Thursday, 28 May 2009

Six metres is not a band I know very well and I have a very modest station. The transmitter is my FT-817 and the antenna is a dipole in my loft, made from some copper pipe I had left over from a plumbing job and fixed 'beaming' east and west.

On Monday evening, there was a great sporadic E opening and even a bit of tropo to help things along. Even with my limited set up I soon filled a page in the log with stations from southern and eastern Europe, but as is the way with 'E' openings, I took a break to get a cup of coffee and when I returned to the radio some 15 minutes later ..... silence ..... the opening was over.

Encouraged by this, I thought I would have a go at the 6m Activity Contest on the following evening. But conditions could not have been more different. No Es and no tropo. I finished with a miserable 240 points, with a best "DX" of under 50km, but I guess this is what makes amateur radio such a facinating hobby.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

French CW Contest

I took part in the REF French CW contest this weekend (Championnat de France HF Télégraphie). I am not a great contester, or CW operator, but this event was a delight to take part in.

The object is to work as many French stations as possible. Foreign stations send RST + Serial, French stations send RST + Department Number - these are the multipliers and as there are 96 of them plus 11 overseas territories and Departments, there's plenty to go for.

The nice thing about this contest was that very few French stations were sending stupidly fast and secondly, they were all very polite - a massive contrast to the normal scrum of most CW contests. This would be a very good event to start with if you are thinking of trying a CW contest but are intimidated by what you hear in most events.

It takes place on the last full weekend of January (with the SSB contest the last weekend of February) and runs from 6am Saturday until 6 pm (UTC) Sunday. As the exchanges are numeric, you don't even need to speak French!

Full details are on with the rules in several languages.


Sunday, 4 January 2009

I have frequently lamented to poor HF band conditions on here, and now the 2008 solar report is out. This shows that in 2008 there were 266 days with NO sunspots (source: and NASA). This has not happened since 1913, which had 311 spotless days.

The good news is that cycle 24 now appears to be established and we should see improving conditions over the next few years. That said, I just really struggled to work EA7ES on 20m CW. We had very deep QSB so he was fading from S5 to 'no copy' for several minutes at a time - thanks for persisting Manol. Apparently this was due to a minor disturbance on the sun, which will wipe out and feeble ionisation that we do have.

I have never done much on 80m as I only have a small garden and so short antennas, but I have been trying this band late in the evenings during the long winter nights. I have not yet worked any spectacular DX, but I have had some very satisfying European contacts.