ON5ZO – OQ5M

SFI > 250 or bust!

I’m not into RTTY. But in fact it is the only digimode I have ever tried. There’s a contest happening and I had a few moments to spare so why not? Activity on the bands is important and we (I?) must show that not everyone has been probed up the wazoo by aliens from planet FT8.

I was pleasantly surprised that everything worked right away. That has been different in the past. Windows seemed to screw up the audio settings for MMTTY. But not this time. I used the second K3 as it has been idling for too long without any SO2R activity. And this rig drives the KPA500 so I left the big amp off and let the semiconductors do the working. That’s 400W RYRYRY and the antennas were nested down so I wasn’t putting out a big signal.

After five contacts I got bored – already! Boy this is a slow happening. I like that snappy CW thing where you get an answer as soon as the TX makes way for the RX. Why do RTTY operators wait so long to reply? A pause of several seconds is not an exception. In that time frame you can make another QSO in CW! Yes I know: CW this CW that. But CW is the only mode I love.

Nevertheless I kept on calling CQ. My RBN footprint was pathetic. But somehow I managed to draw the attention of a JA station. Woohoo! I took a glance at the RBN window and sure enough: a trace from my QTH to Japan. As usual that JA pile up I always dream of didn’t happen. One JA and that’s it. This was Sunday morning.

I returned in the early evening to catch some USA on 20. Some were loud, some were weak. The rate was slow. But I can’t compare, maybe it’s normal for RTTY contesting with ‘only’ 400W and the tribander at only eight meters above the ground? Yes that’s just too low with current solar conditions.

Things went better on 40. Loud EU with the dipole so low. Late in the evening (2200 utc) I worked a bunch of Americans and Canadians. Again: some were loud, others were weak. I quit around 23.30 utc with 229 QSO in the log, split evenly between 40m and 20m. That’s almost as much RTTY as the last six years added up! I didn’t make a single RTTY contact in 2015 and 2013. I went ballistic on RTTY in 2017 with the crazy total of four (4!) RTTY contacts. I’m good for now. Isn’t there some CW action scheduled in the near future?

Two contests! What a treat. My last appearance in the UBA SSB contest dates from 2015. That means I skipped this contest two years in a row. Due to bad weather so I didn’t crank up the tower. My last participation in the CQ 160 CW was from 2014.

This year I wanted to play in both contests and the WX allowed to crank the tower up all the way so 160m was possible too. The SSB part is done out of loyalty to the UBA. The 160 CW participation was to check the water temperature on Top Band.

I cranked the tower up Friday afternoon. For some reason a lot of things went wrong. Nothing serious and no damage but still… Ropes tangled up, the winch’s PVC cover sheet got tangled between the gearbox and the cable drum (my bad), the gearbox making a weird sound and slowing down (action needed?) And I forgot to secure the rope to pull up the 160m wire so the wind blew it up the tower. I had to climb a few cross bars to grab it about four meter high and lower it. Apart from these minor issues, all went OK. I guesstimated the length to fold back to bring the 80m wire into resonance in the phone part of the band. I made it a tad too short and after a small adjustment all was ready to go.

I set the alarm at Saturday 5AM local time so see if I could work USA on Top Band. I woke up pretty brutally and it took me a while to get into the shack. My first contacts revealed a problem with the messages. There was no 5NN. A quick check of the rules: yes RST needs to be sent. After a scratch behind the ear I figured out what was wrong. It was my first session of the new year and I had made a clean database as I do each year. But the CW messages were set to default and not to my tailored F-keys. Easy fix!

Soon after that I started working stuff on 160. Even Americans and Canadians. Around 8 UTC with 270 contacts in the log, I called it a day and went to play with the kids and watch some TV. My neighbor texted me to see if I could give him a hand for an ‘quick and easy job’. The job turned out to be impossible without further preparations (breaking away stuff to make room). We figured that out after more than two hours and with half an hour before the start of the UBA contest. I walked home, ate lunch and landed into the chair ten minutes into the contest. Not a biggie: plenty of off time. I had to stay on twenty meters because there was nothing happening on fifteen. What’s that you say? What about ten meters? **devilish laughter**

The good thing was I was logging many Americans. Always a treat. Around 1600z the band seemed to dry up so I took a break. Later on… Oh well it’s always the same story. Change bands, try to run, yaddayadda. It’s SSB and there wasn’t much to be worked or heard. On 160 it was only EU so I went to bed around 1200 utc. I had the W mult on 40 but not on 80. I didn’t care.

