Tuesday, June 8, 2010
T Minus Nine & Counting
June 2, 2010 brought a sustained Sporadic E-Skip opening to the Southeastern United States. Six Meters opened early in the morning to the Caribbean, and then to Mexico. Several times during the morning, the band grew "short" here with nearby grids like EM48 being worked on 6 Meters via E-Skip.
For those new to VHF, E-Skip paths typically cover 600-1100 miles, with longer paths being worked via "double hop" propagation. When these events become intense on 6 Meters, the distance to stations being worked grows shorter, with contacts of less than 300 miles becoming possible. As this happens, the Maximum Usable Frequency (MUF) climbs higher.
Many hard core DX'ers will track the MUF using a variety of indicators. One of those is when you start to see 6 Meters "go short". Other good things to check are listening for E-Skip on local FM channels that are "empty".
During this opening, my local channels were being overwhelmed with stations from Houston, Dallas, and Kansas City. These E-skip openings happened first on 88.5, then 101.1, finally reaching above 107.5.
A quick check of the NOAA Weather Radio frequencies at 162Mhz revealed only the "usual suspects"...so I knew the MUF was somewhere between 108 and 162. I sent several CQ's on 144.200, hoping for rare 2 Meter E-Skip, but nothing was heard.
As the afternoon, progressed, this cycle repeated itself. E Skip on 6 Meters would build to a frenzy, and Mexican TV stations would fill the screen of my old B&W set in my shack. First TV channel 2, then 3, then 4....The FM dial would fill up too, but nothing on 2 Meters. Drat!
I started catching up on some e-mails in our home office, and an hour passed. I drifted back into the shack, to see a crystal clear picture on Channel 5 from Mexico. Wow. The bands must be jumping. I spun to the NOAA Weather Radio channels and heard strong signals on the two vacant channels in my area! The MUF must be above 162 MHz!
Quickly, I spun the dial to 144.200 and heard KA0JGH calling CQ from Nebraska with no takers. I called him, and he came right back with a 59+ signal report. Wow! A new grid and a new state. I moved up and down the band listening for other calls.
Managed to work W0NRW from EN11 for another new grid, and then AE0G in EN10. Then disaster struck...my wife tapped me on the shoulder, pointed towards her watch, and reminded me that we had a date for dinner with another couple. But....but....
Common sense prevailed. A contest weekend is coming, with the CQ WW to follow soon after that. I'd spent almost the whole day in the shack on 6 Meters, and DXing TV stations. Trying to get out of this dinner would be a suicide mission. I switched off the rig, and went to freshen up before dinner.
As we drove, David Benton, WA4JGG called my cell phone to tell me that 2 Meters was open. My wife listened on our Bluetooth speaker, and said, "Honey, why didn't you say so? We could have canceled". After 28 years of marriage, I know better than to take bait like that. I just smiled, and said, "I'm sure the band will be open again soon".
I hated to miss most of that opening, but EN10 and EN11 put me at 91 grids on 2 Meters with the indoor antennas. And I live to fight another day. Hoping that I'll pick up at least one or two more this weekend....
Great opening, and lots of fun. Thanks to my new friends in Nebraska, and the world's best XYL. She's even worth passing up a 2 Meter E-Skip opening for...how many men can say that?