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Worldwide contacts in Wythall RC’s July ‘Challenge’

August 01, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

What countries can Wythall Radio Club members contact on the 80, 40 and 20 meter bands during July?
 
That was the challenge for Club members, who could use digital, voice and Morse Code to make contacts around the world. 
 
Overall, club members worked 116 countries – including Alaska, China, Hawaii, Kenya and St. Helena island.  To see all the countries worked, click HERE
 
Impressive results were achieved by Allen 2E0VVG who worked 101 unique countries (each country counting only once across the three bands) and Chris G0EYO with 192 countries overall (the total of the countries worked on each of the bands). 
 
Allen decided to give his FT8 signals a little more elevation, so packed up his little all-band, all-mode FT817 rig and operated from his car on a hill-top (photo above).  Perhaps this gave him the edge in being the first to contact 100 unique countries!
 
He also spent “a lot of time on Google maps looking for places that I’d never heard of.   Mayotte is a French island just north of Madagascar apparently!” 
 
Mark M1AEC also managed contacts in the Indian Ocean:  “had a nice contact in to The Re’union Islands off Mauritius on 40m yesterday…. callsign FR4OM”.
 
Carsten OY1CT gave some members a contact with the Faroe Islands, located between Shetland and Iceland.
 
Some burnt the midnight oil in the hunt for rare countries!  “Inspired by the midnight/early morning efforts of Chris G0EYO and Kevin 2E0NCO, thought I’d explore the 40m band at 4.00 a.m. on Saturday” commented John M6KET.  “Surely there would be a VK/ZL waiting for that elusive M6 QSO?  ZL there was – but not audible here!”
 
However Chris’ occasional midnight operations were more productive than John’s:  “Some good ones caught at those times. eg US Virgin Island on 40m at 00:59Z. UAE at 01:33Z on 40m. Uruguay and Dominican Republic at 01:03Z on 40m etc.”
 
Chris G0EYO observed that there are “some interesting differences between us FT8ers (digital mode operators) as we each seem to get countries that others cannot connect to or in my case even see.  It’s all to do with timing, as I guess we have pretty much the same equipment set up.”
 
Here you can see how the total number of countries worked by each member across the 3 bands developed over the month!
 

The Challenge is part of a series, with a different group of amateur radio bands or modes being the focus of activity each month.  Previous months have covered 15,12,10 and 6 meters, and all bands Morse Code only.

The Challenge for August is to work as many different countries as possible on the 30 meter band (using Morse Code and FT8 digital mode) and the 17 and 12 meter bands using these modes and voice (SSB).  
 
 
 
 
 

QRP anyone? Low power fun at Wythall Club

July 13, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

Low power operating – QRP – has added an extra element of fun to Wythall Radio Club members’ recent two-way contacts.

John 2E0XET/M6KET often operates his small KX3 radio (on the left of the desk) in QRP mode – defined as 5 watts output or less – and recently serendipity struck!

“Funny thing radio conditions. With hardly a red spot in sight yesterday morning on DX HEAT at about 11.50 local time I called CQ on 14.060MHz with absolutely no expectations and only 5 watts output.

The band appeared empty, but Leslie K4DY in North Carolina USA came back to me with my RST of 529 (he was 329 here).
 
Hardly earth shattering DX I know, but it made one enthusiast just a little bit more enthusiastic!!”
 
QRP signals may not be s9 – but often they are perfectly readable, especially when using CW.
 
Meanwhile Darren GW7HOC/MW5HOC fired up his 20m FOXX-3 for the first time in about 3 years.  This little kit rig is built into a mint tin and is rock bound (crystal controlled) on 14.060MHz.
 
“I put out a QRS (low speed Morse Code) call with maybe 1 watt, and a guy in Greece called me back! First proper CW QSO in quite a while.  I do like making contacts with my mint tin rigs. Serious fun!”
 
So much fun, Darren has built 3 of these rigs!!
 
