WA2HOM: Championship Contest Station?

In the mail today, I received something totally unexpected—a certificate proclaiming WA2HOM to be the first place finisher in the multi-operator, single-transmitter category of the 2011 CQ World Wide WPX contest.

CQ WPX Certificate

With such a low score, I don’t supposed that we had many competitors in that category, but it’s still pretty cool.

Contest were the order of the day this weekend

Contesting was on the amateur radio schedule this weekend.  In typical KB6NU fashion, however, the contesting was very casual.

On Saturday, I didn’t get down to WA2HOM  until noon, and shortly after I fired up the rig, Ovide, K8EV, showed up. We talked for about an hour, during which we made no contacts. After Ovide left for lunch, I made a few contacts in the Ukranian DX contest. Nothing spectacular except for an A65 station. That’s a new country for the WA2HOM log.

In the evening, I got on 40m and made 100 Qs in the ARRL Sweepstakes. I wasn’t going to stay up so late, but as my totals began to climb, I decided to stick it out until I made 100 contacts or scored 10,000 points. At 1am, I hit the sack with 100 contacts and nearly 11,000 points.

On Sunday, I had a couple of things that I wanted to do besides working the contest. One was to practice my bowling. I’ve just been terrible for the past couple of weeks, and it’s been embarassing. Another was to build a 10m loop antenna.

Well, I couldn’t resist. Before going to the bowling alley, I made several contacts on 15m. When I got back, I ate some lunch, and then actually built the antenna.  Before I got around to hanging it up outside, I got sucked into working some more of the contest. I spent the next several hours working the contest, quitting at 4pm to make dinner. At that point, I had 150 contacts.

After dinner, I watched a movie with my XYL, but when the movie was over about 8:30pm, I went down to the shack again. I was surprised to hear the contest still going on. I had assumed it was just a 24-hour event, but Sweepstakes is a 30-hour contest. So, of course, I had to work the last hour or so.

It was fortuitous, too. I managed to work three or four new multipliers during that last hour and a half.  When all was said and done, I ended up with 189 contacts, 66 sections, and a total of 24,948 points. I think that next year, I’m going to try for a “clean sweep.”

A CQWW Story

I got this story from Bill, NA8M, in this morning’s e-mail:

Sunday, I heard XP1A working stations right and left,  passing out “59 40″ like there’s no tomorrow.  He was funny in that he had his mic on VOX and got tangled up in the call signs occasionally.

Then he said, “Gentlemen I need to take a break.  My butt is getting too flat.”  He went away.  Since I didn’t have zone 40 yet, I hung around.  Then he returns to the mic and begins a round of endless, “XP1A XP1A XP1A XP1A XP1A …” and won’t listen for anyone.  I get frustrated and put him in a memory slot and dial past.

A bit later, my curiosity gets the better of me and I QSY back to XP1A’s frequency. Again, he’s passing out “59 40″ like crazy.  I climb into the pile-up and give him a call.  Well, actually, lots of calls.  No joy.

Then, out of the blue, he says, “I’ve got to clean the frequency.  XP1A XP1A XP1A XP1A XP1A XP1A …” without coming up for air.  It was so funny!  I had to walk away.  Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you run across something like this.

This was my first frequency cleaning.  Even though I never did work him, it was entertaining!

A Downsized Field Day

It seems like everyone (except for maybe Google) is downsizing these days. With that in mind, I thought that I’d downsize my Field Day. Instead of participating in the large 5A ARROW Field Day operation, the guys that hang around WA2HOM, our club station at the Hands-On Museum, decided to set up a much smaller operation.

Our first idea was to set up outside the museum. That seemed like it was going to work out until Quentin, KD8IPF, informed me that he couldn’t attend, as his wife was going to be out of town, and he needed to take care of his kids. I was concerned that without Quentin that we wouldn’t have enough operators to have two people there at all times.

Then, Quentin volunteered his backyard. This turned out to be a great venue. He has a fairly large, with a couple of big trees. Not only that, he lives next door to his mother-in-law, and she’s volunteered her trees as antenna supports. You gotta love a mother-in-law like that!

