Friday, December 23, 2016

WQ6X joins NX6T remotely for ARRL 10-meter contest

What can be said about a 10-meter contest in the winter time at the bottom of the sunspot cycle?  Last year, my solo attempt at the 10-meter contest was a complete bust; my 36 CW QSOs hardly made a showing.

WQ6X's 2015 ad-HOC setup

That portable operation lacked an antenna which would radiate much; PJ2T and KH6LC being the only non North American QSOs made from
the 3rd story hotel room.


For 2012, 2013 & 2014 I teamed up with N6GEO using the K6T, WQ6X & N6GEO callsigns respectively; taking 1st place for East Bay (EB) section
in all 3 years.

Friday afternoon Space WX

For 2016, I was unable to make an appearance in "NashVille"; instead adding some SSB QSOs to the NX6T log running remotely from the
SF bay area.

Before the 2016 event began I was dismayed to see the HORRIBLE space weather predictions; making me glad I didn't make the drive to Fallbrook.


Precise cabling behind the scenes at NX6T

Now in retrospect I see that just because propagation predictions
are horrible is no reason to NOT participate; remember, predictions
are just that - predictions.

While propagation conditions largely favored North and South America,
as it turns out there were certainly QSOs to be made.

For NX6T, Europe and Africa were all but non-existent; which makes me wonder if I would've done better for myself to setup the FT-1000mp at W7AYT in East Bay (EB) section: Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda.



Because we are entering the final months of solar cycle 24, after the contest was over and N6KI posted the NX6T score on the 3830Scores.Com website, curiosity struck me to analyze the last 5 years of NX6T's 10-meter contest involvement, plotted against
the Solar Flux Index (SFI).

While the general consensus is that higher scores occur during high[er] SFI numbers, at NX6T it would seem that the reverse is what actually happens.


Normally there is a shortage of CW operators in contests from "NashVille".  Except for last year, the 10-meter contest is largely an exception. 
The original idea was for me to remote-in and run CW for a couple of hours.
Because we were well-equipped CW-wise, I remoted-in search-and-pouncing on SSB by way of the WINTEST function keys which invoked the voice-keyer channels in the K3 radio.

If I sounded like Dennis (N6KI) it is because he recorded HIS voice on Station-1's radio before
turning it over to me remotely.

Saturday afternoon Space WX

While this year's 10-meter contest was a tough-GO, as it turns out, we performed way beyond what
I had originally predicted.

NX6T probably secured a distant 2nd place for the U.S.;  partially because everyone else experienced a reduction in QSOs between this year and last.



Did YOU play in the ARRL 10-meter contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

N6KI & WQ6X Dual-OP 160 Contest as NX6T

WQ6X

Recently, the only good thing I can say about the current sunspot cycle low is that 160 meters has come alive rather nicely for this year's ARRL 160 meter contest.

 I booked a business trip to Burbank by first making a detour through "NashVille" to join up with N6KI in order that we dual-OP the 160 contest.
Internet router configuration problems and relatively intrusive winds from the west almost sidelined this operation.

To make things easier, I authored this blog entry as the weekend progressed.

I arrived at NX6T to discover that things were not ready. The AT&T router lost its mind and needed to be reconfigured and tower #2 with 160 Inverted Vee had not been raised.



Tower #2 collapsed down
 

Because of the winds we decided to run with the tower at the 40' (13mh) position. An advantage to this is that our radiation pattern is probably more 360-like. If the winds die down we will consider putting the tower up to its 70' (23mh) height. 

At 02:40z N6KI put our first QSO in the log and I wandered off to do other things. By the time I took over for the dinner run at 04:15z Dennis had put 140 QSOs in the log.

During the dinner run I managed to add 180 more QSOs in the log despite adjacent QRM from the IDIOT who ran W7RN (probably remotely); he worked me and then went up 200 hz to call CQ forcing me to drop down 300 hz to knock him out of the K3's receive passband. 


Only a True LiD would work a station and then call CQ less than 1kc away from that same station who had been on the frequency for nearly 3 hours.



N6KI
When Dennis came back from dinner, I attempted some sleep, dragging myself into the shack at 10:10z (02:10 am in Fallbrook). He had been alternating between S&P'ing and running a frequency. I took over the frequency for nearly an hour before I too, had to S&P to make my time worth SOMETHING. As sunrise came upon NX6T, the east coast, then the Midwest, then the mountain time zone quietly faded away. The ending QSO count is at 484 in 5 different countries for a score of 70,900 points thus far.

When I rolled out of bed at NOON, I stepped outside to discover virtually NO wind activity: To the degree the wind speed is DOWN, Tower #2 can go UP; and it in fact did. Did it make a difference? It DiD seem like there were more S-2 stations calling during the middle of the night.
 

