2014 Amateur Radio Highlights

2014 Readers Around The World

2014 Readers Around The World

It is once again time for our annual 2014 Year in Review post. First, I’d like to thank our readers for their continued interest in our Blog. Our blog was viewed about 100,00 times in 2014 from 165 countries around  the world. You, our readers have made 2014 our busiest year yet and this provides Anita (AB1QB) and me with great encouragement to continue to provide content for our readers.

2014 was a very busy year in Amateur Radio for us. Our activities included a continued focus on station building, contesting, WRTC 2014, special events, providing presentations to help other in the hobby learn about new things, attending several HAM Events, progress on operating awards, and most importantly – time spent on the air operating.

microHAM Station Master Deluxe Antenna Controller

microHAM Station Master Deluxe Antenna Controller

We upgraded our fixed station to include a microHAM Station Automation system this year. This was a major project that added some nice SO2R capabilities to our Multi-one station as well as automated the sharing of our antennas between our two SO2R Operating positions. More of this project can be found here:

Eggbeater Antennas And Preamps SystemsOn Tower

Eggbeater LEO Satellite Antennas And Preamps Systems On Tower

We also added LEO Satellite capabilities to our station with the addition of some new antennas and electronics on our tower. This allowed us to make our first contacts through LEO birds with linear transponders. Our articles on this project include:

Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna

Our Mobile HF Station – Screwdriver Antenna

Our final major station building project was the construction of a state of the art mobile HF station in our Ford F-150 pickup truck. We did this project in phases starting with a simple setup using a 100W radio and HAM Stick antennas through the installation of a Screwdriver Antenna System for the 160m – 10m HF bands and concluding with the installation of an amplifier to enable high power mobile HF operation. You can view the articles on this project here:

AB1OC Operating In CQ WPX SSB

AB1OC Operating In the 2014 CQ WPX SSB

Anita (AB1QB) and I continued to be active in several contests this year. We both continued to develop our skills as contesters and our scores and place in the rankings reflected this. You can read more about our contesting activities and what we learned in the following articles:

Hollis Site Support Team And Referee

WRTC 2014 Hollis Site Competitors, Support Team And Referee

We were also fortunate to host one of the WRTC 2014 competition sites. Along with our friend Scott Anderson, NE1RD, Anita and I acted as site managers for the only WRTC 2014 Competition Site in New Hampshire. You can read more about our WRTC 2014 experiences here.

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card For K2K New Hampshire

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card For K2K New Hampshire

Special event operations were a particularly fun part of our on air activities in 2014. We operated as K2K, New Hampshire in the 13 Colonies Special Event, W1AW/1 as part of the ARRL Centennial QSO Party, and as N1FD Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the Nashua Area Radio Club. It’s great fun to operate in these events and the experience running the pileups that result continued to help Anita and me to develop our operating and contesting skills.

Introduction To The DXLab Suite

Introduction To The DXLab Suite

We make it a priority to develop a significant amount of our Amateur Radio time to helping others in the hobby learn new things. In addition to writing this Blog, Anita and I try to create and deliver several presentations each year on a variety of topics of interest to the Amateur Radio Community. Our presentation this year included an update of our presentation on Amateur Radio Station Design and Construction and an Introductory Presentation on the DXLab Software Suite. We are always interested in working with Amateur Radio Clubs to deliver the presentation either in person where practice or over the web.

Anita (AB1QB) and I with Bob Heil (TBD)

Anita (AB1QB) and I with Bob Heil (K9EID)

We had the fortune to meet some of the legends in Amateur Radio this past year. Anita and I had the opportunity to get meet Bob Heil, K9EID and to appear on his Ham Nation podcast. Bob is an amazing gentlemen and we feel truly fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know him. We also had the opportunity to meet Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ, the President and Founder of QRZ.com. Fred visited our station and did an article about our station on QRZ.com. Anita and I both learned a great deal about HAM Radio and how it came to be what it is today as a result of the time these fine folks spent with us.

