Well it is finally that time of year once again. Looking at the prior year (and first year) I was only able to rack up 35,000 point or so. I am setting a goal of at least 100,000 points this year. Will be hard to do but who knows, I may get lucky. Since I now have a beverage pointing toward Europe I am also hoping to add a few more countries to the DXCC 160m Phone total as well.
On Saturday there was a whole line of storms to the north west of Georgia and continued up along the eastern seaboard which really made for a high static environment. It would cause a great amount of repeat requests as well as knock out my chances for the anticipated European contacts. Total DX contacts were only 9 for my station. On Saturday evening well into the early morning the winds were atrocious at the QTH. At times I was fairly certain my Hex beam would end up broken or coming down. I had reservations about my doublet fed with 600 ohm ladder line even surviving the winds. Luckily when I returned to the operating position and tuned up it had not changed very much so I can only assume that the antenna survived. Will have to check on it later.
The Beverage performed very well however. I would have fared much better if I had been able to get the second (NW to SE) RBOG installed before the contest but I was surprised at how well the small 140' to 150' BOG did at pulling out stations off the centerline. Example would be while using it in the S.W. direction I was easily able to copy stations from the north west as well as California. I owe that to the shorter length of the beverage increasing the capture area with the trade off of less gain.
This year I was able to work all 48 lower states (Louisiana eluded me last year) however once again Alaska and Hawaii were a no go, nor did I expect them to be workable either without the second planned beverage. Yet without the coveted DXCC multipliers my 378 contacts did not fare nearly as well as those with much lower Q's but greater multipliers, hence even some folks with as little as 150 Q's would beat my score in the end.
As one can see I was able to greatly increase my score over last years however making it to the 100,000 goal was way out of question. I will be very happy with the 51,850 points though if it holds up through inaccuracies, dupes, etc... Possibly next years conditions will be slightly better and with the additional Beverage covering the N.W. to S.E. directions I can finally break that 100k goal.
Bottom Line: I had one hell of a good time this year and it was enjoyable working some familiar call signs from other contests.
Next year, who knows.....
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...... I had decided long ago that the only way I was going to be able to hear (and work) the weak European stations on 160m was to have myself a Beverage. A Beverage antenna that is.
After reading countless articles and watching a YouTube presentation video on Improving 160m and 80m Antenna Performance I finally decided on a Reversible Beverage On the Ground (RBOG). Essentially that would give me the benefit of two directions using the same space as one beverage as well as not needing to be as long nor elevated from the ground. The wire just lays right on the ground, sometimes over a small fallen tree, but otherwise on the ground. Of course this approach does come with an inherent reduction of gain and an increase in angle of reception, however a compromise was the path I chose.
As soon as I had the antenna setup and tuned to 160m I was amazed at the difference I noticed immediately when I flipped the power switch on the pre-amplifier and a Slovania station that I could otherwise not hear well enough to work was now coming in with a strong enough signal that I felt I could now work them. Now actually working them was a different story as I quickly rushed to tune the transmit side of the house (antenna tuner on the doublet and the amplifier) only to find the signal had died out. Solid state amps and tuners do have their advantages, but that is the way it goes sometimes.
No need to worry though as later in the evening after the sun had set I tuned in and worked a Romanian and German station that I otherwise would not have even heard to work before the Beverage. It was already paying off in spades and after going back out today (the day after installing the Beverage) and getting exact coordinates on the feed end as well as the 'terminated' end and plotting on Google Earth, I came to realize that I had only ran a 161 feeet of wire for the antenna. That being just inside the length that they recommend with a BOG (between 160 and 200 feet).
Suffice to say the addage often tossed around; "a short beverage is better than no Beverage at all", seems to be very true. Simply increasing the received signal by approximately 6db (One S-unit) and in turn decreasing the noise floor was the difference in me working Europe and prior to the antenna installation, not even knowing they were there.
Below are various photos of the installation. Yes, it could very well be altered to increase performance, and possibly at a later time I will do just that. Matter of fact, I think I will be experimenting with an additional ground rod placed about 500 feet out and splicing the wires and extending the existing Beverage in the hopes of grabbing the 10db gain listed above. Just depends on whether I think the additional 4db is worth the effort and materials.
