Wednesday, May 23, 2018

NIL, Again: Contests and DXing

Getting a NIL (not in log) penalty in a contest can be exasperating. It's one of those things that cannot be entirely eliminated since it is mostly dependent on the other end of the QSO. As I perused the final LCR (log check report) from the CQ WW CW contest last fall I felt some frustration since I thought that I'd been making progress reducing these errors.

Consider the ways in which a NIL can occur and you'll understand the difficulty avoiding them:
  • The QSO was logged with your call incorrect and the log checker software failed to match the erroneous record with that in your log. Software isn't perfect so this will happen. There is little you can do about it other than to be certain the other station has your call correct.
  • You are running on the same frequency as someone else who you cannot hear and you think you have worked someone who instead worked the other station. Yes, this really happens and you may not notice what's going on for several minutes. All you can do is QSY and hope for the best.
  • User error results in your QSO not being entered into the other station's log. Every contester makes mistakes so this will happen occasionally. I know I've done it myself and unless caught instantly there is no recovery possible, and indeed you may be unaware of the mistake.
  • The other station gives up on you because you're too difficult to copy -- happens a lot when you run QRP -- but instead of telling you sends "TU XX9YYY" and continues onward. You think the QSO is good and log it. In my opinion this is unsportsmanlike behaviour.
When you make thousands of QSOs in a contest you should expect a number of NIL penalties. While it is possible to reduce their number with care if you want to get to zero you will also need very good luck! As one contest director once told me: don't worry about it too much, it happens to everyone. Yet it still bothers me.

I was surprised to find that I could remember a few of those NILs in this most recent LCR. A couple of them I was sure were good. But as noted above the log checker may have gotten it wrong. Although I didn't bother this time a couple of years ago the CQ WW contest director at the time suggested looking in the public logs for these NILs. It was both enlightening and perplexing. By comparing logs you can sometimes see where the software may have mismatched records but you can not see into the other operator's mind if your QSO is absent.

Learn what you can, do your best to ensure your future logs are accurate and hope for the best. Since many of your competitors are seeing similar penalties the score reduction is only a problem if you are especially negligent, in which case their lower error rate will hurt you. Perfection may be impossible but you will surely not attain it if you don't try. Accurate logging is a valuable skill for contesters to practice. I can do better.

But what if you're not a contester? Are you a DXer? The possibility of NIL still applies to you. Let's examine this with a real situation I encountered, but without revealing call signs.

A few weeks ago there was a DXpedition from a moderately rare country, one I've worked many times before. When they showed up on 40 meter CW I jumped in if only to practice my pile up skills.

After just one minute I got through -- having a yagi up high helps! The band was noisy here and presumably there as well (warm weather in both places) with the usual QRM from poor operators who keep calling regardless of the station being answered. As a result he took a few tries to correctly copy my call. Then without having ever sent my correct call (one letter was wrong) he sent "TU UP" and moved on to the next QSO.

I may have been in their log with my call correct, my call incorrect or perhaps he gave up and erased the QSO. There was no way for me to be sure. What would you do in this case? In a contest I would most likely have logged the QSO, risking a NIL, and perhaps duped him later if it was a needed multiplier.

However this was not a contest. If you are a DXer you'll have been in this situation many times and faced the question of whether to log the QSO. From my experience I know that many would log the QSO and either hope for the best or check the DXpedition's online log and try again if the QSO doesn't appear.

What would you do? Be honest. Think about it for a moment before you continue reading to discover what I did.

I erased the QSO from my log. To me that was the ethical choice since I did not hear him send my call correctly. In effect I assumed NIL or copying error, making the QSO invalid. Had this been a new country or band-country I admit I would have been tempted to log it and hope. When I hit "delete" I was motivated by the disgust I felt at the poor operating practice that left me in doubt.

A day or two later I was talking to a friend who congratulated me on working this station on 40 meters -- we tend to check up on each other in DXpedition online logs so that we know when to call each other when we hear them on. I had to tell him that, no, I didn't log the QSO and proceeded to explain why. He had a good chuckle over that one.

