Today, I had a failed attempt at activating G/SE-003, my second failed activation on 40m. Previously I failed to activate G/CE-005.
I am using a Yaesu FT-817ND and LDG Z-817 tuner to feed a bandspringer midi from Sotabeams.
At the first failed activation I was feeding this directly from the rear of the tuner, today I fed it via a 1:1 current balun via a short patch lead in an attempt to keep the rig off the floor.
On both of these attempts I could hear many inter-g and continental stations but got no response to calling cq. Today after spotting I had someone call on the frequency I spotted, “Listening for SOTA”. When I went to reply I can only imagine that this station was unable to hear me as I recieved no response to my call.
Does anyone have any ideas as to what I’m doing wrong? Any suggestions are welcome!
Before considerations around the aerial, have you measured the output power of your FT-817ND?
Or have you checked that the rig is indeed putting the approximately 5 apecified watts out assuming you were providing 12V and able to feed it with enough amperes?
Bad luck, Mike.
This does happen to other people too, especially mid-week with only 5W. I am unfamiliar with the bandspringer, preferring (and recommending) a dipole trimmed for best SWR and NO tuner. You need to try this out at home (or a nearby park), starting with an overlong wire and longish string extensions to keep the ends well above ground level. Use one of the available on-line calculators (sorry but I can not presently recall which one I last used) to set the starting length - add 50 cm to be safe. Then folding back a bit at a time (making sure both legs are equal) until the best SWR has been passed.
and find someone to confirm that your signal is getting out before going up another hill.
Sorry to hear that you have had two failed activations. I was not near a radio today otherwise I would have been listening for you. The bands have not been kind of late so that may have been part of the problem. I’m not a fan of end-fed antennas and use a linked dipole which is fed straight from the rig without an ATU or balun in the hope that most of the power reaches the antenna.
From the spots I noticed that you moved frequency quite a few times to avoid QRM. You could have moved a little further away from the problem and moved up the band to a quiet spot and then spotted again. The WAB net is well worth a visit 7.160 +/- . Did you consider having a try on 20m…you may have had better success.? As I said above I don’t know what band conditions were like.
Some of the chasers might pop up and let you know if they were listening for you.
Have you experimented with your set up before activating (e.g Back garden) and getting other hams to give a report.
Focus on getting a 2m system as well as a back up
No doubt others have posted while I’m typing this
73 Allan GW4VPX
It may just be that propagation conditions where against you and that nothing is wrong with your rig or antenna.
The 817 displays SWR as a bar meter, if your using an ATU I would expect you to have 1:1 swr so no bars should be showing or at worst 1 or 2. Although an indication of higher SWR does not mean you will not put out a reasonable signal. 4 or 5 bars may indicate a problem.
Also check your power output, the power meter on the 817 is a little tricky to get used to. If your are using an external battery with around 10-12 volts then the power meter will not show anything although the power will be 5 watts. As the battery voltage drops the rig will automatically switch to 2.5 watts and 3 bars showing on the power meter. You can force it back to 5 Watts using the PWR key and the display will blink.
If you are using the internal battery that will automatically set to 2.5 Watts (3 Bars showing), and again you can set that to 5 watts ( bars blinking). The downside is the internal battery will drain quickly.
Without more info that’s about the best I can offer,. Also take a 2M antenna with you, even the supplied rubber duck will work, and see if you can get the points that way. Many an activation has been saved by using 2M FM !
Best of luck
I had a similar experience on Wild Boar Fell, only managing one contact on 40 midweek ( About 33 with the wind behind it ) with Don in Devon on 40. ( Qualified the hill with some additional 2m contacts ). Sometimes it is just luck, sometimes band conditions, sometimes 5w ( which I think is about 20dB down on stations running full legal power ) just means that the signal is below the QRM. Fow what it is worth the following time I did the same hill I managed loads of contacts on 40 including 3 S2S with stations in the alps. ( I use a trapped dipole, and have now added a smaill linear to the kit list ). At the weekends I have always had success on 60m which is another alternative with less QRM. The Sun also seems to be resting at the moment with little sunspot activity so propogation is affected making QRP working harder. Hope to work you further down the log. Hope that helps.
