An Embarrassment of DX – ARRL DX CW 2017

After several months of being on the air, I’ve finally made contact with continental Europe! And contrary to my previous post of JT65 DXing, this one was with good old fashioned CW. At around 0204 on Sunday 2/18, I heard a CQ TEST call from EF7X on 20m , and after several back-and-forths and some resending, I had him in the log. Huzzah!

A few minutes later, I found the US Virgin Islands on the air with NP2P. Then the Madeira Islands off the coast of Morocco from CR3W. Then the Slovak Republic, of all places, via OM7M. Then, then, then….

All in all, I made a total of 55 QSO’s with 29 unique DXCC entities over the course of a few hours of operating on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Of those, 17 were All Time New One’s for me, bringing my total number of entities contacted (though not necessarily confirmed) to 34. I doubled my DXCC progress in one weekend!

The full list of new entities reached includes: Barbados, Spain, the US Virgin Islands, the Madeira Islands, the Slovak Republic, Jamaica, Portugal, Scotland, Italy, Ireland, the Balearic Islands (had to look that one up), the Bahamas, France, Hawaii (!!!), Belize, Cuba, and Cape Verde. The full map looks like this:

arrl_dx_2017

It’s no accident that this string of contacts came along during the ARRL DX CW contest, when all of the international contest stations have their beams and their amplifiers trained on the United States, and are looking for any stateside contacts. Even a relatively-dinky 100W into a random-wire and tuner is a valuable contact for DX stations in this contest. And I’m tremendously grateful to the stations that took the time to dig my signal out of the noise. One of the peculiarities of the ARRL DX contest is that non-US stations have their output power as part of their exchange. Almost everyone I worked was “K” or “KW” (1000+ watts), with a handful of 500 or 100 watt stations thrown in. Makes my 100 watts look like a pebble in a quarry.

My final claimed score is 55 QSOs & 45 mults, for 7425 points. Not too shabby! Here’s the breakdown by band and multiplier:

The ARRL DX SSB competition comes along in a couple weeks – I’ll surely have to be on the air then. Hear you there!

73

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BITX40 Module & ARRL SSB Sweepstakes 2016

A few weeks ago, I participated in the ARRL Fall Sweepstakes SSB Contest, and succeeded in making my first voice contacts from home. It’s incredible what you can do with 5 Watts and a simple antenna!

Over the course of about an hour on Saturday night and another hour after work on Sunday, I made fourteen total contacts all across the US, including Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Manitoba Canada, Maryland/DC, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Ontario Canada, Texas, and Virginia. Several stations clearly had to reach way down into the muck to pull me out of the noise, which was very much appreciated.

Part of the exchange for the SSB Sweepstakes is a “precedence,” which is based on your power level, among other things. I was handing out “Q’s,” which denotes a QRP power level of 5W or less. A couple stations, after a minute or more of trying to pull me out of the noise and finally getting it, “OH, QRP, that explains it…”

I worked the entirety of  my contest activity through a new rig in my shack, one of the new BIX40 modules out of India. Afshar Farhan, originator of the BITX Transceiver, has recently rallied together some resources to start producing a “kit” version of that radio for the 40m band. I say kit only lightly, since the main board (which is mostly SMD components) comes fully assembled and tested, and you merely need to solder on the provided external controls (tuning and volume pots, speaker/headphone connectors, etc.) It only took about 20 minutes from unboxing the package to having everything installed. But there was an issue lurking on the horizon…


I’ll save that story for another post though. Hear you on the air!

QSLing, Physically and Digitally

With my first foray’s into HF in the past few months, I’ve been diligently trying to track all of my contacts, and confirm the ones that are special to me. To that end, I’ve been pursuing the age-old art of sending QSL cards and the new-age art of electronic QSLing.

For my everyday logging, I’ve mostly been using the DXLab suite of software, which includes a fairly full featured logger, as well as rig control capability, DX cluster access, licensee address lookup, PSK modem, and many other features. And its free! For the couple of contests I’ve taken part in (the CA QSO Party, and the AZ and PA QSO Parties), I’ve used N1MM+, which makes entering contest exchanges snappy and straightforward. Also free! Once the contests are done, I’ve been exporting the contest contacts as an ADIF (amateur data interchange format) file and importing them into DXLabs.

n1mm
The N1mm+ interface – simple, clean, and easy to step through without taking your hands off the keyboard.

DXLabs also makes uploading contacts directly to both ARRL’s Logbook of the World and eQSL.cc, two of the most popular digital QSLing services. While the LOTW setup is a little onerous, now that I’ve gone through the process of getting the TQSL verification software setup and confirmed on my computer, uploading logs and confirmations to LOTW is as simple as clicking one button. And for the number of confirmations I’ve received through both services, the setup effort has been totally worth it.

dxkeeper1
The top three buttons on DXKeeper’s LoTW QSL window take care of all of my Logbook of the World needs.

That said, not everyone is interested in being a part of the digital QSLing services. It seems many more hams on HF still pursue the older style of confirming confirmations with QSL cards. I too am diving in the the world of physical QSL cards, and I must say, there’s something delightful about having a physical bit of ephemora to hang on the way, to prove that my handful of watts of RF reached out across the country.

On the sending end of the equation, I designed a basic QSL card from scratch in Illustrator. It includes all the basic information to confirm a contact (callsigns, date, UTC time, band, mode and RST), as well as some fun supplementary information (my rig, antenna, and power for each QSO). It’s not fancy, just to-the-point and designed to be printed on my greyscale printer at home. I purchased a small pack of nice cardstock to print these off as necessary, four to a page.

qslcard

To date, I’ve sent out about a dozen physical QSL cards. Some went to folks in states I’d like to confirm who aren’t on LOTW. Some went to my first contacts on the various HF Bands, or my first CW contact ever, and so on. Some just went to interesting people who I had nice conversations with. Out of those dozen or so cards that have gone out (with self-addressed stamped envelopes enclosed), I’ve gotten five back. And they’re all great!

Now I’m looking for a way to display these cards, and hopefully more that I’ll acquire in the future.

Hear you on the air!

73


For more information on QSLing, past and present, some resources I recommend are: