OQRS: You may now request a direct or bureau card through the online log search at Clublog
Some News - 2013-09-05
My wife and I have booked to return to Vilamendhoo Island Resort (MJ63LP) in March 2014. The radio aims are: to operate in the 24hour BERU contest; to get my last two US States (DE, ND) for WAS, and give as many as possible a confirmed 8Q7 QSO. More details of bands and modes as the date approaches.
I shall try to process and post all direct QSL cards received once per week. Contact me if you do not receive your direct card in a reasonable time.
Back in the UK after about 18 hours travel.
The final up-load to club-log and LOTW took place about 21:00 on 2013-05-27.
IOTA requests that the name of the island is printed on the card, so I shall print new QSLs for Komandoo. There will be a delay of several weeks for any direct or buro cards. I have 15 cards waiting for me on return.
I shall write a follow up later, but I was disappointed with the results of my efforts this time, particularly the poor coverage to the Americas. I do hope to go again, but it is less certain that I will get the excellent location over the water again.
Thanks to you all for all the fun, and apologies if I just could not hear you this time.
Click here to search Clublog [You do not have to register with Clublog to search!]
And just to show it's not all radio - the following was taken in October 2007 near Male at a dive site called Lankan. That Manta is about 12 feet across the wing. That is why we started coming to the Maldives.
Update 2013-05-24 - 05:45
We are coming to the end of our Vacation. I want to thank Mr Patrick de Staercke and the management team at Komandoo for their permission to decorate one of their Water Villas with poles and for all their interest and support in my activities. I try to be discrete in my pursuit of the hobby and not give other guests an opportunity to take a negative view. Largely I succeed with a low profile approach.
I shall try to be heard and, more importantly, with the limits of the IC7000 here,TO HEAR, on 20m during CQWW WPX. It will be a single band entry and antennas will probably be down about 13:30 on 26th.
Yesterday was "vacation day". After a short session on 20m from 00:30 in the morning, we spent the day on a yacht, snorkelling, sunning and eating curry and fruit!. The weather was perfect from the moment we set off until after sundown, the best weather we have had.
This morning a few more stations in the log, but several duplicate callers already in LOTW and Clublog, taking away the opportunity of the little guys to be heard.
I started with the antenna on LP for 45 minutes then spent 5 minutes changing to SP. I had to change frequency several times because a local started calling in my listening area, hence on one occasion UP1 became UP2 to clear local QRM. Some were not calling UP1 / UP2 cluttering the TX frequency. In the end I decided it was breakfast time. That happens towards the end of a one-op operation. You lose the will to live.
Finally let's not forget the foibles of XYLs. We each took a similar picture of the sunrise last Saturday, 18th. Somehow she missed the most important bit of the picture - strange. [That's my picture below!]
Contact email address at G3VDB now corrected; it was deleted by a typing error.
Watson Power-Mite NF SM 25A PSU
2 el narrow spaced VDA, 14MHz only, fixed on 350 or 170 degrees (150m out to sea).
12m "Ground Plane" Vertical over the sea - see below
Win-Test 4.91 for logging and keying
Home brew keyer and Kent paddle
Creative Labs PC head-set and home brew mic adapter and foot switch for SSB.
Update 2013-05-22 - 06:25
One emailer had suggested I try beaming LP rather than SP to USA at 11:00 to 13:00. I have always tried SP at that time, so later today I shall try LP and see if it is better for NA/SA.
The morning of 21st was a short session from 00:30 to 01:45 at times digging NA out of the noise with some difficulty. We then went on a snorkelling trip which delayed uploads to LOTW by a few minutes. I trimmed the 12m stealth ground plane for a better SWR with shorter radials and a longer radiator. From 09:30 to 10:30 I had a reasonable run on 12m with a good mix of Asia and EU stations right west to Z14, 15 and 20, not always an easy path from here.
With 12m dead, I moved to 20m "beaming north" only to find it pretty dead too. I hunted around and heard KH2L (whom I have already worked) and got OA1F for a new one here.
