You know you haven’t done much contesting lately if…
- Windows proposes you about 20 updates.
- N1MMLogger tells you the current version is over 60 days old, please upgrade.
- You suddenly notice the SFI < 90 and you remember it to be well over 100.
Indeed: my last QSO was made December 31 of last year. The calendar says it’s the last weekend of February and I’m about to make my first QSO of 2016. Main culprit is of course the WX. I left the tower down in UBA SSB because of strong winds. I left the tower down last week for ARRL CW because of strong wind gusts. That hurt a little more. And I’m through with messing about: it’s either all the way or not. So it’s either the tower up with the low band wires up, or do something else. But this weekend it seems that finally the WX is slightly more cooperative.
This morning I cranked up the tower and pulled up the 80m vertical. I disconnected the 160m wire. I’m not eager to do SSB on Top Band. Too bad I missed the CQ WW 160 CW as a side dish to the UBA DX SSB contest last month. I’m wondering when I should realign the dipole and the yagi after the November wind gusts. And how far I should go: just realign it and be done in an hour, or change the clamps too and start an unpleasant adventure?
It’s a bit chilly outside and of course the average wind speed has more than doubled over the last three hours. As an atheist it’s hard to admit but I’m starting to belief there is a higher force that follows the contest calendar closely and I must have done something to upset that force because it’s always turning up the wind machine more than a few notches on important contest weekends. Take last weekend: absolutely no wind and dry weather. Comes Friday afternoon: 12°C and strong gales, that disappear Monday morning.
But I was glad to spend a few hours outside. Apart from cranking up the tower I cleaned up here and there and tinkered about some upcoming projects or the finishing of some jobs started last year. With an hour and a half to go before the contest and a filled stomach, it seems I’m all set to go. I hope to have some rate and work some DX. I’ll be looking out for you guys! ☺
Another item on the ‘you know you haven’t been active’ list: need to synch PC clock! The shack PC hadn’t been turned on in a while and the clock was lagging about four minutes. How do I know? I was all set to go and wanted to see how the RBN would pick up my signal on 15m. So I launched a little CQ, with five minutes to go. Or so I thought. I didn’t expect an answer, or maybe just one guy. Suddenly there were about four or five callers. That rang a bell. Yes, the starting bell rang. I checked the radio controlled clock on my desk: 1400 local = 1300 utc. The contest just started, hence the frenzy. I quickly changed from DX to Contest log. Luckily I had already set up a new contest instance before! A few seconds later I was good to go. I quickly had the clock synch to an NTP server. I had to adjust the time of the first two contacts afterwards. I was under the assumption that my clock synched itself every hour or when the PC booted (registry parameter), but somehow it wasn’t…
About the contest…
I usually do this one in the 12h category. Yes we Belgians have the choice: 6/12/24 hours but no Single Band categories for ON. I have done 24h and decided to do so again. I didn’t feel like planning on/off times. Even with some sleep in the wee hours I have won this in the past. Things came to a halt just after my local midnight. With 21 QSO or so during the last hour, I decided it was time to sleep. I planned to be back around 6AM local time (0500 UTC). So I still had over eight hours to go.
It’s now official: we’ve lost Ten Meters. I tried a few times but no one came back. Skimmers in VU2 and ET were hearing me, and two Belgian skimmers. Nothing else. I moved a willing K3WW from 15 to 10 but I didn’t hear a thing. Bummer. Sunday I worked a OH, which was hard because he was in the QSB infested noise. A UA3 happily CQ’ed in my face for over five minutes. Not even that for a supposedly easy multiplier. Another weak caller from DL. With propagation like this, people will abandon 28 MHz so even a modest opening might be gone before being detected. The thing is that I remember this scenario from a few years back – on 15! So it needs to get a lot worse before it’ll get somewhat better again.
Participation was more than OK. Not from Belgian stations. Not too much Belgian hams. Belgians are not very active. Belgians are not really contesters. Belgian CW operators are a minority. So if you combine this, you know why. I managed to keep an average of about 100/hr for the first few hours. But inevitably it slows down and comes to a halt. I was glad to see I made it to VK4-land on 80m at night. Unfortunately being heard by the RBN does not mean someone will actually call you from there.
In the morning I took another rather long break. I played upstairs with the kids while the XYL was mopping downstairs. Then I had another three hours to go. I was glad to have the second radio to keep me busy or at least give me the feeling of being somewhat busy. The addition of the small amp on radio2 is a great investment. When the contest was over, I was glad to finally have played radio a bit and made the first 1300 contacts of 2016. A few years back I made 1500 contacts in this contest. That’s what you get with one band less (-10m). I think I will do SBxx in major contests the coming years. SB80 seems fine. Plenty of sleep during the day, plenty bandwidth, even on phone and propagation there should improve.
Oh yeah, I put on my DXer hat twice for 3XY1T: 40 + 80 CW.