The best cure is: playing radio! I was QRT since August and I couldn’t be bothered to enter the shack and tune the bands. But last week I decided it was time to pull myself together. I cranked up the tower one level and hooked the cables back up again after the T-storm threats. No lightning seen BTW.
I used the K3-KPA500 combo to have a ‘500W rig’ so to speak. I started out on 12m and heard a JA with an S7 signal. I had to call a few times but someone was always louder than me. Makes sense, only 500W in a simple triband WARC inverted V. Hard to compete against all the SteppIR / UltraBeam and OM-3500 out here in EU.
So I did what I always do: call CQ. Soon I worked my first JA. Later on that very JA I couldn’t work came to call me. You know that’s a major thrill for me: being called by a DX I couldn’t work earlier. I worked a dozen JA but then had to QRT
Later that evening I got back into the shack and again worked some DX. That’s fun! Propagation seemed good enough to try some SSB on 10m. I always love that since I do it seldomly. But since I never used this K3 before on SSB (I use the one hooked up to the big amp), I had to tweak the VOX settings. CW is so much less of a hassle! Soon I got it working but not to my liking. So I wanted to compare the settings between both K3 rigs. I switched on the main K3 and found that the front panel buttons were not working. Oh boy, why? WHY???
My freshly regained enthusiasm torpedoed amidships. In stead of having fun on the bands it was back to playing repair technician once again. Google told me that it was a known issue due to some connectors of poor quality in the early series. Taking off the front panel and putting it back on should assure good electrical continuity between front panel and the main board. Oh no, that dreaded front panel with it’s huge connector strip and other pins placed 90° off! *insert foul language of choice here*
There was a procedure in some Elecraft document that I followed and I did the take off / mount again procedure but it didn’t help. Of course, because of my harassment with this failure I dropped a tiny screw with washer in the rig. The washer came out quickly but it took some shaking to finally get the screw out. *insert more diabolical language here*
Finally I got the front panel replying to my pushing again. Problem fixed but it would probably show up again one day. One day? Hell, FIVE MINUTES LATER! No more buttons. The rig works RF-wise. Most rotary controls work (VFO knob, power, DSP BW etc) but the buttons don’t work. Some respond but trigger another function. The band up button activates the noise blanker etc. Let’s call it a day. No contacts logged and a profound disappointment. I sent a mail to Elecraft and decided that I would not tackle this problem myself. I’m in no mood to play techie and my scarce free radio time should be devoted to making contacts. Off to the Italian official service point then.
On Sunday I decided I could still use this rig for the CQ WW SSB. I could fully control it from the PC with the N1MM soft. I always do that. I would loose some functions like Noise Reduction etc but I’m not a low band specialist anyway. Then it hit me: I needed to activate VOX! Once again in stead of making contacts, I had to solve a problem. I downloaded the programmers reference for the control protocol and used Elecraft’s K3 software to send commands from the protocol to the rig. That was easy and soon I had activated VOX. So I think the rig will be functioning. But of course during the contest I will find myself in a situation where I need to adjust some parameter to find out it’s impossible without sending commands through the terminal!
I have forced myself not to make a big deal out of this. Too many big deals made over the last months already. Earlier had I already decided not to be competitive this time. Easy does it. It’s only SSB and the WRTC dice is already cast. The bank won. Anyway fun outweighs score. I’m not even sure what I will be doing. Some SB? SOAB? If SB, then what band to pick? I’m not really looking forward to 40 SSB. But I like SOAB because you can move to whatever band that is open.
Another key factor in contesting from here is the wind. My free standing crank up tower is very robust but my heart isn’t when it comes to wind and tower. Remember CQ WW CW 2012? I do! I’m monitoring the forecast and it won’t be a calm period. There will be wind. Question is: will it by ‘windy’ which is still ok (although I prefer no wind for my contesting pleasure), or ‘stormy’ which is absolutely not OK? Oh wait, the latest forecast has lower wind speeds.