I’m Randy, a 40-year old ham living in Amersfoort, which is located about 25 miles east from Amsterdam. Licensed since aged 17 (1997) and active on all bands from 160 meters up till 3cm tough VHF, UHF and SHF are prefered in (SSB) voice, ATV, CW and weak-signal/DIGI modes.

On the day to day job I work as Independent technical consultant specified in Linux Infrastructure  solutions. Also doing some hands-on support stuff for repeater group Hobbyscoop, the annual Ballon Fox Hunt and trying to promote HAMNET-activities with a group of ham’s throughout the country.

The 1th station from the Netherlands on 144, 432 and 1296 MHz in the QRP section and the 2nd station on 144 and 432 MHz in de low-power section based on DAC and NAC results during 2018.

Almost there…

Today I’ve put the rotary mast in and mounted the 144 and 432 MHz beam. I lifted the mast up for now, but the pre-amps and cabling still need to be connected coming days. Hope to be back on the 1st weekend of August in the contest and the NAC/DIGI contest beginning August. And do some MS on 144 MHz since the Perseids are here. The 50/70 MHz beam will follow next season since the Sporadic E season is (almost) over now.

Special thanks to Maarten (PE7M) to help me with the cable passtrue in the roof. He had nice 10cm width self vulcanising tape to make it all waterproof.

Mast progress

This weekend Klaas (PC2K) and I were busy on the roof. The mast base is in place now. Today I’ve replaced the old ventilation chimney with a more descent cable passthrough. This one is 12cm in diameter, so enough to fit all cables. If time allows the rotary pipe will be mounted next Wednesday. The beam for 50/70 MHz will not be mounted back this year since the sporadic E season is almost over. Remco (PA3FYM) offered to try a 2×8 stack for 144 Mhz and a 2x 13 stack for 432 MHz instead of a single antenna. So the next couple of months I’ll try a stacked setup for those bands to see how the results are. IN particular with local noise on 144 MHz. The 120cm dish for 1296 MHz will stay on a seperate mast for now.

The new mast is in place.
The new cable passtrue.

New mast on the roof

Last week the new mast is lifted in the roof by a multi-crane who was working nearby. Thanks Peter! The old mast(parts) are gone and antennas removed. Now I have to find to remove the gravel on some places, put 33mm thick rubber mats and then we can lift the mast on the permanent place. This can me done with a pair of extra hands. I’m also abusing an old roof terminal with chimney which will be replaced by some 45° pipes connected to create a descent cable entry with 13cm diameter.

The weight of the base itself is calculates to keep the total weight below 84 kg/m2. But this includes 20 kg/m2 reservation for heavy snow. Since the roof is completely freestanding in all directions and the house build (half) on a dyke, there is a lot of gravel ballast on the roof of about 50-60 kg m/2 on the corners. So yes. The roof can handle the weight. The roof height is about 18 meters HAAT due the dyke that gives a few meters free height.

When the base is in place, there will be a 4 meter rotatable mast in it. The total height will come on 530cm. License free you’re allowed to go up to 500cm and the roof has a 30cm standing border so it exactly fits the rules. The construction and drawings were, while not mandatory, calculated in advanced just to avoid hassle afterwards. The mast will hold a 50/70 MHz combi-beam, a 144 MHz beam and a 430 MHz beam like it did before. I’ll reserve some space to make a stacked array to double this 144 and 430 antennas later to experiment. A separate mast holds the 120cm dish for 1296/2330 MHz and this will stay for now. It might be consolidated later.

New mast is build

The new antenna mast is (custom) build and in. We’ve made a base of 150x100cm with 4 60*40 tiles as ballast. On the base there are 4 extensions of 200cm with a 60*40 ballast box. The base has a 150cm mast which is tiltable. Such is quite unseen for a flat rooftop mast. But with a 400cm mast in the rotor platform, maintenance on the antennas will be much easier!

One downside; the mast is fixed on the base instead of demountable. So i need to fix a crane to get in on the roof… The mast is fully galvanized. Special thanks to Klaas (PC2K, former PD0ZX) for help with the design and transport!

