Sunday, 31 July 2011

What is the ideal code speed?

Let me make it clear from the outset. I am no expert at CW. I guess I can comfortably work at around 18 WPM during rag chews and up to about 30 WPM at a push during contests.

I know this a futile question to ask, but it might still be worthwhile considering.

This morning I worked Philippe V5/F5JWH with CW on 40 metres. Philippe was using a straight key and exchanged SKCC numbers (pretty rare thing in this part of the world). He was sending fairly slow well spaced CW and it was real easy to follow the QSO without the need to revert to pencil and paper. The QSO was certainly more memorable and enjoyable than most of the high speed DX “599 73 TU” type of exchange we normally engage in.

This got me thinking. Why do we constantly try and push the envelope with regards to our operating speed on CW? Maybe we should consider slowing down once in a while. Just maybe we could attract newcomers to this magic mode in the process.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

QRP vs Fly fishing

The following is quoted from the SARL forum.
Written by Denis ZR6DNS

Fly-fishing is using tiny little hooks decorated to look like all manner of insects instead of bait. One casts the line, which is quite heavy as this tiny little decorated hook is too light to cast, and not a sinker to pull the line out after it. Some of these decorated hooks float on the surface and look much like any of the flying insects one finds around heavens waters. Others try to look like these insects in their nymph stage and are played along under water as if alive. They are, for convenience and brevity all called flies. They are never carried in the creel but rather hooked into the fisherman's hat or sometimes on a piece of lambs fleece pinned onto the shirt or a special waistcoat.

Ones creel might hold a flask of whisky but always an item like a little hammer called the priest. The whisky is so one does not feel too cruel about performing the last rights with this priest on these noble creatures.

The object of this whole procedure is to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of nature at its best, usually early morning or evening. It is called fishing because occasionally, and perhaps quite by accident, a trout mistakes this attempt to mimic nature and gets hooked. Often the fly-fisher will then gently manoeuvre the unfortunate fish to the bank, and without even removing it from the water, disengage the hook from its leathery mouth and shoo the fish away. After all; catching a trout, performing the last rights (along with a suitable dram of the water of life) and placing it in your creel could result in the early termination of this most serene experience. That is to say; reaching your bag limit too soon.

Rather like reading a good book; you want to know what happens in the end but you don't want the story to finish.

It is a pastime not understood by many, as is the case with CW QRP RaDAR. 


I thought the QRP crowds were weird, but now that someone has explained the art of fly fishing so well I am starting to wonder.

Both activities require:
The lightest tackle to catch an unsuspecting victim.
Require a fair amount of patience and success is not assured.

The differences are:
With QRP it is not (normally) required to use a priest to dispense the last rights.
With QRP we certainly would not place the whiskey in a smelly fish creel and then carry our equipment on our heads or pinned to our clothing.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

ZS-WAGS Garmin GPX overlay file

I produced a small Garmin .gpx file that might be of value to those amateurs involved with the ZS-WAGS award.

The file can be down loaded from here:

This file must then be saved to your PC as e.g. “ZS-WAGS.gpx” in some convenient place such as My Documents.

When using the Garmin Map Source program this file can be opened, it will then result in 83 Magenta rectangles being drawn as an overlay on any of the map files that the user uses. The user may also consider to set the default position display to Maiden Head (use Edit/Preferences/Position/Grid select  Maidenhead Grid) The Maidenhead Grid locator below the cursor position will then be visible on the bottom left of display.

The same .gpx file can be up-loaded to a Garmin GPS. This will draw the Magenta boxes around all the 83 ZS-WAGS grid squares as an overlay. This makes it easy to identify that a grid boundary is being approached on the moving map display whilst mobile. The GPS can also normally be also set up to display Maidenhead locator if so desired

Hope this is of some value.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

QRP contests - Preferred modes?

Well the provisional results for the QRP Winter contest has been released and I am pleased to see that it appears as if there has been quite a few newcomers that took part in the event.
It was even more pleasing to see that CW was very well supported. Sure hope this trend will continue.
I made almost all my CW QSOs with the HB-1a transceiver. The amount of pleasure to work some distant station using some 4 watts with a tiny transceiver barely the size of a paperback that in turn is powered by a few penlight batteries is just magical. Even after all these years of me playing with QRP it still blows my hair back!
Most of the QRP contesters used SSB and a few used both SSB and CW, with the odd one that used CW only.

That got me wondering, what transpires elsewhere in the world? I am under the impression that CW is used almost exclusively in QRP contests. Is that so? Or is SSB used. Most of the results I see from North America seem to be CW only events.

