Archive for May, 2009

Best Six Meter Contest I Ever Worked — July 2006

Monday, May 25th, 2009


   Had some time this weekend to relive the best 6 meter contest I was ever in.  (I started working on 6 and contesting in summer 2003 and winter 2004, respectively) 

    This contest was the CQ WW VHF contest on July 15-16, 2006.  This particular contest is a lot of fun, and sometimes non-contesters enjoy it more because it’s 6 and 2 meters only. 

   I ended up working 600 Q’s on 6 meters, in 170 different grids.  This was all in 24 hours.  Nope, I didn’t sleep that night.  6 was open with Eskip for about 15-16 hours of the whole time.  When the Eskip shut down overnight, there was still fabulous tropo, because it was so stinking hot.  I worked guys out to 200-400 miles on both 6 and 2 all night long.   Grids in MN, Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa I’ll not get any other way. 

   At one point, we had a fairly good roundtable going on 146.55 FM simplex.  This was about midnight-2am.  Had a guy from the NWS office in Minneapolis (Chanhassen) who was on Skywarn duty in case storms from the Dakotas got nasty.  Had other guys from Burlington, IA; Terre Haute, IN; and a few I forget now.  But the band was that good.  Nobody had more than a vertical or small beam, and 50-100 watts on FM.   We couldn’t believe it.  Must have worked a few dozen FM contacts on 146, in addition to the normal SSB activity. 

   But the true buzz was 6 on both Sat. aft/eve. and again on Sunday, from about 7am right into the afternoon. 

   After 2-3 years of playing on 6, I knew it could get this busy, but I hadn’t had it happen during a contest.  So I was really ready to take advantage.  It was tough finding (and holding) a clear freq. but I did my best.  I didn’t want to be caught playing search and pounce; I wanted the stations to come to me. 

   Initially, I was worried about where to properly point the 5 element beam.  I quickly realized the band was so wide-open that I was better off just switching to a pair of omni-loops on the side of the tower.  For hours, I worked 40, 50, 70 stations per hour on 6 meters.   Didn’t even worry about beam headings — just call CQ or QRZ and work the pileup. 
   I’d work guys from NY/MA/NJ/PA, and then just as quickly have callers from TX/AZ/KS/MO — you name it.  The band was really open across the whole country.   Skip got really short on 6, too.  As short as I’ve ever heard it.  Typical Eskip on 6 meters is in the 800-1200 mile range.  (if you can ever say that Eskip is typical — there’s a lot more to it.)  But I was working guys in OH and KS/MO, with S9+ signals, at times.  
   With skip being short on 6, I was super-alert to the possibility of rare Eskip on 2 meters, but I never heard any.  I’m sure other guys did find joy on 144.  More about how that works in my next post.  I’ve worked into FLA and TX on 144, but I got lucky and was there at the right time. 

     So anyway, back to this July 2006 contest — believe me, the time just flew by.  There were stations to work the entire length of the contest, even all night.   Easy to stay up all night when the fireworks just keep on igniting. 

   About 1-2 the next afternoon, my wife just came out to the shed smiling… “You forgot all about that birthday party with the band today, didn’t you?”   I just grinned and said, “Oh gosh!  Pretty much, yep.”   Then I looked at the computer logging program (N3FJP) and saw that coincidentally, it showed I had just worked my 600th contact on 6 meters.   True story.  The band was quieting down, and I figured that 600 Q’s on 6 meters was most appropriate.   Good time to pull the plug. 

   I showed this to my wife, and said, “well, we’d better get going to that party, because if I go to sleep, it’s going to be for a long time.”   I got cleaned up, she took the keys and off we went.  It was a great party, too.    Good band, good company, good cold beverages.   Even had some cool friends who let me babble about the contest for a few minutes before they found someone else to talk to, hihi.  By the time we left about 8:30pm, I was pretty well out on my feet. 

   I remember her saying on the way home, “what’s the matter with the FM car radio?  I can’t get anything in clearly.”  It was still about 90 degrees, and plenty humid.  I came to a little bit, tuned around and realized the tropo opening was clearly affecting FM broadcast, too.   I must have gotten that “the band’s open”  look to me.  
   She looked at me and said, “You’re going to go out in the shed and work more DX when we get home, aren’t you?”  I laughed and said, “No way, I’m just too beat.  Wish I could, but I’ll have to pass.” 

