I haven't been very active with radio over the last few months, as work and house projects have kept me busy. I did, however, notice a few trees around the yard beginning the change color, and that is always the harbinger of the low-band DX season! Armed with that encouragement, I flipped the radio on while I was in my home office today and did some FT8 for a bit. Everything is working OK.

I still haven't built the 160m circuit for the doublet (see: Raising the doublet & station updates), but I'll have to do that soon. I'm still searching for a decent open-frame DPDT relay that can handle the high voltage side.

It also seems that there is a strange intermittent on the 20m delta loop. There is a low signal level until I key up, then things return to normal. Usually, this indicates a problem with the feedline. The coax I used for that project was old stuff I had on hand, so I've been planning to replace it anyway. But I think this might give me a chance to play with the TDR function of the NanoVNA; stay tuned for a post on that.

I was excited to be an activator for the 13 Colonies Special Event this year. I joined about twenty other operators in activating K2H - Massachusetts. It gave me a chance to try out the station upgrades, including the new high doublet and the Flex-6600. I operated primarily CW, with two or three other "CW specialists."

I spent a few hours one night doing 2BSIQ (2 band synchronized interleaved QSOs). I used N1MM+ in two-keyboard configuration, shown above. For the first time, I have no switches, tuners, or interface boxes of any kind on the desk and everything is 100% automated. What a blast!

I'll add my final QSO tally here after the event, but at the time of writing, I'm at about 1500 QSOs.

Some thoughts on the 13 Colonies Event:

  • The average operator can benefit from contest practices. For example, most callers were dead zero beat and unworkable; the ones who knew better called slightly off frequency, a maneuver relatively standard in contesting and DX'ing.
  • Pileups on phone and FT8 were much, much bigger. There simply aren't as many chasing CW activators, at least in my observation. The biggest pileup I had on CW was maybe 5 or 6 deep.
  • Many hams do not recognize their own call sign above ~28wpm. There were many times I knew I had busted their call, but the caller responded with "R R 5NN." In this case I would send "[Busted call sign]?" and 9 times out of 10, they would reply with "R R R". I would QRS and try again, and sure enough, they'd correct it.
  • The majority of hams are gentlemen on the air. It isn't often I get out of the contesting subset into the general ham population, and I was actually impressed by how many considerate operators there are. There were a few jerks, of course, but they were the minority.
  • Many CW operators using the spotting network are not, for one reason or another, seeing skimmer spots. Maybe this is on purpose, or maybe their node simply isn't passing skimmer spots. I would see myself automatically spotted by skimmers, and would get a surge of 1-3 QSOs. I would spot myself manually and would get a surge of 10-20 QSOs. I'm not entirely sure what this means.
  • The vast majority of callers waited several seconds to send their call sign. This meant right as they started sending, my auto-CQ was starting up again. There is no reason for this outside of a pileup. Send your call IMMEDIATELY.
  • Don't tell me my call sign. I know my call sign. I know you're calling me. There is no reason for you to send it to me. When you do this, either you're just wasting our time or it makes me think there's someone else CQ'ing on frequency. Please don't do this.
  • Most CW prosigns and Q-sigs are extraneous. Sending BK, K, QSL, etc. might sound pretty, but it takes up time -- time we could be using to work more stations trying to get the sweep. Save the cutesy stuff for your regular QSOs please.

If we worked, thanks for the QSO! QSL information is on QRZ.

Welcome to the blog. This is the obligatory intro entry that will, with any luck, be buried beneath other more useful posts as time goes on. I've made several attempts at a radio-centric blog over the years, and I may regurgitate old content from those here occasionally. Stay tuned for antenna projects, station upgrades, contest results and more.

If you haven't yet, follow me on twitter, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and work me in the next contest.

It has been well over a year since I began planning the new doublet. Usually, wire antennas don't take this long to install, but my timeline was complex because the trees here are very tall. At one end is a 200-foot pine, at the other is the "little" pine (only 100-feet tall). I spent a full year grappling with the logistics of installation, and tried almost everything along the way.

Bob, K1YO had come to install a previous antenna with his air cannon and it worked well. Unfortunately, with Covid-19 restrictions, he was unavailable and it wouldn't have been smart anyway.

A non-ham friend loaned me his air cannon, which did not work as well as Bob's. We failed to get the line appreciably high in even the "little" pine. But we spent several months trying.

I investigated using a payload drone to drop a line over the tree, but found this was not only expensive, but probably impossible due to the proximity of my QTH to an airport.

Finally, it dawned on me to hire someone to climb the trees and install pulleys. I hired a tree climber familiar with cutting trees of this type, unfortunately he didn't have the proper equipment to climb a very branchy pine without limbing as he went (although he gave it a good try). He did, however, have a recommendation for another tree guy who could do the job.

Yesterday, tree guy #2 arrived to install both pulleys and he made very short work of it. He used an ascender to get to about 90 feet, then spiked the remaining way. He went as far as he could before the trunk became too thin, by our estimate (based on the climbing rope) at about 150'. The other end made it to the top of the "little" pine, at least 90 feet. He even routed the rope from the pulleys properly so that the rope runs relatively free down from each pulley.

The idea is that the feedline can be shorted together and fed against the existing 2-acre radial field (installed two summers ago) to create a 1/4-wave vertical on 160 meters. This is accomplished with a 12V DPDT relay where the antenna comes down to the ground. I will complete work on this step shortly, but the design looks like:

This goes along well with some other station improvements, namely:

  • Flex-6600
  • MFJ-998 autotuner (to be permanently attached to the doublet)
  • Double monitors and new wired shack network

I'll give everything a workout in Field Day this weekend, then I'll be an activator for K2H in the 13 Colonies Event. Hopefully, I'll be ready for contest season for the first time in quite a few years.