A DX’ing Milestone Reached – 300 DXCC’s Worked


Nepal 9N DXpedition

Nepal 9N DXpedition (Courtesy 9n.dxpeditions.org)

2015 has continued to be my best year for working new DX in my relatively short 4 years as an Amateur Radio operator. I have been trying to reach a personal goal of working my 300th DXCC for several months now and I’ve been just one All Time New One (ATNO) short for a few weeks now. I’ve been able to work one or more new Band-DXCC’s every day in 2015 with a total of 112 new Band-DXCC’s worked so far this year. About a week ago, it looked fairly certain that my 300th ATNO was in sight with the 9N DXpedition to Nepal about to come on the air. Just as they did, we had some very strong solar flare/Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) activity which wiped propagation between my QTH in New England, USA and Nepal. 9N Nepal is a fairly rare one here in the USA (#42 on ClubLog’s most wanted list for North America) so I really wanted to put 9N in the log while it is active.

 

VOCAP Propegation Prediction Between 0N Nepal and NH USA

VOCAP Propagation Prediction Between 9N Nepal and NH USA

I have been listening diligently each day during the periods of best propagation (see the excellent VOCAP propagation prediction website to create custom propagation predictions). This morning the K and A indices were down and the most up to date VOCAP prediction between Nepal and my QTH suggested that today would be better. I went down to the shack early before the start of my work day and found Janusz, 9N7WE coming in strong on 15m SSB. I took just two tries to get him in the log.

At this point, the remaining DXCC’s that I need are, for the most part, the rare ones. Both Anita (AB1QB) and I have begun to use the tools provided by the DXLab Suite, ClubLog, various DX newsletters available on the internet, automated monitoring of the spotting clusters, and computer generated propagation predictions to help us to work the remaining ATNO’s as well as achieve our operating award goals. For more on how we use these tools, please see our related DX’ing post here on this blog.

– Fred (AB1OC)

2015 DX’ing – One Of The Best Years Ever So Far


March 2015 DXpeditions

March 2015 Featured DXpeditions

2015 has been quite a year for working new DXCC’s for us so far. This month is the most productive that I have experienced with more than 20 interesting DXpeditions on. We’ve been fortunate to have the chance to work the DXpedition on Navassa Island (#2 on ClubLog’s most wanted list) which took place in February of this year. In addition those show above, there are also quite a few small operations including E51UFF on North Cook Island and VP8DOZ on South Georgia Island (#9 on ClubLog’s most wanted list) being on. Also, Eritrea, E30FB which is operating right now is #20 on ClubLog’s most wanted list. All of this makes for a great opportunity to work all-time new ones as well as to add new DXCC Band-Points.

Anita, AB1QB has worked 13 all-time new DXCC’s and I’ve worked 5 all time new DXCC’s since the beginning of 2015. Anita has broken the 250 DXCC barrier and I’m just 2 away from breaking 300. There have also been quite a few new IOTA’s for us. Anita has added 11 IOTA’s this year and I’ve added 14. We also added more than 85 DXCC Band-Points each towards our DXCC Challenge Award totals. I have set a goal to work at least one new DXCC Challenge Band-Point each day in 2015 in hopes of getting to the 2,000 DXCC Band-Point level before the end of the year (I am currently at 1,785 worked).

Shack Board

Shack Board – Upcoming Operations and Contests

We use a number of different sources to find out about these operations. Our favorite ones are The Weekly DX, the DX-World.net (the source of the graphic above) and DX Publishing’s QRZ DX. These are all excellent sources for finding out about upcoming DXpeditions, small DX operations and IOTA activations. Working DX contests such as CQ WW DX, the ARRL DX Contests and CQ WW WPX are also excellent ways to work new DXCC’s and new Band-Points. We have a whiteboard in our shack where we record upcoming operations that we need as well as contests that we want to participate in. This helps us keep track of what is coming up that we need.

DXLab SpotCollector

DXLab SpotCollector

We also use the SpotCollector component of the DXLab Suite to help us identify new DXCC’s, Band-Points, IOTA’s and WAZ Band-Zones that we need in real-time when they come on. We have also used SpotCollector to alert us when stations that we need for the Yearly CQ DX Marathon are on the air.

Spot Sources Configuration In SpotCollector

Spot Sources Configuration In SpotCollector

We have configured SpotCollector (the spotting component of DXLab) to aggregate spots from a variety of sources. Our logs are kept in DXLab and we program the SpotCollector to filter all of the incoming cluster spots and CW/RTTY Skimmer data to tell us about high-priority stations that we want to work when they are on the air. The key to this approach is careful filtering of incoming cluster and skimmer spots to only display and forward the most important opportunities.

Award Setup in DXKeeper

Award Setup in DXKeeper

The first step in the filtering is to configure DXLab’s DXKeeper component for the types of contacts that we are interested in. This is done in the Award configuration section of DXKeeper.

