QRP/P in the CQ WW DX CW from the 35º South Parallel

Last weekend CX7RT/VA3PCJ participated in the CQ WW DX CW, operating /QRP/P from Piriápolis, Uruguay (GF25id).

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The picture above shows the details of the station and the one that follows shows the valley as seen from the top of “Cerro del Toro”, one of a handful of volcanic peaks (no longer active) surrounding Piriápolis (the climb was hard work —and the descent even worse…— but well worth the effort).

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The CW was also hard work. Many times, the CW had to be slowed down and the call and exchange had to be repeated manually several times. However, each logged QSO was much to the credit of the other stations and their operators, who patiently persisted in decoding this weak QRP signal coming from the north shore or Río de la Plata.

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In the end 46 QSOs were logged in 17 DXCC’s and 10 CQ Zones (see picture above). If the errors were within 10%, this result will be even better the one achieved last year. The only difference was in the antenna: last year I had used the mini-W3EDP (which for 15M operates much like an end-fed dipole), and this year I used a Par EndFedZ dipole 15M monobander. However, I ignore if this PAR antenna would have a much-improved efficiency over the mini (i.e., the PAR has its own end-feeding transformer but does not require a 4:1 unun or a T1 tuner).

Also, in the absence of a better score from another CX operating SOQRP 15B, this also means that CX7RT will continue being the CX SOQRP 15B record holder in the CQ WW DX CW (https://www.cqww.com/records.htm)

Although a few EU and one EA8 stations were heard calling CQ, no contact was possible beyond the Americas’ East coast. The Japan station has yet to confirm in either LoTW or eQSL but KH6J has since confirmed in LoTW. Contacts this far into the Pacific have been a regular feature while operating during sunset in past years. More surprising is to have been able to contact a VE station (Todd VE5MX from Weyburn, SK, promptly confirmed in LoTW. Thank you,Todd!). It is always a special thrill to contact Canada from Uruguay (the only two entirely sub-tropical countries in the Americas…).

Glad to be back on track operating CW /QRP/P and ready for the onset of Sun cycle 25…

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First VE in the log from CX-land this year…

VE1JBC-3

A QRP contact with a VE station from CX-land is always a special pleasure for CX7RT. More so given current limitations in HF wave propagation.

After trying for several VE stations calling CQ in the WSJT-X FT8 waterfall, a QSO was readily completed with Brian VE1JBC in Tusket, NS. John has also since confirmed the QSO in LoTW.

This was an 8822 Km QSO, which is not an everyday achievement for an Elecraft KX3 with a 5W output into the 15m PAR EndFedZ monobander spanning the front of the balcony in an inverted “V” configuration.

This was the 17th time (out of a total of 408 QSO’s as CX7RT so far) that CX7RT reaches a station in Canada.

Thank you Brian VE1JBC, VY 73!

Need for a New FTDI Driver after Installing Safari v.12.0.1

This problem occurred without any warning or further instructions, so I am posting this just in case this happens to anyone else.

For a while I have been operating QRP with an Elecraft KX3 interfaced to a MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013) via a USB Signalink. The MacBook Pro is running macOS High Sierra v. 10.13.6.

Today, Safari v. 12.0.1 became available among the Mac updates. It was uploaded and readily installed and the computer restarted as required to complete the installation.

Everything looked normal. However, WSJT-X (v1.91 r8747) failed to handshake with the KX3. PTT was no longer possible via Hamlib and the frequency in the VFO ceased to be reflected on the window of the program. The same was true for Fldigi 4.0.18. The problem seemed to be that the FTDI driver for the KXUSB cable was no longer functional or detected by any of these programs.

A visit to the FTDI site for these drivers (http://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/VCP.htm) allowed the download and installation of the 64-bit 2.4.2 FTDI driver released 2017-05-12 and “signed by Apple” for Mac OSX 10.9 or above. (It is possible that until now I may have been using a 32-bit version of the FTI driver).

Upon installing this driver and restarting the computer the “serial port” or “device” dev/tty.usbserial-AD01W0AF was again readily recognized by the digital software (WSJT-X v1.91 r8747 as well as Fldigi 4.0.18).

