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!

Hardware upgrade in time for WPX CW

SE0X RadiosRight in time for WPX CW SE0X got a small hardware upgrade when the second microHAM Station Master was installed. This little magic box is a band decoder on steroids that, in addition to decoding the band and selecting the proper antenna, serves as a control center for all vital equipment.

The purpose of the Station Master is to automate band and frequency changes so the operator can focus on running the contest instead of wasting time on button pushing and know turning.

All possible antenna and filter combinations are preprogrammed in Station Master and several antennas per bands can be defined and selected using the panel keys or a keypad. Read more ›

WPX SSB: K3 fried one hour before start

This year SM0MDG and SM0MLZ teamed up for the WPX SSB Contest from SEOX. Due to the contest colliding with easter weekend obligations the other regulars weren’t able to make it. With a two person team our plan was to take a shot at the SM record, multi-op, single TX in WPX SSB. Two radios were configured SO2R style for us to be able to listen in on other bands while running.

About one hour before start we noticed some strange behavior with the multiplier radio, a Kenwoood TS-590. It would power down when we were transmitting with the run radio, a K3. My first assumption was that RF feedback somehow got into the TS-590 confusing its processor to shut down the radio. Read more ›

CQ160 SSB: Prepping with Slash – SE0X Hits the Goal

Instead of getting some sleep before the CQ160 SSB contest this weekend I attended a Slash concert to get warmed up. Maybe not the wisest choice, but limiting the alcohol at the VIP party before the concert was a smart decision.

Because of the concert I had decided to run CQ160 SSB from SE0X via remote. I had also prepared to run the contest in “silent mode” so I would not disturb the princess in her beauty sleep. Being silent means that the computer has to do the talking. This is possible by voicing calls in N1MM, ie. recording all individual letters and numbers in advance, then let the logger pice calls together and play those back on the fly for each contact made. In preparation for the contest I had recorded, edited and pre-processed all required voice prompts.

Once on the air the scheme worked out better than I dared to hope. With very few repeats or clarifications needed, I was satisfied with the results. To hear an example of an exchange pieced together using pre-recorded letters and numbers, listen here.

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CQ160 SSB in itself is challenging and fun. To make things even more interesting I discovered right after start that I had a RF feedback problem affecting my IP link. My audio got all chopped up while transmitting, not a good thing in a contest where clarity is crucial. Reducing the power would keep the link alive so most of the contacts in the contest where done using just 300 watt.

My goal where set at 500 contacts and 127 000 points in the single operator, assisted, high power category. This was at a level that I felt would be possible even without much DX in the log. A few North Americans where received here, but it was hard to cut through the QRM with reduced power. I got lucky with VY2ZM, K3ZM, W3LL, KP4KE, ZF2AM and a few AS/AF, but in the end EU accounts for 98% of the log entries.

At the end of the contest I had been active for 24 hours and logged 523 contacts in 48 DXCC:s plus 3 US States and Canadian Provinces. This adds up to a final (claimed) score of 135150 points which is close to my unassisted SM record in 2011.

73 de Björn, SM0MDG

Caribbean Tour QSL Preview

The V26BM and VP2MSW QSL cards are now available, check out the preview here! These beautiful QSL cards have been designed by ON5UR Max. They will be used by M0URX Tim to confirm contacts made with me during my Caribbean New Year tour.

V26BM QSL, Front

Please QSL only via M0URX – send to M0URX direct or via OQRS for Bureau.

Exclusive to the backside of the VP2MSW card is a unique photo of Plymouth, the former capital of Montserrat, covered in lava and ash and abandoned in 1997.

Read more ›

Low power effort in CQ160 CW via remote

I decided to try low power (LP) in CQ160 CW for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was prepared to spend lots of time with Search & Pounce in the QRM. Here is a summary of my CQ160 CW effort from SE0X operated via remote.

SE0X Remote Shack

Remote shack with a K3/0 controlling a K3/100 at SE0X over the internet.

To my surprise I hit off running with a nice pace on Friday evening, but then everything slowed down on Saturday. The rate was miserable and all hope of a respectable score went out the window. But something happened Saturday evening at 21:00 when the the rate cam up again, and during the following two hours I was able to catch up everything lost during the day. I was again ahead of my plan and was feeling great. Then at midnight it all came to a halt and Sunday was tremendously slow. I guess by then I had already worked most of the stations that I could reach with my low power setup, and the only action on Sunday where casual contesters and a few DX. The only joy on Sunday where a few needed multipliers found through S&P.

I didn’t expect to log much DX, but to my surprise I did work some nice ones including JA, FM, and a very few NA. The most memorable contacts where logging EY8MM using only 10 watts (SM power restriction above 1850 kHz) and breaking through a dense pileup of HP stations fighting to get a multiplier from A65BP (thats a guy with good ears).

The claimed result of 222.759 points is just a few points below the current SM record (well 3.5k below). I worked 826 contacts but came in a little low on multipliers, 50 countries and 3 Statets and Provinces (VA, ME and PEI). With most of active EU countries logged, the difference would be to snag a few more states next time. Going low power was fun and although there is a difference compared to previous efforts with High Power, it was fun and challenging.

The contest was run home via remote using the K3-K3/0 combo and Remoterig interfaces. N1MM was used to log the contacts using one of Remoterig’s internal RS232 servers. Everything worked great except for a few network dropouts and a bug in the K3/Remoterig setup causing audio to mute when turning the SUB RX on or OFF. My home office is much more comfortable than the station shack, so I could get used to this.

73 de Björn, SM0MDG