Some pre-WW DXing

My last QSO was made during the first weekend of August in EUHFC. No, not true. I logged four contacts in WW RTTY. More precise would be to state that the tower hasn’t been up since early August. High time for some HF activity.

We set up the JA-ZL RX loop last weekend. We being my youngest and myself. He loves to help out. The screw in anchors went in smooth and they stuck this time. Unlike four months ago. Not that it has rained much since. On the contrary: we had a nice warm and dry Indian summer. During which this RX loop got up.

Wednesday before the contest I decided to crank up the tower. No wind predicted (not yet, that is) and it was supposed to rain later on. I detached the 160m wire because I plan SB80 in CQ WW SSB. My initial plan was to leave the wire set for CW with VP6D being active. But I thought I wasn’t going to make it into the shack before Friday so I fold back a length and had the antenna resonant around 3630 kHz. Or so I thought…

In the shack I heard noise but the rig showed SWR 9.8:1. HUH? Oh no… Now what? I want to have fun on the air. Not hunt down problems and try to fix them. I took the analyzer and checked the point where the feeder from outside meets the relay antenna switch. Same story: SWR sky high. Outside then, visually checking the coax from the feedpoint down. Maybe a rat chewed away the coax? I caught a handful of vermin this summer with a trap so might as well be. But no: the coax seemed intact.

Next stage: into the cabinet where the outside feeders and control cables are joined before diving into an underground conduit. I unscrewed a N-female barrel and hooked up the antenna side to the analyzer. SWR was good there and the antenna had a nice sharp dip around 3630. What can go wrong with a cable that runs into a conduit? Conduit too small for a rat, or isn’t it? I joined both cables again and went back check the other side of the underground coax. Now it was good there. I hooked it up to the coax switch again and upstairs in the shack all was well too. Must have been a bad connection in the N-barrel? That’s a first in nine years or so. Problem solved. Hope it doesn’t return.

The good thing of tuning the antenna for 3600 is that its SWR rises towards the band edges but is 1.9:1 at 3510 and similar around 3780. I usually have it resonate around 3530 for CW. The upper part of 75m for SSB contesting is useless for me. I need to stay down in the clear. Yes: exactly there where the Germans and Brits have their daily blahblah. I bet those will ventilate their emotions again this weekend. But it was nice to see that I might as well use this antenna for CW the coming days.

Thursday 4.45 AM local time. Why on earth did I let the cat in the hallway and not outside or in the living room? The cat really wanted to get out and so I had to get out too; out of bed. Oh well, might as well fire up the rig and see what’s to work. Some 40m DX: FJ, ZF and XT on CW. And Ducie – VP6D on 40m phone. That would be a new one! It took a few tries and a reply for RQ3M remained unanswered. Maybe it’s for me? Oscar Quebec OQ5M! VP6D replied: OQ3M 59. Oh no! OQ5M OQ5M! He got it, in the log. New one on 40 SSB I guess. I logged in to LotW to check. I worked VP6DX in 2008 on 40 but also in SSB. I need it in CW! A little after they got spotted on 40 CW and of course it was much easier and smoother to log that. BINGO! I shut down the shack and brought the kids to school and drove on to work.

Today (Friday) I had to go to work later. So I drove the kids to school and was in the shack around 6AM utc. Worked XT2 on 80CW for a new one. And some more DX (ZL on 40 etc).

And then there was VP6D on 80 CW for a new one on 3.5 MHz. Pretty loud and more importantly: easy copy. The pile up was hectic but well within reason. Of course there’s the occasional simplex caller and the resulting finger raising coppers. So I thought they were coming back to me but I wasn’t 100% sure because of the stupid QRM. Now what? Log it and see what happens in the online log? That’s lame. Oh wait – they use the real time reporting. That didn’t show my contact. Maybe it was just before the page updated itself? I decided to call again. It only took a few calls on the same QSX for a clear confirmation and a valid QSO. But the real time logger didn’t show my contact. Actually the real time reporting didn’t indicate any activity at all on 80 at that time. Pirate? Well: it’s Friday evening as I type this. The latest log upload does NOT show my 80m CW contact. What does that mean?

EDIT 28/10: the last log upload actually shows my 80m CQ QS with VP6D. The page says: ‘Total of 4 QSOs with OQ5M in the log‘. That’s 40 SSB + CW and both the 80m CW contacts.

Late in the afternoon I worked a handful of USA on 15m. K3OO (hello Rick!) being the loudest. No worries about my choice for SB80: fifteen won’t be the place to be unless things improve dramatically. Rather miraculously even. I tried the same on 20m and signals weren’t really rocking the S-meter either. So I hope SFI = 69 and low K/A will bring some DX on 80 tonight and the coming weekend.

Oh yeah, as of today there are lightning bolts on the WX forecast maps for the coming night and first half of Saturday. And for Sunday the wind is increasing to ‘gusty’. After more than half a year of calm weather. I’m not superstitious but… Must be a contest coming.

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