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Author Topic: The higher we go, the more difficult it becomes...guaranteed  (Read 7210 times)
AF5C
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« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2013, 11:33:11 AM »

I wish the FT5 entities were in the South Atlantic, then they wouldn't be that difficult from here.  They are in the South Indian Ocean, with the nearest one being over 10,000 miles from my QTH. Amsterdam and St. Paul is the only entity on the list that is over 12,000 miles short path for me.  I heard the FT5XO DXpedition on 30m pretty good one morning, but no QSO.  I have heard Crozet very weakly on 20m once, never heard FT5Z yet. 

John AF5CC
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NU1O
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« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2013, 12:18:05 PM »

I wish the FT5 entities were in the South Atlantic, then they wouldn't be that difficult from here.  They are in the South Indian Ocean, with the nearest one being over 10,000 miles from my QTH. Amsterdam and St. Paul is the only entity on the list that is over 12,000 miles short path for me.  I heard the FT5XO DXpedition on 30m pretty good one morning, but no QSO.  I have heard Crozet very weakly on 20m once, never heard FT5Z yet. 

John AF5CC

Total distance is not the most important factor in determining the difficulty of a given path. I often work mobiles in Australia who are using a simple whip with 100 watts and the distance is about 11,000 miles. Also, the 20 meter long path to VK/ZL is very reliable in my afternoon. OTOH, the polar path to Japan, at about 6,600 miles, becomes unworkable with even mild solar storms which do not effect the path to the South Pacific.

73,

Chris/NU1O

 
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W2IRT
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« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2013, 01:07:04 PM »

OK, there is a reason that most of us in this forum cringe when we hear that a DXpedition to a rare DXCC entity is going to use HexBeams. That is your single biggest limiting factor, IMHO. Some folks swear by them; most swear at them. If I were you, I'd be looking at replacing that beast with something better...

So I completely and emphatically disagree with this statement.  I have heard some DXers badmouthing both hex beams and spiderbeams due to weak signals from some DXPeditions in the last few years.  I'd be overjoyed for a rare one to use these antennas.  If they take good ops and have some power and time then the game is ready to play...

The hexbeam is a just small 2 element parasitic array and is quite good for what it is.  Yes, a monoband 2 element yagi might have +1~ dB more gain.  A 3 ele yagi would be even better.  In some cases that might make a difference.  But in your case getting a legal limit amp would make more sense if you are hearing the stations, but not breaking the pileups 1500W/800W =+2.7dB .  Spiderbeams are better than many DXpedition antennas and if they are constructed correctly and pointed the right way by operators who know how to work weak openings quickly and efficiently everything would work better. 

If you read the entirety of my response to the original poster, I was clear that he had to maximize all aspects of his station, and I would agree that keeping one's bum in the chair during a DXPedition is critical, but I would think that should go without saying. His equipment is generally pretty decent overall and his totals are such that he sounds as if he has a good handle on propagation. He clearly stated that in 33 years of DXing (i.e. not just in piddly cycle 24 and during the long lull between 23 and 24) he's never ever heard a station out of certain polar entities. Assuming he was around when DXpeditions were being conducted to these places and had that antenna or something lesser during that time, then all fingers are clearly pointing towards the antenna. If he can't hear S2, an AL-80B or an AL-1500 won't make a whit of difference.

I would never ever trade a tribander for a decent directional gain antenna that also has WARC band coverage.  If you have a better than average antenna on the WARC bands you have a significant DXing weapon in your arsenal. 
When I was first licensed I might have agreed with that statement. I don't any longer. What is the main reason for a tribander today? If you're not an active contester (which a good DXer should be, IMHO), it's a waste of money. Concentrate on 15, 17 and 20 more than anything else if you're solely after DX challenges. 10 is a dud at the moment, and will be for the next dozen years or so. 12 is nice to have, but, like 10, once what's left of cycle 24 is gone, we won't hear a peep out of 12 with any regularity until 2021 or 2022. Even 15 will have long periods of inactivity at solar minimum. With this new reality (very long term bad propagation), investing in a classic tribander is a bit of a waste. I have 7 elements on 10m with 7.4dBd. I rarely, if ever, get a chance to do anything meaningful with it, outside of CQWW, ARRL Int'l DX and a couple of DXpeditions a year. If I had limited space for antennas and had a choice in antennas, I'd sure as heck look for three elements on 15, 17 and 20m (or two at the VERY least), in addition something for 30 and 40, even if it's just a vertical with a crapload of radials.

