Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WQ6X & N6GEO join up for 2013 ARRL 10-Meter contest

This last weekend wrapped up the 2013 radiosport season by way of the ARRL 10-Meter contest.  This was one of the most active 10-meter contests I have encountered in years; perhaps ever!  There were so many CW stations that they took over the 28.065 - 28.100 RTTY/Data region, extending to as high as 28.135.  SSB activity pushed up as high as 28.700.
After a false start on Friday evening (N1MM software settings got munged from the W.W. Dx contest) we got things in gear and found our 10-meter rhythm.

Using my WQ6X callsign, N6GEO and I operated a FLEX-1000 SDR radio into a cascade of 3 amplifiers: a 5-watt amplifier (boosting the Flex-1000's 1-watt) and a Tokyo Hy-Power  HL-50 (for 50-watts) ending up into an MA-500 amplifier, all to eventually give us 140 watts for the M/S LP category.   Once again we ran all this power into a TH-3 jr. atop  a 22' crank-up military mast.
Because the Flex-1000 is early SDR technology, all manner of things can go wrong, and many of them did this weekend.  For openers N1MM all of a sudden could not talk to the SDR radio at the start of the contest.  Once we got things resolved I was only able to snag 24 contacts (22 on Cw) before the band finally faded out to the depths of the south Pacific.  Luckily, 10-meters was open and active both Saturday & Sunday morning; altho the opening to Europe was stronger and longer lasting on Saturday than on Sunday.

Because we were using SDR technology, it made sense that we pair it up with a CW Skimmer, enabling us to pick off CW multipliers more easily.  Skimmer is essentially worthless on SSB so we had to remember to turn it off, saving CPU power for the SDR.

Operationally, a number of things surprised me this weekend.  For example, many times when running a pileup several stations would call.  After spending 10 - 15 seconds to work the first station, the other stations would disappear.  Why call me in the 1st place if you're not going to stick around for the contact?

Because of its early SDR design the FLEX-1000 has been shown to demonstrate audio latency problems.  Because of that, the 1st letter of callsigns (on BOTH Cw & Ssb) was often chopped, requiring several repeats.  On ssb I would tell people they are "too quick for my vox", and yet even then, they could not wait an extra 1-second before coming back to me.

Similar to 20-meters where we have a beacon network at 14.100, on 10 meters we have a series of beacons in the 28.280 - 29-300 spectrum.  I often heard Kw-level stations near the 28.3 bottom of the phone band.  We have 400+ khz of ssb spectrum on 10-meters, why do we need to cram stations in the bottom 10-khz?  Beacons serve a useful purpose, IF they can be heard.

This weekend was proof of what can be accomplished on 10-meters if we only give things a chance.  Friday evening the band remained open until 8-pm local time.  Both mornings I was surprised to find the band well open at 7-am local time, meaning that I should have started both days a 6-am.  Oh well.... next year. 

Unfortunately, a year from now sunspot cycle 24 could be near the end.  This last weekend we were fortunate to be in the well into what seems to be a double sunspot peak with the flux around 162 and very quiet A/K Indexes.  Next year the SFI could be back to sub-100 status.  Then again, we may well be amidst a unique triple-peak phenomenon. 

So, from now until next December give 10-meters all the attention you can muster during radiosport events.  Our lucky break won't last forever.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

WQ6X Joins the team @ NX6T for 2013 CQ W.W. Dx Contest

Despite some incredible operational tactics,  my joint operation with NX6T in Fallbrook this last weekend only netted us a 16th place (out of 17 entries) world wide in the Multi-2 transmitter category, altho we may well have taken 1st place for the W6 call area.

Similar to the JIDX GiG, we ran a pair of K3's front-ending a pair of ACOM 2000 auto-tune amplifiers putting nearly 1400 watts into a pair of Stepp-IR & 2-El 40-m yagi combinations.  Similar to JIDX, our operation got off to a shaky beginning, bouncing back a couple of hours into the event.  While N6KI &  WQ6X were primary operators @ NX6T, throughout the weekend other operators ( N0DY, NN6X, N6EEG & K4RB) took one of the helms.  Because I am willing to pull the "night shifts", I am usually given the 3am - 9am shift; especially in this contest.

