Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Creative Competition in Radiosport and Toastmasters

Outside of amateur radio and radiosport I am a member of the Alameda Tongue Twisters Toastmasters club.  In April 2017 I wrote a BLOG comparing Toastmasters tenets to those encountered in relation to radiosport contesting.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that.  During the 1st four months of every year Toastmasters clubs, divisions and districts hold speech and evaluation contests all over the world.

Now, it's no secret that I love competition; as long as it's Honest, Fair and Friendly competition.  Awhile back you may remember that I advocated "cheating", but within the rules. 
([CLICK HERE] to read that.) 

In this context, what I mean by "cheating" is to think of things the other contestants never considered before.  In Toastmasters Speech Contests, winning contestants have often utilized "props", such as the gentleman who pulled white underwear over his 3-piece suit (w/tie) to tell us a story about being bullied in school; or, my clever use of a poker chip and a chair to tell the story of Jack ("Treetop") Strauss, a poker player who never gave up and won the World Series of Poker in 1982.

In the 2011 ARRL 10-meter contest, I had my friend Kathy call CQ and make a QSO, qualifying
K6T as a multi-OP operation.  Loading up the ICOM 7000's voice keyer memories with her voice
gave the added advantage of having a "YL" voice to attract callers, long after she made the drive
back to Monterey.  Was this cheating?  According to the "letter of the rules", everything done was completely legitimate.  The Multi-OP 1st-place for East Bay (EB) section was well-earned. 
We could say that using Kathy's voice was like "Alice Brannigan" all over again.

In radiosport, over the last 50+ years the ending scores keep inching higher and higher.  While the sunspot cycle may figure into this somewhat, what has REALLY made the difference is improved station layout/design and operator ingenuity.

In recent DX-type contest events I've run from NX6T in Fallbrook, I have chosen to use the 3-el Stepp-IR (@ 70') rather than the multi-element C-31 yagi (@ 39').  With the Stepp-IR, the antenna can be pointed to 130-degrees to work South America.  Then, when the band ALSO opens to Asia, the antenna can be set to BI-Directional, to work BOTH continents simultaneously.  When a weak Asian station is encountered, the antenna can be quickly switched to 180-degrees reversed; or, for
a weak SA station it can be quickly set to just 130-degrees.

When contests involve running on 40-meters, I often make use of the Russian military beacons
(on ~7.039) to determine propagation paths to Asia.  I've written extensively about using beacons.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that write-up.)  I've also written specifically about the Russian beacons.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that write-up.)

Another advantage I have taken advantage of is the use of what is known as "Stereo Cw.  This is another subject I have written extensively about.  You may remember the following BLOG entries:
  • [x] - Stereo-CW - it's EASIER than You Think
  • [x] - Some Further Thoughts regarding Stereo CW
  • [x] - LEARNING the ART of LEVERAGING DUAL RECEIVE
The CooL thing about Stereo-CW is the ability to "position" signals at different "locations" in the Listening Experience.  Stations properly tuned in "appear" at approximately 10 O'clock in my listening experience, while lower-pitched signals appear next to my left ear.  Higher-pitched signals appear to the right side of my listening experience and very high frequencies appear over the right ear.  Tuning thru a signal shifts it from one ear to the other.  This spatial-separation allows running a pileup faster and yet more effectively.

 In BOTH Speech Contests and Radiosport Events, what often sets the winners above the rest of the competition is what I will "performance ingenuity" - taking advantage of advantages that may occur only momentarily.  It isn't JUST being in the "right place" at the "right time", it is in fact CREATING
that right place/time and stepping thru the created opening towards successful delivery.
This winter while running NX6T, during periods of working Asian stations, all of a sudden Europeans will start calling-in.  Turning the yagi about 25-degrees clockwise increases their signal-levels; then when I've worked the LoT of them, the antenna is turned back towards ~300-degrees to continue working Asia.  I've not  (to my knowledge) ever experienced this kind of occurrence, from anywhere
in California, much less @NX6T.  Drawing a compass on the whiteboard helped me to sort it all out.

Another advantage to be taken advantage of is writing software that helps me with things I need to pay attention to.  Space-WX, Time-of-Day and NCDXF Beacons are certainly a part of that.

Two classic examples are : a Beacon Track
utility and a Dual Time Clock.  Notice the Beacon Tracker also reports the Space-WX information, which I monitor daily.

