Radio W4KAZ

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Field Day 2018 – 1B NC de W4KAZ

The normal group of Field Day scalawags were in the wind for 2018.  N4GU was uncertain if the QTH from 2016 and 2017 would be available.  N4YDU took up N9NB’s offer for FD at Ted’s QTH in VA foothills.  I was also kindly invited, but decided that I didn’t want to drive quite that far, despite the nearly ideal location.  I do love me some VA mountains.

Photos from FD2018: http://w4kaz.com/images/fd2018/

For 2018 I took exit ramp #3, and went with the backup backup plan.  Operated 1B at a campground near Wilmington NC.  A nice easy drive, with a couple of easy on/off stops along the way to stretch out the body parts complaining loudest.  That made the drive tolerable.   Also made it into a mini-escape, leaving home QTH on Thursday with a return on Monday morning.

Weather conditions[i.e., heat] soon had me thinking I’d have been better off in the VA mountains, but after acclimatizing to “swamp butt” conditions, it was fine.  When I sweat enough to remind me of living on the South coast – its pretty darn sticky.  Usually not quite so bad in NC, but it happens enough to know to be prepared.  Lots of water and gatorade.  Thursday afternoon was the worst of it though.

Friday morning was spent doing a bit of unrelated recon.  Friday afternoon I laid out the antennas and supports, and some more unrelated area wide explorations.  WX on Saturday dryed out some, and there was a nice breeze that picked up from the start of operations though early evening.  Never a drop of rain, just temps and humidity in the 90’s.  Just like being back in good ole Bigg Swampy(SE Louisiana).

Antennas:

2018 was a time to test some antenna ideas.  I built a 2 band triangular yagi for 20m/15m, based on article by Herb,N4HA as published in June 2018 QST.  I kept to the published dimensions(mostly) but fashioned the driven element(s) from 300ohm ladder line.  For supports I used a mast from Henry, K4TMC as the support for the drive element/apex.  The tails sloped down to connect to the reflectors, and those ends were supported by 2 masts cobbled together by combining a Shakespeare Wonderpole on top of a section of 4 foot mil surplus mast.   Simple, and easier than I expected.  This antenna was fed with 300 ohm ladder line run to a tuner rather than coax.

40m was a simple inverted Vee supported by a Spiderbeam 12m telescoping mast.  Note: Simple does not mean “easy”.

10m was an afterthought.  After struggling with the 40m dipole-that-wouldn’t, I had a relaxing breakfast and gave some thought to 10m.  Had plenty of time, so may as well.  To get on 10m I made a dipole by cutting a couple of equal 8.5 foot lengths of wire and constructed a “FD style” center insulator from a pair of cable ties taped together.  Used a “composite” feedline – a ladderline drop to a 1:1 unun and a short coax run into the tent.  I had a length of ladder line about 25 feet long so the 10m dipole was up about 23 feet.   At the end of the ladder line at ground level I plugged the ladder line into a 1:1 unun, and ran the last 30 feet or so into the station with coax.  From start to finish this antenna took about 30 minutes to put up, including cutting legs and twisting it all together.

No antenna at all on 80m.  Decided I’d have enough business on 20m & 40m to keep occupied, and figured on sleep rather than a night of 80m T-storm QRN.  😮

Now, about that 40m Vee.  The antenna that would NOT.  Still not certain where the problem was, but it had an issue in one of the feedlines somewhere[update-think one of the legs has broken wire].  Far too much time was wasted raising and lowering the antenna trying to debug the issue.  Lesson1: Always have an alternative.   Lesson2:  Don’t dick around debugging when you have the alternative at hand ready to go.  Lesson3: Save debugging for down time.  Lesson4:  Read Lesson1 and Lesson2 until they really sink in.

Operating:

Once the CQ’s started, there were plenty of QSO’s to log.  Saturday was a bit slow at first, but I got a better rhythm in the evening.  Was tired though, and sacked early, including a 45 minute nap at 5pm in the nice cool breeze that came up.  Also got up early Sunday, 5am-ish.   Sunday morning was quite a bit of fun, right up until my keyer interface died around 11am.  So I finished the event with a bit of lackadaisical SSB, mostly S&P.

Camp:

The Cabelas tent goes up easily.  My only regret is not getting one of the larger sizes.  It has room for setting up a table for the station and also for a cot along the opposite side.  But it is a bit cramped.  Next time I do this I think I will use a screen tent for the station and the tent just for snoozing/bad wx.  Also, the ideal site would allow for the tent to use an overhead spike support and avoid the need for the center pole.

Overall a big win.  Keeping the ants away…..the real challenge!

 

 

2017 FD @ N4GU as AA4NC – Still No Will

The 2017 Field Day is in the bag.  Operated with the group as AA4NC at the farm of N4GU’s XYL.  Showing a surprising lack of judgement for a second year in a row, AA4NC again allowed us to use his call, despite a shoebox full of notices from last year’s operation.  Still No Will….but N4GU, N3ND, N4YDU, N9NB, W4BBT and W4KAZ all on the air.

2016’s as-yet-undocumented FD last year was done as class 2A, while for 2017 we rode with class 3A.  Given the improved conditions on 15m/10m/6m, that was quite a bit less boring than I expected.  Gave N4YDU grief for wanting to run that third station for the high bands, but they were maybe the money bands this year.  Great call on N4YDU’s part.  With so much activity on high bands through the evening and mid-watch, 80m under-performed.  Boooo.  Hoooo.

Stations:

2017 FD - 15m/10m and 6m stations

2017 FD – 15m/10m and 6m stations

2017 FD - The REAL Night Shift

2017 FD – The REAL Night Shift

2017 FD - The "40m station"

2017 FD – The “40m station”

We ran 2 stations on N4GU’s 1kw generator, and ran the third station and VHF stations on deep cycle batteries.  The two stations on generator power were Elecraft K3’s, and the battery station was a Kenwood TS-590.  VHF was run on the Kenwood until N9NB arrived with an Icom 703.  Battery power for the 590 was two deep cycle batteries paralleled and connected to a solar cell, and the 703 was on a single deep cycle battery.

Antennas were a Frankenstein ??ta33M?? tribander for 10/15/20@35′(split via triplexer), an OCF mostly for 40m@34′, an 80m dipole@~45′, a 10/15 fan dipole @ 30′,  a 20m vee dipole at 24′ and a hastily erected 40m dipole @ 40′.  VHF station used a 5 element 6m yagi @24′.  Most of the antennas were strung by late Friday afternoon, leaving time on Saturday morning for testing and a last minute wild hair(the 40m dipole.)

Operating:

Given the strange conditions on Sunday morning, the dipoles played quite well as supplements to the tribander on 15m and 20m, with good signals from New England often better on the dipoles.  The tribander won on stations out to the west of 9-land, and about equal in the middle grounds between.

For my part 15m was the best news on the subject of propagation.  20m and 10m were close behind.  All three bands were very productive.  6m even coughed up QSo’s this year, with 160+ Q’s logged.  The night shift on 80m was a bit sluggish, probably many stations stayed on 20m later than normal.

Something must have worked correctly, event with W4KAZ constantly changing the function key settings on every N1MM computer attached to an HF radio.  Despite KAZ’s  best efforts at disabling the dread “Enter Sends Mode”, almost 3500 Q’s were logged across all of the stations.

WX:

Friday afternoon the WX forecast of rain was quite thankfully incorrect.  Instead there were crystal clear blue skies and a slightly gusty wind.  The wind helped keep the insects at bay, and cooled the crew off a bit.  Saturday morning was overcast, but remained dry right up until a 6pm shift change.  As soon as the new shift sat at the stations, the wind began gusting, enough to slide the camp chairs across the cement floor as if of their own volition.  Enough wind to make ops press down on tables to keep them from tossing radios about like so much flotsam.  The rain soon came in buckets, making the nice covered carport seem like luxury FD accommodations.  The nice 30 minute storm cooled things down and brought the insects from hiding for most of the evening.  Things remained cool enough overnight that a light rain jacket was perfect for both staying warm and fending off the creepy-crawlies.

