Monday, August 22, 2011

Contesting Weekend and Planning a Vertical

I have to be honest, I’m not a great contest fan but I do realise that there are loads of operators out there who love it and it’s a big part of our hobby. This weekend when switching on the rig I tuned up on 20 meters and heard the familiar TEST on cw. Checking 40 and 15 meters it was the same and there was a hive of activity as the contester were busy calling cq. 10 meters seemed closed, so all the contesters were concentrating on the 3 available frequencies, the noise was incredible and I found it hard to understand any of the cw either because it was just too quick or it seemed to me it was overlapping, (just goes to show how much I still have to learn).

So I switched over to the WARC bands (30 meters to be precise) which was also very busy, no doubt others like me had switched over to see if they could just have a chat on 30 or 17! For the first time in a while I heard some VK stations but had no luck as I was up against many of our European cousins who were busily turning up the candle to try and get in on the action. So I had a quick cw chat with a couple of stations and then decided to spend some time working out how I was going to improve my 30 meter antenna.

I’m still looking for the ultimate 30 meter DX antenna, but am like most realistic as to what I will be able to achieve. However I did manage to put up my 30 meter vertical (see earlier post) and tried to compare it to the inverted v and the loop I had raised the week before. There is no question the quietest antenna is the loop but not far behind is the vertical, which by all accounts from such a simple antenna works very well. But with the usual difficulties of how to fit each different antenna in to my garden without upsetting the XYL I decided for the moment to stick with my inverted v, at least until next week when I am taking a holiday. I may well then decide to really start having ago at building a sturdy 30 meter vertical and hopefully have the time to do some proper planning and have a good think where to bury all those ground radials!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Frustrating Times

I’ve decided the more I’m learning about antennas the more frustrating it can get. I suppose it’s because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and like to have things set up and working absolutely top notch, if it’s not I find it annoying.

Currently the W3DZZ in the inverted V position is up on my mast and the 30 meter inverted V is hanging off the silver birch tree. The 30 meter is made of uncovered flexi cable and is rubbing against the many leaves and smaller branches, I doubt it makes much difference but I do read that having unprotected wire against the leaves and twigs will not help. The W3DZZ is using standard electric cable about 14 gauge but is covered and the traps are heavily protected, so it would probably be better if I swapped them around, which I shall do this weekend.

I am still not happy with the 30 meter though, I’m sure I can do better and having read up on loops I’m positive I was going wrong with my first attempt. I think I’m now going to have a go with Skywire loops and see if I can progress, if not I still have my vertical which I made some time ago for portable use, maybe I could incorporate that in to my little antenna farm?  

The idea of the 30 meter antenna is purely for DX work so besides having the correct antenna I need to get the positioning right, especially if using the inverted V. The height is unfortunately set at around 35 feet and I can go no higher but I can move the antenna’s azimuth which may help. Having the vertical may prove a better DX antenna in the long run we’ll just have to see.

The cobweb works well especially on 20 and 15 meters where most of the time what I hear I can contact, but the bands are quiet, it’s just not the same as the last sunspot maximum which is a real shame, especially for all the new arrivals to amateur radio, they just don’t know what they are missing!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Further Learning About the FT 1000 MP V

 I was busy this weekend playing with the 1000 MP V, I had a really good read of the manual and managed to set the rig up to how I wanted it. There is an excellent website dedicated to the Yaesu FT 1000 MP and Mark V  which has now helped me out twice on either an issue or for general help. Interestingly this particular rig I have has been set to transmit out of the amateur bands, which for me is great when it comes to CB work. Living on a farm all the workers have CB in their tractors so it’s quite nice to be able to chat to them and should any emergency arrive they also know they can contact me via the radio.

But there’s a cautionary tale here which I have just had this morning; yesterday when contacting the farm community on the CB frequency I was using the FM mode and obviously had set the squelch set up high.
This morning I switched on the rig and tuned up on 30 meters having my usual hunt for any DX. As I was tuning down the band the receive went dead, the radio was still on but nothing was coming out of the speaker. This was happening intermittently just for a few seconds and then it would come back up. Panic, had I somehow broken the receive? After doing some thorough checks I was completely baffled and went to the website I have mentioned to see if there was an obvious answer I had missed. Hopefully you’ve guessed the problem; the squelch was still set high for the CB frequency!

I have taken the 30 meter Delta Loop antenna down and replaced it back with the inverted V. To be honest although a quieter antenna, the difference in receive was pretty small and to be fair already having a mast with the cobweb and the W3DZZ trap, the Delta Loop was a bit of an eye sore that was making the garden look like a telephone exchange! My family are pretty good when it comes to my hobby but even I realised that sometimes I can go a bit too far!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Panic! The Toy Stops Working

Turning on the FT 1000 MP V this morning I checked I was connected to the correct antenna and proceeded to tune up on 30 meters by pressing the ATU button. The transmit indicator appeared but just stayed on transmit there was no movement from the ATU and no sound, it was as if the tranceiver had frozen. I switched off the radio and and then turned it back on, all was back as it should be with the receiver working correctly, so I attempted it again, same thing happened the radio froze. Panic, "I've only had the radio for a week or so, Hell and damn" (or words to that effect), "I'll have to return it to the shop", all these things went through my mind. But then I took a deep breath and had a think and went through each switch to check everything was as it should be, and bingo I found the problem.
............................Can you guess what the problem was?
The Mox button was on; I must have accidently hit it when switching on the radio, one click and panic over!

A further note; I found out when actually sitting down and reading the manual that the ATU stores 39 memories, if you go over this total and try to tune up, the system may well freeze. I suspect many owners will already know this but it's worth mention for the newbies like me!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Experimenting with a Delta Loop

Using an inverted vee for the 30 meter band I have had some good results but quite frankly the noise level is fairly high so I have been searching around looking for some other type of antenna which will give me good dx capabilities but will have a quieter noise level. After trawling the internet and seeing various ideas I came across the sloping delta loop and having checked the dimensions to make sure it would fit within the garden boundary went ahead with building one.

It didn’t take me too long and within a day I had set one up at 30ft with the feeder at the top so it was radiating horizontally. To be honest it was quieter noise wise, but from reading all the reports I should have also been getting better reception but it seemed the same as the inverted vee, so I decided to try and raise the whole antenna to make it a level loop to see if there was any difference. Again a similar response so either I’m not doing something right or I have tweaked it all I can, it still has the shape of a triangle but no longer sloping, any ideas?

What I might try next is a quad simply by changing the shape but keeping the antenna at the same height, see if that makes any difference.

- The Next Day:
An update: Just goes to show if you read up on the internet you can find out where you are going wrong! Checking out horizontal loops I read about ”cloud warming” and realised that my radiating signals were going straight up, a confirmation of this was when I heard a UK station who was around 50 miles away with a 5/9 signal.

So I reverted back to a sloping delta loop with the base being about 10ft off the ground, not perfect I know but at least it should stop the cloud warming. This morning before going to work I switched on the Yaesu and tuned in to 30 meters, blow me, there was a VK station coming in at 579!
Just goes show a little bit of tinkering and internet knowledge can go a long way.