Radio W4KAZ

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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!

Field Day 2010 as NR3X

Had fun again for Field Day with N4YDU.  Always do.  Even though it was miserably hot and humid this year.  Operated this year under the NC Contesters call NR3X.

We had a crew of ‘ringers’ on 40m CW.  W0UCE, N3ND, and K2AV ran up a nice QSO count on 40Cw. Other operators were AA4XX, K4CZ, N4GU, N4YDU, and W4KAZ. With the extra operators on hand we operated class 3A.  AA4XX and K4CZ were only available for the first few hours, so in the end we wound up with about seven or eight hours of idle time on two of the stations.  Gotta sleep sometimes.

With one station dedicated to 40m CW, the other bands/modes were spread between the other two stations.  Station one was 40m ssb plus 10m/15m.  The second station handled 80m CW and 20m CW, plus 20m SSB.

A late afternoon thunder storm chased me out of the 20m CW shack for just over an hour at about 4:00pm local on 06/26.  To hell with that!  I like operating, but not enough to die for.  Also had a couple of computer problems early on with the setup for the 20 CW station.  Piddled away some time resolving those.  (Problems: N1MM has a faux “Elecraft K2” radio option that does not work [MUST use “Kenwood”], and when the laptop went idle its power saver caused N1MM to hang up when using its function key macros [solution re-boot laptop. Better Solution: Use writeLog])

The 80m/20m CW station had dipoles for each band, fed with ladder line.  The 40m ssb/10m/15m station used a G5RV sized doublet, also fed with ladder line.  At the 40m CW pit, two crossed 40m dipoles were played.

Final tally was 2746 total QSO’s for a score of 9600+ points.  Close enough to 10K to taste it.  Close to 3K QSO’s, but not quite close enough.

The band breakdown:

QSO/Dx+Sec by hour and band

 Hour    80 CW   40 CW   20 CW   15 CW   10 CW   80 PH   40 PH   20 PH   15 PH   10 PH    Total     Cumm    OffTime

D1-1800Z    -     39/11   67/19     -       -       -       -       -     71/18     -    177/48    177/48
D1-1900Z    -     49/1     8/1    12/0      -       -       -      5/0    66/1      -    140/3     317/51
D1-2000Z    -     67/0    40/3    79/1     7/0      -       -       -       -       -    193/4     510/55
D1-2100Z    -     42/0    18/1      -      7/1      -       -       -       -     71/0   138/2     648/57
D1-2200Z    -     47/1     7/2    18/2    10/0      -       -       -     10/1    13/0   105/6     753/63
D1-2300Z    -     50/0    35/6      -       -       -       -       -     13/0    47/1   145/7     898/70
D2-0000Z   7/0    55/3    37/1     2/1     2/0    --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   31/0   134/5    1032/75
D2-0100Z  44/0    35/0      -     14/0      -       -     48/0      -      4/0      -    145/0    1177/75
D2-0200Z  42/0    35/0      -       -       -       -    121/1      -       -       -    198/1    1375/76
D2-0300Z  31/0    40/0      -       -       -       -     46/1      -       -       -    117/1    1492/77
D2-0400Z  20/0    42/1      -       -       -     13/0    16/0      -       -       -     91/1    1583/78
D2-0500Z  24/0    27/1      -       -       -      5/0      -       -       -       -     56/1    1639/79
D2-0600Z    -     22/5      -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -     22/5    1661/84
D2-0700Z    -     14/0      -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -     14/0    1675/84
D2-0800Z  --+--   15/0    --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   15/0    1690/84
D2-0900Z  34/0     7/0      -       -       -     16/0      -       -       -       -     57/0    1747/84
D2-1000Z   6/0    28/2      -       -       -       -     49/1      -       -       -     83/3    1830/87
D2-1100Z    -     44/0     8/0      -       -       -     78/0      -       -       -    130/0    1960/87
D2-1200Z    -     48/0    11/0      -       -       -     84/0    21/0      -       -    164/0    2124/87
D2-1300Z    -     39/0    29/0     8/0      -       -     32/0     7/0     6/0      -    121/0    2245/87
D2-1400Z    -     37/0    66/0     1/0      -       -      4/0      -     33/0     1/0   142/0    2387/87
D2-1500Z    -     38/0    50/0    11/0      -       -     12/0      -     16/0      -    127/0    2514/87
D2-1600Z  --+--   33/0    16/0     3/0     8/0    --+--   37/0    --+--   --+--   --+--   97/0    2611/87
D2-1700Z    -     30/0     3/0      -      1/0      -       -     59/0    38/0     3/0   134/0    2745/87
D2-1800Z    -       -       -       -       -       -       -      1/0      -       -      1/0    2746/87  