 

73 Jose CX7RT/VA3PCJ

First 15M QRP QSO’s Logged This Year from CX-land…

This afternoon, The SSN was zero, and propagation was indicated as “poor” for all HF bands higher than 40M… Nevertheless, in mid-afternoon, five new 5W DX QSO’s were possible using the FT8 mode in the 15M band. Also, during sunset, a Japan station (JA0PE) showed up in th WSTJ-X waterfall.

I never cease to be amazed at what is possible, even with no extraterrestrial help (the Sun, I mean…)  with a 7-meter resonnating inverted-vee with a 5W stanting wave…  Here are the QSO’s logged in this trip so far:

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Halloween Flight Turnes VA3PCJ into CX7RT…

After a 26-hour trip that spanned the entire Halloween night, VA3PCJ arrived in CX-land already turned into CX7RT. Within a few hours from arrival, the 15M PAR EndFedZ dipole went up as inverted-vee spanning the front and balcony of the small 3rd floor QTH in GF25id. The length of the wire, similar to that of the mini-W3EDP, is perfect for that kind of deployment. Also, being being naturally resonnant in the 15M band (a quick check with the miniVNA ensured that no ATU woud be needed) it is hoped that it will help given the prevailing poor HF propagation. By the time the KX3 was rigged and fired up (~10:00pm local) it was already past dusk and no signals were heard in CW, but the WSJT-X screen got quickly populated with calls in FT8.  Just a few CQ calls were enough for PSK-Reporter to show that CX7RT’s QRP 15M signal was being heard locally (PY and LU) and at least as far as VE9 and W6:

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Hope to have more to report in the coming days…

CQ’ing with Wolves…

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Considering the previous posting in the blog (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2018/10/16/amateur-radio-in-literary-narrative-the-portable-transceiver-in-never-cry-wolf/), quite à propos, this morning I found an envelope in the mailbox containing a nery nice diploma with the beautiful artwork by C. Platt, representing… a wolf howling in the winter outdoors in front of a transceiver !

It would appear that last February, my only QSO in the MNQP-2018 (QRP, 20M, CW, with Randy N0C, who was also operating QRP) was enough to win “First Place” as W/VE SOQRP (http://www.w0aa.org/docs/mnqp/MNQP_2018_RESULTS.pdf) !

Thank you Minnesota Wireless Association. 73!

 

Amateur Radio in Literary Narrative: The Portable Transceiver in Never Cry Wolf

Never Cry Wolf

Farley Mowat published “Never Cry Wolf” in 1963. It is a first-person account of the “Lupine Project” that the main character of the story —who happens to have the same name as the author— conducts in the Barren Lands in 1958. Farley Mowat (the author), himself a renowned Canadian writer and naturalist (1921-2014) did have his own share of time in the Artic, and “Never Cry Wolf” clearly benefited from his personal experiences in the Canadian North and the Canadian government. However, the book pertains to the kind of literary narrative that, in Farley’s own words, lays “somewhere in between what was then a grey void between fact and fiction“, and though the truth may not have been altered, the facts may have been artistically doctored as in the case of some of Tristan Jones’ cruising real adventures. In addition to the narrator two other main characters appear in “Never Cry Wolf”: the wolf, portrayed with kindness and respect partly following actual observations made by the author while in the Canadian North, and the “homo bureaucratis“, also clearly portrayed following first-hand observations and treated with the respect that it deserves.

