The northern hemisphere is like a peltier element

Warning: Nerd metaphor ahead! 

Freezing cold in North America and way too hot for the season in Europe. That reminds me of a peltier element.

Warned ‘ya.

It’s after 1AM local time on Saturday as I type this. By now I should have logged a bunch of Americans and Canadians already leaving my 40m antenna steaming in the cold. After all the ARRL DX CW is one of my favourite contests. But there is no freezing cold and the streak of storms bringing warm air isn’t over yet so I carve another notch in the stick. One more storm, the stick is running short. Last week on Friday (100km/hr), two days ago on Wednesday (70-80 km/hr) and right now (90-100 km/hr predicted) and things are said to get worse the coming twelve hours. I’ll be glad if I still have all my antennas functioning in twelve hours from now.

It’s useless for me to go to bed. Apart from the worrying about the tower and antennas, there are the noises like howling wind, rattling window shutters, the utility cable… And not to forget the TV distribution coax cable that run across the street from a pole to the wall of the house. This cable swings in the wind but during strong winds it moves so far that it bumps against the roof tiles. And I sleep lie awake right under these roof tiles. So I decided to stay downstairs and burn some midnight oil. I’d rather be contesting but this POS WX just keeps on sticking rods in my wheels. Lost CQ WW SSB, my low band DX season in December down the drain and in January a crippled version of the UBA DX SSB. All because of never ceasing very strong winds and a bunch of storms.

To put things in perspective: I admit that it’s just an inconvenience. So far there is no damage here. Only a dipole that needs to be realigned with the yagi. If your entire antenna farm gets bent because of an ice storm (East Coast USA) or if there is water in your house for over six weeks, or if hurricane force winds batter your tower for weeks on end (UK), it’s a different story. But since my own frame of reference is a bit less catastrophic, having to sit out yet another contest in stead of participating in it is no fun.

To kill time and get some distraction I decided to start with the UBA DX SSB log checking. The log submission deadline had passed a few days ago. The checking went along pretty well. I spent a great amount of time coding it up in previous years so that 99% or more of the QSO can be accurately checked automatically. Only weird exceptions, busted calls, two way contacts logged on different bands (who is right?) and goofball QSO that can’t be accurately tracked by a machine require human intervention. So I let the process run and watched some TV. Then I started going through the manual part.

On two occasions the wind gusts were so hard that I went upstairs to look through the window and check if the antennas were fine. There is no window on the ground level that gives a view on the tower. It turned out they were looking OK but it’s always crossing fingers. At around 4AM local time the TV channel was having hiccups once in a while. I guessed it was a problem on the TV station’s end but changing the channel had no effect. By now the DVB / MPEG decoder showed a message that the signal was dropping out. No worries since Internet cable access was still functioning. I can live without TV but I’m hooked on online connectivity. Hooked for practical reasons, not addicted! I was getting so tired I quit log checking with the finish in sight and hit the couch. I woke up around 7 AM and wanted to check WX charts online. No internet anymore and the TV decoder still had no signal. The cable modem indicated loss of signal too. My fear was that the never ending violent swinging of the coax running across the street made the cable break. Actually if this would be the only damage, I will be glad since it’s not something I need to fix myself. A call to the utility / cable company would get things fixed. If my antennas fall down it’s a job for myself.

It was getting light outside so I raised the window roller shutter on the side facing the cable and the utility pole. It was still up there, which is good. But the connection to the junction box on the utility pole might be broken. That is something I can not check myself. As a desperate measure I did what I always do when trying to troubleshoot an electronic system: unplug AC power, count 10 crocodiles (alligators work too), plug power cord back in. I did my magic trick with the active signal splitter and the cable modem. Sure enough: all the right led’s were blinking. TV and WWW restored.

The rest of Saturday was spent inside. Trying to kill time and get my mind of the fact that I won’t be making two thousand contacts with W/VE this time. I ran some errands, watched some TV, played with the kids. The storm moved on and only the occasional gust remained. Pretty strong gusts but in the light of the recent storms, it’s all relative. By the end of the day I went outside and did a small tour in the garden. How I long for dry and calm weather so I can start all my planned projects. Some ham radio related, some just plain work in the garden. But I need to get out and not be stuck inside. I could live with being stuck in the shack running contests, but not being held hostage by Atlantic depressions.

I also managed to finish the entire log checking. Less than three weeks after the contest. A record. There weren’t as many logs as before (530 or so) and the number of contacts was down too (only 80 000 two way contacts). Checking the CW contest is much more work because of double the number of logs and at least triple the number of contacts. But for now I’ll put the SSB part in the fridge and prepare to accept the CW logs of next week’s contest.

Next week’s contest? Oh drat – current WX forecasts seem to indicate yet another increase in average wind speed and strong gusts. No storm is on the maps right now, but I really don’t trust it. It’s high time for me to do another CW contest since my last serious all out effort was CQ WW CW 2013. That’s almost three months. No wonder I have the contester’s blues. Bloody weather!

So in due time REALLY SOON I hope I can leave this streak of ditched contests and storm related post behind and start talking again about high rates, exotic multipliers, broken records, new antennas, improved radial systems, burying extra coax and control cables, added RX antennas, plans to put up an entire new yagi etc.

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