Sunday – toes wet into Top Band. The water wasn’t cold. ZF9CW was the first at 0530 utc. Some DX. I worked a C6 for a new country and N2IC for what I believed was a new WAS. It turns out I worked New Mexico in 2010 but I don’t have a paper QSL and the contact is not confirmed on LotW. So if or when N2IC loads up to LotW I have a new state confirmed on 160.

I pulled the top band plug again around 8 AM utc and took a break and a nap. Because of this I would not complete the full 12 hours allowed in my chosen UBA category but things would be slow for sure. I tried 40m again which was a drag last night. I didn’t work much in volume but I did manage to get the 40m mult count way up with EU stuff that I missed the night before. Missed? Maybe they just weren’t there!

I tried fifteen but as you might have guessed: it was a bust. Somehow a four letter suffix VK8 came through tough. ON4AYM called in to see if I had ON on ten meters. With zero Q on 28 MHz, I made the QSY. Thanks OM! I was glad to end the contest because it ended up in boredom.

The 527 CW QSO on Top Band (including 16 VE and 84 K!) were easy. The 545 SSB QSO in the UBA contest were not. I pulverized my best score in CQ 160 CW:

2013: 84,280 pts / 265 Q / 15 W+VE / 41 CTY

2018: 264770 pts / 527 Q / 31 W+VE / 52 CTY

More than a thousand QSO this weekend. January usually is the slowest month for me (together with April). Next up: ARRL DX CW and UBA DX CW…

The first month of the new year is almost over so I better move on…

Not much to look back to actually. I don’t even make graphs this year for 2017 wasn’t very productive when it comes to ham radio. I missed a few events because of stormy weather. I missed a few events because just not giving a damn. I missed a few events because of a big renovation project in the house. I can’t even blame propagation. In short: not much QSO, almost exclusively CW and not many days that show contacts in the log.

I was able to do some of the things on the agenda for December: 9ACW and RAEM. I planned to do Stew Perry (160m) too, but I had to lower the tower after Christmas for some stormy weather and the WX remained foul to the end of the year. For 160 the tower really needs to be up all the way.

Before that I managed to do some DXing too. I remember a 40m long path QSO with W9KNI in Oregon. It was my sunset and about his sunrise. I told Bob I love his books (I really do!) and I quickly learned that my CW ragchew capabilities are very rusty. That’s what you get when only doing contests.

I processed a batch of direct QSL that had been lingering too long. Sorry for that chaps. And I’m trying to keep the huge pile of unanswered ‘buro cards’ out of sight. When you’re busyyou’re your operating time is limited, who wants to spend hours on end going through cards for 5NN contacts that happened three years ago or longer? Maybe 2018 is the time that even I can say it out loud: NO MORE PAPER QSL PLEASE. Except maybe for really special stuff? For which I’m willing to chip in a few dollars or euros.

Last Friday I put the RX loop back up. It was a case of better safe than sorry so I let the fishing pole down too for the storms. Yes we had a couple of severe storms during the past three weeks. One of which made the tribander slip even more off north. Last Sunday I tilted the tower over and set things straight. A half an hour job. Even less if you don’t count the visual inspection. I’m fed up with all the wind and rain so I’m really counting the days to better weather so I can finally do some antenna work that I delayed last summer. One of the jobs is to finally fix these clamps on the tribander but I need good WX for the morale and a scaffold not to break my neck.

I ended 2017 by winning a quiz from PileUpDX dot com but I didn’t win a prize:

I have no expectations or big plans for 2018.  I just hope to get on the air as much as I can and have fun…

I like this little contest a lot. It’s a CW contest where you actually have to copy something. And its distance based scoring makes it fun and interesting. But I never managed to do it for the full twelve hour period. So that was my goal for this year: do the RAEM contest from start to end. I missed it last year as it fell on Christmas day. For 2017 the calendar worked along, the WX was OK to have the tower all the way up. Actually it was still up after last week’s 9A CW contest.

