Tag Archives: amateur radio

Transequatorial propagation on four metres

I mentioned in a previous post that I had a brief chat with Dick ZS6BUN over dinner at the RSGB Convention. He talked about VHF activity in South Africa and we each have an IC-9700. QRZ.com informs us that he is interested in weak signal work at VHF. Dick touched on the subject of TEP on six metres. Of course, not everyone at the table was into VHF so it was only a brief conversation on the subject.

In one of the 70 MHz groups to which I belong, someone drew our attention to a quote from the RSGB website:

“For some years stations in South Africa (ZS) have had a 70MHz allocation. The 9000km path between the UK and South Africa is particularly interesting as both ends lie at the extremity of the trans-equatorial zones. A contact over this TEP path is quite possible around Sunspot maximum and should take place when conditions are particularly good on the 50MHz band. Possible openings between the UK and South Africa will probably occur during the month of October.”

I am a newcomer or at least very late returner to 4 metres; I have limited experience and 50 watts to a quarter-wave vertical. However, I am very much interested in VHF propagation and was surprised by the comment about TEP on 70 MHz as far as the UK is concerned.

I emailed Dick in South Africa to ask him if he had any knowledge about this. He replied that he worked TEP on 50 MHz but was not equipped for 70 MHz However his friend Willem ZS6WAB is active on four metres TEP and has been for quite a long time. This was useful information and set me on the trail to find out more.

It turns out that Willem has worked into Europe on 4 metres and it looks as though he is the SSB record holder for distance although there is one longer into Italy via ISCAT. So there have been TEP QSOs between South Africa and Rome and to Mallorca.

What I cannot find is any reference to 70 MHz TEP QSOs further north in Europe, and apparently not to UK.

I would welcome any additional information. It is just conceivable that UK – South Africa contacts at 70 MHz could be made via TEP and some other mode of propagation, maybe very enhanced tropo, even Sporadic E, but both SpE and TEP are seasonal (SpE around the solstices and TEP around the equinoxes) so they may not coincide. TEP is apparently via chordal hop relying on two reflections via the F layer without an intervening ground reflection. One of my correspondents has suggested that the “geometry” may not be right for contacts beyond around 7,500 km on four metres. Has that distance been exceeded? I do not know.

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RSGB Convention 2022 dining companions

Inside Kent Hills Park

When I was in business I always believed in networking and it seemed to work best when sharing meals. I ran a breakfast networking group for quite a while.

Anyway, here is a summary of my Convention mealtime networking, or at least of my fellow diners.

Dinner Friday

ZS6BUN Dick SSB operation on the HF bands and weak signal working on the VHF bands. Dick had flown all Thursday night Friday morning and come to Milton Keynes, rather short of sleep I think.

Breakfast Saturday

MM0TMZ Tony

Dinner Saturday

G0CKV Olof Presenting “Dxpeditions to 3B8”

M0OHV Piet

G3VKW Keith

M0IFT Dave

Breakfast Sunday

GM3SEK Ian Well known radio designer, constructor and contester whom I had never met and I just happened to grab a space on the table where he was sitting. To date I have worked him 24 times on 144 and 432. And of course also at the breakfast table…

MM0WNW Nadine, Ian’s wife.

Apologies to anyone else I might have eaten with but whose name and callsign I failed to write down. It was a pleasure to meet everyone.

My take on the RSGB Convention lectures and the event 2022.

Kent Hills Park reception and the radio van on the air

I attended nine lectures over the two days, five on Saturday and four on Sunday. My main interest in radio is propagation, especially VHF, but I am always willing to add to my knowledge regarding the lower frequencies.

I started on Saturday with “Building a VHF/UHF contest station” with Alwyn Seeds G8DOH. Contests are not really my thing but there were some useful tips on setting up a station. In the afternoon John Regnault G4SWX presented “Using the right tools to work more 144MHz DX, which was fascinating to hear how he does it very successfully. Next on was James Stevens M0JCQ with “VHF Equipment to start you going” which would have been particularly useful for VHF beginners and is something James has written about in RadCom.

Following on was John Petters G3YPZ “Getting ready for Cycle 25 – What to expect on the HF bands” which was interesting for me as I may return to the lower frequencies. John promotes the use of AM, which may not result in the best communication, but I am sure it is fun. I have worked John often on 2 metres but never on HF.

