Radio Skinny Dipping

The CQWW DX CW contest last weekend represents the end of the road for DX chasing in 2023 for me. I’m boxing up the IC-7610 for a return trip to the factory to have the display replaced. The duration of that service work will no doubt leave me without it until at least the end of the year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since I’ve accomplished the HF goals I had for DX chasing. Long ago I came to terms with the simple fact that I’ll never make the DX Honor Roll and that’s okay with me. Working all but a few seems a terrible frustration and working them all even worse, finality. No, I’m happy to have played in this game for a season, learned a lot, earned some wallpaper, and now is a good time for me to move along.

Besides, I was never cut out to be a lifelong DX chaser.

By the way, radio skinny dipping might be copyright K3NG for all I know? Earlier this year he wrote about the freedom to build equipment unencumbered by anything. He said he occasionally walks over to that gear and taps out a message using Morse code and if he gets a reply, he remains in the moment. No logging, no looking up anything, no contest scores, nothing. He called that “radio skinny dipping” and I was reminded of that today when I saw a QRZ bio of a fellow I had looked up that said in part, “Glad to hand out FISTS and SKCC numbers any time. I don’t collect them for myself, nor do I maintain a log. I no longer have any operating goals that make them necessary”.

While I have often suggested it, I haven’t (yet) had the courage to completely forego logging. The record-keeping fetish is predicated mostly on the need for data to apply for awards or to judge success or failure in contest, or simply to be able to say “look at me I’ve made a million contacts in my radio life”. A more vapid exercise is difficult to imagine though what makes each of us enjoy this hobby has always remained a mystery and to each his own. You do you and I’ll do me. I intend to spend the balance of this year playing with HF casually at low-power and without logging or concern for who, where, or how many I work. I’m going radio skinny-dipping and I suspect the water will be just fine.

When 2024 rolls around I’ll share my plans for my next radio adventure. I’ve dropped enough hints and alluded to my desire to follow a different path “one of these days” and it will finally be time to move on. There are a lot of different facets to explore in amateur radio and I feel sorry for those who get stuck doing the same thing over and over again, often for decades. Sometimes until they lose interest and drop out of the hobby altogether. My bucket list demands attention and if the events of 2023 has taught me anything it’s that life is short and those with a desire to do anything need to get busy because a year turns quickly into a decade and a decade into a lifetime before you even realize it.

Monday Morning

39F with windy, rainy conditions this morning put the kibosh on my walking and any hope for gathering more leaves.

Walking into the shack with the first cup of Joe I hit 40 CW where I copied a couple of stations calling CQ (a rarity!), but couldn’t raise either of them. Signals were weak and then I read today’s propagation report from W3LPL that began, “Propagation crossing low, mid and high latitudes is likely to be mildly degraded through Tuesday November 21st“. I concurred and moved to FT8 on 30 meters where things weren’t quite abysmal, but I copied no DX there unless you count a few VEs. Afterwards, I refilled the coffee and spun the dial up to 7.153 to ride along with the Treasure Coasters for a bit. Signals were down there too, but where propagation was lacking copious amounts of power permitted me to hear most everyone on the net.

A note in today’s Daily DX newsletter informed that OQRS on Club Log is now open for the TX7L operation. I worked them on 10 CW one day last week and could use that confirmation so I made the necessary arrangements.

I received a short-stack of printed cards from the bureau over the weekend: P44X, JA6BDB, IZ2FOS, DA0HQ, DA23WARD, DL2ARD, and SM7PEV.

Confirmations received via LoTW over the last few days included: A25R, YV5JLO, PY5EJ, CO2RQ, G6GLP, LU2BA, GI5RPG, 5W1SA, and P41E.

