COMM DX CONTEST 2021

Nothing here worth bragging about, except perhaps for the memories of better results obtained in this same contest in 2015 and 2016, while participating from Uruguay with the CX7RT callsign.

However, what makes last year participation from Canada worth mentionning is that the Cabrillo submitted to the COMM DX Contest 2021 was the very last one indicarting “CX7RT” as a valid callsign for this operator: CX7RT was due for renewal with URSEC last October; I hoped to travel to Uruguay and apply for it in person, but at the last minute I had to cancel and let the due date pass.

Operating QRP from Piriápolis (with the KX3 and the mini-W3EDP antenna), during visits made between 2013 and 2019, CX7RT logged a total of 460 QRP QSOs. Also, CX7RT still holds a couple of CQ QRP CX records in 15m.

The main reason for obtaining a radio amateur callsign in Uruguay and operating CW from there was to honour the memory of my father who, at the onset of the 20th century was a professional telegraphist in the National Telegraph of Uruguay. Mission accomplished, Dad.

73 ALL DE CX7RT QRT

A New K3Y Sweep…

Six years ago (January 2016) VE3DTI received a “K3Y Sweep Certificate” with QRP endorsement, after logging the ten numbers assigned in the US to K3Y/ calls participating in the SKCC “K3Y Straight Key Month Event” (SKM): https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/a-k3y-qrp-sweep/.

This year, VE3DTI was able to complete the same sweep while additionally contacting K3Y/NA (Ben VE1AHX) in NS, K3Y/EU (Bert FH6KA) in France, K3Y/KP4 (Pablo KP4SJ) in Puerto Rico and K3Y/KH6 (Max KH6ZM) in Hawaii.

Overall results:
14 K3Y Areas (of possible 19)
20 Band-Area Slots (of possible 174)
30 K3Y Ops (of possible 255)
1 Canadian Prov/Terr (of possible 6)
22 US States (of possible 52)

While several of the contacts were QRP (using the ICOM 703), several others were QRO (with the ICOM 706MKIIG) hence, this year, the QRP endorsement did not apply. The antenna was an 86 Ft. long wire tangled up the branches of a Silver Maple in the backyard. The tuner (with both radios) was the LDG RT-100 located remote, at the base of the wire antenna. Half WL wires running along the inside of the fence at abt. 1m from the ground were used as counterpoise. The straight key used was the single-paddle AME Bushwacker, shortcut to operate as sideswiper.

Participating in this SKM was not only fun but also resulted in logging 23 new T/S numbers valid towards the next step (Tx7) in the SKCC Tribune ladder. Here are all VE3DTI QSOs in this year SKM:

TU ALL – CU ALL AGN NXT YR — 73 de Jose VE3DTI/VA3PCJ.

POTA Surprise…!

I have been aware of the POTA (Parks on the Air) (https://parksontheair.com) program since its inception. In fact, Bob VA3QV and myself pioneered “HF from the Park” in the Ottawa Valley way before POTA was even conceived. Nevertheless, although I started logging the occasional POTA QSO over 6 years ago, I had never bothered to register as a POTA member. However, a few weeks ago, prompted by Bob — an accomplished POTA Hunter — I decided to give it a try and signed up. And today, as I fired up the old 703 in 20m, I was able to log a CW QRP QSO with Craig K0CMH who was calling CW POTA while activating Park K-3357 at the Mastodon State Historic Site, North of Imperial, MO. After such a success, I decided to check my own Hunting Logs in the POTA site and much to my suprise I noticed that all my past POTA Hunter QSOs were there, that they were going as far back as a Field Day 2015, when I had logged a contact with W1OP operating from Park K-2868 (Beavertail State Park, RI), and that all those old Hunter QSOs were making me eligible for the POTA lowest Hunter Certificate: the “Bronze Certificate”. Here it is. Not a major achievement, but a surprise nevertheless…