I finished the day with Nick Totterdall G4FAL’s Transatlantic Tests, which was a history of the early years of radio from around 1920.

On Sunday morning Brian Coleman G4NNS introduced us to the UK Meteor Beacon Project which was interesting but technical. I then attended Steve Nichols G0KYA, talk on “RadCom HF predictions – now and in the future”. Yes, lower frequency stuff, but good to know they do it.

In 2019 I did not stay until the end, going home early Sunday afternoon. This year I attended two after lunch lectures as I felt they would be unmissable. The first was a fascinating talk by Dr Colin Forsyth of UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory about Space Weather which is very relevant to amateur radio both for HF folk and us VHF people. It was very technical at times, but I think I got the gist.

The second talk on Sunday afternoon was entitled “What have the 2020s told us about Sporadic E?” by our old “weather friend” Jim Bacon, G3YLA. A good deal of Jim’s material was also quite technical and was remarkably interesting, but we still do not fully understand why Sporadic E propagation happens or how it can be predicted. It was very worthwhile staying for the afternoon sessions.

I thought the event was excellent, the content of the lectures was of a high standard and kept me more engaged even on subjects outside my main interests in amateur radio. I hope I learned quite a lot. I would certainly recommend to anyone who has not been to an RSGB Convention to consider attending in 2023.

Many of the lectures were livestreamed but also recorded so in due course they will be available on YouTube. Well worth watching and revisiting.

RSGB Convention 2022 – the venue

Inside the sloping courtyard at Kent Hills

The Convention was held as previously at the Kent Hills Park Conference and Training Centre in Milton Keynes on 8th to 10th October. I had attended my first Convention in 2019, which I enjoyed and due to Covid there was none in either 2020 or 2021, though the RSGB managed virtual conventions with live streams and recordings of the presentations by the chosen speakers. This had worked well, but of course the social aspect was very much missing. That is why I felt I must do my best to attend in 2022, which I did.

The accommodation at Kent Hills as of a reasonable standard as one would expect at a conference centre, but mostly single rooms with ensuite bathrooms. As some of you may know, I have had recent health issues which have affected my mobility. I found that with the arrangement of furniture it was difficult for me to manoeuvre myself in and out of bed, and in the bathroom, there was a shower over the bath, rather than a walk-shower, and again this caused me difficulty. If you have similar issues like me, you should ask for a more suitable room if going next time, which I understand from a staff member would be available.

The accommodation in general is three hundred rooms spread out in separate buildings over two floors, but all connected with covered passages to the conference rooms, bar, and restaurant etc, so no need to face the weather if it is poor. During the 2019 Conference it rained most of the time on all three days.

So that is mainly about the venue. I will tell you about the lectures shortly.

Sporadic E and a tale of the unexpected

MOONRAKER 70MHz Base Vertical Antenna

An exciting couple of days after my previous post about working the Spanish station on 4 metres!

Yesterday things started to happen on 144 MHz and in just over 20 minutes from 1510z I worked IK0FTA, IK0SMG, IK0RMR, and IK0BZY all in JN61, all 59. I did not hear anything else in terms of DX on the band though some other stations did. I felt pretty pleased with this “haul.”

Then, much to my surprise (again) having gone back to 70 MHz for a look just after 1800z I worked 9A2SB (JN95) and 9A1Z (JN86). My 50 watts SSB and small Moonraker vertical are doing well, far better than I hoped. I think I rather like 4 metres. I certainly did not expect this sort of DX on 4 with the antenna I have, but this is terrific! I have worked just four squares and three of them are rather distant, and 9A2SB is nearly 1,500 km away.

One giant leap on 70 MHz

Moonraker vertical antenna SQBM412

As I mentioned last time, I purchased a small vertical antenna for four metres. It is the Moonraker SQBM412. A friend of mine, Mike, G8EFG kindly installed it on my garage roof a couple of weeks ago, and it is only less than four metres above ground, although my QTH is quite decent for VHF.

