Archive for May, 2009

Grid activations for June 13-14 VHF Contest. Talking EN55/75/74/64/73/63/72/62

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

   I’ve gotten word this week of three contest plans.  I’m sharing them with my regional VHF/UHF clubs, and I’ll repost it here:

   Happy weekend,

   Got some good info about contest plans this week and want to share it.

   Looking forward to hearing more plans from several rovers, as well as any fixed stations planning to operate.  It’s important to post your plans because it definitely gets more folks off the fence and on the air.  There’s only two weeks left to get ready, so let’s hear your plans.

   ARRL June VHF QSO Party starts at 1800UTC/1pm central June 13th and runs until 10pm June 14th. (0300UTC time June 15th.)

   EN55 will be activated by newer net guy K9JCZ — Gary.  Gary’s been off VHF for some years and has gotten the bug again.  He’s going to operate from his cabin in the SE part of EN55, near Mountain, WI, with *long* yagis on 2 and 432, as well as 3 elements on 6.  He will be able to get antennas up 25′ on a tower he has inside a nice trailer he’s built for playing radio.

   If he’s not getting enough action from that trailer, he will move to a nearby granite outcropping with a big horizon, and operate from there.

   I have a strong feeling K9JCZ will be playing on V/UHF a lot this summer.  Please remember to look north and get rare (non-existent, really, unless someone roves there) EN55 in your log as a new multiplier.

   I also hope that K9JCZ being loud from EN55 will get others up that way to come out and make noise.

   The EN75fn operation will be from Beaver Island, just off the NW shoreline of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.  The fellows doing this will have 6, 2, 432, plus 1296 and 10 gig, and a great water takeoff to the south and west.  
    A lot of  stations from WI/IL/MI/IN and MN will be able to hear EN75, so don’t forget they are up there. 

   The full writeup about EN75 can be found here:

   Getting both EN55 and 75 in your logs in the same contest will really increase your score.

   The third item I have is that KF8QL/R Dave from the W side of Lower MI plans to be out roving on Sat. aft. and/or Sunday.  His early plan is to activate EN74/64/73/63/72/62.
   KF8QL has made improvements over the winter and Dave is pleased to report he now has 6 meter right up thru 10gig.   ALL the bands.   So look for Dave to hand out A LOT of goodies.

   OK, that’s a darn good start.  I’m excited.  Can’t wait to see others post their rover and fixed station plans.
   If you haven’t posted or contested in some time, this summer will be an excellent time to reactivate.  Also consider spreading the word of our clubs, these reflectors to anyone who might be interested.

  (For the website readers, the clubs I’m talking about are,, and )

   Todd   KC9BQA   EN63ao   40 N of Milwaukee
   50 thru 2304  For Frequent VHF/UHF Updates

146.43 FM Simplex net report — 9 check-ins

Friday, May 29th, 2009

   Had 9 check-ins to the net tonight, including W0FAY on his vertical beam from Dubuque. 

   W9APE/M       Kevin     Tooling around Sheb. Falls       20 over peaks
   KA9AAB          Bob         Kewaskum          60 over
   KC9KPV          Randy     Germantown     20 over
   KM4G               Marv       Germantown     10 over
   W0FAY          Bill            Dubuque             S3 peaks, QSB, plus QRN on Bill’s end
   KB9YXQ        Keith        Cudahy                S3     Keith’s first time, good to hear him. 
   KC9LFJ         Jeff            Mayville              S7
   W9GA            Ken           Colgate                 S9
   AC9RL           Ron           Kenosha              S2

   Thanks for the activity,  73,
   Todd   KC9BQA

Public Service Opportunity — hams needed Sun. AM, June 28th

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

   Hello everyone,

   I do not want to get in the business of passing traffic or being a ham radio bulletin board, so this is sort of a one-time deal.  But since this is about diabetes, and I know several youngsters I care about who have it, I’m going to pass this on.

   If you’re not doing Field Day, I hope you’ll consider helping.

   The Tour de Cure fundraiser (bike ride, I believe) in Grafton on Sunday morning, June 28th needs ham radio volunteers to help with communications.

   Anyone who is interested needs to contact the organizer, Peter Cowley.  Peter’s email is  I’ve participated in bowling fundraisers for diabetes thru the years, and if I weren’t involved with FD, I’d have to seriously consider helping out.

   Even if you can’t help, can you please spread the word among your public-service-minded buddies?  Let’s help get Peter Cowley and the Tour de Cure the volunteers they need. 
   Again, contact Peter directly at

    Thanks very much,
    Todd  KC9BQA

146.43 FM simplex net *ON* tonight — 8:30pm, 0130 UTC

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

    Weather’s cheered up considerably this afternoon and it’s a pleasant evening. 

