Wednesday 28 October 2015

CLE 199 Results

With the recent mammoth coronal hole finally rotating out of view earlier last week, geomagnetic activity dropped to the lowest level it has been for some time. The K index as well as the DST, couldn't have picked a better weekend to improve, just in time for CLE 199. Conditions below the broadcast band proved to be better than normal in what has been a rather poor month of October propagation. It may be short-lived, as another large coronal hole is now rotating into view on the sun's eastern limb, along with a new active sunspot region ... good news for 10m fans this time of the year, but not so good for LFers.


:Issued: 2015 Oct 27 0010 UTC
# Prepared by the US Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Space Weather Prediction Center
#          Geophysical Alert Message
Solar-terrestrial indices for 26 October follow.
Solar flux 106 and estimated planetary A-index 3.
The estimated planetary K-index at 0000 UTC on 27 October was 0.
No space weather storms were observed for the past 24 hours.
No space weather storms are predicted for the next 24 hours.

                              =-=-=-=- Trends -=-=-=-=-=--
Date 25   25   25   25   25   26   26   26   26   26   26   26   26   27
UTC  0900 1200 1500 1800 2100 0000 0300 0600 0900 1200 1500 1800 2100 0000
SFlx 106  106  106  106  106  106  106  106  106  106  106  106  106  106
A-in 11   11   11   11   9    8    8    8    8    8    8    8    3    3
K-in 3    2    3    2    1    1    1    0    1    1    0    0    0    0

Current Solar information 
available at

The following NDB stations were logged here using the Perseus SDR along with my inverted-L and 10' x 20' loop. CLE 199 was an 'A-B-C' event, calling only for countries or states / provinces beginning with those letters.

Time    Freq   ID       Location
24 13:00 209 CYT Yakataga Apt, ALS
24 13:00 212 CGL Coghlan Island - Juneau, ALS
24 13:00 223 AFE Kake Apt, ALS
24 13:00 229 AKW Klawock Apt, ALS
24 13:00 233 ALJ Hinchinbrook Island, ALS
24 13:00 245 HNS Haines, ALS
26 12:00 251 OSE Bethel Apt, ALS
24 13:00 266 ICK Annette Island, ALS
26 13:00 275 CZF Cape Romanzof LRRS Apt, ALS
24 14:00 281 CRN Sparrevohn LRRS, ALS
26 14:00 338 CMQ Campbell Lake (Anchorage), ALS
26 13:00 341 ELF Cold Bay, ALS
24 13:00 350 VTR McGrath, ALS
26 13:00 355 AUB King Salmon, ALS
24 13:00 358 SIT Sitka, ALS
24 13:00 372 FPN Petersburg, ALS
24 13:00 376 PVQ Deadhorse, ALS
26 14:00 379 IWW Kenai, ALS
24 13:00 382 JNR Unalakleet, ALS
24 11:00 385 OCC Yakutat, ALS
24 13:00 390 HBT Sand Point, ALS
24 13:00 390 AES Northway, ALS
24 13:00 391 EEF Sisters Island, ALS
24 13:00 394 RWO Kodiak, ALS
24 13:00 396 CMJ Ketchikan IAP, ALS
24 14:00 404 GCR Cordova, ALS
24 13:00 414 IME Sitka Apt, ALS
24 13:00 429 BTS Dillingham, ALS
24 14:00 525 ICW Nenana, ALS
24 13:00 529 SQM Big Level Isl, ALS

24 04:00 207 PY Fort Chipewyan, AB, CAN
24 04:00 215 ZAB Edmonton (Intl Apt), AB, CAN
24 14:00 221 QU Grande Prairie, AB, CAN
26 12:00 225 X5 Vegreville, AB, CAN
26 00:20 227 9X Brooks Apt, AB, CAN
24 04:00 230 VG Vermilion, AB, CAN
26 12:00 234 3Y Donnelly, AB, CAN
24 04:00 239 OJ Footner Lake, AB, CAN
24 04:00 241 YLL Lloydminster, AB, CAN
24 04:00 248 QL Lethbridge, AB, CAN
24 04:00 254 ZYC Calgary, AB, CAN
24 04:00 266 XD Edmonton, AB, CAN
26 09:00 272 YLB Lac La Biche, AB, CAN
24 04:00 287 PE Peace River, AB, CAN
24 04:00 292 ZET Edmonton, AB, CAN
24 04:00 295 8C Fairview, AB, CAN
24 04:00 299 TV Turner Valley, AB, CAN
24 04:00 304 FH Mc Leod, AB, CAN
24 04:00 305 Z1 Three Hills, AB, CAN
26 12:00 307 M5 Manning, AB, CAN
24 04:00 308 ZZD Edmonton, AB, CAN
24 04:00 311 9Y Pincher Creek, AB, CAN
24 04:00 328 5J Coronation, AB, CAN
24 04:00 329 X2 Athabasca, AB, CAN
24 04:00 332 XH Medicine Hat, AB, CAN
24 04:00 334 P2 Wetaskiwin, AB, CAN
24 04:00 338 ZU Whitecourt, AB, CAN
24 04:00 343 YZH Slave Lake, AB, CAN
26 04:00 344 YOP Rainbow Lake, AB, CAN
26 00:29 344 YC Calgary, AB, CAN
24 04:00 353 5F Chevron, AB, CAN
26 05:00 361 E3 Wabasca, AB, CAN
24 04:00 362 6T Foremost, AB, CAN
24 04:00 379 ZEG Edmonton Intl, AB, CAN
24 04:00 385 3M Drayton Valley, AB, CAN
24 04:00 388 MM Fort Mc Murray, AB, CAN
24 04:00 388 JW Jumping Pound Creek, AB, CAN
24 04:00 398 YOD Cold Lake, AB, CAN
24 04:00 405 9G Sundre, AB, CAN
24 04:00 405 2K Camrose, AB, CAN
24 04:00 408 Z7 Claresholm, AB, CAN
26 08:00 414 8M Elk Point, AB, CAN

