A 6m DX Opening to Remember

6m EU Opening - PSKReporter

6m DX Opening to Europe – PSKReporter Snapshot

Every now and then we get a really good opening 6m DX opening to Europe on from here in New England, USA. This past Friday, June 4 2021 presented us with just such an opening. This particular one may well be the best one that I have ever seen. The opening began early in the day on Friday and was still going strong late into the afternoon. As you can see from the PSKReporter snapshot above, the band was solidly open to most of Western Europe and evening into the Middle East.

6m EU Opening - WSJT-X Snapshot

WSJT-X Snapshot During 6m Opening

There were so many strong signals from DX stations in Europe, it was difficult to decide which station to call next! I was able to work the opening for most of the day on Friday and was rewarded with over 130 DX contacts into Europe. In addition, I was able to Work 3 new DXCCs and over 40 new Grids (over 30 of these Grids have confirmed on LoTW already)!

6m EU Opening - JTAlert Snapshot

JTAlert Snapshot Helps To Work New Grids

We use the JTAlert application along with WSJT-X and DXLab Suite. JTAlert helped to identify stations in new Grids that we had not Worked before in the flood of activity on the 6m Band during this opening. At times, there were 4 or 5 different stations in new Grids being decode at once!

AB1OC 6m Grids as of June 2021

AB1OC 6m Grids as of June 2021

The 6m Es season has been very good so far this year with great propagation and lots of activity. Let hope that this continues well into the end of the summer here in New England. We are especially hoping for good 6m openings during Field Day later this month.

Fred, AB1OC

Propagation Prediction Websites

Is 20 meters open to the location of the latest DXPedition on the bands?   When is 6 meters open for Sporadic E?  Looking for a weak signal 2-meter contact with a specific grid square?  There are websites you can visit that give you a prediction of whether the band you are on is open to a given destination.

HF Propagation

N0NBH Propagation Widget

N0NBH Propagation Widget

The simplest HF propagation prediction is the widget that is seen on many Amateur Radio Websites – QRZ.com, DXSummit.fi, and more.   This gives you a rough idea of what bands are open day and night. Data is based on the Sunspot Number, A and K indices and other indices.  But this doesn’t take into account many factors like your location, the DX location, the characteristics of your station and the DX station.  Just because 15m says Poor doesn’t mean you won’t hear anything on the band.

VOACAP – HF Propagation Prediction

VOACAP Point to Point Prediction

VOACAP Point to Point Prediction

VOACAP, is the Voice of America Coverage Analysis Program, and provides detailed information about the HF propagation.  You can choose transmitter and receiver locations from many cities around the world.  It also provides choices of Antennas, Power, Mode, and more for each end of the contact. You can look at several different views of propagation.  If you spend some time delving into the details of propagation visit this site.

VOACAP Prediction from DXSummit.fi

VOACAP Prediction from DXSummit.fi

For a faster view of whether you will be able to contact a specific DX Station that is currently on the air,  the DXSummit.fi spotting website has incorporated propagation predictions on their website.  If you find a DX station spotted there that you contact, just right click on the DX callsign and select VOACAP from the drop-down.   You just need to choose whether you are a Basic (100 watts and a Wire) or a Super station (Amplifier and Directional Antenna).  You can also look at views of Short Path or Long Path.  It will give you a good view of when you need to be on which band to contact the DX station.

6 Meters – The Magic Band

DXMaps - 6 meter openings

DXMaps – 6 meter openings

The best website that I have found for 6 meters is DXMaps.com .  It provides a map view of the world or you can select a continent. Based on spotting network data, it shows 6 meter contacts and color codes them by Sporadic-E, Multihop ES, Meteor Scatter, etc…  even Aurora.  You can also get a view of 10 meters, 2 meters or 70 cm.  If you sign up for a free account, you can subscribe to real time notifications when there is an opening near you.

2 Meter Propagation

VHF Propagation Map

VHF Propagation Map

Looking for a tropo opening for a weak signal 2-meter contact?   Visit the website http://aprs.mountainlake.k12.mn.us/ to see a VHF Propagation map.  This shows tropo openings as color-coded clouds – with brighter colors for the longer openings.    This is based on APRS data.

