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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Vessels In Distress

We didn’t make it out yet this morning. We’ve had a listening watch and been helping coordinate the recovery of a small fishing boat. Here in the Bahamas, small boats with only a single outboard travel great distances and sometimes things go wrong. In this instance, he said he blew a cylinder on Friday (yesterday) and had been drifting all night without food or water. He was outside cell phone range but someone answered his call and we eventually got a position from him and passed it to the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue for action. 

Happily, some hours later, he managed to get the engine running again albeit slowly and began heading somewhere. I say somewhere since it was not possible to find out where since he could no longer hear us. 

Another incident, potentially more serious occurred on Wednesday night. We were on a maritime net when a new boat came up and asked for assistance in contacting another boat. This boat was out in the Atlantic and had lost power to his Diesel engine and was unable to restart it. Happily he had a Ham call (DL) and was able to make use of the Maritime Mobile Net to keep people informed as to his situation and to get advice and help.

There are an amazing number of hams out there who contribute in one way or another to the safety and wellbeing of their communities and much further abroad. Just another way that we can help each other.

So, my apologies for not being QRV this last day in the Berry Islands. Since we have a long overnight trip, I’m going to rest up for the remainder of the day and hopefully be QRV in the Bimini Group (NA-048) later in the week.

Little Harbour Cay – NA-054

I activated this cay again this year from the. Shelter on top of the hill. It has good takeoff for both NA and Europe. Unfortunately, after the first day of our activity, the sun decided to let go a huge magnetic storm and the K9 conditions wiped out all of one day and much of the next. However, we got on and made the QSOs that we could.

Here are a few pictures of the QTH and the station.





Future Plans



Our time here in C6 is coming to an end but it’s not over yet. I’m off out to look for a QTH on Cockroach Cay NA-054 in a few minutes with the expectation that I might activate it on Saturday. Then on Saturday night we will sail overnight to Cat Cay, NA-048, the Bimini Group. Don’t expect me to be QRV on Sunday lol!

We will have a few days there waiting for the right wind and then we will leave C6 for this year. I know there a bunch of you waiting for Bimini so as usual, I’ll announce it on Twitter when I go out.

It’s Been A Day – as they say! lt Harbour Cay – NA-054

We got back to Lt Harbour Cay this morning and the XYL and I took a walk and established all was well at the camp QTH so I went back and set up the station Here are some pictures…







So after a quick lunch, I was QRV on 17m SSB and I called and I called and eventually someone answered and the mahem began – no, seriously it was fun. But then it was like someone just flipped a switch and Europe disappeared along with most of NA too! :(. So i tuned about and found some RTTY activity and started RTTY and a few nice contacts later, my K3 said the battery voltage was low – already??

Well, it didn’t seem low except under load and then I felt the leads – the fuse holders were warm! Hmm. Not happy! You see things weren’t really going to plan since I’d got up – well, since the middle of the night when I woke up and couldn’t sleep. Then when I set up the station I found the SWR on the 17m vertical dipole (my chosen weapon for the day) was approaching 2:1 😳.  I persevered and PJ4DX confirmed that I had some RF in my audio which normally happens when I have a slightly high SWR on 17m. Either that or something in the K3 got dislodged when the stand collapsed when I was setting up.

Anyway, having hot power leads brought me to a grinding halt so it was back to the boat to check things over. No problems found with the leads?? Zero resistance, no corrosion on the fuses – all bright and shiny. #confused.  

Anyway, I recharged the battery and reminded myself that I needed to top up the hydraulic fluid in the steering of the boat. As I finished that, I manged to tip 1/2 litre of hydraulic fluid onto the deck when I carelessly knocked over the bottle.

Having cleared all that mess up, my wife reminded me that we had guests tomorrow and she needed to get food from the freezer at which time she told me that the freezer had defrosted itself! Oh dear. Miles from anywhere and the prospect of lots of rapidly decomposing food concentrates the mind! I checked everything out and diagnosed the compressor controller had met a premature end – this is the very same controller that produces so much QRN all over the bands if the boats are too close to the QTH. Happily, I had rescued a 15 year old compressor from the dump in Georgetown, NA-001 and I took the controller off it and it worked! Hallelujah – we will have food to eat in the coming weeks!

I still need to get to the bottom of the power leads issue, but I have declared the working day over and resorted to medicinal doses of red wine – hoping tomorrow will be a much better day 😄. 

Oh, did I mention, just a tad more solar flux would be nice, please?

DX Gold – Please Share…

I found this article on a reflector this morning.  It describes the problems they had at K1N and the techniques used to try to work around the problems.  I have encountered many of these problems – especially on Friday when I packed up the radio feeling quite miserable having had to work so hard for so to pick out so few stations from the persistent callers despite using several of the techniques below.