“Hear Ye! Hear Ye!…”: VE3DTI is now SKCC Tx6

On April 3, 2017 I posted here an article  entitled “Hear Ye! Hear Ye!… SKCC Tx4”, reporting that VE3DTI had attained “Tribune Tx4” status within the realm of the “Straight Key Century Club, (SKCC)” (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/hear-ye-hear-ye-skcc-tx4/). At the time, this meant that I had logged contacts with 200 different Centurions (Cs), Tribunes  (Ts) and Senators (Ss) — the three levels of achievement within the SKCC. Then, over three years later, on August 10, 2020, after logging 50 additional members, II attained the “Tribune Tx5” the level that I have been enjoying so far.

And this past Sunday (January 9, 2022), after reporting 18 QRP QSOs in the January SKCC’s Weekend Sprintathon (WES), I reached the 300 contacts with different Cs, Ts and Ss required to attain Tribune (Tx6) level.  This of course has been duly applied, reviewed, and announced in the all appropriate media by Phil K3EW, SKCC 10605S, the SKCC Tribune Assistant Administrator, in the incomparable style of the Old Town Criers of Medieval England:

“Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Gather ’round and pay heed to the news of this day! Let there be revelry & celebration for yet another Centurion has advanced to the Tribune Tx6 level of SKCC achievement !!!  Jose, VE3DTI, SKCC# 7020T, has achieved the coveted 2nd generation SKCC member achievement known far and wide as the Tribune Tx6 award. The Tribune Tx6 award is earned by SKCC Centurions who work 300 other Centurions, Tribunes, or Senators.  Having submitted a log and sworn statement, both of which have survived the intense tests used by the Tribune administrator, Jose, VE3DTI, is duly proclaimed to be SKCC Tribune Tx6.  He shall enjoy all the honor and privilege that appertains thereto and all shall accord him the esteem and respect appropriate to their achievements. The Master Tribune List has been duly scribed where all SKCC Members may reflect upon and pay tribute to this momentous achievement.” 

Thank you Phil K3EW, and the many “powerful houses” of SKCC with antennae sensitive enough as to hear, and operators patient enough as to decode, my often very week QRP CW signal. With your help I still hope to, one day, attain Tx8 and Senator status…

How did I do in this WES? Well, not too bad… I made contacts in 4 bands (80, 40, 20 & 15m) with stations in 11 SPCs, and finished 11th out of 22 QRP participants.

TU es 73 ALL de Jose VE3DTI/VA3PCJ.

…Till the Tulips Bloom

Several outings (including an extrarodinary one on September 1st) have gone undocummented. Apologies…

Sailing season, in the Ottawa river is still at its prime, and given the new global temperatures it will likely go strong for at least another month. However, other commitments made her skipper decide that it was that time, again…

 On Monday 4, at the dock, Sassy was cleaned and decommissioned. The sail was plastic-wrapped in situ. Fragrant dryer-sheets were used to avoid unwanted visits by small rodents. The mast was lowered and Swedish-furling was used to retain all lines and shrouds against it. The Windex was removed and the anchor light protected with a metal can.

On Tuesday 5, Sassy was motored to the ramp and hauled out. The outboard as well as all lines and fenders were removed, and the old Jeep Diesel drove her to the yard.

On Wednesday 6, Sassy was tarped.

Sassy’s skipper is glad to confirm that he can still do all this entirely by himself, as originally planned twelve years ago.

Thank you Sassy. We will see each other again. Happy dreams, till the tulips bloom.

Gunkholing on the Sevylor…

Reflection of the morning sun, through some morning mist but mainly smoke from the forest fires in NW Ontario…

Last Saturday (July 17) I decided to go gunkholing in the inflatable kayak… well, to tell you the truth, I am not sure it is a kayak or a canoe, but it is powered by a kayak-style double paddle: the old Sevylor Rio… Exactly the same that you find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJmT-lcR0eg (only differences are that I use a foot-action pump and I did get it on the water…). On August 22, 2015, I used it to cross from the mainland to Upper Duck Island in the Ottawa River and operate from it /QRP/P and qualify it for the Radio Amateurs “Canadian Islands Activators” program as ON-296 (https://veislandactivators.blogspot.com/2015/08/va3pcj-another-successful-first.html). Around 7:30am I got the Sevylor out of its bag and opened it on the grass nearby the ramp at Dick-Bell Park. I inflate it as showing in the above video, and launched from the ramp.