These are the websites that I like to visit to understand the propagation forecast for the day.  If your favorite site is not on the list, add a comment so that the rest of our readers and we can check it out.

Anita, AB1QB

DX Alarm Clock Part 2 – Hardware

The DX Alarm Clock

The Raspberry Pi-based DX Alarm Clock

I recently wrote a blog article about the DX Alarm Clock software – here is Part 2 of the Series on how I built the hardware for the DX Alarm Clock.

DX Alarm Clock Hardware Components

The DX Alarm Clock is based on a Raspberry Pi 3 computer and an Adafruit Pi-TFT Touch Screen Display.  The list of components, along with links, is below.  Since I built the initial DX Alarm Clock almost a year ago and technology is always advancing, some of the parts are no longer available or have better replacements available.  I’ll provide information on what I used and a recommended replacement.  Approximate prices are included.


Rapberry Pi 3

Raspberry Pi 3

Motherboard: Raspberry Pi 3 ($35) – includes a 1.2 GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM CPU, Built-in WiFi, Ethernet, 4 USB Ports, an HDMI port and audio port (3.5″), and Bluetooth.

Also, you will need a power adapter  ($10) and a Class 10 Micro SD card ($15) for the Raspberry Pi.  Ours is a SanDisk Ultra 64GB Micro SD Card.

Pi-TFT Touch Screen Display

Pi-TFT Touch Screen Display

Display: Adafruit Pi-TFT 2.8″ Display with Capacitive Touch Screen ($45).  A slightly larger, 3.5″ display is now available.

PiBow Case

PiBow Case for the Pi and Touch Screen Display

Case: Pimoroni PiBow Case for Raspberry Pi and Pi-TFT Display($20)

Kinivo Speaker

Kinivo Portable Speaker

Portable Speaker:  Any small portable/rechargeable speaker will do.  Mine is a Kinivo, but it is no longer available.  Any small speaker will do as long as it is Bluetooth or has a 3.5″ stereo connector.

Raspberry Pi Development Environment

Raspberry Pi Development Environment

Pi Development Environment

After constructing the Raspberry Pi case and TFT Display, the next step was to connect it to a monitor via the HDMI port, a mouse via one of the USB ports, and a Bluetooth keyboard.   Then I loaded the Raspbian Operating System onto the Pi via the micro SD card.  I first copied the OS to the Micro SD card using a PC or Mac and then inserted the card into the Raspberry Pi and booted from it.  You can find a good tutorial on how to do this at https://www.raspberrypi.org/learning/software-guide/quickstart/.

Once Raspbian is installed, you will have a windows GUI (Graphical User Interface) environment with a web browser and several additional applications included.

This gave me a development environment that I could use to build and test the DX Alarm Clock software.  I used Python language to develop the software.  I used the Python IDLE development environment, which is included in the Raspbian OS.

Interested in Raspberry Pi Amateur Radio Projects?  See the article on a Raspberry Pi Satellite Rotator Interface.

Anita, AB1QB

Amazing DX Opening On The 12M Band

12m DX - XT2AW Burkina Faso

12m DX – XT2AW Burkina Faso

Today proved some simple, tried, and true advice for me – it pays to take some time and tune through the bands. I just got a Maestro Remote Control Device for our FlexRadio SDR, and I took a break around lunchtime to tune through the higher HF bands to see what I could hear. We use a Flex SDR as a Remote Operating Gateway into our station, and the Maestro allows me to run our station over our home network without going down to the shack.

I am not sure why but I decided to give the 12m Band a look today. When I did, I was stunned! It is noon, and the 12m Band is wide open between Africa and the US!

I worked two DX stations on 12m SSB. The first was XT2AW, Harald, in Burkina Faso. Harald was working split and was not really loud, but I had no trouble completing the contact with him. Excited, I tuned across 12m some more and found an old friend – Theo, ZS6TVB, in South Africa. I had a very nice QSO with him. We both marveled over the propagation of the 12m Band we were experiencing. He was 57-58 here in New Hampshire!

