Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Some additional Tips on working DX stations.

What follows are some addition thoughts that crossed my consciousness after last nite's restful sleep in the patio hammock. After looking at the operational summary stats from my non-contest operations a number of things come to mind. 

In the first installment of these musings (, I described what it is like for a "beginner" (me) to be on the DX-station end of a pile-up.  
Since publishing that blog entry I received a reply from Valentin (YO6DDF) :
"Thanks Ron,I have read your blog and also have shared on FB for the YO group. 73&DX's Val,YO6DDF.
Evidently my comments have made the rounds.  Beginning Sunday nite I noticed that the European stations seem to be less frantic and more orderly.  Last night I was able to run a pileup on 160 meters for nearly an hour before a pushy Italian (an IW6 call) drove me to leave 160-cw and make a final run on 80-cw before I shut things down at 2,004 non-contest QSOs.  That IW6 is probably STILL swearing about me.
That stations were more orderly easily increased my hourly QSO rate by 25%.  Therefore, approximately 25% MORE stations got to make contact with St. Croix.  Do you SEE how that works?

Because I have been on the low power end of looking for DX stations, I know what it is like struggling to be heard through a morass of voices or cw tones, as a DX station I have endeavored to give everyone a chance; case in point being 10-meter Ssb yesterday afternoon.  In a couple of hours I managed nearly 160 QSOs.  During that time I often asked people to standby so I could listen for QRP stations, mobile stations, VE stations and even Africa.  When I put in my 5th call for Africa, HZ1AB (Saudi Arabia) asked if he would count as Africa - another country for the the log, NICE!

On 10-meters, I was amazed by how many QRP, mobile, or QRP-mobile stations had incredibly strong signals when no one else was walking over the top of them.  
This is proof you don't need power on 10-meters.  One guy in Virginia was S9+ with only 10 watts and a dipole 10 feet above ground.

While a lot of people probably hated it, when the pileups got too thick I would have to take it by call area #'s.  At one point I got creative and asked for stations with some letter in the callsign: "Anybody with an "X" in the call?", "Anybody with a "Q" in the call?", "Anybody with a "K" in the call?", etc.

Probably the part of Ssb operation I disliked the most was hearing 500 different explanations of how COLD it is.  One station in Wisconsin told me it was -40.  I reminded him that we had 85 degrees on Tuesday, making a net difference of 120 degrees, to which he replied "that is just WRONG!".

During operations here on St. Croix, I gave REAL signal reports and would ask EVERYONE to give me their name for the log.  Names make it more enjoyably personal.  Real signal reports allow BOTH sides of the QSO to assess the propagation path between the two locations.  While taking the time to do this may have "slowed things down", as we know, it's QUALITY of communication, not rapidity of communication that makes the difference.
The difference is QUALITY.  Quality is one of the premises that brought me here and Quality is what I leave with.

A number of stations worked me on BOTH Cw and Ssb on multiple bands (the top station worked me on 8 band-modes).  Working stations on multiple bands and modes is one of the reasons I spent time figuring out the amplifier and antenna arrangement.  

While I could easily have run low power  or even QRP, to give more stations a shot at working St. Croix I ran the Alpha 89 amplifier to around 800 - 1,000 watts (except on 30-meter Cw, of course).

I made a number of "bonus" contacts wuth stations here in the Caribbean, including a sked on 75-meters with KV4CF at the other end of the Island.

Did you manage to put WQ6X/WP2 or N6GEO/NP2 in your log?
If not, you missed out.

Monday, January 6, 2014

WQ6X & N6GEO Win the RTTY RU Contest as WQ6X/WP2

This is the current KP2M location
Well.... the purpose of George (N6GEO) and I coming to St. Croix has officially been met.  Less than 2 hours ago the 2014 ARRL RTTY Round came to an end; altho ironically, there were still stations handing out RTTY-RU exchanges a good 5 minutes after the contest was officially over.  Because we were running the PowerSDR software to control the FLEX-1500 radios, it was interesting to watch the "waterfall" display at 23:59:30 FULL of signals slowly..... fade..... away...... until the above mentioned stations were all that was left; which is why they stood out as much as they did.

WQ6X from above
N6GEO running 10-Meters for 2 hours
As a team, George and I amassed 1,094 QSOs w/110 multipliers - all states except North Dakota, along with over 50 countries in the log - 1/2 DXCC.  With all of the contacts I have been making outside the contest period, I easily have WAS (Worked all States), WAC (Worked All Continents) & most likely DXCC (100+ countries).  For me, the curiousity is how many bands I have managed WAS on from the KP2M QTH.  WAC on all bands is harder here because we have not heard many stations from Oceana; altho this morning I heard George working a VK6 (Austrailia) on 20 meter Ssb - good show mate!  (Note:  On Monday K3TN shared his experience of working Asia from this location.  His recommendation is to point the yagi south of Asia more towards the equator to create a zig-zag bounce into Asia.  I'm gonna try that.)