To pick them out we used one of N6KI's favorite techniques involving turning off the AGC (risking BLASTs of audio when a strong station showed up) while backing off the RF gain and upping the audio gain. Like running two VFOs (SO2V), making this work requires PRACTICE.

Tower #2 fully extended

Because the 160 contest is largely an evening contest, for NX6T the band didn't reopen until 23:00z on Saturday, with me making the 1st contact at 23:22z.


One of the refreshing things about 160 mater contests is that there is no 40-meter intentional QRM to deal with. Earlier I mentioned the QRM from a loud Nevada station.

In another like incident (possibly with the same station), I parked NX6T on 1818.18. Hearing no response to my "QRL?" I began calling CQ Test followed shortly by the other station calling CQ on 1817.40 (with no "QRL?" first).

Making no QSOs he eventually gave up, zeroed my frequency and sent "TNX ASS".
My response was "73 - TU NX6T QRZ?"


NX6T being spotted


While we were continuously being spotted, it was discovered after the contest was over that other California stations heard several Western European and Spanish stations trying to call us, altho they were too weak for us to hear - Bummer Dewd!

We certainly could have used the extra multipliers. Dennis (N6KI) has vowed that there will be replacement for the downed "Beverage" antennas by the time the CQ 160 contest happens the end of January.



Overall, N6KI & WQ6X made a decent showing in the ARRL 160 contest.

We may well have taken first place for San Diego section and the W6 call area; not bad for a hastily organized contest event. [CLICK Here] to see our 3830 Scores website.

Did YOU work the ARRL160 meter contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

WQ6X dabbles in CQ W.W. CW Contest



Convening a congress of CW ops for the W.W. Dx contest never seems to happen at NX6T.

Because of this, in 2015, I ran the CQ WW SSB event solo onsite from NX6T. For the CW GiG I operated WQ6X from NX6T remotely from two different hotels during a driving trip from the SF bay area to Burbank. ([CLICK HERE] to read that write up.)


This weekend work commitments kept me in the bay area so I chose to reprise the 2015 remote operation idea interspersed with client work. Because I would be running barefoot - a disadvantage against kilowatt mega stations - the choice was made to run as an assisted station.
Unfortunately, by the 00:00z (4pm) start time the network backbone at "Nashville" (NX6T in Fallbrook) was being revamped and was unavailable.

Around 07:00z the VPN network became available allowing me to setup N1MM+ over the internet.
The 1st contest QSO was made at 07:45z as N6KI was driving down the hill back to "civilization".


The RCForb control screen

Equipment-wise, running STN#1 gave me access to a barefoot Elecraft K3 (run remotely via the RCForb control software) running into a 13mh C-31 yagi for the high bands.


For 40 meters a 2-el yagi did the job on tower #2 with an 80 meter inverted Vee atop that same tower.



C-31 Yagi

While I was not able to rotate the antennas, a surprising number of QSOs were made from all continents, except central Europe (where the C-31 was in fact pointed); only contacts with Scandinavia made it into the log.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear LOUD signals from West/South Africa although the QUANTITY of African stations was certainly lacking.




Space WX at contest start

Throughout the contest I encountered seemingly "dead" bands on 10, 15 & 20 meters. Then, out of nowhere a lone station would BooM through.

This suggests to me that the bands were in fact open the entire time; the only thing missing were stations calling CQ. What this mean is that bands SOUND dead when everyone is listening and no one is transmitting.

This phenomenon occurs more often on 10 and 160 meters than you might realize.

Of course the 194 QSOs in my log will not win any awards, however it did add a number of country & prefix variations to the WQ6X country total. Once things got underway there were no equipment failures; only internet latency failures.  Out of boredom from clicking spots, from time to time I took a chance and ran a frequency.

Tower 2: Stepp-IR + 2-el. 40 + 80-m inv. Vee

Frequency-running during remote operations can be risky because poor internet-latency often ruins the operating rhythm, however it sure beats wading through pileups when running low power.

While many of the callers were statesiders and Canadians, I was also surprised to receive calls from:
PJ2T, VE9AA, VE9ML,CN2AA, KH6TU, V28K, 6Y3T & ZS2NF.



During this contest, I was surprised to encounter no intentional QRM. Unfortunately, the contest participants generated even more QRM by being poor listeners and during pileups, simply BLASTing their callsign when only a specific callsign was asked for.


STN#1 @NX6T
Just as wasteful were the stations who made a QSO with me and then 20 minutes or an hour later are calling me again on the same band. Often times the QRM is so bad that it takes several repeats to get their callsign, only to discover we just worked.
The 30 seconds to a minute of time that is wasted with all that could have been better utilized adding QSOs to MY log. One of the reasons we use logging software is for the built-in callsign lookup facility, which all but eliminates duplicate QSOs.

What confused me this weekend were the number of super stations that would call CQ and then have 5 to 10 callers from different parts of the globe call them only to call CQ again. This suggests to me that these stations were "busy", most likely on another radio or VFO - SO2R or SO2V.
While I have recently been successful with SO2V, anytime I get confused,
I disable VFO B and focus on the run frequency.

