If this is your first or second visit, thanks for stopping by.
I’ve been posting here since early April 2009, and I’m all about increasing activity levels on V/UHF within a few hundred miles of my SE WI QTH. If anything I share here helps increase activity in other parts of the USA, that’s great, too. This post is aimed at beginners to V/UHF.
I haven’t posted much the past several days, and typically when there’s a lull, the number of visitors goes down, too. Today is different. I’ve had 80-some visitors, so I suspect that somewhere in cyberspace, some ham-related site gave old www.kc9bqa.com a plug. Which I appreciate. I also hope you realize that you get the most out of this website when you take some time to go thru the various pages, and carefully read what I’m saying. This is not fast-food hamming, but the longer you hang around, the more things start to make sense. If you have questions, feel free to use the “contact me” button or email me at the addy I have up on www.qrz.com. Everyone who has an interest in doing more than just repeaters on V/UHF is important to me.
I just got started 6 years ago, and I remember how hard I had to look all over the internet to figure out how to have a first-rate signal on the SSB side of V/UHF. It shouldn’t be quite that hard, so I’m here to help (hopefully, LOL!)
The next contest I’m going to promote is the July CQ WW VHF. It’s 6 and 2 meters only, which appeals to less-experienced contesters. Why? First, because even very basic VHF’ers typically have 6 or 2 meter rigs, or both. So in theory, anyone with a rig and an antenna can easily play in this contest, which runs from 1800 UTC Sat. June 18th until 2100 UTC Sun. June 19th. (1pm Sat. to 4pm Sun. central time) Just know your Maidenhead grid square (a Google search will explain grid squares) and call CQ contest on 6 or 2 meters, and you’re halfway home. It’s not nearly as difficult as some think.
I’ve got a nice station with stacked beams up high on a variety of V/UHF bands. Those beams are horizontal polarization, which is the norm with SSB work, just like vert. pol. is the custom with FM work. Under flat band conditions, I can work similarly-equipped stations out to 200-400 miles. A more modest station with say at least a 9 or 10 el beam up 30-40′ on 2m SSB will work out to 100-200 miles. I know this because I talk with these guys on mjy weekly 2 meter nets every week. (Wed. night is net night and those are explained in various posts here on the website.)
With the occasional band enhancement, I may work out to 600-1000 miles. This doesn’t happen that often on 2 meters and higher, but when it does, it’s a real thrill. I do know some FM-only guys who work DX with vertically-polarized beams, but I’d say 80-90% of the DX on 2 meters, 1.25m or 70cm is being done with beams up as high as you can get them, horizontally-polarized, and using SSB mode, which travels farther than FM, watt-for-watt.
Now the 6 meter band, (or 50 MHz) that’s a different story. If you’re new to V/UHF, you should know that very modest stations and antennas will work DX across the USA and Canada, and sometimes into Mexico and the Caribbean via sporadic E skip propagation. E skip is seasonal, and May-August is the most common time. In a good strong E skip opening, you hear some very interesting stories of guys working 1000 miles away on rain gutters, simple verticals, HF beams that load up with a little help, etc. 6 meters is the one place where the little guy can truly work some exciting DX. Use the 50.125 call freq. and work up from there. Below 50.125 is reserved for the DX window. This means USA/USA contacts are frowned upon between 50.100-50.125. It’s a gentleman’s agreement on 6 meters. There is a CW subband on 6, from 50.080-50.100 so if you enjoy CW, call away in that portion. There are also a variety of propgation beacons from 50.060-50.080. Tune around and see if you have a local beacon, or better yet, keep tuning to hear DX beacons come in and let you know that 6 is opening up. Also know that while the little guns do enjoy a 6 meter opening, the guys with antennas designed for 50 MHz reap the largest benefit. By the way, the angle of E skip varies, but most of the time, it’s high enough that horizontal beams or loops up only 20-30′ are in the most favorable reception area.
I promote a lot of contesting activity on V/UHF. I’m also different from most contesters in that I go out of my way to seek out new hams who don’t fit the typical contesting profile. Why? Because I don’t think there’s nearly enough activity on V/UHF in general, and I think a lot of us “weak-signal” guys don’t reach out to Joe Q. Ham very well. Weak-signal refers to those who use horizontal pol. antennas and SSB, in an attempt to work beyond the typical limits of repeaters or FM simplex.
In general, those who enjoy repeaters and ragchewing will tend to stick with the FM side of V/UHF, using vertical antennas. Which is just fine. Repeater and FM work on 2 meters is truly bread-and-butter hamming, so enjoy yourself and use your licensed privileges. But I’d say at least 1 or 2 out of every 10 of the repeater hams is at least curious about the flat (or horizontal) side. Those are the hams I frequently appeal to.
Why do I love contests so much? Because it’s the single time when V/UHF comes alive with a variety of signals!
