13 Colonies Special Event Begins Today!

2014 Thirteen Colonies Special Event Certificate

2014 Thirteen Colonies Special Event Certificate

The Thirteen Colonies Special Event begins today! The event runs from July 1st through July 6th, 2014. Anita and I will again be operating as K2K, New Hampshire as part of the event. There will be thirteen stations on the air (K2A-K2M) plus two bonus stations during the event. Working one or more will earn you an attractive certificate. If you work all 13, your certificate will indicate this (an endorsement for the bonus stations is also available). Details on how to obtain a certificate may be found here.

We have been operating as part of the Thirteen Colonies Special Event for several years now and we always have a great time doing it! I was able to make over 5,800 contacts as part of the event last year.

The Original Thirteen Colonies

The Original Thirteen Colonies

The idea of the event is to work one or more stations in each of the states that grew from the Original Thirteen Colonies. Each state has several stations on the air and we try to provide contacts in SSB Phone, CW and digital modes on the HF bands and via Satellites. We will be operating on all of the HF bands 160m-10m (except 60m) including the WARC bands this year. Some states will also have operations on 6m and above as well as providing contacts via HAM Sats. The Thirteen Colonies Special Event stations made over 80,000 QSOs last year and we are shooting to make even more this year.

Thirteen Colonies Special Event QSL Cards

Thirteen Colonies Special Event QSL Cards

In addition to the attractive event certificate, each state and the two bonus stations have attractive QSL cards available. A card can be obtained for working on of the Thirteen Colonies Special Event Stations via a direct QSL request (including SASE/postage for the return of a card). You can find more information on how to request our QSL cards here.

This event is a lot of fun and is open to all HAM operators around the world. Many stations outside the United States work all 13 Special Event Stations and the two Bonus Stations for a clean sweep! There is an excellent website that contains lots of information about the event and I’d encourage our readers to take a look at it. There is also a Yahoo! Group for the event this year which contains additional information.

We hope that our readers will spend some time next week working the event. It’s a great thing for US operators to do over the July 4th Holiday. I hope to see meet some of our readers on the air as part of the event. See you in the pileup!

– Fred (AB1OC)

More Progress On Operating Awards

Worked All VK Call Areas

Worked All VK Call Areas

I have continued to make progress on my operating award goals and have recently received a few interesting new awards. The first one is the Worked All VK CALL Areas. This award is issue by the Wireless Institute of Australia and requires confirming  a number of contacts in all 10 VK call areas on the HF Bands (160m – 10m). For me, the VK0 contact in the VK0 area was the most difficult. I was able to work Craig, VK0JJJ a few months back and confirm the contact to complete this award. Contacts in the VK6 area in Western Australia can also be a challenge from my area there are a limited number of HAMs in this rural area of Australia and it’s almost half way around the world from our location. Fortunately, there are a few big stations in the VK6 call area. The Worked All VK Call Areas award is one of the most attractive looking operating awards that I’ve earned and it’s always enjoyable to work HAMs in Australia.

Worked All Africa

All Africa Operating Award

I’ve also recently completed an All Africa Operating Award. This award is issued by the South African Radio League and required working and confirming at least one station in each of the six call areas in South Africa plus at least one station in 25 African Countries outside of South Africa (islands off the coast of Africa do not count for this award).  Working some of the more rare entities in Africa can be a challenge as many countries have a limited number of HAMs and most do not have many “big gun” stations making them more difficult to work. It is often possible to work some of the more rare stations in Africa during contests and this is the way that I completed many of the contacts required for this award. I have a goal to contact all entities on the African Continent at some point in the future.

ARRL Worked All States Triple Play Award

ARRL Worked All States Triple Play Award

The last award that I’ve recently completed is the Worked All States Triple Play. This award is issued by the ARRL here in the United States and requires one to work and confirm via Logbook of the World (LoTW) all 50 US States in each of three operating modes – Phone, CW and Digital. With all of our contest activity, I have had all the needed confirmations via a combination of cards and LoTW for some time but securing confirmations for a few states on LoTW in CW mode was a bit of a challenge.  This award is also very attractive and can be had both as a certificate and in the form of a plaque. This award is well within reach of many US stations and provides great encouragement to expand your skills and station to new operating modes.  AB1QB is working toward this award by working all of the W1AW portable stations this year on Phone and CW (she already has all states confirmed on Digital) as all of the W1AW portable stations will confirm on LoTW.