I'm no fan of the technology personally, but the SteppIR sounds like it would be the perfect antenna for him in this case. Simple, clean design and quite a good performer. I'd certainly choose one over that glorified clothesline!

Your antenna is quite capable of working HR.  Obviously a better antenna might make it easier, but lots of guys have used worse antennas and lower power to get HR.  An antenna upgrade that might be possible depending on your situation would be to have a higher tower.  65 or 70 feet will be much better on tough paths than 40ft even if it is just a hexbeam or other two element yagi it will work better and have stronger signals most of the time on really long paths if it is up higher.  If you want to have more degree of freedom to battle the ground gain nulls that might occur on some paths due to strange propagation, then having a motorized crank up where you can vary the antenna height might make some tough paths easier or help to cancel RX interference.  It might offset the aesthetics issue as well.  But it's pretty expensive for the payback.
Height is indeed critical. I have a motorized crankup and just going from 55 to 70 makes the world of difference on 17 and 20. S2 or S3 up to S9 for certain signals. But as he has some CC&R issues, that may be out of the question. Assuming 40' is as high as he can go, then it really comes doing to getting as much forward gain out of the antenna system as possible, even at the cost of F/B or F/S in this case. Those rare ones are all going to be split so he won't be fighting off statesiders. Conversely, lower F/B numbers may even help in finding QSXs once he can actually hear the other guy. Height first, gain second.

The biggest issue is that you need patience for the stations to come on the air at all.  Then you need to put in the chair time to make the Q.  Not everyone can or wants to do this part.  Everyone has other obligations and balance in their lives.  But what is the big rush anyway?  I like to think of it as the journey rather than only the endgame.  If you miss one it will likely come around again.  It may take quite a while for some of the entities but take time to have fun as you proceed.
For some, that "next time" may not occur in our lifetimes or even our children's lifetimes. For others, yeah; 5 years they'll be up again. I doubt we'll see another 3Y0P operation for at least 20 years now, for example. Who'd want to spend over a million dollars to go somewhere that isn't in the top 5 of the global needs list? Once Heard is activated in 2014, we might not see that one again for another 20-25 years, too. For the same reason. On the other hand, Ducie, Pitcairn, Chersterfield, Nauru, Tristan da Cuhna...places like that, if you miss 'em, they'll be on again within a few years.

Learn about propagation and what paths are open at what times of the year and when... For example in my experience S2 is always louder in VA Long path than Short path.  FH should come to you in time.  As will XX9 and XW.  Talk to other active DXers in the same region and try to learn from their experiences.
Again, I'll re-state that my post was predicated on his being familiar with the basics of propagation and actively trying to work DXpeditions to the entities he mentioned.



  PS not all OT DXers have good advice.  Some guard their secrets like favorite fishing holes.  Some don't have a clue and never have... just a loud mouth and good station.  Others were top notch DXers at one point but have failing memory or other issues.  So take everything you hear with a grain of salt.
W2IRT has a ton of good advice, I just differ on opinion regarding hex and spiderbeam performance...

So let me make a final disclaimer...I do NOT have HR... I need less than a handful more, and this was done in about 12 years with very small station with some breaks and excursions to other hobbies.  I have had a linear amp for less than half of that time.  It's only an AL80B but it works well enough for me for now.  At present I have a mix of antennas that are mounted in trees and I can change element lengths on them as I want by raising and lowering with pulley system and can point 2 ele monoband yagi (17m Al tubing or add  copper alligator clip to THHN wire element pigtails for 20m band selection) or 3 ele monoband (10m Al tubing or add  copper alligator clip to THHN wire pigtails for 12, 15m band selection) yagi with armstrong method via tether rope on the ground.   This beam is no higher than 30 ft.  So your hexbeam is most likely better than mine on most bands due to height. Maybe on 10/12 my 3ele is a tiny bit better.  Some of my wire antennas are higher... My low band antennas are just wire verticals and short RX antennas.  The trick on my suburban tiny lot is battling RX QRN and QRM from power lines and electronic rubbish.  So you can see that the advice I have given regarding higher antenna and more QRO could apply to me equally, but I have not done so yet...  Wink
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WB3BEL
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« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2013, 01:56:16 PM »

Yes, I agree with almost all...

