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.

All Things HF: April

All Things HF
Where in the world would you like to go today…I’m not thinking about today. My thoughts are about 3Y0Z and the Bouvet DXpedition in January 2018. My excitement meter is pegged to the max as is with the worldwide DX community. After all, Bouvet Island is number two on the worlds most wanted list and there’s 20 radio operators preparing to visit one of the worlds most serious and dangerous isolated Islands located in the Atlantic Ocean. The approach will be attained by an experienced crew of sea going sailors aboard a very serious ship. Landing at the operating site will be by helicopter that is carried aboard the ship. All personnel and supplies will be landed at the sight by helicopter. Operating equipment including antennas, antenna mounts (being designed), radios and all operating support equipment such as amplifiers, generators and the like are being gathered and tested will be air lifted to the operating site which at best can be called a glacier. This DXpedition will be using ground breaking technology for the first time with SDR radios by Flex Radio Systems along with state of the art proven antenna systems. These dedicated HAM radio operators are focused on making sure that every DX operator in the world is given an opportunity for an ATNO (all time new one) for their logbook. One of the operators is Glen Johnson (W0GJ) a good friend of the Brainerd Radio Club having made two presentations at past club dinners. I would urge all those interested to go to to W0GJ and visit Glens world class radio operating station. This is a trip that will amaze you just how dedicated this man is to our hobby and to operating DX. Glen is also an accomplished contester and…both a fixed wing aircraft and helicopter pilot. As for this DXer, I’m at my station most days either calling CQ or answering someone else’s call. In-between times, I manage some CW activity. Those who know me also know that I am not a fan of 20-meters (too many sharp elbows and nets) but…the band has been the go to band because its open most of the time. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and that’s why you’ll find me on 20-meters during poor conditions. Tip of the day for you new Hams who plan to DX sometime in the future…put up a wire antenna and listen, and listen and listen. You’ll become a good operator after listening to those who have gone before you. In the meantime for those of you who are on HF, sit down at your station and call CQ because someone somewhere is listening. Don’t disappoint them. That’s about it from Huntersville for now…best 73 es gud DX from Bob/W0ZPE.

All Things HF: April 2017

All Things HF…
Last month we experienced low sunspot numbers. The past 30 days we’ve experienced 14 days in a row of no sunspots whatsoever. Getting DX was difficult if not entirely impossible but…patience is a virtue when working DX even with no sunspots. When all else fails, go to that narrow band mode of communicating referred to as CW. I was to work both Cote d’ Ivoire (TU) and the Solomon Islands (H4) on 30-meters CW with pretty fair signals. I plan to talk about CW in one of my future Blogs. This month I’d like to remind those of you with HF privileges and those of you working to upgrade to HF that there is plenty of ‘good stuff’ out there in the form of QSO’s around the country even with low to no sunspots on 17 and 20-meters. The thrill of having your CQ answered or a CQ you’re  responding to is that there’s an interesting operator at the other end of your microphone to talk with. Several years ago I answered a CQ from a station in the northeast part of the country and as I entered his call into my logging program, his name popped up as Konrad Wallenda…oh yeah I thought, the famous flying Wallenda’s and one of them just might be on the other end of my QSO. After the usual exchange of station information and QTH, I asked the question and there was a chuckle from the other end…yes he was one of the  famous members of the Wallenda clan. Its this sort of experience that keeps me coming back day after day even when there’s lousy band conditions. Several months ago I worked a (KH6) which is a Hawaiian call but his address popped up as being in Silicon Valley. This started an hour’s long of one of the most interesting and informative QSO’s I had experienced on HF.  The operator was a survivor of Hiroshima! He was a 3 year old toddler that fateful day as ‘the’ bomb struck that ended a terrible war. On his QRZ page was an interesting series of photos, an exact replica including the vintage radios of the station aboard the B-29 known as the Enola Gay that he created over the years. He became an American citizen and some sort of a big shot in the Silicon Valley. You never know who is going to answer your CQ so don’t forget to sit at your station and call…someone somewhere is listening for your signal…

So long from Huntersville, best 73 es gud DX de Bob/W0ZPE.

