Wednesday, December 13, 2017

WQ6X Survives 2017 ARRL 10-Meter Contest

WQ6X after dark
What can I say about the
2017 ARRL 10-Meter Contest?
Considering that we are currently
 at the bottom of solar cycle 24,
I wasn't expecting a lot, however
I CERTAINLY didn't see THIS coming. While the A & K indexes were low,
so was the solar flux (SFI) - around
70 - Bummer Dewd.
(In retrospect, we should have conducted an emergency run of the
10-Meter contest during that false-hope 150+ spike in the SFI back in Sept.)

Operating portable from W7AYT's QTH, I gave the newly installed (October) Hy-Gain 3-element 10-meter yagi a good workout. The antenna had such a "narrow beam-width" that when I happened onto the "Colorado corridor) (around 06:10z) 4 Colorado stations hit the log almost immediately; however without the peak capabilities of
the outboard QF-1A filters, they would have been lost
to the noise.

This year's 10-meter event was largely a CW affair; my condolences to the SSB only operations. Throughout
the weekend I put out lengthy CQ calls on 28484.84 & 28434.34, with only a handful of takers. It seems to
me that people gave up too quickly.

Normally I would not work 10-meters past about 03:30z. Continuing another 4 hours made a big difference as that
is when several northeast multipliers made it into the log.

Altho I technically ran as an SO2-V (2 Vfo's) operation, there was so little SSB activity that SO2-V for cross-mode work was virtually unnecessary". However for CW, I could run a frequency using RX-A while S&P'ing bandmap spots with RX-B.

FT-1000mp with dual outboard QF-1A filters
Running SO2-V was much easier with an Autek QF-1A audio filter for each ear, which allowed me to simulate what is known as stereo-CW. Properly wired, with stereo-CW a signal will shift from one ear to the other while tuning "THRU" the signal (either up OR down).

While the actual QSO count in this weekend's GiG was noticeably lacking, the FT-1000mp's outboard wiring was given a a through shake-down. Simplifying audio cable clusters made the audio filter trial/error proceed more smoothly.

Because of the strange noise characteristics during the contest, the FT-1000mp's eDSP Contour/NR knobs we constantly being juggled, looking for that EXACT combination with the QF-1A filters to bring a marginal signal through. Despite all that, no states east of Colorado & Arizona made it to the log; they were simply not even HEARD.

While WQ6X CW QSOs were occasionally spotted, I think most stations either heard my call randomly, or by slowly and patiently tuning the bands. While I ran assisted, spots often disappeared as quickly as they appeared. Typing in manual spots for those frequencies kept them around longer. Unfortunately, because of weak signals there were numerous partial callsigns positioned luckily next to a callsign correction; but not always - hence the frustration.

As disappointed as I was with the QSO totals in this GiG, reading score submission reports from all call areas it is clear that my experience was hardly unique. While the 10-meter contest seemed more like the California QSO Party, in the midst of it all, CW5W and PT3T made it into the log Saturday afternoon. Spots were seen for KH6 and several VE6's & VE-4's stations, but you can't work'em if you can't hear'em.

Typical of most 48 hour contests, on Sunday, paint was drying faster than I could make QSOs. The real accomplishment was to hear my good friend N6GEO calling me on SSB. A QSX to 14.032 picked him up on CW as well. He was 1 of only 2 other stations that worked WQ6X multi-mode. Pointing the yagi towards Twain Harte made the CW QSO possible. Were we communicating via skip, or (more likely) ground wave?

That evening I worked W7AYT as he ran his FT-450D into the CHA-250 vertical, also at the QTH. This was technically his FIRST contest QSO - how cool is that?!

RF susceptible cable equipment

During a recent contest, I received
a visit by the local cable guy to check their pole-based equipment.  For the ARRL 10-meter contest he was back again.

A few questions and answers between us pinpointed that their equipment is susceptible to 2nd harmonic interference from 28mhz
(i.e.. 10 meters). 

What Dingle Dork came up with the brilliance to park a system critical component on a frequency which is the 2nd harmonic of a potentially signal-riddled amateur band; amateurs can run up to
1.5kw, which can envelope cable equipment. Pointing the antenna towards the Southeast and
South America positioned the yagi; in an end-fire null-position of the cable unit.

However point the antenna to the Southwest (Oceana) or Northeast USA,
the antenna
is then BROADSIDE to the cable equipment; over-powering it and disrupting it.
While the yagi's F/B is 24db, that close, -24dbm means nothing.
My next operation @W7AYT is not for a few weeks; there's time for
them to get their act together. Can you say "Faraday" shielding?
We shall soon know the answer.


When I think back on it, the poor 10-meter propagation kept me CQ'ing more which kept the cable equipment offline longer; until nearly 07:00z (10pm) on Friday AND Saturday evening; primetime cable viewing time.

You have heard me say "When in Doubt CHEAT, but within the rules".  I even wrote a BLOG entry about this.  [CLICK] here to read that BLOG Entry.  Along this line, I saw fit to employ an EASY button bringing humor into this deplorably dismal 10-meter contest.

The 2017 ARRL 10-meter contest is now "ancient history". It would seem that my complaints (other than the cable problem) were shared by most amateurs around North America; altho to varying degrees. From the East Bay (EB) section, evening propagation to the North Northeast direction
was a noticeable reality Friday evening; whereas as Saturday evening, no such path was evident.

Based on score submissions to the 3830 Scores website, it would seem that WQ6X took a 1st place for East Bay section and a 2nd place for W6 (California). That is based on the assumption that
the Log Checking Robot (LCR) doesn't ding my submitted score too much.

Do YOU work the ARRL 10-meter contest.

Did YOU survive the horrible condx?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

P.S. The wildfires which threatened NX6T died out just a mile from the hilltop. 
N6KI operated from home until Sunday when Dennis and K6AM (John) put NX6T
on the air for a few hours.

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