This morning was a slow and noisy session to NA with a few EU and Asia stations refusing to take NA for an answer. I was able to hear clearly a couple of calls previously miscopied so there are two happy guys with a new one.
But when a UA3 calls you who is already in the log, you decide to work him, and he acknowledges again correctly, BUT then 2 minutes later he is tramping all over the weak USA stations again, at that point QSO B4 is the polite way of saying GO AWAY (though those letters have been sent at times also). There was a five minutes silence after that while I found where the "Do Not Work Dupes" option was in the Wintest menu. So anyone who is in the log will get QSO B4 next time. We'll see how that goes.
The Wind has abated, the electrical Storms seem to have passed and we just have warm rain and sunny intervals - bit like the UK except for the 29C (about 84F). Like swimming on the Gulf in Florida in September but without the no-see-'ems!
Let's talk about this morning (20th) first.
I was up at 00:00 and out on the balcony. There was a beautiful display of cloud-to-cloud lightning on the horizon, way out to the east. There's nothing to the West where the weather is coming from, so the poles can go up. I set them LP as there is still attenuation over the North Pole. I'm on the air quite quickly and calling CQ by 00:15. The noise level is again high. The band is dead!. Nothing, zilch.
Check the RBN. Two low level spots in DJ and EI at 00:29. I continue calling CQ with no replies. Only four more spots over the next half hour and not until 00:50 do I hear a weak UN7. The rate picks up for 20 minutes or so with some UAs and a W or two. Not until 01:08 at our sunrise does the spot count really get going with some good strength reports in Western Europe and East Coast USA. But I am hearing nothing of Zone 14 and only a little of Zone 15 and zone 16. I make a coffee, then back to work. A weak G0 calling CQ on my QRG - that's unusual. I move.
Over the whole two hours I add 52 to the log. Most times I am digging in the noise to confirm the callsign is correct. I hope some of you got a new one!!
What does help is I am using the SuperCheckPartial Contest File. If you are in that file as a contest operator then I believe I will confirm you call sign more quickly. If you are not in that file and the signal is marginal, I will repeat your call sign more often expecting you to RRR, QSL, or CFM that I have the call correct. If you are not sure I have your call correct then don't sent those characters! If you are sure I have your call correct then please don't repeat your call.
Contrast this morning with yesterday, 10:00 to 13:00.
Slightly disappointed with 20m and the need to take the main antenna down every time there is a squall or lightning in the area, I cut a 12m "Ground Plane", a quarter wave vertical with (in this case) three radials. I strapped the 3m wire to a support post for the roof with cable ties and dropped the radials from the base feed point to about 1ft above high tide point. This involved wading chest deep in the warm waters of the Lagoon and tying the radials off to the supporting posts of the room. A large crab took exception to the disturbance and jumped onto my arm. My surprise caused be to swing my arm violently and the unforunate crab sailed 15 feet through the air. I didn't know crabs float, but this one swam back on the surface and again took up refuge in the piles of our room.
Inevitably the antenna resonated way below what I intended, but folding back the main vertical got me a match on 24.95 with a very broad curve. I should probably shorten the radials also, but having dried off, I was not quickly going to join my crabby friend in the Briney again.
This antenna can stay up all the time as it is lower than the roof apex and not much risk in an electrical storm.
So I tuned the full 12m band. The was some intruder vocie-FM "splattering" over the SSB segment. I worked a couple of locals on CW, then found 5N7M and OM2TWM on SSB, both of whom gave me reasonable reports. There was clearly some other DX at the bottom end of the band that I could not hear.
With condx apparently not that good and I began calling CQ at 10:40. RBN suggests this antenna is not laying down a loud signal but it was good enough to produce a wall of JA stations for the next 2.5 hours, with the band dying about 10 minutes before sunset. I also managed to hear some Zone 14 to Zone 19 signals, one ZS and a ZL in the clamour. 233 QSOs in about 2 hours 20 mins. That's better.
By 13:10UTC, it is time to think about dinner, not about whether 20m is still open. So I did not make 20m yesterday (19th) between 11:00 and 13:00. I was very busy elsewhere.
