CQWW RTTY

Just a quick update regarding the CQWW RTTY contest. I tried my best but many hours had to be invested in house chores and other miscellaneous family duties. You know the saying: happy wife, happy life. I managed to log 221 QSOs from my QTH, peaking 100W using an EFHW tossed up in a tree. If only I had a bit more time I could have taken advantage of the 15m openings and probably doubled my score. Oh well – next time.

RTTY contesting is quite enjoyable. Even though it’s digital, it requires a lot of operator interaction, unlike the FTx modes.

I also got a good chance at using my KL405V power amplifier again, after repairing it recently (link). I must say it’s now performing better than.. ever, I think. Even though I didn’t push it beyond 100W this weekend, I’ve done some tests on FT8 at 200W and it just eats it. I should be able to pull 400W SSB from this, so I might try that at the next opportunity.

Takk, Føroyar!

The trip to OY is over, and the experience was a roller coaster like no other. But, before I begin, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who contacted me during the stay, and a thanks for every QSO made. I worked FT4, FT8, SSB, and CW as much as I could between eating, showering, and sleeping.

Friday morning (and I really mean morning) I got up at 03:00 and headed to the airport to catch the first plane to Bergen, Norway. After arrival and waiting for several hours in Bergen, it turned out my next flight to Faroe Islands was cancelled due to fog and terrible landing conditions. A new flight was scheduled the next day, meaning I’ve lost one full day of radio operations! I’m by no means a math surgeon, but 1 out of 3 days is a noticeable loss.

All passengers were moved to a nearby hotel, and I tried my best to be QRV from there but there were absolutely no possibilities to hang an antenna there. Believe me, I tried!

The next day we went back to the airport and started flying to FAE as planned. After a couple of hours and a few power naps, we landed safely on Faroese ground. Time was running fast, and I had to move quickly to make it to the SAC CW contest in time!

I picked up my rental car and headed for Tòrshavn, which was a 45 minute drive away. My hotel, Hotel Tòrshavn, was easy to find and as soon as I had checked in I started looking for a good location for my antenna. The staff was extremely helpful and friendly, and I am very pleased with their hospitality.

After scouting for a good antenna spot, I noticed the office building behind the hotel had a flag pole in the back yard. Since it already was Saturday and after closing hours, I took a chance and carefully borrowed it to raise my EFHW. I stretched out a couple of radials was finally QRV! I also discovered that the said building had brass rain gutters. Needless to say, they came in quite handy as counterweights later on!

I started out carefully with a little FT8, just to test the conditions and watch pskreporter.info for propagation. The first contact lived up to his name – DJ1ST – he was indeed first.

From this point on, I ran as much FT8, CW, and SSB as I could. The working conditions were quite challenging, especially at night time. 40m and 80m was saturated with S9+ noise day and night, so working SSB was a no-go, with only a couple of exceptions. FT8 happily ate every band I threw at it. After sunset absolutely all bands died out, which gave me a perfect opportunity to catch some sleep.

I also got to visit OY6FRA and met with OY6OF Ólavur who showed me around and let me try running from their shack a little bit. Unfortunately fror me, the conditions were not the best at that time, so I wasn’t able to work many stations. Thanks anyways Ólavur, we’ll stay in touch and I will come back!

Late Sunday night (or should I say early Monday morning?) I dismantled the antenna, packed up, and caught a well-deserved three and a half hours of sleep before heading back to the airport. We had some hefty turbulence taking off, in a couple of the “drops” we experienced I was literally weightless, hanging only from the seat belt.

On my way home yet another flight was cancelled for reasons unknown. My flight was rebooked into a new tight schedule, involving running from gate to gate, pulling 30kg+ with equipment and had to be checked in for every flight. Boarding passes suddenly expired, booking references got deleted, and many other sweat-and-panic inducing experiences hailed over me. But you know the saying; what doesn’t kill you only leaves you traumatized and scarred for life, so I lived to tell the tale and got back home, only a few hours later than planned.

I’ve just uploaded my logs to QRZ.com and LoTW, and the total count is 600 – a nice, even number. It could have been much more under better working conditions, but I’ll save that for the next time.

Once again, thanks to everyone who worked OY/LB5SH, thanks to all CW operators who patiently QRSS’d to get the QSO through, and to everyone I met and bumped into during my stay on the Faroe Islands!

Already working on the next trip, so stay tuned…

Flight cancelled, postponed a day

My flight from Bergen to Faroe Islands was cancelled and postponed due to heavy fog. The airline company will give it another try tomorrow morning.

This unfortunately means I’ve lost one day of preparations (setting up the equipment, warming up) before the SAC CW kicks in.

For now I’m stuck in a hotel in Bergen, but I will try to be a little QRV while waiting, just for the heck of it.

Covid negative, let’s go

Today I took yet another Covid-19, this time the variant which includes all the official paperwork required for international flights. The test results were negative, so OY/LB5SH is on schedule. I’ve also booked a rental car and have packed my bags – the luggage is borderline overweight, let’s hope it slips through.