Food and other:

Many thanks to Mike’s XYL Sherry, who kept us stuffed to the gills over the weekend, and caused disputes to break out over a certain blueberry dump cake.  Also many thanks for allowing us to invade her domain for the weekend and play radio geek.  Good QTH, a good crew of ops to work with, and entirely too much fun.

2015 IOTA Recap W4O – Better Late Than Never

Photo of most of the 2015 W4O IOTA station from Okracoke Island.

Most of the 2015 W4O IOTA station from Okracoke Island.

Tri band yagi at 18 feet.

Tri band yagi at 18 feet.

After a lot of foot dragging and interruptions, all of the components required for a 100w battery operation had been acquired at casa W4KAZ in late spring 2015.  The first test run was a 1E Field day operation at home.  But better to put it to use afield.

So N4YDU was game for the field test on Okracoke island for 2015 IOTA.  N4YDU and I operated as W4O from Okracoke Island on the NC outer banks, just south of Hatteras.   Access to Okracoke is by boat, so we booked slots on the ferry out of Swan Quarter for Thursday afternoon.  This worked well, allowing for set up and test operating well before the Saturday start.  Also a nice break for a meal for lunch Friday down in Okracoke village.  QTH of the operation was the NPS campground on Okracoke.

WX Conditions on Thursday were cool with an all day drizzle.  Ugly, but no thunder and lightening, so not terrible.  Set up of camp was delayed until early evening.  Thursday night was warm, damp and still.  Friday morning brought clear skies and an nice cooling breeze out of the north.  The WX was much improved for the rest of the weekend.  Thursdays rain was the harbinger of a very welcome unseasonable cool front, and WX for the bulk of the weekend were very comfortable with much lower than normal temperature and humidity – perfect for field operations.

Radio propagation did not live up to the WX, so there were periods of slow conditions.  A nice breakfast is always good.

Breakfast.

Breakfast.

Solar Power

The solar set up included two 30w solar cells sending power to the charge controller and two deep cycle batteries.  Our solar cells were augmented by the temporary loan of an 85w solar panel by WB8YJF, Jon.  WB8YJF vacations at Okracoke every year at this time, and with his help we had a strong 8A charge current throughout the day Saturday.

 

Solar cells catch a tan

Solar cells out catching a tan on the island. My own small cells in the foreground and WB8YJF’s loaners in the rear.

Batteries and charge station

Batteries and charge station

Having the battery fully charged going into the evening hours was nice.  Rates slowed fairly early, so two days of beachside life had us leaving a few possible qso’s on the table.  Sleep was the better option.

Station

The station consisted of the batteries, feeding power to the Elecraft K2.  Antenna supports consisted of several fiberglass masts.  All of the masts have been modified by drilling holes at the base of each mast section for pins.  Hitch pins are used for the smallest sections, and 2 inch cotter pins are used in the larger sections.  This was faster and more secure than using hose clamps, but it may ultimately weaken the masts over the long term.  That trade-off seems worthwhile for the time saved on deployment and take down.

The W4O station, an Elecraft K2, a couple of tuners and logging laptop

The W4O station, an Elecraft K2, a couple of tuners and logging laptop

The 33 foot fiberglass pole from TheMastCo was used as the center support for a lightweight fan dipole for constructed from 300 ohm twin lead and surplus field wire, covering 40m/20m.  A 22foot fiberglass flag pole combined with most of a 20 ft. Shakespeare wonder pole was used to support an inverted-L for 80m.  Thirteen foot crappie poles were used to get the ends of the dipoles and vertical as high as possible in the limited space offered by two spaces in the campground.  We also deployed a 2 element triband yagi on five sections of surplus military camo mast, at a height of about 18 feet.

Radio conditions were poor, but the WX was unusually good for the NC coast at the end of July.  Great trip and another successful field test of something different.

 

2015 Field Day W4KAZ class 1E

Life’s swirl of events led me to be non-committal about FD with the usual suspects this year.  Probably a good thing, given the way brown stuff keeps making sudden contact with the rotary impeller.  Even the minimal home operation in lieu of a real event was in question as days grew shorter.

