Wednesday, 24 December 2008

A Season's Greeting To All Good Readers

I would like to thank all readers of my blog for making it a success. A season of giving and renewal is upon us and I hope that each and every one of you finds the time and energy to help those less fortunate. If you know someone who’s spending time alone during this holiday season call them or have them in for a meal or invite them out for a coffee and donut.

I also hope that you all find some amateur related goodies under your trees in the morning.

See you all on the air, Christmas Day, for a few hours.

Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one.
- John Lennon

Saturday, 20 December 2008

3B8GT, Mauritius

Ham radio has been slow here at VE3MPG. I do get on most mornings just to listen around and I work PSK 99.99% of the time. It’s just a lot easier than trying to decipher SSB sigs with my less than perfect ear.

mauritius_map1 I was on this morning just before lunch and heard VE3JW, the amateur station over at the Museum of Science and Technology about 24 Kms to the north of me. Darin, VE3OIJ was just signing with a station, 3B8GT. Had to look that one up; and quickly, after Darin’s final, I got a call in to that DX station. He responded with a 599 and he was strong here too with some QSB. 3B8GT is the island of Mauritius about 900 kilometres to the east of Madagascar and east of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. A good catch indeed with all of 20 watts reaching my Cushcraft R6000 vertical. I’m not really sure how much signal reaches the antenna as I’m feeding it with 100 feet of RG59 el cheapo coax. That’s 75 ohm coax, but my FT-950 swr meter tells me there’s no reflected power. Let’s say that less than 20 watts gets radiated. The Museum uses a beam but I was hearing the Mauritius station Q5 here.3b8gt

The op on Mauritius is Alexey 3B8GT with a very modest station according to his listing – 50 watts to a 3 element yagi. Conditions seemed to be perfect this morning but looking at the solar terrestrial data indicated the solar flux at 69, A-index at 2 and the K-index at 0. Not so good propagation it says. Nevertheless the actual working conditions seemed excellent at the time. Local temperature was –17C, crisp and sunny. When I signed with Alexey I hung around a bit to see who might work him but he called CQ for a good ten minutes and no takers. My strategy is to look for weak traces on the waterfall and try to work those stations – usually they turn out to be some good DX. Last spring I worked Reunion Island late in the evening on 20 meters using this strategy – it took me a week to snag him due to pile ups he was generating. That contact was using a 20 meter hamstick and 20 watts.

Another PSK31 tip:
Use the center of your waterfall. Testing will show that your transmit (TX) and receive (RX) will be strongest there. Don’t blindly use 1000Hz tone or strictly follow the VFO ‘set it and forget it' concept. You can easily lose 20% or more of your power on each edge of your pass band. Pass band centering of the signal will give the best results of both RX and TX.

CIA World Fact Book on Mauritius

Sunday, 7 December 2008

A Good Cold Snap

Winter has arrived in the Capital, Ottawa. Power is out this afternoon to about 17,000 people on the outskirts of greater Ottawa. There's been some terrible winds in excess of 50Km/hr and gusting higher out here near Metcalfe about 19 miles south of Parliament Hill. Temperatures have been dropping all day and stand at -12C at 3pm. Expected low temperatures overnight will hover around the -20C mark and that's not including the wind chill. Affected areas include: Orléans, Alexandria, Alfred, Clarence, Cumberland, Hawkesbury, North and South Plantagenet, Osgoode, Rockland, Russell, South Gower, and Winchester.

I've been listening to the Emergency Measures group repeater VA3MV, 146.985- (100.0Hz tone) but there's not much going on. Power in FN25fe has been on all day with no hiccups so far and the band conditions have been very very good on 20 meters. Last night 40 meters was extremely quiet; so quiet that I kicked in the preamp on the FT-950 so I could hear band noise. Signals really jumped out of the noise floor with very deep qsb on all the sigs.

My R6000 is surviving the windy onslaught largely due to the guying I installed when it went up a few weeks ago. I can see a very slight side to side movement of a couple of inches which isn't too bad. The PAR end fed dipoles of course are rugged enough for even Arctic use, which today's weather approximates very well.