Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Solar Cycle 25 Opens September Contest Season


NX6T undergoing computer retrofit


I open this WQ6X Contest Blog entry by welcoming the existence of recently emerged
Solar Cycle #25. (More on this later)

For 2017, the month of September has ushered in a number of radiosport surprises.
As I wrote in the previous Blog Entry this year's All Asian SSB contest turned into a 1 QSO
affair for WQ6X.  Instead, COQP and TNQP received all the attention in the WQ contest activities.



For WQ6X activities, this weekend
was quite similar to the last with a surprising difference: It would seem
(to me anyway) that the end of Solar Cycle 24 has been abruptly transformed into Cycle 25, creating an interesting backdrop to the long-awaited (for Europeans anyway) WAE (Worked
all Europe) SSB contest.

Last month I played around in the CW version of the WAE contest ([CLICK HERE] to read about that). Later this month I will give the RTTY version of this GiG a good run.

Because the antenna system @ W7AYT (where I often run the FT-1000mp portable) doesn't usually do well into Europe, I turned to running as WQ6X remotely from NX6T (Fallbrook, Ca,)
as my solution.

Station #2's computer is out of commission, being given new life by the computer doctor (W6JBR)
in the same way he brought station #1's computer back into action; except that the transmit audio
line FOR STATION #1 was never tested - until this weekend - discovering that there is some sort
of cabling problem. Oooopppsss. What to do?

Studying WA7BNM's contest calendar, I noticed two CW events scheduled:
  • The FOC QSO Party - an event new to me
    •  
  • The N.A. SPRINT - a 4 hour pandemonium which I haven't engaged in for nearly 5 years.


  • For openers, while technically not
    a contest, the FOC (First Class CW Operators Club) QSO Party certainly seems like one; except according to
    the FOC Website no logs need to be submitted; and yet they give out
    awards - HuH?

    In the FOC GiG, FOC members work everyone and non-members Search & Pounce (S&P), looking for FOC members.


    I chose NoT to call CQ as non-members would have no way of knowing I was not an
    FOC member and attempt to make a QSO (worth 0 points).

    Not hearing much in the way of Europe on SSB, I switched over to CW and joined in the
    FOC fray @ 01:30z; only 90 minutes late. Because computer #2 is not in the shack, I had
    no way of accessing the WinTest rotor control program, leaving all yagi's pointing Northeast
    (at least I HOPE that's where they were pointed) to Europe and most of the USA.

    As I said, according to the FOC Website, their QSO Party is not a contest which might
    explain the laid back attitude on the air and the passage on the website that reads:

    No logs or verification are required.
    Send your report to: kz5d@aol.com no later than 14 days after the event.
    Results will be posted on the FOC Web site and published in the FOC’s

    quarterly magazine, FOCUS.

    I wrote to KZ5D asking how one goes about submitting a "Report".
    It will be interesting to read his reply.

    The FOC QSO Party no sooner ended when the 4 hour CW N.A. SPRINT contest picked up where the FOC
    GiG left off.

    While the FOC event is laid back, the SPRINT contest is anything BUT that; calling it a frenetic activity is being kind.

    I had forgotten how AGRESSIVE
    the SPRINT contest seems to be
    in comparison to other GiGs;
    DX and domestic.

    The one thing I NEVER hear in this contest is "QRL?" before calling CQ; evidently there is not enough time
    for that.


    Because stations are packed together in the CW spectrum like sardines in a can, often
    a station 300hz below me will believe his QSO was with me and put WQ6X in his log.

    To reduce the risk of "false positives", when in doubt, I sent the callsign of the station
    I am working.  A little trick to reducing the QSY pandemonium is to work a station, allow
    him to call CQ and then call the station after he works him.  After that,  I am allowed to
    work any station that then calls me.


    From the West coast, I tend to run the SPRINT contest beginning on 20-meters, then working down to 40 and 80; with one or more 40 & 80 sweeps up until end of the contest @04:00z. While my score was about 1/3 of my SCCC#1 team compatriots, at least I broke the 100
    QSO mark, despite starting nearly 30 minutes late.