So 2015 FD was flying solo in the KazShack.   [Some photos here]  The twist to make it FD was to run the station on emergency power, class 1E.  With enough ’round-too-its’ having been previously cashed in to assemble a portion of the battery set up  desired, the battery op seemed feasible.  Accumulated over the past year are a couple of 30w solar panels, a pair of well-matched deep cycle marine batteries, a decent charge controller, and assorted minor peripherals(cables, connections, etc).  The original plan was to be ready for NC-QSOP earlier in the year.  Brown Stuff vs Rotary Impeller.  Brown Stuff won, no Qso party.

In field day spirit, I also hoisted an “emergency” field portable 40m/20m inv-V off of a fiberglass telescoping mast obtained from “The Mast Company” several years back.  After collecting dust for these years, it occurred to me that it could fill a big unused space on the edge of the ‘wire-farm’, backed up very nicely by the 20m/40m reflectors in their permanent positions.  This worked very well on both bands during FD, showing four or five S-units difference depending on conditions and the direction of the signals.

The 2015 FD Station:

For the event, I relocated the solar panels to be within reach of the feeder cables to the shack. The batteries had been connected to the solar panels for over a month, so they were nicely topped off.  The batteries were brought into the shack, and connections were set up to power the K2 as the load off the controller.  Not willing to go whole-hog QRP, all transmitting was done at intermediate-low power levels, 45w overnight, 75w during daylight.  (Based on actual current draws by the K2 as measured in place). Add a laptop and ready to go.  The antennas were the normal wire farm plus the hasty-install dipole on the fiberglass mast.

The Solar Problem:

Expected to have poor results from the solar panels, as their default location for the shack is only in full sun in the afternoon.  Hoped for a sunny afternoon on Saturday.  No. Such. Luck.  In fact, the WX really sucked.  When the WX didn’t suck, there was lightning and rain.  Zero sunlight.   The panels only produced about .3amps in shade under clouds, instead of their full-sun 2.8amps.  90% reduction.

Solar panels, laid out on a conveniently parked truck

Solar panels, laid out on the conveniently parked truck

Charge controler for solar power

Charge controller for solar power

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The good news is the batteries seemed up to the challenge on their own.  Battery voltage dropped to 12.3v at its lowest.  The K2 drew only about 11 amps in transmit, and just over 1/3 amp when in receive. If the panels had been in a good full-sun location the charging would probably have kept up with the demands during daylight operating.  Success.  The charger says that 24ah were drawn over 12 hours of operating, with transmitter power at 50w for the 6 hours on Saturday, and 75w for the 6 hours on Sunday.  In full sun the solar cells would probably have kept the batteries topped off until sundown.

The current draw at full transmit power on the K2 is in the 15A ballpark.   Rolling the transmit power back to 65 or 75 watts is a good compromise between output power and current demands, as the current draw is closer to 11amps at 70W.

Actual Operating Condx:

WX conditions cut outs a large chunk of Saturday prime time in the late afternoon/early evening.  So after putzing around for the 1800Z-2000Z hours, did not return to the chair until 0150Z.  Then a decent three hour stretch, alternating between 40m and a few sweeps of the other bands.  A nice long nap and the back in the chair well after sunup Sunday morning.  Not terrible Sunday morning, but not fantastic.

Finished with 532 CW contacts logged and 2128 QSO points.  Not terrible for only about 10 hours of butt-in-chair time.

So the emergency power and emergency antenna set up worked well enough.  A bulk of the QSOs were made on the portable antenna. In the shack the charge controller indicated the station drew a total of 24 amp hours.  The solar cell charging put 9 amp hours back in, not bad given the clouds and shade trees.    That was with the solar cells providing only about half an amp.  In full daylight the charging would have been sufficient, and closer to 3 amps.   The power draw had been conservatively estimated/ball-parked/WildAssedGuessed at a need of about 40 amp hours.

The Renogy charge controller is well worth the minor additional expense.  It senses the voltages from both battery and solar panel, and can charge 12v batteries from 24v solar cells if needed.  It also monitors both load and input currents, as well as the battery charge state.  (Seems to be sold under several different name plates, all seem identical based on advertising specs.)