AB1OC Operating Awards In Our Shack

AB1OC Operating Awards In Our Shack

I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to complete quite a few operating awards to date and these make for a nice display in our shack. Right now, I am focusing on a few new awards as well as some additional endorsements to awards that I already have. These include:

Operating awards provide good incentives to get on the air and work new stations, new bands and new modes. I hope that you’ll consider working towards a few operating awards – it can be great fun!

– Fred (AB1OC)

Worked All Europe And Worked All VK Call Areas Awards

AB1OC WAE Top Plaque

AB1OC WAE Top Plaque

I’ve been continuing to work on several operating awards and have recently completed a couple of interesting ones. The first is a Worked All Europe (WAE) Top Plaque. This award is from the Deutscher Amateur Radio Club (DARC). It required me to work and confirm 70 of the 72 entities in Europe and 300+ band-entities in Europe. This award comes as a nice metal plague and we made a small stand to display it on. The only entities in Europe that I have not yet confirmed are Mt. Athos (SV/A) and the U.N. in Vienna (4U1V).

AB1OC Worked All VK Call Areas Award

AB1OC Worked All VK Call Areas Award

I’ve also recently completed a Worked all VK Call Areas Award. This award is administered by the Wireless Institute of Australia and requires a station outside Australia to work and confirm a minimum of 22 contacts to VK stations as follows:

  • VK0, VK1, VK8, VK9: 1 contact from each call area. (4 total)
  • VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6 and VK7: 3 contacts from each call area. (18 total)
  • An AREA for VK0 & VK9 is defined as a DXCC entity, i.e. VK0-Antarctica, VK0-Macquarie Island, VK9-Norfolk Island, VK9-Willis Island, etc…

For me, the contacts to VK6 (Western Australia) and VK0 (near the South Pole) were the most difficult. My first VK6 contact was with Martin, VK6RC.

Craig, VK0JJJ's QSL Card

Craig, VK0JJJ’s QSL Card

My final and most difficult contact for this award was with Craig, VK0JJJ at the Mawson Station in Antarctica. I made this contact on 20m, long path over the North Pole.

The Worked All VK Call Areas Award is one of the nicest looking awards that we have earned to date. It is a large, colorful certificate which shows all of the VK call areas needed for the award.

– Fred (AB1OC)

RSGB IOTA Awards

Anita's IOTA 100 Award

Anita’s IOTA 100 Award

Every since our DXpedition to Bora Bora Island (OC-67) in French Polynesia in 2012, we have been interested in the RSGB Islands On The Air (IOTA) program and the associated awards.

Our QSL Card from Bora Bora

Our QSL Card from Bora Bora (OC-67)

I believe that our presence on a medium-rare IOTA while were in French Polynesia contributed significantly to the success of our operation there. Anita (AB1QB) and I have been working on our IOTA Awards and have completed and confirmed enough contacts to earn the base award (shown above). Fred needs to confirm just 1 more of his IOTA contacts to complete an IOTA 200 Award.

RSGB IOTA Website (courtesy www.rsgbiota.org)

RSGB IOTA Website (courtesy http://www.rsgbiota.org)

The RSGB IOTA website is excellent and contains many resources for the IOTA chaser. Information on current and previous activations are available there as well as a great tool for completing an application for an IOTA Award. There are a total of 1200 IOTAs on the official IOTA list at any given time and some of these are quite rare.