Extreme 6M mobile station:
I came across the following web site:
That is one serious 6M grid activator.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

What is in your lunch box today?

This is a healthy alternative …..

The URL below points to the site of Hanz Busch W1JSB.

This is QRP at its best.

BTW This is the same Hanz that accompanies Jim W1PID, on most of his adventures I wrote about recently.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Amateur Radio and the Internet

I have been a Radio Amateur since 1975 and prior to that I was a very keen SWL for quite a few years. 36 years later I am still very interested in this great hobby.

I think to a great extend it is due to the internet and what it has done for us as Radio Amateurs. I am referring to such things as, the DX Clusters (DX Summit), electronic QSL facilities such as LoTW and E-QSL, Online skimmers, the Reverse beacon networks, the abundance of HAM related web sites and the Blog sites of many interesting individuals.

There are few blog sites that I follow with great interest on a regular basis. Most of those I find most interesting share in similar interests as my own. That being CW, QRP, homebrew and kit built equipment and operating from some outdoors away from home venue.

This has led me to discover a few amateurs that inspire me and are listed below.  Some with blog sites some without, but interesting bits of info can be found them by using Google.

HB9DGV Rolf          
WG0AT Steve          
W2LJ Larry               
W1PID Jim Cluett     
PC4T Paul Stam       
AA7EE Dave Richards
ZR1AAH Allen          
ZS6BNE Eddie      

There are many more sites / amateurs I find that inspire me, this is just the ones that stand out most for now. Maybe the readers of this blog will also find them as interesting.

73, Pierre ZS6A

Friday, 22 July 2011

Errecting antennas in trees

Using a sling shot (Kettie)

I have used a sling shot on many occasions with great success and it works very well. The biggest disadvantage is that one needs to have available (carry) a sling shot and fairly heavy fishing sinker some fairly thin mono filament fishing line and a spooling device.

The weight needs to be fairly heavy so as to ensure an unhindered decent through the branches and leaves. The lead weight (fishing sinker) I use weighs 85 grams. The lead weight and line is shot over the targeted tree limb using the sling shot and the weight is allowed to descend to the ground.

The weight is the removed and the antenna support line is attached to the thin mono filament. The sturdier antenna support line is then pulled over the tree limb ready to attach to the antenna center insulator.

Using the tree arbors underhand toss

The above method is yet untried by me, but certainly has the potential to work very well. The weight used is normally fairly substantial. Geoff ZS6GRL tells me he uses a 400 gram weight made up out of fishing sinkers.

The tree arbors normally use a custom made soft leather bag filled with lead shot, I guess it will minimize the damage if it falls on something it was not meant to fall on?. I notice some radio amateurs use a small plastic water/soda bottle partly filled with water as the weight.

The action of how to launch the weight is best described as follows:
"The secret is to throw underhand, starting off with a gentle to and fro motion and then letting rip."

A most useful link:

The following You Tube video shows the action nicely.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Elecraft KX3 - wG0AT

The following YouTube clips show the new Elecraft KX3 in action.

Sure looks like a winner .....

Sunday, 17 July 2011

SARL Winter QRP contest 2011

SARL Winter QRP contest 2011

For this leg of the event, I operated as a field station and we set up at the Rynfield dam close to home. SWAMBO - Liz accompanied me and helped me set up my 80/40/20 metre inverted vee. This time I used the 8 M telescopic fibre glass mast and in turn anchored the mast to the vehicle tow hitch. It worked fairly well and I might do the same in the future.

It was a nice clear winters day, but the temprature was only 10 Celcius, so I elected to operate from the inside the vehicle. Not ideal, but certainly more cosy than braving the cold outside.

For the first hour of the contest, I only used the tiny HB-1a and managed to make 11 CW Q’s, not shabby considering the size of the transceiver and the fact that it only puts out 4 watts. The receiver is really sensitive. I did find that it was a bit hard on the ears when QRN was present.

For the remaining 2 hours I used my homebuilt Elecraft K2. It performed flawlessly once again. Managed to make a further 20 SSB Q’s

Conditions were strange. Most contacts were in the region of 700 km to 1300 km. The closer stations  were mostly skip. I could hear a few of them, but they did not hear me. Maybe they need better antennas?   J

Breakdown -  QSOs by division:
Div 1 = 9
Div 2 = 10
Div 3 = 4
Div 4 = 2
Div 5 = 2
Div 6 = 4   (2 of these were very difficult)

I was very pleased to see all the CW activity. With a bit of luck, this trend will continue.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Contesting Part 2

A few thoughts on QRP contesting continued.