Joe Taylor's WSJT Presentation

Joe Taylor’s WSJT Presentation At the ARRL Centennial Convention

Amateur Radio Conventions and HAM Fests were a major part of our Amateur Radio fun again this year. We were fortunate to attend and speak at the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT USA this year – truly a once in a lifetime Amateur Radio experience. We also attended the Dayton Hamvention in 2014 where we had a chance to see all of the latest and greatest in Amateur Radio Equipment.

Our 2014 QSOs By Callsign

Our 2014 QSOs By Callsign

We were quite active on the air making almost 26,000 contacts between the two of us. As you can see from the graphic above, about 45% of our contacts were as part of Special Event Operations. We also made a little over 500 contacts from our mobile station, working over 100 DXCC entities in 2014 from the mobile.

Our 2014 QSOs By Band

Our 2014 QSOs By Band

 We were active on all of the HF bands this year. We made our first contacts on the 60m band and I was able to focus on the 6m band and earn a VUCC Operating Award (100 grid squares worked and confirmed) on that band. Anita and I also made our first DX contacts to Europe on 6m in 2014. Anita took quite an interest in the 160m band and she is working on a Worked All States Operating Award on this band. Our operating time using weak signal and satellite modes on the 2m and 70cm bands was limited to a few contacts this year. I did make my first contacts through LEO Satellites in 2014.

We

Our 2014 QSOs By Mode

Our 2014 QSOs By Mode

We mostly operated in the SSB phone mode in 2014. Anita and I both continue to work on our CW skills and we managed a little over 800 QSOs using CW in 2014. Anita was very active in the RTTY mode as part of her RTTY contesting efforts.

K2K New Hampshire QSL!

13 Colonies K2K New Hampshire QSL!

All of this operating resulted in quite a bit of QSL activity. We sent a total of almost 4,200 QSL cards in 2014!

We again made a video showing all of our contacts around the world in 2014. As you can see from the video, we were fortunate to work quite a bit of DX in 2014.

6M VUCC Operating Award

Fred’s 6M VUCC Operating Award

All of this operating helped Anita and me to make some progress on operating awards this year. In addition to earning a 6M VUCC, I also completed a Worked All States Award on all 9 HF bands 160m-10m. I was also able to complete several nice regional operating awards (Worked All Europe TOP Plaque, Worked All VK Call Areas and Worked All Africa) as well upgrading my DXCC Challenge Award to the 1,500 Band Country level. Anita completed her JARL JCC Award (she worked 100+ Cities in Japan) as well as her Worked All States Triple Play Award (all states on SSB, CW and Digital via LoTW).

Anita and I had a lot of fun with Amateur Radio in 2014. We are looking forward to another great year of HAM Radio fun in 2015. We hope to share some of what we learn and our experiences with our readers here on our Blog.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Operating Mobile HF – Working DX On The 80M Band

JA4FHE QSL

JA4FHE QSL

We have continued to gain experience with our recently completed mobile HF installation in our F-150 pickup truck. We have been working quite a bit of DX from our completed mobile station. Recently, I have been concentrating on the 80m band from the mobile station and have been pleasantly surprised with some great DX contacts on this band. The last two evenings around sunset here in New Hampshire, USA have been particularly good ones for 80m DX. This evening, I heard Aki-San, JA4FHE during a short errand just as we were one the grey line. I pulled over to the side of the road so that I could concentrate on the contact and turned on the amplifier (450W). After a few tries, Aki-San came back to me and we completed the contact! This was my first contact to Japan ever on the 80m band and it was from the mobile!

JA4FHE's Antennas

JA4FHE’s Antennas

Aki-San has a capable antenna system including a 2-element yagi for the 80m band and his antenna system no doubt helped to make the contact possible. My received signal report was a 44 (he was 57 on my end) but the band was quiet and we were easily able to exchange names, signal reports and our callsigns.