All Things HF: March 2017

All Things HF…
Another month of low sunspot numbers, low solar index numbers, high A &K numbers, can anything else go wrong? If you don’t sit down at your station to give operating a try…this is wrong. Yours truly had an interesting month of HF operating and a whole lot of fun doing it. Example, I worked Macau (XX) on CW and Hawaii (AH) today the 20th and in-between, lots of good QSO’s around the US and Canada. There are many resource websites that can help you make the decision of where do you want to go today. WM7D’s Solar Resource page will give you the latest data on SFI and sunspot numbers. Its my very first stop of the day. I don’t get into the deep scientific stuff, just the numbers that tell me what to expect when I hit the foot switch. If you’re looking for the latest DX spots, take a look at the Japanese web sight ‘dxscape’ that I’ve been using for years and find to be one of the best for DX spotting. Now here’s the best resource of all…its you! Get on the air and enjoy this hobby of operating HF radio, meet new people every day. Work new countries…the bands are not great but its out there waiting for you to either work DX or just a heart warming QSO. Take a page out of Nike’s book and ‘just do it’. Here’s the tip of the day for those of you that are newly licensed and have HF privileges: DXpedition operators use a split frequency…please listen before you try to work them. He’s transmitting on one frequency and listening on another…he does not operate simplex. Listen for his instructions of how far up he’s listening. Go to your operators Manuel and it’ll show you how to split your VFO or better yet…get one of the club’s old timers and pick his brain. When the DX operator says ‘listening up’ you can bet its 5-10 up on SSB. If its CW he most likely will be listening 1 up. Remember to sit down at your station and call CQ because someone somewhere is listening for your signal. So long for now from Huntersville.

73 es gud DX de Bob/W0ZPE

All Things HF: February 2017

No sunspots, no problem. DX may be difficult but not impossible so lets get back to the basics. Get the equipment turned on, sit down with a purpose of doing what we do best…rag chew! This hobby is all about communicating so keep that in mind when you call CQ. Last week I was pleasantly surprised to hear a CQ aero mobile on 18.130, it didn’t take me long to answer his call and what a nice QSO along with being informative. It was the co-pilot from 4 land zipping along at 12,000 feet and 450 knots in a Bombardier 300 Challenger. As the operator put it, the HF radio with the rest of the avionics is mounted in a $26 million frame. The crew was taking the owner and his family from New Mexico to their winter home in  Florida. We were able to talk radio while he was munching on a sandwich. The factory mounted antenna is a vertical that is fixed to the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer and what a beautiful signal he was transmitting. HF radios are required on commercial aircraft in case VHF fails. Although this bird is considered general aviation…HF is factory installed. There were other memorable contacts made in the past 30 days with some DX into central America. Tip of the day: Thank you is used often in operating HF so don’t be afraid to say it often. Thank you for the call, thank you for the QSO and thank you for the signal report…its all part of good operating skills. See ‘ya next time and don’t forget to call CQ because someone somewhere is listening.

All Things HF (January 2016)

All Things HF
Sometimes to emphasize a point one can best relate to an experience. Case in point…you hear it all the time, the band is dead or there is nothing but noise. Last Wednesday I sat down at my station to work whatever was available. I checked the activity on my spectrum scope and sure enough the scope was flat lined across the 17-meter band. I like to use the phrase ‘nobody can here you listening’ so perhaps there is someone listening. The only way you’re going to find out is to call CQ and after 2 attempts (with my beam due east) a voice came back with a ZS2 prefix. Okay, that’s South Africa and the band is dead or is it?Its just like going fishing and snagging a big one. The remainder of the afternoon was spent doing QSO’s around the U.S. and Canada and I never changed frequency… I only adjusted my beam heading in order to accommodate the mini pileup on my call. Tip of the day: Please be sure to ask is the frequency in use (even though you hear nothing) and be sure to give your call. The FCC and those ARRL frequency cops will send you one of those nasty post cards if they do not hear your call sign. Do the right thing, its good for the hobby. See ‘ya next time and remember to call CQ because someone somewhere is listening.