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.

TL0CW on 80m CW

Recorded at 1945Z, about 25 minutes before my sunrise and about 5 minutes after working Rudy for my 2nd to last zone on 80m. I am flipping between VFOs, his TX and his pileup.

 TL0CW on 80m at 1945Z:

This is a longer recording made right at my SR. Rudi actually peaked here about 2000z, 10 minutes before my sunrise. Unfortunately there is some more QRM on his frequency.

 TL0CW on 80m at Sunrise:

9BWAZ – big progress!

Thanks in large to the great high band conditions, I’ve worked 4 of the 14 zones I needed previously to complete 9BWAZ. During the Oceania DX contest, I took a break to make some QSOs on 12m after seeing that VE2TKH was active on packet. Steve called in with a good signal to complete 12m WAZ. We then moved successfully to 10m for my 2nd to last zone needed there. Thanks Steve!

All during the week, I stayed up late hoping to catch a TF on 10 for my last zone. Conditions to the UK were excellent, so I knew it was possible. Attempts to CQ were unsuccessful, because I quickly became inundated with loud zone 15 callers. Peter, OX3XR was also QRV in my mornings on 10m, but only sporadically. I contacted him via email, and Peter replied that he would spend more time on 10m the following morning.

On Friday morning, I saw that Peter was already active. I was glued to his frequency, not hearing anything as the minutes past following sunrise here. His callers kept building in strength; W8’s starting at 559 and quickly building to 599 +. As I started to hear him, he went QRX for dinner.

20 minutes later, he returned, and I had copy on him. He started by calling for KH2L, whom I did not realize was on frequency. I responded with my call, and received my 339 report. Following our QSO there were several callers, including KH2L who worked him next through those in NA. 10m WAZ complete! Thanks Peter!

Friday night, it was icing on the cake to work TF2CT on 10m RTTY, for a 2nd zone 40 QSO on 10m. This is the hardest zone to work from Guam on 10m, and proof that conditions are really back on 10.

The 4th new zone I worked came earlier in the week on 40m. I’d been chasing VO2NS who’s been very active on the band, spotted almost nightly. I saw him spotted again, Wednesday night I believe, and finally heard him. We completed a QSO to finish 40m WAZ for me.

With 10 zones remaining to complete 9BWAZ, here is the rundown of what I need:

30m: Zone 2
80m: Zones 2 and 36
160m: Zones 2, 10, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38.

With the potential of only having two more winters here on Guam before I transfer stateside, I will be pushing hard to try to shorten the list this low band season. 9BWAZ would mean a lot to me – more than winning any particular contest. I’m only here for a limited time, placing DXCC honor roll out of reach, so the WAZ awards would mean a lot to me.

9BWAZ – current progress

Outside of contests, I have several goals I am trying to accomplish before I leave Guam, tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2013. I completed 9BWAS earlier this year. 9BDXCC will come with time, and should not be too difficult, however 9BWAZ would be the Holy Grail of awards to earn while here.

Below is a screen shot of the spreadsheet I use to track status. Red=confirmed on LOTW, blue=confirmed by paper QSL, and green=awaiting confirmation.

KH2/N2NL 9BWAZ tracker

As you can see, there are two challenge areas: Zone 2 on all bands, and African zones on the low bands. Zone 2 is hard because of the Magnetic North Pole and the auroral zone which makes the NE path from here into northern NA more difficult than the NW path toward EU. Plus, there is very limited activity from this zone. VO2NS is regularly active and I follow him on skimmer (Reverse Beacon Network). To date, I’ve not heard him on 40m. I did hear him on 80 last winter but unfortunately we could not complete a QSO. VE2TKH is also active, and worked KH2L on 10m last weekend. I’ve spent a lot of time on 10m making a lot of QSOs, but we just have not synched up yet.

Africa on the low bands is difficult not because of the path, but because of what I call the “European Factor”. Most DXpeditions to Africa are led by Europeans, and they focus on working Europe. When they do listen for Japan, it is generally well after my sunrise. Sunrise in Japan can be 2 hours after my sunrise in Winter, when the nights are longer in the northern hemisphere. I’ve heard all of the African zones on 160m, and usually quite well, but I just have not been able to break through the European pileups. It is quite frustrating, but I understand it is part of the game. This winter, I may see if it would be possible to make some skeds to complete these zones. I’ve received some positive responses from many; now I just need conditions and local QRN levels on the far end to cooperate so I can cross some of these off the list.

I am a Lid

Last night, 4W6A showed up on 80m. Piece of cake I thought. Switch to the 80m antenna – to find a high SWR. I eventually work them anyway, with a struggle (4W is a chip shot from here).

This morning, I go to troubleshoot the problem. I figure the same thing happened as always – the vertical wire contacted a wet branch, and arced. I pull the antenna down, but after an hour, I can find nothing wrong.

I keep looking for 20 more minutes, checking continuity with my meter, ETC – it must be a broken wire hidden in the insulation – could it?

Before I renew the whole section of wire, I look at the feed point.


You can clearly see that the 80m side of the ladder line broke.

I learned early on that I need to maintain heat control when soldering the copper clad steel. Too much heat, you burn away the copper, leaving steel that will rust and break. The feedpoint connection was made because I realized this.

5 minute fix, and I’m back on 80m with a working antenna.

Great 160m conditions this morning

Conditions were excellent to Europe this morning. Strong signals and no thunder crashes. I worked two stations in the UK, a very difficult path from here. Once I realized how special the conditions were, I recorded about 12 minutes of my run. The following MP3 will give you an idea of what it sounds from my end.

I am listening on a 900ft long Beverage pointed at Europe. There are no noise sources in this direction, so the only QRN is DX, not local.

Poor pileup behavior

I had a rare chance to get on 40m just after my Sunrise this morning and quickly had a small pileup of callers. For some reason, however, the behavior of some calling was very, very bad.

When I ask for an IZ2? I would like the JO3 to stop calling. In this case, the JO3 would not stop calling. I finally got the IZ2’s call because the JO3 paused for a moment. Even when I asked for EU only, the JO3 kept calling. I finally had to work him so he would shut up and go away. Very disappointing.

This behavior continued. It did not matter who I was trying to work, stations would continue to call. I lost my patience when trying to work a PY1 – EU callers would not let me work this PY calling on the long path, so I went QRT.

Very disappointing – if callers would listen, I would be able to put more stations in the log faster, including many of those who were only creating QRM.