Hi. I'm Gary and I'm a radio ham ...
I live on a lifestyle block, a tiny farm. It's a hilltop forest clearing in rural New Zealand with a few sheep, goats, cows and chooks (like the one above).
We are 20km inland of the Pacific East Coast North Island port of Napier and its twin town Hastings, seen in the distant blue haze in this pic:
That's me with some of our kids and their mum, my favourite (!), a very friendly angora goat called Rosy. The camera-shy pregnant house cow who was doing her best to hide behind a fence post subsequently gave birth to Cocoa-the-cow, and for a good while supplied us with fresh Jersey milk.
In the Spring we usually bottle feed a few orphaned lambs to add to our flock ...
But I think there must be something strange in the water ...
Originally licensed as G4iFB in 1979, I emigrated to ZL in 2005. Down here on the Far Side I feel like I am DX
My first love is CW, particularly CW DXing, CW ragchewing and CW contesting (usually signing ZM4G). Apart from the odd SSB contest or pileup and the occasional burst of enthusiasm for RTTY, PSK, JT65 or other digital modes, you'll mostly find me chasing CW DX down at the bottom ends of whichever bands are open in ZL, from 80 to 10m. I enjoy the year-round challenge of chasing DX and usually do quite well in the CDXC Marathon Challenge and the CQ DX Marathon ...
When I have the time, I also enjoy homebrewing and experimenting with antennas. My soldering iron is always within reach. One of my current projects is an active HF antenna for an SDR, and another is a "Rubical Quad" - a 5 band 2 element nested instantly-reversable HF spider/boomless quad. But mostly I just chase DX and chat to friends around the globe on the key.
Here are some of my recent QSOs courtesy of Club Log:
I use DXcluster routinely, so if you see me spotting DX or if I am spotted, I am QRV. Hint: as a keen CW op, I am usually identified first on the Reverse Beacon Network.
I am the webmaster for ZM4T, and a present or past member of: the First Class Operator's Club (FOC), East Coast Contesters (ZM4T), NZART, RSGB, ARRL including A1 Ops, G-QRP-Club #1751, SKCC #6722, Quartz Hill Contest Club (ZL6QH), Chiltern DX Club (CDXC), Martlesham CG (M6T), Windmill CG (G0FBB), the renowned Red Dragons CG (GW8GT), Leicester Radio Society (G3LRS & G5UM/P), Sutton & Cheam Radio Society, and the infamous Voodoo Contest Group.
Here are my friends from the East Coast Contest group ZM4T: Holger ZL2IO, Mike ZL2MY, Mike ZL2CC, Peter ZL2LF, farmer Jim and Stan ZL2ST. We're waving goodbye to Jim's fabulous farm having been based there for about 30 years: the group is moving to Holger's fabulous wind-swept DX QTH at Waimarama.
My station (browse www.G4iFB.com for more)
My equipment includes Elecraft K3 and K2 radios and a KPA500, built from kits, an old Alpha amp, THP HL-2.5K and LK550 amplifiers (both currently out of action, waiting for a Round Tuit), a trusty old AEA MM3 Morse Machine with a remote memory trigger, a shiny chrome Bencher paddle and WinKeyer, an olive green Czech army key and a Vibroplex-clone bug.
My antennas include a 2-ele tribander, 5-ele 15m monobander and 3-ele 17m monobander (borrowed from my pal Morrie ZL2AAA) sharing two masts, a 30m quarter wave wire-on-a-fishing-pole vertical on the tin roof of my workshop, 80m and 40m fullwave wire loops dangling between tall fir trees, and a very ugly but efficient and surprisingly effective 12m fullwave wire delta loop on a lash-up fiberglass and PVC pipe support.
I live on the East coast of North Island New Zealand (IOTA OC-036) in sunny Hawke's Bay, near the port of Napier (check out that brilliant time-lapse video of the port in action).
Our home is in a clearing in a pine forest with a clear takeoff all round and no neighbours in sight: there are photos, aerial shots and lots more info on my website G4iFB.com.