RSGB IOTA Directory

RSGB IOTA Directory

The RSGB publishes an IOTA Directory which is an excellent source of information about the IOTA program as well as for the HAM considering an IOTA activation. The IOTA program requires all contacts to be confirmed via cards or via confirmations derived from participation in RSGB IOTA Contests. We have done both and we recently worked with our regional IOTA card checker, Dan Sullivan (W4DKS) to have our cards checked and to complete our award applications. We learned that it is important to look carefully at the information the QSL cards applied to this award as they must contain the island name on the card to qualify. Some folks mistakenly fill in an IOTA number in their information on QRZ.com when they are not actually located on a valid IOTA. Since many loggers which track the IOTA awards use the QRZ.com information to determine which contacts are with IOTAs, your logs will sometimes indicate that you have worked more IOTAs that you actually have. We both cleaned up our logs in this area as  we went through the IOTA award application process.

The are many opportunities to work variations of the IOTA Awards including the Honor Roll, VHF/UHF and Marathon programs. These are all great opportunities for the serious IOTA chaser to have more fun.

We are proud to have earned our IOTA certificates and we are always looking to make contacts with new IOTAs when we can. The IOTA contests are also great fun and we’re planning to continue to participate in there. If you like to work DX, take a look at the RSGB IOTA program. It’s another good reason to get on the air and make some interesting contacts.

– Fred (AB1OC)

2013 Amateur Radio Highlights

DXCCs Worked in 2013

DXCCs Worked in 2013

Anita and I were quite active on the bands in 2013. Together we made 20,650+ contacts from a combination of our home and mobile stations and we worked a combined 259 DXCC Entities.

Combined 2013 QSOs By Band

Combined 2013 QSOs By Band

We were active on all of the Amateur Bands available in the USA from 160m through 70cm except for the 60m and 1.25m bands. The picture above shows the distribution of our QSOs across the bands in 2013. Both of us participated in quite a few contests in 2013 and this resulted in the 5 major contest bands dominating our operating activity. I did quite a lot of work on the 160m band this year and I participated in several 160m contests to gain experience and to begin working towards a DXCC on this band. We worked a total of 50 DXCC Entities on 160m in 2013. Our 6m, 2m, and 440 MHz (70cm) contacts were made mostly during VHF/UHF contests that I participated in.

Combined 2013 QSOs By Mode

Combined 2013 QSOs By Mode

We like to operate using many different modes. Anita (AB1QB) does quite a bit of RTTY contesting and she accounted for the bulk of the activity in the digital modes from our station in 2013. I made it a point to become active using the CW mode this year and I made 1,550+ contacts using CW in 2013 including participation in several CW contests. Operations in SSB Phone mode dominated our activity this year mostly due to our operations in SSB Phone contests and as one of the New Hampshire Stations in the 2013 Colonies Special Event this year where we made a combined total of 6,200+ contacts.

QSL Cards Ready To Mail

QSL Cards Ready To Mail

We really enjoy sending and receiving QSL cards. We sent 5,800+ QSL cards this year, averaging approximately 110 cards sent each week. We also QSL’ed via eQSL and Logbook Of The World. I am often asked what percentage of our QSL requests are confirmed. For 2013, we received confirmations for 67% of our direct/bureau cards, 31% of the QSOs uploaded to eQSL, and 37% of the QSOs upload to LoTW. These numbers will undoubtedly rise a time goes by.

AB1OC Operating Awards

AB1OC Operating Awards

All of this operating allowed us to complete a number of operating awards this year. Fred completed his DXCC Challenge, 8-Band DXCC, and CQ WPX Award of Excellence Awards as well as a DXCC Awards in CW mode and a DXCC QRP (5 watts).

AB1QB Japan Cities Award

AB1QB Japan Century Cities Award

Anita has held a DXCC for some time and has been focusing on a number of JARL Awards. She completed her Japan Century Cities Award for confirming contacts with 100 cities in Japan in 2013.

AB1QB Operating In The BARTG RTTY Contest

AB1QB Operating In The BARTG RTTY Contest

Contesting was a big part of the operations from our station this year. I was active in several major SSB and CW contests this year and Anita was active in quite a few major RTTY and phone contests as well. We are both licensed for less that 3 years and have been competing in the Rookie or Novice categories in most contests and we have been doing quite well. Anita took 5th place in the world in the 2013 BARTG RTTY Contest and she has placed 1st in our call area in several of the 2013 ARRL Rookie Roundups in both SSB Phone and RTTY.

