Itinerant Ham

Home » 2014 » January

Monthly Archives: January 2014

Logs Uploaded

I uploaded yesterday’s logs to LOTW, eqsl, Clublog and to Buzz, NI5DX. It was a fun day mostly on RTTY. 70 DXCC since we arrived . Thank you 73 de 9H5G/C6A

Is it Greedy to..?

Is it greedy to work split on 17m? It’s a question I’ve been kicking around in my head for the last few days.

I have no hesitation in calling ‘CQ 5 up’ on 10m since it’s a huge band and it would be rare not to be able to find some space. 17m, however, is a different kettle of fish. Recently it’s been very busy and sometimes hard to find space to work simplex let alone split. The pile ups and band conditions have been such that it would really have been nice to work a split and waaaay more productive but I’m very conscious that it’s a crowded band and there’s always an inner dilemma as to whether to jump in with both feet and start off split or not. I also had a suggestion from a caller during one of the pile ups that was becoming hard to mange that we would be better off split. I agreed and had already taken a QSX to try to find a nearby space – without success.

I find this question most challenging since I was calling a station on 17m a few months ago that was working split very efficiently. The sage advice of many DXpeditions is to start split and stay that way. Certainly, it means that you don’t have the problem of ‘QSX while I find a frequency’. It was working very well for this station. However, that day, there was a very voluble Irish station that decided it was unacceptable to run split on a crowded band and made his point well known by calling CQ and then working several stations. So it became a battle of rudeness.

I don’t like confrontation and when that kind of thing happens, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. It’s meant to be a hobby. When a frequency is in use, we’re meant to move on and find another to work on not just elbow our way in. It’s just the same when we’re in a crowd, we space ourselves out to find out personal space which is fine till we have our 8 children with us that all need our attention.

Why do I say that? Working a pileup is like attending to the competing demands of all your children at once and we each have developed ways of dealing with them so peace is restored. But my question is really what does the crowd do when I take my children out in public? Do they give me space to manage my family in or do they insist that I take up no more space than they would and crowd us all into one spot. I’d like to venture that we’d give the family a bit of space so it can mange better. After all when a mother duck leads it’s gaggle of ducklings across the road, the traffic screeches to a halt and everyone says ‘aaawwww cute’ – apart from the very rare Irishman who runs them over calling ‘CQ’.

Logs Uploaded

LOTW, eqsl, Clublog and Buzz, NI5DX all have the latest logs now. Thank you for your patience in the pile ups – it makes it so much easier to handle.

73 de 9H5G/C6A

The Danfoss Compressor

Danfoss make an enormous number of compressors. They are everywhere in cooling machinery. They are especially prevalent in boats where they are by far the most common refrigerator compressor.

What the heck? So why is that of interest the average ham radio operator. Well the answer is simple, they’re also very well known as a significant source of QRM.

So why does that matter to me? I’m operating for part of my stay in the Bahamas at stocking island which forms the north east coast of Elizabeth Harbour. As the winter progresses, more and more boats arrive to pass a few weeks in the sun. These are cruising yachts and most have refrigerators. The west coast of Stocking island is where I have been operating and the bay with the dock seems to attract the boats.20140116-212003.jpg
20140116-210814.jpg
This has been very convenient until recently but as more and more boats arrive the steady ‘chirp’ of the Danfoss compressor has become more and more problematic. When they all get going its a bit like a summers evening in the Mediterranean with cicadas. Although they are more noticeable on the lower bands, the QRM extends as far as 17m where it will change a quite workable QSO into a nightmare. Worse still, the fridges are thermostatically controlled so you might think you have found a quiet frequency only to get nicely settled into a pileup when Mr Danfoss decides it’s time to spoil your fun. I hope this explains why sometimes I give a 5/7 (just above the noise floor most of the time recently) and then sometimes struggle to work the station. It was particularly bad today working Europe and eventually I had to give up. So as more and more boats arrive, I am considering, in the interests of productivity, moving my QTH a little further away.

