Monday, August 7, 2017

WQ6X Teams up for the NAQP CW contest

NX6T (stations #1 & #2) being revamped
During this past week, serendipity has continuously tiptoed thru virtually everything I did. 
As Friday rolled around, serendipity was caught LooKing the other way as a solar storm embedded itself in the upper atmosphere, adding more challenge to an already challenging event: NAQP CW.

WQ6X's remote operation from SF bay area
In between client obligations and a trip with W7AYT to HRO in Oakland, I managed just under 10 hoiurs of OP-
time (the maximum for single-OP entries).

Because all the other NX6T OPs were operating elsewhere, I had access to the entire NX6T station facility;
whether I needed it or not.

With the new air conditioning in the shack, the heat-related computer crashes seem to be a thing of the past; except for a random crash @00:25z.

On Saturday morning I was actually ready 2 hours before the contest; a shocker if you know how
I operate. I managed to snag several unique DX contacts while editing the N1MM keyboard macros. Pointing the C-31 yagi in several directions I noticed the received signals were over 6db stronger
than on the Stepp-IR on tower #2 at the same height.

I began NAQP promptly at 18:00z. In years past I often scrificed the 1st hour. This year I just got
right on with it. After a brief flurry S&P contacts I settled in on 14031.31, quickly filling the log with
contacts from all over North America.

Eventually I worked everything hearable with the C-31 yagi pointed northeast. When it came time
to look in other directions, unfortunately, the rotor seemed to have failed (later confirmed by K6AM & N6KI after a shack inspection on Sunda). Fortunately, I had access to the Stepp-IR yagi (on Tower 2) relegating it to other directions than just northeast.

With the 180 & BI-directional features
of the antenna's control box I was able
to cover all other compass directions.  Because the Stepp-IR is 90 degrees ahead of the 40 meter yagi, to keep track of where to point it, I drew a
chart on the white board.

By 19:15z I was able to take advantage of a 15 meter opening, putting over 2 dozen QSOs into the log before taking time off to join W7AYT to pick out a rotator @ HRO in Oakland and lunch
at the local Sushi King in Alameda.

This took care of the required two hours of single-OP off time; I was free to operate the remainder
of the NAQP thru to it's 06:00z ending.

Restarting @ 22:00z I gave a long CQ NAQP call on 10 meters, to no avail. After putting another bunch of QSOs in the log on 15 meters it was back to 20 running another frequency (14059.59).

This put over 200 QSOs in the log, until 00:00z when running out of new stations prompted me into S&P (Search & Pounce) mode. For 25 minutes I made QSOs from the top of the CW band moving downward until a computer crash ended that action at 00:25z.

After a thorough computer reboot and verification of internet path efficacy I was back in action with only a 15 minute loss. After a few more S&P QSOs, it was down to 40 meters to repeat the 20 meter success (but in reverse). After nearly an hour of top -> bottom S&P activity I settled in on another
run frequency (7020.20). 
40 meter spots for WQ6X

While we are not allowed to use internet spotting networks to make contacts, because I was running frequencies most of the time,
internet spots were not needed.

During the Search & Pounce (S&P) periods, I simply set the VFO up to
60-khz into the band and tuned downward in frequency, working each station as I encountered them. When a station could not hear me for some reason or the pileups were too great, I stored that callsign in the bandmap for later and continued on down the band.

After 90 minutes of filling up the log on 40 meters I made a move to 80 meters (3535.35) giving new stations to work, all over again. With a fixed semi-droopy inverted Vee for 80 meters, I never expect much to happen, however the "free" QSOs and new band-multipliers are worth the CQ time.

80 meter spots for WQ6X
 By 04:00z WQ6X slid right back
into the 7020.20 slot, continuing
the momentum experienced
before the move to 80.

At 05:30z another run on 3535.35 put another 13 QSOs in the log to end the NAQP CW contest.

While I managed several hours of productive runtime, atmospheric noise on 40 (even worse on 80) made signal copy tricky.

That noise, coupled with occasional random, momentary internet drop outs would clip letters from callsigns.

Careful tuning with the outboard Autek QF-1A helped sort out the QRM from multiple calling stations.
However, because of internet clipping, stations that called CQ signing their callsign only once many times required me to sit thru several CQ cycles JUST to get their callsign.

Consider the difference between "CQ NAQP WQ%X" or "CQ NAQP W@6X" versus "CQ NAQP WQ%X WQ6X" and "CQ NAQP "%Q6X WQ6X". I ALWAYS sign WQ6X TWICE on EVERY CQ call
to reduce confusion on the receiving end.  Doing this actually reduces the actual number of CQ
calls per dozen QSOs worked.

An interesting phenomenon I have
been dealing with goes by the callsign
of N5ZO.
In recent contests, Marko loves to work me and then move 200hz off frequency
to call CQ contest. For this NAQP in the last 10 minutes of my running 3535.35
he suddenly appeared on 3535.55
calling CQ.

Sending QRL QSY a bunch of times did no good, so, running split I dialed the TX frequency up 200hz and sent QRL QSY
5 times before he shut up. In looking at the log I didn't even get the benefit of
a QSO with him on 80 meters.
WTF was THAT all about?

Overall, this was one of the better running NAQP events I have participatted in for many a year.
While the Space WX numbers were not encouraging, I managed over 500 QSOs in the log.
Because the GiG ends at 06:00z, I was not subjected to the usual intentional QRM barrage
that usually occurs after 08:00z; N5ZO was as bad as it got.

Submitting the log to the 3830 Scores website, I see that WQ6X took 9th place for W6 - California.

Did YOU work the NAQP CW contest?
Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

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