24 13:00 206 SOW Show Low, AZ, USA
24 12:00 338 RYN Tucson, AZ, USA
24 13:00 403 AZC Colorado City, AZ, USA
24 11:00 410 DAO Sierra Vista, AZ, USA

26 04:00 376 ZIN Matthew Town, BAH

24 04:00 200 YJ Sidney Island, BC, CAN
26 08:00 200 YDL Dease Lake, BC, CAN
24 04:00 200 UAB Anahim Lake, BC, CAN
24 04:00 203 ZKI Kitimat, BC, CAN
24 04:00 203 YBL Campbell River, BC, CAN
24 04:00 206 EF Castlegar, BC, CAN
24 04:00 214 LU Abbotsford, BC, CAN
24 20:38 218 PR Prince Rupert, BC, CAN
24 04:00 223 YKA Kamloops, BC, CAN
24 04:00 227 CG Castlegar, BC, CAN
26 00:33 230 YD Smithers, BC, CAN
24 04:00 236 YZA Ashcroft, BC, CAN
24 04:00 242 ZT Port Hardy, BC, CAN
24 20:42 242 XC Cranbrook, BC, CAN
26 00:34 246 ZXJ Fort St. John, BC, CAN
24 20:46 248 ZZP Queen Charlotte Is, BC, CAN
24 04:00 250 2J Grand Forks, BC, CAN
24 04:00 251 YCD Nanaimo, BC, CAN
24 04:00 257 LW Kelowna, BC, CAN
24 04:00 260 ZXS Prince George, BC, CAN
24 04:00 260 YSQ Atlin, BC, CAN
24 04:00 261 D6 Fairmont Hot Springs, BC, CAN
26 00:15 266 VR Vancouver, BC, CAN
24 04:00 269 YK Castlegar, BC, CAN
24 04:00 272 XS Prince George, BC, CAN
26 13:00 278 1U Masset, BC, CAN
24 04:00 290 YYF Penticton, BC, CAN
24 04:00 293 MB Mill Bay, BC, CAN
24 04:00 302 6K Vernon, BC, CAN
24 04:00 312 UNT Naramata, BC, CAN
24 04:00 325 YJQ Bella Bella, BC, CAN
24 04:00 326 XJ Fort St. John, BC, CAN
24 04:00 326 DC Princeton, BC, CAN
24 04:00 332 XT Terrace, BC, CAN
24 04:00 332 WC White Rock, BC, CAN
24 04:00 344 XX Abbotsford, BC, CAN
24 04:00 350 NY Enderby, BC, CAN
24 04:00 356 ON Penticton, BC, CAN
24 04:00 359 YQZ Quesnel, BC, CAN
24 04:00 359 YAZ Tofino, BC, CAN
24 04:00 364 4D Helmet, BC, CAN
24 04:00 368 ZP Sandspit, BC, CAN
24 04:00 368 SX Cranbrook, BC, CAN
24 04:00 374 EX Rutland, BC, CAN
24 04:00 378 AP Mayne Island, BC, CAN
24 04:00 382 YPW Powell River, BC, CAN
24 04:00 382 YE Fort Nelson, BC, CAN
24 04:00 385 WL Williams Lake, BC, CAN
24 04:00 389 YWB Kelowna, BC, CAN
24 04:00 394 DQ Dawson Creek, BC, CAN
24 04:00 400 QQ Comox, BC, CAN
24 04:00 414 YZK Harper Ranch, BC, CAN

24 13:00 203 TCY Tracy, CA, USA
24 13:00 205 COR Corcoran, CA, USA
24 13:00 209 HGT Hunter Liggett - Tusi AHP, CA, USA
24 13:00 233 LG Seal Beach, CA, USA
24 13:00 335 CC Concord, CA, USA
24 13:00 344 FCH Chandler, CA, USA
24 10:00 370 PAI Pacoima - Whiteman Apt, CA, USA
24 11:00 374 LV Livermore, CA, USA
24 11:00 385 MR Pacific Grove, CA, USA
24 11:00 397 SB San Bernardino, CA, USA
24 11:00 404 MOG Montegue, CA, USA

24 04:00 415 CBC Cayman Brac, CYM

24 13:00 209 ITR Burlington, CO, USA
24 07:00 260 AP Sedalia, CO, USA
24 07:00 329 TAD Trinidad, CO, USA
26 11:00 373 TF Pueblo, CO, USA
24 11:00 392 BAJ Sterling, CO, USA
24 11:00 400 FN Fort Collins, CO, USA
24 11:00 407 CO Fountain, CO, USA

Sunday 25 October 2015

West Coast 630m Growth

The Canadian west coast contingent of stations on 630m continues to slowly expand, with Mark, VA7MM and Toby, VE7CNF now operational at 'DX capable' power levels.