Stations should not have to wait around because I am busy doing something else. If I can't keep up with stations on my run frequency then I should not be dividing my attention between it and other bands or frequencies.
When it goes well SO2V/SO2R can be an incredibly fun increase in the QSO rate. 
However when it goes bad, not only does it alienate calling stations waiting on your run frequency,
it also violates contest operating ethics.

Remember: most contests do not allow calling CQ on 2 or more frequencies (unless you are a multi-OP station). If calling CQ is not working then you should yield your run frequency and switch to search & pounce (S&P). To blindly stumble through makes it a waste of frequency allocation resources for EVERYBODY.


While I never expect to submit a winning score for the CQ W.W. DX contest, as with the WPX GiG I am always thrilled when unusual prefixes and countries show up.

After Thanksgiving, I am always thankful I spent a few hours in the CQ W.W. operators seat - so to speak.


Did YOU play in the CQ World Wide DX contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

WQ6X survives 2016 SSB Sweepstakes


The November Sweepstakes is my favorite amateur radio competition.  In years past I have operated numerous Sweepstakes events several times from a house in Ojai, a campsite off Carpinteria state beach, several times in tandem with N6GEO in Brentwood (earning several 1st place certificates and a plaque), and last year Single-OP unlimited from W7AYT's QTH in Concord, which resulted in a surprise win of the Pacific Division plaque.


This year, poised to repeat last year's success I ran as unlimited during the CW event; probably winning 1st place for East Bay (EB) section, handing Pacific Division to K6JS (in the SF section).

No doubt about it, this year's phone event was one of the most difficult Sweepstakes operations I've ever run; almost as difficult as my 2008 operation from Carpinteria State beach.  To begin with, what makes this year's operation so amazingly difficult is that while the A & K indexes were quite low, the space weather forecast still listed the upper bands as POOR; which they in fact were.

During this year's phone event, for me in the East Bay section, 10 meters was non-existent and 15 meters produced less than a dozen QSOs.  Thinking that might auger well for 160 meters turned out to be yet another Sweepstakes fantasy; no one responded to my futile CQ SS calls on top band (around the top of several evening hours and during the final contest hour).

Section-wise, this was one of my worst Sweepstakes operations EVER.  While finally managing to work Nebraska (K0NEB) a number of "easy" sections were surprisingly missing for WQ6X including EMA, NLI, EPA, SFL, KY & LAX - HuH?  Several sections (such as ND, SB, SC & MS) were heard working other stations but could not be coaxed into my log.

Always remember that the November Sweepstakes is: a Traffic Handling Training Exercise. 
As radiosport contests go, the November Sweepstakes utilizes the most comprehensive data exchange; except maybe, QTC message passing during the WAE (Worked All Europe) contest.
This can be seen on the WQ6X Sweepstakes website page: http://WQ6X.Info/Sweepstakes.

Lengthy exchanges can put a lot of stress on the voice; a problem that we resolve by using "voice keying": playing voice recordings through the transmit audio.  While some radios have built-in voice keying (such as the Elecraft K3, ICOM-7000 and Yaesu radios with a DVS attachment unit), for non-equipped radios, the N1MM contest logging software sports a facility to play .WAV files ("attached" to function keys) through the computer sound card.

I devised an isolation circuit using a Radio Shack audio transformer to eliminate ground loops between laptop and computer; which it did.  Unfortunately, paralleling the output of the isolation circuit created such an impedance mismatch the microphone output was almost non-existent.  While each worked fine separately, running them together was not possible.   For some reason, the patch jack on the back panel of the FT-1000mp was not mixing properly with the transmitted audio.

Mic audio switch kludge
Unable to find a mic splitter unit on a moments notice, I retrofitted a PTT button to patch the computer audio in during transmit periods; a BiG hassle, and, it worked.

As I was packing the audio cable bag after the contest, I remembered I had bought TWO audio transformers which could have solved my problem w/o a switch arrangement.
Oh well, I'll be ready for December's 10-meter contest.


While Sweepstakes is a training exercise, most advanced operators are willing to take a couple of minutes to walk a contest-newbie through making a proper Sweepstakes exchange.  I remember listening to K5NA as he patiently explained the exchange information to someone who just happened onto his Sweepstakes activity late Saturday afternoon - well done.  Last year's newbies are this year's competition for section awards - go figure.

For this Sweepstakes event, fading-IN then fading-OUT was the predominate experience.  Listening to KL4SD I realized he was on a sinusoidal fade in/out.  Making my call to him on the fade in he heard me S-9 gave his exchange and then faded out.  I waited several seconds before responding to him on the next fade-in.  The same thing happened for snagging Hawaii.