    In recent contests I have been testing the Autek QF-1a audio filter on the remote receive audio with great results overall.

    For now I am pairing it with the JPS NIR-12 in use @W7AYT.

    In it's place I have replaced the QF-1A with the MFJ 752-C that has been in use @W7AYT.


    For remote purposes, the 752-C provides nowhere near the signal shaping that the QF-1A does, even though in concept, both circuits are designed to accomplish essentially the
    same thing.  Possibly a circuit alignment (per the manual) will change my thinking.

    Barely 24+ hours after the weekend events ended, the
    SFI has plummeted to a paltry 79, returning the propagation predictions to their "bleak"
    status of just a few days ago.

    This of course raises the question as to whether or not the 228 SFI was in some way a statistical aberration or at the very least
    a one-time event.

    Did you work the WAE Contest, FOC QSO Party, or North American SPRINT?

    Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?
     

    Wednesday, September 6, 2017

    WQ6X turns All-Asian BUST into a TRIUMPH


    This last weekend was ostensibly to be about the All Asian SSB contest, with minor attention to
    the COQP and TNQP QSO parties. As it turns out, the All Asian event turned out to be a complete
    BUST; not just for WQ6X and NX6T, but for amateurs the world over.

    I was originally planning to operate from NX6T in Fallbrook. A misplaced cellphone sidelined any travel. Next up was an internet outage in Fallbrook which was resolved at the last minute on Friday. Unfortunately, we never worked out what the problem was in playing my WQ6X .Wav files during
    a contest with that particular setup. Later, a failing A.C. system @ "NashVille", sidelined the rest
    of the operation.

    The NX6T outages prompted me to make a last minute operation @W7AYT in Concord (in the SF East Bay).

    I ran the usual FT-1000mp with a new external audio filter combination, running the MFJ-752c in the left ear and an Autek QF-1a filter to the right.

    Running SO2V, I effectively had DSP
    in stereo for CW & SSB.


    Because operation in the state QSO parties was run using mixed mode, CW was run with the
    Main-RX (Left ear) and SSB with the Sub-RX (Right ear).


    An interesting curiosity occurred with the QF-1a causing a left-right shift between the ears as the Autek's frequency setting was changed.

    For the next contest @W7AYT I will run the Autek QF-1A in conjunction with the JPS NIR-12.

    For All Asian, I did the best I could with the
    limited antenna system @W7AYT, however I
    am beginning to think Dennis' Concord, (Ca.)
    QTH has an energy vortex enroute to Asia; Oceania is not bad, just Asia.

    As usual, my main beef with the All Asian contest is that not enough Asian stations participate in their own event and/or are hearable with the combo CH-250 Vertical and a Horizontal VEE @W7AYT.





    For the COQP QSO party, I didn't get started until 17:20. 20 meters quickly went long and 15 never materialized so I switched to the CWops Open contest.

    This was my 1st time running a CWops GiG; surprising when you consider how long it has been around. (Next time around during the next CWops Open, look for me to run all 3 events.) What I like about CWops is the short 4-hour length - like SPRINT, but w/o the QSY pandemonium.

    When CWops ended at 00:00z the 40 meter band showed promise to Colorado and eventually on SSB as well.


    Unfortunately, Colorado participation was noticeably lacking on 40 & 80 meters; on BOTH CW and SSB. Asia wasn't really happening so QSO party operators should have FLOODed the lower bands. What am I missing here?

    COQP ENDing Screen

    TNQP materialized at 18:00z on Sunday. Unfortunately, similar to All Asian, my main beef with TNQP is that ONLY a handful of TN stations are hearable with the combo CH-250 Vertical and a Horizontal VEE. Considering the size of our CQP (California QSO Party) event, GiGs like COQP and TNQP are a disappointment by comparison. During CQP ALL 58 counties sport fixed station representation.

