The lure of the bands has gotten me into the shack lately more than Lorelei attracted ships on the Rhine. Actually it’s not the bands, it’s the special OT70 callsigns that generate at least some interest. Without these I would simply not be active when there is no contest going on. Band conditions (propagation) has been terrible. A simple Belgian would not get many replies to a CQ today.
And still. Sometimes a band can surprise me. After slowly working five very weak Europeans on 17m, you might conclude the band is dead and then there is this JA coming in 5 on the S-meter. Or yesterday: another pathetic attempt to work at least a handful of EU on 10 meters with the antenna pointing at 50° (between JA and UA). Suddenly TI8II calls in. Not loud but ‘armchair copy’. So there usually is some form of propagation. Sometimes…
The main problem is: PEOPLE JUST DON’T TUNE THE BANDS ANYMORE. That’s an antiquated thing of the past. If you’re not on the cluster, you’re not making contacts. Period. And so I have decided to abandon my disgust for self-spotting during this month’s Special Event Station marathon. I won’t be doing that in a contest, but this time I decided it’s the way to go if you want to make some contacts instead of anxiously waiting for a replying station that puts you on the cluster. Asking – nay: begging to be spotted is a bridge too far. Sometimes I have called CQ for a few minutes without answer. Yet the Reverse Beacon Network picks me up way outside EU. I put myself on the DX cluster and the fun starts right away. I have worked +100 stations in an hour a few times after such a spot. The train keeps rolling at a steady pace when someone spots you again so your call remains in the bandmaps.
SSB. Yes SSB. I have been doing that too. Not much – I limit myself to 100 contacts per phone session or so. It’s a problem on 40 and 80 because the EUs are so loud, so zero beat and so many idiots. You ask for a DL2, you get a YO4. You ask for UX7, you get a IW7. WHY OH WHY? They keep calling on top of each other, they start calling in the middle of a QSO in progress. If it’s this bad for a ubiquitous Belgian station of which there are almost 50 around during 31 days, I can only imagine what it would be like from a real rare DX location. No thanks! I can handle that mess in CW to a certain extent within my limited pile-up experience but I hate it on phone. This stupidity and selfishness makes me mad. Don’t they listen? Many don’t. Do they understand plain English guidelines? Some don’t. I suspect they only understand their callsign and not words like ‘please wait’ or ‘QRX’ or ‘NO Europe please only DX only DX’. Or ‘Foxtrot Four shut up’. I easily get carried away when some moron displays hillbilly behavior.
And finally a bold statement: contest operators are better operators. Snappy, to the point, calling slightly up to avoid the zero-beat mess, no confusing interjections, perfect timing. Just the way I like it baby!
This OT70 business really has been fun so far. I’m almost at 3500 contacts for the two callsigns I am allowed to activate. I hope it’ll last twelve more days. Now outside to put up an ad hoc 17m antenna. That band is heavily unexploited so far. Stay tuned – or should I say: stay clusterized?