CH-250 Vertical
Running two antennas (a Comet CH-250 vertical and a 7mh Cobra pseudo inverted vee), the Yaesu FT-1000mp was able to quickly switch between the two looking for the best signal.  While sometimes slow to auto-tune, the 1000mp kept everything matched.  As for the actual radiation efficiency of the two antennas, your guess is
as good as mine.

Nevertheless, it seemed that I could hear signals way better than they could hear me.  At various times I would call CQ for 10+ minutes with no reply.  Then, switching to VFO-B I would S&P a station, working him on the 1st call.  HuH?

Saturday afternoon found the laptop docking device to
be prone to stray RF on 21 mhz., causing the COM1 & COM2 ports (controlling the radio) to disappear for inordinate periods of time; one of the major reasons
I spent such little time on 15.  However overall, the Dynadock kept the USB port access well under control, making it a worthwhile addition to WQ6X portable station operation.


Saturday night brought the usual bevy of intentional QRM attempts; most classic being what I call a "data cranker" on 7.177 at 07:47z.  The transmission switched to a warbling noise followed by a burst of high-speed RTTY.  WTF was that all about?  I've heard this "data cranker" on 7.177 on many weekends.

One of my "beefs" during this year's Sweepstakes were the many stations obviously running SO2-R that would then "disappear" for long periods when moments ago they were S-9+.  As usual, I made several calls to the station with no response, followed by "QRZ the frequency".

Hearing no response I would then press F1, calling my own CQ to claim the frequency.  Shortly after my call, the station would suddenly "wake up" and blindly call CQ, oblivious to the fact that the frequency was now in use by someone else - NoT OK!

While I was running SO2-V, occasionally I would get so hung up S&P'ing that my run frequency would be taken over by someone else.  Because the old saying "you snooze, you lose" applies to me too, in those situations I did the only ethical thing - I found a NEW run frequency; or waited for the station to QSY on his own, before claiming the run frequency again.  As is usually the case, I heard less than a handful of stations inquire "QRZ the Frequency?" during the ENTIRE contest. 

Not listening ALSO occurred numerous times when a station would be running a frequency and pause after working a station.  During his pause I would send my callsign, only to hear him then call CQ, responding to my SECOND call.  BEFORE calling CQ we should always LISTEN FIRST for anyone calling us.  Making a CQ call when a station has just called you is not only poor operating courtesy, it also unnecessarily wastes a LoT of time.

Another concern this year is with stations who should know better, running so close to the band edge that their splatter was technically OUT of the phone segment.  At 20:31z one notable Texas station was running a frequency on 14150.48.  With his kilowatt and speech compression, splatter was easily heard down to 14146.

Come on guys, get with the contest rules.  There was PLENTY of room above this station for him to have moved to 14.153, or even higher.
Because Sweepstakes is a training exercise, proper operating ethics should be the uppermost priority.  Anyone can win by violating the letter and spirit of the rules. The real PRO wins while making NO violations.

When it was all over I had amassed only 15 hours of OP time; starting 2 hours late and sleeping in on Sunday morning.  Due to questionable band conditions I only managed one good run frequency from 22:37z - 22:51z for a WHOPPing 12 QSOs during that period.

2016 SSB Sweepstakes results


Altho 2016 made for a frustrating pair of Sweepstakes operations, I would not have missed this one for anything - each portable event brings its own challenges.  While I didn't win a Pacific Division plaque, 1st place for East Bay is still in the realm of possibility.



Did YOU work the 2016 Sweepstakes phone contest?
Did you manage a section sweep?
Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

TRIO-Ops @ NX6T take 2nd place for JIDX SSB

Human Insights Group business brought me to So. California, allowing me to first rendezvous with the NX6T group at "NashVille" in Fallbrook (900' up) for the 2016 JIDX SSB contest.  In both phone & CW JIDX contests, NX6T has won several 1st place world-wide plaques; several of which I have been a part of.

For the 2016 JIDX Cw contest, I ran single-op from W7AYT's QTH (SF bay area), submitting the log as a 1st-place 40-meter single-band entry, because upper band condx. were so poor.


During this November event, the space WX numbers continued to be horrible extending from the last 3 weeks; surprising for such a low SFI.

For NX6T, 10 meters never materialized.  The only thing I saw on the DX Map were propagation paths to Oceania & South America, with no opening to Asia (or even North America).


N6KI (Left) and KK6NON
While I caught up on my sleep before the night shift, N6KI (Dennis) began operations on 40 meters promptly at 07:00z,  Thanks to an early Asia opening, Dennis managed nearly 120 QSOs before rousting me out of bed for my operating stint at 1:30 am (09:30z).

Until 40 meters faded out at 14:00z I made 160 QSOs on 40 interspersed with a handful on 80 meters.
20 meters never materialized until around 22:00z when Levi KK6NON made the scene to work a bunch of them. 