12m DX - ZS6TVB South Africa

12m DX – ZS6TVB South Africa

The sunspot conditions are pretty weak (SFI 85, SN 26), so such a good opening on 12m was unexpected. I believe that we may be experiencing Transequatorial Propagation (TEP), which can provide a significant propagation enhancement on paths that traverse the equator. Anita and I experienced similar TEP propagation on 10m when we were on Bora Bora Island early in 2012 with similar solar conditions.

It shows that it pays to tune the upper HF bands. Especially on days when “they are not open.” Also, 10m appears to be open to Africa right now – I hear a station in Mauritania

Fred, AB1OC

Quicker-Turnaround Digital Modes in Experimental Stage for WSJT-X Suite

WSJT Screen

WSJT Screen

WSJT-X developer Joe Taylor, K1JT, weighed in to express his appreciation to all who shared their ideas and experiences using JT9 and JT65 modes during recent multi-hop E-skip openings on 6 meters.

“We are very much aware that a mode with most of the excellent characteristics of JT65, but with faster turnaround time, would be a big winner in such situations,” Taylor commented on behalf of the WSJT-X development team. “We are experimenting with several such possibilities. Tentative goals include 15-second T/R sequences, sensitivity around S/N = –20 dB, occupied bandwidth less than that of JT65, and capability to decode as many as 10 or 20 signals in a 2-kHz bandwidth.”…

Source: Quicker-Turnaround Digital Modes in Experimental Stage for WSJT-X Suite

If you are interested in the JT modes for HF and VHF communications, this is something to follow. Our experience is that a new JT variant that would trade S/N margin for a faster QSO segment speed would be just the ticket on many of the HF bands as well as 6m.

Fred, AB1OC

A Portable Satellite Station Part 4 – 2.0 Station First Contacts!

Station Packed and Ready for Transport

Station Packed and Ready for Transport

With our new 2.0 Satellite station built, tested, and packed; we were ready to try it in a portable environment. Fortunately, the Nashua Area Radio Club had a Technician License class coming up and we thought that the new station test would be a great way for our students to learn about Amateur Radio Satellites.

Satellite Status from AMSAT Website

Satellite Status from AMSAT Website

Final preparations included checking the operational status of potential satellites on the AMSAT website. The page shown above is like a spotting cluster for LEO Satellites – it shows satellite activity reported by HAM satellite operators. Using this information, we configured MacDoppler to track the active satellites.

Satellite Pass Predictions

Satellite Pass Predictions

Next, we used MacDoppler to generate pass predictions for the weekend of our Technical Class. We assembled this data for all of the potential satellites and color-coded the available passes to identify those which had the best chance of producing contacts.

With this done, we loaded our portable tower, antennas, and all of the rest of the gear into our pickup truck and transported it to the class site.

Sateliite Antennas Setup Portable

Satellite Antennas Setup Portable

The first step at the class site was to unload all of our gear and move the portable tower to a suitable location. We used a compass to orient the tower to true north and leveled it. We used the weight bags that we made up to anchor the tower securely and then installed the antennas, rotator loops, and control cables. The antenna system worked out very well in the portable environment and was easy to set up.

Satellite Antenna Details

Satellite Antenna Details

Here’s a closer look at the LMR-400 UF coax cables which connect the antennas to the rest of the system. The loops just behind the antennas are necessary to keep the coax from affecting the pattern of the antennas. The coax cables shown were made long enough to allow the antennas to be rotated through their full travel in the azimuth and elevation directions without binding.

Satellite Station Portable - Radio and Supporting Equipment

Satellite Station Portable – Radio and Supporting Equipment

The final step in the portable setup was to put the IC-9100 Transceiver and Supporting Equipment together in the building and check everything out. We heard an ON4 station through FO-29 near the end of a low-angle pass as soon as we got everything hooked up and working. A very good sign!

We took some time to fine-tune the calibration of our rotators and to check the operation of the computer controls – everything checked out fine. The video above shows MacDoppler controlling the Azimuth/Elevation rotator and the IC-9100 Transceiver during the testing.

