We want to put up our antennas!

Antennas

Senator Diane Feinstein wrote (or her auto responder wrote) me back:

Dear Dennis:

Thank you for writing to express your support for the “Amateur Radio Parity Act.” I appreciate hearing from you, and welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you may know, current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules require local governments to “reasonably accommodate” amateur radio installations. This requirement does not, however, apply to land use restrictions limiting the size and dimensions of installations on private land. This means that many amateur radio operators are unable to install functional outdoor antennas because they do need to be “reasonably accommodated.”

You may be interested to know that Representative Adam Kinzinger introduced the “Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2017” (H.R. 555) on January 13, 2017. This bill passed the House of Representatives on January 23, 2017.

On July 12, 2017, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced a Senate companion bill, the “Amateur Radio Parity Act (S. 1534),” which would direct the FCC to clarify that amateur radio stations may be installed regardless of any private land use restrictions. This would provide amateur radio operators with the ability to negotiate with homeowners associations to get their antennas installed. This bill is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, of which I am not a member.

Please know that I believe that the service that amateur radio volunteers provide to local, state and federal governments in times of emergency is invaluable. I agree that it is important to keep these airwaves accessible so that they can continue their good work.

Be assured that I have made note of your comments, and I will be sure to keep them in mind should this, or related legislation, come before me for consideration.

Once again, thank you for writing. Should you have any other questions or comments, please call my Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-3841 or visit my website at feinstein.senate.gov. You can also follow me online at YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and you can sign up for my email newsletter at feinstein.senate.gov/newsletter.

Best regards.
Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

It is good to hear that some government officials value the individual and coordinated research that we hams put into amateur radio. Many hams like me are driven by preparedness and volunteering, and would like to hone our skills at home.

First HF QSOs! ID, CO, and SoCal

Antennas, DX, Phone, SSB

This afternoon I went to my brother-in-law’s property about 8 miles from my house, where he has nice wide open lot, and I set up my N9SAB 40m-6m off-center fed dipole with a portable flagpole (20ft high). I figured the open space would do some good for the signal.

I set up with an inverted V configuration, had my FT-857D with YT-100 tuner and 7ah battery, and even unfolded the 39w solar panel to help the battery.

40m-6m wire OCF dipole atop a dirt mound on a 20ft portable flagpole.

My goal was to make my first contact on 20m today.

I tuned around on 14MHz and heard a very busy band, with a couple of notable hams blasting through with their high wattage from New York and Michigan. One of them said he was doing a kilowatt. The queue of calls was packed with people trying to get in and get acknowledged.

So this is what a “pile up” is.

I didn’t even want to try to hop in on those conversations. I continued to tune around in the less busy areas, sometimes finding some quiet zones and calling out CQ, but I would get nothing. I also went to 40m and heard traffic there, but again it seemed either to be a net in progress or a pile up.

After doing some tuning, I later tried on tuning around and calling CQ on 15 and 17 meters, and also heard nothing in return. I was starting to get discouraged. I had already spent a good hour testing, tuning, jumping into breaks, calling CQ, and trying to get a response from anybody. (Not to mention the hour of setup.)

Then I switched back to 40m, sweeping up from 7.175 MHz. At 7.240 MHz, I heard the tail end of a conversation with someone coming out of Colorado or Texas. The ham had a very loud powerful signal and said he was winding down for the day. His last QSO was to acknowledge a QRP person running 5 watts out of Idaho. After booming guy signed off, I jumped in with only my callsign to see if either of them could hear me.

To my surprise, QRP Idaho contact came back to me, repeating the KF6 portion asking to repeat the full callsign. I repeated it back a couple times phonetically, and he copied me back. Woohoo! My first “worked another state” QSO! And on the supposedly daytime-noisy 40m band!

The ham I met is W7ZRC Rod from Idaho. That’s more than 400 miles away! He said again he was on QRP of 5 watts, while I was on 20 watts. I told him he was my first ever HF QSO and he congratulated me and said I was doing good and he was sure I’d be doing a lot more HF. I did not get a signal report, but he said he could copy me well. He was coming in around 5×5 or 5×6, which is to say, perfectly readable, but somewhat low signal strength. I explained my setup and he encouraged me on my HF journey before signing off from his QRP test.

So stoked. I finally made a contact. But it didn’t stop there.

I tuned further on 7.288 until I heard a strong signal and a weaker one having a QSO. The strong one was signing off, and the weaker one started calling CQ. As he called out, he said he was finishing for the day and needed just one more contact for a contest. He’d been doing this all year, and he wanted one more to complete some kind of achievement, and whoever responded had the chance to be that lucky final person. Not knowing I was still on 20 watts, I gave my callsign. Much to my surprise he responded “I heard a K6, but nothing else, please try again.” I tried again bumping up to 50 watts. He replied, “I’m sorry it’s very noisy, and I’m wearing headphones too. But I heard K_6 uniform. Please try again K6 station…”

I tried again phonetically.

