Friday, 19 October 2012

"Armchair Copy"

When I was last active on HF, in 2003, I hadn’t experienced the transient pleasures of a strong 10m opening. The solar cycle was way down on the current crescendo.

For the second day running, I’ve been receiving strong, clear, frequency modulated signals from far afield that sound as if they’re just down the road. Using my FT-817 (5W) and a small Miracle Whip antenna I had a fantastic QSO into Greece. Only a little QSB here and there presented any challenge. I tuned lower in the band to hear a W2 station calling CQ using AM – well I just had to try! I’m actually quite staggered he heard my signal, but obviously not strong enough to discriminate any speech. That would have been expecting too much.

Today on 29.620 the New York repeater, KQ2H, was booming in at 5/9+, of course. European stations a few hundred miles or less apart, were talking to each other via a lengthy transatlantic trip. The FM capture effect ensured that my QRP signal wasn’t fully heard, though I suspect I accessed the repeater more than once.

I’ll look forward to a little more 10m FM while it lasts. Congratulations if you’ve enjoyed a DX ‘armchair copy’ this week.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Cracking the Whip....

The Miracle Whip, that is.

I only acquired my fantastic Yaesu FT-817 to give me 5W of SSB on V/UHF from windswept Welsh hilltops. I couldn’t resist a second-hand bargain of a Miracle Whip to see what I could achieve with QRP on the HF bands.

The '817 and Miracle Whip
It’s a classic Fred-and-Ginger combination that has been blogged, reviewed and You-Tubed extensively along with other rig/telescopic antenna double-acts. Yes, it’s only 57” of radiating metal with a rather good tuner at the base, but thanks to the current propagation conditions it at least enables you to experience the miraculous. Its advantage lies also in its simplicity. It means you’ll use it because it connects, extends and tunes in seconds. I like that! Connect. Extend. Tune.

I’ve been having fun with the ‘817 on my lap, indoors, running off its own batteries (=2.5W max) and chatting to stations on the higher bands in places such as St. Petersburg and the Ukraine with 5/9 reports. You simply can’t get this thrill with a big station. It’s reconnecting to the magic of radio – which is a real miracle every time a contact comes out of the ether. I’m even moved to ‘Tweet’ a new QSO with excitement! (@MW0DNK).

I’ve started at 10m, sliding my way down the bands as the challenge rises. Using 5W (external battery) I managed a QSO with Algeria yesterday on 15m, 4/3. I finally cracked 20m with a shorter, brief contact to Spain. I had a 5m counterpoise wire connected this time.

Connect. Extend. Tune.
On 40m I’m simply not heard, at least not yet. This is where I need to start learning some CW skills. This will open up the lower bands for me. Until then, living on the Isle of Anglesey, I might head to a beach and try getting some salt water under my portable station to see if I can crack the ‘40m SSB phono challenge.’ Listen out for me.

On 2m the antenna is a ¾ wave. I’ve no idea what the radiation pattern is for this length, but it seems to work very well. Unfortunately the antenna is just short of a ¼ wavelength at 6m, so perhaps a wire clip-on extension is the answer.

It was with sadness that on visiting the Miracle Antennas website I saw an announcement about the passing of the company founder and product inventor, Robert Victor, this year. It seems he’s left us a wonderful legacy. Vy 73, OM.