First Contact using New 2.0 Station (AO-85)

First Contact using New 2.0 Station (via AO-85)

With all the setup done, it was time to try to make our first contact. Fortunately, we did not have long to wait. We caught a medium-angle pass of AO-85, a U/V Mode FM Easy Sat. With MacDoppler setup and tacking, we immediately heard contacts being made through AO-85. I gave a whistle and adjusted my uplink VFO until I heard my signal coming back through AO-85. I gave a quick CQ call and immediately got a response from Jonathan, NS4L in Virginia, USA! It took a few seconds to exchange call signs and grid squares, and our first contract with our new station was in the log.

Explaining Satellite System to License Class

Explaining Satellite System to License Class

Our Technician License Class students were very interested in the station. We spent some time explaining the setup and demonstrating how it worked. We made more contacts between our class sessions using AO-85 and FO-29 (a V/U Mode Linear Transponder Satellite). Our most interesting contact was with Burt, FG8OJ, in Guadeloupe through FO-29. Working DX using the new station the first time we used it was great.

We learned several things during our first use of the new station. First, while the 35 ft. maximum separation allowed between the antenna system and the rest of the station is adequate in many applications, the antenna system’s close proximity to the building we were in blocked passes to the west of us with this separation. We have subsequently made up an additional set of feed lines using a pair of 100 ft. long 7/8″ hardline coax cables to allow for a greater separation in portable deployments such as this one.

We were glad we had the Heil Pro 7 Headset with us, and we used it for most of our contacts. The separate speaker allowed our students to hear the contacts well, and the boom microphone on the Pro 7 Headset eliminated feedback due to our voice coming back through the satellites. We improvised a mono-to-stereo converter cable to connect the Heil Pro 7 Headset to one of the two speaker outputs on the IC-9100 Transceiver. This allowed the radio to drive the separate speaker and the headphones at the same time.

We were glad to have the low-noise preamps available. These were especially useful during low-angle satellite passes, and our sequencing setup worked well.

All in all, the first test of our new 2.0 Portable Satellite station was a success. Our license classes students enjoyed learning about Amateur Satellites and had fun, along with us making contacts through a few of them. Our next goal will be to get packet modes and APRS working with our setup. We plan to do another article in this series when this part of our project is completed. Other articles in this series include:

We plan to add larger antennas and switchable polarity to our portable satellite station soon. This will enable us to make contacts using Satellites and the ISS in more difficult conditions.

You may also be interested in the satellite station at our home QTH. You can read more about that here.

Fred, AB1OC

Why Ham Radio?

Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna

Fred’s Truck with Antenna

Every so often, I drive Fred’s truck to work and people ask me what that big antenna on the back of the truck is for. I explain to them that it is for Ham Radio.  But the reply is usually, why ham radio – isn’t that outdated technology?  We have cell phones and IM, etc…what do we need Ham Radio for?  So I thought I would put down my thoughts as a relatively new Ham about why I enjoy spending so much of my time with Ham Radio.


Amateur Radio for Public Service

Public Service

The number one reason we still need Ham Radio along with all the other technology we now have is for public service.  When there is a disaster and cell phones, television, etc are all not working, Ham Radio operators provide the critical communication.

Ham Radio operators help locally to keep hospitals and first responders in contact with each other to help those affected by the disaster.

Hams also use our ability to communicate around the world on HF bands to help family members around the world to get in touch with loved ones affected by a disaster.

Ham Radio operators have been on the scene helping in every disaster from the earthquakes in Nepal to the recent flooding in California.


Amateur Radio Cube Satellites

Technology and the Maker Movement

I only became a Ham 5 years ago but many of my fellow Ham Radio operators got their license when they were in their early teens and used what they learned to launch their careers. Many have had very successful careers in STEM fields, all launched by their interest in Ham Radio at a young age.  As technology advances, so does the technology used in our hobby.   We even have a nobel laureate, Joe Taylor K1JT who is a ham. Joe has developed weak signal digital communication modes that let us communicate by bouncing signals off the moon!

As technology has advanced, so has the use of it in Ham Radio.   Most Ham Radio operators have one or more computers in their shack.  Many also have a software designed radio (SDR), where much of the radio functionality is implemented using Software, we use sound cards to run digital modes, which are a lot like texting over the radio, and we use the internet extensively as part of operating.  We can also make contacts through satellites orbiting the earth and even the International Space Station.