C-31 Yagi + MAG-loop antenna for 80/160
Between Levi running frequencies and Dennis working stray JA stations, 119 QSOs made it into the log on 15 meters.  During their operation I made a short YouTube video (View here) in addition to taking pics of the overall operation.
After 15 meters closed, 20 meters never materialized to Asia as the MUF dropped towards 40 meters.  N6KI took over at 06:30z finding a JA opening shortly after 07:00z,   When I took over at 09:30z only another 20 QSOs had found their way to the log.

Taking the final shift I added another 70 QSOs to the log, including another handful on 75 meters.  We were down to 2 prefectures left to make a prefecture sweep: #29 (Fukui) & #47 (Okinawa).  In the last 90 minutes I was surprised by calls from three Okinawa stations; a JS6, and a JR6 followed by another JS6 station.   Lacking any plentiful JA9 stations, prefecture #29 never materialized - maybe next year.


In addition to poor 75-meter propagation, I believe one of main reasons for poor JA turnout on 75 meters has to do with the IDIOTIC band plan JA amateurs must put up with.

While we were ahead of the QSO count from last year's contest for the 1st half of the event, lacking sufficient band opening time on 15 meters resulted in 150 QSOs less than the 2015 event. Our 2016 score was about 60% of last year's 1st-place plaque winning event.

When it was all over K3EST+N6RO produced over 1,000 QSOs for a definitive 1st place, giving us 2nd place significantly ahead of our usual nemesis the dual-op HG7T.

While we had high hopes for another 1st place, we had not counted on the gang @ N6RO to run multi-op; in years past K3EST had been running SOAB.
Nevertheless, NX6T's gang of 3 made an amazing showing, considering the atmospheric conditions available to us.

QRM-wise, 40 meters produced a number of intentional-QRM sources, including a "data cranker" on 7.152 at 11:18z Saturday followed by a continuous RTTY source on 7.171.71 at 13:00z.

I noticed that occasionally the RTTY would stop; ostensibly to "listen".  Moving down to 7170.70 solved that problem.  While looking for JA's on 75 meters I again encountered the Chinese military station M8JF calling for Russian RIS9 on 3777.84 at 13:33z.  on 40 meters, the Russian M & K beacons were in full force on 7.040, altho luckily we were not plagued by any OTH radar signals.

Stations #2 & #3

At 11:18z Sunday morning while calling CQ JIDX on 3749.49 I was bombarded with RTTY QRM that came and went.

It came back at 11:25z disappearing at 11:30z just in time to be informed by a weak station that a traffic net was about to start on 3.750 and would I please QSY.

I stopped transmitting to listen and never heard any traffic net stations so I am not sure what that was all about.


I abandoned 75 meters and headed back to 7152.52.
At 12:45z the intentional QRM again materialized so I slid down to 7151.51 to finish the contest,
just shy of 500 QSOs for 48k points.



















Did YOU work the JIDX SSB contest?

How many Japanese prefectures are in YOUR log?

Monday, November 7, 2016

WQ6X wins another Cw Sweepstakes 1st place from EB section

This year I made another arrangement with W7AYT (Dennis) to setup the FT-1000mp from his home QTH in Concord California - East Bay (EB) section.

Because the location already sports a Comet CH-250 vertical, I no longer have to bring my old and battered HF2-V vertical to the site.  However I always bring one of the trusty Cobra dipoles and hang it as a semi inverted Vee from a tree branch about 8mh - it ain't much but works surprisingly well.


With assistance from Dennis, we retrofitted the spare bedroom by moving in a large dinning room table outfitted with a piece of wood to hold the 35" TV used as a station monitor.  The Toshiba laptop was configured to use the monitor for most of the N1MM+ windows, relegating the laptop itself as a secondary screen for things like the score statistics, greyline and Telnet windows.




Other than 10 meters being DOA and 160 meters sporting no W6/W7 stations, space weather conditions were a bit of an improvement over last weekend's CQ W.W. SSB contest.  Nevertheless, 15 meters was largely a disappointment and 80 meters not much better.



My goal of attaining a SWEEP (running single-OP) has yet to materialize.
This weekend found WQ6X lacking QSOs with NE, RI, DE, WV, EWA, GTA and MB
I heard a GTA station calling another station and saw alleged spots for RI, WV & MB, however the suspicious side of me felt someone was just messing with me.  Many stations DiD claim a Clean Sweep, so I guess those stations were on the air somewhere.

Main screen layout
This contest allowed me to give the SO2V (Single-OP 2 VFO's) method a real go.  For me, the trick to running SO2V is to make it work WITHOUT stranding callers on my run frequency while I get lost in whatever VFO-B is presenting me.

From time to time I would get so confused that the only answer was to turn off VFO-B, paying attention to the pile of stations calling me on the run frequency.  Overall, thanks to dual-receive the FT-1000mp handles
SO2V superbly.