All of this leaves us with an ethical viewpoint on the NIL problem. During contests we expect to hear our call correctly before logging the QSO, although some don't care because it's the other guy's score that will suffer, not theirs. Indeed when you're running it is common for callers to never send your call so you can never know if you're in their log or logged incorrectly. Some always send the running station's call to remove doubt, which annoys some operators due to the two seconds it consumes.

For DXing both stations do try to ensure correct copying of our call since the penalty for a NIL is arguably greater for the rare ones. We all notice the sloppy DXpedition operators who do not strive for accuracy, leaving us in doubt and annoyed. We also notice the sloppy callers who pay little attention to whether their call is being correctly sent in their enthusiasm to work the DX.

In DXing as in contesting it pays to be accurate and to confirm or correct what has been copied.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Radials: Resonant to Non-resonant

We all know -- or should know by now -- that for ground-mounted vertical antennas the more radials the better. Specifically, more and longer radials reduce the near field ground losses by confining antenna return currents to the highly-conductive radials rather than the lossy ground below. That is, a good radial system forms a low loss ground plane.

This is highly desirable since ground loss can be substantial. This is a shame since vertical antennas can be excellent radiators at the low elevation angles needed for effective DXing on the lower HF bands which is difficult to achieve with horizontally polarized antennas. A lot of wire and ground area is required to construct a good radial system which is impractical for most hams, and so they must compromise. That compromise may be short radials, few radials or avoid vertical antennas entirely.

But for this exercise let's assume you are building a ground-mounted vertical and radial system. I'll do this for 80 meters since that's the antenna currently of interest to me. The data can be scaled to other bands if that's your interest. I will further assume that you are comfortable with the data and theory regarding near field and far field ground loss associated with verticals and vertically polarized antennas. If not there are ample and excellent resources available to you. Perhaps some of the best can be found on N6LF's web site and in ON4UN's book Low-Band Dxing. I addressed a few of these elementary items in my own small way, such as here and here.

In this article I want to focus on the effect of radials on the resonance of a ground-mounted vertical. The reason is that I am currently dealing with this issue and I have not found any easily digestible material out there that describes just what happens. In particular what it means when we say that radials tend to "resonant" when there are few and "non-resonant" when there are many.

Developing a model

Modelling a ground-mounted vertical with the NEC2 engine has drawbacks. In case this is unfamiliar to you here are some of the issues to be aware of:
  • Even with the real ground models used in EZNEC there are ground loss and velocity factor inaccuracies with on-ground radials. As the radial count increases the effects will diminish but are still difficult to quantify.
  • Ground is not homogeneous yet the model must assume that it is. At low frequencies the antennas fields can penetrate many meters into the ground, so what you can't see can hurt you.
  • Radials cannot touch the ground or be placed below the surface. They must be placed a small distance above ground for the model to work, which contribute to inaccurate calculation of ground loss and radial velocity factor.
  • Monopoles constructed with an open lattice tower cannot be directly modelled and must rely on a substitute "effective diameter". Determining the effective diameter is difficult and is more difficult yet for tapered towers, such as the one I am using in my 80 meter array, where a stepped diameter correction is impractical. It almost inevitably requires post-construction measurements and adjustments to the height to achieve the desired resonance.
  • The feed point of a real tower vertical is located within the tower base. Since the model can't deal with that there will a difference in effective lengths of the radials and monopole.
Despite these challenges a NEC2 model will still deliver excellent insights into vertical antenna design when developed with care. Although there will certainly be inaccuracies in the results the general trends and behaviours can be correct and useful.

For my model I am using the following parameters. You can adjust these as necessary to suit your own requirements for design and construction. Better yet, if you can afford it, use NEC4.
  • Monopole height of 19.9 meters and effective monopole diameter of 50 cm (20").
  • AWG 18 insulated wire for radials.
  • Radials and monopole raised 10 cm (0.0012λ) above EZNEC medium ground.
  • Segment length of ~1.0 meters. It is desirable to equalize the segment length of radials and monopole for model reliability.