    Let’s get on the air and have an active, enjoyable FM net.   

    On 146 FM, I am omni-only, but it is up 90′.  If you have a vertical beam, point it toward southern Sheboygan Co. 

    I take check-ins by county, starting with local counties first.  Then I open it up to “anyone, anywhere”.  If you’re DX, that’s your cue to say hello.   I do listen hard for any light signals.  As with any net I run, the ability to hear and be heard a long way is highly valued.   In fact, if you hear the net rise up on a QSB peak, feel totally free to drop your call in and we’ll try to get you checked in on the fly.  

   Can’t wait until we get into some good summertime propagation and we start hearing surprises in that 100+ mile range.

144.250 Net Report — 13 check-ins

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

   The Badger Contesters net had good numbers despite poor band conditions. 

   I had several guys email me earlier today to let me know they were going to try checking in from outlying areas.  Called and listened carefully several times in their directions, but absolutely not a peep.   Figures the band would be down tonight.  🙁      Hopefully another time — thanks for your interest. 

   If I don’t give a station’s QTH, they’re basically local.
   K9FI         Jerry     EN53        S5
   W9IPR     Tom       EN63       20 over S9
   KA9AAB   Bob      EN53       20 over
   K9IJ         John      EN52    NW ‘burbs of Chicago    S3
   WB9TFH   Gil        EN53        S7
   AA9GC    Herb      EN63       20 over
   N9NDP   Harvey  EN62  Kenosha    S7
   N0PB      Phil         EM29   Holliday, MO     S5
   N9WQ    Dave       EN53       S9
   K9JCZ    Gary       EN53     20 over
   W9GA    Ken         EN53     20 over
   N9WU   Rick         EN53     S1
   K9KHW   Ray       EN63     20 over

    The early word is that the 146.43 FM simplex net tomorrow night (Thur.) at 8:30pm is *ON*.    As always, I’ll announce the net 100% for sure on the website later tomorrow.  

    I need to remind the FM guys that I got word today about  a pair of 10 or 12 el (I forget) CC boomer yagis for 146/147 ops on FM that are for sale.  Includes the phasing harnesses, a crossboom to mount ’em on, the whole 9 yards.  I can provide the contact info to anyone who’s interested.

144.240 Net Report — 8 check-ins

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

   Despite meager band conditions, we managed 8 check-ins tonight.  It took a 2nd go-around (had too much time on my hands, LOL) to find the last 3, but I’m glad they were in there.

   WB0NQD  Richard  EM29, KC, Mo. area.            S3 peaks
   N0IRS      JD              EM29 also  KC area               S1
   WB0YWW   Bob      EN22   near Fort Doge, IA  S0        WB0YWW is usually S3-7. 
   K0KFC     Jim           EN35  St. Croix Falls, WI     S0        Good to hear Jim again
   N9UY      Tom          EN54   Grand Chute, WI       S5
   KB9WLM   Larry    EN40   Canton, IL                   S5
   K9JCZ     Gary         EN53   Fond du Lac, WI       30 over S9 (local)
   WB9LYH  Mark      EN54    Rudolph, WI              S9 w QSB

    Thanks for checking in, guys.

Quick links to two useful VHF/UHF propagation aids

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

   The links are:  and

   The first link is a map based on real-time APRS paths.  Someone probably knows a more elegant way to explain that, but I’m not the guy.  I know that it’s real-time and when it’s functioning properly, it’s very useful.

   What I do know is that this map has generally been unavailable or not updating properly for much of the past several months.  Today, it seems to be fixed and I’m grateful for that.  So are hundreds of VHF/UHF’ers, plus a strong community of broadcast band FM and TV Dx’ers. 

   What I look for with this map is colors above pale yellow.  When you start getting into an area of brighter orange, you’re likely to have enhanced propagation on VHF/UHF.  When the area starts expanding to cover a large region, that’s when you hear our bands come alive. 

   During especially good openings, the map will be very vivid, and you may work hundreds of miles, and get grid squares you normally can’t.   

   There’s no substitute for getting on the air and calling CQ, but both of these links will help you study propagation and become better at getting more out of the hobby. 

   The 2nd link is to a page that *forecasts* potential degrees of VHF/UHF tropospheric propagation conditions.  It’s been around a long time and William Hepburn diligently updates it every day.  He studies weather maps to make a prediction of what may happen.  I use this map to look into the future.  Like weather forecasts, it can end up being wrong.  But since it’s the only resource of its kind (that I know of), I’m grateful for Hepburn’s efforts.