Additionally, because of the way the radio was elevated on the operating table, it ran a full 100 watts w/o even being warm to the touch; proof that you get what you pay for.

This year, Sweepstakes CW started during daylight savings time and ended in standard time.  Normally SS begins at 13:00 local time (PST), but during daylight time the contest begins at 14:00 local time.  During the hour preceding the contest while running a number of last minute station tests, I heard a couple of stations not only calling CQ SS but making QSOs.

At first I thought my clock was wrong; then I realized those operator's brains were wrong.  After making his 3rd "QSO" I informed one operator that we still had 45 minutes before contest start; to which his was reply was essentially "OOOOOPPPPSSSS".

This year, some of the rarer sections were made early in the 1st hour, starting with VY1AAA (Northern Territories) as QSO #1.
During the weekend my CQ calls were rewarded with some nice sections as VI (KP2M running QRP), PR, QC, AK, WY, ONN, ONS, MAR & SC.  Why is there always a shortage of SC & WV stations in CW Sweepstakes when there are plenty to be had in Field Day, NAQP and the 10 meter contest?

Comet CH-250 Vertical
This year, one of my major complaints were stations that were CLEARLY running SO2R or SO2V and doing a POOR job of it.  When a station is calling CQ and is 599 but does not reply to callers or has a 1-second delay between CQ calls, that too me is unacceptable behavior.  Stations would not answer many callers and then would suddenly "show up" to work everybody waiting.

Why should we have to wait because you are BUSY on another frequency?  That is ethically unfair to those stations spending time to work you.  If you can't manage two frequencies without making us wait then you should not be running SO2V/SO2R.

My solution to this "problem" is to make 3 calls to the station.  If I hear no reply then I send "QRL?" twice. 
If still no reply, then I press F1 (CQ SS) and the frequency is now mine.  If the station then comes back, I press F11 to send "QRL QSY". 
When they complain (as they often do) I let them know that the frequency was SILENT so I took it over.

Remember this folks, our frequency allocations are a SHARED RESOURCE, you have no right to any particular frequency at any moment in time except if you are ACTUALLY using it.  It is for this reason that we also have to put up with intentional QRM during contests; most specifically on 40 meters. 

During contests, typically around 06:00z on 40 meters I am greeted with belches, VFO swoops, bursts of RTTY data (below 7.025) and of course the Russian "M" and "K" beacons on 7039.  This year the only "joker" I heard was on 7022.23 sending strings of continuous dits followed by a warbling/drifting carrier wave.  Because the signal was only S-4 in the background I thought it was cute more than an annoyance.  I didn't notice the Russian beacons until early Monday morning, surrounded by Region 1 SSB stations.

SS-2016 Final Results
Another complaint I have are stations (usually running high power) who just JUMP on a frequency w/o 1st inquiring "QRL?".  If they had LISTENED FIRST, they would have heard me calling CQ.

I can count on ONE HAND this weekend the number of stations I actually heard inquire "QRL?" before taking over a new frequency; something I do every time. 
No wonder non-contesters HATE us.

Any BULLY can push people around and get their way.  The ethical challenge is to treat people fairly en route to a winning operation.  If you can't muster that then maybe you should take up a different hobby like playing hand grenade tossing with your friends.


Laptop auxiliary screen
Another beef I have is with operators who feel the need to send CW at 35 WPM, requiring us to ask them to REPEAT their exchange several times; which of course pisses them off - too bad.

I had one 30 WPM operator ask ME to QRS.  It could not have been because of me making keying mistakes - N1MM was sending the code for me. 
How about this - if you want ME to QRS then you should take the initiative and QRS FIRST.

When I come upon an operator sending at a slower speed (say 17 to 20 WPM), I make my call to that station at THEIR speed.  It's the courteous thing to do.

Remember what Sweepstakes is: a simulated traffic handling event.  Successful traffic handling is about ACCURACY FIRST, speed comes ONLY when conditions allow it.  To illustrate that point the Sweepstakes page on the WQ6X.Info website has a picture of the ARRL Radiogram; which is what the Sweepstakes contest is modeled after.

Checking in with the 3830Scores website, it would seem that I didn't take Pacific Division however I may well have accomplished a 1st place for East bay section.  When I operate from W7AYT, not being blessed with kilowatts and 70' towers I like to play Sweepstakes as an assisted station because I need all the help I can get.



Did YOU play in this year's CW Sweepstakes?

Did you manage a Clean Sweep?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

WQ6X operates the CQ W.W. Contest that BARELY happened


For the CQ W.W. SSB contest in 2015 a number of fluke circumstances found me operating solo as WQ6X from the San Diego Contest Club station (NX6T in "NashVille") after stopping in Orange county to pickup a loaded FT-1000mp (formerly owned by N6VR and used to run SO2R in the November Sweepstakes from Santa Barbara section).  Unfortunately, during the drive back to the bay area after that contest my 99 Mercury Cougar blew the engine (after 166k miles), replaced later that week with a Honda Accord.