The contest starts at 1 AM local time. We had to attend a small get-together Saturday evening. I didn’t want to be a party-pooper for the XYL so I went along. I expected to be back around 10 PM. It was just a drink, a snack and a chat. But that ‘small get-together’ was a serious misunderstanding on the XYL’s part. We anticipated three couples and five kids. Upon arrival there were more than twenty adults there. And almost two dozen kids. Our hosts had prepared a copious banquet which we couldn’t just turn down. Even Santa Claus paid the party a visit with a truckload of toys for the kids. Ho ho ho!

So in the end I got home much later than I planned and with a stomach that was full of various dishes. The label ‘light’ wasn’t applicable to anything. Good thing I don’t drink any alcohol. That would have worsened things. The XYL went to bed and I was tempted to do the same. But I knew that when the alarm would ring less than two hours later, I would be way too cozy and would miss the first few hours. That’s how I never did this contest from the start. So I watched some TV on the couch in the hope I would fall asleep for a good hour. That didn’t work out as planned. The digestion process didn’t run smoothly. Too much too late too bad. A good hour later I fired up the rig and the amp and I started the contest.

Much to my surprise things ran well on 80m. And on 40m. Then back to 80. During the previous editions I found that I couldn’t work much on 80 and surprisingly little on 40. This year my hunch got proven. When I’d start the contest around 0500 utc, most of UA would be in broad daylight already and everyone would be on 20 or 15 already. With only a few leftovers from western Russia on 40m. Now things ran fine on the lower bands.

I had a few sloppy hours. I was so tired and I had a hard time concentrating. I was just too tired. That was especially a problem around sunrise. Later on it was a matter of twenty meters. There was little to be worked on 21 MHz. Even with the RBN picking my CQ’ing up in VU, YB, 9M, JA, VK and even ZL. A shame. I didn’t even try ten meters. That’s a goner for now. I think that I could make 1000 QSO in this one with the right propagation, the necessary dedication and SO2R. I hope to be back next year.

On the next LotW and eQSL upload, I will once again have three errors flagged ‘invalid callsign’. Guess what call that would be?

While searching the web for more info on RAEM, I came across the following interesting link:

http://hamgallery.com/Tribute/RAEM/krenkel.pdf

I don’t decline some casual CW contesting. Not anymore! This Croatian CW Contest is just the thing. I made about 970 QSO which is 100 less than my best in this one. Of course it’s not easy with ten meters completely dead and fifteen only so-so. Actually less than so-so.

I tried 28 MHz now and then but even the RBN didn’t cooperate. That’s with 1200 Watt and five elements at more than twenty meters high. I heard short bursts of 9A1A but too light to give it a shot. But of course I gave it a shot. I didn’t even get a question mark. So much for ten meters.

Along the way I could feel (rather hear) the K index going up from one to two to three. That’s not good. But when it peaks to K=5, you know what time it is.

Conditions on 80 and 160 weren’t good. On eighty I had to repeat the exchange more than I normally do. That can mean two things. Either the propagation sucks, or people aren’t as good in copying serial numbers compared to a computer generated CQ zone. On 160 I worked five USA stations. That’s unquestionably the highlight of the time spent on 160. No strong signals but not a PITA either. Me thinks Top Band propagation was absent.

I wasn’t very tired but the rate and participation was too low to make it through the night without sleeping so I took a four hour break. I had worked everything I could hear and what got spotted and my CQ didn’t truly cause an earthquake on the lower HF bands.

My position on the online scoreboard was just the same as when I left the shack. The guys above me just took a big leap ahead. Yes I’m a fan of the online score board. It makes me push harder in the contest, in all grades of intensity of ‘pushing hard’.

The last eight hours of the contest were slow. Very slow. Not much happening on the bands. No exotic multipliers. A pity. But it was fun and I had a great time.