Running the model

The model was run for a range of lengths and numbers of radials. The data collected is resonant frequency (X = 0) and feed point resistance at the resonant frequency. Radial length is varied from 10 through 25 meters, which covers lengths that are both above and below the resonant frequency. Radial counts are: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64. Doubling radials at each step is most illustrative since the effects are not proportional to the number of radials.

The only quirk I encountered was with 64 × 25 meter long radials which exceeded the1,500 segment limit in my version of EZNEC. For that one case I was compelled to use just 58 radials.

In the left chart the transition from resonance to non-resonance is plainly obvious for all radial lengths as the radial count increases. Notice how in all cases the resonant frequency regardless of whether the radials are shorter or longer than resonance. However the greater the radial length departs from resonance the more radials it takes to converge to the ultimate resonance that is approximately 3.680 MHz.

I added the 18 meter length radial data since that is the closest integral value that keeps the antenna resonance static with respect to radial count. The true value is closer to 17.5 meters, which would have required violating my rule of keeping segment length constant at 1 meter.

The implied velocity factor for the radials due to ground proximity is ~0.89 plus a further 0.02 reduction due to wire insulation. The true velocity factor is almost certainly lower when radials rest on or slightly below ground. As discussed above this cannot be fully modelled with NEC2. Expect the measured velocity factor be no higher than 0.75: radials resonant at 15 meters length or less.

The story for feed point impedance is more complicated. N6LF addresses this matter in detail so I will not delve into the topic too deeply. High feed point resistance is a indicator of excessive ground loss, which is not surprising to see for short radials even when there are many of them. Many radials can only partially compensate for short length.

For long radials the lower feed point resistance is not a reliable indication of lower radiation resistance or ground loss. As N6LF demonstrates the current peak moves outward from the feed point when the electrical length of the radial is greater than ¼λ which changes the character of the entire antenna.

By expecting a final feed point impedance for your vertical antenna or array you will be better equipped to plan ahead for a matching network, rather than merely hoping for a perfect match or stopping when one is reached despite it being a symptom of high ground loss or less than optimal radial currents. Requiring an L-network for a vertical network should be seen as a nice problem to have.

What does it all mean?

When your chosen radial length is substantially unequal to a ¼λ you should expect unusual resonant frequencies when you first attach a few radials and then large changes as you add more. Forearmed is forewarned so the charts above can help you to anticipate and to avoid surprises. Certainly this happened when I first lit up my 80 meter vertical a few days ago!

Had I chose shorter radials the effect could have been the opposite of what I measured, with resonance occurring above my design frequency and then falling lower as radials are added. To give a more concrete example, when I attached a long on-the-ground length of RG213 back to the antenna switch the resonance shifted upward to 3.5 MHz from 3.4 MHz. With only 4 radials the outer surface of the coax acts as a unreasonably long fifth radial and that disturbs the symmetry of the other 4. This resonance effect would largely disappear with a radial count of 16 or higher. However this is distinct from common mode current on the coax surface, a separate though related problem.

It was these experiences that motivated me to run the models and write this article. Nowhere that I could find was there a quantitative or visual presentation of the precise migration of vertical resonance with radial length and count. My thought is that if these models are helpful to me it may be helpful to you for the design of vertical antennas and the gradual deployment of radials. I certainly won't wait until there are 64 radials before I try an antenna. I doubt that any ham would!

Rely on those referenced resources and others to plan your vertical antennas to achieve the optimum number and length of radials for your individual circumstances and performance objectives. Models will help as well, provided that you take account of modelling software constraints and limitations. It is my hope with this article that I've provided one point of insight into the process.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

80 Meter Array: Driven Element Construction

I am building the 3-element 80 meter vertical yagi in stages. The first stage is the driven element, the greatest part of which is a ground isolated tower. This is the very same DMX-52 tower and floating base that I used at my previous QTH to support a tri-band yagi, wires and was fed as an 80 meter top loaded vertical (yagi as top hat capacitor).

