SOTA NEWS MAY 2008
Editorial by Roy G4SSH
Welcome to the May edition of SOTA News. Once more we have a most interesting selection of news and articles from both regular contributors and first-time authors. My thanks to:- Richard G3CWI, Klaus DF2GN, Dan DH8DX, Roger MW0IDX, Rob G4RJQ, Tom M1EYP and Chris F8DZY.
SOTA AWARDS ISSUED. By Roger MW0IDX. Awards Manager
500 points chaser award G6MZX 29/03/08 Geoff
Caroline M3ZCB Award: Chaser 500 points Date achieved: 2008-03-29
Activator 1000 points DL8DZV Kurt 30-March-08
CRAVEN RADIO AMATEUR GROUP, MX0BCQ 1000 points Chaser award 02/04/08, First club to do it. (Geoff G4CPA obo CRAG)
Andre ON4CAP 250 chaser 26 March 08 & 100 chaser unique 1 April 08
100 chaser Certificate. 13th of April 2008. SM7NDX Jan
14-04-08 100 sota chasers points G1SAA Rob
100 Unique summits award 24 Feb 08 Eric - SM1TDE
1000 points chaser 13 April 08 Graham G3OHC
100 Activator points 8 Sep 07 Jean-Yves F8TMQ
250 Activator 23 March 2008 Dave 2E0BYA
500 SWL uniques 19-Apr-08 Peter ONL5923
250 chaser 21-Apr-08 Paul, G4JNN
250 chaser uniques 20-Apr-08 Graham G3OHC
500 chaser 13-Apr-08 & 100 chaser uniques 12-Jan-08 Mike G4DDL
SOTA-OE ACTIVITY DAY
The Austrian SOTA Association is offering an award for activating OE summits on Sunday 18th May 2008.
If you cannot visit Austria on this special day then there will be many OE activators for you to copy as a chaser.
Further information from the OE Association Manager Chris OE1CWA.
SCOTTISH SUMMIT ACTIVATION By Andy MM0FMF
I am hoping to organise a mass activation in the SB area sometime this
summer. So far myself, Steve GM7SRJ and Rob G1TPO are prepared to take
part. Summits under consideration are any SB summit and any of the
relatively rarely activated SS summits neighbouring to SB-land. All and
every mode and band is under consideration but we’ll probably make a bit
of an effort to concentrate on VHF and up. Certainly it would be nice to
offer 2m/70cms from all the summits and depending on the number of
sherpas and participants 6m/4m and 23cms. Fallback onto 80m/60m/40m for
those who can’t hear the VHF signals.
I think a critical mass would be at least 5 activators on at the same
time. Getting all of the SB’s on at the same time would be glorious. Of
course any other S2S contacts just makes the whole shebang a lot more fun.
Anyone who is interested should contact me
All the best,
SSTV from EH-003
Tom N2YTF, advises that he will be active on Saturday 3rd May from the top of South Beacon Mountain W2/EH-003 around 1pm eastern time (1700 UTC). This will be only the second American SOTA activation and the first activation of EH-003.
He will operate QRP 5w on 20m to 70cm using SSB on 14285 KHz, , PSK31, on 14070 KHz and SSTV on 14285 KHz plus, APRS and FM satellite. This one could be a real unique in terms of location and mode !!
10 GHz REPORT by Richard G3CWI
There are some significant differences in operating procedures on the
microwave bands compared to those used on the lower frequencies. Due to
the very narrow beam width of most microwave aerials and the relatively
low numbers of stations active on these bands, calling CQ is generally
all but useless. Instead contacts are arranged using other means. For SOTA
activators, the only viable method of arranging contacts is to use 2m SSB
or perhaps to telephone known microwavers who are likely to be within
range. Contacts are thus set-up using a ‘talk-back’ system. For the SOTA
activator this means carrying additional equipment for talk-back. Richard
G4ERP prefers full-duplex talk-back and so carries a completely separate
50W 2m system. I hate carrying extra weight and compromise with a lighter,
Once contact is established on the talkback channel, locations and
bearings are exchanged. Next an alignment process is carried out. This
usually involves the highest power station sending a stream of dots
towards the lower power station. This is used for two purposes:
- Frequency alignment
- Aerial alignment.
