Radio W4KAZ

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Summer Review – Field Day 2011

Drove out to the mountains to hook up with N4YDU and N4PY for another great FD.  The Stone Mt. site is just plain awesome.  The set up was heavy on keeping it simple. We used 40m doublets and an 80m Vee operating 1A with a 6m setup.

One of the 40m antennas showed a high noise level again, which I expect is being generated locally.  Probably something in the park restroom is generating the RFI.  We had the same problem when we operated from the site previously.  But thats all a part of FD – working through the problems.

The 56 ft doublets were a lot less impressive on top of a mountain than at the beach for IOTA, which is not really a surprise.  I expect most of their performance in 2010  IOTA was due to ocean side proximity and propagation.  Left to my own devices the first choice for 40m will forevermore be resonant dipoles or loops.

The FD wx was great.  Overnight temps fell into the low 60’s or 50’s, which is a really nice change after afternoon temps in the 90’s.

And as always, operating with N4YDU and N4PY was great.

The only downside was there was no time before or after to get in a couple of days of camping and hiking the park trails.

CQ WPX CW 2011

Murphy.

I had saved Friday afternoon for some nice relaxing antenna maintenance time.  It is time to replace the K9AY wires.  Both loops have suffered a lot of damage from the odd falling branch, and the loops were made from fairly thin 18ga tinned automotive wire, I normally use for other reasons.  Time to put up loops made of heavier gauge wire, because the RX antenna is a keeper.  The 15m/10m loop also needs some work.  It needs to be adjusted for better SWR if kept, but it will more likely be replaced with simple dipoles.  Also need to check out some of the support lines, etc., etc. etc.

The wx did not cooperate with this plan.  A big thunderstorm moved in, and there was a mini monsoon, the likes of which I’ve not seen very often here in NC.  It was more like the spring storms more common on the gulf coast.  “Torrential downpour”.  “Monsoon”.

Anyway, with half of the XYL’s landscape floating away to the accompaniment of claps of thunder, the antenna plan hit the crapper.  The occasional light shower continued through the afternoon, and the wx radar kept me from plugging into the antennas(aka “lightning attractors”) until about 0400Z.  It would probably have been OK to operate sooner, but there was no reason to take the risk.

So, Friday resulted in a whopping 13Q’s of disinterested S&P.

Slept late Saturday(see where this is going?).  Still not much interest.  More half-hearted S&P on a mostly dead 20m band.  A 10 minute 20m run produced zilch.  Had more fun texting N4YDU than operating.  In the early evening, 40m sounded good.  Worked A73A, and hope he finally copied my number. He got the call on the first transmission, but needed fills on the number.  But if they could hear me in Qatar, it must be worth giving running a shot.  A forty minute 40m run produced about 50 Q’s, and some skimmer spot activity.  Operated “assisted, low power” to test out the packet connections.  Figured on a mostly S&P weekend, and figured it would be interesting to watch the band map.  Somewhere in that time the N/S 40m dipole became disfunctional[after nabbing a lot of russians while S&P].  Bailed early again.

Sunday, more Q’s were made running than S&P.  20m was a lot more fun than on Saturday.  15m stunk using the 40m dipole, although it looks like it stunk for bigg gunz too..  The N/S 40m dipole showed intermittent, so I guess that huge branch that fell in February must have given it a good wack on the way down.  Another repair project.  Running stations was pretty easy on both 40m and 20m, so conditions on Sunday were much improved over those on Saturday.

The station was good to go inside the shack.  With the skimmer spots being fed from the Reverse Beacon Net’s server, the band map was well populated.  The filters established were adequate.  The only part missing there were skimmer spots from a truly LOCAL skimmer.  The SO2R arrangement was also good-to-go, although the lid operator was not motivated enough for “S&P2R”.  If band conditions ever really break open again, with activity from 40m though 10m, the two radio capability is going to be more useful.  However SO2R was mostly a learning project – figuring out how to accomplish it was the real goal.  Time to revisit those filter projects again.

The Good:

  • Nice to hear 20m sound better.  Saturday was like sunspot minima.  Sunday-much better.
  • N/S 20m and E/W 20m dipoles produced good results in the expected directions, up to three S-units difference on weaker signals.  Definitely worth having both
  • Ditto 40m.  Before it broke, the N/S 40m dipole was hearing  many fine Russian ops much better than the E/W dipole, that is normally the  first choice.  The N/S works well into the GA/FL/Carribean/SA direction too.
  • Packet set-up will work when it is wanted
  • CW skimmer is every bit the game changer I expected.
  • Pulled the 40m antenna switch box to debug for possible intermittent.  Replaced broken connector on unused position, all seven positions on switch re-checked, switch good to go.

