Saturday, 27 May 2023

The ones that got away ... and the others.

What got away? Well on 70MHz Ceuta and Melilla. And on 50MHz Angola, Guadeloupe, Malawi, Namibia and Venezuela.

Eh? Angola, Guadeloupe, Malawi, Namibia and Venezuela? Don't you do VHF?

I cannot deny it, I have called those five and they all got away. Not a contact with any of them. Not even a reply. Most of Europe was calling at the same time and they either never heard me, or I never reached the head of the queue. They were all strong enough to work, I just did not make it.

Time for my usual refrain that I never thought such things were possible, not just when I did my training but even during the last sunspot peak. Or even last year actually.

I did get a few of course. Columbia. Just a place over 8500km away, with which I had a 6m contact yesterday. I tried to mention this quietly, a bit casually, as if to suggest that me working Columbia was something that was an everyday occurrence. 

To fill in since the last blog report I have a map.

50MHz contacts at GM4FVM 20 to 26 May 2023.

Not a bad week, though the map is a bit skewed because it is a long way to Columbia. That 8527km contact managed to bring my 2023 DXCC count up to 46. Scarily, my all time DXCC total on 6m is up to 89. Will I need to be thinking about 100?

One of those 46 countries was Ceuta and Melilla. I might have missed it on 70MHz but I did bag it on 50MHz. EA9 was not a new country for me of 6m, but Columbia certainly was, and of course a new square too.

Also not a bad week on 4m either. A nice opening bagged 5 countries for the 2023 list, but nothing for the all time list. It was interesting to think about places I still have to work on 4m which are around at the moment. A station from Lebanon appearing was unusual though I did not hear him, and nor did I hear Kosovo. There is still a range of undone places for the 70MHz all time list. The 2023 list has rattled up to 15, at which point it threatens to overtake the 2023 list for 144MHz which stands at 16.

70MHz contacts at GM4FVM 20 to 26 May 2023.

In some previous years I have been looking for squares. This year it is firmly countries, though a few new squares would be nice. 

On 4m at the moment I am using my 8 year old 5 element PowAbeam, while the 7 year old 50MHz 5 element Powabeam is also in use. For 4m though the output power is just 50W PEP at the moment. Will that be enough power if 4m opens into the Caribbean this Summer, now that there are several Caribbean stations to work - at last? On the other hand, with a national power limit of 150W perhaps there is not so much to gain anyway.

I managed to work this stuff during a week in which I took down four antennas and put up three. More on that later. Doing antenna work did mean that I missed a 2m Es opening into Italy, but the work had to be done.


As I was about to press "publish" I just worked FG8OJ in Guadeloupe. Again, not an all time new country, but one to add to this year's list. 

But hey, at 6600km, hardly worth a mention.

73 Jim GM4FVM

Friday, 19 May 2023

Lost some more, won some more.

Today I heard 3B8FA in  Mauritius calling CQ on 50MHz, again.

This time I was ready and I called him several times.

He did not reply.

That was one I lost.

Others I called and lost on 6m were Qatar, Kuwait and Norway.

Four countries not on my list for 2023.

However, I did work 3B9FR. Not Mauritius itself, but the autonomous island of Rodrigues. So that was a new square, new DXCC and new personal distance record on 50MHz of 10397km.

Why am I telling you this? Is it just boasting? No, the message from this is that you should get moving and working some DX on 50MHz while it is here.

3B9FR helped draw my 2023 DXCC total equal to my total for the whole of last year, and it is only 19 May. In 2022 I was not trying very hard. A better comparison would be with 2018 which had a total of 67. So that is the next target.

It makes a lot of difference when you have something to aim at.

I keep saying this - my station is nothing special. This time I was using an IC-7100, 200W and an antenna with a boom of 3 metres up about 10m above ground level. No full legal linear, no huge lattice mast, no super rig.

Times are good just now on 6m. Sure up to now it has been pretty lacklustre but it really looks like things are hotting up now.

Contacts on 50MHz at GM4FVM 10 to 19 May 2023.

Several other GMs worked 3B9FR at the same time so there is nothing particularly special about my effort. You can do it too.

