The HF Elmers

Tonight we’re altering the regular format of the NORAC Newbie Tech to be a roundtable of Elmers.

The Elmer’s were asked to join the net and share their HF experiences with a focus on the new HF operator and what you can expect with our current lower spot in the Solar Cycle, and with the standard newcomer HF equipment like a new or used 100 watt HF Transceiver, and a simple antenna like a multi-band vertical, or a wire dipole of some kind.

Joining us this evening are

Mike – VE7AM

David - VA7SZ

Doug – VE7VZ contacted me and offered to be one of our potential Elmers, but unfortunately he is busy with the latest round of Amateur Radio classes in Kelowna and wasn’t available this evening. However, he would like to help with this subject, and suggested that this is a broad enough topic that we could probably do another session later in the year? And I agreed.

Doug also did provide some observations to share with the group. I plan to do that at the end of the conversation tonight if time permits, or I’ll publish his notes on the NORAC website as the net notes for tonights toipc. Either way his contributions will be shared.


Notes from Doug VE7VZ

1) Even in the low of the sunspot cycle, there is a lot of activity if you know where to look. 100 watts and a dipole will get you into Brazil, Argentina, and the rest of South America, as well as across the United States on bands as high as 12m if you use digital mode FT8.

2) 20m is usually considered the main daytime DX band during the sunspot low, but there can also be good propagation on 17m most days, and many consider the slower pace of SSB contacts on this band to be friendlier.

3) 30m for many is a forgotten band, but there is significant digital activity on this band both day and night.

4) 40m will regularly cover the entire US and Canada at night, with good signals on digital, CW, or SSB.

5) Digital modes serve a variety of purposes. FT8 gives you quick, signal report only contacts, if you want to accumulate checkmarks for countries contacted. PSK31 or Olivia is much better for carrying on a conversation, but keep in mind that PSK31 is not suitable for polar paths as the auroral zone distorts the signal too much. WSJT-X and FLDigi are free software programs which can send and receive these modes and others. Slow scan TV pictures, particularly analog on 14.230 and digital on 14.233, can be copied with free software such as MMSSTV, EasyPal or MultiPSK.

6) Most weekends there are contests on the HF bands (excluding WARC bands 30, 17 and 12m). Some are very competitive while others are more laid back. lists almost all worldwide contests by month.

7) Outside of contests, much casual DX can be found when conditions are favourable, and casual contacts with stations across North America can be made anytime, as long as you pick the right band.

8) CW is still popular, and can provide rewarding DX contacts with a modest station.

9) There are many good tools available online to help you determine the best bands to use and to see what current activity there is.

shows "spots" indicating stations heard in real time. If you enter your grid square (DO00 for Vernon) you can also get real time propagation predictions from your QTH to that of the reported stations, courtesy of VOACAP. Left click on the displayed callsign and choose "Show VOACAP predictions".

shows realtime reception reports on a world map for many digital modes. It is not unusual to send out a single CQ on FT8 and see over 60 stations pop up within minutes with a report on your signal strength.

provides realtime maps of radio propagation conditions and other information, including the Pentiction Solar Flux Index. "Solar Weather" predictions are provided for several days in advance.

Announced DX Operations, and

DX World provides the latest information on DXpeditions to interesting and exotic places.

contains basic information on ham operators in most countries. Many have placed detailed biographies on the entry associated with their callsigns. Anyone can sign up to their own callsign entry and add details for others to view.

All of the above is applicable to a simple 100W station with a multiband vertical, or a multiple band wire antenna such as a Carolina Windom. A simple three element triband yagi can offer a significant upgrade in both receiving and transmitting if you have a support structure (a tower, or even a tree) to mount it on.

Finally . . Amateur Radio is a worldwide hobby/service and as such it requires a worldwide standard for behaviour on the amateur bands.

Gentlemanly behaviour on the bands is encouraged in the DX Code of Conduct. EVERYONE, not just DXers, should read this before they try to contact a DX station.

A more detailed booklet on Amateur Radio operating procedures was written by a pair of Belgian hams, and has since been adopted by the International Amateur Radio Union as the standard for all amateur radio operators worldwide.

Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur.

This is also a MUST READ for everyone, to encourage polite and courteous use of our bands.






Q & A