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Author Topic: The Kilowatt Curtain  (Read 3712 times)
SCUBA
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Posts: 74




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« on: July 06, 2008, 05:33:34 AM »

Greetings,

Preface: Not talking contests, and I did a cursory search for the topic and found 1 related link.

QTH is Texas, I do 100w max to a Ventenna Hfpd at 34 ft, 20M. Low time Gen class licensee (w/cw exam), and I avoid contests.

Many members of a local radio club have commented on the formidible kilowatt curtains, namely,
The California Kilowatt Curtain
The East Coast Kilowatt Curtain

that both are barriers to central US hams attempting to work overseas DX. This is not my inference, many hams around here have brought up the subject and shared their experiences at trying to penetrate these kilowatt curtains.  

The prevalence of these "kilowatt curtains" is partially substantiated here, http://www.eham.net/forums/DXing/675?page=1

My own limited experience attempting 20M DX includes inability to complete a contact with HI due to full legal limit stations situated on the CA coast.  I almost contacted Sydney (the distant station had part of my call sign) until the kilowatt curtain prevailed and that was the end of that.  

"So what's your point?"

The point is, that
-- The Kilowatt Curtains are real
-- East/West coast stations are at a competitive advantage vis a vis oversea contacts.
-- I'm switching to CW, maybe I can sneak thru, under, or over these invisible barriers.

And, yes of course, I have to acknowledge that every ham has the right to live on the East or West coast and operate full legal limit.  

What if, for one frequency during 1 short time period, the curtain could be opened?  Naw, never happen.

73,
Jack
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WO7R
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Posts: 701




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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2008, 06:23:59 AM »

Your post makes it sound like you are new to DXing.

If so, welcome and have fun.

It appears you are early on in your DX career and have a lot of good times ahead.  Competition is real, but (for each country), you only have to win once.

1.  Who said you had to be just on 20 meters?  That's big gun territory.  Try 30, 40, or 17 meters.  You will achieve a lot of success in a hurry.  There is less competition there.

2.  You are right to think about CW.  There is plenty of room on CW for the "little guy" to get through.  Try RTTY also.

3.  Have you tried contests?  You don't have to _enter_ a contest to _work_ a contest.  Everyone knows this, everyone accepts it, including every intelligent contester.  So, don't let contests put you off.  The major contests (CQ WW in any of the various modes, ARRL HF, etc.) will allow you to work lots of DX even on 20 meters without serious competition, especially for newcomers.  There is simply too much on the air at those times.  You _will_ score and you can get the QSLs, too.

4.  Try "The Complete DXer" as a great guide to "How to" DX.

5.  At this early stage, avoid big pileups.  It takes a while to learn how to work one.  Twenty meters is not the place I would advise you to start learning.  Try the aforementioned bands, try the smaller pileups.

6.  Try scanning the bands yourself.  If you simply go to the DX Summit spots, you'll find pileups of various sizes waiting.  If you scan the bands, especially the CW portions, you'll often find stations with little or no competition.  Start with these.
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KY6R
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2008, 06:57:25 AM »

When I started DX-ing, all I had was an 11 foot Force-12 Sigma 5 and 100 watts. I also had to contend with the "kilowatt curtains" on both sides of the continent, and I also had to watch many times when the mid west had propagation to places like EU and AF and the ME, and I heard nada.

Three things:

1) Sometimes you have to just wait until propagation changes. I became and expert with the grey line. Once the sun was up on the East and Mis West, and where the West Coast was still in the dark, I worked DX on the morning 40M grey line.

2) My station was a true little pistol, but I developed pileup skills that competed with just about any big gun. With 100 watts - CW and the Extra portion of the bands were the key to this success.

3) I then started experimenting with wire gain antennas - all stealthy, and learned how to build phased arrays - like the K1WA and Bruce Array. These antennas were never higher than 40 feet - and I had no tower.

I got to 291 DXCC entities with wire and no amp (then I caved in when the cycle started tanking).

The Complete DX-er surely is a book that has every DX-ing tip worth knowing about.

Good DX - and sunspots do help - but only during the day. 40M has been as "productive" as 20M, so if you aren't an Extra - go for it and try the bottom of the 40M band at your grey line.
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N3OX
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2008, 08:24:48 AM »

"I do 100w max to a Ventenna Hfpd at 34 ft, 20M"

Translation: I run approximately 0.5W effective radiated power.

You sound frustrated, but I'll tell you, even if you and I lived in the same town I'd smoke you in the pileups.  

I run 100W into a 2 element Moxon beam at 30'.  

