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By Tony Boddy VK6DQ
Thank you to those PARG members who managed to share some of their valuable time with the Scouts and Cubs for this the 58th Jamboree On The Air.
Having done JOTA for the last ten years or so has left me with a thought or two. Starting with the usual doubts about if what we did was enough. The group set up the trailer at Rockingham Scout Hall with the Diamond X-200 on the mast extension, a Buxcom 40 meter OCF Dipole and an 80 meter dipole that had to be folded back on itself because we just could not get the full length out due to the positioning of the trailer. The 40 Buxcom came from the Scout Group Leader who asked us to give it a try. Buxcom gave the thumbs up to all frequencies up to 10 meters with no tuner. It worked too, the SWR was between 1.5 and 1.7 to 1 across all bands. Not a bad thing at all. It was a little down on the 80 meter dipole that could be tuned with an Icom AH-4 from 80 meters to 6 meters. All in all both antennas seemed to perform well. That was confirmed with a 5x9 contact into a Kuala Lumpa non JOTA station 9M4WSB on 20 meters by Terry VK6TTF who was able to switch between antennas with little or no loss of signal.
Could we have done better? This is the question that a lowly amateur must ask when there are no contacts; was my gear set up correctly; were the antennas OK; did my transmitter fail to perform. OK we can tune up with dummy loads, power meters, antenna analyzers, all sorts of fancy gear and feed the signals into the antenna but does all of that testing mean little else than diddly squat if we get no replies? We called CQ JOTA on just about every Hertz between ground and heaven. Not a dicky bird. We heard some JOTA stations well down in the mud but they could not hear us. DITM means real hard copy for experienced Hams and as we know around impossible copy for little people. There was also some sort of DX competition going and they would not talk to us or heaven forbid could not hear us. Around mid afternoon on Saturday 40 meters opened up. The stations we heard from New Zealand and New South Wales had good communications between themselves and not a thing with us. Then the band became flooded with what seemed stations from Oceania in a language not understood by us but definitely oriental. Could not pick out anything resembling a callsign anywhere. It was just a continuous jabber blocking out all other stations. The other thing that bothered us was noise. Generally S7 to S9 with one burst for a short time at S9+ 20Db. Hard to beat that.
In my gear somewhere is a Noise Cancelling Signal Enhancer and whilst I have never tried it I have heard them in use at other stations. The theory is that the sense antenna it has will pick up the same noise as the main antenna, shift it out of phase and use it to null out the white noise. I have heard them work and well too. They are a bit fiddly to tune but worth the effort. Next JOTA it will get a work out but very well tried at home first.
High Frequency contacts were down, in fact, non-existent with incredibly fickle band conditions. The saving grace was our use of VHF and Echolink, without that, things would have been dismal indeed. We still made it work. Notably we did cover a great area with our VHF signals so we can be sure that our comms trailer will give a good account of itself when the chips are down. Well done everyone.
Best regards, Tony, VK6DQ
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