Monday, April 24, 2017

CQMM Sets the Stage Weirdly for WQ6X

Just when I think it can't get any weirder that the last 3 remote operations from NX6T (previously documented in the WQ6X Contest Blog), along comes Easter weekend with 7 global contests (as well as a regional contest in Russia,
but heard around the world).

A couple of the events (such as the Holy Land GiG) I
stumbled onto as the weekend progressed, encouraging
me to internet search them as they were encountered.

An e-mail from N6KI (Dennis) suggested we assemble a team of NX6T's motley crew OPs for the upcoming CQMM (Manchester Mineira) contest. I had heard of this GiG but never played around in it before. I'm usually up for a new contest experience and decided this weekend would be no exception.

This being Easter weekend found WQ6X the only one up for the challenge. With Dennis' help and encouragement (during internet outages) I entered as SOAB-HP along with what turned out to be thousands of other CQMM'ers around the globe. Considering there were 7+ contests happening
Easter weekend I had no idea what I was really in for. Surprises can be Good, RIGHT?

In the days leading up to Easter weekend I engaged in one of my favorite contesting pastimes: browsing the WA7BNM Contest Calendar to see what is happening on upcoming contest weekends.

For this Easter weekend, there were 7 contests (of various "flavors" and complexities) spread across
the HF spectrum; not to mention several regional GiGs like the Russian "Essex" contest. I find it amazing that in the CW spectrum, overall, we managed to conduct these different events with
minimal "bumping into each other".

The contests which garnered my operating time included:

  • The CQMM Dx Contest- making 434 QSOs
  • The YU-DX Contest- making 11 QSOs
  • ONQP - the Ontario QSO Party- making 10 QSOs
  • MIQP - the Michigan QSO Party- making 34 QSOs
  • NDQP - the North Dakota QSO Party- making 1 QSO
  • The Holy Land Contest - making 2 QSOs

  • There was also the WAPC (Worked All Provinces of China) happening concurrently with the CQMM. When running a frequency on 20 meters, several Chinese stations "blindly" called me but not in the CQMM contest. If I could secure an "AS" (Asian continent) exchange from them I added them to
    the log. Unfortunately, due to a provision in the CQMM rules, if they don't appear in 5 or more participant logs, then they will be deducted from my score - Bummer dewd.

    Over the years there have been debates over how to conduct multiple contests with one logging program. While I have played around with ideas in the past, for this year I chose to make it "simple" by declaring a log for each of the above-mentioned contests on Friday evening. Before searching
    the bands for Michigan, ND or Ontario stations I would switch over to that log.

    ONQP Results
    While running a frequency, if someone from one of the QSO parties called me and gave me a county, I would press
    F3 to send "TU QRZ",while quickly switching to that QP log, enter the contact and then press
    F1 ("CQ MM Test...").
    While N1MM+ is sending the code, I could switch back to the CQMM log just in time; like I had always been there.

    When I heard a number of European stations handing out QSO numbers I switched over to the YU-DX contest log setup for that purpose.  Anytime I heard stations handing out continents, I switched back to the CQMM log.
    This approach, while certainly inelegant, DiD accomplish
    the goal of working multiple contests. It's a good thing I
    was NoT running SO2-V (Single OP 2-VFO's);
    I had ENOUGH to deal with as it was.

    Friday evening, in addition to log creation, a lot of tricky fiddling was needed to ensure Station #1
    was compatibly in-synch with my remote setup in the SF bay area. Once I was confident

    that both ends of the connection were in synch my head hit the pillow @06:30z.

    Ready to go EXACTLY at 12:00z, I immediately pressed the F1-CQ key for WQ6X's 1st CQ MM call. (I hate it when N1MM+ evaluates me as starting late; by CQ'ing in the 1st minute I should

    be marked as being on time.)  The YU-DX contest also began at 12:00z.
    As the morning continued, all QSO parties were underway by 18:00z.

    The space WX forecasts suggested that geomagnetic storms were all but gone; except that at NX6T the leftover noise was often S-9.

    For this contest the K3's NR-DSP circuit only clipped the peaks off the noise (like the diode noise limiters featured in the old tube radios used to do), leaving the rest of the noise component to compete with weaker signals. Bummer dewd!

    A word of information about multi-contest weekends: even though you may not be participating in a particular event you may well receive calls "out of the blue" from stations that are participating in a contest other than the one you are calling CQ for; in my case, CQMM. I received calls from
    several Chinese stations thinking my CQ call was for their WATC contest - HuH?
    A call from one VA3 station eventually resulted in an "NA" exchange, altho the
    contact will probably be invalid if the VA3 didn't work 4 more CQMM stations.

