All Things HF: August

 

Breaking News: The Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF) has announced that they will be contributing $100,000 to the Bouvet Island DXpedition. I’m proud to be a contributing member to the foundation.

The first thing I needed to do after obtaining my novice ticket was to outfit my 1st station with an HF radio. Even though there were no HF privileges for novice licensees, I needed to become a listener of HF in order to get on the air without sounding like a lid.

So, how do you pick your entry level HF rig, well, I was a member of ARRL and received a monthly copy of QST magazine. The copy I was reading at the time was highlighting an article on the National Hurricane Center and their selection of an HF station setup. The NHC had selected Yaesu and I’m thinking ‘if it’s good enough for the NHC its good enough for me’. I didn’t give a thought to the possibility of Yaesu being the low bidder for the station’s equipment. So, I called Burghardt’s (burglar heart we used to call them) to order an entry level HF rig. My very first (there were more) rig was a Yaesu FT-840. This was a no nonsense simple, no bells, no whistles HF rig. I might mention my antenna was a vertical. Now the definition of vertical is that it radiates equally poorly in every direction so I was told by a lot of old timers.

Turns out that they were spot on with their ‘wise guy’ description but what the hey, when I received HF privileges I knew no better. Over the years the station grew with this and that plus a better radio to enhance my operating techniques. Talk about a mish mosh of peripheral items and 100 miles of wire, I had a nightmare for a radio station…something had to be done. I pulled the plug on my HF station one cold winter day and proceeded to align the equipment along with rewiring the entire station. When the project was completed, everything on my operating position was within my reach.

Wow, what a pleasure it was to sit down and call CQ. The new setup allowed me to get that DX I needed and the DX I wanted. Antennas? Yes, there are a bunch of them but…we’re discussing the operating desk. The peripheral items are so important with number one being a VSWR meter large enough to read while operating. I consider the microphone to be the second most important so I talked to the ‘guy’ who knows microphones. Bob Heil pointed me in the right direction. My new mic is a PR 781 studio quality, mounted on a boom attached to the wall. I’ve always used a foot switch for push to talk, also by Heil. If you look closely at the mic boom you’ll see a set of earphones. Do not operate without them. It’s a whole different world of quality sound that comes from the radio to your ears. Also, keeps your wife happy…she doesn’t have to listen to the other guy and his static. My earphones are also by Heil. The top rig in the photo is a Yaesu FT-950 use for CW operation only plus, it’s a stand-by radio just in case.

Below the 950 is my pride and joy and the state of the art in HF radios (today at least). Meet my Yaesu FT DX 3000. It’s really a nice rig to operate I do keep the operators manual close by…I need it! My power supply is equipped with meters telling me that my operating conditions are okay. The amplifier is a solid state Ameritron 1300 rated for 1200 watts output. My CW paddle is by Vibroplex. Last but not least is my laptop computer, I cannot operate without it. It took me almost 20 years to get my station in the shape it’s in today…don’t lose hope, everybody goes through station growth over the years and they all grow by experience.

The first thing is to know what mode you’re going to operate and so that way you can plan your station layout. I’ve named the brands I use but in no way do I recommend what you’re going to use in your station. Remember when your station is ready to go, sit down and call CQ because someone somewhere is listening for your call, don’t disappoint them. So long from Huntersville for now.

Best 73 es gud DX de Bob/WØZPE

 

All Things HF: July

Good news before I start my rant!

Baker/Howland Is. (KH1) will be activated in 2018 by a DX group who has already mounted their fund raising activities. Baker/Howland is No. 4 on the most wanted list. This DXpedition will be another very expensive project with the costs in line with the Bouvet project. These dedicated radio operators are to be lauded for their efforts bringing those all but impossible ATNO’s to you and I.

Antennas, antennas and antennas are the most important pieces of equipment for our radio stations. So, who do you ask?? Ask any operator because you’ll soon find out that they’re all experts…every one of them. There’s a lot of antennas to choose from too. They range in price from inexpensive wire antennas to thousand buck giant Yagi’s and…what about a tower and a rotator to support your selection. There’s a lot to think about before taking that plunge into the world of HF radio operations.

My first antenna was a compromise vertical, its replacement was a compromise 5 band Yagi. Look folks, you can do a lot of radio with a wire antenna but, if you’re going into the world of worldwide DX, best to have a tower to support your selections to work those far away exotic places in this world. It isn’t cheap to be a dedicated DXer so one needs to define what part of the hobby am I (and my pocketbook) going to be involved in.

I ended up with mono band antennas, a tower and several power poles supporting antennas with rotors. Am I right and the other dude wrong?? Absolutely not. A tower with a log periodic isn’t a bad idea either and what about those Hex Beams?? There’s a lot to think about so talk to an expert, you know the ones I mean, they know everything (smile).