   With the Hepburn tropo forecast maps,  you want to be aware of when the light blues turn into greens, yellows and orange.  Just like with weather radar, brighter colors are more intense. 

   With Hepburn’s page, make sure to hit refresh, so you get the latest forecast.  He updates every day about 12:45-1pm central time.

How the 144.240 and 144.250 nets operate

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

   Get new folks here all the time, so I like to repost this info periodically.

  Also know that tonight may have a variety of new stations checking in.  I’ve heard from EN65, EN70, EN75 and EM48 that they are interested in giving it a try tonight.  Should be fun.   If you need a grid square map, here’s a link:

   2M SSB net night is every Wednesday.  I always announce nets both here and to hundreds of hams via various email lists.  If you don’t hear anything, it’s possible we have a weather problem.  Check for the latest update. 
   I’m located 40 miles north of Milwaukee, in EN63ao.  I have two antenna options on 144, and now that my main rotor is working, I’ll be using a pair of 12-el K1FO beams, up 105/110′.  

   The early net is 144.240, starts at 0015 UTC, or 7:15pm central time.  The 144.240 net targets outstate WI and ILL, and also MO/IA/MN and the U.P. of MI.  If propagation allows, we’ll certainly listen hard for any AR/KS/NE/Dakotas stations.  Always  looking for DX treats with my nets.   (The Milwaukee and Chicago areas traditionally use the 144.250 net at 0130 UTC, or 8:30pm.  More about the 144.250 net below) 

   At 0015 UTC on 144.240,  I start out looking SSW, toward Rockford, Peoria and St. Louis.  I call “CQ Activity Net” 2-3 times in a given direction, and wait for any check-ins.  From there, I slowly edge the beams clockwise.  Talking only 10-15 degrees at a time.  Don’t want to miss anyone.   Depending on how many hams say hello, my schedule varies.  But I do keep moving along, and typically end up looking due north by 0100-0110, or 8-8:10pm.   I do not look east with the 144.240 net.   I may be starting a new net especially for the 2 M guys/gals off to the NE/E/SE and if I do, it will be on Monday nights at 2330 UTC or 7:30pm eastern time.  Of course, I’ll announce that here.  It may be as soon as next Monday. 

   I encourage the use of to better coordinate with check-ins.  Or to raise your  hand if you want me to look extra hard.  I also try to post who has checked in to that chat, so that everyone will know what I’m hearing.   Sometimes, if it’s quiet, I have time to look around a 2nd time.  But don’t count on that, especially as it gets busier during summer. 
   Another advantage of using that website I posted is that check-ins can be aware of who’s all on board, and they can use that page to try and work other stations.  I want to say hello to everyone on the net, but even more importantly, I want the net to help create activity on 144 across a wide area.  Consider sliding down to 144.230, 144.225, 144.220, to try and work other stations.  It’s far better to have activity spread out among many stations on 144 SSB, than to have 10-15 stations all tied to the main net frequency.   Coordinate that additional activity among yourselves, and I hope you have an enjoyable time working all sorts of VHF’ers. 

   I kindly ask that you do not QSY to 144.250, as it will only cause QRM when I do the next net at 0130 UTC, or 8:30pm central time. 

   The 144.250 net is the old Badger Contesters net.  (  It tailed off a few years ago, and I decided one night last July to start the BC net up again. 

   At 0130/8:30pm, I call “CQ Badger Contesters net”, on 144.250, and I start out looking south.  This is because the bulk of our check-ins are from the Milwaukee/Chicago region.  Once I get the “locals” settled in, I then swing the beams a full 360, going clockwise.  I look SW about 8:35-8:40, W about 8:40-45, N about 8:45-50, and E about 8:50-55.  If I’m especially busy, I may fall behind a little, so be patient. 
    Once I have swung a full 360 and gotten all the check-ins (local and DX) I then go back to the south, and give everyone a chance to say hello to the net.   I will swing beams back toward the DX check-ins so they can say hello with the 144.250 net.  You do not have to be a BC’er to enjoy the net; all are welcome. 

   (If you are within 175 miles of Oshkosh, WI, EN54 we’d love to have you join the Badger Contesters.  It’s a low-key club with no dues or requirements.  But we’d all appreciate you saying hello to the email reflector, and especially enjoy you submitting your ARRL VHF/UHF Contest scores toward the BC effort in the Club Competition.  Here’s a graphic showing the BC Circle:

   There is often ragchewing after the 144.250 Badger net, so feel free to stick around and say hello.  You don’t have to check into the net to enjoy the ragchewing.  The only purpose of these nets is to create activity on less-used portions of 2 meters.

