Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CQ World Wide SSB - Better Late than Never!

Despite my best efforts over the preceding two weeks, 0000z on Friday arrived and I was still looking at an empty room and had more work to do outside on the tower. After staring at the gigantic yagi hovering over the front yard for the past few days I decided it would be prudent to beef up the tower supports. I fabricated a mid-point guy station and ran a set of guy wires up to the 32 foot mark. I also strengthened the mounting point at the eave of the shed. I was pretty sure it would be better to miss the first part of the contest than have a storm blow in and turn all my hard work into twisted scrap metal.

Early Saturday morning I brought in the desk and amp rack then finally started to pull the electronics out of the old mobile shack trailer and install them in the new room. By the time I had everything mounted and connected and brought in the antenna feedlines it was almost midnight. Fortunately, when I turned on the power everything worked nearly perfectly. As I switched through all the bands and antennas I could hear signals from 80m all the way up to 10m. After a year-and-a-half hiatus and 11 days of putting it all together I was finally back on the airwaves!

I had been watching the geomagnetic forecast for the past few days and it said things would be pretty gloomy. Multiple solar flares were predicted to impact the magnetosphere and cause radio blackouts and stormy geomagnetic conditions. This spelled disaster for HF radio from this latitude but luckily all the solar nastiness passed by without hitting us. The result was probably the best radio conditions for a CQWW SSB contest in over a decade! Even at midnight local time I was hearing many stations from Europe and the Middle East on the 10m band. I decided that I was going to enter the single-band 10m category. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from up here to work the world on 10m and I wanted to make the most of it.

I decided to begin by concentrating on collecting unique CQ zones and countries for multipliers (and also to boost my DXCC numbers on 10m!). Pretty soon I had worked everything I could hear on 10m and the band and I both started fading. It had been a long, long, day! I turned in for the night and hoped that the good conditions would continue on Sunday.

After three hours sleep I popped out of bed at 6am and headed back to the shack. Not only was 10m open again, European stations were booming in! I picked my way through the band working as many new countries as I could. By 1700z the North American stations started coming through and I knew it was time to make some hay. I swung the big TH6DXX to the southeast and started calling CQ. Almost immediately I began getting replies. The rate meter spiked at over 200/hour and I filled the bucket as fast as I could.

I put 500 stations into the log over the next few hours but then I started watching the spots. This was my first time having reliable internet access during a big contest so I was finally able to connect to the spotting network. As I watched all the juicy DX spots rolling past on the screen I decided I wanted to boost my multiplier count. I gave up my run frequency and started 'playing'. If I had been making a serious effort from the beginning of the contest I probably would have been more disciplined but really I wanted to take advantage of the conditions to work as many new countries on 10m as I could. I even spent some time hunting for a couple of all-time new ones on the other bands but other than 7O2A (Yemen) that I had worked the night before on 15m I came up emtpy handed. As I usually do in these contests, I spent the last hour beaming out to the Pacific working JAs and island stations.

Final numbers were 665 contacts, 59 countries, and 27 zones.

Here is the new station. Flex 3000 SDR, TS-2000, and BH30 amplifier. Out on the tower is a 4 element 6m yagi at 75ft, the TH6DXX at 65ft, a 40m 1/4 wave sloper, and a 30m delta loop. On the roof of the house is a 43ft vertical for 80m. Still to be done over the next few weeks is hang the little TH3 yagi on the tower at 32ft, add the loading coil to the vertical for 160m, and install the beverage and flag receiving antennas for the low bands.

Monday, October 28, 2013


CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB

Call: VE8EV
Operator(s): VE8EV
Station: VE8EV

Class: SOSB(A)/10 HP
QTH: Inuvik, NT
Operating Time (hrs): 14

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
   80:    2     2        2
   40:    3     3        3
   20:    1     1        1
   15:    2     2        2
   10:  665    27       59
Total:  665    27       59  Total Score = 117,390


I decided two weeks ago that I was going to quit procrastinating and get my new home station built and on the air in time for CQWW this year.  After eleven frantic days of wiring, tower erecting, antenna work, furniture and amplifier moving, and equipment installation I was finally ready to go at 0500z Saturday night.  I decided I was just going to get everything working, have fun, and DX my way through what was left of the contest.  When I got on the air 10 meters was open over the pole and I decided right then and there to go single-band 10.  I've never heard conditions on ten meters like that from this part of the world and in the back of my mind I know there is a possibility I never will again.  The triple-play of low K-index, high SSN, and a big contest sure doesn't come around very often! 

After grabbing a handful of mults and a few hours sleep Saturday night the band was open again to Europe first thing Sunday morning so I spent the first few hours collecting more multipliers.  Once the propagation started shifting to the south I turned the big yagi towards the states and started running with a 200/hour!  By mid-afternoon Sunday 10 meters was jam packed right from the bottom all the way up past 29 MHz.  I alternated between running and collecting multipliers and then spent the last couple of hours beaming out to the Pacific picking up 3-pointers.

High point (other than 10m- wow!): After years of poor or non-existant internet access at the old hilltop contest site it was a nice treat to be able to go "assisted" and pick up a few extra multipliers from spots.

Low point: RF coming back into the shack and messing things up when I used the amplifier with the new 40m sloper.  Not a big deal for this contest but I better get it sorted out before Sweepstakes!

Day-by-day countdown of the station building exercise is on the blog

John VE8EV

Posted using 3830 Score Submittal Forms at:

Friday, October 25, 2013

T-0: Ready or... NOT!

In the end I came pretty close to being ready but here it is Friday afternoon and I haven't even started moving equipment into the house yet. Nevertheless, I think there is a strong possibility I will be on the air by tomorrow evening. Pictures and a lengthy station description to follow tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 21, 2013

T-4 Days: Up, Up, and Away!