I can get over missing the other four DXCC thanks to working this one, number 40 this year. However, I still have those four and lot more to reach in the rest of the year.

There have been developments in the radio, antenna and linear departments which I hope to post about soon.



Wednesday, 10 May 2023

You win some, and you lose some.

Spring has come at last to GM4FVM land.

View from GM4FVM 9 May 2023

With the crops flowering in the fields, the leaves appearing on the trees, the grass needing cut, we have proof that the weather here has at last turned at last. Better late than never.

Sporadic E has been pretty sporadic. However, it has come in bursts and I have now advanced my 50MHz DXCC total worked for this year to 37. Not far off the target of 40 which took all of 2022 to achieve.

Of course 70MHz lags behind, starting each year late and ending early. On that band my total trails weakly behind at 7, compared to 33 last year. Early days yet, and part of the reason is that I have hardly been active on meteor scatter. However, an all-time new country on 4m was provided by HB9HLM on 8 May.

On the losing side, I was annoyed to miss 3B8FA on 50MHz on 8 May

3B8FA received at GM4FVM on 8  May 2023

My fault. He was -13dB on the HB9CV which as per usual was pointing right at the roof tiles. I decoded him 6 times at strengths which should have been workable, but I was fiddling with antenna calculations on the computer. I missed him.

I tried to put up an excuse that the main rig and antenna was pointing the wrong way, but I dug back in the WSJT-X log and it proved that I decoded him on that set-up too, though he was not quite so strong. So there is no excuse. Well, it was a lame excuse anyway.

3B8FA on Mauritius is 10116km away and that would have been a new DX record on 6m for me as well as a new DXCC and square. But it was not to be.

Ah well. If I could work all the countries then I would have nothing left to do.

On the bright side I might work Oak Furniture Land someday, though I believe that the Aisle of Aldi is not a separate DXCC.



Friday, 28 April 2023

Sporadic E season 2023 has started...

The 2023 Es season started here on 50MHz on 24 April, and on 70MHz on 27 April. This seemed a bit late this year, for 6m at least.

50MHz contacts at GM4FVM 24 to 27 April 2023.

Working South Africa again was good fun. Others did the same - GM3PPE worked 5 South African stations in an afternoon. There was an aurora the day before so that may have helped energise the ionosphere. 

So those contacts with South Africa were not Sporadic E, but maybe Es connected me to something - the fact that it coincided with the start of the Es season might suggest that. But that looked less likely when it happened before in February.


38 QSOs in 32 squares, with 21 DXCC worked in what was really just 2 days. ODX 9514km (30km short of a new record). A new DXCC! GJ - how had I missed that one. Several of new squares. My 2023 DXCC total went from 6 to 26 in 4 days (it took all of last year to reach 40).

My 6m all-time DXCC count now stands at 87. How far can I get that to with conditions like these?

Today, zero.

So far ....

73 Jim GM4FVM

Monday, 24 April 2023

Amateur radio is all about the people

I am not the most gregarious person. In fact I am not very involved with clubs and things. Crowds bother me, and they always have. So, some might say I am a bit of a loner.

I suspect quite a few amateurs are much the same. I see references (some made by myself) to making contacts with "stations" as if they are machines. Sometimes it seems that the person behind the QSO has got lost in the excitement of working a new country or whatever.

In fact I very regularly look up other hams using the site. I like reading their biographies (but aren't you just trying to find out what equipment there are using, Jim?).

Of course I am not just trying to find out what equipment they are using. Really, I am genuinely interested in how they go about their hobby (yes, but isn't a lot of that about equipment, Jim?).


Probably a big issue in me withdrawing was the arrival of the Covid epidemic. Suddenly we had to stop going out unless necessary. After a while I got out of the habit of going anywhere. To be honest I still feel a bit odd venturing out without my mask. However, I am convinced that all the precautions kept me safe from the disease. After several vaccinations I now realise that I really should get over all this. It would take a few events to get me going again. 

It just seemed so easy to go into the shack and shut the big bad world out. There was never any intention to withdraw, I just got used to turning on the radio and listening, even if there was nothing much to listen to.

