Saturday, August 23, 2014

WQ6X joins the NX6T Multi-2 Operation for NAQP Ssb

Last weekend I made the trek to "NashVille" to join team NX6T in the August 2014 NAQP contest.  We ran as a multi-2 operation plus a spotting radio tied in with station #2 to pick up additional contacts on whatever band the station #2 operator is running.

To make the transition transmitting between station 2 and 3, the station 2 operator is able to move a knife-switch to split the headphone audio bewtwen JUST station 2, or a combination (#2 in left ear, #3 in right ear) or just station 3.  The station 2 operator acts as a conductor, stopping long enough to allow station 3 to make a contact and then resumes with running a frequency.  Done correctly, a few dozen extra QSOs can be made per hour, taking what would have been just under 1,000 Q's to over 1200, giving us what looks to be a 4th place for the Multi-2 category.

A number of short video clips were made this weekend:
One video was made by N6KI - click here to see it.
The other two videos were made by WQ6X:

Because this was a North American based contest, we didn't crank the main antenna tower to full height for operating the 20-15-10 meter bands.

It wasn't until about 01:30z that we upped the main tower to 70 feet allowing us to run 80 & 160 meters; altho 160 turned out to be too noisy from our location.

Radio-wise we ran a trio of Elecraft K3 radios barefoot (no amplifiers allowed in NAQP).  Despite the low power, thanks to our location (900' above sea level) along with the Stepp-IR and 40-meter yagi's we had a bodacious signal all around, even into Europe.  I even managed to work HZ1AB (Abdul) in Saudi Arabia Saturday afternoon on 15 meters.

Operator wise 13 operators made up the team @ NX6T.  During each shift we had 3 - 5 operators manning the 3 K3 radios.

Because we had both male and female operators, we used the name "Pat" (Papa Alpha Tango) instead of Dennis or Ron.

Using the 4 channel voice keyer built-in to each K3 radio we kept the voice noise in the operating room down to a minimum.  Once channels are recorded an entire contest can be run with the only words used are the utterance of the other station's callsign.  Then again, sometimes it is actually faster to relegate the voice keyer use just to calling CQ and actually speak the contest exchange: "WQ6X - this is Pat in California!".

Part of the success of the NX6T operation can be attributed to three identical station setups run by identical copies of the WINTEST software running under Windoze XP (SP-3).

Having special operating aids (such as Mr. Bill and an EASY Button) give us additional advantage over other stations that have not thought to use such tools.  We make no apologies for our use of such operating aids as it is the "little things" which make the last 10% - 20% of a contest operating score.  You may recall several years ago that I included the use of the Neurosky Mindset to EEG evaluate my operating efficiency during the NAQP CW.

For 2014 NAQP, running as a Multi-2 gave us many advantages, one being allowed to operate all 12 hours of the contest.  Single OPs are limited to operating only 10 out of the 12 hours.

When I operate as a single OP, I usually choose to not operate the 1st and last hour of the event; which is perfect considering that I am usually a late starter in most contests that begin before noon local time.

Per the 3830 Scores website it would seem that NX6T took 4th place in the Multi-2 category.  That gives PAT a double-pat on the back, but no awards of any kind.  Oh well.  Our operation went very smoothly with no equipment failures.
It also gave us the opportunity to introduce two new operators to the world of contesting.
Possibly we can recruit them for the night shift in the upcoming All Asian Ssb contest on Sept. 6th.

Did you work the NAQP this year?
If so, is NX6T in YOUR log?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Some after thoughts on working DX stations

Being on the DX'er end of things since the January DX-pedition to St. Croix, I've had to take my own advice (given in January's Blogs) regarding how to call DX stations to snag the rare new ones that have been showing up every few weeks.

There is an art to working DX which wraps around the guidelines I expressed in the previous Blog entries on working DX.  You may remember in those comments I make a strong point about the importance of listening.  While listening IS important, next in importance concerns the actual transmitted signal; what it sounds like and what frequency is chosen, as well as the timing of the transmission itself.
Here are some things that come to mind.

On phone speak legibly - use proper phonetics.I am amazed how many phone operators cannot be understood; not so much because they can't speak fluid English but because they either mumble, yell or are just plain unintelligible.  Use proper phonetics.  People like KH6BZF(sk) can get away with "Bloomin' Zipper Flipper" because we know who they are.  Otherwise, your cute phonetics will simply add to the confusion.
Additionally, please give me your FULL callsign, not a FRAGMENT of your callsign.  I tend to ignore fragments alone.  For example, instead of saying 6-Xray, give me Whiskey Quebec 6-Xray. Sometimes I will ID as Whiskey Quebec 6-Xray, 6-Xray.

On CW send clearly - slower is preferable to illegible.
Some operators think it is cool to send their callsign at 35+ WPM - it isn't.  I prefer slow and concise rather than lightning fast.  If I have to ask you for a repeat, then everybody's time is wasted.

