Why the 10m contest is not fun

This MP3 gives you the reason I do not really enjoy the 10m contest. Thanks to Russian or Chinese (or both) illegal taxi radios, the 10m band is full of this noise every time there is propagation to these areas – which is every time the band is open to Europe.

It is difficult enough to work an undisciplined EU pileup – but even harder when most callers are 559 and the noise is over S9.

This is not local noise – in the morning, I can run NA on a perfectly quiet band, and it is a pleasure to do so.

10M noise:

Great 160m conditions!

This morning (07DEC UTC) I had the best Topband conditions of this winter season. After my 1st CQ and a loud PE5T called in, I knew it would be a good morning!

I started the recorder after my 2nd QSO and let it run for an hour until my sunrise and the band faded away. During this time, I worked more than 70 Europeans. Paul, 9H1SP called in for a new one (VFB copy with 100w) along with CT1EEB and three G stations – really tough to work from here.

I hope this is a good sign that conditions will be good this winter!

The attached MP3 is large, so I broke it into four pieces, each about 15 minutes long:

 1935z-to-1949z:

 1950z-to-2004z:

 2005z-to-2019z:

 2020z-to-2035z:

If you listen, you may notice a few things. First of all, there was a fish beacon exactly one up where I was listening. It did not cause me any trouble but you can hear it often in the recording. What you can also hear are (1) many stations who call non stop, no matter who I am trying to work and (2) many stations who are calling but obviously do not hear me well. We all understand the challenges of 160m and the effects of QSB, but you can clearly tell the stations who really can’t hear me, QSB or not. These guys accomplish nothing but keep others from getting a QSO and making themselves look like fools.

2011 CQWW DX CW Contest

Here are some photos of my station setup for the 2011 CQWW DX CW contest.

Final summary after the finish
Station setup taken after the contest (messy!)

I prefer to use two PCs with an interlock to using one computer only. This gives redundancy, in case of problem, and is easier for my brain to manage than trying to remember key strokes and software. My homebrew headphone switch in between the keyboards controls the audio, and I use one paddle that can be switched to the other radio by pressing a foot switch. Not much automation, but it fits my style. I am fortunate to have two computers set up all the time; one for work and the other dedicated to radio.

Spiderbeam + 40/20m vertical. The norfolk pine in the background was used to support a fan dipole for the 2nd radio.
Here is the simple fan dipole I used for 10/15/20 to compliment the Spiderbeam. It worked well enough and had good isolation which was most important.
This is my 40m vertical, with a parallel wire to allow dual band operation. I normally use this on 30m also, but had it cut for 20m for the contest. There are four Beverage RX antennas in the jungle behind the antenna, in a wilderness area of about 150 acres.
This is my 80/160m top loaded vertical. It is actually made of balanced feedline, with one side cut for 80m, the other for 160 with additional wire added for top loading to the 160m side (parallel dual-band vertical)
Close up of the top of the 80/160m antenna. The 80m side is an inverted L (all one side of ladder line). The 160m side of the radiator has extension wires added at the apex and end of the 160m side of the ladder line to add top loading.

 

C50C – zone #36 on 160!

Today is a holiday (Thanksgiving) and I should have slept in to rest for CQWW, however I was awake at my normal time listening on 160. After two days of poor propagation, conditions seemed to have improved. I worked a number of Europeans, including HB9AZZ who was a new country for me.

As soon as I got on, I heard C50C CQing, with very good copy here. They could not hear me, so I went up the band to CQ for a while and wait for a time closer to my sunrise.

One of my QSOs was with E74AW. Dado recorded the QSO from his end:

 KH2/N2NL from E74AW:

I also was recording, and here is how he sounded on my end –  E74AW from KH2/N2NL:

I worked a number of stations, then C50C asked EU to QRX and listened for DX – It was not easy – he had a difficult time copying me and there was some rapid QSB – but we completed a QSO for my 36th zone on 160m!

It is very difficult to hear my side tone when transmitting – sorry – I had turned it down this morning as one of my SO2R preparations for WWCW, so I can listen better on the 2nd radio while CQing.

They really have a strong signal here – the loudest zone 35 station I’ve ever heard from here on 160 (I’ve heard quite a few). This is a 9,000 mile path from KH2.

After my sunrise, they QSYed to SSB – they were still good copy, 10 minutes after my sunrise:

Good 160m conditions continue

I made sure to get on early this morning, about 50 minutes before my sunrise. Dave, A92IO had a good signal but unfortunately I was not able to raise him. Dave has high QRN levels in Bahrain.

After CQing, a weak OG2M calls in. I am not thinking the band is in good shape until I am told on KST chat that he was running 10w. Next, OH3XR calls in. Not to be out done, XR is running 5W, which is as low as his radio will go.

I turn on my recording software to record the opening. The recording is more than 40 minutes in length, so here are some clips I edited:

 LA3ANA calls in so he can hear himself recorded (no problem!):

 UA4CR calls in:

 S52AAM calls in, running only 10 watts:

Near my sunrise, I had the QSO of the morning – Ron, GW3YDX calls in, a new one for me. Ron lives in the most difficult part of Europe to work from here, aside from OY and perhaps TF (TF4M makes Iceland easy however).

