More Morse code practice

kent Morse paddleHope you all had a very pleasant Christmas! Just before the holiday started I’ve made up my mind: I’ll attend for the Morse code exam in Belgium on 28th of June 2016! After reading the announcement on HamNieuws (Dutch) I was convinced this is the right motivator to finally get my code up to speed.
Since dropping the Morse code requirement in The Netherlands it is not possible to take exams in Morse code anymore. Which is a bit weird since in some European countries (i.e. France, Luxembourg) it is still required to have passed your Morse code exam to operate CW on the HF-bands. The only way to get the official note “CW included” on your license (or registration as it’s called these days) is to follow the “Belgium route”. There are still Morse code exams in Belgium. And because Belgium and The Netherlands both have implemented CEPT recommendations TR61/01 & 02, a valid pass of a Morse exam in Belgium is also valid in The Netherlands. So if you send your Belgium certificate to Agentschap Telecom (the Dutch FCC) they will (or have to) update your license with the note “CW included”.
It’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s the only way at this moment.

So I’ve picked up Morse code training at lcwo.net again. Every night one hour of studying. Also I listen to code created with text2cw on my daily commute. I still need to create something to practice my tapping skills. Thinking of building K3NG’s Arduino CW Keyer. I understand from the web-page I can build this keyer with LCD-display and be able to see what I tap. There must be a Arduino Nano laying around and a 2×16 LCD-display is in my junk-box. I’ll try something on a breadboard first. Will post here on any progress!

Best wishes for 2016!

ARRL DX CW

This weekend I entered the ARRL DX CW contest. It started out as a challenge to score 100 Q’s. But actually it went quite well and I just closed N1MM with 350 Q’s in the log. It was a nice picture to see all the American and Canadian amateurs all lined op in my band monitor. The propagation was quite good so I got a habit of CTRL+[down], call the station, do the exchange, CTRL+[down], next. It seems like the higher bands (20 – 15 – 10) are favorite, I never scored the most Q’s on 10 meter before! A good thing I left my Antron 99A on the roof. It turn out to be an excellent antenna for 10 and 15 meters. Only with a very few stations that didn’t copy me, I switch to the ZS6BKW on these bands. And that’s no guarantee I will work them.

Great adventure and my CW-skills are a little better now!

ARRL 10m CW/SSB contest

Last weekend I entered the ARRL 10m CW/SSB contest. My 10m vertical (Antron A99) was still up on the roof since the last 10m contest. I did climb up the roof the reinstall the Buddipole. Not so successful this time due to a firm wind which blew it down again and again. Despite the support ropes.
The band starts opening up around 8:00 – 8:30 am. I switched back and forward between CW and USB. Actually the vertical was quite successful this time.
Around 7:00 pm the band was pretty much closed. Sunday I could only work until around 2:00 pm due to family duties.
After all a good contest, interesting to do a combined CW/SSB-contest. I think I need a good strategy for these combined contests next time. There were probably more Q’s to make then I did now.
Considering this the last contest for this years division league, I’ll take a rest now. I’ll rearrange the shack, clean out the place etc. Get everything up and running for the new contest year of 2014!

My first CW-paddle contact!

Last night I was fiddling around with my Elecraft K1. Couldn’t get it to work properly. Couldn’t even spot myself on Reverse Beacon Network. Eventually I got out my Kenwood TS-590. Turns out my home-brew coax patch-cable didn’t work! Aaaargh, stupid mistake of course.
After a few spins over 20m and 40m I heard a faint station and after a few of his CQ’s I decrypted that it was M0JRS, Jonathan from England! With shaky hands I send my call and he came back! Now I really start to sweat all over, of course I couldn’t make much of his message because I dropped letters left and right. But I did understand he send my RST and his name (which I already looked up on QRZ.com). When he finished transmitting I tried to send his RST and my name but it didn’t go so well. When I started to listen for his return, two other stations where interfering and I missed his message completely.
Nevermind, I logged him and it’s my first CW contact with hand!
So Jonathan: thank you very much for your patience and excuse me for my bad return, I’ll work hard to get better!

Week of CW-holiday

At the end of next week I’ll stay at QTH-locator JO32EK, the eastern part of The Netherlands for a week of holiday. The house we rent is in the middle of nature and (hopefully) has plenty opportunity to put up some antenna gear. At least I’ll bring my Buddipole. I only have traveling space for the Elecraft K1 receiver, so operation will be QRP, but it will be interesting. There is WiFi available in the house, so be prepared for some photo’s soon!

At home antenna’s are down at the moment due to chimney restorations. No radio-activity for a longer time, I’m afraid.

N1MM CW serial interface

After a few months of radio inactivity I picked up a little idea I read a while ago on the N1MM wiki. Of course I could buy a Winkeyer, but since I’m just a CW-novice with not many miles on the paddle, I want a cheap and simple solution first. I could always buy a Winkeyer in the future. Besides, I really dislike all kind of separate little boxes in my shack. I’m more of a Zen-fan.

When I read the N1MM wiki, the described serial interface for CW was simple enough to put into a DB9-connector. Just solder two parts and off you go. I bought the parts (and the DB9-connector) on a local ham marked for a few euro’s and put things together. Result? It works like a charm! Now N1MM is able to send CW directly from my PC to the rig. Next step is getting my CW-skills up to speed to run my first CW-contest.

The Belgium route

PA8E Kent PaddleThe other day I was browsing the club’s website (which has a very 90’s look and feel btw) and spotted a news article about a morse exam being organized in our neighbour country Belgium. That might sound weird but wait untill I explain!

When our Dutch FCC (AT) dropped the morse requirement for amateurs, they cancelled the whole possibility to do a morse program. When you think that is a bit radical, you’re right! Because now we have a situation where a Dutch amateur can do his/her full license exam, pass, but still can’t use HF in some countries like, for instance France! If in a country there is still a morse requirement and this country did not adopt the harec agreement, Dutch amateurs officially are not allowed on HF!

This wouldn’t be a problem if at least there was a option of doing a morse exam. But since dropping the morse requirement in The Netherlands, there isn’t. So when a Dutch amateur (who passed his exam for full license) still want a “CW included” notation on his license, he has to take the “Belgium-route” as it is named here. You have to take a d-tour to Belgium, attend a morse exam there and when you pass you can submit your paper in The Netherlands to get your “CW included” sign on your license. I think this is ridicoules but it’s the only way. Only a few indivitual amateurs did this “Belgium-route” so far, but now our club is looking for the opportunity to organize this for more interested amateurs.

I did contact the organizer for more specs of the exam. The next one is in March. But I concluded that I’m not ready for this one. You need to be able to receive at a speed of 13 wpm (that wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t had the actual speed set for 6 wpm ) including the pro-signes. I did not yet trained those. And you need to be able to send 13 wpm. That would be a real problem since I didn’t send at all.

Maybe I can join the next exam!