SpotCollector SQL Filter

SpotCollector SQL Filter

We then use the powerful SQL script capability of SpotCollector to only tell us about stations that we are willing to “head for the shack to work”. SpotCollector is configured to send the appropriate spots as text messages via email to our mobile phones so that we know immediately when something that we need comes on. The filter above selects all-time new DXCCs, new DXCC Band-Points, new IOTA’s and new WAZ Band-Zones which are spotted in the Eastern or Central United States. The filter also picks up new Band-States for the ARRL Worked All States Award.

We hope our readers who are interested in working DX and IOTA’s will be able to find some time to work so of the operations that are on the air right now. This time period is certainly one that has a lot of potential to put “new ones” in the log. If you use the DXLab Suite, you might try some to use some of the more advanced features of SpotCollector to help you to better find stations that you want to work when they are on.

– Fred (AB1OC)

What Is DX’ing All About?


3B8FQ

QSL Card From Rachid, 3B8FQ, on Mauritius Island

I came across a great video this morning – an excellent introduction to DX’ing. For me, this video really communicates well what DX’ing is all about. Chasing DX is a part of our hobby that provides the chance to meet many new friends around the world, learn about culture and geography and make some amazing contacts. Take some time to watch the video – I think our readers will enjoy it!

– Fred (AB1OC)

Experiences From The ARRL Centennial Convention In Hartford, CT


ARRL Centennial

ARRL Centennial

The ARRL has been celebrating its 100th year this year with a variety of events. One of the biggest was the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT this month. Anita and I were fortunate to be able to attend this excellent event and I wanted to share some of our experiences from Hartford with our readers. We began our Centennial Convention experience by attending the Contest University session that was held on the first day. No matter how many times we attend this excellent training day, we always learn some new things and techniques that we can practice in our contesting efforts.

Vendor Show

Vendor Show

One of the key things to do at the Convention was the excellent Vendor display arena. In addition to an all-out booth run by ARRL, many of the major radio and equipment vendors were present. Beyond the Dayton Hamvention, this was one of the best vendor displays of this type that we’ve had the pleasure to attend.

Forums And Presentations

Forums And Presentations

The best part, by far, for us were the excellent Forums and Presentations that were part of the convention. The ARRL managed to line up some of the most noted experts in the Amateur Radio Community to speak on a broad variety of topics.

Joe Taylor's WSJT Presentation

Joe Taylor’s WSJT Presentation

One of the best was Joe Taylor’s (K1JT) excellent presentation on the weak signal digital protocols that he has developed and the software that he has created to enable the Amateur Radio community to make contacts using the Moon, Meteor Scatter, and other means in very marginal probation conditions. You can find out more about Joe’s work in this areas on his Home Page.

Gordon West 2M Tropo Presentation

Gordon West 2M Tropo Presentation

Gordon West, WB6NOA gave an excellent presentation on Tropo Ducting Propagation on 2M. Gordon is very knowledgeable on this topic and he is also a very entertaining speaker!

Fred Lloyd's QRZ Presentation

Fred Lloyd’s QRZ Presentation

Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ founder of QRZ.com gave an interesting presentation on the history of QRZ.com and what he is doing with some new online logbook and QSO confirmation capabilities on his site.

cott Andersen's DXpedition In A Backpack Presentation

Scott Andersen’s DXpedition In A Backpack Presentation

B. Scott Andersen, NE1RD gave a cool presentation on Lightweight DXpeditioning. Scott has perfected a practical approach to lightweight DXpeditioning and has also contributed much to the use of the Buddipole Antenna System via his work with that system as part of his operations (check out Scott’s excellent book – Buddipole In The Field).

Our Presentation On Station Building

Our Presentation On Station Building

I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to speak about Station Design and Construction as part of the program. You can check out our material on this topic via the overview post here or download a copy of the presentation that we gave in CT.

Gifts From Other Amateur Radio Organizations Around The World

Gifts From Other Amateur Radio Organizations Around The World

There we several fun dinners and keynotes through the event. One thing that was very special was the presentation of awards to the ARRL from other Amateur Radio organizations around the world. The picture above shows some of the awards received by the ARRL.

The QSL Wall

The QSL Wall

There was also a QSL Card Wall at the event. Can you find the callsign of someone that you’ve worked in the picture above? There are a few rare ones in here.

All in all, the ARRL Centennial Convention was one of the highlights of our Amateur Radio experience to date. Anita and I feel very fortunate to have been part of it.

Fred (AB1OC)

Boxboro, MA Hamfest


Boxboro Vendor Area

Boxboro Vendor Area

We had the opportunity to attend the ARRL New England Division Convention in Boxboro, MA. A big part of any Hamfest is the vendor display area and there was a good one at the Boxboro event.

FlexRadio 6700

FlexRadio 6700

We saw several interesting things in the vendor area. The first is FlexRadio’s new 6700 Software Defined Radio (SDR). This rig is a state of the art next generation SDR which handles almost all functions in software. The 6700 is not yet released but it is expected to be available for sale by the end of the year.

