The excitement of DX…….maybe

The “new” improved end fed zeppelin is up in the air. Yeah!! What is that you say – what is an end fed zepp? Good lord man, where on earth have you been for the last 80 years?

The end fed zeppelin is a wire antenna fed with open wire (ladder) feedline and generally is dimensioned to be a half wavelength on the lowest frequency wanting to be worked on. Given our suburban block here I was able to fit in a half wave on 80 metres, held by a pole at one end and my small tower at the other. The antenna slopes down from the tower to the pole and is running north-east/south-west. At the apex it is about 6 metres above the ground and the feeder is 415 ohm open wire feeder, 16 guage copper wire. Great stuff!

Ian, VK3QL, has been assisting me with the antenna configurations at the PI homestead and this has been a very successful installation.

And the work program at the PI homestead has been a lot of fun……..have a look at Ian hanging off the tower with a smile on his face!! Yes, he is wearing the appropriate safety equipment!!

Ian VK3QL enjoying himself on the PI tower

Now where was I? Ah yes, tuning. The end fed zepp as designed at my QTH will load on all bands from 1.8MHz – 28MHz, including the WARC bands. At 1.8MHz the Zepp is a quarter wave length but it works well. Rocked out of bed last week very early in the morning and popped into a 5am…..yes, 5am net on 1.8MHz. Could not believe the number of stations on at that time of the morning with such great signals  – Bob VK3ZRT at Gisborne was an enormous signal as was Tom VK2TB, John VK1CJ and Ian VK3XN. Also caught up with Eric VK3AX, whom I have chatted with at hamfests but have not worked on air. Eric was a great signal and it was most enjoyable to have a ragchew contact.

The original configuration of the Zepp found it passing very close to one of the trees in the backyard. While not particularly a worry during a dry spell I tuned the Zepp onto 40 metres one night recently and worked four VK6 stations around our sunset here. All was well until an absolute torrent of rain belted down and obviously trickles of water from the tree were dripping on to the Zepp…….the Kenwood TS50 through the MFJ tuner had some great difficulties in tuning the Zepp, together with the water and tree!! The problem was solved by installing a cross arm on the tower (see just above Ian on the photograph), allowing the Zepp to be moved 1.87 metres to the north of the tower and in so doing moving the wire a metre or so clear of the tree. Problem solved!!

On 20 metres the Zepp has performed with gusto!! Now, I am hardly a DX person nor am I a fisherman of any note, however DX’ing in my view is a bit like fishing…….you hunt around, hear an exotic call, put your bait in the water (shout out your callsign) and hope the DX station takes the bait (calls you back). I have had some success with the Zepp, working two new countries last weekend. Of course, two new countries to someone with as low a country count as I perhaps does not mean much, but it certainly does to me. I have had a ticket for 33 years and it is still a buzz to have someone in an “exotic” place come back to your call and actually say goodday. And let us not diminish the “buzz” by pointing out that the 7 element monobander at 60 metres is doing all of the work to pull my puny signal out of the mire. Nor is it polite to suggest that I am hearing the “exotic” because he (not being sexist here but most are he’s) is running enough power to toast your jaffle quicker than a microwave. If those stations choose to run such equipment then so be it. In any case they can hear me.

There are exceptions to the rule and that is the DX station giving you a 59 signal then asking you to repeat your name and QTH, not once but twice. Am I really 59?

Thinking of DX’ing and fishing I am fascinated by the DX nets. You know the ones I mean – you call into the net, get on a list as long as your toilet paper roll (perhaps a little shorter) and you wait your turn to call someone that you need for an elusive card. It is kind of like using the net like a fishfinder – or a DX fish surrounded by sharks.

Here’s how some contacts go:

Net control:    Go ahead XYZ, make your call.

Station 1:            123, XYZ you are 59.

Net control:        123 did you hear XYZ?

Station 2:           123 he is very weak, what was his callsign?

Net control:       123 his call is XYZ. His name is Elmer.

Station:              Net control, 123, what was my signal report.

Net control:       123 you are 59.

Station 2:           OK, Elmer, XYZ you are 42, 42.

Net control:       XYZ you are 42, OK?

Station 1:           Thanks old man, very much appreciate the contact.

Net control:       Great contact, now who is next?

And that is why amateur radio is such a great communications medium! Still, I guess that contact is better than the slam-bam-QSL-thank you ma’am 15 second contact. Kind of an anti-climax when you call the station and the conversation is all over before you can even put the details into Ham Radio Deluxe!! Poo, I did not even get to “brag” about my low powered, old world radio, wire antenna working conditions.

Hmmm, time to twirl those dials again for another great catch.

Friday May 27 2011

A tribute from a fellow ham

Funerals are never fun. Not that they are meant to be. But some are better than others and as a “glass is half full person” funerals to me are a celebration of life, not death. And so it was that today, I, along with hundreds of others, farewelled a lovely bloke by the name of Craig Dennis Findlay, VK3CDF. Craig was a relatively new member to the WANSARC radio club, but in his short time with our group he had offered much advice to many of our members in the fields of electronics, radio and computers. In fact when he first joined the club he kindly offered to run a number of tutorials on the development of Printed Circuit boards and the design of circuits using free shareware programs. His tutorials generated a great deal of enthusiasm within the club and were well attended. Last month Craig was to present on the subject of solar battery systems for home and portable radio use. This was postponed when Craig was diagnosed with cancer however Craig was adamant that he would be at the club on Friday, June 3, to give the presentation.  Sadly he passed away last Monday.  St. Judes Anglican Church was overflowing with people wishing to pay their respects to this quiet, intelligent, caring and sharing man – a man we learnt had many passions in life including his “Defender” four wheel drive, camping, outdoor pursuits, his love of gadgets and electronic “stuff” and his quiet moments indulging in his favourite beer and chocolate KitKat’s.  But above all he loved his family – wife Sue and children Christopher, Kathryn, James. I had met Sue only twice, but you could see that Craig and Sue were made for each other. Let me tell you quite a few chuckles echoed around the Church as a story was told of  Sue sitting in the “Defender” calmly knitting in the passenger seat while Craig was playing “white knuckle commander” in the driver’s seat shaking the heck out of the four wheel drive over rugged terrain.  And one could imagine Sue not even missing a stitch.  Tenzin Gyatso once said “What is the meaning of life? To be happy and useful. Simple statement but a powerful one. We all have a strong sense of wanting to “belong” in society through family, football clubs, religion (although some would say football and religion are the same thing) and groups of people with like interests. Like our radio club. Craig fulfilled Gyatso’s meaning of life – he was happy and he was very useful. And hundreds of people echoed those thoughts today. We can all aspire to be the same. Vale Craig Dennis Findlay VK3CDF – a true gentleman and  in radio parlance now a Silent Key (SK). Your transmissions may have ended but we will still hear you, Craig.

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