Monday, December 19, 2016

DX Year in Review

With the number of new countries dwindling as I near the top of the DXCC there were even fewer new ones than last year but the lack of numbers didn't dampen the excitement of logging 11 all-time-new-ones in 2016. Several dxpeditions to top-ten most wanted entities were on the calendar and I didn't plan to miss any of them.

The year started with a nail biter.  I was in KH6 for most of January and would be back just in time to work K5P from Palmyra Island.  Any travel delays and I'd be hooped as they were scheduled to shut down the day after my return.  Just for fun I worked them with my QRP portable setup in Hawaii and did make it home in time to work them on 20m SSB.  As a bonus, I even managed to get them on 80m CW the next morning before they went QRT.



Following right on the heels of K5P was the top-ten-double-header of VP8STI and VP8SGI.  It had been a long time since a dxpedition had visited South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia Islands.  Conditions on South Sandwich (both weather and propagation) were not very good but I got in their log before they evacuated the island early due to the deteriorating weather.  The situation on South Georgia was much better and from there I picked up several new bands and modes.



Ken LA7GIA and
Nobu JA0JHQ are outstanding operators who have traveled to several rare entities in the past few years.  In 2015 I worked Ken from Comoros Islands and Nobu from Cocos-Keeling Island.  This year Ken's trip to Equatorial Guinea resulted in a new one for me and my last "Guinea" (there are four: Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Papua New Guinea) and I was also lucky to snag Nobu when he was in Bhutan as his working conditions there were not very good.

The big one that everyone was waiting for was VK0EK, the once in 20-years opportunity to work Heard Island.  Conditions to North America on the higher bands were poor and with the 400W output power limit imposed by the Australian regulations
for many they were a tough one to work.  Luckily for me they came up on 30m the first day right at our mutual greyline time and I was one of the first North American stations in their log.


Right on the heals of VK0EK was an operation by large team of French operators to another top-10 most wanted entity, Juan de Nova Island.  Conditions were great for this one and they were loud everywhere which was a big relief after the somewhat sketchy signals from Heard Island.



After the string of blockbuster expeditions in the first quarter things slowed considerably.  I was very busy the remainder of the year with other things although I did manage to put Spratly Islands, Saint Paul Island, and Temotu Province in the log for #312, 313, and 314.


At the end of October the antennas all came down in anticipation of putting up the new tower.  Unfortunately, several unexpected trips combined with deteriorating weather and dwindling daylight to stall that project until the New Year.  I did see a few semi-rare new ones go by but I'm sure I'll have an opportunity to work them again soon (famous last words, right?).


73 and Good DX to everyone in the New Year!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Choke Artist

One of the challenges of operating from an 'urban' environment is the constant battle to reduce the received noise on the HF bands.  Since a lot of that noise is conducted via common-mode signals, ie; on the outside of coax and control cables, part of my new antenna effort includes placement of RF chokes at critical locations to block the noise.  As well, since the tower will be used as part of the 80m/30m sloper antenna system, chokes are required to keep the RF from running back into the shack on the outside of the cables.

The choke at the top of the picture is the feedpoint choke for the yagi, a 3-element Mosley S-33 17/20/40m.  The other three go at the bottom of the tower.  The one on the left is for the rotor control cable and the two on the right are for the antenna feedlines, one each for the yagi and the sloper.  All the antenna chokes are made from 13 turns of RG-142 teflon coax wound through a double-stack of mix 43 ferrite rings and enclosed in a weatherproof PVC box.  They should provide a high choking impedance right across the HF spectrum and be good for full legal power and a modest amount of SWR, although I probably wouldn't want to push them too hard at any non-resonant frequencies.

A good source of information on how to tackle RFI issues and keep the common-mode noise at bay is Chuck W1HISHis paper on the subject is amazing and anyone building a station needs to give it a read.  I had to think hard about what he wrote for a long time before I decided that he's not crazy, although his station does seem to employ a significant fraction of the world's ferrite production..

 If you have read this far and it is still the weekend of the Sweepstakes contest you will have undoubtedly surmised by now that I will NOT be on the air for the contest.  I had intended to get the new tower and antennas up in time for CQWW SSB at the end of October but here it is SS Phone weekend in November and I'm still QRT.  Life has a way of messing up the best intentions and between a bout of the flu, a string of unexpected trips out of town for various reasons, and the ever decreasing amount of daylight available, things have just not come together as quickly as I had hoped.  Nevertheless, I will continue to plug away and really do expect to be on the air again within a couple of weeks.   Stay tuned!






Friday, November 4, 2016

Out With The Old

Once the weather starts to turn colder, the boat is put away for the season, and all the firewood is split and stacked, I always plan to spend the last couple of weeks before winter working on the station antennas.  This year the main project is the new tower and the "new" (I bought it SIX years ago!) yagi.  More on that in a future post but the first order of business was taking down the old tower and antennas.  They will be raised in a new location next year but for now I just needed to get them out of the way as the new tower is going in that spot.  I procured the use of a lift with a 60-foot boom and in a few hours the antennas were off and the old tower was dismantled.
 


























The assembly of the new tower (a Titan T400-80) is well underway but weather and work travel have slowed progress considerably.  I wanted to have it all up in time for the CQ WW contest at the end of October but now I'm just hoping its ready in time for Sweepstakes Phone in November!