QRV from Europe again

From 12 Agust – 6 Spetember 2019 I will be QRV from Italy and Bosnia, signing as I5/VK4DX and E7/VK4DX respectively. I’m planning to activate a few WWFF parks in Bosnia and some SOTA peaks if time permits.

I’ll be using FT891 (on CW and SSB only) and a linked dipole for 40, 20 and 15m. I hope to see you on air.

Icom IC-7610 review

After quite some time trying to decide between FTDX101D and IC-7610, I finally opted for the Icom. The radio has arrived and now that I had a chance to use it for a couple of weeks I must admit that I am quite impressed. I live in a very noisy suburban environment, but this receiver is incredibly quiet comparing to any radio I had before.

The noise blanker is spectacular. On 40m I have some power line noise that I was unable to find the sorce of so far, but the IC-7610 wipes it off just like that. Most importantly, it does it already at about 10% (level 10), while IC7300 needed to go to 80% and still not completely kill it off. The signal distortion at NR level 80 on IC-7300 is pretty bad..

The display is simply gorgeous. Many have written reviews and posted various videos about beauty of this display and all I can do is comletely agree. It’s perfect.

The ergonomics – also top notch, with maybe one or two very minor objections. I wish there was a MODE button that flips between CW and SSB, while other modes are selected by touchscreen. The other thing is that I still go for the SUB AF/RF gain knob almost every time, because it just feels natural for AF/RF Gain to be there. Because this radio has two receivers, the main receiver AF/RF Gain control is further up. It’a matter of getting used to, I guess.

Yaesu has done something funny on FTDX101D, they put the main receiver knobs and buttons on the bottom and the sub receiver stuff above it. It looks weird but it seems to be working better, at least it would for me.

APF on CW is heaven. In the current conditions where we can barely hear anyone here in Australia, picking up that tiny signal amongst all the local QRM is quite a task and APF comes to shine here. APF on FTDX3000 was great, but this one is better. One thing that is not as good is NR. IC-7610 has an excellent NR, but the one on FTDX3000 is extraordianry.

The problem with the universally hated (or loved) elec-key plug on the front of the radio is easily solved by using an L-shaped adapter from eBay, best spent $2.

 

Now, all we need is for the sun to wake up and give us some joy on the bands.

 

 

 

Operating as E7/VK4DX from Bosnia

What a difference a continent makes! 🙂

 

I lived in Australia for the past 21 years and have gotten used to almost everything I hear being a DX, usually 8,000km or more away from here. Having finally operated from Europe again it reminded me that the world of HF looks very, very different from there.

We go to Europe to visit our family and friends every one or two years and this time I have decided to take my radio and a linked dipole with me. The best thing I’ve done in a long time.

With conditions being awful here in VK and almost nothing to work on HF, I was curious as to what I will be able to hear and work from Bosnia.

The first experience was very surprising. I’ve hanged the linked dipole in my mother-in-law’s backyard, one end off the cherry tree about 5m high with the other end going down to another tree just about 2m above the ground. The antenna was right next to the wall almost touching it and had quite a few other houses within meters from it.

This small town (Vogošća) is surrounded with hills ranging from 500 – 800+ m asl, so the location was pretty much terrible.

I hooked the radio to the battery and operated from the car parked in the front yard.

A short CQ on 20m SSB and not long after that I had 30-ish stations in the log.

Over the next couple of weeks I operated portable or mobile from several places and activated three WWFF areas and one SOTA summit.

The experience was unbelievable.

In Australia, if I go out to activate a park I usually operate for 2-3 hours, sometimes even longer, in order to get 44 QSOs in the log. Sometimes I get to the magical number, but sometimes there’s just not enough stations on the band and I end up short. These are almost always only SSB QSOs. If I make 5-6 CW QSOs that’s a big bonus.

From Bosnia, it takes 15-20 minutes to get 44 QSOs in log. The activity is just not possible to compare, hundreds of stations for one in VK. CW to SSB ratio seems to be around 50:50 as well.

From Jahorina (E7FF-0015) I logged about 250 QSOs in 3 hours. The funny thing is that the antenna was 300m above ground. Well, not really, it was stretched between two trees, but if you walk just a few metres from these trees to the north, the ground drops 300m almost instantly. The location I operated from was about 1,900m asl. Most of the reports were “Man, you’ve got a big, big signal here.