Oh yeah. One more thing. I don’t even have the ON mult on 10m nor on 160m. Go figure. What a great contesting nation we are, My Lord!

What’s next? RAEM?

 

A few weeks ago I must have strained a muscle or suffered an inflammation or something like that. The result was a stiff neck and a sore back. The doctor ordered rest. And so I had to stay in a couple of days. The best thing I could do was sit still and straight. And where better to do that than in the shack? My tower was still up from the LZDX contest and I even had the 80m vertical installed. The only thing missing was a 30m antenna. As you know 10.1 MHz is my favorite hangout when not contesting. Actually it’s the WARC bands in general but 30m is the only one that is productive right now. Or so I thought…

Since the central pulley on the tower and the 9m aux mast in the corner of the garden were in use for the 80m wire, I could not put up the 30m dipole. So I used another pulley to haul up a dipole from the stock and aired it as an inverted V. I attached long ropes to the ends and tied them to a tree trunk at both edges of the garden. Bottom line: this doesn’t work as well as it should because the inverted V apex’s angle is way too sharp. I couldn’t really get out as well as I wanted to and I decided that this wasn’t worth its while. I spent some time trying to work the DXpeditions that were on but with no success. This feeling was backed up by the RBN. So after the LZ DX contest I took down the 80m vertical and put up the inverted V dipole instead. The end of the dipole’s legs were much higher so the antenna was approaching a flattop configuration and it worked much better.

I haven’t done much DXing in the recent years. The lack of time made me focus on the contest weekends. But now I had a whole week to spare (and to recover). Boy there sure is DX to be worked. I was lucky to have quite a bit of semi-rare DX on the air. But if you want to work much DX, you need to be around 24/7. And it seems it goes much smoother when most people are at work.

Another thing that struck me is that there still is life on 17 m and even 12. So I took down the 30m dipole and replaced it with the homemade WARC triband wire dipole. Soon after I was working the DXpeditions on 17m and even on 12m (J5T).

I’m not superstitious but it seems my DX happiness triggered some instances of Murphy’s law.

On one occasion the SWR on the 40m dipole was more than 4:1. I discovered that when trying to call a European special event station barefoot. And that with CQ WW CW coming up with a planned SB40 effort. Now what? It worked just fine a few days before. I switched on the second radio and there SWR was below 2:1 across the whole band. So it wasn’t the antenna or the feedline. What else? The bandpass filters? I bypassed the 5B4AGN filter set and that didn’t change a thing. And when switched to dummy load, the K3 indicated SWR = 1.1:1. So it’s not the rig either. Running out of options here! Don’t know why but I decided to switch the amplifier out of standby and sent a dah on the paddles. That of course tripped the amp. But it had solved the problem! SWR was back to normal. My guess is that one of the relays in the microHAM relay box got flakey and a firm shock of 400-500W RF cleaned the contacts?

Murphy likes me. A few days later I was enjoying the 17 meter band. With the KPA-500 at 500 Watts and SWR 1.3 to 1. Suddenly the amp trips and the alarm buzzer goes off. SWR 5:1. Still OK on 12m and 17m. Now what? A quick look through the window doesn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary. Feedline problems would present them also on the other two bands, no? So I went outside and lowered the antenna. At first sight, nothing wrong. Then I noticed the ends of the 17m wire were curled up and pointing up.

A little information on the side. A few years ago I decided to put up a permanent WARC antenna in the form of a trapped vertical.

A permanent WARC antenna

I used this WARC dipole as a set of elevated radials. But to make them resonant I had to cut a few centimeters off. In the end this antenna sucked to I converted the radials back into the dipole. So I had to add the removed centimeters again. I just let these ends hang loose. Gravity pulls them down anyway.

But now the dipole had been coiled up in a box for a while. And it was cold so the wire was stiff. Which in turn made the loose ends point upwards instead of bent downward. Close to where the end meets the 17m wire. What happened? The RF power had caused the 12m ends to melt into the 17m wire, making the 17m wire actually way too long. The picture shows where the 12m end (white) got welded to the 17m wire (black). It was not just the plastic insulating jacket that got fused. The copper got bonded too. I tore the wires apart and bent the end firmly down. A few layers of PVC tape covered the burning hole. I just wonder why 12m didn’t show an alarming SWR? Oh well, the problem got fixed. Another lesson learned. And still none the wiser.

