Archive for January, 2010

6:50am — S5 rain static @36F. Contesting is Fun.

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

    Woke up too early and heard hard rain.    When it let up for an hour or so, slid out to the shed and fired things up.    Heard several eastern powerhouses on 6, and worked a pair, after a few repeats.   Now have about 170w on 6, so I’m marginally better at that early morning game.    Found a fellow in Holland, MI on 2 and 6 before the rain set in.   Radar looks like this rain’s gonna go for a while, so now I wish I was back in bed, LOL.    We still have a few scruffy inches of snowcover, but it’s taking a beating.  

    Thinking back on y’day, there were a number of fun things.   I worked a new station K0VSC out of the Baraboo area.   Nice signals up on the bluffs.   Talked a while and found out they were into this website and it motivated them to get started.   Hearing that in a contest keeps me going.   They’re far from the only new ones.   N9LB sounds good from just south of Madison on 6, 2 and 432.   I have no idea how many new ones are on from Illinois.   A lot.   
   N8KX from SW MI was traveling in Chicago, and took HT’s up 200′ in some building.   He was plenty strong on 4 bands, but the highlight was working him on 223.500 FM.   When he was vertically polarized, he was “only” S3.   Then he rotated it 90 degrees to match my horizontal pol. and he came up to 30-40 over S9.   
   Worked another Chicago-area guy on 144.   Asked him about 6, and he said, “I doubt it”.   Said “let’s try anyway.”   He was actually S1/S2 with a vertical whip in his attic.   We had a good laugh over that one. 

   W9FZ/R was 40 over on 432 when he was in his first grid about 2pm, over a 100-110 mile path.   S9 peaks on 902.    Can’t tell you how many guys to the south were S5, S7 on 6 and 144, but 20-30 over on 432.    Little surprised I didn’t run into anybody south of EN41/51/61, but it’s only January.    Sometimes it’s tough getting past the N ILL wall of activity.   You do better sliding well away from 144.200 and finding your own clear air.    Problem is finding others who will also tune away from near .200.
   Got north just before 4pm, and found K9JCZ who went out at the last minute to a flat location just east of Green Bay.   Hoped we could do the yak-yak thing and find some business.   Did work a fellow from EN65, Upper MI on 6.   Know N8LIQ EN56 was out there somewhere, but haven’t connected yet.    Last night about 10-11pm, both K9KL and KA9BXG were on from the GB area, so it pays to keep an ear up there.   Got ND9Z EN54 on the lower 4 bands last night, too.  
   Still killing time, the rain static is murder.   Every now and again, I hear “Echo Mike four-one” on 6 thru the noise, but no point in calling until they come up.    At least it’s getting light outside. 
   Only MN worked so far was W0VB — always very strong on 144, but super light on 432/222.   Found K0SIX thru K9MU’s courtesy, but Vince and I about pulled our hair out just to make it on 6 and 2.   Gave up after about 5 minutes of failure on 222.    No IA heard, nor have I gotten into Detroit or any part of OH.   Still want to call that way when the band quiets down.   MI worked includes K2YAZ, W8MIL, K8MD and N8CC.

9:15pm update. This is an Illinois contest.

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

   All day long, making hay with Illinois.    Call south — hear some S WI and all kinds of ILL.   Nice signals, esp. above 144 MHz.   222 and esp. 432 in great shape, mostly earlier this afternoon/early evening.  
   Call east briefly, get IL.   Call west and hear pee weak signals from EN44/35/43/34.   Takes 5-10-15 minutes to complete on more than 1 or 2 bands.   Then hear IL off the side.   What’s a guy to do?    Called north for a while about mid-afternoon.   Did find a few up there, but mostly IL calling off the back.    See a trend here?   Trying to CQ 360, but it’s costing me points, I’ll tell you that.  
    10706 pts at 9:20pm.    140 Q’s all 5 bands and 53 grids total.   Grid counts are so-so because  it’s a south contest.   Would like to get east some more, but now it’s past 10 their time.    Short on sleep all week and annoyed.   It happens.     Band counts are:   50 — 41Q/15 mults;  144 — 47/14;  222 — 21/10;  432 — 26/10;  902– 5/4.  