When this is complete in one direction, roles are reversed so that both
operators are set up. Only at that stage does the contact commence, either
on SSB or CW depending upon signal strength.
This is clearly rather more complex than a normal SOTA contact and the
whole process can take 10 minutes or so (especially if the signals are
April 10GHz activity - none to report. Bad weather scuppered several
possible 10GHz tests when Richard G4ERP was up in the Pennines. 10GHz
really does need half descent weather to be pleasurable and each attempt
has been rained off. That being said, rain is often welcome as it scatters
10GHz signals, sometimes increasing range dramatically. Sunday 28th April
was a microwave activity day and as Steve INK was running for cover from a
thunderstorm on Gun, I was using the same storm to attempt to communicate
with a station in Abingdon. I heard his signal but mine were too weak to
make it back. The odd sensation that Steve felt was probably due to being
irradiated with microwaves! Rainscatter has some interesting potential for
SOTA activations although the balance between using it to communicate and
staying dry is a tricky one to achieve.
There will be a microwave roundtable held in Sheffield on 12 and 13th July.
There will be a talk on lightweight SOTA backpacking with 10GHz on the
Saturday 12th July. See:
SOFTROCK from Rob G4RJQ
During the last month I have been testing a Softrock 80/40 tx/rx kit
built from a kit.
As it is “software defined radio” it needs a PC with a good soundcard
so is not really suitable for use on the summits (unless you’re very rich) but
as a rig for home use on CW it is very impressive indeed. There are several free software packages that will run with it and all of them give superb,
totally variable filtering, much much better than crystal filters. The
receive side is effectively direct conversion but don’t be put off as
it can hear everything the main rig can. The tx runs just 1watt but I
have managed to work many of the central European activations, usually
by tail ending. To be in the safe side I have worked them earlier with
the main rig for the points so sorry for any confusion.
We are not allowed to send /QRP over here so we just tag QRP on the end of
the call. The netting is automatically spot on which helps a lot I think.
In the shack I leave the rig on 7032 with fairly wide filtering and
the waterfall display soon shows up any activity. You can even run
CWskimmer software that will pull out and screen print call signs. If
your CW is not too good CWskimmer will print out the incoming text. I
find Skimmer a little insensitive and prefer to run Rocky which
although it cannot print out CW can run PSK directly.
Currently I’m boxing the board up with a built in paddle (most
programs incorporate a keyer) so apologise for some less than good
sending while it has been a “lash up”
If you want a cheap way into HF CW, have a reasonable PC with a
stereo sound card, and can manage to build a kit with some surface
mounted components then for an outlay of thirty odd pounds the softrock
is an option worth considering. As an old timer brought up on valves I
have to admit that this is the future.
The Softrock40 Yahoo user group has lots more information (usual
SOTA ACTIVATIONS. From Chris F8DZY
This is already my little contribution for the next SOTA News because I leave to Paris next week (leaving home tomorrow for other thing) and won’t have any radio or internet access…
2 SOTA’s this month with PO-248 Garralda & PO-265 (new French summit) Gakoeta.
PO-248 “Garralda”: 47 QSOs
Good propagation on all Europe & Scandinavia
16 QSOs on 30M CW
1 QSO on 20M SSB
30 QSOs on 40M CW (NIL in SSB)
1 new own “SOTA DX” with LA1ENA (precedent “DX” was SM1TDE Eric), they are almost the same distance from my location but LA1ENA beats SM1TDE for some kilometers. Again SM with SM3TLG & SF0L.
Some undisciplined callers from DL, HB & I…
It was my 1st experience at end of afternoon time, I had to go QRT because night was coming quickly and no night equipment (time to de-install, clean and walk back to car… I came back home at 21:00 loc).
PO-265 “Gakoeta”: 59 QSOs
Good propagation again on all Europe
A constant pile-up both on 30M & 40M !
27 QSOs on 30M CW (again “DX” LA1ENA)
NIL on 40M SSB = mic problem…
32 QSOs on 40M CW
Indiscipline on 40M : a guy or some guys (not hams for me) play(s) sending “call ?” or “?”, or maybe they don’t take time to listen, I usually send my call and SOTA ref, I wanted to make understand this with including short moment when I answer “LSN !” on my last video (hope it made smile a lot of us and “think” the others).