14.060 MHz is the calling frequency for QRP stations around the world on the 20M band.
 
Chris G3YHF is another QRP enthusiast.  He recently used very low power (QRPp) – 100 milliwatts – to contact stations in Belgium, Germany and Bulgaria on the 40 and 20 meter QRP frequencies.  Like John and Darren, he used Morse Code, this time with his K3S rig and 40 meter delta loop antenna.
 
His contacts were to celebrate receiving the QRP Master Award from the GQRP Club for working 70 countries with 5 watts of less, of which 20 must be 2-way QRP, plus 60 GQRP Club members.  This was achieved with an Icom 725 modified for QRP output and a G5RV antenna.
 
So wind back the power and give QRP a go!
 
 
 
 
 

90 countries worked in June’s ‘High Band Challenge’

July 01, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

What countries can we contact on the higher HF bands during June?
 
That was the challenge set for Wythall Radio Club members.  The focus was on the amateur bands from 15 meters to 6 meters, using the digital mode FT8.  This follows the similar Morse Code-only challenge in May.
 
Overall, club members worked 91 countries – including Hawaii, Chile, Mauritania, Saint Helena island, Cuba and Asiatic Russia.
 
Impressive results were achieved by Chris G0EYO who worked 77 different countries, closely followed by Lee G0MTN with 69. 
 
On 6 meters – a band noted for its occasional and often very short openings – Mike G4VPD was very active working an impressive 46 countries.  Best DX included Bahrain, Puerto Rico, Tajikistan, Canada and Armenia.
 
Overall, there were 607 QSOs during June’s High Band Challenge.
 
But it wasn’t all easy going.  Band conditions were often poor, with limited and sporadic propogation – “Bands dreadful today, but managed to get Albania on 15m this morning, only there for 10 mins”. 
 
The heat wave in the middle of the month caused additional problems – “Too hot to go into the shack today!” 
 
And occasional erroneous entries in the on-line log caused excitement – “Well done – Swaziland on 15m & 12m! ”  “Just checking my log. Looks like I probably did mean Switzerland.”
 
Here you can see how the QSOs developed over the month!
 
 
July’s challenge for club members is to work as many different countries on 80, 40 and 20m using any mode – digital, Morse or SSB (voice).
 
To see the countries worked by band in June’s Challenge, click this link 

Award for CW success

June 17, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club

Stuart M0SRZ is the 2020 recipient of Wythall Radio Club’s Lew Williams Shield

This annual award recognises a member’s progress with CW (Morse Code), and is in memory of Wythall Radio Club’s former CW tutor and President.  It was presented at a recent virtual meeting of members.

Stuart obtained his Foundation Licence in 2016, followed by Intermediate and Full in the same year.  He took the CW Academy Beginner Course in spring 2019, and has been making great progress ever since…..

“The CW Academy courses have been instrumental in my progress. However, the vital element is the support, encouragement and example of a club such as our own.

The gentle introduction to the mysteries of Morse, and the inspiring, consistent example of John 2E0XET, began my present endeavour to learn and, hopefully, attain some degree of proficiency.  And that banner is now carried on by the Club’s current CW tutor David G0HVN.  

A history of CW teaching that started with Lew Williams, long before I joined this Club, continues to this day. 

Reading about the CW exploits of many club members provides further encouragement.

I shall try to earn that honour during this year by taking the CW Academy Intermediate course during September/October – and that is going to demand a lot of practice between now and then! ” 

Stuart commends the free CW Academy courses: “They are quite intensive – two online hour-long sessions each week – and you really have to put in the practice every day. If you’re interested take a look at https://cwops.org/cw-academy/

 


Inside the VP8PJ QSL Bureau

June 05, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club

Tim MØURX is QSL manager for some major DXpeditions as well as being a Wythall Radio Club member.  Here is his inside story of the QSL manager’s life for the recent VP8PJ expedition to Signy Island in Antarctica….

The recent DXpedition to South Orkney Islands VP8PJ took the QSL work here at United Radio QSL Management Bureau to a new level.

