Monday, January 14, 2019

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?

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