2013 Amateur Radio Highlights


DXCCs Worked in 2013

DXCCs Worked in 2013

Anita and I were quite active on the bands in 2013. Together we made 20,650+ contacts from a combination of our home and mobile stations and we worked a combined 259 DXCC Entities.

Combined 2013 QSOs By Band

Combined 2013 QSOs By Band

We were active on all of the Amateur Bands available in the USA from 160m through 70cm except for the 60m and 1.25m bands. The picture above shows the distribution of our QSOs across the bands in 2013. Both of us participated in quite a few contests in 2013 and this resulted in the 5 major contest bands dominating our operating activity. I did quite a lot of work on the 160m band this year and I participated in several 160m contests to gain experience and to begin working towards a DXCC on this band. We worked a total of 50 DXCC Entities on 160m in 2013. Our 6m, 2m, and 440 MHz (70cm) contacts were made mostly during VHF/UHF contests that I participated in.

Combined 2013 QSOs By Mode

Combined 2013 QSOs By Mode

We like to operate using many different modes. Anita (AB1QB) does quite a bit of RTTY contesting and she accounted for the bulk of the activity in the digital modes from our station in 2013. I made it a point to become active using the CW mode this year and I made 1,550+ contacts using CW in 2013 including participation in several CW contests. Operations in SSB Phone mode dominated our activity this year mostly due to our operations in SSB Phone contests and as one of the New Hampshire Stations in the 2013 Colonies Special Event this year where we made a combined total of 6,200+ contacts.

QSL Cards Ready To Mail

QSL Cards Ready To Mail

We really enjoy sending and receiving QSL cards. We sent 5,800+ QSL cards this year, averaging approximately 110 cards sent each week. We also QSL’ed via eQSL and Logbook Of The World. I am often asked what percentage of our QSL requests are confirmed. For 2013, we received confirmations for 67% of our direct/bureau cards, 31% of the QSOs uploaded to eQSL, and 37% of the QSOs upload to LoTW. These numbers will undoubtedly rise a time goes by.

AB1OC Operating Awards

AB1OC Operating Awards

All of this operating allowed us to complete a number of operating awards this year. Fred completed his DXCC Challenge, 8-Band DXCC, and CQ WPX Award of Excellence Awards as well as a DXCC Awards in CW mode and a DXCC QRP (5 watts).

AB1QB Japan Cities Award

AB1QB Japan Century Cities Award

Anita has held a DXCC for some time and has been focusing on a number of JARL Awards. She completed her Japan Century Cities Award for confirming contacts with 100 cities in Japan in 2013.

AB1QB Operating In The BARTG RTTY Contest

AB1QB Operating In The BARTG RTTY Contest

Contesting was a big part of the operations from our station this year. I was active in several major SSB and CW contests this year and Anita was active in quite a few major RTTY and phone contests as well. We are both licensed for less that 3 years and have been competing in the Rookie or Novice categories in most contests and we have been doing quite well. Anita took 5th place in the world in the 2013 BARTG RTTY Contest and she has placed 1st in our call area in several of the 2013 ARRL Rookie Roundups in both SSB Phone and RTTY.

2013 CQ Worldwide WPX SSB Certificate

2013 CQ Worldwide WPX SSB Certificate

I placed 1st in North America/2nd in the World in the 2013 CQ WPX SSB Contest (Rookie High Power) and 1st in North America/2nd in the World in the 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest (Rookie High Power). Contests have provided us a great deal of operating experience and have contributed greatly to our completion of several operating awards.

Mobile Installation In Ford F-150

Mobile Installation In Ford F-150

Station Building was a big part of our Amateur Radio experience again in 2013. We installed a mobile HF setup in our truck and did quite a bit of mobile HF operating. We made 165 contacts from our mobile station in 2013 and worked 41 DXCC entities.

WSJT EME QSO - Waterfall

WSJT EME QSO – Waterfall

I also made my first Earth-Moon-Earth Contacts on 2m in 2013. I made 30 contacts on 2m using the moon as a reflector, working a total of 16 DXCC Entities this way.

AB1QB Operating The Flex-3000 Software Defined Radio

AB1QB Operating The Flex-3000 Software Defined Radio

We added a Flex-3000 Software Defined Radio (SDR) to our station in 2013 and have been using it to learn about this new technology. The performance and operating capabilities of SDR are making SDR a big part of the future of Amateur Radio in our opinion.

