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?