The Force of Ice

IMG_3950A new year with new challenges just started. This weekend we got snow and temperatures below the freezing point for the first time this winter. On Saturday I spent some time making sure antennas where in shape for the colder season. I checked and adjusted tension of the 160 meter vertical guys and everything else about it was looking just fine.

On Sunday I made a last check of the Topband vertical and made a disturbing discovery. Ice had been building up overnight inside the bottom pipe and with enormous force pushed the whole antenna upwards.

On the photo you can how the antennas has risen almost 70 millimeter! When discovered there where only 15 millimeter margin, then the antenna would have jumped off the insulator. The force cut the stainless steel bolt securing the pipe to the insulator and the guy lines where tense like banjo strings.

The fix was quite easy, I strapped a heater tight to the pipe and a drilled a couple of holes for drainage. After about an hour the ice had melted and I was able to get the pipe back in place. A new hole was drilled a new bolt it put in place.

The Topband vertical is the most challenging antenna to keep in the air at SE0X. It is exposed not only to heavy wind, but also to the sea. In wintertime that means icing is a big threat, and at least two times icing of guy lines have brought it down. It happened last season and three seasons ago. This was a very close call! Lets see if it will survive this season.

Happy New Year!


Stew Perry Top Band Distance Challenge 2013


I missed the Stew Perry Top Band Distance Challenge last Christmas so I really looked forward to it this year. To be repair the North East Pennant and to be able to fix any other issues with antennas I arrived early to SE0X.

The contest started with a decent rate but mainly with low-point contacts. There was very little DX in the early evening. JH2FXK called me two and a half hours into the test and it made me hopeful. But it would take another two hours for the next JA to appear. The first NA station, W1WEF, was logged just before 22:00.

The longest contact logged was with VK6DXI who called me around 21:00 for 27 points, N1MM calculated the distance to 13452 km. I tried several times for CE1/K7RCA which would have been the second longest, but no cigar. KV4FZ and FM5CD was a lot easier, only one call was needed to enter their logs. And I got pleasantly surprised when V55V called me in the middle of the night.

A more disturbing surprise was that the North West pennant failed around midnight. Of course it was wet and windy in addition to being dark! Grabbed a flashlight and went out to find a bad connection. 20 minutes later the antenna was working again.

After 14 hours of operating I had logged 383 contacts and N1MM calculated contacts and distances to a final (claimed) score of 1912.

CQWW SSB update from X-Team at SK3W

SK3W From Above

SK3W from above taken with the “eye in the sky”, my quadrocopter.

Here is a short update of CQWW SSB. X-Team members Vincent F4BKV, Björn SM0MDG, Patrik SM0MLZ and Jón TF3ZA joined forces with SK3W members Gunnar SM3SGP, Bertie SM5CBM and PeO SM5EPO to challenge the SM record in the Multi Operator Two Transmitter category in CQWW SSB 2013.

With propagation being great and with all the aluminium in the air at SK3W we where set for a fun and action filled weekend. After some preparation of the station and a team dinner at the Fernebo pizza joint we where ready to dive into the ocean of QRM.

We had lots of fun in this contest. Most of all is was the combination of great propagation together with stacks and stacks of antennas that put a big smile on everyones face.

At the end of the 48 hours we had broken the SM record in the M2 category with a claimed score of 16.608.188 points. This is more than twice the score of the 2002 record. See score and band breakdowns after the photos.

Click photos to enlarge.

80m 4-sq @ SK3W

Birds view of the 80 meter 4-square array with the SK3W station in the background.

SK3W station building.

SK3W station building.


Vincent F4BKV and Bertie SM5CBM operating station one in CQWW SSB 2013.


Jón TF3ZA operating station 2 in CQWW SSB 2013.

10m Stack @ SK3W

SK3W 10 meter stack with 6/6/6 from below.

Ericsson Tower @ SK3W

Ericsson tower at SK3W with 5/5/5/5 on 15 meter and 4/4 on 20 meter.