I have had the pleasure of working with the Perseverance DX Group since their activation to Mellish Reef VK9MT in 2014. So I was delighted to be asked to be involved with the VP8PJ DXpedition

As always, the project starts with a conference call with the team about 18 months before the DXpedition to explain what is expected of me and what I expect from the team.  A verbal agreement on all points is noted and is followed up by a contract agreed by email. 

For me there are two parts of this expedition that required a lot of work.

Prior to the expedition I need to make sure that the features and tools on OQRS (Online QSL Request System) were all set up correctly and working. 

An important part of this relates to the team’s donors.  VP8PJ had donations from 1,500 supporters and they wanted these supporters to get something back through immediate LoTW uploads and free QSL cards for those donating upwards of $50 to the expedition funds.

This requirement alone needs a tool that I call “Donor management from Excel”.  This feature saves me a huge amount of time. The Excel file uploads to OQRS and populates the QSL requirements to the log including mailing address labels.  It also queues the QSOs to LoTW (Logbook of the World) for those donors lucky enough to be in the log.

The main work for me is from when the DXpedition started in late February through to March.

It had been planned to make live log uploads from the DXpedition on site.  Sadly, the path to the satellite – of which they only could see the southern-most footprint – was just 8 degrees above the horizon. As the site on Signy Island was mountainous to the north it blocked the path to the satellite.

This meant that getting any log update from the team proved really difficult.  It involved a tricky Zodiac boat ride (photo right) from the site to the MV Braveheart (the white vessel in photo below) anchored in safe waters.  Then the Braveheart had to move away from the island so that the team could access the satellite and send me the log.

This process proved too complicated given the conditions, so we decided to upload the whole log at the end of the DXpedition. 

When we did get the final log update there were tens of thousands of log checks being raised and the strain on the OQRS was quite immense, but after a few hours it settled down and the QSL requests started pouring in. During March I had dealt with 800 busted / missing call inquiries on my OQRS and dealt with a further 400 emails.

Although most of the emails were straight forward there were a few emails that tested my patience with some people being rather rude and ignorant, but we got through it!

In April it was time to turn to the QSL design and further conference calls to talk it through and to decide on how the team wanted the card to look – a theme, a font style and the very important placement of the foundation and corporate logos.

It was these organisations that dug deep to help pay for the serious $330,000 cost of this expedition so getting everyone represented on the design was crucial. After a couple of weeks Max ON5UR had finalised the QSL design and this was then sent to the print room.

While the designs were being printed, I printed out both sets of labels, one for the 4,700 addresses and another set of 6,000 labels for the QSOs. Up to 7 QSOs per label. I had previously ordered 5,000 envelopes and overprinted the postage paid imprint back in February. So putting the labels on the envelopes was quite a huge job and then to keep them all in call sign order. 

On the 11th May the QSL cards arrived from Belgium in 3 huge 35kg boxes. With lock down it meant that I had to do this on my own which gave me some concern as I also have a full time job to do!  So every hour while I wasn’t working or sleeping I was sticking the 6,000 labels on the cards and then stuffing all the envelopes.

Finally I had 4,715 letters ready to post… So maybe now i can relax knowing that the job is done!

Already the team have announced their next project New Zealand Sub Antarctic Islands DXpedition (OC-037).

See more photos of VP8PJ DXpedition here


Having fun with ‘old’ radio modes in May!

May 31, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club

Wythall Radio Club members have been having fun with Morse Code and AM – amplitude modulation – during May!

The Club’s ‘high band challenge’ was to contact as many countries as possible by Morse Code on the higher short wave bands – part of our Morse May activity month. 

Members worked 28 countries each on 15 and 10 meters, 3 on 12 meters and 12 on 6 meters.

Highlights were Argentina, Asiatic Russia, South Africa and Mali on 15 meters, Israel and Morocco on 10 meters and the Canary Isles and Sardinia on 6 meters.

And as conditions on these bands were so good, several members had contacts on 10 meters using AM – sometimes referred to as ‘ancient modulation’ – which used to be the main voice mode until the 1970s.  

