We are right at the bottom of the solar cycle between cycle 24 and 25. December 2019 saw the record for the most continuous time with NO sunspots observed at all. That’s not to say that there is nothing about to work. Since the New Year there has been a great deal of DX about. At CARC we have our very own ClubLog league. If you’re a CARC member you can join the CARC ClubLog group and have your QSOs recorded as they happen. Most modern computer logging software can be configured to automatically upload to ClubLog and your call will appear in the table below. We can expect to see HF conditions steadily improve over the next few years. Things will get (even) better.
This is the big contest of the year for CARCRATS. We’ll be looking to defend last year’s win which will need the maximum effort of on all five bands.
We’ll be using the upgraded 70cm system tried in the March contest and will also have a repaired and upgraded 23cm system on the air.
Everyone is welcome, indeed everyone is essential. We’ll be on site from 1500 local time on Friday, July 6th with the contest starting at 1500L on Saturday afternoon.
Please do join us for a fun packed weekend up on the cliff at Swingate.
A fantastic effort by the combined team from our two local clubs has been rewarded by winning the Open Section of the RSGB premier annual VHF contest. The team operated on five bands (6m, 4m, 2m, 70cm and 23cm) with the best four scores counting towards the overall result. The final score is 3862 for RATS/CARC with Colchester in 2nd place on 3839, a very close run thing.
The team are planning on being QRV in the 2m Trophy contest on 2nd/3rd September with a location to be confirmed. Why not come along and see what’s involved, get your hands dirty and work some DX.
73 Mike, G0KAD
A great effort by the team resulted in a much increased score and 1st place in the May RSGB 2m contest. 461 valid QSOs were made in 24hours at an average distance of over 350km. The best DX was into Bulgaria at over 2000km. If you want to join the fun come along to VHF NFD on 1/2 July when we will be using our winning site near Dover. Speak to Mike, G0KAD ot Alex, M1YAP for more details.
The first of a short series of Skype voice conferences will be hosted by Roger G3LDI – the subject will be an ‘Introduction to Contesting’
Roger is a member of the Norfolk Amateur Radio Club, who have very successful procedures for introducing and encouraging new contesters amongst their members.
This voice conference is aimed at anyone who is interested in contesting (either HF or VHF) but is uncertain about how to get started, or what is involved. (Obviously you are reading this on a contesting reflector, so you are probably not a beginner, so please spread the word to anyone you think might be interested.)
Thursday 18th May 2017
8pm clocktime for about 40 minutes – with your questions throughout or at the end.
Maximum 10 participants
Please e-mail g3ldi…at..
Our very own Alwyn Seeds, G8DOH receives the Courtenay-Price trophy at the RSGB AGM for the most outstanding technical contribution to amateur radio in 2016. This was made for his article on VHF Contest Systems which was printed in Radcom and also given as a talk both at the RSGB Convention and of course more recently at Hut 18.
He has of course put theory into practice and has built the majority of the CARC / RATS contest system. If you want to operate an award winning contest station do come along to Swingate (near Dover) on the weekend of 20/21 May. See the events page for more details.
Having removed all the antennas from the Crawley ARC Versatower before we swapped the old BP60 for a heavy duty version we inspected the 3 element SteppIR with the 30/40m dipole option. It has been on the tower since 2009 with only minimal attention needed in that time; it was still working really well at the time of removal.
We had replaced the eight old Quick Disconnect (QD) boots between the Element Housing Units (EHU) and telescopic fibre glass Telescopic Element Tubes (TETs) about two years ago. These had perished fairly quickly despite being over wrapped with electrical tape. The newer version shipped by SteppIR are different to those originally supplied by SteppIR and it’s these Fernco 1 1/2 to 1 1/4 inch rubber joiners we used two years ago. They were nearly perfect with only a coating of green tree spores.
The same cannot be said of the TETs. Eight years of sun and weathering had caused some of the TETs to lose their paint completely. Of course this was on the upper surface and not easily visible from the ground. We elected to repaint all the TETs using marine high UV resistant polyurethane paint by International Marine.
Two coats of paint were needed for an excellent finish and a 750ml can was just enough to cover the eight TETs and for good measure the EHUs which had also shown some fading due to the effects of the strong UK sunshine! Of course the elements on our antenna are fully extended and locked. With the over-painting I doubt the TETs will ever retract again. Not a problem in our case,
Before painting the old silicon wrap supplied by SteppIR was removed as this was showing some degradation. The 3M PVC tape underneath was in excellent condition and was left in place. SteppIR now supply heat-shrink sleeve for weatherproofing these joints and with some foresight we would have bough some of this to replace the tape. For the time being we used conventional self-amalgamating tape over wrapped with PVC. The plan is to replace this with heat-shrink in due course.
You will need plenty of room to do this properly as the assembled boom is 17ft long and the TETs about 18ft long. Give yourself enough time, each coat on each element will take about 1 hours to apply.
As well as painting the EHUs we also used PVC tape to wrap the element support tubes (ESTs) which are bare between the EHU and the QD. We also plan to get some new foam plugs for the end of the director and reflector plus some new end caps which were not supplied when we bough our antenna eight years ago.
One job we knew needed doing was replace the centre boom joiner which had bent slightly when we had a cable break on our old Versatower. The antenna dropped about 4 feet when the cable broke and very luckily the only damage was a droop at the centre of the boom. We bought 1 1/2inch diameter 1/4inch (~6.3mm) thick aluminium from Aluminium Warehouse . This is twice as thick as the original material supplied by SteppIR. The boom and joiners are precision drilled at manufacture and of course being American use imperial hardware throughout. The bolts are 1/4inch and the holes are not clearance drilled so don’t use 6.5mm as there will be play in the joint. We replaced all three joining sections and made the replacements slightly longer than the original adding two extra 6mm securing bolts to each joint, one each side and at 90deg offset to the original fixing. Belts and braces but worthwhile. This was done only one the EHUs were perfectly aligned and A4 stainless hardware was used throughout. On our version the thread of original 1/4inch bolts supplied were of slightly the wrong length and needed three washers on either side of the boom to make sure the joint was tight. I’m sure SteppIR have sorted this out by now but it’s worth noting if you’re servicing an older model. It was another reason to double up the bolts with extra 6mm hardware. Don’t forget the nyloc nuts and washers for the new fixings.
