Sunday, February 12, 2017

First Down Under contact

The bands aren't dead yet

Still relatively new to the HF CW scene I have a bit over 1400 contacts and I've found that more than half my calls now are with stations I've previously worked.  Don't get me wrong, that's not a problem, and I enjoy the camaraderie of frequent chats.  But even so, I want to expand my reach and begin working some DX stations on a more regular basis.

My 80m OCF Dipole (Windom) is resonant (below 2:1 SWR) on 80m, 40m, 20m, 17m, 12m, 10m and 6m.  So I've been spending time on 17 and 10 meters, trying to work beyond my normal circle of CW contacts.  Yes the solar cycle is definitely on the wane but I am pulling in a few contacts on 17m and each one is a new call for me. 

This afternoon, after about 10 minutes of fruitless calling on 18.080 I spun the VFO and behold, I heard a VK station (VK2DX) calling on 18.074.  I had to send my call a few times but he copied me and we exchanged reports and names.  

A QSO with Australia, I was psyched!  

My first VK contact with VK2DX in Australia -- 9636 miles

RF is indeed magic

Now for you old timers with thousands of contacts in the log and dozens of VK's in the log you're thinking no big deal, but if you're new to this and started on the downside of the solar cycle you may be thinking, like me, that 10,000 mile DX is rarer than hens teeth.  

So, if you're still new to HF and you think you'll need to wait until the solar cycle 25 for a CW contact with the other side of the world, because your using a low power radio and a wire antenna; just keep plugging along and you'll probably find the RF pixies are smiling at you.

So give those higher frequencies a shot even when they sound dead and RBN shows nary a spot.

Just checked my RBN spot page (spots for AA4OO) and I did indeed get picked up by a RBN station in Australia but on 20m rather than 17m.  So maybe it's not so surprising that I was able to work him today.  I need to pay more attention to my RBN spots.

Richard, AA4OO


  1. Hi Richard. Good for you! That's fantastic. I was listening on 17 and 30 today and had no luck so I applaud your patience. I have not landed a VK yet. I have actually been looking very closely at the BuxComm Windom and I think I may upgrade from my inverted vee dipoles. The wind plays havoc with them. The fellow at BuxComm even said he could help me out if I wanted a QRP lighter version of the 160M version. Because it is so long a lighter balun would be preferred. Since it's only QRP it's do-able. How do you like the Windom? Cheers es 72 de Scott ve3vvf

    1. Scott, Due to restrictions at my QTH I'm pretty much limited to one outdoor antenna. I chose to use a Windom (OCF) partly because I wanted a multi-band resonant antenna so I don't have to tune and partly because the only two supports of any height I have are the peak of my roof and a tree in my front yard. The distance from the peak of that roof to the tree is 45 feet so one leg of the antenna needs to be that length or shorter.

      My home-brew 80m windom has a 44ft leg and an 89ft leg. The apex is hung from the peak of my roof. The short leg runs to the tree and the long leg runs off at a bit of an angle down to a 10 foot fiberglass pole in my back yard. Certainly a compromise antenna but it's worked.

      I just use a small 4:1 current balun and some surplus insulated wire I got for free. It's been up almost a year and half and has survived an ice storm and tropical storm winds. I use it without a tuner which makes using my old TenTec Century21 a breeze. It will load up on 160m, 30m and 15m wit a tuner but it's not efficient on those bands.

      I used to have a "Carolina" style windom that used an additional balun on the vertical but this antenna outperforms that one. My only loss is that my 40m Carolina windom would tune 30m and 15m as where this one is over 5:1 SWR on those two bands.

      If you have room to measure long lengths of wire you can certainly make your own wire antenna cheaper than buying one.

    2. That's very interesting. I was thinking about the 160M version but my support tree at the far end is about 40' too close meaning that the last 40' would be angling down slightly to a support pole about 100' away. Also the 160M version requires a tuner for 160 so it may not be worth the extra effort and cost. I didn't think about building it myself and I'm not sure why. Perhaps I should just buy the balun and get the wire myself as I have a few options there. with qrp the wire doesn't need to be large...just strong enough to withstand wind and ice. I have some thinking to do for sure.