Contest Blues

Edited Mon Nov 30th – see below

I experienced the result of the stars and planets being perfectly aligned in 2014. That was indeed an exceptional year. I even won my first wooden plaque! But 2015 is another thing. Two key factors: bad WX and changing jobs in January and February. I don’t digest change very well. And this was a dramatic change. The job offer meant a short period of thinking the opportunity over. And as soon as I jumped: away routine, enter a lot of work. Work that takes time and energy. Two valuable resources that otherwise were used for the hobby. Because running a family with two little kids is time consuming already. So I skipped quite a few contests this year and I wasn’t really serious in a few others. A top ten spot in RDXC and maybe even IARU are the highlights of 2015. Oh yes – not to forget a victory in the CW Field Day. Pick your fights ☺

Last week was the LZ DX contest. I like that one and usually do quite well in that one too. But again: not this year. The long term prepping was OK. The XYL was supposed to go to a rock show at night. The kids were staying at their grandparent’s place overnight. And the OM had the house and time all for himself to go all out in the LZ DX contest. However Friday 13th’s events got in the way and all public activities near Brussels got cancelled. And the WX had displaced my 40m dipole (again!) earlier that week during a stormy night. Moreover strong gusts were predicted for the weekend. Believe it or not but there were even lightning discharges Saturday morning, and snow and hail. So we both had our reasons for being peed off. I didn’t want to let the XYL digest the disappointment all by herself. And I in turn wanted to share my frustrations with her. So we spent the day together doing very common stuff. But no contesting.

About the same story for CQ WW CW 2015. I didn’t have the time to rest and prepare in advance. And I won’t have the time to recover from an almost 48 hour CW marathon. Furthermore the WX forecast talks about 70km/hr gusts and more on Saturday and Sunday night. That’s about the force that shifted the 40m dipole last week. With the tower down. Imagine what it would be like with the tower all the way up. That one gust might have been stronger. I was still up because the noise of the wind would prevent me from sleeping anyway. I could tell by the resulting noises (windows, blinds, doors, trees) that it was a strong one. A bit later I took the youngest dog out for a pee. He was nervous too because of the howling wind. I immediately saw that the 40m dipole was misaligned. Again. That’s the fourth time in two or three years a storm moved one of my antennas. I never had a thing shifting between 2004 and 2012. Coincidence or indeed a change in the climate? When we drove off to work the morning after, a tall tree (25m? 30m?) had fallen across the street about hundred meters away from my QTH. Gardeners were slicing it up with their chainsaws. That tree didn’t break in half. It was simply uprooted. So I guess it was a pretty strong wind. And maybe the roots came loose after intense rainfall?

This is the sucker that moved the 40m dipole.Source:
This is the sucker storm depression that moved the 40m dipole.

This year’s summer extended into a nice fall with even a late Indian summer. Warm and sunny and almost no wind. Even the first week of November was very nice. I heard an item on the radio news that Belgian wind farms produced exceptionally little energy in October. Jokingly I replied to myself: “No problem, they’ll make up for it when the winter contests season starts“. There you go!

It’s useless to think about all this crap too much. I just hope that after two very mild, wet and extremely windy winters (2013-2014 and 2014-2015), the stupid endless westerly pattern can be broken this year. WX should come from the east. That’s always calm, dry and sunny. Hot in summer and very cold in winter. But never windy and mostly dry land air. In strong contrast to the rain and wind coming from the Atlantic. However the coming week it’s more of the same. Longer predictions are meaningless.

As I type this, all windows and even the terrace door are wide open and the sun is shining. A load of fresh air is always welcome after a few days of having it all shut. The wind is picking up speed as predicted. I just spent an hour in the garden putting out mole traps wearing a sweater and a fleece jacket and I was sweating. Not because that is an intense physical activity. But because it’s just plain warm. My guess is that it’s +10°C. December starts in three days. Go figure.

If I can’t resume my contesting activities the way I used to, I’ll just start a blog about the weather. Or macramé. In the mean time I keep thinking about a few pending projects. How to enhance the portable field day setup. How to finish the auxiliary tilt over tower (planned for summer 2016) and decide whether to use a longer mast (3m) on a shorter tower (6m) or weld the construction longer (8m) and shorten the top tube? And most of all: if I should replace my current antennas with a single SteppIR or UltraBeam and if so: what model?

Let’s hope the world doesn’t stop turning because I’m not in CQ WW CW.

Update Monday Nov 30th:

As it turns out it was a wise decision to leave the tower down. Friday night to Saturday was windy but accaptable. Saturday was a nice day as described above. Too bad for one mole so far (RIP). But Saturday evening and night were very bad. Gusts over 80km/hr. Sunday was wet and windy but as the afternoon slid into evening, the wind was howling and the antennas were shaking again. C’est la vie as they say. We’re in for another few days of raining cats and dogs and unfortunately also very strong winds. Over 80km/hr on the forecast maps. And I’ve come to learn these are very accurate starting three days ahead. But a real winter? Calm and cold weather with a snow deck to boot? No where to be seen in Europe. And no signs of that either in the near future. Yesterday evening at the most gusty time it was 12.5°C. Go figure. No need to trade the summer tires for winter tires any time soon.

And it seems the world is still turning…   ☺☻

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