Since the tower is ~14 meters a stinger is needed to take the antenna to a full λ/4 on 80 meters (~19.7 meters in my case). The stinger is made of aluminum pipe and tubing with the structural strength to support the wire parasitic elements. To maximize the vertical height of the wire parasites (for best performance) I added one meter of PVC pipe on top. Anything longer would become unwieldy and less robust. I want this antenna to last.

Construction, tuning and testing of the array is a large enough project that one article would be impractical so it will spread over several. Even if this array is of no interest there should be aspects of interest to any ham with an interest in building antennas and towers. If nothing else this first article may be of interest to those putting up small towers and low band ground-mounted verticals.

Tower base

My first task was to choose a site. After various considerations it ended up very close to where it was in my original site plan. The location has these attributes:
  • Well spaced from power lines (50 m), Beverage antenna field (30 m) and existing towers (60m and 70 m), while not being too far from the shack (60 m). My major concern is interactions in a couple of directions. From what I have read and from other hams with similar issues I expect my choice to work pretty well, with no enhanced minor lobes (F/B, F/R) and gain to the southeast reduced well below 1 db.
  • Minimized impact on haying. Radials and support ropes preclude farm equipment and could take ~1 acres out of production. By moving closer to the tree line the radial system overlaps the perimeter bush, thus reducing tillable land impact by ~15%.
  • Ease of access for mowing and other regular maintenance.
I staked the site to place the base, parasites, anchors and radial system perimeter, then got my shovel to plant and level the floating tower base. This was the easy part. When the guy anchors went in a problem appeared (see next section). That's why I didn't proceed with the project over the winter. I did stand the first two sections (16') and tie them down so they wouldn't be buried under the snow and ice.

When the snow melted I resumed work on the base. I used a similar method as before for sitting the tower legs on the wood base but took additional step to ensure good RF isolation from ground. A thick plastic block is placed under each leg and bolted to the base. This first requires accurate siting to the guy anchors. Not visible is a ½" length of rubber tube that pierces the plastic block and L-bracket. A rubber grommet sits atop that and a screw lightly holds it all down.

The base does not prevent the tower from overturning; that's the job of the guys. The rubber allows a small amount of rocking in high winds, prevents lateral motion and electrically isolates the tower (driven element) from ground. The driven element will be directly fed between radials and tower.

Raising and guying the tower

As I've mentioned a couple of times I ran into an apparent problem with the ground anchors late last fall and decided to be prudent and stop construction until I could address the problem in the spring. That time has come, adjustments were made and construction resumed. I'll review the problem and how I decided to proceed.

Since the load on the tower and antenna array is modest I decided to use ordinary augur-style anchors. These have a bevelled blade at the bottom that acts as both a bit and as a load bearing surface. It is best to screw them in with a augur attachment on a tractor but it is possible to do it by hand with some effort. I don't have a tractor and it seemed excessive to rent one or cajole a neighbour to help so I did it by hand.

I don't include a picture of the anchors since I neglected to take one before burying them. For a ham relevant discussion of screw anchors, and pictures, I'll refer you to W8JI. The only difference is that mine are much shorter at 3' (~90 cm) long, common in farm country to anchor fence lines. That page has related information I'll come to shortly.

After carefully siting the anchors so that they are precisely 120° apart and 12 meters from the base of the 14 meter tower I broke the surface sod with a shovel. Other than hitting rock the surface is the most difficult to penetrate since vegetation roots in soil form a surprisingly solid mass. If done carefully the sod can be put back once the anchor is in place.

The tools required are quite simple: shovel, steel bar and a sledgehammer. The steel bar should be long enough for turning torque and to push down against but not so long that it hits the ground every half turn. I used my old trusty 1" cold chisel.

Quite a lot of force may be required depending on the soil type. Even if the soil is not hard you must still press down hard as the screw is turned or the soil will be ground up and weakened until time eventually heals the wound. Minimizing soil disturbance is perhaps the most important reason to use a power augur to drive in screw anchors. When a stone interfered with progress a judicious tap of the sledgehammer on the anchor pushed it aside just enough to screw past it.

