Almost four weeks since my last attempt to write something. A lot has happened. Too much I daresay. But hardly anything worth mentioning in a ham radio blog. A day is over in the blink of an eye. Monday morning Friday seems far away yet before you know it, it’s weekend. And it’s almost half October already.
A few weeks ago I did some SAC CW. Just some random hours off and on. It’s a fun contest and I like Scandinavia so why not?
The weekend after that I visited Belgium’s biggest ham fair and once again I wondered why upon returning home. We all buy our stuff online and I have enough junk already I could hold my own flea market. I’ve been visiting ham radio fairs since 2000 and I always see the same old junk return. Just take it to the recycling park and get it over with! I bought two spools of quality electric tape. The kind that doesn’t dissolve when exposed to rain and UV. And some long and wide cable ties. Of course I met a few familiar faces but less than other years. Met a few readers of my writings here. So we need to keep the crowd coming back for more HI.
Then there was CQP. I like working USA, especially the West coast flavour. Nothing wrong with the others but W6 is real DX regardless the band. Should I participate this year? These days I find that cranking up the tower is such a hassle. But it’s a prerequisite for making the most of a W6 party. It’s also Oceania DX CW contest that weekend. So my plan was to crank up the tower and suspend the 80m GP that still needs a real DX workout. W6 and VK/ZL – should be good. Makes it worth cranking the tower up.
But then I learned that I was wrong. It’s not the CW part but the SSB leg first of the Oceania DX contest. That attenuates the fun to hassle ratio quite a few dB. Furthermore that weekend seems to be the last with very nice WX. I’d better use the time to mow the lawn pretty short as it might be the last dry day in a long while. So I wasn’t too keen on cranking up the tower and play radio. I could have done the lawn on Friday but I was lazy and decided not to. Anyway WX was nice for both lawn mowing as well as cranking up telescopic towers. No wind, no lightning. The weather forecast talked about rain Saturday late in the afternoon or during the night. On Saturday morning I delayed the tower works and ran some errands. Then we did the lawn after all. We mowed it pretty short. If the weather turns dry again in a few weeks it won’t be too long. And if it doesn’t it’s short enough to hibernate.
So I found myself in a dubious state of mind I have been much in lately. Wanting to contest, not wanting to crank up the tower. A result of the autumn/winter/spring storms of late 2013 and early 2014. And the thunderstorms of spring and summer. The XYL says it’s because I have been there and done that and that the formula might get worn out after a decade of doing each and every contest. And that in turn might make playing with the kids more fun than some silly contest. That’s true. There’s always a silly contest but there’s only one ‘baby’s first step’ or one ‘look dad I can ride my bike all alone’.
So after the lawn was done I told the XYL: “WX is dry and calm, I’m going to crank up the tower”. And she replied: “sure, why not, they didn’t forecast any lightning, just some rain tonight”. The sky was blue, it was well above 20°C and there wasn’t even a gentle breeze. The worst of the last five weeks had been better than the best of August.
I swear that what comes is 100% the truth and not exaggerated. As soon as I powered up the winch and prepared the ropes for the pulleys, the wind started blowing. Not hard but enough for me to need to look out for tangling ropes. The XYL who was enjoying the sun, established that ‘they’ must do this intentionally. Some of you may think that I have this obsession with what to me is bad weather. But all too often the WX is good to do something but it turns south as soon as I prepare. Need to paint something? No wind and blue sky. Open up the can of paint, prepare the parts to paint and there you go: a drizzle. Another classic example? We came here in spring 2003. We had planned one and only one grill party as a house warming party. It was a record breaking long hot dry summer. What more can you ask for? It only rained one Saturday that summer and of course it was when we held our BBQ. If ‘they’ like to torment me with something silly as some painting or a BBQ, what would you expect when I’m working on the antennas the day before a contest? Come to think of it: when we installed the tower and the yagi ten years ago, the four of us got soaking wet and cold in the afternoon where it was a sunny dry morning.
Anyway the tower was up and I folded back a length of the 80m wire to resonate it on 75m. Might as well try that antenna in the OC DX SSB. Shocker: WW SSB is only three weeks away so I really needed to see if all was OK. It had been more than two months since I did something with the tower. EUHFC I think it was. I needed to tweak the wire still a bit to get it to 3700. Might as well answer ON4BHQ’s call for mass participation in a local 80 SSB contest Sunday morning. When all was done it was time for a shower and evening dinner. It was 6PM local time. I gave in to the urge to take a peek at the weather reports. WTF? LIGHTNING 50km away from here! They didn’t mention lightning, only rain. ‘They’ really want to promote stamp collecting. The showers with lightning moved NE. I hoped they move more N then E! People in the coastal areas reported really heavy wind gusts when the showers moved over. Weather 1 – Forecast 0. I put my chips on the wrong bet.
CQP. I heard and worked quite a few Californians. Not on ten meters. The ones I heard cq’ed in my face. On 15 and 20, the signals were down. Granted it was too early for them to go to 20 but I think this was a good showing of the downward trend Cycle 24 takes compared to the magnificent 2011. Then the wind picked up speed. I needed to close the shack window. My notes and amp tuning cheat sheets were flying off the desk. I don’t have an FT-5000 paperweight like ON5MF ☺. Then it started raining so I took a break. I couldn’t hear a thing with the rain static. Then the rain became a shower. Luckily the lightning detection only showed strikes enough to the west. I decided to take a break and watch some TV with the XYL. I didn’t hear much of the Oceanians either.
Later on I worked some more W6 before going to bed. Even on ten meters. But only two and after much trying and repeating. Off to bed and up again for my sunrise. I had hoped for some action from VK/ZL at my sunrise. After all I really badly want to work some DX on the new 80m antenna as a proof it works. Nada. Not even on 40. I worked four W6 on 40 CW though. But not loud and nothing heard on SSB. I have worked them easily there with a lesser antenna. So propagation wasn’t like it was then. Second time I made that note to myself. Question is: was it exceptionally well that year, was it exceptionally poor this year, or is it just Cycle 24 that slowly fades away? There were plenty of spots on 20 for VK/ZL but they were not too loud and of course the EU madhouse was calling or rather shouting and yelling so I decided to completely forget about OC DX. CW 4 EVER ☺
I participated in the local SSB contest on 80 (75m). Just to boost the club’s score. It ain’t fun. I S&P a few times for 30-40 QSO. The counter showed 91 contacts in CQP. Since I wasn’t enjoying myself and I would be another seven hours or more before the W6 would come through again, I decided to lower the tower and quit. With so much on the agenda and to do list, it’s hard to justify wasting a Sunday for a few QSO.
Technically I am ready for WW SSB. But what will propagation bring us? I don’t like SSB. It was fun in 2011 with the extreme good conditions on the higher bands. And the stupid idea that I might get qualified for WRTC 2014 made me do a serious all band effort. 2011 was GREAT for both CQ WW that year. I might do one more all band effort for fun with no targets set. But then it’ll be SB something again. But not SB40. And with everyone on 20 as it’s the only band that’s more or less open?
I hope to report more radio activity soon. I really want to fill my log and work some DX. But I guess I’m stuck in that phase of life where it just doesn’t work out to play radio.