First I paid a visit to Sassy at the dock and then rowed out of the harbour, along the breakwater, into the unnamed shalow cove that separates the marina from Crystal Bay. I’ve always called it “Duck’s cove” but have not been able to find a name for it anywhere. It is rather shallow and only once I saw a boat anchored in its mouth. It has some water-grass and lots of river mussels (likely the Elliptio complanata or Eastern elliptio). I am no mussel expert, but those I saw seemed alive and well, several were half-buried in the mud/sand and their tracks were also readily visible along the bottom. The Ottawa River is famous for the diversity of its indigenous mussels, which are even used to monitor radionuclides in its water (an important undertaking given that the reactors in the Nuclear Research Laboratories of Chalk River are just a hundred miles upstream from the water intakes of the city’s two drinking-water purification plants in Britannia and Lemieux Island (“The levels of radioactive tritium in Ottawa’s drinking water are routinely two, three sometimes four times above background level”: https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/dewar-calls-for-tougher-water-standards-after-tritium-leaks-1.376856), (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/nuclear-contamination-plan-containment-rolphton-cnl-algonquins-1.4584336).

Bird-wise, the purple martins from the unique colony kept within the grounds of the Nepean Sailing Club were very active on the trees (perhaps some fledgelings were already training for their first migration South?). I was able to take pictures of some large birds on the shore, where two American crows seemed intrigued with the “one-leg contest” between a Great Egret and a Canadian goose:

Two American crows watching the one-leg contest between a Great Eagret and a Canadian goose…

Some large flowers of water plants (Nymphaea virginalis) that had been completely closed upon arrival, were open and in full glory a couple of hours later:

Nymphaea virginalis

Actually, the main reason for this fun exercise was to test the ability of two old quadriceps (and other allied muscles) for getting down and raising up from the low level seat in the kayak… and I am glad to report that they are still functional. Next, will be to test their ability to do the same in “QRP”, the BIC Sportyak II…

After Two Years: Again “Portable Afloat” from Horaceville

Sunrise from the cove in Horaceville

At the onset of last week, it seemed that Friday would be close to ideal for a leisure sail up-current in the Ottawa River, from Nepean to Pinhey Point (Horaceville).  A bronze plaque at the site (of the Ontario Heritage Foundation) states the following: “Hamnet Kirkes Pinhey 1784 – 1857 – A merchant and ship owner in his native England, Pinhey came to Upper Canada in 1820. For his services as King’s messenger during the Napoleonic Wars, he received a 1000 acres land grant on the Ottawa River…” What prompted the King of England to so dispose of this parcel of Anashinaabe land, remains to be elucidated; nevertheless, Horaceville was the result of such decision and the settlement was later named after Hamnet’s son Horace.

Last time Sassy had anchored overnight in Pinhey’s Point was two years ago, in August 2019: https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2019/08/18/overnight-swinging-at-anchor-in-pinhey-point-first-of-the-season/    

The Jeep Liberty RGB got loaded in the morning with everything needed for a few nights (at least one, maybe as many as three) and made it to Dick Bell Park.

Sassy undocked on Saturday around 12:15pm. Wind was from the NE at abt 5 knots. She hoisted sail before reaching the main channel and around 12:45pm she settled in a close reach at 2-3 knots overground. At 13:45 she was abeam of the Aylmer Marina and at 14:15, abeam of Aylmer Island. At 15:05 she tacked. The wind then dropped and at 15:30pm the sail was doused and the Tohatsu took over. One hour later, at 16:30 she was dropping her Bruce anchor inside the cove at a depth of 6-7 feet with a scope of ~7:1 (which in the case of sassy it means mostly chain since the rode sports 40 ft of metal links). She was alone and had the entire cove for herself. However, soon afterwards a Hunter 31 reached deeper inside the cove close to the north shore and soon afterwards a Hunter 36 set anchor SE of Sassy followed afterwards by 3 other boats further away from the mouth of the cove.