Quite possibly a turning point was when Olli, DH8BQA, was in the area and let me know that he would like to meet up. Olli and Frauke arrived for an interesting afternoon of chat. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I learned a lot about Germany I had not realised.

Olli DH8DQA and GM4FVM in the shack. Photo by Frauke.

I think this photo shows how small my shack actually is. The photo on is pretty flattering in that respect. I don't get many visitors!

By that stage I was finding it pretty hard to get about and the operation I had later was getting very necessary. Just meeting Olli and Frauke was a big factor in cheering me up during this awkward period. While there was a long discussion in the shack, Mrs FVM and Frauke could be seen out the window talking about botany (I think that is that Mrs FVM does out there).

It was a great day and it certainly cheered me up.

Anyway, after that I reckon I was turning over a new leaf. Next thing was the annual mini-rally (otherwise known as the "junk sale") held at the Port Seaton and Cockenzie Club. For this outing I had Mike, GM3PPE, for company. By then I was pretty unsteady on my feet and it was great to be with somebody more agile than me, just in case.

GM4FVM (plus stick) and Mike, GM3PPE, at Cockenzie Junk Sale 2022

I tend to find that I do not buy much at these rallies, but they do allow for meeting people and hearing the latest news. I do usually pick up a few things, and this was no exception. But, my mobility was declining and it was great to get out somewhere with Mike. Thanks to the two (so far) anonymous attendees who took the photo.

Next came the operation to get me moving more freely. By now I was keen to get out and about again. Next event was the Scottish Microwave Round Table, held annually in Burntisland near Edinburgh. I had been to the round table before but then Covid had intervened and it had been cancelled for a time. Being unsure about driving at that stage and getting into a site which includes stairs, I asked Gordon, G8PNN, for advice. Gordon immediately offered to give me a lift from Ayton right to the venue, which was great. It proved to be a very interesting trip.

Microwave Round Table meeting at Burntisland 2022.

At this stage I was still struggling to recover from the operation and I was heavily reliant on a stick. I could only attend at all thanks to Gordon's kind offer of a lift.

 More recently I have attended the annual GMDX Convention at Stirling. Last year, and to great surprise from me, I was awarded the RSGB Jock Kyle award for best contribution to VHF operation in Scotland for 2022-23. I went to Stirling in 2022 to accept the award, though that was tricky before the operation. Luckily the hotel has a lift. This year, after the operation I could attend for whole thing and stay for dinner.

The Jock Kyle "Award For Work of Merit on VHF" awarded to GM4FVM in 2022.

My year holding the award was over and it was good to see that it has been award for this year to the organisers of the Scottish Microwave Round Table for their valuable work. And thanks to my increased mobility, I could get up the stairs without needing the lift and even without using the banisters (though coming down again was not so straightforward).
Talk on 50MHz propagation at GMDX Convention 2023

This year I travelled with Mike, GM3PPE, and I enjoyed the company of many interesting amateurs. As usual there were talks about DXpeditions assisted by GMDX, as well as other topics. The conversation over dinner was interesting too. And, as always, there was the pleasure of meeting like minded people.

Simon GM0CSA, Richard GI4DOH and GM4FVM enjoying a joke at GMDX Convention (Photo GM8IEM).

I suspect that I am not the only amateur to feel battered by the Covid lockdowns. That was a serious situation and serious solutions were required. However, I seem to be coming out of all that.

Thanks to all the amateurs listed here, and those not mentioned due to lack of space, for dragging me out of this malaise. It certainly cheered me up.

Perhaps we should meet each other more often.



Wednesday, 5 April 2023

M0MAT - Good value co-ax plugs on e-Bay

Just a quick mention for Matt, at M0MAT RF Devices.

You can find him here:-

Or just look for plugs on eBay and you will find him amongst the suppliers.

Some N-types recently arrived at GM4FVM

I cannot deny that at one time I did not take RF plugs and sockets very seriously. As an old low band HF (or indeed MF) operator it did not make much difference what I used. As I have said before here, my first commercial transmitter had a Belling Lee socket on it for 7W at 144MHz so the lessons available were pretty basic. For years old PL-259s, often second hand, were good enough.

