Sunday, March 16, 2014

Understanding My Propagation and Work'n a Few QRP

PSK Reporter Map for AK2MA
My personal schedule has been pretty busy over the last few weekends but I wanted to get on and play a bit this weekend. My goal was to get back on JT65 and work a few stations. Saturday was out of the question but I was bound and determined to get the indoor Buddipole hooked up to the IC-703+ on Sunday. I actually did get things hooked up late Saturday night and just let JT65 send reception reports to the internet while being parked on 20 meters.

One of the great uses of weak signal software like JT65HF of WSPR (just to name a few), it allows you to study propagation patterns to and from your QTH. This is a great tool when you are looking for a certain section of the globe that has evaded your logbook. I have to think back to the days when there was no internet and to work a new one, you either monitored the local packet cluster via AX25 Packet, received a phone call from a fellow ham or just happened to stumble across that new one. How did we survive? Call me crazy but I actually miss those days. 

Using PSK Reporter, I was able to determine what I was hearing and when. Doing a bit of homework will pay off if you study how propagation works. Of course, there is a bit more to it, but understanding when a certain part of the globe might be heard from your QTH is a great start. I recently read a blog entry from KL2R that hit this subject directly. Larry outlined some great advice. Not that each and every ham needs to be a propagational expert (I'm far from being one) but it pays off when doing your homework. It's extremely helpful to know what you might hear when surfing Grey Line Propagaton or simply which band might be the best to use during a certain time of day or night. Beacons are another great tool. NW7US writes many articles explaining propagation and routinely writes predictions for upcoming major contests. It's extremely easy to drop an email and ask for a sked but you might be surprised what you can work if you put in a little bit of research. Of course, there are many factors that effect modern day communications but the more you understand, the better your chances of success.

JT65A & 15 Meters on Sunday, March 16th, 2014
And in speaking of success, I knew that 15 meters should yield some good propagation across the pond for my compromised setup. My setup is far different than what I had in Alaska. I'm currently running (on pretty much a regular basis) my Icom IC-703Plus at 5 watts or less to my Buddipole Deluxe set up in our upstairs hallway. Because I'm running QRP and using an indoor antenna, it can be a struggle to find my next new DXCC entity or that new state. I'm currently working on QRP DXCC both on the CW and digital modes. It's tough at times but easily attainable. Running QRP requires lots of patience and I'll be the first to admit, I lack in that arena. But as mentioned earlier, homework and persistence will pay off so I know I'll be successful.

Indoor Buddipole Setup      
I've had a few inquiries in regards to my indoor buddipole configuration. The picture to the left gives a view of my Buddipole Deluxe as I routinely set it up in the upstairs hallway. Running QRP, it's crucial that the SWR is as low as possible as I want as many of those few watts to make it to the antenna as I can get. It also helps that the antenna is on the second story so it's approximately 20-25 feet above the ground. Still far from anything great but as you can see, you don't need much to get on the air. As I've mentioned before, after running beam antenna's and power over several years, this has been a humbling experience for me. I set up the Buddipole using the suggested configuration (depending on band) and normally it will get me in the ballpark, even indoors. 

For now, this is my station but I'm thankful to be able to get on the air. I'm not sure when and if I will ever have a full station with exterior hardware on the air but as hams have proven over the years, where there is a will, there is a way. In the mean time, I'll continue to surf the propagational wave of DX in hopes of landing that next new one bringing me closer to that very meaningful certificate I hope to collect. Just like the lottery, you can't win unless you play.   

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