Tuesday, January 29, 2019

WQ6X joins NX6T for CQ-160 with a few Surprises

The final contest weekend in January every year is the CQ-160 Cw contest.  In recent years (2018, 2016 & 2014), joining up with NX6T resulted in 1st place finishes (for W6).  Recently, NX6T turned
in  1st-place scores for the ARRL-160 and Stu Perry Top band challenge (TBC), leaving us with this weekend's Cw event.

This year was my 1st time joining NX6T's CQ-160 contest operation with an Elecraft K3/0 instead
of the usual RCForb remote access software.  My personal operating goals including perfecting the
K3/0 remote operation from Alameda.  Additionally, I wanted to give a classic ICOM IC-R71A receiver a thorough workout, using nothing more than a minimal S/W antenna (more-or-less 5.5 feet of vertical wire).

While the R-71a is a 35+ yr old receiver, it is incredibly sensitive; yet throughout the evening the
R-71 served "merely" as an over-the-air sidetone (instead of using the K3's built-in Cw monitor)
when running a frequency.  It was also interesting listening to 160 from the SF bay area as well
as from the San Diego area.  Some signals were even loud enough to be heard in BOTH locations.  As a receiving antenna, the 5' of wire actually acted as a low-noise vertical (beverage-style) antenna.

N 6 K I  +  W M 6 Y
The pictures for this BLOG entry were made possible by NeuroLogiK Solution's SNAP-Shot software, designed by none other than, myself.  SNAP-Shot enables screen captures under all versions of Microsoft Windoze.  The webcam shots were easily captured by SNAP-Shot; as easy as capturing screens under windows.

W Q 6 X  R u n n i n g  R e m o t e l y
The onsite operators were N6KI (Dennis) & WM6Y (Phil).  N6NC and WQ6X remoted in to keep things going during the dinner hours and after 09:00z until sun up (local time) both mornings.  Unlike multi-band contests, for single-band GiGs like this one we are at the mercy of evening band condx.

Luckily, there were no major solar storms for this contest weekend.

Altho the SFI was up 5 points, it was
still low enough to make 160 quite
viable throughout the contest.

While signal levels were often weak,
we can't blame that on poor solar condx. necessarily; sometimes weak signals are just that - weak.

Because NX6T ran 1350+ watts, we were often heard by stations who we could not hear; it was not until later that we found
out they could hear us.

When running a frequency, some operators like Paul WN6K like to read novels in between CQ calls.

Because the K3/0 setup does not technically support dual receive (like my
FT-1000mp) I found time for doing a WN6K by enjoying a comedy spoof
on American history.

Country-wise, we managed to work 20 countries.  Included in the list was: C6, CM6, FM, KL, HI, KP2, KP4, V31, XE2, OA4, P40, PJ2, PJ4, HK2, EA8, CN2, CT3, D4, JA & UA9; not bad considering the antenna was nothing more than an inverted vee.

When it was all over, we managed to submit a 115k point log.
While our score was hardly a winner overall, it DOES seem that we took 1st place for W6 and Zone-3.

Did YOU work the CQ-160 contest?
Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

CQP as W6C - After the Fact

October's CQP event presented a unique opportunity for engaging in a Dual-OP weekend; as W6C in Contra Costa county and as part of the team @ NX6T in San Diego county.   During other radiosport events this year WQ6X has dual-OPed from W7AYT's QTH and NX6T in Fallbrook.  CQP was an obvious GiG to go for, putting multiple counties on the radio.

W 6 C  C l o s e u p  @ W 7 A Y T
Before the CQP event, I searched CQP results from previous years, writing a pre-contest BLOG
entry regarding my findings.  With 3 county record events behind me (2014 Multi-OP from CCOS, 2016 Single-OP expedition from TUOL & 2017 Single-OP event from CCOS), I was
looking for a new challenge.  For 2018 N6GEO ran an award-winning operation from Alpine
county.  Taking the easy way out, I ran another event from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.