In truth, these Windoze APPs are little more than "wrappers" around existing functionality, but with a more attractive interface.

If YOU possess software design talent, consider the kinds of things you would like to accomplish software-wise and produce an APP to embody that functionality.  Possibly we can collaborate our designs.

For speech contest practice I devised a GREEN - YELLOW - RED Toastmasters timer. 
Because I advocate PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE... this utility makes it easier for
me to get speech timing down to the last second.
 
In speech contests as well as radiosport, to be amongst the BEST of the BEST requires
Planning, Preparation, Practice, Persistence, Presentation and Proper Protocol.
 
Are YOU amongst the Best of the Best?
What steps do YOU take to make that happen?
 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

WQ6X Slips into a Slippery CQ-160 SSB Contest GiG

It has become characteristic for me to write a "Blast from the Past" BLOG entry before a major contest operation;  however I've participated in only 2 CQ-160 SSB GiGs before this year (altho NUMEROUS Cw GiGs).  Nevertheless, it was useful to review what happened and collect a pair
of [just released] certificates from the 2019 CQ-160 contests.

For CQ-160 SSB, the two GiGs I participated in were both written up here in the Contest BLOG. 
You may remember:
  • [x] 2019 - NX6T's Fab-Four Fly Forward for CQ-160 Ssb GiG
  • [x] 2018 - N6KI & WQ6X run another miraculous CQ 160 contest

N X 6 T  @  S u n r i s e  on  S u n d a y





 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A message to N6KI about this weekend resulted in "It's All Yours".
The decision was to run NX6T remotely from W7AYT's QTH using an Elecraft K3/0 and in between running out of stations to work, run as WQ6X with the FT-1000mp in Concord.  Band condx were so POOR in Concord, that outside of two 160 QSOs, I used the equipment there to monitor signal quality from Fallbrook - essentially a MON circuit from 450 miles away.

On both evenings, I began putting QSOs into the log around 02:00z.  Also on both evenings,
the band didn't really open up until after 06:00z; in direct contrast with the 02:00z opening of 160
in last weekend's ARRL Dx Contest.  How are we supposed to work a radiosport contest if the
Space-WX doesn't cooperate?!

Over the years, I have come to get used
to intentional QRM on 40 meters.  In recent months, the 40-meter problem has largely disappeared, making a debut in 20-meter RTTY operations.  For this weekend I found a NEW source of local QRM on 160. 

While it was frustrating to have the N-T-F (National Tuneup Frequency) following me around, thanks to the K3's excellent Auto-Notch facility, I was able to eliminate nearly 90% of it; on my end anyway. 

Whether the Tuneup-IDIOTS were effective at obliterating my signal on the other end,
I guess it will never be known.  Additionally, auto-notch filters all but eliminate the FT8 IDIOTS who don't listen before transmitting.


Another occasional but recurring problem comes from the IDIOTs who work me on my run frequency and then immediately call CQ 0.5-khz from the run frequency; KX4X 0.5-khz below me and K0IDX 0.5-khz above me - HuH?  Wassup with THAT?  Notice they get the 2-point QSO with me FIRST, before calling CQ on their own.

Another QRM problem occurred while running 1842.42 khz for 25 minutes only to have an FT8 signal move RIGHT ON TOP of my OBVIOUSLY LOUD CQ call.  I believe the "rule" is, whoever is FIRST on a given frequency has right to it QRM-free (traffic net frequencies excepted). 

Even WORSE is the IDIOT who came on 1860
(I was running 1860.60 for 30 minutes) complaining to his buddies about the QRM from contesters. 

If he had LISTENED before he transmitted he would've realized that HE was the QRM, not the contesters.

While the QRM'ers were INDEED a pain in the B-i-C, poor Space-WX was really THE problem throughout the weekend. 

When it was all over (at sunrise on Sunday),
a whopping 285 QSOs made it to the log in
14 hours - essentially only 20 QSOs per hour. 
wOw! - Deplorable!

All of this adds up to a rather slippery 160-Ssb contest GiG for this weekend.

Did YOU work the CQ-160 Ssb contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

WQ6X Wanders Thru another ARRL Dx Contest


In preparation for this contest weekend I made a quick review of past ARRL Dx Cw GiGs
that I have [literally] "fallen" into, one way or another; some of them even winning operations.