   I’m not telling you that every summer VHF/UHF contest is that good, but every couple of years, 6 opens up and it becomes crazy fun.  I had to miss a June ARRL contest one year (2005 or 2006) because of a family wedding, and that one was also big-time.  Several fellows worked over 1000 Q’s on 6, alone.   This isn’t even accounting for the good tropo openings where you will work down into TX/OK/AR/TN on 144, 222 and 432.  That’s a different mode, but equally thrilling. 

   I figured I’d better make this post because even if you don’t care, I will be glad someday that I put the memories down in print.  That July 2006 CQ WW VHF Contest was an absolute blast! 

   Who else has great contest stories?  Leave them in the comments section.  It would be a fun thread to add to.

Six Meters Opening Up @ noon? DN74 and DN33 worked

Monday, May 25th, 2009

   It’s been a slow season for 6 meter Eskip so far.  I did work about 20 contacts into TX/MX on May 15th, but no real openings since then.   (At least Midwestern ones that I was involved with.) 

  Sitting in the shed, doing some email, listening to 50.125 as always… Have the beam pointed toward FL, and about a half hour ago, I hear “K7TNT, Delta Nancy 7-4”.  Yep, totally off the side.  Pick up the mic while I’m swinging the beam and get Richard on the first call, no problem.  

   Called CQ some more to the west, and also raised KF7ET in DN 33, Idaho. 

   So the band’s open to the west, but hardly anyone is on.  Go get ’em! 

   Oh yes, a website is a poor excuse for a real propagation logger, so don’t expect to see frequent real-time band updates here.  Just thought I’d share a little Magic Band fun.

146.43 FM net report — 11 check-ins

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

   Band conditions were decent tonight.   After the net was done, I tuned to 144.297 SSB and heard the WD9BGA beacon (a bit SW of Madison) was peaking at S7.  With blah conditions, it’s usually S1-2.   I’m also able to hear a beacon on 144.290, that’s out of La Crosse.  That one’s not as strong, but it’s in there at S1 tonight. 

   So on to the FM net report:

   KC9KPV    Randy      Germantown      40 over S9
   KA9AAB    Bob        Kewaskum            60 over
   KM4G       Marv        Germantown       10 over
   KC9NZR    Rich        West  Bend           60 over
   W9APE    Kevin       Sheboygan           40 over     Kevin’s first time to the net.  Good to hear him. 
   KX9M      Bill            Sussex                    S5
   N9JIY     Mike         Jackson                10 over
   K9OA     Clark         Madison                S3 peaks w QSB
   N9JKX    Dan          Algoma                  S5
   KC9IJC   Don          Jackson                 20 over
   K9GCF    Leon        Grafton                  20 over      Leon’s first time on the net as well.

146.43 FM simplex net *ON* tonight — 8:30pm

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

    Beautiful weather continues, so let’s get on the air and enjoy some 2 meter FM tonight.

    On 146/147, I have a Diamond dual-band vertical up 90′, with about 90 watts out.  We take check-ins from nearby counties first, and then call for “anyone, anywhere”.  Those with beams, point them toward southern Sheboygan county.  We like to listen for weak ones, and will ask for relays, as well. 

    There’s usually ragchewing afterwards, so feel free to stick around or say hello later. 

   73, Todd  KC9BQA

144 SSB net reports from last night

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

   Got an email from alternate net control KC9KPV Randy last night.  Here it is:

Hi Todd
I did not make it to the early net at 7:15 (so much to do and so little
Checkins for 8:30
K9FI       JERRY
Don’t forget the 6 meter net 8:00 PM
Talk to ya Thursday KC9KPV

    Looks like Randy had 2 new ones to the net last night. 
   Welcome to K9GCF Leon and KB9PSE Mike. 

   Randy also mentions some local activity on 6 meters on Thursday night at 8pm.  It’s on 50.160, I believe.  Feel free to check out your 6 meter rig there.

