Monday, September 5, 2016

Pursuit of 5BDXCC IV - 80m

Shunt-feed wires rise up the side of the tower.
For the last three years, near the end of summer, I have written about converging on 5BDXCC. I wasn't close when I only had thirty countries to confirm on 80m. The next year, I had inched a little closer, but taking the proposition a bit more seriously. And last year,  I made some serious progress, and was hopeful I was within striking distance.

Let's review the numbers, shall we? Last year I stood at 89/88, right? Well, turns out, this was slightly off. I discovered that a confirmation of CP1FF on 15m Phone was credited to 80m. This has since been corrected, so I was really at 88/87.

Today, I hold 91/90. Yes! At least down to the last ten confirmations. Not a lot of progress from last year, but at least progress.

I do have paper QSL confirmations for a couple more entities on 80m. According to ClubLog, I've worked 103 countries on 80m. Looking at the data, perhaps a couple of those have busted calls on one end or the other.

This leaves me with two methods of achieving this goal: I can pursue getting paper confirmations from contacts I've already made, or I can strive to make more contacts and get LoTW confirmations from them.

Let's look at the latter.

Last year, I ran into a few obstacles trying to work DX on 80m. Since moving from Floyd County to Walton County, I had to take down the 80/40m dipole and also the very effective 160/80/40m Inverted-L. The 80/40m dipole is up at the Walton County QTH, but the low height and local noise limits its usefulness. With the Gwinnett County QTH just minutes away, I've been more tempted to operate from there, when I can. The 160/80/40m Inverted-L and all the 30 lbs of radials are still sitting in a box. I don't really have a location to put it up right now.

That leaves me with the shunt-feed tower for 80m. I ran into a number of issues last fall with the shunt-feed matching network. The 80m cap had to be replaced. I also found that the shunt isn't as effective as it might have been. Certain times of the early evening, the 80m dipole was much more effective.

Plus, I'm seeing some RFI-related issues when using the shunt-fed tower. These didn't affect the Elecraft K2/100 or the Kenwood TS-430S, but they sure make a mess of the Elecraft K3/100.

I also wanted to put up the K9AY loops with a new loop controller. The new loop controller didn't work properly, and even using the old mechanical switch, I discovered I had other RFI feedback from the K9AY loop feed line.

So, It's clear to me I need to take care of a number of things before fall begins:
  • Fix the Shunt-feed network. To improve matching on 80m, I'll add a relay and an extra variable capacitor, which would give me settings for 160m, 80m and 75m. I'll also bypass the control lines to prevent RFI ingress. Decoupling on the feed line couldn't hurt, either. 
  • Add Radials. The 29 or so radials for the shunt-fed tower may have deteriorated in the last 15 years, and a few of them have been damaged. I have about 2,000 feet of surplus cloth-covered copper wire, and my plan is to put it ALL down as radials. 
  • 80m Dipole. I'm working on a design for a trap 80/40/20m dipole, which may double as a second-radio antenna. That should go back up where the old 80/40m was.
  • Amplifier. One benefit of the 80m dipole is I can use the amplifier. The shunt-feed network can't handle much more than 100 watts. 
  • K9AY Loops. Fix the controller. Re-route the feed line to avoid RFI pick-up. 
Once all that is done, there's the small matter of being there. I guess I should start operating more from Walton County. Perhaps plan to work a few DX contests on 80m. Perhaps the ARRL DX contest would be good.

How about the former? I've already used ClubLog and OQRS to request paper QSLs for a couple of the contacts for which I have matching information. Those should come eventually.

Plus, I need to go through my batch of QSLs and see if I have anything matching on 80m. I think I did this exercise last year, but I've gotten some new QSLs from the bureau that I haven't processed yet.

The final step is to use ClubLog to identify some of those contacts I've worked and not confirmed and request paper QSLs. Those may take a while to arrive, but at least I don't have to fix antennas or wait for propagation to get that done.

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