Elecraft Remote Operations - K3/0

Elecraft Remote Operations – K3/0

We also spent some time in Elecraft’s booth looking at the K3 Transceiver and its remote control head cousin – the K3/0. I am very interested in remote operations as I travel a great deal for business. The K3/0 along with components from RemoteRig.com allows one to set up a K3 in a permanent station and then operate this station remotely over the internet. The cool thing about this setup is that the remote end is a “real radio” with an identical control head to the Elecraft K3. The setup allows one to use a microphone for SSB and other voice modes, a key for CW, and the usual equipment to operate the digital modes.

RemoteHamRadio.com

RemoteHamRadio.com

The folks at RemoteHamRadio.com are offering a remote operating service based upon the Elecraft K3/0 remote operating setup. Their service allows a HAM to purchase a membership that provides remote operating access to several world-class stations on a timeshare basis. These folks provide all of the equipment and setup needed to use their service. This could be a great solution for HAMs who cannot build an HF station due to CC&R’s or other restrictions.

Boxboro Presentation

Boxboro Presentation

Another really interesting part of the Boxboro Hamfest were the presentations on a variety of topics. We particularly enjoyed the WRTC 2014 July Debriefing by Doug Grant (K1DG) and the session on SteppIR Maintenance and Repair Workshop by Mike Bernock (N1IW). Anita and also I did a presentation on our Bora Bora DXpedition earlier this year. Several members of our local Club, PART of Westford  also gave presentations as part of the Boxboro program including:

  • Andy (KB1OIQ) – Linux in the Ham Shack
  • Ernie (N1AEW) – AMSAT
  • Terry (KA8SCP) – Area Repeater Owners Working Session

This part of our Boxboro experience was great fun and we also learned a great deal.

W1A Station

W1A Station

There was a special event station, W1A at Boxboro. The folks at WRTC 2014 provided one of their towers and antennas for use with the W1A station. This was a very nice setup of a special event station of this type.

W1A Antenna Complements of WRTC 2014

W1A Antenna and Tower Complements of WRTC 2014

I also helped with my first FCC license testing session since becoming a Volunteer Examiner (VE). The VE program is a great way to give back to the Amateur radio hobby and the testing session that I was part of was  a very rewarding experience. I am looking forward to doing this again on a regular basis.Anita and Fred at Dinner

Anita (AB1QB) and Fred (AB1OC) at Dinner

Finally, we attended the dinners on Friday and Saturday evening. This was a great opportunity to socialize with some of our friends and to hear some interesting speakers. All in all, we both had a really great time and we’re looking forward to doing it all again in two years.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Site Of The Day – 100 Pound DXpedition


100 Pound DXpedition

100 Pound DXpedition

I want to share a Blog that we have relied heavily upon to plan our portable operations in Bora Bora, French Polynesia as well as many aspects of our portable station and antennas. This Blog, the 100 Pound DXpedition, is authored by B. Scott Andersen (NE1RD) and contains a wealth of information on HF portable operating based upon Scott’s extensive experience in this area. If you have an interest in portable HF, I am sure that you will enjoy the 100 Pound DXpedition.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Bora Bora Island DXpedition


Our QSL Card from Bora Bora

Our QSL Card from Bora Bora Island, French Polynesia

In February of this year, we had the opportunity to travel to Bora Bora Island in French Polynesia. This South Pacific destination is absolutely beautiful! When Anita (AB1QB) suggested that we take a portable HF radio with us, we had no idea what sort of experience we were going to have! We put together a portable HF station and antenna system and obtained licenses from the officials in French Polynesia. I also tested our portable HF setup on business trips to Arizona and Florida in advance of our trip.

Bora Bora Station

Bora Bora Station

Our location in Bora Bora was about 400 yards from the beach and 8 ft above saltwater. Needless to say, this made for some exceptionally good antenna performance and our station worked very well there.

Our Shack in Bora Bora

Our “Shack” in Bora Bora

We took a TransWorld Antennas Vertical dipole (all bands 20m thru 10m) and a two element Buddipole 10m beam with us to Bora Bora. Both of these antennas are good performers and are very portable (especially the Buddipole system which literally fit in the bottom of our suitcase).

Bora Bora Antennas

Bora Bora Antennas

Anita and I had only very limited experience operating a pileup prior to this trip from our participation in the 13 Colonies Special Event as K2K, the New Hampshire, USA digital station. It was quite an experience when we went on the air in Bora Bora for the first time using SSB phone and had at least 50 stations trying to call us at once! Anita (FO/AB1QB) and I (FO/AB1OC) did a little over 1,500 QSOs while on this trip. We earned a Worked All States (WAS) and a Worked All Japan Districts awards based upon our operations there. This trip allowed us to learn a great deal about DXpedition’ing, pileup operations, propagation, portable station design, and QSL’ing for a DXpedition. We are going to be sharing our experience via a presentation at the upcoming Boxboro 2012 Hamfest in Boxboro, MA USA later this month. If you are in the MA/NH USA area, please join us for our presentation at Boxboro 2012 on Saturday, August 25th.

– Fred (FO/AB1OC)