How I promote the nets — this is why they work. Really, it’s about improving all aspects of VHF/UHF.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

   Like I said below, I started up these nets last summer.  Since then, I’ve had at least 1300-1400 total check-ins and I conservatively guess 250 unique call signs.  I’m very proud of that, and I’m proud of all the VHF’ers who have paid attention to my emails and helped make 2 meter SSB better.   The VHF’ers are out there, but you have to find and encourage them.  Not just me, but you too. 

   I don’t like dead bands and dead nets.  I like activity, and the more the merrier.  So when I started up these nets, I figured it was a great opportunity to not only connect with the usual VHF’ers, but to really try hard to find new ones.  Everybody complains about how VHF/UHF is so dead, but hardly anyone does anything about it. 

   I do promotion by emailing.  If I don’t do any emailing, and instead I spend an hour or two a night on the air, I may work 3-5 stations on a good night.  With email, I can take that hour or two, and reach potentially hundreds of hams.  Far better use of my time, if I want to really increase numbers.   Oh, it’s true that perhaps only 10-20% of the emailees will actually listen.  But 10-20% of 1000 can end up making a big difference. 

   For the past 8-10 months, I have sent twice weekly email to about 10 different ham groups in and around WI.  It takes an hour or three a week.   It’s well worth it.  Without the emails, I’d have some activity, but not nearly the variety.  Since I want new folks to try 2 meters, I have to email new folks.  They won’t just “bump into us” on the air. 

   I email to 4 known VHF clubs in my region.  Beyond that, I took some time to go thru my contest logs, and I made up a few email groups from those guys/gals.  (Well, guys really)   I wanted those contest contacts to know about the nets, too.  I even decided I would email some local all-purpose ham clubs, and let them know in a friendly, encouraging way that if they ever have an interest in VHF/UHF, they can use our nets to get familiar.   Now I have the website, too.  The website is a great place to do in-depth articles for further study, when hams have the time. 

   The email probably seems excessive to some.  I understand that.  I’m sure that half or two-thirds of folks by now simply hit delete and move right on, when they see an email from me.  Oh well.  🙂  But for the other 30-50%, it gets them thinking.  Even after nearly a year of doing this, I still get new folks all the time.  It just takes time and persistence, as well as being friendly and open-minded. 

   But if you do nothing, then nothing will happen. 

   I frequently ask the emailees to help spread the word.  To send anyone with questions my way, and I’ll try to help. 

   In contest season, I do unusual things like encourage FM-only stations to try contesting.  How many hams are going to start on VHF/UHF with big beams for multiple bands??  Hardly any.  We need to reach out to those who are looking for somewhere to start.  If you get 20, 30, 40 FM guys to try a net, eventually some of them will improve their station and antennas.  I’ve already seen this in our area.   (That’s why I have a 146.43 FM Simplex net on Thursday nights, to meet the repeater guys in the middle)

   I also send out email because everybody’s so busy these days.  They’ve got jobs, family, kids, the house and yard on their minds.  You wouldn’t believe how many regular net check-ins say to me, “You know, I would have forgotten it was net night unless I got your email.”  

   So what does this have to do with you?  Well, if you sit and think a while, I bet you can come up with plenty of ways to promote VHF in your area.  You can talk with local clubs.  You can mention VHF to guys at Field Day, or guys you might run into on the repeater.  You can email ham groups… on and on.  Brainstorm a little bit. 
   With contest season coming up, you and a buddy or two can put some rigs and antennas on the vehicle, drive up to a few high spots and go roving.  When you do this, make sure you let plenty of VHF’ers know ahead of time you’ll be doing it, so they’ll look your way. 

   The main thing is to talk things up.  Get the word out, and then follow up with steering guys toward known times/places where there will be VHF activity.  Don’t steer them toward a dead band and time.  They’ll lose interest quickly.  Learn about the on-air VHF/UHF activity in your area, and let others know when it is.   Tell them what’s possible on 6 meters with E skip, and openings across the USA.  Tell them about tropo openings on 2 meters, and how you can work 300-800 miles when the band’s right. 

    If you don’t have any activity, have you and perhaps a couple of your buddies commit an hour each week to a net, or activity period.  Something.  Anything.