GPS tracks from 2021-07-09 and 2021-07-11

Once the boat settled to its swinging on the anchor, I decided it was time to rig the antenna: This time it was the “Par EndFedz® EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly”, which was rigged as kind of an inverted “V” using Sassy’s mast as the mid-pole. I am unable to comment on the possible resonant interactions between the antenna and the metal parts of the boat rigging. I just trusted that whichever this would be, it would not totally hinder all transmissions.

The night was quiet with almost no wind. Past midnight a familiar bird call came from the woods: “whoo-hoo-oo-oo”, which I readily identified as that of a Great Horned Owl. The call was repeated with intervals of a about a minute, twice nearby and twice further away. The Passamaquoddy people of Maine and New Brunswick thought this call to be that of a magical love flute calling for the ignition of human passions. However, I can confirm that at least for someone spending the night alone at anchor, this is a total myth…

Sunrise was around 5:30am, but the birds starting signal their presence in the woods much earlier. I have long been a fan of “Merlin”, an app for identifying birds.  Recently, it has added the ability to recognize the song of birds. In the early mornings from the deck of Sassy it was able to identify the song of over twenty-five different species of birds….  And this was in addition to those I was able to spot only visually: A Blue Heron, a Great Eagret, a Common Tern (diving not far from the boat), an Osprey (flying low over the water) and a Double-crested Cormorant making a low pass at the anchorage.

On Saturday morning I was able to log a few 40m contacts in the SKCC WES and a few more in the IARU HF World Championship (in 20, 15 and 10m). The KX3 was powered by the same deep-cycle 48 Whr batteries of the boat. These batteries do not power the boat through the water (the boat’s auxiliary is an outboard with no battery) and are only used for the night-lights, the sounder and the autopilot. These batteries are charged via an 11W flexible portable solar panel on deck. In the past, QSO in which I operated in a similar manner were logged by some as “/MM”. However, not everyone acknowledges such QSOs (operated from a small sailboat at anchor in inland waters) as “Marine Mobile”. Since this is very similar to operating “Portable” (“/P”) from land, I prefer to call that mode of operation “Portable Afloat” (“/PAF” ?)…

The anchorage remains mostly a sailboat anchorage, but it does get get occasional visits by motorboats. Usually, motorboaters are quite considerate and reduced speed and wake when approaching the sailboats or the shore. This did not happen this time, when a large blue Yamaha Wave-Runner decided to show its true self… (yes, if it was you who did it and you who are reading this, you know that I am speaking about you, and yes, I do have the picture with your face facing the camera, the registration number of your boat and the big splash you made to harass Sassy and myself right in front of the docks…). However, this was not the only contravention that I was to witness last Saturday; among them, in spite of warning signs posted all-around the premises, people were walking in the protected point deemed to be a “fragile ecology” and dogs not on a leash freely roamed the parkland (even the very Point!). In spite all that it was nice to see so many people coming to enjoy the parkland in large groups after a very weird year of distancing and seclusion.

Later in the afternoon, Woodpecker arrived (Kirill and Natalya’s P23, with her unique junk-rig and sail and an electric auxiliary). She anchored nearby, amidst the other twenty or so sailboats that had also been arriving throughout Saturday to overnight at the anchor along the Ontario shore SE of Pinhey Point. After a visit by Kirill and Natalya who rafted their kayak to Sassy, a frugal dinner and several sunset pictures, it was time to snug in for the night.

