Sunday, 26 January 2014

QRP contacts, DX and local QRM

I have been really busy recently with a mixture of work and family life. It is great to have a hobby but sometimes other things just stand in the way. This weekend however I got a sneaky few hours to visit a local radio rally to sniff out some bargains and then an hour or so to fire up the radio in peace.

I managed to work a couple of stations using QRP one on 12m (at 5w SSB) to Romania and another on 10m to SV5 group of greek islands (at 2w SSB) Both using the Butternut HF-9V. I then heard a good signal from PP5BS in Brazil, I settled in to try my best to work him, I kept the power low, I didn't want to work Brazil on higher power, I have done that before. Then it happened... The family returned and the house was filled with QRM in the form of children, laughing, playing, screaming, crying. I had to give up on the QRP DX, a reminder that this hobby is a part time pursuit and that Murphy's law always puts family before decent DX opportunities. I did however add a couple of countries to my log for this years QRP challenge netting me a few extra points. I was happy to swap the microphone for hugs and kisses from my children returning after a trip out. I will have to hope the DX returns later in the week.

Maybe 2014 is the year to look at alternative locations for my shack, maybe converting one of the small outbuildings here so that I can have my dedicated man cave and radio shack to retire to free from stresses of daily life.

My aim is to work a few more QRP DXCCs this week to make sure I am on form with my score for our little QRP challenge. I have got a few others from my local club to compete with this year and they are already making headway on their own QRP achievements.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

My first CW contact... and using QRP too

Last night I went to bed and checked my twitter feed to see that MW0IAN had reported working W1AW/4 on 40m CW. I thought I would have a listen to the frequency that Ian had posted. Sure enough they were there and a good signal to me. I only had the FT-817 at the side of the bed into the attic dipoles mentioned earlier in the blog. I felt it was time to have a go and a simple 599 TU type exchange would be easy enough not to mess up. So I plugged in the palm mini paddles and had a go, sure enough first call with 5w CW I was receiving a M0? after another two sends of my call I received my report and thanks.

So it seems 2014 is finally the year to be brave enough to have a go at CW and even if I make mistakes I am taking part. This has certainly spurred me on to make more of an effort to get my CW going this year and I will make every effort to make a few more simple contacts before I start to progress on a little more. The bonus is I do not wake the house calling DX stations late at night.

There is one slight lie here, this is actually my second ever QSO using CW but the first was with G0RQQ and quite a few errors over a 1 mile distance  and pretty sloppy on my sending and receiving. So technically this is my first solo CW contact without the help or support of a good friend truing me and supporting with text messaging and 2m FM. Still I am happy to make my first foray into CW a QRP DX contact. I am still buzzing and will be having another go soon.

This is the humble bedside DX station, of course the microphone now lives in the drawer. :)

Monday, 6 January 2014

The unofficial QRP challenge 2014 (Mark II) and the first DX of the year.

A new year, a new challenge. I have been talking with Keith G0RQQ about our QRP challenge moving on into 2014, we thought there should be some changes to our rules and point scoring system. We decided that in the spirit of including foundation licensees (10w maximum power here in the UK)  That our scoring system would begin at 10w maximum power and points awarded as the power reduces. The scoring is as follows. 10w 1-point, 5w 2-points, 2.5w 3-points, 1w 4-points, 0.5w 5-points. This will be awarded per DXCC for any mode or mixed mode contact. This is in the effort to include people no matter what mode they use. 

Today I had to have a go on the radio, as the Solar flux and Sunspot number both ascended the 200 mark, I fancied seeing what QRP could do. I got home from work and had a go at working a few stations. I was on 15m SSB waiting to work Rol, K3RA when I thought I might have to use the full QRO of 10w. There was a large pileup and lots of stations calling him. He was a 59+ signal to me using the MQ-1 mini beam and the FT-847. I called once using 10w and he came back to me, surprised to hear I was using 10w QRP and complimented my genuine 59 signal. Rol asked me what antenna I was using, he said I was a lot louder than many other stations and was impressed with the 10w. I maybe should have dropped it to less for the points, but still not a bad QRP effort for the start of the year. I think there is a chance that Rol's antenna was doing the work based on the image on his page. It looks like he was using a Step-Ir at some hight.

I will be keeping an eye on solar conditions to see if I can catch any more openings while the numbers remain high. I would love to see 6m open on F2 for 6m QRP adventures.

Watch this space for more details as we finalise things, we may even start the unofficial challenge trophy. Start logging your QRP contacts and join in with us throughout 2014.