The Bad:

  • CW skimmer is every bit the game changer I expected[depends on mood]
  • didn’t get the repairs done
  • bad attitude.  Just not feeling the force
  • No real game plan going into the contest
The Ugly:
  • Washout on Friday afternoon.
  • Broken antennas:  K9AY, N/S 40m, 15m/10m loop
  • New problem on 40m switch box

The final “Final”:

Call: W4KAZ   Operator(s): W4KAZ   Station: W4KAZ
Class: SO(A)AB LP                  QTH: NC
Operating Time (hrs): 12.5

 Band  QSOs
------------
  160:
   80:   10
   40:  132
   20:  208
   15:   15
   10:    1
------------
Total:  366  Prefixes = 260  Total Score = 215,540

2011 CQ WPX SSB

Wow.

This year was spent at N1LN operating under the NC Contesters Club Call NR3X.  The three man team[N4YDU, N1LN, W4KAZ] was a group formed to put N1LN’s station on the air for the contest after failing to find the ops required to run the preferred M/2.  I’m sure glad we didn’t let the opportunity slip by – lots of fun.

Propagation conditions were very good for this contest – the best I have caught in several years.  Improved conditions  and lots of active stations made the bands wall-to-wall donald duck essessbeee chaos.  Very difficult to copy weak stations, but there were lots of LOUD signals too.  Heard many layers of QSOs on the same frequency.

Lots of little fun facts trickled in during the course of the weekend.  Made the mistake of trying to switch from 15m to 20m too early – and lost a high rate run.  Lesson: Next time listen to N4YDU! Made the mistake of giving up too easily on “terrible”  high QRM run frequencies.  Lesson: Don’t move before the rate plummets!  Beast it like N4YDU!

This contest, I made it a point to move the antennas around more often when the rates slowed and was rewarded with small boosts in the rate several times. Still not enough experience to know when to look for openings in directions other than EU, but sliding the beams 20 degrees either side of directly at Central EU usually found a few new ones hiding in the favored directions.

Getting the most out of N1LN’s station is something that is seeping in slowly.  The options in a station designed for M/2 competition are quite a bit more complex than just putting the butt-in-chair.  Also a world of difference between good yagi’s and dipole draped through the trees.

Looking at the raw score[3830 blurb] and the CQ WPX results database, we would have the fifth highest score ever posted for a Multi-One from the USA – based on scores through 2010. Unfortunately…. at least four other stations posted higher scores than our own for WPX SSB 2011, including  what will be a new US record.  So instead of making it into the top 10 all time scores, we might just wind up in the top 20.  There are several score in the ballpark of our 11.7m, so it will depend a lot on how clean our log checks out to see where we land.  There are going to be a LOT of great scores from this year’s contest.

We began the contest with general goals of 3000 to 3500 Q’s and at least 1000 mults.  We thought the improving conditions would help, and thought the mults would be the more difficult goal to reach.  Recent rule changes to Multi-Single for WX allow for 10 “band changes” per clock hour with one transmitted signal on the air rather than a mult radio.  This allows only 5 mults on different bands, assuming the run station remains on a single band for the duration of a clock hour.  That made for a lot of difficulty working mults on the second radio without disrupting the run station and losing a run frequency.  So the final result is a really good showing, and very happy with the mult totals.

A lot of the mults, as well as a lot of widespread DX called into our runs.  At the N1LN station, I tend to get caught off guard by the variety.  While running I logged B7, HS, several ZL and VK stations, all with the antennas pointed in directions not favorable for those directions.  It is really fun operating at N1LN.

Like always, an hour after my last shift my thought run towards “Why did we do this?”.  The next morning, after a solid night’s sleep the question morphs into “It really wasn’t THAT bad, was it?”.  Less than a week later, the question again morphs, becoming “When can we do that again?!?!”.

The Band conditions were a whole new can of worms compared to recent years. It is time to re-make the “rule book” to be dynamic enough to fit the changing conditions.  What worked as band strategies for periods of crappy propagation do not apply to periods of good propagation.  Go where the rate is – but where the heck is that gonna be?