Both Mark and Toby have been refining their antenna systems with an eye towards the upcoming winter season as well as the November 'crossband' activity weekend ... both stations were heard testing this week and are sounding very strong at my Mayne Island location.

Toby has sent a picture of his antenna loading coil and variometer scheme, shown below.

"You can see the white slider knob at the lower left, which goes through a slot in the outer pipe and screws into the end of the inner pipe. The white wire at the right goes to the matching transformer, and the black high-voltage wire at the left goes to the antenna. The coil is wound with #14 so it can handle some power. There are ventilation holes around the pipe and at the ends, but at 200W I did not notice any warming. A regular rotating variometer may have slightly lower losses, but it would be larger and I wanted to make my tuner box small so I can hide it near the trees."

Mark also sent some pictures of his recent handiwork, showing the simple loading coil and tuning system presently in use at his station. His present plans call for something capable of handling power in the 100 watt range and, although using smaller gauge wire, the loading coil seems to handle it just fine. Like Toby, he is using a 'sliding variometer' and a toroidal autotransformer for impedance matching to 50 ohms. Mark will be running ~ 100 watts into a 100' vertical wire with top-loading.

It is wonderful to see more new stations arriving on the band but the new activity seems to be coming from VE7 only ... how interesting it would be to have stations in VE6, the prairies and especially from Ontario, which has many more hams than any of the other provinces. The opportunities presented to Canadian amateurs by the new band are both boundless and challenging and there is so much that can be learned by 'jumping in'!

Another western amateur has caught the 630m bug, this one from the U.S.A. Steve, KK7UV, in Montana, has been busy building new antennas as well as a new GW3UEP transmitter. Operating with an experimental licence, WH2XNV, Steve has been putting a nice CW signal up this way during the evenings and is all set for the winter and, hopefully, for the fast-approaching day when the boys on the other side of the border get full access to 630m as a ham band. All of us up here very much look forward to working our U.S. counterparts very soon.

Steve's new antenna consists of an 81' vertical wire, top-loaded with a 3-wire 68' x 8' tophat. His ground system now has over 4,000' of radials, ranging in size from 40'-130'.

Steve also reports modifying his dual-FET (parallelled) GW3UEP transmitter from the original solenoid-wound coils to toroidal cores, increasing efficiency from 74% to 77%.

As well, he also went to a single-FET (per the original design) and garnered a further increase in efficiency, now at 86% and 82 watts out ... plenty of power to do some useful work on the band. It's wonderful to see how 630 meters brings out the 'experimenter' in all of us. He also reports that he's "having a bunch of fun at this ... "!

If homebrewing is your main interest, all of the 630m stations that I'm familiar with are using home-built transmitters. Maybe you like tinkering with antennas? This band is perfect for the design and development of small, yet effective, backyard antennas ... most will be surprised at how little is needed to radiate a usable signal on 630m. Perhaps propagation is your main interest? There is still much to be learned about the capabilities of our stations, operating at amateur radio power levels, in the MF band.

As mentioned before, we are really very fortunate here in Canada, to have this amazingly interesting part of the radio spectrum made available to us ... let's try and use it, from coast to coast and everywhere in between.

VE6, VE5, VE4, VE3, VE2 and VE1 ... the band needs you!

Thursday 22 October 2015

Hunting For NDBs In CLE 199

'ZVR-368kHz' at Vancouver International

It's time for another CLE (Co-ordinated Listening Event) once again! For you low-frequency buffs, another challenge awaits. This month's activity covers the range of  190 - 1740 kHz.

CLE 199 is an 'A-B-C' activity ... a little different from the norm, and listeners are requested to report NDB's from countries, states or provinces, beginning with the letter A, B & C only. Listeners in western NA will find plenty of targets but it might be a challenge for those on the eastern side.

A list of eligible 'A-B-C' entities can be found at the bottom. Additionally, a list of all of the North American targets in this frequency range can be found in the RNA database, while targets for European DXers will be found here ... either chose the 'Seeklist' button or search for the desired state, province or country for detailed frequency information.

A nice target for this CLE is 'ZVR' (368kHz) shown above. The 20W locator from Vancouver International, has been heard from Hawaii to North Carolina. It is located a little east of YVR, in a boggy farmland region.

From CLE coordinator Brian Keyte (G3SIA) comes the following reminder:

Hello all

Almost time for our 11th 'Countries' Listening Event. Whether you are a
regular, or have never sent a CLE log before, your log will be very welcome.