Using ground wave, Club members within about 6 miles of each other were able to make contact.  But Winston, 2E0EGP, also had a qso with a station in Italy on AM via sky wave propogation. 

Morse Code was the original mode for radio communication, but is still widely used because of its reliability under poor conditions.  And AM used to be the main voice mode until SSB (single side band) replaced it in the 1970s.   So this was truely a month for having fun using ‘old modes’!

During June, Club members will be taking part in another ‘high band challenge’ – but this time using digital mode FT8, which is one of the latest modes for communicating by radio.

 


Successes and fun in CQ World Wide contest

May 26, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Contest, Fun, News

Three Wythall Radio Club members entered the 48-hour CQ World-Wide CW Contest in November 2019.  Now the results have been published, here are their stories and achievements!

Jamie M0SDV, Lee GoMTN and Chris G3YHF each entered different categories of this Morse code-only competition and were placed 2nd, 3rd and 2nd out of the English stations in their respective class. 

Jamie M0SDV reports:  I was looking for a station that was better equipped for contesting than my own .  Chris G0DWV in Norfolk said he would host me, using the call G9Y (see Chris’s antennas below!).   I decided to enter the SO2R (single operator 2 radio) high power all bands section.

The first night on the low bands was incredible. The contest started at 0001UTC and I managed the first 1,000 QSOs by 1 hour after sun rise. Then conditions flipped so I decided to have a go at dual CQ – calling on both 20 and 15m at the same time using the 2 radios.

The picture shows me operating radio 1 (left) transmitting an exchange whilst I use radio 2 (right) to do search and pounce for multipliers.

I learned a few things here. The main one being, if you’re going to dual CQ, the CQ itself needs to be short and fast!

With another night shift coming on, I decided to work the sunset DX on the low bands, working YB (Indonesia), VK (Australia), ZL (New Zealand), along with far east Russia and some South East Asian countries.  

On the second day I worked the missing Europeans from the day before and started to focus on chasing more elusive multipliers.  Using the second radio as much as I could I would pause the run on 20 and CQ on 15 whilst searching for multipliers, and vice versa.  

The 2nd radio also let me keep an eye on 10m, which did have a short opening to Africa bagging me V55A (Namibia), ZD7W (St. Helena) and some ZS (South African) stations.

This contest was super fun! Reflecting, I needed to spend more time in S&P (search and pounce) mode looking for the multipliers and less time trying to make a load of 1 point QSOs.  I also needed to better plan my off-time. This caused me to lose some 160m QSO’s.

It seems Experience trumps Youth in this case.  Thank you to Chris G0DWV and his YL Tina for being incredible hosts and making me feel welcome yet again!

Jamie operated for 41/48 hours and made 3,709 QSOs – that’s about 91 per hour!  His score was 2,635,578 points and he was placed 65/1057 entrants world-wide in his class.

You can find a write up of Jamie’s exploits using the pre-production Gemini DX1200 linear amp, loaned by the DX Shop, here

Lee G0MTN reports: Despite writing ‘CQWW Contest!’ on the kitchen calendar back in January, through bad luck and lack of other available dates my wife was away on a work trip on the Sunday so I was in “SO2R high power all bands assisted + childcare” mode.

I took Friday afternoon off work to wind up the mast and prepare the wire antennas. I had Spiderbeam yagi / 40m dipole @ 50 feet (see photo left) and 80m dipole @ 45 feet. I ran out of time to raise the 160m antenna.  Aside from the rain, there was very little wind for almost all of the weekend which was one less thing to worry about.

I typically start an hour or two after the 0001UTC start, having then had a modicum of sleep. I operated through till after 1am Sunday.  The operating itself was a bit of a blur – when checking worked DXCC for my local club’s DX ladder even last night I had no recollection at all of having worked particular countries! 

I then slept through a very early alarm clock (grrr), and operated until late afternoon when I’d reached 1,800 QSOs and it was time for domestic duties.