    In most other state QSO parties (TNQP in particular), reliance on "rover" operations is essential.
    I enjoy QSO parties so you can be sure I'll be back next year - especially if the All Asian contest
    is a bust like it was here this year.

    CH-250 Vert. + Horiz. Cobra

    Considering the limited antenna resources
    at W7AYT (a CH-250 Vertical and a Cobra horizontal Vee) as an alternative to All Asian activity I chose to spend time with the DXMaps.Com website.

    It has been quite a learning experience to bring up a band display for, say, 40 meters, take a screen shot of the BE-4 condition and then issue some sort of contest CQ call, monitoring how long it takes for the WQ6X callsign to show
    up on the DX-Map.

    Usually the WQ6X call appeared in under 30 - 60 seconds, and yet, there seemed to be no takers. At one point I was beginning to think
    that I was louder on the other end than stations are in Concord.




    I then raised the question of which antenna was being heard where.
    Using the WQ6X coax switch (along
    with the A/B switch of the FT-1000mp)
    it is easy to select either antenna;
    and if desired, the two cables can
    be paralleled together.

    On 40 & 80, calling CQ with JUST the Cobra-Vee elicited no spots. Switching to the CH-250 immediately brought several spots in Oregon, Washington, and eventually Utah. Paralleling the two often produced a path towards Arizona.

    During the last 1/2 hour of the CWops GiG, 40 meters made a west coast appearance, being what
    20 meters was like 1/2 hour before. If I could make even HALF of the QSOs that are implied in this picture, this weekend would have been a total success. Unfortunately, statistics don't always
    bring us the truth.

    WQ6X 40-meter SPOTs
    While I only published this one picture (so as not to overrun the whole concept), using the NeuroLogiK Solutions SNAP-SHOT program allowed me to make nearly 3-dozen screen
    captures documenting the several hours of CQ'ing .vs. antenna testing that was run from
    W7AYT.
    More than just Alt-Prtsc, with Snap-Shot I am able to capture, timestamp and organize the unique screen images that you see throughout the WQ6X Contest BLOG entries.

     [CLICK HERE] to buy your own copy
    of Snap-Shot! for only $19.95.

    Looking back on this last weekend, the way things turned out reminds me of how my local Toastmaster's club (The Alameda Tongue Twisters) works.


    We often experience last minute changes to our meeting structure (as happened last night), and yet, we ALWAYS rise to the occasion and make it all work; often learning new things in the process.

    Last-minute learning was certainly a factor for WQ6X in last weekend's contest mélange'.

    Did YOU participate in COQP, TNQP, CWops or the All Asian contest?

    How many QSOs did you add to YOUR Log?

     

    Wednesday, August 30, 2017

    When in Doubt: CHEAT! (but within the rules)


    It might surprise you to know that I advocate cheating in radiosport.

    In this context I define "cheating" as doing things that are NoT pro-hibited by the rules, yet no one has thought to consider them before.

    It is from this spirit that today we have spotting networks, Skimmers, SO2V and SO2R. There was a time when many serious contesters considered these methods to be cheating; or at the very least, operators using them were considered disingenuous.

    For example, long before we had voice keyers (like the MFJ Voice keyer or the WQ6X voice keyer software) many people solved the overdoing of one's voice problem by using various forms of tape recorders/players to call CQ and the like. As KX6H in Redondo
    Beach, I remember using a cassette recorder to make use of a
    5-second telephone answering machine OGM tape to call CQ.

    Long before there were readily available contest logging software (such as CT, and now N1MM+, WINTEST & WriteLog) a handful of contesters (such as myself) wrote their own custom software. I once operated an All Asian CW contest from my 2nd floor cubicle at Data General's Western Education center in Manhattan Beach, Ca.

    Thanks to the rooftop being 6 stories high I stealthily setup an 8JK flattop yagi barely a foot above the rooftop, orienting it N/W & S/E to broadside into Asia and the Atlantic ocean on the back end.


