Thursday, September 23, 2010

PSK-31, Close Calls and Armchair Copy CW

This late afternoon shot of the end fed half wave array at KD8JHJ shows the end insulators of the 30 meter wire (middle) and 20 meter wire (bottom).  The 40 meter end insulator is not visible.  At 66 feet long the 7 MHz wire stretches almost to the tree at the far left of the photo.

Early Wednesday evening I was at the controls of my HF amateur radio station observing some PSK-31 signals on the 20 meter band.  Since I got my start in ham radio at the bottom of the 12 year sunspot cycle I have noticed that the 20 meter band usually closes as darkness falls.  Recently I have found signals propagating as late as 10:00 pm local time.  This works out well for me because I am at work all day and only have a short window in the evenings for radio operations.

14.070 MHz was full of stations both North American and DX.  I spotted a strong French station F4FFH calling CQ so I replied to his call.   We promptly established contact and exchanged a cheerful greeting and 599 signal reports.  Erick's QTH was Saint Lo, France.

My next contact was Tomas EA4AZZ located in Coslada, near Madrid, Spain.  His signal was bright and clear.  We exchanged 599 reports too.

Then I noticed a strange prefix I could not identify off  the top of my head.  HZ1DG/ND was calling CQ DX and working other stations.  I kept watching the transmissions and eventually learned his name was Abdul and he was located in Khamis Mushayt in south western Saudi Arabia.  After wrapping up the current contact he began calling CQ again and I jumped in answering his call.  QRZ? appeared on my screen.  This means "Who is calling me?"  I sent my call several more times but after a short pause Abdul went back to calling CQ.  I was only getting about 50- 75% of his copy so he may have received even less of my transmissions.  I was disappointed to say the least.  This would have been a neat contact to put in the log and would have been my longest distance 2-way at over 7000 miles.  This is the challenge that makes DXing fun.  I've learned to tell whether a station has partially copied my signal by watching their actions.  Because of the QRZ? and delay I'm pretty sure Abdul saw something on his monitor but my 50 watts was not enough to bridge the distance and present readable data. 

Later after my digital work I was in the mood for some Morse Code so I drifted down to around 14.054 MHz and transmitted some CQs using my AME single lever paddle and K-5 electronic keyer.  After several calls with no takers I tuned down a bit more and at 14.043MHz I found KB4JR calling CQ.  I answered the call and met Bernie in Lake Wales, Florida for the first time.  Bernie's signal was strong and he was sending very good code at about 15 words per minute.  I set the keyer to 16 wpm and we had a pleasant conversation about our ham careers, the weather and our families.  Receiving strong signals and well sent code is known as "Armchair Copy".  Meaning the other station is so easy to read you can sit back in your easy chair and copy all the sent information complete.  This type of QSO is my favorite and in my mind is the meat and potatoes of amateur radio.  It's nice to get to know the op at the other end and especially enjoyable to do so under optimum conditions. After we signed off I got busy right away and filled out a QSL card thanking Bernie for the excellent QSO.    

1 comment:

  1. Yes...those long QSO's are the very best, and also the ones I remember above the others. I've started placing a check mark in the log book for these and listen for them on the bands quite often. I guess that's another way of saying that for me, distance is a neat trick, but not as satisfying as a good fist and a long QSO. You can actually develop a friendship in this mode.