Panic in Detroit

Radio

Radio

I have managed to squeeze a fair bit of radio time in over the past couple of weeks. Of note is the fact that after managing a QSO with India earlier in the month, I managed to top that last week with a QSO with a station in Hong Kong! Feeling very happy with two new DX entities, I didn’t think this could be topped, until Friday that is when I managed Cuba, all in all Arpil will go down as a good month, as of this evening I have worked 27 stations on the key this month, I am on target, for once!

Today (Sunday) saw the Cambridge repeater groups rally in Foxton, I haven’t been to this one for a couple of years so I made the effort this morning to go. This is quite a small rally when compared to the old Wood Green rally and Dunstable Downs, but you can still manage to find some gems. I cam away with a new Hi-Mound key and a battery box for when I work portable, a reasonable day in the end.

I tried the key out but it will take some adjusting before I can get used to it.

Not much else to say this week.

 

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These foolish things

Alf, Family, Radio

Well March came in with a bang, we’re not even a third of the way through and I think I have done more so far this month than I normally do in a whole month. The weather has turned and the days are getting longer I think we must be getting close to the equinox now.

My back has sorted itself out and I am thankful for that.

Radio

I managed a station in Chile at the end of last month, that is the farthest I have worked anyone on the key, 7100 miles, I have no issues with the mag loop antenna.

Yesterday I had a dabble on 12 metres, I never used this band too much because although the ATU would tune the G5RV, I suffered really bad RF feedback in the shed, however the Mag loop tunes very easily to 12m and the bonus is that I don’t get any feedback. I saw a couple of US stations come up on the cluster so gave them a go. The first station was in New Mexico which is 5000 miles away, I am used to getting east coast stations but rarely get more than one state across, NM is one state away from the west coast so I was really excited to work Paul. The next station I tried turned out to be in Arkansas, again a few states away from the east coast so again I was really please to notch that one up, thanks Ron.

I have a new wire antenna which I am going to try and get up this week, this will get me back onto the 40m and 6m bands, I’ll let you know how I get on.

Doncaster

Me and Lesley spent the weekend at her parents this weekend and we had a great time. I even managed a Sunday lunchtime beer with Mick and came back home to a proper Sunday roast cooked by the mother in law. Poor Alfie hurt himself while playing with Bengie, he managed to take the skin off a pad on each foot, so he ended up being hardly able to walk. He is a lot better today and I took a chance and took him over the woods today and he seemed to be ok.

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Left: Alfie waiting for the ball to be thrown, Bengie in the background

 

 

 

Ramsgate

This coming weekend I am off to Ramsgate to catch up with a few friends, I have booked myself into a hotel on the seafront. I have a certain amount of trepidation, as I lost touch with some of the guys more than 20 years ago and some of them I don’t remember talking to them, so it could be interesting. I am going to spend a couple of nights down there and am hoping to get a bit of peace and quiet at some stage.

 

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It’ll soon be Christmas

Alf, Boat, Radio

It’s been a busy couple of weekends.

Boat

Last weekend me and the son went up to the boat for the weekend, we even took Alf with us. Alf absolutely loves the boat and is on the go all the time while we are up there, the plus side is that he normally sleeps for two days when we get back home. I had to go to the boat as I needed to top up the anti-freeze, we lost some coolant back in the summer when I had a hose split on us on Barton Broad. We had a good weekend and enjoyed an indian meal cooked on the tiny cooker we have on the boat, I’m always amazed at what we can do with that oven.

It won’t be long before we are covering the boat up for the worst of the winter.

Radio

I am now officially off the committee of the Harlow Radio Club and in January I will no longer be a member for reasons I don’t want to go into here. I may go back again, but not for at least 12 months.

The move back into my loft office has been successful and I am even sleeping better, the thought of all that radio equipment sitting at the bottom of my garden in a wooden structure did worry me. I do have some RF problems in my new shack and I find that 40 and 30 metres give me less problems. I will try some alternative earthing to see if I can alleviate the problem. I had a good day yesterday and managed 6 contacts 2 USA, 3 French and a Swiss station. I am still way off my monthly target but thats not a problem.

