5BWAS & 5BDXCC Plaques

Ever since I got my ham radio license, just over 6 years ago, I have been interesting in DXing, contesting, and awards. I started out at the bottom of a solar cycle, which helped me learn how to make contacts under less than ideal conditions. I’m not as much into the competition with other hams, but it’s satisfying to set and achieve my own personal goals. Now that band conditions are starting to become more favorable, I was recently able to achieve two longtime goals, which are the 5 Band Works All States (WAS) and 5 Band DXCC awards.

The last band I needed for both WAS and DXCC was 10 meters. The band conditions improved enough over the past few months to make that possible. I was also able to add endorsements for 30 meters, 17 meters and 12 meters. I still need Alaska and Hawaii for WAS on 6 meters, and Hawaii for WAS on 160 meters. Maybe someday!

I was able to complete the Triple Play WAS award a few years ago.

10M WAS and DXCC, Finally!

The conditions on 10 meters have finally become favorable for me to get enough confirmations to complete WAS and DXCC on that band, and those were also what I needed to complete 5BWAS and 5BDXCC. I received the 5BWAS certificate, and applied for the 5BDXCC certificate. I also have WAS and DXCC on 30M, 17M and 12M. All of these were completed using 100 watts and omnidirectional antennas. The key has been persistence, and some luck to be on the radio when the bands are open.

It’s time for me to get going on 160M and 6M.

New antenna for 10 meters

This afternoon I installed a new antenna for 10 meters. The antenna is a HF-28 Rectangle from PAR Electronics. It’s light (2.5 lbs.) and compact (approximately 8′ X 4′). It was very easy to build and took me about a half hour following the included instructions. I have the antenna mounted on a Max-Gain Systems MK-6 fiberglass push-up mast. The SWR was near perfect right away, but there are instructions included to tune the antenna if necessary. According to the manufacturer, the antenna is not perfectly omni-directional, but it has a pattern that does not require a rotator.

The antenna seems to work very well. The conditions on 10 meters were not great today, but right away I was able to work several FT8 stations on the west coast and in South America. I can’t wait to see how it performs in good band conditions. Hopefully this antenna will help me finally work Alaska on 10 meters to finally complete a 5BWAS and get closer 10 DXCC for 10 meters!

The antenna is mounted on the mast I had previously used for a 6 meter Ringo vertical, which you can see leaning up against the fence.
I still need to do some work on the guy ropes, but the antenna and mast are very sturdy.
I only need 9 more countries for DXCC on 10 meters!

New VUCC and WAS Award Milestones Reached!

Due to work obligations, I haven’t had much time to spend on the radio, or to update this blog. Since my last update, QSOs with several stations have been confirmed in Logbook of the World, allowing me to reach a achieve a couple of new awards.

I recently received a LoTW confirmation for a QSO on 6 meters that took place in July. This confirmation was number 300 on 6 meters, and an endorsement for the 50 MHz VUCC Award.

It took a while, but I finally confirmed 300 grids!
Grids confirmed on 6 meters for N1ADM

Also, on November 28th, I had a FT8 QSO on 12 meters with a station in Alaska, which gave me my 50th state for the Worked All States Award on 12 meters. I still need to work Alaska on 10 meters for a 5 Band WAS, so hopefully the band conditions will continue to improve!

Alaska on 12 meters, finally! Now hoping for 10 meters!
I am getting close to WAS on all HF bands!

New DXCC on 20 Meters – Hong Kong

I haven’t been on the radio much over the past week, but this morning I had some time and found that 20 and 30 meters were open to the Far East. It took a bunch of tries, but I was able to complete a FT8 QSO on 20 meters with VR2XRW in Hong Kong. That’s a new DXCC entity for me, and he confirmed the QSO on Logbook of the World in just a few minutes! The new DXCC entities are becoming fewer and further between, and it’s always special to work a new one!

A few good FT8 and FT4 QSOs on 20 and 30 meters
VR2XRW confirmed our QSO on Logtbook of the World within minutes!
N1ADM’s DXCC Account Status as of August 15th, 2020

6 Meter DXCC progress

I’ve mostly been focused on collecting new grids on 6 meters for the VUCC Award, but I’ve also managed to add a few new countries toward a 6 meter DXCC Award. I started this season with only two countries (USA and Canada) confirmed. I am now up to 26. While that’s only 26% of the 100 countries needed for the award, I am happy with the progress. It’s not bad considering that I am working with low power and an omni-directional antenna.

I’m most proud of the QSOs with JA0RUG in Japan (6,866 miles) on June 3rd and TF8KY in Iceland (3,262 miles) on June 20th.