While the solar flux dropped from 170+ to 140, overall the bands were amazingly quiet.  10 meters was incredibly open, as was 15 meters.  Despite those great condx, as highlighted below, 40-meters delivered over 1/3 of our QSOs for this contest.  While we only managed 21 QSOs on 160, the California--> Asia path was certainly there; had more Asian stations made a 160 appearance they would have found great west coast propagation - too bad they didn't.

Based on spotter reports and consistently busting pile-ups on the 1st/2nd call it would seem that NX6T had a booming presence in Europe & Asia and at least a commanding presence in Central/South America.

My operations consisted of significant time spent in S & P mode, switching to running a frequency when a "hole" in the spectrum suddenly appeared.  Late Saturday evening while running solo I remembered that there was an audio switch box for combining both K3's into faux-SO2R arrangement.  The 15 minutes I spent reconfiguring the cables allowed me to run a frequency on 80 & 160 while S&P'ing on 40 and eventually 20 meters after sunrise washed out 7-mhz & below; at which time 10/15-meters became the RUN frequency.

Although not super eventful, overall, this years W.W. Cw contest was a lot of fun.  Our Multi-2 arrangement gave our 6 operators virtually all the time in the chair they wanted.  Thanks to the operator's apartment next door, I was able to catch 4-hour naps and make an appearance on virtually every operating shift.

The increasing number of "exotic" callsigns this year made CQ W.W. more exciting than ever.  We made DXCC on 40-20-15 meters and 86 countries on 10-m. 
Zone-wise we only missed Zones 34 & 39; both on Africa's east side.

Did you play in the CQ World Wide contest this year?
If so, did you make DXCC & WAZ?

Monday, November 18, 2013

WQ6X & N6GEO achieve another Clean Sweep for 2013 Sweepstakes Phone

2013 Sweepstakes phone for W6K is literally one for the log. 
Teaming up again with N6GEO from his home QTH we made Sweepstakes phone an SDR (Software Defined Radio) affair.  We originally setup a FLEX-1500 on a Vista laptop and a more robust station using a FLEX-1000 on a super desktop running Windoze XP. 

The FLEX-1500 was capable of multi-channel voice keying by way of N1MM. 
We couldn't make the audio link between N1MM and the FLEX-1000 work.  The only voice keying came from the one recording available from the SDR software.  We ran both radios thru a bevy of amplifiers to run as close to 150-w as possible.
For Sunday operations we used the FLEX-1000 exclusively.

Antenna-wise we ran the TH3-jr again with a new Yaesu G-400 rotor, which rotates jr yagis rather quickly.  The 80-meter whip on the 6-BTV vertical was upgraded with another 80-meter whip that also sported a 160-meter "inverted-L" wire to give us 160-meter access.  The vertical worked fine for 40 & 80 but failed after an operating attempt on 160; evidently the 80-whip pressed into service failed, even though the SWR on 160 was a mere 1.2:1.  We lost 3 - 4 hours of QSO opportunities from that problem.   From the reports I've read, many California stations experienced a deficiency in 40-meter contacts Saturday evening.

Propagation wise, along with a solar flux of 175 we moved into Sweepstakes weekend with a declining K-Index (from K-4 down to K-1).  10 meters was wide open on Saturday afternoon, giving us our highest band QSO total.  Unfortunately on Sunday 10-meters became solar-noised out by 22:00z.  15 and 20 meters then became the focus.  By 4:30 pm on Sunday (00:30z) we took refuge on 40-meters and finally 75, to make up for the lost local QSOs on Saturday. 
I like to end November Sweepstakes on 75-meters in the last hour to snag any leftover Calif./W-7 "local" stations.  I was disappointed that only a few stations thought to do the same thing.

While not an easy task, we managed a clean sweep in the last 4 hours of the Sweepstakes thanks to W6TK (SB section), VO1KTV (NL section) and AF7Z (UT section) to claim all 83 ARRL sections.  TheVO1 station was the only NL section entry, meaning that there will be less than 600 clean sweep log submissions.