 

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Can anybody here me

Radio, Work

Well I ended last week on a high with my contacts made during the 2 metre contest and everything was looking up and I was really looking forward to the 432mhz contest.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation. more like leave it the last minute and see how it goes. On Tuesday night I went out to the shack in the hope to improve on my 70cm results. I fired up the Icom and listened to see if I could hear anyone warming up in the ten minutes before the contest started. I was surprised to hear no one. 8pm came and scanning through the 70cm band and nothing, I turned the rotator and scanned the band but absolutely nothing, in desperation I tuned to 439.550mhz where a few locals have a net on FM, ah I could hear someone. The only problem was I was only getting around a S3 which for a station less than two miles away was not right. With that, I shut the station down and shuffled off back in doors to consider my options. Suffice it to say M0PHO did not provide an entry for  432UKAC on the 8th April and I am gutted.

The rest of the week flew by my right han man at work was off last week and I have to say he was sorely missed, but I’m hoping he had a well deserved rest.

My radio activity has not been good this week at all, with only two morse stations worked all week and that was from G6UT.

Sunday I took the 70cm beam down to try to get to the bottom of the deafness problem. After a lot of buggering around I managed to get the beam down, and while I was convinced the problem was with the beam itself I thought I’d connect it direct to the radio and get Pat to hold it while I got a radio check from a local ham (M3JHQ). Prior to removal of the antenna I received a signal 4 and he received a signal 2. Connected direct I received S40+ and he received likewise. There for the problem must be in the original feeder.

There is no contest this week so to speak, well only 4m and I am not set up for that, this should give me time to get the antennas sorted.

Walking Alf back from his walk today and I came across some Goldfinches near the back of my house, in all the years I fed the birds I never once saw a Goldfinch visit, its a bind having cats and while I would not harm them I look forward to the day I can start feeding them again.

That’s all for now

 

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Foiled again!

Buses, Radio

As you may know, for the past three months I have set myself a target of one CW QSO per day through the whole month. You may remember, I have failed miserably with 4 out of 31 for January, 11 out of 28 for February, so 31 for March seemed impossible. Unfortunately I failed again, however this time it was a much more respectable 22 out of 31, in fact if I went and had 9 qso’s tomorrow I would have achieved it, not likely. I am not downhearted about it I think I did quite well and I reckon April may be my month.

What didn’t help my CW activity this month was a last minute unplanned visit to the factory in Ballymena. So Wednesday night saw me getting on a plane to go to Belfast. The reason for the visit was because we had a customer coming across to sign off their order of new buses. Normally when I visit I end up staying about 5 minutes from the factory, however this time I was stopping in a hotel called 10 square right smack bang in the middle of Belfast city centre. The visit passed by without incident and on Friday afternoon saw me back on a plane to Stansted. The flight was absolutely jam packed and I found myself sat in among a group of young ladies on there way to London for a boozy weekend. Judging by the conversations I pity any poor lad tried his luck with them.

I had intended to take part in the CQWPX annual contest this weekend, I had absolutely no luck on Saturday, things were that bad I was beginning to doubt my equipment, in fact I only managed a Polish special event station (HF15NATO) on the key. I went into the shack on Sunday morning to get my saw to cut a cabinet I had just built, I switched on the radio on 10 metres and it was absolutely buzzing. I had a dabble and was straight in working a Russian station. I quickly cut the wood and went back to the shack, I then went on to work 22 stations in the contest and added two new countries to my list Aruba and Brazil, I was selective in my contacts and managed the Azores, Canaries, Greece Turkey, Canada, USA and Madeira Island to name but a few.

Next week I should get my new car.

I have had a good weekend and look forward to the next one

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I’m glad that week is over

Buses, Cycling, Radio, Worked all Britain

Well, I’ve had a rotter of a week. It started off with me under the microscope due to allegations from a customer that my department had provided a very poor service. While I had no concerns that I could disprove the allegations, the amount of time involved in pulling all the facts together and the fact that it’s like being circled by sharks all in all made for a week I’d like to forget. Unfortunately all this faff meant my radio activity was reduced greatly. This means that I am now behind on my monthly CW target of one QSO per month. I’m still happy though as I’m only six QSO’s behind and I think a concerted effort next week may see me get that back in line, we’ll have to see.