[x] - BLAST's from the PAST: WQ6X in ARRL
DX Contests
  • [x] - WQ6X Teams up with NX6T for 2018 ARRL Dx Contests
  • [x] - NX6T Nixes ARRL Dx Left Coast competition (in 2019)
For this year, a number of operators were cobbled together; some of them even achieving B-i-C (Butt In Chair) status, altho most operations were run remotely.

An advantage of my running NX6T remotely is that the local (Alameda) external audio filters can be brought into enhancing receive signal quality; an Autek QF-1A (L. Ear) + MFJ-751 (R. Ear).


Frequently while running a frequency the individual filters created a listening experience where certain signals appeared in the middle-left of my listening experience, or in one case the "lower right" in my listening experience; this creates a listening separation that actually aids in untangling the individual signals.

Remember, this is Analog Audio Enhancement, nearly 25 years before the concept of DSP ever became a possibility in radio amateur equipment.  The filter combination helped BOOST specific signals while at the same time attenuating those nearby; while the QRN-levels were low, the QRM-Jumble levels were immense.


Morning operators are often presented with the dilemma of leaving a running-20 in the hopes
of an emerging-15.  Because the stations share a common log file, it is possible to do a form
of SO-2R as WM6Y demonstrates (above).

As the contest proceeded, either out of boredom or chronic I-Don't-have-a-Clueness, stateside and even VA7 stations were calling me.  HuH? Dewd, this is a DX contest, go LooK for DX.  Lemme address the reasons they call me, explaining this to my mythical friend DEWD - WD6EWD
  • Hey Dewd, if you don't know this is a contest, then YOU should NoT call me.
  • Dewd, if you DO know this is a contest, then you know that you can't work me in this event; therefore YOU should NoT call me.
  • Dewd, do you know this is a DX contest? If so, then YOU should NoT call me.
  • Dewd, just because you're BORED doesn't make a QSO valid; therefore YOU
    should NoT call me.
Are amateurs really as Clueless as WD6EWD?  WoW!  I thought EVERYBODY knew this was
a contest weekend; they're either busy participating in it or openly BITCHING about it in their
mindless Ragchews.  Or, am I missing something?....
To refresh your memory, here are links to what I wrote about this "Problem":
  • [x] August 2019 - 7 Reasons You [probably] Should Not Call Me - Part 1
  • [x] September 2019 - 7 Reasons You [probably] Should Not Call Me - Part 2
Now that We got this all straight....
Remembering that this is a DX contest, everyone in North America should be LooKing for DX,
not domestic contacts.  At NX6T we managed to EASILY accomplish DXCC during the weekend;
101 countries on 20-m and 93 countries on 40-m - AmaZing!

N X 6 T  @  G r e y l i n e  - S u n s e t

While 15 & 10 meter band conditions were all but deplorable, we were rewarded with AMAZING band conditions on 160 - 20 meters.

I am used to thinking of 40 meters as
a band which opens to the East coast well after 01:00z (5pm).  For this ARRL DX contest, I was putting EU contacts into the NX6T log at 23:35z.  HuH?

That never happens.
 
What made our 39 hours of operation so effective had a LoT to do with leveraging techniques, equipment and operators into a relatively cohesive whole.  Because I have been pushing myself heavily in the days leading up to this GiG, I found a need for more sleep and was not able to contribute as much to the after midnight activity as I usually do.
 
Nevertheless, our 5-operator crew did an outstanding job of handing out NX6T QSOs.  It will be interesting to see how the Ssb GiG of the ARRL contest will turnout.  With the slowly improving
Solar Flux (SFI), if there are no solar-belches, we should experience an even more outstanding
event.
 
What about YOU? 
 
DiD YOU work the ARRL Dx Cw Contest?
 
Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Q-Filtering for Fun and Profit - Part 3: The Journey Continues