60 Meter Tower @ SK3W

60 meter tower at SK3 Wwith 3/3 for 40m and 5/5/5 for 20 meter.

SK3W "Sauna", Amp Room

SK3W “Sauna”, the amplifier room with one amp per band.

SK3W Radio Room

SK3W operating positions with station 1 run and multi to the left, and station two run and multi to the right.

Station:  SK3W

Class: M/2 HP
Operating Time (hrs): 48

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
  160:  247    10       53
   80:  913    21       94
   40:  797    37      113
   20: 2343    39      149
   15: 2419    39      143
   10: 1629    40      149
Total: 8348   186      701  

Total Score = 16,608,188
CQWW SSB 2013 Bands

SK3W bands by hour breakdowns in CQWW SSB 2013.

Thanks to Gunnar SM3SGP for inviting us to SK3W! See the photos from the CQWW CW weekend below. Click any image to enlarge.

73 de SM0MDG

CQWW-CW: Close but no cigar

Here is the quick summary of the single operator marathon of the year, CQWW CW.

Propagation was nice with some good DX on Ten meter and also a few surprises on low bands. I recently replaced my 40 meter array and have a new 160 meter vertical in the air, both working great in the contest. Being a smaller station I was pleased with my pileup busting abilities. There where only a few occasions where I didn’t cut through the big piles on the first or second call. 

Acc mults & points @ SE0X in CQWW CW 2013

Click to enlarge

I ended up logging about the same number of contacts as last year but spent more time picking zones and country multipliers on the second radio which helped the score a lot. I was mostly running but the last 2-3 hours was almost exclusively S&P.

Band    QSOs    ZN  Cty
 1,8     178    17   64
 3,5     470    19   69
   7     796    35  118
  14     732    33  106
  21     575    36  127
  28     285    35  115
Total    3036  175  599

I did not got the opportunity to rest as much as I needed before the contest, so I faded after about 24 hours of operating and decided to take a 3 hour sleep to be fresh for sunrise. This is where I believe I lost the SM record.

My claimed score at 4,280,994 points is a great improvement, but it is still about 50k below the current SM record.

Close but no cigar!

Topband Vertical 2013/2014 season

Topband Vertical @ SE0X

Click to enlarge

The top band vertical at SE0X was put in place just in time for CQWW CW. This year the antenna is a little stronger (and longer). The bottom section is now made of a 60 millimeter aluminium tube with 3 millimeter wall thickness and I added a more robust delrin isolator.

TB vert bottom isolator @ SE0X

Click to enlarge

The total heigh of the antenna is now around 19 meter and it is guyed in four levels, adding another set of guys to make it more robust in winter storms. I have also added some light bottom loading to make the top loading wires a little shorter and make the antenna a little easier to tune.

Future plans include to add remote switching of the loading coil to extend bandwith of the antenna. Another plan is to test if K2AV’s FCP (Folded Counterpoise) is a better solution than my raised and bent radials.

40 meter array upgrade

40m 2-el @ SE0X

Click to enlarge

This year I decided it was time to upgrade the 40 meter phased array. The fibre glass poles have been in the air for a few years, and winter time really wears them down. The plan was to replace them with aluminium which would also provide more rigid antennas to minimise swaying in the wind as this messes up the pattern of the phased array.

I did some extensive testing with vertical dipoles, I wanted to see if I could get rid of the radials. But in my situation the vertical dipoles where a few dB down in most directions and paths, so the decision was made to stick with full the current setup using full size verticals over 20-24 radials.

The bottom delrin isolators where originally machined for the vertical dipoles. I also decided to replace the coax phasing cables that had seen many years in the field with brand new cables.

40m vert base @ SE0X

Click to enlarge

The performance of the array is not very different, it always worked great and hopefully the better mechanical construction and stability will help it survice a few winters to come.

SE0X challenge the SM record in IARU 2013


A little snack to keep the spirit high in IARU 2013.