2013 CQ Worldwide WPX SSB Certificate

2013 CQ Worldwide WPX SSB Certificate

I placed 1st in North America/2nd in the World in the 2013 CQ WPX SSB Contest (Rookie High Power) and 1st in North America/2nd in the World in the 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest (Rookie High Power). Contests have provided us a great deal of operating experience and have contributed greatly to our completion of several operating awards.

Mobile Installation In Ford F-150

Mobile Installation In Ford F-150

Station Building was a big part of our Amateur Radio experience again in 2013. We installed a mobile HF setup in our truck and did quite a bit of mobile HF operating. We made 165 contacts from our mobile station in 2013 and worked 41 DXCC entities.

WSJT EME QSO - Waterfall

WSJT EME QSO – Waterfall

I also made my first Earth-Moon-Earth Contacts on 2m in 2013. I made 30 contacts on 2m using the moon as a reflector, working a total of 16 DXCC Entities this way.

AB1QB Operating The Flex-3000 Software Defined Radio

AB1QB Operating The Flex-3000 Software Defined Radio

We added a Flex-3000 Software Defined Radio (SDR) to our station in 2013 and have been using it to learn about this new technology. The performance and operating capabilities of SDR are making SDR a big part of the future of Amateur Radio in our opinion.

8-Circle Receive Array System Diagram

8-Circle Receive Array System Diagram

Antenna projects were also a part of our station building work in 2013. We installed an 8-Circle Receive Array System for 160m – 40m and this new antenna system helped us a great deal with DX’ing and contesting on 160m and 80m. We also began the reinstallation of our BigIR Vertical Antenna but the onset of winter here in New Hampshire caused us to delay the completion of this project until spring. Finally, we made the switch to the excellent DXLab logging and DX’ing software suite. DXLab helped us a great deal with QSL’ing and tracking our progress toward operating awards.

CW Station Operations

2013 Field Day CW Station Operations

We were part of the 2013 Field Day team at our local radio Club (PART in Westford, MA). We provided and managed the digital station as well as the setup of a portion of the antenna systems for our club’s field day operations.

ARRL At Dayton 2013

ARRL At Dayton 2013

Anita and I attended the Dayton Hamvention again in 2013. The Dayton event is always a great opportunity to see the latest in Amateur Radio equipment. We attended the 2013 Contest University which was held as part of the Dayton Event and used the information that we learned there to continue to improve our contesting skills.

Fred Lloyd AA7BQ, Founder Of QRZ.com

Fred Lloyd AA7BQ, Founder Of QRZ.com

The internet was a big part of our Amateur Radio experience again in 2013. We met Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ who visited us to do an article on QRZ.com on our station. We learned a great deal from Fred during the time that we spent with him as part of this project. We published 47 new articles here on our blog in 2013 and have received over 45,000 views from our readers in 152 countries around the world. We really appreciate the interest from the HAM community and we will continue to publish new articles here in 2014.

As you can tell from this article, 2013 has been a very active year for Anita and I. I’ve created the video above to give you some idea of the contacts that we have been fortunate enough to make around the world in 2013. We hope you enjoy it and we want to thank everyone who has taken the time to work us, to end us a QSL card or to read the articles that we have written here.

– Fred (AB1OC)

An New QRP Operating Award

1,000 Mile Per Watt Award

1,000 Mile Per Watt Award

I did quite a bit of operating at QRP power levels (5 Watts) in 2013. It is great fun to make contacts at low power and it is truly amazing how far one can communicate on only 5 watts of power. QRP operating is also a great way to improve one’s operating skills. I recently discovered an award run by the QRP Amateur Radio Club International called the 1,000 Mile Per Watt Award. I completed a QRP DXCC Award in 2013 so I have quite a few DX QSO’s at QRP power levels. After looking at my log, I discovered that my longest QRP CW contact was with Alan Taylor, VK7BO in Tasmania, Australia – some 10,470 miles from our station. I used this contact to apply for the 1,000 Mile Per Watt Award you see above. This award will make a nice addition to the wall in our shack.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Progress On Operating Awards

AB1OC Operating Awards

AB1OC Operating Awards

Anita and I have been working towards a number of operating awards for some time now. These awards provide lots of good motivation to get on the air, improve our operating skills and improve the performance of our station. I have recently completed two major awards – an ARRL 5 Band DXCC and a CQ WPX Award of Excellence.