    This is the perfect time of the year to stir things up on VHF/UHF.  Better weather, better prop, more guys on the air, and contest season to really give new guys a taste of what a busy VHF band is like. 

    Any questions or comments, please use the “contact me” button up top.  Or email, whatever.  I’ll try to help. 

   73, Todd  KC9BQA   EN63ao     40 miles N of Milwaukee


How my Wed. 144 SSB nets work

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

  New folks migrate to this website all the time, so I repeat this info periodically. 

   I started these nets up back in July/August of last year. 
   I run the nets as an individual, and everyone is welcome to listen along or check in. 
   The only purpose of the nets is to stir up activity on 144 SSB.  No formal agenda or huge time commitment.  Stay as long or as little as you care to. 

   I run on 144.240 starting at 7:15pm central.  I target MO/IA/MN and U.P. of MI.  I also target all areas of IL and WI, except for Chicago/Milwaukee areas.  I do not look due south, SE, E or NE  with the 144.240 net.  If propagation allows, I’m definitely looking for KS/OK/AR/NE/Dakotas with the 144.240 net as well.  I’m sure we’ll hear from some of those states this summer and fall with enhanced tropo. 

   The Chicago/Milwaukee stations tend to use the 144.250 net at 8:30pm, and that works better, because with the 144.240 net, I’m really looking for more DX-type stations.   Please know that with the 144.250 net, I do look a full 360, so everyone is welcome there.  It’s just that over time, we tend to have at least 2/3 of our 144.250 check-ins come from the Chicago/Milwaukee area.  But we’ve had guys from all sorts of outlying areas, and I enjoy those check-ins the most. 

   I always hope that the nets will stir up activity on other frequencies.  Meaning that guys will not all stay glued to the net frequency all night, and instead they will tune around and try to work other guys, in other directions, on other frequencies. 
   To me, it’s far better to have activity spread out across various portions of 144 SSB.  When more guys/gals are on more frequencies, then more hams are able to enjoy activity.  I’ve yet to run into a single VHF’er who says that 2 meter SSB is too crowded in their area! 

   In fact, I urge you to consider starting your own net.  If you think 144 SSB is too quiet in your area, do something to help.  I will make a separate post about why my nets work, and I ask you read that, and consider what my methods might do for activity in your backyard. 

   So yes, I want you to say hello to the nets I call from SE Wisconsin.  Yes, I enjoy working lots of check-ins.  But don’t stop there.  Spread out across 2 meters, and do your own CQ’ing.  Make Wed. night a big night.  Heck, make any night a big night for 2 meters.  Don’t wait for someone like me to do it all.  You have a rig and antenna, so get on the air and enjoy VHF hamming.  🙂 

   Consider using this resource to better coordinate the QSY’ing, and the looking around for other stations:  You will notice this page looks like it’s owned by a couple of Florida stations.  Well it’s not.  🙂   They’re just using it to pass time, and that’s A-OK.  It’s what the page is for. 
   Don’t hesitate to use the VhfQSO page to raise your hand and let others know you’re out there.   Tell folks what freq. you’re on, where you’re looking, who you’re working and so forth.  

   I kindly ask that you leave 144.240 and 144.250 during Wed. net times so that we don’t have any QRM issues. 

   Now let me make that post about how I promote my nets, and why that works.   I hope it gets some of you thinking.

Wed. SSB nets will be hosted by KC9KPV this week

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

   Good news: 
   1)  There’s a zero chance of t-storms for tomorrow night in our forecast.  (We’ve been knocked off the air by T-storms the past 2 Wed. nights.) 
   2)  I just talked with KC9KPV Randy and he’ll be happy to host the SSB nets tomorrow night.   Look toward 15 miles NW of Milwaukee at net time and give Randy some business.  He gets out well and enjoys the activity.  

   I remain committed to the nets, and I’m sure we’ll get back in a nice pattern soon.  The nets are a great way to keep folks thinking about getting on the air, and they’ve also gotten dozens of new ops interested.  So the nets remain a key part of promoting VHF/UHF in and around Wisconsin. 