Anyway, I have to admit I liked to “control” the pile-up and most of us now know that if I hear a bit of call and ask for it, I don’t listen anything but it. As an activator I want to thank all SOTA chasers for usual good ham spirit, giving a chance to weak sigs to be heard.
I won’t be back in my Pyrénées mountains before end of May, they’ll miss me a lot in Paris !
Hope this info will help you,
SOTA CW REPORT by Roy G4SSH
The month of April was a fairly quiet period for SOTA CW activity during weekdays, but CW spots peaked to more than 100 at weekends. There were many cross-border activations; Norby LX1NO was as reliable as ever, with activity from HB9/ SOTA’s on the first weekend and DL/ summits on the second and fourth weekend, giving many uniques. During the last Sunday of the month Norby completed a magnificent run of seven “Never previously activated” summits in the SR region of Germany. Tom DL1DVE was active from Austria, Kurt HB9AFI operated from France, Dan DH8DX also operated from France and was even heard operating LX/ by Klaus. Miro OK1CYC and Hannes HB9AGO activated from Germany, Hans PA0HRM crossed into Belgium whilst Les G3VQO nipped across the channel on “Le-Shuttle” and was active from France and Belgium during a brief shopping expedition.
To round off the month Jirka became active with an unannounced expedition to Poland as SP/OK1DDQ/P on the 30th, delighting many chasers with a most unique SS-001 from this country.
There always seems to be a steady stream of new SOTA CW activators and last month was no exception, with Gary 2E0BFJ, Max OE5EIN, Frank OK2OP, Roger F5LKW Marco HB9BGG and Wolf DL1AWC heard using CW for the first time. Welcome to the SOTA CW family folks.
CW activity from France was again at a premium, including Chris F8DZY, and Andre F5UKL giving many uniques to grateful chasers whilst making video’s of their activations.
The 80m band was favoured by Rainer DL2RVL, Marc G0AZS, Tom DM4EA and G0HIO. The 30m band continued to give good extended coverage across Europe now that the lighter nights are here, with CW activity heard on this band from DF2GN,. DH8DX, DL3VTA, DL7VKD, F8DZY, F5UKL, F5IUZ, DL3VTA, OK1DDQ, HA5CQZ and G4RJQ. This band should really come into its own when the new SOTA associations, such as Sweden, come on line shortly, relieving the pressure on 40m.
Klaus DF2GN and Dan DH8DX continued their 100+ QSO SOTA runs and Lutz DJ3AX was making SOTA a family outing with activations accompanied by his XYL and faithful Mountain Mutt Benny.
It was a pleasure to hear Peter ON3WAB/P operating QRS from ON-008. It takes a lot of courage to call CQ SOTA using slow speed CW because you have no control over the speed of the chasers who reply. Most callers will automatically reduce speed to that of the activator but there are always one or two who have no appreciation of the situation and will reply at 20 WPM+. Fortunately the remedy is in the hands of the activator who can ask “PSE QRS” just once, then ignore the chaser, who will soon get the message. Modern rigs are one cause of the problem, where the menu has to be accessed in order to change the CW speed, which is awkward, but most ops can compensate for this by lengthening the gaps between characters to bring the overall speed down. Others are just indifferent and refuse to slow down. One particular station (not a regular chaser) uses QRP and always sends at 30 WPM+. A combination which usually ensures a low success rate and many requests for repeats.
There were four more instances of Pirates pretending to be SOTA activators last month. The same station that used LX1NO/p on CW in March was again active. This time he made a single QSO with a chaser before sending “QRX” and tuning. This person never gives a SOTA reference and sends QRX before vanishing. The other Pirates used the calls of Ferri HG4GGV, Jirka OK2BDF and Pat F5MQW, In every case these were detected by prompt spotting which allowed the authentic callsign holder to alert the mis-use of their calls. It is always a good idea to spot a SOTA station, even though you might not have all the details, as this allows someone in a better reception area to confirm the activity.
