Category Archives: HF

First JA in the log

Well that only took two years.

I was attempting to help a station in India score a digital QSO with South Carolina tonight and he suggested we hit 15 meter JT65. I tuned over and there were three Japanese stations on frequency calling CQ. I selected the one with the strongest signal, JA1KXQ, and gave him a call. He came back to me on the first shot. My signal report was a respectable -15;  his signal was booming in around -7.

On his final, he sent “5W 3ELY” which caused my brain to explode. A -7 signal running just 5 watts from Japan, nearly 7,000 miles away? Just amazing. The other JAs had signals more like what I would have expected, -18 or so.

Sadly, I never managed to make the contact with my friend in India. Maybe we’ll give it a shot tomorrow.

Three down, one state left

Despite my rambling post of only a few hours ago, things are looking hopeful. I managed to get three big ones in the log this evening.

My efforts in e-mailing hams paid off for Delaware and Wyoming, and the K3UK board finally yielded a North Dakota digital QSO to land me a true Worked All States – Digital endorsement. I’m still waiting for a few confirmations on LOTW, but with tonight’s acquisitions, I’m left still hunting for Nebraska.

As I mentioned in my previous diatribe, I had to eat some humble pie and start e-mailing some guys in these rare states and ask for help. I located Karl, N8NA, in Delaware via the ARRL’s website because he was the W1AW portable operator for Delaware a few months back. Gee, it sure would have been great if I’d just caught Delaware while that was going on. I must have been reading the new Harley Quinn comics … or something.

Anyway, I e-mailed him and he wrote back within an hour and agreed to meet up with me around 10 p.m. We exchanged cell phone numbers and when 10 p.m. hit, we arranged the QSO and frequency via text message. The irony of this fact is not lost on me. We made the contact on 80 meters, then moved to 30 meters because he needed SC on that band. I was happy to oblige, although conditions were rotten. I could still make out his call, so it went into the log.

Around that same time, Alan, KO7X, out of Wyoming, e-mailed me and said he was game for a QSO. I immediately replied and he responded with a QRG. We completed the QSO on 20 meters with some QSB, but decent reports both ways.

I then noticed Griz, KD4POJ, out of North Dakota, on the Sked Page. He was setting up his rig for RTTY and sent me a frequency on 20 meters to attempt the contact. He was a genuine 599 with a booming signal and we had a conversational but short QSO.

I closed the evening with a quickie QSO with Mark, K4ED, out of Virginia, just to get that state in the log again for insurance, since all my VA contacts thus far have not confirmed for unknown reasons.

The weirdest moment of the night? When my wife walked in while I was in QSO with KO7X to inform me that my keying was dimming the lights in the house. Now that’s some powerful code!

Chipping away…

One of the most helpless feelings in radio is knowing that stations are out there, on the air, that you’d like to contact, but you aren’t in front of a radio. That’s the sinking feeling I get when I’m at work, 20 minutes away from home, and I check the Sked Page and see rare states like North Dakota or Wyoming handing out signal reports.

That’s precisely what happened today. Wyoming hung in there for several hours but I just missed him as it was nearly 7 p.m. when I finally arrived home. I messaged both he and the gentleman from North Dakota and we’ve hopefully setup a scheduled contact for later this week.

Anyway, I managed to clear two more stations tonight: Arkansas on CW, and South Dakota on SSB.

W5JAY was managing a “pile-up” of DX stations who wanted him on the JT modes. I waited a time with patience and he got around to me and we had a textbook CW QSO on 17 meters.

While I was waiting, W0VD wanted to attempt a code QSO with me on 15M and 80M. It was a rough contact in both cases owing to QSB and strange propagation. We completed the 15M contact and while I could hear his 1000 watts of power on 80M, he couldn’t hear my meager 100.

I worked IK2WZM once again, this time on RTTY, then broke for dinner.

Coming back into the shack, I noticed K0JV was still on and he graciously agreed to give 20 meters a shot with me. I’ve tried QSOs with him several times over the past few days with no luck. Conditions weren’t much better tonight, but he copied me and we exchanged 33 signal reports. His signal seemed to come up to 35, while mine apparently went down. At any rate, it was enough to get in his log and we’ve already QSLed. That was a contact two years in the making!

I noticed W8LMG (West Virginia) and KG3BOZ (Maryland) on 40 meters and both were booming. I mentioned it on the K3UK board and they invited me into the QSO. We all logged each other and I called it a night.

With any luck I will be able to pick up Wyoming on CW and North Dakota on digital this week. That leaves some easy grabs on CW and one phone contact to complete the triple play. Delaware! Nebraska! Where are y’all hiding?

A productive weekend

A weekend of camping out on the K3UK Sked Page paid off with a handful of needed contacts, including a few unusual ones: Alaska on phone and Australia on CW, both on 10 meters. I found myself rapidly transitioning from band to band, mode to mode in an effort to answer QSO requests, and to pursue my own.

