2015 marked one of the most dismal ARRL 10-meter contests I've ever been a part of.
Between work commitments, a hastily assembled 2nd story portable operation and horrible space weather,
I amassed only 3 dozen QSOs.
In order to make things easier to setup, I chose to run CW only.
To computer run CW I use a West Mountain Plug-N-Play unit for keying the Yaesu FT-1000MP.
Because I operated from a 2nd story hotel room, antenna-wise a Cobra dipole was draped 1/2 across the ceiling, and 1/2 hung out the window. While the 1000MP was able to tune this dipole sometimes the tuner gears needed some grinding before a match could be worked out. When I later encountered problematic RFI floating around the room, that the tuner took so long doesn't now surprise me. At one point I got a laser-point RF burn when my hand bumped one of the wires on the 4:1 balun.
Indoor antennas always have some nice surprises.
While I ran only CW, I made use of the DUAL receive capability in the 1000MP by putting the 2nd receiver into phone band looking for area openings. The 1000MP has excellent audio mixing abilities; one receiver in each air. Because I ran as ASSISTED, the bandmap helped me locate new multipliers.
I was not able to setup before the contest and missed whatever band opening existed in the first 4 hours of the contest. So in fact, I made the 1st QSO mid Saturday morning.
10-meter band conditions were poor all weekend from my east bay location.
As it turns out, most Californians had a similar experience. During my hours on the air Europe and Africa never materialized; either in the receiver or on the bandmap. I saw many VK's ZL's and JA's in the bandmap but never heard any of them.
While I could work everyone I heard, that reach was only as far as Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Bonaire. Because the signals were often weak, I made extensive use of the Yaesu's contour control and pair of 250-hz filters to pop stations above the noise.
Due to a late morning band opening and afternoon work commitments I barely had time for 90 minutes of operation on Sunday. When I arrived back at the hotel at 23:30z 10 meters was already gone for the day leaving me with a grand total of 36 QSOs in the log.
While this year's 10-meter contest was a ho-hummer (years past events have resulted in 1st place finishes from EB section), what was important is that the newly acquired FT-1000MP was put through a number of difficult situations which needed to be tested.
For example, the previous radio owner had installed a pair of 250 hz filters yet never enabled them via the menu system. I was not aware these filters were even installed until I attempted to menu enable them and found that they existed and worked.
This year's 10-meter contest provided verification of the fact that solar cycle 24 is nearing its end.
While summertime brings increased 10-meter activity, the winter months ahead will find fewer/poorer band openings. However just because 10 meters sounds dead does not mean there is no available activity.
If everybody is listening and no one is calling CQ, the band may appear to be dead.
When in doubt, put in a call yourself - you may be surprised at who returns that call.
During last year's 10 meter contest, while the band seemed rather quiet at 3:30z (7:30 pm local time),
a "CQ contest" flushed out over a dozen stations lurking about. When you work a station calling CQ contest at times like this, be sure to spot the station in one or more DX clusters.
Operators seeing it popped into their bandmap will then be more likely to spend more time on the
seemingly "dead" band - something to THINGK about.
Even with declining sunspot activity, 10 meters can be a lot of challenging fun.
Did you work this year's 10 meter contest?
Is WQ6X one of the rare QSOs in your log?