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My QTH is in a dense, urban area, and there is high background electrical noise, so much so that the sound of frying bacon now makes me reach reflexively for the noise blanker. Between that and trying to pick call signs out of pile ups, I may have difficulty hearing what should be a reasonably strong signal. This may explain why I seem to have difficulty copying a signal but then give it a pretty good RST.
My general goal in operating is to work everyone that I can. Often, I work split. If I say "up 1", I mean literally up one khz. If I say "up" and don't specify the offset, it means that I'm hearing a bunch of stations and am encouraging some spreading. If I'm not working split, I appreciate it if stations spread themselves out a bit -- I do twist the RIT and often can hear the stations at either edge of the pack better than those in the center. Thanks!
I will keep the most recent info here and archive the updates on my blog.
6 March 2017: I'm back from South Africa, and have uploaded the ARRL INT DX CW contacts to LOTW. Last night, I caught about an hour of the SSB version of the contest on 20m, although conditions were not great. I'm likely to be off the air this week because of an approaching tropical cyclone, which looks like it will barrel straight down the interior of Madagscar, passing close to my QTH in the capital, Antananarivo. I've lowered the hexbeam mast; more details about the storm and my preparations on my blog. Last week in South Africa, I activated SOTA peak ZS/WC-043 and visited the Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre. Next week, I will be operating briefly in Spain if everything remains on track, so please listen for EA/AI4SV. I will be back in Madagascar after about the 20th of March and hopefully will be able to put the hexbeam back into position.
21 February 2017: Post ARRL CW contest update: That was a fun contest for me, I worked a lot of big guns, but hopefully some smaller ones as well when the propagation was favorable. Overall, 650 unique contacts in the log. I had to leave Madagascar for South Africa a few hours after the contest ended. I submitted the log and got confirmation reception from ARRL before leaving, but after I was on the plane I realized that I hadn't uploaded to LOTW, so unfortunately, that will have to wait two weeks until I am back. I've posted a full post-contest summary on my blog.
19 February 2017: I am in the middle of the CW version of the ARRL International DX contest, but it is (at the time of writing...) morning here and I won't be able to hear anything from North America for a few hours yet. I have been able to work most of the stations that I hear, and very happy that stations can pull out my 100W signal, particularly when I'm calling rather than S&P. On the first night, I focused on 40m netting mostly east coast stations. Yesterday, I had a few good hours on 15m and then most of the afternoon and early evening on 20m, which has been the workhorse band and accounts for most of my contacts to the west coast (aside from a few long path contacts to California on 40m). Nada on 80m so far, but not surprising given lack of dedicated antenna. If I can manage to stay up through the morning, maybe I will add some 40m and 80m contacts. On Monday, I am off to South Africa for a couple of weeks and will be operating portable as ZS1/AI4SV and ZS6/AI4SV.
11 February 2017: I am back in Mada for a couple weeks, after a trip which included a few SOTA activations in the US (W6/CC-075, W6/CT-225, W6/CT-226) and France (FL/NO-125). In central Madagascar, a very delayed rainy season has finally started, but so far no heavy storms, so antennas are all good. I'm hoping to get on CW as much as I can with particular attention to 40m (and 80m, although my antenna is not ideal). I should have next weekend free for the ARRL Int CW Contest, so I will give that a go and hope for good propagation. In late February and early March, I will ping pong between South Africa and Botswana and will have the FT817 along. I'm hoping I can secure permission for Botswana prior to the trip; both countries have reciprocity agreements with the US, so I should be operating under A25/AI4SV in Gaborone, ZS1/AI4SV near Cape Town, and ZS6/AI4SV near Pretoria.
21 January 2017: Not too much to report from Madagascar. I spent the holidays in the Czech Republic and activated two SOTA peaks, OK/JC-038 and OK/ST-064. When I got back to Madagascar, I had a week of catching up at work. I didn't have a lot of time on the air, but did have the chance to field test a small magnetic loop antenna (and documented it in a video). I didn't make any contacts on that outing, but feel that I got the hang of it, so will try it again when I'm back in February. Currently, I am in the USA on business for a few weeks, about half on the west coast and half on the east. While in San Francisco this week, I had a chance to activate the SOTA peak on Mount Caroline Livermore on Angel Island (W6/CC-075). I'm hoping to pick up a few more peaks while I am in the US this month, and France early next month. February is also looking very travel-heavy, but I am hoping to have some time on the air from Mada.