Woodpecker in the morning mist…

On Sunday morning, after the traditionnal breakfast with cereal, coffee and toasts, Kirill and Natalya again came by in their inflatable kayak and we had a very interesting chat on myths and language, which in some way drifted to the idea of property of the land as it evolved (or didn’t) in different cultures. Then it was time for Kirill to try his new drone for aerial photography. Because its positioning in the air depends on it being able to identify a steady point below it, it could only be flown on land. But fly it did and it will be very interesting to see what pictures it was able to take from the high grounds of Pinhey Point. Then, Kirill and Natalya decided to enjoy the rest of the Sunday in the anchorage while Sassy and I thought that it was time for an early return (we wanted to be back on time to watch the UEFA final…).

Sassy weighed anchor at 11:15am, There was almost no wind and she proceeded SE on the Tohatsu. It wasn’t until she was abeam of Aylmer Island, at 12:40pm that she could again hoist sail and shut the engine off and sail on a beam reach to a light S-SW wind. However, the wind dropped again and one hour later (at 13:40pm) she had to rely again on the Tohatsu. At 14:34pm she was again moored at her dock.

Sassy and I dread having many encounters with other boats and boaters inside the access channel and in the harbour, but this time everything went better than expected and the docking was uneventful.

Once at the docks I met a mate-sailor with whom I had had the pleasure of sharing crewing duties on “Constance” (a Bavarian 40 sloop sailing off Vancouver) may moons in the past. He provided for a perfect ending for a superb weekend by inviting me to join him and his lovely family at their table in the terrace of the marina, a terrace that I had longed to visit for almost two years… Thank you Nigel!

Three boats in the fountain…

Yesterday, Sassy and I had our second outing of the season upriver. The day was sunny, but the winds were borderline for both of us (normally this would not have been the case, but this is the onset of the season after a long and weird winter as landlubbers). The wind was West with gusts at 15-20 Kts. with long lulls in between. We decided to chance it…  Burton was coming out in “Restless”, his handsome Compac 19, and Kirill and Natalya were doing the same in their uniquely junk-rigged PC23 (actually, they were trying a new experimental sail). Sassy motored uneventfully to the port entrance, but soon enough she was a toy in the swell fetching from upriver. Eventually she made it into the main channel past the K1 buoy and was able to head to wind, albeit at the expense of the Tohatsu pushing harder than usual and the ST-1000 trying to keep her heading upwind. The sail came up half way with ease, but then hell happened, suddenly, as it usually does… Something was hindering the headsail from being hoisted further than mid mast. From the corner of my eye I saw a large sailing vessel in full sail, overtaking Sassy on her starboard side. It was coming close to less than a boat length. I yelled. No change. I turned to face the outboard and managed at the last second, to turn Sassy to port and avoid the collision. Both hulls missed each other only by a few feet. Yes, it was a sailboat and Sassy was technically a motorboat, but this was not a crossing, it was an overtaking situation and a much better knowledge of the Colregs (or even a more sensible seamanship) should have applied on the side of the helmsperson (she was not a helmsman…) of the large sailing vessel. Luckily nothing happened and the sailboat proceeded undeterred on its original course. However, Sassy’s mainsail was still half-way up and she was heeling to port with the mast close to the water. Suddenly I realized which was the problem: the downhaul was badly tangled. No time to untangle it, time to use the rigging knife… and soon the sail went up gaff and all. I switched the outboard off and we were sailing:

Photo of Sassy by Natalya Belaya, from the deck of Woodpecker… Thank you Natalya!

It was a comfortable sail between gusts. Kirill and Natalya were doing fine in Woodpecker with their very flexibly special sail and Burton was sailing Restless full-and-by as if the wind had been half its speed. Here is Restless, abeam under Sassy’s boom:

But stronger gusts were coming. I could easily spot their darkness on the waters upwind. After a while, it started to be uncomfortable both for Sassy and for myself. I should have reefed… As it is usually the case, the moment this thought occurs in one’s mind, it is already too late… I decided to try it nevertheless. With the centerboard down I let the mainsail loose to port and latched the tiller to leeward… Sassy was now hove-to to starboard… I brought the boom closer to the port railing and let the sail down a few feet (it came down easily, even if by then I had no downhaul with which to force it down). Sassy’s reefing lines attached to cleats on the starboard side of the boom and I managed to bring both the tack and the clew down without much trouble. Then, the three vessels sailed for a while, meeting each other in the main channel of the river.

