VA QSO Party – Too much fun and lessons learned

John, KJ4ZFE, first posted this to the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list. I thought this was such a good post that I asked him for permission to re-post it here. I think that it really captures the spirit of contesting……..73, Dan KB6NU

Just thought I would share my experience from this weekend.

This was my first state QSO party and I had an absolute blast!

Over the 30 hour period, I operated for 18 hours, made 498 contacts, contacted 83 counties, 26 states, and Canada. It was a rush to be in a county with few Hams and I learned a great deal about how to handle pile-ups! Wow! My voice is shot but again, I would do it again right now if it happened again.

So, here’s some of the things I learned and as always, I look forward to hearing everyone’s comments.

My station: Yaesu FT-450 AT, Carolina Windom, Laptop, and I used N3FJP VA QSO Party Software.

  1. Computer Problems. Not sure what happened, but 10 minutes before the contest, I fired up the rig, and got the rig control working. I immediately had a blue screen of death. So, I disconnected the rig, rebooted the computer and decided to troubleshoot after the contest. No answer as to why yet. I’ll do some testing with the software later and report any bugs I have with N3FJP to see if it was just operator error or if there’s a problem. Small thing, so I have to click to change bands on the software. I can handle that.
  2. VOX. I took the time to figure out my VOX settings so I could log and type in the contacts simultaneously. Reports from my contacts determined I had VOX set correctly and they could not tell (no choppy reporting). So, that was good, BUT, when I got a loud signal into the shack, it would trigger the VOX so I found myself turning off the VOX during the contact. I could have worn headphones but I don’t like the ones I have, too uncomfortable for long periods so that’ll be something I need to look into.
  3. Pileups. Pileups are a lot of fun! I think I had one pileup with 10+ contacts. Picking a letter heard worked most of the time. Others resulted in narrowing the pileup down but still had to try to get it down to the one call. I looked for mobiles, portables, and tried really hard to get the faint signals first. That paid dividends as to mobiles and portables were worth more points. Good stuff there.
  4. Foot Pedal. I think instead of VOX for the next time, I’ll either make or buy a foot pedal. I think I will like that instead of the accidental key-up due to a sneeze or popping the can open to a beverage.
  5. Voice Recording. I know how to setup the voice recording but decided against it. Prior to this, the longest I had operated was about four hours and wasn’t a strain on the voice. This one really strained the old vocal cords and although my office crew is enjoying my silence today, I think for the next marathon, I’ll use the voice recorder and set up my CQs.
  6. Patience. I made contacts on 80 & 40 meter. I think I should have had more patience on the other bands. Finding an empty spot to call CQ, staying there longer, and looking for others. I made a couple of passes up and down 20 Meter and when I didn’t hear anyone else for the VA QSO party (lot’s of activity though), I decided to move to 40 and 80 and pretty much camped there. I made a couple of CQ calls on 20 and 6 meter but no returns. Again, I should have probably stayed there longer but with my lack of experience, I was worried. I would miss too much somewhere else. I guess it’s the same as I am on watching TV. I don’t care what’s on the channel I’m watching, I’m more worried about what I’m missing on another channel. :-)