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What equipment are we using?

September 28th, 2011 | Posted by M0VFC in General - (0 Comments)

A few people have asked us what equipment we’re using here in FP, so here’s a quick run-down…

We’ve got up to four stations on the air at a time, so starting at the radio end of things:

  • Elecraft K3
  • Icom IC-7000
  • Icom IC-706
  • Yaesu FT-450

The K3 and FT-450 are connected to linear amplifiers to give them a little more power (typically about 300W), but the IC-7000 and IC-706 are barefoot at around 100W.

Next up, we use a set of DuneStar 300 series bandpass filters to reduce QRM between the stations. This is particularly important with the IC-7000, which generates a rather large amount of out-of-band noise. The DuneStars work very well, though being 3 pole filters, isolation between some of the WARC bands and the adjacent bands isn’t quite enough – typically 17m and 15m, for example.

For antennas, we’ve got a veritable farm of verticals out on the beach – quarter waves on 10m, 12m, 15m, 17m, 20m, 30m and 40m, and a dipole for 80m. The location adjacent to salt water gives us a definite advantage in the direction of Europe, but since Miquelon is relatively flat, the take-off in other directions is good as well. To keep weight down, these are fed with RG-58 and RG-8X coax – a little more loss than you’d have on a fixed station, but much friendier on airline luggage allowances.

Finally, some of the ancillary kit:

  • A combination of Sennheiser PC350 and Heil headsets and foot switches
  • A WinKey for CW operation
  • Win-Test networked on four laptops for logging
  • Lightweight switch-mode power supplies
  • Lots of UK / European mains adaptors!

How things sound from our side…

September 28th, 2011 | Posted by M0VFC in General - (1 Comments)

A quick clip of some of the (smalller) pile-ups as heard from our side!

CUWS in FP Update

September 27th, 2011 | Posted by M0VFC in General - (1 Comments)

It’s now nearly four days into the DX’pedition, and so far it’s been fantastic. Here’s a quick run-down of the story so far…

For G3ZAY, G4EAG, M0VFC and M1BXF, the trip started at London Heathrow Airport on Thursday morning. We nervously left the SpiderBeam fibreglass poles at check-in, hoping that they’d survive the trip intact, and made it through security with no problems, even if the linear did attract some quizical looks! The flight left on time, and we arrived at St John’s, Newfoundland that evening where we met Rick, VO1SA in the bar.

Friday gave us the chance to spend some time looking around St John’s, and we visited Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America, and Signal Hill, where Marconi received the first transatlantic radio signals.

Soon enough, we were back at the airport and met Dom, M0BLF, for the next flight on to Saint Pierre. We grew nervous as the fog descended, and indeed on arrival at Saint Pierre airport, the near-zero visibility meant that the final leg on to Miquelon itself was cancelled – Miquelon airport does not have instrument landing systems, and so good visibility is required. We stayed overnight on Saint Pierre, opting to take the morning boat to Miquelon-Langlade, the southern part of Miquelon. This turned out to be a wise decision, as visibility remained poor in the morning.

The harbour at Langlade is minimal – specifically, a piece of decking! We had to disembark from the main boat into a RIB for the landing, at which point we final became a full team, meeting up with Tom, M0TOC, who had arrived on schedule the previous day, and Patricia, the owner of the Motel de Miquelon where we would be staying.

On arrival at the Motel, we began assembling atennas, starting with verticals for 40m, 80m and 20m. Over the next few days, these were augmented with those for 10m, 12m, 17m and 30m. We were soon on the air, with an initial QSO with Pete, 2E0SQL, and the pile-ups started soon after!

The next few days have somewhat blurred together, often with four stations on air at once when the bands allowed, and some fantastic conditions on 10 and 12m. The pile-ups have been insane a lot of the time, and we’re now well past 11,000 QSOs to over 100 DXCCs.

If you’ve worked us already – thank you! It’s been great to hear so many people, many of them working us on several bands, and often several of us as well. You guys make it worth coming here!

