I’ve never done this one seriously. Some years I make a few QSO but mostly nothing. It’s SSB and there are many other contests this period. Like ARRL CW, UBA CW, RDXC and even WPX SSB. Yet this year I wanted to do more than usual yet not a full time effort. The tower was still up 2/3rd so I strung the 80m GP as an inverted L in stead of straight up when the tower is telescoped to the max. I decided to forget all about 160. After all I did not intend to spend the night in the shack. I just wanted to work the big guns on 80 around my sunrise.
But you know me… S&P is nothing for me. W4PA used the term ‘a rate hog’ back when he was still writing. So I tried running. I’m sure I wasn’t putting out a killer signal on eighty. But conditions were not too bad. Apparently I was trespassing on a frequency that seems to be property of some US Blabbermouth net where people without callsigns talk for hours on end about who knows what. YES I ASKED IF THE FREQUENCY WAS CLEAR, two times like I always do! I don’t get it. I found a clear frequency because there aren’t many people on the band. I ask two times if the QRG is clear. I hear nothing close to my TX frequency. I fire up a few CQ and then these contest bashers show up.
Even a much desired packet spot didn’t help. Some people called me, but I just couldn’t copy them under the QRM. A few minutes later I did a last S&P round and the op at W3LPL told me ‘I called you a few minutes ago but obviously some people didn’t want us there’. I guess the bunch of lids must have been very loud in the USA since they were pretty loud out here.
I moved to 40 and tried to get a run going. Finding a clear QRG was not as easy as on 80, but since 20 seemed to be open already after EU sunrise (did it close?), many people left 40 for 20. Again a double check for a clear frequency. Off to the races. Soon my RX is clogged with S9+40dB mayhem. Cause: less than 1 kHz away some French bunch talks about the weather. The weather for heaven’s sake! Since my run got torpedoed I took the time to listen to what they had to say. I know I’m strongly biased but why would one talk to a friend a few hundred miles away while the band is full to the brim with DX? The fact that it’s warm and sunny really needs to be communicated and ham radio definitely is the best way to do that. NOT! I’m a contester baby, and I will never understand that people get on the air on a contest band during a contest and NOT take part in it. Different strokes for different folks I guess.
So Saturday started with a pretty uneventful sunrise. I worked a few early birds on twenty and was amazed by the strength of the signals this time of the day. But I went outside and worked in the garden for about an hour and a half. The beautiful spring weather is a welcomed change from the wet and windy months behind us. What’s that coiled up piece of wire doing here? Oops, I forgot to roll out an elevated radial that I took down to facilitate the job in progress. I did so before going back to the shack.
I stuck to the bands from 1200 to about 2030 UTC. The bands were in good shape. It struck me that the rate was only so-so but grew exponentially after a packet spot. Then it calmed down and it was waiting for the next packet spot. Again so Sunday morning on 80 at sunrise. The usual suspects were loud and one call was all I needed to log the contact. Yet my CQ remained unanswered. I was about to give up when someone spotted me. A short burst of mini pile up and then nothing again. I had the same happening again on all the bands: modest rate but a spot got things going. And if no fresh spot arrived, things could slow down again. So having your call in the bandmaps seems to be vital these days, more so on SSB than on CW.
This knowledge seems to drive people to packet cluster cheerleading or even plain self spotting. Once again I noticed a few hardcore self spotters / cheerleaders from my own country. And why not throw in a shopping list like ‘LOOKING NORTH DAKOTA’ commentary to the spot? The Belgian dual callsign system makes it easy to spot yourself with a legit callsign that is your own yet different from the call you use in the contest. I’m easily aggravated and it’s in my blood to get cranky for nothing, and although it shouldn’t this pathetic DX cluster abuse pisses me off. But just like in everyday life, standards are dropping faster than atmospheric pressure over the eastern Atlantic. Self control? Respect? Honor? Striving for perfection? Just look at traffic, waiting lines, crowded events etc. And don’t get me started about spelling and grammar on the Internet or elsewhere for that matter! A sign of the times. The pendulum seems to be swinging very far away from the equilibrium and in the wrong direction. At least to me. But I digress.
Was it fun? Yes. It’s always a pleasure to be greeted by friends whom we’ve never met. I really like the fast snappy and strictly to the point mini-pile ups with W/VE. I wish it could always be like that. But it still is SSB and I prefer CW. Moreover my modest station plays much better in CW than on phone. I’ve had it with SSB for now. Especially 40/80. The splatter, the QRM, the brutality of this to the ears – CW is relaxation but this isn’t. I kick ass on 40 in CW but the same setup is worthless in SSB.
I’ll probably do SB15 in WPX SSB. Because any contest is better than no contest. Except for the IOTA contest.