Another New Region 1 Tropo Record for 144MHz!

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im Kirby G4VXE reports a new record for the 2m band and has all the usual VHF news

 

 

Tim Kirby G4VXE reports a new record for the 2m band and has all the usual VHF news, including a well-deserved accolade for one of his regular contributors.

 

You may remember that last month I reported that Mark Turner EI3KD had established a new Region 1 tropo record on the 2m (144MHz) band. Well, on September 25th, Peter Torry G3SMT set a new record by working D4Z in Cape Verde on CW over a distance of 4431km, beating Mark’s record, which was 4163km.

I should also mention GW0KZG in IO71LW who held the record for a minute, at a distance of 4270km, before Peter G3SMT made his contact with D4Z.

On FT8, D41CV was active too, with G7RAU, GW0KZG, EI3KD, M0BUL and G4RRA all known to have made contacts.

For me, the really interesting thing about Peter G3SMT’s contact is that he is not in a coastal location but well inland, near Oswestry, so it gives hope to those who are some distance from the coast that they too may be able to make contacts like this.

Congratulations to everyone involved in a really fascinating opening with some great contacts.

 

Southern Ireland Repeater Group

The Southern Ireland Repeater Group run a network of seven analogue repeaters across the south of the country, two of which are on the 2m band and the remainder on 70cm (432MHz). In addition, they run APRS digipeaters and two digital repeaters.

Looking to increase the usage of the analogue network, they have a variety of options to link to it, including an IRLP node. More recently, however, the group have introduced a link, which has proved very popular, from the Zello platform on Network Radio. Using your phone or your network radio you can connect to the ‘Southern Ireland Repeater Network’ channel and hear the traffic through the interlinked repeaters. Assuming that you have an amateur licence, you can call on the Zello channel and speak with one of the moderators who will ‘approve’ you and then you will be able to chat through the network of repeaters.

This works very well indeed and I have had many interesting contacts through the system already – most often just monitoring the group on my phone. One contact I enjoyed was to be able to speak with John EI7GL who writes an always interesting blog at:

https://ei7gl.blogspot.com

As well as the Zello and IRLP links, you can also access the analogue network from the Brandmeister DMR network, on talk group 27240. The Brandmeister link works well too, which I have been able to use from one of the digital radio hotspots around the house.

 

Irish DMR Net

To try to promote DMR activity across Ireland, North and South, a DMR net has been established on a Monday night at 2030 on Brandmeister talk group 2722. DMR operators from across Ireland call in and then at the end there is an opportunity for anyone outside Ireland to call in and make contacts if they wish. The call-ins from Ireland are managed by county. It is interesting to hear where the operators are and it's great for people in more outlying areas to have a focus enabling them to make some contacts.

Talkgroup 2722 is designated as the Ireland National Calling talkgroup, with talkgroup 2723 designated as Ireland Chat, for those longer contacts. Having said that, activity is not so extensive on talkgroup 2722 that I have noticed any rush for people to move to another talkgroup.

 

Mapping Locator Squares

Since Google made some changes to their terms and conditions of using the Google Maps API, many amateur radio sites (along with many other sites) have had to seek alternative mapping systems to avoid having to pay prohibitive licence fees for what is a hobby-based website. Like many of you, I suspect, I have always previously used the F6FVY site to find a locator for a particular place or, as I did when I was writing the piece about the new Region 1 record, to find out where the stations involved were located. When I went to the F6FVY site, I found it was suspended following the Google licence changes.

I had a quick look around and was very pleased to find an alternative at:

http://k7fry.com/grid

This seems to work very well and in the same way. I note that there is a ‘Donate’ button and it may well be, given the circumstances, that if you find the site of use, a small donation is appropriate to show your appreciation of the facility.

 

More on the Baofeng BF-888S

Last month, I mentioned my new Baofeng BF-888S Plus transceiver, which I had bought for around a tenner. When I was in Pembrokeshire recently, I had a number of QSOs with it through the GB3SP repeater at Pembroke Dock. It seemed to work very well and I was delighted with the results from such a simple rig.

