Monday, August 21, 2017

W6K in NAQP is a STORMY affair

W6K portable operation @W7AYT
Arriving @ W7AYT's QTH Thursday afternoon I was prepared for just about everything, except for the one thing we can never really prepare for: geo-magnetic storms caused by solar flare activity earlier in the week. Depending on when/where solar events hit the planet, atmospheric effects can vary.
For this contest weekend, in the SF bay area the upper bands were knocked out considerably.
10 & 15 meters never materialized; 20 meters never opened reliably until 22:00z. While the CW NAQP event was not the greatest, I DiD manage to put 500+ QSOs into the WQ6X log.

Because this was a multi-event weekend (IILW, NAQP & SEQP), I chose to register the W6K callsign I often
use for events like these.

Having used the W6K numerous times over the last few years, a special set of .WAV files was ready for this weekend's NAQP contest; and as needed, for the SEQP (Solar Eclipse QSO Party) event on Monday.

Due to Station #1 being off the air @NX6T in Fallbrook ("NashVille"), N6KI encouraged all the NX6T operators to run single-OP as Dennis ran NX6T's station #2 with his own callsign.

Running single-OP in NAQP allows only 10 of the 12 hours to be on the air. The strategic question
is which 2 hours of op time to forfeit. Listening at 18:00z I heard no stations east of California.
Thanks to the solar noise, I DiD hear a pair of stations in Hawaii (KH6 & NH6) but little else.
I made the decision to do station maintenance for the 1st hour and run errands during the
2nd hour on the gamble that Hawaii would materialize later in the contest; it didn't.

W6K Spotted on 20 meters
Just before 20:00z I was frustrated by the lack of NAQP signals, prompting me to convert the slanted Cobra dipole into a horizontal VEE antenna.

Whether it was a change in antenna orientation or a drop in the K-Index that made the difference, I'll never know.

As you can see, W6K was easily spotted on 20 meters. That would suggest that my signal was easily being heard.  Unfortunately, hearing back seemed to be the major difficulty in this contest GiG.

The FT-1000mp's eDSP made quite a difference in the audio noise levels; in
my mind, much better than the Elecraft
K3 (which ironically many operators upgraded to from the 1000mp units).

Early on, out of desperation I converted
a 40 meter radio-check QSO into the
first 40-meter QSO for the NAQP.

When 10 minutes of CQ calls for NAQP yielded nothing it was back to 20 meters to finally make it all happen.

Astute searching & pouncing put nearly 2 dozen QSOs into the log. Unfortunately,
it took 2 hours of OP time to make that happen before the noise levels all but obliterated 20 meters.

By 00:40z it was time to make the "official" move to 40 meters, hoping for the best. Because we are near the bottom of the sunspot cycle, 40 often opens to the east by 23:30z. Unfortunately, because
of the solar noise central U.S. signals never reliably materialized until 03:00z; the east coast never happened at all.

Periodically scouting 75 meters and putting out numerous CQ calls, nothing came thru until 05:35z when I managed to add 2 S&P QSOs to the W6K log, effectively ending the contest. (Returning to 40 meters did no good as most stations had either worked the 10 hour limit or were just noised out.)

Like this weekend's International Lighthouse Event ([CLICK HERE]
for more information), because of the horrible space weather, NAQP
was also a disappointment.

Why is it the effects of solar events ONLY happen during contest weekends? If I didn't know better I would assume it was another government-induced right-wing conspiracy.

W6K was part of the Southern California Contest Club (SCCC) team #1. Other than N6KI (whose 400+ QSOs carried the team), the rest of our scores were pretty pathetic.

At LEAST I have something to blame it on; an A-Index of 31 and a K-Index of 5.

While having a set of .WAV files pre-ordained for the contest weekend
gave my voice a distinctive PUNCH,
no amount of signal punch will result
in a reduction of S-7 to S-9 noise
levels on the receiving end.

While a disappointment overall, the hope is strong that everything will check out as being totally
ready for the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP) on Monday. [CLICK HERE] to check out my score submission to the 3830 Scores website.

Did YOU play in the NAQP SSB contest6?

Is one of W6K's 37 QSOs in YOUR Log?

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