2015 has continued to be my best year for working new DX in my relatively short 4 years as an Amateur Radio operator. I have been trying to reach a personal goal of working my 300th DXCC for several months, and I’ve been just one All-Time New One (ATNO) short for a few weeks. I worked one or more new Band-DXCCs every day in 2015, with a total of 112 new Band-DXCCs worked so far this year. About a week ago, it looked fairly certain that my 300th ATNO was in sight with the 9N DXpedition to Nepal about to come on the air. Just as they did, we had some very strong solar flare/Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) activity which wiped propagation between my QTH in New England, USA, and Nepal. 9N Nepal is a fairly rare one here in the USA (#42 on ClubLog’s most-wanted list for North America) so I really wanted to put 9N in the log while it is active.
Tools for DX’ing – VOCAP Propagation Prediction Between 9N Nepal and NH USA
I have been listening diligently each day during the periods of best propagation (see the excellent VOCAP propagation prediction website to create custom propagation predictions). This morning the K and A indices were down, and the most up-to-date VOCAP prediction between Nepal and my QTH suggested that today would be better. I went down to the shack early before the start of my work day and found Janusz, 9N7WE coming in strong on 15m SSB. I took just two tries to get him in the log.
2015 has been quite a year for DX’ing and working new DXCCs for us. This month is the most productive I have experienced, with more than 20 interesting DXpeditions. We’ve been fortunate to have the chance to work the DXpedition on Navassa Island (#2 on ClubLog’s most wanted list), which took place in February of this year. In addition to those shown above, there are also quite a few small operations, including E51UFF on North Cook Island and VP8DOZ on South Georgia Island (#9 on ClubLog’s most-wanted list) being on. Also, Eritrea, E30FB, which is operating right now, is #20 on ClubLog’s most wanted list. All of this makes for a great opportunity to work all-time new ones and add new DXCC Band-Points. We extensively used DX’ing tools as part of working new DXCCs this year.
Anita, AB1QB has worked 13 all-time new DXCC’s and I’ve worked 5 all-time new DXCCs since the beginning of 2015. Anita has broken the 250 DXCC barrier, and I’m just 2 away from breaking 300. There have also been quite a few new IOTAs for us. Anita has added 11 IOTAs this year, and I’ve added 14. We also added more than 85 DXCC Band-Points each toward our DXCC Challenge Award totals. I have set a goal to work at least one new DXCC Challenge Band-Point each day in 2015 in hopes of getting to the 2,000 DXCC Band-Point level before the end of the year (I am currently at 1,785 worked).
Shack Board – Upcoming Operations and Contests
We use a number of different sources to find out about these operations. Our favorite ones are The Weekly DX, DX-World.net (the source of the graphic above), and DX Publishing’s QRZ DX. These are all excellent sources for finding out about upcoming DXpeditions, small DX operations, and IOTA activations. Working DX contests such as CQ WW DX, the ARRL DX Contests, and CQ WW WPX are also excellent ways to work new DXCCs and new Band-Points. We have a whiteboard in our shack where we record upcoming operations that we need and contests that we want to participate in. This helps us keep track of what is coming up that we need.
We also use the SpotCollector component of the DXLab Suite to help us identify new DXCCs, Band-Points, IOTAs, and WAZ Band-Zones that we need in real time when they come on. We have also used SpotCollector to alert us when stations we need for the Yearly CQ DX Marathon are on the air.
Spot Sources Configuration In SpotCollector
We have configured SpotCollector (the spotting component of DXLab) to aggregate spots from various sources. Our logs are kept in DXLab, and we program the SpotCollector to filter all incoming cluster spots and CW/RTTY Skimmer data to tell us about high-priority stations we want to work with when they are on the air. The key to this approach is carefully filtering incoming cluster and skimmer spots to only display and forward the most important opportunities.
We then use the powerful SQL script capability of SpotCollector to only tell us about stations that we are willing to “head for the shack to work.” SpotCollector is configured to send the appropriate spots as text messages via email to our mobile phones so that we know immediately when something we need comes on. The filter above selects all-time new DXCCs, new DXCC Band-Points, new IOTA’s, and new WAZ Band-Zones which are spotted in the Eastern or Central United States. The filter also picks up new Band-States for the ARRL Worked All States Award.
We hope our readers interested in working DX and IOTAs will be able to find some time to work so of the operations on the air right now. This time period is certainly one that has a lot of potential to put “new ones” in the log. If you use the DXLab Suite, you might try some of the more advanced features of SpotCollector to help you better find stations that you want to work when they are on.
I came across a great video this morning – an excellent introduction to DX’ing. For me, this video really communicates well what DX’ing is all about. Chasing DX is a part of our hobby that provides the chance to meet many new friends around the world, learn about culture and geography and make some amazing contacts. Take some time to watch the video – I think our readers will enjoy it!
The ARRL has been celebrating its 100th year this year with a variety of events. One of the biggest was the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT this month. Anita and I were fortunate to be able to attend this excellent event and I wanted to share some of our experiences from Hartford with our readers. We began our Centennial Convention experience by attending the Contest University session that was held on the first day. No matter how many times we attend this excellent training day, we always learn some new things and techniques that we can practice in our contesting efforts.
One of the key things to do at the Convention was the excellent Vendor display arena. In addition to an all-out booth run by ARRL, many of the major radio and equipment vendors were present. Beyond the Dayton Hamvention, this was one of the best vendor displays of this type that we’ve had the pleasure to attend.
Forums And Presentations
The best part, by far, for us were the excellent Forums and Presentations that were part of the convention. The ARRL managed to line up some of the most noted experts in the Amateur Radio Community to speak on a broad variety of topics.