One of the advantages of downsizing is that you don’t have to spend so much time setting up. Instead of setting up antennas for five HF stations, a GOTA station, and a VHF/UHF station, all we had to do was set up antennas for our two HF stations. And, since we planned on using Quentin’s already-installed, multi-band dipole, we only really had one antenna to worry about.

That being the case, we decided that we really didn’t need to start setting up until noon on Saturday. Jim, K8ELR, and I actually arrived about 11:30 am, and that proved to be more than enough time. Jim brought with him a 40m dipole and a 30m, end-fed half-wave antenna, while I brought my BuddiStick. We quickly decided to put up the 40m dipole, and by 1pm, we were already on the air.

A Tale of Two Antennas
Of course, it wasn’t really as simple as all that. When we started operating, the two stations interfered with one another something terrible. So much so that my KX-1 was even causing Quentin’s LDG autotuner to retune itself when I transmitted.

The problem was that the 40m dipole and the multi-band dipole were running nearly parallel to one another. I should have known that this would occur, having been involved with more than a few Field Days by now, but it never even crossed my mind.

Fortunately, the solution was relatively simple. All we had to do was to take down the multi-band dipole and hang it from two different trees, one of them in the adjoining yard. After we did this, the two antennas were nearly perpendicular to one another, and the interference just went away. The phone station could not hear my little peanut whistle signal at all, and while I could hear the phone station transmit, it really didn’t affect my ability to make contacts.

I really didn’t think that this was going to work, but Ovide, K8EV, was quite confident that it would. I was the one that ate crow.

Did You Really Use a KX-1?
So, I can hear a lot of you asking, “Did you really use a KX-1 for Field Day?” Yes, I did. Our original idea was to run all QRP. The thinking behind this is that if you run all QRP, then you get 5 points for each QSO.

The other reason for doing this is so that we could run off batteries. Quentin had access to two, 66 Ahr batteries, and we’d planned to use these two batteries as our power source. I figured that with the 12V gel cell that I have for my KX-1, that would be plenty of power.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. Quentin and Ovide were just not having any luck making any contact at 5W—and consequently not having much fun—so they decided to increase power. That blew our QRP multiplier, but what the heck, it multiplied our fun factor.

Plenty of Power
As it turned out, just one battery provided plenty of power for the phone station, even at 100W. Granted the station was off the air from about midnight Saturday through 9 am Sunday morning, but there was apparently plenty of juice to power that station throughout the entire 24 hours.

Likewise, my little gel cell provided enough power for the KX-1 over the 12 hours that I had it on the air, and I’d guess that the charge would have been good for the entire 24 hours. I have yet to run down that battery so low that it failed to power the radio.

What Did We Learn?
We learned several things from this Field Day:

  1. A downsized Field Day can be as much or more fun than a full-blown operation. Without a big crowd vying for just a few positions, everyone got a chance to operate. Plus, setup and teardown times were a lot shorter.
  2. You still have to pay attention to your antennas. If we’d done a little more planning and thinking about our antennas, we would have avoided the interference we experienced and possibly even been able to run QRP on phone.
    How, you might ask? Well, if I’d thought about rigging up some kind of wire beam or a Moxon beam for the phone station, they may have been able to run QRP and still make contacts. This is certainly something to think about for next year.
  3. The batteries worked great. Not only did they provide enough power for a 100W rig for more than 12  hours, they were quiet. The noise of a gas-powered generator can really get on your nerves over the course of a Field Day.
  4. While I probably wouldn’t want to run the KX-1 in a big DX contest, it worked pretty well for Field Day. I made more than 160 QSOs with it in about 12 hours of contesting.

So, What About Next Year?
Since it’s never too early to plan for next year’s Field Day, we’re already kicking around a few ideas:

  1. Find a campground to have Field Day at next year. The upside is that the scenery might be nicer. The downside is that we might not have the nice antenna supports, errrr trees, that Quentin has in his backyard.
  2. Be more competitive. Joe, N8OY, came by late Saturday evening, and racked up a bunch of points for us on 20m CW. He suggested that we organize some of the local hot-shot CW operators around here and set up a real competitive operation. The upside is that scoring a lot of points is fun. The downside is that being competitive excludes the less-experienced operators.

