Category Archives: Amateur radio

Late June tropo

IMG_1245Having missed out on all the Sporadic E on 2 metres save IK8EVE (JN71) on 1st June it was good to be treated to some decent tropo. Starting on the evening of 27th June, on 2 metres I worked with my 25 watts all on SSB:

DF2WF   JO30

DM8MM JO31

DF0WD  JO42

DJ6AG  JO51

DK5DQ  JO31

On 28th June in the evening on 2 metres:

SK7MW  JO65

SM7XWX  JO65

OZ6TY  JO55

OZ1BEF JO46

DL3TW  JO44

DL2RZ  JO54

On 29th June in the morning earlyish

DK3EE   JO41

SM7YES  JO67 and incredibly strong signal.

On 29th June, SK6VHF (JO57) on 144.404 MHz was audible until about midday but faded as pressure fell so that when we were down to 1012 millibars at 1700 I knew the event was over.

I did try my luck on 70 cms with my one watt, and worked on 28th June:

SM6CEN  JO67

OZ9FW   JO65

So, a little bit of fun finding and working a little way away. I seem to have some advantage with sea paths, being near to the Thames and Crouch estuaries, and reaching mainly stations near the coast in Scandinavia.

My 19 Set

IMG_1334I sold my Wireless Set no 19 this week. In many ways I was sorry to see it go as it was my first “rig”. I had it as a teenager in the late Sixties. It was my introduction to amateur radio as I had it tune Top Band and 80 metres. I listened to stations working on Top Band a lot. The 19 set did tune down to the medium wave as well with a bit of encouragement. Very possibly it was capable of broadcasting music, in AM of course, but I could not say. It was the era of pirate radio after the Wilson Government had outlawed the offshore pirate radio stations.

I was never a Top Band pirate. There were a few around, pretending to be legal radio amateurs. Because it was not so easy to check (we had no QRZ.com in those days) certain individuals used to “borrow” callsigns that would be new as they were issued in order. I guess new legitimate new licensees might have been accused of being pirates if their call signs had been pirated and already been worked by other amateurs.

My 19 set was made in Canada, and had Cyrillic labelling as well as English to suit our then allies.

The 19 set cost me £12.  That was a lot of pocket money. I had got used to seeing other “boat anchors” as the very heavy ex-military sets, transmitters, receivers and transceivers are called. My school ran an army cadet programme and in the “signals hut” there were a number of these sets. Cadets at various schools used to use this equipment to chat. Although I was not admitted to signals section as it was too much in demand to join, I could watch, and that is how I got the radio bug.

It was six or seven years after leaving school that I got my first amateur ticket, by which time I no longer used the 19 set. I believe it has gone to a good home with a fellow radio amateur who enjoys restoring old military radio gear, and who wants it for a militaria exhibition. I hope he enjoys having it.

Lack of activity on 2 metres SSB

IMG_1249We all know there is a lack of activity on 2 metres SSB (and I guess CW), and we have the same problem on 70 centimetres. However, the main thrust I want to make is about 144 MHz

I have quite an effective station on 2 metres. It is true I only run about 25 watts to a 7 element yagi currently, but I have quite a good VHF location for Essex at 68m asl and I reckon under flat conditions I can work up to 200 miles, so more than 300 km under flat conditions. I can reach the Scottish borders or well into Germany.

However, I often call CQ for quite a while without anyone coming back. I know from talking to other regulars they have the same problem, yet I know there is no lack of well-equipped stations who could come on and make life more interesting. One only has to be QRV on the first Tuesday evening of each month when the UKAC is on to hear dozens of stations calling “CQ contest” from up and down the country. Then again, as soon as there are decent tropo conditions and openings, there is more activity. Also, there are the “big guns” who come out for Sporadic E openings.

Part of the pleasure of amateur radio is just talking about radio, comparing notes, discussing the merits of various rigs and antennas, and talking about conditions. I really do not understand what fellow amateurs get out of just lurking, waiting for an opening and not talking to the rest of us.

Come on, everybody, get more active and enjoy talking to the rest of us. Share your knowledge and expertise and let us have the pleasure of making your acquaintance.

In praise of Kent Rigs

ft290rI am not a constructor with any track record of note, and do not have enough test equipment to be one. Radio is my recreation, and while I have quite a lot of technical knowledge, I have never considered electronics as a hobby.

So it is that when rigs go wrong, I need to send them to the repair shop. Two of my Yaesu FT290Rs (yes, I know, I like them) failed on the same day. I had used Kent Rigs before so telephoned Mick to check it was in order to send them to be mended, which it was.

Ten days after their receiving the rigs, I was told they had been mended and working superbly. This is marvellous and quick service for which I am very grateful. I recommend Kent Rigs if you need any of your equipment, of whatever age, fixed.

More October tropo

This was a week or so back, so I am reporting somewhat belatedly.

Starting on 24th October There was some enhanced propagation. In the afternoon on 2 metres I worked EI9KP in IO54, in Sligo, for a rare square. In the evening I worked:

F6DBI    IN88

F6FGQ  IN78

F9OE      IN78

And on 25th:

GJ7LJJ/P IN89

F6GPT   IN94

F4EZJ     JN05

And I heard EA2TZ who did not stay on frequency to work calling G stations.

I also worked on 24th with one watt on 70 centimetres F6FGQ immediately before the contact on 2 metres.

A limited opening but a nice one.

Tropo update October 2018

After several decades absence I have been operational on 2 metres SSB since the end of February 2018. I have been using an old Eighties FT290R and a small amplifier running only 25 watts to a 7-element antenna.

I have not observed any spectacular tropo openings, but last week we had some propagation into Scandinavia.