SO2R – not as easy as it sounds.  I’m using an FTdx3000 as a second radio, and at very low audio levels the audio is a little distorted. I need to fashion another volume control so I can have good quality audio but at a wanted lower level. I missed a number of first radio callers first time due to the second radio – I moved the audio switching ‘heavy pileup mode’ so I could better concentrate on the first radio when finishing a CQ. Much more practice required.

Even when not actively working people, just being able to dial around the other bands helped with general awareness. I do appear to have a second radio TXBPF failure on 15m, which is hopefully just a connection problem as I’ve only fed it 15w and into good VSWR. Other TXBPF is fine on 15M.

When looking at a bandmap and seeing a number of unworked stations, I did find myself wanting to Search and Pounce and stop CQing. Even trying to do that as aggressively as possible working a few a minute was perhaps slower than the CQ rate. I think the mantra is that I always ought to be CQing. My desire to S&P and not miss multipliers is what that second radio is there for.

15M and 10M were not as good as last month – I hoped that Sunday might be better than Saturday, but to me Sunday seemed even worse. I worked a few on 160M using the 80M dipole.

The technology played a few tricks.  After setting up DXLog I discovered that my sent CW was slightly laggy between each character.  I rebooted the PC, turned off the panadapter, tinkered with Winkey and Microham settings. Eventually I ticked an ‘extra character buffer’ setting in DXLog which did the trick.  

Not long after restarting on Sunday morning a 59+ loud DL appears CQing away slap bang in the middle of my audio passband. I complained a little. DL station protests. Then I found that I had somehow QSYd around 1 kHz in the last few minutes. I had no idea how that happened and wasn’t aware. Apologies to the poor DL station.

For me, not a winning score by a large margin, but I had fun. Will do better next time! 

Lee operated for 30/48 hours and made 1,766 QSOs.  He was placed 204/1926 entrants world-wide in his category. 

Chris G3YHF is our third contributor:  This was my first attempt at a big international contest.  I had recently erected a 160M inverted L for the RSGB Club Calls Contest, so I decided to leave it up and make a 160M Single Operator Low Power entry.  This type of entry means no use of DX Cluster or other kinds of station-finding assistance, and maximum 100w output.

This was only the second time I’d used N1MM logger in a contest.  I had it speaking to my TS590SG so it automatically recorded frequency and mode.  But I hadn’t mastered computer keying or shortcuts, so I used my Bencher Hex paddle for all the CW. 

Besides logging the QSOs, another benefit of N1MM was that it remembered the frequencies of stations whose calls I had entered (or just looked up to see if they were dupes).  So as I tuned the band and came across a signal, it would often tell me the call sign and I could move on if we’d already worked.

Of course, the advantage of a 160M entry is that the band isn’t doing much during daylight hours so I didn’t have the lack of sleep problems faced by Jamie and Lee!  And stations in the contest are spread over only about 40-50khz, so there’s not far to tune. 

However, the downside is that in this narrow band there are lots of big signals covering up the weaker ones.  The TS590 did very well, but I had a few ear-shattering moments.  Usually this was when I had the RF gain backed-off and AF gain turned up to reduce the noise and copy a weak signal, only to find a very loud station appear almost on frequency!  The 590’s filtering isn’t quite up to dealing with the conditions found on 160M during a CW contest.

Having just come back to 160M after over 40 years away, I was more interested in seeing what DXCC entities I could work.  So I concentrated on multipliers using Search and Pounce, rather than chasing each available QSO or calling CQ for long periods.  Overall, I had about 6 hours operating out of the approximate 30 hours when 160M would be active.

I was delighted with being able to work 40 countries on Top Band, particular notables being S01WS Western Sahara, CN3A Morocco, and RM9A in Asiatic Russia.  In addition, I had several contacts with stations in the USA and Canada.

This wasn’t a serious contest entry, but having received the results I did better than expected.  So next year I’ll make a serious attempt in the same category and see what I can achieve.  To help this along, I’ve now traded in the TS590 for an Elecraft K3S which will improve things on the receive side.

Chris operated for 6/48 hours and his 67 QSOs scored 3,384 points.  He was placed 33/56 in the 160M low power category.