    With the operating QTH less than a mile from the beach, this antenna turned the ICOM 740's 103 watts into +5 db punch giving the KX6H callsign (my call at the time) recognition into Asia. Because All Asian
    is a 48 hour contest, after everyone in the office went home for the weekend, I snuck in a sleeping back to crash unobserved under
    my desk throughout the weekend.

    In addition to the 6-story height advantage, one of the reasons I wanted to operate from my office
    is that it would provide access to the DG MV/10000 computer network we maintained for student training purposes.


    Altho running AOS/Vs on the MV/10000, I made a special backwards compatible installation of DG's eXtended Basic software development IDE under which I wrote prototype code for a never-released KX6H-Logger program.

    While nothing like today's professionally designed software, that program could DUPE check callsigns and complete entered QSO
    data with data from a previous QSO with that callsign. The software produced a .Contest file (essentially a cross between a .Text and a
    .INI file). While the file format was hardly as robust as the currently accepted CABRILLO format, being a .Text file it could be easily
    printed and snail-mailed (we didn't have e-mail back then).


    When the word got out that many operators were making use of computers to assist them in contesting, some people decried these users as in some way CHEATing.

    Today, not only are logging programs ubiquitous, some programs are ALMOST (I stress the word almost) capable of running a contest without
    an operator in the chair.




    Thanks to .WAV files and keyboard macros which can be auto-invoked, today's operator can find free time in between CQ's to eat some bites of food or pop a brewski. Then, when a station calls in,
    the press of another function key sends the needed information.

    It's not completely automated however. Even in today's contest operations the operator must still type (or click for RTTY) the data
    into the entry boxes. However the computer gives us immediate feedback when we've made a mistake.

    Fortunately, as it turns out, the use of computers in radiosport occurred because a bunch of operators around the world had enough foresight to use them. Today, most serious contest operators would CRINGE
    at the thought of hand logging a contest. Consider also that because most radiosport GiGs encourage improvement in operating efficiency, use of computers contributes to improved emergency preparedness.

    Being innovative can easily make its
    way into SSB operations. Recently several SSB contests have inspired
    me to include playback of the EASY Button during the "Thank You"
    message that originates when function key F3 is pressed, saying "Thank You! [That was EASY] - QRZ, WQ6X".

    In contests like JIDX and All Asian, most people don't "get" it so I don't use it.

    Another idea that worked out I implemented several years ago putting together a Multi-OP ARRL 10-meter contest operation from W7AYT's QTH in Concord Ca. (altho at the time Dennis was not a licensed ham). Remember that in 2011 Solar Cycle 24 was on the way up (about 60% of its eventual peak). At that time in the sunspot cycle,
    10-meters opened relatively early in the morning and remained active until well after sunset, during the month of December (which is when the 10 meter contest is run).

    On Saturday in this contest, some friends came over to enjoy a Dennis-created meal. Not only did I put Kathy & Brian behind the microphone, I wrote a script for each of the 4 voice keyer memories in the ICOM-7000, having Kathy speak them into the radio. For the next 18 hours after she left, Kathy's voice ran the SSB part of the 10-meter contest while the N1MM CW macros ran the code side of things.

    Now, it all sounds easy; and it is - with LoTsa practice.  Remember,
    YOU are still the control operator; you are the
    one who must push the function keys in the
    right order.

    You must correctly type in the information you receive during each QSO.  If in the end, mistakes are made attributable to the use of a computer, then you neglected to test-drive what of the most
    important contest tools today: the LOGGING Computer itself

    Automation can be a good thing if properly configured and tested BEFOREHAND. For example, the N1MM+ software which I use much of the time makes a weekly software update available virtually every Wednesday or Thursday. The week of an upcoming contest event,
    no later than Thursday, I fire-up N1MM+ on the computer I will be running it from and wait for the "Update is Available...." message.
    After installing the update I read the update file to notice if the
    update might in some way be relevant to what I will be doing. Information is Power.

    As a contest weekend rolls around I keep an eye on space WX conditions to get an idea what propagation may be like for that contest.