8-Circle Receive Array System Diagram

8-Circle Receive Array System Diagram

Antenna projects were also a part of our station building work in 2013. We installed an 8-Circle Receive Array System for 160m – 40m and this new antenna system helped us a great deal with DX’ing and contesting on 160m and 80m. We also began the reinstallation of our BigIR Vertical Antenna but the onset of winter here in New Hampshire caused us to delay the completion of this project until spring. Finally, we made the switch to the excellent DXLab logging and DX’ing software suite. DXLab helped us a great deal with QSL’ing and tracking our progress toward operating awards.

CW Station Operations

2013 Field Day CW Station Operations

We were part of the 2013 Field Day team at our local radio Club (PART in Westford, MA). We provided and managed the digital station as well as the setup of a portion of the antenna systems for our club’s field day operations.

ARRL At Dayton 2013

ARRL At Dayton 2013

Anita and I attended the Dayton Hamvention again in 2013. The Dayton event is always a great opportunity to see the latest in Amateur Radio equipment. We attended the 2013 Contest University which was held as part of the Dayton Event and used the information that we learned there to continue to improve our contesting skills.

Fred Lloyd AA7BQ, Founder Of QRZ.com

Fred Lloyd AA7BQ, Founder Of QRZ.com

The internet was a big part of our Amateur Radio experience again in 2013. We met Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ who visited us to do an article on QRZ.com on our station. We learned a great deal from Fred during the time that we spent with him as part of this project. We published 47 new articles here on our blog in 2013 and have received over 45,000 views from our readers in 152 countries around the world. We really appreciate the interest from the HAM community and we will continue to publish new articles here in 2014.

As you can tell from this article, 2013 has been a very active year for Anita and I. I’ve created the video above to give you some idea of the contacts that we have been fortunate enough to make around the world in 2013. We hope you enjoy it and we want to thank everyone who has taken the time to work us, to end us a QSL card or to read the articles that we have written here.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Bounce’in Off The Moon…


The Moon

The Moon

This past week has been very productive in terms of 2m Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) QSOs. I’ve continued to use the WSJT Software to make Digital EME QSOs on 2m during both the ascending and descending periods of the Moon. To date, I’ve completed 30 QSOs and worked 16 countries on the 2m band using the Moon as a reflector. The countries and stations I’ve worked include:

  • Australia (VK5APN)
  • Estonia (ES3RF)
  • England (G4SWX)
  • European Russia (R3BM and others)
  • Federal Republic of Germany (DM1CG and others)
  • Finland (OH7PI)
  • Italy (I2FAK)
  • Japan (JE1TNL)
  • Netherlands (PE1L)
  • New Zealand (ZL3TY)
  • Poland (SP4K)
  • Republic of South Korea (HL5QO)
  • Slovenia (S52LM)
  • Sweden (SM5DIC)
  • Ukraine (UT5UAS and others)
  • United States of America (KB8RQ and others)

As you can see from the links to the QRZ pages for some of these stations, many have built fairly sophisticated EME systems.

I2FAK 16x19 EME Array

I2FAK 16×19 EME Array

At this point, I have worked 4 of the 6 continents needed for a Worked All Continents Award via Digital 2m EME. I have set completing and confirming the needed contacts for this award as my next goal. EME contacts are great fun and the EME Ham community has been very helpful to me in getting started.

– Fred (AB1OC)

First Moon Bounce QSO!


The Moon

The Moon

Well, last Wednesday evening was the night. The moon was near Perigee, the sun was not in the way and my 2m amplifier came back from M2 Antenna Systems and was reinstalled.

2m Amplifier And Sequencers

2m Amplifier And Sequencer

I got everything hooked up and tested before the moon came up that night. Our Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) system consists of an Icom IC-9100 Transceiver and a microHAM MK2R+ for our Sound Card along with a single M2 Systems 2M18XXX Yagi Antenna (18 elements on a 36 foot boom at 112 feet), a tower mounted preamp system from M2, and M2’s EME Sequencers along with their 1.2 Kw 2m amplifier.  For software, we’re using  Joe Taylor’s WSJT Application and the Ham Radio Deluxe Satellite Tracking software to keep our antenna pointed at the moon.