Band conditions have been a bit up and down this weekend, I managed a couple of CW qso’s one with Norman (GM4KGK) in Stornoway western isles. This is the first Scottish station I have worked on the key, it had the added bonus of having a relatively rare WAB square, so it was a good result all round for me. This brings my total countries worked to 14, with the Germans being the most common contacts for me.

In other news I got in contact with an old friend this week via Facebook. He was someone I got friendly with when I was 15 and joined a local cycling club. Javelin CC was a club based in Forest Gate, and run by a guy called George Matthews. I often wonder what happened to George, he was a good bloke and would always help you out with a loan of a bike if you couldn’t go out. We used to meet every Tuesday night at Durning Hall Forest Gate and again every Sunday morning at either Ilford Broadway or Woolwich Ferry, and from there we would go off for the day on a route George had worked out. We also used to go Youth Hostelling some weekends and I visited lots of interesting places even going as far as Wales on one long weekend. Anyway I got in touch with my old mate Joe and while looking on his facebook found a couple of pictures of me, when I had hair, with the bike.

I’m the one in white with my back to the camera. Judging by the bike I’m on this was around 1976 and I think at Matching Green Essex.

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Below: taken in 1977 just outside Ross on Wye, me (middle) Joe (Left) and I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember the other lads name.

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I have some very fond memories of Javelin CC and the guys I ised to ride with, it now all seems like a lifetime away.

The weekend is almost over and my thoughts are being pulled back into work mode so I will have to leave it there this time

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Spring is here at last

Boat, Radio

I’m pretty upbeat as I write this, it is amazing what a slight change in the weather can do.

I managed to get a fair bit of radio in this week and even broke my record for number of CW QSO’s in one day, this is now eight. For the last couple of months I have set myself a target to push my use of morse, and that is to have an average of one qso per day for the whole month. I have failed miserably over the past couple of months, however for March I am bang smack on target. I am also setting myself a target of 100 different countries, although I feel this will take forever, presently I have worked 13 different countries on the key.

I have decided to give the CW classes a miss now after thinking long and hard about it. Its not that I think I’m above the lessons, I just find that I’m picking up more by being on the radio, and at 13-15 wpm I can hold my own by being selective with my qso’s. All this means is that I only call people if I am comfortable with their sending speed on their CQ call or previous over, so far I haven’t had a problem.

I have also got back into the UKAC VHF contests, I worked the 432mhz contest last Tuesday, and while my qso’s were in single figures (9), I did manage two 200 mile + contacts on 70cms, this is quite an achievement for my set up. I aim to improve my previous best standing (2012) of 170th.

A trip to the boat this weekend saw me finally complete my fuel line repairs and apart from a minor fuel leak on the fuel sedimenter she is just about ready for the boat safety certificate.

Onwards and upwards!

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First Transatlantic CW QSO

Alf, Boat, Radio

Another week flies by with not too much going on. However, on Thursday I returned to morse classes, the main reason for this was to return the trophy I won last year. My badge will stay on there but this year it will be passed on to another newcomer to morse. I enjoyed the class to a certain extent but felt a bit of frostiness, I’m not sure if it was because I haven’t been for a while, or whether it is because I am now on the air, but that said there was a certain amount of stand offishness. I would add though this was not from the chief instructor Andy who has helped me immensely over the past year or so. I am in two minds whether or not to continue with the classes, I will probably go this week and see how the land lies but I have never seen the point in putting up this sort of thing. I do benefit from the classes and could always do with constructive criticism.

Friday night I went to Harlow radio club, it was pretty full and very lively, about ten o’clock I sat with Bob G0AGO while he worked a couple of US stations on the key, I was writing down what was being recieved. Bob worked a couple of stations and then disappeared to get a cup of coffee. I sat at the radio, mainly to block anyone taking over the set to work SSB :). I was havingf a listen either side of the QRP calling frequency on 20 metres and heard an american station calling (K2JT), I decided I’d go back to him, but wasn’t expecting much as the rig was only set to 2 watts max output. This is very low power for those not familiar with radio. Sure enough the chap came straight back to me, I was amazed as the radio was set so low, the power needle hardly moved on the ATU when transmitting. We had a QSO, the guy was called Joe and he was a Viet Nam veteran living outside New York. To say I was chuffed would be an understatement, 5500kms on 2 watts! the only downside was that this was on the club callsign (G6UT).