Hardly part of the east coast kilowatt curtain here, but I do get rather nice signal reports on 20m for being a hundred-watt station.

As far as being on some coast... well, I don't much bother working the close by stuff on 20m.  I shoot aaaaaaallll the way across the country (or when I'm lucky over the pole) for the stuff I'm after.  In the latter case, should I bemoan the Canadian Curtain?  After all, they are allowed to run 2250W PEP.

DX wouldn't be any fun if it were always easy, IMO.

I imagine you've got some serious restrictions, but if I were in your situation, I'd be trying to come up with a better antenna.    

If you play the DX game, you have to make your station and your skills better.  Why?  Because there's always someone who's closer than you are to some interesting DX.  In fact, as time goes on, that's what defines interesting DX.  Europe on 20m?   Well, sure, I still have a nice time saying hello and having a chat, but I know I can work Europe any day of the week on 20m.  But you know something?  Same goes for Hawaii and Australia on 20m, with my big 100W and my 30 foot high antenna made from fishing poles, and that's a shot all the way across the country.

Is it harder to work DX because of the competition?  Sure.  But few have managed to break a pileup by shaming it on the internet ;-)

73,
Dan

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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
N3OX
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« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2008, 08:25:38 AM »

By the way, CW = excellent idea in your situation.
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
WA4DOU
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Posts: 436




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« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2008, 09:16:38 AM »

"The kilowatt curtain" refers to the fact that the east and west coasts are more favorably located for good dx propagation. Regardless of location, there is no doubt there are more amplifiers in use today than ever before. I took the liberty of looking up a Ventenna HFP and note that it has a total length of 12 feet. A half wave dipole for 20 meters is 34 feet long so your antenna is about 1/3 of that size. Your antenna has reduced performance compared to full size. Realistically, you are David among Goliath's when stalking dx so you need to find ways to maximize your advantage. This will entail employing narrowband modes such as cw and PSK31, etc. CW enjoys the advantage of having many times more dx available to you and is believed to be anywhere from 10-18 db more effective than ssb, depending on conditions. If you really want to work dx, you must add cw to your bag of skills. Regardless of your circumstances, you must find ways to employ more efficient antennas. You can do this by reading, study and imagination. Even in the worst CCR environment, you can find a way to raise a vertical under cover of darkness and possibly even in the daytime. Nevertheless, you can begin to enjoy an immediate advantage with your present antenna with cw. As regards cw, few if any are born with the skill to learn and use it easily. It requires work but the reward is huge. Don't go after the easy dx, that's available via spotting, until you've at least mastered finding and working dx on your own, where there is less competition. If I could only have one band for dx'ing, it would be 20 meters. It is open to more areas of the world, longer, than any other band, sunspot high thru sunspot low. Give cw a real try and I don't think you'll be disappointed. Good dx'ing!
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KE5OKQ
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« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2008, 09:17:52 AM »

Amen brother!  I have had my license for a year and have had to struggle like everyone else in the DX doldrums.  I run 200 watts to a ground mounted vertical in Houston Texas.  It is very difficult to penetrate the bi-coastal killowatt curtain.  Its especially frustrating when i'm trying to snag that VK station and a big gun in California jumps in and talks about the QSO they had the day before!  Save some DX for us little guys in the interior!

Im limited in what I can throw up for an antenna, but I can afford a big amplifier.  I decided against it. If I want a sure thing conversation with Australia I 'll use my cellphone.  Sometimes its more fun the hard way.
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SCUBA
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Posts: 74




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« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2008, 11:09:11 AM »

Hi,
First, many thanks for your highly informative replies, and especially for all the hard work being accomplished on this web site.

Quote from: WO0Z
"Your post makes it sound like you are new to DXing.

Yes, I got licensed gen. 3 weeks before code went away, but due to my job and travel I haven't been on the air much.

"Who said you had to be just on 20 meters?" My Ventenna is now set for 20M; I have a Cushcraft MA5B on order to replace it
http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/340

I ordered the MA5B about 2 months ago, dealer reports that Cushcraft is having serious problems with one of its "jobbers," causing a long delay in the shipping of this particular antenna. The earliest the MA5B can be shipped from Cushcraft is about 3 weeks from now.  

Given the reputation of the MA5B, I should get more for my 100w, that is, if the MA5B ever arrives.  The 26 lb MA5B is probably the heaviest antenna I can use on a pole without having to get a lattace tower.

"Contests?"  I'll gladly support anyone who is engaged in contesting, otherwise I prefer just to make distant contacts.

Quote from: WO0Z and KY6R
"The Complete DX'er"
; local Ham store has it, I'll p/u a copy.

