From CX-Land the mini-W3EDP Hears NA Stations Calling “CQ SS”

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The mini-W3EDP success a couple of weeks ago allowing two CW QSOs was not repeated. Propagation conditions continued to be extreme and CX7RT was only able to log a handful of QRP FT8 QSOs during the last two weeks. Furthermore, FT8 signals seem to be all what the mini-W3EDP is able to hear. As per the PSKreporter (https://www.pskreporter.info) The FT8 5W signal from the KX3 has been reaching South and North America both in 15M and 17M but not beyond. Seven 15M FT8 QSOs have been logged, three with US stations: WB2REM (FL), W4RQ (FL) and K1HTV (VA) (all three confirmed in LoTW).

The main radio contest taking place today (November 19) is the “Phone ARRL SweepStakes”. This old competion is only for US and Canada stations. However, if offers an opportunity to check for reception from NA. During a full hour (18:00z – 19:00z) ten NA stations were heard calling “CQ SS” in 15M (9 from the US and one from Canada). The signals were week (54 or less) but reception was clear with no PreAmp needed. Here they are:

N0MA 21.235.0 17:58z IA
VE6SV 21.290.0 18:02z AB
K7RAT 21.300.0 18:04z OR
N8OO 21.312.0 18:05z LA
N9RV 21.319.3 18:07z MT
WC6H 21.292.5 18:39z CA
N4TP 21.340.9 18:44z FL
K6IJ 21.331.0 18:46z CA
K4BBH 21.286.0 18:48z GA
WA2VYA 21.309.5 18:51z TX

 

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The Mini-W3EDP in the Vagaries of the Southern Sun

One week without HF radio was a bit too much to endure…  Hence, I used the same small “Tacuara” cane (i.e., a local kind of bamboo) I had found on the beach years ago, to hoist the mid-point of the wire in front of the apartment. It took some effort but the little antenna already spans the entire front of the apartment configured as an “inverted Vee”. Its vertex forms an angle slightly larger than 90º at about eight feet from the apartment floor (the apartment faces NW and is in the fourth (top) floor of the building. The twin-lead section reaches midway inside the balcony. The feed-point is held hanging behind the back of a small patio chair connected to the 4:1 Unun followed by a toroidal choke and the Elecraft T1 tuner (operated remote). A short RG-174 coaxial connects the T1 to the Elecraft KX3 used with its own ATU bypassed.

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With a Coronal hole facing the Earth, the K index at 4, an SFI at 69 with the SN = 0, and all the HF bands conditions labelled as “poor”, I was not expecting any miracle. Just hearing a small signal would have been considered a success.

The Elecraft T1 readily tuned the mini in all HF bands 40m to 10m. First I scanned 20m and heard a handful of LU, CE and PY stations chatting in SSB. I then switched to 15m and saw PU2WSQ and PY5EW calling CQ in RTTY.

Then in the CW portion of the 15m band, at 16:56z, I was able to complete a QSO with ZP6CW 1,076 Km away: the first contact of the year as CX7RT.

One thousand kilometers spanned using 5 Watts and a 7-meter wire may not appear as too impressive. Yet, given current conditions, it was a result above expectations and a very promising start for the mini-W3EDP in this new deployment from the balcony that it was originally designed for (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/the-mini-14th-w3edp-a-special-design-for-a-balcony-down-south/).

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…

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.

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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.

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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