2m EME Setup

2m EME Setup

The first test I did was to bounce some echoes off the moon just as it came up. With the amp on and set for its rated digital mode output of 900 watts on 2m (it will do 1.2 Kw in SSB mode), I heard my signals coming back from the moon for the very first time. The moon was between North America and Europe as it came up and I noticed that several stations from Europe were on 2m EME. After a few CQ calls using JT65B (WSJT mode for 2m EME), S52LM, Milos in Slovenia came back to me and I successfully completed my first EME QSO on 2m! I also worked two other stations on 2m EME from Europe – DK5SO (in Germany) and UT5UAS (in the Ukraine). I suspect some of these folks may have had pretty big EME stations as their signals were very strong. Here’s a snapshot of my first QSO with S52LM:

EME QSO With WSTJ

EME QSO With WSTJ

As you can see from the snapshot, the round trip delay to the moon and back was between 2 and 2.5 seconds. S52LM’s signal was pretty strong at -23 dB or so (he was also using close to 1 Kw on his end). At this level, I could not hear anything audible above the noise in my receiver. The following is what the WSJT waterfall looked like:

WSJT EME QSO - Waterfall

WSJT EME QSO – Waterfall

S52LM’s signal is the lines and dots between 0 and 200. These are fairly strong signals by EME standards. The WSJT software’s performance on such weak signals is pretty amazing. (The other lines on the waterfall are very weak “birdies”).

Most of the bigger EME stations use an array of long boom yagi’s so I am pretty lucky to get this done with a single antenna and no elevation rotator. Here’s a picture of a more typical antenna system for EME (this is DK5SO, the station in Germany that I worked):

DK5SO 2m EME Antennas

DK5SO 2m EME Antennas

At this point, I am pretty happy with the performance of our 2m weak signal system.

I heard several stations in Australia a couple of mornings ago before I had my amplifier back. I will try to work them soon. Maybe someday an EME DXCC…. (3 down, 97 to go).

Fred (AB1OC)

Building Yagis – Part 2 (2M)


M2 Antenna Systems 2M18XXX Yagi

M2 2M18XXX Yagi (Courtesy M2 Antenna Systems, Inc.)

This post is about the assembly of the second of our four Yagi Antennas – an M2 Antenna Systems 2M18XXX. This antenna uses 18 elements on 2M to provide approximate 17 dBi gain in a very tight pattern. It is designed for weak signal and EME work on the 2M band. The specifications for the 2M18XXX are as follows (Courtesy M2 Antenna Systems, Inc.):

Model 2M18XXX
Feq. Range 144-146 MHz
Gain (single antenna) 17.14 dBi
Front/Back 26 dB Typical
Beam Width E=26° by H=28°
Feed Type “T” Match
Feed Imped. 50 Ohms Unbalanced
Max VSWR 1.2:1
Connector “N” Female
Boom Length 36.5′
Max Element Length 41″
Turning Radius 19′ 6″
Stacking Dist. 14′ H, 14.5′ W
Mast Size 2″ Nom.
Wind area / Survival 2.9 SqFt. / 100 MPH
Weight 14 Lbs.
# of Elements 18

I began by doing a careful inventory of all of the parts for the antenna and gathering the necessary tools for assembly. I also took some time to carefully read the excellent instructions provided by M2. Due to its size, I opted to assemble the 2M18XXX outdoors near the tower.

2M Yagi Parts

2M Yagi Parts

The first step was the assembly of the boom. I used the 2 foot high saw bucks that I made for the purposes of building our yagi antennas. A set of carpenter’s clamps were used to hold the boom in place on the bucks during assembly. The installation of the elements was next.

2M Yagi Boom and Elements

2M Yagi Boom and Elements

This step takes some time as each element has a different length and must be carefully centered on the boom. To make this easier, I marked the boom with a felt tip pen to indicate the location of each element for easy cross-reference with the dimension sheet from M2 Antenna Systems.

2M Yagi Layout

2M Yagi Element Layout (Courtesy M2 Antenna Systems, Inc.)

Next came the assembly of the driven element and associated balun. The location of the shorting bars on the Driven Element Assembly is important in order to get a proper match between the feedline and the antenna.

2M Yagi Driven Element

2M Yagi Driven Element

The 2M18XXX has a long boom (36 1/2 ft.) and requires a truss support. The picture below shows the boom truss support system after it is assembled. The standard mast plate and hardware supplied with this antenna by M2 Antenna Systems will accommodate up to a 2″ mast. We will be using a 3″ mast so M2 supplied a custom mast plate and a truss support that clamps directly to our 3″ mast. To make the antenna easier to test, I first assembled it with the 2″ hardware so that I could test it without attaching it to the mast.

2M Yagi Boom Support Truss

2M Yagi Boom Support Truss

Here is a picture of the completed 2M18XXX. It is an extremely well built antenna and it should perform well once it is installed at the 110 ft + level on our tower.

Completed 2M Yagi

Completed 2M Yagi

I am going to move onto the construction of the first of our SteppIR DB36 antennas next. I will provide a post covering this step of our project next.

– Fred (AB1OC)