My operating position on Trebevic (E7FF-0006) was also very high, some 1,600m asl, but I had to cut the operation short after about two hours and 200 QSOs as I found myself in the middle of a really bad storm, with lightning strikes just a few hundred meters away.

My last activity from Bosnia was from Bijambare (E7FF-0027), I logged 385 QSOs in just under 3 hours of on-air time, all on 40 and 20m, both SSB and CW.

I was quite lucky to operate from there in the first place. A day before I visited the park  with my wife to see the caves.

On the way out I spoke to the security guard who got me in touch with the park manager and after a few calls between him and the state manager for national parks I was given permission to enter the park with my car and operate from a certain spot hidden from visitors.

I wasn’t aware of this, but the Bosnian regional manager E77O later advised that this was a first operation from Bijambare, a new one for everyone – yay!

Here is a video of a few minutes on air from there.

The park is absolutely amazing. If you ever go to Bosnia and don’t visit Bijambare, you’re just … a little bit more than crazy.

Unfortunately, neither of these three parks counted for SOTA as I was operating from the car or was connected directly to the battery in the car, and I was tiny bit short of the -25m summit area.

However, the Hum (E7/BO-066) was a complete SOTA job, operating from the very top and using an old car battery that I had to carry (and almost breaking my back) for the last few hundred meters … and back to the car. It’s incredible what 20w with a low dipole can do when used at high altitude.

I’m back home in Australia now and have finalised all logs. All QSOs from the paper notebook have now been entered into the computer log and submitted to WWFF and SOTA online logs. I will be printing QSLs shortly, so for those of you who would like to have the QSO confirmed on paper – it’s coming soon.

The log will be uploaded to the ClubLog soon as well.

Taking the radio gear with me was a last minute decision, so operating from Bosnia was pretty much unplanned and completely disorganised. For next time (likely in 2020) I’ll have some schedule and definitely have my laptop for logging, entering over 2000 QSOs in the computer log was a real pain.

Thanks everyone for the QSOs, your patience and endless fun. See you in 2020 from E7 and in the meantime from some other places closer to VK.

VKFF-1630 with new Icom IC-7300

Just about two weeks ago I bought a new radio, an Icom IC-7300 and last weekend was time to take it out for some action. I went down to Gold Coast on Saturday and operated for a couple of hours from Pine Ridge Conservation park (WWFF VKFF-1630).

I used FT891 for my portable operations before and I was a little anxious about how the new Icom will fit into my routine, it looked way too big comparing to the little Yaesu, but it turned out to be just right. It’s twice the weight (4kg) and much larger, but it still fits nicely in my back pack and it doesn’t break the back.

To be fair, I didn’t have to carry it too far, just a few minutes into the park, so all good. I also had the camping table and chair and a small laptop in my hands. If I go climbing some peaks for SOTA, I think I’ll opt for the FT891 in any case.

I dind’t know what to expect of the conditions for local contacts, but 40m has delivered in the best way. I was QRV from about 2:30 – 4:30 PM (4:30 – 6:30 UTC) and signals on 40m were excellent from all directions.

I was operating with 50 watts and sloping dipole for 40m and I logged just over 50 QSOs, all VKs and one ZL station.

The day was beautiful and sunny, but from 4 PM it was getting rather cold and I had to pack pretty soon and head back to Brisbane.

I hope to be able to ado one more park activation before heading off for a five week holiday in Europe from mid July. If not, I hope to work you from there, I’ll be QRV from E7, 4O and DL.

Russell Island – OC137

This past weekend I was QRV from Russell Island. The island is part of the Queensland State (South Coast) South group – IOTA OC137.

Unlike previous one-day operations from Coochiemudlo Island, this was a weekend long operation, and I was accompanied by my wife and our daughter. The accommodation was amazing, we rented a small cottage right at the water-front with a view to another island, the largest one in the group – North Stradbroke Island.

We arrived around midday on Friday and unpacking, having the lunch, setting up the radio and antennas took some time but I was on the air around 4pm.

There were some issues with the antenna as I couldn’t get the SWR anywhere in the acceptable area on either 40 or 30m. Pulling the 30m trap apart showed some rust and cleaning it up fixed the things quite nicely.

With the antenna (Hustler 6BTV) all tuned up it was time to get on the air.