Overall, very happy with the experiment.

 

 

 

CW Skimmer Errors and RBN spots

After several contests, monitoring of the softrock skimmers has turned up a bit of a problem with using softrocks as the skimmer platform.  Very strong signals are producing a mirror image that is often reported as a spot to the RBN.  Certain to be annoying for the S&P packet crowd during a contest.  Annoying enough that a few flame mails have arrived.

The volume of the bad spots is relatively low on the lower bands, and more common on the higher bands.  40m is somewhere in the middle, with most of the bad spots being sent for domestic USA stations.

The problem is a combination of the hardware and software, both contributing to the problem.  A software fix could potentially be made to CW skimmer or to the RBN aggregator to correct for the problem.  Will inquire to the authors…..

In the meantime the best solution available is to throttle the RBN aggregator to allow only spots below the center frequency to be reported.  For example, the 15m skimmer is based on a softrock with a center frequency at approximately 21044.5Mc.  So for the duration of the ARRL DX CW contest, an entry in the “Notched Frequencies” will be active to not report 21044.5-21100 to the RBN.

That solution does nothing to correct for half of the possible bad spots(i.e., a strong signal above the center frequency whose mirror image is being spotted below the softrock center frequency).  But it should alleviate many/most of the actual bad spots, since most run stations prefer to operate as low in the band as they are able.

Open to other suggestions short of replacing the softrocks with better (yet unaffordable) hardware.

Update 20130217, 2140Z:  There are new versions of both skimmer and aggregator.  Perhaps upgrade will help.

2012 ARRL Feel Day(i.e., “Field Day”)

Operated 2012 Field Day with N4YDU and N4GU.  Seriously considered entirely ditching FD earlier in the year, but finally decided to swing back into the saddle.  Using the Central Carolina Contesters call K4FQU, how could I not?

K4FQU – Class 1A, Ops: N4GU, N4YDU & W4KAZ….  1499 QSO’s(942CW, 557SSB)

N4YDU bird-dogged an excellent site by getting permission for operating on the north end of the Franklinton High school campus.  The school has a horseshoe shaped service road around its perimeter.  The north side of campus has a nice line of pine trees parallel to the service road which runs due E/W for about 500 feet.  All in a mostly rural very RF quiet location.  A very good Field Day site, one of the better sites we have used.

We set up the station near a break in the tree line.  Operating as 1A, we put up two antennas.  The 80m dipole was set up as a vee, broadside to N/S.  The other antenna was the four band open sleeve dipole, set up facing E/W.  The apex of both antennas was up at about 70 to 80 feet.

The wx threatened rain on Saturday, but that never happened.  The cloud cover helped moderate temperatures right up until almost 1800z, so the set up was not terribly uncomfortable.  The humidity levels rose all through Saturday night.  A change in the WX about dawn Sunday, and a drier breeze picked up early Sunday morning.  The WX was very pleasant for the duration.  Probably one of the most comfortable FD weekends in a long time outside of the trips to the mountains.

Radio conditions did not seem all that good, but the rates were consistently good anyway.  At times the rates were surprisingly good.  N4YDU had unusually good rates in the “wee hours” on Sunday morning from 2:00am thru 6:00am(local), and turned the graveyard shift into a nice fat 350+ qso count.

For my own part, the best rates I saw were the first hour of my late evening shift from 11:00pm to 2:00am(local), where there was very fun rates on 80m CW as ‘fresh meat’.  Getting a SSB run going proved difficult, but I managed to find a decent 40m frequency close to 2:00am Sunday morning, and N4YDU hit the ground running for the graveyard leg.  The rates kept him awake.  😉

N4GU Power and Light supplied emergency power in the form of a 1000w Honda generator.  We located the generator on an asphalt drive about 125 feet away from the station, and could not hear the generator at all over the ambient background noise of the location(School AC units, birds tweeting, road noise, etc.)  N4GU also supplied shelter in the form of a couple of EZ-Up canopies.  My own concerns about blood-sucking insects or T-storms were not realized, so the lack of side-walls was never a problem.