Days: Friday 23 October - Monday 26 October
Times: Start and end at midday, your local time.
Targets: 'Normal' NDBs (190 - 1740 kHz) - not DGPS, Navtex
or Amateur - located in the Radio Countries whose
codes start with A, B or C.

These are our 2-letter codes for the Provinces/States of Canada and USA
and our 3-letter codes elsewhere, including AUS (Australia) -all its States.

The full list of all qualifying countries is given at the end of this email.
Detailed seeklists are available from the Rxx database - just select
SEEKLIST on the CLE page,
Martin has also added a 'Seeklist Map' facility there too.

If you are in the east of N. America it may be quite a tough challenge.
Most other listeners should be in luck this time, including several who
usually have a hard time.

Please send your CLE log to the List (no attachments and a plain text email
if possible) with CLE199 at the start of its title. Show on each log line:

# The Date (or Day No. 23 to 26)
# The Time in UTC** (the day changes at 00:00 UTC).
# kHz - the nominal published frequency, if known.
# The Call Ident.

**Many of us will be changing our clocks by one hour this weekend
but UTC time continues without any change.

Please show the above main items FIRST on each line of your log.
Any other optional details such as Country, Location, Distance, etc.
go LATER in the same line.
If you send any interim logs, please also send a 'Final' (complete) log.
Always tell us your own location and brief details of the equipment
that you were using.

Do make sure that your log has arrived  by 09:00 UTC on
Wednesday 28 October at the very latest.
I hope to complete making the combined results on that day.

Good listening.
Enjoy the hunt!
From: Brian Keyte G3SIA ndbcle'at'
Location: Surrey, SE England (CLE co-ordinator)

(Reminder: You could use any one remote receiver for your loggings,
stating its location and owner - with their permission if required.
A remote listener may NOT also use another receiver, whether local
or remote, to obtain further loggings for the same CLE)

These listening events serve several purposes. They:
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the online database can be kept up-to-date
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range
  • will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations
  • will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working
  • give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed

Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event. If you are a member of the ndblist Group, results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

The very active Yahoo ndblist Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other listeners in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome.

If you are contemplating getting started on 630m, listening for NDBs is an excellent way to test out your receive capabilities as there are several NDBs located near this part of the spectrum.

You need not be an ndblist member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers. 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the ndblist or e-mailed to either myself or CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

EXTRACTS FROM OUR COUNTRY LIST Last revised: 23 Oct 2006
( )



AB Alberta, Canada
BC British Columbia, Canada

AL Alabama, USA
AZ Arizona, USA
AR Arkansas, USA
CA California, USA
CO Colorado, USA
CT Connecticut, USA












AUS AUSTRALIA ( all States: AT, NW, NN, QD, SA, TA, VI, WE )



Tuesday 20 October 2015

Challenging Topband

The 'Half-Sloper'
My recent 'topband' blog prompted me to think about some of the more interesting 160m contacts that I've made over the years. Although my first contacts were made just after getting my ticket in the early 60's, I really didn't have more than a couple of watts out of my modified Heathkit DX-20 ... coupled to a short 'longwire', each contact from my mid-Vancouver location was more of a miracle than anything else.

When I purchased my first house in the suburbs in '74, I was finally able to put up a real antenna ... a 'half-sloper', fed from the top of my new 48' tower, along with an extensive set of radials running along the perimeters of my yard. I also hung both 80 and 40m half-slopers from the same feedpoint, giving me coverage on all three of the low bands.

Once the Japanese manufacturers started adding 160m coverage to the various lines of transceivers, the band really started to get popular, as up until that time, very few commercial transmitters covered 160m. Most of the E.F. Johnsons, the DX-100, and some of the late Drake radios were doing the heavy-lifting unless one was enterprising enough to homebrew or modify a rig for 160.

I immediately set out to work all 50 states from my suburban location, running a pair of 6146's at around 150 watts input. It took me a few winters to get them all, with Rhode Island being the most difficult, at #50.
My 160m W.A.S. certificate was #264.

Conditions always varied with the solar cycle but a surprising amount of DX was worked at my low power level. A couple of the more memorable contacts from those days were with H44IA in the Solomons and with VK9NS, on Norfolk Island.

H44IA was worked at 0426 local time in February. I recall calling several JA stations that morning with no response (I always found difficulty working JA on 160) and was more than surprised when the H44 came right back to my response to his CQ.

Jim Smith, VK9NS (SK), seemingly spent more time at various exotic locations than at home. Over the years I was able to work him on a number of his Pacific-island expeditions, but it was gratifying to finally catch him from another rare spot ... his home! This contact was in mid-July, right at sunrise.

I've worked a number of island expeditions over the years on topband, but one of the rarest was in the mid-Indian Ocean, FT5ZM, on Amsterdam Island ... also right at sunrise.

Another 'closer' island has always been a bit rare on 160, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba ... worked in mid- February, just after midnight.

