In the past month, I’ve finally unblocked my antenna issues and made great strides in the digital realm of ham radio.

Using the PreciseRF HG-1 magnetic loop antenna along with my RigExpert AA-600 to get the lowest possible SWR, I have found that I can get out to virtually all over the country simply from putting the antenna on the street. The loop only supports max 45W PEP, so it is definitely a low-power antenna. But I can only imagine how it would function if I were in a flat field or on a peak.

PreciseRF HG-1 Mag Loop Antenna
PreciseRF HG-1 Mag Loop antenna at street level surrounded by 2-story houses.

With gray-line propagation some days, I see strong signal spots via Reverse Beacon Network or PSKreporter.

Reverse Beacon Network for AD6DM
Depending on the conditions, CW @ 30w can get pretty far.

If you want help finding practice buddies for CW, I highly recommend CWOps CW Academy. If you’re on Twitter, I also highly recommend joining LIDS CW Club. Every time you get noticed on the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN), the LIDS CW Spotter will tweet that you’re on the air, and others can look for you.

With progress in CWOps CW Academy Level 1, I started off earlier in the month trying to send CW on 40m, 20m, 30m, 17m. Not much luck on getting any replies (which I’ve come to expect). So I thought, why not try FT8 just to see if I’m still just as clueless to configuration and signal overdriving. Turns out, the final tweaks to audio levels on the Signalink USB made my first FT8 contacts really quick!

FT8 with gray-line propagation to Australia
FT8 with gray-line propagation to Australia

Only lately have I tried other modes such as PSK31, Olivia, and Thor. Thanks to the immediate feedback from FT8, I was able to fine-tune settings to read and be copied by folks all around.

As with all things ham, patience led to victory. So that is my advice if you’re having difficulties: It’s a journey that requires patience. First find the right rig, then find the right antenna and gear, then figure out software configuration and connectivity, test, verify, test some more– then finally someone needs to actually reply. Along the way there will be discouragements and failure. A lot of the time you’ll need another ham’s help. For me, the frustrations and dead air took many many months, but it’s worth it when every little puzzle piece falls together and works. There’s nothing like that rush when you hear your callsign being sent back to you by another operator hundreds if not thousands of miles away.

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