160m – no activity, high storm noise.

80m. There was a moderately high noise level on 80m, but the nice beverages at N1LN’s station compensated.  During the night shift 40m dropped off due to the heavy QRM, and lack of EU calls while trying to listen split.  Better to work 1 pointers than nothing, so down to 80m we go.  80m was crowded, but not nearly the QRM levels of 20m and 15m.  Decent rates running strings of US stations with a nice mix of North and Central Europe stations calling every 4th or 5th Q.  With the beverage pointing at EU, the 6 and 7 land US stations were hard to copy, so the beverage controls got a decent workout switching from W to NE.  That run held up through the whole shift.

40m. Just not any fun operating 40m on SSB.  Split didn’t pan out.  Ugh.

20m was good – if you consider slam packed high QRM condx good.  Even with the QRM, there were bright spots when strings of strong stations would call in. Mostly 20m was neglected in favor of the 15m bonanza.  It sure seemed like rates were low because of the good 15m conditions.

15m was wide open on Sunday. After Saturday, we were thinking we were heavy on 15m, and might need to press 20m harder to keep the rate up, but N4YDU was being called by multiple stations.  Asking for fills was common due to crowded band conditions.  But it was great to hear 15m hopping again.  Probably the best 15m conditions I’ve operated, and certainly the best I’ve seen yet from a top-notch station.

10m – Finally! Friday evening started with a 10m opening to ZL/VK territory, which may have been lost opportunities.  Not much activity on 10 on Saturday.  Sunday afternoon the bubble burst on 10m.  With the antennas pointed south N1LN and YDU were able to run stations for a short period, and we were getting hits from all directions.  One of the better gems was a call from a station in Malta.  YDU indicated it was probably a Caribbean skewed skip opening, but it was sustained for the better part of an hour and accounted for the bulk of the 10m Q’s logged.

The Good: The generosity of N1LN and N1YXU in hosting the operations is deeply appreciated.  Great working with N1LN and N4YDU.

The Bad: Too easy to bail on high QRM run frequencies.  The joke was that was the GOOD run frequency.

The fUgly: Murphy was off visiting others.  Maybe he was happy with having smoked the home QTH microwave on Thursday.  [Blown microwave oven magnetrons smell just like blown power supplies.]

Raw Score [3830 blurb]:


Call: NR3X     ****    Operator(s): N4YDU, W4KAZ, N1LN   ****  Station: N1LN

Class: M/S HP   ****    QTH: NC                             ****  Operating Time (hrs): 48

Summary:
 Band  QSOs
------------
  160:    1
   80:  334
   40:  695
   20: 1013
   15: 1203
   10:  234
------------
Total: 3480  Prefixes = 1267  Total Score = 11,738,755


**

ARRL DX CW 2011

“E’ Says E’s not dead yet!”

Some life in 10m.  Not fabulous for the peanut whistle, but a lot better than recent times.

20m was really pretty good compared to recent excursions into the ether.  At least for the short times operated.  It was pretty cool to hop on 20m, call CQ, and have a 150Q 10 minute rate.  The rate didn’t last for more than 15 minutes, but it was great to have a whack at what can happen when conditions improve.  Too bad it doesn’t happen more often.

10m and 15m had signals, but not a lot of mixed success trying to work them.  For a change, 20m was easier.  The 10m/15m antenna situation may change. It looks like there may be room to pull a dual band dipole up in the current home of he 10m/15m loop.  That should play better since the effective height of the antenna will be significantly higher.

Tried a short run on 40m around 2030Z, which would normally be a bit on the early side for the peanut whistle to work EU on 40m.  Yet I had a nice run of EU stations there, and signal strengths were generally good for that early.  Had to ask for a lot of fills, the QSB was troublesome and I had difficulty pulling calls out of the mini-pileups.   A better op would have been nailing them more easily.

The propagation within the US seemed to be pretty good on all bands.  This sort of improvement will be very welcome for WPX and for FD and IOTA if it continues through the summer.

Class: SOAB LP;  QTH: NC;     Operating Time (hrs): 6.5
Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Mults
-------------------
  160:
   80:
   40:   80    30
   20:  125    38
   15:   19    14
   10:    9     9
-------------------
Total:  233    91  Total Score = 63,609
-

2010 ARRL 160m

That was fun.  Got a chance to really test drive the 160m inverted-L with the new series capacitance matching installed.  The capacitor switching is not yet wired, but the match is best at about 1845.  The KAT100 tuner for the K2 is easily able to match the antenna across the CW areas.  Without the switching in place, the area above 1900 is not usable, but that’s not a problem for ARRL 160m.