In all of my years in the suburbs, I was never able to hear Europe on topband. It seemed that the noise-curtain surrounding my reasonably quiet location was still just too high for such 'over the pole' west coast treats. It wasn't until I moved to Mayne Island, off the SW coast of B.C., and re-installed my half-sloper, that the Europeans finally began to fill my log. Some nights, during solar-low years, the Europeans were workable before sunset ... on other nights, there were no signals other than Europeans, filling the band from 1800-1830, at times making the topband sound like 20m CW ... definitely not like the city.

4Z1UF was worked in February, just after 8PM local time while R1FJT in Franz Josef Land was worked right at sunset in late October.

Africa is always tough on the low bands but the solar-low years of Cycle 23 brought some amazingly good conditions to the west coast. The two new ones, below, were both worked in November of '08 at around 10PM local time, right at sunrise in Africa.

Learning the quirks of topband propagation is still an ongoing project but over the years, 160m has been my favorite wintertime hangout. With T2GC on Tuvalu Island, worked last week, my present 160m DXCC total stands at 156 worked and 155 confirmed.

If you're looking for something different, some new fun... a bit of an operating challenge ... I know you'll find it on topband!

Sunday 18 October 2015

The 'Stew'

Last night saw the October 'pre-Stew' 160 m CW contest. Technically, it's supposed to be a bit of a warm-up for the real 'Stew Perry Contest' (SP) in late December but it 's really just an excuse for 160m diehards to get back on their favorite winter-time band a bit earlier than normal. After a noisy summer with few DX opportunities, most topbanders are chomping at the bit for any kind of 160m action!

The 'Stew' is my favorite contest of the year and is probably one of the fairest in terms of scoring ... unlike many contests that favor location and ham density, everyone is on a level playing field in the SP. The contest exchange consists of Grid Locators only, and the number of points collected for each QSO is based upon the calculated distance between the two respective grids ... nothing could be fairer and it would be wonderful to see other contests adopt this scoring format.

Stew Perry, W1BB, was a very early proponent of the 'gentleman's' band and was instrumental in popularizing its recognition as a challenging part of the spectrum ... a part very capable of DX opportunities for those that liked to work for their reward. He organized regular Trans-Atlantic DX tests back in the 30's when few saw any merit in the 'topband' other than as a local ragchew band for phone operators. He produced a regular 'DX Bulletin', mailed free-of-charge to interested 160m operators, providing news and information on 160m activities around the world. He had a wonderful QTH, with his 160m station set up at a local lighthouse on the edge of the Atlantic ocean. Those that knew W1BB described him as a true 'gentleman', always willing to help out newcomers and share his vast knowledge of topband quirks with others. In 1976, W1BB was awarded 160m DXCC #1 ... proof that 160m was more than just a band for late night ragchewers.

My first 160m contact was made in 1964, as a teenager, using a poorly-modified Heathkit DX-20 and a VF-1 VFO. With my end-fed longwire, I struggled to work California, but recall the great sense of achievement of working on 'topband'! To make my 160m experience even more memorable, I even heard W1BB himself, late one Friday night, on A.M. phone! I was hooked, and ever since, 160m has been my favorite band to operate on in the winter months.

If you've not tried 160m, the winter months offer several wonderful contesting opportunities ... the ARRL 160m CW test in December, followed by the real Stew Perry at the end of the month. To keep things rolling, January brings CQ's 160m CW weekend.

So there's still time to throw up an antenna and get your feet wet on the coming topband action. Perhaps a start on your 160m W.A.S. award ... a challenging place to begin and one that would likely bring a broad smile to 'Mr. 160' himself, Stew Perry.

Friday 16 October 2015

630m Crossband Schedule

VO1NA Torbay, Newfoundland
Following up my last blog posting, the weekend of November 14-15 has now been confirmed for the '630m Special Activity Event' . There will be further details coming regarding the various experimental activities and transmissions but the one that holds the most interest for myself is the 'crossband' operation by several Canadian amateurs.

There are now five Canadian amateurs slated to operate over the course of the two-night event (Friday & Saturday) and they will be looking for two-way crossband contacts with amateurs in the U.S. and Canada. Here is the schedule of frequencies and times:

Station: VO1NA (Joe) GN37 Torbay, Newfoundland
Time: 2130Z - 0130Z both Friday night (Nov 13-14Z) / Saturday night (Nov 14-15Z)
TX Frequency: 477.7 kHz
RX (QSX) Frequency: 3562 kHz

Station: VE7SL (Steve) CN88 Mayne Island, B.C.
Time: 0200Z - 0700Z both Friday night (Nov 14Z) / Saturday night (Nov 15Z)
TX Frequency: 473.0 kHz
RX (QSX) Frequency: 3566 / 7066 kHz

Station: VE7BDQ (John) CN89 Delta, B.C.
Time: 0430Z - 0700Z both Friday night (Nov 14Z) / Saturday night (Nov 15Z)
TX Frequency: 474.0 kHz
RX (QSX) Frequency: 3536 kHz

Station: VA7MM (Mark) CN89 Coquitlam, B.C.
Time: 0500Z - 0700Z Friday (Nov 14Z)
          0400Z - 0800Z Saturday (Nov 15Z)
TX Frequency: 475.0 kHz
RX (QSX) Frequency: 3570 kHz

Station: VE7CNF (Toby) CN89 Burnaby, B.C.
Time: 0300Z - 0700Z both Friday night (Nov 14Z) / Saturday night (Nov 15Z)
TX Frequency: 476.0 kHz
RX (QSX) Frequency: 3558 kHz / 7062 kHz

These stations will be calling CQ on CW at regular intervals throughout the evening, and listening for answers on the allocated HF call-back (QSX) frequency. The sequence that I will be using (and others in a similar fashion) is:

"CQ CQ CQ de VE7SL VE7SL VE7SL QSX 3566 and 7066kHz K". After listening for callers on either QSX frequency for approximately 30 seconds, the CQ will be repeated if no callers are heard.