    Did work a few on 146.55 FM about 3-4pm.   Tried to watch the LED signal meter on the FM rig to judge activity.   It was slow.   Far better last January.     Hard to call CQ into a mostly dead band on FM when multiple stuff is being heard on SSB.   Choices, choices.

Add Rover NE8I for W MI, on Sunday and Flint, MI area today

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

       Make sure you scroll down a ways if you’re visiting for the first time today.   It’s 11:50am and I’ve made other updates down below.  
   Heard from KF8QL that NE8I will be roving MI this weekend.   He’ll be in the Flint (EN83/73/72/82 corner) area today, which is probably out of reach unless there’s luck and propagation.     
    On Sunday, he’ll be starting out in EN75 Leeland for 30-60 minutes, about 9am-11am central time.   Very tough grid to find in VHF contests.    Usually takes a rover or portable station to activate it.   If you are in EN75 and reading this, if you want to be very popular, put up a nice V/UHF station and then participate in the contests.      Or at least the band openings.   Anything to get EN75 on the air.  
     Anyway, back to NE8I/R.   After EN75,  he’ll be traveling thru EN74 and then stopping in EN64 at a scenic overlook after about 10am-noon central time.   As Lloyd likes to say, “remember, plans are in jello format”    
    He can operate the lower 4 bands while in motion, but he (and a lot of his MI friends) really enjoy microwave bands, so for that NE8I stops and sets up various razor-sharp yagis and dishes.     If you think you might be a microwaver, I can put you in touch with people who know a lot.  
     NE8I/R is a bit of a longshot, but I thought I’d put the info out there.    Again, Sunday mid-morning in NW and W MI is your best chance.  
     Lloyd says he’ll be on the 144.260 rover link so look for him there.  (microwavers like to use that freq. to coordinate on 2m before they try making it on 2.3, 3.4, 5 or 10 gigahertz.)  

    EDIT:   Good news from KO2R roving in Central ILL (scroll down a few posts).   He updated his rover info, and he’s running some good stuff, and may be workable into parts of WI.   He has 3 els on 6m and 100w; 12 els and 120w on 144; and 25 els and 75w on 432.   No specific freqs were given about where to look for him on 2m or 6m.

FM Contest Frequencies and Basic Logging Info

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

   146.550 and 146.580 primary.
   146.490 and 146.460 secondary.
   No contesting on repeaters, and leave 146.520 alone, including 146.505 and 146.535.  
   Remember to make sure ragchewers don’t already have the frequency.    VHF contests are known for courtesy.  
    2 meter FM could be very busy.  If this happens, you’re far better off spreading out and calling CQ on your own, rather than standing in line with 5-10 other callers.   Use your VFO and tune around.    You can make more contacts more efficiently by spreading out and reducing interference (QRM).  
   Also keep squelch as low as you can, so you hear the light stations.   If you keep your squelch up such that only S5 or S9 signals get through, you’ll end up missing contacts, guaranteed.   You’ll also call over weaker stations that you can’t hear.   Have headphones handy.   Might catch someone from more than 30-50 miles away.   If you have a vertical beam, rotate it in various directions.  

  If it’s super busy, you can also spread out to the 147.420-147.570 portion of 2m simplex.

   Remember to ask other stations, “do you have any other bands?”   You typically make contact on the busiest bands, 2 and 6m.   Then you “run the bands” if they have them.   Then when you’re done, you come back to 2 or 6, find a clear freq. and start calling (or answering) CQ’s again.  

   On 6m use — 52.525
   1.25m — 223.500
   70cm — 446.000
   You can always slide up/down a little bit if those freqs are busy.  
   It could be there’s 900 and 1296 MHz FM simplex activity in metro areas.   I wouldn’t know; I’m strictly SSB on 902 and 1296.   But if you can snag a Q with your local buddies on the higher bands, by all means, go for it.   The higher bands are worth more points per contact than the lower ones.  

