EUHFC 2014

I want to make an entry for the records but I don’t have much time and quite frankly my mind is not really into typing stories. And hardly into ham radio. Too much going on with two kids and summer holidays. I’ve become the victim of my own success as a dad. These two rascals just want to be with me and do things with me. And on list of chores is piling up: too much to do or at least that should be done. And no enthusiasm to do many of these things. Thou shalt procrastinate! Roger that. Now about the contest.

As usual the nice weather of the days leading up to a contest weekend has to come to a violent end on Friday before this contest. And thus predicted the forecasts: violent thunderstorms on Friday night and possibly on Saturday. Misery loves company: the predicted thunderstorms were said to be accompanied by strong gales. Just what I need.

BTW typing these two first paragraphs took me 90 minutes. Two minutes typing, 88 minutes of looking up things and replying to emails. Actually just one email. Summer laziness. Short attention span. Plenty of ideas and plans each needing background information or research. Where was I? Oh yes, thunderstorms.

Usually I setup on Friday. Even better: usually the setup is already half done since I play DX during weekdays. Some WARC. Some nightly or sunrise fun on 10.1 MHz. Unfortunately not this summer. Quite frankly I’m a bit bored with it all. Have you seen the solar values drop dramatically? Besides there is tons of other stuff to do. Or just do nothing at all for a change. I’m learning how to do that. And with the continuous threat of lightning over the past six weeks, and the occasional thunderstorm effectively breaking out, all my wires and cables are disconnected. So besides the IARU contest I haven’t made a single QSO. Where was I? Oh yes, thunderstorms.

So I decided not to set up on Friday and wait until the latest forecast on Saturday. If some event forces you off the air in this twelve hour fast contest, it’s over. So I figured all or nothing. In stead of the usual field day activities outside, I went shopping for parts so I could work on a useful ham project while skipping the contest. I called the company and their answering machine said ‘warehouse open until half past four’. I hooked up the trailer and off I went. Once there they had put a paper on the gate: ‘annual leave until Monday the 3rd’. Why don’t they put that on their answering machine! Over one hour and 40km round trip wasted. And I hate driving. Especially with the trailer.

Friday midnight: Why can’t it always be like this? Perfect WX. No wind. No clouds. Lots of stars. Warm. Calm. All I heard was the monotonous roaring of the harvesters and the occasional tractor passing by while bringing a few tons of wheat to the mill. Heavenly scenes of the countryside at night.

Saturday morning – still undecided. There was a breeze with the occasional stronger puff but nothing bad. There were clouds but not of the dangerous looking type. There were showers to the left and the right according to the online radars but my place was dry. I played outside with the kids observing the skies. The morning forecasts talked about lighting and gales during showers but when and where? I decided to wait. OT1A texted me that he was ready to roll the contest. I replied I had put things on hold. Then he told me forecasts like this were BS. He didn’t actually use the word BS but his arguments made sense. Fair enough. I decided to go for it. It was two hours before the contest. I first did the ground work like laying out ropes and low band wires. Then it was time for lunch. The XYL did a great job preparing a cauliflower dish straight out of our own garden. Not the dish, but the vegetable. Then I raced out to crank up the tower and raise the two wires. Then connect all coax and control cables. When all goes to plan and when I can follow the script it all goes pretty fast by now. Then go upstairs and fire up the shack PC. A quick test: all antennas fine, SWR as expected. Forty minutes to go. Shower! Empty all internal human waste containers; a twelve hour span is doable without these kind of breaks. Take a bottle of water with me. Note to self: don’t drink it all or you will need a break after all. Land in the chair. Two minutes to go. Close browser windows. Set amp to 15. Bring the beta of the new N1MMLogger to the front. WHERE IS THAT F*ING SECOND ENTRY WINDOW? Seriously, where is it? Hey it’s contest time!!! Move some windows. It’s not there. Try opening it with the menu. Nope, no second entry window. Stop program. Restart. Nope, no second entry window. Hey it’s contest time!!! Try alt+tab? Nope. Hide / show program by clicking on its task bar item? Hey there I saw a glimpse of the window I need. It’s in the upper left corner under bandmap A. It should be in the lower right corner! I drag the window to fill the gap it left, adjusted the size accordingly and… GO! CQ Contest!

I knew propagation was only so-so and that the lighting across EU would rear its ugly QRN head. But it was even worse. I didn’t even try ten and had a slow start on fifteen. Signals were weak. My goal was 1200 Q. That has become more or less my standard: keep the rate over 100/hr. Crazy enough I seemed to manage just fine. As the hours passed I averaged 100/hr. One hour less but the next would make up for that. I looked up how I did last year. This will be hard to beat. Knowing that the low bands are problematic in this contest each year, it might be even worse with the QRN and the propagation. And this in turn might scare some people so participation would suffer. Nevertheless I kept moving on and the rate showed 100/hr.

There were thunderstorms all the time but just not in my area. ON6NL was right in it, and so he reported on 3830. Later on there was another front coming in from over France but it took the North Sea route. So once again, just like in IARU, I dodged the thunderstorms. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t affect me indirectly. QRN! Oh boy. It was doable on 40. It was a problem on 80. It killed me on 160. All those crashes. And just like in IARU I still have no way of telling whether the redesigned 80/160 antenna works better or worse. Very atypical low band situation.

Contradicting my expectations I managed to work 300 multipliers. And 1214 QSO. I didn’t think I would make it given the propagation. I actually thought I made a good appearance. I believe I was #6 in 2013. But two days later I have already been kicked out of the top ten on 3830. I looked up some of the big scorers and most have higher towers and bigger antennas. Maybe this isn’t a great location to shine in EUHFC? Who knows, who cares. It was fun!

Closing note: apart from the window issue, the brand new N1MMLogger performed GREAT. Just like in IARU. Many people have done many things to make this work and I’m glad and even honoured to be a small part in the big machine.
That has made me think (while learning to do nothing, can’t switch of the thinking yet): shouldn’t every active ham do at least one voluntarily thing for the ham radio community? To give something back. What do you do?

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