Since putting up my new dipole on 30M I’ve been enjoying better performance than with my random (not very) long-wire tuned against what I thought was a ground but turned out not to be. In case you are wondering what on earth I was doing using a sub-par antenna, the answer is, well, I don’t really know. Sometimes, as long as I can switch the radio on and hear something, I can make do with less than stellar antennas for quite long periods of time.
It has been very convenient having a dipole tuned for 30 meters. I’ve taken the Z11 tuner out of circuit and get a low SWR on 30 meters every time I transmit now. It’s been so enjoyable that I started thinking it would be nice to have the same convenience on more bands. As a result I’ve started making some coaxial traps. I’ve already made two that are tuned to about 13.5MHz (to isolate the ends of a 20M dipole) and will soon make a couple to resonate on about 9.5MHz (to go at the ends of the 30 meter section). The result should hopefully be a lightweight trap dipole for 40, 30 and 20 meters. More on that in a few weeks after I return from a trip to England.
Back to my 30 meter operating, most of which recently has been a few enjoyable and leisurely QSO’s with other stations in western states. It’s always fun to hear a station’s surprise when I tell them I’m only running 5 watts – especially when they have just given me a good signal report. On a clear channel you don’t hear much difference between a 569 and a 599, especially with the receiver’s AGC turned on, so if a station isn’t listening too hard, you can sound much the same as someone running higher power. However, I’ve had a few marginal QSO’s and a few that I’m pretty sure I only just missed, so I’ve been wondering whether to give in and actually consider running 100w. Next year I’d like to build the Elecraft K2, and the 100w option would help me turn those marginal QSO’s into solid ones. More on that in a future post.
Last night I was busy signing up for a Winlink 2000 account, downloading the necessary software, and trying to figure out how it all worked*. The radio had been set to 10.106 for a few hours with not much coming out of the speaker. The noise level on the band was around an S8 and I had grown accustomed to hearing this noise. Then the familiar sound of a station calling CQ….the station was not really strong but it was a clear channel and copy was not too hard. At first, my brain registered that it didn’t sound like a US call, so after his second CQ, having not copied a complete callsign, I sent “?” He replied with “FG5FR FG5FR.” Wow – he’d heard me! I sent “FG5FR de AA7EE AA7EE AA7EE” and to my excitement he replied, gave me a 549 and told me his name (Fran) and QTH (Guadaloupe, which is an island in the Lesser Antilles). I sent him his report of 449, which he copied, thanked me and signed off. I realized that I had forgotten to reciprocate by telling him my name, so I sent it twice, bade him 73 and signed off. I’m not sure if he copied my name, but he did copy my callsign and signal report, so we have a QSO!
Not being a DX type, I don’t know whether FG5FR is particularly sought-after, but I do know that he is about 4,000 miles from me as the crow flies, he’s on an island in the Lesser Antilles, I worked him with just 5 watts to an inverted vee dipole, and I feel pretty good about that. After QSO’ing with me he worked a series of stateside stations, so I guess I was lucky enough to get him when he was new to the frequency and first calling CQ – a very good way to snag DX, especially if you’re running QRP to a simple wire antenna.
*The Winlink software all ended up working fine, and now I know how to use this cool radio-based e-mail system for when I decide to start driving around the US in a camper van!