   But tomorrow’s going to be our first 80 degree day, and toward evening several locals are going to celebrate our mid-May birthdays jointly, so I’m not going to be radio-worthy at 7, 8, 9pm.   😉 

   The Thursday 146.43 FM net will be on as usual, at 8:30pm central.     I’ll announce it here, prior to kickoff. 

   Time to make another website entry about the upcoming ARRL June VHF QSO Party, June 13-14.   Mark some time off on your calendar to play radio and have some fun.  If you know you’ll be supporting the contest, use the comment feature here to let others know you’ll be on.

Six Meters was open this afternoon and evening

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

   Had a chance to work about 20 DX contacts on 6 from 4pm-6pm tonight.   Nice little opening.  Not huge, but a good start to summer. 

   Areas heard were FL, TX, a little bit of Lousiana and also 2 XE stations, just across the border from TX. 
   Grids worked were EL89, 87, 29, 06, and 07.  Also worked EM20, 12, 13, 04 and 11. 
   Local friend of the nets WB9TFH Gil worked a little DX on a dipole from his Milwaukee QTH. 

   There’s really no way to predict when 6 might open up via sporadic E skip propagation.  Just know that it becomes rather common in May thru August.  When there’s a big opening, you will know it.  You’ll hear all sorts of US/US activity from 50.125 and higher.  The higher up the band you hear activity, the more widespread the opening is.   There are a few times, especially when there’s a big opening during a VHF contest, where you might hear activity all the way up to 50.300.  That’s rare, but when it happens, 6 meters sounds like 20 meters and it’s a buzz. 

    50.110-50.125 is called the DX window.  Between those frequencies, US/US contacts are frowned upon.  But by all means, if you hear Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico or even the Caribbean, South America or Europe there, go right ahead and work them. 
   The reason why US/US is discouraged from 50.110-50.125 is so that there’s a clear place for us to hear DX callers.   Also note that the DX is not limited to the 50.110-50.125 DX window.  They can work up the band, too.  One time I was amazed to tune up to 50.200 and find EH8BPX in the Canary Islands, just off the coast of Spain.  He was all alone.   That’s why the call 6 meters The Magic Band. 

    You can also work CW anywhere above 50.080 on 6, and I heard some today.  50.080-50.110 is reserved for CW only.   No SSB there.   But CW is fine anywhere from 50.080 and higher. 

    Also know that the beacon band on 6 is between 50.060-50.080.  At least that’s the US beacon band.  There are also DX beacons from 50.000 up to 50.060, although the US ones are far more common.  I heard a strong beacon from EL86 (Florida) on 50.072 this afternoon and that alerted me that the band was open in that direction.  There are dozens and dozens of 6 meter beacons scattered all across the US, so tune thru that portion and see what you hear at various times.   Or monitor the 50.125 call freq. and see what pops up there. 

    Always feel free to put out a CQ on 50.125.  If nobody called CQ, then no contacts would ever happen.  But please don’t have a longer QSO there, because you may be shutting someone else out.    If you get busy on 50.125, chances are that someone else would like to use it.  Announce that you are QSY’ing to a specific place up the band, and you just may have some other stations follow you up there.  It’s always better to spread out during an opening.

146.43 FM Net Report — 10 check-ins

Friday, May 15th, 2009

   Had a nice net tonight, even with Dayton probably reducing numbers a little bit.  It’s 9:10pm and a few of the netters are ragchewing, so I figured I’d send out the report right away. 

   Conditions seemed good tonight; signals pretty good.  Was hoping for perhaps some outlying areas to say hello, but no joy tonight. 

   We had:
   KA9AAB    Bob    Kewaskum     60 over S9
   KC9KPV    Randy  Germantown  20 over
   KM4G       Marv    Germantown   15 over
   KC9NZR   Rich    West Bend      60 over
   KC9AXZ   Jon     Sheboygan     20 over
   K9JCZ     Gary    Fond du Lac   S9
   KC9KZQ   Don    Fond du Lac   S9    Don’s first time on the net and he sounded good. 
   WB9WHO  Tom  Milwaukee      S9
   K9FI       Jerry    Brookfield      S3
   KC9LFR   Brian  New Holstein, Calmuet Co.   30 over      Nice big signal from the E side of Lake Winnebago.

    Looking forward to more good nets, both on SSB and FM all summer long.