Saturday, June 3, 2017

WQ6X Dabbles in the AQP Alabama QSO Party

It's hard to believe that the WPX-CW contest is over a week behind us. My business trip to sunny downtown Blurbank followed by the operation in Fallbrook and then the Amtrak train ride back was quite exhausting. I couldn't wait to hit the bed and watch mindless baseball on TV when I got back. Because of the Memorial Day holiday, this week went by real fast. Before I knew it this weekend
(and the AQP QSO Party) was already here.

After client work on Saturday, I fired up the RCForb and VNC Viewer software @22:00z to attempt
a CW entry in the Alabama QSO party (AQP) from STN-1 @ NX6T ("NashVille") in Fallbrook, Ca. Everything set up fine except that for some reason the CW COM port (COM3) was allegedly being used by some other software. Rebooting the computer didn't resolve the problem so I resorted to a solution I discovered last month; namely, using CW macros in the RCForb interface to send the CW while using the N1MM software under VNC viewer to actually log the QSOs. Because I was only doing Search & Pounce (S&P), this was not much of a problem.

To make things simple I ran the Elecraft K3 barefoot into the Stepp-IR yagi on tower #2 which was lowered to it's 43 foot height but was high enough to do a reasonable job to Alabama. For 40 meters, the 2-el yagi on tower 2 also did a reasonable job. While not a super performer, the 80-meter Inverted Vee was good enough to put a dozen QSOs
in the log. 

For this event, high power was NoT needed - I was able to work everyone I could hear; most of the time being the 1st station responded to in pileups.

My usual beef with most state QSO parties is that there
are not enough "hearable" stations participating in their
own events. In fact, it would seem that mobile stations
were often louder than the fixed stations - Go Figure.
While I managed to put 61 QSOs in the log, the actual number of stations I worked was only 24.

For this event, I started too late for 15 meters to be of any value, relegating
20-meters as the starting band.

Despite the marginal space weather forecast, QRN-wise, 20 meters was relatively quiet.

However when I made the move to 40 meters at 00:15z the QRN was around S-8 and just as bad later on 80-meters.

The artifact from the K3's NR DSP circuits actually made copy WORSE not better, altho on 80-meters, the K3's NB (noise blanker) managed to successfully chop the tops off the static PoPs.

Having access to the Alabama Counties list on the QSO party website made things a LoT easier. Thanks of course go to the many mobile stations who activated multiple counties; altho in this
contest, according to the rules, straddling county lines was not permitted.
This is too bad because most state QSO parties allow 2 & 3 county straddling.

My operating goal was to put 60 Alabama QSOs into the log. Not only did I JUST make that at
the last minute, W4ER gave me the one and only MOBI (Mobile county) QSO, literally in the last
30 seconds of the QSO party - resulting in 28 of the 67 counties making it into the WQ6X log.

While I would have preferred another 6 hours or so to make more QSOs, many QSO parties, like this one are just 12 hour events.

I guess I am spoiled by the 30 hour California QSO Party (CQP) gigs every October. Nevertheless, it was a lot of
fun making this hokey operation
actually work.

Will I give it another go in 2018?
Sure, why not?!

This is what the N1MM screen looked like just after the contest;
not necessarily pretty, but certainly effective.

Do YOU work the Alabama QSO Party?
How many Alabama counties are in YOUR Log?

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