Sometimes you need to do something you don’t really like just because it’s a moral duty. I’m not talking about marriage but about a small SSB contest under marginal HF propagation. Coinciding with two CW (REF and CQ160) and one RTTY contests. If I get invited to play along with the special UBA callsigns, it’s only normal that I participate in the SSB contest. It also helps me in the log checking process, to know who was around.
The good thing is that there is also the CQ 160 CW contest. I don’t operate that one seriously but while the tower is up, I might as well see what Top Band has in store for me.
Preparation was easy. WX was dry and calm and everything went smooth. Even retuning the 80m GP for SSB. I did that a few days before the contest.
I decided not to get out of bed early on Saturday. In retrospect I should have done that because 160m and its contest could have been very productive. N5DX (NY) and K1LZ (ME) were easily workable more than 90 minutes after my SR. I only made a handful of Top Band QSO and decided to rest.
The SSB contests starts at 1300 utc. It was a slow 20m start. With not much participation. This was prime time and there were gaps of two or three minutes between answers to my CQ. Go figure. Cluster spots pointed out a lot of EU activity was on 40m already but I decided that I could work these later on. I focused on USA which was more points per QSO and it was a case of ‘now or never’.
With the antenna to USA I had some RF into my headphone. I wondered if it was only in my ears or also on the RF side. I solicited an audio report and the USA operator confirmed the audio was OK. But a few contacts later N1RR said in wasn’t. He stood by my side for a moment while I fiddled with the cables. He said it got better but not completely resolved. There was plenty of time between the answering calls to reroute a few of the cables which made the problem disappear. N1RR called in a few minutes later to confirm the audio was clean. No idea what it was but moving the headset’s cables and twisting a few plugs did the trick. QRO RF, it’s always something…
The initial plan was to play in the 12h category but I took too much breaks between slow periods that I would have to operate either through the night, which is useless in this contest or fill the remaining eight (!) hours on Sunday morning which is no fun either with only 20m open and no one around. So I quit late in the evening and decided to go for 6h only. Chances are slim to win that one but who cares. Nothing to prove in SSB. My contest ego is only CW-sensitive.
I did some S&P on a jam-packed 160m. I couldn’t resist to call CQ and worked 150 QSO in one clock hour. That’s more like it. The band was full between 1810 and 1900 kHz. I decided to get some sleep at 0030 utc and set the alarm to be QRV on 160m at 0530 utc.
The band was in pretty good shape. And tons of stations to be worked, even DX. K5ZD writes the following on 3830:
Called lots of guys with no response. Must have been crowded in EU because was very difficult to find a clear frequency enough to get answers.
That is exactly what I noticed from my side. There was DX from LU over CX and XE to W7 and KL7. With S7-S9 signals. That would have been easily worked if they weren’t sandwiched between S9+20dB EUs 150 Hz away or nasty clicks from the crust of the sandwich. The good thing is I finally worked XE2X for a new country on Top Band.
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Actually it wasn’t an ATNO. I just checked if the QSO was confirmed on LotW (now = Wednesday after the contest) and it wasn’t but there was a XE2X confirmation for a QSO made the end of December 2019. I forgot I worked that Top Band ATNO a few weeks ago. That’s how much I keep track. EDIT: last weekend’s QSO is also on LotW now, the log was still being processed from the upload queue.
Also cool: working Steve N2IC in NM for a new (?) state on Top Band. Just checked: also not new. I worked N2IC in the same contest two years ago. Yep, not really keeping track of DXCC/WAS progress. But I do know how much QSO I made in a random contest ten years ago. 😁
I could have done more on 160 but I was happy with 477 QSO. And 61% of 160m DXCC. I still had to work two hours in UBA SSB. Mostly spent on 20m of course. Being called there by a couple of VK and ZL was nice. I never went to 28 MHz but I did try 15m. Not much around but the band was more open than activity would suggest. I tried to raise awareness by spotting the three stations I worked there and called CQ myself. This resulted in a bunch of EU mults and a loud VK3. I said this already last month: 21 MHz is not as dead as you’d think. I always work a VK or a JA or some Far East multiplier with a decent signal. We just need to try and don’t think the worst.
I reeled in the low band wires and lowered the tower on Sunday afternoon. There is a gusty period on the WX maps for the coming week.
Next up: ARRL DX CW. I hope for calm weather and good propagation. Don’t forget to try 21 MHz you Americans!