Over all the event went off without a hitch.  Murphy was probably off elsewhere knocking over towers and breaking yagi’s at other more tempting FD sites.  All of the overnight lighting was supplied by battery operated LED lamps, over concerns we might overload the generator.  Generator overload was never an issue, as a Kill-a-Watt in the AC supply line showed that the power draw never got over 500w.  With the single run station going, the draw was around 300-350watts.   The generator ran for about 7 hours between fill-ups, and was very easy on the gas.  A sweet package.

Propagation seemed to favor the North-South paths for most of the times I was at the controls.  With the 40m-up antenna at 75 feet, it seemed to under perform my expectations on 40m and 20m.  That may have been just propagation, which seemed very short on 20m.  In the evening, it did a better job out to the west, but I found myself using the 80m dipole on the 40m band more than I expected.  Both antennas were fed with 450 ohm ladder line into balanced tuners, allowing them to be loaded where needed.

Reviewing the Reverse Beacon Network spots was interesting.

We wound up besting our QSO totals from 2011 by a couple of hundred Q’s.  10m never opened, 6m was a flop, and 15m was mediocre.  But 80m, 40m, and 20m produced enough activity that we were able to keep the logging computer busy and the operators awake.  Operating 1A with N4GU and N4YDU was just about perfect – both great ops and great fun.  Class 1A also insured we were almost always ‘fresh meat’ somewhere, which made the butt-in-chair time fun as well.

The only real goal I had this year was to have some fun.   Mission Accomplished.

After action reflections indicated if we were to revisit the location we might make a few minor tweaks to the general set-up by re-locating the antennas, but probably nothing too drastic.  The E/W roadway invites flat-topping the dipoles rather than center supporting them as inv-vee’s.   A few other minor station set-up re-arrangements.  None of those would be of large consequence in terms of extra effort, but might pay QSO and comfort dividends.

K4FQU, 1A NC - Quick snapshot of score:

band/mode  Qs       Pts
80 cw     222      444
80 ph     181      181
40 cw     440      880
40 ph     164      164
20 cw     231      462
20 ph     141      141
21 cw      45       90
21 ph      63       63
50 cw       4        8
50 ph       8        8
-----------------------------
         1499     2441

Pwr mult 2

Raw score 4882

Bonus pts
100% Emergency power             100
Public Location                   100
W1AW Message                      100
Online submisson                 50
Total bonus pts                   350

Total Score     4882 + 350 = 5232 pts

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Skimming During WPX

“Don’t get cocky kid….”

Just when everything seems to be going smoothly, Murphy arrives.  Two days before the WPX contest, it became clear the 80m softrock had developed an issue and was useless.  It lost half of the signal, and so was useless(on 5/27) and required repairs.  Sideline that issue for now….

The 40m skimmer session kept right on chugging.  A couple of problems became clear.

  • The softrock will need better band pass filtering if they remain active during operations, or switching to shut them down during transmit
  • running CW skimmer at 192khz sample rate used a great deal of CPU time, averaged 45-50% CPU utilization.
  • Limiting the number of decoders helped somewhat
  • Reducing the scan rate to allow a 96Khz bandwidth drastically reduced the CPU usage.  Running at 96khz required an average of 15-20% of the CPU, even with the limit on the number of decoders increased.
  • The K9AY rx antenna worked well for the 40m SR skimmer.  The problem is it will need to be split and amplified for 80m and 160m as well.

All together, it looks like the skimmer posted about 8K spots while it was active during WPX.  Trying to figure out a way to check for errors.  Low priority – spot checking the spots showed most to be valid.

The 80m SR problem was resolved on Monday evening.  After having made three passes over the op-amp section, I made a fourth pass, concentrating on components in the “ring” side of the op-amp output, as well as the path back to the QSD section.  Also made a first pass over the transformer solder joints, using a higher wattage iron.  80m issue resolved.  Odds are it was in the op-amp chain(seems to be the most common cause of the symptoms), but I suspect a cold solder on the transformer was the real culprit.

