Gained M6PEW on August 8th 2010, so what of 2011; my improvement, involvement and tribulations During my first full year, I have many people to thank for advice, instruction and help on the way to horning my skills of Amateur Radio. It has occurred to me that I have not updated people’s involvement where perhaps I should have. That is really what this is about, to bring things up to date, and to show what I have been up to in my spare time.
I guess my year commenced on January 1st, -27° on Heron Pike whilst doing a SOTA. I have always had a stock phrase for describing cold conditions “Gale Force Frost” Believe me, when the mist froze on my coat to a solid sheet of ice, I knew it was no longer a myth! This event also opened my eyes to a class system or snobbery experienced by many new comers these days. On returning home, and on many occasions since, I have checked a certain G8’s log (which you can do on SOTA sometimes) I now have had to come to the conclusion that said person does not enter mere M6’s into his Log. Pathetic, yes; as one of the organisers it is worse. No big deal you might think, but there is an award for an M6 making 100 QSO’s in his first year. It took me 720 QSO’s to log 100 QSL’s – which Damien kindly signed off on January 3rd. However this signalled my 1st 2011 improvement. Just as well, because on 5th January my 2nd improvement arrived – my 2E0EET. I must admit it took me a while to use it though because it smacked of snobbery considering the above.
On this hill, I was sharing G4UXH’s radio. After an initial fault on my FT817ND when a cable came off the BHI noise board – which Kev kindly repaired – things deteriorated. Nothing to do with Kev’s repair, as he had told me he wasn’t keen on one of the wires. It eventually transpired that the BHI gubbins became unstable with the excessive temperature changes. It couldn’t handle the extreme cold and the car heater back to back. Fine if you don’t do this kind of thing, but to suffer reception failure when you most need it is just not worth the problem. Castle Electronics removed the board as instructed, replaced the proper cap and retuned the whole set. I now think I have one of the best 817’s out there. This was to be my first encounter with bad luck for the year. I look forward to seeing how the new “Super Rig” puts up with such conditions – which I think I have said before. I guess you all know the next big setback – Lynda’s diagnosis and the op on her 1st February birthday. Since then, it’s been a long haul.
The same month I was accepted into Sands, and duly paid my first lot of subs in the year whilst Hughie attended to the weathers at the top of Barrie’s field. I also gained knowledge at this event which previously would have fitted a sketch on “The last of the Summer Wine” “Where’s North?” Asks Compo. Foggy replies “Where it was last year, over there behind Ingleborough where the sun is rising” I always enjoyed that programme, I never ever thought I would have the chances to experience it!
HF didn’t really start for me until well into the year, but I made the plunge into contests from home and have enjoyed doing them ever since, even on brief occasions.
N1MM is a great programme, which the group taught me to use. I’ve managed to destroy a log and make many mistakes, but I have improved immensely and now take time to ensure my Cabrillo’s are correctly fashioned. Having commenced with HF, I wanted to dabble into Digital (I think that means finger) radio and started to kit up with a Digimaster Pro + Interface + CAT Cable. More problems rained again. No way could I make my FT-897 talk to the computer, despite help from a Ham in London via Skype. He was stumped, I was frustrated and I got no help from the Digimaster seller. After new CAT cables that didn’t help - Castle Electronics again, who found a minute resistor had been blown somehow by, maybe, RF. They checked my CAT cable too, and found it was faulty. Whether I blew the resistor or it was already blown when I got the rig, I will never know. Whilst this was away, we did the Heron Corn Mill. I had admired Damien’s 920 the previous week and a talk to Linda YLM told me it was one of the few rigs she considered ok – not up to Elecraft standard, but not too bad. A couple of days later, I saw one advertised so took the plunge, I have not regretted it so thank you Linda.
The 897 is now just used for VHF. I have yet to play with my finger again. I wasn’t happy with my 20m long wire, and when Ian was at my QTH with the antenna mast/ trailer, he suggested I needed a doublet to suit the terrain. I was grateful for the advice, and decided to heed it. It wasn’t long before I had a 40m doublet up and running, after following building instructions found on the Internet
I didn’t look back, until something got worse – why I don’t know, but it did.
At first I blamed the Germans. Everyone else could hear me ok, why can’t they?
Soon though in one contest day, I was made aware that I had very bad RF problems, making my speech almost unrecognisable; plus, I had feedback in my Heil headset. This is when I asked the group for advice and also checked the internet. I guess this is when I had so much help from lots of people; I never did speak of the results until now. Here are some of the things I did, and thanks to everyone for helping me – it really was a stressful time; my 3rd rig in 6 months was beginning to look faulty.
First, I separated the Doublet from the Windom – I hadn’t noticed the fundamental mistake of having these just apart if not touching. Stupid I know, but it happened. Thanks Chris!
Secondly, I completed the RF Ground which Kev had told me about many months previous. Heavy duty coax (my shack is upstairs, so needs a shielded earth) to several ground spikes (there is room for improvement to the spikes even now). Thanks Kev, my noise levels have gone down dramatically with this.
Replacing the 4:1 balun with a 1:1 proved to be no good, but I learned by the exercise and now have a 1:1 put by. Heil had also written about the lack of mic earths on FT 920’s – you may need to take a wire from one of the pins to the outer casing screw. As this had raised some debate, I decided to leave it; the risk of shorting out the wrong wire didn’t appeal to me, and anyway with all the other changes, I could always look into it if a cure was not yet apparent.Damien suggested that maybe I needed a choke on the end of the feeder. This wasn’t included on the design I had followed, but I now have 8 turns around a 1” pipe right next to the balun. Thanks for this Damien.