Overly disturbed soil is what stopped me in the fall. Two of the anchors had 1" to 2" freedom of axial movement in the waterlogged soil after being screwed in. Since I couldn't tell whether this was temporary or my 3' anchors aren't long enough for the soil type I elected to wait until spring to decide whether to fit the anchors in concrete to form a larger soil bearing surface.

Once the ground frost was sufficiently thawed (tested with a soil probe) I tested the anchors and none moved under load. However I partially unscrewed and redid one that I had put in at too shallow an angle. I was aiming for ~45° since the guy station is up the same distance the anchor is from the base: ~12 meters.

Newly confident that the anchors would hold I manually stood the two pre-assembled bottom sections, completed the base (see above) and temporarily guyed the tower with ropes and turnbuckles. When I reached 4 sections (~31') I attached temporary steel guys and one-by-one shifted the load from the ropes to the steel guys. I did this by loosening the turnbuckle, slipping on the steel guy over the open hook termination of the turnbuckle screw, tightened the turnbuckle and finally removed the rope.

Do this methodically or you risk the tower toppling. It only takes a few minutes so don't become careless from impatience. The picture shows the final rope guy about to be replaced. For additional safety I placed a ~100 lb stone on a lumber cradle sitting over the bottom X-braces of the tower.

Sections went up very quickly using the same gin pole used before for this tower. Since the original aluminum angle was claimed by another project I replaced it with steel angle stock from my junk pile. The gin pole worked well despite its limitations.

There was a two week delay topping the tower due to a series of late spring snow and ice storms, the need to keep the top section at hand for constructing the stinger, and to recover from a wisdom tooth extraction. It was very frustrating. When work could resume I raised the top section with stinger attached, retracted into the section so that it was not too top heavy for lifting and splicing. Lifting and inserting the stringer separately would have been awkward and potentially dangerous due to it length.

Topped; still nested & temp guys
The stinger is made of a 7' length of schedule 40 1-½" aluminum pipe (1.9" OD, 1.61" ID) and two 7' lengths of 1.5" OD tube. The pipe and bottom tube were made snug with a wrap of aluminum flashing and secured with stainless steel bolts. A short length of PVC pipe wrapped in flashing made up a butt joint which was secured with bolts. Electrical continuity is protected by coating aluminum surfaces with a thin layer of aluminum grease (Noalox brand, but there are many others on the market).

About 1 meter of PVC pipe at the top supports a guy ring and rope catenaries for the wire parasitic elements. The ropes must be attached at this time since the top of the stinger is out of reach once it and the top tower section are raised. The ropes are lightly tied to the top section until the wire elements are installed later.

Raising the top section complete with nested stinger was more of a problem than expected. It's slightly top heavy and the improvised gin pole couldn't grab it any higher. Tag lines were used to direct it around the temporary guys and then to pull it roughly vertical so that it could be spliced. Despite all the problems the entire operation took only 2 hours.

With everything up the permanent steel guys are attached and the temporary guys removed. The guys are a combination of ⅛" and 3/16" aircraft cable salvaged from their first use on this tower. The top segment is kept very short to minimize capacitive loading. The other segments are non-resonant on 80 meters and have negligible loaded per my EZNEC model.

I originally intended to guy with the black dacron rope I bought for this purpose. Instead I went with steel to reduce deflection of the structure in high winds which could stress the base and parasitic element wires. The rope will go to one of a couple of projects tentatively planned for the future.

The tower feels very solid and survived 90 kph wind when held with the second set of temporary guys at 40'. Even the unrestrained stinger did fine. I don't anticipate a problem when complete. The anchors and guys will be regularly checked for the next few months to ensure that the anchors are not shifting, especially after heavy rainfalls which can partially liquefy the topsoil.


The radials are attached using a similar arrangement to the one I improvised for the 160 meter t-top vertical. It worked so well and is inexpensive and easy to use I couldn't resist. We'll have to see how it survives in practice.