KL405V new SD1446 transistors

I accidentally fried my KL405V during my trip to Svalbard earlier this year. About a month ago I was browsing for replacement transistors, and stumbled across a seller on eBay with lots of HG branded SD1446 transistors for a reasonably low price. I’ve read warnings about all about the fake transistors you buy out there, however the seller’s reviews were good so I took a chance and purchased a matched pair for US $50.

I expected two clingfoil-wrapped knockoffs in a small envelope, but my skepticism was put to shame when the package arrived. Professionally packed, labelled with lot number, wafer ID, and properly sealed in anti-static packaging.

The old transistors were clearly damaged, thus removed with great care. If you didn’t know, these guys come with a free surprise dose of beryllium oxide inside, or “poison” as the adults call it. I hopefully did it right since I haven’t died yet. I did get some help from LA9QV Stein-Olav desoldering the first transistor; an extra pair of hands is good to have when you need hot air, tweezers, and a soldering iron at the same time.

New HG SD1446 transistors fitted.

Before fitting the new transistors, the surface areas were cleaned. Old thermal paste was wiped away, and blobs of solder removed with a sucker and some wick. I received good help here from LA4SM Steffen, who happily stepped in with his helping hands and priceless experience.

Damaged trace (yellow) from L7 to the fuse.

First a dab of fresh thermal paste was coated on, and we started by test-fitting the transistors. They were securely mounted and then removed again, in order to verify that the paste had been applied evenly all over, without any visible gaps or air bubbles. Once we were happy with the coating, the transistors were then pinned down (as they “give” a little due to having a mounting point slightly lower than the PCB) and finally soldered into place. This takes a little work with a proper chisel tipped soldering iron: there are many ways for the heat to sink, not to mention the big surface areas needed to heat up.

It was now time for the first test run, but it turned out to be a disappointment. The output reading was 0 watts – wouldn’t even give you a RF burn if you licked it. I thought to myself I’ve been scammed with fake transistors, but it turned out to be yet another issue on my side: this time, a consequential problem, probably due to the transistor burnout. The trace from L7 to the fuse bank (as seen to the right, highlighted in yellow) was open circuit. No shorts could be measured thus no point tearing everything apart to find out what, or even why. Adding a bodge wire was good enough.

The next test run was a success and we finally got a reading on the power meter. We carefully started working our way from the lowest power setting to the highest while keeping an eye on the metrics. The PA gladly pushed 220W out from just 8W SSB input. It’s supposedly capable of producing up to 400W SSB according to spec, but I’m not going to push my luck any further right now.

“Why? Why not? Are you a chicken?” you may ask. To be honest, it’s not the first time this PA has been under surgery. The first time I accidentally fried two resistors after foolishly feeding it WAY too much input power. Long story short, I ran RTTY barefoot and took a break. Upon returning, I forgot wasn’t using the PA so I switched it on, and kept on pushing 70W of RTTY into it for about a minute – until it started smelling funny. I suspect this is the first time the transistors got knocked around a bit, and may very well be the root cause of the failure I experienced on JW Svalbard.

Fingers crossed it’s going to behave nicely from now on.

OY preparations

These days I’m preparing for the OY mini expedition. Just to spice things up, I recently received a notification from the airline that they’ve changed my flight schedule. My heart raced, but it turns out the plane is now taking off two hours earlier than planned. Other than getting up two hours earlier, I’m still on the schedule. I’ll stock up on those energy drinks the kids sip on these days.

Radio: I’m probably bringing my FT-950. It’s not the most convenient rig to run around with, but I know the radio inside out. I’m considering purchasing a smaller radio, but it takes time familiarizing with it, and I’m afraid the time running out.

Antenna: I’m bringing a EFHW 80-6m antenna and a spiderpole. As a backup I’m also bringing an soldering iron, a spool of wire and a couple of SO239’s. I also spoke with the hotel manager, and have received permission to mount the antenna on the roof of Hotel Tórshavn. The staff have been extremely helpful and welcoming all the way; I highly recommend their services the if you’re ever in town!

PA: I have received a new set of transistors but still not found the time to do the job. I’ve asked a good friend and highly competent electronics engineer at my local radio club to help me out, and we’re half way there. Hopefully it will be done in time, and I’ll have 2-300 watts more to play with. I will bring a backup PA if I get the chance.

COVID-19 test: I’ve booked a test to be taken less than 24 hours prior to take-off. Even though I’m fully vaccinated, the number of infections are increasing, so I figured I’m better off with one test too many, rather than watching the airplane taking off, form the ground. It’s 1200 NOK and five seconds of discomfort, worth it.

Language: They speak Faroese, Danish, and English, so language shouldn’t be a problem. English will be a good safety net when everything fails. I’m comfortable with speaking and understanding Danish (because Norwegian is pretty much just Danish, just pronounced right). Lika stuttligt: eg tosi eitt sindur føroyskt!

If time allows it I will rent a car and explore the island a bit. Maybe even pop over and visit OY6FRA, if they’re open.

