January has been a very calm month in the shack. In fact I only made my first QSO of the year on Friday 27th. I spent the first month of the year buried under QSL cards. I also wanted to make some changes to the UBA Log Acceptance Software. It needed some fine tuning to reject bad logs. Like logs where the call in the QSO line doesn’t match the used call. Or logs where 59(9) and serial numbers are reversed. Yes it all happens. Some people use software that is not suited for the job.

Four weeks without a single QSO – it’s hard. Especially when ON4BHQ reports daily what he worked which is what I missed. And with a few DXpeditions on the air (HK0NA, VP6T and TN2T), it was itching. Especially TN2T since I know many of the operators in person. So on Friday up went the tower and along the low band wires and the WARC antenna. Then off to the shack. Propagation seemed not too good. But what really disgusted me was the behaviour of the DXers in the pile ups. And if not in the pile up, it’s on the DX QRG. The same shit over and over again. The TN2T boys seem to be plagued by carriers and tuners on their QRG.

I admit: at least two times I was the monkey keying simplex. I find the K3 very vague about being split mode or not. I blame the 2nd RX. You hear the pile up and the DX in each one ear, but sometimes the rig is reset to simplex (after a keyboard triggered QSY). Then I feel bad adding to the mayhem. But it’s an accident. What can’t be said about tuning right on the DX or deliberate jamming.

At one point there was one guy constantly sending ‘NW MORE QRM NW MORE QRM’ (on top of VP6T I believe). I can understand the frustration. We all have lost a QSO or missed a confirmation because some idiot was keying or talking right when you THINK the DX calls you. ‘Abyssus abyssum invocat’ as we say, it’s only human and sometimes hard to resist to seek vengeance.

I gave myself the weekend to work the expeditions on 80 and 40 CW. I forgot that the contest was SSB so I had to adjust the 80m vertical for the SSB subband. So I had only one sunrise. On Friday night things were a ‘no go’ so I ended the day with an hour in the CQ 160 CW contest. Made 105 QSO in 1 hour but only EU. I think the DX days of 160 are numbered with the rising SFI. I set the alarm to 06.00 utc on Saturday. I heard VP6T on 80m. Weak but workable and he was working z14 EU. Then he quit. Chance missed. HK0NA was VERY loud which attracted a huge crowd as well. Didn’t work them either. Here’s what I did work:

  • HK0NA: 10 CW, 30 CW, 40 CW
  • VP6T: 20 CW, 40 CW
  • TN2T: 10 CW + SSB, 15 CW + SSB, 20 CW + SSB, 40 CW + SSB, 17 CW

Then came the UBA DX SSB contest. I don’t like this one as opposed to CW but somehow I feel obliged to participate. The XYL doesn’t understand that. Why do something you don’t like? Yes why? It’s the timing (January, many other contests) and the mode that make it less appealing to me. Although it seems the contest had better ‘ation’ this year. Better propagation. Better participation. The operator on the contrary lacked concentration. My wife’s due to give birth to our second kid this very weekend so it could be that I had to quit the chair right in the middle of the contest…

It didn’t happen (still waiting!) but the contest result is only so-so. I took many breaks and a long nap. Before going to sleep on Sunday morning I spent another hour in the CQ 160 CW contest. This time I was able to cross the EU borders. VY2ZM (loudest), a couple of East Coasters and UP2L and P33W for Asia. I heard Nebraska covered under a loud EU. If not for the EU I might have worked a new state on 160. There were several weak Americans that I could hear in between CQ’s of loud EU’s on top of them. Useless to call them because the EU always thought I was calling him. I was thinking to drop 160 in the ARRL CW contest next month. But there you go: it’s still possible to work transatlantic DX on 160 with my poor Top Band antenna. And each QSO there is a possible multiplier! I must say these were the weakest USA signals I heard on 160 since 2009.

Saturday’s sunrise was a big zero on 80m SSB in the UBA contest. Suddenly HK0NA was spotted right beside me. Loud! He was listening ‘3801 and also 3798’. But I didn’t get through the packet spot’s induced pileup. It was useless to listen on 80 CW since the antenna was shortened for SSB.

Of course there was the traditional clash with the British rag chewers. Not the Germans this time. The Brit came whining that I totally devastated the American he was talking to ‘1kHz up’. I had asked 3x if the frequency was free, honestly I didn’t hear him nor the American so I fired a CQ. But apparently I was QRM’ing him. I left him whining on my QRG and QSY’d 1kHz up where he said he was before. There I asked 3x if the frequency was free (no reply of course) and started CQ’ing. He came back and was not amused when I told him again that here too no one replied to my triple fold question if the QRG was free. He concluded that “there is something wrong with your ear then”. He didn’t share my sense of humour when I replied my rear is working just fine. Oh well, ragchewers and their shoe size conversations…

It became clear that I needed to move up the bands for the UBA contest. I had a huge gap on 20m where nothing worked on Saturday. I filled the gap and then did the 10/15/20 shuffle for the remaining hours. I was glad when it was over. I went outside and took tower and antennas down again. Three weeks until ARRL CW. Three weeks that will be full of anything but ham radio…

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