It is another fifteen months since my last post here. In all I was away from amateur radio for seven and a half months from November 2020 until mid-June 2021.
My interest has always been VHF, so I missed the first half of the 2020 Sporadic E season and did not catch much of the second half as it took me a while to get going. I did work an EA6 on 2 in June. I had some nice tropo QSO into Sweden on 70 cms in July, OZ on 2 and 70 in September and OK1GTH on 2 in November. All stations worked with SSB. That is about it as there has been little decent tropo over the whole period since June 2021.
Being currently not as able as I used to be, although I hope for some more improvement, I have some projects on the backburner. I would really like to put up a couple of antennas for four metres and maybe six metres (70 and 50 MHz) but need to enlist some help as the Sporadic E season is almost here again.
Having 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:
On 28th June in the evening on 2 metres:
On 29th June in the morning earlyish
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:
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.
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.
7 element LFA yagi for 2 metres, 13 element LFA yagi for 70 centimetres and 23 element Tonna for 23 centimetres.
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.
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?