This was our first opportunity to go portable VHF this year, making the most of a very warm February afternoon.
The RSGB run a series of contests thought the year, and this was the ideal opportunity to put on the club call M0SNB. We operated from the Secret Nuclear Bunker near Kelvedon Hatch, using the Icom 7300 and 160w from the expert 1.3KFA solid state amplifier.
The antenna was my hombrew 6e for 70 MHz, this is built onto a 4m boom, that breaks down into 2x2m for easy transport to site. I have detailed the antenna build project in this article.
The weather was so good we decided to operate alfresco at the bottom of the 10m pump up mast.
Here is George M1GEO operating with the Icom 7300 and Expert setup on the operating table.
Dave M0TAZ operating the station.
The contest lasted for 2 Hrs, and we managed to work 48 stations all over the UK.
All together an enjoyable contest, thanks to everyone we worked.
Members of the SNB contest group came together to play some radio in the RSGB IOTA contest. Some stations make the trek to far flung Islands in exotic parts of the world, we opted for the contest site close to Kelvedon Hatch in Essex.
The SNB contest site has the added bonus of a 50m onsite mast, making an ideal platform to hang dipoles. George M1GEO and myself decided to operate our respective calls from the two radio setup, using 3.5, 14, 21 and 28 MHz. George also added his 50/70 MHz beam on the mast, and this provided some interesting contacts using MS and JT65.
At various times we added some RF power from either the solid state expert 1.3KFA or the hal1200_atlantic amplifier. We had some interaction between the close sited antennas, and at times this dictated the operating modes / times.
Fred G3SVK joined us as our CW operator, Fred can often be found in the lower pasts of the bands chasing big DX.
It was a casual operation, allowing time for sleep, meals and frequent cups of tea. The weather was fantastic, so camping out onsite was very enjoyable.
M0TAZ added around 49 DXCC and 350 QSO over the weekend. The highlight for me was AL7KC Alaska on 14 MHz and VP8LP Falklands on 21 MHz.
The Easter bank holiday weekend and the WPX contest provided an ideal first field day in 2016. The event was located at Kelvedon Hatch SNB near Ongar in Essex and used the club call MX0SNB. On arrival at our contest site close to the mast the recent wet weather had made the grass boggy to say the least. It soon became apparent one of the vehicles was stuck in the mud, and after much pushing and pulling we decided another location would be required,
Luckily the owner of the site offered us another location, higher up on the hill with the added advantage that once onto the hill your vehicle only need to slide down to the bottom of the hill to exit.
Using George M1GEO 14 MHz homebrew beam and my 21 MHz beam we setup our stations on a lovely sunny Friday afternoon. Power was provided by 2 x Honda EU20 generators coupled together and providing 4 Kw of power.
Dave M0YOL kindly offered his awning and copious cups of tea, bacon sandwiches through the event. We had completed the setup before sun down on Friday, allowing us to complete some testing with both of the solid state amplifiers. George had recently purchased a Expert 1.3K FA amplifier and I have been using the hal1200_atlantic for the last few months.
Both amplifiers are capable of providing over 1KW of RF power, more than enough to meet the UK full legal power of 400w.
George M1GEO and Chris G8OCV have designed and built a 3 element 14 MHz beam, the design uses roach poles and provides a light portable beam. The 21 MHz beam I constructed was based on DK7ZB design, and the construction details have been previously discussed in this article.
Audio clip working India AT5R
The setup inside the awning provided a dry and mostly windproof operating position, although at this early in the year the evenings are somewhat chilly ! The weather provided a real challenge as the weekend progressed, with a high exposed location and storm Katie approaching the south of the UK. Over the course of the next 48 Hrs the rain and the wind increased to storm force with gusts in London of 50 MPH and in our exposed hilltop location more like 70 MPH. We lowered the beams and continued as best as possible using a vertical and doublet antenna. Late on Sunday night, early hours of Monday morning the storm really hit, the awning was in danger of parting from the caravan so the decision was taken to quickly move all the equipment into the safety of the caravan.
The wind caused some damage to George and Chris beam, this now requires some TLC.
Unfortunately the beam is not likely to make any further contests, but team GEO do have plans for a aluminium version soon.
My 21 MHz beam fared a little better with the weather and survived the storm, unfortunately the mast will require a new guide rail (a plastic wedge that stops the mast rotating) due to the wind loading put upon the mast in the storm.
Despite the awful weather conditions we did manage to work 744 QSO in 94 DXCC in the main on 14 and 21 MHz.
The following maps show QSO made on 21 MHz (Red pins) and 14 MHz (Yellow pins) showing North America, South America and Asia.
