Winter decided to play tricks, and masked himself as Spring, with heights of 16.5° C in the last two days. It was impossible to resist the field call, and so I decided it was the perfect day to walk outside the tactical light backpack that Santa brought for Xmas. J-pole, FT-.290 IIR and some cable were all I stuffed in, and then it was the road.
I reached my usual DX spot on the hills (1271 meters above the sea, loc. JN35pr), where a wood fence is. I did the same set-up of last time up there, when I could easily reach repeaters of Italy’s zone 2 with a mere 5 watts. Quite strangely (but not too much, considering heights defining the horizon are now covered in snow, and this can completely change reflections) this time I couldn’t hear, nor work, any station out of my region.
First rule of a field VHF operation is to avoid getting discouraged, as it can be a question of meters to pass from not heard to receiving far above the noise. And, in fact, it was. With a little deplacement, I was then able to hear (and work, even if not that well) Cinisello Balsamo’s R6 repeater (loc. JN45PM). I tried to contact a friend from Milano, IZ2EAS, but my transit on the repeater wasn’t that solid, so we quickly greeted (but thanks again for your availabiliy, Mike!).
Then, what changed the afternoon was about to happen. The J-Pole, that I had roughly fixed to the fence, standing above a wall, fell below. When I reached it and picked it up (with radio still hooked and on), I realized not only that it’s a real warhorse, as it didn’t break, but also that with the aerial in a horizontal position, signals were better. I tried to fix it again to the fence, but this time not in vertical, but in a sort of “hori-diagonal” bending to the ground (a grass below).
So, along with IX1IIU Maurizio (the one that lights up the radio and receives like living in I2), I went down to the SSB part of the spectrum. A first result was to be heard (bear in mind that the 290 puts out no more than 2,5 watts) by Mauro IW2DZQ in the Milan’s province. His locator is JN45ni, resulting in 148 kilometers of distance from my location. I was already happy, and shot a quick clip of the end of the contact with my mobile.
The best, however, had yet to come. Maurizio (who uses a 17 elements directional) did a quick search of the band, and warned “at 144.315 I have a zone 4 station. Let’s QSY and see”. I was skeptical to even just hear that signal, but when I landed on the frequency, I had it with a RS of 55 (and QSB). Graziano IZ4DIV/4 was in Modena’s province, warming up for the “Romagna Contest”, to be held the following day. I suggested IX1IIU to call, as with a good signal heard, I thought he had good chances to be received.
His high end set-up did the magic, and Graziano acknowledged the call. My first ever VHF reception of an I4 station was happening, and a friend in my area was working it! Enough to push record again on the phone videocamera. Graziano stated his locator as JN54jk, meaning a QRB of 310 kilometers from my location. IX1IIU then had one of those ideas that makes ham radio the best hobby in the world: “I’ve a friend on a hill, who’s QRP with 2 watts, why not trying if you can hear him?”.
I went ahead, and the result at Graziano’s end, much to my surprise, wasn’t just the white noise. He could hear that I was speaking, with poor readibility, but I had a signal getting there. Maurizio suggested to insist, as he felt we could work out the QSO.
IZ4DIV/4 said my signal was getting better, and I realized that, inclining a bit more the J-Pole he was heard stronger. My aerial was probably having the best capture surface for him. The only problem was that I had to keep the antenna with one hand, and the mic with the other, so I left the phone near the radio, filming nothing, but recording audio at least. At 15.57 UTC, Graziano acknowledged positively the report I passed him: 57. At bits, but I was heard! He then asked Maurizio for my call again, but I went ahead instead (I wanted him to copy it from me), and he did a positive readback. The contact took place, and he repeated QSL several times!
I was on cloud nine. Maurizio took back microphone, and warmly thanked IZ4DIV/P for his patience. He explained he did the best effort he could, as he did have no headphones! I went ahed for greetings too, trying to ask Graziano for a report again. He couldn’t understand this time, but it didn’t matter. My 2,5 watts scored my new QRB record!
I rushed to my car (it was getting dark) and mumbled about the lesson of the afternoon. I knew SSB operations mostly happen in horizontal polarization, but never realized that J-pole could be mounted that way!
With that in mind, this morning, I decided to dedicate some time to the “Romagna contest”. I thought to try a “flexible” install, close to my home, that never proved such a good spot for VHF reception. The tripod I normally use to keep the antenna vertical, this time, would work as a sort of “manual rotor and elevator”.
I soon realized that a good number of stations was received (and even with a solid signal) by inclining the J-pole, not keeping it perfectly horizontal. Much to my surprise, some OM could hear me (always with 2,5 watts), and the final log tells of seven QSOs.
TIME CALL LOC. QRB
10.10 IW2NNZ JN45SN 176
10.18 IW2BNA JN45ON 150
11.06 IZ1POA/1/QRP JN45FU 92
11.13 IK2TDK JN45VN 195
13.08 I2SVA JN45NT 142
14.26 IZ1GDZ/1 JN45CD 97
14.38 I2ZSI JN45PO 156
Most amazing contact has to be with IZ1POA/1/QRP. He was using 1 watt and a 13 elements! I don’t know his exact location. Plotting the coordinates from the locator he gave me I obtained this area, which is pretty unusual for my usual “VHF window”. Sure, a QSL to send!
What mostly astonished me, however, was receiving IZ3DRN, from the Vicenza province. Stronger than many I2 stations (the closest ones to me), he was in the Vicenza province, loc. JN55ti. This makes a distance from me of 340 kilometers. The second QRB record of the week-end (this time in reception). Could you resist to film this?
HF are made to go far, and they’re a first love that won’t ever fade away, but in this week-end I got a real VHF crush, and there is enough to become regular of the “Italian Activity Contest”. Stay tuned and, given the recent lack of blog updates, since 2012, may the new year bring you an industrial quantity of DX!
73 de Chris!