QRP SSB Magic in the 15-Meter Band

The 15 Meter Band is a surprising band. It is supposed to share some of the DX of the 10-Meter band as well as the reliability of the 20-Meter band. The F-2 layer of the ionosphere is primarily involved in the return of 15-Meter electromagnetic waves back to Earth, particularly during daylight when the Sun is close to the maximum of its cycle. However, it is also known to open during solar minima and permit low-power contacts even beyond the hours of peak sunlight.

Lately, I have been avoiding SSB contests but this last weekend was the “CQ WW DX SSB 2017” and I could not resist firing up the ICOM 703 just to get an idea – or so I thought – on how the top bands were behaving. The Sun is mid-path between the maximum of its 24th cycle (in 2014) and its expected minimum (in 2020) and I was readily expecting all bands above 20-Meter to show poor conditions.

In the 10-Meter band there were no surprises: it was deadly closed. However, even before tuning the antenna for the 15-Meter band I could already hear loud SSB signals reproducing the human voice. Some signals were a full 5-9. From there to want to see if those stations could receive my QRP signal there was just a small step: grabbing the microphone and speaking into it. By the time CR6K replied with a “59-14” and I answered “59-04” there was no way back.

The last entries in the 15-Meter band in my logs had been in February and in CW (in the ARRL DX CW 2017) and the last SSB contact in this same band had been logged in October 2016 (in the CQ WW DX SSB 2016). During the contest the SFI remained at 76 (SN=23), the Geomagnetic Field remained very quiet (K=1) and the 15-Meter band was expected to show “poor” propagation conditions both ant night and during daytime. In spite of some QSB (almost unavoidable in 15-Meter) after 2.4 hours – much to my surprise – I had logged 45 SSB contacts in 8 CQ zones (mostly 14, 15 and 08, but also, 33, 13, 3 and one in zone 11 (CX2DX in Las Piedras, Depto. de Canelones, Uruguay – 5,712 miles apart, hence applicable towards a “Thousand-Mile-Per-Watt Award” given the 5 Watts in my antenna).

The following picture shows a map with the location of the stations worked:

Map CQ WW DX SSB 2017

I hope this spell of 15-Meter propagation will continue during the next month, while I operate as CX7RT with the 21-foot long “Mini-W3EDP” (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/the-mini-14th-w3edp-a-special-design-for-a-balcony-down-south/) as my main HF antenna…

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Wallpapers in the Mail: Sailing Expedition QRP 2nd. & 10 Meter CDN QRP 3rd.

2017 W/VE Island QSO Party (SOQRP – Expedition – ON295)

2017 W-VE IQP

https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/multi-contesting-qrpp-from-a-unique-and-battered-island/

2016 ARRL 10 Meter Contest (SOQRP CW)

2016 10 Meter Contest

https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/the-arrl-ten-meter-contest-qrp-at-the-bottom-of-the-sun-cycle/

As for the 2017 KSQP, OHQP and YODX (with QSOs shared with the W/VE Islands Party) no results have been posted yet.

Hoping for Another CQ CX Record… NOT!

Version 2


It is now time for a new visit to family and friends in CX-Land.

As in former visits, I hope on occasions to be QRV QRP/P as CX7RT from Piriápolis (CG25id) with the KX3 and small antennas. This time I will not be making use of any digital mode beyond those that the KX3 has available via its paddle. Most likely I will mainly operate CW hoping for some propagation openings in the higher bands (17m and 15m).

During the last five years, in as many visits to CX-Land, I logged a total of 308 QSOs in 47 DXCC’s. Of these, 183 QSOs in 30 different DXCC’s have QSL’ed in LoTW.

Due to the lack of CX QRP contesters I was also able to retain two CQ CX SOQRP records: in the CQ WW WPX SSB (CX SOQRP 15m) and in the CQ WW RTTY (CX SOQRP 15m). This was not done just for personal satisfaction, but also in the hope of enticing other CX amateurs to operate QRP.

The 2017 CQ WW CW is scheduled to take place Nov 25-26. If I find myself available on those dates, I may try my luck in it, hoping this time to be joined (and likely beaten) by more able CX amateurs with better QRP stations than myself.

I should be back in VE3-land on time for the snow and RAC Winter Day…

Haul-Out Day 2017

Not a happy day, but successful nevertheless.

Sassy was hauled-out from the river this morning and she is already tucked in the yard under her tarp, ready for the winter. With some luck she will be returning to the water sometime between March and May 2018.