We welcomed over a dozen new stations to the Sweepstakes.  As a "run" station while it is nice to work stations at a rapid clip, when "newbies" stumble onto our contest we are duty-bound to slow down and explain to them how to make a Sweepstakes exchange.  Who knows, next year they may turnout to be full-fledged operators in this wonderful contest.

Did you play in this year's November Sweepstakes phone?
If so, how did it turn out?  Did you manage a Sweep?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Team W6H scores another 1st-place worldwide for 2013 JIDX SSB

This last weekend's JIDX was an interesting challenge in many ways.  Registering the W6H callsign (In honor of the late Hiro - JA1FRQ) I again teamed with the NX6T group in Fallbrook Ca.  (also known as "Nashville" in honor of Nash W6HCD who passed this year).  At 1,000' elevation, physically, Nashville is ideally suited for contesting, with the exception of a nearby noise source in the direction that we point the antennas for the best path to Japan.

This contest season team leader Dennis (N6KI) has been experimenting with a multi-transmitter setup which qualifies under multi-single category.   Three radios (2 K3's and 1 TS-590) were put together allowing a "run" station (a K3), a mult station (another K3) and a search/pounce station (the TS-590) interlocked with the run station so only one or the other can transmit.  With this configuration we managed 668 Q's (versus 861 in 2012), but evidently enough to have locked up 1st-place world wide for the MOP category - at least according to the 3830 Scores website.  Ironically there were single-OP stations (both Russian) with way more QSOs than we had.

In this run of the JIDX there were indeed a dearth of Japanese stations participating; one only has to look at the highest QSO number on any individual band to figure that one.  This is consistent with my beef that Asian stations don't participate in their own contests.   While we managed to work prefectures 1 - 47, 48, 49 & 50 were not active in their own contest; altho JD1 WAS active in the WAE RTTY contest (also running during the weekend) - wassup with that ??!!??

An updated version of the WQ6X Prefecture Tracker software gives us the breakdown of the 47 prefectures worked by W6H throughout the contest weekend.

80 meter participation on the part of the Japanese was very poor - we only worked 20 stations; most of them on Sunday morning.  This year we had no 160 meter antenna so we missed out on whoever was there.  40 meters was THE band this year with about 45% of the Q's made there; mostly by the run station, with a few snuck in by the S/P station.

While the solar flux remained a medium all weekend with no real storms (until after the contest) 10 meters was somewhat of a disappointment.  20 meters to Japan has been quite a disappointment in recent years from this location, so it was up to 40 & 15 meters to carry the contest forward; with 10, 20 & 80 rounding out the activity.

We had a team of 9 operators with varying degrees of experience, which made for an interesting operation. My job was to operate a little bit throughout the weekend, on every shift within the 30 hour period.

Fresh off the high of receiving the 1st-place MOP plaque from last year's JIDX, we plowed into this contest with plenty of focus and enthusiasm - helpful when we ran into equipment glitches throughout the weekend.  While running a pair of ACOM 2000 amplifiers has its advantages, free-floating RF in the shack is not one of them.

While we made a lot of mistakes and encountered many technical difficulties it would seem that W6H will again earn a MOP 1st place plaque for 2013.

We received the plaque on Ground Hog day (Feb 2) in 2015.

Did you play in the JIDX?  How did your operation turn out?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

WQ6X & N6GEO team up as W6K for Sweepstakes Cw

N6GEO    &    WQ6X
This last weekend again found me in Brentwood (EB section) teamed up with N6GEO as W6K for the 80th running of the Cw November Sweepstakes contest.  We had a lot of ideas for how we would operate this contest as a multi operator setup.  In the end they all didn't make it. 

