I came to amateur radio quite late, although I had always longed for the opportunity to study for a licence. In the end, I got my callsign M1BWR in July 1997. Yes, I am learning Morse and do aspire to use CW and the HF bands, but I am also doing a lot of other things at the same time. Being restricted to the VHF bands and up, I am currently active on 2, 4 and 6 metres (144, 70 and 50 MHz respectively), primarily using SSB (mode J3E). I have been known to use 2 m or 70 cm FM, even through repeaters, but you're more likely to find me around the SSB calling frequency on a band.
This was my first band, and still dear to my heart. I mainly use an IC-821H, output up to 35 W, sometimes with a TE linear to take it towards 350 W, through a 4 by 7 element array at up to 13 m above ground. I also have a couple of FT-290 RII for /P work, a lovely contest-prepared FT-221R with muTek front end, etc., and both IC-202 and IC-202S, one of which should enjoy Mike Dorsett's ministrations shortly.
Currently, I have worked 13 countries, in 47 squares (4 large squares), with an ODX of 963 km, on this band. All propagation has been tropospheric.
I started on this band at Christmas 1997, at first with a lovely IC-505 but now with an IC-756, putting out up to 100 W through either a 4 element Eagle beam or a 6 element Cushcraft, at up to 13 m above ground. The highlight of this year was helping with a multi-operator portable station entry in the summer UK Six Metre Group Contest, which achieved 4th place in its category. We only went 1 km to the east of my QTH, onto Shanklin Down, but the weather was not so pleasant!
Currently, I have worked 42 countries, in 123 squares (15 large squares), with an ODX of 8150 km (to 7Q7RM in Malawi), on this band. Most propagation has been by sporadic E, although that to 7Q7RM was probably by a sporadic E assisted trans-equatorial mode.
The best link for further information on 6 metres is that of the UK Six Metre Group, a great group of real enthusiasts.
This most recent addition was accomplished in July 1998, using a muTek transverter, driven from my IC-756, through a TE linear to 130 W output into an Eagle 5 element beam at about 11 m above ground. I'm still finding my feet on this band: largely tropo propagation is very interesting, and as the opportunities open up for more distant DX, it could get quite exciting in the future.
Currently, I have worked only 4 countries, in 14 squares (3 large squares), with an ODX of 605 km, all by tropo. If you want a QSO on 4 m, then please don't hesitate to e-mail me.
There are some excellent Web pages now about the 4 metre band: visit GM4ZUK's Four Metre Pages
Soon after starting to enjoy the hobby, I became fascinated by propagation, and am now a corresponding member of the RSGB's Propagation Studies Committee, thanks to the friendship and initial encouragement of Ian White G3SEK, and the sustained enthusiasm of Geoff Grayer G3NAQ. Both of them have suffered many of my verbose ramblings, and seem never to have lost their patience - yet! More recently, Steve G0AEV has been a great help, and if you are interested in propagation, you should seriously consider joining the Six and Ten Reporting Club, by subscribing to the Six and Ten Report. This is a monthly publication, compiled by Steve G0AEV and Martin G3USF, which contains a wealth of propagation reports and discussion on those two bands, and solar and ionospheric summaries. You won't find many pictures (!), but the information is a unique resource. Other amateurs who merit special mention include Dave G7RAU (2 m), Nick G3XZB (6 m), Tim G4DBL (6 m), Derek G3NKS (4 m), Mick G0ABB (general), and of course Geoff GJ4ICD (6 m).
It amazes me how few amateurs seem to take propagation seriously. You can have the most superbly tuned circuits, wellies full of Watts, and more metal in the air than the Statue of Liberty, but if the propagation is not there, you won't get very far. Still, many books refer to VHF (and above) as basically having line-of-sight plus a third unless special conditions pertain. Yet on all three bands on which I am active, you can easily outdo that even when conditions are quite poor. It is this everyday VHF propagation, non-ducting tropospheric mode, which fascinates me most.
My own QTH, whilst it enjoys outstanding views and an otherwise idyllic position, is an interesting place from which to start. For a good 270 degrees, I am surrounded by chalk downs which rise more than 100 m above the 75 m elevation of the valley bottom (my QTH!). As the downs are less than 2 km away, my only good takeoff is to the north. (More details.) Yet in spite of that I have worked well into DL, F and EA using non-ducting tropo, and have enjoyed sporadic E as far as OD, EA8, OH, and UR, as well as the spectacular 7Q7. So do not despair if you have a poor takeoff.
If you want to read more about non-ducting tropo, and how you might be able to help me in trying to understand it better, then step through to the Non-Ducting Tropo Inner Sanctum.
There are lots of wonderful links with propagation information. Among my personal favourites are:
RSGB Propagation Studies Committee
Realtime MUF map
Tephigrams from radiosondes in Europe
Recent and current weather for the UK
European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting, current charts
US NOGAPS forecast charts up to 1 week ahead
BADC MST Radar
Geoff GJ4ICD's remarkable collection of links
Dave G7RAU's growing collection of software
I have no hesitation in recommending the following suppliers and organisations, who have served me well in my quest for the best:
Nevada UK my local emporium
muTek for their transverters etc.
Hands Electronics for the best HF and VHF kits
Vine Antenna Products for Eagle beams, TE linears, and much more
Radio Society of Great Britain, much maligned but still invaluable.
Last updated 5 Apr 1999