A few days later my DXing time was up. There was a period with strong winds on the maps and I had to focus on other things again. So I let the tower down for a few weeks. I had good fun on the bands. Once again it’s proven: when the HF virus has bitten, you’re in for life. Only few people have escaped…

Friday

Here’s the deal: SB40(A) with the rotary dipole 23m above the ground and an almost flat wire dipole with the feedpoint about 9m high and the ends about six to seven meters. Both antennas are fed to the amp with an A/B switch, not ‘stackmatched’. I decided to leave the RX loops on the stackmatch because that’s a proven help in many marginal contacts. I should make a small signal version of the stackmatch for the RX loops.

I hoped to leave the tower up after last week’s fun session but Wednesday and yesterday were very windy so I lowered the tower and put it back up today. I used the RBN to compare the antennas. Good to have two callsigns. The lower dipole was stronger for skimmers within a 1000 km circle. It didn’t seem to differ much farther away. Maybe it’ll be something else at night when 7 MHz should really shine.

I then did a quick test around 13.20 which is still broad daylight. I heard a BY but he didn’t copy me. HS0ZIA was a struggle with the EU callers, DU/SomeRussianCall and VK4DX were worked on first call. Again: still broad daylight. Let’s hope for a calm sun and good propagation. More later…

Saturday

00.00 and off to the races. The contacts flowed in at a steady pace. Not as fast as my record +200 hour on 80 (again: in marvelous 2014) but still not too bad. However the K-index had risen from 0 in the afternoon to 3 right now. Later on the K even peaked up to four and I think that’s the reason why signal strength dropped and the run became slow. So slow that I just went to bed for a while. With the intention to be back well in time for sunrise.

In the meantime it had become clear that the lower wire dipole didn’t do a thing. At least: nothing that wasn’t workable on the high dipole, even local stuff within 600 km. One time I tried to bust a pile up for one of the exotic G-flavors (forgot which: GU? GD?). I switched to the lower dipole ‘just in case’ and forgot to switch back to the high dipole. It didn’t make a noticeable difference. Maybe on the marginal paths to far away stuff like KH6 or ZL.

Nigel G3TXF had announced to be SB40 too. In his WW SSB contest report I noticed he has the same antenna at about the same height. I had two RBN monitors open, one for me and one for G3TXF. It was amazing to see that both our footprints matched. When the rate was slow I tried to compare the SNR figures for the same skimmers and that didn’t reveal much difference either. There is no point in this experiment. Just something to keep my mind going when the rate drops to sleep inducting levels.

Sunrise was nothing spectacular but it was a quite productive time to rake up multipliers. Around 10 AM utc I decided it wasn’t worth continuing. I didn’t plan to use the real time score report but I decided to do so, just for fun. I had been lurking at the SB40 scores but it’s only fair that I’d join in. There is nothing I can do with a simple dipole against multiple stacks on huge towers and power splitting between monster antennas. And who knows how many of those run a OM-4000 amp or worse? So I was just moving along with the pack for fun but couldn’t really push forward.

I was back in the shack around 14.00 utc. There was already far east DX to be worked. I had a fast hour and then kept looking for multipliers interleaved with some more running. Suddenly a shower with melting snow came along. The static was so loud I took off the headphones. The online rain radar predicted it would last about a quarter of an hour. And so it did. When the shower moved overhead it was useless to carry on. Everything was weaker than the QRN level. Later on the sun came through and the sky was blue for sunset. I could resume my RF business.

Around 6 PM local time I called for room service and the XYL brought me dinner. Around 7.30 PM utc I decided to take a break and a nap. I got back around 10 PM for another log filling round of CQ CQ CQ. I kept going, slow at times, but I wasn’t tired. Actually I was when I thought about it but I felt OK and didn’t fall asleep. I got a little bit upset by the rude behavior of the power house mult stations in the packet pile ups. After a while the band dried up. Nothing new to be worked and nothing that came back to my CQ. I knew that the slow rate would wear me out so I decided to go to bed for two hours and be fresh for a morning run. And so I did.