AB1OC 8 Band DXCC

AB1OC 5 Band DXCC

The 5 Band DXCC requires confirmation of 100 or more DXCC entities on each of the 80m, 40m, 20m, 15m and 10m bands. I was also able to confirm 100+ entities on 30m, 17m and 12m which earned the endorsements on the base award for these additional bands. I am also working towards a 160m band endorsement which for my 5B DXCC which will be quite a challenge (I currently have 47 worked on 160m). As is the case with other DXCC awards, one can use any mode to confirm a band-entity towards this award. I used a combination of SSB, CW and Digital (mostly RTTY) to complete my 5B DXCC and I used a mix of Logbook of the World (LoTW) and Paper QSL cards to secure the necessary confirmations. This award is a good test of the DX’ing capabilities of an operator and their station and it has been a goal of mine ever since we completed our station a little over a year ago.

AB1OC WPX Award Of Excellence

AB1OC WPX Award Of Excellence

The other major award which I’ve recently completed is the CQ WPX Award Of Excellence. This award requires one to confirm a large number of unique callsign prefixes using different modes, bands and on all continents. Specifically, the award requires one to confirm 1,000 prefixes in Mixed mode and 600 prefixes in SSB and 600 prefixes in CW plus earn all 6 continental endorsements (NA, SA, EU, AF, AS, and OC), and all 5 non-WARC band endorsements (80-10 meters). I was also able to earn the Digital and 160m endorsements for this award. I am close to additional band endorsements for the 30m, 17m and 12m as well. I chose to work towards this award because it requires geographic diversity (all continents – Africa and Oceania were the most difficult) and a large number of confirmed contacts using both the SSB and CW modes. The requirement to confirm 600 unique prefixes on CW was a great motivator to develop my CW skills. This award resulted in my attaining a place on the CW WPX Honor Roll for Mixed (currently 1815 prefixes), SSB (1401 prefixes), Digital (884 prefixes) and CW (600 prefixes) as well. There is a great deal of QSL’ing work associated with this award! Fortunately, CQ allows eQSL(AG), LoTW and paper cards to be used to confirm prefixes which makes the process a little easier.

AB1QB Japan Cities Award

AB1QB Japan Century-Cities Award

Anita (AB1QB) is also working on several awards and she particularly enjoys working stations in Japan. She has completed other JARL awards and has recently completed the JARL Japan Century-Cities Award which required her to work and confirm (with cards only) 100 different cities in Japan. Anita is also working on a JARL Worked All Japan Prefectures awards which requires her to work and confirm all 47 prefectures in Japan (she currently has 37 prefectures confirmed).

QSL from Hiro San, JE7HYK in Akita Japan

QSL from Hiro San, JE7HYK in Akita Japan

Earning JARL operating awards from the eastern United States is challenging and it is a particular pleasure to exchange QSL cards with HAMs in Japan.

We are always working on new awards in our shack. I am trying to complete a 5 Band Worked All States and a WAS Triple Play Award (All 50 states confirm using SSB, Digital and CW modes). In addition to the JARL awards, Anita is working on IOTA and CQ WPX awards. All this is great fun and motivation to improve our skills and operate.

– Fred (AB1OC)

AB1OC Completes The DXCC Challenge Award

DXCC Challenge Award

DXCC Challenge Award

I have been working on a number of operating awards with the goals of both improving my operating skills and verifying the performance of our station against our original design goals. I am happy to say that I’ve achieved my first major goal in this area by completing a DXCC Challenge Award. This award requires working and confirming at least 1,000 DXCC band-enties on any of the Amateur bands, 160 through 6 meters (except 60 meters). This award is a good one to confirm the performance of our station across all of the HF Bands. It took me about 1 year after finishing our new station and starting to work towards this award to complete it. I hope some day to achieve the 1,500 and other endorsements for this award.