This CQP operation offered up the opportunity to test-run yet another configuration of the WQ6X Lazy 8jK sloper at the W7AYT QTH.

The Hy-Gain 3-el 10-meter "Long John" yagi contributed
a WHOPPING 6 QSOs to the W6C log, allowing the claim
of 10-meter Cw and Ssb operation during the CQP weekend.

Using the onsite Comet CHA-250 vertical gave low-angle transmit capabilities altho is a considerably more noisy antenna than the 8jK.  Transmitting on the CHA-250 and receiving on the Sloper offered a reasonable compromise.

A surprising discovery is that the 3-el 10-meter yagi not only loaded up on 15-meter Cw but enabled a handful of QSOs as far distant as a W1 station in New Hampshire.

While THE antenna farm @ W7AYT is nothing compared to the towers @ NX6T in Fallbrook, it produced an amazing strong signal to the W0/W9 call areas as well as the surrounding VE5, VE4, VE3 & VE2 provinces.  The WQ6X CQP web section has been upgraded to reflect the 2018 event.

While WQ6X did not set any new county records, my previous records remain intact, preserved
by the county win for Contra Costa and the fact that N6GEO chose to operate from Alpine county,
not Tuolumne.  While this was my 1st dual-OP for CQP, hopefully it won't be the last.

DiD YOU operate the 2018 California QSO Party?
Is W6C or NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Monday, January 14, 2019

WQ6X Rips another Remote RTTY RU 1st place from San Diego

W Q 6 X  L o o K i n g  for I l l u s i v e  M u l t s
Radiosport-wise, my favorite way to start the new year is by way of the ARRL RTTY RU GiG;
run the 1st weekend of each new year.  Altho the WP2/WQ6X worldwide win (with NP2/N6GEO) is now 5 years behind us, that event, followed by our RU wins from EB section since then inspires me every year to do something unique.  For the 2018 RTTY RU GiG, WQ6X took 1st place for San Diego (SDG) section in the HP Unlimited category.
My goal for this year was to duplicate (if not exceed) that section win.

The original plan was to run the Yaesu FT-1000mp from W7AYT's QTH (in Concord) into the recently modified (again!) WQ6X Lazy 8jK Sloper using the recently acquired RigExpert Plus computer/radio interface.  Unfortunately, the "Blue Screen" (after the previous weekend's RAC contest) took the COM ports with it, making RTTY with the Yaesu radio impossible in the 2019 RTTY RU.

E l e c r a f t  K 3 / 0 access to N X 6 T
Luckily, in anticipation of Dual-OP'ing from NX6T and W7AYT, I brought along WQ6X's secret
"black bag" containing the recently acquired Elecraft K3/0, offering quality access to NX6T remotely.  Unfortunately, the K3 connection to Fallbrook's STN-2 was not responding.  After wasting the 1st 5 hours of contest time, a connection to STN-1 (a K3 + ACOM-2000a) finally came online, putting the 1st QSO in the log @22:58z.  Because we are required 6 hours of off time, the late start made that easy.

N X 6 T @ 0 0 : 0 0 z
Similar to last year, thanks to the remote controlled A/C system, the ACOM-2000A could
run comfortably @ around 990 watts.  Ironically, the shack ran cooler when running stations
one-after-the-other because the listening time (to receive the EXCHG) gives the amp just enough
time to "cool off" after sending the WQ6X exchange.  In contrast, CQ calls generate a considerable amount of heat; which is why it is advantageous to alternate between the [F1] (CQ) and the
[F3] (Tu QRZ?) keys.

Because we have not yet emerged from the depths of the bottom of the solar sunspot cycle, commencing operations @3pm (local time) pre-empted beginning with a 15 meter opening;
that had to wait until Sunday morning.

