Zero SSB contacts in 8 hours - Is it me, the rig, or the continuum?

Discussion in 'QRP Corner' started by N1RBD, Aug 16, 2019.

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  1. N1RBD

    N1RBD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    So I got my general and an FT818 to do SOTA/POTA. Using it portable with an external 5Ah LiPo and a HyEnd 10/20/40 end fed. I have yet to make any contacts in the 8 hours total that I've used this. I've tried from a mountain, local park, and a suburban parking deck. Antenna has been hung vertically, inverted-V, and horizontally. I've come up with nothing. Crickets. Silence (which is not golden, BTW). I've tried afternoon, grey line, and round 0200 UTC (SE United States).

    Any tips for a newb from you seasoned hams out there? I'm going to self-spot and try a few more activations with it but I'm about ready to sell it and go back to VHF, where I've had pretty decent luck with SOTA.
  2. KC9YGN

    KC9YGN Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Don't feel too bad. I've only had one SSB contact using my 818 this summer, and that one was rather embarrassing. I was out at the lake with it, set up on a picnic table with my brand new mag loop antenna. I heard a CQ and called back and - well, it was a guy sitting at the boat dock across the lake with his 817 all of a thousand feet away. Now there's some real DX for you [grin]

    Patience is the name of this game, especially with propagation conditions being less than good.
    KC2EP, WA4CZD, KD9NQC and 5 others like this.
  3. KM4DYX

    KM4DYX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Five years ago I became a ham. My first rig was an 817. Conditions were much better then, yet I never had any success calling CQ SSB. All my QSOs were in response to somebody else calling CQ.

    Having said that, I was very aware that my antenna had to be up to snuff. Are you getting that antenna up to a half-wavelength AGL? May not be practical for 40, I know. Also, forget 10. Very few openings these days.

    Try using a web sdr and listen for your own call.

    If you want to try a sked I would be willing to dig out a mic. I'm max 20 watts SSB, so not a "Big Gun" station here, but we might manage.

    Lastly, this should be a good motivator to learn Morse and start doing CW. I'm working SOTA/POTA activators about every day this way.

    73 and GL,
  4. N1RBD

    N1RBD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Tried multiple WebSDRs last night. One was even only 50 or so miles away. Nothing. This has me worried that there is an issue with the rig.

    I'm working on CW, but it's a bit daunting.

    Maybe something next week to see if we can hit each other if I have no luck this weekend. Info is good on QRZ.

    Oh yea, I was well above 1/2 wave AGL last night. In my parking deck I was on the 6th floor, but had it hung horizontally. I wonder if hanging it vertically off the side of the deck would work?

  5. ND6M

    ND6M Ham Member QRZ Page

    What band(s) are you using?
  6. KM4DYX

    KM4DYX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Sky Wave at 50 miles: not happening on 40 (still with the end fed 10/20/40, right?) lately. The Critical Frequency is to low.

    In my parking deck, 6th floor??? Not tracking. Any indoor HF antenna is going to be sub-par. Get out in the clear somewhere and get it up high. If using one support I like to put my portable end fed up as an inverted V.

    CW can be daunting. If this old dog can learn a new trick so can you.
    N1RBD likes this.
  7. W0RIO

    W0RIO Ham Member QRZ Page

    A few hints:
    Check your SWR readings, an End-fed antenna can be a tricky beast to tame. The EFHW should probably have some kind of counterpoise
    and it should have a correctly adjusted tuner/impedance matching transformer.

    I'd highly recommend that you try a dipole, an inverted Vee dipole or a Sloper dipole as your first antenna, get the center up as high as you can.
    A decent antenna that is cut to the right length is probably the single most important part of a QRP station.

    Use decent coax (RG8, RG213) for the feedline and avoid lossy RG58. Foil-shielded RG59 can work nicely for feeding a dipole.
    Keep the feedline as short as possible to minimize losses.

    Consider buying or borrowing an antenna analyzer to see if your antenna is resonant where you intend to operate.
    Make sure that your antenna is clear of nearby objects when you analyze it. Build the antenna longer than the typical length
    of Feet=468/F and trim it slowly, it's a lot easier to raise the antenna a few more times than it is to lengthen an antenna you cut too short.

    Try working at optimum bands and optimum times of day. This is especially important since we're at sunspot minimum times.
    20 meters is a good bet during the day, especially near sunrise and sunset and 40/80 meters is good after dark assuming there are no
    nearby thunderstorms that will make the bands noisy and overwhelm your QRP signal.
    I find that the best time to work on 40 is between sunset and around 10PM, many operators shut down after then. Once you get
    up to speed, it's possible to make DX contacts at odd hours of the night.

    As others have said, CW gets better results than SSB at QRP power levels.

    Try to find a local ham club or even knock on the door of a local ham (look for obvious ham antennas on the roof), if you can
    find someone local, they can help to verify that your signal is getting out and may be able to help optimize your antenna.

    You may have better results answering someone else's CQ instead of calling CQ yourself, try to find a station that's coming in strong.
    Not that you shouldn't call CQ yourself on occasion, but if you answer the other CQ, you know they are listening for any callers.
    Don't be discouraged if they answer a stronger station, just move on. If you try to answer a CQ and they don't respond, try
    a few times then move on, they probably can't hear your signal through the noise.

    CW QRP can be difficult, but is rewarding when you make a contact. SSB QRP is even more difficult, but not impossible.
    SSB QRP during the sunspot minimum is the most difficult but still possible.

    I've had a lot of fun operating my old Ten-Tec Argo 5W QRP SSB rig on 17 meters from remote locations during weekend days,
    even during the sunspot minimum times. I use a simple dipole with a short RG59 feedline up about 20' and can usually (not always)
    make a few contacts.
    N1RBD likes this.
  8. N1OOQ

    N1OOQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I will second the "try a dipole" advice. Strike 1 - QRP. Strike two - SSB. Strike 3 - compromise antenna. You're out, batter.
    KW6LA and N1RBD like this.
  9. N8AFT

    N8AFT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Second check that mic gain and compression / processing if so equipped.
    Can't hurt. Is there a local you can QSO with for an audio check??
    You WERE SSB and not AM mode btw?

    Get yer Morse on and make some contacts the easier way.... QRP can be Extra tough using voice modes.
    Learning Morse is a nice challenge but anyone can master it with some spare time and effort.
    Big community and many computer learning rescources out there to assist you...
    VY 73 Lane
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
    N1RBD likes this.
  10. N1OOQ

    N1OOQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    BTW, once you can send TEST TEST TEST DE N1BRD N1BRD N1BRD you can hit some RBN skimmers and see how you're getting out. You don't really even have to be able to copy any replies, the skimmers just log you automatically. Excellent for testing your station setup. You could even have a keyer or computer send the code.
    N1RBD and N8AFT like this.

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