I think my viewpoint was just slightly different.  I think that Mark has only had directional gain antenna for short while...year or so....  So if that's true, I think some more time and some of the tough ones that are on the air from time to time will be worked.  

The polar paths are often tough,  but if you are in the right place at the right time, magic can happen.  These paths are especially productive around the equinoxes.  

You are right, if you can't hear them, you can't work them.  But there are various reasons for not hearing...If others in your region with similar setups can hear and you are on at the same time and can not, that bears investigation.  

I think that also he has had low power until recently.  So if that is also true, some of the ones that escaped before will be more likely to be bagged.

I also understand that some of the entities are one time shots for many ops.  But you never know... If its really important to you then do what it takes,  I am pretty dedicated and will get up at all hours to try to work a new one or new bandslot.  But I am less enthusiastic if I am not having fun...I like to be able to walk away if there are too many lids or bad operations.  I can go for a bike ride and come back on at 3AM if need be.  If my family needs me to do something, the DXing is lower priority...

I can't predict the future solar activity level and won't pretend I can...I have heard and worked a ton of DX on the high bands even during the sunspot minimums.  Sure its tougher, and the openings are less frequent and often are strange, skewed, and hard to forecast.  I'd not rule out 10m, 12m, 15m even during the lull.  But they are generally less productive.  Who knows when this peak will be past?  Maybe a year or two?  Maybe 5 years?  Maybe it's already over the hump and headed down??  It will be fun to see what happens.

And you are right about the low bands.  They are loads of fun and when the high bands are dead or even if they are not, I love to tune the low bands.  Both 160m and 6m are favorites of mine.  I have heard lots of other ops say similar things, but I know it's not everyone's cup of tea.
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WD4ELG
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« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2013, 02:16:06 PM »

Thanks again VERY much, OM's.

Answers:

* I started with a directional 20 meter hex in 2006, and worked my way up through 200 entities, but was not obsession-level serious about chasing DX and going after HR until 2009 when I got the five bander.  Then got the amp in December 2010.  Since I got the amp I have worked harder to snag DX I need (3C6, 3C0, A5, YI, 7O, ZL9), whereas before the amp I would not have spent much time on it because I did not think I had much of a chance.  So there is the mental "toughness/determination" factor in there...thinking "I KNOW I can work this guy, I just have to keep at it."  Certainly that helped me to work stations like 3W and XU and 4W and A5.  When I heard about the DXpeditions or saw the spots, I thought "Heck, I have an amp and a directional antenna...if I can get a fair copy on the op and he's running them fast, I should be able to eventually break through"  Maybe that's something I need to consider.  Like you guys said...nothing can subsititute for a bum in the chair and a pair of headphones on.

* Correct on the polar paths, others appear to be hearing them in my area but I am generally not in this QTH. 

KY6R chose 17 meters wisely...smaller antenna than 20, less crowded than 20, but still within realistic propagation expectations at all but the minimum of the sunspot cycles.

Sounds like more gain focused at lower angles is my priority.  Either through height or phasing.  More technical research in my future (which is one of the things I really love about the hobby, always trying to improve the station).


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WD4ELG
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« Reply #20 on: January 02, 2013, 02:22:55 PM »

Peter/W2IRT, you had me on the floor with loud laughter when you referred to the hex beam as a "glorified clothesline"

My wife calls it the inverted umbrella without the covering.
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W2IRT
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« Reply #21 on: January 02, 2013, 03:01:22 PM »

So there is the mental "toughness/determination" factor in there...thinking "I KNOW I can work this guy, I just have to keep at it."  Certainly that helped me to work stations like 3W and XU and 4W and A5.  When I heard about the DXpeditions or saw the spots, I thought "Heck, I have an amp and a directional antenna...if I can get a fair copy on the op and he's running them fast, I should be able to eventually break through"  Maybe that's something I need to consider.  Like you guys said...nothing can subsititute for a bum in the chair and a pair of headphones on.