Ian Thomson GM0URD wrote with a couple of interesting pieces of information that may be of particular value to those trying to program the rigs from a Linux platform. Ian notes that when using the excellent CHIRP software on Linux, it seems to be important to have the channel selector turned to 16. I’m not sure whether this is the case with Windows as well but if you have problems, it sounds as though it would be well worth a go. Ian also recommends that when you try to program the BF-888S from a Windows platform, you should run the programming software as Administrator. Ian also included some quite detailed information on resolving a programming issue with CHIRP on Ubuntu and Kubuntu, which revolves around permissions for the USB serial port. It’s probably a little bit specialised but if anyone reads this and thinks ‘that’s what I need to know’, please e-mail me and I’ll be happy to send you the details that Ian has very kindly provided.

Readers may be aware that in the USA, the FCC have made a ruling in regard to ‘non FCC certified radios’, largely seen as ‘Chinese radios’. The ruling says that if a radio is capable of transmitting outside the amateur bands and is not FCC approved, then it may not be used (or advertised, or sold) within the USA. Worth bearing in mind if you plan to travel to the USA and were thinking of taking your Baofeng or other similar radio with you. If you would like to learn more about the nuances around this, there is a useful video here:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JBMdo5TL8A

 

The 6m Band

Jef VanRaepenbusch ON8NT (Aalter) made some FT8 QSOs on the 6m (50MHz) band during the month using 10W from his IC-7300 to a Diamond V-2000 antenna, mostly ground-wave or extended ground-wave propagation, including F4GBW (JO10), M0NKR (JO02), G0GGG (IO81), F5UGS (JN09) and G4IFX (IO91).

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Peter Taylor G8BCG (Liskeard) was delighted to work C21GJ in Nauru on his first moonrise and close to Peter’s moonset on September 29th. Lance C21GJ told Peter that he had worked 119 contacts in 34 DXCC entities with some notable contacts, including first EME contacts for some stations, one using just 100W to a single Yagi! Peter was also very pleased to work the ZA5V EME expedition on both 50 and 144MHz. Other new stations worked on 50MHz EME were MM0AMW and GM3POI.

John Wood G3YQC (Hereford) says that things have been quiet with only near European stations being worked over the last month. John says, “don’t think that’s it for the season, though – remember last year’s opening on Boxing Day”!

 

The 4m Band

Kevin Hewitt ZB2GI (Gibraltar) set up an FT-817, transverter and a two-element Yagi along with an Ascom SE-550 and an inverted-V dipole at the top of the Rock during the PW 70MHz contest, Fig. 1. However, despite calling CQ, monitoring for activity and watching the Cluster, there was nothing. What a shame! Fingers crossed for next time.

 

The 2m Band

It was good to hear from Mike Cooley M6NVE (Sandbach) following a 2m FT8 QSO we had on September 18th. Mike has been a consistently good signal here in Oxfordshire using 10W to a roof-mounted vertical and has been enjoying exploring 2m propagation since getting started on the mode recently.

After using a vertical on 2m FT8 for some months, Keith Watkins G8IXN (Redruth) is now using a 7-element horizontal Wimo beam, with 7m of RG214U coax. Although I consistently saw Keith’s signals previously when he was using a vertical antenna, he has been more regular copy here in Oxfordshire since he changed the setup. Keith has fitted a TCXO (temperature-controlled crystal oscillator) to his FT-897 to reduce the possibility of drift. Keith also mentions that he sees many overdriven signals on FT8 and says you need to keep a careful eye on the ALC. He suggests only running a tiny amount of ALC, none being preferable! Or, he says, increase the audio input from the PC to the radio to the point where the power stops increasing and then back it off a fraction. Keith also notes that the power setting can vary quite dramatically depending on where in the spectrum from 800Hz to 1.9kHz you are transmitting. (You can set the ‘Fake It’ option in WSJT-X to avoid this and always be transmitting around 1500Hz.)