In the book a “portable transceiver” is used to achieve a DX QSO. This may well be part of the fiction. Nevertheless, it may be of interest to speculate which radio rig the author may have had in mind when he wrote the book. Here is a summary of the paragraphs related to this radio:

At the end of chapter three, the main character finally arrives in the Barren Lands where he is left alone at a point that the pilot of his “chartered air transport” accurately pinpoints at “Say about three hundred miles northwest of Churchill“. His instructions were to establish “a permanent base and immediately proceed by means of canoe and utilizing waterways…“. However, noticing the ground frozen and covered in snow he decides to call his bosses in Ottawa for further instructions. For this he goes “to work uncovering the portable radio and setting it up on top of a pile of boxes.” Upon opening the manual, he was “a little taken aback” to find that the rig was “intended for the use of forest rangers and could not normally be expected to work over ranges of more than twenty miles.” He nevertheless “connected the batteries, rigged the aerial, turned knobs and pressed buttons according to instructions — and went on the air.” The battery “was good for only six hours“. According to the text, such “mobile transmitters” were “licensed” by the Department of Transport and his own “call sign” was “Daisy Mae” (improbable call sign, an inverted euphemism for Mayday?). After one hour he “caught the faint echo of a human voice” and was able to “make out a gabble of words” that he identified “as Spanish.” The story goes to tell that the contact had been made with an “amateur operator in Peru“, due to what an “expert” later explains as a “mysterious phenomenon known as ‘wave skip’” caused by a “combination of atmospheric conditions” (a likely reference to Tropospheric ducting?).

From all this it can be deduced/speculated that the radio mentioned in the book must have been:

  • a portable/mobile transceiver available to the Canadian government/army in 1958,
  • possibly mobile, since it had to be set “on top of a pile of boxes“,
  • able to work in cold weather,
  • licensed by the Depart of Transport (?),
  • with batteries “operating as long as six hours” (and likely external as they had to be “connected“),
  • with a “manual” with “instructions“, “knobs” and “buttons“,
  • needing an “aerial“,
  • with maximum normal range of 20 miles (VHF?),
  • able to operate in phone mode (AM?),
  • transmitting in frequencies able to occasionally undergo DX propagation (Tropospheric Ducting or E Sporadic propagation?).

A VHF QSO between the Barren Lands and Peru would have been extremely unlikely since it would have needed to cover 8,000 to 9,000 kilometers. VHF DX QSOs have been documented, however both Tropospheric Ducting and E Sporadic Propagation seldom surpass distances in the order of 2,000 – 3,000 Km. However, quite intriguingly, the early Spring of 1958 corresponded to the very maximum of the biggest solar cycle (the nineteenth) with the highest SSN ever recorded happening in March 1958 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cycle_19).

The “forest rangers” was a TV series (1963-65) but the “Canadian Rangers” are part of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve and the author was perhaps referring to a radio set in use by the Canadian Rangers in 1958.

Perhaps other radio amateurs better versed on vintage rigs might wish to speculate further as to which portable radio rig sporting the above specs would have been available to the Canadian government in 1958…

HVE FUN ES 73!

Haul Out 2018 and Some Statistics…

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Well, it happened… since last Saturday, for the seventh time since 2012, Sassy is again on her trailer and in the dry, ready for another Canadian Winter.

She was brought to Canada in March 2010 and stayed in “dry dock” that year and the next. However, every season since 2012 she has been occupying slip 16 in the X-dock at the marina of the Nepean Sailing Club. Here are some statistics:

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Estimating an outing every 2-3 weeks Sassy may have made close to 8 outings each season for a total of 50-60 so far. Estimated each outing at 10 nautical miles (NM), she would have been underway 80 NM each year for a total mileage so far of 500-600 NM. To these one would have to add her week-long cruising and gunkholing adventures in Georgian Bay and the upper Ottawa River in 2010-2015, which would add some 300-400 more miles for a total of 800-1000 NM already under her hull (belt?).

So far, thanks to the very able care of Alex C. (seen wearing rubber boots on the first picture in the composite above) and his colleagues at the J&S Service Station in Blackburn Hamlet, Sassy’s road-auxiliary (the 2006 CRD Jeep Liberty) is still going strong at over 150,000 Km. And also —knock wood— so has been so far Sassy’s skipper.

Looking forward to re-launching Sassy in 2019.