In a typical contest, I will operate many hours (it’s your choice how hard you care to play) and work at least 75-150 stations on a variety of bands, across a several hundred mile radius. That’s under normal band conditions; no special enhancement. Now if you add in an E skip opening on 6 meters like we had 2 weekends ago, then you’re off to the races. I worked 310+ stations on 6 in about 120 grid squares (spanning 30-35 states and a few VE provinces) in the ARRL June VHF QSO Party June 13-14th. Also worked plenty of local and semi-local stations when 6 wasn’t wide open. Talking on the 2 meter band, the 1.25 cm (222 MHz), 70cm (432 MHz) and even some higher microwave bands.
What does this have to do with you, the new visitor to this site? Well, I bet you if I walked into a regular ham radio club meeting, got up and spoke about the part of hamming that I love best, 70-80% of those hams in attendance would only have a very vague notion of what us SSB’ers do on V/UHF. To me, that’s a learning opportunity.
If you enjoy DX on V/UHF, or want to know more about how to work it, you’re at the right website. When will you work at least some DX? In a contest. Why? Because of the sheer numbers of hams that get on and enjoy the activity.
So like I said above, the next contest is July 18-19th, on 6 and 2 meters only. Even the most inexperienced V/UHF’er has 2 meters. Here’s the link to the contest rules: http://www.cqww-vhf.com/rules.htm Nowhere in those rules does it say you have to have long yagis up high to enjoy yourself. It’s totally true that the winners will probably have bigger stations. But how sad would it be if the dozen or so big stations in a region only had each other to work in the contest? I would lose interest in a heartbeat. So I feel strongly about finding, educating and encouraging newcomers to the SSB side of V/UHF.
Where I’m especially different from most is that I do try to encourage even FM-only stations to get on and try a contest. Just to get your feet wet. The problem with promoting FM-only stations to try V/UHF contesting is that 95% of traditional V/UHF contesting is done with those horizontal beams (or horizontal loops) and SSB. So if you’re going to try some FM contesting, you either need to be near a larger concentration of hams, or you have to talk your buddies into getting on the air and trying something different. Preferably both.
Your best opportunity is July 18-19th, with the CQ WW VHF Contest. Again, it’s 6 and 2 meters only, so you won’t have guys getting lost up on 222, 432 or the microwave bands.
If you’re reading this from somewhere other than the Milwaukee area, it’s going to be up to you to do some promotional work to get your FM buddies on. I’d suggest narrowing the focus down to a few hours, to maximize everyone’s time investment. It’s a lot more exciting to work a dozen or two dozen stations in a few hours, than it is to have a contact or two every hour for an entire contest. I’d talk the FM contest idea up on repeaters, at local club meetings. I’d send friendly, encouraging emails to various ham groups you know have reflectors. I’d also talk things up at your local Field Day, so you can get busy this weekend.
If you are going to do some FM contesting, then you need to operate on 2 meters vertical pol., on 146.55 and 146.58. Unless it gets really busy, those 2 frequencies should be adequate. Know that you don’t contest on repeaters, and you also leave the national simplex freq. of 146.52 alone, as well as the adjacent channels of 146.505 and 146.535. If you operate 6m FM, I’d suggest the common call freq. of 52.525. If it gets busy, tune around a little bit and find your own clear air. If it gets really busy on 2m FM, then I’d use the simplex freq’s between 146.40 and 146.49.
Please, do NOT operate FM mode on the SSB portion of 2 meters, which is from about 144.150-144.250, with the calling freq. of 144.200. If you have an all-mode rig for 2m, and all you have is vertical polarization, feel free to tune around and work who you hear. You’ll suffer from 20db of cross-polarization loss with the SSB’ers, but you’ll still hear signals you can work. Hopefully enough signals to convice you to work some horizontal antennas into the mix, so you can hear what you’ve been missing! Do not monopolize the 144.200 or 50.125 call freq’s on 2 and 6m. Make your calls there short and to the point, and don’t get into ragchews there, especially during a contest. If you want to continue with someone, ask them to QSY up or down 10-20 kc.
Expect weak signals and embrace them. Use headphones so you can hear the distant grids. Don’t hesitate to call or work someone who is light copy. Full quieting is not the norm on the SSB side. If you’re contesting on FM, lower your squelch as much as you can. You don’t want to only concentrate on the S9 local signals. You also don’t want to call on top of more distant stations that are trying to be heard.
Don’t hesitate to find your own freq. and call CQ Contest, like the others are doing. You have every right to contest; same as any ham. If you aren’t comfortable CQ’ing right away, it’s understandable. Then just listen to what’s going on for a few hours and get comfortable. It’s supposed to be fun.
This post has gotten way too long, so I’m going to cut it here. I will have additional info for the SE WI FM contesters, as well as links to specific posts I have made here, that will help.
Again, any questions, ask me and I’ll try to help.
73, Todd KC9BQA EN63 or 40 N of Milwaukee