OU5U's View

OU5U’s View

I have also been working quite a bit of DX on the 80m band from our mobile station into Europe. I recently encountered a nice group of fellows working a team effort on 80m. I was on the light side of the afternoon grey line here in New Hampshire, USA when I worked Henry, OU5U in Denmark from the mobile. It was a bit early for 80m but our signal reports at that time were 55 both ways (I worked Henry again from the mobile later in the evening on 80m and our reports were 59 both ways the second time). I also worked John, G4PKP in the United Kingdom, and Ian, GM4UYN in Scotland during this session. Signal reports ranged from 57 to 59+ both ways.

80m Ground Plane Antenna

80m Ground Plane Antenna

John, G4PKP was using an 80m ground plane antenna and he was putting a good signal into my mobile once we were on the dark side of the grey line.

Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna

Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna

I am quite surprised at what is possible on 80m using a short antenna. Our screwdriver antenna (a Scorpion SA-680) is set up with a 4 ft rod and a cap hat. The 4 ft rod/cap hat combination is electrically longer than the usual 6 ft whip that one might use on a screwdriver antenna and therefore requires less of the screwdriver antenna’s base loading coil to be used to tune the antenna to resonance. This significantly improves the overall efficiency of the combination.

Screwdriver Antenna Configured For 160m

Screwdriver Antenna Configured For 160m

We are moving into the best part of the year for operating on the low bands here in the Northeastern, USA. The days are short and the 80m and 160m bands are quiet at night. I plan to concentrate on 160m next and see what sort of results we can achieve using our mobile station on the Top Band.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Operating Mobile HF – Working DX

ZS2XD Antennas

ZS2XD Antennas In South Africa

It is still early days for operating mobile HF now that our setup is complete. I am continuing to make adjustments to improve performance. I had a chance to operate mobile from New Hampshire, USA this evening made some interesting contacts. I began by calling CQ on 20m SSB. I was operating with the amplifier on at about 325W output. I had a pileup almost immediately and worked about 20 contacts over about 40 minutes. Early on in the pileup, I had several stations in Europe call me. I also had ZS2XD, Gerry in South Africa answer my CQ! The signal reports for our QSO were 59 both ways and I was able to have a nice conversation with Gerry. We were both surprised that the contact was as solid as it was. Gerry has a good antenna system on his end and I was on the grey line which no doubt helped.

HL4FUA Antennas

HL5FUA Antennas On Ullung Island, South Korea

Later in the evening I decided to tune across the 40m band where I encountered Choi, HL5FUA on  Ullung Island (AS-045), South Korea calling CQ. He was working stations all around the world and had a decent pileup going. I set my drive to produce about 425W out and called him. To my surprise, he came right back on the first try! The signal reports for our QSO were 56 both ways. I believe that he was working the USA long path over Europe. Choi has a good directional antenna and was using some power. This combined with my being just on the dark side of the grey line certainly helped.

With these contacts, I have worked a total of 95 DXCCs mobile HF from our truck. I continue to be surprised at how well a properly installed mobile HF setup works. Our results are also a testament to the efficiency of the Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna that we are using. I plan to concentrate on the low bands (80m and 160m) and see what sort of DX is possible on these bands.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Operating as W1AW/1 Part II – ARRL Centenial QSO Party

ARRL Centennial Celebration Logo

ARRL Centennial Celebration Logo

I was fortunate to operate as one of the W1AW portable stations as part of the ARRL Centennial QSO Party again this past week. The first time the state of New Hampshire was on, I was only able to devote a limited amount of time to this operation. This time, I was able to set more time aside and operate about 4 hours on each of 6 of the 8 days that W1AW/1 New Hampshire was on the air this past week. During this time, I was able to make 1,925 contacts averaging a little over 120 QSOs for each hour that I operated.