Don GW0PLP (Aberporth) has been getting started on 2m FT8 and I was delighted to work him from Oxfordshire on September 26th, when he had excellent signals over the mountains for a period of 24 hours or so. Don also sees a lot of enhancement on signals from the air traffic coming across Wales to the Strumble Head area. When I worked Don he was using a vertical antenna but he says he has a loft mounted 7-element Yagi, which he has used to work into Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It was great to hear again from Roger Lapthorn G3XBM (Cambridgeshire) who has also been busy on 2m FT8. When he wrote on September 30th, he says that he had spotted 59 stations in seven countries in a 24-hour period. Despite using a modest 2.5W to a Big Wheel antenna, Roger had been called by EA1UR at a distance of 1192km although, sadly, fading had kicked in and the contact was not completed. Roger says that he often works G7RAU (IN79) over a distance of 461km – acknowledging that Dave has an excellent site and great antennas. Roger also says that he is often spotted by G4LOH (IO70) when he calls CQ, as well as G4RRA (IO80). Although aircraft reflection works well with FT8 on the band, the mode makes tropo DX possible for QRP operators too. Like Marmite, Roger says, you either love or hate FT8, but for him it has been good!

Jef ON8NT was active during the 144MHz contest on September 1st, with the following stations worked over a distance of greater than 300km: G8XVJ/P (IO83), G8W (IO90), F6KCZ/P (IN99) and G5B (JO03) and then during the UK Activity contest on September 4th, he worked G4CLA (IO92), M0DXR/P (JO01), and G4RUL/P (JO00).

Roger Daniel G4RUW (Newbury) says it’s been an interesting month. His new rotator for the 8-element LFA Yagi gave up, so he has had to take the whole lot down and send the rotator in for repair, leaving just a 4-element up for the band, beaming east. Roger has been trying to get his FT-857 to behave nicely on FT8 but hasn’t quite succeeded yet. In the meantime, he has heard some nice DX on the band, including EA, EI, ON, F, OZ and DL.

Peter Walker G4RRM (Crewe) says that he hasn’t any FT8 DX to report on the vertical antenna this time but is busy trying to set up a single Yagi and JT65B in order to try to make his first EME QSO in the near future. Good luck Peter and please keep me posted.

Steve Macdonald G4AQB (Bolton) says there were some interesting tropo conditions on the band at the end of September and he managed to work some new squares at home and abroad. Highlights were EA1UR (IN53), F6DBI (IN88), PB0AHX, G7RAU (IN79), G8IXN (IO70) and GU8FBO (IN89).

Robert van der Zaal PA9RZ (Sassenheim) says that he’s not worked much on the band apart from during the activity contest when he worked, pretty much as usual, OZ1ALS (JO44) quite easily despite the 470km distance although he struggles to work PA0FEI (JO33) over a much shorter distance. That’s the joy of VHF/UHF!

Here at G4VXE there have been plenty of contacts on the band, all on FT8, with the highlights being September 17th MW6GUL (IO71); September 20th F6APE (IN97); September 25th M0MLZ (IO70), EI3KD (IO51), GW0PLP (IO72); September 26th F4CHB (JO00), G8BCG (IO70), G8ECI (JO03), G7RAU (IN79), F6HRO (IN88); September 27th PA2WCB (JO21), PB0AHX (JO22), PA2MRK (JO22) October 7th F6APE (IN97), GW1MNU (IO71); October 8th F4HMV (IN88), OZ1BP (JO55); October 9th F1SAL (JO11), OZ1BEF (JO46), F4DJG (JN09) and DD3KF (JO30). All using 50W to a vertical.

In early October, conditions were excellent from the east coast and I noted G4SWX and G4CDN on FT8 calling RA3LE although sadly, I don’t think a contact was completed, but several other very long-distance contacts were. Magic stuff!