    Websites like DXMaps give yet another look at possible propagation anomalies I might encounter.

    The trick is knowing what the data means and/or
    how to interpret it.



    No matter what degree of technology you employ to make your
    radio operations work better, there is still no substitute for a
    highly rehearsed, highly trained operator.

    When you engage in radiosport, do YOU Cheat
    (but within the rules)?

    Tell me about your exploits.

    Ron
    WQ6X

    3 QSO parties test-drive WQ6X Remote


    My last remote run of NX6T's Station #1 during the Worked All Europe (WAE) contest found me navigating through [literally] a dozen computer system crashes, often in the middle of sending a pack of 10 QTC messages.

    Since that weekend, the laptop computer running station
    #1 underwent a thorough anti-overheating overhaul and
    now runs as cool as it did when Toshiba manufactured it 10+ years ago.

    With essentially a new computer all over again and spiffier internet on both ends, operating NX6T remote from the bay area is becoming fun again.

    While I thoroughly enjoyed the QTC packet sending part
    of the WAE contest, when the system randomly died in
    the middle of that, in addition to the re-boot time, I needed to re-boot my spirits to keep myself "in the chair".




    Running a Frequency on 20 meters
    Radiosport-wise, this last weekend brought us 3 state QSO parties: HQP, OHQP & KSQP. Additionally, the HF spectrum was host to the YO HF Dx contest and the SCCC RTTY GiG.
    Remote audio problems prevented me from running SSB or RTTY modes.  Luckily the YO
    Dx contest and the QSO parties are all predominantly CW affairs; at least for me anyway.


    Radio-wise I ran an Elecraft K3 into an ACOM 2000a amplifier out to the usual bevvy of yagi's
    (a C-31 and a 3-el Stepp-IR), 2 elements on 40 and a droopy inverted vee for 80/75.

    As it turns out, poor timing and technical difficulties allowed only ONE QSO in the YO contest. Nevertheless, I WILL send in a log; I've won certs in HQP for 2 QSO logs, so anything can happen.

    For OHQP I did not find any operating time until after 03:30z; less than 1/2 hour before the end
    of that QSO party for 2017. (It's a shame the OHQP doesn't support a 2nd operating period, as does the KQP contest in Kansas). Luckily I made a quick 11 QSOs with Ohio on 40 meters and a final 2 on
    80; and again, enough worth sending in a log.

    For the Kansas QSO Party (KQP), I missed the first segment on Saturday, although I did
    manage a couple of hours in the chair on Sunday putting 52 QSOs in the KQP log. 

    For Hawaii I tuned the bands throughout the weekend; even working one station (KH6CJJ) on
    10 meters - which was otherwise dead in Fallbrook. 15 meters produced 5 Hawaiian stations,
    while 40 meters produced 9.

    From time to time, out of desperation I would call CQ KH6; the only responses being from statesiders who don't understand what "CQ KH6" means.
    I defined an N1MM function key JUST for them that says "KH6 ONLY".

    As you can see WQ6X was readily spotted on 15 meters; and yet, there were VERY FEW actual Hawaiian stations. Sometimes "statistical diagrams" can be misleading.


    HQP Multipliers

    Multiplier-wise WQ6X worked only
    6 of the 14 Hawaiian counties.

    NII & MOL & LAN were expected
    lo-shows. I was surprised that PRL (Pearl) was for me a no-show.

    Who nose, it might have been easier if I had been able to run RTTY & SSB. Maybe next year.


    When it is all over with we get the "Bonus" for all of those long hours:
    pretty bar charts detailing how we
    actually did.

    It always looks better afterward; or not. In this case, stats within stats details everything that happened.

    Even though Hawaii is just a "skip across the pond" from California,
    if there is a TON of atmospheric noise, the little 100-watt home station operators all over Hawaii will not break thru the California noise level; as I'm sure was the case.
    Normally, working KH6 on 80 meters from Fallbrook is a slamdonk.
    This year, if they were there the
    noise swallowed them up.