Me and the wife went to the boat on Saturday for the weekend. The aim was to prep the boat for the boat safety check she now needs. Once again the boat gods were against me. First off I fitted the new fuel sedimenter and fuel lines bled the system up and started the boat. I left her running and went off to play ball with Alf, after a few minutes I could hear Martha’s engine hunting and and racing and knew that the fuel system had some air in it, sure enough she eventually cut out and died. So it was a case of climbing back down into the engine bay to bleed the air out of the system. After some time I realised that the air was not coming out and air must be entering the system through a pipe or connection. Eventually I found that the pipe I made to the lift pump was letting air in and try as I may I couldn’t rectify this, so this would have to be a job for next week after I get some more parts.

In the afternoon in between covering myself in Diesel, we took Alf to the beach, I was wondering what he would make of it as the last time I took him he was unimpressed and also afraid of water. He was great this time and had a splash while playing ball.

The next job was to get the heating working, yeah you guessed it, this also would not play ball. I ended up stripping the heating down to try to get it to fire, but alas all I got was smoke and cold air. This dampened my spirits as the predicted temperature for Saturday night was -2C. After a chat we made the decision to stay and would probably get some heat from the oven once Lesley puts the dinner on. Well we managed to warm the boat a little but the oven was no replacement for the diesel heater. I turned in about 10pm with the dog and had one of the worst nights I’ve ever had on the boat. Firstly there was a fair amount of diesel fumes laying around since my problems earlier in the day, this played havoc with my throat and left me with coughing bouts. Then there was the cold, I tried to open the cabin window to let some fresh air in about 2 am and it was frozen shut with ice on the inside of the windows. And finally, this was Alf’s first time overnight on the boaty and he would not settle which of course disturbed me and Lesley.

I didn’t want to get up Sunday morning, not because I was comfortable as I wasn’t, but because it was bleeding cold. Luckily Lesley got up and braved the cold and put the kettle on. I got up after and cooked us both cheese on toast, this is proper boat food!

I decided to set the radio up (FT-897) and see if I could work anything, while setting the radio up I accidentally knocked the heater on and believe or not it fired first time. At least we had some heat for the morning. I stayed on the radio for an hour and managed to work a few stations including an american station on 15 metres SSB. I do like my FT-897.

Alf is now languishing upstairs as I type this totally dead to the world, he won’t return to normal till Tuesday, poor sods knackered.

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February already

Boat, Radio, Work

Well 2014 is picking up a pace with January already out of the way. The rain continues and there is hardly fields in the local area that are walkable, apparently it is the wettest January since records began. We also have more forecast for next week, so the way things are going I doubt we’ll see any snow this side of December.

My radio activity has been a bit quiet this week mainly due to work commitments, but I have set myself the task of having 28 CW contacts through February, one per day. As I write this I am already two behind. I aim to catch this up next week.

I have decided to turn my old shack into my electronics workshop. My new shack doesn’t ave enough room to house all my radio equipment as well as my test equipment. So today I have been sorting out my office/workshop, the main driver for this was the vintage radio I bought last week from eBay. It is a C1948 Etronic medium and short wave valve radio. There is nothing like a valve radio set from the hum to the glow you get from the valves through the back. I have been after one for some time but I kept getting pipped at the post. The chap selling the radio was about ten minutes from my workplace so I managed to save a tenner on the postage, which meant I could go a bit higher on the bidding. I am very pleased the set it has a lovely sound and is in full working order. I was a bit concerned at first because I couldn’t tune the radio below 900KHz. I was a bit disappointed because I like Radio four and this is around 750KHz. I moved the radio upstairs and after a fiddle with the wire antenna and in came radio four as well a a whole raft of other stations right to the bottom of the band. The radio likes it better upstairs and I can’t wait to listen to Sailing By, BBC4’s closing down music. It’s a shame the World Service no longer play Lilly Bolero.

We had an EGM at the radio club on Friday, the main bone of contention was whether or not we should allow non-members to the club AGM’s. It was decided that there should be a change to the constitution not to allow non-members to attend. We had a good night and most of the talk centered around a member who had decided to leave the club but also left some derogatory comments on his QRZ page. Most of the guys present were quite upset about this as this particular member had a lot of assistance from various members to help him gain his full license. He is expected back at some stage but I think there will be some discussion about whether or not he should be welcomed open arms.The lads were getting ready for a trip to Canvey Island Radio Rally, I went last year for the first time, but in all honesty I thought it was quite badly organised, so didn’t fancy it this year, I also don’t need any radio equipment so thought I’d give it a miss.