Total:   208/0   883/25  395/33  148/4    35/1    34/0   527/3    93/0   257/20  166/1

2010 CQ WPX CW As NR3X

N4YDU was on the sidelines/out-of-action for the weekend, so I took NR3X out for a spin in the WPX.  So for those who would be wondering why NR3X was suddenly a lid, well, there it is.  Apologies to all who expected NR3X to be piloted by a good CW op.

Original plans to put in a more serious effort evaporated, so it became a great chance to play SO2R using spots.  Logged about 8 hours total Butt-In-Chair time over the entire contest.  The shack has a new scavenged computer, so it needed a shakedown anyway.  The one item not ready was the Winkeyer2, which showed up in the mailbox only a few hours before ‘showtime’ on Friday. Despite an initial urge to slap the winkeyer together, it remained(s)  un-built.  Lacking an additional USB to serial interface, it could not have been used  anyway.  Soon!

The ‘new’ ShackBox CPU has a clean win XP install.  On a tip found on the Writelog support forum,  the “PortTalk” program was used to circumvent the parallel port issue, but the winkeyer will render that workaround moot.  For handling packet cluster and skimmer merges, the wintelnetx program by K1TTT was installed.  Wintelnetx is relatively easy to configure after the “route” settings are understood, and K1TTT has sample ini files included which make it easy to get started.  This tutorial for TR is helpful.

With wintelnetx configured to pull spots from the normal spot network and from N4ZR’s skimmer node, the band maps are populated in a very short time.  Very interesting.

With the weekend shaping up as an hour or two here and there, poking spots seemed like a good idea. Friday night turned into a bust, with a local T-storm showing up overhead around 0100Z.  Bail!  Saturday morning conditions were poor.  Normally loud EU stations were not, and few were hearing the low-power-low-antennas from the KazShack very well, so it became mostly a click and shoot on US stations and the occasional loud DX.  A few 15m Q’s added to the mix, but not generally good propagation.  20m opened  to EU around 2000z, with 40m picking up just a bit later.  Seemed more like mid-summer IOTA propagation.

Conditions Sunday seemed a bit improved, but less time spent on the air, missing the late afternoon opening entirely.  Closed out the contest trying to run on 40m, which produced a few interesting Q’s.

Things to Fix: Fix LID operator!  Need to decide how best to correct the SO2R audio switching.  Simply reversing the L/R phone audio might be easiest fix, but probably would best be served by figuring out exactly what was haywired originally

The GOOD: SO2R set up performs flawlessly.  New ShackBox CPU also integrated without problems.  Skimmer spots are more useful than ordinary packet spots, would be ideal with a local node[great club project idea].  Good results on 40m, conditions seemed good there and even had a good mix of EU stations call into my run in the last hour.

The BAD: Propagation seems to have returned to ‘no sunspot’ mode, and summertime conditions have already taken hold.

The UGLY: Busted calls.  Busted exchanges.  Busted LID operator.

Call: NR3X
Operator(s): W4KAZ;       Station: W4KAZ

Summary:
 Band  QSOs
------------
  160:
   80:    1
   40:   86
   20:  140
   15:   28
   10:   11
------------
Total:  266  Prefixes = 182  Total Score = 116,298

ARRL 160m LCR(2009)

Noticed on Saturday last week that the log check reports for the 2009 ARRL 160m contest had been posted on the ARRL website.  How I found them, I’m not sure.  The ARRL site has been well shuffled.  In my life as a DP professional, it was important to stress the significance such sweeping change would have to the hapless victims – i.e., the poor folks who actually used the program interfaces to get their jobs done.

Its like this – the hapless victims(in this example ME) had a working knowledge of “how it works”.  That knowledge was reinforced by 0 to 20(eleven) years of hands on habitual training.  Sometimes that is good, sometimes not good. Tossing these years of “habit”  is often more or less equivalent to firing the entire staff and starting with fresh high school grads.  Sometimes that sort of drastic change was required to achieve the goals.  More often it was just done on the whimsy of the dork making the decisions.  So – whimsy or requirement? But I digress into grumpy Old Fart-ville….