    I guess the WORST Space-WX storms can occur with a minimum of sunspots to choose from.

    As you can see, running multiple contests can be a bit tricky; which is why we utilize software like Wintest and N1MM+. While some multiple state QSO party weekends allow for the logging of many parties in the same log, this last weekend was not one of them (at least not that I am aware of).
    No matter HOW its scored, eventually, one log for each contest must be submitted in order to
    get credit for having operated in that contest.

    NX6T - After Hours


    Did you work HQP, OHQP, KQP or the YO DX Contest?

    Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

    Friday, August 25, 2017

    More thoughts on Solar Eclipse effects and Radiosport.


    During the month of August, our sun has been very busy, despite demonstrating very little sunspot activity.

    The few sunspots left in Solar Cycle 24 have evidently been enough to cause some major disruptions in earth's geo-magnetic field throughout the month.

    BOTH NAQP events & WAE Cw GiG suffered greatly due to K-Indices of 4, 5 & 6; along with A-Indices over 30 & 40.

    I wrote a BLOG about the SEQP 

    event.  [CLICK HERE] to read that entry.


    I am used to solar storms during peak sunspot periods; encountering so many events during the bottom of the sunspot cycle has been an unfortunate surprise. While Monday's solar eclipse was known about for years, at least theoretically, there was no correlation between the Eclipse event
    and the solar flare which occurred 4 days prior. They were unrelated events; or so it would seem.

    Nevertheless, the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP) was conceived to investigate the possibility
    that a solar eclipse could have an effect on HF radio communications; can you say "acute, geo-centered atmospheric cooling"?



    In order to make things easier to track,
    I registered the W6K 1x1 callsign for
    use during the International Lighthouse event (Friday thru Sunday), the NAQP SSB contest on Saturday, and finally
    the SEQP GiG on Monday.

    It is well known that animals have experience a noticeable reaction to eclipse activity, however it is mainly based on the sudden appearance of what seems to them to be nightfall.

    That the nightfall comes and goes so quickly may create a startle reaction that quickly dissipates into the memory jumble of the past.  Because RF & light are all part of the electromagnetic spectrum, as the amount of light to reach a specific area of the planet diminishes significantly it is theorized that
    we should experience something along the line of a brief "greyline" event. 

    Although I was on the radio nearly an hour before the eclipse period on the west coast, I can't say with any degree of certainty that there was any form of propagation improvement, in any particular direction.  I remember hearing KH6 Hawaii on 20, but in fact never worked any area further due-west of California except north to Alaska.

    Because this was a portable setup, I made use of the existing CH-250 vertical and put up a Cobra horizontal VEE with the arrowhead pointing exactly north. The ends of the Cobra antenna were
    secured on the roof of the QTH. While the antenna was barely 7mh at its apex, the performance
    was reasonable and usually more QRN quiet (compared to the CH-250).

    Using the WQ6X antenna switch coupled with the Yaesu FT-1000mp's
    built-in A/B antenna switching, either antenna could be run alone or the two could be run parallel, accepting whatever weird radiation pattern one could expect from such a combination.

    Theoretically, paralleling the two antennas should've resulted in a line impedance of approx. 26 ohms; a value easily matched with the 1000mp's built-in antenna tuner.

    Horizontal VEE + CH-250
    Horizontal VEE only












    One of the goals for this SEQP was to call CQ using JUST the Horizontal VEE followed by CQ with BOTH the CH-250 Vertical and the Horizontal VEE paralleled together. As you can see, adding the vertical to the signal path opened up the number of directions my signal went; altho there was no indication of whether the original paths were strengthened or weakened by the use of both
    antennas simultaneously.

    
    Horizontal VEE w/CH-250 in middle

    While self-spotting is not normally allowed in most
    radiosport events, for SEQP, honest self-spotting
    added to the signal detection made by the CW
    skimmer receivers around the world.

    Self-spots plus the RBN (Reverse Beacon Network)
    spotting data together can later be evaluated by the
    analysis software "behind" the SEQP event. 

