Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Trip to the Beach

While visiting with the family for Christmas, the conversation at one point turned to trips to the beach.  That got me to thinking about a trip taken this past summer to Galveston.

For many years I have enjoyed listening for stations at locations other than the home base. Particularly for the medium wave band, this gives a chance to hear stations that would normally be masked by local or semi local stations. Its also fun for those interested in DX-ing non-directional beacons on the low frequencies for the same reason.

This past summer my wife and I were going to take a trip to the coast. Immediately the thought went to what I would take in the way of radios. On a family trip, taking radios is always a sort of side-issue as that is not the main point of the trip, so the thought was keeping it really simple.

I considered taking the R-75 but was a little concerned about leaving it either in a parked car or unattended in a hotel room. After a search through what I had on the workbench or in the closet, I decided on an older Sony solid state radio. I am not sure of the age of this radio. I bought it about 18 years ago at a garage sale for five dollars! The owners had lost the AC power cord and thought it was useless. Of course, internal batteries would take care of that and an old electric razor cord replaced the missing one, so that was a really great deal!

The radio is a Sony TFM8000W. It tunes the standard broadcast band, FM, the Hi Band VHF public service band and has two short wave bands tuning a total of 4-22 mHz. It has an analog dial. The internal loop antenna has a good, sharp null and there is a telescoping whip for short wave, FM and PSB. It also has a signal strength meter!

I am always interested in playing with the radios at the coast because of the great possibilities of salt water paths, both for night time and daytime DX. This trip, there would be no external antennas, just the internal antennas on the radio. I was not certain where we would end up staying and whether it would even be possible to use anything at the hotel and the beach is always an iffy deal anyway.

So off we go, taking only the usual family stuff, some beach towels and our folding beach chairs and the Sony. We did not even have a hotel booked...would just search one out. That turned out not be be such a good idea, but after a few false starts we ended up with a room on the fifth floor of the Holiday Inn on Seawall Boulevard in Galveston, right across the road from the beach.

I can admit this now: When we pulled into the parking lot I “accidentally” pushed a button on the car radio to a low, locally blank dial position to check for power line noise. It was fairly quiet!

The fifth floor room was a good spot not only for DX-ing, but also for looking out over the Gulf. The view was really nice with a good view of ships entering and leaving the nearby ship channel and the intracoastal canal. I have always had a soft spot for things maritime, both on the radio and for sea stories in general. The high spot offered something other than a good view. It offered a good chance to hear ships on VHF a good ways out ( though this trip there would not be that much listening on those frequencies).

On previous DX trips to the coast with “ the guys” and not a family trip, a good load of gear was often taken, along with a log periodic antenna mounted on a tripod for pointing out over the water.

It was used for looking for long haul ship and aircraft DX with a variety of scanners and analog receivers. But not this trip. Dxing would be limited to the time the XYL would be relaxing with her mystery novel or just relaxing in the sun. (Just a hint to those wanting to do this sort of thing on a family trip: sensitivity is a must!!)

Another thing that is a must is a pair of headphones. The sound of static, heterodynes, fading signals and other hash is not conducive to the relaxation of the better half. A watch, extra pens and a sturdy notebook to serve as a log are also necessary. I don't take my main log with me on these trips lest it get misplaced or soiled with sea water, sand or mustard from hot dogs. A clipboard or kneeboard is good, as well. Writing log entries in less than optimal conditions often leads to legibility being a little variable, too-another reason for using a “temporary” log, even if it means some copying over or computer entering later.

I was amazed to find that noise in the hotel room was not too bad. There are times that wireless computer connections, or the computers themselves can generate a lot of hash, but the newer and higher quality ones seem to be better.

The first bandscan began at 0130 GMT with just the little Sony's internal loop antenna. On June 17, this meant just about sunset, meaning that some of the stations heard were still on daytime power and directional pattern. The location was the fifth floor of the Holiday Inn on Seawall Blvd in Galveston. In “Comments” column, GW indicates groundwave or local signal.

The stations heard are listed below.

Time GMT Call Letters Frequency Locations or comments

0135 KEYH 850 Houston, Tx GW
0136 KKOW 860 Pittsburg,Ks
0137 WWL 870 New Orleans
0139 XENL 860 Monterrey, Mexico
0143 KJOZ 880 Conroe, Tx GW
0145 KRVN 880 Lexington, Ne
0146 CMBZ 890 Havana, Cuba
0148 XEW 900 Mexico City
0150 KYST 920 Texas City, Tx GW very strong!
0151 WKY 930 Oklahoma City, Ok
0152 XEQ 940 Mexico City
0153 KPRC 950 Houston, Tx GW
0154 KRTX 980 Rosenberg, Tx GW
0157 XET 990 Monterrey, Mexico
0158 KLAT 1010 Houston, Tx GW
0200 XEQR 1030 Mexico City, Mexico
0201 WHO 1040 Des Moines, Iowa
0202 XEG 1050 Monterrey, Mexico
0203 XEEP 1060 Mexico City
0204 KNTH 1070 Houston, Tx GW
0205 KRLD 1080 Dallas, Tx
0207 KFAB 1110 Omaha, Ne
0209 KMOX 1120 St.. Louis, Mo
0210 KWKH 1130 Shreveport, La
0211 Unidentified EE 1140 Unknown
0213 WJBO 1150 Baton Rouge, La
0214 KFAQ 1170 Tulsa, Ok Hvy QSB
0215 R.Rebelde 1180 Cuba
0216 XEWK 1190 Guadalajara, Mexico
0217 WOAI 1200 San Antonio, Tx QSB
0218 KGYN 1210 Guymon, Ok
0219 KDEI 1250 Port Arthur, Tx GW
0220 KXYZ 1320 Houston, Tx GW
0221 KLVI 560 Beaumont, Tx GW Vry Strong!
0223 KLIF 570 Dallas, Tx

Then came dinner time. DX-ing cannot compete with fresh sea food dinner in a coastal city! Note that many of the stations are so familiar that they can be “identified on sight” so to speak!