Operating low power into a vertical is a challenge on any band but has always seemed a larger hurdle on 160m.  It seems like the Inverted-L is playing very well – certainly better than before the matching at the antenna feed point was improved.  There were a few stations that struggled to hear the peeps from the KazShack, but the percentage of good QSO’s versus “no cpy pse ltr” definitely seems to have improved.

Operating was limited mostly to early evening.  Not a lot of DX worked, just a couple of Caribbean stations and an F2 that must have really good ears.  The Caribbean stations were booming, so they probably had less trouble copying the 100w. Didn’t hang in the shack until the EU sunrise, but the F2 was early.

Darting in and out of the KazShack Saturday afternoon, low-and-behold, those three or four intrepid operators cq’ing into the teeth of a mostly dead daytime 160m band have pretty darn good signals.  Short distance regional Q’s, but with low noise conditions a few hundred more stations on the air would make the afternoon on 160m interesting.  Very easy copy.

The Good:

  • Got a light dusting of snow Saturday afternoon while helping the XYL with trimming the Christmas tree.  Nice afternoon!
  • Worked most of the S&P contacts on the first call.  A few required hearing the call more than once.  A handful were still deaf to my every attempt.
  • Two really nice runs where the 15 minute rates hit 120/hr.  Must have been spotted.  The first was Friday evening.  The second was around 6:00am local Saturday morning.
  • Gotta love the wintertime.  Conditions very quiet on Saturday evening after about 7:00pm local.  Listened mostly on the xmit antenna Saturday.  Good conditions at other times too.  Used the K9AY rx antenna for some of the tougher Q’s.
  • Great booming signals from the couple of Caribbean stations.
  • E77, HI, were good easy copy but didn’t fight their pileups.  Worked F2.  Probably would have had better luck picking up a few new countries if the butt had stayed in chair.

The Bad:

  • Would like for folks to allow the DX stations the chance to call CQ in the DX window.  It’s not really that difficult to find a run frequency on 160m outside the DX window.    Maybe SantaClawz, the TeethFerry, and the EasterWabbit can hold a bi-partisan beer summit,have a group hug, sing Kumbaya, and a collegial atmosphere of good will and peace on earth will break out.  Even then it probably won’t trickle down to the amateur radio community.
  • Not enough rest going into the weekend – no operating after midnight local.  Only about 9 hours total Butt-In-Chair time.

The Ugly:

  • None!  Murphy was busy elsewhere.

The Outcome:

Station: W4KAZ

Class: Single Op LP
QTH: NC
Operating Time (hrs): 9

Summary:
Total:  QSOs = 329  Sections = 51  Countries = 5  Total Score = 37,856

*

2010 ARRL SSB Sweeps

That was hard to get excited about.  Too many distractions on Saturday.  By the time the butt hit the chair in the shack on Saturday evening, 80m was slam full.  It was difficult to find a spot to establish a run.   Heard a W6 down at the bottom of the SSB segment at 0030z-unusual because it was still early.  Once I found a hole in the QRM, the 80m run was very good for low-power-low-dipoles.  Bailed out early.

Sleeping later than I planned Sunday morning led me to try running on 40m.  That worked very well for almost two hours, as I landed on a cherry spot, and ran stations on 7150 for the bulk of the 40m Q’s.  When the 40m rates slowed to rates normal for  S&P here, it seemed like a good time to hunt mults.  That provided some fun, and a bit of frustration for the ones that got away.  The AB and SK stations I worked were just BOOOMING into central NC around 1800z on 15m.  I never noticed that 10m opened, but I never looked.  Opportunities lost.

Sweep- NOT!  Heard SB and NT, but they never heard the tin-whistle from the KazShack.  Never heard OK, or NE, or ND.  Found SD by blind luck, after the pull-the-plug fever had set in, but before the fever manifested in turning switches to the off position.

Highlights of the test included being called by N3ND/M for his QSO #0001.  Dan was driving from SC to WCF, and dropped in for a visit.  Found Will, W4MR, running a pile-up late in the test, and he’s so damn loud here I couldn’t tune him in properly.  Peppered N4YDU with taunts for the duration of the test.