    Sorting out all this information should make for some interesting raw statistical data to evaluate.

    Hopefully, a few months hence some sort of data analysis reports will be made available to us all regarding signal effects (if any) that may have been induced by the 90
    minute long solar eclipse event as it made its way
    across the United States.





    Normally in contest events we endeavor to work
    as many states, countries or zones as possible.

    Because this event was more for research,
    it made sense that we examine signal paths
    on a much different basis. Using the VHF/UHF
    grid square breakdown made more sense.

    On that basis, the W6K operation worked a total of 33 grid squares around the U.S., as well as Alaska.

    Did you work the SEQP event and submit
    a Cabrillo log file afterwards?

    Is one of W6K's 41 QSOs in YOUR Log?

    Thursday, August 24, 2017

    W6K Contributes to Solar Eclipse Research via SEQP

    The 3rd weekend of every August
    brings a dovetail of two disparate radio operating events: The International Lighthouse Event (ILLW) and the
    North American QSO Party (NAQP).

    Once in a lifetime another event traverses thru the confluence of two regularly associated events. For 2017, after the ILLW and NEQP events were
    a distant memory, Monday morning brought us SEQP - the Solar Eclipse QSO Party.




    SEQP is a once-in-a-lifetime event with the intent being to collect data regarding the solar effects
    on radio communication. Calling CQ a lot allowed the Reverse Beacon Networks (RBN) to track our transmissions. Data collected from these transmissions along with log data submitted after the event can be fed into spreadsheets, allowing discernment of the nuances of atmospheric cooling as the eclipse-effect migrated across the United States.


    CH-250 & Horiz. VEE (underside)

    To bring IILW, NAQP, SEQP all together
    I reserved the W6K callsign. Using W6K allowed my signal-data to stand out
    amongst non 1x1 callsigns.

    W6K was another portable operation from W7AYT's QTH in Concord Ca. In addition
    to using the location's CH-250 Vertical,
    I configured a Cobra dipole as a horizontal
    VEE 7.5 mh.

    With an old 3-position coax switch I am able
    to select either of those antennas or parallel them together.

    The Yaesu FT-1000mp's tuner managed
    to sort things out quite nicely.



    While W6K made a grand total of 41 QSOs in the SEQP (4 more than made in NAQP), just as important were the ongoing CQ calls made throughout
    my 6 hours of operating in the event.

    I kept an eye on DXMap displays
    to know when the W6K callsign
    was being spotted.

    While spots occurred on 10 & 15
    meters, no callers appeared.  Additionally, tuning those 2
    bands, I heard no workable
    stations.



    Grid Squares worked by W6K

    Beyond countries, states, provinces and zones.
    for radio purposes, the world is split into what
    are known as Grid Squares.

    W7AYT's QTH is in grid square: CM78xx.

    During the SEQP event, W6K managed to work
    32 different gird squares in the U.S. and Alaska.

    My Cabrillo log submission will allow the LCR
    (Log Check Robots) to computer-analyze the log
    data and build a complex database of cross-reference
    QSO data, in conjunction with SPOT information
    from the skimmers and RBN networks.

    I found engaging in a Monday operating event
    to be an interesting experience.




    
    20 & 40 meter W6K spots


    Because it was a daytime event
    most of the QSOs on the west
    coast occurred on the upper
    bands, with a brief stint on
    40 meters.

    As such, I did not have to deal
    with the usual evening 40-meter intentional QRM situation.






    Did you work the Solar Eclipse QSO party?


    How many Grid Squares are in your log?


    Is W6K in one of them?




    
    W6K  Ending  Screen
    Shortly after this article was published I added a PART II to the contest BLOG.
    [CLICK HERE] to read this second installment.