Sunday saw me working phone, RTTY, JT9 and CW all within a span of about an hour, from 10 meters to 40 meters. Here’s what I have left to track down to score the Triple Play:


  • North Dakota


  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota


  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Louisiana
  • Nebraska
  • Wyoming

I’ve been working with K0JV in South Dakota for the past 3-4 days trying to complete a QSO. We’ve come very close; I was able to hear him just fine one evening, but he couldn’t get a solid lock on me. The propagation just hasn’t been there, even during grayline hours.

Nebraska has me a little worried. It was one of the last states I needed for Worked All States (Basic) around this time last year. I don’t know why, but I just never hear Nebraska. It’s the only state I need two QSOs from to complete the challenge.

LOTW angst

As much as I enjoy advocating the Logbook of the World, I’m not going to deny it has some serious issues. Getting logs into the system has been a real pain the last few days, and I couldn’t even get logged in to check my totals for most of Sunday. I can see why so many new users get turned off by it.

Am I in the log?

W1AW/7 (Idaho) was on several bands tonight and I need ID on CW, so I decided to try working him on 40 meters. Everyone else was there too, and there was quite a pile-up, with /7 operating split to accommodate the action.

Having never worked a CW station in split mode, I figured it was time to go ahead and pull off the band-aid. Using the P3, I managed to find what I believed to be the exact spot where he was listening and narrowed my focus there. I sent my call nearly 40 times over a 20-minute period, when he finally came back with what sounded like “4DSD” along with a signal report. I sent my call again, then my signal report, but before my final characters, he sent TU and started CQing again.

Somehow I doubt I’m in his log, but we’ll see. At any rate, I shall attempt to work as many /7 stations as I can this week just to be sure.

The previous night I was on the sked page and noticed N4HID, a Kentucky station. I asked him if we could try a quick CW QSO, since I needed his state. He told we’d give it a shot in 30 minutes. True to his word, he came back to me in a half hour and we completed the QSO.

Then, via the sked page, I noticed W1AW/4 was on 40 meters. I quickly tuned over and got in before the pile-up started. Turns out the /4 operator was the guy I had just had the CW QSO with. He recognized my call and explained to me his /4 shift had just started. We chatted briefly and after I 73ed, what sounded like 1,000 stations started calling for him, and one of the most chaotic pile-ups I’ve ever heard ensued. I have to hand it to these W1AW operators, they are operating in god mode to deal with these pile-ups!

A personal best, but still a mediocre effort

The North America QSO Party RTTY contest is done and I managed to log 227 QSOs over roughly 7.5 hours of operating. This is a personal best for me in any contest which I have participated in, but I know I lost at least 50 (if not 100) Qs when I had to leave the action for another commitment for several hours.

I did try to schedule the break in the late afternoon, so I could scour 10, 15 and 20, take the break, come back and hit 40 meters with a vengeance.  That band resulted in the majority of my QSOs and I was still able to contact stations on the west coast even as midnight approached.

Most of the action had retired to the 80 meter band after 10 p.m. or so, so I tried operating there with limited success, owing to RFI and loud background noise. I many cases, I was hearing stations just fine. They just couldn’t hear me. 80 meters is just a stank band for me on digital modes, and the only time I’ve ever had any success on it was the last ARRL DX CW contest. I think I could improve my situation if I had my wire higher.

During the contest, I was on the lookout for three states I need to wrap up the digital portion of the triple play: Wyoming, North Dakota, and Mississippi. I found WY within the first hour, and ND was my very last QSO, right around midnight. Never saw MS, and it turned out my ND guy doesn’t use LOTW, so I will still be on the hunt for those final two.

Once again, the K3 was just phenomenal. I ran nearly full power the whole night and the thing barely got warm enough to run the fans. The only issue I ran into was the RF issue on 80 meters, which was intermittent depending on what portion of the band I was operating.

I felt reasonably good about my performance, but checking out some of the scores on 3830 Scores, I realized I have a long way to go before I can hang with the real contesters out there. Still, there was marginal improvement. During my last NAQP RTTY, I hauled in a meager 140 Qs with a full 10-hour operating time. I was still using the Yaesu 847 then, and lacking a panadapter — something I can’t do without nowadays!

Final results were something like this:

Band   QSOs   Pts   Sec
 3.5   9      9     7 
 7     108    108   38 
 14    64     64    32 
 21    39     39    17 
 28    7      7     6 
Total  227    227   100 

Score: 23,154

Two new ones

I got really lucky tonight. I stopped by the K3UK Sked Page to see if there were any stations on I needed for the Triple Play.

Sure enough, Jim, N7ESU, out of Idaho was on. I need both digital and CW contacts from that state, so I messaged Jim and he graciously agreed to help me get a digital contact. He was already on 80M JT65, so we made the attempt there. Several passes in and it looked like the QSO wasn’t going to happen. He messaged me back on the sked page and indicated he could see me on the waterfall. I couldn’t copy him though.

