Monday, December 5, 2016

Is is wise to buy your wife an appliance for Christmas.....maybe!!

I was operating in the CQ WW CW contest the other weekend and all was going well. I left my operating  post for a short time and came back to see my P3 screen shown in the above shot. I was not sure what was going on but I did know it was wiping out the entire band. In an instant the CW WW CW contest I was in was on hold. After a very short time I found out it was the mixer my wife was using to make some holiday short bread cookies. I showed my wife and once the short bread mixing was done I was back in the contest again.  I thought I would never say it but "I think it wise to buy my wife an appliance for Christmas. Truth be told I think I am buying it for myself.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

An SWR anomaly....that suddenly popped up!!

SWR on 15m...and hoping to see it again on 20m
During the CQ WW CW contest last weekend the SWR on my K3 was jumping around from 1.4, 1.6, 1.3 and back to 1.6 and so on. This “flutter” has never happened in the past also it was only happening on 20m. All the other bands were just fine, I left this anomaly alone during the contest as most of my contesting was done on 15m. The next day once the contest was over it was time to look into it. I first wanted to check to make sure the issue still existed, as in the past I have had things just “disappear” to never happen again. The issue was still there so it was time to investigate.
My setup is as follows:
-        Elecraft K3 operating at 5 watts.
-        MFJ 1788 mag loop antenna.
-        The coax is 30 feet of RG8X.
-        There is an LDG switch allowing me to switch between the K3 and KX3.
Here is what I did and what I found:
1 - I switched the K3 to antenna B which is my dummy load. I found the SWR was stable as a flat match.
2 - I also have the Elecraft KX3 so I hooked that radio to the same antenna system. The SWR did not flutter as it did with the K3.
3 - I then hooked the antenna up to the antenna “B” connection on the K3 seeing the dummy load worked on antenna B. There was still a flutter in the SWR.
4-  I then took the K3 out of service and opened it up tightening each and every screw I could find. This did not make a difference I still had the SWR flutter.
5-   Even though the SWR was stable when using the KX3 I went ahead and made sure all the PL-259 connectors were tight. They all were good and snug.

I then posted on the Elecraft reflector site what was happening and the results I listed above. To my surprise all the advice that came back echoed the same……RF on the coax and making it back to the rig.  I was informed that just because the KX3 did not have the issue did not rule out the feedline and or antenna. I did rule this out and was not going to look any further into anything other than the K3.
The following was some of the suggestions from the reflector.

1.     If you can move the antenna further away from your shack. I am not able to do this as I am in a condo and the antenna is on the balcony.

2.     Turn the antenna 90 degrees and see if the flutter becomes less.

3.     Add a counterpoise to the ground lug on the K3.

Upon reviewing all this great feedback and wondering where to start, it was very odd that up until this weekend I had NEVER had an issue with the SWR on 20m. Then it occurred to me something I always do when it come to my trouble shooting which is to ask myself “Is there anything I have recently changed or added?” I went over in my head and there was nothing at all I added or took away from the radio setup. I proceeded to go out on the balcony to rotate the antenna 90 degrees as my other advice to myself when trouble shooting is preform the easiest things first and see what happens. The rotation of the antenna did nothing and back out onto the balcony I went to rotate that antenna back. While out there I checked out our balcony Christmas light to see if any had burnt out……….wait a minute the lights were just put up 2 days ago…….this equals a change!!! But could balcony lights funk up 20m??? I unplugged the lights and removed the extension cord I used to plug them in. I checked out the K3 and 20m was just fine now. I then placed the extension cord back out leaving it unplugged and the SWR I found fluttered just a tiny amount. I then plugged the lights in and check, I found the full-fledged SWR flutter returned.  Therefor during the holiday season you will know I’m on the radio when the balcony Christmas lights are off!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Boy am I rusty!!

The LZ CW contest was on this weekend and the exchange the DX stations have to give out are similar to the exchanges in the CQ WW DX CW contest which is on next weekend. This gave me the idea of sitting down at the rig on Saturday to see how my contest copy skills were coming along. The propagation was good, sunspots were not so great but the band was very busy with DX and North American stations. Before I started I had to be honest with myself that my contest practice times have been far and few. Two weeks ago I started my Morse Runner software program and went to the code practice site to get my ears back in tune with the CW contest music!! As the old saying goes "if you don't use it you loose it" I defiantly noticed that my contest copy speed is not the same as it was in the past. I have only myself to blame in that I have not been on the air both with QSO's, contests as well as practicing with the 2 above mentioned CW programs. Now instead of this experience getting me discouraged it has encouraged me to get back up in the saddle and move in a positive direction. But I did find that just a short time away I can get really rusty!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

DX contact out of the blue!

Good afternoon from VE3WDM, it's a Sunday afternoon and the weather is sunny with a high of +10C. It was a nice day for a walk which my wife and I did mid afternoon. Once home it was time to setup for the software for the up coming CQ WW CW contest. There were some bugs I had to workout with the software and I did without issue. Then there were some minor issues that I am just going to forget about for now. For example I have no idea why my Winkeyer USB when N1MM+ is running will allow me to only control the CW speed but for some reason I just can't seem to communicate with the Winkeyer to setup and execute macros?? I'm not going to sweat it as in the past I have found that once you start monkeying around with the different pieces of software things that did not work now work...........BUT things that did work DONT!
While setting things up I did have the K3 on and the P3 waterfall viewing the 20m band. I did notice TL8AO and the HUGE pileup that was "UP" 2 KHz on the band. Funny thing as I was listening I did find an op more often than not calling on TL8AO's calling freq and not splitting "UP" On the waterfall of the P3 I did notice a new strong CW signal appear so I pointed and clicked over to it. It was HI3Y in the Dominican calling CQ and "UP". I listened as I setup the split and he seemed to be calling without a pileup. I threw my call out there and he came back to me with a report. He was in the books just that only if my 5 watts could break the pileup with TL8AO that fast! Time to start dinner now.......Tenderloin steak on the BBQ, mini potatoes on the BBQ with butter and rosemary and finally butternut squash........yum!