Our anonymous QRS friend continues to send “PSE SSB” at around 8wpm over the top of many CW activators, as he has been doing for over a year now. As he does this over the top of activitators who routinely QSY to SSB, I am pretty certain that he cannot read CW and does not have access to SOTAwatch
CW CHASING TIPS FOR NEWCOMERS. (PART 2) by G4SSH
- TIMING (Continued)
It is important to realise that, as a new CW chaser, you will not manage to copy every activation that you can hear. Many SOTA activators use an FT-817 on internal batteries giving around 3w output, so signals from distant European countries are going to be very weak with QSB at times. With a single vertical antenna I am rarely able to copy QRP activators from HA, OK or HB9 during a couple of hours either side of noon and some stations in France and all of the UK are inside my skip distance on 40m. This is a fact of life and knowing my limitations allows me to concentrate on SOTA stations with whom I have a reasonable chance of success.
A typical SOTA activation goes through four distinct stages.
- The activator initially calls CQ SOTA.
- A few minutes later the activator is spotted
- A pile up develops as many chasers react to the spot
- The pile up slowly decreases until all chasers are worked and the activator goes QSY or QRT.
The best time to work the activator is at stage 1, when the frequency is clear, but this involves keeping a constant monitoring watch and is not an option for many chasers. If you have an audio alert you might also just get in and out at stage 2 before the majority arrive. With the pile-up’s generated by experienced activators giving strong signals such as the “Big Three” LX1NO, DF2GN and DH8DX, then working the station at this stage this can save you 30 minutes of calling…
Stage 3 is the most difficult, when dozens of callers are trying to make the contact and it sounds like an undisciplined rabble, with stations calling over the activator and everyone trying to be the last tail-ender calling. There is no need to panic at this stage, remember that there are no bonus points for being first in the log.
Newcomers should assess the stage of the activation at which they first hear the activator. If you have a typical 100w to a dipole antenna station, (or less) then you are most unlikely to break a pile up of dozens of stations from across Europe using high power and beam antennas.
This is where a knowledge of the activator and their operating habits is invaluable (I will return to this subject in a later newsletter). For example, if it is DF2GN or DH8DX calling then you might as well go and have a cup of tea because they will call until the frequency is clear and then QSY to a different band and then later return to 40m for final calls, so you are 99% certain to work them with ease in 20 or 30 minutes time. Some French activators will often remain on a summit for up to 3 hours.
Some CW ops feel that a very narrow filter is essential for CW working, others think they are expensive and a waste of money. It is personal choice. However, whatever your view you must not monitor or search with your CW filter switched in. I never monitor or search for SOTA stations at less than 2 KHz, which can be configured to 4 KHz by using the 2nd receiver in my rig. This means, in effect, that I can monitor 7030-7034 KHz constantly. I will switch to 2 KHz to work an activator because I have more than 50 years experience of reading CW and know that the best filter is between my ears. For very weak QRP stations I will use the DSP or APF control but still keep the bandwidth at 2 KHz because I need the background noise as a fixed base level with which to compare the just-above-noise level whisper of a QRP CW signal and I wish to be aware of the activity of the other chasers. However, if you prefer a filter then bring this into use once you have identified a target activator. However you must be aware that if, for example, you have a 2-pont activator isolated on a very narrow filter then you are not going to hear another activator worth 10 points calling CQ SOTA one KHz away, which often happens at weekends.
This will come with time and you will be able to assess a situation within a few seconds after switch on. A knowledge of the callsigns of your fellow chasers using the current mode is invaluable and can often be the first indication of an activator. Single calls from any of the leading CW chasers such as GM4FAM, HB9AGH, DL7RAG, G4OBK, GW0DSP or myself are a dead give-away that there is an activation on the spot and you can start searching around the frequency.
I think that it goes without saying that the main aim of a chaser is to ensure that their callsign is correct in the activators log. Which is why I am always puzzled when a regular chaser from Germany sends his first call with the prefix D2. (which is Angola). This is always corrected to DL2… on the second call. This puzzles me every time I hear it. Perhaps this is in his autokey? but surely he must hear the side tone? I suppose this is one way to crack the pile-up.
CW DX OF THE MONTH:
30m RW9LL, 4L3Y, 4Z4BS, EY7AF, UA9CBR, UA9AB, RU9UC, RK9AD,
RN9HM - and the best of the lot - ZL2AGY in New Zealand !
40m UA9FGR, RW9LL
During the month of April Dan was called by chasers from 40 different countries.
