Wednesday 20 May 2020

Hunting For NDBs In CLE256

CLE 256 will be held this coming weekend and will be somewhat different than normal.

'CLE's are 'Co-ordinated Listening Events, and NDB DXers around the world focus their listening time on one small slice of the NDB spectrum ... but this one is a little different.

This event has been organized around the Maidenhead Locator system and will challenge hunters to log beacons based upon the beacon's FIELD designation. Listeners should seek to log a maximum of five NDBs in each GRID FIELD.

The grid field is actually the first two letters of the grid locator, such as 'CN', 'FN', 'DM' etc., as seen in the map above. Each field itself is divided into 100 GRID SQUARES, but individual grid squares are not relevant for this CLE ... only the fields.

Most amateurs that operate on the VHF bands are very familiar with the 'grid square locator' system and many VHF operating awards and events are focused on working different grid squares. This may all be a new adventure for many non-VHF DXers but it does present a whole new way of keeping track of your catches.

I have always kept track of the grid square locator for all NDB signals that I hear and often find that a signal being heard from one particular square will lead to other beacons being heard (often new catches) from adjacent squares, while propagation is spotlighting that region ... it often pays to keep a grid square map handy while you search the band!

If you are not familiar with the grid square system, it's all pretty simple and this CLE only focuses on the largest part of the system, the FIELD. The first thing you should do is determine your own grid FIELD location, which, for North America, can be found very easily from the map above or anywhere in the world on K7FRY's locator map.

When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.

For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmits on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier is tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident can be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone is actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone is 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database.

From CLE organizer Brian Keyte:

Hello all

Here are the Final Details for this weekend's special DX Listening Event.
We'll be listening for up to 5 NDBs in as many Locator FIELDS as we can.
Fields are the first 2 letters of the 6 character locators ('Grid Square').

A World map of all the locator Fields is shown below:

(click map to expand)

You can see, for example, that Field IO includes most of the British Isles.

    Days:     Friday 22nd May – Monday 25th May

    Times:    Midday on Friday to Midday on Monday, LOCAL time at the RX

    QRG:      Normal LF/MF frequencies (190 - 1740 kHz)
    Target:     UP TO 5 NORMAL NDBs IN EACH LOCATOR FIELD (see below)
                    (not DGPS, NAVTEX, Amateur or UNIDs)

    Please also log YOUR NEAREST ACTIVE NDB - that will probably be one
    of the five in your own Field.

Please post your CLE log to the List in a plain text email if possible, with
'CLE256 FINAL' at the start of its title and showing on each log line:

    The full Date ( e.g. 2020-05-22, etc., or just the day number 22 )
    UTC  (The day changes at 00:00 UTC).
    kHz - the NDB's nominal published frequency
    The Call Ident.

As always, put those FOUR MAIN ITEMS FIRST on each log line, with any other optional details such as location and distance LATER in the same line.
There is no need to show the locator Fields (the harvester program will work out all of them and the nearest NDB you logged).

Your log will be easier to read if you group your loggings by Locator Field
and leave a blank separator line between the groups of up to 5 lines for each Field.  If you wish, you could add the 2-letter Field ident (NOTHING ELSE) at the start of each of the separator lines.

UNIDs that you come across may also be of interest - in a SEPARATE part
of your log please.

If you send interim logs, please make sure that you also send a 'FINAL' log
showing ALL your loggings for the CLE.

We will send the usual 'Any More Logs?' email to NDB List at about
19:00 UTC on Tuesday so you can see that your log has been found OK.

Do make sure that your Final log has arrived on the list by 08:00 UTC on
Wednesday 27th May at the very latest.

Joachim and I hope to complete the combined results within two days or so.


It will really help you to plan your listening if you go to the excellent
Rxx Database  (Europe)
(Replace the 'reu' by 'rna' if you are in North America, 'rww' elsewhere)

THE KEY PLACE to start entering details of what you want is 'Signal

Locations - GSQs'.