It’s a good read so hopefully it will help us all work more DX. I urge the widest possible distribution of this article as possible (please share it). It would seem that At least some of Europe needs to change to improve and I strongly concur.

From Glen W0GJ operating at K1N (as reported in the “Gray Line Report” of
the Twin Cities ARC:

GOOD ADVICE FROM SOMEONE WHO WAS THERE !

Feedback and Lessons 

I learn a lot from every DXpedition I´ve ever been on. I´ve put together a
summary of my two weeks of operation from Navassa. I´m sure all of my
teammates will concur with what I´ve observed and learned. European stations
complained a lot for the “short time” we worked Europe. QUITE THE
CONTRARY!!!! This is a MOST interesting point of discussion! If you look at 
the times in our logs, we spent MORE time working Europe than working North 
America.

Our Club Log statistics, however, show that North America had 58% of the
contacts, Europe 32% and Asia 6%. WHY, then, if MORE time was spent working
Europe, was Europe about half the number of North American contacts??? 

Simple answer: RATE. Period. 

When you listened to us working North America, we could cruise right along at
300-350 Qs/hour, or more! I often saw the “rate meter” hanging around
500-600 Qs/hour. (I heard that someone on the team was clocked at 1,200
Qs/hour….. on 160m!!!!) When working Europe, we would be extremely lucky to
see rates of 100 Qs/hour. Euro-pean signals are as strong, if not stronger than
North American signals, in the Caribbean. The west coast U.S. is much harder to
work than Europe. South American signals were among the strongest! 

Here is a note I received after I returned home. It is from a well-known DXer 
in Europe: 

“I listened to XXX working US pile-up on 80m. Fantastic, at least 10 QSOs per
minute, and when he turned to listen for Europe, the rate was only 10% of that.
Same on the other bands and modes.” 

The problem is THROUGHPUT. Rate. Efficiency. Cooperation. Whatever you want to
call it. For the time we spent working Europe, we should have MORE contacts 
than
with North America, but that did not happen. It COULD have happened! 

No one more than me would like to have seen the European Qs outnumber North
American Qs. For the “next one,” 

I have some suggestions to help DXers, including myself, and particularly DXers
in Europe, to be more successful. Here is what I see are the issues: (This
applies to US hams as well for more distant DX operations – N8PR)

1. Not listening to the DX operator. 

2. LISTEN to and LEARN the rate and rhythm of the operator. 

3. LISTEN to WHERE the operator is listening, and to his PATTERN of moving his
VFO. You MUST KNOW where he will listen next if you expect him to hear you! How
simple is that? It is part of the hunt… and the fun of DXing…. and getting
rewarded! 

4. Learn to use your radio (split/simplex, etc.). 

5. Do NOT jump to and call on the frequency of the last station worked. The DX
station will NOT hear you, because the din is total unintelligible chaos. Move
UP or DOWN from that frequency, as we on our end were continuously tuning up or
down after each Q. So, if one jumps onto the last-worked frequency, we will not
hear you, even if you were the only one there, as we have already tuned off 
that frequency. 

6. TURN OFF ALL SPEECH PROCESSORS AND COMPRESSION! Do NOT overdrive ALC. There
is a night and day difference in listening to NA/AS and EU pileups. The 
horrible distortion makes it impossible to copy many, if not most European 
callsigns. I don´t know what it is, but I would bet that mic gain and 
compression controls are “firewall forward,” all the way clockwise. There were 
MANY loud stations that we did not work, COULD NOT WORK, simply because we 
could NOT understand their terribly distorted callsign. Have you ever listened 
to yourself in a pileup? We gave many stations a “19” signal report. Very loud, 
but extremely unintelligible! You want to have IN-TELLIGABILITY, not 
distortion! 

7. Give your callsign ONCE and ONLY ONCE! DO NOT KEEP CALLING! Call. Listen.
Call again, if needed. Listen. Listen. We would tune on by those who did not
stop calling. We are looking for RATE and getting stations into the log. You
should be, too!!! 

8. If the DX station comes back with your call-sign, DO NOT REPEAT YOUR
CALLSIGN, AS WE ALREADY KNOW IT, or we would not have answered you. Many
stations (in all modes) would repeat their callsign two, three and even four
times or more! This was so frustrating at times, that we would just move on to
the next station. We ONLY want to hear “5NN” or “59” from you. Anything
else is a total waste of time. Let me repeat, if we come back with YOUR
callsign, DO NOT REPEAT it back to us! (Did I repeat myself?….. forgive me!) 
It CHEATS others out of a chance to get into the log. Only repeat your callsign 
if it needs correction, and then let us know it is a correction. Our 
propagation windows and time on the island are limited, and we need to maximize 
the opportunity for everyone. SPEED and EFFICIENCY ARE OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE! 

