Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rain, rain go away!

There's lots of rain together with thunder in the east of the Netherlands as I write this. But Witte Tornado and The Lady are on the air regardless of the weather conditions with their regular Sunday afternoon/evening broadcast. I was there around six weeks ago and I can imagine the top of the antenna swaying in the wind as I listen to their music on 1647 kHz. The signal is pretty strong here, but with plenty of static crashes. Generally the sinpo is around 45343, so perfectly listenable. 

The rest of the top of the MW band is silent here, and a quick look on the sdr at Enschede reveals there is nothing else to be heard even locally. It also shows the reason why. Look at this screen grab and you will see the vertical line marking the Witte Tornado signal on 1647, but all the horizontal lines are the continual static due to the thunderstorms. Its not easy to listen to anything with that much noise on the band, which explains why most pirates have decided on an early night!




A few minutes ago Radio Desperado also mentioned the bad weather in the north of the Netherlands as he closed down on 6260 kHz from his second ever SW broadcast. His signal was a little stronger than last night and I made a short recording:


Something old and something new

The last few days have been interesting in a number of ways. Activity levels from the sun have been creating very volatile conditions, particularly on shortwave with signals quickly fading out from very strong to nothing in no time at all. Tonight, for example, Cupid Radio was blasting away on 6281 one minute and then he was gone the next.

MW seems a little more stable than in recent weeks, although perhaps the new loop antenna at this side is working the magic. It certainly seems to be helping with reception in the early morning, and there was a nice surprise on Wednesday when I heard Calipso on 1620 kHz. It's been a good while since I heard him on the air as he's been taking a more cautions approach in recent months. While it was good to hear this well-established pirate on the air again, it was also equally refreshing to catch a new name, for me anyway, later in the day when hearing Baantje on the same frequency.

Here's the lowdown with my recent logs:

Saturday, August 29, 2015
1665          1859         Matrix 35333 music programme
1636          1907         Keizer en Kezierin 35333 music programme
1648          2010         Moby Dick 45444 music programme
1656          2013         Malibu 25222-35333 music programme
1620          2109         Barones 35333-45444 music programme
1655          2139         Witte Raaf 35333-45444 music programme
1638          2307         Monte Carlo 45444 qsoing
1638          2314         Calimero 55444 qsoing
1630          2323         Monte Carlo 45444 qsoing

Friday, August 28, 2015
1656          2008         Mustang 54444
1638          2009         Armada 45444-55544 music programme
1646          2029         Zwarte Bizon 45434 qsoing
1645          2032         Blauwe Reiger 35333-44444 qsoing
1646          2036         Mustang 55444 qsoing
1624          2054         Boogschutter 25222 qsoing
1638          2105         Calimero 55544 music programme
1645          2111         Armada 45434 qsoing
1665          2120         Polkaman 35333
1645          2128         Noordzee 44333 qsoing

Thursday, August 27, 2015
1620          2237         Spakenburg 45333-45444 music programme
1625          2259         Jeneverstoker 34333 asking for report
1636          2333         Pandora 45434 report for Stoker

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
1620          0445         Calipso 25222-45454 music programme
1640          1908         Veronica 35222-45333 music programme
1631          1909         Marksramer (Friesland) 35232 music programme
1620          1917         Baantje 35232-35333 music programme
1539          2031         Energy FM 33433
1620          2053         Saporro 45333 report for Baantje
1633          2106         Barcelona 44444-55444 music programme
1638          2108         Calimero 55444 music programme


Observations

  • There has been plenty of static knocking around on MW in the last few days with thunderstorms around Europe playing their part. Matrix was breaking through the noise tonight (Saturday) really well with his low-power transmitter, as was Malibu. And it was good to catch Witte Raaf for the first time in ages, and a pleasure to have Barones accompanying me on 1620 as I update the blog
  • As I mentioned, I was also listening to SW tonight and it was a surprise to catch Desperado on 6265 kHz a couple of weeks after I heard him on 1606 and 1611 kHz on MW. It was his first time on SW and he was on air all evening with just 35 watts and an impressive signal
  • On Friday evening there was an entertaining qso started off by a powerhouse signal from Mustang. It's been a while since I heard the distinguished voice of the Zwaaaaaaaaaarte Bizon, who always makes me smile with his iconic ID. Also involved in the qso was Boogschutter. A few months ago there was a station using this name together with a robotic voice, but they are two different stations. This one was considerably weaker, although perfectly audible here, and seemingly running far less power. It was another new name for me. Here's how the stations qsoing were coming across the North Sea:



  • Spakenburg has returned to the air recently after a break. He's using a different vertical antenna now to when he was previously on air, although he's often experimenting with new designs. He tells me this one has a bad swr but is nevertheless working well. In fact he received a report from Italy on Thursday night with a sinpo of 55555. The signal was pretty good here too:

  • Baantje is not a regular on MW and it was the first time I had heard him when catching his signal on 1620 on Wednesday evening. The static crashes were quite heavy that night, so reception was disturbed, but his low-power signal was doing pretty well. When he closed down he had a chat to Saporro, who was coming in a little bit stronger, in fact perhaps the best I have heard him. He was trying out a new transmitter, and it gets a thumbs-up from here!


  • Some months ago internet station Energy was getting regular relays on 1476 kHz. What appears to be the same transmitter popped up on 1539 on Wednesday evening. The frequency is nowhere near as clear and there was plenty of mixing going on with other signals but the strength was pretty good. It would be great if whoever is responsible for these relays were to come on air with some programmes

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Latest logs

After weeks of struggling to hear the Dutch MW pirates due largely to poor conditions I can now hear something each evening - and even during the early mornings too, a sure sign autumn is on it's way.

Before sunrise on Saturday and Sunday morning I set the computer to record 1620 kHz and each time I was rewarded, with Torpedojager first time, followed by Zonnester the next day.

I've listened for only about an hour this evening but heard a handful of stations. Snowman has been doing great work with just a few watts from the north of the Netherlands, while it was interesting to hear Torpedojager at this time of day. Usually during the winter I catch him on a Thursday morning with his weekly programme.

Here are the latest logs:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
1630          2134         Monte Carlo 35333 qsoing
1610          2136         Anton 44444 music programme
1629          2137         Noordzee 34443 qsoing
1636          2138         Romax 35333-45444 qsoing
1636          2142         Torpedojager 35333-55444 music programme
1650          2150         Snowman 35333 music programme


Monday, August 24, 2015
1638          2110         Armada 45333 music programme
1620          2135         Amigo 35333 music programme
1630          2149         Ruimzicht 24222 report for Amigo
1625          2159         Ruimzicht 24222-34333 qsoing

Sunday, August 23, 2015
1620          0445         Zonnester 45444 at 0505 music programme
1638          2220         Calimero 55444 music programme

Saturday, August 22, 2015
1620          0450         Torpedojager 35243 music programme
1646          1930         Mustang 45333-45444 music programme
1620          1930         Tamboer Jnr 35333 testing
1636          1932         Keizer en Keizerin 35333-45344 music programme
1630          2002         Blue Star 35333, 45444 at 2218 testing
1648          2011         Moby Dick 35333, 55444 at 2215 music programme
1615          2215         Batavier 25222-35333 music programme
1645          2314         Spakenburg 44444 qsoing
1642          2315         Monte Carlo 44444 qsoing

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Keeping the noise down

I've been trying out a new version of the Wellbrook loop antenna this week - the latest low-noise design. 



I always use 10db of attenuation with the Kenwood R-5000 receiver here which moderates the signals a little as the meter is quite generous. This also reduces the noise reading, and with the new loop I am now often getting just an S1 of noise at the top of the MW band, which is perfect for pulling in pirate signals big and small. So, I might hear a station coming in at, say, S4. You might think this is not very strong, but it's three s points above the noise level, so better than receiving a signal at S9+10 when the noise level is S9. 

A crucial factor with reception reports often overlooked is the noise floor - it's a vital piece of information, and this new loop certainly helps a great deal on that count. Trying it out on 48 metres alongside an inverted v antenna for that band is pretty telling. Even without looking at s meters, you can hear the difference in noise level. And the meter backs that up with a difference of a couple of points between the two antennas.

