Sunday, October 23, 2016

Taking your QRP signal to the next step.

I was reading NY4G's blog a week or two ago and came across a great post that I wanted to share with my readers. I emailed him about reposted it but never heard back so here goes.......It is full of great DXing tips!

DXing Tips For Little Pistols Like Me

OK I admit it I am more often than not a little pistol.  More than likely, I am trying to make a contact at 5W. 
  Keep in mind two things - the heavy lifting is done not by you but by the DX who is trying to dig you out 
of the mud.  Some are more willing than others.  Of course, the second thing is your persistence.  If you
 don't go away after he has worked stronger stations - chances are he will try to work you.

Here are some additional tricks to slay that DXing dragon I learned from Brian Smith WO9I.  Some are
 verbatim and some are paraphrases.  Some I omitted but most I kept.  Some I added to from my own 
experience.    Here is the URL:

(1) "Sharpen your sword. Never embark on a DX quest without first tuning-up your rig. Make sure 
your PA is not putting out into a high SWR situation - wasting your meager power into heat as 
feedline loss.   Sometimes you get only one shot at a rare station before the rest of the world 
catches up with you."

(2) See which bands are open before starting the hunt. is a good resource. 
  A reading of 100 for a band indicates that your 1 watt or 5 watt signal stands a good chance 
of being heard.  Yet another way to do it is to listen for the band beacons.   Make sure your foray 
into the ether is  worth the effort. WWV (at 5, 10, 15 and 20 MHz) gives propagation info at 18 minutes 
past every hour. Look at the cluster and listen for on-going QSOs.  See how strong the signals are in
 the cluster spots - even if it is a country you don't need.   If you are looking for an entity in the
 Balkans - see how loud the DX are around your hunting ground.

(3)  Never send “CQ DX.” Rare and even not so rare DX station seldom answer such calls, especially
 when transmitted by weak signals.

(4) Use the contests.  If you could operate only a few days a year, I’d pick the weekends of the major
 international contests such as the CQ World-Wide, the ARRL DX Contest, CQ WPX, and so forth. I
gnore your score; the idea is to bag  DX,you need for whatever - DX Marathon, DXCC, band slots.  
 These events are like for the little kid in the candystore - except you are truly a little kid 
(or a small fry).   During contests, the bands are crawling with stations, some rare and some not so
 rare.   If you are doing DX Maraton - you need most of if not many.  The QSOs are short, and best 
of all, wide dispersal of the big guns.

(5) After the contest, hang around, to see if rare stations—particulary DXpeditions—want to hang
 around to see if anyone else wants to work them. The big guns are usually in their holsters by
 then, which is exactly why you’re still blazing away.

(6) Peek into the DX alleys, which are usually located just inside the General band 
(14.026 Mhz, etc.). On non-contest days many rare stations hang out here. However, these are also 
the most congested places of all. But hey, sometimes the propagation gods smile on you.

(7) Know when to quit. Don’t spend your life trying to break pile-ups; when the band’s open,
 there’s plenty of good stuff elsewhere (usually from the same region), and lots of big guys don’t
 know how to root it out. How to tell good odds from bad? Good odds: the DX station is booming, 
the op is working stations quickly, other station from your call area are getting through, and/or you 
don’t hear much competition. Bad odds: weak DX station, slow op, propagation favours other call
 areas, pile-up is loud and limitless.

(8) Nail the newcomers. Now for real guerilla tactics: Move to the slow edge of a band and, 
tuning slowly accross it, listen for the sound of any station coming on the air, such as a 
“tuning up” signal, “QRL?” or of course, CQ. Should one of these surface, stop immediately and
 listen for an ID. (Ninty-nine times out of 100 it wont be rare DX, but trust me: that 100th time will
 more than make up for it.)
Late means wait. As you’re hunting stations coming on frequency, also check for QSOs that are
 about to end (“73,””TNX FER QSO,” etc.)—and wait for an ID.

(10) Develop DX ears. DX signals rarely sound like statesiders. They’re weaker and more
 unstable (and those which cross over the North Pole sound “fluttery”). Teach your eardrums 
the difference.

(11) Be watchful for 10 or 12 meter openings. Ten meters is the little guy’s equalizer. When the
 surf’s up on 10, the DX comes in waves, and a puny signal (even a 5 watter) floats just fine. 
Ten meters tend to open to a small geographic area at a time (meaning less competition); also, 
signal strength can fluctuate wildly within a few minutes. If you find a new one that’s too weak to
 work, lock on to it and relax. Within 15 minutes its signal may peak, giving you a clear shot.