The Flex Radio Power SDR Screen (w/CW Skimmer) and our superb mini antenna farm
We settled on running a FLEX SDR-1000 (Software Defined Radio) into a pair of cascaded amplifiers giving us 145 watts out; just enough to top-out at the low power limit of 150w.  We front-ended the receiver section with a CW skimmer, which is legal as multi-OP is also an assisted category.  The skimmer certainly helped cut down on code copying errors and made search & pouncing (S&P) a lot of interesting fun.  For antennas we used an 8mh TH-3 jr. yagi  for the high bands and a ground mounted 6-BTV vertical for 80 & 40.

Our goal was to beat last year's record of 469 Q's and get a clean sweep to make up for missing it by 2 sections last year and 2 in this year's CQP.  As with CQP there were a dearth of Vermont stations (2 to be exact) so we almost missed the sweep.  Finally at 20:44z N1UR popped up on the "needed station" screen.  A double-click of the mouse and a switch on the amplifiers snagged the illusive lil' bugger.  We ended up with 531 QSOs in all 83 sections for an ending score of 88,146 points.

There was a propagation rumor that a number of solar disturbances were headed our way.  While I heard that there were signal dropouts at NX6T in San Diego, in the East Bay we experienced no real signal problems other than the predictable slow-fade on 15/10 meters.  I was disappointed in the small number of stations who actually made it down to 80 meters.  Wakeup people!  80-meters was HOPPING - for those who did show up.  Even 40-meters was lacking in signals; not because of poor propagation, but because people didn't spend enough OP time there as we did.

Now that we proved we can get a sweep and beyond, preparations are under way for W6K to operate Sweepstakes phone with this same arrangement (except the Skimmer, which does us no good on SSB).

From the reported QSO numbers and submissions to the 3830 Scores website we know there were over 1500 active stations in this year's event.  This year the number of reported section sweeps seems to have significantly increased over last years action when the Ontario (ONT) section was split into 4 multipliers (ONE, ONN, ONS & GTA).

How was Sweepstakes on your end?  Did you manage a sweep?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

WQ6X & N6GEO run CQP in Modoc county for a 3rd time

Overall, the 2013 California QSO Party (CQP) operation from Modoc county  by WQ6X and N6GEO was a HUGE success.  Similar to last year a lot of  planning was behind our trip to Modoc.  Unlike last year we were not  plagued with the disasters that befell us literally 2 hours into our  leaving Brentwood for CQP-2012.

N6GEO on 10-Meter CW
WQ6X running Europe on 15-M SSB
While we have used the K6M call from Modoc in the past, this year the Bend  Ore. group beat us to that callsign.  Because all the other 1x1 "M"  callsigns were also reserved at 1x1Callsigns.org, I resorted to registering "W6C"; a call I  used in Ventura county CQP operations during 2005 - 2007.  Being the  California QSO Party,"Whiskey Six California" had an interesting feel to  it.  
You can view pictures, statistics & links to everything CQP at the WQ6X.Info CQP-2013 page. There are also links to our 2010/2012 K6M operations and our operation as K6S in 2011 from the Sacramento river.  (My previous CQP operations are documented from the WQ6X CQP home page).

We arrived in Modoc around 3pm Friday afternoon and immediately got down to setting up the antennas before darkness set in; which happens earlier  in the northern part of the state than in the SF bay area.  To prevent a  repeat of last year's TH-3 mast crash, this year we used a crank-up  military mast; not quite as high as last year's mast was to be, but as it  turned out, quite a performer for 2013.

We used the military mast to support a pair of phased Cobra inverted-V's tuned  for 40 meters.  The height was just enough to blanket North America with  our massive 100-W signal.  For 80 meters, the HF2-V vertical was an  AWEsome performer; signals jumped to the E. coast by 02:45z which was a  delightful surprise.
Look familiar? 
This is what theTH3-jr should
have looked like LAST year
Station #1 on the left.
Station #2 on the right.
HF2-V Vertical in the background.
The TH3-jr yagi was front-ended by an N6GEO homebrew antenna multiplexer,  allowing us to share the beam on 10, 15 & 20 meters.  However on Sunday,  when a super opening to Europe came in, we ended up with a directional  conflict; so N6GEO put up a rotatable Buddipole (tuned for 10 meters)  giving us access to both Europe and E/SE United States.
We missed a sweep by 2 multipliers (Vermont and VE2).  While that SUX, we were one of the fortunate ones who snagged a Qso with VE8EGR; the only station in the NT (Northern Territories) province.  In fact, we were the FIRST Qso in VE8EGR's log; so I guess starting 35 minutes late has its benefits.