 Mode/Band

QSOs

% Total

 SSB Phone

2878

98%

   RTTY

47

2%

 
  160m

207

7%

    80m

77

3%

    40m

379

13%

    20m

1103

38%

    17m

799

27%

    12m

79

3%

    10m

281

10%

   Total

2925

100%

The table above shows the final stats for my operations as W1AW/1 NH this past week. I mostly concentrated on the SSB Phone mode with a bit of RTTY operations on the last day. As one would expect, 20m and 40m were the most popular bands.

I encountered pileups on all of the days that I operated with the largest ones being on the first evening on 20m We had a significant solar CME event during the operation and subsequent Auroral activity which created some interesting band conditions. In particular, almost all of the 10m and 12m contacts were done on Thursday and Friday evenings using backscatter propagation. I was unable to hear much with my antennas pointed at the folks that I was trying to work on 10m and 12m so I tried pointing the beams directly south to test backscatter propagation. I also asked the folks in the pileup to do the same. This mode of operation resulted in about 350 QSOs on 10m and 12m! This was also great news for the close-in stations as this mode of propagation allowed folks in adjacent states to work New Hampshire on the higher bands.

It was great fun operating as W1AW/1 New Hampshire this past week. I wish there would be another chance to do this but we’ll have to wait awhile for the ARRL’s next big birthday to come around.

– Fred (AB1OC)

 

AB1OC’s 2014 CQ WPX SSB Contest Results – Another Station Goal Met

2014 CQ WPX SSB Results

2014 CQ WPX SSB Results

The CQ World Wide WPX Contest is one of my favorites and 2014 was another improvement year for me. This was the first year where I was no longer in the “Rookie” (<3 years licensed) category. I received a nice surprise in my email today – a certificate with a first place finish in Area 1 in the USA, fifth place overall in North America and #20 in the World in the Single Op High Power All Bands category in this contest. This realizes another of our basic station design goals – “to finish in the top 20 in some major contests”.

Contest QSO Summary

Contest QSO Summary (from the Athena Tool)

There are several things that worked together to help me improve my score in this contest over the 2013 total of 1,883,448 points. First, thanks to work on operating technique, my accuracy improved considerably to a respectable overall error rate of 2.8% (this is more than a 2X improvement over 2013). Secondly, our work on station automation plus better receiving equipment for the low bands worked together to provide a nice improvement in my results on the 80m band. Band conditions were also very good during this contest which helped to improve my run rates and multiplier counts. I’ve also been working hard to improve my SSB phone operating technique through participation in other contests and on-air events like The 13 Colonies Special Event. I operated for most of the allowed contest period but could have put in a few more hours of “butt-in-chair” and perhaps moved up a spot or two in North America (the difference in the final scores between places #3 and #5 in North America was only 854,958 points).

All this said, I am very happy with my results in this contest and my progress as a SSB contester in general. Anita (AB1QB) and I are continuing to work on both our skills as contest operators and our station and I hope we can continue to improve quickly.

– Fred (AB1OC)

6m VUCC And 9-Band Worked All States

6M VUCC Operating Award

6m VUCC Operating Award

The 2014 Es Season was my first chance to focus on operating on 6m. To help provide motivation, I set a goal to work and confirm enough Grid Squares on 6m to earn a VUCC Operating Award. After some time to confirm and for the ARRL to process everything, my VUCC came in the mail this past week.

6M VUCC Grids Worked And Confirmed

6m VUCC Grids Worked And Confirmed

The 6m Es Season this summer was a good one for me. I worked and confirmed over 150 Grid Squares on the Magic Band including my first contacts with the west coast of the USA and with Europe. The picture above shows my progress on 6m Grid Squares to Date (the green ones are confirmed, map via WG7J’S GridMapper website). I have also completed checking for an additional 50+ Grid Squares and should be receiving my 150 Grid endorsement for the VUCC soon. I guess I’d have to say that I’ve gotten “the bug” for the Magic Band this season.