Being on the loud end of a pile up like that is FUN. If you were at the other end, disappointed that I was not taking breaks for specific areas, then I can but apologise and try to do better next time. [I did not hear any Americas, N or S, in there].
Once again I disappoint many this morning (01:35)
Yesterday was the best weather so far, calm and sunny for most ot the day. But another 24 hours with little radio success. I waited for 20m to open last evening by listening to SSB and ignoring the dual-mode contest. Had some real dx with Q5 fone rag-chews to HK and K4.
Up this morning at 00:00 and it's not two windy!. First pole up in a few minutes and down again before I put the second up, when I notice repeated lightning flashes a few miles to the NW behind the island. It is unlikely to come our way but I am not taking the risk. So I wait until it is certain the storm is passing well to the north and put the antenna up about 00:55 just after sunrise. The SWR is good but the noise level is high.
I dig some EU Russians, East Coast and mid USA out of that noise. The attenuator definitely improves the SNR but makes the signal just audible with the AF gain turned high. As time goes on signals begin to improve and I am just hearing the beginning of a pile-up. W4LT gives me 599 in NY and says "FB" so it sounds a genuine report. Again things are different at my end.
About 01:30 the XYL calls from the balcony that the wind is up and there is thunder about. I take the phones off and go outside. One pole is leaning against its straps; there is loud thunder and dark clouds now over head and all around. Again I can't take the chance, go QRT, and take the antenna down, with only 18 new QSOs in the log.
Sorry folks. Better luck later.
I don't know about you but this is frustrating me. Woe upon woe!.
Last night another squall and a high SWR meant no QSOs at 11:00 - 13:30. This morning, calm, the antenna behaved, but I worked only a few on CW. There were others in the noise who must be really frustrated too.
X-Class flares but the SFI has dropped 10 points to 136; the proton flux is not abating; if anything it is worse and the polar regions are still attenuating signals by around 10dB at 15MHz, "blocking" either path to North America and nullifying any advantage of the beam.
You might expect a tiny island in the Indian Ocean to be electrically quiet. Not so! At 01:00 this morning my S meter was reading S5 with the pre-amp off and S9 with the pre-amp on. Putting in an attenuator has helped but the signal is then so weak as to be impossible to copy if there is QSB. As that helps, it does suggest (to me) that the IC7000 front end is being overloaded by wideband noise. [Anyone done a comparison with the KX3 or K3? Elecraft when is the 100W amp for the KX3 coming out?]
Meanwhile some Skimmers are reporting me as 25dB above their noise floor (in W, VE, ON, SK and even GW though I have only worked three UK stations). If you are hearing me that well, you must be really frustrated! I'm waiting for the inevitable Spot. "No Ears". Some of the strange interpretation of your call, or long delays, are me, sorting out my typing errors in my Win-test entries! Each time I hit 'send' it restores the cursor to the beginning of the field (on its default setting).
So I managed just 5 USA CW QSOs this morning.
One's attitude to working from a location is set early on and is difficult to shift. My attitude to SSB from 8Q7 with 100W and a wire antenna was set by CQWW SSB (Oct) 2009. I called everything for several hours and managed around 30 QSOs. [I was the leading 8Q7 station!]. Listening around I discovered I was not alone. Other Asian Stations with beams and more power could not break the "CQ loops" of the big (splattering) guns of Europe - you know who you are!. [I could even hear the round the world echo on more than one station but they could not hear me in all their inter-mod mush, presumably].
Phonetics is the other problem. There are no phonetics for numbers; "Q" is not a lot better and "Echo" is only marginally better than "Quebec"!. So the QSO goes - "Station ending in Juliet Station ending in Echo Juliet. Station ending in 7 Echo Juliet" and even if they get that far, many just give up. When I gave "Maldive Islands, Indian Ocean" as a tag line it helped, until I came across someone signing "United Queen Two Indian Ocean" and I decided not to bother!. Those who perservered got a multiplier.