Until the alternate antenna mast was relegated to the Buddipole, we had a 6-meter yagi up looking for 6-meter openings (which never happened for us).  Because our location is literally out in the middle of nowhere Modoc, attempting 2-meter contacts was not worth the effort.  Instead, I managed to tune the HF2-V on 160-meter Cw for a contact with Imperial County giving us a presence on all 6 HF bands.

As with most contest activities I took the night shift, calling it quits at about 08:00z.

Station #2 at night
WQ6X on 75-meter SSB @ 05:46z
The number of contacts we made with California stations was much higher in 2012 & 2013 than in previous years, part of which I attribute to my sending advance notice of our operation to the Sacramento Valley (SV) section manager in advance of the CQP event.  He gave our operation a mention in the SV Section news on the ARRL.Org website, which is very much appreciated.

Our QSO breakdown was 60% on Cw versus 40% on SSB.  Considering that QSO points are 3:2 favoring Cw, this is enabled our nearly 165k score giving us what would seem to be 1st place for the low-power California expedition category.

In 2010 we setup both stations on the kitchen table inside a tent trailer.  However this year (like last year) I opted to bring along my trusty Coleman Insta-Tent (opens out in < 2 minutes) giving us radio separation.  Because our computers were ad-hoc networked we could experience each others progress.  Unfortunately, because N1MM kept getting confused on serial #'s when we opened a new band, we were unable to give out a single-incrementing serial #.  Nevertheless, it did not prevent us from amassing 1,129 QSOs, surpassing last year's total by nearly 40%.

While we heard European stations on Saturday, we were delightfully surprised at the incredible opening on 15 and even 10 meters Sunday morning - our N. California location certainly helped in this regard.  While we worked a couple of JA stations we made no other contact with Asia and no contacts with Africa or Oceania.  A handful of stations at least gave us S. America.

Using another laptop computer I managed to make a number of operational videos on CQP Sunday.  Somehow several of the videos had no sound, leaving us with 2 - 3 videos to be posted on YouTube.  You can view the annotated 15-meter CW video at: http://youtu.be/VFAPIKGbiw0.  The 1st 15-meter SSB is at: http://youtu.be/zMpWawz9C8A.  The 2nd SSB video is at: http://youtu.be/5GANvLKnFB4.

I guess all the work paid off.  Based on the log scores submitted to the 3830Scores.Com website, it would seem that we have taken the 1st place slot for low power expedition class.  (Click HERE for our log-submission details.)  This year's success makes up for our disastrous 2012 K6M GiG from Modoc. 

It is true that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.  We learned a lot from 2012 and this years success reflects that fact.  While we can do better still (our new target is 1300 - 1500 QSOs in 2014), this year's event is something to be proud of.  We got in and out of Modoc with no vehicle mishaps and no equipment failures.

WQ6X & N6GEO arrived in Brentwood Monday evening in one piece.  We celebrated with a deserved beer, to make up for having forgotten to bring brewski's with us to Modoc.

Did you work the California QSO party? 
If so, what were your results?
Are you in the log for W6C? 

April 19th 2014 - PostScript:
While scoping the internet I noticed that the CQP.Org website showcased our CQP operation.

As of September 19th we are STILL on the homepage.  Whut?  They can't find operators other than US to showcase?  wOw!  I'm stunned.  

Well, we are going to have to live up to that one again in this year's 49th CQP for 2014.  Can we do it?  We didn't think we could take a 1st place in 2013.  Do top wins come in pairs?  We shall see.

Monday, September 30, 2013

WQ6X & N6GEO do CQ W W RTTY as a Multi-Single

The 2013 CQ WW RTTY contest snuck up on me when I wasn't looking. 
At the last moment, my callsign request for W6R was denied on a technicality so we ended up using my WQ6X callsign, to go with all the other WQ6X CQ contest entries this year.
You can see our 3830 score entry HERE.