The attachment pillar is a 3-½" plastic coupler friction fit over several screws driven into the floating base. An all stainless steel (the band and the screw) hose clamp secures the radial wires and the wire to the feed point. Gripping the copper conductors between an insulator and stainless steel greatly reduces the risk of galvanic corrosion. The large diameter pillar is helpful when the radial count is high and it minimizes the deflection when a radial has to be routed around a tower leg.

To attach a radial you simply strip 1" of wire, slightly loosen the hose clamp, slip in the wire and fold it over the band. Tighten the hose clamp and it's done! For the initial test (first light) there are 4 x 20 meter long radials. All radials are AWG 18 solid insulated wire. The price is reasonable and is more than adequate for QRO when many radials split the antenna current.

First light

As first tested with my analyzer the resonance was not as expected. Resonance is almost exactly 3.4 MHz with an impedance of 50 + j0 Ω, well below the expected resonant frequency of 3.9 to 4.0 MHz with the stinger partly nested inside the top section. (If you expand the photo above you should be able to see the SWR curve on the analyzer screen, which is centred at 3.4 MHz.)

This appears to be due to the small number of long radials currently installed and perhaps I did not properly account for the tower diameter in the model. Once the situation has been fully investigated remedial measures will be taken. The impact of the former item per EZNEC is to lower the resonant frequency by 100 to 125 kHz since the on-ground radials are longer than an electrical ¼λ and, due to the low count, greatly affect resonance

Although the SWR of 1.0 looks very nice it is not. Recall that the radiation resistance of a ground mounted ¼λ vertical is typically 35 to 37 Ω, and can be lower for a "fat" monopole such as mine. The ground loss, which is in series with the radiation resistance, is therefore approximately 15 Ω. That's quite high although entirely typical for the small number of radials currently installed. As radials are added the feed point resistance will fall.

My objective is no more than 5 Ω so that ground loss is a minor factor when the array is in full operation as a 3-element yagi, whose radiation resistance is much lower than a vertical alone. This is modelled and explained in more detail in the antenna design article.

About that stinger

The final stinger height must be firmly determined before the parasitic wire elements are designed and installed since the resulting geometry determines the structure of the t-top parasitic wire elements: lengths of the vertical leg and t-top. There are also mechanical considerations I must deal with.

The driven element does not absolutely need to be resonant. The feed point resistance will be low enough when all the radials are in place that an L-network may be desirable to lower the SWR when used in the array's omni-directional mode. Provided that the resonant frequency is roughly in band that will ensure sufficient mutual coupling with the parasitic elements for the array to perform as intended.

The final call on stinger height will come after initial testing and a little bit of modelling to verify adjustments to the design. 

Getting from here to there

With the basics done I have run coax to the the antenna so to compare the vertical to the temporary inverted vee up at 32 meters. I will write up the comparison for the blog. The comparison will help to establish baseline performance to a known antenna. Once that's done the inverted vee comes down to get it out of the field for haying season. I will almost certainly put it up again to work nearby US stations in contests, with height and location to be determined.

The permanent feed point will be constructed, the stinger redone and L-network designed. Tuning requires completion of the feed point since the temporary setup will certainly have different wire lengths from the coax termination to the radial hub and to the tower (monopole). At least 16 radials will be required to erase most of the resonance-influencing effects of the radials. Again, I'll delve into this in a coming article.

With all that out of the way the parasitic elements will be hung off the driven element stinger, tuned and radials laid. As you can see there is a logical sequence of steps to go through when building an array of this nature.

Before the switching system is fully deployed I may temporarily wire it as a fixed yagi to assess performance. I will then need to complete and deploy the direction switching system, switchable L-network and switching units for the parasitic elements. All of this is straightforward but time consuming.