Take a look at the Great Circle map to see how wet the world appears from ZL, and just how far we are from the main ham population centers. The purple circle marks the edge of our hemisphere: everything beyond, and much within the circle is genuine DX:
Real signal reports
I prefer "honest" RST (Readability, Signal strength and Tone) reports please. It's good to know how well you are copying me. If you tell me I'm 5NN, please don't be surprised if I stop repeating things and expect you to copy everything perfectly first time.
If I send you a report with anything other than Tone 9, I'm usually trying to let you know that you may have a problem with your transmissions, unless it's an A for Auroral. Tone 8 means it's a minor issue, getting more serious and aggravating the lower the number, al the way down to Tone 1 meaning "Sounds horrible, like a spark transmitter over-driving a class D amplifier into a bag of nails". Sometimes the problem will be my end (e.g. anomalies in the digital signal processing in my receiver), and sometimes it's a curiosity of the path or propagation (e.g. multipath distortion). Please don't take it personally: I'm not criticising, just trying to help.
Occasionally I add a C to the report to indicate Chirp, and if I have to chase your signal from one edge of my filter to the other, I'll probably mention drift. Do let me know if you are running a KW2000A or some other boat-anchor, or if you have been meddling with the software to give your fancy SDR that distinctive vintage sound.
Signal strength values are meant to be subjective: I'm interested in your opinion of the strength of my signal relative to band noise, QRM and other stations. Anything below Strength 5 means you are probably having trouble hearing me. Strength 5, 6 or 7 generally means I'm a bit above the general noise. 8 usually means I'm well above the noise, and 9 means I am STRONG. I honestly don't care what your S meter tells you.
The 'official' Readability values aren't terribly helpful with just 5 values specified. Personally, I'd prefer a 10-step Readability value as follows:
- R9 = Armchair copy. I’m getting every syllable and breath, including the supposedly silent fan in your shack PC and next-door’s little dog yapping annoyingly. Please puff your asthma inhaler. I can hear your pins dropping. I am using my attenuator. My loudspeaker is rattling. Shhhhh.
- R8 = Office-chair copy. Curiously, I find it helps to sit up or lean towards the radio. I might need to concentrate a little. I am thinking about turning off the attenuator. Can you muffle that amplifier fan, please, or slow it down?
- R7 = Office-chair-and-headphone copy. It no longer matters whether I lean back or fore. My brow is furrowed. I find myself autonomously reaching for the volume control. It’s OK, you can turn the amp fan up again if you want – I think the extra ergs might just help and it’s kind of comforting.
- R6 = Getting tricky now. Please annun-ci-ate more clearly and remove your gum, or try cleaning what remains of the contacts on your pre-war bug. I am reaching for the RF gain and my noise-cancelling headbones.
- R5 = Challenging. I can catch the general gist of what you’re on about but the subtleties are lost on me, sorry. I have turned on the pre-amp and am busy looking up how to set my Digital Noise Reduction gizmo so that you do not sound like ET. Try dampening your string. Do you Morse?
- R4 = Distinctly challenging. The odd phrase makes it through but you know how it goes: I gather it is warm and sunny at your end but I’m still not entirely sure you have my callsign correct. Please focus on the essentials. Meanwhile, I have given up on the DNR and am desperately pressing buttons and idly twiddling my knobs (for I have many). Do you PSK?
- R3 = Seriously challenging. I am definitely not sure you are working me, in fact I'm not entirely convinced that you are working anyone at all. Not even the audio peak filter and masthead preamp set on Turbo seem to help. I am beginning to lose all hope. Do you JT?
- R2 = ESP level. I am thinking of resorting to a Ouija board. My imagination is running wild. I see/hear brief snatches of signal in coincident noise peaks. I am cursing the low noise floor on my remote rural QTH for being too high. Do you JT barefoot?
- R1 = You really are not there, are you? Don’t bother replying, I won’t catch it anyway. Trust me, I honestly want to believe you are still hanging in there but even my supposedly eternal optimism has its limits, it seems. Despite the cluster reports from superstations in far-off lands, my waterfall is blank-as. You are no more. Have you QSYd, passed out or gone SK? Is my receiver still working and antenna connected? Have we had another one of those nasty sun-farts? Are my hearing aid batteries as exhausted as I am? Do you JT with max legal?