Klaus DF2GN 30m EA8BIE 40m CN2EH
Peter ON3WAB 20m 5X4X
Chris F8DZY 30m: ES4NG. 40m: LY2NA, LY2FE
SOTA UPDATE By Klaus DF2GN
(Ed’s note - I have assisted Klaus with some of the English technical terms and expressions, without changing the meaning of his report in any way - Roy)
Hi my friends Roy and Mike,
I will write to you both, because of the different news on two websites.
(That is not a problem Klaus - two news sites gives double the amount of information, even if there will be some duplication. We do not compete with each other - Roy)
Originally I had planned to reduce my SOTA activities. That’s true, but without SOTA there was a big gap into my Ham radio. Due to a few problems with my knee I think the big running events are over for me.
I have no problems running or walking at a moderate speed, but I have problems when I run against the clock, so I will run no more challenges and marathons, but run just for fun and my own pleasure. I will not stop running but only for my own health and fun. I enjoy running and walking 2 or 3 hours in the nice countryside around here. This will allow me free time to activate SOTA again.
I shall often use QRP only - that is the bad news Hi - but only for SSB’ers. For CW 5-10 watts is more than enough. In the last few days I have been working on a running pack with a complete SOTA QRP rig inside. This is under 10 Kilos in weight, including antenna and 3 Ah slab, which allows me to work for about 90 minutes with 5 to 10 watts. A new challenge for me is the use of a small vertical antenna and I have one under construction.
Now a little bit of my activator log with the QSO rates from my last activations:-
24/Mar/2008 DM/BW-249 118 -QSO´s
29/Mar/2008 DM/BW-057 94
09/Apr/2008 DM/BW-369 72
13/Apr/2008 DM/BW-449 108
13/Apr/2008 DM/BW-450 69
17/Apr/2008 DM/BW-562 87
18/Apr/2008 DM/BW-561 102
19/Apr/2008 DM/BW-239 125
25/Apr/2008 DM/BW-244 123
26/Apr/2008 DM/BW-368 115
26/Apr/2008 DM/BW-227 102
27/Apr/2008 DM/BW-250 98
12 activations both at weekends and at weekdays with 1213 QSO’s !
It takes about 2 hours to work all chasers and then it has to typed into the database
First I will ask for NO more spotting of my activations on the DX-cluster please, because many stations are calling in solely due to the fact that it is spotted in the DX-cluster and they do not even want the SOTA ref.
Please do not misunderstand this request. In every activation I will try to work as many chasers as possible, and often its better to wait if the pile-up is large, because most times I will return to 40m both CW and SSB and finish there with last calls. Spotting in SOTAWATCH is OK and needed, but please no more spots in DX-clusters!
Problems and hints:
To other activators - please ask QRL? or check the QRG before making a CQ SOTA call. On my last activation another activator arrived on my 40m CW frequency and started calling CQ SOTA. He was 579 and I was QRO, so he must have heard me or the chasers. As result I had to QSY to 40m SSB and return to CW later to work the last chasers.
During my last few activations someone with a big signal says “PSE SSB” in CW
over and over again, which gives me much QRM, especially when I am trying to copy weak chasers, so why not give his callsign and report? I always use SSB after CW anyway, with the exception of 80m, which is CW only for me.
(This guy has been around for a long time Klaus, I do not think that he can read Morse - see my CW report - Roy)
Some chasers call me in the CW pile up’s and after I give the report ask “PSE UR CALL” or “PSE UR SOTA” !!! Why not listen first before calling? I am hoping that my request for NON-spotting in DX-Cluster will help to solve this problem .
DX reports from me are rare, because most times I am using low-dipoles .
I think I am more DX for the chasers and I make a lot of S2S-contacts the last time.
This summer I will use an antenna 2 x 7m high and outer with symmetric feeder, so maybe difficult times for the chasers on 80m (40m?) This will give me a good performance on the higher bands, but the antenna may be too long for 80m? I will let you know how this works out.
I LOVE CW and today (27th April) on BW-250 this mode worked particularly well, especially as propagation was poor on some bands, with no copy on SSB.
My last activation started on 30m around 1615 UTC, which was a bit late in the day for this band, but G4SSH,GW0DSP,F5NEP,DL1FU and HB9AAQ managed to make contact on this band with reports from 319-339. Signal were only a few db´s louder than the noise on the band, but it is a good training for the ears to fish out the callsigns
I hope to work you all many times again ,
Please note that the request not to spot on the DX cluster is exclusive to my activations only. Dan DH8DX and other activators want to have DX-Cluster spots in order to have some DX in the log.