Looking at the case from a dead home audio system as a permanent enclosure.  If I can fit everything in, it should be a good choice.  Time for a block diagram…

 

 

2012 CQ 160m CW – Sunday Coffee

Grinding out Saturday night with low rates…Yuck.   Worked more stations from the western US, but not a lot.  The path down into TX was much better Friday night, but  N/S up and down the east coast was decent on Saturday.  New England(ME,VT,NH) probably was not as strong as Saturday, but most were workable.  Although I guess I didn’t hear the ones that were not. 😮

Can’t remember working so many NY stations.  Condx to NY/PA were really good both nights, and lots of NY stations active.

DX was mostly non-existent at the KazShack.  The stations that could be heard had large pile-ups – not really worth the effort.  With that as a baseline, I did get 11 DX mults.  A couple of DL’s could hear me, a loud EI with no pile-up, and a few from the Caribbean.

At some point early on I had set 500 Q’s as a mental goal, despite being determined to not really set goals.  Half way there  600 seem like a loftier perch to shoot for.  So I was shooting for 500 by midnight.  The rate was steady, so it seemed possible.  Came up only 6 short, 593 logged by midnight.  So hitting 600 seemed possible too.

“Missed it by THAT much”

Well, did not get to 600 Q’s.  Took a 2 hour nap and got up for a bit of Butt-In-Chair pre-sunrise.  Picked up a few more, but just not enough. West coast never really showed up for me.   Decided to end the effort when I had 20 hours Butt-In-Chair according to the logging program.  That happened at QSO#593 an hour after sunrise, with the rate down in the mid teens.  Grasp Plug Firmly….Pull.  Have other stuff to do late Sunday afternoon/evening, needed some rest.

The Good:
  • Quick and dirty switch cable hack for the antenna matching network worked well, especially since I spent a lot of time in the 1840-1850’s running.  Perfect 1:1 match at either 1818 or 1844 and the K2 Tuner handles about 25 kc on either side of either spot easily.  The end game there is probably three positions, with the third match tuned for 1870 to 1880.
  • Not much S&P, but very few stations asked for repeats and fills.  Most could hear me on first call.
  • The K2AV counterpoise system is a definite winner.  More on that later.  W0UCE has some info on that idea here.
  • Run Forrest, run!
  • Opportunity for a decent amount of Butt In Chair.
  • First four hours were great
  • N4YDU not operating, but encouraging me to grind it out.  tnx!
  • Kept right on logging Q’s through the LIDS.  {“Gentleman’s Band”? – my hairy fat ass.}  More evidence the TX antenna mods are working.  Had trouble holding 160m runs in CQ160 before. 🙂
  • Both nights RX here was much better on the K9AY, a 4 S-unit difference in noise levels
The Bad:
  • Murphy arrived in prankster mode.
  • Condx not as good as last year.  Saturday night better than Friday- less storm static/QRN on Saturday.
  • Those last 93 Q’s were work.
  • Muffed my Q with K4BAI again.  Its like a tradition now. 🙁
  • 75m spam lids now on TopBand too.
The Ugly:
  • The K2 blew two fuses, but it appears to be related to rx antenna switching while the K2 is in xmit.  Need to run down the wiring and power supply connections.  Solution: Stop Switching While CQing!!  (K2 is drawing only 15 amps on xmit, something must be causing it to spike.)
DatsDaFaxJack:
Call: W4KAZ
Class: Single Op LP             QTH: NC
Operating Time (hrs): 20

Summary:
Total:  QSOs = 593  State/Prov = 50  Countries = 11  Total Score = 82,960

 http://lists.contesting.com/pipermail/3830/2012-January/242968.html

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2012 CQ 160m CW – Break Time

Not too shabby.  After 6.0 hours of operation, 270 Q’s in the log.  Not much in the Western US, but have CA and AZ.  Spent the first 30 minutes S&P, then a couple of short runs, another stretch of S&P, and then a nice steady run.  Nothing fabulous, but the Inv-L is playing much better than is has in the past.

Early in the evening, the K9AY was the best on RX.  The QRN has slowly been tapering off, so RX on the Inv-L is better.  The K9AY still has the edge – when it happens to be pointing in the correct direction.