   If you have SSB on 6m, but only FM on 2m or 440, that’s fine.   You can mix modes across different bands, no problem.   A contact is a contact.   You cannot work a guy on FM on 2m, and then work him on 2m CW or SSB, and get two contacts.   We’re different from Field Day that way.  
   Remember that if you’re working rovers, you can start working them all over again, every time they enter a new grid.   That’s why rovers are so powerful.   If you work a rover, enter “KC9BQA/R” in your log.   This is because rovers have the option of submitting two entries.   If I roved (I don’t) I could go out on Saturday and be “KC9BQA/R” and then come home on Sunday and operate simply as “KC9BQA”   You would want to work me as separate entities.   And I could submit two separate logs to ARRL.  
    You don’t run into too many guys who do that, but it’s possible.    

   Logging format:
   BAND, TIME, DATE, MODE, (their) CALLSIGN, (their) GRID SQUARE
   Quick note about MODE — mode means either PH (voice) or CW.   Those are your two options. 

  If you have a logging program, fine.   If you need to use pencil and paper, that’s fine, too.   If you want to submit your log to ARRL, we’ll worry about that after the contest.   You have up to 30 days.   If you’d like to be a Badger Contester, we’d enjoy having you and yes — your contest log, too.  🙂   Many hams make for a fun contest.   
   A good post about becoming a Badger Contester is at  http://kc9bqa.com/?p=1654    All levels of experience are welcome.   The BC’ers (heck, any club) needs active, newer contesters.   Don’t worry if your score wasn’t big.   We all start somewhere.   Main thing is activity is growing, which means we have a bright future.    Never been a better time to get on board.  You’re also getting valuable experience for the summer contests, which are even more fun.   Wait until you tie into your first E skip opening on 6 meters during a summer contest!   Or good tropo on 144 or 432, where you’re hearing multiple stations 400, 500, 600 miles away.

S WI and N ILL FM Activity Period from 2-5pm Today

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

    The FM activity period today runs from 2-5pm.   I want the SSB’ers to have an hour to get settled in, and I want the newer FM’ers to have an hour to hear some contesting so they feel more comfortable.   This worked well last year.  

    My suggestions are just that — suggestions.   Everyone is free to work as much of the contest as they want, on whatever mode.   V/UHF contests are typically 80-90% about SSB and horizontal antennas.   If you want to improve your scores, your long-term goal is to improve your station and skills, including learning CW.     The range is far greater on SSB and even moreso on CW, using horizontal antennas, than it is on FM, using vertical omnis.     
    But everyone has to start somewhere.    What we do around Milwaukee and Chicago is encourage newer hams to Get On The Air With Whatever They Have.    This also worked well in the La Crosse area last year. 
   Most hams have at least 2 and/or 6m.   2 and 6 are the busiest bands in any V/UHF contest.   So there are potentially 1000’s of hams who could try a V/UHF contest.    With hams in metro areas, this is especially true.   Now some FM guys have upgraded to all-mode rigs and antennas, which is exactly what we want.    
     I don’t know of too many areas (outside of the northeast US, perhaps?) that have too much VHF Contesting activity.   So we’re always looking to spread the word and find new ones.    The Jan. issue of QST on Page 79 addresses this idea — that FM Simplex can be a training ground for contesters.   Good article; check it out.    The best news is that since that article has come out, multiple places in the USA are going to try their own FM contests.

Contest is from 1pm Sat. until 10pm Sun. (central time)

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

    Made a mistake last night in sending email to at least one of my groups.   I told some MRAC FM simplex contestants that the contest runs from 2pm today until 11pm tomorrow.   That info would be correct for the Eastern time zone.   But here, the contest is from 1pm today until 10pm tomorrow.    From the ARRL website:   Begins 1900 UTC Saturday, ends 0359 UTC Monday.

    The big 3 ARRL contests (this one, mid-June and mid-September) always run from 1pm Sat. until 10pm Sun., Central time.   At least they have since I got on board in Sept. 2003.