Activity is lower than I had hoped on 70 MHz and I had managed to find just one station which was an FM contact. Then last Friday, 3rd June I heard a station on SSB calling CQ at about 30 miles distant. He was very weak. I called him but he either did not hear me or he was looking for DX as there seemed a possibility of Sporadic E propagation for better appointed stations than mine.

Then tuning around I heard EA4CZV calling CQ DX and I called him more in hope than expectation. After some persistence on both sides we completed the SSB contact and I have IN80 as a new square and actually only my second one as the other is the guy down the road I worked on FM.

Of course, with a vertical and not a yagi I have little or no antenna gain but maybe the polarisation factor is less critical at this sort of distance, which was 1280 km, not to be sniffed at.

I am therefore very pleased with the antenna and have said so in my review. Maybe I can work some more DX with it on four metres. It is going to be fun trying!

Explanations

My antennas

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.

Remembering Norman Fitch, G3FPK

Norman wrote the VHF column in Short Wave Magazine for many years and in 1989 took over from Ken Willis G8VR, the VHF column in RadCom, for which he wrote until 2010 when he became a Silent Key.

He was also on the RSGB’s VHF Committee for a number of years.

I first knew Norman in the late seventies when I was an avid VHF DX chaser. I used to talk to him quite often on 2 metres SSB and contributed information for use in his VHF column in Short Wave Magazine, which covered 4M to 23cm either over the air or in letters I used to send to him. This was of course prior to the advent of email.

Norman was a kind, helpful and knowledgeable enthusiast who taught me a lot about working DX on VHF, and he was a real gentleman as was evident on the couple of occasions I had the honour to meet him.

Norman is missed and remembered with great affection.

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.

How did I get into amateur radio? Part 2

mi_amigo_kleine-copyright-credit-albertoke

Radio Caroline ship Mi Amigo. Photo credit Albertoke

I became a listener on Top Band AM with my Nineteen Set, which could be tuned down, the intended frequencies of use being 2 to 8 MHz. It was not difficult to get it working down to 1.8 MHz. I also found I could listen to the locals by turning some pots in a couple of transistor radios we had. I owned only one (the other was my Mum’s), which was a pocket -sized radio with the trade name of the local high street dealer. It was fiddly to tune, but I could listen in my bedroom and it worked. Remember the Nineteen Set was very heavy and dusty, so I had to use that in my den in the loft.

There was a local Top Band pirate who was very active. He boasted of a Codar AT5 transmitter. I do not now remember what his receiver was. No, I was never a Top Band pirate, or indeed any sort of pirate on the amateur radio bands.

In 1967 the then Government was trying to close down the offshore pirate radio stations. I was a Radio Caroline fan, and had listened late into the night (well, until about 11 o’clock) most evenings on the same pocket-sized radio. I was supposed to be asleep, having done my homework. My parents’ expectations were different to those of parents these days.

From August 15th 1967 the Marine Offences Act came into force, making it illegal to operate and service the pirate radio stations anchored off our shores, or operating from offshore forts as one or two did. At 3 o’clock on 14th August, Radio London (Wonderful Big L), Caroline’s neighbour off the Essex coast closed down.

Radio Caroline soldiered on, but there were many of us who believed in “Free Radio” and did not accept the Government’s premise that the BBC should have the monopoly on radio broadcasting in the UK. After all the pirates (commercial radio) had given everyone freedom of choice and had also given a chance to many pop, rock and other bands and solo artists. The pirates made a huge contribution to the cultural changes in the Swinging Sixties.

Some among us protested by putting out our own shows around 195 metres. That is about 1.54 MHz.  The Nineteen Set was well capable of that, with a quarter wave antenna (my parents had a large plot of land). I am not saying I participated, and after all, doing an hour’s pre-recorded show regularly would have been a lot of work, but I was a juvenile.

The antenna was very thin and hard to see, being wire off an old transformer carefully unwound. It was surprising it did not break more often than it did. A Post Office detector van did drive down our road once, but no one came to call.

I had a lot of fun with the Nineteen Set. It covered 80 metres as well and was a good old war horse, with the Variometer (ATU) very effective.

Of course, I had some growing up to do, and at the end of the decade I left school and went out to work. This was a culture shock for me, becoming responsible in part for my own welfare, and there were distractions from radio such as my first girlfriend. The radio story rests for a while, but more soon….