With good conditions, propagation can often span the continent, so please consider taking part in the activity from wherever you might be located in North America. Last year, crossband contacts were made between here and W3 / W5 and many points in between.

For eastern stations, VO1NA, in Newfoundland, should be a tantalizing target with coverage throughout the eastern states while the four VE7 stations should prove workable for central and western North American amateurs.

Those that might wonder about the 'legality' of crossband contacts need not worry. Canadian amateurs have had legal access to 630m for almost two years now and crossband contacts with any stations in the amateur radio service are the same as a two-way QSO on any other band. Unfortunately, amateurs are not allowed to contact any of the experimentally-licenced stations ... they are permitted to work each other only.

Hopefully you will print out the operating schedule and consider participating in the November crossband activity weekend ... the more the merrier! It would be great to see even more contacts than last year, which was a great start, considering the less than optimum conditions. I will post more details as the event weekend draws closer. We hope to see you there!

Monday 12 October 2015

Another 630m Crossband Weekend

Fritz Raab (W1FR), the ARRL's 600m Experiment Coordinator, has indicated that this year's '630m Special Operating Event' will be held on the weekend of November 13 / 14. Mark your calendars if you plan to participate as it looks as though, once again, along with the numerous U.S. experimental stations beaconing and coastal maritime stations, several Canadian 630m stations will be active and looking for realtime CW 'crossband' contacts! Canadian stations will 'CQ' on specific frequencies and will listen for calling stations on designated HF (80/40m) answering (QRSS) frequencies.

Unlike last year, the Canadian stations will be operating for several hours on both nights, since there will be no conflict with the ARRL's CW Sweepstakes Contest as in 2014. Please stay tuned as there will be further details to follow regarding specific stations, frequencies and times ... notifications will be published on both the ARRL and RAC web 'news' pages as well as on numerous ham radio reflectors.

There's still lots of time to tweak up your 630m receiving capabilities ... it should be an interesting weekend, especially if the mid-November propagation cooperates.

A summary of last year's Friday night crossband activity can be found here.

Saturday 10 October 2015

LF Improving


After more than a week of horrendous geomagnetic activity, due mainly to coronal-hole streaming, it looks as if things are starting to settle down once again. One would never know it from looking at the sun's image as the source of the streaming is largely invisible in the visible light spectrum. Viewing at a different wavelength however, reveals the source of the disruption, now about to rotate out of view for a few weeks.



With the DST heading upwards and the planetary K numbers dropping it looks like we are returning to a good place and just in time ... October is often one of the best months of the year for LF propagation.

More VE7 Lightwave Activity

Two more VE7's are well on their way to getting in on the lightwave fun in the Vancouver lower mainland region. Toby, VE7CNF, and Mark, VA7MM, are constructing stations similar to the ones built by myself and Markus, VE7CA.

Toby and Mark live close enough that a clear-air scatter QSO between them might also be a possibility. Having another near-by amateur, or even in the same city, is a great source of motivation ... not to mention having someone else to actually talk to, once the system has been built.

Except for the LED focusing sled, Toby's fine-looking transmitter box and LED driver / modulator, are now complete. The receiver is next on the list. I believe this will use one of the inexpensive ($5) fresnels lenses, purchased locally at Princess Auto, that seems to work very well for the price.

photos courtesy VE7CNF
At this pace, perhaps a four-way VE7 lightwave QSO will soon be in the making!

Thursday 8 October 2015

Clear Air Scatter Tests On 458THz

After patiently waiting for the bright moon to clear the early evening skies, I was finally able to venture out for my first clear-air scatter test this past Sunday night. I had plotted the path on my Mayne Island map and determined bearings as best I could, but the path was going to be very tight. If the path plan was right, my signal should just clear the high beachfront bluffs at the chosen sea-level receiving site.

After carefully aiming the light, I set off for the receive site at around 7:45PM and was all set up with the new lightwave receiver about 30 minutes later. The site appeared fairly quiet and the Argo screen confirmed that there was little QRN coming from the local houses up on the bluff. I listened for over an hour, trying various slow changes in pointing ... varying the azimuth a few degrees at a time, and then the elevation. Unfortunately not the slightest indication of my ~549Hz tone was seen. I was confident that the system was working as several strobes were heard from distant aircraft (near Vancouver), as their flashing lamps skimmed the edge of the far treeline.