I like 24 hour contests, its not that i don’t like a major 48 hour effort, but a 24 hour contest is easy to participate in. Its a blessing not having to spend the full Friday with preparations and most of Monday to recover. The IARU HF Challenge is the perfect contest in that respect.

Last year my log got lost for some unknown reason. Not sure I just forgot to send it, or it for some reason never was accepted by the log submission robot. It does not really matter as it wasn’t  competitive. It was not a bad effort a year ago, but it was not great.

This year it was time to get serious and challenge the SM record. I calculated that about 1800 contacts and 228 multipliers would put me at 1.3 million, a score sufficient to beat the current record. How did it turn out? Continue reading and I’ll let you know!

The contest got off to a rocky start. A logging issue with Wintest forced me to change to N1MM, my preferred logger, after about 20 contacts. In addition to the log struggle the rate was lower than planned due to weak propagation with very few NA stations to pile up. Ten meter was useless on Saturday afternoon and only a few stations where logged on Fifteen. Twenty meter was the goto band during Saturday afternoon and early evening.


IARU 2013 SOAB-HP-CW: Bands by Hour graph. Click graph to enlarge.

At 19:00 the number of NA stations increased on Twenty meter. The opening was not strong enough to improve the rate, but the new multipliers collected and more DX points in the log certainly helped building up the score. At 20:00 Twenty meter faded and I went on Forty where lots of new multipliers where harvested. 21:00 was be the second best hour when it comes to rate, and from 22:00 almost three hours where spend on Eighty meter. The second half of Saturday was better than the first half, but still I was 165 contacts behind my plan at midnight.

At 01:00 the rate dropped and I decided to take a tactical nap at 01:45. I was off air for only about 35 minutes, but it was well invested down time. After the nap and some strong coffee I felt fresh and awake for the morning race.

iaru-2013-acc-with-score-and comments

IARU 2013 SOAB-HP-CW: Accumulated QSOs, Multipliers and Score. Click graph to enlarge.

On Sunday morning Fifteen meter was alive, and a little later Ten meter came to life providing even more needed multipliers. The hour with the highest rate was the six o’clock hour with a total of 114 stations logged, all except one logged on Twenty. A decent rate of 80 to 100 QSO per hour was maintained throughout the Sunday except for the last hour and a half when stations started to dry up.

Normally I would like to have at least two thirds of the contacts in the first half of the contest, this time I had only about half. My luck was that the second half of the contest turned out the be much better which helped me to catch up.

On the finnish line it was obvious that I didn’t reach my goal. 1780 unique contacts in the log was in the ballpark of the number of QSOs needed, but I was missing exactly 20 multipliers to hit the 1.3 million score I set as my goal. It was close enough and after all, the claimed score is above the current SM record which is very good so overall I am pleased with the effort.

Below is the score summary from N1NN;

    CallSign Used : SE0X
      Operator(s) : SM0MDG

Operator Category : SINGLE-OP
             Band : ALL
            Power : HIGH
             Mode : CW
 Default Exchange : 18
       Gridsquare : JO99

        Band    QSOs    Pts  ITU   HQ
         3,5     222     614   12   25
           7     268     804   17   28
          14     842    2952   34   28
          21     326    1016   24   24
          28     123     331    9   17
       Total    1781    5717   96  122

            Score : 1 246 306

              Rig : K3 + TS-590

         Antennas : 3-el SteppIR, 5-el 15m mono, 
                    2-el vert array 40m, top load vert 80m

The good news is that the claimed score challenges the current SM record in the Single Operator CW, High Power category. Now its just wait and see if the final score after log checking (and score reduction) is still competitive.

Thanks to you who are in my log (or tried get into it). CU in the next Contest.

73 de SM0MDG

Adding a mic jack to the FT-857

X - RJ ConnectorAre you also annoyed with modular 8P8C/RJ type of connectors in HF Radios? Why don’t manufacturers realize their stock mike sucks and we want to connect something else. Make it easy!