5 Band WAS Operating Award

5-Band WAS Operating Award

The WAS award is often on of the first operating awards that HAMs in the United States pursue. It is a great award to develop some sound operating skills, prove in your HF station and make some new friends. The ARRL Centennial QSO Party with W1AW portable stations operating from each of the 50 US states provides a great opportunity to pursue WAS awards.

I’ve also been working on the contacts needed for a 5-Band Worked All States Award for some time now and I decided to focus on completing the contacts needed for this operating award last week. This probably seems like an award that should not be too difficult for a station in the United States and that is mostly true. There are two things that make this award a challenge – 1) working states that are “close-in” on the high bands like 10m and 15m, and 2) making contacts with less populated states like North and South Dakota, Montana, etc. especially on 80m.

Band Conditions (Or When Not To Operate)

Band Conditions (Or When Not To Operate)

The close in states like Vermont on 10m were some of the last ones that I needed along with a contact with North Dakota on 80m. As usual, I picked one of the worst days this year conditions-wise to complete the last few contacts. Rob, AB1NJ in Vermont helped me out with his state on 10m using JT65 and I worked W1AW/0 in North Dakota on 80m SSB to complete the last one needed for the 5B WAS.

I really enjoy operating on the WARC Bands and I often make 50 or so contacts in an evening on these bands. I have also been operating a lot on the Top Band (160m). At this point, I only need 3 more contacts (Montana on 80m, Nebraska on 30m and New York on 12m) to complete a 9-Band WAS (5B WAS plus WAS on 160m, 30m, 17m and 12m). I am planning to wait until I complete these and for all of the needed contacts to confirm to send in the paperwork for the 9B WAS.

I hope to perhaps someday make it to a 10-Band WAS, working all 50 states on 6m. At present, I’ve worked and confirmed 41 states on 6m but I know that Alaska and Hawaii will be very difficult during this solar cycle unless there is some extraordinary propagation event on 6m.

I find the pursuing operating awards provides good motivation to get on the air and work less common modes (like JT65) as well as to learn about and practice unusual operating techniques like HF Backscatter which I have used to work close in states on the high bands. Another benefit to this effort is that it has encouraged me to upgrade to Joe Taylor’s (K1JT) latest WSJT-X Software for working JT65 on the HF bands. Look for an article on WSJT-X here in the near future.

– Fred (AB1OC)

ARRL Centennial Convention This Week – Come Join Us In Hartford!

ARRL Centennial

ARRL Centennial

Anita (AB1QB) and I will be attending the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford Connecticut, USA this coming weekend. We are looking forward to seeing the vendor exhibits, Contest University and the many fine forum presentations which are scheduled.

Station Design Presentation

Station Design Presentation

I will be doing a presentation on the design, construction and operation of our station at the ARRL Centennial event. My presentation is scheduled for Saturday, July 19th at 11 am in Room 27 at the Connecticut Convention Center. I will be presenting the complete story of our station from planning and design, through construction and finally how the station operates and performs. The presentation will include lots of high-resolution pictures and video including material on our shack, tower and antennas.

Updated Station Tour

Updated Station Tour

The presentation will include lots of new material covering all of our recent projects as well as an updated virtual station tour.

Latest Antenna Projects

Latest Antenna Projects

Some new topics will include our latest antenna projects and some information on our recently completed LEO Satellite System.

Station Automation Overview

Station Automation Overview

The presentation will also include information on our recently installed Station Automation System from microHAM.

Current Station Performance

Current Station Performance

We plan to talk about how our station is performing against our original design goals and we’ll have some updated video too!

For those who are attending the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford Connecticut, I hope you stop by and say hello to Anita and me. We’re anxious to meet as many of our readers as we can at the event. For those who cannot make the trip, we will be taking lots of pictures and we plan to post a summary of what we saw here after the event.