You're a regular on this forum so I'm sure you probably heard this before in one of my previous rants but it bears repeating here in case you missed it, or for the benefit of the n00bs who just started following this forum lately.

I started DXing in 2001 with a TS-820 (100W) and an outboard VFO, a speaker and a microphone, a dipole for 10-40 (no WARC) on the roof and a crappy 100W MFJ tuner. I had very basic computer logging software (WinLog, IIRC) and little else. I wasn't chasing the Challenge, band-slots or anything. I just wanted to get a DXCC if I could before the building owner changed his mind and made my take down the dipole. That's it. So I connected to the cluster and went after every red coloured spot that popped up for DXCC Mixed. I thought Moldova was rare DX back in those days, and I was over the moon to work an HC8. That puts in in perspective. Anything from Africa was a treat. Well, I'd worked a couple of ZS's and a 7Q and I was convinced that I probably wouldn't get any more out of Africa (since I hadn't heard anything else from that continent that had been spotted). Well, up pops E30NA on 20m SSB. I kinda-sorta knew where Eritrea was and, since almost nobody else was calling him and he was operating simplex, I figured "what the heck," and I worked him with little fanfare. I was glad for a new one, and filed it in the same category as ZS and 7Q. Africa. Cool. I had no idea how rare it was. It was just a red spot.

Now, fast-forward a couple of months. They still hadn't forced me to take down the antenna, and I was in the 115-ish range of DXCC. The Microlite Penguins trip to the two VP8 entities was underway with weak signals and a wall of callers. I tried a few times and gave up, figuring something that special wasn't workable by guys like me with a beat up ol' 100W radio and a wire 35' up. Of course, a little perseverance and I'd have gotten them. Ditto the XR0X DXpedition to San Felix the following month. They were weak as dishwater and had killer pileups. I'd convinced myself that I didn't have a big enough station, so why set myself up for failure.

But then a funny thing happened. K1B fired up from Baker-Howland. Again, killer pileups and the cluster network was going crazy. I was in my familiar pattern of "forget this...maybe someday." But then one night I came across him on either 15 or 20m SSB. Unlike Eritrea, I knew this was a rare one....but like the E3, he was basically just CQing to few callers. Could I maybe work him? ONE call and that was that. Yes, it was possible that my puny little station could work a rare DXpedition, because eventually they'll be begging on 15 or 20m phone. I worked 'em on 3 bands (10-15-20) in all, and I never missed another major DXpedition since.

Fast forward a little bit to PY0T, the international DXpedition to Trindade/Martim Vaz. I knew what this would be like and, like all the kW/beam guys, I staked 'em out on opening night. And through a miracle of one sort or another, I bagged them within 4 hours of their going QRV...I caught 'em just as they were coming back from a brief QRX by calling them. They said "QRX 15 minutes." In exactly 15 minutes I called "Papa yellow zero tange from VE3THX/W2, are you here?" on his last-used QSX. "Hello the VE3, you're 5 and 9."

And that's how I learned I could do (almost) anything from my station. I learned propagation as best as I could understand. I scoured the cluster and I tuned a lot. I still never got the P5 but that was because I honestly couldn't hear him, no matter what I did and I didn't know anybody who'd let me use their station at the time.

I got around to sending for that E30NA card a few months later and, when it arrived a couple of weeks later I dutifully logged the card and never thought about it again...until it became obvious just how insanely rare an E3 was on the bands. Would I have even bothered trying if I'd have known at the time? Who knows. All I do know is that if I had stuck around and kept my nose to the grindstone with the VP8s, XR0X and found some way to work Ed in P5, I'd be looking at an Honor Roll plaque on my wall at the moment rather than a vacant space.

* Correct on the polar paths, others appear to be hearing them in my area but I am generally not in this QTH. 
This shoud clearly be telling you that it's time to invest in a serious hunk of aluminium. As much as your HOA, XYL and budget will allow. Per my earlier comments, I think your best bet is the simple, classic 3 element SteppIR for the combination of looks and performance. If you didn't have HoA concerns, then I'd say something with more gain, a longer boom and more elements might be a better choice.