For this WQ6X Contest Blog, I have written over a half-dozen BLOG entries on the various
aspects of audio filtering and how to leverage it for contest activity; in particular running SO2-V. 
Thus far, this particular BLOG series has been written during two separate evolutionary periods
of WQ6X station development @ W7AYT's QTH along with various flavors of remote operation
of STN-1 at NX6T in Fallbrook.  You may remember the first two installments of this Blog Series:
  • [x] - Q-Filtering for Fun and Profit (March 2018)
  • [x] - Q-Filtering for Fun and Profit - Part 2:
             What I've Learned So Far (August 2018)
Related BLOG entries include:
  • [x] - Stereo-CW - it's EASIER than You Think  (March 2018)
  • [x] - LEARNING the ART of LEVERAGING DUAL RECEIVE (May 2017)
  • [x] - The world of SO2V - some thoughts by a newbie operator (July 2017)
  • [x] - The DR. Validates Cascading Filters (March 2018)
  • [x] - WQ6X SOUND PROCESSING:
            SOUNDING OFF about SOUND (December 2018)
  • [x] - Analog or Digital Audio - Which should we choose? (December 2019)
With all that has been written (above) you might think I have said all there is to say on the subject. 
In fact, re-reading those above BLOG entries got me to thinking about where this combination of analog/digital technology will fit in to the WQ6X operations during 2020 and beyond.


While most of the WQ6X operations are run as a portable setup from W7AYT's QTH in Concord,
test running the various filter combinations actually occurs in Alameda first; then, the best of the
best make their way to the Concord operation. 

Currently under evaluation is [yet] another Autek QF-1A filter - for processing audio to the Left Ear,
in conjunction with an old MFJ-751 (the predecessor to the MFJ-752) for processing audio to the Right Ear.  A 4-position audio switch allows switching laptop internet audio to a pair of cheesy i-Sound speakers, or to a pair of wireless headsets - either directly or through the QF-1A / MFJ-751 filter units.

In December, I brought my old ICOM-7000 radio to join the setup in Concord.  Altho the ICOM
unit can be switched through the external filter setup, thanks to a fully featured DSP filter setup,
the QF-1A filters do not show as dramatic effect as would be experienced otherwise. 

Then again, while the 7000's "mimic" of the 756-PRO III radio's DSP is truly AWEsome, the SHARP Peak filter in the QF-1A can "pull" weak stations out of the audio-mud in a way that no DSP circuit can equal.  It is for this reason I prefer utilizing Analog & Digital processing during intense contest periods; my ears need all the assistance they can get.

In Part-1 of this series I mentioned the classic Heathkit QF-1 Q-Multiplier.  After renaming it the HD-11 with a color scheme to match the Mohawk RX, the unit underwent one more evolution to the GD-125 matching the SB-series of equipment. 

It recently occurred to me that being a 455-kc circuit, it should be possible to run the GD-125 on
the FT-1000mp's Sub-RX, effectively providing a sort-of "Analog-DSP" at the IF-level, something absolutely necessary for improved SO2-V operation.  The test run of this concept will be with the
RC-71A receiver at my Alameda location.  While the RC-71 already has a notch, the GD-125
should nevertheless be able to augment the 455-khz 2nd-IF.

Thanks to the immense computer-controlled technology found in most radios in the last 35 years, I no longer have the technical acumen to effect much in the way of repairs.  When I accidently hooked the ICOM 7000 (fuseless of course) reversed polarity to a marine battery during Field Day, opening the unit it was clear to me that I lacked a steady hand to effect proper soldering on such a miniature circuit board, requiring ICOM service to bring the 7000 back to life.

However, I CAN make dramatic improvements to most ANY radio I come across by way of external audio/Dsp filters.  Being a "knob twiddler" I love being able to make filter adjustments with the hope of bringing about signal readability that might not be possible otherwise.  As I have shared in this BLOG series, some of the best QRM-ridding technology is over 2 generations old, yet it frequently surpasses the computer-based DSP circuitry found in today's transceivers.

I guess what goes around [eventually] comes around.  LooK for a Part-4 in this series reporting on the successful adaptation of 1965 technology (the GD-125) into 1985 technology (the RC-71A) 35 years later in 2020.

Do YOU like to spend time with external audio filters?

If SO, what lessons have YOU learned?

WQ6X Wrangles Another Weird Prefix RTTY Contest Weirdly

For over 10 years the Weird Prefix (WPX) Contest has been one of my top-10 radiosport events.  Once I got "hooked" on running RTTY GiGs, the WPX RTTY contest has figured into that Top-10.  Earlier this month I wrote a "Blast from the Past" BloG LooKing back at WPX RTTY GiGs that I have managed to stumble thru and evidently survive.  Because each unique prefix qualifies as a multiplier, ending scores in WPX contests can easily be in the tens of millions of points, and still NoT represent an overall winning entry. 