    Monday, August 21, 2017

    W6K in NAQP is a STORMY affair


    W6K portable operation @W7AYT
    Arriving @ W7AYT's QTH Thursday afternoon I was prepared for just about everything, except for the one thing we can never really prepare for: geo-magnetic storms caused by solar flare activity earlier in the week. Depending on when/where solar events hit the planet, atmospheric effects can vary.
    For this contest weekend, in the SF bay area the upper bands were knocked out considerably.
    10 & 15 meters never materialized; 20 meters never opened reliably until 22:00z. While the CW NAQP event was not the greatest, I DiD manage to put 500+ QSOs into the WQ6X log.



    Because this was a multi-event weekend (IILW, NAQP & SEQP), I chose to register the W6K callsign I often
    use for events like these.

    Having used the W6K numerous times over the last few years, a special set of .WAV files was ready for this weekend's NAQP contest; and as needed, for the SEQP (Solar Eclipse QSO Party) event on Monday.


    Due to Station #1 being off the air @NX6T in Fallbrook ("NashVille"), N6KI encouraged all the NX6T operators to run single-OP as Dennis ran NX6T's station #2 with his own callsign.

    Running single-OP in NAQP allows only 10 of the 12 hours to be on the air. The strategic question
    is which 2 hours of op time to forfeit. Listening at 18:00z I heard no stations east of California.
    Thanks to the solar noise, I DiD hear a pair of stations in Hawaii (KH6 & NH6) but little else.
    I made the decision to do station maintenance for the 1st hour and run errands during the
    2nd hour on the gamble that Hawaii would materialize later in the contest; it didn't.


    W6K Spotted on 20 meters
    Just before 20:00z I was frustrated by the lack of NAQP signals, prompting me to convert the slanted Cobra dipole into a horizontal VEE antenna.

    Whether it was a change in antenna orientation or a drop in the K-Index that made the difference, I'll never know.

    As you can see, W6K was easily spotted on 20 meters. That would suggest that my signal was easily being heard.  Unfortunately, hearing back seemed to be the major difficulty in this contest GiG.

    The FT-1000mp's eDSP made quite a difference in the audio noise levels; in
    my mind, much better than the Elecraft
    K3 (which ironically many operators upgraded to from the 1000mp units).

    Early on, out of desperation I converted
    a 40 meter radio-check QSO into the
    first 40-meter QSO for the NAQP.

    When 10 minutes of CQ calls for NAQP yielded nothing it was back to 20 meters to finally make it all happen.

    Astute searching & pouncing put nearly 2 dozen QSOs into the log. Unfortunately,
    it took 2 hours of OP time to make that happen before the noise levels all but obliterated 20 meters.

    By 00:40z it was time to make the "official" move to 40 meters, hoping for the best. Because we are near the bottom of the sunspot cycle, 40 often opens to the east by 23:30z. Unfortunately, because
    of the solar noise central U.S. signals never reliably materialized until 03:00z; the east coast never happened at all.

    Periodically scouting 75 meters and putting out numerous CQ calls, nothing came thru until 05:35z when I managed to add 2 S&P QSOs to the W6K log, effectively ending the contest. (Returning to 40 meters did no good as most stations had either worked the 10 hour limit or were just noised out.)


    Like this weekend's International Lighthouse Event ([CLICK HERE]
    for more information), because of the horrible space weather, NAQP
    was also a disappointment.

    Why is it the effects of solar events ONLY happen during contest weekends? If I didn't know better I would assume it was another government-induced right-wing conspiracy.




    W6K was part of the Southern California Contest Club (SCCC) team #1. Other than N6KI (whose 400+ QSOs carried the team), the rest of our scores were pretty pathetic.

    At LEAST I have something to blame it on; an A-Index of 31 and a K-Index of 5.

    While having a set of .WAV files pre-ordained for the contest weekend
    gave my voice a distinctive PUNCH,
    no amount of signal punch will result
    in a reduction of S-7 to S-9 noise
    levels on the receiving end.







    While a disappointment overall, the hope is strong that everything will check out as being totally
    ready for the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP) on Monday. [CLICK HERE] to check out my score submission to the 3830 Scores website.

    Did YOU play in the NAQP SSB contest6?

    Is one of W6K's 37 QSOs in YOUR Log?