It’s time again for my yearly laid back CW contest: the ARRL DX CW. Laid back indeed. Point yagi to 295-300°. Call CQ on whatever band that is open to the USA at a given time. No stress, no fuss – every QSO is a blessing. The more inland the state, the better it feels. CA, WA, NM, OR always a treat. VA7 or VE6 anyone? Yummie: those fluttery signals!
Today (Friday) I had a day off from work. In the morning I set up the tower and the low band wires. It was cold and wet outside. A quick check in the shack around 09.00 utc showed poor conditions I’m afraid. 9K2/SP4R on 10m was not easy. My ‘neighbour’ ON4AFU was spotted as XU7AFU on 12m but I haven’t put up the WARC antenna. An HS0 had trouble logging a 4X call on 28 MHz. Just after 9AM UTC I worked V44KAI. On 40m! Uh oh… The reported solar numbers are too low for huge runs on 10m. My gut says even 15m won’t shine so it’ll be crowded on 20m. Again. Remember end October last year? A bottomless pit of USA on 10m and hardly a sginal on 20m because everyone was higher. Ain’t gonna happen this weekend I’m afraid. If things really go bad there won’t be anything more than a short weak opening to zone 3 on 20m.
For the rest of the day I tried to sleep a bit and rest a lot. I have no hope for fantastic propagation so I won’t be disappointed. Or at least not too much. It’s 21.30 local time now, watching some TV and waiting for the contest to start. CU on the bands!
Added 48 hours later:
The contest started slow for me. I could not get rate going on 40. Signals were not really loud, there were only the usual suspects and the noise level was pretty high. Memorable fact: my frequency-fight with YT4W. Normally I try to be ‘the better man’ and QSY but this time I fought it out with precision-timed CQ’s.
After a couple of hours I went to 80 which was even worse. Where was everyone? I didn’t think it would be this bad but sunrise propagation on 160m was pathetic. I could only hear and work 3 stations from 1-land. After that back to 80m until it died and it soon was clear that 40m was the better band. By 9 AM local time I took breakfast with the family and hit the couch for a long nap. I assumed the higher bands would not open before my lunch.
Back around 11.30 utc and the usual suspects were worked on 15m. From then on it’s just like any other contest: try to run and achieve high rates. Ten meters was a bust. Why oh why? Fifteen meters was great but only after a slow cold start. And twenty meters closed around 20.30 UTC. I granted myself a break and came back on 80 around midnight. Disappointing propagation there and a lot of noise again so I mainly spent the night on 40m. Things slowed down to the point where I was goofing up – only sleep could cure that. Seeing some OH (Fin) repeatedly spot a bunch of W6-calls on 28 MHz at midnight with comments like ‘great opening to west coast’ was salt in the wound.
I slept between 2AM and 4AM UTC and immediately tried 160 when I got back in the shack. Better luck this time but the log counts only 41 contacts on Top Band. That’s a dozen less than last year and half of what I worked in 2009. Go figure. Some more 80 and a lot of 40 until 8AM UTC where I threw the proverbial towel and took breakfast and a short nap. I did some household chores to please the XYL, praised her lunch (macaroni and cheese = yummie) and around 12.00 UTC I started out on 20m. Then off to 15, some more trials on on 10, back to a shining fifteen until it gently started fading. I didn’t want to wait too long so that I would miss out on 20m. I did that band for about two hours until it died which went pretty fast. It didn’t re-open.
Always the same routine in this contest. Although I remember 2001 where that same 20m never closed to the USA, not even for 100W and a low wire. That would limit the breaks I took now when there was a period without propagation to NA.
I ended the contest on 40 which was VERY crowded. Rate was low and I went to 80 for the last 30 minutes hoping to be called by another multiplier but it didn’t happen.
As always the fast hours are fun and the slow hours are boring. I’m surprised I worked so many multipliers on 15. There is quite a few z3 in there and VE7. I claimed my best result ever in this one. I think 10m must be wide open to do better than this.
There is some annyoing stuff but since it’s almost 2AM I can’t be bothered to go into details. Mostly it’s people jumping ‘into the void’ when you’re listening to a weak one. Not even ‘QRL?’, just fire away the CQ. And when there are a few callers and you ask for the ‘W1?’ you get the ‘K9’ and ‘AB4’. I expect that from European operators but not from the classy USA ops.
Can’t wait to see the claimed scores, especially OT2A’s…