Last year, Dan (N6ERD) and I took a Multi-2 1st place for W6.  This year when I put out a call for operators, no one had the weekend available.  On that basis, my operating goal became to run NX6T remotely (around 775 watts throughout) from W7AYT's Concord QTH by way of an Elecraft K3/0. 
At key points (more-or-less) randomly chosen throughout the weekend WQ6X will put a RTTY
signal on the air from Concord.

The intro for this BloG I written back on Friday.  The specific details making up this Blog Entry is actually being written on Tuesday, 48+ hours after the WPX RTTY event became, as they say,
"One for the LogBooks".  In retrospect, writing the Blast from the Past Blog about this event
helped create an easily immersible mood for the entire weekend.

My overall goals for WPX weekend were to conduct another dual-OP operation, giving MOST of
the OP-time to running NX6T remotely via the Elecraft K3/0's remote access of STN-1 in Fallbrook. 
From time to time (or in case of internet failure in Fallbrook) I would find some time to run WQ6X
from Concord; all of this happened and more.

Arriving in Concord after the 00:00z start, I may well have missed out on a 15-meter opening to Asia - Bummer Dewd!  Beginning on 20-meters at 01:30z I was greeted with nothing but Hawaii and Asian stations during a 20 minute S&P session.  Determining the NX6T signal had penetration quality, 14114.14 became the run frequency.  Running the Stepp-IR yagi in BI-Direction mode allowed working JA and S.A. simultaneously; all worth 3 points.

Throughout the weekend time was divided between S&P (30%) and running frequencies (70%).
04:00z found NX6T running a casual 775 watts on 40-m (7092.92 & 7083.83).  05:40z brought a move to 80-meters, running 3596.96.  By 07:15 it was back to 7083.83 and then a shift to 7086.86 when the Asian Ssb QRM made the scene.

Looking to maximize the 6-point Asian QSO advantage, listening
to the Russian Letter Beacons
on ~7.039 was very telling.

At 11:40z, pointing the 2-element Shorty-40 yagi to 300-degrees brought the M-beacon and the K-beacon into the headphones, however the F-beacon was below the noise-level.

Pointing the antenna exactly 270-degrees brought the F-beacon just barely over the noise level, while the "M" & "K" beacons remained more-or-less at the same signal strength.

Because China is due-west of Vladivostok, the F-beacon offers up a reliable indication of propagation openings to the Chinese mainland.


Intentional QRM-wise, this weekend was rather quiet; although there was the local tuner-upper near the MARK frequency, the manual notch filter on both ends of the internet connection reduced that JOKER's signal down to about S-3. Anytime I hear a carrier on the Mark frequency, I immediately press F1 to call CQ.  As I've said before, the Mark-frequency jammer often HELPS decode a signal that has a weak Mark-signal in relation to its Space-signal.

If you look at the overall BAR Stats, 20 meters was the top QSO-making band for this contest.  LooKing at the per-hour statistics tells a different story however. 

For much of the contest, 40-meters was where the action was, with 20-meters in between.  Then on Sunday, 20-meters really came alive; again, running BI-Directional put dozens of 3-point
QSOs in the log.

On Saturday evening, someone in Fallbrook, shutoff a wrong 110-v. breaker killing the internet for VNC viewer but leaving the K3/0 connection intact.  Nothing worse than putting out a CQ call hear 6 stations come back and then discover the logging program is not responding.  While waiting for someone to resolve the situation, I put WQ6X on the air from Concord.

When it was all over, 1115 QSOs made it to the NX6T RTTY LoG - I believe my highest WPX total EVER; amazing when you consider I ran barely 27 hours out
of the 48.  It would seem that NX6T took 2nd-place for W6 and 1st-place for San Diego (SDG) section.

DiD YOU work the CQ WPX RTTY contest?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

WQ6X Blast from the Past: CQ WPX RTTY

In preparation for this upcoming weekend's WPX RTTY contest, I took a look back at the WPX RTTY GiGs WQ6X has been a part of.  It turns out that I have engaged in Multi-2 operations as well as running Single-OP.  These include:
  • [x] 2013 - A Multi-2 Operation w/N6GEO
  • [x] 2016 - An SOABLP event from W7AYT's QTH
  • [x] 2017 - An SOABHP operation remotely from NX6T
  • [x] 2018 - An SOABHP remote operation as NX6T
  • [x] 2019 - A Multi-2 remote operation as NX6T w/N6CY
The 2013 WPX RTTY contest was my entry-level entry into the WPX RTTY GiG. 
George (N6GEO) and I make a good dual-operator Duo.  We gave it everything we had and snagged a 1st-place win for W6; DESPITE our score being DINGED a whopping 89K points due to careless logging errors.  Fast-forwarding the clock to the January 2014 RTTY RU, it would seem that thanks
to this GiG (and other RTTY GiGs throughout 2013), we were well prepared for our triumphant 2014 RTTY-RU win as WP2/WQ6X from St. Croix.; ([CLICK HERE] to read about that.)
 