“I’m sorry, K6 station trying out there. I really can’t copy out of the noise. One last time, let’s try again.”

I went all the way to 100 watts, and tried again slowly. He then copied my callsign back. I just met WD1W Chris transmitting out of Denver Colorado (he explained his call is originally from Vermont).

Chris’s signal was in and out with lots of interference, but I got the most of his conversation and he got most of mine. He gave me a RST report of 33, which is means generally readable, and pretty weak signal. I gave him the same. I told him he was my second ever HF QSO, and he asked if I really said “second ever”. I confirmed. I told him I just made General and have had so many antenna mounting challenges and had been trying for a couple hours thinking my antenna was not working. I explained my setup and my rig. As with everyone else I’ve talked to on the radio, he was extremely encouraging telling me not to blame the radio or the antenna, but that propagation conditions are very poor right now. I thanked him and was elated I reached all the way to Denver (over 800 miles away!).

I suspect because of my 20ft antenna height, I was hitting more NVIS rather than horizontal reach for 40m. I really need to find a solution that is at a lot higher for inverted-V dipoles, preferably 35 feet or higher. (However, 20m should have been better at 20ft antenna height, I just couldn’t get a response!)

I had two more contacts after that. One, I thought I wrote down right as: N6DBG out of March Airforce Base in Southern California, forgot his name. His RST was 5×9. However, later I tried looking him up on QRZ.com and couldn’t find him. So I am not sure who my third contact is.

Before packing up, I thought I’d try one more time on 7.240 MHz. I called CQ and waited a few seconds and was ready to shut down. But right when I hit power off, I heard a voice. So I quickly powered back on, and someone was saying for me to repeat my callsign. This is when I met WB6RDP Tom from San Bernadino county, California, some 350 miles south. We exchanged 59 signal reports and I talked to him a bit about my rig, and he about his Icom setup.

I started breaking things down and packing up after that, completely elated that I had made inter-state contacts on this personal “field day” with my HF radio. It really is a huge rush when all that research, preparation, and setup finally pays off with “faraway” contacts. I put “faraway” in quotes because it’s not the across-the-nation or international DX contacts that people talk about, but it’ll definitely do for my first successes at working other states!

SDARC Meeting 11/9

Antennas, Radio Club

Met with the club members of Stockton Delta Amateur Radio Club (SDARC) this evening at a classroom in the Bear Creek Community Church. The club elected (or re-elected, rather) the club board for 2018, and discussed upcoming club events.

Then W6SXA Mark gave a presentation and demo of the Rigexpert AA-600 antenna analyzer. He reviewed other types of analyzers with their pros and cons, and settled upon the one he got, the AA-600.

W6SXA/Mark presents on the AA-600 antenna analyzer.

This is a sensitive piece of equipment that can scan from 0.1 to 600 MHz (all the favorite ham bands) and even interface with your computer to produce very accurate SWR, reactance, capacitance, return loss, and TDR (Time Domain Reflectometer) graphs, among other functions.

Mark then demonstrated the tuning of a 440MHz antenna he constructed, as well as a 2m wire vertical he made for demo at Elmer University.

A good antenna analyzer helps greatly with getting the most out of your antenna setup, significantly reducing the time required to adjust an antenna. It’s one of those tools where once you try it, you wonder how you did anything before you used it. While the AA-600 is pricey (at around ~$600), Mark assures us that it is well worth it and he doesn’t regret the price he paid one bit.

Learning Morse Code

CW

I’ve found that learning CW is hindered by my preconceptions I’ve had about Morse code. When initially starting on the Koch Method using HamMorse, I would turn the sound I heard into a mental picture of dots and dashes, then I’d do an internal lookup of what that picture in my mind was against the alphabet.

As you can imagine, this takes way too long, and takes too much concentration to effectively work in real-time CW translation.

After many hours of trying and listening, I realize now what others have said all along about Morse: Just relax, and let the sounds come in on their own. The sounds need to reflexively become letters with little mental effort; Don’t try to visualize dots and dashes. Just listen, practice, and let the sounds become letter representations in your mind.

The above sound file says: CQ CQ CQ DE KF6UJS KF6UJS KF6UJS PSE K

That is what my CW general call to the world would be if I wanted to start a conversation with anyone listening on the frequency. CQ means a general call; DE means “from”; PSE means “please”; K means “go” (i.e. invite to respond).