– Fred (AB1OC)

2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event Operating Award

2013 Thirteen Colonies Top Operator Award

2013 Thirteen Colonies Top Operator Award

I believe that operating awards serve several important purposes within the Amateur Radio community. First, they encourage operators to get on the air and operate. Each award is different in this respect – some encourage DX’ing (ex. ARRL DXCC awards) while others encourage specific types of contacts (ex. the RSGB IOTA awards) and others are designed to encourage operators to provide the best possible experience in on the air events. At a personal level, operating awards several two important functions – they give us a means to test the performance of our stations and our skills as operators and they provide us with motivation and encouragement to improve both. Occasionally, an operating award comes along that really means a lot and I am happy and proud to say that I’ve recently achieved one of these. I’ve been active in the Thirteen Colonies Special Event for three years now and I’ve been working to improve our station and my skills as a pileup operator throughout this period. The 2011 event was my first experience operating a special event station (K2K New Hampshire) and I made several hundred digital contacts that year. In 2012, we used the Thirteen Colonies Special Event to prove in our new shack and made over 1,000 contacts using a mix of digital modes and SSB phone. This year, I set out to achieve the Top Operator Award in the high-power, single op category using our recently completed station including our tower-based antenna system and high-power setup. As you can see from the photo above, this effort was successful and provided an award that I will always be very proud to display in our shack.

2013 Thirteen Colonies Top Operator Certificate

2013 Thirteen Colonies Top Operator Certificate

I was able to make 5,812 contacts over the 6 1/2 days of the 2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event. These contacts were made across all of the non-WARC bands from 160m – 2m. You can see more of the details of the contacts that Anita (AB1QB) and I made this year here. I’d like to thank Ken Villone (KU2US) who runs the Thirteen Colonies Special Event and Richie Feola (W1STT) who is the New Hampshire coordinator for the event for providing us with the opportunity to be part of something very special.

New K2K New Hampshire QSL Card

New K2K New Hampshire QSL Card

Richie (W1STT), Anita (AB1QB) and I have been working on a new QSL card for the Thirteen Colonies K2K New Hampshire station. I think it has turned out quite nicely. The new cards are in the process of being printed and we’ll be sending out the new cards to those who have QSL’ed contacts with K2K this year as soon as we receive them.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the 2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event. I hope that we created some good memories for everyone. This is certainly the case for me.

– Fred (AB1OC)

The 13 Colonies Special Event Begins Today

13 Colonies Special Event Certificate

13 Colonies Special Event Certificate

The 13 Colonies Special Event begins today. This event commemorates the July 4th Independence Day in the United States of America. There are stations (K2A through K2L) on the air in each of the states that were one of the original 13 Colonies here in the USA. There is also a bonus station at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA (WM3PEN). If you work one or more of these stations, you can send for a QSL card with the state’s flag plus you can request a certificate (shown above – see the website for details on how to request a certificate). If you work all of the colonies/states, you can receive a certificate indicating this. We will be operating as K2K, one of the New Hampshire Stations in the digital (RTTY & PSK) and SSB phone modes. Richie (W1STT) will also be operating as K2K in SSB mode and Mike (N1IW) will be operating as K2K in CW mode. We will be on all bands 80m – 10m (including some 160m, 6m and 2m operation if there is interest). This event has become fairly large – the 13 Colonies Stations completed over 62,000 QSOs as part of the 2012 event. The event welcomes all Amateur Radio Operators around the world. Operations begin this morning and run through Saturday, July 6th. I hope that some of our readers will find some time to work us as part of this event. You can find our operating frequency on the spotting cluster or at this 13 colonies spotting cluster page.  To our readers in the USA – have a very happy and safe July 4th and God Bless America!

– Fred (AB1OC) and Anita (AB1QB)