April 18, 2020

Jane VE7WWJ and Mike VE7KPZ knew they needed to be "on the air" for World Amateur Radio Day, 2020.

With COVID-19 in full swing and limited time to get out to the S0-noise woods, the duo decided to work the event from home. S5 noise? No worries, we'll make it work... maybe.

The team quickly assembled 7 meters of military fibreglass pole and mounted that to the side of the Unimog camper. To the end of the pole was attached a pulley with rope to match.

To one end of the rope was attached the end of Mike's brand new HyEndFed Portable 3 Band Mini 100 watt. This is the super-portable SOTA/backpacking multi-band EFHW antenna, at just 11.8 meters in length.

The other end of the antenna was attached to the balcony railing of the house. Coax was installed to the line isolator, static arrestor/grounding post and then into a window of the house and over to the kitchen table.

The pulley rope was pulled and up went the EFHW antenna in a beautiful sloper configuration.

Mike's Yaesu FT-891 was configured for phone operation and Mike gave it a good go. No luck. Voice was out of the question with S5 noise on 20m (noisy electronics at the house) and really poor HF conditions.

"But what about the pretty certificate?" said Mike. He really wanted one of those beauties for the collection.

"Are digital modes allowed?" asked Jane. Bingpot! We now had the solution.

A quick reconfiguration of the radio for FT8 with WSJT-X on the laptop and we were back in business.

Mike started off demoing a single FT8 QSO for Jane, and then Jane took over for the long haul. Soon there was a VE8RAC (North West Territories) in the log. We heard them at a lovely -04 dB below the noise floor... and they heard us at -16 dB. We just made it into their log - phew! But that was just what we needed to get the certificate.

We continued on (mostly Jane operating with Mike logging) for the next 4 hours, making a total of 27 FT8 contacts running 30 watts, all on the 20m band. Not bad for when HF conditions are terrible. While most of the signals were in the single digit + or - dB levels... we did work a -17, -18 and a -22. On the other end, we were worked at as low as -20 dB below the noise floor.

Jane very much enjoyed the easy-going but also still contest-y nature of FT8, so we may employ this mode again for Field Day 2020.

It was fun,