Similar to last year, the secret to 2019's RTTY RU was running frequencies, with an occasional Search & Pounce (S&P).  Because the K3 radio on the Fallbrook end of the connection is not a
dual-receive unit SO2-V was not possible, altho running as Single-OP  assisted allowed using
the spotting networks and skimmers to discover "juicy" multipliers.

Running frequencies in RTTY can be a LoT of fun; especially when it's properly synchronized with the [F-10] NOW key.  However in order for the NOW key to work, stations need to pay attention.  Many times I finish a QSO with the NOW key only to find the next station in line has already disappeared.

After all the work tweaking the WQ6X Lazy 8jK sloper it is a shame I was unable to run the RTTY
from W7AYT's QTH in the East Bay section.
Nevertheless, the antenna work was time well spent. 

The weekend after the ARRL RTTY RU is the North American QSO Party (NAQP) Cw contest. 

With the 8jK sloper in its best configuration ever, I should be able to run a dual-OP operation as WQ6X from W7AYT and as a remote op with NX6T's Multi-2 operation from Fallbrook.

Did YOU work the 2019 ARRL RTTY RU?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

For WQ6X NAQP Cw Notably NoT Normal

With the ARRL RTTY RU contest "safely" behind us, the 1st Cw contest of each new year is
the North American QSO Party (NAQP) Cw GiG followed by the SSB event the following weekend.
For this weekend, the goal was for my 1st dual-OP operation, running NX6T STN-1 remotely for approx. 5 hours, with the remaining time to run as WQ6X @ W7AYT'S QTH in Concord, Ca.

Friday evening, just as I was about to checkout the RRC-1258 IP connection to Fallbrook, a text message from N6KI informed me that the microwave dish across the hill providing us fiber-optic internet access was DOA; Sunday evening, the connection is still down.

The upside of all this is that WQ6X was able to operate the entire 10 hours of the 12 hour
contest; the caveat : the COM port problem (from the RTTY RU weekend) had yet to be resolved. 
The RigExpert Plus relies on a solid USB connection to route audio paths and computer CAT control to the Toshiba Windoze-7 laptop.  Luckily, using the Toshiba DynaDock offers 6 USB ports from one cable; unfortunately, not all ports are the same. 

Trying one port after another eventually identified the USB socket which brings the RigExpert
unit to life.  Magically, the RigExpert COM ports (from 3 weeks ago) magically reappeared.  There
is even a useable USB port on the back of the Plus unit, giving back the USB port taken over by the unit itself.  This port is perfect for running the wireless headphone unit; which draws very little power.  Once this problem was resolved WQ6X was ready to run Cw via the N1MM+ contest software.

Next up was to run through the MFJ 949-E tuner settings to verify the WQ6X Lazy 8jK Sloper was still functional after some rain and some heavy Contra Costa winter winds during the previous week. 
While the antenna itself was functional, the tuner settings changed dramatically.

Luckily, a close-up look at the termination resistors on each leg of the Lazy 8jK sloper showed no signs of overheating due to high-SWR or weather-induced deterioration.  The purposely twisted ladder line was also intact.

Band-by-band new settings were found.  Unfortunately, 20 & 40 meters produced so much in-shack RFI @ 100 watts the yellow keyboard stopped working (it routinely does this amidst strong RF fields).  The RigExpert plus unit lost its CAT computer connection and N1MM+ lost the ability to send CW.
Ultimately, the decision was made to use the CHA-250 vertical for 40, 20 & 15 meters and the Lazy 8jK for 160 & 80.  Using a wireless keyboard (atop the yellow one) solved the keyboard problem.
Band condx @W7AYT were marginal at best; 10 meters never happened and 15 meters folded
after only 25 QSOs in the log.  That relegated 20 meters as the QSO-volume band, producing a disappointing 76 QSOs for those 4.5 hours.

Hoping for an early 40 meter opening the switch was made at 22:45 with the 1st QSO at 23:05z.  Calling CQ and S&P'ing produced only 17 QSOs in the log.  At this point the decision was made to take over 90 minutes (of the required 2 hour break) off to do other things, while waiting for 40 meters to finally open up to the east.