– Fred (AB1OC)

2014 Es Season On The Magic Band – A Journey Towards A 6m VUCC

6m Band Opening Viewed On DXMaps

6m Band Opening Viewed On DXMAPS

I decided to become active on the 6m band this year. This 6m Sporadic E (Es) season was in full swing about a month ago when I got active on 6m. The picture above is from the DXMAPS website and shows one of the daily openings that we’ve experienced on 6m here in the US during the last month. The DXMAPS website is a good tool for monitoring for VHF/UHF band openings (10m and higher). The site collects and plots cluster spots and propagation mode information on a world map in real-time. This includes spots from CW Skimmers which monitor beacons on the VHF and UHF bands. This allows one to determine when a VHF/UHF band is open and the directions for possible QSOs from one’s location. As you can see from the picture above, there was a solid 6m opening on this particular day from my QTH in New England to the Midwest, the Southeast and the Caribbean! You can also see the beginnings of an opening into Europe.

Cluster Spots During A 6m Band Opening (DXLabs SpotCollector)

Cluster Spots During A 6m Band Opening (DXLab SpotCollector)

The graphic above shows spotting cluster data (we use the DXLab Suite at our station). You can see the details of the stations being spotted during the opening.

The 6m band is often called the “magic band” because it exhibits many different propagation modes including Sporadic E (Es), Tropo, Aurora, Iconoscatter, Meteor Scatter and even Earth-Moon-Earth (EME or “Moon Bounce”). You can find a good introduction to the magic band, its propagation possibilities and some ideas on how to get started on 6m on these sites:

I would also recommend Six Meters: A Guide to the Magic Band by Ken Neubeck, WB2AMU. While the equipment information in this book is somewhat dated and it can be a little had to find, it contains excellent information on propagation modes and operating on 6m.

Many of the 6m propagation modes can be very short-lived so one must be prepared to make short contacts at the start of a QSO. The typical 6m exchange would include callsigns, signal reports and grid square (more on grid square below). The 6m band is typically very quiet and will easily support QSOs that do not move one’s S Meter even with the rig’s preamps on!

SteppIR DB36 Antennas At Our QTH

SteppIR DB36 Antennas At Our QTH

We planned for 6m operation when we built our station a couple of years ago. Our primary antennas for 6m are our SteppIR DB36 yagis at 105′ and 65′. These antennas are used separately on the 6m band (we can run them as a 4 over 4 array on 10m – 40m).

SteppIR DB36 With 6m Kit

SteppIR DB36 With The 6m Kit Installed Below Our 2m and 432 MHz Yagis

Out SteppIR DB36 Yagi’s feature, a 36-foot boom and have a 6m Passive element Kit installed which provide two additional elements on the 6m band. The resulting gain and front/back performance are in the range of typical 5 element 6m monoband antennas. Having two independently directional antennas for 6m has turned out to be quite useful in contests and when monitoring for 6m openings. These antennas have 6 elements on 6m and are pretty directional. Typical operating setups at our QTH would have one antenna pointed to the West or toward Europe while the other is pointed south to monitor for openings to the Southeast and the Caribbean. In these configurations, we can instantly switch between two directions using our microHAM Antenna Control System.

AB1OC Operating Position On 6m

AB1OC Operating Position On 6m

Both of our two operating positions are 6m capable. They both feature Transceivers with good receivers (a Yaesu FTdx5000 and an Icom IC-7800) and both have PW-1 Amplifiers which provide 1KW output on the 6m band.

QSOs By Band

QSOs By Band As Of Early 2014

Before the 2014 Spring Es Season, we had only done limited operating on the 6m band. I did participate in the 2013 ARRL June VHF Contest and operated on a combination of the 6m, 2m and 70cm bands during that contest. I also did some 6m operating as part of the 13 Colonies Special Event in 2013. In total, I had made about 200 QSOs on 6m and had worked 10 grid squares by the beginning of 2014. Most of these 6m contacts were with stations in the US with a few to the Caribbean. My longest DX up to that point in time were a few contacts 6m stations in the Canary Islands on the northwest coast of Africa.