Distractions were probably a good thing.  The last few hours seemed slow, even though I was behind where I may have been with more time in the chair on Saturday.

The Good:

  • Nice runs on 80m and 40m.
  • Everything worked.  Not above average audio, but functional.

The Bad:

  • High bands virtually useless with the dipoles.  20m wasn’t as bad as normal, but not great.
  • Never checked 10m for opening.  Duh.

The Ugly:

  • Never checked 10m!

The Results:

Summary:
  Band  QSOs
------------
   160:
    80:  224
    40:  149
    20:   49
    15:   23
    10:
------------
Total:  445  Sections = 73  Total Score = 64,970

CQWW DX SSB 2010 @ N1LN

A late recap being better than none at all…..

The multi-2 operation at N1LN went off well again this year.  The bands were not as good as we hoped they might be, but 15m came through much better than it had in 2009, so that was a welcome improvement in propagation.  10m teased us with a bit of a South American opening on Saturday afternoon, but time there was mostly Search and Pounce.  As always, operating the N1LN station is a big change from 100-w into a low dipole.  But it has challenges of its own.

When set up for Multi-2, N1LN has two stations with one radio each.  So there is no mult radio in an SO2R configuration like many other Multi-2 stations.  But that’s not a limit on having fun operating.  It’s more an upper limit of the possible Q’s.

For my own part, I’m still learning the subtleties of operating a good station with good antennas.  It is a lot more complicated than the home QTH, but not really rocket science either.  More a matter of accumulating experience and a better understanding of what propagation conditions might present at any given time in the chair.  N1LN came up with an excellent operator schedule, which I hope gave everyone a taste of the possibilities and enough chair time to keep them interested.

20m and 40m were both quite challenging.  It was difficult to find good places to establish runs, and there was a high level of QRM whenever the bands were open.  Never really got a good run going on either band.

10m was a pleasant surprise.  The Saturday afternoon shift brought a nice round of mults and almost 100 Q’s.  Most of the stations  worked were South American, Carribean and a couple of EA stations.  15m was also open, but the rates on Saturday afternoon were not as good as during the morning opening.

On 80m and 160m noise was a factor.  N1LN had added a few toys to the sandbox since last year.  The first was a K9AY RX antenna, which allowed operation without swatting at N4YDU’s hand as he switched the beverage off the station I was trying to copy.  Also new was a 2-element phased array on 160m.  That was pretty cool too.  The endfire directions showed good rejection off the rear, and while on 160m it was possible to listen on the xmit antenna and switch to the rx antenna only on the weaker signals, at least the short time I operated on 160m.

Claimed Score:

Call: N1LN
Operator(s): N1YDU, W4KAZ, KA1ARB, N4GU, AA4FU, N1LN
Station: N1LN

Class: M/2 HP
QTH: NC - 05
Operating Time (hrs): 48

Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
------------------------------
  160:  150    14       36
   80:  337    28       85
   40:  589    34      104
   20:  947    36      125
   15: 1049    34      128
   10:  156    17       36
------------------------------
Total: 3228   163      514  Total Score = 5,628,578
*
http://w4kaz.com/n1ln/2010_cq_ww_ssb_n1ln/

ARRL SS CW-2010

That was interesting.

Operating conditions this year seemed very good – at least in comparison to the last few years.  The noise levels on 80m and 40m seemed low, very comfortable.  15m and 10m remained mostly useless.  Nothing heard on 10m, and the west coast stations heard on 15m  were having a tough time copying the 100w signal from the KazShack.  15m did produce several section mults, so it was well worth the S&P sweeps in between trying to establish runs.  Also dropped back to plain old low power, no packet.

It seemed that my copy at higher speeds was a bit better, but that could just be self delusion.  The log checking report will again be the arbiter of success.  The goal was to cut the error rate in half.  When it becomes available the LCR will tell the sordid tale.

The game plan was to operate low power with no packet spots, and get some more time playing “S&P2R”.  The idea of using packet and connecting to some of the skimmers had some appeal, but in the end decided to enjoy the manual S&P.

80m was the place to be. I had better luck attracting callers there. I missed the first three hours. (LSU 24-Bama 21!!) When I got on the air at 0100z I soon set up camp in the upper portion of the 80m CW band and ran. And ran. And ran. The rate was steady from 0116 through 0600z. Not Bigg-Gunn level rates, but a smooth and steady flow that averaged out to about 43/hr, for almost six hours straight, the longest I’ve ever held a run on a single frequency.  Chased off all of the frequency poachers who thought they could slide up into my passband. Had to really nurse the single 807 I brought with me  down into the shack, but I didn’t want to get up for a second one.  [Time for a dorm fridge in the shack?]

