to hear 12 metres like it used to be in the good old days. So here's hoping for good dx to come.

Update: It's 12.45pm and I'm hearing 7Q7BP Malawi on 10m CW! Needless to say he's got a big pile-up!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Some great DX comes at the least expected moments

Most DXers have served their time, so to speak, CQing and rag chewing and trying to make contacts during the lean times. I was licenced (October 2009) during one of the lowest sunspot lulls in the past century. So I've been there, done that, worn the t-shirt. Now don't get me wrong - I don't mind working Europe and Russia. In fact, I just like making contacts on HF, no matter where they are. After many years of being a listener, being able to talk to these guys and gals is a great pleasure.

However, I am interested in working DX, especially as the station is fairly limited. (One vertical, one longwire and 100w for HF). So last night, when I started putting out a CQ on CW, I wasn't expecting much to be honest. After 5 minutes of CQ on 20 metres I heard nothing. The band appeared to have died around 10pm, which is unusual. I was working the USA at midnight a few days before on the same band. So I QSY'd to 80m, where to my surprise I was getting strong signals from Russia, and also Ukraine and Europe. So that was OK. But then the contacts dried up. So I tried 40m, thinking I might grab some DX there. After about eight minutes I had made just one contact. It was after 10pm and with work in the morning, I was thinking of heading to bed.

But before I powered down the shack and everything in it, I decided to give 30m a go. With 20m dead, it was highly likely 30m would be gone to sleep too. To my surprise, I worked a few. There was an Oscar Kilo, an Echo Alpha QRP, a SM, an OE, another OK, and then . . .

Dit dah dah dah, dit dah, dit dit dit dah dah . . .

JA3? Japan, at this hour of the night? Surely I am getting his call wrong. PA3 maybe? So I give "JA3?" and, sure enough, he comes back with JA3FYC. Wow! Japan on 30m at 10.13pm!! I have him 559, he gave me 579. It really made the whole night! It gave me a lift, so I decided to carry on for a few minutes.

Next to call after the JA3 was 7N1PRD/0, also in Japan! Two in a row. Well that was just magic! He was a bit weaker, so I gave him 539 and he gave me 559. Surely now was the time to go to bed, with a big smile on my face!!

But moments later I spotted something on the DX cluster. A 9M6 station - East Malaysia - working Europeans! I QSY'd down to his frequency and, sure enough, there he was, 9M6XRO/P, listening up! He was on 10.107.6 so I put 10.108.5 into the second VFO and put the split on and gave a call - EI2KC.

He came back straight away with EI2? so I gave him the call three times, fearing he might be working another EI2! He got me though, no problem, and gave me a  599! I gave him a 559 and tnx and GL and GD DX and all that and said 73. A new country in the bag, late at night on 30m. That was one great night. And what's more, the op, John, is on an island, Sebatik Island, for an IOTA expedition, and is there for just four days, September 24-28. Great to get him in my log!

I worked three new countries on 30m, bringing my total worked to 60. I know Japan and East Malaysia were two, but can't figure what the third one was. But I didn't care. I went to bed with a huge smile on my face!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A great time at EI7DAR radio night

A great time was had by all at the Dundalk Amateur Radio Society's first Radio Night in a long time last night, Thursday, in the club's Castletown Road headquarters. There was a great turnout - some said the best ever - and there was tea and conversation flowing as radios were set up to activate HF and VHF. And there was even some demonstration of ATV / microwave equipment.

The club was delighted to have some new visitors in the form of some short wave listeners, some 11m operators and even the manager of the local community radio station Dundalk FM.

Seamus GI4SZW works a contact on 20m watched by (from left): Joe SWL, Brian Cowley SWL, EI4KC Brian, Larry 2I0LRY and (far right) Michael EI1581.

A recent repair to the roof of the club's premises enabled members to utilise the radio shack which had been off limits for a number of months. The club has a HF radio with power supply and a speaker. It's an old Icom 731. I brought my recently-acquired Icom IC-735, which had previously belonged to Fr Padraig O'Kelly, a former President of EI7DAR, who is now sadly silent key. Brian EI4KC brought his newly-acquired Icom 756Pro and that was the radio which was utilised for CW contacts which were made on the 30 metre and 40 metre bands.

2I0MMT Mickey enjoying the evening.

Charlie EI8JB and John EI6GHB at the radio night

Probably the most enjoyable aspect of the whole event was the whole social element. The tea flowed, mainly thanks to club Treasurer, Jim 2I0SBI who always ensures a good supply of clean cups and hot water on the boil! And the conversation was great as old faces and new met up in Dundalk. The club is lucky to be located near the border with GI land, and so has a large membership of both EI and GI enthusiasts. A large turnout from both areas ensured a great night, and the large numbers could have been bigger because some members were unable to attend!

Brian EI4KC with his recently-purchased Icom 756Pro which we used to make some CW contacts on the night. Brian and I sat our morse test on the same day, hence the similar callsigns! Once upon a time him and I were 11 metre operators, working the skip into Europe and beyond. How things change!!
Mike EI5GG demonstrates the heat dispersion from a heat sink to short wave listener Michael EI1581. Mike is one of a number of EI7DAR members who has a great interest in ATV and microwave work and regularly conducts experiments on the microwave bands with Pat EI2HX and Mark EI9FX. Silent Key Dermot EI2AK was also a big proponent of these type of experiments and the club was delighted to have his son, Brian, along as a visitor on the evening. Brian hopes to sit the exam next year. The club is soon starting theory classes in order to prepare anyone interested in getting their amateur station licence for the test. These will be conducted mainly by Tony EI4DIB with the assistance of other club members.

If you wish to participate in the classes you can contact Tony by email at ei4dib (AT) ei7dar (DOT) com or via SMS text message to 00353 (0)86 4066660.