Propagation, Radio and Antennas
On the downloads page I have added a couple of files from the Marine Corps Manuals. I came across this information through the ARRL Contester Rate Sheet which is sent out via Email every two weeks and sometimes has some very good information hidden in it about operating or repairs or propagation.
At the most recent EC Meeting held in May, a question was asked about why do we use 80 meters when it has been so noisy and not everyone can hear everyone else. Or why do we suggest that 40 meters be the alternate.
For some of you who have been around for sometime on the lower bands you may have already discovered some of the wonders and trials that wireless communications holds in store. We are at the bottom of the current sun spot cycle and while the bands are not totally trashed they have been cantankerous as of late. Last week's (June 2) MIARPSC Net was a classic example of propagation and sunspot activity. Two days before we had a minor M Class Flare that caused the Earth Geomagnetic surfaces to be in turmoil. I was Net Control as the first week of each month a Section Staff assumes the roll of NCS. I could hear WZ8N on the West side of the state he could just barely hear me. Dale WA8EFK could not hear me but 30 percent of the time but I read him 80 percent. There were only six stations that I heard due to the band being in the shape that it was.
This is not unique to us here in Michigan. It is true all over the world. How many times have you tried to contact a strong station say on a DXpedition who was a TRUE 59 copy and never get a QSO. I played around with County Hunting for a little while and learned a lot from that pursuit about propagation and what different types of antennas could do. There were times when I got 59 reports from the other station but the other station was say a 33 here at my station and the opposite was also true where I was a 33 and he was a 59 here. The point of all of this is that even a properly setup station (good radio, good grounding of radio and antenna system, good antenna/s, a DSP, etc.) can experience problems and not be heard or be the only loud station on the band.
When you notice that you have problems it is always a good thing to check and confirm that your antenna or grounds or radios are in good shape. I have found after not getting any contacts or getting bad reports that I had a bad wire or a broken solder joint on my antenna's. I have also accidentally found out by periodic visual inspections that sometimes I was very lucky in making a contact. One time was when I made a contact with Germany on 10 meters a few years ago and a few hours later was outside and found that my dog had chewed through the coax to the antenna I had been using. I had the center conductor but the shield was toast for a couple of inches.
So the point is you need to test and play with your station often in order to get some idea of what it can and cannot do and even then there are no certainties in the wonderful hobby.