Known Rover Plans as of 7:30am Sunday.

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

    Locally to Milwaukee and Chicago, we have WB8BZK Mike who will be working the EN51/61/52/62 grid corner in far NW Chicago.    Here’s his email:

   “WB8BZK/R will be out roving in this weekend’s ARRL January VHF contest.  No
set roving plan other than I will hit all 4 Chicago grids (EN51, 52, 61 &
62) in no particular order.  I’ll be ready to go at the 1 PM start on
Saturday and work until about 10 PM.  On Sunday I need to QRT at dinner time
due to other commitments.

CQ’ing Freqs:
50.190 (100W into Loop) & 52.525 FM (100W vertical)
144.235 (100W into 4 el) & 146.55 FM (50W vertical)
222.135 (120W into 4 el) & 223.5 FM (25W vertical)
432.135 (70W into 10 el) & 446.0 FM (20W vertical)

Hope that you can join in on the fun.
Best of luck to everyone in the contest,

Mike WB8BZK/R”

W9FZ Bruce will be out around the Dodgeville, WI and Necedah, WI grid corners in SW and Central WI.   A young ham KC9RDC Russell will be along for the 2nd year, and doing most of the calling on Sat. afternoon.  
Here’s Bruce’s email:

“Hello BC’ers:   (www.badgercontesters.org
I’m in Japan at the moment. But between now and contest
time, I’ll travel halfway around the world, load my radios
in the Twin Cities, load my antennas in EN-43, and begin the
contest from EN52 (see sched below).  So there are some
things in the way, but I have every intention of being on.

This year, from the first two grids, Russell KC9RDC will be
at the mike most of the time.  Russell will have 5 radios
and amplifiers to manage for 7 bands.  I’ll have a straight
key by me if needed. So it will be my callsign but not my
voice during the day on Saturday. From SW Wisconsin near
Dodgeville, we should be good into Chicago, Milwaukee, and
MSP–and points between. I’ll be solo for the other grids.
My 54/44 locations are not too far from Necedah, WI where it
is flat and full of trees so my sigs may be weaker from
there–but let’s give it a go.

Yes, we will occasionally check 146.55/58 but with the
little magmount we won’t expect too much there.

Only a six grid rove this time in order to accommodate a
number of things–one of which is the Vikes game on Sunday
evening.  Much warmer weather –even if not very nice–this
year over the psst few.  Note I’ll be in EN43 twice–on both
late evenings.

Please work me on 6, 2, 222, 432, 902, 1.2, 2.3, and 10G.
Main CQ’ing freq will be 144.240. (I’ve not seen any other
rovers on that freq yet–let me know if anyone else already
claimed that and I’ll move up.)  Plan on going to .140 on
most of the other bands. I’m thinking up around .180 for 6m.

W9FZ/R (w/KC9RDC)
CQ’ing 144.240

Saturday
EN-52  1300-1500L  (19-21Z)
EN-42  1600-1800L  (22-24Z)
EN-43  2000-2200L  (02-04Z)

Sunday
EN-53  0800-1000L  (14-16Z)
EN-54  1100-1300L  (17-19Z)
EN-44  1400-1600L  (20-22Z)
EN-43  2030-2200L  (0230-04Z)

I look forward to working all my radio friends in the region
multiple times!
 
73
Bruce Richardson W9FZ/R”

    This third rover info I’ve gotten is more out of the area, but some of you may be able to hear KO2R from Central Illinois.   I’m sure as heck going to keep my ears open.   I know when W9FZ roves these areas, I would be able to work him.  
    So here’s email from KO2R, Doug:
  
“This is my first attempt at roving, so I am a bit like the Titanic.
Barring any of my own icebergs, this is what the shakedown cruise looks:

The plan for Saturday is to do EN40 first, followed by EM49, EM59, and
then EN50. Times are approximate, but I figure 2-3 hrs each, with
1/2-ish for moving to new location.