JT65 QSO On 6m

JT65 QSO using WSJT-X and JTAlert On 6m

At the start of the 2014 Spring Es Season, I decided to get serious about earning an ARRL VUCC Award on 6m. This award requires one to work and confirm 100 grid squares on the 6m band (it’s also available for 2m and higher bands). I began by studying 6m propagation modes and monitoring the calling frequencies on the 6m band. We work a combination of modes on 6m include SSB Phone, CW, and digital (using JT65). The CW and JT65 modes are very useful on the 6m band when the propagation conditions are marginal. We recently upgraded to Joe Taylor’s WSJT-X software which supports both the JT65 and JT9 weak signal modes. This WSJT-X software coupled with JTAlert software from HAMApps integrated the JT65 and JT9 modes very well with the DXLab suite that we use for logging and other DX’ing work at our station.

There were some exciting times on the air during the early part of the Es Season this year. Two that stand out were my first double hop Es contacts with hams in California and several openings to the Midwest and the Southeast where the band went from dead to very active in a period of 5-10 minutes! This is typical for the 6m band but it’s quite an experience to go from calling CQ with no answers to being in the middle of an almost instant small pileup!

AB1OC Claimed Score In 2014 ARRL VHF Contest

AB1OC Claimed Score In 2014 ARRL VHF Contest

I also decided to operate in the 2014 ARRL June VHF Contest again this year. I decided to operate in the Single Operator, High-power Category on 6m only. I was able to make a little over 300 6m contacts in this contest and managed a score that was significantly better than my 3 band effort in this contest last year. My QSOs were primarily SSB phone mode but I also managed a number of contacts in CW mode and a few digital QSOs using JT65.

AB1OC Worked Grids In 2014 ARRL VHF Contest

AB1OC Worked Grids In 2014 ARRL VHF Contest (N1MM Logger)

As you can see from the screenshot from the N1MM logger that I used for the contest, I was able to work quite a few grid squares. We had a very nice opening to the Southeast and Florida during the contest period and this resulted in lots of new 6m contacts and even some small pileups at times!

AB1OC Worked Grids In The Americas

AB1OC Worked Grids In The Americas

By the end of the contest, my total grids worked was up to 98 and this put me very close to my goal of earning a VUCC on 6m. At this point, I was hooked on 6m!

AB1OC Worked Grids In Europe And Africa

AB1OC Worked Grids In Europe And Africa

A couple of days after the contest ended, I took a look at the DXMAPS website and saw that a good 6m opening was occurring into Europe. I got on the air and was able to make my first ever contacts into Europe on 6m. The opening was a “spotlight” one (covering a limited area) that involved double hop Es propagation in Spain, Portugal, France, and Morocco. Over the period of about an hour and a half, I made some 30 contacts into these countries. A very exciting time on the air and one that I will not soon forget!

AB1OC Worked Grids Around The World

AB1OC Worked Grids Around The World

With the opening to Europe and some continued operation on 6m I am currently at 122 Grid Squares worked (with 91 confirmed so far. My 6m QSO count stands at 755 with 112 new grid squares and approximately 550 QSOs made in the last 30 days.

The website used to plot the grid squares worked and confirm in the previous pictures is WG7J’s GridMapper site. Its a really nice tool to visualize the grid square one has worked or still needs to work.

At this point, I am totally hooked on the 6m band! While a yagi antenna with 5 or more elements helps a lot on 6m, I have found that it does not take a big station to have fun on the band when it’s open. I have worked many stations in the US who were using wire antennas and verticals with 100w or less. See the following YouTube video for an example of a simple 6m setup. Another good 6m intro video can be found here. If you have not given 6m a try, I encourage our readers to take a look at the band. It is really quite a lot of fun.

– 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)

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)