While we both bring different assets to our contest activities, the use of SDR radios to run a Rtty contest was completely George's idea, which made complete sense to me from the day he mentioned the idea.  Using software defined radios allows Rtty operators to completely leverage the many advantages that operating Rtty has.  Altho we encountered a number of "blue screens" (the worst was when Windoze crashed JUST as I was about to click on the ONLY Vermont station in the contest), overall everything performed in tandem with no glarring "Ooooooooopppssss" except for not packing an amplifier control cable for the secondary FLEX-1500.

Operationally, we ran the 5 watts from the main Flex-1500 radio into an intermediate Tokyo
HyPower HL-45b amp giving enough driving power to push an Alpha 89 amplifier
(capable of 1.5kw+) to a whopping 149.49 watts keeping us under the 150-watt limit for the low power
contest category.  As it turns out, Rtty operations don't really need a lot of power to effortlessly communicate world wide; demonstrated by the 200+ QSOs George pulled off in 2 hours on 10-meters.

Running N1MM for contest logging, the keyboard macros allowed us to pick off
stations with rapid ease.  When the operator is in synch with running a frequency, the GRAB button & F11-Now key can maximize efficiency at "cruising-attitude".  In several cases we managed to keep a line of stations going for 20 minutes or more. Unfortunately,because of band-crowding, stations on either side of our operating frequency would eventually squeeeeeeeze us out.

Speaking of crowded bands, only in Rtty contests, do stations move to higher and
higher spots in a band, virtually up to the end of their corresponding operating segments.  On 20-meters we were working stations as high as 14.132; on 15-meters, as high as 21.145.  The spectrum above 14.1 & 21.1 doesn't get enough use, so for contest periods this is simply maximizing an available resource.  On 40 meters where 7.075 - 7.100 is also shared with Ssb stations in global Regions 1 & 3, the only way to go is DOWN - into the Cw section - in counter-balance to the fact that Cw contests expand UP the band squishing Rtty operations against the 7.100 "wall".

Overall, the 2014 RTTY RU was an AWEsome experience altho I would not mind having
another 18 hours of operating time (like CQ WW RTTY) and the ability to run as a Multi-2.
As Multi-2 we could have REALLY leveraged the KP2M station location. 
Maybe one day the ARRL contest guys will finally add Multi-2 to their contests. 
Until then we simply need to be creative in how we leverage our OP time.

Did you work the RTTY RU contest?
If so, did you snag WP2/WQ6X?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

WQ6X's Tips on how to work DX Stations

This is the 2nd installment of my writeup from operations here at St. Croix.
As it turns out running pileups is quite a chore because EVERYBODY wants to make a contact.  However in your haste to make contact with a somewhat sought-after station, it is real easy to ignore proper operating protocols, so I would like to offer you a few tips that will get you contacts with WQ6X/WP2 more quickly and painlessly, as well as just about any DX station.  BTW, you should know, these ideas have only been around for 80 or 90 years, so I would think by now they would be common sense.

  1. Tip #1) LISTEN before you transmit.  I cannot stress that enough.  This evening the stations were so out of control I had to take things by call areas.  So, when I say "8 only", that means the 8th call area ONLY!  If you have a "3" in your callsign or a "1" in your callsign you are WASTING YOUR TIME calling me because I will be ignoring you.  If ten people call me who are not 8's then I cannot hear a legitimate 8 station so 1 - 2 minutes of time is wasted.  In those 2 minutes I could have worked several "8" stations and then moved on to the next call area.  So, when you call out of turn you waste EVERYBODY'S time.
  2. TIP #2) LISTEN FIRST! .  When I send "QRX" that means EVERYBODY should stop sending (I.E. STFU!).  If I have to send QRX 10 times in a row before everybody stops then we have wasted 30 - 40  seconds.
  3. Tip #3) LISTEN FIRST!  If I send "SP8XYZ only" then do not send me your callsign unless you are SP8XYZ - I ONLY want to hear SP8XYZ.
  4. Tip #4) When I am listening to a station come back to me do NOT jump in and ask me for my callsign.  When you ask that you may obliterate a weak station I am attempting to copy.  The MAIN reason you can't figure out my callsign is because everybody is sending on top of me.  Has it ever occurred to you that if you are sending at the same time I am, two things happen:
    #1 - I can't hear you.
    #2 - no one else can hear me because you are sending on top of me and may be louder than I am.
  5. Tip #5) If you continuously violate guidelines #1 to #4 eventually you will piss me off and I will get tired and do what I have done the last 3 nights - I will abruptly QRT.  So guess whut?  You STILL don't get to work me.  

