wythall radio club

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Chasing TZ4AM in Mali on 6 meters

June 26, 2021 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

Recent openings on 6 meters have kept Lee G0MTN busy. Here’s his story of trying to get that elusive QSO with Jeff TZ4AM…
I’m still keeping focus on 50 MHz, and reached my all-time 100 DXCC target last week.  A special event from Guadeloupe popped up and has been active late evenings. 
The summer solstice appeared to provide a path north to Svalbard and JW7QIA, and the Finn’s OJ0C expedition to Market Reef – the little island with a lighthouse near Aland Islands – gave me the needed numbers.
One I have been chasing for weeks is Jeff TZ4AM in Mali. Primary Image for TZ4AM
He is on the ON4KST chat, and often announces he is beaming north and calling for Europe on FT8 or CW.  And I imagine dozens of antennas then simultaneously beam south and everyone listens expectantly
But time and time again there is no path between us. 
Except occasionally there is.  But it’s not strong enough here with me.  Or I only catch up after the fact.  Leaving FT8 running gives you cold hard evidence of just who you missed and how strong their signals were.
Then last week the stars aligned.  Conditions were incredibly good.  FT8 signals rose to +15 – good enough for SSB, let alone CW.
There was a pipeline to the UK.  Lots of well known calls go through.  It becomes a lottery then for who gets picked. 
Some FT8 software will not pick your call if you are too strong.  Then you worry you are transmitting on the same frequency as someone else, perhaps someone in your skip that you can’t hear.  You look at the geography of who is going through – stations to the north and south, so you should be in a good position.
Geoff G4FKA in Bath gets his contact with TZ4AM and he’s using a wire dipole – I use a 6 element beam (photo).  The signals remain extremely strong.
Then I’m called!!!  I reply, but rather than the RR73 message confirming the end of the contact, I’m asked to repeat my report.  Jeff has high local noise, and the path appears to be failing.  It does fail and the contact does not complete. 
So close…. literally 30 seconds too late.  Aarrghh!!
There was no repeat of the same conditions when both Jeff and I were on….  until last Sunday, when I was out for Father’s Day with the family.
I popped into the shack to check on things, and found the tail end of another good opening.  So good in fact conditions had opened up to reach Andy 5Z4VJ in Kenya.
I found Jeff on FT8 and called.  Something was wrong.  I’d left the speech processor running and changed the drive levels after playing in the 50 MHz Trophy contest on SSB and CW earlier.  Argh again!!  Fixed that, but Jeff had gone.
I saw on the ON4KST chat he was trying CW, working split +1.  I spun the dial and heard Jeff through the noise.
When beaming to Africa I have to beam over a neighbour’s property, and something in their house produces QRM periodically.  I put my call in a few times.  Not ideal, the mast was wound all the way down after being out, and the hills to the south are much taller than the current height of the antenna.
But then, I heard my own call, sent a 539 reply, and (I think!) the QSO was complete!  Later I did have a quick chat with Jeff online and he thanked me for the QSO, which was a great reassurance.  It had been quite a memorable chase over many weeks. 
Soon after, Mike G4VPD – another Wythall club member – also made contact with Jeff TZ4AM on 6 meters CW.
Now to see if the path to Kenya will return….