Tag Archives: Quebec

Escaping the noise while traveling

A Sony SW100, a PK Loop, and a pint of L’Écurieux brown ale. Lovely trio!

If you’re a regular Post reader, you’re probably aware that I enjoy a relatively RFI-free environment at my rural mountain home. RFI-free living is something of a luxury, even though our rural location also equates to appallingly slow Internet service.

But unfortunately, when I travel, I usually find that I’ve traded my RFI-free atmosphere for the chaos of noise-ridden bands. If you’ve ever stayed at a modern hotel and tried to tune to anything on mediumwave or shortwave, you’ll know just what I mean.

We’ve spent this summer, like last, near Québec City, Canada.  Near this fairly large city, I’ve been greeted by more than enough RFI to make up for the lack of RFI most of the year.

I attribute the atrocious RFI to the number of light dimmers the developers put in this condo complex and the proximity to a field of noisy electrical poles. Of course, all of the unregulated power supplies in the area don’t help, either. It’s a jungle of noise.

The PK Loop

Last year, I purchased a PK Loop portable HF loop antenna (about $150 on eBay)–specifically with hotels and this very condo in mind. I must say, it has been a welcome travel companion on this trip.

The Elecraft KX2 and PK Loop

While the PK Loop seems to pair well with my Sony SW100, I also love using it with my Elecraft KX2 for SWLing.

Sadly, the PK Loop doesn’t provide the noise mitigation of a large wideband mag loop antenna–like a Wellbrook or Pixel Loop–but it does lend itself to excellent portability and takes the edge off the noise.

While it’s easy to do my radio listening in the condo from a comfy chair, in reality, it limits what I can receive in a serious way. The 31 meter band, for example, is so heavily submerged in RFI that only the strongest stations can punch through (for example, Voice of Greece, Radio Romania International, WRMI, WBCQ, Radio Havana Cuba, China Radio International).

So, what can I do?

Hit the field, of course!

That’s right. Taking a page from the books of SWLing Post contributors London Shortwave and Clint Gouveia, I realize I can simply leave the RFI behind and seek a sound, radio quiet spot for SWLing/DXing!

My listening post last year–during the BBC Midwinter broadcast–in the parking lot of St-Anne-de-Beaupré basilica.

Over the past two months, I’ve taken time to escape the RFI and do a few live listening sessions and spectrum recordings in the field. I’ve always got my SDRplay RSP, Elecraft KX2, and Sony ICG-SW100 at the ready. In terms of wire antennas, I’ve deployed my NASA PA30 and even my QRP Trail-Friendly EFT, with good results.

Listening to the 2017 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast from the back of my vehicle in Saint-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec, Canada.

I’ve also been experimenting with the homebrew Miniwhip antenna that SWLing Post contributor, Steve Yothment, provided earlier this year, based on the design used by the U Twente WebSDR. As Guy Atkins recently demonstrated, miniwhip designs do require some distance from sources of RFI, however.

The field is your friend…

Just a friendly reminder that if you live in an RFI-dense environment, you can certainly design a system to help mitigate RFI at home. After all, home is where you likely spend the bulk of your free time.

View of the Saint Lawrence River from my back-of-the-minivan listening post.

But, again, the easiest way to substantially increase your chances of snagging DX stations is to simply hit the field.

Join me in giving it a try. Find an RFI-free location with access to a couple of trees to hang a simple wire antenna–say, in a park, at the side of a rural road, on a friend’s farm…and if you find the listening good, make it your radio get-away. You’ll likely find that your portable shortwave radio can outperform your at-home tabletop receiver simply by removing yourself and your radio from the noisy environ of indoors.

When you first start doing radio in the field, it might feel a bit awkward–especially if you’re taking more than a portable shortwave along for the ride–but you’ll soon enjoy the fresh air ambiance and maybe even prefer it to indoors.  Even if you’re in a public setting where curious passers-by may want to know what you’re doing, as they undoubtedly will…When questions arise, take a (brief!) moment to educate your questioner(s) about the fascinating and nearly-forgotten world of shortwave radio––maybe you’ll inspire others to listen in, too.

And trust me: once you’ve been to the field a few times, you’ll start to look forward to playing radio in the great–and noise-free–outdoors!

Field Day 2017 with the Club Radio Amateur de Québec

Gaétan Trépanier (VE2GHO) making final adjustments to the club’s HF Yagi

For the second year in a row, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the Club Radio Amateur de Québec (C.R.A.Q.) on Field Day. Members number well over 150 and the club has a history dating back to 1926.

Last year, I found myself in Québec during my favorite on-air event, so I reached out to the club’s Field Day organizer and found myself welcomed with open arms; I was especially honored to discover that the group even reserved a time slot at the radio for me.

When I reached the site Saturday morning (June 24), I felt like I was coming back to a radio reunion. The folks at the club were incredibly hospitable, and once again, I enjoyed operating as VE2CQ.

Here are a few photos I took of the site and some of the club’s members in action:

I snapped the following shot as I started my 18:00-20:00 shift:

Shortly before my radio shift ended at 20:00, Sébastien Le Galle (VA2SLW) sat down with me to listen as I worked stations across the band. As I was about to hang up the microphone, instead, I offered it to him. Sébastien, I learned, is a newly-minted ham and, turns out, had never made contact on the radio. I encouraged him to take the mic, which he did without hesitation. After a very brief intro on the Field Day exchange, Sébastien worked two stations in succession. Moreover, as I learned the next day, he worked an additional four stations after I left the site. Bravo, Sébastien! And welcome!