Yet I am smiling.  The LCR, once found, is for me one of the best things about the ARRL contests.  It is a blow by blow breakdown of what was screwed up.  In this case the 2009 ARRL 160m LCR is better news than most.  It’s the best CW LCR I have had – ever.  On 201 QSO’s I busted only 2 calls, and had one exchange busted.  O’course, it was only 200 Q’s total, but improvement is always good.

Operating for only about four hours, about half of the QSO’s were from runs, and the rest from S&P.  The rate was low by Bigg Gunn standards, but about normal for the low power 160m KazShack.  This low error rate even beat out a lot of my SSB LCR’s.  It may in fact be the best LCR for any of my contests, either mode. SWEEEET!

Now, I just need to get the Sweepstakes log(and every other log) to be as good as this ARRL 160m log.  Sweepstakes was terrible.  In 2008 most of the errors were on the exchanges.  2009 CW Sweeps was a step backwards, with more callsign busts.

Sure wish I knew what was different – it would be better to have more logs like the 160m ‘test.  The ultimate goal is a 500 QSO CW contest log with zero errors.

When pigs fly…..for now I would be happy with a consistently low error rate.

2010 ARRL DX SSB @ N1LN- Not Too Shabby

The weekend over at the N1LN/N1YXU was a lot of fun, as always.  Somewhat bleary eyed at the end, but that is to be expected.

The results…..2629 QSO’s, 435 mults, score of 3,417,795.

The propagation was not what we hoped for, and conditions were not close to what we enjoyed for ARRL DX CW only a couple of weeks ago. Not a shock, and probably the only disappointing aspect of the event for me.

We laid plans to open up on 40m and 80m.  In hindsight, that was probably not the best choice, but it sure made sense at the time.  40m was decent at the beginning, but 80m wasn’t there yet, and as the lead-off op on 80m I was too slow to react to the actual conditions.  Live and Learn.

The low bands were tough sledding all weekend.  40m was the money band in the first 24 hours, then 20m took over the lead role.  It was extremely difficult to find and hold runs all weekend.  15m was fair on Saturday, not too good on Sunday. We worked JA’s on both 15m and 20m late Saturday afternoon, not many on Sunday.  The conditions Sunday were maybe even a little worse than those we enjoyed for CQWW in October 2009.

Some of the QSO’s were interesting.  Beaming Europe in the local morning, just after 1200z, I worked an HS0.  Not just once, but one each on both Saturday and Sunday mornings.  That had to have been  long path propagation, because the short path was at enough of an angle off the beam to be in a null.  Both stations had easily workable signals, no QSB on either.  The stations that did call be on 80m at the start of the contest were all solid copy, showing that the band was indeed open at the time.  Just nobody S&P’ing down there early in the contest.  40m produced a solid string of QSO’s in the hours following the EU sunrise.  Probably just indicative of a lot of casual ops having some fun after a good night’s rest.

While going up and down the bands, I was hearing relatively few US stations calling.  That made it more likely you could end up stacked on top of another station calling.  Curious results ensue….

In his soapbox, N1LN describes some of the conditions from his own POV.  I would need to agree about the QRM.  20m was a real zoo.  I’m sure there were many stations calling that I could not hear through the heavy QRM.  Many stations were stacked in layers calling CQ, and it was difficult to find a place in the bedlam.  Stations would then park as little as 700hz up and start calling.

A real zoo.  I just gotta start working on increasing the CW skills.  At least I can be prepared – just in case propagation never really recovers.

The Good:

  • Worked some interesting Q’s.
  • Learning when to move the antennas
  • Always fun chatting with the crew during the down times.
  • Duke spanked UNC in the weekend’s basketball game of interest.

The Bad:

  • Overstaying my welcome when the plan to open on 80m drew few callers.  Should have moved to 15m to round up what was available before it disappeared.  As discovered on Sunday when 15m never really came back.
  • Poor 15m conditions on Sunday.  Better on Saturday(but only fair).
  • Poor conditions overall, but better than last year.