Sunday morning was decent too. Rates soon fell off, and 40m/20m/15m proved disappointing. S&P was OK, but not able to set up any sustained runs after a short Sunday morning run on 40m.  Spent most of the daytime hours search and pounce, with the occasional attempt at starting a run.  None of the Sunday afternoon runs produced, so search and pounce was more productive. Actually, “less unproductive” probably is a better characterization. Just before sunset, I moved down to 80m, started calling CQ, and was immediately rewarded with a decent run that lasted just over an hour.  Ended early with a bit of light S&P.

Despite not reaching some of the goals, it was a very enjoyable contest.  Sweeps has become one of my favorites.

The Good:

  • Easier copy.
  • Murphy was too busy “helping” other operators to pay a visit.  Everything worked.
  • Worked KA3DRR, who had a nice run going, and AE5X called into one of my runs.  Contest on!

The Bad:

  • Another operating goal was to really push the QSO totals up.  Failed miserably at that goal.

The Ugly:

  • 20m – No successful runs

Claimed Results:

Call: W4KAZ
Class: Single Op LP
QTH: nc
Operating Time (hrs): 19
Radios: SO2R

Summary:
  Band  QSOs
------------
   160:    0
    80:  325
    40:  131
    20:   96
    15:   24
    10:    0
------------
Total:  576  Sections = 78  Total Score = 89,856
QSO/Sec by hour and band

 Hour      80      40      20      15     Total     Cumm    OffTime
D1-2100Z    -      2/2     4/4     1/1     7/7       7/7      27
D1-2200Z    -       -       -       -      0/0       7/7      60
D1-2300Z    -      2/2     5/5      -      7/7      14/14     26
D2-0000Z  19/13    4/3    --+--   --+--   23/16     37/30  
D2-0100Z  40/11    1/0      -       -     41/11     78/41  
D2-0200Z  51/4      -       -       -     51/4     129/45  
D2-0300Z  40/3      -       -       -     40/3     169/48  
D2-0400Z  44/7      -       -       -     44/7     213/55  
D2-0500Z  46/1      -       -       -     46/1     259/56  
D2-0600Z   1/1      -       -       -      1/1     260/57     59
D2-0700Z    -       -       -       -      0/0     260/57     60
D2-0800Z  --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--    0/0     260/57     60
D2-0900Z    -       -       -       -      0/0     260/57     60
D2-1000Z    -       -       -       -      0/0     260/57     60
D2-1100Z  24/1      -       -       -     24/1     284/58     26
D2-1200Z  12/2    34/3      -       -     46/5     330/63  
D2-1300Z  15/1    16/0      -       -     31/1     361/64  
D2-1400Z    -     22/2     2/0      -     24/2     385/66  
D2-1500Z    -      5/0    19/6      -     24/6     409/72  
D2-1600Z  --+--   --+--    4/0     9/2    13/2     422/74     31
D2-1700Z    -       -       -      5/1     5/1     427/75     40
D2-1800Z    -       -     10/0     5/1    15/1     442/76  
D2-1900Z    -       -     12/1     4/0    16/1     458/77  
D2-2000Z    -     14/0    11/0      -     25/0     483/77  
D2-2100Z    -     16/0     9/0      -     25/0     508/77  
D2-2200Z    -       -     20/1      -     20/1     528/78  
D2-2300Z   1/0    13/0      -       -     14/0     542/78     33
D3-0000Z  29/0    --+--   --+--   --+--   29/0     571/78  
D3-0100Z   3/0     2/0      -       -      5/0     576/78  

Total:   325/44  131/12   96/17   24/5  

2010 IOTA Scores Posted

Got a heads-up from N4YDU that the preliminary scores had been posted for 2010 IOTA over at the RSGB contest web site.

It looks like the 2010 N4A expedition (N4YDU, N3ND, K2AV, and W4KAZ, [W0UCE unable to come]) had a good showing in the IOTA contest part of the expedition.  In the LP Expedition category we have the high score for North America.  We very nearly snuck into the top ten in the category, which would have been a real achievement for a contest whose scoring heavily favors EU expeditions.  European participation is higher and it is usually easier for EU expeditions to log more high value QSO’s, since all of the British Isles count as 15 point Q’s.  Our QSO count and mults were actually higher than the #9 and #10 Eu LP expedition entries, but those stations must have logged more of the 15 point QSO’s, boosting their scores above ours.