Feeder: the plan I followed from the Net said it didn’t matter about the feeder length; oh yes it does! After purchasing a 259b from LAM Comms (who I found rather off putting when they offered another customer a brew, and hardly had time for me!) and checking the feeder, I realised how bad it was – on all bands.
It is improved, but a complete rebuild will take place soon, antenna and feeder.
My RF problems are now gone, but one Austrian contact had quite a chat to me. It turned out he was some sort of broadcasting sound expert. After listening, he said my sound wasn’t bad at all, but he could just detect a slight amount of RF. He asked if my tuner was near to my rig and I confirmed. He said I should put it 6 to 8 feet away which will probably cure everything. I have decided it is not practical, and the little bit that is apparent to him, is not audible to others – as I have found out. The feeder alterations started me thinking about the tuner; I had previously used the internal one but I had a Z11-Pro (now for sale) stood doing nothing. This did a lot better job, as Chris had previously told me it would. However, I’m not keen on flashing lights being partly colour blind (note - discrimination still rules on this point), so I decided to plunge for the MFJ-969. What a great piece of kit, can be fiddly but it does the job. So all this has certainly improved my abilities and knowl- edge, but you can imagine how I felt when I noticed the 920 then jammed on transmit. Fear of yet more expense gripped me before I realised that the footswitch had failed – and during a contest too. Heil did react to my mail when I slated them, saying they would send on a new switch FOC. It hasn’t happened, despite me re- minding them. I have now got used to the hand switch I made, but really I can no longer agree that Heil is quality and their follow up is worse.
During these progressions, I continued with my SOTA expeditions up until June. Some stick in memory more than others – and I’ve yet to see a bloke who suffers with anorexia as much I do on the hills!
I recall meeting up with the Furness Mountain Rescue Dog Handler who jokingly sent me the long way around a hill. I met him again at the top, and we had a good laugh. It was he who made me think of my Community spirit. Throughout my life I have always been active for the good of my community, and here was another
chance to put back some of what I had already taken. I had used RAYNET on many occasions when I was Chairman of the local Long Distance Walkers. I could join Raynet, and put something back. As soon as I got home, I made the move, and found that Chas Warr, my old Morecambe Car Club colleague was in charge – small world. Chas used to organise car trials and I used to or- ganise rallies as well as compete.
Chas asked me to go up the top of Gt Coum because no one else could manage it! I didn’t like that hill; I’d gone up the steep side previously, which really is a hands and knees job. I consulted Barrie, who very kindly furnished me with a more salubrious route. Getting up at 05:00 to get up there before the event was tough; on the top the cold was worse and when I found out there was an adequate Mobile signal, I felt like I’d been shat upon from a great height! I made it back to the Group event at Oysteber but was too knackered to operate.
I guess I overdid the Cross Fell SOTA - I haven’t been out since. I don’t really know the reason, but the regular Chasers doing the Doggy Baggers (Wainwrights, where you find them hung on trees) sort of put me off. I didn’t want to be shouted at by the same old circus – I wasn’t learning anything, and I’m sure they aren’t – which is contrary to the fundamental reasons for ham licences, to learn and experiment. I appreciate that it is good for the less capable, but these are not. I will start again now that I am over my anorexia, but I will be far more elusive – maybe take a CB or PMR!
Of course, one of my best SOTA’s has to be taking G1OHH up Whernside. Lynda was well into chemo and struggling, but didn’t give up because she knew what delight it would bring to Sue if she made the top. She did, and had many contacts. We didn’t know her before and have not met her since, but we put this into the sport for the good of others - and to improve ourselves. Sue is a top Chaser, and experienced the hardships of operating on such jaunts. Well done Sue, well done the contacts – you made 3 people happy. I didn’t claim the points either.
I nearly failed to remember my next achievement, Cross Fell saw me gain my 100 points of SOTA activating.
27kgs carried up many hills for the sake of progress!
My funniest encounter of the year must be the Irish Counties. Martin and I tried everything. Being so articulate with our antennas, we forgot our prey. “B’jasus, we only do sideband for the last 10 minutes - on vertical before the Guiness runs out !” You know, the Irish invented the wheel, and threw them into the sea when they wore to round, and were rescued by the English!
My improvements over the 12 months – many I guess, and I don’t think I could have achieved more in our circumstances. Licence, Raynet, SOTA, WOTA, contesting, work parties, awards, shack. Donations to the local community, SLRG (despite only 1 conversation of use, with Ian).
Thanks Sands for the opportunity over the last 12 months. It has been fun and humour all the way.
I hope the next 12 months will be a little bit kinder to Lynda and therefore myself and will allow us to get about a bit more.
Before I finally shut up, thanks for suffering my “outrages” I doubt that there will be more, I have clearly upset a few over the months. The policy of “Ignore and he’ll go away” only works where there is intelligence, and I don’t think I’m thick. I think it is time to back down, shut up, be seen and not heard and go QRT with the written word. Sorry to those I have annoyed uninten- tionally – but I have never been personal.
I hope this end of my year report, stats below, will open your eyes to how important Sands has been to me through this rough patch.
I remember what Paddy once told me:
Things are not half as bad as they were before they were as bad as they are now!
My QSL’d Stats:
SOTAS: 103 Activator points, 155 Chaser points
WOTAS: 14 summits activated, 60 summits worked
Logged Submitted Contests from home: WAG, SACCSSB, ARRL10M, RAC, WAESSB, HADX, UBA SPRING, UBASSB.
Euro Location squares: 183
Countries 50, qso’s from 88