Conditions were, ummmmm … challenging. The noise was much higher than expected it would be and the signals were just not strong enough. JA stations on 40 and 30m were in the S5-6 region at best. Normally most of JAs are always over S9.

At times I would call for 20 minutes with no replies. At some point I scanned 40, 30 and 20m and all I could hear were a few VK and ZL stations on SSB, nothing else.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, with the first darkness something kicked-in in the neighbourhood giving me a solid S7 static across all bands. NB didn’t help at all, it was a solid, thick and very mean noise.

That night I ended up going to bed relatively early, just before midnight and I was up just before the sunrise on Saturday.

The noise was still there but faded pretty quickly as the sun showed-up.

Twenty metres opened up quite nicely for about two hours and I even had to work split as the pile up from Japan was unmanageable on the same frequency.

Most of the day on Saturday I spent with my family driving around and exploring the island, and in the afternoon I was back on air around 3pm.

I had emails from a few hams asking for a contact at certain time and band, but the conditions were so unpredictable that it was hard to be sure it would work. In the end we made it in most cases.

That night the noise was much lower, so I could make some decent runs on 40 and 30m, and then on 20 in the morning again. Having put up a 40m dipole earlier on Saturday turned out to be a good idea as dipole isn’t as noisy as the vertical antenna. FTDX3000 makes it very easy to use receiving antenna, so this was a great help.

We had to check out by 11 am on Sunday and get to the 12 o’clock barge back to the main land.

It was fun and I’m hoping that in few weeks time I’ll do another weekend trip to one of the OC137 islands.

Yaesu FTDX101D announced

Yaesu has announced the new High-Class HF/50MHz 100W Transceiver – FTDX 101D and the radio has been displayed at Dayton Hamvention 2018.

A few of the remarkable features of the new FTDX101D are;

  • YAESU High-Class HF/ 50MHz 100W Transceiver
  • SDR Technology and Waterfall Display
  • Large Touch Panel precision color display
  • Active Band Monitor enables rapid band changes with LED illumination of the operating band
  • Independent control of the Main and Sub Bands allows effortless operation for the serious contester needing to move quickly between the amateur bands
  • High-Q VC Tuning Front-End
  • Main tuning dial for Main and Sub Band frequency control includes an Outer Dial for clarifier, VC tuning, fine tuning or custom settings.

The pricing and availability is likely to be announced in late 2018.

Subscribe for new activations

I receive a number of emails every day from fellow hams asking about when will I be QRV again from certain locations.

This website now has a subscription form where you can add your email address to be notified when there is a new post or a new activity announcement. It’s an easy way to be informed when I plan to activate an IOTA  island, SOTA peak or a WWFF Park.

Just enter your name (and callsign) and email address in the form on the right and you’ll be on my email list.

IOTA OC137 – Back to Coochiemudlo

I was back to Coochiemudlo Island today and was QRV on 40m, 20m and 15m from, but conditions were rather poor. On top of that, I had some local QRM all the time on all the bands, but couldn’t easily identify what it was.

I was operating with 20w and a three-band linked vertical antenna. The 15 m band was nearly dead, just had a few JA stations in my log as well as few VK/ZL/JA stations on 40m. The rest was all on 20m.

I didn’t even try SSB as it was very, very windy on the island and I’m sure my audio would be badly affected.

Thanks to everyone who called and thanks for your patience with picking up my weak signal, that’s life with batteries 🙂

IOTA OC137 – Coochiemudlo Island

Today I made a day trip to Coochiemudlo Island (IOTA OC137) with my wife and daughter and I thought I’d take my portable radio setup with me and “see how it goes”.

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Well, it went pretty good and I’ll definitely be back this weekend, weather permitting.

I operated form the park, just about 30m from the beach, but considering I used battery power I could only run low power (20watts).

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I used Yaesu FT-891 with 4200mA/h LiFePO battery. The antenna was a 40/20/15 m linked dipole, set up as an inverted-v, hanging off a 7m long squid pole.

We stayed in the park for about two hours and I logged approximately 80 QSOs, mostly JA and UA0 stations, all 20m CW.

Coochiemudlo is a tiny island just off the coast of southeast Queensland, near Victoria Point in Brisbane. It belongs to the Queensland State (South Coast) South group – IOTA OC137.

Please like/follow the VK4DX Facebook Page for more information and announcements of future operations.

Below are a few photos of me operating and of the island itself as taken from the ferry.

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