One thing is for sure. Running a smaller Field Day event in no way diminishes it as the “quintessential” amateur radio event. We still enjoyed all the camaraderie as well as all the technical aspects of  Field Day. Now, I can’t wait until next year.

WA2HOM: Adding Countries to the Log

I’m usually not one to work the big contests, but there are some advantages to participating, even if you don’t have a lot of time or plan to submit a log. One of the advantages is that there are a lot of countries on, and you can add to total of countries that  you’ve worked.

This weekend was the CQ WPX  CW contest. I only operated for about three hours, the bands were kind of lousy on Saturday, and I only worked 15 meters, but even so, I managed to add eight countries to the WA2HOM log. They include:

  • HK1R – Colombia
  • SZ1A – Greece
  • 6W/RK4FF – Senegal
  • HQ9R – Honduras
  • EF8M – Canary Islands
  • J7A – Dominica
  • J39BS – Grenada
  • HC2SL – Ecuador

It’s nothing real exotic, but new ones nonetheless.

Operating Notes: 5/7 – 5/9/2011

I worked parts of three contests this weekend:

  • the 7th Area QSO Party
  • the New England QSO Party, and
  • the Indiana QSO Party

Jim, K8ELR, and I had planned to work the New England QSO Party, but oddly enough, it didn’t start until 4pm EDT. Instead, we worked the 7th Area QSO Party. We just pointed the beam west and racked them up. We only worked it for about four hours, so I doubt we’ll be winning any awards, but it was fun to hand out some Qs.

Later on, here at home, I fired up the rig, intending to work just the New England QSO Party. There were so many Indiana stations still pounding in, though, that I decided to work both of them.

The funny thing is that I ended up using N1MM for the Indiana QSO Party and the N3FJP software for New England QSO Party. I couldn’t figure out how N1MM wanted me to input the exchange for the NEQP, so I just downloaded the N3FJP software and used that.

I didn’t make a lot of contacts in either contest, but I had fun working them.

My First GAL
Last Friday, I got a card from W4GAL. That’s my first QSL from a GAL. In the New England QSO Party, I worked N2AT, while in the Indiana QSO Party, I worked W9GO. More cards for my collection, I hope.

Finally, I wanted to mention working KD8HES Saturday afternoon. Zeke’s a 16-year-old ham who lives just down the road in Jackson. It was great working another kid using CW. He told me he only operates QRP CW on 40m. I joked that he was breaking a rule, and that if you look closely, you’ll see that you need to be at least 50 years old to work CW–at least it seems that way.

 

All l Can Say is WOW!!

To break in the new beam yesterday, down at the museum, we participated in a couple of contests: the CQ Manchester Mineira DX Contest (MM) and the Michigan QSO Party (MIQP).  All I can say is, “WOW!!”

I got there just before 11 am. Jim, K8ELR, was already there making out QSL cards. Since the MIQP didn’t start until noon, I thought I’d tune around and see what bands were open. I first tried 15m CW. That’s how I discovered the MM DX contest. The band was very open to Europe, especially with the new beam. In short order, I worked a dozen or more Europeans and Caribbean stations.

What a difference the beam makes! With the 20m inverted vee, nearly every QSO was a challenge, but with the beam, I worked every station I called, usually on the first try. This was so amazing that I was actually getting a little giddy.

About 11:45 am, I decided that I better get set up for the MIQP. I had brought my WinKeyer (since the Omni VII doesn’t have a memory keyer!), and wanted to hook it up to the N1MM program. I had done this quite easily at home, but I could not, unfortunately, get it to work on the computer down at the museum. The computer seemed to be talking to the keyer, but the function keys didn’t work. (If anyone has any ideas on what I’m doing wrong, I’d be happy to hear them.)