A little research leads me back to the excellent SOTA mapping Extras which has a very neat calculator.
This gave me the starting dimensions for my present set of inverted V linked dipoles; shortened as described above for best SWR. If you do this using a frequency a little bit lower than you expect to use the slight over-shortening will leave the dipole just the right length
I hope between us we have pointed you in some useful directions.
I should add that when I began HF activations I used the ft-817, LDG Z-817 and a long wire, I did use a counterpoise (stretched loosely on the ground under the wire) and a very short (half metre) coax feeder to the LDG. However, HF conditions were better then and domestic noise has got a lot worse since then; I now find 15W only just enough.
BTW - this even gives you a picture of the end result; helps to detect silly mistakes.
I had a listen for you today Mike and didn’t copy anything from you. Conditions seemed to quite poor, with many weak signals around. The skip appeared to be mainly into Europe with German and Italian calls copied as I tuned around.
As has been suggested, having the ability to transmit on 2m is very much worthwhile. Flexibility is the key. IMHO monoband activations risk failure. Thankfully I have not experienced non-qualification of a summit, but it has been a close thing several times.
Hopefully these failed activations will soon be forgotten with a string of succesful ones.
73, Gerald G4OIG
I had a similar issue with my FT-817 where no one could hear me. I turned out that my mike had suddenly died. Worth checking. It is easy to check by changing the display to modulation and speaking into the mic. If the mic is dead you will see no indication at all I have since rebuilt my mike and have not had an issue with it since.
73, Rod VK2ZRD
I will just back up two comments already made.
1 - Conditions were poor, the critical frequency didn’t make it to 6 MHz yesterday. It’s going to be a few years before 40m gets going properly again.
2 - As Alan, GW4VPX said, the WAB net on 7160 is always worth a try. They are always listening out for mobile and portable stations. I do an alert on the WAB media each morning of notified UK SOTA activity, so they would expect you to be about.
73, Dave, G4IAR
To the best of my knowledge 60 is still restricted to holders of a full license.
I went through a similar experience when trying to use my FT-817 on SSB. I could hear other stations, but they couldn’t hear me. In my case, the problem was the microphone (the stock MH-31 unit that came with the radio.) Check your Power Out (you can use the built in meter on the FT-817) while calling CQ on SSB, or use a dummy load, and if it’s very low then you might consider performing an electret mic upgrade (link: Yaesu MH-31 Electret Condenser Mic Modification – M0UKD – Amateur Radio Blog) on the unit you have, or replace the microphone entirely (with something like this: Replacement microphone for Yaesu FT-817 FT-857 FT-897 FT-900 FT-450 - TechnoFix UK).
To make sure it isn’t the finals, try putting out a carrier with FM/AM/CW, or reach a local repeater on 2m. If you can still do that but can’t raise anyone on SSB then it’s likely that the microphone is the problem. The MH-31 has a bit of a flaky history, mine was deaf as a post.
P.S. If you’re feeling crafty and opt to upgrade your MH-31, you might as well drop one of these in to get a bit more punch from your audio (replace R1 with 30K): https://www.aliexpress.com/item/DC3-5V-SSM2167-mini-microphone-Preamplifier-Compressor-module-Headphone-amplifier-module/32821281323.html
Yep it certainly is the 60m band. Might be idea to set up garden have local friend on and test it that way find out whats wrong and sort it. Even with inter G should raise a few Europeans on 20m.
Don’t worry about failing it happens you sort it you get out on air but inter G is a funny old beast at mo either there or not and of late both.
Plus don;t forget were only running 10w compared to bigger stations of 50 to 400w and bigger antennas than Sota stations times i have heard stations just can’t touch them. but again 10 minutes down the road your 5/9 on them. Conditions can rise and fall quickly.
Patience is name of the game.