WQ6X doing the Friday night shift.
N6GEO on Sunday morning be-4 church
Work commitments on my part and social commitments with George (N6GEO) found us not on the air during crucial parts of this weekend's RTTY contest. Nevertheless, we managed 274 QSOs on all bands (80 - 10) while enduring numerous Windoze Vista "blue screens", probably caused by the PowerSDR software demanding more than a simple dual-core laptop can provide.

We ran a FLEX-1500 SDR radio, directing its 5w output to an ALS-500m amplifier, resulting in anywhere from 70 - 100 watts out (depending on the band).

We are still researching the FLEX-1500 and PowerSDR software for an upcoming RTTY event next year. As wonderful and full-featured as PowerSDR is, one of its main drawbacks is that it takes over much of the screen in 1200 x 1000 resolution screens requiring that we position the right side of the software screen off the edge of the monitor, which also has its drawbacks.
N1MM directing the PowerSDR software
Ending stats after the contest

While there was LOTs of activity in this year's CQ WW RTTY GiG, especially from the European countries who do RTTY so well, missing again this year was Asia & Oceania. It's almost as if there was an ionospheric vortex around the Pacific rim.

In the end, we verified the TH3-jr atop its military mast is ready to roll for next weekend's CQP contest. Look for us as W6C from Modoc county.

Meanwhile, did you play in the CQ WW RTTY contest this weekend?
If so, how did you do?
Is WQ6X in your log?

Monday, September 23, 2013

WQ6X does WAQP Salmon Run Portable in Alameda

This last weekend found me setting up a portable station at the Monterey Center (my office) in Alameda California. The setup consisted of the ICOM-7000 into an MFJ apartment antenna attached to the rain gutter 2.5mh with a 40-meter hamstick replacing the MFJ whip.

I managed 36 QSOs in the Salmon Run (the WA QSO Party); 34 on 20-m and 2 on 40-m. Signals on 15 & 10 meters were non-existent. I was amazed at who could hear me and who couldn't. By the time it was over I managed to work 17 counties in Washington state; not bad for a puny antenna. 
 At 00:28z SJ2W drifted in at S-2 running the Scandinavian contest. 
 A little persistent effort on my part got me into SJ2W's log as #001 in their contest.

Monday morning found me checking into the Adventist Amateur Radio Net (@17:00z) on 14.328. Net control Bob VE7DSE was S-7 here and I managed a whopping S-2 into his Prince George BC QTH.
At 18:00z they switch to 21.405 (altho I had no copy) and sometimes 28.328 after that. 
From N6GEO's QTH I've managed to check in on both 20-m & 15-m, but have yet to copy them on 10-m.
 Possibly this fall we will have a shot at 10-meters again; unless the sunspot cycle really is on its final trip down to the bottom. 

Did you work the Salmon Run this weekend? If so, how many counties did you snag? 
Did you work the bonus station W7DX? I did. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Necessity turns WQ6X Multi-OP into Single-OP for 2013 All Asian SSB Contest

This last weekend's All Asian contest was full of surprises.  My original plan to join the NX6T crew in Fallbrook was preempted in favor of a multi-OP entry from N6GEO's cabin in Twain Hart as I did last year.  Unfortunately, the Yosemite fires threatened that area so the next plan was to multi-OP from N6GEO's QTH in Brentwood (near SF).

I setup the ICOM 7000 on a card table in George's shack on Thursday evening and we went to
great lengths to network the computers.  Friday afternoon I started operations a few minutes
after 00:00z.  Later when George showed up we discovered his Flex-1000 would not properly transmit, so in the end I ended up as a single op.

During the 48 hours of the A-A contest I managed to eek out 135 QSOs & 77 multipliers.
160 & 80 meter condx. were all but non-existent from Brentwood.  40 meters ended up
producing a whopping 4 QSOs thanks to the house blocking the West direction of the 6-BTV vertical and the woodpecker radar.  10-meters produced all of 5 QSOs; more than they managed at NX6T.