For the 2016 WPX-RTTY GiG my newly acquired Yaesu FT-1000mp got its [probably] FIRST exposure to RTTY contesting.  Cabling problems and decoding software configuration issues found me spending more time troubleshooting than actually making QSOs.  Nevertheless, my WHOPPING 448 point score took a 23rd place overall - HuH? YEAH!
 
For 2017, the NX6T shack was scheduled to be "Dark" that weekend so I worked out a last-minute remote operation, running an ACOM 2000a amplifier scaled back to about 750 watts; just enough to submit a 560K score for 10th place in W6-land.  When you consider that I didn't really have a clue what I was doing most of the time, it's amazing WQ6X made it to #10.  Ironically, the Solar Flux in Feb-2017 was nearly the same as it is today; except, it was declining to eventually end up way below 70; whereas today, the solar flux is finally on it's way back UP from the bottom.
 
In 2018 I decided to run NX6T remotely as NX6T from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.  Whether it was use of the NX6T callsign or my improved RTTY skills, CQ magazine awarded the operation a 7th-place finish in W6-Land; not bad for "winging it" and just screwing around.
 
 
For last year (2019), I teamed up with N6CY to run a Multi-2 operation as NX6T.  N6CY actually achieved about 6-hours actual B-i-C (Butt in Chair) insuring that the hardware configurations were properly functional.  Otherwise, we both ran remote to the tune of 1.1million points and a 1st-place
for W6 - How CooL is THAT?
 
This GiG had several advantages over 2018, due to the use of an Elecraft K3/0 to run the remote radio from Alameda, and of course, the EASY Button.  Thus far, I've yet to have anyone complain about my use of this button in Radiosport events, but I'm ready if someone does.
 
What can we expect for this year?  GooD Question.
I am in the process of rounding up a team; however if that doesn't happen, then I will run Single-OP High-power.  Either way I will be running the K3/0 from W7AYT's QTH in Concord; and maybe, just maybe, I will be able to dual-OP the event as BOTH NX6T and WQ6X.
 
Have YOU ever worked the WPX RTTY GiG?
Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR Log.
 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

WQ6X Stumbles thru a 5 Contest Weekend

I decided to start February with 5 different "little" contests to get into the radiosport spirit for 2020.  Business commitments kept me in Alameda, relegating me to using RCForb for running the K3 radio on STN-1. It was decided to run as a medium High Power station (around 700 watts) all weekend.  Friday evening, other than a couple of Vermont stations, what I mostly heard in the CW band segments were stations running the FOC (members only) operating event, which we non-FOC members are not allowed to participate in.

Ignoring the FOC, I found 5 contests available for the rest of us radiosport folk; including:
  • [x] - The Vermont QSO Party - VQP - beginning at 00:00z Saturday
  • [x] - The XE RTTY Contest - beginning at 12:00z
  • [x] - The Minnesota QSO Party - MQP - beginning at 14:00z
  • [x] - The British Columbia QSO Party - BCQP - beginning at 16:00z
  • [x] - The 4 hour NA Sprint CW GiG - beginning at 00:00z Sunday
Every contest weekend there is GooD news and BaD news.  The GooD news for February is that it would seem we are FINALLY on the way OUT of the sunspot low for Cycle 24 and edging our way into Cycle 25.  The SFI #'s are finally firmly into the 70's, finally leaving the 60's behind us - Hurrah!  The BaD new is that as usual, this weekend's QSO parties significantly lacked participation from operators in their own state; I am so used to a HUGE turnout in California's CQP contest, that
most other QSO Parties are a considerable disappointment by comparison.
 