Fully set-up before going to be galvanised…
After galvanising and ready for transport… and yes. The top is shortened…

Antennas down

Since half februari, my antennas are down. The mast couldn’t handle the 3th storm in 2 weeks time. I have to rebuild the flat rooftop base. This will take a couple of months. I didn’t have time for it yet due to my vacation in Florida and when returned, the Corona spread had some consequences for the country.
Work goes on (vital sector) and more busy than before. So less time to do the repairs. I won’t be active during the upcoming contests.

Update may 2020: Ordered a new custom made flat rooftop mast. Tiltable this time. With 4 ballast boxes at 200cm distance from the mast. This should be able to survive all the upcoming storms.

January 2020 NAC contest on 144 MHz

Didn’t really work much UK stations. Finished early. In total 31 QSO’s in 20 different Maidenhead grid locators. ODX: GD0AMD/P with 701km.

First FT8 contest on 144 MHz

Today, the 1st monthly FT8 contest on 144.174 MHz was held. This contest will take place every 1st wednesday of the month between 17.00-20.00 GMT. On the 2nd wednesday of the month, the contest will be held on 432.174 MHz. Goal of this new contest is to promote (FT8) activity on the 144 and 432 MHz bands.

Participating is easy. Just make QSO’s and send on your WSJT-X (build-in) logfile to the contestrobot on the VHFdx.ro website. No need to hassle with Cabrillo or EDI files, no hassle with VHF-EU contest mode. Just the normal FT8 mode like u use everyday.

My result: 55 QSO’s in 22 Maidenhead grids (1210 points in total).

Having a look at the uploaded logs so far I seem to be the best participant throughout all of Europe. But 55 QSO’s in 3 hours could be better. Time to change tactics for the next contest. I’ll use a second transceiver and second WSJT-X instance. The second transceiver will use a vertikal antenne to work local stations that are also using a simple vertical antenna within 100 kilometers / 10 grid locators. I’ll use the 9700 with beam to search for dx stations in other grid locators, since these count as multiplier. Only one transceiver will be in TX at any moment since contest rules forbid multiple transmissions (including fox/hound) the same time. If the propagation is good my goal is to work somewhere about 100 stations during these 3 hours.

A little tool to find multipliers since the Worked Before indicators are already filled up

The 2019 (VHF-UHF) contest results

It’s the end of a year. Time to have a look at the results from the different VHF and UHF contests in my country.

Dutch Activity Contest (Monthly evenings)
I was active during all 144 DAC’s, most 432 DAC’s, some 1296 DAC’s and very rare on 50 or 70 MHz (since these are on thursday and I have other obligations on that day). The 2019 results are:

50 MHz: 5th place in the Netherlands
70 MHz: 3rd place in the Netherlands
144 MHz: 5th place in the Netherlands
432 MHz: 2nd place in the Netherlands
1296 MHz: 6th place in the Netherlands

Contest weekends
In the first (full) weekend of march, may, juli, september and october the weekend contests are held, mostly throughout Europe. I ended up 2nd place in the C-section, which is for stations active on both 144 and 432 MHz with a power up to 100 Watts (low). In the D-section (microwave, single operator) I ended up 9th. This makes sense. The 23cm band is just there as extra and I don’t have other microwave bands available. I don’t participate in the november Marconi contest.

Great end-of-year Tropo openings

For the last days I’ve enjoyed the tropospheric propagation. Stations in EA were easily workable on 144 and 432 MHz. Lot’s of stations are active in FT8 these days on 144.174, 432.174 and even 1296.174 MHz. The cherry on the cake was a QSO with Stevie (GJ6WRI) on both 144 and 432 MHz, being active from Jersey Island. On 1296 MHz this was an FT8 QSO with Keith (GU6EFB) from Guernsey Island. A new DXCC entity for me on these bands. And he also uses LoTW so the QSO’s are confirmed already.

Very rare was a Sporadic E opening. This can be seen almost yearly on 50 MHz but it’s very, very rare on 144 MHz. On Saturday, december 28, a remarkable event took place. Just after 16.00 UTC a mid-winter Sporadic E event took place. F4EZJ (JN05) noticed OH1CP (KP10). After ringing alarm bells several QSO’s were made using a scatter point around JO42.

Stations who heard me and around on 144.174 MHz in FT8. for the last 24 hours.