The Ugly:

  • QRM levels worst I have experienced.  That’s not a lot of experience, but it still seemed pretty darn difficult.  That must be what the EU ops deal on a  regular basis.  I now have a lot more sympathy for the guys who can’t pull out my call from home when operating with 100w.

The Audio(source unknown):

 


3830 Summary:

 Band  QSOs  Mults
-------------------
  160:   74    43
   80:  193    71
   40:  622    98
   20: 1064   104
   15:  589   100
   10:   87    19
-------------------
Total: 2629   435  Total Score = 3,417,795

ARRL DX SSB 2010 – Who Is The Competition

This year N1LN has been able to find enough operators to be able to host a M/2 effort for the ARRL DX SSB contest.  I am fortunate enough to be part of the SSB team this year, and I’m excited about the opportunity.  This is a great DX contest, as the DX stations are seeking to work the US stations.  If we are fortunate enough to have good operating conditions, it should be a blast.  Good 15m or even a chance 10m opening would just make everything better. If the conditions are anything like this past weekends’ DX CW, we are going to have a great contest and a lot of fun operating.

Looking at the 2009 results, it appears we have a real shot at creating ripples in the M/2 pond.   For 2009 the top 10 in the W/VE M/2 class were:

1	WE3C	6,019,992	4,167	484	EPA
2	N3RS	4,507,461	3,461	441	EPA
3	W4RM	3,431,106	2,857	406	VA
4	K8AZ	2,759,328	2,308	402	OH
5	NR4M	2,565,171	2,170	399	VA
6	KB1H	2,518,431	2,191	391	CT
7	NE3F	1,984,140	1,861	365	EPA
8	K0TV	1,793,412	1,623	372	NH
9	W5WMU	1,654,044	1,459	388	LA
10	NK7U	1,312,464	1,491	296	OR

Operating during the CQ WW SSB contest, we managed just over 3000 QSO’s.  In better conditions, it is likely we can do better than that.  But so will everyone else.

After looking at the descriptions of some of the other stations[see links above], its a tough task to join this crowd.  All of these stations have larger antenna farms than that at N1LN. Most of the top five have towers over 120′.  WE3C has a high 80m rotate-able dipole, as well as 4-squares for 160/80/40. Most also have superior geographic situations working in their favor as well.  The promise of good conditions may also lure some stations back into the M/2 category. The poor conditions of the past few years must certainly have caused some to drop back to a single transmitter.

We can also hope that ‘other factors’ will NOT be equal.  But the chances of bad weather are probably higher in this part of the US than in these more favorable locations.  That is not a controllable factor. So it is probably best to think of things we might do to improve our performance.  Maximize multipliers.  Dig out the weak ones.   Be on the right band at the right time. Rate is king.  Butts in chairs.  A couple of cold 807’s to keep ‘YDU’s pipes going for the duration.

Should all other factors be equal, if we are to cause ripples in this pond we will need to be better operators than the other guys.  I’d like to think we can at the very least keep them looking in their rear-view-mirrors.

“No sweat!” [HA!]

2010 ARRL DX CW – What A Difference A Few Sunspots Make

The propagation conditions were better to EU than its been for quite a long while.  That made the contest a lot more enjoyable than the DX contests have been over the past few years from here in the “cheap seats”[low power into low dipoles].  I’m sure the scores at the big stations will reflect the changes.

For my own part it went quite well-even with a small station

In the week before the contest, conditions were sounding good, with good openings on 15m and 20m.  There was no real plan to put in a heavy effort here, but instead to have fun and get in some CW practice.  Check.  Mission accomplished.

Overall, with conditions so much better it was easy to stay in the chair longer than planned. 15m opened early on both days, just after local sunrise.  20m was hot in the early afternoon, and 40m and 80m both opened to Europe earlier than I usually notice.  There were even a few QSO’s on the edges from 160m and 10m.  The 160m Q’s were early in the evening, when I was hearing a few EU stations, but they weren’t hearing the dulcet tones emanating from the Kazshack.  The 10m QSO’s were very fluttery, with lots of QSB, but worth chasing anyway.

The operating plan quickly morphed from “Search and Pounce” into finding a place to try to run.  The original idea was to operate “unlimited” and play “S&P2R”.  The network connection never got connected after tuning around a bit and shifting the gray matter into run mode.  Wedging into a good spot is always a problem, but once found the good conditions had the stations lining up.  Sometimes too many – a new experience from the KazShack.  But good spots were hard to find and a lot of time running was done at lower rates up in the “nosebleed” areas higher in the band.