I worked like a dog all weekend and all day today but the effort paid off.  When the crane finally arrived it was only in the driveway for 40 minutes.  The lift went smoothly and in no time at all the tower was standing securely in the front yard.

Antennas mounted, cables coiled up, and everything ready to go.
Up she goes!
Having the right tools for the job is very important.
I hate climbing towers but the guy wanted his crane back so someone had to go up and undo the strap...
Ready to rock and roll!  TH6DXX at 64 feet for 10/15/20m, VB64DX at 75 feet for 6m and, still strapped to the tower in this picture, a 40m wire sloper and a 30m delta loop.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

T-6 Days: A Stick in the Mud

I still can't get over this crazy weather.  10 degrees Celsius today when the normal high for this time of year is minus 7 and the low is minus -14!  You know, like winter. I'm even starting to appreciate all the mud because it really should be snow and ice.  Instead of a parka, I spent the day working in my shirtsleeves getting the base and the tower put together.

The old DMX tower has seen better days but I am installing all new hardware and it will be guyed instead of freestanding so should do the trick.  As promised, here are some pictures I grabbed right before dark.

Here is the base with the pins/ground rods installed.

Thrust bearing and custom made top plate with guy anchor points.

The truck is an integral part of the process to keep the business end of the tower high enough off the ground to get the antennas mounted.

Friday, October 18, 2013

T-7 days: A Week Away

The tower is ready to put together.  Over the last couple of days I fabricated the new top plate with thrust bearing, modified and mounted the rotor plate, and got all the miscellaneous hardware purchased.  The plan for Saturday is to build the base and completely assemble the tower at ground level.  It will be laid over the truck so I can mount the antennas on the mast.  On Sunday I will run all the coax cables, guy wires, and install the wire antennas- the 40m sloper and the 30m delta loop.  Pictures to follow tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

T-9 Days: Pulling Together the Pieces

Last couple of days saw the guy anchor platform built and the first couple of layers of paving stones laid, collected some assorted hardware, and started prepping all the tower sections.  I wanted to do a bit more but ran out of steam (and daylight) so will have to get cracking right after work tomorrow. 

The most important thing, though, is I booked the crane for next Monday and arranged to get that day off work, too.  Raising the tower is really the critical item so now that the crane is coming I need to get everything ready this weekend.  I want to have the entire tower and antennas put together with all the guys, wires, and cables strapped to the base and ready to lift into place. 

So much to do still but after putting this all together in my head a hundred times over the last two years I think we're good to go!

Monday, October 14, 2013

T-11 Days: Power Lines

Spent the day running power cables to the future radio room.  A 2-conductor #4 AWG Teck cable from my renewable energy backup power system will handle all of my 12 volt DC requirements.  On the AC side, the house has a natural gas range so I "borrowed" the feeder cable for the electric range receptacle in the kitchen and re-routed it over to the shack.  It was just the right length and when I get a chance I will install a four-circuit breaker panel to power a 220V receptacle for the amplifiers and a couple of standard 120V receptacles for everything else. 
So far, so good!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

T-12 Days: Out With The Old

Next to actually putting up the new tower, the biggest item on the to-do list is taking down the big TH6DXX and tower from the old contest site up on the hill.  This project had been on my radar ever since my last contest operation there.  It was asking a lot of the rickety old light-duty tower to hold up that heavy TH6 and every time I drove past the site I peeked up somewhat apprehensively to see if the tower was still standing.  It needed to come down and the weather forecast this morning was for sunny with a high of +4C so I knew this was the day.  I didn't have anyone available to assist me but I remembered that four years ago I had put it up by myself with VE8DW on ground support so only a few extra trips up and down the ladder to tie and untie ropes would be required.

The forecast didn't lie and when I arrived on the hill the sun was shining and, more importantly, the wind was calm.  Once the tower starts coming down the guy wires are no longer effective so it was critical to do it at just the right moment.  As it turned out, everything went impossibly smoothly.  For a while I was even working in my shirtsleeves!  By late afternoon I had the TH6 in three pieces laying on the ground, all but the last two tower sections down, and all the cables and guy wires rolled up and ready to haul away.  An hour and two trips later it was all safely at home in the yard.

I left the last two sections of tower standing and the main feedline in place so that I can install the 6m beacon and antenna there next spring.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Time Has Come The Walrus Said...

Actually, it wasn't a walrus. It was the calendar. My original plan at the beginning of 2012 was to park the ham shack trailer, finish moving into the new house and complete the renovations. Then I planned to erect the tower and antennas and put together the station in time for the CQ World-Wide contest at the end of October. But when October 2012 came around, however, I realized that there hadn't been nearly enough progress on the house yet. If I got distracted playing radio I knew I would never get the renovations finished so I reluctantly put off the station building for just one more year.

This week I looked at the calendar and realized that if I really wanted to be on the air for CQWW 2013 I had less than two weeks to get everything prepared. There was no way I was going to miss another contest season so I decided to go for it. It isn't a lot of time (two weekends and eight evenings!) but there are a few things working in my favor. Number one is the fact that it is still autumn here. While that may not sound unusual for mid-October, in this neck of the woods mid-October is typically full-on winter! Think what you might about global warming but temperatures this month have been running 10-12 degrees above normal. Instead of snow and ice it is still above freezing here and the forecast is calling for more of the same. The second advantage is that most of the indoor stuff is already assembled and ready to move over from the old trailer shack.

With all this in mind I sat down and made up a task list of everything that had to be completed before Friday, October 25, and sorted and prioritized it. There doesn't seem to be any reason that I shouldn't be able to get it all done in the allotted time so let's go!