I use a Yaesu FT-857 for my travel, the minimalistic size makes it the perfect travel partner. But I want to use my headset, not the stock mic. And my heil headset comes with 3.5 mm plugs and require an adapter to connect it to the RJ45 female connector hidden behind the front panel of the FT-857. Read more ›

Feeding 20 Volt to a K3, not good!

Fried D12 in K3

Here is a short update on my fried K3.

The drama happened in the last hour before CQ WPX SSB when we where about to kick off a Multi Operator Single station effort from SE0X. Patrik SM0MLZ was practice running on 40 meter when I noticed the the shack lights flickering. When Patrik keyed, the 12 volt shack lights lit up with dual intensity for a fraction of a second. I immediately pulled power and we measured the PSU which now delivered 20 volt. Read more ›

CQ WPX CW Update

CQ LogoIn preparation for the WPX CW contest decided to adopt last year’s strategy of going non-stop for the first 24 hours. Using the same plan I would try to improve my 2012 result in Single Operator, High Power, Assisted. I also was curious to see how the new 15 meter 5 element mono would help me improve rates and eager to put the recent improvement of the SO2R automation to the test.

I overslept my pre-contest nap and got in the chair 45 minutes late, but with a 36 hour cap on operation I didn’t worry. And with the recent flare activity it was going to be a slow start anyway. The first hours I spent on 40 and 80 meter to grab low band double-pointers, but with very little DX it didn’t make much impact on the “point-o-meter”. Once in a while I went on 20 to snag a few North Americans who made it through the absorption over the pole.

During Saturday 20 meter was the main band with the second radio doing SO2R duty on 15 meter for multipliers. Rates where low and DX scarce in the morning and during midday. When NA woke up the situation improved slightly, but it was not easy to run for rate. At 14:00 it got so slow that I started to do alternate CQ on 20 and 15 which helped maintain a rate in the 60s.

With propagation being so slow I decided on a few breaks during Saturday, at least to get breakfast, lunch and dinner. The sweetest break included a nap in the sun around midday, but I also took a five our sleep the second night and woke up fresh for the Sunday morning runs.

Sunday turned out to be as slow as Saturday. K-index came down a little, but it did not change much. The only excitement on Sunday was the 8 o’clock morning hour when a lot of JA’s came into the log on 15 meter.

At the end there where only a handful more contacts made than in 2012, but about 100 less WPX multipliers. And there where fewer DX logged this year, 28% of all contacts where outside EU compared to 45% in 2012. Click graph to enlarge.

Continent composition in the WPX CQ 2013 log.

Continent composition in the WPX CQ 2013 log.

Claimed score is a bit disappointing, 3.773.813 points, but I had fun anyway. The increased number of contacts despite the lower propagation is at least a small improvement. There was not a single contact made on 160 and 10 meters, but after all it isn’t needed as the prefix just counts ones, regardless of band.

        Band    QSOs    Pts  WPX
         3,5     227     487   81
           7     535    1305  236
          14    1000    1648  461
          21     279     631  149
       Total    2041    4071  927

Below is a more detailed analysis of the rates per hour and the bands used each hour. Click graph to enlarge.

Rates and Bands per Hour graph.

Rates and Bands per Hour graph.

The new SO2R setup worked out fine. I am finally getting the hang of the SO2R shortcut keys and N1MM worked well together with the microHAM automation hardware. I am practicing the ability to decode CW in stereo with one radio in each ear. The logic switching allows for muting the radio which is out of focus or listen to both radios in “stereo”. A keyboard shortcut turns Stereo on or off, ie mutes the radio not in focus and this key naturally gets much use.

As the propagation was really different compared with 2012 it was hard to evaluate the performance on 15 meter with the new mono band yagi. I did notice that I could attract NA and JA response much easier than I am used to with the SteppIR, but this was no A/B test, so the the improvement might be perceptual. The important thing is that it feels good, right?

Thats all for now folks, CU in the next TEST. 73!