9. LISTEN to the DX station come back to some-one. IF THERE IS NOTHING CLOSE TO
OR RESEMBLING YOUR CALLSIGN…… SHUT UP! SHUT UP!!!!! This needless
interference slows things up, and lessens YOUR chance of getting into the log!
We are focused on the callsign we heard and do not hear you, only your QRM. 

10. Take some time to listen to the next DXpedition working North America, and
listen to the rate and rhythm of the operator. It is fast, quick and efficient,
and more people get into the log! Then listen to him work Europe. The wise
operator will catch on quickly to what it takes to get into the log! 

11. SPREAD OUT! Our highest rates (for any continent) were working the center
and far edges of the pileup, where there was less QRM. Weak stations were much
easier to work than loud stations in the middle of the pileup. If we say,
“Listening 200 to 210,” 70% of the pileup sits exactly on 200 in an
unintelligible din, 25% of the pileup sits on 210 and is almost as bad. 5% of
the pileup will be spread out somewhere between 201 and 209, making them very
quickly put into the log. S P R E A D O U T ! ! ! ! Dare to be different! Dare
to be heard! 

12. LOUD is NOT better! MORE AUDIO/COMPRESSION is NOT better! Finding the spot
to be HEARD is the MOST important thing you can do to get into the log. My
biggest thrill (and I´m sure on both ends) is finding the lone weak station
and getting him into the log, quickly. 

13. LISTEN to the DX operator´s INSTRUCTIONS! As we would constantly tune our
VFO, if we find a clear spot, we would often say, “33” (meaning for YOU to
transmit on 14.033, 28.433, etc). A few would listen, and get into the log very
quickly. You cannot hear these hints if you keep calling calling calling 
calling……… Many times, I would say, “listening 200 to 210,” and after a
while, would say, “listening 240 to 250.” Often 30 to 45 minutes, even and
HOUR later, I would find MANY still calling on the original “200 to
210″….. of course, they would never show up in our log, as I was not
listening there. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN and LISTEN SOME MORE. The less you
transmit, the better chance you have of get-ting into the log. You must know
where I am listening, if you really want to get into the log. 

14. LISTEN to the “good” guys who make it into the log. Study how they do
it! It is not easy to find the “good” guys, as they are quick and efficient
and are in the log and gone, long before anyone can find them. They don´t
transmit much. They are listening. 

15. LISTEN to the “bad” guys. It won´t take you long to find them. They
keep calling and calling. They aren´t listening to find out where to transmit,
or they wouldn´t be calling. How simple is that? Being LOUD helps, but not if
the DX is not hearing you! 

If you don´t want to get into the DX log, just ignore the above suggestions,
and keep calling, calling, calling….. I wish you the best of luck. You´ll
need it. 

Hoffmans Cay NA-054

i operated here yesterday and this morning for a while. Not a bad place but with far better takeoff for the West than Europe. That said it was good to work a bunch of European stations this morning with generally 55 to 57 reports.

Here are some pictures of the QTH.



Berry Islands NA-054 – QRX Europe? 😥

I love it here in the Berrys. It’s quiet, remote, and there is no QRM. Last year when I was here, I saw 4 other boats in a week or so. 

Little Harbour Cay Sunset

Yesterday, we sailed from Nassau to Bonds Cay where we anchored overnight to wait for the tide so we could get to my target QTH of Little Harbour Cay. This morning we weighed the anchor and proceeded to Little Harbour Cay and anchored in a fairly large bay at the North end of the island – just opposite the dock where I land with my radio stuff.

Perfect. Just one boat, my friend Michael and his partner. So there would be little or no interference from fridges and freezers. We both have marine SSBs on board so we have done what we can to suppress our fridge and freezer compressors (see my post from last year on the Danfoss Compressor). These compressors put out some terrible QRM, particularly on 17m.

You can well imagine my distress when another 4 boats descended on the anchorage and anchored right next to us, nut more importantly, very close to my operating point on the dock. A quick listen on 17m and 10m suggested that this would be a problem so the long and the short of it is that we decided to move. 

We’re now at Hoffmans Cay a few miles north of Lt. Harbour Cay. The problem here is that the takeoff isn’t good for Europe – it’s great for the Pacific and NA but there is some high ground (20m) between me and Europe. I will give it a go tomorrow morning (Friday) and see how it is but its not ideal with a vertical dipole. If it doesn’t work out, I will have to move the station and antennas between here and Goulding Cay, which has a much better takeoff for Europe, each day and that will be tedious and take time. 😁

I’m hoping that our interlopers will “push off” and I can return to Lt. Harbour Cay on Monday when the weather will let them continue ear journey. Maybe it will be earlier – I hope so!

In the mean time – 73 and here’s hoping 10m will be going strong tomorrow!