I wasn’t really sure what to do with this one. Certainly not an all bander. I’ve had it with 40m SSB. Furthermore I took down all the radials and dismantled the feedpoint of the 80/160 antenna. Add to that the nice warm sunny weather that was announced, which made the thought of working on some garden projects tempting. On the other hand I’m trying to recover from a knee injury. Nothing bad but since I didn’t bother to take care of it and went on and on, it only got worse instead of going away. Doctor’s advice after a CT scan was to rest and certainly not to stress the knee. The work I had in mind involves digging holes, driving the wheelbarrow, haul concrete blocks etc. So spending the daylight hours in the shack and the night in bed would fit the doctor’s prescription.
The only knot to untie was: SB15 or SB10? I have the feeling that for general coverage my antenna works best on 15 since it’s 1.5 lamba high. It’s too high for ten meters for most places. I could of course crank it up half way but that would limit me if I decided to switch bands after all. Add to that that A/K values were pretty high the days before. So I decided to do a SB15(A) entry.
I started Saturday well after sunrise. The band was open but the rate was low. I noticed that the bandmap was filling way faster on ten meters. Wrong choice? I got called by nice DX and a steady stream of JA callers. A steady stream is not a pile up. As the band opened up, the QRM and splatter grew and the occasional frequency fight had to be fought. One nasty situation occurred with a Chinese station. I had turned the antenna to the USA but B4L suddenly sipped through. He bumped into my spot and settled there. I turned the beam back to the east and he was loud. I tried reasoning but he didn’t reply. Not to me and not to any other caller. I was under the impression that he was deaf as a post. Or a rock, since a W6 station spotted him later on commenting: “another rock that can’t hear”. Since rate was slow and I had no other place to go to, I sweat it out until he was gone.
When the band opened up to the west with loud east coast stations, the rate picked up but it wasn’t really fun. It was too slow and too much SSB-ish. I don’t remember any special events and I took a long break to water the newly sown patch in the lawn, have dinner, play a while with the kids and put them to bed. I played some more after sunset and went to bed.
Sunday morning, QRV around 0700utc. Switched on the amp and heard a crackling and buzzing sound. Uh oh! Troubles! High voltages arcs? It was intermittent but it didn’t go away during the warm up period. I could not trace the source from the front so I walked around the desk. I heard it again but it wasn’t coming from the amp. It was coming from the window? I turned around and saw a HUGE wasp bumping into the window, trying to get out. How did this giant wasp get in here? I opened the window and gently guided the wasp into freedom. I hope this was a one off mistake and not the first of many insects in the shack.
Things didn’t work well on my band of choice. Surely the band was open. I even had a nice QRG. But there were no callers and S&P yielded not many new stations. Everyone seemed to be on Ten Meters once again. I called CQ in vain and with the rate meter showing a lousy 25 QSO / hr, I switched everything off. I decided this beautiful WX and free time could be better spent trying the oldest son to ride his new big bicycle. That went well until we discovered that riding is easy but stopping is not. Here ends today’s cycling lesson. My knee was happy. I traded the bike for pots and pans and made spaghetti for lunch. To compensate for the lousy bike coaching the oldest and I played with the fire engine and police helicopter while the youngest took his afternoon nap. Then it was time to do some more contesting. No goals, no stress, no pressure. My hope was for a fast long high rate run with those snappy American operators. That’s the only time I like SSB.
Once again I noticed that no spot means no rate. A spot means some rate. Two consecutive spots make for some sustained rate. Late in the afternoon with 900 contacts on the counter and fed up with chirping splatter sounds, I cracked and went to Ten Meters. Sure enough: me being fresh meat and some spots so soon after my first CQ there I had 250 QSO on Ten too. My best rate so far this weekend. It was time to go to fifteen meters again. And I got lucky there too. Around sunset things improved and after sunset the band exploded. High sustained rate (+100 is high for me on SSB) and tons of west coast. During slower moments (read: between two spots) I looked some of them up. Many were using trapped multi-band verticals, random wires with tuners and even one attic dipole. Hail to thee, Lord Propagation! I had a few KL7 callers, I asked if they were truly in Alaska. Same with Hawaii. Crazy! Around 2200 utc signals weakened and soon after the band was going down. I still had more than one hour until the end of the contest so I went to 20m. But that band didn’t have loud signals and seemed noisy so I worked a few friends and went to bed.
Maybe I should have done some work on Saturday and play Fresh Meat on fifteen on Sunday alone? After all the best times were late on Sunday. Oh well. Coulda-shoulda-woulda.
Some figures about my score on 15:
- 1300 QSO (yes a round number).
- Of which 711 USA (almost 55%).
- Worked 98 Canadians of which 17 from VE7.
- 4x KH6 and 6x KL7. A record in one contest (single band makes it even more remarkable).
- Most worked WPX:
- VE3 = 34x
- W8 = 23x
- K7 and K9: a draw with 19x
- N2 = 18x
This ends the season. Now two months off until WPX CW. Time to get that garden nice and clean.