- R0 = I give up. Who cares whether you are there or not, sod it, I’m pouring a drink. Catch you another day.
Over time, I'm hoping the new scale will spread. Don't worry about the apparent discrepancies between the normal 5-step and new 10-step Readability values during the transition period: by design, the two scales are entirely compatible. Based on extensive experience over 3 decades, I confirm that when most people send Readability 5, they are (inadvertently) using the new scale. What they really mean is "Challenging". That's why we often hear "UR 5NN 5NN PLS UR CALL AGN CALL AGN BK" ...
The final courtesy of a QSO is a confirmation on LoTW. Please QSL via Logbook of The World. I upload my log to LoTW frequently so that's quick, simple and free for you and for me, which makes it my first choice.
If you need a QSL card from me and are prepared to wait for me and the bureaux, please ask me for one on-air, or send me your card via the ZL bureau.
For a direct QSL, please send me your card with at least US$2 or an IRC and a QSL-card-sized addressed return envelope, or send US$2+ via PayPal to Gary@isect.com. Overseas stamps cost us NZ$2.70. If you send insufficient funds, I will reply via the bureaux with my next batch of cards.
There's room on my QSL card for several QSOs. If we have had multiple QSOs, I normally try to include a selection of bands and modes on the card. Please be clear if you need a specific QSO confirmed. Please don't request duplicate QSLs for the same band and mode combination unless you are still waiting for my card (in which case tell me it's a "Repeat QSL request" and I'll send you another, no worries). I tend to ignore dupes otherwise.
It's a shame to have to scribble "NOT IN LOG" and return QSL cards, so if you are not sure you have actually worked me, please either call again or email me about it. If I have clearly busted your call, I'll mend it, otherwise you are out of luck ... but I'm quite active so I'm sure we'll make it another day.
I do not use eQSL but I am happy to confirm QSOs via email (Gary@isect.com) with an extract from my log, if that's any use to you. Failing that, you can see my recent QSOs in the log window above.
73 de Gary ZL2iFB
PS As one of the volunteers who originally created and promoted it, I comply, and urge you to comply, with the DX Code of Conduct. Here's my customized version:
I listen loads more than I transmit, and listen hard - more elephant than alligator.
I hold off until I can copy the DX station well enough to get his call and know that he is waiting for calls (I don't automatically believe DXcluster spots and always take trouble to confirm the DX callsign).
I send my callsign frequently, usually on every over of every QSO even when contesting or running a pile at high rates. When things get frantic, or if someone successfully tail-ends, or if a pal who clearly knows its me calls in, I may not ID 100% every single time, but I try not to make anyone listening-in wait any more than about a minute to find out who I am.
I don't interfere with DX stations nor other callers - at least not intentionally. I never tune up on the DX frequency or in his QSX slot. I have a dummy load for that.
We all occasionally make mistakes but I am not a frequency kop. I don't shout "UP! UP! UP!" like a demented parrot or berate someone for daring to transmit on the DX frequency when the DX is split, because I know that will just cause even more QRM for other more considerate DXers patiently listening on the side.
I always send my full callsign. I hate partials. If you call me, please give your full callsign or I may pointedly ignore you. This is a legal requirement in many countries, and it is inefficient and annoying to deal with the ignorant callers who repeatedly shout partials at me. Life's too short for partials.
I don't interrupt QSOs. I wait for contacts to end before calling in. If you call over the top of my QSOs, causing QRM, I am much less likely to contact you. Please be patient and listen carefully to what I am sending. I mostly work DX, stations that may be out of hearing range at your end. Hint: "QRL" means "the frequency is busy", and "KN" means "go ahead the named station only". If you really wind me up by repeatedly ignoring my pleas and deliberately causing QRM, I will blacklist you. I may even record and publish your rudeness. Shame on you.
Before calling CQ, I normally send "QRL?" once or twice, meaning "Is this frequency occupied?" The expected response is either silence, or else "QRL" or "Y" or "R" or "C" or whatever. Hint: if you send "QRL" on my frequency without the question mark, I cannot tell whether you are asking if the frequency is busy, or if you are telling someone else (who I can't hear) that the frequency is busy - either way I will not respond. If you then start CQing, you will probably cause me QRM. Please don't drop the "?" from "QRL?"