 
When it was clear that there were no more VT stations, I caught some sleep early to be ready for
the 12:00z Mexican-RTTY GiG.  Somehow the buzz-call never came thru and I woke at 13:55z,
just in time for the MNQP QSO party which was in full-swing within minutes; starting @9am
Minnesota time they have the advantage of their arterial caffeine drip a couple of hours
before I do.

Eventually there were no more Cw Minnesota stations, offering permission to switch over to the
XE-RTTY contest.  While setting up the night before, I failed to notice that "someone" had removed
all the user-defined [Buttons] on the decoder screen - bummer dewd; not having time to make new ones, I "suffered" thru the contest w/o them.  Additionally, for some weird reason, it seemed that
75% of the time I made a band switch, the decoder's [REV] button got set.  At first I didn't notice
the GREEN button and couldn't figure out why there was no response to the "CQ XE Test" calls. 
Of course once the REV was reset, calling stations lined right up.

I began the XE-RTTY contest on 40 meters, pointing the 2-el Shorty-40 towards Asia. 
Listening for the Russian Letter Beacons on 7.039, only the "M" beacon was heard; the "K" may well have been off the air for all I know.  Thinking back, it has not been heard in Fallbrook, for some time.
The log opened with WQ6X running 7050.50, and immediately working YC2, JA3, UA0, BD3, DU1, and another UA0. 

A  P A I R  of  D i n g l e  D o r k s
Shortly thereafter, as the LUF rose above 40 meters, the D-Layer absorbed any further Asian signals, necessitating a move to 20 meters where an opening to Europe was already in progress; how CooL is that!

It always seems like as soon as I actually get settled in on a frequency, a pair of Dingle-Dorks make the scene to make my life more difficult. 

Case in point,  as soon as a move
was made to 14087.87. a new form of "heckler" made the scene - some IDIOT transmitting a single tone nearly exactly atop the MARK frequency.  Intermittently I also encountered a Tune-Up IDIOT slightly off the mark frequency, whose carrier made decoding more difficult.

The upside of this QRM is that when the tuner-upper went away, it was discovered that the single tone when EXACTLY on the Mark frequency actually made decoding EASIER because all I needed signal-wise was a strong space-signal,  Because fading often occurs on the Mark-signal, the QRM'er actually solved that problem, allowing me to run several dozen stations flawlessly.  Eventually the IDIOT got bored and left; the mark-fading immediately returned.  Based on the quality of the signal,
I am convinced it came in via ground-wave from a station local to Fallbrook.  Hmmmm..... I wonder who THAT could be?

By 19:00z my operation went QRT while I attended to other matters.  It wasn't until 03:30z that I was able to return to the remote operator chair, just in time to run the last 25 minutes of the NA Sprint Cw contest.  The Sprint GiG is one of the most insane 4 hours one can spend in Radiosport.  While I was bummed that over 3/4's of the contest was already over, I was actually relieved when 04:00z came, allowing a switch back to the XE-RTTY contest.

At 04:00z the MNQP was also over.  Why do so many QSO many QSO parties end at 04:00z? 
At least GiGs like the BCQP give us another opportunity on Sunday, at least for a few hours.  While the VTQP allegedly ran until 24:00z on Sunday, I heard no more VT stations.  What is the point of hosting a QSO party for your state if no in-state stations are willing to actually get on the air?  HuH?
Am I MISSING something or whut?

After an hour+ in the XE-RTTY GiG, at 06:45z I found time for 3 hours sleep, coming back at 09:30z to another 40-meter opening to Asia.  After a little over an hour, the desire for sleep again overcame me, but not before sneaking 2 80-meter QSOs into the log.

At 15:30z it was back to 20-meters and within minutes another European opening - HurraH!
On the dot at 17:00z a new single-tone jammer attempted to obliterate the 14094.94 run frequency.  This time however, the MNF (Manual Notch Filter) notched his tone (which was in between the two RTTY tones); it was as if he wasn't even there.  Eventually this single-Dork also got bored and moved on to other victims elsewhere.

Client commitments sent me QRT @21:00z and that was the end of the 5 contest weekend.  BTW, I should mention that officially no Cw/Ssb stations were heard or worked in the BCQP GiG.  However, tuning the 20-meter RTTY band Sunday afternoon found VE7BC calling CQ BCQP on RTTY, all but pleading for QSOs.  Working him allowed me to submit a single-QSO entry to the BCQP contest.

What about you?
Did YOU work, the QSO parties, NA Sprint or XE-RTTY contests?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?