KY6R chose 17 meters wisely...smaller antenna than 20, less crowded than 20, but still within realistic propagation expectations at all but the minimum of the sunspot cycles.
Absolutely correct. 17 is a great band. My Elmer had a long-boom 20m monobander. His reasoning is that no matter what, eventually they'll come onto 20 and when they do, I'll be here waiting for them.

Sounds like more gain focused at lower angles is my priority.  Either through height or phasing.  More technical research in my future (which is one of the things I really love about the hobby, always trying to improve the station).
Low angle gain is indeed the key to doing this, but I don't think you really need to worry all that much about height or phased arrays at this point. Rather, just get up a decent multi-monoband antenna with some decent gain (and if that works maybe trade in the amp for something with a little more oomph, eventually) and you'll be able to work the rare ones on at least 20 or 17m.

Run an HFTA evaluation and see what difference height will make. That is your most expensive option, so consider additional height last at this point. 40' to 70' is big, but not as big going from that bird-netting to a 3-element Yagi. Now, if you can get a good antenna AND an extra 30', that'd be ideal, but the cost of installing a 70' tower isn't something to take lightly.



[/quote]
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W2IRT
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« Reply #22 on: January 02, 2013, 03:09:41 PM »

Let me also make one additional suggestion. Headphones are not all created equally. These are a little spendy but are one of my secretest secret weapons in the battle against QRM. Bose QC-15s. These are astoundingly good active noise reduction headphones that will block out any steady-state noise in the shack and concentrate or focus your attention on the racket coming out of the rig. I've owned every model of Heil ANRs and a few non-ANRs, and nothing can compete with the QC-15s. They're just that good.
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NU1O
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« Reply #23 on: January 02, 2013, 03:19:29 PM »

Not as easy as you think. These three islands are restricted to active duty French military personnel only. Tromelin hasn't been active since I became an active DXer. FR/J and FR/G have each been activated once and both those activations were by the same op who didn't really like working North America very much at all.

Peter, are you saying that ALL of the French military personnel didn't like working NA much at all?   I did not have any trouble landing FT5GA on CW on a couple bands. Actually 3 bands, but he busted my SSB call on a third band, and I never bothered getting it fixed.
Seems like to me they were "spreading the wealth(QSOs)" pretty well.  I never looked at their stats, so I could be wrong, but I really did not notice, at the time.

73, Gene AF3Y



Peter,

Speaking of the French Islands, I have a question for you which requires your card- checker hat.

I have a QSL from FR4FA/J from a 1988 QSO when I was N1FSD. The operator, Bruno Desailly, had a card with FR4FA/ printed on it. Under his call he has 3 locations, Juan de Nova, Europe, and Glorieuses.

On my card the J is written in with pen after the slash and Europe and Glorieuses are crossed out in pen while Juan de Nova is checked off.

Would you accept this card for DXCC credit and are you familiar with the OP.  I never gave this card much thought but I recently uploaded to Clublog and had a QSO with simple Malta rejected (most likely because Romeo Stepanenko was involved.) I am currently in the process of filling out my online application for DXCC so I can add the countries I have not confirmed via LoTW to my total.

Thanks and 73,

Chris/NU1O
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W2IRT
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« Reply #24 on: January 02, 2013, 04:21:42 PM »

Speaking of the French Islands, I have a question for you which requires your card-checker hat.

I have a QSL from FR4FA/J from a 1988 QSO when I was N1FSD. The operator, Bruno Desailly, had a card with FR4FA/ printed on it. Under his call he has 3 locations, Juan de Nova, Europe, and Glorieuses.

On my card the J is written in with pen after the slash and Europe and Glorieuses are crossed out in pen while Juan de Nova is checked off.

Would you accept this card for DXCC credit

Well, you've gotta remember that the card checkers aren't the ones who ultimately accept or reject a card or determines the validity of an operation. That's up to Bill Moore in Newington. But with that said, I would have to see it first. For me, the determining factor is whether the operating location was clearly stipulated on the card. If the OP crossed out Europa and Glorioso, and highlighted or checked off Juan de Nova as far as I'm concerned that would meet the validity requirements. Basically the card has to clearly identify the DXCC entity from which the QSO was made and also show your call, the date, time, band and mode. If the info written on the card matches up with what's on the record sheet, and the card does not appear to have been altered or defaced in any way a checker should accept it without issue. If there's any doubt, the League may ask you to mail it up later to verify it personally, but more than likely it'll just go through normally.