When calling DX or CQ, I normally send my call once and listen for a reasonable interval before calling again. I don't call continuously, and I don't call at all if the DX is clearly calling or working someone else. If I'm not sure, I transmit reluctantly, leaving more time for others to call. See 1st bullet!
I hold back if the DX operator calls specific geographical areas other than PAC, OC or VK/ZL. If he is calling CQ Asia or NA/SA, I might call briefly to let him know the band is open to ZL, but I would much rather everyone called CQ PAC, CQ OC or CQ VK/ZL occasionally ...
On CW, I routinely use QSK (full break-in). Feel free to drop in your callsign, once, while I am transmitting a CQ: if I hear someone on my frequency, I will normally stop transmitting to listen for them. Go ahead, try it! It doesn't always work, particularly if the frequency is busy with QRM and QRN but I do my best.
If I'm busy running a pile, don't zero-beat with me too accurately. That way, I will find it easier to differentiate you from other callers. I normally run my RX filters at 2.7kHz bandwidth on all modes so there is a good chance I will copy you and pick you out if you call some way off-frequency (try moving your TX 250 Hz or more HF using the XIT function, or split - but if you go too far, I may think you are calling someone else).
When calling me, please send your callsign just once then leave a little listening break before calling again. Only send your call repeatedly if I am struggling to copy you. It's frustrating to be called, at length, repeatedly, by someone whose callsign I copied right first time. [Hint: it sometimes helps to delay sending your call until the desperate pileup has subsided a bit. Chill out!]
I will normally try to match your speed. Send as slow or as fast as you like (up to about 40 WPM on CW, if the path is good enough anyway!). If you are uncomfortable sending as fast as me, send more slowly and I will do my best to QRS for you. You shouldn't ever need to ask me to "QRS"but if you do, I will gladly slow down futher - no worries. Likewise if you want to speed up, simply send faster and I'll probably respond likewise. I'd be happy to wear out the speed pot on my keyer. Below about 20 WPM I may change over to a straight key: I apologise for my ham-fisted sending but (clearly!) I need the practice.
When a DX operator calls me, I repeat my call sign if he has copied it incorrectly. I persist doggedly until he has my call correct. The rest (including his report) can wait. Likewise if I send "QRZ?" I am asking you to repeat your call. If I send "CE3?" I am asking for the station with CE3 in his call to repeat. If your call does not contain CE3, QRX: you will get your turn. If I send "CE3 CE3 CE3?? KN", that's a big clue that I am losing my patience and may shortly QRT to cool off and regain my composure. If you keep on calling me out of turn, you are only delaying things for everyone and putting yourself at the back of the queue, or on the blacklist.
I try hard to pull weaker stations out of the pile. If you are QRP, it's up to you whether you sign "/QRP" (if your license allows it), simply mention that you are QRP, or don't let on until you send your QSL card or email. Generally speaking, if two or more people call me at the same time, I will do my level best to work the weakest one first if I can. It's not always possible, especially if rude ops with loud signals refuse to stand by a moment and give the tiddlers a chance. If the path is good enough, I may turn down the wick at my end to try for a two-way QRP QSO, although I would prefer to make the entire QSO on QRP before putting 2xQRP in my log and QSL cards.
I am thankful if and when I do make contacts. I QSL all QSOs within hours via LoTW. I send QSL cards via the bureau or direct for new DXCC countries and band-slots I still need to fill, and respond 100% to the cards and email requests I receive. Please email me if you are left waiting for a card and I'll gladly check my records.
I respect my fellow hams and try hard to conduct myself so as to earn your respect. If you think I am being inconsiderate, operating badly, or have a poor quality signal, please email me about it, preferably with an audio recording of whatever caught your attention. We can all improve our technique. Seriously, I welcome learning opportunities and honest feedback. If I know something is wrong, I will do something about it.
Thank you for reading this far. Please encourage others by referring to the DX Code of Conduct on your QRZ page, DXpedition and ham websites. Together, we are making a difference: operating standards are far from perfect but they would be even worse if nobody cared. I care, and I hope you do too.