It is rather frustrating to see the apparent lack of interest in local contesting in general in South Africa. I have often wondered why this is the case?

Consider the following:

The contests provide us with the ideal opportunity to see the bands come alive with activity on what otherwise would have been occupied by only QRM and QRN.
The contests are not only for the full blooded contestants, but also beneficial to those seeking QSOs and new QSLs towards awards for example: WAZS and ZS-WAGS etc….  
The contest also gives a very good idea of how effective (or ineffective) our station and antennas are performing.
Most of the local SARL contests are so structured that the various disciplines of our hobby all get recognized and thus actively promoted.
Participation is actively encouraged in all its forms, whether operating from the comforts of one’s shack with all the gadgets and programs, or operating from the field with a very minimalistic setup and everything in between.
Maybe it is pertinent to mention that all stations regardless of power or antennas used, may take part in all the SARL contests. It is not required, but submitting a log would be appreciated for the purposes of statistics and log cross checking.
However, if a station wishes to actively take part and wants to be in the running for a place then he/she must abide by all the rules of the contest in question.

Contesting is Fun !!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

SARL QRP Winter contest 2011

The SARL QRP contest: Saturday - 16 July 2011

Six days to go.

So far:

Eddie ZS6BNE - With his resonant vee and a tree….
Pieter ZS6XT - All fired up to defend his overwhelming lead….
Chris 9J2RI -  A sought after DX station, operating from good old SA….
Pierre ZS6A -  Using a K2, inverted vee and a shady tree….
Geoff ZS6GRL - MMWC we better watch our selves....
Johan ZS6AF - Sterba curtain beaming towards Gauteng ??

Who else??

FWIW I was on top of Table Mountain on this past Friday, all I can say is I envy the Cape chaps big time. They have so many beautiful sites to operate from.

It certainly would be nice to work the old QRP pioneers during the contest. Blow the dust of those paper weights and come and enjoy the fun.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

QRP Contesting

A few thoughts on QRP contesting.

I guess it is no secret that I am a big fan of QRP contesting. There is no better way to prove the effectiveness of one’s station than during a well supported contest.

Sitting in the comfort of one’s shack having the ability to switch from one antenna to the next, using logging software such as N1MM, using foot pedal PTT, headset and boom mic, using the internet for spotting, using skimmers to assist in CW contests etc…. is just a awesome experience and it makes the contest experience so much fun.

On the other hand:

Sitting out in the sticks in the shade of a tree with a low tree strung dipole and using the very minimum: pencil and paper, a CW key and hand microphone (if we must) has a certain charm all of its own.

It is all about choices……

HABEX - AR flying high

The HABEX - High Altitude Balloon Experiment team had another very successful flight and I was pleased to be able to monitor and track the progress of the flight of the balloon.

The balloon carrying amateur radio has come a far way from its original attempts way back in the late 70’s known as BACAR. The balloons are now much improved and the advent of APRS has made the recovery processes much more reliable and interesting.

There are so many aspects to the balloon flights that it should fire up the imagination of all real amateurs. Understanding the abilities and limitations of the balloons, the meteorology and how that will affect the flight, the amateur payload and how it will be affected by temperature etc…. the list is almost never ending.

We often discuss the affect of antenna height on HF and what role it plays on the effectiveness thereof. If we consider the QRPp (very low power) beacon carried during the last flight. I heard the beacon fairly well from launch and the signal did improve as time went on. I suspect it was due to progressively more direct (ground wave) signals. It would be great if there were more stations further afield that monitored the beacon so that we could determine if the altitude played a role in the sky wave propagation or not.

The use of APRS is just amazing. Next time I will be decoding the live transmissions and won’t be relying on information provided by others. Using is great, but it relies on i-gates to relay the information to the internet and this is often the weak link in the system. I guess we need more stations that can track the live signals and then relay that info onto the web or to the normal 144.800 MHz packet frequency?

I am looking forward to the next HABEX flight.

Friday, 1 July 2011

SARL Winter QRP contest

The next SARL QRP contest will be held on Saturday 16 July 2011 from 2 pm to 5 pm SAST.

It is about time we have such an event, I am starting to get withdrawal symptoms. We have not had any QRP / outdoors (field) event for a while now.

Not that it is a requirement, but I might consider operating as a ultra light portable station just for fun.

Good luck to all.

Sure hope that the weather and propagation will be kind to us.