How long have you had radio, have you recently tried making sure its is on its full out put of its 5w TX. But yes make sure its TXing before going out again. if your hearing would thought the SWR on antenna should be alright Plus are you checking it once set up an the LDG tuner it does require battery voltage too.
Hopefully ya finals not blown that would seriously reduce ya output to nigh on 0.
At least you no forget to take something important and left it at home like coax or the antenna its self. done that once had to drive 10 miles around to get the coax LOL.
You’ll get there in the end.
You were lucky it was only a ten mile drive; my mike was still at home an hour drive each way
Back to the main topic for Mike - others have suggested transmitter failure of some sort. I agree, You need some sort of radio that will pick up your transmission; domestic, handy with broadcast channels, etc.
Do try to confirm good TX before going out again.
I use the very same set up as you do, the only difference is I use a bnc adapter with a pl259 to bnc from the rear of the tuner, I only use 5 wtts from the 817,
I am more of a chaser than an activator, have always manged to do the deed on the few times I have been out, as many have said band conditions are not good at present.
If you have a fellow ham close by and they are up for going out on a hill with you, two heads are better than one as they say, I use my 817 on 60 with the 5 wtts and seem to receive decent reports most of the time.
Stick at it Mike you will get there…
Cheers Ken G0FEX
My 817 occasionally receives but doesn’t transmit, I have to reset the cpu by pressing the home button then powering up. This cures the problem but you lose any memories you may have programmed.
Check you have plenty of audio drive, i.e. sufficient mic gain. The 817 really begs for an outboard speech processor between microphone and rig.
Thankyou so much to all those who have given me input. It’s helped me narrow down what I think the issue is.
Unfortunately I don’t know any local hams, let alone any that would be willing to join me on an activation.
I have done some checks, I can open a 2m fm repeater just fine so I’ve definitely got a carrier.
Power output flutuates on ssb if I speak into the mic when keyed up so the microphone is not an issue. The ft-817 was bought new a month or so ago so I’m hesistant to perform an modifications on the mic as of yet though it is something I may do in the future.
The power level indicator is flashing on battery and not visible when running of an external power source so I should be getting 5w output.
I’ve been getting (poor) signal reports on 40m WSPR from as far as the Canary islands when running through the tuner and a 4:1 unun into a random wire strung up down the garden.
This is leading me to think that the Sotabeams bandspringer is letting me down, it is essentially a random wire and counterpoise so I’m losing a lot of RF in the tuner.
My next step is going to be to construct a linked dipole for 40, 30, 20 and 10 meters, hopefully a reasonant antenna system will resolve my issue.
Does anyone think this is a viable combination of bands for the current conditions? Which bands would people suggest?
I’m also going to construct a ladderline slimjim for 2m, I’ve already build a 2m tapemeasure yagi which performs suprisingly well but it’s a little unwieldy to carry to an activation site.
Again thanks for all the input so far!
You mention 30m as an option, and I think that is a good one to use. Partly because it is (normally) less crowded than 40 or 20, and partly because there is a fairly narrow centre of activity around 10.118. This means that even if people don’t see your spot, there are likely to be people listening who will hear you and respond.
40 and 20 are also good options to have, 10 these days is much more hit and miss…
Ironically, my home station doublet doesn’t work well on 30m, so I tend to monitor 7.032 when I’m in the shack.
A general point - If you are struggling for contacts, don’t give up calling for 10 mins at least, to give people like me time to see the spot, wander into the shack and crank up the rig!
Another advantage of CW is that you can check on RBN to see if your signal was getting out. If you have alerted in advance, you should also get an automatic spot from RBNHole.
My first two activation attempts failed, but none since! Once you find the magic touch, it will all come good
I also failed last weekend due to a mix of conditions and contesting leaving no space anywhere on 20 or 40 (which is all my link dipole does). Only wish I was good enough at CW, never mind one day… Think the suggestions of trying 2m are definitely worth it, I completely forgot to charge my handheld before I went out last weekend otherwise I’m sure I would have probably been able to scrounge the 4 contacts I needed instead of coming away very cold with nothing logged!