Hauling out Sassy for the winter is an operation that requires a couple of previous trips to the marina to remove “Cue-Ar_Pee” (the dinghy) and most of the stuff inside, lower the mast, remove the Windex and the anchor light, remove the sail (a major event in itself), secure all lines, shrouds, forestay and spars, place pads to protect the tarp at every point that might cause chaffing or tearing.

Then, on the day of the haul-out (this is how I recall it from this morning…):

  • Load the Jeep with everything needed, including the ladder and the trailer hitch;
  • Drive to to the yard to retrieve the trailer (12 Km);
  • Hitch the trailer to the Jeep (check air pressure in tires and that all lights work);
  • Drive with it to the marina (28 Km);
  • Park near the ramp;
  • Walk to the boat at her slip in the marina;
  • Start the motor;
  • Bring up the anchor in the anchor roller so so that it will clear the top of the winch of the trailer;
  • Undock from the slip in the marina and motor to the floating dock at the ramp;
  • Secure the boat to the floating dock at the ramp;
  • Bring up the rudder and the centerboard up but leave the engine down and on after disconnecting the gas line to empty the carburetor for the winter;
  • Walk to the Jeep and trailer;
  • Disconnect the trailer lights from the car before getting it submerged;
  • Back the trailer into the water in front of the boat;
  • Board the boat, put on boots and bring the motor up;
  • Unfasten the dock lines and bring the fenders inside the boat
  • Step on the trailer tongue and use the line at the bow to start bringing the boat forward towards the trailer;
  • Hook the strap of the trailer winch to the pad in the bow and bring the boat all the way forward;
  • Make sure the boat is properly aligned on top of the trailer;
  • Bring the trailer and boat out of the water and to the parking lot;
  • Remove the boots, get the boat ladder and board the boat;
  • Remove the gas tank and the gas line;
  • Place dryer sheets and car freshener cartons inside the cabin;
  • Lock the cabin door;
  • Remove the outboard from its bracket and bring it to the back of the Jeep;
  • Re-connect the trailer lights;
  • Drive the boat to the yard (28 Km) and back her to her spot;
  • Disconnect the tongue of the trailer from the hitch;
  • Put the tarp on top of the boat and fasten it to the frame of the trailer using thin lines (and bath-curtain rings…);
  • Drive home (12 Km);
  • Unload the Jeep and transfer the outboard to its rack.

All this years Sassy has been covered using two silver heavy-duty tarps: a 16′ x 12′ in the front and an 8′ x 12′ at the stern) but today she a got a single 24′ x 12′ new tarp (see picture):

Haulout 2017

And one last thing… never forget to take with you the Club magnetic card to open the gate for accessing the docks… (I did… and had to borrow one from the Club’s office: Thank you Julie!).

“Blind” Two-Way QRP (2xQRP) QSO’s: An Analysis Using Data from SKCC Sprints

As VE3DTI, having logged 729 QSOs with SKCC members – 670, operating QRP – I became interested in knowing what fraction (if any) had been Two-Way QRP QSO’s with neither participant having suspected the other of working QRP or less (hence the qualification of “blind” that shows in the title).

It is a known fact that most QSOs while operating QRP are with QRO and QRO+ stations. The Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) is not a QRP club. However, it does acknowledge QRP participation and about 20% of its sprint participants operate at 5W or less using the same general frequencies suggested by the Club. The SKCC has two types of QRP Awards: the SKCC 1xQRP Award for QRP contacts with QRO stations and the SKCC 2xQRP Award for Two-Way QRP contacts. Being already a recipient of the SKCC 1QRP (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/qrp-x-1-101-skcc-award-with-all-band-x2-and-40m-endorsements/) I wished to assess how close I was from being able to claim the 2xQRP. Also, a comparison of the QRP stations logged in those sprints with the number that participated in them could offer a rough estimate of the relative ability for a QRP station to complete a 2xQRP QSO with another QRP station versus its capacity to log a 1xQSO with a QRO station.

Most VE3DTI contacts with SKCC members were within the club’s three types of sprints: SKCC’s Weekend Sprintathon, SKCC’s Two-Hour SK Sprint and SKCC’s Two-Hour SK Eurosprint (SKSE). Most stations participating in these sprints are QRO (the numbers vary but the proportion can be 4:1 with about 80% of the participants operating over 5W (QRO) and while 20% operating at 5W or less (QRP). Although the power level is not part of the required sprint exchange, the power used by each station is indicated in the report submitted after each sprint, and the results are posted in the SKCC website according to the powers reported: QRPp (1W or less), QRP (5W or less), QRO (100W or less), QRO+ (over 100W). Hence, the power used by the stations contacted in each sprint was determined by reviewing the archived results of past SKCC sprints.