Put a 2-letter FIELD id in that box to see all the NDBs in that Field that
have been logged from your part of the World (i.e. EU or NA or other).
You could choose to alter the resulting list in lots of different ways:

 Select 'Only active' (bottom right).

 Enter your own Country or State in 'Heard Here'.

 Select a specific listener (yourself?) in 'Logged by' – BUT you might then miss a beacon that you haven’t heard so far.

  Add extra locator Field(s) in the 'GSQs' box, separated by blanks.

   - In ANY of the above, you can select 'Map' instead of 'List' (top right)

  Add your own full locator (6 characters) in 'Distance - From GSQ' to see the distances and bearings from your location.

  In 'Sort By' (bottom line) select GSQ.

Getting cleverer (!) you could use the wild card _ (an underscore) to see
details of all Fields with the same column of Longitude or row of Latitude
e.g.  I_  selects all of locator column I (0  to 20 degrees west),  _O would give all of row O (50 to 60 degrees north).

Good Listening


From: Brian Keyte G3SIA                ndbcle'at'
Location: Surrey, SE England          (CLE coordinator)


  As usual a few of us may choose to listen via a REMOTE RECEIVER,
  with permission if required - its own location will be their temporary
  home Field and its nearest active NDB should be logged, if known.

  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.

The NDB List 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. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers. 

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

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.

Have fun and good hunting!

Thursday 7 May 2020

Here Comes The Spring 'BR' (Bug Roundup)

The upcoming ‘BR’ will be upon us shortly (more details later), but the pending activity brought back some of my early ‘bug memories’ and the good times as a young ham.

I first learned CW in Boy Scouts at age 12 and was pretty excited since I had been shortwave listening by then for about three years ... finally I was going to know what all those dots and dashes I had been hearing were all about!

Unfortunately, to no fault of our well-meaning Scoutmaster, we all learned it the wrong way ... from ‘flashcards’. This made the learning curve a lot harder but in a few months I was copying code off the air and discovering the exciting new world of amateur radio.

By the time I was old enough to legally get my licence (age 15), I could comfortably copy 40wpm and had no trouble with the required 13wpm test.

Having taken the test day off school for the exam and to travel to downtown Vancouver on the bus, there was nobody in the city happier than me when I walked out of the almost five hour exam as ‘VE7ANP’!

Back then, in ‘63, the exam consisted of five parts and a ‘pass’ was required for all of them or you were sent packing for 30 days. The CW receiving test required 100% copy at 13wpm, with the same speed for the sending test. I think it was for three minutes. Next was a multiple choice test on regulations that consisted of about 50 questions. The fourth section required the (unaided) drawing, in schematic form, of a crystal controlled two-stage transmitter, a simple superhetrodyne receiver, an A.M. modulator, a full-wave power supply, some form of over- modulation indicator and a key-click-filter. The final section was an oral exam, as the examiner made you explain your circuit drawings while he probed with questions that were designed to trip up innocent kids that had foolishly ventured downtown.                                                                                                                                                                
There were two radio inspectors in the office back then, but getting one of them in particular, was the equivalent of drawing the proverbial short-straw ... ‘old man Baxter’.

He was a giant of a man, standing well over six feet tall, suspender-laden with a jowly face and saggy pants ... along with the growl of a drill sergeant. I quickly realized that I may have been better off staying in school that morning, as OM Baxter was sitting behind the desk, waiting for me, when I shakily opened the door marked ‘RADIO EXAMINATIONS’.

As it turned out, the OM loved CW and when I breezed through the CW tests with no glitches and speed to spare, his rough edges vanished as he seemed to warm up to me. I learned later that almost all prospective examinees failed the CW test miserably on their first go and were given a 30 day time-out ... it seemed that my Boy Scout days were paying-off in spite of the numerous mid-winter rain-soaked Scouting equivalents of the Bataan Death March, that put me off of camping for the rest of my life.