DX Summit spot?  Guess I do need to read the book.

Quote from: N3OX
"Translation: I run approximately 0.5W effective radiated power."


Then I have a serious problem I didn't know about.  The feedline is LMR-400 with a 1db line loss.  Another ham told me to switch to Heliax Hard Line, but that's $4/ft. From TX, I worked LAX and a mobile in TPA who reported me to be 5 x 7.  Maybe I have a robust 1/2 watt.  

The Cushcraft MA5B beam should help me to improve my ERP deficiency, if it ever gets here.

Quote from: N3OX
"DX wouldn't be any fun if it were always easy, IMO"... "By the way, CW = excellent idea in your situation."


Yes, thanks.  I would like to reduce my power below 100w and let the antenna do most of the work; the MA5B is supposed to have max gain at 20M besides being directional.

RE: CW, This morning I had breakfast with an extra; he gave me some rather discouraging news about going CW; he told me that unless I can copy 30 wpm, that I'll get no DX contacts.  Well, my speed is around 5 to 10 wpm, mostly 5 wpm, so I'll have to find time to build up my speed.

WA4DOU,  I put up a 20M YO YO antenna as an inverted V, and it worked pretty good; then I moved it to a new pole and got the top of it to 34 ft, the noise went to S-8.  Switching back to the Ventenna eliminated the noise.  All that will be OBE if and when the Cushcraft MA5B arrives.  I could put up a lattace tower, by XYL says hell no.  So I have a tripod mounted pole awaiting the arrival of the MA5B.  Then there's the $$$.

Thanks much for the replies,
Jack



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N3OX
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« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2008, 11:24:22 AM »

"The Cushcraft MA5B beam should help me to improve my ERP deficiency, if it ever gets here. "

Yes, enormously.

"Maybe I have a robust 1/2 watt."

Of course, this is a guess, but severely shortened antennas without big loading coils are very inefficient.  The Ventenna HFp is not radiating much of your power.  You absolutely should NOT switch to hardline.  The MA5B should be way better.


"This morning I had breakfast with an extra; he gave me some rather discouraging news about going CW; he told me that unless I can copy 30 wpm, that I'll get no DX contacts."

The part he didn't tell you is you only have to be able to copy a few things at 30WPM (actually, something in the mid twenties is more common).

1) Your callsign.  You MUST know your own callsign at that speed, and you should be able to recognize what's NOT your call so you don't step on peoples' toes.

2) 5NN

3) UP (helps to know numbers so if they say UP 5 you know it)

4) The DX callsign, but you can get that over several minutes.

You need to be able send "5NN" and your callsign somewhat around or above 20WPM.

So Mr. Big CW Extra just might have been misleading you a bit ;-)  Lemme put it this way:  I actually have CW ability today *because* I started DXing on CW.  I had my Advanced back in 1998 or so, having passed the 13WPM test and never, ever actually making CW contacts.  I wanted Extra, but I failed the 20WPM a couple times.  I started trying to work DXpeditions on CW...   After a few months of DXing on CW I passed 20WPM and got my Extra.   ;-)  I had two things going for me.  One was that I was actually using CW.  Yeah, for the DXPeditions, all I'd ever send was "N3UMH!" and "5NN TU," but then I'd call some UN6 or something and we'd have a little chat, not much, very formulaic, but still useful.  The other thing I had going for me is that most of the DX is below x.025 on the big DX bands (40, 20, 15) and I *wasn't allowed there.*

I do agree that you won't get a lot of DX if you call at 5WPM or 10WPM, but you're trying to get your speed up for a pretty restricted subset of CW, honestly.  The only thing that's important is to be able to recognize your call at pretty much any speed and be able to recognize that it's NOT your call when the DX calls someone else ;-)

73,
Dan



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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
N3OX
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« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2008, 11:25:55 AM »

"The other thing I had going for me is that most of the DX is below x.025 on the big DX bands (40, 20, 15) and I *wasn't allowed there.*
"

Of course, I meant this was motivation to improve my CW so I could pass 20WPM.
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
KB9CRY
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« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2008, 11:36:55 AM »



The point is, that
-- The Kilowatt Curtains are real

Yes and so are the Black Hole curtains.  

-- East/West coast stations are at a competitive advantage vis a vis oversea contacts.

Yes but as you'll find out when the cycle gets better, our windows will stay open longer and we can work both ways a lot easier than the coasts can.


And, yes of course, I have to acknowledge that every ham has the right to live on the East or West coast and operate full legal limit.