It seems likely that either my aiming or bearing calculations (or both) were off and that the signal was probably slightly to the west of me, with the bluff blocking any hope of reception ... I knew it was going to be close but was hoping for a little luck.

I left the transmitter outside overnight (it was set up two properties to the SE) and decided to try a second shot on Monday night. This path, although shorter by a mile, would require the signal to pass over two high hills ... the first topping out at 667' and the second at 567'. The overall direct-path distance was 1.7 miles (2.7 km). A cross-section of the signal path is shown below as it hugged the edges a little lower than the peaks:


I have been using a 'compass' app on my I-Pad to determine directions when aligning the transmitter and receiver setups. I'm not 100% convinced of its accuracy at all times, as readings can sometimes be a bit flaky. Before doing any more testing, I'll need to solve this, either with a better app or with a real compass.

The transmitter was set up just before darkness, pointing right at the edge of the treeline along the 667' ridge and elevated at a 28 degree takeoff angle. The deep-red, 640mw LED, was switched-on just before departure at around 8:30PM.

It didn't take long to get set up in the back of the CRV, with the receiver temporarily set in no particular direction and plugged into the computer.

When Argo came to life, I went to the front of the car to grab the I-Pad so that the receiver could be aligned but was surprised to see a bright line at 549Hz when I came back! It seems that my 'rough' placement of the receiver was spot-on, and not exactly where I had originally intended. In fact, there appeared to be about a 10 degree error in where I had planned to point. I later traced the error to my path drawn on the paper map as it was difficult to determine my exact receiving location on the older map, which didn't show the new road where I had set up on.

Monday night's path
I was eventually able to fine-tune the aiming and hone-in on the best spot but was surprised that there was a broader degree of acceptance in both azimuth and altitude. At around 8 degrees of elevation, and although I was pointing well into the nearby trees, the signal was still observable with just tiny patchs of sky poking through behind the trees. At 10 degrees I was above the trees, with a solid signal. Surprisingly, the signal was not lost until pointing past ~ 15 degrees ... I had expected sharper pointing.

With the strength of signals recovered on this path, two-way communication could have easily been established on any of the CW QRSS modes ... if quieter, probably on normal audible CW. Signal strength indicated that there was still plenty 'left in the bucket' for greater distance paths, probably much further than I am able to test here on the island.

This was the first thing I saw, at the QRSS60 mode in Argo ... a fairly narrow passband and a ~25+ db dig into the noise.

Backing off to a wider bandpass (less sensitive) but faster QRSS10 mode showed the signal still very apparent:

The almost 'real time' QRSS3 mode, although showing a much weaker signal, indicated that the signal would have been almost audible had it not been for the high level of background noise at this site. Don't confuse the lightwave signal with the much stronger 9th harmonic of 60Hz on 540Hz!

The ferry terminal was just down the hill about 1/2 mile and with several kilowatts of spectrum-polluting 60Hz sodium vapor lighting, the cloudy skies were a sea of bright-pink. There was a high level of audible hum in the phones, right from the start, that unfortunately, masked any hope of an audible detection. The waterfall screen capture shown below, illustrates the massive QRM at this otherwise nice site!

The night was not going to be complete without a strobe signature, captured on Argo from a high passing jet aircraft:


All-in-all, it was a very successful outing, considering the obstructed path and the $5 fresnel lens used in the portable receiver! I've examined the island map for any other possibilities and there are not many suitable candidates. I had hoped for one other possibility towards the west, which would stretch the path by almost another mile, but I'm not really sure that I can get a clear shot without hitting the very close treeline at this end.

I think the next round of testing will be in the other direction ... across Georgia Strait, with John, VE7BDQ, who has expressed interest in doing some deep overnight Argo searches for my signal in the clouds.

I'm not sure which mode would offer the best chance ... 'clear air scatter' or 'cloudbounce'. John has a very good receiver, with a slightly larger and better-quality fresnel than the one used in these tests. Working from his suburban backyard, directly across the strait at 13 miles (21 km) distant, his direct path to me is somewhat obstructed and will require an elevation angle of around 30 degrees at his end. I think, ideally, we would both like to be skimming just above the ocean, with only a slight elevation. A lower and less obstructed shot from his yard would mean an oblique path so this also remains a possibility. We will play with what we have and hope for the best ... even just a trace of signal would be a measured success.

I think that a non-line-of-sight (NLOS) contact would make an exciting challenge and a great project for two amateurs living in the same city or town, and ... you really don't even need a ticket!

For more technical details on the equipment used in this test, see "A West Coast Lightwave Project" describing the activities between here and Markus, VE7CA. We have just learned that this article will be published in the 2016 Radio Amateur's Handbook ... hopefully inspiring  more new lightwave activity!

Tuesday 6 October 2015

More Manhattan Building Tips

2200m kW Transmitter
Bob, N7SUR, posted some interesting Manhattan construction tips that I thought worth sharing. For the past several years, my own construction has varied between PC board and Manhattan ... both methods have their pros and cons.

One of my early blogs described how I make the pads needed for Manhattan style. It can pretty much be used for any modern project and has been used here for countless circuits ... from a 1W LF tranmsitter to my 2200m/630m kilowatt.