On Injured List

The main display on my IC-7610 has developed a problem. A single column of dead pixels running from the top to the bottom about in the center of the display has appeared. It has no impact on the operation of the equipment, but it’s an annoying distraction and, given ICOM’s problems with this particular display, has me concerned it could worsen. Right now I’m trying to get in touch with someone to have them tell me where it needs to be shipped for repair. While the unit is long out of warranty, ICOM has been providing no-cost replacements for displays on 7610’s with certain serial numbers and mine falls in that group.

I guess we will see if the company lives up to that promise.

Because it still functions, I wouldn’t ship it back to the factory until after the upcoming CQ WWDX CW contest. That’s going to be my last best chance of the year to closeout my DX Marathon entry for 2023. Last year I managed to work 123 entities and went into 2023 with high hopes of working at least 150. I never came close as the summer episodes took me off the air for months and now here I sit, a week before Thanksgiving, with only 96 entities worked this year.

At this point I’d be happy with a hundred and look to 2024 for better results.

That cause was helped a little yesterday when I worked TX7L on 10 CW. I was beginning to think I might miss them too, but I got lucky. I understand they are just past the halfway point in their operation so there should be a few more opportunities to get them on other bands and modes though that won’t help me in the 2023 Marathon. I’m going to need a handful of “new” entities in the CQ WW DX contest just to get to a hundred, with maybe a few extra “just in case” entries and then the 7610 will be headed somewhere for repair.

With the main transceiver on the injured list for a month or two, I’ll have to move the IC-705 up in the rotation. I’m a grizzled enough QRPer that I look forward to that low-power challenge and the transceiver is a delight to use, especially with a decent antenna. I used to have an IC-7300 as a backup, but I got rid of it a year or so ago and haven’t looked back.

This temporary juggling of equipment has me thinking that I need to get busy selling off a lot of excess gear that has been idle in the garage for far too long. I hate selling equipment…

Assorted Candies

The SKCC Weekend Sprint (WES) was this weekend. I joined the fun at the opening bell and quickly made 13 contacts. I started to think a 50 or even a 100 Q sprint might be in the offing, but I went for a second cup of coffee at that point and never came back. It was what it was and I need to remember to submit my paltry results.

I did manage to work the Botswana operation (A25R) on 12, 15, and 17 meters using FT8 in F/H mode this weekend. I was hearing them well on 20 meters too, but they weren’t having anything to do with my RF there. That’s an ATNO for me so happy dance all around as those are becoming tougher to find, work, and confirm.

Having been an enthusiastic user of Twitter, back in the before time, and who abandoned it earlier this year, I admit to some curiosity about the new-ish Bluesky social service. So when an invitation code arrived this weekend I signed up and took it for a spin. It looks exactly like the old Twitter. That may be one of its charms? I haven’t found many hams there just yet, and may never. There are so many social media options these days that the herd has been split into many smaller chunks. If you have an account look for me

+ Will Saturn’s rings really ‘disappear’ by 2025? An astronomer explains

Lara Parker Dies: ‘Dark Shadows’ Scene-Stealing, Spell-Casting Witch Angelique Was 84 – RIP. Notable passing for me since we rewatched the entire original Dark Shadows series a year ago. I had watched much of it during its original run when I was still a kid in grade school, rushing home daily to catch up with the assorted creepiness. Watching it again as an adult I admit it was definitely campy, but an original masterpiece in its own way. ‘Angelique’ was the witch who turned Barnabas Collins into a vampire during an alternate timeline so her place in DS history is forever secure.

I have concluded my hunt for POTA. Whether forever or just for the season has yet to be determined.

At 1849 UTC Nov 11 SpaceX launched the Transporter-9 mission carrying over 100 satellites from many different companies and countries to orbit. Details at via Jonathan McDowell

Imagine a high school student whose passion for science is ignited during a summer program and goes on to become a groundbreaking scientist. That’s the kind of transformational journey that the Summer Science Program (SSP) has been fostering for decades. To support this important work, 1969 program alumnus and a founder of Qualcomm — Franklin Antonio — donated $200 million in his will, Antonio passed away in May of 2022.