If you haven’t worked us yet, here’s a few tips that make both your and our life much easier:

  1. The big one: if you’re trying to work us, and we have a pile-up, make sure you know our callsign before calling. We’re all giving our calls either every QSO, or every other one. In any case, it’s not going to be more than a few seconds until you hear it. It’s immensely frustrating to have to break the pile-up for someone who doesn’t even know who they’re calling.
  2. Use your full callsign, not just a couple of letters when you’re calling: if you’ve not been on the receiving end of a pile-up, you might not realise just how much better full callsigns are than partials. Trust us when we say it gives you a better chance of getting through, and speeds things up for everyone!
  3. If we’re sounding a lonely on the band, we’ll probably appreciate a brief chat to let us know the antennas hasn’t fallen over (again). However, if the pile-up is so big that we’re split over a range of frequencies, we don’t need your QTH, equipment, and life story! A quick signal report is just fine, and it gives everyone else a chance of working us.
  4. When we ask for someone with a partial callsign, only call if your callsign matches (or is very close to) the one we ask for. Note that “IZ1ABC” is not similar to “the Kilowatt Nine station again?”

If you’ve not seen it already, have a read of the DX Code of Conduct – amateurs everywhere will appreciate it!

Dom, M0BLF has also made a few great videos of the start of the week:

Thanks to our QSL Bureau Sub-manager!

May 13th, 2011 | Posted by M0VFC in General - (0 Comments)

One of the rarely-mentioned heroes of any DX’pedition is the sub-manager at the QSL bureau who has to deal with all the incoming QSL cards!

Of course, it’s us that reply to the cards, but at least we get the benefit of having enjoyed a stunning week or two away in the Scottish islands, or somewhere equally attractive. But there’s a couple of important steps before the cards reach us – and that’s those who work for the national QSL bureaus.

In the case of the RSGB, after cards arrive in the UK, they are first sorted into several large groups, perhaps all callsigns starting “G4”, or all “G6” calls with suffixes A-M. Each of these groups is then managed by a – voluntary – sub-manager, who sorts them into the individual envelopes provided by the amateurs the cards are destined for.

The latest batch of bureau QSL cards

The QSL manager for G(S)3PYE and G(S)6PYE is Rob, M0VFC, which means that cards sent “Via M0VFC” (please!) end up with Wayne, M0WAY, who sub-manages M0MAA through M0ZZZ. Anyone who wonders how a QSL sub-manager should handle things – look at how Wayne does it! He runs a mailing list to let people know when new boxes of cards arrive from the main bureau, updates them when they’re sorted, again when they’re posted, and emails those who have run out of envelopes. Always forgetting to send off some new envelopes to your sub-manager? No problem: there’s a PayPal link on his website to save you the hassle!

We’re just seeing the bulk of the Harris 2010 cards start to arrive via the bureau, so the most recent batch of cards was large. Again, no problem for Wayne – he suggested I send him a “float”, and he uses that to buy the most sensible postage as required.

So thanks, Wayne, and all those who work in the IARU QSL Bureau network – you really are stars!

(We worked Wayne a few times on Arran this year – so needless to say, his QSL cards were the first to arrive through the bureau for 2011!)

Forward team on route to Scotland

April 25th, 2011 | Posted by M0VFC in General - (0 Comments)

M1BXF and G8TMV have just departed Cambridge, on route to Dumbarton for a few days’ break before the DX’pedition proper sets out next Saturday.

You can see their progress on APRS.fi:


(M1BXF-9 is an RF-based tracker; M1BXF-8 relies on cellular coverage – pick whichever one looks more recent!)

This weekend was the Kempton Park Radio Rally, near London, and we took the opportunity to collect the radios we’ll be using for our two main HF stations on Arran from two of our sponsors – Icom and Kenwood.

Icom have loaned us their brand-new IC-9100, HF to 23cm “shack-in-a-box” radio, and Kenwood the top-notch TS-590S HF/50MHz rig. Here’s a couple of photos of Mark (M0MJH), Rob (M0VFC) and Steve (M1ACB) picking up the radios:

Thanks once again to Icom, Kenwood, and Linear Amp UK for supporting us this year.

As well as collecting the gear, it was great to meet up with several members of the team, both those going to the island (2E0SQL, G3VFC, M0MJH, M0VFC, M1ACB) and those who aren’t able to join us, but who are keenly supporting us from home (G6NHU, M0RFD, and many others!)

