I think the last serious SOAB in this one was 2006. I did some SB10 in between and last year SB40. I tried SOAB in 2010 but had to close down early because of a thunder storm on Sunday evening. So all systems go for SOAB this year. I even managed to get Friday off from work. I arranged that a few months ago so I could set up the station and rest before the contest starts.
But things turned out the other way. After weeks of bad weather (spring? what spring?), we are having a few days of exotic WX. So on Friday I did a lot of fun stuff : chase tractors on foot with my 2 y/o, extend hunting radius by riding bike with my 2 y/o chasing tractors, watch farmers work their butts off, level the soil and restore the lawn around some holes I dug, clean the BBQ after winter, fire up the BBQ and grill some meat etc etc. A fun day outdoors (finally!).
BUT when the sun was almost setting I still needed to crank up the tower and put up the 80m GP wire. No use for 160 this time. So it was around 9PM local time that I took a shower and started copying files for a contest related software project (more on that in a later post).
A tired body and a head that should be flushed because full of ****: not the best situation to run a contest. So I decided to use some of the off time and sleep for a couple of hours first. Fatigue would be the ‘fil rouge’ through the whole weekend. I admit: I goofed up big time and I want to appologize to the stations I might have left unasnwered. Many times I found myself dozing off. In the worst of cases with the finger on the CQ button. The problem with this is that when holding the enter key for a few seconds, the keyboard buffer gets filled and N1MMLogger doesn’t like this and freezes. I get a Windows error then telling me an application is not responding anymore and the only way out is killing the process with the task manager. I already know that for a long time because falling asleep is my biggest enemy in a contest.
There is also this bug in the K3 radio. Maybe I should upgrade the firmware for a change and see if it got solved. If not I need to report it. I have a habit of using the keyboard up/down arrows to RIT. When I confirm a QSO, I use the arrows to reset the RIT to zero. The K3 bug is: when the software issues a CAT RIT command when the RIG is in TX (and only then, not in RX) the K3 locks up and keeps the PTT activated and the amp keyed. And no more audio out. The drill then is to switch it off and on again, appologize and hope QRG is not taken by then. I changed to a ‘clear RIT’ macro command or use the clear button on the rig.
On a given moment both my PC screens went black. No video anymore. Huh? Now what? Then I see the BIOS start up screen. The computer is rebooting itself. Suddenly and for the first time without any warning. RFI? Broken parts? Too hot in the shack? I turn around and spot the culprit. A little boy’s finger on the PC reset button. #%^#é@&% Honey, I think the kid just learned some new words here, not to be used when there are others around. Booting my PC takes only half a minute thanks to Win7 and a trendy solid state HDD. Then it takes two minutes for the microHAM USB device router to load and initialize itself. Maybe more, I should time it. That is a looooong time to interrupt a run! Thanks for the K6 who patiently stood by during the booting process.
The whole contest just went on and on like this. Me getting tired. Me falling in a microsleep for a few seconds. Me planning off times at probably the wrong moments. Me goofing up and forgetting to log serial numbers. Just put 001 there so the other guy doesn’t get punished for the silly stunts of yours truly. Running wrong bands at wrong times etc. It was tempting to stay on 15 meters – a band that just kept giving and giving for hours on end. But I wanted the other bands to be in balance, more or less. Impossible as it turned out and in retrospect maybe I just should have stuck to 21 MHz.
All in all it was fun and probably I couldn’t have done much better with my single small tribander and a legally driven amp. See: I’ve finally come to terms with that. No more comparing to multiple monobanders and mystery amplifiers. This was a weekend full of DX, and even more DX and the best was I got called by that very same and sometimes rare DX on all bands (except 80 of course). Needless to say I also screwed up my software project by starting it too late and by not having the time to test it well before the contest.
Now I really need to make up for all this fooling around. Next up is IARU!