A little after noon, I decided to give up on this, and just program the keyer itself and operate stand-alone. About 12:10, we were working the MIQP on 20m using the callsign W8CWN, the callsign of H. Richard Crane, a distinguished professor of physics at the University of Michigan and one of the founders of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.

Again, the performance of the beam was just spectacular, at least compared to our 20m inverted vee. We pointed the beam west and easily worked stations on the West Coast. We pointed the beam east and got calls from Europeans and the East Coast.

Using the beam, our noise level seemed to be lower, too, although not as low as I would like it. We’re going to have to work on that some more.

We worked a lot of 40m, too, using our 40m inverted vee. That antenna has always worked pretty well for us, and the band was in good shape yesterday afternoon. There was a lot of short skip on 40m, allowing us work quite a few Michigan counties.

Overall, we made 195 contacts in nearly five hours. That’s certainly not championship form, but it’s a lot better than we’ve done in the past, and we really had a blast, both operating the contest and explaining what we were doing to the museum visitors. It’s just too bad that the museum closed at 5pm and we had to stop.

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. :-)

 

Operating Notes: 3/7/11

DX contesting
Saturday night, my XYL was working, and I had nothing else to do, so I turned on the radio. I made a couple of CW contacts on 40m, then remembered there was a big DX phone contest going on.

I tuned around a bit and heard quite a bit of DX as the band was in pretty good shape. I didn’t want to really spend a lot of time doing this, but I did want to play around a little. What I decided to do was to make  one pass through the band 7.200 MHz to 7.125 MHz.

This took me 40 minutes to complete, and in that time, I worked 12 stations: TI5N, IO5O, TA7KW, EI7M, HK1T, EA3BOX, TM6M, PJ2T, S51YI, YT8A, CO8CY, AND ZF2AH. It was amusing, and I think I did alright for just having 100W and dipole. Also, if you notice, I bagged another station whose callsign spells a word (EA3BOX).

Cayman Islands
I’ve worked several Cayman Islands stations in the past, but you don’t really hear all that many on the air.  There are more PJ stations on the air than there are ZF stations, for example.

That’s why I was kind of surprised to work another ZF2—ZF2LC—this evening. The signals were quite strong on 30m tonight, though, and maybe this guy was winding down from the contest over the weekend.

Sable Island
There was a station on from Sable Island this evening, too. There was a huge pileup on 30m the other night when a Sable Island station came on the air. So big that I couldn’t break in.

Tonight, though, it was a different story. I worked him on my second call.

I don’t know what all the fuss is about, though. Sable Island is really not that far away, nor is it very hard to work.

DXCC
As I reported the other day, I now  have 89 countries confirmed via Logbook of the World (LOTW). Tonight, I checked my paper cards against the LOTW confirmations.

I came  up with 16 more, including Samoa, the Slovak Republic, and Bolivia. That brings me to 105 confirmed, enough for DXCC! I know that’s not a big deal to a lot of you, but it’s something. :)

Build a TX for the 1929 QSO Party

This from VE7SL via the qrp-l mailing list:

If any of you were thinking about putting something together for the Antique Wireless Association’s 1929-style QSO party, there is still time to throw together a little Hartley or TNT!

The 1929 QSO party runs Dec 05/06 and Dec 10/11 (2300z-2300z). This is the contest where entrants are required to use a tube and tx circuit design that was only available in 1929 or earlier (210, 245, 27….there’s a bunch of them, mostly triodes). No xtals are allowed …..self-excited oscillators only! Your transmitter doesn’t have to look pretty either! Most of the activity is on 80m (3550-3580) but there are always a handfull of brave soles venturing way up to 40m (7040-7060) as well.

There has been a significant rule change this year that allows the ’29 member stations to work non-’29ers for points (previously these QSO’s could not be scored) so even if you don’t put a transmitter together, please join in the fun and listen to the chirps and buzzes of what the bands once sounded like….and then call them!

For inspiration, I have posted a gallery of eligible transmitters. The AWA has a ‘quick-build’ plan on their website, and a page on replica vintage transmitters.

Hope to hear you in the contest.

73 / Steve