100w max to a Ventenna  

You have a long ways to go in the improvement of my own signal category.


What if, for one frequency during 1 short time period, the curtain could be opened? Naw, never happen.

Sour grapes.
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WA4DOU
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« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2008, 11:41:42 AM »

Jack,

When I was first licensed, I was given a copy of "The Radio Amateurs Handbook" that was several years old, at the time. Thankfully I've never felt at the mercy of the opinions of others as regards amateur radio. You'll be a lot better off if you make your own observations and rely on the advice you'll find in printed amateur radio material from reputable sources than all the Internet has to offer, which includes lots of disinformation. Every radio amateur should avail themselves to at least 3 sources of information even if the cost impedes their way to getting on the air slightly. Those are the "Radio Amateurs Handbook",
"The ARRL Antenna Book" and The Radio Amateurs Operating Manual". These are invaluable and reading and studying them will place you, solidly, well beyond the majority of amateurs today.

The advice you received about 30 wpm cw speeds necessary to work dx isn't accurate. Novices in yesteryear began at 5 wpm  and their speeds improved in a few weeks of operating to allow them to begin working dx. It was all up from there. There is plenty of dx that will work you on the bands at 10-15 wpm and you can attain that kind of speed in a few weeks of operating in casual qso's with stronger, closer stations. The number one, overwelming reason for anyone to have difficulty with cw is being mentally predisposed against it. Forget the advice to the contrary, go and do it for yourself. There is a whole world of relatively easy dx to be worked out there on cw and it is yours if you want it! The MA5B will be a big step in the right direction. BTW, the advise about hardline over LMR400 was poor advise also. You couldn't have gained but a fraction of a db at best that way. The dx world awaits. It's your move! Good luck!
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WO7R
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« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2008, 01:29:45 PM »

Some other things you could try:

1.  An ordinary dipole for 20 meters.  Might be more efficient, I don't know about the Ventenna, but ordinary dipoles are better antennas than commonly believed.

2.  An ordinary dipole for 40 meters.  This is a bit chancier, but you could be in for a pleasant surprise in terms of how much DX you can work, even with a dipole that is "too low."

3.  An ordinary dipole for 30 meters.  I have used one at this height myself from the Upper Midwest.  Made DXCC in a single season, just on that, and handily at that.

4.  A G5RV.  I've had good results with a G5RV at your height.  You need a good antenna tuner and a balun.  (Some authorities say 'no balun' but those authorities have more TVI than the ones that install a balun on their G5RVs).

In short, if you aren't happy with what you got, change something, anything.  Experimentation is key.

I got gangbuster results from an HF2V (40/80 meter dipole) but I had to lay 60 radials on the ground (don't bury them -- stake them with garden stakes as in my Feb 2007 CQ article).  Verticals vary based on soil conditions, or so I am told.  See what the local DXers say.

Some of the above is going to work for you.
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SCUBA
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« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2008, 03:58:22 PM »

Hi WA4DOU, thanks for replying.

I have 2 out of 3 of the pubs you mentioned, and plan to get the DX manual.  Well, if I send out a slow CQ, it's up to the distant station to decide if he wants to answer.  Yes, I'll build up my speed but studying the new extra stuff comes first.

Due to doubtful availability of the Cushcraft MA5B, I'm seriously looking at the Mosley Mini-33-A-WARC.  Maybe I should consider it first, since it weighs only 12 lbs and I can go much higher above the radio-shack rotor. Smiley

http://www.nethorizon.net/mosley/K7JJmini33aw.jpg
Since the Mini-33-A-WARC has only 3 eHam reviews, I'll have to do more research before making the purchase.

KB9CRY, "sour grapes"
Not me, since I don't plan to compete in contests, and    my main goal is to just work some overseas DX from time to time; I won't let it bother me - but I will recognize it [bicoastal kilowatt curtains] for what they are.  Long way to go?  Sure. Priority is antenna upgrade to either a MA5B or a Mini-33-A-WARC.  I prefer to try to get the antenna to do most of the work and even do QRP (gasp!).

73,
Jack

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K9NW
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« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2008, 04:55:42 PM »

Compromise antennas generally provide compromise results.  Sure, you're QRV, but then you can tune up a beer can and be QRV.  Not much goes into the log though.

If you have any room at all, try a simple dipole for your band(s) of choice.  Even if it's really low chances are it still outperforms the compromise antenna.  I lived in Madison, WI (in the Black Hole) for 10 months in 1991 and was QRV on 10m thru 20m with dipoles hung between a step ladder and a clothesline pole.  Not king of the band but still worked plenty of DX.
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