Experience taught me that for VHF and higher I needed N-type plugs and sockets. Eventually I changed over. Not that I love N-types but they are good at higher power and frequencies plus they are more or less watertight. I still recall the PL-259 on the Sirio 70MHz J-pole letting rain water right through and ruining the coax. I had wrapped it beautifully in self amalgamating tape to prevent water getting in from outside, but the water went right through the inside instead.

I soon got fed up paying more for the N-type plugs and sockets than I was paying for the coax. Sure, the branded ones are very easy to fit with great instructions, but they cost an arm and a leg. And those instructions suggested using a micrometer to set the cutting distances. Fair enough, but can I reproduce enough excellence here in the shack to equal the very high tolerances those things are made to?

And then there are the cheaper unbranded ones. Like the PL259 to N-socket ones which have too long shanks and will not screw tightly into many of the sockets I have. Or the N-types and BNCs you buy with wide pins which look suspiciously like 75ohm ones in disguise. If you put a 75ohm plug into a 50ohm socket you can distort the socket and make for an intermittent fault in the future. Put a 50ohm plug into a 75ohn socket and the pin might not even make contact.

So far I have had no problems with the plugs and sockets I have bought from Matt. His e-Bay shop has loads of items on there including some very handy adapters. You know that what you are getting are proper 50ohm ones. It is fairly easy to work out how to fit them (remember the washer at the back of the rubber compression ring). They are good value, especially for bulk purchases and for his bags of 5 plugs of one type. Plus they arrive quickly in a neat little box.

I have no connection with the M0MAT shop, I am just a long term happy customer.

I thought I would pass this information along.




Sunday, 12 March 2023

DX - where can FVM go next?

In pursuit of Es, TEP, F2-layer and everything else, GM4FVM/GM8JWG has been looking all round the spectrum.

PSK Reporter showing 40MHz FT8 on 12 March 2023

Amongst other things I have been listening again on the "8 metre band" (not that there is really an 8 metre band in the UK, but anyway). It is VHF you know, my stomping ground.

My 40MHz listening record increased to 3956km today thanks hearing to 4X1TI in KM71. Yes, I really heard him blasting through the speakers on the IC-7100. That is also my second continent heard on 8m.

Is that Es in March? Hardly. Some of it is clearly TEP, but some not. Is that F-2 layer? I have no idea. 

OD5ET is yet another country heard on 8m and I await hearing one of the Caribbean stations.

I have also been listening to the 28MHz band...

PSK Reporter showing 28MHz stations heard at GM8JWG on 12 March 2023

I guess you will have to click on that to enlarge that almost worldwide if you want to see any detail.

GM8JWG? When I listen I often use my old callsign. 

I looked those reports up on PSK reporter because I find the FT8 list on MSHV just plain bewildering. At times there were just so many stations listed.

28MHz FT8 stations heard in 30 seconds at GM8JWG on 12 March 2023

I am so used to working with WSJT-X that I forgot to set the MSHV DFTol to roughly the same value as the RX receive filter. Once I got it set to 1000 +/- 1500hz I was able to decode even more on 28MHz!

(Now listening on 6 bands? How do you do it Jim?)

Here is clue to adding an extra band (or two?)

USB RTL SDR dongle

At less than £40 from eBay this is hardly likely to outperform my other gear but it certainly works a treat. There was a bit of setting up to do as it needed the right driver to be installed but this is easily available along with the SDR# control software from Airspy. I added VB Cable software to connect the digital audio stream to the MSHV suite to download. I have used VB Cable for years now, since the days of my old Flex 1500 in fact, and it works very well indeed.
Airspy SDR# control software for RTL SDR dongle.

OK, it might have been brighter if I have set up the RTL SDR for 40MHz where I cannot transmit, and used the IC-7100 for 28MHz where I can transmit, but I will sort that out another day.

So what am I up to? I am well known for following propagation up and down the bands. Usually that is Es on 6m, 4m and 2m, or tropo on 2m, 70cm and 23cm. Well now I am in search of F2-layer propagation from 10m to 8m to (maybe) 6m and maybe beyond that. I am allowed to dream you know.

There is F-layer propagation on 10m. There certainly appears to be on 8m. Has it reached 6m?

Well, you tell me.

73 Jim