Time for the annual obligated contest. I would normally never enter this contest: a smaller SSB contest. So what, small can be fun, right? But SSB is the real problem. Yet it’s the UBA DX contest and somehow I feel morally obligated / obliged to enter it. As if the contest would not take place without me. I guess that’s what the XYL’s grin meant when I explained her why I entered the contest without really feeling like it.
And so I found myself outside in the garden playing ‘field day setup’ again. After all these years I have the routine mastered and even adjusting the 80/160 GP so the 80 part resonated in the phone band went smoothly. It was a nice change to do it with a white view. There was a thick layer of snow everywhere and actually it was pretty cold. I took it all down on Sunday but the white had gone together with the cold. Ah yes of course – the WX! I let the tower down on December 23 because the wind kept blowing hard. Then of course the wind settles for a few weeks. Then we have nice stable calm weather. Freezing cold, lotsa snow (to Belgian standards), even a few nice sunny-ish days. But then the contest weekend comes and after five weeks ON5ZO is about to crank the tower up again and there it is: an Atlantic Depression spin off coming over France with rather warm temperatures (+7°C where it was -7° a few days before), rain and 5Bft wind with gusts over 60km/hr. So in two days the weather took a big turn and it’s bye bye real winter again.
Last week I soldered a few new cables. It wasn’t easy because they were always hopping up and down. Jumper cables! Huh huh huh. I also soldered a male and female N connector to a long stretch of RG-213 that was still new on the drum. This was to connect the RX loop in one go in stead of connecting several lengths together. So on Friday I also reconnected the RX loop in order to make some contacts in the CQ 160 CW contest. And before the sun set I decided to give the mole clamp another go. I dug a hole in to new fresh mole heaps and took a new approach. I placed the clamps the sloppy way. I had enough of the chaos the mole created. Almost twenty HUGE heaps in the lawn around the terrace. Not counting the heaps in front of the house or out of sight in the back of the garden. I wonder if one little mole alone can create such a battle field. It looks as if the lawn was carpet-bombed by a flock of B-52’s.
Sarturday around 6.30utc I woke up and found KT3Y pretty loud on Top Band. Soon I logged a few other transatlantic contacts including PJ2T who was loud of course but whose rate got curtailed by a horde of zero beat calling EU’s. I worked more NA à la S&P and decided to run which provided me with quite a fun hour. I have no idea what I did the rest of the morning, I guess it was either National Geographic or Discovery Channel and an extended pre-contest power nap.
So off to the races for the UBA SSB contest. I still hadn’t decided what time category. Certainly more than six hours and why not the full twenty four in stead of my usual twelve hour entry. But soon it became clear that 12 would suffice. I used the second radio a lot, now WITH amplifier. But there was a problem: the second rig didn’t put out power when in VOX. After a while I found the culprit menu setting: VOX GAIN was still set to zero since I had never used VOX before on radio #2. As CQ WW has a fixed exchange I used the 5914.WAV on radio#2 and not my real live voice. With the serial numbers now, I had to. Once VOX gain was set to the same value as Radio #1, it worked just fine.
In the afternoon I tried ten meters but it was a wasteland. I tried moving VE9ML from 15 to 10 which *HOORAY* worked out just fine with the proverbial armchair copy signals. Right after that a quite loud W5 tail-ended that QSO. Either I was lucky to cross the W5’s path or he evesropped on 15 and qsy’ed along to the agreed QRG on ten meters. Anyhow: two NA mults on a tough going band. Ain’t that the salt ‘n peppa of contest operating?
I took a break early in the evening to have dinner with the family and then went on. Things were already slow in the afternoon but now things got even slower. Propagation was not the best but I guess there was even less participation because I got called by DX anyway. Then suddenly the A index went very high taking the K up a few notches too which was a sad case. There was not much to be worked on forty so I ended up on eighty meters. I wanted to quit but still had too much operating time left.
I was beginning to fear I would not even work a single K on 40/80 when K1RX got spotted on 40. I piloted Radio#2 there and worked him and convinced him to work me on 3722 where I was running. He told me he’d be there in a few minutes and sure enough: three minutes later I had the USA mult on 80 too. Again a successful QSY. There were some other nice mults calling me but I decided to save another 5 hours for the morning and play some more on 160. I did not stay long there because there was no real DX to be worked. Sunday’s sunrise was a bust, contrary to twenty four hours earlier. I only worked a handful of calls of which only one or two from USA. So I went to work my last five hours in the UBA contest. It was slow, very slow. And I was glad when it was over.
UBA: 758 QSO, of which 119 Americans.
160: 271 QSO, of which 33 Americans (15 different state/provinces and 41 DXCC).
Since WX was predicted to become grimmer I went outside to lower the tower and put the low band wires away. However it was quite enjoyable: the rain had stopped, the wind had settled and the sun did its best to pierce through the clouds. The snow had almost gone. Then I decided to see if I caught the mole. Yes. Sad story: the mole is SK. I guess and hope it was a quick painless death. I don’t feel happy about it and I really need to look at the current state of the lawn to justify the killing of such a small vermin. On the other hand he/she has hundreds of acres surrounding my small garden to dig his/her way through. I scooped up all heaps and got two wheelbarrows full! There is proportionally more mud than grass now which the dog spreads around over the terrace with his paws.
Then it was time to start up the log checking robot. I took me a short while to figure out how it works. But after rewriting it completely and fine tuning it last year, it now works quite good. There were already almost 200 logs submitted of course with the usual stupid errors and mistakes: no attachement, a ZIP, some specific binary formats in stead of ASCII Cabrillo, wrong categories. And again Belgian logs being a minority, yet representing the most errors. And I don’t know how but a few logs were sent to my private emailadres.
It was quite a fun radio weekend despite being SSB and not really superb propagation. The RX loops is a nice addition on the low bands but I need to build a ‘front end saver’ (already have an idea). I will pay specific attention in CW but I think there is a particular situation where I’ll be needing stubs since band pass filters won’t help me there. I only have one set of BPF and maybe I should include a set on the other radio as well. I looked it up but prices are pretty steep if you add S/H and 21% VAT. I guess the OM-Power set is the best deal right now because it’s in the EU but at over 700 Euros, I think it’s pretty expensive!