I have a new QTH scoped out but this one does not have a dock although the takeoff for Europe is slightly more favourable. Another downside is that there is no convenient tree within reach of the length of coax I have with me. That is somewhat offset by the fact that is on the local nudist beach so there may be some compensations. No – don’t ask I am not doing SSTV!

A Hiking We Will Go!

Sunday was a calmer day here in the Bahamas so I decided to get going early in order to try to work Europe on 10m. My previous QTH has a small hill in the way and I wanted to give Europe the best shot I could.

20140115-190626.jpg

In retrospect, I didn’t get going early enough but more of that later.

I decided to go to the tip of Stocking Island on a cliff that has an uninterrupted takeoff for Europe. I had already scoped out the site on no walk. The terrain was not to steep but it turned out to be quite challenging to set up the spiderpole even although the wind was very light.

20140115-190900.jpg

20140115-190921.jpg

The problem is that the rock is eroded limestone and extremely rough and jagged. That meant that no matter how carefully I laid out the guy lines, they always seemed to catch on something when the pole was almost up. So I had to put it up and down maybe 5 or 6 times before I managed to get it vertical without snagging at least one of the guy lines. Eventually, I got it up to my satisfaction, connected the rig and battery and selected 10m only to find S8 noise 😦 Perhaps this wasn’t going to work out too well….

After a while I managed to work some of the strongest European stations, a selection of Caribbean stations, ZA and my friend Michael, 9H5DX from Malta. All in all, 87 QSOs in 95 minutes but it was quite hard work.

In retrospect, I learned a few lessons.
1. Start early – you don’t want to miss a band opening by not being ready. The struggle with the antenna cost me 1/2 an hour of operating.
2. Take plenty of water and some headache tablets. I had perspired way more than I had planned when putting up the antenna. I had a bottle of water with me but not nearly enough. The result was that I had a bad headache after about 45 minutes of operating and deteriorating conditions at the 90 minute point coupled with the pounding head forced me to go QRT.
3. Spiderpoles hold water. The spiderpole is a well finished piece of gear but it has a few downsides that are common to poles in general. In sub-tropical regions, the wind is salt-laden. The salt ends up on the pole. That’s fine until the pole has been up for a few days and you take it down and store it. When you take it out again, you start to extend it and find that it’s soaking wet – the salt has attracted moisture which has drained to the bottom of the pole. If, like me you have taped the bottom cup onto the pole, you decide to drain the pole and find there’s a cup of water in the bottom. Worse still, you now need to dry the pole with your Tshirt or the tape that holds the antenna won’t stick.

Well, that’s enough for now. It was still a fun morning on the radio and nice to work some friends, old and new.

73 for now!

Logs Uploaded

I have uploaded the logs from the last few days to LOTW, Eqsl, Clublog and, last but not least, to Buzz, NI5DX, my QSL manager who works his magic with the direct requests.

I had a lot of fun working you all and I apologise to everyone who didn’t get through. However, we have another 4 months or so so there’s still a lot of time.

73 from the Bahamas!

Digital Modes

I had intended to run RTTY and PSK while here in the Bahamas but a complete brain *art found me upgrading my computer to 8.1 Windows 8.1 over the Christmas period. The result was completely messed up screen resolution and the inability to recognise or configure my Signalink box.

Well, the screen resolution is still unresolved (note to self – never buy a laptop that relies on a custom video driver from the computer manufacturer – in this case Samsung. Strange how the little sign in the computer store never tells you that!)

Happily, I have now been able to configure the system so that my Signalink box works. (This post makes my sound like a complete numpty – you’d never know I used to write software for a living…) anyway, the upshot of that is that finally I have been able to do some RTTY and PSK so more of that to come.

I got a request to do JT65 but I’m still figuring out how since the JT65HF software thinks my call is incorrect and does not permit the “/”. It’s written for the normal DX prefix which does not apply in the Bahamas (C6). Temporary callsigns in the Bahamas are /C6A. So I need to find some other software that might accommodate the call. Any hints, please let me know!

73 de 9H5G/C6A