Most hams love do-it-yourself technical projects, including building a station, home brewing an antenna, building a radio or other station component.  In my day job, I am a program manager for software development projects, but its been a while since I have built anything. As a Ham I taught myself how to code in Python and about the Raspberry Pi and I built the DX Alarm Clock.


QSL Card from VK6LC in Western Australia

International Camaraderie

One of the coolest things about being an amateur radio operator is that you can communicate with other hams all over the world. Ham Radio is an international community where we all have something in common to talk about – our stations and why we enjoy ham radio.    The QSL card above is from a memorable QSO with Mal, VK6LC, from Western Australia, who was the last contact that I needed for a Worked All Zones award.  I must have talked to him for 1/2 hour about his town in Australia and his pet kangaroos!


Amateur Radio Map of the World

Geography Lesson

I have learned much about geography from being on the air and trying to contact as many countries as I can.  There are 339 DX Entities, which are countries or other geographical entities and I have learned where each one is in order to understand where propagation will allow me make a contact.  I have learned a great deal about world geography. Through exchanging QSL cards often get to see photos from so many areas of the world.


DXCC Challenge Award Plaque

Achievement – DXing and Contesting

DXing and Contesting provide a sense of achievement and exciting opportunity for competition. Many Hams work toward operating awards. You can get an operating award for contacting all 50 states, contacting 100 or more countries, contacting Islands, cities in Japan, countries in Asia, or anything else you can imagine.  Each of these operating awards provides a sense of accomplishment and helps to build skills.  Contesting builds skills through competition among Hams to see who can make the most contacts with the most places in 24 or 48 hours. Contesting also improves our operating skills and teaches us to copy callsigns and additional data accurately.


Teaching a License Class

Teaching Licensing Classes – Passing it On

Recently I have joined a team of club members who teach license classes to others who want to get licensed or upgrade their existing Amateur Radio licenses.  Teaching provides a way to improve my presentation skills and also helps me to really understand the material that we teach about Amateur Radio.  It is always a thrill at the end of the class to see so many people earn their licenses or upgrades.

There are so many interesting aspects of Ham Radio which is what makes is such a great hobby.  Getting your license can open up a world of possibilities.  Upgrading to a new license class provides more opportunities to communicate over longer distances.  Ham Radio clubs, including our local club, the Nashua Area Radio Club,  provide many resources to help you get your first licenseupgrade to a new license class and learn about the many aspects of our hobby.

Anita, AB1QB

Building And Operating A Mobile HF Station

Mobile HF Presentation

Presentation On Building And Operating A Mobile HF Station

We recently had the chance to do a presentation on building and operating a mobile HF station for the Nashua Area Radio Club here in New Hampshire, USA. I thought it would be interesting for our readers to see this presentation as it contains some new information we have not previously covered on our Blog.

Mobile HF Antennas

Mobile HF Antennas

Safety in mounting mobile antennas and anything else on the exterior of your vehicle is a primary concern. This was discussed in some detail during the presentation. The best source to understand safety considerations and proper installation and mounting of Mobile HF antennas is Alan Applegate’s excellent website, K0BG.com.

The most important part of any Amateur Radio Station is the antenna system. This is especially true in a Mobile HF Station because antennas in these applications are almost always short-loaded verticals. To create an effective antenna system for a Mobile HF application, one must pay extra attention to the “3 R’s” – Radiation Resistance, Loading Coil Loss, and Ground Loss. Radiation Resistance (a measure of the antenna’s ability to transfer transmitter power to radiated waves) is the “good R,” and the other two R’s dissipate power from our transmitter in the form of heat.