    If you want your chance to work a DX station, you need to "get in line", be courteous and patient.  All too often we CAN hear you, but when you call out of turn, to be fair to others we will ignore you and do our best to work those who are more courteous.
  6. Tip #6) LISTEN (are you getting how important it is to listen?)  Friday on 15-meter Ssb I worked 190 stations in 2 hours, and you know what?  They were courteous, listened to and followed my instructions - and guess what?  It worked!!  We all had a fun time.  Why?  Because they listened.  When I asked if there are any QRP stations, the non-QRP stations (the 99%) kept their mouth shut and let me give the weak QRP stations a chance.  When I called for mobile stations, only mobile stations answered up.  As it turns out, nearly everybody who wanted to work me got their chance quickly and effortlessly.  The same thing happend on 160 meters and 80 meters this evening.  But as soon as I get on 40-meters - Ssb or CW - stations (in all honesty MOSTLY Europeans) get PUSHY & RUDE, which RUINS it for EVERYBODY.
  7. TIP #7)  If I didn't work you then you are NOT in the log.  So if you send me a QSL card and I see you are not in the log, I will tear up your card and you will have wasted your card and your stamp.

I know you want to add St. Croix to your DXCC list, but please understand that the way people get the DXCC award is to EARN IT. You earn DXCC by legitimately working 100+ countries.  You do that by LISTENING before you transmit; then transmit at the PROPER TIME.  If you are not sure if you should transmit, then you probably should not.  Instead you should listen until you are SURE it is YOUR TURN to transmit.

It really IS THAT EASY - listen before you transmit.  Before you know it, you will have that DXCC award, with not only 100 countries, but 200+ or even 300.  However you cant get that If you don't learn how to LISTEN BEFORE YOU TRANSMIT.

Can I make this any more easy to understand?
If so please let me know how and I will attempt to simplify the above tips even further.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

WQ6X/WP2 & N6GEO/NP2 drop anchor on ST-Croix. in the Caribbean

WQ6X/WP2 & N6GEO/NP2 are currently operating from the KP2M location on the Caribbean island of St. Croix (CQ Zone 8), ostensibly for the RTTY RU contest this coming weekend, but also to put the Virgin Islands on the air before & after the contest.  George is focusing his efforts on PSK31 and RTTY operation while I focus on running pileups on SSB & Cw from 160 to 10 meters on SSB & Cw.  Thus far in 24 hours I have passed the 500 QSO mark - not bad for an ad hoc setup. 
I found a brief opening on 160 meter Cw last night and managed to snag 10 stations.  Look for me more on 160 Ssb & Cw in the coming week.

Because this blog exists to give you my thoughts/feelings/emotions regarding operating, I would like to make a few comments about what it is like to be a sought after DX station.

The FT-1000mp gives me a lot of operating options, which are needed to successfully pull off such an operation.  I am amazed by how many stations (esp. on SSB) who are off frequency and need to be tuned in. How can they even understand me when they are that far off frequency?

I am also surprised by the number of stations who cannot follow directions.  Sometimes the pileups are so fierce that I have had to take it by call areas.  I call for area "1" and get obliterated by stations from other call areas.  My solution is to simply repeat my instructions and IGNORE the stations who don't listen and/or follow instructions.  It got so bad at 07:00z that I finally went QRT and was amazed by how PROUD many U.S. stations were that they chased me off. Remember folks, the most IMPORTANT operating tip is COURTESY. 
When you call out of turn you can obliterate the stations who are legitimately trying to get thru.

Also, while running a frequency I have been taking time to listen especially for mobiles and low-power (QRP) stations, because they deserve a break too.  The best QRP signal today was an S-9 1 watt signal on 10-meter Ssb from Maryland; proof that you don't need power on 10-meters to work the world.

Because I detest DX-peditions who only give out 5-9 or 599, I endeavor to give out REAL signal reports and exchange operator names for my log to make it more personal.

I will have more to say about our operation here, but for now, this is to let you know that St. Croix is radio-active.  My goal is to get WAS & WAC on all bands and as close to DXCC on as many bands as possible.

When we are finished here I will be uploading the WP2/WQ6X log (as well as the RTTY RU log) to the LOTW so y'all can get DXCC credit for our operations here.

Have you worked WQ6X or N6GEO on St. Croix?
There is still plenty of time.