You might not think cutting down the noise level a little bit is a big deal, but it is really noticeable and after just a few days of use I cannot imagine going back to early versions of this loop antenna, which although were very good, have been well and truly trumped with this version. I guess it's a bit like washing powders . . . the adverts on TV always say they're brilliant - until the next one comes out and you cannot imagine how you managed without the newest version.

Here's what I've heard from the Dutch pirates since I installed the Wellbrook ALA1530LN+. All times are UTC as usual, so two hours behind local Dutch time.

Friday, August 21, 2015
1655          1915         Relmus 45444-55555 music progamme
1637          1930         Edelkampioen 45444 qsoing
1623          1935         Vrolijke Mijnwerker 45444-55444 music progamme
1638          1936         Dikke Betta 35333 qsoing
1635          1958         Boomerang 54444 testing
1610          2001         Mi Amigo 34333 music programme
1640          2042         Schaduwjager 55544 asking for report
1640          2052         Noordzee 45444 report for Schaduwjager
1665          2155         Polkaman 35333-45344 music programme
1661          2156         Nachtzwerver 23322-35333 music programme
1647          2259         Monte Carlo 45444 report for Nachtzwerver
1627          2316         Jeneverstoker 23222-34333 qsoing
1618          2317         Pioneer 24322 testing with FM relay
1636          2329         Pandora 55444 music programme

Tuesday, August 18, 2015
1620          2125         Batavia 25222-35333 music programme 
1611          2135         Desperado 24222 music programme
1636          2255         Pandora 45444 music programme
1623          2308         Jeneverstoker 25222-35333 qsoing
1606          2336         Desperado 32422 testing

Observations

  • It was little autumn had come earlier during Friday evening with some great signals coming through. It was great to hear Relmus doing the business all night long on 1655, and a surprise to hear Edelkampioen qsoing - I think that's the first time I've heard him chatting to another station. His signal, without doubt, was the best I've ever heard. Having seen his antenna, transmitter and general set-up when I visited last month, reception this time was just like I thought must be possible. Have a listen to how he was coming through on this recording:




  • Boomerang is not a regular on MW. In fact, looking at my logs shows I've not heard him up there since December 2011. He was testing on Friday night and coming through really well - his audio was very smooth as well. Perhaps he'll come on and do some programmes some time?
  • 1606 kHz is not a frequency you often hear pirates using, but Desperado was trying it out on Tuesday night. He had been on 1611 earlier in the evening with a music programme, which was coming in quite well at times here even though the power at his side was only 60 watts. His antenna was peaked for 1606 though and, sure enough, he was marginally stronger when he switched down 5 kHz. Trouble is, there was much more interference on that channel from 1602. He plans to adjust the antenna so the optimum frequency is 1611. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Can you hear the difference?

Some very nice signals arriving here tonight from the Netherlands. This seems to be a combination of the new loop antenna we received this week, together with good conditions and some power stations on the band.

Right now I'm listening to Vrolijke Mijnwerker on 1623 kHz, and I've also been enjoying the music from Relmus, who is still going strong on 1655, and from Schaduwjager who was on 1640 a little earlier, either side of a qso with Noordzee.


Mijnweker, Relmus and Schaduwjager have all been putting in very similar signals here, touching around 70% on the meter. What is interesting though, is that they all sound very different indeed, even on the Kenwood communications receiver I'm using this evening. I made a recording of three, so have a listen and see what you think.




All three sound nice and loud, but are quite clearly using different types of modulation and sound processing. I heard Boomerang testing on 1635 earlier this evening, and Edelkampioen qsoing on 1637. Both were also very strong but again had a different sound. The modulation and audio quality is an aspect of the hobby I find particularly interesting, and it can help to identify stations as well. When you know a particular sound it is often possible to know who you are listening to before a word has even been spoken!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Worth a listen

This weekend marks 48 years since the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act was introduced in a bid by the government to bring an end to the era of offshore radio that in Britain was started by Radio Caroline at Easter in 1964. And there is a tribute to those water-based pirates of the past courtesy of Radio Tatras InternationalThree days of interviews and recordings started yesterday and continue across the weekend, so if you fancy a bit of nostalgia, why not visit the website and click on the live streaming link.