This year (like last year) there were not enough operators to put together a multi-Single operation from NashVille so N6KI opted to run N6XT remotely and I came up with the [sic] brilliant idea of setting up the Yaesu FT-1000mp on the 6th floor of a hotel in the SF bay area (location to remain a secret).

While I was not able to hang wires out the window, I have run contests during years past from 2nd & 3rd story hotel rooms using an MFJ apartment antenna with reasonable results.  Because I could not find the extendable whip for the MFJ antenna, as I have done in years past, a 75-meter hamstick took the place of the whip.

When the 00:00z contest start happened I quickly scanned the bands finding 10 & 15 meters quiet with a 20-meter opening to South America.  During the 1st contest hour the MFJ antenna analyzer helped me to ready the apartment antenna for contest operation.
Unfortunately, by the time 01:00z came around 20 meters at my location was DEAD; even stateside signals could not be heard.




Switching to 40 meters I heard very little except for a few broadcast carriers above 7200 khz.  On 75 meters all I heard were a few ragchews and the usual evening west coast traffic nets.  While it is true that space weather conditions presented a rather bleak situation, I was expecting to at least hear dozens of stations on from the U.S. and Canada.

Instead, I heard virtually nothing, leading me to wonder whether or not something was amiss with the the 1000-mp; something I know to not be the case.

After several listening sessions throughout the evening I shut things down at 07:00z (midnite local time) hoping to find everything renewed on Saturday morning.



Saturday turned out to not be much better.  At 19:44z PJ2T in Zone 9 was the 1st QSO.  The remainder of the hour brought about two Zone 8 stations and another in Zone 9.  CX2DK and CV7S were worked the next hour and that was it.  As it turned out, when 10 meters was done for the day, so was I.  Not knowing that, approximately every hour I would scan the bands looking for a fluke callsign to jump through.  Throughout the afternoon, I could hear only a handful of stateside stations.  Unfortunately, none of them could hear me.

On Saturday evening 20, 40 & 80 produced virtually no signals, even though I could hear WWV on 2.5, 5.0 and 10.0 at various points; and even WWVH in the background on 5.0mhz.  Calling it quits, I turned the radio on at 9:30 Sunday morning.  Eventually 10 meters opened back up.  While I could hear central and South America the callsigns were DUPs from Saturday.  It wasn't until 22:00z that I managed to work PV2P, CA4CBK and XE1B; which as it turned out wrapped the contest for me.



 This was TRULY the most dismal CQ W.W. contest I've ever operated it.  In viewing the 3830Scores.com contest submissions, it is clear that conditions and signal-levels were down, however contest results reported by other W6 stations certainly showed more than 9 QSOs in their logs.

Altho not much to get excited about I made a 10-meter submission to the the 3830 Scores Website.



A view of Mt. Diablo from the hotel



 Hopefully, the CW version of this event will be more productive.
In the meantime, look for WQ6X in the CW November Sweepstakes.

Did you work the CQ W.W. contest?

What were the signal levels like at YOUR QTH?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

WQ6X Reprises W6K from Tuolumne County for CQP 2016

For CQP, during the last 6 years, I have teamed up with N6GEO for various operations; 3 expeditions to Modoc county, a boat operation on the Sacramento river, an operation from Contra Costa county setting a county record (2014), and our 1st operation from his Twain Harte cabin in 2015 as W6E, during the CQP 50 Gold Rush event.

This year George had vacation plans leaving for New Orleans on October 1st, so he offered up his cabin for another WQ6X expedition.
 

In preparation for us running as a Multi-2 operation I had already reserved the W6K callsign; a call I have used during the November Sweepstakes in years past.


No sooner had N6GEO offered up his cabin, I received an e-mail from the contest committee pointing out that Mariposa and Madera counties had no planned operations and would I be up to operating from one of those counties.

I wrote back explaining that I had a cushy cabin waiting for me and asked if they could find me a place to operate from one of those counties. I never heard back from my query so Twain Harte it was.

A drive was made to the Twain Harte cabin on Thursday, Sept. 29th giving 1-1/2 days to settle in and throw up a couple of wire antennas in the 70' trees. As in past expeditions at this cabin (All Asian & Field Day), I operated from the huge dining room table.

For several weeks the WQ6X CQP 2016 webpage (http://WQ6X.Info/CQP/CQP2016) underwent nearly daily updates as the pieces of CQP-51 all came together. Since the contest is now over, the page has been largely finalized.


W6K CQP Operating position
The 2016 W6K operation offered up an opportunity for trying out a number of equipment configurations, first by putting the radio and external filters more at eye-level, thanks to some scrap lumber found at the construction site for a new cabin on the property. 

 

Antenna-wise the tall trees on the property were PERFECT for running an OCFD (dipole) broadside north/south and a Cobra dipole as a 1/2-wave sloper broadside to W4 & W5 land (but with a wide beam-width). 
 