(12) WFWL (work first worry later). If an exotic-sounding station appears, don’t look up its
 QTH—pounce! I once heard a 3B8 sending CQ. “What’s a 3B8?” I wondered, but the second he 
stopped transmitting, I chased him. Only after the QSO did I discover I had just worked Mauritius.
Rehearse. Rare DX stations are sometimes barely audible, or covered with QRM. A trained ear
 can pull them through, but an untrained ear hears only clutter. So hone your hearing. Practice 
working common DX stations (such as G’s and JA’s) with faint signals.

(13) Upgrade. Much of the delectable DX swims in the extra portion of the band. Thus reeling it 
in is often a question of “How low can you go?” Remember, only 7 percent of all American
 amateurs can operate in these murky depths.

(14) Rock around the clock. DX conditions vary with the time of day, so don’t just operate from
 7 to 9 o’clock every evening. Vary your routine: Stay up all night on a Friday, rise before dawn
 on a Sunday. Remember, sunrise and sunset can produce interesting conditions, so try
 them often.
Turn lemons into lemonade. “Bad breaks” aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes they even
 work to the little guy’s advantage. Example 1: While trying to work a weak ZK1 
(South Cook Islands) during a contest. I was dismayed when a loud Californian began blasting 
away on a nearby frequency. Then I realized that because of the W6, most people who were
 casually tuning around wouldn’t hear the ZK. During brief lull I caught his “QRZ?”, jumped in,
 and nailed him instantly. Example 2: A T3Ø (West Kiribati) operating SSB dodged a stateside
 pile-up by QSYing to a U.S. CW-only frequency. Just one American moved with him—yours 
truly, who fired up a key and worked him cross-mode.

(15) Talk the talk. Even with Q signals, all CW stations don’t sound the same. DX stations favour 
expressions such as “TKS” (instead of American “TNX”) and “DR” (as in “DR OM BRIAN”).
 Soviets often close with “DSW” (a Russian good-luck term). And of course, stations whose
 transmissions alternate between “599 K” and “QRZ?” are often worth working. Familiarity with
 international callsigns helps, too, as I learned one evening in 1988 when I tuned in Y88POL. 
Just another East German, right? But wait! East German suffixes usually have only two
 letters … hmmm. Moments later I worked a new one—Antartica.

(16) Less is Morse. Not only CW is less popular than SSB (decreasing your competition), but 
it’s more effective in marginal conditions—a plus for weak stations.
Read the news. Serious operators learn about DXpeditions and such by subscribing to publications
 such as QRZ DX? and The DX Bulletin. And for those with packet capability, lots of DX packet
 clusters spot rare stations.

(17) Never assume. Once, during a Boy Scout jamboree weekend, I heard a Liberian station with
 a special callsign, using scouts as ops. No one was answering its CQ, probably because 
everyone believed the station was working only fellow Scouts. But when I asked, “Are you 
working only Scout stations?” I was rewarded with a “No, you’re 5 by 6”—and a new one.

(18) Beat the bushes. Many people think all the primo DX hangs out on the low ends, but
 that’s a fallacy. Ever work Moroco? I did—on a 10 meter Novice CW frequency! And I once 
heard Zimbabwe on 21.080. Moral: Don’t just look in the clearings; rummage through the high
 weeds, too.
Listen for swan songs. Normally, when sunspots are high, upper HF bands such as 10 and 
15 meters close in the evening. During their final moments, however, strange conditions 
sometimes occur. Try to catch each band just before it gives out (see whether any signals are
 audible; if so, tune around). As the band dies, most of your competition will give up and
 head south. I bagged my first CEØ (Easter Island) under such conditions.

(19) Check and double check the DX call. Don’t just scribble down a DX callsign; make
 absolutely certain you heard it correctly. On CW I’ve worked lots of ops who can’t tell a “4” from
 a “V” or an “H” from an “S.” Missing even one dot in a call sign can turn a prize catch
 into a busted QSO.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

One stop daily Amatuer radio news update!