1W LF Transmitter

I found these hints from Bob about pads and soldering components particularly helpful for anyone making a start in Manhattan style building:

Round pads require only placing in proper X and Y coordinates. A rectangular or square pad also requires proper rotation. A rectangular pad placed cockeyed doesn't look good.

I've had good luck with pads made from .032 double sided board. Solder surface tension prevents shorts with this pad thickness. My experiments making pads from thinner .010 thick flexible board often resulted in shorts.

A clean surface is needed for good pad adhesion to the board. I polish the pad board on both sides to a shine and then punch out the pads.

Pads can take up a lot of solder so I prefer to use 1/8th inch (.125) diameter pads.

Some of my Manhattan projects have failed because pads have loosened from the board. Cheap, discount super glue was my mistake. I now use Loctite Super Glue Gel. Of the hundreds of pads I've applied, I've never had one loosen.

If a punch is used to make pads each pad will have a rounded side and concave side. My pads are applied rounded side up. Using tweezers, I pick up a pad, place a small dab of glue on the punch mark and drop the pad in place. Light tweezer pressure is used to set the pad. Too much pressure squeezes out the glue leaving a weak joint. I Use enough glue so it squeezes out around the bottom edge of the pad.

Disaster occurs if glue gets on the tweezers. Pads stick to tweezers and won't stick to the board. If this happens, I stop and wipe off the tweezers with a cloth. I also use an Exacto knife to remove any hardened glue on the tweezer tips.

I try not to put too many leads to a pad. For example, its common for a transistor base lead to connect to two resistors and two capacitors. If this happens I extend the transistor base lead across two adjacent pads ans share the connections between the two pads.

I take time to shape my component leads. I make certain I don't have to flex a lead, like a spring, to solder it in place. Improper technique means the next component soldered to the pad may spring loose the earlier lead.

I put a bend in the component lead so the lead sets level on the pad. But the bend doesn't need to be long. A bend a 1/16th inch long, or half the diameter of the pad works well. This also means multiple leads can attach to a pad, each pointing toward the pad center.

My Hakko 936 soldering station is rated for 50 watts. I use a wide tip to get that power to the pads. I'm surprised how much power is required to do Manhattan construction. This is especially true when soldering component ground leads to the project board.

It is very easy to come away with cold solder joints. After all the leads are attached to a pad I Heat all the solder on the pad to liquid state. My ground connections take 1-2 seconds and pad connections take about 1 second. I've had no damage to components due to the heat I apply.

I prefer to use .032 leaded solder for my pad connections. But I use .062 solder for ground connections or to fill in a heavily populated pad.

I offer these ideas for what they are worth to you.


Bob also mentioned that he prefers to tape down a full size plan of his component layout as an aid in placing his pads ... a light punch mark through the paper layout, marking the pad's location. I haven't gone this far with any of mine, preferring to place pads as I build, giving flexibility to component placement.

There are lots of good online references for Manhattan-style building but be warned ... some of them, particularly the pages of Dave, AA7EE, will have you making plans and reaching for the soldering iron before you know what's happened!

Sunday 4 October 2015

Plans At VY1JA

In the midst of this weekend's California QSO Party, I heard VY1JA calling CQ, looking for the Californians. It had been several years since I last heard VY1JA and the last time that we worked was on 137kHz on the 2200m band.

The CQs continued without much luck as the Californians just didn't appear to be hearing (or looking) to the north ... missing one of the rarest multipliers in North American contests.

Now, I had recently read that the VY1 station had been experimenting with remote operation, so that hard core, experienced contesters, could have the opportunity to hand out the rare 'NT' (Northern Territories) multiplier in future contests ... especially in the popular November ARRL Sweepstakes. I assumed that the station was likely being remotely operated.

After listening to a lot of CQ's going unanswered, I swung the beam towards Whitehorse and sent, "ur 599 down in VE7 land" and sent my call. Much to my surprise, it was my dear old friend 'J' himself, operating the station. What followed was a 10-minute catch-up on what he had been doing over the past few years and his plans for the future.

J in Nunavut as VYØJA
Since we had last worked on 2200m (we both had 'experimental licences at the time since 2200m was not yet an allocated ham band), J had retired ... un-retired for several years of contract work in the Arctic ... and once more, this time for good. With the help of some dedicated contesters, along with a 'gofundme' project on Facebook, J has been re-building his fine station from the ground up. Maybe you would also like to help.

Future plans, now well underway, call for multiband V-beams (520' legs) at 70' aligned to the SE and NW  and some high metal on a pair of 100' towers for the HF bands. As well, a new K-3 will drive an Alpha 9500 amplifier on all bands.

A few of the 20 poles, ranging from 70' to 30', that will be used to support V-beam legs and elevated groundplanes for the low bands.

I've saved the best news for last. J told me that he really wants to get going on 630m as well! His signal will be a wonderful addition to the band as he should be workable by most of the western provinces on nights of normal propagation. I am very much looking forward to working J again on the LF bands, recalling how strong his 100W signal could get during several of our early-morning 2200m CW ragchews.

Welcome back J!