Blew two fuses in the power line to the K2.  Both blew when switching the RX antenna during xmit.  Must be causing a voltage spike.  Solution:  Don’t Do That!

So far the anecdotal evidence indicates I’m being heard better with the changes to the TX antenna.  Gonna save looking at the RBN spots for Sunday.

Back to the salt mine….

NAQP SSB 2012 @N1LN as NC4KW

DAMN that was a GOOD contest.

N1LN hosted the M/2 operation as NC4KW for both CW and SSB.  This years SSB team was N1LN, N4GU, N4YDU, and W4KAZ.

N4YDU led off on the right hand station on 10m.  W4KAZ squatted on 20m a few minutes before contest kick off, and worked a few before the start of the contest.  When the contest started, it was off to the races.  The end of the first hour showed a nice total of around 170 Q’s.  10m was slower than 20m, but N4YDU scrounged a nice group of multipliers before dropping down to 15m.  Rates for the second hour took off, and stayed good for the next eight hours. Just lots of fun.

20m conditions seemed very good, and that’s where I did the bulk of my operating.  The rates on 15m and 40m were also very steady – N4YDU and N4GU made the most of it.  They did a lot of the heavy lifting with band changes and mult hunting on the right hand station.  N1LN and I swapped off shifts on the left station, and spent the first six hours on 20m.  At the start of his second shift, 20m was really drying up.  N1LN dropped down to 80m.  80m was noisy, and the rates were slow at the beginning.  It warmed up towards the end of N1LN’s shift, and the rates soon were very good there.  N4GU and N4YDU had 40m smoking by then, and were keeping the rate meter busy.

Towards the middle of the last shift, N4YDU on 40m and me on 80m, the 60 minute rate got close to 200.  Almost, but not quite there.

Damn – THAT was a GOOD contest!

The 80m results were good, but conditions there were fairly difficult.  There were loud static crashes to the south of our QTH.  It was difficult copy doing RX on the TX antenna.  Using the beverages, stations were calling from all directions, so it was difficult to copy the calls on the first try.  Towards the end of my last shift, it seemed the best compromise for my ears was to use the beverages for RX with the K3’s pre-amp on and the RF gain turned back, and a hand constantly riding the beverage selection knob and sometimes the RF gain.   Static crashes still made copy difficult on stations to the west. The west beverage was needed for copy on stations from TX to IA and all points beyond and between, but it was also getting a lot of the storm static from the south.   VE stations were solid copy as long as the correct beverage was selected – which was seldom the case.

Damn – that was a GOOOOOD contest!

The two shifts I pulled on 20m were very good, and probably the best I have had as an op at N1LN.  Signals were generally solid copy.  QRN was relatively low.  The QRM was manageable, probably because activity was spread out up to 10m.  Rates were very steady.  I did find that the occasional nudge to the antenna direction often produced a new flurry of Q’s to pop in for a visit to our log.  Swinging back and forth from TX to NNW was the plan of action.  The occasional NE station was often loud enough to copy easily off the edges, but pointing either of the antennas directly NE produced little.  20m did not seem to “go short” as it did for me when operating  NAQP CW from home.  It just seemed to die.

The final tally shows a good spread of Q’s across the bands.

The Good
  • great team
  • great station
  • good high band conditions
  • K3 Protective circuit works!(see “the ugly”)
  • N1LN 10 minute repair service – Priceless!
The Bad
  • low band noise was high
  • Hardware issue cut into N4YDU 15m rate
The Ugly
  • The left station K3 folded back to 5w during the second hour in the middle of N4YDU 15m run.  Cooling fans not running, so heat sensor cut amp off.  Loose fan cable.  Repair by N1LN.
The Score 🙂
Call: NC4KW             Class: M/2 LP
Operator(s): N1LN, N4YDU, W4KAZ, N4GU
Station: N1LN           QTH: NC

Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Mults
-------------------
  160:  107    33
   80:  307    47
   40:  528    58
   20:  556    50
   15:  260    41
   10:  129    30
-------------------
Total: 1887   259  Total Score = 488,733

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