To make things easy the FT-1000mp was run barefoot, leaving the amplifiers in storage back in the SF bay area. 

In most cases I worked everyone I could hear, so improving the receive side of things was a better investment.

Instead of power, I relied heavily on the radio's multiple filters and DSP gadgets to pull the weak ones in.
Because the choice was made to run as an assisted station, having spotting access made up a little bit for lack of power, when it came time to search and pounce (S&P). 
Then again, because I ran frequencies so much of the time, internet access was not as helpful as it could have been if this had  been an out-of-state operation. 
 
CQP 2016 HORRIBLE Space WX

As you can see the space weather forecasts were horrible. 
 
In some respects maybe I should've run 400 watts; easy to say after the fact.


It remains a mystery as to whether or not W6K was ever spotted on one of the DX reflectors.  From time to time a flood of stations would show up, however I couldn't be sure if they randomly found W6K or if they had assistance.


While the space weather forecasts were HORRIBLE, the nearby hills attenuating signals were tempered by an overall very low background noise and very little RFI from nearby cabins.
 

Every year there is supposed to be a trial event on the evening before CQP from 02:00z - 02:30z (for CW) and 02:30z to 03:00z (for SSB).

In years past I usually am still in station setup mode. However this year because all day Friday was available to set things up, I was ready to go at 02:00z only to find virtually no one on during the exercise.

After working two stations, the only reply to the "CQP Test" call on 7032.32 was someone who would send "N-U-T-S" in the pause between CQ calls; I guess he was even more bored than me. 


On SSB the only station heard was KK6NON (one of the SSB operators from NX6T). After a brief QSO we gave it up allowing me to switch over to final log preparation with N1MM+ software in order to be ready for 9am Saturday.

At the 9am start, 10 meters had not yet opened and 15 meters was barely alive so the decision was made to call CQ on 14049.49 CW.  An hour later found W6K on 40-meter SSB working a handful of stations before turning to 15 meters for a bunch of CW & SSB QSOs. By noon W6K had returned to 20 meters;1st on SSB, then back to CW for a couple of hours, before running a frequency on 15 meters (21055.55). 


W6K's 2016 CQP Band Plan
Around 22:40z 10 meters rewarded W6K with a handful of QSOs so it could at least be said that there was operation on 10 meters. When 10 quickly fell apart a switch was made back to 20 meters (14057.57) running the frequency until the band fell apart (at 00:00z).  This gave a good excuse to finally make a presence on 40 meters (7.047.47). CW & SSB kept me busy until 02:00z when the time came to bring 80/75 into the mix; alternating SSB & CW until 06:30z.


WQ6X  on CW

After working the majority of available stations on 80, a chance look at 160 meters found it was possible to tune the Cobra on top band; not a great SWR, but low enough to be heard. Stations worked included a handful of locals as well as Modoc county and Montana - not bad for off the back of the sloper.

After 80-meters finally ran out (transl. everyone went to bed) it was time to call it quits at 07:30z.  With some good sleep, the OP chair was back in action by 16:00z (9am);

24 hours after CQP had started.

The final 6 hours of CQP are always a mixed bag. Sunday is an "off the air" day for some operators and an "on the air" day for others. 




For W6K, Sunday turned out to be largely a CW operation on 15 & 20 meters until 21:40z when the switch was made to 40-meters to run a frequency (7231.31), up to the end of the contest.





In retrospect the switch to 40 meters probably should've happened earlier, but 3-point CW QSOs are just too lucrative to pass up for only 2-pointers on 40 SSB.

QRM-wise, other than the guy sending "N-U-T-S" on 40 CW Friday evening, there was very little intentional QRM on the band compared to what is usually encountered during many CW contest segments. Some "data churning" (7.050.94) was encountered at 00:33z but it seemed to be in its own world and everyone seemed to work around it.



By contest start the CQP county map eventually listed several stations from Tuolumne county altho I only managed to work the multi-OP N6G station Saturday evening. In the single-OP category I think I bested all the other Tuolumne stations. Based on log submissions to the 3830 Scores website, it would seem that I have taken 1st place in the Single-OP assisted expedition category.

My BiG disappointment in this year's CQP was in working only 50 out of the 58 multipliers. George and I have never made a multiplier sweep, but we HAVE made it to 56 out of 58 - I guess there is only so much a single-OP can do in 24 hours of operating time. For me the notable misses were: AK, DE, ND, NE & SC. The "difficult" VE provinces were easy, whereas VE2 & VE4 were not to be heard in Twain Harte.

While I missed running as a Multi-2 (N6GEO and I make a good team), having the cabin to myself allowed for lots of relaxation before and after the CQP GiG.  Overall the event was a LoT of fun; despite the poor space WX.

Did YOU play in CQP 51?

Is W6K in YOUR Log?