Sunday

Around 6 AM utc I could work some more multipliers. And I was glad to get a fair bunch of three pointers into the log. The lack of DX had brought the points per QSO down to 1.6 where it was 2.0 after the first night. I got it back to 1.8 later on. Highlight was a spotted KL2R. A semi-rare double multiplier. He (she?) wasn’t loud but certainly workable. There were some callers but no messy pile up. And along came HB9xxx to rain on our parade. He kept on calling and calling. I heard KL2R coming back to what I thought was my call but the HB9 absolutely had to ruin it for everyone. Frantically I sent my call a couple of times and managed to hear my call and report while HB9 was still at it.

After that I decided to S&P for a total of 1900 QSO and then took a shower and have lunch. It’s 12.15 utc as I type this. Let’s see what the rest of Sunday can bring.

Well, it brought me a long nap. Too long. Home alone so no one to QRM me. There was some Asian DX to be worked and also some VK/ZL. BTW I logged quite a few of those down under. Great! The rate was low and things were slow. I had tried a couple of times to break the 8P2K pile up but it was too messy. In the end I gave up and hoped that my old saying would become reality once again: if you run, the mults will come. Indeed: at 21.02 I got called by 8P2K. Yes! In the last hour ZP5WYC calls me. Again YES!

In the last few slow hours I hoped to reach the 2300 QSO mark. It looked that I wouldn’t make it while running as no one answered me. There was a QRS caller who sent ‘OQ5M OQ5M OQ5M de xxxxx xxxxx GE ES TNX FR QSO UR 599 599 16 16’. No problem with the QRS but with the end of the contest upon me and still needing a dozen QSO to get to 2300, all this superfluous information made me nervous.

So S&P for the final 17 contacts. I activated skimmer spots in the cluster window and soon the bandmaps were filled. There were some blue calls amidst all the grey spots and so I jumped at it. At 23.58 the counter showed 2300 and I quit.

After the contest

I had set no real goals for this contest apart from maximizing the fun factor. I hoped for 1500 contacts and a ‘DXCC in a weekend’. Just not to be mocked at. So the outcome of 2300 QSO and 137 DXCC makes me very happy. Of course along the way I looked up the Belgian record for SB40(A) and early Sunday it seemed far out of reach (OT4A in 2009 with 716.975 points). But in the end I wasn’t too far away from it. I think that OT4A has a three or even four element yagi.

More than ever: no cluster spot, no rate. I decided to spot some calls myself. I dumped more into the spotting network during this contest than I did in over fifteen years of assisted contesting. Although operating assisted I also tune the bands with the VFO dial and I have always thought that everyone should do the same to find the juicy undiscovered DX. There were many busted spots in the bandmaps. BTW: skimmers mistake CT9/ for CT9X. And then there were the ferocious pile ups for those ultra-rare multipliers from Africa or South-America.

I must admit I was quite amazed when I saw G3TXF’s score reported on 3830. Why am I so focused on G3TXF? First of all, he’s in my part of the world. That’s important for the points per QSO. And we’re both no rare or monopolized multiplier. Second reason is the apples-oranges trap in comparisons: simple dipole versus stacked yagis or better. We have a similar antenna, maybe even the same. His is reported to be at 80 ft (24m) while mine is at 76 ft (23m). That can’t be a factor either. Throughout the contest we had a picture perfect matched footprint on the RBN. So why does he claim 250k points more than me?

From his claimed score I derive that he has a 1.674 pt/qso average. Mine is at 1.649. So that seems pretty leveled.

He has 18 multipliers more than me. That burns. I wonder what he worked that I haven’t and if it was the mult calling him or vice versa. I’d like to see his log. In due time, I will. I think I worked most multipliers that were on the spotting network. Maybe one or two that I just didn’t want to endure the cluster spot pile up.

