Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Just a bit of fun

I think this hobby should be fun. It should not be all about understanding Faraday Rotation or precision frequency measurement. Sometimes we should just leave the work to one side and do something for ourselves.

The thing I left aside is a posting on this blog about how to tell the difference between the various VHF propagation methods. Stirring stuff. Like many of my postings it is far too long, too wordy, too ... too much like hard work really. They must be a right pain to read.

For a few days the barometric pressure has been rising as an anticyclone passes across Britain roughly from North West to South East.
There was a weather system across Scotland which was likely to spoil things a bit, but for about 5 days the Hepburn Tropo Predictions (see link on sidebar) have been suggesting that yesterday, Tuesday 3 December 2019, would be the day when VHF and UHF conditions might improve.

So I set Tuesday 3 December 2019 aside as a day to work a few stations and see how I got on.

I really enjoyed it. Good fun.

The significance of Tuesday is that it is the "Activity Contest" day in Europe. Well, it was, until we started having 6m and 4m activity days on Thursdays, which is a good idea but does make it all more complex. This was done because, despite the constant nagging from contesters, the national radio societies were unable to fit six Tuesdays into every month. Those national societies - what good are they if they cannot regulate the number of Tuesdays in the month.

First Tuesday in the month is 2m activity contest day. Now, as is well known, I do not enter contests but I do give away points. So the plan for this Tuesday was to operate as much DX as I could if conditions were good during the day, and then help out in the contest for even more DX during contest hours.

The RSGB National Activity contests run from 20:00 to 22:30 UTC for all modes, with earlier contests from 19:00 to 19:55 for FM and data modes. However, as conditions were looking up, I decided to switch to my favourite contest, the Nordic Activity Contest (NAC), which runs from 18:00 to 22:00 UTC on Wintertime Tuesdays (switching by an hour during daylight saving time).

For this contest I decided to stick to FT8. As many of the NAC stations use FT8 in its European contest mode I can get a useful updated conest log on WSJT-X which saves me trouble checking for those stations I have already worked.
Contest log with WSJT-X in the "EU VHF Contest Special Operating Activity" mode
Interestingly the latest entry in the log is at the top numbered one, whereas the serial numbers (which I have not managed to capture in the above screen grab) go the other way.

The signal reports used in the European contest mode are "59" type RS strength reports with a serial number, rather than the conventional FT8 "dB S/N relative to the noise in the SSB filter" type reports. If presented with a Euro contest type report WSJT-X will switch over to that style until you dive into the settings and turn it off. Using two different styles of report in two contests running at the same time causes endless confusion to those in the RSGB data contests which do not use serial numbers or the Euro contest system. It all adds to the fun. 

I like the NAC because of its informality. It also helps that the stations involved are usually at a handy distance if conditions are good. Often I can use meteor scatter, but perhaps this time tropo would be good as the high pressure seemed to be perfectly placed. Tropo openings are often best just as the high pressure is subsiding, which it obligingly did.

As usual, click on the images if you wish to enlarge them.
Stations worked at GM4FVM on 144MHZ on 3 December 2019

As the NAC on the first Tuesday of the month is for 2m I did concentrate on that band, but I did some 70cms too. You don't need a contest to make UHF DX interesting, but sometimes it helps.
Stations worked at GM4FVM on 432MHz on 3 December 2019
Before the NAC began I worked 18 stations. On 144MHz it was 14 stations in 8 DXCC, on 432MHz it was 4 stations in 2 DXCC. I only worked France on 432MHz (twice), the others on 144MHz being G, GM, GW, GI, OZ, PA, DL and ON. ON4POO kicked the whole thing off, as he so often does. The two stations in France were F5APQ and F4HRD both in JO00, which isn't bad on 70cms at about 600km from here. I bet I could have worked more stations on 70cms if there had been more around, and of course during the 2m contest the 70cms activity fell (but did not stop!).

During the NAC I worked 10 stations in OZ, LA, and SM of course, plus PA0O as yet another participant in NAC. I was only on for about 2 hours of the contest as I had to go and watch "Masterchef The Professionals" on the television. We have to keep it fun you know.

After the contest I worked 4 stations on 2m (SM and OZ) and then one on 70cms (OZ).

Grand total
For 2m, 30 QSOs over 13 hours and 18 minutes, 18 squares, 10 DXCC, ODX SM7EGM in JO65 at 988km, and
For 70cm, 5 QSOs over 12 hours and 4 minutes, 3 squares, 3 DXCC, ODX OZ2ND in JO46 at 690km.

I am not sure if 70cms contacts count double the distance but they should. Two other contacts that got away were both GI6ATZ, heard on 70cm and 23cms. Either would have been an interesting QSO, and on 23cms a new country for me. However, as the contest was underway I left him to it.

So, I did not enter another contest. I just did some operating. Including a contest is easy when you do not have the keep any records for your entry and it does not matter much if you slope off to watch the telly for a couple of hours.

There was nothing special about 3 December 2019. It was just a chance to work a bit of tropo with the activity level which comes with the contest.

Along the way I did nip outside and change over my 432MHz masthead preamp. I have done this several times over the past 6 months and I have honed the time down from an hour to just 27 minutes. It is getting like a Formula 1 pit stop. I need to work out what is happening. Perhaps that will not be so much fun as a day's operating.




  1. Hello, Jim,
    I was working after the contest, as you know. Last night and today has been quite good with tropo here in Denmark, near Copenhagen.
    Last 24 hours show G, GM, OZ (duh!), DL, PA, SP, SM and OH in my log, as well as UT1FG/MM in JO94 - up to about 800km. Not too bad for a Big Wheel Omni and 150W at the antenna.
    Because we had rain for most of the day I was a bit surprised, but in 20/20 hind sight, it was more or less as one should expect.
    Thanks for the GM QSO, the first I have on 2m after I returned from the Netherlands to my native Denmark.
    We still need to try 6 and 4m, and, of course, one day, 70cm. I did work one SP1 (300km) with my 2m omni, and with about 10W or less at the antenna.
    I am a happy camper ;)
    Have a good time, Jim
    Vy 73 de Jan, OZ9QV

  2. Hello Jan.
    Yes! You are the last entry in my log on 3 December, at 23:06. The conditions were fading then, and I needed to go QRT! ON4POO started it and you finished it.
    Given how often I work Henning OZ1JXY on 4m meteor scatter (98 times by MS, 15 times other ways) I think we should make it by meteor scatter. No need for big antennas if we have time to spare for it. 6m too. 70cms not so easy maybe, but we need to do it someday.
    By 4 December it was over at my end. OZ1CCM heard, nothing else. Looking at PSK reporter OZ seemed to be doing well to the East. OH is a nice one. I have not heard UT1FG/MM on this trip. PAs seemed to be working Gs but none getting here.
    I am glad we both had a good time. I think this shows our hobby at its best - testing out the propagation to the full.
    73 Jim

  3. Jim,
    Oh, yes, yesterday and the night before was excellent.
    On the other bands, I am not worried about 6m, even if I only have a 1/2 wave vertical.
    4m is the tricky one here. Power limit of 25W and, at the moment, just a 1/2 wave vertical does not make it the easiest target. On top of that, the cable loss is at least 2dB, so do I have about 15W ERP? probably, that s not much. Second, I need to learn to use (isn't it MSK144?) the MS mode correctly.

    BCNU (Be Seeing You)
    Jan, OZ9QV