 

Time to Haul-Out and Head South…

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Yes, once again it is it that time of the year… time to haul out Sassy for the Winter and then head South to CX-land for a few weeks, so as to be back home on time for the Holiday Season and the white, white snow…

Sassy is already ready for it… the mast is down resting on the gallows, the anchor light and windex have been removed, the forestay and all lines have been fasten to the mast via a Swedish-furl, and most of her gear has been stored back in boxes inside the garage, including her sail, which has been removed from the three spars and carefully folded on the grass of the marina (after removing the three battens from their pockets, the head was brought to the tack along the luff and the clew to the head/tack to turn it into as close to a folded square as possible, then it was folded a couple of more times and rolled into a sail bag).  The mast opening at the hinge as well as the top of the mast were covered in plastic to prevent rain from seeping in. Sassy now awaits for a stretch of a few dry days to be haulout and tarped for the Winter at her usual yard in Blackburn Hamlet.

Then, during the entire month of November, VA3PCJ/VE3DTI will once more become CX7RT. Not much in terms of HF-contest expectations while down South, with the possible exception of the CQ WW DX CW Contest (November 24-25), in which, in spite of current poor HF propagation conditions, CX7RT might try to improve on his all-time CX record as SOQRP 15M:  https://www.cqww.com/records.htm.

Shaking Off the Radio Blues in the Mer Bleue Bog

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In these times of poor conditions for HF propagation, I had entered a radio amateur hiatus period which could be best described as having the “radio blues”.

In an effort to shake these “blues” and recharge radio amateur batteries (meant only soul-wise), last Saturday I visited the OVQRP “Chillicon” campsite in the Rideau Provincial Park, where I was hoping to breathe or receive by radio-osmosis the enthusiasm still noticeable in many of my fellow radio amateurs. There, I met with old friends and colleagues and had the opportunity of witnessing the logging of some amazing DX contacts (there was talk of even a VK station having been logged…).

Infused with this new dose of radio-enthusiasm, on Sunday morning I decided I would return to the air, if not as a portable DX-seeker, at least as a portable net-caller. Hence, around 9:00AM local time (13:00z) I drove to parking-lot P21 in the Mer Bleue bog area with the Elecraft KX3 and the PAR EndFedZ 80m dipole monobander (see figure above). On the West side of parking-lot 21, there is an array of trees permitting the horizontal deployment of the 40-meter-long wire. To try to gain some height, I used the S9 telescopic pole to hold the middle of the wire above tree-level. The KX3 was set at 10W, with its meter showing that some 7W were reaching the antenna.

On first try, I was able to hear the NCS for the ONTARS net, calling CQ on 3.755 MHz: Grace VE3HZB’s signal was coming in from Elliot Lake as a 51/52. She could not hear my transmission, but I was QSP’ed into the net by John VE3OMA from Picton, who was reaching my KX3 with an RST of 59 (much appreciated, John!). Then, at 10:00AM (14:00z) I heard Ken VE3EKN calling CQ for the Pot Hole Net. From my QTH I usually have difficulty hearing Ken’s signal but not so from the Mer Bleue Area. Here are my reports for all the participants:

Ken VE3EKN (NCS) 57
Jose VA3PCJ/QRP/P
Jeremy VE3ZTF 58
Barrie VE3NA 57
Norm VE3LC 58
Brian VE3BGO 55
Hugo VE3KTM 56
Stuart VE3SMF 53

At 11:00AM (15:00z) I heard Mike VE3FFK calling CQ at 3.620 MHz for the Pot Lid Net (a slow CW net). On this occasion the key I was using was the little but very able Palm-Radio  PPK straight key. Here are the stations I heard being logged:

Mike VE3FFK (NCS)
Norm VE3LC
Guy VE3QC
Jose VE3DTI
Jeremy VE3ZTF
Ric VE3XL
Stuart VE3SMF

Towards the end of the net I had the pleasure of being able to QSP for Stuart VE3SMF calling again from the OVQRP “Chillicon” in the Rideau River Provincial Park.

I was also rewarded with the sight of a red dragonfly, likely a male Ruby Meadowhawk (Sympetrum rubicundulum) and some interesting tree-growing mushrooms that I have yet to identify. Possibly parasitic tuberous polypore mushrooms (Polyporus tuberaster) growing on a live maple tree:

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