Joe Taylor’s WSJT Presentation
One of the best was Joe Taylor’s (K1JT) excellent presentation on the weak signal digital protocols that he has developed and the software that he has created to enable the Amateur Radio community to make contacts using the Moon, Meteor Scatter, and other means in very marginal probation conditions. You can find out more about Joe’s work in this areas on his Home Page.
Gordon West 2M Tropo Presentation
Gordon West, WB6NOA gave an excellent presentation on Tropo Ducting Propagation on 2M. Gordon is very knowledgeable on this topic and he is also a very entertaining speaker!
Gifts From Other Amateur Radio Organizations Around The World
There we several fun dinners and keynotes through the event. One thing that was very special was the presentation of awards to the ARRL from other Amateur Radio organizations around the world. The picture above shows some of the awards received by the ARRL.
The QSL Wall
There was also a QSL Card Wall at the event. Can you find the callsign of someone that you’ve worked in the picture above? There are a few rare ones in here.
All in all, the ARRL Centennial Convention was one of the highlights of our Amateur Radio experience to date. Anita and I feel very fortunate to have been part of it.
We saw several interesting things in the vendor area. The first is FlexRadio’s new 6700 Software Defined Radio (SDR). This rig is a state of the art next generation SDR which handles almost all functions in software. The 6700 is not yet released but it is expected to be available for sale by the end of the year.
Elecraft Remote Operations – K3/0
We also spent some time in Elecraft’s booth looking at the K3 Transceiver and its remote control head cousin – the K3/0. I am very interested in remote operations as I travel a great deal for business. The K3/0 along with components from RemoteRig.com allows one to set up a K3 in a permanent station and then operate this station remotely over the internet. The cool thing about this setup is that the remote end is a “real radio” with an identical control head to the Elecraft K3. The setup allows one to use a microphone for SSB and other voice modes, a key for CW, and the usual equipment to operate the digital modes.
The folks at RemoteHamRadio.com are offering a remote operating service based upon the Elecraft K3/0 remote operating setup. Their service allows a HAM to purchase a membership that provides remote operating access to several world-class stations on a timeshare basis. These folks provide all of the equipment and setup needed to use their service. This could be a great solution for HAMs who cannot build an HF station due to CC&R’s or other restrictions.
Another really interesting part of the Boxboro Hamfest were the presentations on a variety of topics. We particularly enjoyed the WRTC 2014 July Debriefing by Doug Grant (K1DG) and the session on SteppIR Maintenance and Repair Workshop by Mike Bernock (N1IW). Anita and also I did a presentation on our Bora Bora DXpedition earlier this year. Several members of our local Club, PART of Westford also gave presentations as part of the Boxboro program including:
Andy (KB1OIQ) – Linux in the Ham Shack
Ernie (N1AEW) – AMSAT
Terry (KA8SCP) – Area Repeater Owners Working Session
This part of our Boxboro experience was great fun and we also learned a great deal.
There was a special event station, W1A at Boxboro. The folks at WRTC 2014 provided one of their towers and antennas for use with the W1A station. This was a very nice setup of a special event station of this type.
W1A Antenna and Tower Complements of WRTC 2014
I also helped with my first FCC license testing session since becoming a Volunteer Examiner (VE). The VE program is a great way to give back to the Amateur radio hobby and the testing session that I was part of was a very rewarding experience. I am looking forward to doing this again on a regular basis.
Anita (AB1QB) and Fred (AB1OC) at DinnerFinally, we attended the dinners on Friday and Saturday evening. This was a great opportunity to socialize with some of our friends and to hear some interesting speakers. All in all, we both had a really great time and we’re looking forward to doing it all again in two years.
I want to share a Blog that we have relied heavily upon to plan our portable operations in Bora Bora, French Polynesia as well as many aspects of our portable station and antennas. This Blog, the 100 Pound DXpedition, is authored by B. Scott Andersen (NE1RD) and contains a wealth of information on HF portable operating based upon Scott’s extensive experience in this area. If you have an interest in portable HF, I am sure that you will enjoy the 100 Pound DXpedition.
Our QSL Card from Bora Bora Island, French Polynesia
In February of this year, we had the opportunity to travel to Bora Bora Island in French Polynesia. This South Pacific destination is absolutely beautiful! When Anita (AB1QB) suggested that we take a portable HF radio with us, we had no idea what sort of experience we were going to have! We put together a portable HF station and antenna system and obtained licenses from the officials in French Polynesia. I also tested our portable HF setup on business trips to Arizona and Florida in advance of our trip.
Bora Bora Station
Our location in Bora Bora was about 400 yards from the beach and 8 ft above saltwater. Needless to say, this made for some exceptionally good antenna performance and our station worked very well there.
Our “Shack” in Bora Bora
We took a TransWorld Antennas Vertical dipole (all bands 20m thru 10m) and a two element Buddipole 10m beam with us to Bora Bora. Both of these antennas are good performers and are very portable (especially the Buddipole system which literally fit in the bottom of our suitcase).
Bora Bora Antennas
Anita and I had only very limited experience operating a pileup prior to this trip from our participation in the 13 Colonies Special Event as K2K, the New Hampshire, USA digital station. It was quite an experience when we went on the air in Bora Bora for the first time using SSB phone and had at least 50 stations trying to call us at once! Anita (FO/AB1QB) and I (FO/AB1OC) did a little over 1,500 QSOs while on this trip. We earned a Worked All States (WAS) and a Worked All Japan Districts awards based upon our operations there. This trip allowed us to learn a great deal about DXpedition’ing, pileup operations, propagation, portable station design, and QSL’ing for a DXpedition. We are going to be sharing our experience via a presentation at the upcoming Boxboro 2012 Hamfest in Boxboro, MA USA later this month. If you are in the MA/NH USA area, please join us for our presentation at Boxboro 2012 on Saturday, August 25th.