Back on the air at 02:00z, disappointed by the lack of signals on 40 it was time to move down to 80 meters.  21 QSOs
in an hour is not great, but better than ZERO.  Back to 40 meters, working NO6T he made a request to QSX on 1837.  After working Al, I "setup shop" on 1828.28 and eventually added 4 more 160 QSOs to the log. 

Returning to 160 several times unfortunately yielded no results.

Back and forth between 80 & 40 added a few more QSOs to the log before mandatorily shutting down @ 05:40z.  While band conditions were disappointing it was fun to get back into the CW operating position.

Did YOU work the NAQP Cw Contest?
Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Friday, January 11, 2019

WQ6X RAC's one up for Canada and the Stew Perry 160 Contest

K 3 / 0  R e m o t e  O p e r a t I o n
The last weekend of every year brings up the Canadian RAC Winter contest alongside the Stu Perry 160 GiG starting at 00:00z (Fri. afternoon PST) the RAC is essentially over (23:59z on Saturday) just in time for 160 meter signals to waft in from the east into Southern California.

Multiple commitments kept me busy on Friday evening, altho by 07:00z the K3/0 remote connection to NX6T in Fallbrook was up and functional.  Instead of running mixed-mode, WQ6X took the easy route by running Cw only.

The recently acquired wireless headphones brought un-cabled freedom by way of an Autek QF-1A filter to process the audio.  External audio filters provide signal boosting capabilities beyond most APF filters built-in to older HF transceivers.  While the K3/0 DSP is useful, it lacks APF capabilities only an IC-based audio filter can provide.

N 6 K I   O p e n s   S P - 1 6 0   G I G
Having only 3 operators - N6CY & WQ6X (both remote) and N6KI (onsite) - I used the weekend
as an opportunity to test run the Elecraft K3/0 with the MikroBit controller into a higher-speed internet connection.

For WQ6X, the RAC contest did not begin until just before midnight (08:00z).  At such a late hour 80 & 40 meters are wide open to Canada.  While we can work anybody in the RAC GiG, VE/VA/VO/VY stations are worth more points.  Canadian stations with an "RAC" suffix are worth 20 points making RAC stations worth "hunting for".  Because this operation was an assisted CW-only affair the Cw skimmers made it easier to find extra-point stations.  By 11:30z (3:30 AM) there were no new Canadian stations, giving me an excuse to get some sleep.

Restarting @ 17:00z found 20-meters alive with RAC contest participants.  Unfortunately, 10 & 15 meters never materialized for this contest; even 20-meters ran down by 22:00z.  Luckily, (due to the low sunspot cycle) 40 meters was found to be wide open, providing the final 65 QSOs before the contest ended @ 00:00z.

I wrapped things up, by snapshotting the pictures for this BLOG entry and producing a Cabrillo file just in time for 160 meters to open up in time for the Stew Perry Top Band Challenge.  Somewhat unique for 160 contests is the use of our GRID SQUARE as the important part of the exchange.

160 meters was slow to open @ NX6T, however when signals made their way to STN #2 (around 01:00z),  N6KI was in the chair putting QSOs into the log.  WQ6X ran the usual 8:00 - 10:30 "dinner shift" running several frequencies.  By 06:30z, N6KI was back in action until shortly after midnight, giving me a few hours sleep.

Unfortunately, an internet failure kept me off the air until around 11:00z.  Surprisingly, we had experienced an opening to JA; considering previous JA contest turnout, this was something I
was hardly expecting.  I found it useful to keep the Grid square map centered around Japan
and Southeast Asia.  Rick (N6CY) took over remotely at 13:00z allowing me to go back to bed. 
By 15:00z the band faded and the contest was over.

Did YOU work the 160 GiG or the RAC Winter contests?

Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR Log?