The runs brought in a lot of surprises.  On 40m finding and working the KH6 was a surprise, as well as being called by a TA and a ZC up on 15m .  Early on the second day I also found a JA1 on 40m, but no joy – working left coast.  Some of the surprises were unusual enough to cause the brain to balk on copying the call sign correctly – V51 in particular.  A search and pounce sweep on 10m and 15m bagged ZM1A on 15m,  as well as five of the 10m mults.

15m showed signs of signals from Europe just after local sunrise, and they were able to hear me soon thereafter.  Probably an hour or so earlier than that for the stations with good 15m antennas.  But the lack of good antennas served to limit the volume of responses rather than shut the band to use.  I was able to run stations on 15m after 1230z on the second day.  Just a couple of hours later, and 20m became hospitable for a low power run above 14100.

Being a fan of 15m, not much time was spent in the local evening hours.  Its difficult for the DX to hear the 100w stations through their local QRM and QRN.  With 15m and 20m open, that’s not the disaster it has been in the past couple of years.

It will be interesting to see the scores and compare them to those of the past couple of years.

The Good:

  • Conditions!
  • More like fun, less like work
  • Decent runs

The Bad:

  • Problems with copy on unexpected calls
  • Pile up skills

The Ugly:

  • Possible problem with K2 KAT100 auto-tuner on Ant1, used ant2 for duration of the contest

********  ********

Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Mults
-------------------
  160:    5     5
   80:   55    28
   40:  191    46
   20:  187    45
   15:  131    45
   10:    8     6
-------------------
Total:  577   175  Total Score = 302,925

amended 2010/2/26

NAQP SSB January 2010 @ NC4KW

Once again N1LN and N1YXU hosted the January NAQP’s at their home, and I was happy to be part of the SSB team. This year’s crew was N1LN, N1YXU, AA4FU, and myself, W4KAZ, operating under the NC4KW call sign.

It was a lot of fun.

Given the poor high band conditions over the NAQP CW weekend, there was a general agreement that the best initial plan might be to start on 20m and 40m, with the intent of keeping an eye on 15m and 10m in case of any possible openings. That proved to be a worthwhile strategy. We once again turned up a big ‘goose egg’ on 10m, not logging a single qso on the band. N1LN was able to improve last year’s 15m qso count with a short run and some S&P on 15m during his first shift and in between 40m runs.

20m was never great, but we brought our 20m qso count up to a more reasonable level, a big improvement over Jan 2009 contest. Conditions on 20m seemed really long right at the start of the contest. The upper antenna at 100 ft seemed to always be the best choice, and there seemed to be a narrow patch of good propagation into the upper midwest. Logged a bunch of Minnesota stations, and picked up a few other odds-n-ends from Minnesota westward. The western gulf coast from Louisianathru Texas were also being heard, but their signals were only half as good as Minnesotans. At the end of the first shift n 20m, there was not a single qso from sections 1, 2, 3 or 4. A somewhat lackluster result on 20m, at least for my own time in the chair on that band.

The other bands were also all improved over the 2009 totals, with better qso counts on each band. The multiplier counts were also better. The 80m mult count was tied with our 2009 efforts, but we improved our mults on 160m, 40m, 20m and 15m.

By coincidence, I wound up taking over the chair for 80m, and later 160m atjust the right time to begin trying to start runs on those bands. The first hours on each of those bands was interesting, with decent rates. For whatever reason, the beverages were showing a high noise level in the north and northeast directions. That made working the high population areas to our northeast more difficult, especially since so many stations calling were down at the noise floor. The 8’s, 9’s, and 0’s made up some of the slack, as they were easier to copy on the west and northwest beverage directions. The noise level began to decrease after local midnight, but rates had slowed by that time.

Some of the operating highlights were opening on 80m and 160m, and seeing the 60 minute rate meter[both stations combined] over 150, working with N1LN to get the 10 minute rate meter over 200, and then trying to keep it there. Later in the contest, 1400 Q’s became the short term goal, but N1LN caught a late burst of Q’s on 80m that put us over 1450 by the end of the contest.