This raises an interesting question - should I ask for non spotting on the DX Cluster or let it be? Should I wait a month or two with this? Maybe it is better to wait a bit before I ask for non spotting, because Dan and others are very nervous about this in the news.
Klaus DF2GN / P
(I think this is a personal decision Klaus - as long as you make it quite clear that non spotting on the DX cluster for your activations is a personal request then chasers will respect that decision. However, there will always be the station who hears the pile-up and puts it on the cluster without knowing anything about SOTA - Roy)
Late News - received from Klaus on 30th April:-
Hi Mike and Roy,
I have some last minute information which I hope will make the May news:-
This week is the last week with QRO from me. I have sold my FT-450 and FT-857 because I do not like the CW reception on crowded bands with big antennas.
I will return with my old homebrew rig that I used last year. This gives 10 watts in CW and SSB. I can reduce this to 5 watts on CW.
However I will take my 2 x 20m double Zepp antenna with me, so even though I will be using QRP I will not be compromising on my antennas !
In the next few weeks, I will build an Elecraft K2 with 100 watt output. No bad Tx for CW, but I can use this to work DX with the big antennas at the club station.
VY 73 Klaus DF2GN/p
HILL OF THE MONTH by Tom M1EYP
It would almost go without saying that if I were to nominate a ‘Hill of the Month’ as a recent highlight, that it would be selected from my recent SOTA trip to Northern Ireland. And so it is, although it is almost impossible for me to narrow it down to one. There was our best walk - the lovely ascent of our final day, up the Glen River Valley path from Newcastle, County Down, to the Mourne Wall, and our ascents either side of that saddle to activate Northern Ireland’s highest two peaks, Slieve Donard GI/MM-001 and Slieve Commedagh GI/MM-002. There was the stunning views over Rathlin Island and the North Atlantic Ocean from Knocklayd GI/AH-002, and the particularly successful radio activations on Big Collin GI/AH-008, Slemish GI/AH-007 and Carrigatuke GI/CA-003, where the contacts and summit-to-summits just kept rolling in, excellent propagation conditions and FB operating standards from huge pile-ups.
However, if I was to select just one, it would have to be Divis GI/AH-004. It was the first of the holiday, and certainly got our campaign off to a wonderful start. Divis, stands at 478m ASL, behind the city of Belfast, towering above it as the overnight ferry makes its final approach into Belfast Lough. It is home to the main television and radio transmitters for the area, as well as a large M.O.D. compound. Until Summer 2005, it was completely out-of-bounds to walkers, being exclusively M.O.D./B.B.C. territory, although it was possible to obtain prior permission in the latter days.
The site is now owned and managed by the National Trust, so access becomes much more open. A free car park is situated on Divis Road at J265741, and it is a straightforward stroll of 3.5km along the tarmac access road to the summit. The map required is OSNI Discoverer sheet 15 (1:50,000), although there would be no navigational problems whatsoever, unless you chose to venture away from the road into the moorland in very poor visibility. The road reaches a junction as the land ahead begins to slope back downwards towards Belfast. To the right is the main TV/radio installation, so one turns left to climb up the steeper and winding road to the summit. The summit itself looks to be within the menacing-looking fences of the M.O.D. compound, but no more than one or two metres higher than the land outside.
On a clear day, the views from the summit area are excellent. To the East, there is a birds-eye view of the city of Belfast, the harbour, Belfast Lough and out towards the Isle of Man. To the South is Strangford Lough and the Mourne Mountains. To the North are the Antrim Hills, while to the West are the rolling green hills that so characterise the Emerald Isle.
But this is not the best walk, nor even the best views to be had in GI SOTA. But this activation became really special with the instant success of the operating conditions. For weeks we had agonised over what strategy to adopt. The result had to include the components of (a) qualification for both of us, (b) me being able to use CW, © Jimmy being able to use SSB and (d) giving the points and the uniques to the dedicated band of chasers in G, GW and GM that were hunting for us on a daily basis. I am happy to admit that I normally just consider requirement (a), but our plans had generated so much interest that we had to think somewhat beyond that.
