Operating FT8 out of South Carolina

I recently (finally) put up a stealth antenna on my new home in South Carolina. Due to home owners association rules… it is not as easy as it used to be for hams to have an outside antenna. Thanks to an MFJ automatic remote antenna tuner I mounted on my roof and a long wire, I have an antenna – not a great antenna but any antenna is better than no antenna, when you’re a ham.

One thing that has changed in the last year that I’ve been in the process of moving to SC is the innovation of FT8, a weak-signal mode that came on the ham scene in a big way during the latter half of 2017. This mode, combined with some signal tracking (PSKreporter), provides a good mechanism for identifying how well your antenna is working.

Usually, this time of year, the 20 meter band closes up a few hours after sunset – if it opens up at all based on the sunspot cycle. Last night (May 17th), at about 8PM Eastern, I made a few contacts with FT8 on 20 meters and then left the radio tracking the stations it heard overnight. I tracked 539 transmitters in 31 countries – most of them between 8PM and 10PM.

A visual of what was heard looks like:

stations heard

I was also interested in how well I was heard between 8 and 9PM when I was transmitting, using about 25 watts. The stations that heard me looked like:

stations the heard me

That was 247 stations in 31 countries.

Not too bad considering the house has techshield radiant barrier, turning the inside of the house into a Faraday cage. I am going to continue experimenting with bands and times of day and hope to compare it against other local hams that have ‘real’ antennas.

One of the great things about this hobby is that even those that are resource constrained can still have fun and experiment.

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