Clearly, only contacts made in SKCC sprints could be considered, since those are the only events for which SKCC keeps past records of reports according to power. This meant that of the 670 contacts logged with SKCC members, 94 had to be excluded, leaving 576 QRP contacts made in sprints with SKCC members. Had VE3DTI the same capacity to contact a QRP station than a QRO one, 20% of these contacts (i.e., 115) would have been 2xQRP contacts. Yet, only 18 (3.1%) were identified as 2xQRP QSO’s. Hence, all other parameters kept equal, a QRP station like mine appears to have ~1/6th the capacity to log a QRP-QRP 2xQRP QSO than that of logging a QRP-QRO 1xQRP: 18/(576*20/100) = 3.1/20 = 1/6.5.

Here is VE3DTI’s “blind” 2xQRP QSOs harvest from the SKCC sprints (VE3DTI operated always at 5W, the “PWR” column indicates the power used by the other station):

VE3DTI SKCC 2XQRP QSOs.jpg

Fifteen of the 18 were not duplicates (i.e., contacts with the same station in the same band) with 9 in the 40m band and 6 in higher bands for a total or 24 SKCC 2xQRP points. The SKCC 2xQRP Award requires a minimum of 150 points collected in 2xQRP contacts, which at the current rate of SKCC 2xQRP QSOs might be a perfectly achievable goal… in thirty or so more years!

A New Name for Sassy’s Tender: “Cue-Ar-Pee” Because It Does More With Less…

Several previous postings have made reference to Sassy’s small, cute and very able dingy, but until now it has been only referred to by the name of its design: “Sportyak II”. But today being the day of the Autumn Equinox, it seemed appropriate for the faithful Sportyak to officially receive its own proper name. Hence as the tender returned to the water to be brought to its winter quarters, it received a brand-new name: “Cue-Ar-Pee” (“QRP” among friends), which is very appropriate since it is a very small tender that definitely “does more with less”…

QRP spends most of the boating season cradled inside Sassy’s cockpit. It is just inches too long to fit under the tiller, but has an almost perfect fit when turned upside down on the settees with its stern against the hatch door and its bow just under the gallows. There it rests secured by the double mainsheet, which once tight prevents its bow from lifting up.

The manoeuvre to launch it, which has to take place before every undocking, can be performed single-handed: loosen the mainsheet to port and bring it above the gallows, then pull up from the painter at the bow and slowly rotate the bow outside Sassy’s port gunnel and bring QRP on the dock alongside Sassy. Flip it sideways. Add the seat and the safety gear and don’t forget the oars, and glide it backwards into the water. QRP is amazingly stable for its size and displacement. However, almost 200 lbs. suddenly shifting hesitantly inside it with an elevated center of gravity might end with a sudden discharge of the excess weight overboard into the water. Hence, I prefer instead to bring QRP stern first to Sassy’s starboard stern corner and secure QRP to Sassy starboard stern cleat (with a line through QRP’s stern oarlock used for sculling) and then climb down into it backwards while grabbing the top of Sassy’s gallows or even her mainsheet. Then while kneeing on the stern of the dinghy, undo the stern line from Sassy’s cleat and use the same line to ease my humanity backwards onto QRP’s seat (which yes, it is an IKEA stool). Once comfortably seated, the oars can go on their locks and QRP is free to go. However, today it did not go too far: just to the dock beside the ramp some 100 meters from Sassy’s stern. There it was brought on the dock, lifted sideways and carried to the grass behind the Jeep, which waited patiently in the nearby parking lot. QRP was then pushed up the rack on the roof of the Jeep where it was tightly fastened using its own painter (without a single time threading the line through, but looping it around the ends of the bars of the rack, which makes for a very quick and elegant unfastening). Eventually the Jeep made it back home and QRP is already in its storage place inside the garage.

Boarding the dinghy in the “high seas” is a similar manoeuvre, though in the event of waves Sassy and QRP are likely to move up and down asynchronously, a condition that required extra care and attention.

The following composite shows most of the stages described above:

QRP

Overnight Up-River, Hiking, Gunkholing and a Quick-and-Dirty Result

Two weeks had passed without the dock lines having been casted off… two weeks in which many Hobo, Orb Weaver, Tetragnathidae and Woolf Lycosidae would have made Sassy their home… Hence, time for some dusting off.

