Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Across the pond mobile

With rain being forecast for the rest of the week I thought I would take the opportunity to make a few more mobile contacts. Before I did I decided to make a modification to the antenna that I hoped might improve the SWR of the MP-1 on the magnetic mount.

The Moonraker 7in. Turbo mag mount is not, in fact, a 7in. diameter magnet. It is more like a 5in. diameter magnet inside a steel case shaped like an upside down dinner plate with a 7in overall diameter. The magnet is not a tight fit inside the recess of the plate, so by drilling close to the flange I was able to make a hole without drilling into the magnet, to which I attached a terminal for one of those push-on electrical connectors. This could be used to attach a wire to ground the antenna to the car body. But as I hadn't found a suitable grounding point I decided instead to make up a set of quarter wave counterpoises for 10m, 15m and 20m which I attached to a mating connector.

This time I thought I would drive to the coast to see whether being close to the sea would help me work across to North America. I parked beside the road half way between Maryport and Allonby, looking across the Solway estuary to the Scottish mountains in the distance. It was a sunny afternoon, the sky was blue and the sun glittered off the sea. A nice mobile QTH for a spot of operating.

I set up the MP-1 on the magnetic mount and checked the SWR on 20m using the antenna analyzer: it was about 2:1 as it was before. I then connected the counterpoise, expecting the SWR to come down to a 1:1 and was amazed to find it made absolutely no difference. It was as if there was no connection to the counterpoise at all - though I checked, and there was. Possibly the SWR curve changed slightly but the null stayed exactly the same, which was very disappointing.

I switched to 15m, tuned the MP-1 for best SWR and had a listen around. The first contact was with Nick, UY3LA from Lozovaya 150km south of Kharkov in Ukraine. My report from him was 55 to 59. He spoke good English and we had a chat for five minutes. I told Nick that my wife was in Kharkov at this very moment, and he invited us to visit him the next time we are both in Ukraine.

I heard some nice DX including FM5WD, A71CV, XE1HH, VU2JQ and CU2AA. I also heard several Stateside stations but could not get through to any of them. I switched to 17m for a while and made a couple of European contacts with good reports, which surprised me as there was a small hill about 80ft high immediately behind me in the direction of Europe. I'll never understand HF propagation.

I also had an eyeball QSO with a local from Allonby who drove by and saw my antenna. He was a fellow radio enthusiast and wanted to say hello. It turned out the radio he was enthusiastic about was the 11m kind, but he was interested in getting a ham license so I told him to contact the Workington club for more information. He has a better antenna than me - a Sirio vertical up at 20 feet above all the TV antennas. I can just imagine what my neighbours would do if I tried that. That's the trouble with living in a "posh" area.

Eventually I returned to 15m where I could still hear several US stations. I called K1JDL who said "I can hear a mobile in there but I just can't pull you out" and then immediately QSY'd. Then I called Tom W0WP in Iowa who came right back with a report of 57 to 58. We had a really good chat for 15 minutes and Tom said that he "didn't miss a word." He was running 1200W to a TH6DXX so I said he must have a good receiver as my power was 20dB less than his. I thought he would say he was using a K3 but in fact he was using a TS-2000! However he is out in the country in a plot of several acres and the nearest neighbour is a quarter of a mile away so he doesn't suffer from man-made QRN. I can only dream!

Mission accomplished: my first Stateside contact from the mobile and a good solid ragchew to boot. I decided to call it a day and go home for tea.
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