What about location? Google maps tells me he’s 580 km more to the west. That’s 10% closer to central USA than me. But that does not explain the difference in multipliers. I’d expect a higher pt/Q average then. From his location there is nothing but salt water between him and everything to the west. Could that be of any help?

What with the ‘call sign gain’ factor? Nigel is one of the most well-known ham radio operators. There or a bunch of callsigns that can draw a crowd when spotted. Where does this fit into my equation? I think 550 QSO is a huge difference. But I think it goes too far to attribute that to a call sign.

But most likely it’s that Nigel operated 11 more hours than me (43 vs 32). In retrospect I should have operated more. But the initial plan was to have fun and not to be a zombie after the contest. Maybe something for next year?

Please note that I do not envy Nigel’s score nor think that there’s something fishy about it. NOT AT ALL. I just want to know what’s happening so I can either try to do better next time or just learn to live with the situation.

Some thoughts:

  • I worked more VK (7) and ZL (6) in this one then I seem to remember in one contest. It’s not as easy as on 20 or 15 (if SFI allows).
  • I worked six VU2 stations. I think that is more too than before.
  • 522 USA stations were logged, that’s 22.7%. I think it’s impossible to drill into to the ‘second layer’ without a yagi. On 20 and 15 with three elements I can even exploit the third layer (QRP with indoor clothe hanger antenna).
  • MANY MANY dupes: 61. In fact my log shows 2361 QSO dupes included. That’s 4.35%. WHY??? Two calls were even logged THREE times. That’s a ‘tripe’!

Final words:

It was fun.    DX is!   CW 4 EVER!   And CQ WW CW is still the greatest of them all!

Just for the archives, nothing noteworthy in this one.

Although this used to be my annual workout before CQ WW CW, it seems that I have totally missed it in 2015 and 2016. I was fifth in 2014 claiming 1789 contacts. Ah, sweet record year 2014… Fond memories.

I planned to be around this year but I knew that a major score and high rates would be out of reach. Propagation was a bit of a bummer and made for a slow start. OTOH the skimmers seemed to hear me better than the rate would imply. It was a simple one radio band hopping thing with ten meters giving hard times to work something. Then again VK4CT’s skimmer heard me on 28 MHz on Sunday morning. I begin to wonder if that’s at all possible: VK4CT always picks me up on the RBN, from 80 up to 10 (when the band is supposed to be open in some degree of course).

I watched a movie with the XYL Saturday night and played some more afterwards but I went to bed around 0.00z. I refused to set the alarm hoping that ‘80m sunrise anxiety’ would wake me up around 5 AM utc but no… I slept quite well and woke up just before sunrise. Which didn’t offer much new for the log anyway.

I was home alone for the better part of Sunday so I sweat it out and logged 900 QSO. Best hour was 120 on 40m (16 > 17 PM utc). Also the only +100 hour. Nothing spectacular but I’m glad to enjoy a bit of casual contesting, log some unexpected DX multipliers and meet all those friends we’ve never met.

For over a week now I have been wondering what to do for CQ WW CW this year. I’m not fit for a SOAB effort. I’d need sleep and would have a hell of a time recovering afterwards. The goal of this WW CW is a) to get on the air with b) as much fun and as many QSO as possible.

My initial plan was to do SB80. My antenna plays well in CW and can provide enough fun. Bonus: lots of sleep during the daytime. Not totally zombiefied afterwards.

During WW SSB I thought that there was much more life on 40. No way I’d go there on phone, but it seems to be my best band in CW when the higher bands drop off. I made more than a 1000 Q on 40 in a SOAB(A) effort, so when focusing on 7 MHz only, this could be fun too. And still room for a few naps during the daylight hours. And if SB40 is the way to go: shouldn’t I add an extra antenna for that band? Say: a low dipole?

However… There seems to be an opportunity for quite some fun on the twenty meters band. I have three elements one lambda high. Suitable for some good DX runs too. With lots of sleep during the night so the biorhythm isn’t upset.

And if SB20 is the way to go: shouldn’t I add an extra (lower) antenna fixed to Russia/Middle East? And what antenna should that be? Apart from a crappy trapped vertical, I have nothing and it should be a good antenna. I could make a wire moxon rectangle and put it up about 10m high. But then I’d need to install the field day mast and guy it. Or put the moxon up vertically? Or what about a three element vertical parasitic array (director-driver-reflector)? Could that be easily done?