However, the channel soon started to get crowded: many sailors avid for a place on the water after fifteen months of seclusion, and also many new sailors, and motorboaters — one hopes all fully certified…

Restless was the first to turn in, and Sassy followed suit. Woodpecker decided to do as the “Chêne” in Lafontaine’s fable: “Le chêne et le roseau”: She tried to brave “l’effort de la tempête”… or perhaps she does more like the much smarter “Roseau”…  Either way it was not long before she too came back to her finger-dock in the marina. Here is the record from the Garmin aboard Sassy:

It was fantastic to meet Burton and Kirill and Natalya both on the water and at the docks…

First outing on the river

First outing in the river… just to make sure that everything works (including Sassy’s skipper). The wind was calm (North, at less than 5 kts) and at times nonexistent. Sassy undocked and motored at minimal speed out the marina, watching for incoming motorboats that may not realize that every sailboat motoring with an outboard is really a “vessel restricted in its ability to manoeuvre”…

As Sassy approached the NE corner of the marina (see picture below), her skipper almost yielded to the temptation of sounding the horn with the nautical sound signal corresponding to such restriction: Morse-code letter “D” (one long blast followed by two short), but the chances were judged to be almost zero that it would have been correctly interpreted by the kind of vessel that Sassy has been dreading to encounter since the incident reported here last year.

Almost generating her own wind while motoring, Sassy was able to hoist sail “on the fly” as she progressed outwards within the auxiliary channel. Then she sailed close to the wind for a few tacks. Here she is sailing in open waters:

Once she reached beyond the junction marker, the sail was doused and she motored back to her slip. Her skipper is happy to repport that everything worked as expected and that this time Sassy managed to successfully avoid all potential collisions…

“Of Stars and Comets…” – a New Book

This may appear as having little to do with Ham Radio or Sailing. However, several of the stories inside the book below do relate to boating (some were even written while afloat) and at least one of them deals with antennae and Morse code. Furthermore, “writing” can be viewed as some kind of “hobby” and, therefore, the time devoted to it may also “not count towards age…”. Hence, this posting may not be completely out of context after all… The big news is that VA3PCJ (also known as VE3DTI and CX7RT) who also happens to be Sassy Gaffer’s skipper, has just published a book: a collection of short stories, twenty-six to be precise even aiming at some degree of literariness… The stories are quite cosmopolitan, sometimes philosophical, ironical, or even romantic but it all has to do with the idea of “the absurd” as developed by the French writer and philosopher Albert Camus. However, this book is clearly the work of a Canadian author… A Castilian Canadian author that is… because the catch is that, in its original version, the book has been written in Castilian. Well ok, in “Spanish”…, but there are other languages spoken in Spain which are no less Spanish than Spanish: Gallaecian, Catalan, Esguerra, Asturian, etc., which is why I prefer to refer to the language of Cervantes (and Borges and Cortázar and Galeano…) as Castilian, the language that evolved from the one that used to be spoken in the Kingdom of Castilla, which later on chased the Moors from Spain (incorporating in the process significant signs from their culture, particularly from their language), unified for its crown most of the Iberic Peninsula and even went to declare that it owned most of the American continent ignoring in the process the ancient people and civilizations that existed there before their arrival. Anyway, Castilian is an amazingly expressive language, perhaps more forgiving and with a more flexible syntax than other symbolic languages. It also allows a particularly free use for the metaphor, all of which is explored in the short stories in the book. Here is a brief «apperçu»: https://www.escritores.org/libros/index.php/item/de-estrellas-y-cometas-y-otros-relatos The book can be ordered directly from its editorial: https://editorialartistica.com ¡Buena lectura!