$200+ Million Bequest Will Support Science Research For High Schoolers

Four Horsemen

Life has been slowly returning to normal and that has resulted in a little more time for ham radio. I have been finding time each day to spend in the radio shack and that has worked out pretty well as I continue to plug away at the basic DXCC Challenge by filling needed slots on all bands and modes. I’ve continued to chase POTA and SOTA stations almost daily, and I still hope to level-up my SKCC membership with a few hundred new contacts between now and the end of the year to earn Senator level.

That one needs the most work, but the November WES is coming up this weekend.

The bottom line is that I’ve been busy on the air lately and that’s been a good thing. It’s been fun and keeps me plodding toward my HF goals. Plus, it reduces the available quiet time — the last thing I want or need this year.

POTA award for working 500 unique reference areas

I recently processed some documentation so I could apply for a few new things and as a result DXCC certificates for both 20 and 15 meters arrived from Newington. I’m anxious to get those framed and on the wall along with the others. That Triple Play Award plaque I ordered a month ago still hasn’t arrived. I need to follow-up and find out where that is in the process. It may sound like a lot of paperwork when actually the entire process was done online, click-click, credit card. All of my ARRL awards have been from LoTW confirmations as I made a clean break from paper years ago. That meant starting from scratch, but it simplifies the application process as there’s no longer a need for card checking, etc.

The point of all this recent ham radio busy “work” is that there are many goals I want to accomplish and life is short. Having been a ham for such a long time most of these should have been completed ages ago. The time for chasing DX for me was decades ago when band conditions were so much better. Now I’m taking advantage of a decent solar cycle to get what I didn’t get before. I’m trying to finish as many of these as possible as several other high-priority (bucket list) goals will soon change my focus from HF to much higher frequencies…

I can hear hoofbeats of the four horses of the gray hair apocalypse approaching.

Turn the Page

Last night wasn’t the first time the kids around here had to do their trick-or-treating while it was snowing, but my memory is fuzzy enough that I can’t remember when that might have been. It was cold enough to snow all day yesterday but none of the white stuff was seen falling until about 4pm when flurries became evident. By 7:30pm it was really becoming an impressive event. Enough to cover the vehicles and make the ground look white while giving us something talk about and a memory for later. There were at least a couple dozen little ghouls at the door, not including our grandchildren, which I thought was a good turnout for 27F degrees and snow, but Brenda was disappointed. She was expecting a hundred or more based on the leftover candy. Oh well, maybe next year?

That chill in the air had me lighting the fireplace for the first time this season. Actually for the first time ever since we moved into this house in July. It’s a natural gas fireplace so nothing burned other than a few cobwebs, but it looked incredibly seasonal and released some heat into the family room. I think I’m going to like it.

You know HF band conditions aren’t good when you can’t hear FT8 signals on 20 meters around the clock. It was dead when I checked this morning so I moved down to 30 meters where I was able to copy exactly four stations and worked all of them. Then the well went dry. There was nothing else to work there. It should be interesting to see if the bands perk up as the sun starts to do its thing later today.

I submitted an updated application to the DXCC Awards desk yesterday that included having passed the 100 confirmation marks on 20 and 15 meters. My plan had been to wait until I had a thousand confirmations for the DXCC Challenge, but sitting at 558 I’m a terribly long way from that. I’m still holding out hope for a strong finish to the year, but time is getting short. It’s suddenly time to turn the page on the calendar again, it’s November.

White Whale

I worked CP1FF in Bolivia a few nights ago and that was confirmed via LoTW last night. Bolivia is an ATNO for me so there is much merriment here today. It had become something of a white whale as I have often found Bolivian stations on the air, but never managed to get them to notice me. I began concocting conspiracy theories about why this was happening (it’s rigged!) before finally making this contact.

My DXCC Mixed total now stands at 144 confirmed and 90 entities worked so far this year for the DX Marathon. Now it’s back to work…