Sébastien (VA2SLW) operating VE2CQ. (Photo courtesy of C.R.A.Q)

As I finally left the site around 20:45 (local), I snapped a few photos of the Field Day house and antennas at the Base de plein air de Sainte-Foy.  A beautiful evening at a great site––and a fine finish to a thoroughly enjoyable Field Day, once again.

Back at the dial again…!

Ship-Throttle

Many of you might have noticed I’ve been absent on Facebook/Twitter , slower to correspond, and not posting quite as often this summer.

Yes, you guessed it: I’ve been on the road again.

Starting in mid-May, we made our annual pilgrimage to Dayton, Ohio, where we hosted an inside exhibit at the Hamvention, made some NPOTA activations, and visited the phenomenal National Museum of the USAF.

The LNR Precision LD-11 and QRP Ranger during a National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activation in Ohio.

The LNR Precision LD-11 and QRP Ranger during a National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activation in Ohio.

I then returned to the shack for one week, frantically finished a few projects, then hit the road again.  Headed even farther north this time….Destination: Canada.

The Udvar-Hazy Center houses a number of large aircraft including the Concorde, the SR-71 and even the space shuttle Discovery.

The Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center houses a number of large aircraft including the Concorde, the SR-71 and even the space shuttle Discovery.

Stopped in the Washington, DC area for a few nights and spent the better part of one day at the Udvar-Hazy Center. The aviation geek in me was in the skies––wow, what an amazing place!

By June 5th, i was just outside Québec City in the town of Beaupré.

My station on Field Day operating as VE2CQ.

My station on Field Day operating as VE2CQ.

While in Québec, I participated in a Field Day event with the incroyable members of the Club Radio Amateur de Québec. I practiced my French, the club members treated me like one of their own––hosting an excellent lunch and dinner––and I even got a few hours on the air as VE2CQ.

Oh, and you might recall a post from June in which I shared photos from an aerial display in Québec City featuring the Snowbirds. It was our first time seeing them, and it was, as you might expect, just spectacular.

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We spent the rest of June and part of July in Québec, then made our way to Prince Edward Island via New Brunswick and Nova Scotia where a rustic off-grid cabin awaited us.

The view from our off-grid cabin on PEI.

The view from our off-grid cabin on PEI.

While the condo in Quebec had all of the radio interference one would expect, the off-grid cabin was blissfully quiet, free of radio interference. As you might imagine, I played a lot of radio…

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I also sampled a lot of Island craft brews!

We spent several relaxed weeks in Prince Edward Island, then made our way back to the States.

I’ve only been home since last Wednesday, and found quite a pile-up in the work zone, so I’m busily catching up.  However, I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I should be current with correspondence by next week.  Thanks for your patience, email friends!

And if you’re interested, just for fun, I plan to write a more detailed trip report later this summer or fall. I do have a few pics from side trips I’ll likely share in the meantime.

Yet again, we had a terrific adventure in Canada!  But it’s sure good to be back home…and back at the dial.

Anyone else done a bit of traveling this season? Feel free to share & comment!

The Snowbirds in Québec City

DSC_4513Maybe it’s my radio-loving fascination with technology, travel, and what at times seems like sheer magic–-but for some reason I’ve long been something of an aviation enthusiast, as well. Over the years, I’ve discovered quite a lot of SWLs and ham radio operators share this interest…and if you’re one of these folks, well, have I got a post for you.

Aerien-Quebec

Wednesday in Québec City, as the sun dipped in the sky, viewers standing on the city’s walled fortifications were treated to an amazing aviation display which included a CF-18 Hornet, the CH-146 Griffon and last but definitely not least, the Canadian Forces 431 Air Demonstration Squadron––aka, the Snowbirds.

In the first act, helicopters:  four CH-146 Griffon helicopters in neat formation, and then the Canadian Coast Guard demonstrated lowering a guy from a emergency helicopter onto a Coast Guard boat in the middle of the St. Lawrence, , then drawing him back up into the chopper a few minutes later––with, of course, maneuvers throughout.

For the second act, the CF-18 Hornet pounded the sky with an assault of black-and-yellow speed, twice turning and showing both back and belly.

And for the finale, the Snowbirds skimmed into view in exquisite formation, and with tight, astonishing precision, glided around the ramparts of the old walled city, leaving perfectly drawn contrails of colored smoke.

Here are a few photos I snagged of the demo:

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The Snowbirds

This particular public event wasn’t granted permission for a full acrobatic show, but the Snowbirds were in the air at least thirty minutes and showed off every one of their nine-plane position formations.  And were they ever precise!

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The Snowbirds gave us a flawless and graceful show, one I’ll never forget. Canadian readers, you should be mighty proud of your Snowbirds; they’re an aviation team to be reckoned with.

The Sony ICF-SW55 and the Voice of Greece: a wonderful travel combo

Sony-ICF-SW55-2
I’m currently in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec (Canada) and having a brilliant time. I’ve been sans Internet for the better part of a week (save a little online time at local cafés) which is why I’m quite far behind on correspondence.

The lack of Internet, though, has a positive side: it has given me uninterrupted time to surf the shortwaves!

The only bad news is that I’m staying in a condo and the radio interference is…well…a little high.

Still, I’m fortunate to have a balcony where I can relax and listen to my Sony ICF-SW55 outdoors. In truth, I’m truly amazed with the reception I’ve had each evening this week from the Voice of Greece. Though, VOG’s broadcasts have been somewhat unpredictable after their official return to the airwaves, I’m appreciative every time they fire up their Avlis transmitter and pump out music on 9,420 kHz.
Sony-ICF-SW55

I should mention that Radio Romania International is also a very easy catch and, like VOG, punches through the RFI with colors flying.

This is one of the great things about shortwave radio–even when you’re far away from home, you can still hear a familiar voice on the air.