While surfing the net last week I came across two great sites if you want Amateur radio news at a glance with the opportunity to look into each story more in-depth via a link. In the past I have visited Southgate, Eham and ARRL for up to date ham radio news. These websites bring bring it  all together in one easy to navigate site. They are updated daily to keep you informed on what’s going on in the radio world. Check them out a lot of work and time goes into each  and in my humble opinion it’s a nice jumping place to keep up to date. The first info site is called Ham Radio update, it's updated daily and you are greeted with a headline some brief info. If the news item interests you then you can click on the link and read further.  Ham radio new is easy to navigate and you can be brought up to speed on Amateur radio news quickly. The other site is called Ham Radio Daily, this site is more in depth with not only news item but YouTube, DX Cluster, Top HF spots and propagation just to mention a few.   Here are the links and let me know what you think............Ham Radio Update and 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Do they have to be LOUD to work them????

Learning a QRP lesson
I took advantage of another portable mobile QRP day again on Saturday. Once again using my Elecraft KX3, mono band HF whip antennas and QRP power. I decided right off the get go to use 20m whip antenna and I found there was a few CW contests going on. This is great as it gives me an opportunity to make some I thought. I chose this day to cruise up and down the band for stations calling CQ and not CQ contest. I have been doing some reading in my spare time about QRP operation and making contacts. One of the tips I read I was actually able to put into practice and make a DX contact only using 5 watts with a mobile whip antenna. I was starting my run up the 20m band and at 14.007 I heard a very faint station calling CQ. I narrowed down my KX3's filter to around 200 Hz and he was still in and out, I was not able to pick out his full call as yet. When he started to call CQ again I turned the audio peak filter (APF) and started to fine tune his signal. Then low and behold I was able to get his call RA3XM, he was DX but what were my chances of making the contact???

1. He was in and out right at the noise floor.
2. He was not at the QRP watering hole so he was running most likely some kind of QRO power.
3. What chance did my QRP 5 watt signal have if I could barely hear QRO signal?

When RA3XM stopped calling CQ I threw my call out there and can you believe he came back to me on my first call!! I was shocked that I made the distance, it was not a long QSO but I did get a 559 signal report and I passed along to him a signal report, my name and that I was running QRP. It became crystal clear to me of something I read on more than one occasion from seasoned QRP op' may come across signals that are in and out of the mud, don't short change yourself ( I have done so on many occasions) thinking "they are QRO and in the mud they are never going to hear my peanut signal. Instead throw your call out there and you may be surprised......and when RA3XM came back to me from the noise I was surprised and pleased to make the contact. Spinning the dial once again I hear AN400R booming in (Spanish special event station) I gave him a call and and made that contact as well.  On this outing it was not as simple as calling and making a contact there was F6EJN, DK7OB, AN400C, IT9RZU, MI0GH and AN400C all who I called and was not heard. A valuable lesson was learned on this outing.....even if the station calling CQ is in the mud give them a call and you (I was) may be surprised they come back to you.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Portable QRP operations in the park.

Hunting for that one contact
In Canada it's the Thanksgiving long weekend and I thought I would add Friday as a vacation day to make it an extra long weekend. The weather has been great all week very summer like and far from fall like. I decided to take advantage of this fine weather and get outdoors with ham radio! This time it was going to be our local park with my car, so instead of the Endfed antenna My plan was to warm  up the mono band HF whips. Apon arrival in the park I check with the website "band conditions" and it was showing all green on 30m. I thought "what the heck" I setup and the band was dead! I checked with band conditions again and low and behold the band was now deep on the red. It was off to the standby band.......20m. Going up and down the band I did find it quite but with the hurricane riding up the Eastern U.S. , it's Friday and lots are working and then the band conditions not idea the slow band made sence. I came across a station calling CQ at 14.041 followed by "up". Hmmm I thought....dxpedition or rare call. I engaged the dual watch on the KX3 and I listened for a bit and found there was no pile up in fact there was no one calling him! The call was AN400M that to me seemed like a special event station but at this point I was not sure from where? I set my KX3 for the common split of 2K and threw my call at 5 watts out there. He came right back to me with the standard 599 to which I replied the same adding TU and 73.  From there I was just spinning the VFO around 20m and really did not find much. I did come across 2 other stations signing AN400G and AN400I and that convinced me I contacted a special event station. I tried calling these other station but was not able to make the contact. It was then time to pack it up as there was a Blue Jays game to watch at 1pm today. While at the local watering hole waiting for the Blue Jays game to start I went on   QRZ.COM to find out it was a special event station out of Spain. They were offering a silver, gold and platinum awards but I was not able to get on their website it was not loading so I was not able to get anymore info.