Be on the correct frequency.
I am amazed at operator's inability to put themselves on a correct frequency.  If you are off frequency then I can't properly/easily copy you.  Yes most radios have RIT, however, the use of it should be a rarity, not a necessity.
On CW, because of the pileups, we DX stations turn on our tight filters.  If you are too far off frequency you will be outside the "skirts" of the filter and will not be heard.  When I am calling a DX station and he does not come back to me, I will shift the TX frequency around until I end up in the center of his narrow receive passband.  I take responsability for being sure that he hears me.

For SSB I am often on an obvious frequency such as 21232.32, so you visually KNOW when you have me correctly tuned in.  Correctly tuning in an SSB signal is an art that requires LOTS of practice.  So, practice LISTENING FIRST; then when you have me PROPERLY tuned in, make your call.

Insure your signal is clean
On CW this means a signal with no buzz or chirps.  I am very particular on this.  We amateurs are supposed to pride ourselves on clean signals.  Signals with a Tone of less than 9, are technically a violation of international radio regulations.  I tend to ignore buzzy and chirpy signals, unless there is no one else calling me.  Give your signal a PLEASING tone and I am more likely to want to work you.

On SSB be sure your radio produces clean audio, not overly compressed, and not bass or treble heavy. 
If your voice sounds muffled or tinny I may not be able to understand you.

Also on SSB, don't assume the DX station is using P-T-T; instead, consider that the operator may be using VOX with a noticeably after-transmit delay.  I.e., wait AT LEAST 1-second before making your call.  Otherwise, in your haste, the prefix of your call will be cut off requiring the DX operator to ask for a repeat.  Then, if you are still too quick, your callsign will again be clipped, creating a back-and-forth scenario that wastes time and frustrates everyone.

Work split frequency properly.
If the DX operator says UP 3, then transmit more-or-less UP 3kc.  To transmit on the DX frequency shows  lack of respect for the DX station's operating skills.  As a DX station I sometimes listen to my own frequency.  If I hear people calling on my frequency, I remind them the frequency I am listening on.  And PLEASE do NOT admonish those calling on my frequency.  You may be louder than I am so you cover me up.  Simply call me UP 3, get your QSO and move on.

These are just some of the tips for working DX stations.
I wrote more tips in January's blog-set.
You can review those comments below:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

WQ6X/WP2: Some after thoughts

The WQ6X/WP2 & N6GEO/NP2 expedition to St. Croix is nearly 7 months behind us.  Our original goal for operating from /WP2 was reached as we ended up taking 1st Place (for DX) in 2014's RTTY RU Competition.  Originally, our thinking was that we would be "outclassed" by the Mega S. American stations; evidently they were all HP operations.

This is further proof that it isn't necessarily high power that wins contests.  150 watts and an array of multi-element antennas are really all that is needed.  Of course the actual location of the WP2 QTH had a lot to do with our outcome.

Due to logging errors our score was dinged down from 116k to 107k, although not enough to be overcome by SP9KDA who (according to 3830Scores.Com) submitted a 106,742 point score which was eventually dinged down to 99.5k.  That's actually quite close - WHEW!
Now, if the RTTY RU had a Multi-2 category, we could have near-doubled our QSO total.  George and I do Multi-2 operations very well together.

The QST magazine RTTY RU writeup gave us a nice mention in the contest soapbox.  I put a picture of the writeup on the WQ6X.Info/WP2 web page.  This goes along great with CQP.Org's showcasing our 2013 CQP 1st place operation from Modoc county - another low power operation.

Additionally, our performance was aided by the K6TU propagation charts George printed in advance of our operation .  During the flight to San Juan, from those charts I pieced together an operating schedule designed to maximize band utilization; although typical to actual contest operations, the real world (discovered by actually listening on the bands) was sometimes not even close to the chart predictions.

Here is the Hammock I slept on for most of our stay on St. Croix.

Why sleep inside when I can be rocked to sleep at night by a gentle wind and the sound of waves off in the distance.

While I enjoyed 70 degree breezy wx at night, the rest of the U.S. was suffering thru minus degree cold fronts and snow storms.

QSLs are finally being designed and should be ready for distribution in September.

The after-contest operating videos have now been uploaded to YouTube.
You can find them at:
WQ6X/WP2 on 80-Meter C.w.
WQ6X/WP2 on 15-Meter SSB
WQ6X/WP2 on 21.232 mhz. Ssb @16:44z
WQ6X/WP2 working OE9MON ON 21.205 mhz @ 16:37Z
WQ6X/WP2 Working stations on 17-Meter SSB
WQ6X/WP2 Running stations on 10-Meter Ssb @ 18:57z
WQ6X/WP2 Running Europe on 15-Meter Ssb
WQ6X/WP2 working N.A. & Europe on 30-Meter Cw

Did you participate in the 2014 RTTY Roundup?
If so, is WP2/WQ6X in YOUR log?