It’s now just two weeks to go, and with the final planning meeting tomorrow evening, things are coming together nicely…

73 for now,
Rob, M0VFC

Thanks to our supporters!

March 17th, 2011 | Posted by M0VFC in General - (0 Comments)

We’re very pleased to announce the following companies who are very generously supporting this year’s DX’pedition:

  • Icom are lending us one of their brand new IC-9100 "shack in a box" transceivers, covering top band through 23cm, including D-STAR support. This has been eagerly awaited world-wide, and we’re delighted to have the opportunity to be one of the first groups to test this rig on a DX’pedition!
  • Kenwood are lending us a TS-590S, their "K3 killer", an HF rig with outstanding performance. Several of us have been looking very longingly at these whenever we visit the Kenwood stand at rallies, and so getting a chance to put this through its paces in a relatively demanding environment is going to be great.
  • Linear Amp UK have once again agreed to lend us their Discovery 64 high power 6 and 4m linear, which performed so admirably last year – on the occasions we got some sporadic-E at least! Here’s hoping for a little more Es this year, which added to our more southerly location, means we’re looking forward to more VHF contacts from Arran. This year they’re also lending us a Challenger HF linear, which coupled with our own Linear Amp UK Ranger 811 (courtesy G1SAA) and Icom IC-2KL (from M0VFC, assuming he repairs it on time) means we should be a good signal on all the bands!

Thank you, all of you, for help making the trip as successful and enjoyable as possible – both for us on the island, and everyone else back at home who we’re hoping to work :-).

All home safely, and the QSLs begin

May 16th, 2010 | Posted by M0VFC in General - (0 Comments)

As of about 2200UTC, we’re now all home safely – including G3VFC who had the extra 100 mile drive back to Kent. It was a fantastic trip – lots of contacts, lots built, lots learnt, lots of fun had by all. And quite a bit of custard consumed.

We spent a few moments on the journey back wondering how many QSL cards would be sitting on my doorstep when I got home, and having just about managed to force the front door open over the piles of envelopes, the answer turned out to be a rather amazing 91:

QSL Cards on return

QSL Cards on return

Thanks so much to all those who took the time to work us, the patience to crack some of the pileups, to those listening and supporting us back home, those who lent us kit, those who sponsored us, helped us with the 6m high power NoV, and to all those who thanked us for putting the station on air – it’d be worth nothing if you didn’t speak to us when we did so! Thanks, guys, all of you.

We’ll be sorting out our own QSL card in the coming weeks – we need to sort through our favourite photos from the trip first and get it designed, so please bear with us if you don’t get a card back immediately, but we will be on the case. I’ll post updates here as things progress.

73,

Rob, M0VFC, and all the Harris team

8000 QSOs!

May 14th, 2010 | Posted by M0VFC in General - (1 Comments)

About this time last year, we were thinking 4000 QSOs might be a good target to aim for – and after packing down most of the station on the Friday afternoon, we eventually managed to struggle through to number 4000 at 2315 in the evening. This year we were here for two weeks, so 8000 seemed a natural target… a challenge, no doubt, as we expected to work most of those who were keen to get the island in their logs earlier rather than later, but we thought with a little more effort we could probably manage it.

Helped by the nearly 1700 contacts from the Monach islands, we managed the 8000 this morning with nearly a full day to spare, Colin G4ERO making the 8000th QSO shortly after passing his own 1000 mark – congratulations on both counts, Colin!

DXCC!

May 12th, 2010 | Posted by M0VFC in General - (1 Comments)

After Gavin, M1BXF added a couple more entries this evening, we uploaded our latest logs to G7VJR’s ClubLog, and reached that magic number:

That’s just from this year’s trip (including the GM3PYE/P operation on the Monachs), which isn’t bad going. For those interested, the two DXCCs we’re missing on Phone are the Isle of Man (only 6m JT6m) and Cuba (40m PSK31).

Recent additions include (most recent first):

  • Sint Maarten
  • Jordan
  • St. Kitts & Nevis
  • Guyana
  • Dominican Republic
  • Panama
  • Cuba
  • St. Vincent
  • Jamaica

And so to bed…