    MEQP Results
    I had forgotten that the Holy land DX contest happens during Easter weekend until greyline propagation wafted a 4X6 and 4Z4 station into my headphones requiring a separate
    Holy land DX contest log.  Even though I only made 2 QSOs (worth 4 points), I made sure to submit the log; more as
    a show of respect, but also because
    I have won operating awards submitting 2 - 3 QSO logs.

    While the RCForb display looks similar to the Elecraft K3, I have yet to figure out how to leverage the radio's RIT
    and manual notch features; another
    reason that when possible I prefer a real radio that weighs a few pounds and is equipped with REAL knobs to twiddle.

    Compared to the Yaesu FT-1000mp,
    I found the K3's Shift/Width controls (at least via RCForb) to be counter-intuitive.

    After nearly 2 years using RCForb, I have
    yet to discover how to invoke the K3's
    manual notch facility. With the high number
    of tuner uppers during the CQMM contest, I lamented not having the FT-1000mp's manual notch (one of the best in the business) available to me.

    During the weekend, a number of stations called me WAY OFF FREQUENCY preventing me from tuning them in. I expect this in RTTY contests not CW GiGs. In the future I am going to synch the VFO's and
    then run SPLIT, tuning for calling stations
    with VFO-A while transmitting with VFO-B.

    It's a shame I didn't think of this idea until AFTER the contest weekend was over.

    A number of frustrating yet memorable things occurred during the CQMM GiG.
    For starters, while running a frequency for about 90 minutes, I worked VE3NRG (a very
    memorable callsign). Once in the log, he proceeded to call me every 20 minutes. If I just
    ignored him, he kept calling. Once I sent him "QSO B4" he would go away, only to call
    me about 20 minutes later.  Is this guy an IDIOT? Or, am I missing something?

    Shortly after working me, K5LN went down 200hz and began calling CQ - HuH?

    The real CLASSIC was when W9RAS said I was "a dupe from the SS contest" - a Dupe from
    the WHUT contest? Checking the WQ6X Sweepstakes logs for both CW & SSB from
    2015-2016 yielded NO entry for W9RAS - WEIRD.

    WQ6X spotted on 15-meters

    There were fortunate occurrences as well; such as working LU6UO followed by V31MA on Saturday (both via long path) on 15 meters around 21:10z followed
    by PY4VG & ZM2B.

    were all worked during one particular 1/2 hour period (not to mention over a dozen interspersed stateside QSOs) - all these stations WITHOUT ever turning the C-31 yagi. wOw!  Considering

    that the specs for C-31 boast some serious front/back action, this somehow surprises me. 
    Maybe it was the coax radiating instead of the C-31 - NoT!

    According to DXMaps.Com, I was being spotted all over.  Now you know why I like to run frequencies.

    Intrusive QRM-wise a lot of different things occurred beginning with OTH radar from Asia on 14.050 (zero-beat) @ 05:00z. Moving to 40-meters, I encountered a buzzy-sounding YV4ABR. I couldn't tell
    if it was "junk" in the signal or the weird space weather distorting his signal. Recent weeks have
    found many weird signal effects caused by solar storms.

    At 10:30z while running a frequency (7018.18) some weird SSB noises set-in. At 10:55z I shifted to 7022.22 to escape the SSB crap, only to have it follow me 7 minutes later.  By 11:10z I bailed from the SSB junk to take refuge on 3518.18. Within minutes, SSB QRM showed up yet again.

    Additionally, as I pointed the antenna towards UA0 and then Asia, several Russian Letter beacon stations
    quickly faded in on 7039.82.

    Why is it that we have to share spectrum space with government-sponsored military operations? We already put up with illegal SSB stations below 7.025.

    It's one thing to "accidently" transmit on a random frequency. It's another thing to transmit daily inside the amateur bands for so long that your operational frequencies become documented
    all over the internet.

    (The above list of beacons was excerpted from a Wiki-pedia page on the Russian Beacons).

    When it was all over 434 legitimate QSOs ended up in the CQMM log
    (the reason why I got involved in this mess in the first place, remember?)

    Did YOU play in the CQMM contest or any of the the state QSO parties?

    Is WQ6X in YOUR Log.

    On March 21st 2018 I received a certificate for 2017's CQMM contest participation. 
    #9 for USA, #11 for NA and #28 worldwide.  Not bad for just screwing around.

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