What is the best cure for ham radio fatigue?

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.

10 replies on “What is the best cure for ham radio fatigue?”

Don’t worry about the K3 Franki. My Icom7800 (a 10k Euro TRX) failed last sunday when doing some JARTS contest. All the lights went out, could restart it a few minutes later, but it is only running QRP @ 10W, grmbl…
So CQ WW will be with my FT2000, in which I replaced the preamps for the 3rd time!.
I was wondering if “they” stopped making good and reliable transceivers?
They are always getting more expensive, but any better?
73 – Wim (ON4BHQ)

Hi, Frankie!
It is always very enjoyable to read your articles, I must admit!
I was sorry to hear about your K3. Even the best rigs have their nasty moments, giving you a hard time !!
Looking forward to working you during the contest. I am doing SOABHP for the 2nd consecutive time from SV5. Setup is ready and tested … twice !! I thought I’d never, EVER, enter SOAB again (like you said, with all the Dynamic Ants/3+ kW amps combo spread around EU), still something insided itched hard …
One thing I hate is the combination of the aforementioned combo with a stupid Op. It is making me mad. I hope not any such combinations will come across me during WW, or I’ll use foul language on air …
Main aim here is to crash my previous personal best on SOABHP, at first, and maybe I’ll get a good overall ranking if I try hard enough.
SV5 is an attraction, for sure, so continuously persistent pile-ups are expected.
Good luck and talk to you on-air
73 – Stathis

P.S.: Just remembered I still haven’t received your statistics program you had sent me. If you find a couple of free minutes, could you try to forward it to both of these addresses? : &
Mni tks in advance.

Stathis, I won’t be in this CQ WW. I’ll explain tomorrow why not. I can already tell you I’m not happy…

I wish you big pile ups and many multipliers this weekend. GL and have fun.

I will put the program on my webspace and provide you a link tomorrow. That way it can’t be trapped in some spam filter.


Get the K3 fixed. Sell it, and with the proceeds buy a pair of used TS-590S’s. Or 1 new TS-590 and take your XYL to a warmer, less rainy place on holiday. After 2+ years my 590’s have been flawless.

Steve, I doubt there are many TS-590 in Belgium. I don’t know anyone who has one. Finding them used on the local second hand market is impossible.
Are you happy with the ‘590? Does it ‘deliver’ for our purposes?

Taking the XYL out is one thing. Combining it with a contest is another. We both can’t take free from work since both our holidays are on fixed dates (scheduled school holidays) so that limits the options for operating a DX contest from the DX side.

I looked it up and was amazed to see it’s relatively ‘cheap’ when bought new.

If I were to buy something else than a K3, this might as well be it. I hear horror scenarios left and right about the other Japanese rigs that cost way more.

But the K3 replacement parts are under way so let’s hope I don’t mess it up and can be a happy K3 user again…


Yes Guido – I noticed that too. But I must say I never missed that in all my years with the TS-850.
I have put the KRX3 in one of my K3’s and honestly: it is a nice gimmick but I could live without.

The new TS-590 has an RX antenna input, which the ‘850 did not have. That is more important than the second RX.


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