A writeup and photos of the whole contest can be found here 


Wythall Radio Club members’ virtual visits

May 22, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Wythall Radio Club members spent their Tuesday evening on-line visiting each others’ radio ‘shacks’.

Using Zoom, 6 members provided guided tours of their amateur radio stations and antennas to a wider groups of about 15 members.  

An added high point was a visit to the fridge that Kev 2E0NCO keeps stocked next to his operating position!

The virtual tours were a big boost to those members still in lock-down. 

One member commented afterwards: “Last night was a lot of fun and a big pick me up for those of us imprisoned in our own home.” 

It showed the value of the Club taking part in the RSGB’s ‘get on the air to care’ initiative.


NEW Foundation licence course with on-line study and home exams!

May 18, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club

COVID19 results in On-line Foundation course, with remotely invigilated on-line examination and no Practical Assessment Sessions

Because our Foundation courses, although on-line, require a compulsory Practical Assessments session at the club and an invigilated examination at an approved centre, we have had to suspend our usual training because of the COVD19 lockdown regulations.

However the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) who regulate our training and examinations have decided that, for the duration of the lockdown, Foundation level candidates no longer have to complete the Practical Assessments.

Furthermore they have devised an on-line examinations system with remote invigilation which enables the candidate to take the exam in their own home. This overcomes the lockdown rules on association and distancing as we will have no need to meet with you whilst the lockdown rules are in force.

Therefore Wythall Radio Club have decided to run an on line Foundation course starting in early June and completing at the end of July for candidates who can take the examination on line sometime in August. There is no charge for the course but there will be a limit to how many candidates we can accommodate.

The Foundation course is delivered via a virtual learning experience (VLE) software named EDMODO which is free to use and has gained world-wide acceptance as a safe and easy way for tutors to connect with their students at home via the internet. Basically you sign up for the course and you get notifications via e mail that the course material and quizzes are available for you to download.

This will take place over a 7 week period with two lessons per week in the comfort of your own home and in a time of your choosing. We will deliver all the course material you need to complete the course but you will have to purchase the RSGB book “The Foundation Licence Manual” from the RSGB shop https://www.rsgbshop.org/acatalog/Online_Catalogue_Training_19.html

You will also have to book and pay for your remotely invigilated examination (£27.50) direct with the RSGB but we will advise on how to do this when you register to do the course.

So, if you or someone you know wants to take this unexpected opportunity then contact Chris G0EYO our training co-ordinator on [email protected] as soon as possible as there is not much time before the course commences.

Chris Pettitt G0EYO


How to operate 160 – 10M from a small garden

May 16, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Don’t let a small garden stop you from getting on HF – including 160M! – reports Wythall Radio Club member Chris G0EYO.

End Fed (or long wire) antennas are the most simple antennas an amateur can make for the HF bands. However their simplicity does come with serious compromises when used as a multi-band antenna.

The physical length as measured in wavelengths of the transmitting frequency can result in very high or very low complex impedances at the fed end of the wire, so they need a very good antenna matching unit (AMU) to enable a good match to the transceiver and to deal with the high voltages or current that may exist,

The high currents or voltages at the end of the wire can also result in serious RFI problems for the amateur which are hard to control. This is because a quarter-wavelength in from the far end of an end fed antenna, the current is at maximum and the voltage is at minimum. At a half-wavelength the reverse occurs and so on.

So for a given length of wire and depending upon the band being used a wide range of complex impedances and currents and voltages may appear at the transmitter end of the wire. This is sometimes more than the AMU can handle, both in terms of impedance matching and voltages.

The end fed wire antenna produces quite complex radiation multi-lobe patterns unlike the simple “figure of eight” radiation pattern produced by a dipole. With multi-lobes come deep nulls in certain directions (diagram thanks to VK6YSF).

They also need a counterpoise or earth return to work well and avoid RF getting back into the shack. Ideally these should be about a quarter-wavelength long for each band the antenna is required to be used on.

We can avoid some of these issues if we can avoid wire lengths which are multiples of a quarter-wavelength of the bands being used.