Website Now Has Had Over 1,000 Unique Visitors

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

    Very pleased to report that sometime overnight, had Visitor # 1,000.   
Not its 1000th visitor overall, but its 1000th unique visitor. 

    I should give away a 10′ hunk of hardline or something to commemorate the occasion! 

    Seriously, I’m very pleased that 1000+ different VHF/UHF’ers have visited the site.  Especially pleased considering that we’ve only been up and running for 8 weeks now. 

   For those who visit regularly, I hope you’re getting something valuable in return for your time.  Thanks for being regular visitors.   For those who may just be passing thru, the most important thing I can say is that VHF/UHF needs regular promotion.   You may not go to the extent I have, but you can definitely make a difference. 

   Honestly, the biggest difference I’ve been able to make is by having the weekly nets on SSB and FM simplex.   Not just having the nets, but also by promoting the heck out of them via email (and now this website).  If you find ways to reach hundreds of licensed hams, you will find a handful who have some interest in VHF.  

   If there were active SSB or FM Simplex nets on 6 or 2 meters in every corner of every state, we’d have several thousand new VHF’ers within a year, across the USA.   Even if there were just a hundred new ones in the 200-400 mile circle around WI, think of what that would do.

Sporadic E skip on 2 meters — Rare but Possible

Monday, May 25th, 2009

   I’ve posted a lot in here about how E skip happens frequently on 6 meters in May-August, with it peaking in June and July.  It’s funny how so few Joe Q. Hams know about this.  Probably better, because if even 20-30% of hams with 6 meters all got on during a big opening, it would almost be too crowded! 

   The MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) in a VHF band opening can vary quite a bit.  Sometimes it only gets to 10 meters (OK, I know 28 megs isn’t considered VHF).  Frequently, it gets toward 50 MHz and 6 meters.  Sometimes it gets into the FM broadcast band, and I’m sure plenty of those reading here have done some DX’ing on their car radio or home stereo. 

   Perhaps 2-5 times a summer, the MUF goes as high as 144 MHz or slightly higher.  If you’re around the rigs at that time, you need to hop to it and work some DX you may not be able to work at any other time. 

   The best indicator for keeping track of 144 E skip possibities that I know of is listening to how E skip is behaving on 6 meters.  A basic 6 meter opening from WI will open up to New England, the Carolinas, Florida, Texas or Colorado.  Basically in an 800-1200 miles-away arc.   But E skip is variable.  Sometimes you’ll get an opening to the Pacific NW, or sometimes the band will “shorten up” and you’ll hear stations from OH/KY/MO/KS/Dakotas. 

    Without getting into technical details, when 6 shortens up, you need to really pay attention to 2 meters.  The shortening up means that the MUF is rising.  When you’re getting stations from 300-500 miles away on 6 meters with big signals, it’s time to call CQ on/near 144.200, SSB mode. 

    If you get lucky and 144 does get busy, please remember to spread out a bit.  The opening may only last a few minutes to a few hours.  If everybody is parked on 144.200 it’s a traffic jam.  Find your own freq. and call away.  Or tune around and find others.  You shouldn’t have to go very far away from 144.200, up/down 20-30 kc should be adequate.   Also, be brief, please.  A 144 Es opening is precious.  Keep CQ’s short, listen, and when you work someone, realize they probably want to work as many as possible in the short time the band’s open. 

    I’ve only caught Es on 144 twice (in 6 seasons).  I’m sure if I had a rig on all the time right next to me, I’d have caught more.  But one day, I came home, and worked four stations in FLA.   It was done in 5 minutes; no idea how long it might have been open.  Another year, I knew 6 was getting short and I was calling fast CQ’s toward Texas.   I ended up working one fellow in the heart of Texas and that was it. 

    For more reading,  the VHF/UHF column in QST is a good place.  They report these openings in detail.  I’m sure using Google would net you some good stories as well. 

    All I want you to know is that yes, you can occasionally work E skip on 2 meters.  It’s not science fiction.  Nor do you need a super-station.  A beam up 20-40′ will do just fine.  If it’s a particularly strong opening, you will work Es on a vertical, up on the FM portion around 146.55.   Just remember that if 6 meters is getting short skip, it’s time to think about 2 meters.

   As with the last post, if anyone wants to share any of their own stories, please do so using the comments feature.