Several options were open like SB40 or SB20. But I am not to be motivated for a full time effort. Too much going on in ‘civilian life’. Besides I didn’t want to miss too much sleep since a severe cold has taken a lot of my energy last week. And I didn’t expect 20m to produce much fun. So why not SB10 just like last year? I made 600 QSO then on 10m. That was exceptional back then and it would have been even more exceptional this year. Better slow on 10m which is expected and accepted and where each QSO is a victory than slow on 20m which is frustrating.
All my coaxes and control cables were unplugged for the announced crazy super cell thunderstorm early last week. Well, a possible T-storm was announced but no one could imagine it would have been this bad! I did not set up on Friday – that is: I set up a BBQ and prepared dinner. The first BBQ of the season…
Saturday morning I cranked up the tower one level and plugged in the cables and there I went… on 10m. There was some activity but not really loud signals. I started a run and soon I was called by 9M6XRO. That’s over 11 000 km from here! That made my day although I just started. The rate was nothing special but I wouldn’t call it slow taking into account that the propagation is slacking. I worked a steady stream of EU with some UA9. Around 1100 UTC I worked a few dozens USA which is one of the highlights of this contest. During a S&P session I stumbled across a VP9 too. Sweet! It felt as if propagation was not too shabby but the band lacked activity. We’ve almost come to abandon 28 MHz! Then 10m dropped completely dead and I tried 15m which was even deadlier. Almost nothing to be heard except the usual European suspects. USA was weak and I went back to 10m to see if there was some more EU to be worked. I decided not to go to 20m and called it a day.
On Sunday I started at 0730 UTC but 10m was still asleep. I did wanted to make some rate so what else to do then than to move to 20m? The rate meter went through the roof with a lot of EU callers, some of them very rude and impatient. After a +100 hour on 20m I killed my own pile up and asked EU to QRX and listened for DX. The rate dropped but the quality of the callers improved with KL7 and KH6. And a bunch of W6/7 which was pretty early. Normally the West Coast only comes through late in my afternoon but just like in the good ole’ days they were there after our sunrise. The comparison with the old days of Peaking Cycle 23 ends there anyway.
By 0900 UTC I went to 10m and stayed there for a couple of hours, only interrupted by a short lunch break. Those were some dull hours, working weak EU’s and some UA9. Balkan stations were always very loud. Then 10m went dead again and I tried 15m. I swung the yagi from 90° EU to 300° USA while CQ’ing. An isolated JM1 called me when the antenna was over the North Pole. Other than that I quickly tried my luck again on 20m for some rate – although I didn’t really wanted to. But it was THE band for some rate… After a good hour I went back to 10m which was slow and with the 700 QSO mark in sight, I hit 20m to get to the improvised 700 QSO target.
That’s it really. No frequency fights, only UU7J who came a bit too close but the operator was so kind to QSY a bit after I told him he was QRM’ing me. TNX OM for the ham spirit! OG8X called for a multiplier but suddenly he started a CQ, aborted midway the CQ and was gone – without giving me a serial! I found him in S&P and was glad to log him then. Multi-op (M/2?) LX7I managed to call me three times on 10m. Very funny! I got called by two different J2 stations, always a surprise. I closed the log with 705 QSO (no dupes) of which 429 on 10m, compared to 600 last year.
I also discovered a problem with my K3. Above 21 MHz I can’t use the 2nd RX (KRX3). I never discovered that since I haven’t been playing on the higher bands. It’s a known issue with the calibration of the synthesizer (link). Note to self: the Elecraft Application Note to solve this is here. The rig is working fine and the KRX3 does its work from 21 MHz and lower. I’ll do the mod some day…