This weekend saw a casual entry into the CQ WW SSB contest, taking part with George M1GEO, Dave M0YOL, Dave G7UVW and Chris G8OCV.
I used my TS990, 4e homebrew beam on 21 MHz and HAL 1200 solid state amplifier delivering 400w. 28 MHz was a vertical @ 12m and 1.9, 3.5 and 7 MHz was a doublet antenna at 25m. We set up on Friday afternoon, meaning we was ready to play radio for the 1AM start on Saturday morning. The evening provided good conditions on 7 and 3.5 MHz, and through the day 21 and 28 MHz remained open. Power was provided by 2x 2KW EU20 a silent run generators.
Room with a view
3.5MHz looking busy
Thankfully Dave M0YOL allowed us to use his caravan awning, this provided welcome relief from the rain on Saturday. We complete some operating on Saturday and Sunday, closing the station just after 3PM. This allowed us to pack down and head home before it got dark.
Over the weekend I managed to work 551 QSO in 79 countries.
QSO per Band – (DXCC)
1.9 MHz – 5 (4)
3.5 MHz – 46 (17)
7 MHz – 134 (39)
21 MHz – 279 (57)
28 MHz – 87 (28)
The 4e beam on 21 MHz worked really well, i’ve used this for a few contests now and always been very pleased with its performance. A blog on its construction can be found here.
All together a very enjoyable weekend, with good band conditions.
QSO maps showing EU, Asia and JA
Thanks to everyone we worked 73 Dave M0TAZ
The RSGB contest provided an ideal opportunity to focus activity on the higher HF bands. Previous John M0UKD and I had built beams for 28 MHz 3e beam and 21 MHz 4e beam using the design on DK7ZB website. 28 MHz is a compact design using a 3m boom, and 21 MHz is somewhat bigger at 5m boom.
The Racal PU12 mast was used for the 28 MHz antenna and Clark 10 for the 21 MHz antenna. Power was provided by the Honda 2KW silent generator and the radio was provided by George M1GEO the Icom 7700 delivering 200w RF.
John M0UKD helping to assemble to 21 MHz (Left) and 28 MHz beams.
The operating was alfresco as the October weather was sunny and warm. The shack table was positioned close to the mast ready for armstrong rotation.
The Clark mast was modelling some new blue legs, recently fabricated by Brian 2E0FHU. They worked perfectly and once assembled they provided a sturdy base.
A quick check with the MFJ analyser confirmed the antenna was spot on resonance, and so the CQ calling could commence.
Despite a valiant effort on both 21 and 28 MHz conditions did not support the number of QSO we had hopped, in fact you could say it was a challenge to work anyone at times. QSO could be hard to tease out, and we decided the best method was to work anyone we could hear. Some big DX did arrive, as we managed to work ZS6AI, ZS5DCF, CX8DS, VP8NO and PS8BR to name a few. The bands did seem to be open, at one stage we listened to a CW beacon in South America that was very loud (apparently 10w).
M1GEO George driving the Icom 7700.
21 MHz beam (Left) on Clark 10m mast — 28 MHz beam on Racal PU12 mast.
Despite the lack of activity or poor band conditions we enjoyed our time operating outdoors in the sunshine.
Both homebrew beams worked well, and this may well be the last time we operate outdoors in 2015.
The popular shortwave and ham magazine Practical Wireless runs a 70 MHz contest once a year. The contest attracts a number of entries from all around the country, including one keen team who climb Helvelyn in the Lake District (M0BKQ/P). The entry from M0TAZ/P didn’t include a 900m accent to the top of a mountain, we operated from the JO01 Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker near Ongar Essex. The location is over 100m ASL and affords nice views over the Essex countryside.
The activity started at 1PM and finished at 5, activity levels were moderate with the first 2 Hrs being the most active. Many portable stations operate 10w or less so the amplifier and 160w did mean we sometime had to listen very hard to get a calling stations details. Sometimes people assume that because they can hear you loud and clear their signal must also be good.
The weather was sunny, and this must have helped encourage people to operate portable outdoors.
We managed to work 47 stations our best DX being Scotland GM4JR at 454 km and was pleased to work into Wales GC0VPR/P, GW0EIY/P and GW4EVX/P and also the Netherlands PA4VHF.
The QSO map pins indicates the location and number of stations worked.
Many thanks to John M0UKD for the use of his beam and 70 MHz amplifier, both worked flawlessly and George M1GEO, Dave M0YOL and Chris G8OCV for assistance with the mast and words of encouragement.
Thanks to everyone who called, and hope to work you again soon 73 Dave M0TAZ