As we come to the end of 2023, I’ll do a quick review of my year, so this will be a bit longer than usual.

I was hoping to work 100 DXCCs as quickly as possible and preferably in January, well I did, sort of as it took till early February. This year I used a mix of CW and SSB mostly outputting 100W and up to 400 for the big pileups. As I write this, I have 115 on phone, and 156 on CW and a grand total of 194 that includes data (more later) 1 short of my all- time best of 195 in 2014 when I was still feeling OK.

January bought in a rush of stations too many to mention but Australia, Indonesia, South Africa and Greenland come to mind. In February with solar conditions improving, China, Mongolia, Bali, Nepal and most of the US and Canadian states & provinces.

By the end of March, the score had risen to 162 with the Falklands, and New Caledonia adding to the total. April, however, was a disaster in all senses, my health took a battering, so I wasn’t up to doing too much, then the antenna farm threw its toys again. This was fixed by renewing the 450 feeders with the last of my stock. Then, the computer threw a wobbly. It turns out that Windows had added a new security feature that prevented programs loading up, but with no warning or notifications. I asked for help with this and eventually identified the fault and fixed it. Since then, many dozens of others have reported the same thing but now get a 1 minute 'fix' as the procedure has been well publicised.

May, as usual, bought a load of outdoor activities like gardening (not so easy these days) and checking the antennas. The DX included VK, Hong Kong, American Samoa, and Rockall. June was equally quiet but lots of island contacts, and with Singapore, Ethiopia, and the Sovereign Military order of Malta. However, still a little way to my 200 target.

July is my month to chase islands and this year a good crop of Chinese and American ones. Another bout of side effects laid me low for a while, so I started to look into the new datamodes. With a good deal of help from Dick G0LFF I managed to get a signal out using FT8 as an experiment. I was hoping to get this running before the Autumn & winter. I found this system is a bit boring when I am feeling well, but really relaxing to use (and addictive) when I’m not feeling too good, so it’s a great help to keep me on the air.

August saw us bid farewell to Ron, G0WGP another source of wisdom and memories from WW2.

Down the garden a slight hint of hot plastic! An inspection of my weatherproof box revealed some brown colour and the smell of smoke. Checking everything revealed the balun had overheated due to dry joints on the sockets (they don’t seem to like the heat cycling out in the garden, an ongoing problem). The plastic case had to be renewed and then I found the ATU had started to play up. This limits my 15 Metres to 50W. The darker evenings bought 60 Metres to life, so I thought I’d try FT8 on this band. As I have reported in these articles this has been a great experiment to try. Some time I must do a write up of my results and thoughts on this unusual band. If anyone out there has any knowledge of the low band characteristics, I would like to hear from you.

In September I started to work some DX with FT8 on 60m and for a change I also tried 30m. This brought my first ever contact with South Dakota for worked all states. 30m behaves as one would expect propagation wise, and with the possibility of better DX, it is populated most of the day and into the evening while 60m is usually dead during our daylight hours. I think my lack of any western states is due to the fact that when the band is open here in the evening it is dead during their midday. All I need to do to get California is to stay awake till 5 in the morning!

October was great for working Europe and as I had set a target of working all Europe squares, I was filling lots of slots. At the time of writing, I have worked most of the squares out to 1,400 Km from here. The gaps are mostly sea or uninhabited! However, I still get a few new ones each week. I only now need Egypt and Syria to have all the countries on my Europe map! On the DX front 39 major squares (we are in IO) with received signals from many more including New Zealand. I guess that some of the gaps are because not all countries have the 60m allocation yet.

The end of the year bought the sad news of the passing of Mick G4EFO, another great loss to ham radio.

In the last few hours of the year 60m was still springing a few surprises with contacts with Kuwait, Monaco, Georgia, Belize, and Argentina.

So, an eventful year in spite of problems. I asked for comments last time, but I have not had any replies yet, so again, if anyone can help explain 60m propagation I would like to hear from you.

If Berni can stand it, and you want to read it, I might be able to do some more of these bits for the news next year.

[Yes please Chris, but I'm afraid I can't help you with 60m props info!   Berni]


Good DXing in 2024

Chris, G4ZCS

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