So how long should our end fed wire be? A great deal of work has been done by others on the ideal wire length which avoids very large end impedances for the bands of interest and these can be found courtesy of Google.

My garden allowed an end fed wire length of approximately 25m to be accommodated in an inverted “L” format between a 10ft pole mounted on the side of the garage and a 20ft pole mounted at the bottom of the garden.

Alan Chester G3CCB in his book “ HF Antennas for Everyone” (RSGB) came up with a useful graphic which showed “practical” lengths for end fed wires. This allows you to pick a length and see which bands are will give you a matchable end impedance.

I wanted to work on all bands from 160m to 10m but ideally 80m, 40, 20m 15m and 10m. Alan’s calculations showed that a wire length of 18.5m would give an workable end impedance on 80m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m and 10m with possibly a little more troublesome end impedance on 160m, 40m, and 12m.

To avoid bringing high voltages and currents into the shack the AMU should be mounted outside and the signal fed into the shack via 50 ohms coax. Fortunately I had an SGC 230 Auto AMU that I had installed at my previous house in Hollywood.

The SGC 230 AMU is designed to operate with wire antennas and is configured as an “L” or “Pi” type network controlled by a microprocessor. The initial tuning takes several seconds to determine the transmit frequency and then select the necessary coils and capacitance to match the complex impedance of end fed wire to 50 ohms. These settings are stored in a non-volatile memory so the subsequent retuning of the same antenna on the same frequency only takes a fraction of a second.

The tuner has a ceramic insulated antenna terminal which looks as if it would tolerate quite a few volts, and a threaded nut for a earth counterpoise. It has a flying lead from the AMU with a 50 ohm coax and PL259 connector for the transceiver together with a 5 core cable for +12V DC, earth and “Lock Tune” control line and “Remote Tuner” indicator line.

On my installation I have a small plastic box next to the AMU which is a through line for the coax cable and a terminal block for the DC and control lines.  A 25m length of RG213 goes from the interconnecting box back to the shack in a bedroom at the front of the bungalow. Similarly a CAT5 cable is used to feed the DC and control lines back to a remote indicator and switch box at the operating position. This tells me when the SG230 has achieved a satisfactory match and locked on (and which can be confirmed by the SWR meter).

The SGC230 AMU is in a weather proof plastic box and is mounted under the eaves of my garage. A very short earth counterpoise is connected to the AMU earth terminal using copper braid and fixed to a 1 m earth rod driven into the ground. Overall the earth counterpoise is about 5m long and should probably be longer or with multiple earth rods. Chris G3YHF has suggested I do this modification to see if the efficiency improves. The antenna wire itself is Kevlar strengthened wire which is very strong but also very thin.

The pictures show the installation. I should say at this point that the inspiration to put in this antenna came entirely from Roger M0GWM who in 2019 said it was about time I put up some antennas having lived here for 3 years. Together we came up with the idea of using a long wire. Roger also did all of the installation work including running the coax and control cables around the bungalow just under the eaves.

Not long after the installation was completed, and always being a data mode fan, I got Ian M0LQY to set up FT8 on my computer and transceiver which is controlled by an old version of Ham Radio Deluxe. I limit the power to 30W (effectively carrier power – and probably equivalent to 100W PEP for SSB) and have been very pleased with the results.

Bands 160m, 40m, 20m, 17m 15m and 10m are rock solid. 30m suffers from RFI which upsets the wired mouse on the main PC in the shack and 30m seems to be constantly trying to find a good match. SWR’s achieved on these bands are between 1.15:1 and 1.35:1 which I am very happy with.

Strangely enough I never tried top band on any mode  until Chris G3YHF encouraged me to do so on FT8. I found it fun and challenging so made it my Wythall Radio Club DXCC challenge for 2020 (55 countries on 160M at time of writing). Chris has a similar set up with slightly longer wire length and bigger earth counterpoise. Analysis of PSK Reporter reports shows he just has the edge on me when it comes to performance, so don’t let a small garden stop you working 160M – 10M!