On 8th October in the evening I worked

OZ6OL JO65dj 878 km

SM7DTT JO65lj 923 km

SM7NR JO76rc 1091 km

And on the morning of 9th

SM7NR JO76 again with minimal activity from UK.

On 70 cms with one watt SSB from an FT790R I worked on the morning of 9th:

OZ9FW JO65co 882 km

And in the UKAC 70 cms contest in the evening of 9th with one watt:

SK7MW JO65mj 923 km

OV2T JO46qh 774 km

The opening seemed very localised. There was not much good propagation in between, at least as far as my location in Hockley, Essex was concerned. However, good results can be had with a modest station. I am hoping to have a bit more power soon.

 

New antennas and activity

IMG_1245

View from the front of the house

After the trials and tribulations getting planning permission for my mast, and several setbacks since then I have finally got the antennas up and certainly working, at least on 2 metres and 70 centimetres. I have not yet fired up the transverter for 23 cms (I hope it still works after all these years), but I am operational on the two lower bands.

So how is the receive set-up? On 2 metres I can hear the Belgian beacon ON0VHF on 144.418MHz consistently just above the noise, but at least as well with my 7 element yagi as the Hockley shop down the road used to with their 20 elements. This is in flat conditions, even poor. I have a GaAs FET preamplifier for 2 metres and am using Ecoflex 15 feeder, but to my ears the readability is not improved by the preamp, which says a lot for the “front end” of the old FT290R I am using as the main transceiver for the moment.

Much to my surprise I can also hear ON0VHF above the noise on 70 centimetres using my 2 metres rig’s stablemate, an FT790R, also dating from the early Eighties.

Currently I have 25 watts on 144 MHz and have got into Lincolnshire with 1 watt on 70 centimetres, a distance of about 87 miles in flat conditions, and my report was 57.

There is a lot to come, especially when conditions may be more favourable.

IMG_1249

7 element LFA yagi for 2 metres, 13 element LFA yagi for 70 centimetres and 23 element Tonna for 23 centimetres.

The problem with LED light bulbs

I had read something to do with electromagnetic interference from LED bulbs in one of the radio magazines but had not given it too much thought. I am in the process of setting up my station and will operate primarily from 144 MHz up, at least initially. My radio room is upstairs in our small house.

I do not have equipment for measuring radio noise. One generally accepts what we have and without specialist gear it is hard to know what the noise floor is on any particular rig. However, the other evening, while I was listening in my vertical collinear with my FT290R in SSB mode, my wife switched on the bathroom lights, and immediately the hiss or hash increased, which would have drowned out a weak signal had I been listening to one.

The bathroom lighting consists of two LED spotlight bulbs. Further experimentation has caused me to realise that there is also an issue with the LED bulb in the radio room.

Naturally I have looked at what alternative might be available. Currently we can still buy halogen bulbs in the UK, but according to the local shop sales person and as apparently confirmed elsewhere, from September 2018 we will not be able to obtain other types than LED.

There is no doubt there is an issue in the general consumer market with interference to DAB radios

My local issue seems mainly to affect 144 MHz with little noticeable interference at 432 MHz, and although I have not looked at every amateur band, in my case there is not any perceivable hash as low as 3.5 MHz, but of course there my noise level is typically S7 anyway.

More on this issue can be found here and it is well worth watching the video by DL9KCE who shows that even a bulb made by a well-known European manufacturer causes a problem at 144 MHz.

We need to launch a campaign although it seems we may be overwhelmed by an inexorable tide to LEDs. What will become of 2 metres weak signal work in an urban environment?

Planning permission granted for antenna mast

IMG_1031The local council has granted planning permission for my mast. Despite there having been a complaint when I first put up the basic structure on the wall, there was not a single objection to the application. I know the neighbours were consulted by the council because they have told me. Of course, I did speak to all of those I thought had an interest prior to making the application.

As I have previously mentioned, the plan is to have 7 elements LFA Yagi from Innovantennas for 144 MHz, a 13 element from them for 432 MHz, and a 23 element Tonna Yagi for 1296 Mhz.

Within a couple of months, I hope I shall be QRV on those three bands, while at the same time I am thinking about what might be done on 50 MHz and 70 MHz.

Setbacks and progress on the antenna front

IMG_1031

The “offending” mast

Back in January Gary, MM0CUG, visited the QTH to install a mast on the side of our house to support the three antennas I have in mind. For various reasons outside his or my control he was not able to finish the job, so we had the mast up with no antennas.

Gary was scheduled to return to put the antennas on the mast for me, but in the intervening period someone complained to the Planning Department of the local Council. I have spoken to all the obvious neighbours and none has admitted to complaining. I believe all of them, so it is a mystery as to who objected.

One of the planning officers came around, and although many amateurs around here have antennas up without Council approval, I was told that I would have to apply for planning permission, which I have now done. Unfortunately, I must wait up to eight weeks to know whether my application is successful. There is a possibility I will have to take the mast down, although feedback I have received from the Council so far leads me to be cautiously optimistic.

The plan is to have 7 elements LFA Yagi from Innovantennas to 144 MHz, a 13 element from them for 432 MHz, and a 23 element Tonna Yagi for 1296 Mhz. These were the bands on which I was most active over thirty years ago and I hope to make a decent comeback. I am aware that activity is much less than it used to be, but I aim to contribute to a considerable increase.

I just cannot wait to be back doing what I used to. My current restriction to a collinear for 2 metres and 70 cms is very frustrating and I am just not an HF person at heart, though I understand that even if I were, conditions are very poor due to where we are in the Sun’s cycle.

I will be back, by hook or by crook.