But with no success on CW this morning, I tuned up the band and was shocked to hear KP4BD, W4LT, A41MO and TI8AA all kicking the S Meter "over 9" (without the preamp) (and all, as it turned out, not beaming my way). Even more surprising, I had a relaxed conversation with each and each giving Q5 reports. RV3QY and RV9JN tail ended another QSO to put six countries in the log on SSB. I should not dismiss that mode so lightly.
Perhaps the recent excellent 8Q7KP expedition with Pai and Krish (VU2PAI and W4VKU) has exhausted the CW demand for 8Q7. [I don't think so either!].
Weekends can be frustrating too. I use 20m because most people will use it to collect the new ones. There is likely to be some contest every weekend on the non WARC bands. It is pointless to compete with, and not in, a contest.
Which brings us to 25/26 May, my last 48 hours here. Do I have a play in CQ WW WPX CW or enjoy the sand and sea. We'll make that call nearer the time.
So a week to get condx back up to hearing all the Americas like locals. Let's hope "Ra" is on our side.
If there were no problems, then maybe it would be boring, but sometimes you wish these lash-up systems would behave and work repeatedly!.
I was up and out at 23:45 putting the poles up, for the first time "beaming" long path to the Americas. It is still dark but a lightening of the eastern sky with a few clouds on the horizon and a calm sea suggests a good sunrise in an hour and a better day. It is easy to get the pole up with little wind.
A check of www.solarham.net shows still significant polar absorbtion from the radiation storm, but less on LP than SP. To the rig.
I find the band busy with EU and a strong W3 calling. Promising condx. I'm going to enjoy this! I find a frequency, hit the CQ button and that is when it is clearly wrong. There is no tuner in the IC7000 and its SWR indicator is showing red - over 3:1. Yesterday it was < 2:1 with occasional blips higher when the wind bent the poles.
Disconnect the antenna, fit the MiniVNA, open its program and sweep the antenna. It's now resonant at 13.2 and over 3:1 at 14.050. Perhaps the VDA is just too sensitive to positioning for this ad hoc type of operation.
Instinctively I move the poles one "fence post" spacing closer together (about 8'5") hoping the closer coupling will improve the SWR. Reconnect the antenna to the VNA and it now shows no dip in my sweep range. I extent the sweep range to 25 MHz and I have a beautiful dip to 1:1 at 21050 and nothing significant below it. Oh boy! "Mega Muttering" as one of our long time friends would say. More minutes wasted. I move the poles apart again. No change! This can't be right!. I realise the VNA connector is not screwed home properly. Now resonance is back to 13.2 and stable. Move the poles closer again. The VNA shows 1:1 at 14150 or thereabouts. Reconnect the rig. Beautiful - happy swr at 14030. except the frequency is in use and the condx are already changing. And a CQ produces both EU, Asian, N America, S America calls. Is this beam doing anything. But over the next two hours I do dig a few W6's out of the noise.
Must re-do EZNEC and see what narrower spacing does for the radiation plot.
For me the conditions are still not as good as they were in November 2011. If there are long pauses it is because I am digging in the noise a lot of the times for almost any country. I do hope some of you are getting 8Q7 for the first time while using low power and simple antennas.
2013-05-16 - 02:00UTC
I take those poles down after each session as the wind is still high and we have seen lightning in the distance.
Last night I set the alarm for 00:00 with the intention of starting early. We had a disturbed night's sleep listening to the wind whistling around our exposed 'villa' and hearing the sea splashing, at times crashing, against the piles. An hour before dawn, with the addition of continuous tropical rain to the mix, testing the strength of fishing poles in the wind was not my main thought. Two hours later the rain has not abated.
So I have missed the 00:00 session this morning. Apologies to anyone who was looking out for me.
Hopefully the weather will improve, but May is the change of season here to the South West Monsoon and is the wettest month of the year. It was a risk coming at this time.
I just checked www.reversebeacon.net. I am being heard better than I am hearing in some parts of EU and the East Coast. Thanks to all who report to reversebeacon.net. It is a really useful resource when you are out here.