Congrats to my partners in crime – all three are damn fine operators.

IOTA 2010 – Cape Lookout Expedition

Operating under special event call N4A, for the fourth year we once again activated the South Core Banks from Cape lookout a few miles up the beach from the CALO lighthouse.  Fun facts and photo strip on the N4A operation on its web site.  Additional photos on flickr.  Also a short youtube clip of N4YDU running them on 20m SSB.

An operation on the beach as an expedition is always a great chance to learn new stuff.  This year we learned that fiberglass mast is pretty flimsy and aluminum is much stronger – not a revelation.

After some extensive modeling by K2AV, we settled on using ladder line fed doublets that were 56 feet(17.2m) in total length, 28 ft per side.  The models show that length to have useful lobes on 15m and 20m, without loosing much over a regular 40m dipole.  We ran the ladder line to just behind the radio’s into 4:1 baluns, and used the radio internal tuners for matching.  [I’d have preferred outboard tuners.]

We didn’t get good enough propagation on 15m to decide if they were making a difference, but two of these antennas at right angles, with their apex at 40 feet, seemed to work very well on 40m and 20m.  On 20m, there was a worthwhile difference between the two antennas, several s-units in many cases.  The signal level difference on 40m was more subtle.  The pattern on 40m at only 40 ft high is mostly omnidirectional anyway.

Lacking an appropriate vehicle is somewhat of a problem for this sort adventure.  The island has only sand trails, no real roads, so 4WD is recommended. N3ND volunteered the use of his AWD Toyota Highlander this year.  We were able to get everything packed inside or laid on top, but it was a snug fit.

2010 was great WX wise.  We had blue skys and a steady cooling sea breeze for the duration of our stay on CALO.   Saturday afternoon was  particularly pleasant, with low humidity and moderate temperatures making the afternoon very comfortable – the first time we have enjoyed such good WX for an expedition.

Operating was a lot more fun in 2010 compared to the previous three years due to slightly improved propagation.  Friday evening booked a few pages worth of QSO’s to both the US and Europe on 20m and 40m.  When the RSGB IOTA contest began on Saturday morning, we enjoyed a decent 20m opening to EU on both CW and SSB, and even a few JA’s getting into the log then.  Propagation to Europe faded during the midday, but began picking up towards mid afternoon.  15m never really opened, and 10m was completely unproductive.  Its been a long term goal to make Q’s on 6m from CALO, but the e-skip never sees to coincide with our expeditions.  This year was no different – nothing heard on 6m.

Pulling the graveyard shift wasn’t very productive for QSO rates, but there were some great Pacific Q’s to gather there.  VK7, ZL1, E51, WH6, NH2 all made it into the log then.  That was fun, even if it caused symptoms of sleep deprivation later!

The mast gear seemed to be in good shape, with the exception of one folded stick of fiberglass.  Going to 40ft is more difficult than going to 30ft, but is not impossible with at least two people.  Lifting 30ft is possible for one person with proper guying, but the mast is too heavy for one small person to lift to 40ft.  Possibly with a gin pole – but the additional rigging needed for the gin pole is time consuming, and extra gear required is not available at this time.

Summary:
 Band  CW Qs  CW Mults  Ph Qs  Ph Mults
----------------------------------------
   80:   10        9       1       1
   40:  306       45     127      36
   20:  412       46     286      40
   15:   53       20       1       1
   10:    0        0       0       0
----------------------------------------
Total:  781      120     415      78  Total Score = 1,416,096

The Good:  Great WX.  Good radio conditions.  We blew away all our past mileposts for the bottom of a sunspot cycle, new high of 1196 qsos and 1.4m points.  K2Av was great opening 4om CW, and N3ND and N4YDU both had great runs at various times during the day.  Homebrew compound baluns didn’t melt.  A few day before leaving for the island, noticed that RSGB had posted the list of 2009 Trophy winners – and N4A nabbed the plaque for North American expeditions again.  SWEEEET!

The Bad: W0UCE missed due to a family illness.  Pesky intermittent noise, we think from a UPS.  Just hate using, for contest logging, N1MM.

The Ugly: None!