John G3YQC says it’s good to see so much FT8 activity on the band. On September 25th he worked EA1UR and EI3KD; September 26th F4CHB, EI3KD, GU8FBO, F5BZU and EI4KP; September 27th F5BZU, F4CHB, PD9C, GU8FBO, ON4KHG and EI8IQ and September 29th EA1UR. John says that the first half of October didn’t seem quite so good although there were still plenty of near continentals as well as G stations from all over. John notes that the breakfast period is a good time for DX so it’s worth switching on before you go out for the day. Unless, he says, you can operate remotely – I wonder who he means!

 

The 70cm Band

Jef ON8NT worked G7LRQ (IO91), G3MEH (IO91) and G4CLA (IO92) during the UK 70cm Activity Contest on September 11th.

Robert PA9RZ says that during mid-September, his local group installed a new 70cm FM repeater in Noordwijk (JO22FG) around a quarter of a mile from the beach. The repeater has the callsign PI2NWK and has an output on 430.050MHz and input on 431.650MHz, Fig. 2. Robert says it should be easily audible from East Anglia (and probably farther afield). If you have a good path to the Netherlands, please keep an ear out for PI2NWK and try a call if you hear it.

 

The 23cm Band

Derek Brown G8ECI (Louth) checked the 23cm (1296MHz) band on October 10th and found the DB0VC and OZ7IGY beacons quite strong. He had no time to check the SSB portion of the band but later, he worked OZ1CTZ and OZ2OE although conditions did seem to have dropped somewhat. OZ2OE mentioned to Derek that he had worked into the Baltic states but there was nothing at that distance heard in JO03. Derek also says that his 2 x 2C39A amplifier for the band is almost finished.

 

Satellites

Many congratulations to Peter Goodhall 2M0SQL, Fig. 3, for being chosen to receive the G3AAJ trophy from AMSAT-UK. This is presented to an individual (or group) who have provided ‘outstanding service to the amateur satellite community’. Peter is just that person – he’s consistently active despite many challenges and encourages newcomers and old hands alike to try satellite operating. Congratulations Pete and well done to the committee of AMSAT-UK for a great choice!

Nice to hear from Peter Atkins G4DOL (Dorset) regarding his satellite activity. On August 1st, Peter made a rare contact with HZ1FI (LL34) through FO-29. Peter says that one of the interesting things about that contact was that he made it with just two hands! One hand was holding the antenna at low elevation and sorting out Doppler shift while sending CW, finding the station and tuning the receiver with the other. Even when you’re ‘just’ operating phone, two hands is never quite enough so to manage this with CW must have been quite fun to try. On August 9th, Peter worked TF/G0MFR (IP05) through AO-92 and then UR5FA/MM (IM64) off the Moroccan coast. UR5FA was using 5W to a small antenna, which worked well, although there was some quite heavy fading. On August 22nd, Peter worked JW/OH8FKS/P (JQ79) on Svalbard – a nice rare one. In another session through FO-29 on September 4th, Peter worked OH3NGT (KP21), RV9CHB (MO06), R7MU (LN07) and then on September 6th YO5BAK (KN07) but Peter was particularly pleased with a contact with UA0ADX (NO88) well into Asiatic Russia, again via FO-29. On September 13th, Peter worked R3YAO and YO9BIV (KN24) through AO-91 on FM. All Peter’s contacts are made using a handheld antenna system.

Kev ZB2GI notes contacts via AO-91 with EA8CUZ (IL18) and EA8HB (IL18) and via AO-92 with EA5/DL9GB (IM99) and EA8CUZ (IL18)

Patrick Stoddard WD9EWK (Phoenix) reports that VY0ERC is about to return to the satellites for a few weeks from the Canadian Arctic, from grid locator ER60 with the possibility of other grids in the area. The operator will be Pierre VE3KTB who was the operator for the VY0ERC activity earlier in the year.

Once again there’s been plenty to report on this month. Thanks for all your input and please keep it coming. Let’s hope next month will be just as interesting. See you next month.

 

This article was featured in the December 2018 issue of Practical Wireless