All kidding aside, talk to a DXer if you’re in doubt. In the meantime you folks who are all set up with your dream stations, sit down and call CQ because someone somewhere is listening and who knows…he may be an antenna expert. So long from my station in Huntersville to your station.

Best 73 es gud DX de Bob/WØZPE

All Things HF: June

Did you ever wonder who the operator is on the other end of the microphone as the QSO begins.?

Can he/she carry on an intelligent conversation, can he/she contribute or is this going to be a boring one way street. The one thing you might find helpful is having an exit strategy especially one that does not insult the other operator…always be helpful and courteous and be kind. I’m sorry, I have to cut this short. My daughter is calling long distance from New York or…my wife just returned home and she’s crying…got to go. Hey, sometimes it happens so be sure to close by thanking him/her for the QSO and best 73. Whew, The dude on the other end several years ago was an electrical engineer (as he told me several times) who was sure my station was improperly grounded even though he’d never seen my layout. When I explained that I had followed protocol, he explained that the protocol I used was incorrect (exit strategy where are you). On this particular occasion I unceremoniously pushed the button…not a very good idea. I should have used my exit strategy. Don’t be confrontational during a QSO, be nice, be a good radio operator. Don’t tell the other operator he has an annoying carrier with his signal or he’s splattering…use your exit strategy and show him what a good operator you are. Let someone else complain. The art of the QSO is what makes both microphones enjoy the experience, this is what the hobby is all about. I venture to say I’ve learned more about the art of conversation from some of the best there are…Ham radio operators. Another thing to keep handy along with your exit strategy is ‘common sense’. Don’t use it sparingly it costs you nothing. I truly believe that common sense is the glue that keeps this wonderful hobby together and spans so many cultures and so many languages. With band conditions poor for much DX, the good old art of doing a good QSO (rag chew, conversation) or whatever you want to call it, is king for now and so I’m not unhappy with that. Remember, sit down at your station and get something going by calling CQ because someone somewhere is listening for your call. So long for now from Huntersville. Best 73 es gud DX from Bob/W0ZPE

ALL THINGS HF: MAY

All Things HF…

Gosh! 4 days in a row with no sunspots making DX a bit difficult if not impossible. I managed to get my DX fix whenever I sat down at my station so it wasn’t that bad plus…all the good rag chewing was super enjoyable as usual.

This station is active and has been since HF privileges were awarded back in 96-97. If bragging rights are allowed, there are over 13,000 QSO’s in my electronic log and another 6,000 in my paper logs. It seems like a very long time ago since I took my novice test followed by the technician test. I quickly realized that getting on HF depended on passing my element 1A test which was the dreaded CW part required for technician plus and 10-meter privileges. At that time (1997) during sun cycle 23, 10-meters was the king of the bands. One could operate the world with a simple wire antenna. The emission privileges at that time were from 28.300 to 28.500 for us new guys. I passed the 5 WPM CW after studying code for 6 months and this opened the window to the world of DX for me on SSB.

I knew that if I was to be successful and get the coveted DXCC awards…I needed to get my General ticket. I breezed through the exam but there was one other thing waiting in the wings and it was CW requirement at 13 WPM. I started the learning process of operating CW at 13 WPM when the FCC dropped the mode as a requirement for licensing…whoopee, I was a General with HF operating privileges on all bands. I opened the window and tossed the CW as far as it would go. Good riddance!

Fast forward to the new century when I had worked and confirmed 225 countries and entities. I was getting on in years and I felt that I was missing something in this great hobby and that something was ‘CHARLIE WHISKY’ as some of the old timers called CW. An order was placed for an MFJ code tutor…when it arrived, we became pretty good buddies for the next several months. Somewhere along the way I was able to copy 10 WPM and send at 13+ WPM with my new paddle. I also ordered a software decoder program and installed a remote key pad that was programmed to send my call sign.

About a month or so after my 80th birthday I worked an ATNO and my very first DX contact using CW. What a great moment for me. By July of last year my DXCC credits were at 310 worked and confirmed with half of those 80 new ones using CW. DX is easy using CW if it’s a station looking for 5 band DXCC or a DXpedition…as soon as my call is confirmed I send ‘TU UR 5NN TU’ and I’m in the log. Its been a long enjoyable journey from the beginning to this point in time and I wanted to share it with you.

If I can learn CW, you can learn CW, just do it. Remember, take time to sit down at your station and call CQ, someone somewhere is listening…don’t disappoint them.

So long from Huntersville for now, 73 es gud DX from Bob/W0ZPE.