Saturday saw me spending the day with my daughter looking for a car. We covered a lot of mileage and after a few lemons we managed to find a cracking little car out a Little Canfield (nr Stansted Airport). The car is in very good condition for its age with very low mileage and Toni fell in love with it straight away. We were under a bit of pressure because not long after we turned up to other people turned up to look at the car, both very interested. We took the motor for a spin and it ran very well so rather than shop around and come back to find the car sold Toni decided to go for it and promptly paid for it. I felt sorry for the other people who wanted the car but it has happened to me before so it was nice to be on the winning team.

I’m going to take a day off next week, probably Friday to go to the boat to replace the fuel lines, I should have gone today but Lesley had other plans.

An old friend of mine is working in Harlow next wek and there are plans to meet up for a couple of beers in the week, I look forward to that.

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My first toe in the water with WAB

Boat, Radio, Worked all Britain

For a couple of weeks now I have wanted to take the Landrover out with my, sort of, new FT-897. Up to now their seems to have been an excuse not to go. I ran out of excuses this weekend. On Saturday I made up a new length of Co-ax (Last weeks excuse) and it was all systems go. The only drawback was the severe weather forecast predicted for Sunday. Part of the renewed interest in getting out Sunday was to try out an Odyssey battery out to see if it was going to be suitable for powering the 897. The battery is a deep cycle 13Ah 12 volt battery.

Anyway on Saturday night I made sure I had everything in place so there were no excuses. I decided I was going to go to the old WWII Matching airfield site, the air fild is long gone but the geography is still there. It’s pan flat, very open and hardly any buildings about, so no noise. One of the other reasons for choosing this location was because its IARU locator is TL51 and not very densely populated (by Radio Hams), so in that case it will be sought after by other hams doing the worked all Britain challenge.

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The 897 in it case with my key.

The WAB challenge is to try and work as many of the uk 10km square locators as you can. Some of the squares are quite difficult to work as they may be on remote coastlines or in national parks with no habitation.

 

 

I set off about 10:30 for the 30 minute drive to Matching airfield with all the kit in place, the weather was very wet and quite blowy. All the fields are completely water logged with much of it now running into the road. I find myself a layby and set up, I have had the Pro-Whip out so many times now I can set it up in about 5 minutes. I was glad to back in the car as the rain was now going sideways. I set the radio up in the front passenger seat and was pleasantly surprised with the reception, very little noise. I set the radio to 20 watts and had a listen on 12 metres, I heard a Maltese station and called back and got into him straight away with a 5-7 signal report, following on from that I worked a Ukrainian station then switched to 10 metres and worked another Ukranian station. After this I switched to 40 metres and worked a large handful of WAB stations.

I was really impressed with the way the WAB net worked, you all call in and give your call sign to the moderator, then he calls you in turn to work to work a selected station. I was really pleased when he told the group that he had M0PHO in TL51 and 12 stations came back eager for the square. I worked my way through them being able to work most, but not all unfortunately.

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The portable station set up on the left.

I had a fantastic morning and the 897 is a fantastic bit of kit. I cannot say the same for the battery however. On some of the overs I noticed the supply voltage to the radio dropping below 11 volts, which isn’t ideal. I think I may have to revert to heavier duty battery to cope with the demand. I was hoping to get away from using a large battery, mainly because having to lug it out of the car and into the shed every time it needs a charge, and then lug it back out to put it in the car. I think the HD battery will have to be used however, I may try to rig up some split charger or 240v charger set up in the car, watch this space.

I tried to get the parts needed to repair the fuel system on Matha (my boat) this week, firstly work was that busy I was unable to get to Pirtek to get the parts needed. I went on Saturday with the notion of picking up the parts and going to the boat on Sunday. Unfortunately Pirtek no longer keep parts which are in Imperial spec. This meant I had to order the parts with a plan to go to the boat next weekend, probably portable in TG32 with any luck.

Life’s pretty good at the moment, the leg seems to be well on the mend and it is as near as dammit feeling as normal as I can remember. I am looking forward to seeing how this year pans out.

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