Stop 1:
Newmansville Cemetery
EN40XA
13:00 – 15:00 CST

Stop 2:
Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area
EM49XX
15:30-17:30 CST (depending on park closure)

Stop 3:
Pleasant Plains High School
EM59AV
18:00-20:00 CST

Stop 4:
KO2R QTH
EN50DE
21:00-23:00 CST

We will be on 6M, 2M, and 432. If everything goes Ok Saturday, the plan
is to go over to the EN50/EN60/EM69/EM59 corner on Sunday. I’ll send a
follow up later, if I don’t hit an iceberg today.

Good Luck! 73,

Doug KO2R”

As of 7:30am Sunday morning, these are the only rover plans I’ve seen within 200 miles of Milwaukee.   Those of you who live closer to MSP/ST. Paul know that there will be a few rover efforts in that area.   If you live close to W WI, you should be monitoring the NLRS reflector.   (www.nlrs.org)  
Not every rover posts plans.   They are under no obligation to do so.   There could be some activity in MI, or locally in the Chicago area.  

Weak-signal VHF/UHF talk with MRAC went well

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

     I’d say there were about 25 attendees last night.   Actually, closer to 30, perhaps.  

    Saw several guys taking lots of notes last night as I spoke.    Since I think it’s good to learn from more than one source, I suggest viewing this webpage.       http://www.kcvhfgridbandits.com/kc_vhf_grid_bandits_009.htm   JD’s way of presenting graphics + info is top notch.  

     Last night was a very pleasant surprise.   I went in thinking I’d put some slides up, run through them, ask for questions and be done in 30 minutes or so.    No way.   This audience had multiple guys with weak-signal experience or interest.   I was done after an hour and a half.    I was actually aware of a clock across the room from me, and I kept thinking, “Good grief, I’m going to put this room to sleep.”   But there were many good questions to be answered, and plenty of guys besides me had their own stories to share.    There were also a few who had been involved with weak-signal going back 30, 40, 50 years.   They helped with some aspects I can’t speak to, since my start was late 2003.   

      Driving down to the meeting, I pondered how to get the audience involved right away.   Decided that since we’d just had a great band opening this past weekend, I’d ask if anyone heard any skip.    Heads nodded, and stories flowed.    Plenty of skip was heard on repeaters in the Milwaukee area, as far as NY.   Then I was able to share fun details about WB9TFH Gil working so much DX on Sat. evening, (with a 6 element home brewed quad up 43′ and 50 watts)  and guys were pretty involved right from the start.  
       My 2nd or 3rd Power Point slide (Thanks Dave KA9WXN for converting the info) talked about the Magic Band, 6 meters, and that also seemed to grab their attention.   

     I went out of my way to explain that the 300-800 mile contacts on 144 and above are pretty rare; I do hope the guys absorbed that.   Also hope they absorbed that there’s a lot of white noise, and it’s important to call CQ to break the cycle of 50 guys “monitoring” but nobody calling.   Weak-signal VHF/UHF sure isn’t instant gratification.   But I do know that the more guys get on, the better the band conditions “seem” to be.    We hear this in contests all the time.      
      I did tell them that a revelation for me was when I started doing the nets (July 2008) and I learned I can work a Kansas City station nearly every week, over a 453 mile path.   Yes, signals are usually light, and headphones necessary.    Because I mostly get on for contests, and not so much week-to-week activity, I honestly didn’t know that was possible with my 16 elements at 70′ on 144MHz, and JD’s box of 4 yagis up about 70′.   

       Speaking of JD, I mentioned the www.kcvhfgridbandits.com website prominently last night.    I do this because if we had a JD in every state, we’d have hundreds of new weak-signal operators across the USA within a year.   That’s what matters, getting the word out, and getting more activity on the air.   A combination of motivating the veterans who are already on, or used to be, plus making sure that newer hams at least hear about weak-signal V/UHF.    Then they can decide if it’s for them or not.  
 
      Well… I gotta get back on track here.   There’s a contest coming up tomorrow and I have some email reminders to send out.