Actually I’m not too keen on doing all that extra antenna work if in the end it would not pay off or only marginally.

You see: I’m having a hard time deciding what to do and how to do it. And I’m not even taking propagation and wind speed into the equation! Anyone with some good advice here? 

What would YOU do in CQ WW CW?

  • SB80 - the safe bet with a proven antenna. (27%, 3 Votes)
  • SB40 but use a wire dipole too and feed both antennas with the stackmatch. (27%, 3 Votes)
  • SB40 with just the dipole up 22m high. It's good as it is. (18%, 2 Votes)
  • SB20 but try to make a three element parasitic array which is much less hassle than a moxon and that field day mast. (18%, 2 Votes)
  • SB20 with just the yagi. It doesn't need extra work and you're never going to play with the big boys anyway. (9%, 1 Votes)
  • SB20 but try to make a moxon and get it up 10m high. You have the stackmatch anyway. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

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Contesting is my thing but the magic of radio has always been my first love. Not knowing what was going to happen. Sending some current down a cable into a wire or aluminum tube and hoping that someone far far away picks up the E/M wave to convert it back to an electrical signal. And then repeat this in reverse direction.

I had a week off after CQ WW SSB. I still have a lot of small jobs to do so I had planned to finish many of these after the contest. But I had so much fun in WW SSB and propagation was (surprise!) not too bad so I decided to leave the tower up for the week and just don’t do anything that is remotely close to ‘work’. I did lengthen the 80m wire to bring resonance back to CW and pulled up my 30m dipole as a slanted vertical dipole. After all WARC bands are my favorite go to outside of the contests.

It’s not that I spent many hours in the shack. But I went there when I felt like it. Mostly late in the evening or early in the morning when everyone in the house was already or still asleep. And mostly on CW of course. Propagation was indeed not too poor the first days. Here and there some contest-expeditions were still active and switched to CW. And I managed to work 3C1L for a new one on 40m. Too bad this 40m contact doesn’t show up in their online log. It was an easy QSO though and I clearly heard it right. One late night later in the week they were very loud on 30m. He was working around the world. Mostly JA but a reasonable bunch of EU and NA in the mix. It was after midnight and I wanted to sleep. I tried for a long time but no luck. I did hear many nice DX in the pile up. Proof that the band was wide open. But my CQ yielded next to nothing. So later on I called 3C1L some more but again: no luck. I think I spent almost one hour and a half in there calling. Ninety minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. I haven’t called a DX this long in ages. Who cares about DXCC anyway. In the end I went to bed.

Friday morning I had to leave home to run some errands. 3C1L was QRV on 20m this time. So I delayed leaving the house. But all it took was just one call. Sweet. Three elements one wavelength high and the DX only 5000 km away: what could go wrong? Luckily this QSO is listed on Clublog. It’s been a long time since I logged a new one.

But wait, there’s more. Thomas OZ1AA signs /4W. I heard him on 15m. Not too loud but given his antenna (pics online), it was amazing that I heard a signal from 12 000 km away on 21 MHz at this point in Cycle 24. YANO – yet another new one! I worked some more DX: quite a few VK9’s active and I managed to work two. Even one on 15m SSB. Yes SSB ☺.

On Wednesday November 1st I found that propagation was declining compared to the previous days. I called CQ on 30 at 11 AM utc. Nothing came back although RBN did show my signals quite beyond EU. Suddenly JF1IRW calls me. With a fair signal. Too bad no one else answered so I QRT’d.

Sunday morning I decided to make a few contacts in the Ukrainian DX Contest. The counter stood at 299 when the bell rang. I planned to lower the tower after the contest (all that work has to be done some time) but I saw a cluster spot for VK9MA. One for the road then? With the yagi still high in the sky, it was a sure shot. Not a new one, but still good DX.

That was fun. I hope for a calm wind-free end of the year so I can keep the antennas up. I really can use some RF-therapy!

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