Location: The Study in Laguna Beach, California
Contest: Japanese International DX Contest, ~2 hours over November 10/11, 2018
Contest Software Used: N1MM
Portable operation: No
Radio: Elecraft K3S operating at 25-500 watts
Antenna: Cushcraft R6000 vertical 20m-10m
Bands used: 20m and 17m
Modes used: FT8 and SSB
Hike: None….I sat for few hours each afternoon spread out over Thursday thru Saturday
Solo operation: Just me operating as W6PNG
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2018
A blue sky and warm wafting air is one part of what makes this place so wonderful.
We’re back in Laguna Beach. We love the Scottish Borders but this is just different and it’s hard to beat low 70s temperatures and blue skies.
Either love it or hate it, it’s undeniable that this new digital communication mode has taken the ham radio world by storm. At some level it’s hard to believe that shortening the time between messages from 1 minute (JT65) to 15 seconds (FT8) is what did it but it has. It’s a classic tipping point.
The work of the devil
Some claim it’s all the work of the devil and single handily has killed of old school morse code never to be heard on the air waves again, while others proclaim it to be the new Messiah, saving us from obscurity and rescuing the lost ham radio masses trapped in pesky HOA land. Somewhere between these is the truth and FT8 is certainly different.
Beyond being able to communicate much further afield for a given power level versus say voice, it doesn’t require such intense concentration as a computer program is doing much of the heavy lifting for the operator including auto sequencing the next message. Select, click and sit back.
In truth I enjoy FT8, fully recognize its upside in making it easier to communicate and especially love the ability to see in near real time where my little signal has wondered globally and been heard by whom. That alone is quite ground breaking and provides a ton of insight, much of which we don’t fully understand as a community. On the plus side literally 100s millions of “who heard whom where” records are being accumulated and make for a treasure trove of information for someone to mine, who’s into the black art and mysterious science of signal propagation. Truth is we don’t really fully know how signals propagate and our predictions of what will happen tomorrow are a little like the UK weather forecast; generally inaccurate and revised often.
And so I set to last Wednesday and Thursday to see what 20m and 17m yielded.
Clearly propagation was cooperating and a chance conversation with Mat K0BBC tipped me off to what I should have know; contest time!! The weekend would undoubtedly have the airwaves filled with Japanese participants in the Japan International DX contest.
500 watts of pure contest power
I’m ready, size counts and I have my 500 watt linear amp ready to launch my voice 6,000 miles westward. As I only have 20-10m bands on my antenna my participation Saturday is during daylight. Sadly propagation wasn’t that good and while I’m thrilled that I heard many of the callers first (it’s an advantage the west coast has relative to the mid west or east coast) and better still that pretty much all got my callsign first time I transmitted. Power counts but still all I netted was 9 voice contacts. It’s a bust and I headed into the garage to continue work on an Elecraft kit.
Prefects and Prefectures
Like an Oblast, a Prefecture is an administrative region just Japan and not the Ukraine. As its our translation I suspect each doesn’t have a prefect but it does immediately make me think of English school days when prefects were best avoided.
So why the interest in Prefectures? Like any self respecting radio community, the Japanese have awards for collecting not so rare Penny Blacks in the form of one contact with each of the 47 Prefectures. I’m not sure how many I have confirmed but 19 FT8 contacts, a couple of voice plus what I’ve nabbed in the past year or so suggest this could be a fun little California project.
It will be virtual travel to all the prefectures beyond the one that I visited countless times in the late 90s. No regrets but I wish I had spent the time to venture beyond Tokyo and not be in such a rush to get back to Laguna Beach. Then again its clearly a spectacular place to come home to again and again and again.
Welcome home, me!
As a by-note, my R6000 needs a little maintenance!!