For the first several months on the air, I used my venerable old brass handkey that I was very comfortable with. I only wish that my hand-sent CW was as good today as it was back then ... something I should really work on again. Although I could send at a fairly good clip, it wasn’t long before I was working a lot of guys that were sending even faster, with their bugs. Back then, electronic keyers were just starting to dribble onto the scene and most CW diehards were using a Vibroplex, and boy did they sound great!

One of the popular radio-joints of the era was ‘R-P’ (Rendell-Parret Electronics) on 4th Avenue, started by Hedley Rendell, VE7XW and Bill Parett, VE7AM, who lived above the store. For many years on Tuesday nights, Hedley hosted the Vancouver Amateur Radio Club’s ‘Code and Theory’ class in his basement rec-room. The class was taught by a very kind and gifted teacher, Al Erdman, VE7AQW, the radio engineer for local AM powerhouse, CJOR, in Vancouver. Over the years, between Al and Hedley, dozens of new hams realized their dreams thanks to their their weekly commitment for which I will be forever grateful.

Now Saturday mornings at ‘R-P’ was a ‘whose-who’ of local hams, all dropping by to see what gear had popped-up in the trade-in section of the store, usually adorned with various Hallicrafters, Hammarlunds or Collins rigs ... stuff I could never afford but could at least touch and turn the dials before they found new homes. There were usually a few guys from the, ‘by invitation only’, Vancouver DX Club. To their credit, most were gracious enough to treat a new 16 year-old ham like one of their own and it didn’t take them long to convince me that I really should get a ‘bug’ if I was going to climb the DX-ladder and get into the pileups ... hmmm, pileups with my DX-20?

It seemed clear that a bug was in my future and the most affordable for a 16 year old was this one coming from Japan.

Although they were all likely manufactured in the same factory, the ‘BK-100’ was sold throughout North America under several different names. Back then, most of the affordable radio toys in Vancouver were coming from Japan ... and for a 16 year old radio nut, their stuff was a lot cheaper to buy than anything from the states.

RP imported a pile of these nice inexpensive BK-100s so I doled out some of my hard-earned cash to get my foot precariously planted on the DX-ladder’s bottom rung. I soon became fairly adept with it and after putting up a full size 40m groundplane on the roof of my parent’s very high house, I was actually able to work Don, W9WNV, at one of his exotics South Pacific stops ... with the bug ... in a pileup ... with the DX-20!

Eventually I had enough saved to buy a real Vibroplex, costing twice as much as the BK-100 ... which unfortunately saw very little use thereafter.

For the upcoming 'BR', I’ve decided to use the BK-100 along with my crystal-controlled 20 watt 'RK-39' power oscillator on both 80 and 40m, but in the  meantime  I’ll be practicing as much as possible on 7050 with the bug.

Here are all the details for the spring 'BR':

The Samuel F. Morse Amateur Radio Club, a Sacramento, California based CW enthusiast club wanted a special time to bring bug operators together on the air. In the same spirit as ARRL's Straight Key Night, participants are encouraged to make simple, conversational, “chewing-the-fat”, "Rag Chew" QSOs using their bug type key. This is an opportunity to exercise, share and exhibit your personalized fist. This is NOT a contest. Simply Call "CQ BR" so folks know you are a Bug Roundup Participant. Grab that bug, clean those contacts, and let’er fly! Let’s hear that “Banana Boat / Lake Erie Swing" or that commercial KPH/WCC quality fist.

Reserve the day! Friday May 15th - Sunday May 17th, 2020
5 PM  PDST (LOCAL) Friday - 5 PM PDST Sunday or May 16-18 UTC (0000 - 0000 UTC)

For more information, to register your station and key for participation, and to help assist in spotting, potentially increasing QSOs, an On-line chat window link can be found near the bottom of Bug Roundup home page located at We hope to hear you all on the air!

It looks like a fun event and might make another good opportunity to spark-up your old boatanchor on CW once again. As well, it seems you can keep track of activity and possibly set up skeds via their chat-window page during the BR. I'll be watching for you with my BK-100!