The consensus was that 80m would best fulfill these demands. Several practice activations with an 80m dipole on The Cloud G/SP-015 (where else?) confirmed this after Richard G3CWI was kind enough to offer to lend us his antenna. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of the approach was even better than my most optimistic forecast. Without sending a SPOTlite, my opening “QRL?” on 3.557MHz CW was answered by Richard G3CWI with a “GM TOM”. I hadn’t even sent my callsign, but I guess he knew it was me hi! That contact headed up a run of ten on CW, most with stations who would continue to work me on most of the ensuing 15 activations that few days. Switching to 3.660MHz SSB brought 5 contacts for Jimmy and 3 for myself, including S2S with John GW4BVE/P and Pete MW0COP/P on Fan Nedd GW/SW-007. Jimmy found 80m to be a most refreshing antidote to the trials and tribulations of QRP SSB on the 40m band!
It was the perfect start to our GI SOTA tour, and thus fondly nominated by me as my Hill of the Month.
73, Tom M1EYP
THE BEST LAID PLANS by Roy G4SSH
I was quite looking forward to an interesting experiment last month. It all started when I received an urgent phone call from my daughter in Cornwall to ask if I could travel down at short notice. The outside of the house was being painted but due to the bad weather this was overrunning by some 7 days. As my daughter could not get any more time off work someone was needed to “house-sit” and open the doors and windows when required. I managed to get a last minute seat on the flight from Leeds-Bradford airport to Newquay and arrived the next day.
Regular readers will know that I use an FT-897 and an indoor vertical antenna for my regular visits to this QTH, which is adequate for SOTA chasing on 30 and 40m
However, this time I was intrigued to check out the effects of operating inside a location surrounded by 18 steel scaffold verticals. Would this have the effect of attempting to operate inside a Faraday cage, with a major loss of signals? or would the additional verticals combine to give me the effect of a beam antenna in some directions? I was eager to find out.
I had the station set up and ready to roll in about 30 minutes. Came the big moment - final check that antenna tappings and radials were all set for 40m, mains supply to FP-30 and correct plugs to the FC-30 Automatic Antenna tuner. Then the big switch on.
ZAN, GUHOR, NIL,ZILCH. The rig was absolutely dead, and refused to even light up. I stared in total disbelief. It was working perfectly last time used, at Christmas. Unfortunately I have limited test equipment there so checked all connections a dozen times. The meter showed that 13.8v was getting to the Molex plug at the rear of the rig, but nothing beyond that.
I felt like a person who has just arrived at a SOTA to discover that the rig that worked perfectly at sea level stubbornly refuses to work at the summit.
I rang the dealer to check if there was any obvious fuses that I had missed, but was advised to return it for service under the warranty. So I spent a most frustrating week literally watching paint dry.
The rig was shipped off and returned promptly within 48 hours - the problem? “a dry joint in the power-up circuit” (my friend John G4YSS swears that it is all the fault of this new-fangled solder now in use). So back on the air, without charge, however, I did consider asking the dealer to provide a voucher for 100 SOTA Chaser points.
One interesting point of note was the reaction at different airports to taking the FT-897 on the aircraft as cabin luggage. I always declare the contents as an Amateur Radio transceiver and carry a copy of my licence inside the case. It sailed through the X-ray machine at Leeds/Bradford airport without comment, (as did my shoes, jacket and belt). However, at Newquay (not asked to removed shoes or belt) the X-Ray machine howled in protest and I had to open the case, where it was promptly swabbed for explosives before I was allowed airside.
CONTEST CALENDAR - MAY 2008
The following scheduled contests are expected to cause severe QRM to SOTA activity, especially on the 40m band. Activators should plan accordingly with alternate spots.
3rd-4th 2000-2000 ARI International RTTY DX Contest
10th only 1000-1200 EUCW CW QSO Party
10th-11th 1200-1200 CQ-M International CW & SSB DX contest
17-18th 1200-1200 EU PSK DX contest
24th-25th 0001-2359 CQ WW CW WPX contest (major disruption expected on 40m)
Please support the SOTA news and information coverage on this site by forwarding articles or achievements to g4ssh @tiscali.co.uk. Have you a favourite SOTA? favourite mode? favourite rig? Antenna, or favourite band? Your comments and experiences will be read by SOTA enthusiasts all across Europe. Your input will be most welcome. Are there any SWL’s out there with a description of their shack and experiences logging SOTA stations?