Sassy casted-off late Friday afternoon knowing that she had to be back early Saturday. For a short while she sailed in light winds, but then deployed her “iron-spinnaker” and motor-sailed the rest of the way, anchoring in Horaceville’s cove on time to admire the sunset through the trees and for her skipper to enjoy a light dinner onboard. The night was very quiet with no wind and almost no waves. But the actual highlight was next morning: the Sun had just risen above the Quebec shore looking like a Moonrise, as it remained shielded behind the thick morning mist; then its rays slowly started to work their way through the fog until in a few instants the low cloud dissipated and the Sun could not longer be looked at.

IMG_6083

There was not much time for radio, but I wanted to conduct a “quick and dirty” “experiment”: the PAR EndFedZ and the W3EDP Jr. have almost the same length. Given the success I had in using the W3EDP Jr. up the rigging of the boat I wanted to try the PAR EndFedZ in that same configuration. A previous attempt had not been too conclusive but this time the result seemed more definitive: it might have been the conditions for HF propagation, but the PAR EndFedZ seems to hate the proximity of the boat rigging while the W3EDP Jr. doesn’t seem to care that much…

A quick hike on land followed by some dinghy gunkholing provided for some encounters with late blooming flowers (see following composite picture): a lonely blossom of white water lily (Nymphaea odorata), a couple shafts of purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) – feral and invasive but nonetheless beautiful and still not overwhelmingly abundant in this area, a whole patch of the very native Azure Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense), and a side-by-side sight of the two main characters – the real culprit and the wrongly blamed suspect – of a common late-summer drama (i.e., hay fever): Artemisia (i.e., Ragweed, in the foreground) and Solidago (i.e., Goldenrod, in the background).

Late summer flowers

The return to port was uneventful with the possible exception of occasional encounters with cresting waves created by careless motor-boaters and the occurrence of crowded traffic by vessels simultaneously entering and leaving port with some not observing the Colregs (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/C.R.C.,_c._1416.pdf) or even old and plain universal good manners.

IMG_6114

Over Half a Sweep

Last November, operating CW QRP, VE3DTI hoped to have managed “over half a sweep” in the venerable (88 years old this year) “ARRL November Sweepstakes (CW)” (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/a-qrp-cw-sweep-over-one-half-clean/).

In the end, VE3DTI was awarded 102 QSOs in 42/83 ARRL sections, thus confirming the “over half a sweep” (barely…). These were VE3DTI’s final results in the SOQRP category: 77th out of 119 overall, 3rd. out of 9 in Canada, 2nd. out of 6 in Ontario and 1st. out of 2 in Ontario East.

And if that was not enough, last week the mail brought this:

ARRL Sweepstakes CW 2016

Sassy Goes Live on TV and Contributes to Two Radio Publications

Last August 8 2017 Sassy was live on TV. She had just spent the night at the Pinhey Point’s cove swinging at her anchor when the CTV crew showed up in the park for some footage for the “Morning Live” program. The broadcast included several instances of panning the cove with Sassy in the foreground. The full video is available here:

http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?binId=1.1905867#1180762

CTV Morning Live2

The following are the times into the video of the segments that focussed on Pinhey Point and those followed by an asterisk are the ones showing Sassy and Woodpecker, who had sailed upriver together:

  • 0:55:20 – 0:59:20
  • 1:21:25 – 1:25:12
  • 2:08:54 – 2:12:40
  • 2:24:40 – 2:23:50 *
  • 2:36:17 – 2:36-36 *
  • 2:40:00 – 2:42:46 *
  • 2:53:00 – 2:53:50 *

More recently, Sassy Gaffer has made it into two major radio publications.

One is a scientific publication by Michel VE3EMB reporting the successful use of weak sound signals for underwater communications at a distance over 2.5 kilometers, for which Sassy literally had to whisper (actually, “WSPR”) underwater. Here are the reference and the link:

“Weak Signal Underwater Communications in the Ultra Low Frequency Band” In: Proceedings of the 7th GNU Radio Conference, Vol 2, No 1, San Diego, CA, September 11-15, 2017.

Available at: https://pubs.gnuradio.org/index.php/grcon/article/view/20/14

GNURadio2

The second is an account of Sassy’s contributions towards bringing together Amateur Radio and small-boat inland water sailing, and more precisely of the success she had as a “1C ONE” Field Day station after warming the ionosphere via a “W3EDP Jr.” tangled up her standing rigging:

“Portable Afloat: Bringing Together Amateur Radio and Small-Boat Inland-Water Sailing” In: The Canadian Amateur (TCA Magazine): Vol.45, Num.5, pp.48-50, September-October, 2017 (http://wp.rac.ca/wp-content/plugins/s2member-files/2017/09/September2017_eTCA.pdf). The previous link will only work if you are a RAC member and logged into the RAC website. However, with the permission of the TCA Editor, here is the full article:

VA3PCJ – PortableAfloat

Way to go Sassy! You are on your way to become the most famous SunCat 17 ever… Oh, sorry, you already are… Well, then the Red Carpet is waiting (er… the Red River…?).

