I passed my novice radio amateur exam in March 2013 and I registered the
PD4KH (pappa delta four kilo hotel!).
I passed my full radio amateur exam in March 2016 and I registered the callsign
PE4KH (pappa echo four kilo hotel!).
PE4KH on qrz.com PE4KH on twitter
I am usually located around maidenhead locator: JO22NC
After a number of recent morse contacts with special event stations I decided to participate in the CQ WPX CW contest during the weekend. Not for getting a big score, but to get experience with morse contesting. Morse speeds in a contest like this are 25-30 words per minute which I can't decode, so I used fldigi to decode most of the morse. This means I have to enter my results as 'assisted'. And 'most' of the morse is the correct description because the important detail to decode are callsigns and serial numbers. The signal report is always 599 or 5NN which is usually sent faster than the rest of the conversation because it's a specific pattern a trained morse operator hears anyway. I really didn't participate very long and still made 65 contacts. I'm not sure they all went correct, but it's a start. If I make 10 errors each of those is only 1 error for the other station. It's interesting how this approach to morse contesting gets me 65 contacts when serious participation in a digital mode contest will get me about 120 contacts. But high numbers of contacts are quite normal in a morse contest. I have received serial numbers over 2000. Logs are processed and the first confirmations via ARRL Logbook of the world are already coming in.
It's been a very long time since I was busy with pure radio frequency scanning. Being active on the sending side too has made me less interested in frequencies where I can only listen. But recently I was looking at what is available, and noticed the marine VHF channels. I could program them all in a scanner, but I decided to use software defined radio to see if anything is active in that band. Late in the evening there is currently no activity. But I set a scanner to scan all known channels and heard some chatter on PMR channels. On one channel was a remark that there was interference and they should switch to channel 14. In my memory analog PMR had 8 channels. So I looked it up and found out analog PMR was expanded to 16 channels on 1 January 2018. There is also DMR446 (same frequencies but with time division multiple access) on the same frequencies and dPMR446 with 32 possible frequencies in the same range. So now the scanner is updated with the new analog frequencies and I can hear a baby monitor, motorcycle driving lessons and a building site.
In the past few days I used the long-wire antenna with tuner to get on 'other' amateur bands. I added contacts on the 17 and 15 meter bands to several countries around my country. Some of those countries were new on those bands, so that's nice. No spectaculair new distances or countries, but a good flow of new contacts.
As a radio amateur I like sending and receiving QSL cards. QSL is the Q-code for "I confirm reception" and a QSL card is the way to confirm a contact. I have my own QSL card design and a big box of cards to send out. With contacts I usually do a check if a fellow amateur mentions the wish for cards via the QSL bureau on her/his qrz.com page, because I only want to send cards to interested amateurs. Due to the way I process my cards I can put up to 4 contacts on one card, so it's a simple optimization that if I have one contact that I want to send a card for I also check for other contacts with the same callsign. The qslmaximizer.pl script does this for the CQRLOG database.
Two new countries in the log, now the wait is for the amateurs on the other side to confirm the contact via Logbook of the World. Or maybe not, but both seemed solid contacts. First was to the island of Curacao, part of the Netherlands Antilles. A lot of Dutch stations will have Curacao in the log because the Americas are the 'easy' DX but with my antenna position it has always been easier to get to the east. Second one was to Kenia, which was a sort of surprise contact, I suddenly saw signals from a station there without any other indication that there was an opening towards Africa. In other amateur radio experiences I've also had some really nice 10 meter openings recently. This is remarkable at the bottom of the sunspot cycle, but I guess sporadic E and other special propagation modes help. So I got some new countries on 10 meter. Earlier North Macedonia and today Albania.
In my earlier activity on the 60 meter band I had a "maybe" contact to St. Lucia. This is one of the islands in the West Indies in the Eastern Carribian Sea. But in the end the "maybe" contact was no contact. Ok, fine with me, on to the next chance. That happened Friday evening in a 10 meter opening: I came to the radio with the computer decoding FT8 signals ready to go to bed, but I saw J68HZ active as only non-European station, answering European stations. So I had to try! After a number of tries I got a reply with a very weak signal report, so I kept my fingers crossed for the next exchange and it came, closing the contact. And the next evening the contact was confirmed, giving me a new DXCC entity.
Time for a new plot of the number of radio contacts. As usual contest months are quite visible and January is for me the month with the most contests. But April 2020 is also quite visible. This last week I had a lot of time for radio due to holiday and not going anywhere. And other radio amateurs also had the time to be active, so there were a lot of new calls to get in the log. Combined with a good 10 meter band opening this added to a high number of contacts for a month with only one contest.
Today I "chased" the special amateur radio call for the Bulgarian Saint of this month, LZ177GL. The Bulgarian Saints are a set of special amateur radio calls each month, organized in Bulgaria by Bulgarian Radio Club BLAGOVESTNIK LZ1KCP. The callsigns are in honour of saints from the orthodox church. LZ177GL was calling CQ at a rate of about 28 words per minute. My current rate is 12-13 words per minute, so that's quite a lot faster. But it doesn't intimidate me anymore, I can hear the callsign on a few repeats, I can hear when the return is with my full callsign and a 5NN (signal report) or a part of my callsign and a question mark. Or when the answer is for another station. And that's enough to make the contact with the absolute minimum information, exchanging callsigns and signal reports. When I'm convinced my callsign got across I send '5NN TU 73' to finish the contact. I also made some other contacts in morse because I could hear CQ calls and was able to decode them by ear together with some help from fldigi. So my conclusion is that morse isn't "intimidating" anymore. I can understand enough to get an idea what is going on and use it.
This month is somewhere near the absolute minimum of the solar cycle but today FT8 is active on the 10 meter band. I listened to other things on the 10 meter band but when I heard some morse I soon found out it was a beacon from Italy. It would have been nice to do some other mode than ft8 on the band. But I made the possible FT8 contacts and got bigger distances than yesterday. In the evening I got Asiatic Russia and Belarus in the log.
I'm at home at the moment with a few days off from work. Time to play some radio, and with the current stay at home measures there are a lot of stations active. I spun the dial to the 10 meter band this afternoon and heard signals. There was a nice E-skip opening to Spain and I even decoded some signals from Brazil. With normal ionospheric propagation South-America isn't that hard for most of the Dutch HF amateurs, but it's usually my difficult corner. I made several contacts with stations in Southern Europe, including AM2WARD so that's a new slot in the IARU 95th anniversary stations as organized by the Spanish radio amateurs. In the weekend I had contacts with other stations part of that activity, including several in morse. Those stations are using fast computer-generated morse so I can't decode everything 'live' but by now I do know what 'PE4KH 5NN' sounds like at rather high speeds.