18 December 2016: Just some casual operating this weekend. Solar activity is way down, so anything above 15 meters is pretty quiet. On the other hand, 40m is working better than ever, particularly in the wee hours of the morning. Indonesian stations participating in the Padang contest were loud and clear here, and I even worked a couple stations from the US. Unfortunately, I don't have any directivity on 40m, so I'm entirely at the mercy of propagation and whatever directional noise sources want to make my life difficult.
One unique problem I've recently encountered on 40m is voice in the CW band. Last night, I was night I called CQ on 7002.5 and kept hearing "signal" within my narrow filter settings. When I opened up, it turned out to be folks having a CB-style conversation that spanned a bit below 7 Mhz to the lower few khz of the band. I've run into to same thing at times on 20m at the bottom of the band. Usually, I am operating narrow enough that this is not a huge impediment, but it does make hearing weak signals difficult at times. I don't think most governments in the region have much capacity to enforce spectrum regulations, so I'll just have to work around it.
23 November 2016: Between phenomenal propagation conditions and the "chumming of the waters" in anticipation of CQWW next week, the last week yielded a bumper crop of DX. Two weeks ago, I dabbled in the OK/OM contest, and last week I got a late start, but caught a significant portion of the LZ DX contest. In both cases, I heard next to nothing on 10m, which seems to have tanked. Since my arrival in Tana, 10m has been my most productive band, but I think those days are over (for a few years). On the other hand, something miraculous has happened n 40m -- I can now hear. I am still using the same delta loop, but suddenly I have been able to hear EU and JA stations really well in the early evening. I've done some noise mitigation and am leaning more heavily on the noise blanker, but I'm sure it's mostly propagation.
Last night, I had an odd experience on 40m -- I put out a call "up" and was inondated with a solid wall of calls. I'm used to working pileups, but I had an unusually difficult time separating calls, all of which were similarly strong. Usually, I try to spin the dial in one direction or the other, about 20 hz at a time, and work what I hear, but last night I had to jump around a bit more chaotically. The pack spread out much more quickly than typical, covering more bandwidth that I would have liked. The cadence was off, with stations calling one over the other, even when I was replying. I wondered if I might be hearing replies overlapping with another calling station, but I think it was just a matter of -- for once -- me being able to hear better than the DX stations. Frequently, I had to send replies a few times to get through. Also, a lot of the wrong station [insistently] answering my calls directed to other stations.
To this point, I have not called to specific areas, but I was tempted to do so last night, just to thin the herd. The problem with that approach is that it excludes folks that have a limited chance to work me. On the other side of the coin, I know that I'm often conflicted when I hear a station calling "EU", "AS", "NA", "JA", - only. Should I reply? It's not too likely they will ever call "AF" or "5R" :-)
I'm hoping to spend some time this weekend in the CQ WW DX contest. I see that some coronal holes are spinning into geoeffective positions, but hope propagation will hold up.
28 October 2016: I've had a bit of hiatus in operating from Tana, but should be back on the air this weekend from CQ Zone 39, with 100W to a hexbeam. Conditions don't look great, but I'll do what I can! (pre-contest ponderings; post contest summary).
July 13, 2016: Just back from a couple weeks in the US, where I activated a couple of SOTA peaks. I had a nice run on CW to Europe this evening on 40 meters with contacts UK and Scandanavia down through Italy plus a good number of contacts with Russia.
June 12, 2016: Some casual operating this weekend and experimentation with the recently arrived Timewave ANC-4 noise canceller. So far, it doesn't seem to do much beyond the 6dB insertional loss, but I may have to play around with configuration of the noise-receiving antenna. Alternatively, it could be that I have a distributed rather than focal noise problem.
May 22 2016: I was seized with a sudden urge to operate digital this weekend, and reconfigured the station a bit for digital operation using the TS-450, N1MM+, and MMVARI. On Saturday, signals were building right before the start of the contest and 15m looked active. Unfortunately, I had to leave for a few hours, and when I came back the K-index was 5, the solar wind was directed southward, and things went down from there. I muddled through contacts on 15 and 20m, but didn't make many contacts. I could often hear stations, but they couldn't hear me. I was running 50w, which I consider to be a huge amount for PSK modes.
7948111 Last modified: 2017-03-06 10:26:43, 14351 bytes
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Book Totals: 8 qso's 3 confirmed