So in short, it should be good.
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NU1O
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« Reply #25 on: January 02, 2013, 05:11:36 PM »

Speaking of the French Islands, I have a question for you which requires your card-checker hat.

I have a QSL from FR4FA/J from a 1988 QSO when I was N1FSD. The operator, Bruno Desailly, had a card with FR4FA/ printed on it. Under his call he has 3 locations, Juan de Nova, Europe, and Glorieuses.

On my card the J is written in with pen after the slash and Europe and Glorieuses are crossed out in pen while Juan de Nova is checked off.

Would you accept this card for DXCC credit

Well, you've gotta remember that the card checkers aren't the ones who ultimately accept or reject a card or determines the validity of an operation. That's up to Bill Moore in Newington. But with that said, I would have to see it first. For me, the determining factor is whether the operating location was clearly stipulated on the card. If the OP crossed out Europa and Glorioso, and highlighted or checked off Juan de Nova as far as I'm concerned that would meet the validity requirements. Basically the card has to clearly identify the DXCC entity from which the QSO was made and also show your call, the date, time, band and mode. If the info written on the card matches up with what's on the record sheet, and the card does not appear to have been altered or defaced in any way a checker should accept it without issue. If there's any doubt, the League may ask you to mail it up later to verify it personally, but more than likely it'll just go through normally.

So in short, it should be good.

Aside from a little smudge mark due to the age I would say it meets the requirements you laid out. It is not pretty since he used one card for three locations. He used a pen to indicate which QTH the card was for by adding a letter after the slash and crossing out the locations it was not for, plus highlighting the QTH it was for.

I did do a Google search after I wrote my question and I found a photo of the card he sent me on a website. He also had two other designs. There were more hits in French than English and it appears he was fairly active.


Prasad, VU2PTT, is currently looking for a QSL but Bruno's old manager, F6FNU, is now a SK, and Bruno is now in French Guiana with a FY call but w/o an email address for Prasad to reach him.

Thanks for the information.

73,

Chris/NU1O
« Last Edit: January 02, 2013, 05:17:48 PM by NU1O » Logged
KF6ABU
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« Reply #26 on: January 02, 2013, 05:20:44 PM »

ZL9HR was my 246th confirmed, 270 total in about 3 years.

There are still many fairly active entities I have yet to contact - T6, ZA, S2, VQ9, SU, EP, YI, 5Z, 3B8, JD1M, 3A, AP, 4S, EZ, SV2/A and HV. All these places come on from time to time but most of them I can never even hear. I have no problem trying to work a new one for 10 hours straight.

Better antennas and WARC abilities would be helpful.

I have pretty good success working all the dxpeds to rare entities when they come up, unless its a hard to work location and they also choose to not work NA, and only strong East Coast stations get in.

Getting a yagi, a non mobile radio, and an amp last year have been very helpful.
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W2IRT
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« Reply #27 on: January 02, 2013, 05:21:37 PM »

If you have any doubt at all, just submit your next DXCC application directly to the ARRL by mail (or in person). But as I said, I don't think it's a problem, personally. I've gotten numerous cards that were done in that same fashion: one card, multiple locations. So long as the entity is clearly and distinctly shown the card itself is most likely valid. After that, it's up to the League to determine if the operation is valid by checking their archives to see if they submitted a copy of their license and proof of being on FR/j when they said they were.
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N5MOA
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« Reply #28 on: January 02, 2013, 05:50:59 PM »


Prasad, VU2PTT, is currently looking for a QSL but Bruno's old manager, F6FNU, is now a SK, and Bruno is now in French Guiana with a FY call but w/o an email address for Prasad to reach him.


Did he try and reach him via an email to the manager of his FY call, F2YT?
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AF5C
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« Reply #29 on: January 02, 2013, 07:40:52 PM »

In  terms of FR4FA/J I have the same card  I send all of my cards directly to the ARRL for DXCC purposes, and they accepted it for Juan de Nova.  Good thing since that is my only Juan de Nova QSL.

John AF5CC
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