After about 15 minutes of trying, I messaged him and told him the conditions just weren’t right on my end. I had S9+ noise on 80 meters. I was going to give up, when my computer suddenly decoded N7ESU’s signal out of a seemingly empty waterfall. He sent me a -20 report and I sent him a -27 to complete the QSO.

I was about to call it a night when I noticed KF2T out of Nevada on the sked page. He helped me last year with a digital mode QSO, so I figured he may be able to help me score a CW QSO in short order. We popped over to 40 meters. He was 539 and I suspect I wasn’t much better but we both sent 5NN reports for the exchange.

It’s nice to get both of these in the log. I’m already looking forward to this weekend’s NAQP RTTY contest.

100 countries in the log

I can’t claim a true DXCC because I don’t have all the QSLs to prove it, but according to my logbook, I have contacted 100 unique countries. The entity that finally put me at 100 was the Balearic Islands, more specifically, the party island of Ibiza, via a CW contact.

I decided to try and add some countries to my log this weekend with the ARRL DX contest so I operated very casually Friday night, Saturday morning, and Saturday evening. I only logged a paltry 52 contacts, but still had some fun and scored some decent stations. I was able to one-shot many of the contacts, but some, such as the always-elusive Alaska, and Senegal, required some persistence.

I’ve been at this HF thing for almost exactly two years now. I certainly haven’t been the speediest DXer. When I started, I virtually ignored stateside stations in favor of DX. Then last year around this time I began focusing on states. Like any other hobby, my interests come and go: DX one weekend; states the next; RTTY another weekend; and QSO parties the next.

I’m going to get off the dime for the evening and enjoy my Ibiza contact with some “Balearic ambient music” and a refreshing beverge!

Playing radio on a snow day

It’s day two of being snowbound. After I confirmed my dipole hadn’t been destroyed by falling icy limbs, I fired up the rig and loaded up the K3UK sked page to see what was out there.

Right off the bat I noticed 10m was open, so I grabbed a few stations there: ZZ80SP out of Brazil, and KL7LF out of Alaska, both with booming signals.

I needed Maine for Worked All States, phone, and happened to see WA2HIP on the sked page doing some digital work. I messaged him and we agreed on a 20m frequency to try the SSB contact. He was a good 55-57 and I received a similar report.

Next up, Kt4TN  out of Tennessee wanted to try phone on 17m and 12m, two bands I haven’t done much on. We managed to complete QSOs despite barely copyable signals (I could hear him quite well, owing to the K3′s receiver, although his signal was only about 53 or so).

KJ4DHF messaged me and wanted to give 10m JT9 a shot. It took several tries, but we managed to complete a QSO with signals somewhere in the -20 range both ways.

Next up, some CW — IK2WZM out of Italy wanted to give 15m a shot, and even with a lot of QSB and my non-resonant antenna, we managed to complete the QSO, exchanging 5NN both ways. With some deep QSB, this was one instance in which I couldn’t rely on the K3′s text decode to hold my hand. Using “ear decode” I could make out callsigns and the signal report and that was enough to get the job done.

Winter Field Day woes

Hanging on for dear life?

Hanging on for dear life? Nope, just getting ready for SPAR Winter Field Day.

Rather than go into the whole narrative of SPAR Winter Field Day, I’ll provide a link to a brief write-up and a gallery of photos I did for our club website.

I usually enjoy Winter Field Day and this year was no exception. I took my K3 down to the Calhoun County EOC and was fortunate to operate out of a trailer on generator power for about 6 hours. Operating conditions were excellent at the EOC, probably owing to the 40-meter delta loop that Bill, W4SFV, quickly made for me just before the event began. We suspended it about 30 feet up and configured it diagonally to the ground.

The “woe” comes in when I look back over the minuscule number of contacts I logged. I decided to operate digital with the intention of working PSK31 and RTTY — mainly the latter. Problem is, the RTTY portions of all bands were jammed with folks in the BARTG contest, so I didn’t want to get in their way. The PSK portion of 20 meters was just jammed up with normal traffic and guys stepping all over each other.

I saw a grand total of about 3 guys calling CQ Winter Field Day on PSK, and I believe we all worked each other. I received so few responses to my CQ FD call I just started issuing a general CQ and finally started generating contacts. Problem is I caught a lot of ragchewers and I had to explain to each one about Winter Field Day and specifically ask them about their local temperature for the exchange. Had I attempted this strategy earlier in the day, I could have logged significantly more QSOs. Oh well. Lesson learned. I believe I had 17 PSK QSOs in the log.

Despite my lackluster performance, the club actually turned in an excellent performance for the day. Voice was the best mode, with more than 110 Qs logged on 20 meter SSB and nearly 50 on 40 meter SSB. I believe W4SFV also grabbed a few on CW. I can’t thank the guys at the Calhoun EOC enough, W4FSV and Dave, W4DMC, both went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure we were comfortable and had everything we needed to get up and running. Lunch was pretty darned good too, and the constant stream of coffee on tap kept us warm on a windy day with temperatures in the upper 40s.


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