The three photos below show GPS positions and distances of the terminating end, feed end, as well the distance from the doublet, my main transmit antenna (long yellow line). The red line represents a planned future RBOG to cover from NW to SE (Alaska). Bear in mind that the distance from the transmitting antenna is approximately 1/4 λ - which is far closer than most would recommend, however I do not seem to have a problem so far (the kenwood TS-590S has a dedicated RX RCA jack and switches the circuit open on transmit) and I am willng to risk it based on my unique sittuation (buildings sheilding path, height of transmit antenna, etc.. ). Generally the further the better for reason other than possible receiver overlaoad as well, such as the transmit antenna transfering noise to the beverage via coupling, re-radiating, etc..
Coax running on the ground, over fallen trees, etc.. over to the feed end of the RBOG. Next photos are of the 16/2 Lanscape Lighting Wire, and finally the far end conection. The ground rods are actually 8 foot long and leaving approximately 1.5 foot above ground will allow me to go back out and paint the upper portion of the rod with white or orange paint so that they are not likely to trip me up when out in the woods hunting or - well - running more antenna wires.
Any of the photos can be enlarged to full resolution using the expand icon in the top right portion of the popup window. ESC key will close the windows.
Below is a video example of the low S/N ratio that this short BOG exhibits.
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You will need to make an adjustment in the "FFT Display" section to the "Shift" parameter to match your offset. In my particular sittuation 140 Hz seems to me the magical number to allow the frequency to line up accurately in the waterfall.
Also you will need to uncheck the "Swap" in the same section as this was what was causing my frequency readout to be extremely innacurate.
See Photo Below
Other notes of interest:
1.) Depending upon your particular type of RTL-SDR Dongle, you will not have the option of using SDRSharp.R820T.dll in the drop down list. Instead I have found that if you use the RTL-SDR/USB for Q Sampling (HF Bands) and RTL-SDR/GUSB for the VHF/UHF and above bands with each set accordingly, you can just switch between the two different DLL's depending upon which spectrum you are targeting.
2.) The particular RTL-SDR Interface unit that I am using is a 100KHz-1.7GHz full band UV HF RTL-SDR USB Tuner Receiver/ R820T+8232 AM FM CW bought off ebay and, of course originating from Hong Kong, China. At the time it was $34.95 which included shipping and it took about 20 days for it to arrive (during the holiday season).
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in 1992 after receiving the novice ticket pictured to the left in the mailbox, the first contact that I had was on 10 meters CW with an Elmer of mine (N5CB - sk). The sunspot cycle at that time was declining however it was not uncommon for the band to be wide open at night and was nearly always open during the day. I had a Uniden HR-2510 - 10 meter rig in my truck at the time with a 150 - 200 watt amplifier feeding a 102" steel whip that I had cut to resonance. I was mainly active in the early mornings on my way to P.T. (U.S. Army) and after work on the ride home. 10 meters was a blast back then. I could routinely count on holding a QSO with many of the same stations every morning and evening on my short commute.
10 meter activity these days is a joke compared to its heyday of many previous sunspot cycles, yet from time to time the band will be open (for the lack of a better term) and you can still work a few DX contacts, but pretty much it is a band that I do not even waste my time on.
Knowing that the ARRL 10 meter Contest was coming up in December I decided I would give it a go with SSB only HP class, limited. I am now glad that I did. Although I am making no claims of great activity I was none the less very surprised that there was any activity at all. MN, WI, and IL contacts to my location were relentless. Other areas would open occasionally and afford access to about 30 of the 50 states for me and my modest setup as well as some South American, Mexico, and various other locales.
I did spend a good amount of time (14 hrs) in operation and the payoff should have been a little better as far as I am concerned but considering I am not a very good contestor to begin with, the resulting preliminary score 32,760 points was not too bad since I did not expect to work many stations at all. Instead, I worked 364 +/- stations. That score paled in comparison of some of the other SECC scores posted such as Jeff, W4DD, who would post results of 102,912 +/- points with 768 Q's in about the same amount of time. Guess that will really show the difffernce in a 5 ele yagi at 90' vs a HexBeam at 30' or so in height. Regardless I was proud of the performance of my HexBeam as I always am whether it be 20m, 17m, or even 10m. Anyone looking for a good 6 band HexBeam (20m - 6m) they could not do better than the one offered by K4HEX.com in my opinion.
I would say that there is always next year but chances are that the cycle will be at an even worse point and propogation will be essentially non existent. Then again, I could again be very surprised.
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