It was 20 & 15 meters that produced most of the QSOs (30 & 96 respectively).
When it was all over I decided to submit a single-band log (even though I sent in all 135 Q's).
I almost submitted the log as an LP 40-meter entry which would have beat the Arizona Outlaws (N7TEW) 3 QSO entry for 40.  Instead, I submitted the log as an LP 20-meter entry.

Again the turnout for All Asian was for me quite a disappointment.  This weekend was largely a JA fest with a few UA9's and UA0's thrown in.  During greyline on Saturday I heard a 4X4 station loud and clear but unfortunately he was not working All Asian - go figure.

As in recent years past, the median age for All Asian was well over 50.  I heard one station in their 20's, two in their 30's and only 2 YL's.  The number of 60+, 70+ & 80+ operators was quite staggering - we need some young blood in All Asian.

Did you operate All Asian this year?  If so, how did it turn out?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

WQ6X makes another HQP/OHQP bare-minimum appearance

The last full-weekend in August brings us a number of state QSO parties; most notably the Hawaiian QSO Party (HQP), The Ohio QSO party (OHQP) & and the Kansas QSO party (KSQP), as well as the YO Dx contest and Slovenia's SCC RTTY contest.  For that weekend I had work obligations that prevented me from setting up a full operation, as I did from Mt. Diablo for the 2011 HQP.

This operation became an interesting challenge as the only way I had of making the MFJ apartment antenna work was to mount it on the window ledge pointing due west.  That of course all but eliminated radio contest activity with the Northeast.  It also made reception from Europe all but impossible, so my only QSO in the YO Dx contest not surprisingly was from Oceania - ZL1BYZ.  
Hearing no RTTY signals calling CQ SCC, I chose not to go to the effort of setting up the RigBlaster cables for RTTY.
What little op time I had I focused on the Hawaiian QSO party; looking to see how many bands I could work KH6/KH7.  In doing so I doubled the number of QSOs  from last year, from 2 QSO's to 4, while 4x'ing the number of multipliers by working Lahaina, Honolulu, Hilo & Molokai for a whopping score of 32 points versus 12 points from last year.  Maybe I will take 2nd place for W6-land on Cw versus 3rd place last year.
I was quite disappointed to hear no KH6 action from my location on 80/40.  Because 10 meters was sound asleep, 3 QSOs on 20-meters and one on 15 meters was all I could manage.  Waiting for KH6 signals was quite exciting as you can see.
All Asian SSB is only a week away.  In the past I have voiced my displeasure at the lack of Asian turnout for their own contest.  Let's hope that this year is different.  Thus far the solar flux isn't helping much.  Maybe we really HAVE long ago reached the sunspot peak and are now in the final downturn of Cycle 24.  Being an eternal optimist, I want to believe otherwise.
For 2013 A-A, the original idea was to operate again from Twain Hart (similar to last year's K6A effort) however the Yosemite fires may make that not possible.  
My backup plan is to join the team @ NX6T and help them win another medallion like last year.  There is a rumor afloat that a loaner Kenwood TS-990 will be at the "Nashville" location.
Decisions, decisions.........

POST HQP Update:
As you can see in the comments below, WQ6X took 2nd-place for Cw in the W6 Call area - proof once again that just showing up can win an award.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