Unless other projects deflect my attention over the next few months the array could be substantially complete this spring. The final objective is that it be complete in time for the fall contest and DX season. That's when I find out for sure how well it performs. Either way it is going to be interesting!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Rolling Up the Radials -- My 160 Meter Season

My 160 meter season is now at an end. The radials and coax have been rolled up and put away for at least the summer. The t-top vertical antenna itself will remain in the air for a few days until I have an opportunity to climb the tower. That'll be a multi-purpose trip since I do not like to climb 150' merely to untie a rope!

As you can see in the picture there's a lot of wire involved. That's 240 meters (8 x 30 meters) of AWG 18 insulated wire. If that seems like a large amount consider that I just picked up my order of another 1,000 meters of wire to make the radials for the 80 meter array I'm currently building. With the strength of the US dollar and the overall rise in metals prices I paid 10% more than I did 6 months ago.

When I opened the box housing the L-network all was perfectly clean and dry inside. The disk ceramic capacitor in the L-network looked good despite putting up with several months of 200 watts. I was also pleased to find that the galvanized framing nails I used to pin the far end of the radials did not rust through from spending a wet winter and spring buried in the soil.

In short, nothing went wrong. That kind of luck doesn't happen often enough. That's pretty good for a temporary antenna.

Why now?

With the hay beginning to grow and the rapidly increasing risk of ticks this is a good time to remove the antenna. Warm weather QRN is making DXing quite difficult and in any case there has been a sharp reduction in activity on top band over the past several weeks. I know that this tends to annoy our neighbours in the southern hemisphere since there is less DX for them to chase. You can't please everyone.

Unfortunately I will not have a 160 meter antenna for the CQ WPX CW contest coming up in a few weeks. I can live with that since CQ WPX is not my favourite contest and I have other priorities now that mild spring weather has arrived.


One of my operating objectives for this season was to achieve DXCC on top band. I didn't make it although I came close. My country count rose from 32 to 96 with 79 confirmed on LoTW. That's not too bad for a one season effort with a maximum of 200 watts (100 or 150 watts in most contests). I worked a surprising amount of DX using QRP, especially in the Stew Perry Top Band Challenge. The antenna obviously works.

I would have easily exceeded 100 countries had I been running a kilowatt. Many countries were nearly worked when the DX operator could not pull through my complete call, or I could not compete in the bigger pile ups. I'm okay with that. I enjoy the challenge of chasing DX on 160 meters with less than the legal limit, so some are destined to get away. If it were easy it would be less interesting and I would have less incentive to design and put up better antennas. For casual DXing the antenna is competitive, perhaps because most hams operate top band with compromise antennas.

I have little doubt I'll reach the DXCC threshold this fall soon after I have an antenna up again. Truth is that even with the power I have I could now be over 100 had I put in more effort. DXCC was a goal not an obsession.


Apart for general DXing I desperately needed more firepower on top band to add multipliers and contacts to boost my score potential. Having worked several major contests, and a few small ones, I can absolutely declare success. Although I am not in the same league as the big guns I compare very well to others in this part of North America who are in the same power category.

My one Beverage to the northeast did marvelously well towards Europe. This was especially evident after their local sunrise when they could hear my low power signal better (lower atmospheric QRN) and I could hear their attenuated signals just riding above the noise level. Switching to the transmit antenna I could not hear most of them at all. Many multipliers entered the log that way.

The lack of receiving antennas for the other directions is a problem. I failed to make sufficient progress on this item which I'd planned to do over the winter. I have most of the material needed, locations have been surveyed and marked but I ran into delays designing and building a custom remote switching system for a collection of unidirectional and reversible Beverages.

Poor listening ability in most directions hurt a little but not as much as expected. I don't believe I lost out on many QSOs during contests. Most often I was limited by the inability of other stations to hear me, either because of my power level or their lack of good (low noise, directional) reception. When I move to QRO it will be a problem. Beverages are an increasing priority, but it'll have to wait until next winter.

Future plan

Sitting here in early May I predict that I will not have the time or incentive to come up with a superior antenna for the upcoming fall/winter season. There just so much other higher priority tower and antenna work to be done. I expect that this antenna will be put back into service for at least one more winter season. That's not so bad since it does work very well indeed.