I personally tried to work more Maidenhead locators on 432 MHz, in particular with LoTW users since I’m busy achieving a 432 MHz VUCC certificate. I went from 25 to 42 confirmed locators via LoTW. On 1296 MHz I managed to work several stations to. ODX was F2CT in IN93 (1103 km) in SSB and also multiple stations in FT8. Unfortunately no EA stations on 1296 MHz.

During the tropo ducting new IARU Region 1 and even World distance records were set on 432 MHz. First there was a QSO between D41CV from Cape Verde with EI3KD over a distance of 4163 kilometers. This happened on Saturday, december 28 around 09.00 GMT. A few hours later, the record was broken, again by D41CV now in QSO with GM3SEK, good for 4544 kilometers distance. This record was set around 12.00 GMT.

December 2019 NAC contest on 144 MHz

Reasonable tropo. I’ve made 57 QSO’s in 25 grids. ODX: SQ7POM (716km). Problems with the amplifier let me run only about 4 Watts power. Results: 3th place in the Netherlands.

November 2019 NAC contest on 144 MHz

Only worked 3 hours. 36 QSO’s in 21 grids. ODX: SQ7POM (716km). Problems with the amplifier let me run only about 4 Watts power. Results: 3th place in the Netherlands.

FT8 with WebSDR as receiver

I’ve experimented using a WebSDR.org receiver for FT8, while using my own antenna for transmitting. Reason for this is the S9++ QRN I have on the 160-meter band. The set-up is quite easy. I’m using a Mac Mini in the shack, but it has a Windows 10 Bootcamp partition for regular Ham Radio software.

  1. Install Virtual Audio Cable (run the installer as Administrator)
  2. Reboot your machine
  3. Install the AudioPick extension in Chrome
  4. Tune the WebSDR to 1840 kHz.
  5. Select ‘CABLE Input’ as output device in Chrome
  6. Select ‘CABLE output’ as input device in WSJT-X

Keep in mind that there might be some Hertz difference in your Transmitted audio and the received audio via the WebSDR. On the University of Twente WebSDR this seems to be less than 10 Hz. My Icom IC-7300 isn’t locked to 10 MHz.

The next step should be programming a CAT-splitter to enable the WebSDR to run synchronous with the IC-7300. I haven’t found a way to do so. For digimodes on a single frequency, like FT8, this isn’t really important but could be handy.

Second VUCC award (144 MHz.)

Thanks to yesterdays’ tropo conditions I was able to complete QSO’s with OE3NHW in JN88 and SP6RGB in JO71. Both QSO’s are confirmed today via Logbook of the World (LoTW) and now I’ve got my 100 Maidenhead squares confirmed on 144 MHz. It was tough! It took me about 2 years to achieve this one.

Scoring a DXCC is easy. During the bigger contest you can do it in one weekend on HF with the right antenna and equipment. A VUCC award on 50 MHz can be done in one Sporadic-E season (may-aug). But on 144 MHz you really need time to complete it. Sporadic-E is very rare on this band. Meteor Scatter can help you, but there are only a few big showers a year.

In total I worked 133 Maidenhead squares so far, of which 100 are confirmed via LoTW. I don’t do paper QSL. Now I continue to work on VUCC for 432 MHz (50 squares) and 1296 MHz (25 squares) but this seems to be easier. The squares are already there, only the conformations via LoTW aren’t.

I’d like to thank all stations active on 144 MHz SSB *and* FT8. Yes. FT8 really brought a lot of activity back on 144 MHz tropo stations. And in particular for the FT8 stations in Europe: Also be active on 432.174 MHz.

IARU Region 1 – 144 MHz contest

Didn’t have much time. In total 50 QSO’s. ODX: GM4ZUK/P, 734 kilometers.

Wouldn’t it be nice…

If the newly announced Icom IC-705 could work as remote head for your IC-9700 (IC-76xx and IC-7700) at home. Or even your remotely located IC-7300? Just like Elecraft does wirt the K3 and the K3 head. Of Flex Radio with the Maestro. Or the IC-7100 with some help of a RemoteRig kit… Since all electronics are already in place and the IC-705 is equipped with WiFi and Bluetooth, in the end it’s just adding software. A feature that will boost Icoms’ market share for sure!