When building the antenna eight years ago I recall thinking that the chock block and weatherproofing tube wouldn’t stand the test of time. WRONG. The block was in perfect condition when removed. The joints were clean and dry. The only wear being discolouring to the top of the tube. We wrapped this in electrical tape before refitting to prevent further deterioration. It would be worth doing this from day 1 as tape is cheap.
One thing that has been improved is the 6m performance. Some years ago we had added the SteppIR 6m director making a 4 element beam. Unfortunately this never worked very well largely because the reflector was so far behind the driven element. Ian White, GM3SEK did some modelling of an improved design and came up with this http://www.ifwtech.co.uk/g3sek/vhfdx/gm3sek-steppir-6m.pdf. We bought a ready to go kit from Aerial Parts in the UK. This has dramatically improve the performance of the system.
To make life much easier we’ve bought and fitted a TowerMate rotating mast to boom bracket. This allows the antenna to be attached horizontally on the ground with the tower luffed. Once vertical the bracket locks in place as you can see in the two pictures. The assembly, fitting and raising was all done by one person working alone. Simple.
So the final result is very pleasing to look at as well as working just as well and on 6m better than ever, the first QSO was with Gabriel, EA6VQ via MS using MSK144. The QSO was completed in about a minute with every 15 second period giving workable pings.
With all the antennas off the CARC tower for servicing and my own modest CobWebb on the ground for re-tuning I thought it would be fun to do some receiving for a change. Now I like a challenge so I thought I’d try the worst antenna I could fit in my garen, a random length of wire pushed into the back of my FT857 and running behind my PC, through the house wall and in a V from three fence posts in the garden at a height of about 6ft. I decided to monitor QSOs on a variety of HF bands using JT65.
Now to be clear the antenna isn’t tuned and the radio has S9 of noise on every band thanks to the PC swamping absolutely every other noise source in the locality and I’ve managed to hear a very respectable 87 DXCC from Chile to Australia, even JD1WNH, in Ogasawara which we haven’t worked from the club. You can see the lastest 24 hours spots here .
The UDP server boxes are also ticked to allow JTAlert to interact with WSJTX. This allows WSJTX to interact with my logbook using Log4OM and massively simplifies operating JT65 when you only have a few seconds between decode and the next transmit period to decide whose CQ to reply to. It check new DXCC and other attributes against your log, whose on LoTW or eQSL as well as the US state that the station is located. I’m sure it does a whole lot more but I haven’t figured that out yet.
All the software mentioned here is available for free download, no “limited time trials”, no “in app purchases” just full function and free.
Anyway here is the map of the DXCC heard. I plan to get the CobWebb tuned and back in the air to get some QSOs in the log.
After a month of monitoring the HF bands during the second annual CARC WSPR challenge I though it would be fun to have the station listen for a different type of data transmission. With April heralding an increase in random meteor activity 50, 70 and 144MHz will soon come alive to the chirp of data bursts from across Europe. A new and interesting mode is quickly gaining a following in the MS community, MSK144. The name is derived from the modulation, MSK (minimum shift keying) and 144, the total number of bits in a message. Not to be confused with the 2m band as it’s also used on 6,4 and 2m.
The software you’ll need is either WSJT-X, the experimental version of WSJT which can be downloaded here: http://www.physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/wsjtx.html
or MSHV which is an alternative application supporting popular data modes at VHF, http://lz2hv.org/mshv
I’ve tuned the K3 to 50.280MHz, pointed the antennas east and left the software listening to the noise. A useful feature of both bits of software is that they can send “spots” to the PSK Reporter website. This allows you to see what you’ve heard, a bit like wsprnet. In the last 24 hours these are the results:
A total of 19 DXCC in 24 hours. Not bad considering that 6m appears dead and the meteor rate has yet to pick up. If you’d like to hear more come along to the VHF propagation talk in May. In the mean time get listening on 6m. You might even take the plunge and make a few QSOs.
The CARC tower and antennas are in need of some TLC. We are very lucky to have a couple of other Versatowers mounted on trailers. One of these is a 60ft heavy duty version which given that we have quite a few antennas on our tower and that it is un-guyed would be best installed at the hut.
To that end we have agreed to swap our fixed tower with the heavy duty Versatower over the period of a couple of weeks. I’ve created three events in the club calendar but want to make sure that everyone possible is aware of the plans and of course to tout for volunteers to help with the work.
The first day will be during the club meeting on Sunday 9th April when we will luff the current tower and strip the antennas for servicing. All of them need some work.
THE FIRST HAS BEEN CHANGE TO SATURDAY 8TH APRIL TO AVOID A CLASH WITH ANOTHER CLUB EVENT.
The second day will involve swapping the current fixed tower for trailer tower and base. This will happen on Thursday 13 April, just before the Easter weekend. We need to do this on a weekday as the trailer tower is stored in a builders yard which is not open on a Saturday.
A draft action plan is available on the notice board next to the tea bar in the hut.
Please do your best to help especially on Thursday 13th when we will need several members to lift the tower sections about. These are quite manageable if there are enough people to share the load.
We managed all the work on Thursday 13th and so won’t need to rig the tower on Sunday 23rd. We do however need to get the antennas back up on the new tower.