146.43 FM simplex net *ON* 8pm — KC9KPV net control I give a talk tonight to MRAC club.

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

     Look for Randy KC9KPV tonight on 146.430 at 8pm/0200Z.   For most of you in S WI, N ILL, W MI and N IN, he actually has a better signal than I do on FM.   So listen toward the NW side of Milwaukee and give him a check-in.   Just like with our SSB nets, everyone is welcome and the purpose is to create activity on lightly-used portions of 2 meters.   

    I speak to the MRAC (www.w9rh.org)  at their monthly meeting tonight.     (The meeting is a week early this month, due to a scheduling conflict that popped up with the church.)   I will speak about weak-signal VHF/UHF operations, the weekly nets, and also about V/UHF contesting.    All are welcome to attend the meeting.   It starts at 7pm and is held in the Fellowship Hall of Redemption Lutheran Church, 4057 N Mayfair Road, Milwaukee.     There will be ample time for any questions after I speak about 7:00-7:15pm.

144.240/144.250 net reports WB9LYH gets 21 check-ins. KC9BQA gets 17.

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

    Conditions were typical of winter but WB9LYH on 144.240 did have 21 check-ins .  
    Best DX was KC8QAE EN91 — 460 mile path, and W9YZU and KB9WZJ EM69 — 370 miles.  
    WB9LYH noted that conditions to the Dubuque area were above average, and WV9E in La Crosse said the same.  
  
    WB9LYH heard from:
    N8WNA and KB8Q EN82;  N9LB EN52;  KB8U and N9YK EN71;  K8IHY and K8SWD EN72;  WD9ITJ EN53;  W0FAY, N0RWR and KA0OKM EN42;  W9YZU and KB9WZJ EM69;  W9HQ and WV9E EN43;  KC9HBT EN54;  N9KOR EN44;  KC0TRX EN34;  K0SIX EN35;  KC9BQA EN63 and KC8QAE EN91.    
     KC8QAE uses the www.on4kst.com chat and when he popped in later and said hello, it was no problem to have WB9LYH swing his way as the net was ending.   Great 460 mile Q during dead winter bands.    That is why we promote VHF’ers using the www.on4kst.com chat.  
    N9LAH EN60 heard a bit of WB9LYH but no Q.   Thanks for stopping by, Phil. 

     I had 17 check-ins to the 144.250 Badger net.   Had a fun surprise that resulted in a nice hookup.   More about that in a second.  
    I heard from:
   WB9MXX  EN62;  W9KHH EN63;  WD9ITJ, KC9NZR, W9GA, KC9KPV, WS9I, N9NFB, WB9TFH and K9FI all EN53;  WB9WOZ EN61;  KA9BXG EN64;  N9LB and N9NMS EN52; K9KHW EN63;  N0PB EM39;  N0RWR EN42.   
   EDIT:   10:10pm.   W1MRK from EN52 N ILL found us and said hello.    Mike had one of those Elk Log Periodics from a balcony and was S3 on peaks.    Who says you need a big station to enjoy weak-signal VHF’ing?  

    The fun story is that when I was swinging away from the Milwaukee/Chicago group (usually after 9pm), I wasn’t expecting to hear anyone.   But I call every 20-25 degrees, going clockwise, anyway.   So N0PB is super light, and I peak up on him.    Then after a minute or two, I hear KA9BXG up near Green Bay saying something off the back.   It occurs to me he must be hearing N0PB and wanting to work him.    Well, I was right, they found each other and QSY’d and hopefully made contact.   That’s quite a haul with dead bands, EM39 NE Mo. to EN64, Green Bay.

    I gotta wrap this up, but want to tell you folks that WB9TFH in West Allis (W side of Milwaukee) really tied into the tropo opening this past Sat. night.   He’s going to send me an email with the details, but he worked a 707 mile Q into FN20 New Jersey (worked many others in the 500-600 mile range).   Gil had 6 elements up about 40-45′ and the other station had 5 els about the same height.   Yes, the opening was that good.   Gil couldn’t say enough about it.