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Random QRM from the President’s Shack

July 9, 2021

  Sometimes life throws you a lot of curveballs. While we are now slowly coming out of our pandemic haze, I’ve had a lot going on at home and work. Even though I planned on doing a casual Field Day at home, my mother-in-law was readmitted to the hospital Friday night before Field Day. I seriously wondered if I’d get to participate at all.

  Things did work out—mother-in-law was doing OK—and I was able to do Field Day at home part time. I had planned to do all FT8. It took a little while to get the laptop sorted—Windows updates, WSJT-X new version, etc.—I finally got the rig fired up... and got a nice surprise!

  20 meters was jammed, of course. but so was 15 meters! And the bandscope on 10 was filled! WSJT-X includes CAT control of your radio so it’s quite easy to jump bands quickly. I was able to make contacts on those bands with my non-resonant 34-foot vertical with typically 25 watts as shown on my LDG tuner.

  Just for curiosity I tried 6 meters and got another surprise! The band was amazing! I finally discovered why it’s called the “Magic Band.” The noise floor was S1 or less. There were clear, clean FT8 signals everywhere. I worked stations that were as much as -15dB, including contacts in Pennsylvania and Washington!

  And just for giggles I switched to 2 meters. My VHF antenna is an Arrow dual-band J-pole mounted at about 10 feet above ground in the attic. I did a double-take. There were FT8 signals! I made nine 2m FT8 contacts including Canada, 1300 miles away, with a vertically-polarized J-Pole at 25 watts!

  I want to spread my joy with these suggestions. Don’t forget 6 meters! Some of the more common HF rigs also can do 6 meters. If you have a shack-in-a-box that also does VHF/UHF, try 2m FT8! I’m now researching 6m and 2m antennas to enhance my VHF capabilities. There are some easy to build or low-cost 6m and 2m loop antennas that reportedly have great success with FT8.

  In the spirit of our friend Bill Krueger, AE5BK/SK, who showed us how cool PSK-31 could be, I am working with Steve Darrah, KD5YPB, to plan a WSJT-X/FT8 workshop at a future radio Play Day.

  Ham Radio gave me a much-needed happy break from my curveball-filled life. So, crank up your rig on a band you don’t try often. You might catch some joy!

  73 David K5GIL

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