And while you're at it, if you own a Kindle, now could be the ideal time to read Tom Lodge's first-hand look at life on Radio Caroline in those early days. The Ship That Rocked The World is available to download for free from Amazon and is well worth it. I read the book in a couple of sittings during my holiday in Ibiza last week and I could almost feel the excitement as a generation of youngsters tuned in to something the world had never heard before.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Back from the island

From August 5 I spent a week in Ibiza with my wife and two daughters. The weather was hot, the drinks were flowing and we had a great time. 

I read that the island attracts most of its holidaymakers from Spain, Britain and the Netherlands, and indeed we did hear many Dutch accents during our stay. That got me wondering if I saw any pirates in Ibiza, especially when one one afternoon we took a boat trip and a Dutch chap in front of us had a tattoo across the top of his back. It read AM DJ!



I took the KPO receiver with me and a little loop antenna for MW reception, but I didn't manage to hear any pirates, although I listened out only a few times. There was plenty of local noise from the hotel and the very hot weather meant there was lots of static on the bands as well.

Back here in England there's no chance of getting burnt by the sun. It's rained all day long and the forecast resembles something from early autumn rather than the height of the summer. Propagation seems to be pretty good on MW and SW though. 

One of the first stations I heard when we returned from holiday was Radio Universe from the Netherlands. I hadn't heard him for ages, so it was a nice surprise to catch him on the air, even if it was just the last few minutes of his broadcast.



I've got another loop antenna on the way from Wellbrook Communications, which will be interesting to try out. It's a new design which promises a little less gain on signals but a significantly lower noise floor. That should prove ideal for picking low power Dutch pirate signals out of the ether on MW during the next few months. I will of course report back with my findings.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The secret sound - on MW

Well I just got a very nice surprise at the top of the MW band. 

Radio Borderhunter is a regular on SW and a station I've always enjoyed listening to. In fact, when I was away from the pirate scene during the early part of the last decade I sometimes had a quick scan around the 48 metre band on a Sunday morning or late on a Saturday night just to see who was about. And if I found the Borderhunter, I would stick with him.

Anyway, in a first for me, I'm currently listening to him on MW, on 1660 kHz using his Dutch name Grensjager. This is his first broadcast on the band for about eight years, apparently. He's currently trying out a half-wave dipole which he's just assembled. That's good news for us listeners outside of the Netherlands as we can look forward to a good signal in Europe, although domestic listeners are likely to have plenty of fading when they tune in. That is why the vertical coil is so popular over there and the antenna of choice for many of the MW pirates as the groundwave created with the coil is pretty good for covering plenty of the country, whereas the greater skywave with a wire antenna means the signal tends to go further afield. I'm not complaining though, as it means I'll be able to listen to the Borderhunter on MW!

There are plans for plenty of programmes on 1660 kHz during the next few weeks, so drop by on the frequency and have a listen.

MW pirates on SW

A couple of evenings ago there was something out of the ordinary on 6238 kHz. Black Bandit (aka Abu Dhabi) was booming in loud and clear on the frequency. Nothing strange about that as he's always powerhouse strength over here and in most of Europe. However, the content of his broadcast raised my eyebrows a notch. 

You never quite know what's coming up next when Black Bandit is on air, but this time it was even more unexpected. He was rebroadcasting a qso from the top of the MW live on to shortwave. So, while I could hear Zender Johan on 1620 with a fair signal, it was loud and clear on 6238, although with the static and fading being received at the Black Bandit's location.

It was interesting to be able to hear reception somewhere else in the Netherlands other than via the SDR at Enschede. Also involved in the qso was Mustang, Vriendschap, Monte Carlo and Casablanca, all received here with similar signals.



Talking about Mustang, he was been busy a few times on MW recently, switching from SW where he can be heard most of the time. His signal is usually pretty good.

And while this qso was taking place on Sunday evening (August 1), Radio Snowman was busy with a music programme on 1655. Sure, he wasn't strong this time but I could hear him which was quite something considering he runs only 20 watts and conditions were far from great.

MW Free Radio