Monday, February 20, 2017

WQ6X works the ARRL Dx Test remotely on CW

Station #1 @ NX6T
This weekend found WQ6X running another ARRL Dx contest remotely from the NX6T station in Fallbrook (aka "NashVille").

Last year I ran the station remotely from the Gold Strike casino hotel with relatively horrible internet access. This weekend, thanks to a super internet connection I had very few latency problems.

When the internet router would inevitably degrade, I ran a local reset program, waited about 4 minutes and voila! I was back in business.

Altho space weather predictions were horrible, not only were QSO rates quite decent, this weekend even produced a pair of 10 meter openings on Saturday and Sunday.  On Friday evening Fallbrook was plagued with a lot of atmospheric noise which was leveled off by the K3 radio's noise reduction circuits. Normally I don't like the K3's DSP noise reduction, however this weekend it made the difference.

WQ6X working KH6 on 10 meters

Despite reports that we are 2 - 3 years away from the bottom of the sunspot cycle, instinct tells me we are less than a year away; something we will not know for sure until around 2021, or thereabouts.

During declining sunspot cycle periods, 40 meter DX opportunities take on the profile that we encountered on 20 meters several years ago.

WQ6X spotted on 15 meters

This manifested in my being able to run pileups with stations deep into Europe early in the evening on 40 meters.

Even Western Europe made its way to the west coast on 80 meters Saturday evening. While I was unable to work 160 (it bombs out the internet router) I have heard many favorable west coast reports on 160 propagation.

The station setup included an Elecraft K3 front-ending an ACOM 2000a amplifier dialed back to 550 watts into an 80-meter inverted Vee and 2 elements on 40.

For the high bands I mainly used a C-31 yagi. Also available was a Stepp-IR attached to antenna #2 on the K3 although to use it I had to run barefoot. Running 100 watts on the Stepp-IR sometimes allowed me to make a quick QSO w/o having to wait for the C-31 to rotate around.

Stepp-IR + 2-el 40 (above)
C-31 Yagi (below)
This contest brought a NUMBER of questionable operating practices to light. While I don't normally "name names", I feel compelled to identify the violators in these cases; especially because they should know better.

Lets begin with stations operating OUT OF BAND.
At 08:42z I copied K3LR calling CQ with a run frequency that ZERO-beat was EXACTLY 3499.70. Later at 09:25z I copied K1ZM with a run frequency that ZERO-beat EXACTLY at 6999.89. Lest you conclude that the Elecraft K3 was off calibration; think again.

I verified these out of band signals with ANOTHER radio. So unless Elecraft has design flaws with their equipment, these stations were CLEARLY out of band.

This is yet another reason why we should avoid the bottom 2 - 3 khz of each radio band.

Next up is stations taking over frequencies ALREADY OCCUPIED. This entire weekend I counted less than a handful of times I heard a station ask "QRL?" before taking over a frequency. At 00:08z on 21049.49 (a frequency I had been using for over an hour) KH7Q jumped on top of me calling CQ.
I sent "QRL QSY" a 1/2 dozen times and was ignored. When I sent "QSY LID" 3 times he went away.

Later at 11:00z on 7037.37 (having been there for nearly an hour) 7J7AAI attempted to take over the frequency less than 200hz below me. He was S-9 on my end and I assume so was I on his end. 

I put up with him for over 20 minutes when he then shifted right on top of me and said "QRL QSY". Huh? My reply to him was "QSY LID" after which he disappeared.

What ARE these people NOT thinking?

Finally during the last hour of the contest I was running the frequency 21049.49. 20 minutes in K6RR asked QRL? I replied QRL QSY several times and was ignored. So, we BOTH shared the frequency with him desperately calling CQ, making about 5 QSOs during that 40 minutes while I not only made 50 QSOs, I also added several new countries to the log including a T88 and 5T0 (which came in by long path).

Either K6RR could not hear me (unlikely) or he obstinately remained on my run frequency.
Had he moved up 1.5kc (which was clear) he could have worked several dozen stations after they were done with me. Instead, I grabbed all the QSOs he SHOULD have had. 

Being stubborn is NoT the way to succeed in radiosport.

Near the end of the final hour BA4TB proceeded to tune up EXACTLY on top of me (obliterating other stations) and then give me a call. Normally I ignore stations that do that however he was so loud I worked him to get him out of the way so I could work the stations he would have otherwise obliterated.

WQ6X run frequency rates
Speaking of getting stations out of the way, another amazing situation is that over TWO DOZEN stateside stations called me looking for contest QSOs. Rather than try to explain to them that they can't work me, I simply sent "5NN CA", let them send their exchange and then did not log their callsign.
I take it that these stations DID NOT READ THE RULES.
How can you expect to get anywhere when you don't read the contest rules?

Another weird situation was WH6ASW on 21054.47 at 23:03z with a weird sounding signal. 1.6 khz above him was a raspy sounding spurious note on his signal. I hope his radio didn't blow up. 

Around that time I noticed a weird Doppler-type shift between my left and right ear in the headphones. Several marginal signals seemed to shift back and forth between the ears; and no, it wasn't anything I was smoking.

QRM-wise, in addition to what I mentioned above I encountered the usual intentional QRM after 09:00z on 40 meters. Typically of this time period much of the QRM was RTTY based. Other QRM was SSB-based. While we DO share the CW spectrum with SSB in region 1, this was clearly intentional as the station(s) would shift their VFO while speaking to be annoying.

Additionally, stations would simply send strings of dits on top of me as I attempted to copy weak calling stations.  Additionally, because the 2-element yagi was often pointed toward Asia, the Russian "M" beacon came through loud and clear on 7.040, however this contest the other Russian beacons could not be heard.

Overall, this was an enjoyable ARRL DX contest. While I probably won't win any awards, I certainly contributed to my DXCC total for solo operations from San Diego county.

Did YOU work the ARRL DX contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR DX station log?


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