The next morning took us to the beach itself. We went out to East Beach, an area known as Apfel Park on Galveston Island. We set up within feet of the water in our folding beach chairs with my wife reading her mystery, myself either playing with the radio or taking a dip in the water and looking for shells. As you can see this was not a full blown DX-pedition, but just casual looking around while on a relaxing few days away from work, home and the demands of dogs and cats ( that duty being taken up by a helpful neighbor...another whole story there!)

The times are not logged because I forgot to take my watch out to the beach with us and in the glare might not have been readable anyway. The bandscan began about 10 AM local daylight savings time ( 1500 GMT) and ran up to about 1700 GMT with breaks for dashes into the water and being washed over by the waves!

The time was late enough in the morning when night effect should not have been in play. I was interested in seeing what might be receivable over the water path. I did note signal strengths during this session, which I apparently did not do during the night before. WP = “over water path” (at least part of the way) ;RL = “rotated loop”

Call Frequency Signal Location/Comments

KLVI 560 5-9+++ Beaumont, Texas WP
KLIF 570 5-6 Dallas, Tx
KJMJ 580 4-5 Alexandria, La
KLBJ 590 5-7 Austin, Tx
XEFD 590 5-7 Reynosa, Mexico WP, RL
KILT 610 5-9++ Houston, Tx
XEGH 620 5-4 Reynosa, Mexico WP
KSLR 630 5-5 San Antonio, Tx RL
XEFB 630 5-5 Monterrey, Mexico RL,WP
KIKK 650 5-9 Pasadena (Houston), Tx
KSKY 660 5-6 Dallas, Tx RL
XEFZ 660 5-5 Monterrey, Mexico RL
Un-id 670 5-5 Spanish Looped NE/SW
KKYX 680 5-8 San Antonio, Tx
WIST 690 3-3 New Orleans WP
KSEV 700 5-9 Houston, Tx
Weak Tangle 710 3-3 Unknown mix
KSAH 720 5-7 San Antonio, Tx
KTRH 740 5-9++++ Houston, Tx
XEACH 770 5-6 Monterrey, Mexico
KBME 790 5-9+++ Houston, Tx
XEFW 810 5-6 Tampico, Mexico WP
WBAP 820 5-5 Ft Worth, Tx
Un-id Sp 830 3-3 RL
WQIH-489 830 4-4 Pasadena, Tx ( TIS station)
KEYH 850 5-9++ Houston, Tx
WWL 870 5-7 New Orleans, La WP
KJOZ 880 4-4 Conroe, Tx
KREH 900 5-7 Pecan Grove ( Houston) Tx(Asian)
KYST 920 5-9++++ Texas City, Tx(very close)
KPRC 950 5-7 Houston, Tx
XED 970 4-4 Matamoros, Mexico WP
KRTX 980 5-9+++ Rosenberg ( Houston) Tx
KLAT 1010 5-9+ Houston, Tx
KCTA 1030 5-8 Corpus Christi, Tx WP
KCHN 1050 5-5 Brookshire, Tx (Asian)
KNTH 1070 5-7 Houston, Tx
KULF 1090 5-6 Bellville, Tx
KTEK 1110 5-6 Alvin ( Houston) Tx
KYOK 1140 5-5 Conroe, Tx
KGOL 1180 5-7 Humble ( Houston) Tx
KNUZ 1230 5-6 Houston, Tx
KDEI 1250 5-7 Port Arthur, Tx WP
KSET 1300 5-7 Sillsbee, Tx WP
XEAM 1310 5-5 Matamoros, Mexico
KXYZ 1320 5-8 Houston, Tx
KVNN 1340 4-4 Victoria, Tx RL
KWWJ 1360 5-9++ Baytown, Tx WP
KHCB 1400 5-9++++ League City, Tx( close!)
KMIC 1590 5-6 Houston, Tx
KOGT 1600 5-5 Orange, Tx WP
KLOU 1580 5-7 Lake Charles, La WP
KGOW 1560 5-6 Houston, Tx
KYND 1520 5-9+++ Cypress, Tx

About this time, the burning rays of the sun got to be a bit much and the call of Benno's on Sea Wall Blvd with its shrimp and scallops was getting a bit too strong!

The DX-ing done on this trip was done with an analog dial receiver with frequencies kept up with by counting “carrier bumps” from known frequency stations.


  1. Sounds like a great trip! I hope to go to Mustang Island with the family sometime in June or July. May sneak the IC-745 and a 4th Hamster in the trunk of the Malibu! Should be OK either way.

  2. I like to listen to KKYX 680 on a daily basis here.