Mobile Antenna System Typical Parameters

Mobile Antenna System Typical Parameters

There is some good information on the typical efficiency in the ARRL Antenna Book. As you can see from the table above, the Radiation Resistance of a mobile antenna becomes quite small on the lower bands (40m, 80m, and 160m). Also, as the antenna becomes increasingly shorter to RF on these bands, more loading coil inductance is needed to compensate for the short radiator length on these bands. Coil Loss and Ground Loss can easily dissipate most of our transmit power in a very inefficient antenna system on these bands. The net of all this is that one must carefully control the Ground and Coil losses while trying to make the Radiation Resistance of the antenna as high as possible. One good way to improve the Radiation Resistance of a mobile antenna is to make the whip longer. For more on mobile HF antenna efficiency, please consult K0BG.com.

Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna

Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna With Rod And Cap Hat

Here in New England, we have many low tree branches that limit a mobile whip’s practical length. A good technique, if the installation permits it, is to use top loading in the form of a Capacitance Hat. The Cap Hat makes the antenna appear longer and thus increases the Radiation Resistance of the Rod below it. The increase in apparent electric length at Radio Frequencies also means less loading coil inductance will be required, which in turn also lowers the Coil Loss. This is a win-win. The only problem is that this setup significantly increases the wind load on the antenna when driving, so a mechanically strong antenna and mounting system are required for a safe installation. Ground Losses can be minimized by making the vehicle on which the antenna is installed a good RF surface to couple to the ground. This is best accomplished by properly bonding the metal surfaces on the vehicle to each other and the vehicle’s frame if there is one.

Mobile HF Equipment

Mobile HF Equipment

The next part of the presentation covered the equipment selection for a Mobile HF Station. Safety and good usability are the paramount concerns here. I believe that a Transceiver should have the following attributes to be a good choice in Mobile HF applications:

  • It should have at least 100W output on the HF bands
  • It must have an effective Noise Blank and a good Noise Reduction system
  • It should have a removable control head to allow you to mount the radio’s controls and display where they can be easily seen without taking one’s eyes off the road.

It is extremely important to consider safety in all things mobile HF. Safe, non-distracting mounting of controls is a top concern. One also needs to consider what could happen in a crash. Loosely mounted parts or anything that can get between a deploying airbag and the vehicle’s passengers is among the important safety concerns. One should also consider accessories that facilitate safe mobile operation. Automated antenna controllers and a voice recorder to capture contact details for later transcription in logs are some good items to consider.

Bonding And Choking

Bonding And Choking

I believe the bonding and the associated effect on noise levels and ground losses is perhaps the most important factor in determining the performance of a mobile HF station. “If you can’t hear them, you can’t work them.” Proper bonding of the exhaust system, body parts, and the engine’s ground are key items in this area. You can read more about how we did this here. To give some idea of how important this area is, I took the initial S9+ noise levels (with the radio’s preamp off) of my F-150 pickup truck before properly bonding to an S3-4 level with the radio’s preamp on. This is a huge improvement and is a primary reason for the DX performance of our mobile HF station. Bonding also lowers the Ground Losses of the installation, which improves the efficiency of the antenna system when transmitting as well – again, a win-win. Proper bonding is not expensive, but it does take some work. One must also be careful when drilling holes to install ground straps so that you do not accidentally drill into wiring harnesses, gas tanks, electronic boxes, and other vehicle systems. Again, consult K0BG.com for more information on properly bonding your vehicle. If you use a screwdriver antenna, you must also properly choke your control leads to keep RF out of your vehicle and its electronics. Here’s some good information explaining how to do this.

Stage 1 Mobile HF Station

Stage 1 Mobile HF Station

I am a proponent of building a Mobile HF Station in stages, from a simple one using to perhaps a more involved project later on. This allows the operator to have a lot of fun on the air with a reasonable initial amount of work and expense. The approach also provides the opportunity to see how the various steps outlined in the presentation contribute to improved performance. Our stage one installation consisted of a 100W transceiver and Hamstick antennas. You can read more about our Stage 1 installation here. The focus at this step includes proper bonding/noise control, safe installation of a suitable transceiver and simple Hamstick antennas. This stage gives you an inexpensive and effective, one band at a time, station on the 20m and higher HF bands. This type of installation is not difficult to do as is possible on most vehicles.

