Two things were at play this time. Three weeks ago the bands were completely dead. Solar flares all over the place. A and K through the roof. Forty eight hours of SOAB SSB mayhem on closed bands? Not quite appealing. Add to that that I have been busy and mentally tired lately and that I won’t have time to recover after a full time SOAB. So a SB effort was the best option. But what band to pick? The higher bands would be poor or closed. SSB on 40m? If SSB is ‘like pulling teeth’, on 40 it’s without anesthesia. That leaves only 80. Not that my setup is that great on 80. Not that 80 is an easy band. But if the result is pathetic, I can always say: “hey, it’s 80, not an easy band”. And in SSB: who cares? CW is where it’s at. Added bonus: it’s something I don’t do every day.
Of course the higher bands were quite OK. Of course I should have done SB15. That leaves plenty of sleep too, and it wouldn’t mess up the biorhythm compared to working 80 at night and sleeping during daytime. But I stuck to my plan. I had done SB80 once in 2009. That wasn’t a huge success. I made 800 QSO then and 74k points or so. I decided that 1000 QSO wouldn’t put me on the ‘wall of shame’. Silently I hoped for 1200. So a claimed result of 1500/15/82 for 190k points isn’t too bad. with a piece of wire. Three pieces actually (vertical and two elevated radials).
I had set up the Wellbrook RX loop the week before. I even routed two brand new fifty meter long cables along the garden’s perimeter for that. One coax and one three wire cable for the motor. That loop is for the KRX3 AUX input, allowing diversity RX. And I routed the 40m dipole to the transverter RX input of the K3. That way I had the ground plane and the loop and dipole for RX. I have never been so well equipped. ☺ It’s hard to tell whether that has helped me or not. It’s not like real full size beverages.
What to say about the contest? There’s the splattering. There’s the obnoxious modulation. There are the fast runs. And the slow periods. There’s tons of fun and frustrating moments. Propagation on 80 was better than anticipated to the west. But I didn’t work anything beyond the Middle East. Zero far east. I’m sure I could have worked more if people in a 10 kHz span around me would have STFU. I always get a kick out of the exotic multipliers calling me. Big smile then. And I had the occasion for a few big smiles when such an exotic goodie called yours truly, a tiny shrimp in the HF ocean. And when the rate goes way up, that’s what makes me tick. There were a few moments like that, even on 80.
A phone contest would not be complete without a clash with the Net Naggers. I found a clear frequency and like always asked if it was in use. No reply. Let’s CQ then. A few CQ CQ CQ later, an English station comes to chase me away. Polite? Yes. Friendly? No. I ask for his call, I get a lecture. I hit F1. The lecture becomes a sermon. I hit F1 and work a few stations. Then I get threatened. He’d put me on the cluster telling everyone I was rude and causing QRM. Since bad promotion is better than no promotion, I tell the guy that it would be very kind of him. He doesn’t appreciate that, and then he’s going “to send a mail to the contest people reporting me”. That’ll teach me. As he puts it: my whole weekend to waste as I get DQ’ed. K5ZD: check your mailbox!
Soon after there is a case of strange noises and tuning on and around my frequency. Could it be the M3 that is out for revenge? I ignore it as it’s not too bad and it goes away after a while. Then a few moments later a loud PV8 calls me on 80m. Say what? Must be a pirate making me log false mults? It’s not even dark here, let alone over there. And this loud??? My brain has to move fast. I pretend not to have copied his complete call and meanwhile I open his QRZ page. I tell him he’s loud and ask where he is. He says very up north in Brazil. The QRZ map confirms. I ask the name of his town. He tells me what QRZ.com shows too. With an almost daylight path between him and me and his signal being so loud, I conclude that it’s fishy. And anyone can look up a call to use it… Maybe he was using a remote station in EU? What to do with this one? I’m still in doubt but why remove it from my log? After all I made a QSO with a station giving me the Brazilian call and zone 11. My hope was to work another PY later on but it wasn’t to be.
Sunday evening, late in the contest. I get annoyed because things get ssslllooooowww. I had found a clear frequency and then it slightly improved. But don’t listen for longer than a second because people steal your spot. S57AL tried. He did ask if the frequency was in use. And he moved away. By a mere kHz. That smeared a S9+40dB layer of slime over my RX. I go tell him that moving is good but moving a symbolic kilohertz is not enough. I get the advice “to adjust the DSP filters on my radio, that can help a bit” – end quote. I tried sweating it out but S9+++ QRM so close just made my ears bleed. S57AL, you win. I wonder what this guy works with such a loud signal. At least: loud in EU. The rate is virtually zero so I can afford the waiting. I can hear everyone that calls him and copy right away, but he seems to be a bit deaf. Either his ears or his RX. He doesn’t hear the weaker callers or needs plenty repeats. I suppress the urge to tell him to adjust the DSP filters on his radio, that can help a bit. Power House Cowboys from Eastern EU, gotta love ‘m. Other than that, no real problems encountered. Just an unreal number of dupes. More than 50! Two stations even called me three times!
A few minutes before the end of the contest I log valid QSO #1500. I throw the switch and call it a day. I’m surprised to have made 1500 contacts on eighty meters. Too bad it’s mostly EU. A handful of VE and a fair dose of USA and Caribbean DX. Poor performance towards UA9 and beyond. Nothing African except the ususal EA8/CN/3V8. Propagation or my antenna? Who cares, I know it works in CW because I can work well into those areas in CW.
Saturday afternoon I had a moment to spare and couldn’t resist calling CQ on ten meters. I like fast runs with USA stations. I had one fast hour, making almost 150 contacts. I did the same on 15m on Sunday. That band seemed to work better and it is my best band. The yagi is at 1.5 lambda there. I had two very fast hours netting 300 contacts. Then I tried the same again on 28 MHz but it didn’t work as well. I quit when the QSO counter showed 200 contacts. So apart from the 1500 contacts on 80 I made another 500 on 10/15 mostly USA and Caribbean multis. Note to self: ARRL DX SSB from a big Caribbean station. Only W/VE. Be loud there. Only endless fast runs. Start saving money. Oh wait, bubble busted: I can’t take off from work whenever I want. Drat.
Now what with WW CW? SOAB or SB40? We’ll see…