WQ6X operates NAQP-SSB & SARTG RTTY while hunting for Lighthouses

This weekend found me in Brentwood California (in the SF east bay) operating from N6GEO's QTH using a 6-BTV vertical to radiate the RF for participation in the SARTG RTTY contest in between operating hours of the NAQP SSB contest (as part of SCCC Team #2). Because this was also the International Lighthouse & Lightship weekend operating event, I was also on the lookout for light houses, finding two; one in Washington state (Jim @ KD7JB) and Denmark (Thomas' @ OZ5ESB.
For operation in the SARTG GiG I ran a FLEX 1500 SDR radio into an Ameritron ALS-500m mobile amplifier (storage battery operated no less) giving an output of about 95 watts. I was unable to produce an adequate microphone hookup to the Flex 1500 so for NAQP I pressed the ICOM 7000 into service using a coax switch to jump between SARTG & NAQP and back. While I was also Cw capable for ILLW, I only managed to work lighthouses on SSB.
The SARTG contest was fun yet I was surprised at hearing NO SARTG activity on 80 & 40 meters both evenings. SARTG is actually a 30 hour contest running over a 48 hour period.
Because the SARTG sports two 8 hour off periods for everyone (one at 08:00z on Saturday and one at 00:00z on Sunday) no geographical location are unduly compromised. Being that 10-meters was virtually dead all weekend, for me SARTG was 20 & 15 meter affair. Thanks to ZS4TX, ZM4B, LU7HF, T4OC, JH7RTQ, KH6ZM & R3PW I managed to work all continents (WAC) in the 40 contacts made in this contest.

For NAQP, band condx sucked so I spent the 1st hours playing in SARTG AND NAQP ON 20 meters.  At 22:00z 15 meters finally came alive for both contests.. Suddenly the solar flux index (SFI) jumped from 123 to 149. Within 2 hours it was back down to 129 and an increase in K-index.
I did not move down to 40-meters until 03:30z, only to find S-9 atmospheric noise that the ICOM noise filters could not minimize, as well as a bunch of neighborhood RFI signals all over the band.
75 meters did not come alive until nearly 04:00z. Thanks to patient listening, K2PO (Bill in Oregon) managed to pull me thru on 160 meters when I tuned the 6BTV vertical with an MFJ 949-E tuner. Ironically, several California stations on 160 could not hear me. I ended up with 135 QSOs on all bands but 10-meters.

So for this weekend I accomplished all 3 goals; working NAQP, learning the fine-points of the Flex 1500 using RTTY and finding a couple of lighthouses on top of it all.
What were YOUR radio operations like this weekend?
Are you in one of my 3 logs?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

WQ6X makes it to the NAQP Cw Contest - barely

Because the NAQP is only a 12 hour contest, unless I guest-OP an already setup station, I tend to put together simplistic portable operations, as I did this weekend operating from Concord Ca. in the East Bay (EB) section.
For this event, there was no operating desk, only the laptop sitting on a chair, with me sitting on the floor. Because NAQP Cw is largely computer-driven fancy operations are often not necessary. As you can see, I threw together a variation of phased hamsticks atop a simple wooden pole wire-tied to the fence. From one vantage point the antenna "almost" qualified as a stealth antenna. The ICOM 7000 was in as good a form as ever, never missing a dit or a dah. I only wish the bands were as good as the radio.
With a somewhat low solar flux (108), while the A/K-Indexes were low it didn't prevent a considerable amount of atmospheric noise on both 40 & 80 meters. As you can see, I made attempts on both bands. 160 was quiet, although there were no signals to be heard as well. 10 meters was also lacking altho I see there were reports that KH6ZM was quite busy on 10-meters.
While other countries are encouraged to join us in NAQP, there were a dearth of signals heard. JA stations were plentiful but were busy in some sort of "QSO Party" on their own. Because of my minimal antenna I can imagine that my signal was rather weak. I could not get a fix on what direction my hamstick array was favoring so I mechanically turned it from due-north to southeast looking for the best signals; which were from W4-land & W5-land. While I could work easily W8, W9 & VE3, W0 gave me little action outside of KS & Co. W1, W2 & W3 were largely unavailable to me. So were my hamsticks actually cloud warmers?
Many stations were not patient with weak signals. Instead of persisting with a weak signal they chose to call CQ for another 3 - 5 minutes. It would have been quicker to work me first. Kudos to Loco XE2MX for persisting with me on 40-meters to pull me through.
One of things I like about NAQP is that sending Name & QTH for the exchange is not as impersonal as sending something such as 599-KW. I also like some of the more original names such as: Gord, Gator, Axel, Rusty, Marko & Loco. It was also nice to see a couple of YL names this time.
So where were YOU during NAQP?