 

 

A Visit to a Land of Mallards and Royal Swans

Clifford Allen Island is the largest island in a tiny archipelago, a couple of kilometers downstream Hog’s Back Falls, in a bend of Rideau River, within the Billings Bridge Neighbourhood of the Capital Ward in the City of Ottawa. The island appears to have been part of the original estate of the Billings family in the 1800s.

These are alluvial islands and as such they have changed in shape and size over the years. In addition, human activity has also contributed to shape their current appearance: the lands bordering this section of the river were frequently flooded due to big ice jams, which in 1930 prompted City Council to undertake the “levelling” of some of these islands. However, Clifford Allen Island seems to have been spared (https://www.oldottawasouth.ca/stories/item/3833-islands-of-work). In an aerial picture taken in April 1947, during one of the worst floods of the region, it can be seen partially submerged together with the “Nordic Circle” development – now a park area – facing its south shore (https://www.oldottawasouth.ca/stories/item/5744-the-years-of-the-great-floods). The island is also seen in other historic aerial pictures (http://www.historynerd.ca/2016/06/30/from-the-nordic-circle-to-the-rideaus-waters-this-flood-was-made-for-you-and-me/). The tip of the island can be seen in a 1922 painting by Robert Wickenden, (1861-1931), “Rideau River, Summer Afternoon”, in the National Gallery of Canada (http://www.bytown.net/billingsbridgesettlement.htm).

Cliffor Allen Island - Google Maps copy (1)

Clifford Allen Island is named in the page in Wikipedia that lists the islands of Ontario (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_islands_of_Ontario#Rideau_River) and its name is showing in Google Maps, though not in the Canadian Hydrographic Chart of the area (CHS 1512). The origin of the name is not readily apparent, but it was likely chosen to honour a prominent person or family from the area. In Ottawa there is also a “Clifford Allen Park” not far from the intersection of Walkley Rd. and Bank St. (http://ottawa.cdncompanies.com/park/clifford-allen-park-ottawa/).

It would also appear that Clifford Allen Island was never laboured or inhabited or in any way used by humans other than the occasional visitor to its shores in a kayak, canoe or paddleboard (http://naturallyottawa.com/tag/canoeing/).

I decided I wanted to give this island a chance to appear in the database of the Canadian Islands Activators (CIA) program (veislandactivators.blogspot.ca). After having to postpone the “qualifying” once due to rainy weather, I had almost dismissed the idea of being able to do it this summer. However, last Saturday, the family planned an afternoon at Brewer Park, a stone-throw away from the island. So, I loaded the radio gear and the inflatable Sevylor Rio in the Jeep, drove to the southeast tip of the park and – with the help and encouragement of my beautiful daughter-in-law, Michelle – we carry the boat and the gear to the water, to a spot where there used to be a little dock no longer in existence. There I inflated the Sevylor, launched it and paddled it to the island. Though the crossing is just above 100 meters, there is a perceptible midstream current as the waters still carry some of the momentum acquired in the jumps along the Hog’s Back fault.

Cliffor01

In spite of the very tall grass that covers the entire island, and its entire shoreline being of very soft mud (almost like quicksands), I did manage to land on the south shore of its western tip. I made my way through the tall grasses and found a cleared spot under a huge Silver Maple presiding over the west tip of the island. There I set up the portable station with the KX3, and hoisted the PAR EndFedZ Tribander up the S9v42 mast leaning again one of the branches of the maple tree. I listen in 40m and 20m but although I heard a few CQ’s I was unable to get a reply (later I found out that a small CME might have been the culprit). So, after one hour of fruitless effort, I decided I was not going to “qualify” the island anytime soon. So, I packed back the radio gear, launched the canoe back into the stream and paddled it back to Brewer’s Park to join the rest of the family at the playground next to Seneca Street.

Cliffor02

I couldn’t say: “I did it…” – as my little grandson often puts it – but I can say “I’ve tried”… However, after this unsuccessful attempt, I doubt I will return to Clifford Allen Island, as I think that it should best be enjoyed from a distance while remaining what it has always been: a pristine, almost forsaken, piece of land in the middle of Canada’s National Capital, better inhabited only by its rightful owners, the mallards and the Royal swans.

IMG_5985 copy