Give thanks to the man who invented the Tie-Wrap!
Status report - 2013-05-14 - 0912UTC
277 QSOs uploaded to Clublog and LOTW - just now to LOTW - I had problems with access. Internet is variable in quality with long delay and high packet loss. But it's free.
I found that 14025 has a loud wideband data service on it so I have used 14030 and above.
The pile up is hard work at times with the limitations of IC7000 filters. Difficult to say if three X Class flares have yet had an effect or if the "beam" is producing results but good competing S9 sigs from USA.
Your will have gathered, this was not a problem. Management said, "The system is not centralised so it will affect your room only". I have heard no loud dins or reports of problems from the neighbours.
We have had strong winds, bending my flimsy fishing poles but so far they have not snapped. Spent the night wondering if they would survive but only a bit of straightening of ties required (so far!). Heavy rain storms but so far no lightning I don't fancy my poles being the highest thing off shore in a thunderstorm.
A VDA is supposed to be one foot off the surface for best results. You become aware of the tides as that one foot becomes five feet here. End of Reflector is being washed by the waves at high tide. This upsets the SWR!
VDA is pointing 350 degrees with little possibility of change, other than to the reciprocal. Good for North America SP. Assuming perfect ground, EZNEC model suggests 11dbi with 10dB FB. The 3dB beam width is modelled as a huge 110 degrees (10.5ft spacing of elements). I am getting QSOs in an arc from PY/LU/HK in the SW to JA/DU in the NE, with the bulk in East coast / mid USA at dawn (00:45) and to JA from 11:00.
Have had two sessions. Both started well with good signals from USA but, in the afternoon, once JAs realised I was there, they made a wall that made hearing USA impossible. I will try to give North America, Central America and South America priority as it can be a difficult path for you guys, best at 01:00.
For the next two mornings (01:00, 15th and 16th) I will leave the antenna on SP USA. For 17th, 01:00 I will change to LP for the morning session and try to give West Coast USA a better chance. I shall try to start before sun-up here (00:50) because this morning condx to USA deteriorated after 60 minutes or so.
There is always the possibility of SP USA from 11:00 and I did work a couple of Mid West / West prefixes on 13th after 12:00.
Three X class flares in a few hours! Just need to see if that has positive effects. If my signal is good enough to USA I shall try SSB.
Komandoo - 2013-05-12 - 08:20 UTC
I have changed the contact email address to one that I can more easily monitor on vacation.
Arrived on the island as planned. We have the perfect room, the most easterly of the water villas, unforutately off the detailed Google Earth picture but visible on the Komandoo web site picture. Have just run wires up two fishing poles, and hoping to create a usable two element vertical beam VDA to give a bit of gain on SP & LP to USA.
Small concern over large fire detector in ceiling of room about 20 feet from proposed antenna position. Better warn management of potential effects before transmitting!!.
Will be checking and adjusting SWR this afternoon. Should be active from 13th as planned subject to any fire alarms!
UK - updated 2013-04-09
I expect to operate from 8Q7EJ from a new location to me, Komandoo Island, MJ65RL, from 2013-05-13 to 2013-05-26; holiday style operation. May was supposed to be the peak of Cycle 24 - Let's hope so (though I see it has moved back to early 2014 on one prediction).
If propagation is good I will try 14MHz SSB & CW; if conditions are poor, then CW only.
CW: 14020 - 14025
SSB: 14212 worked well previously
The room this time is a 'Water Villa' on a wooden jetty over the sea. See picture at http://www.komandoo.com That should make my simple vertical antenna perform.
The best openings to North, Central and South America on 20m were at my Sunrise (00:45 to 03:00 if SFI is good, long path) with another opening at sunset (12:15 to 13:15, short path) but then you are competing with eu and JA "walls". As I am using a non directional antenna "both paths" can be active for me, and make (CW) copy difficult.
Hope to hear you on the bands.
Jim - G3VDB/8Q7EJ
UK - updated 2011-11-21
Pictures of the October 2011 set up on Vilamendhoo - MJ63LP