Stage 2 Mobile HF Station

Stage 2 Mobile HF Station

A Stage 2 installation would probably involve a multi-band remotely controlled antenna – typically a screwdriver antenna. You can read more about our Stage 2 installation here. It’s important to choose an efficient screwdriver antenna. You can read more about the choices and what to look for here. We used a Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna and are very happy with it. This is a big antenna; you must carefully focus on a strong, secure mounting system to use it safely. Our Stage 2 station was QRV on all HF bands from 80m – 10m and utilized a screwdriver controller to automate the adjustment of the antenna when changing frequencies and bands. We also use a 4′ rod and a Cap Hat to improve the antenna system’s efficiency. This important safety feature should be strongly considered in any screwdriver antenna installation.

Stage 3 Mobile HF Station

Stage 3 Mobile HF Station

A Stage 3 Station is probably not for most folks due to the added complexity and cost, but it does create a “work the world” Mobile HF Station and can open the door to effective operation on 160m from a Mobile Station. This step involves the installation of an Amplifier and may also include an extension of the antenna system to operate on 160m. I would have to say that the upgrade to Stage 3 was as much work in our station as Stages 1 and 2 combined. It also brings a new set of important safety considerations due to the high current DC powering required by a mobile amplifier. You can read more about this Stage of our installation here.

Mobile HF In A Car

Mobile HF In A Car

Installing a Mobile HF station in a car is also quite feasible. The slide above shows Dave, N1RF’s installation of a Stage 2 setup in his Honda Accord. The antenna mount is a custom-made unit done by a local fabricator. Also, note the equipment mounting on the fold-down rear seat of the vehicle. This installation uses an Icom IC-7100 and has produced some great DX contacts, including one to the Philippines from New England on 20m using 100w.

Operating Mobile HF

Operating Mobile HF

Our presentation included some tips for operating a Mobile HF station. See the graphic above for details. I believe that even a well-executed Stage 1 station coupled with good operating technique and some patience can yield a DXCC in many parts of the US and Europe. I was able to make many contacts in Europe and some in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Alaska using our Stage One setup. If you progress through Stages 2 and 3, this gets easier. We have worked over 110 DXCCs from our Mobile HF Station and confirmed 100 in about 9 months with our Stage 3 setup. The Stage 3 setup has produced some of our most memorable QSOs to date, including my very first 75m phone contact ever to Japan and a contact with Ulleung Island, South Korea, on the 40m band using SSB phone (these contacts were made from the East Coast of the USA).

Fun With Mobile HF - US Counties Tour

Fun With Mobile HF – US Counties Tour

There are lots of fun things that you can do with a well-built mobile HF station. I have worked many DX contacts from the mobile, for example, and some have netted as many as 75+ DXCCs in a weekend. County Hunting and Tours to activate rarer US Counties are another popular activity for Mobile HF operators. You can read about one such County Hunting tour here on our Blog.

We have found building and operating a Mobile HF station to be a lot of fun! It’s almost like beginning our Amateur Radio experience all over again.

– Fred, AB1OC/M

A DX’ing Milestone Reached – 300 DXCC’s Worked

Nepal 9N DXpedition

Nepal 9N DXpedition (Courtesy 9n.dxpeditions.org)

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.


VOCAP Propegation Prediction Between 0N Nepal and NH USA

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.

At this point, the remaining DXCCs that I need are, for the most part, the rare ones. Both Anita (AB1QB) and I have begun to use the tools provided by the DXLab Suite, ClubLog, various DX newsletters available on the internet, automated monitoring of the spotting clusters, and computer-generated propagation predictions to help us to work the remaining ATNOs as well as achieve our operating award goals. For more on how we use these tools, please see our related DX’ing post here on this blog.

– Fred, AB1OC

2015 DX’ing – DX’ing Tools Produce One Of The Best Years Ever So Far

March 2015 DXpeditions

DX’ing Tools – March 2015 Featured DXpeditions

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

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.

DXLab SpotCollector

DXLab SpotCollector

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

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.

Award Setup in DXKeeper

Award Setup in DXKeeper

The first step in the filtering is to configure DXLab’s DXKeeper component for the types of contacts we are interested in. This is done in the Award configuration section of DXKeeper.

SpotCollector SQL Filter

SpotCollector SQL Filter

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.

– Fred, AB1OC