Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Didn't Make the Contact - Still Learned Something

I have always been of the opinion that if you go to bed a little smarter than when you woke up that the day was a success.  This hobby tends to do that for me on a regular basis.  Last night as I was spinning the dial listening the the very dead bands I heard that wonderful sound of "QRL?".  You know someone is about to call CQ and maybe you are the only one listening at that moment to attempt the contact.  I say "attempt" because we all know there are no sure things in QRP.  Anyway, I'm listening to the signal and it was pretty strong and then I heard a call sign I did not recognise.  I didn't have time to look it up as I wanted to be the first one on this station.  I threw my call out at what I call full QRO (5w) but I was not heard.  I tried again but was unsuccessful.  Moments later the pileup started and I knew my chances were done.  I then opened the QRZ page and entered in the call sign S01WS.  I had never heard of a country called Western Sahara but here was a club call from there.  The Sahrawi Amateur Radio Union - Club Station in Tifariti has over 200,000 lookups so I'm sure most reading this will be familiar with that station but it was new to me.  Then, of course, I had to look up this unfamiliar country to find that it is not a country at all but instead is the subject of a decades-long dispute between Morocco and Algeria.  This was news to me and a few other people I spoke with.  I love learning this sort of thing and Amateur Radio brings me many of these.  I think that is one of the reasons I like this hobby so much.  Here is a link to a profile of Western Sahara in case you are as curious as I was.

Although I didn't get the QSO, I did go to bed smarter than when I woke up and that's good enough for me...until next time, that is.

#hamradio #amateurradio #qrp #CW

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Reminiscing - first CW QSO

I was looking through the small stack of QSL cards I have received over the past few years and found the card from the first QSO I ever had.  I have only ever operated CW on HF and I remember practicing my code with the G4FON program.  It was 2006 and didn't want to spend a lot of money to get on HF.  My elmer at the time sold me a partially functioning HW-8 for $30 to see if I could get it going.  I got it working and listened to 20M calling CQ but I was very nervous that anyone would actually answer my call.  Lucky for me, I was only transmitting about 800mW on 20M so I knew the chances of being heard were small.  I wanted to get a QSO but was afraid of not being able to keep up with my code.

One Sunday afternoon in Dec of 2006 I heard the band open as I had never heard it before.  Looking back I don't even remember if he answered my call or the other way around but Dean, W7VVW, and I had a nice QSO.  It was my very first CW QSO and he didn't send too fast for me which was always my biggest fear.

I sent a QSL card the next day in hopes of receiving his.  When I received that card in the mail I was so proud of it that I had it on the fridge with a magnet for some time afterwards.  He also included a nice note with the card since he knew it was my first.

Little did I know at the time that not only had I made my first contact at QRPp levels but I had also achieved 2609 Miles Per Watt.  I was totally hooked on QRP and now I can't even imagine owning a QRO station.  It is still my favourite QSL card and my favourite QSO ever.  I still have that HW-8 in a box somewhere.  I have since upgraded to the FT-817 but may pull that old girl out one of these days.  It was a lot of fun.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Need To Pull Out the Rock Mite

I was looking through some photos I had stored online in my Photobucket account and found these pics of when I first built my Rock Mite for 20M.  I need to pull it out as the weather warms up for some QRPp action.  #QRP  #QRPp  #minimalist

First Event of the Piping Season

I just submitted my entry for my first solo piping competition.  As a second year piper I am still in the lowest grade which in North America is 5.  Last season I did not take part in any solo competitions as I was too busy learning so many of the other tunes you are expected to be able to play as part of the Grade 5 band.  In eastern Ontario the first event of the piping season is the Ottawa Branch Indoor Highland Games.  It really is more of a piping competition than a Highland Games but that's just semantics.  The solo competitions take place in the morning and the band portions take place in the afternoon.  The event takes place on May 9th so there is still plenty of time to iron out my solo performance piece.  The requirement for grade 5 solos is a 2-parted March with any time signature.  Mine is a 3/4 March called Lochanside which I feel I know quite well.  The judging at this particular event is unique because you perform in front of the judge and the judge alone.  There are no spectators to make you extra nervous.  That's good for my first solo attempt.  Our band performance in the afternoon will also be our first of the season.  We have been working on our March Medley since late October.  Hopefully it comes together in time for this first event of the season.  Here is a photo from last year.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


I had a project last fall to have my basement spray foam insulated.  My Ham Shack is in the basement and it was always so cold during the winter months.  By cold I mean about 10C.  This was not very conducive to enjoyable radio operation. I removed the old drywall and "insulation".  I won't even tell you the things I found in the walls but needless to say many critters of various type had lived in those walls over the years causing the insulation to sag and basically be almost ineffectual.  The spray foam insulation was installed in October and the installation of the drywall took me forever for me to complete as it was my first time doing it.  Then came the painting and laying down of the flooring.  It took me most of the winter but now my basement is so much warmer.  Once the room was completed I was able to set up my shack again and all it took was setting the FT-817 up again and I was right back at it. It took a few QSOs to knock the rust off my FIST but it's all back to normal now.  I didn't realize how much I missed it until I had a few contacts.  It's so nice when you can operate in comfort.  Now I am getting ideas, as spring approaches, to improve my antennas.  My antennas are all wire dipoles but I want to expand my band options.  My 30-20-10 fan dipole is actually more of a 30-17-15-12.  I think I will put up a separate fan dipole for 20-40 this summer.  With that up I can really work on getting some QRPp work going and get some increased Miles Per Watt QSOs.  My best so far is 6983 MPW to UA4HBW in Russia in February of 2013.  I know I can do way better than that either with some milliwatt transmitters or with some attenuators on my 817.

Lots to do and have fun with.  Looking forward to it.

Deja Vu All Over Again

I had a blog about a year ago but closed it as I felt I wasn't posting to it enough.  I'm going to give it another shot.  Between Amateur Radio and bagpiping/Pipe Band and anything else I can think of including books I've read, trips I've taken and so on I think I should be able to keep this going.  I don't expect people to visit the page actually.  Why would they?  I just like the thought of keeping a journal of tidbits of things I find interesting or fun.  That's it.