Sunday, 5 July 2020

Oh deer, the QSL card mountain, transcontinental DX and things that go clunk in the shack...

Just as I was considering putting my HF wire antenna back up, something has been tampering with the tree I used to attach it to. Also, something clearly stopped at the water feature pond for a drink and then decided to cross the pond and exit via the fake river, creating a mini-tsunami along the way. Exit many scared frogs stage left, never to return. It took much work to remove a mound of silt dislodged in the pond.

How do I make sure that this rampaging thing does not pull down my carefully arranged wires (or they will be carefully arranged, if I ever put them up)? What is it?

Enter the FVM detective agency, secret filming and ... tah dah!!! The culprit caught red handed breaking Jason Leitch's lockdown, eating my apple trees and charging about in broad daylight at 04:30 in the morning
Roe deer in GM4FVM's orchard on 3 July 2020 (not 3 June - FVM does not know what month it is)
If you are a deer stalker, click this or any other image to enlarge.

Moving on ....

When I get an envelope of incoming QSL cards it usually contains about 10. Me being mainly a VHF man usually keeps the numbers down. Also, I do not initiate sending any, so none are replies to mine. I only send my cards if requested, usually in reply, which should keep the numbers down. I do like them, but I do not collect them. eQSL is my best friend.

There must have been some hiatus in the RSGB QSL bureau system. We had a change in the local bureau sub-manager for my block of callsigns and maybe I missed that I had not received an envelope for a while. Then I got two at once, my last two he had in stock, with a note inside that the new manager had over 300g of cards for me. I sent him a "small packet" rate Jiffy bag which cost £3.10 to send back but even that was not enough and he had to use the second of my new envelopes to send a fourth package.
Time to spend an hour or two on administrative duties Jim
129 incoming QSL cards. A record. I take this seriously. I check and reply to every one. They are a diverse lot, ranging from 40m to 70cms, including 6m FT8 from USA, 2m MSK meteor scatter from Russia, 4m CW from Hungary. Eh? CW? Me? Oh yes, I remember that mode now.

Seriously, I do appreciate every one of these cards. It might take me a while to get through them. If yours is delayed, I apologise. I have a lot to catch up on. I have been busy photographing deer at half past four in the morning.

Some nice propagation on 6m recently. I like to take advantage of that opportunity about 21:30 GMT on days when 6m opens across the Atlantic when I can be fairly sure I will be heard over there. I have said before that I look for that little window when the rest of Europe has faded out, but those of us in the West - GM, GI, LA, OY etc - are the only people with a path across. Then, without so much competition, I might be heard.

On 2 July I managed to work two stations in Brazil,  PV8DX, then PV8AAS, followed by 9Z4Y, my first contact with Trinidad on 6m or any band come to that. In case anyone thinks this was well planned and executed I might point out that it was only later that I remembered that I had worked PV8DX before (though this one was a much easier contact with no doubts about completion). And then again, when I worked PV8AAS he turned out to be 3km closer to me than PV8DX (who is 7847km away from me), meaning that no DX record was going to fall that night. I might well have tried the many other Caribbean and South American stations that were available. But ... that went well by my standards ... so far.
50MHz contacts at GM4FVM on 2 July 2020 (PV8AAS covers PV8DX's contact)

But the chaos at FVM continued when I called CQ. I try to avoid calling CQ DX if I can. With only stations on the Western edge of Europe around there was not much chance of a European calling me anyway. I am never comfortable calling anything other than an open CQ. Sure sometimes if I am on 2m beaming South over the great other place which separates Scotland from Europe I might sometimes call "CQ Es", but I rarely turn away all callers.

EA7Z came back and I thought this was not the best use of my short DX window. It turned out to be for the best. Suddenly there was a loud clunk and my power meter settled back to a very low level. "Oh bother", "Jings Crivvens", "Help my Boab", I said, in Dundee fashion. Fortunately I could complete with EA7Z with the puny 5 watts at my disposal. As it was already 22:45 local I was not thinking clearly and I started changing about patch leads before abandoning for the night and thinking about garden deer instead (he arrived a few hours later).

When I finally worked it out, having changed every cable I could and tried three SWR meters and and two antenna analysers, I found that I had a tricky intermittent coax connection at the antenna end.  When there was a sufficient break in the wind I tipped the mast over and it is clear to me that I had left a bodge-up on the 6m coax for far too long. 6m is not really my favourite band, and it still has my last stretch (erm, stretches) of ancient RG213. Plus a PL-259 to N-type adapter. Plus a joint half way along. Plus a worn section of coax outer patched over with self-amalgamating tape.

Oh I hate intermittent faults. Anyway, after deciding it was not there, and then discovering it was, several times, action is called for. I am not about to waste even one N-type plug on that old RG-213. I cannot rely on that joint, or on that taped-up patch, or on that old coax. Time for new coax. I could use something thinner than the Hyperflex 10 I have been using, but I decided to replace in Hyperflex 10 anyway. In the past this policy has paid dividends because I can then change around my antennas easily. I might put my 2m or 70cms antennas on that mast, and if I do I can use the existing coax. Plus, it is good stuff anyway. So the coax is ordered and awaits a chance to change it. Meantime a new bodge has been layered on top of the old bodge and we are back on 6m again.

Just to put me in the right frame of mind, whilst I was working on the plug, I managed to break the plastic mounting on the N-type socket on the antenna. I may have been a bit abrupt when I tightened the plug and twisted it out of line.
It is only plastic ...
I took the chance to ask Goran in Serbia, who made the antenna, if I could get a spare. He replied promptly, on a Saturday evening, and I hope to fix this too at the same time as renewing the coax. It is not crucial to the functioning of the antenna so I have waterproofed it and tie-wrapped it up so I am going again.

Moral of the story. Sure, you bodged it up, but do not leave it like that until it fails.

Is it just me, or do things seem to be somewhat troublesome at the moment?

On the other hand, good old peaceful 4m seems spared from all the drama. Here is what I have done since the last report, and no loud clunks, alarmed frogs or splashes to accompany it.
70MHz contacts at GM4FVM 24 June to 4 July 2020.

 45 QSOs, 34 squares, 18 DXCC, best DX EA8JF in IL38, 3123km.

Now that is more the way I like it.

Put simply, that is what I enjoy. Using the propagation to the full to gain the maximum advantage, and maybe learn something along the way.

I hope the QSL cards for that lot arrive soon.




  1. Nice visitor Jim. Well done on the 4m DX. Worked EA8JF as well. And PV8DX on 6m. A great time...73, Bas

  2. Welk Jim July 2 was an excellent evening here as well, I copied 4 different PV8- s of which 2 were new for me as well. 73 Anthonie