My First VUCC 50 MHz Award Certificate Arrived

In yesterday’s mail, I received my first VUCC 50 MHz Award certificate. The award is for confirmed contacts with 100 stations in different Maidenhead grid squares. There are endorsements for every additional new 25 grid squares. When I applied for the award, I had 127 confirmed grids, so the endorsement sticker at the top left of the certificate is for reaching 125 confirmed grids.

Since applying for the award, I have confirmed 115 additional grids for a total of 242, so I need 8 more confirmed to reach 250. Once I get those, I’ll apply for 150, 175, 200, 225 and 250 endorsement stickers for the certificate.

I’m hooked on 6 meters!

I’ve had my ham radio license since 2016, but I haven’t made any serious effort on 6 meters until this year. That’s mostly because I did not have an antenna for the band. I was sometimes able to get my tuner to begrudgingly match my end-fed wire antenna or Eagle One vertical, and was able to make just a few phone contacts during band openings in years past.

I have a Cushcraft AR-6 Ringo vertical and a Max-Gain Systems 38-foot fiberglass push-up mast that I had intended to use to talk on our local 6m repeater. I decided to tune it for the low end of the band to see if I could use it for FT8 contacts on 6m. That was a bit tricky, but with some trial and error I finally got it down to 1.5:1. I have an Elecraft KPA500 amp, but due to my uncertainty about the antenna I have not used it, and I run 80-90 watts out of an IC-7610.

On April 5th, I had my first 6m FT8 QSO with a local station. The vertical antenna works fairly well for Sporadic-E propagation to distant stations, but it’s not great for working closer stations with horizontally polarized antennas via ground wave or tropospheric propagation in nearby grids.

AR-6 Ringo on a fiberglass push-up mast. The mast is attached to the corner fence post with heavy-duty zip-ties.
Looking up at the AR-6 from the base of the push-up mast.

On April 10th, I had my first 6m DX QSOs with stations in Belize and Mexico. Over the next several days, there were some more band openings, and I was able to make lots of QSOs across the continental U.S., as well as in South America and the Caribbean. I wasn’t as focused on grids as I was states for WAS and countries for DXCC. I noticed in early May that I was starting to get close to 100 grids, so I started a more serious effort. On May 11th, I reached 100 confirmed grids for 6m, and applied for my first VUCC award.

I had enough grids confirmed on May 11th to apply for my first VUCC award!

There were even better 6m openings in May, and a few times I saw on PSKReporter that my signal was being received in the Azores and Spain. On May 26th, I completed my first trans-Atlantic 6m QSOs with two stations in Spain. Good conditions continued through the month, allowing me to confirm more grids.

My signal was received in the Azores and Spain on May 11th, but I wasn’t able to complete a QSO.
PSKReporter map of an excellent 6m band opening on May 30th.

Band conditions have improved even more in June. On June 3rd, I decoded several stations from Japan during a brief but strong multi-hop Sporadic E opening across the Pacific. I saw the big gun U.S. stations working them, but figured there was no way my low-power station would reach Japan. Much to my surprise, JA0RUG returned my call and we completed the QSO! Just moments later, the JA stations faded out. That was some lucky timing for me. Magic band indeed!

On June 9th, I reached 200 grids confirmed in LoTW for 6m. I’ve continued to add some grids, states and DX since then. As of June 12th, I have confirmed 24 countries, 46 states, and 216 grids. No records are being broken, as these statistics are nothing compared to more capable 6m stations, but I’ve had fun and learned a lot about low VHF band propagation while working 6 meters this season!

By June 9th, I had 200 grids confirmed in LoTW for 6m!

So far this season, I have used FT8 exclusively, but I am planning to start using CW as well. I am hooked, and planning to improve my station for the remainder of this Sporadic E season and future seasons.

The main point of this post is that, even with a very modest station, you can enjoy some great success on 6 meters. The key is to be at the radio when the band opens. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll give it a try!

This is a Gridmaster map with my confirmed grids in the lower 48 states for 50 MHz VUCC. There are still lots of them left to work!
A map showing my 6M QSOs as of June 12th, 2020

Here’s the equipment and resources I am using to operate on 6 meters:

Radio: Icom IC-761o
Tuner: LDG AT-1000ProII
Antenna: Cushcraft AR-6 Ringo
Software (Windows 10): WSJT-X v2.2.0, JTAlert v. 2.16.7, GridMaster Map v2.3
Web pages: Logbook of the World, PSKReporter, DXMaps

I ordered and I am anxiously awaiting to receive a PAR Electronics SM-50 Stressed Moxon Antenna. I anticipate a much better SWR match with that antenna, and will probably start using the amplifier when chasing DX.