 GW3YDX on 160m:

After our QSO, Vlad UA4WHX spotted himself (as SU9VB from Egypt). I believe Vlad runs only 30w into a dipole, but I was able to copy him somewhat. Unfortunately, I could not work him, for this would have been a new zone for me. Vlad worked a few stations then QSYed to 40m with some Eastern EU still calling, so I doubt he could have heard me even without a pileup.

 SU9VB working HA8BT:

By now, it was after my sunrise. Ron, GW3YDX QSYed to 80m for me, where he was also a new one for me.

 GW3YDX on 80m, QRMed by an IV3:

Finally, Jo DKJ2PH asked for a 40m QSO. You can hear the Chinese OTH radar very well.

 DK2PH on 40m, with BY OTH radar:

In all cases, I am listening on my European Beverage RX antenna. The antenna is just over 900ft long, and located in the jungle behind my home. I am fortunate to have no QRN sources near me in this direction – nothing but jungle and then the ocean – which allows me to hear *very* well in this direction.

Great 160m conditions today!

This morning, I had planning on sleeping in (Sunday) but woke just before the sun came up. I found 160m very quiet, and started CQing about 10 minutes before my sunrise. Callers were loud – the best signals this year – and I soon had generated a large pileup of Eastern Europeans.

Unfortunately, I missed a few Western EU callers – I hope to catch them over the next couple mornings.

I turned on my recording shortly after getting on the air:

This is a 9mb file, 20 minutes long.

Beverage antenna maintenance

Last week, I walked my North American Beverage RX antenna with my son, taking him hiking in the jungle for the first time. He is always fearful of wasps, so I was gentle with him and only went where I knew we would find none, and also showed him some of the World War 2 stuff I’ve found over previous months. I did take a peek at the other antennas, and all looked fine.

A few days later, 7Q7GM came on the band, but I only was able to hear them for one CQ cycle right at my sunrise – something didn’t seem right – so I went back into the jungle to check. I happened to find two problems that ended up taking three of my four Beverages out of commission.

My four Beverages cross in three places – the EU wire crosses my NA and AF wires, and my AF wire crosses over the SA wire. At all junctions, I ensure the wires are separated by at least one foot, and cross at as close a 90 degree angle as possible to eliminate interaction. One problem was apparently immediately – my South American antenna broke, and the bare copper clad wire had laid across my African antenna, making contact. This was disheartening since my SA antenna passes through very dense foliage and I’ve had lots of bad wasp experiences there. In fact, since I installed the antenna last year, I’d not been through the area once, not really caring if it got overgrown. Now, I would have no choice!

First, I walked my European antenna, and quickly found that a large branch had fallen out of the jungle canopy, pinning the wire to the ground. This was an easy repair. All my Beverages “float” and are not pinned at the insulators. The copper clad steel is very strong also. The branch removed, the antenna bounced back into its original position, unbroken.

Home made Beverage insulators, fabricated from PVC pipe. They work well for my purpose, except that some trees grow very quickly requiring me to replace some after a year to keep the tree from growing around the insulator and wire.
Wild taro growing through a rusted barrel left from the war – this was about 10ft from my European Beverage but I never saw it until today due to the thick growth

With my European antenna fixed, it was time to do the inevitable – clear my South American wire and repair the break, wherever it was. Armed with my machete and wasp spray, I was off.

Very dense growth
The trees are almost impenetrable. The vines seen in the photo grow quickly, several feet in a week, and can only be cut with trimmers. The machete won’t slice them through! They make quite a tripping hazard also.
The trail is completely gone – I have to follow the fallen wire to see where to go

I found the break, which of course was very close to the termination. It looks like I allowed the wire to get kinked during installation, causing a weak point. Fortunately – no wasps! All antennas now are working – for now – and will hopefully stay up through the CQWW DX CW contest weekend. It turns out that I was never able to copy 7Q7GM, nor could he hear me – this would have been a new zone for me on 160m. I suspect the higher SFI is causing a lot of absorption on Top Band, especially along the equator. I’ve been able to work Scandinavia most mornings, so I suspect this absorption is worse on the southern paths. This may make my remaining zones on 160m more difficult to work.

New 6×2 antenna switch

A few years ago, I helped Mike SM3WMV out by shipping some electronic parts to Sweden. In return, he gave me a set of PCBs he had designed for a 6×2 antenna switch. This is a switch box that lets two radios switch between 6 antennas – perfect for SO2R. Mike’s design is as good or better than switches available commercially, with 70db of isolation or better between radios.

I finally got around to purchasing the relays and building the 6×2 switch. It works very well, and has replaced the rats nest of antenna switching I have used here for the past 16 months.

Underside of the relay board showing .01uf caps and 1N4148 diodes to protect the relays
Top of the relay board. The ugly strips in the middle are the back side of single-sided PCB used to shield the center row of relays to improve isolation.
Completed 6×2 switch showing wiring and the green interlock board. The assembly was mounted in a scrap controller box (free)
Underside of the 6×2 switch showing the connectors and wood frame I built to support it in the window sill where it will be placed