40m Hamstick, trampoline groundplane

My kids have a big trampoline in the backyard, and its built from a massive metal frame. In the beginning I joked about turning it into a magnetic loop antenna, but have settled with using it as a ground plane/counterweight for some antenna experiments. I’ve done 17m and 20m verticals with this one without problems!

This time I wanted to try a set of Hamsticks I’ve had around for a while, and I started out with the one for 40m. The bracket was secured with an old hose clamp and exhaust clamp.

Now, these antennas are known to be narrow banded, so my goal for this experiment was tuning it to the FT8 frequency and leave it there. The tuning process may require some patience and just the right tongue angle, especially at this height. However, after a couple of attempts and with a little help from my NanoVNA, I got as close to 7.074 MHz as I could. The NanoVNA claimed an SWR=1.15 which is way better than anticipated, and the FT-950 in my shack agreed. No tuner, neither internal nor external, was used.

Time to run some tests!

I ran a couple of FT8 QSOs really quick with 50W, and received reasonably good reports from a couple of stations, so this looks promising.

I also have Hamsticks for 30m and 60m, so this is fun to play with and I might eventually try them all on this setup. They’re not as visually intrusive as many other antennas either, so fingers crossed – maybe the XYL will let me have this one up for a while.

Here’s a picture of the complete setup. With the trees, branches, and twigs, maybe nobody will care if it’s there.

I’ll keep testing this antenna the next few days, if you catch me on 40m (or maybe 30/60m?) there’s a fair chance it’s happening with this trampoline/Hamstick antenna!

Update: I’ve worked the antenna for about an hour, and I’m quite satisfied with the results. I was heard from JW (-10dB) and all the way down to VK7 (-14dB). Unfortunately I had work the next day and couldn’t wait for the grayline to hit the yanks – maybe I’ll try again later, one early morning.

Update 2: Finetuned the antenna a bit more, and I’m now down to SWR=1.1. Working Europe is no problem, and with the help of the greyline I’ve had QSOs with Australia, Indonesia, China, Brazil, USA, and Canada. All FT4/FT8, but I’m still slightly overwhelmed.

WW Digi DX

This weekend I attended the WW Digi DX contest as LC1R and LA2T, as I were the operator for my club as well as myself. I managed to nail 65 QSOs with my own call (only QRV for a few hours) and 131 for LA2T. I only worked the 20m bands.

At first I thought this would be a contest where I’d scoop in hundreds of QSOs, but this takes more effort than you’d expect. Calling CQ is pretty much a no-brainer, but when almost everyone does the same not much is happening. So S&P is the best choice, really. However, it takes time, and you need to pay attention to avoid dupes.

Next weekend I’ll hopefully be able to attend the Russian WW RTTY Contest.

WAE CW in QRSS…S.

This weekend I attended the WAE CW contest as LC1R, partially because I wanted the CW practice, and a little for testing a new antenna I designed and built a couple of days ago.

The contest was a poor choice for antenna testing, and this is clearly reflected in the participation. Contest QSOs could only be made outside Europe, and my experimental antenna setup wasn’t exactly carved out to be an extreme DX antenna. Despite the challenges I managed to log a whopping 30 – yes, thirty – QSOs, having logged Japan, AS Russia, USA, and Canada.

Keep in mind I’m a CW rookie. I spent most of the time listening to workable stations, making sure I got the call right and sort of could predict the next serial number. I pushed myself to 18WPM, but since most stations had an insane WPM so I had to use software to assist me, or I wouldn’t stand a chance.

Let’s slowly transition into the the antenna topic, which is somehow interesting. I call this antenna the “I don’t care just get me on the air”: it’s not optimal, by no means claimed to be good, no math or any science to back it up. To be honest it was made for a laugh, but it works and it’s simple in terms of use, and setting up.

The antenna is about 5 meters of wire soldered to a SO-239 connector, with the shield connected to a battery clamp. No balun or impedance matching at all. This can be hooked to whatever you have as a counterpoise/radial; be it the car, a park fence, auto barrier, rain gutters — anything might work. In my case, I used the frame of my kid’s trampoline and the SWR is barely registered on the FT-950. A couple of tests running FT8 (60W) and pskreporter.info shows acceptable results.

Colour me surprised. I might keep this one for later “slash portable” activity.

EU HF Championship SSB

On August the 7th I attended the European HF Championship as LC1R, single-op, high power, SSB only. I used the LA2T shack so I had plenty of power and good antennas, and was able to work 20, 40, and 80 meters. 15 and 10 meters was just playing the greatest hits of The Whitenoise on repeat to me. In total I logged 436 QSOs, but I think at least 10% were “uuh… 59 001” so probably worth no points.

I had a run of about 8 hours from start to finish, and in the end I wasn’t able to hear any stations that I hadn’t already worked. At then end of the day I guess I did as good as I could have done, given the time frame and the working conditions.

Logs have been submitted to the contest committee, and I’ve updated QRZ.com and LoTW, so anyone who wants their QSOs confirmed knows where to look.

It was a fun contest, thanks to everyone who participated!