In hindsight the total of 1469 qso’s logged is a new personal milestone. It is the first time I’ve been part of an operation that averaged over 60/hr for the duration of the event. [1469/(2*12)=61.2/hr]

Sweeeeet!

also: The N1LN soapbox on 3830.

2010 NAQP CW – January

Nothing great, but not too shabby. 352 Qsos total.

Conditions and observations: Early in the contest conditions seemed poor to me, but perhaps I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the start, I tried to get a run going on 20m and use the second radio for S&P, but neither was working well. The run radio was slow on the 20m dipole. I guess all of those tri-banders out there have the advantage. 20m seemed long from the start, as I was called by a strong AL9A. Alaska is unusual so early in the afternoon on my dipole.

The S&P on 15m was none too productive either. There were a few stations there, but lots of QSB. Most seemed to give up calling on 15m pretty quickly[or vanished due to changes in propagation]. Nothing heard on 10m, but not a lot of time listening there either.

It is also obvious that I’ll need to become a much better operator before using the second radio during a run is practical. Even a slow run. But the NAQP’s are the perfect contests to use as a test platform for learning SO2R techniques.

On the other hand, S&P with two radios was a lot more productive than S&P with a single radio. Better than using a single radio and loading the band map. With two radios, the utility of the second band map also comes into effect. The rate went up as soon as I switched from running to all S&P. I didn’t hit my goal of 60/hr while S&Ping, but it is a goal within reason, and it was easy to keepa 40 to 50 rate with two radios without much stress.

Thats the first couple of hours. The late afternoon was broken up into S&P fragments, capped with a hour long 40m run from 2220z to2320z. Then another gap peppered with a handful of quick S&P Q’s and a break for a sandwich.

Shifting down to 80m, I S&P’d my way to a mostly clear frequency at 3563.75, and thenheld a two hour run there from 0100z to 0300z. While the rates were meager for somebody like Bigg Gunn Kontester over at the Fi-Ni Report, both those hours on 80m were over 60/hr. I gave it up soon after W4HSA called me, and I just could not get his call correct, even when he resorted to sending his call suffix at about 5wpm. Such is life in LidVille. Duh-OH!

Still short of 300 Q’s. Tuning around 40m was discouraging, as the band sounded really long and there were not a lot of stations calling. 80m seemed like mostly dupes, so on a whim it seemed time to check conditions down on 160m.

The 160m antenna was playing well again. There were only three stations that were called with no answer. Soon enough stations were S&P’d to get to 340 Q’s in the log.

A few more passes on 80m and 160m, and the plug was pulled at around 0400z withjust over 350 logged. The total time on the clock was about 9 hours, but a lot of that was spent away from the radio in increments more than 5 minutes, but less than 30.

The Good:

  • Just over two consecutive hours with rates over 60/hr. First time I’ve had two such hours back-to-back.
  • 160m antenna continues to function well

The Bad:

  • A moment of Murphy when switching to 80m. The kludged-together band pass filter switching resulted in a few moments of angst filled debugging when it appeared the 80m antenna was showing a high SWR. [Operator Error.]
  • No productivity early in the contest.
  • 20m slow.

The Ugly:

  • Total mental shutdown trying to copy W4HSA. Too bad it can’t be blamed on being exhausted or a weak signal. Nope. Just a lid moment here in the KazShack.

Summary:

Band QSOs Mults
-------------------
 160:  40  19
  80: 167  36
  40:  89  31
  20:  45  19
  15:  11   3
  10:     
-------------------
Total: 352  108 Total Score = 38,016

*

2009 ARRL 160m

Got a chance to work on the matching network for the inverted-L, adding in series capacitance, a choke, and balun. This gave me a good match at about 1840, and the SWR was decent from 1815 up to about 1860. The results seemed to be an improvement in the chances of being heard by most stations. That’s with just 100w. Decent results, given the low power and inefficient antenna.

Got in three really nice runs. The first was disrupted by another station sliding in. That was annoying, because the 10 minute rate was up over 100. After I moved, I settled into a nice 40 minute run that finally pooped out of its own.

There was only a limited amount of time available, so the periods from 2300 local “until” were chosen from both evenings. There seemed a whole lot less activity on Saturday evening. Logged about 3 hours and 130 Q’s Friday night but only 2 hours and 70 Q’s Saturday.

Found KH6ZM working a big pile-up on Friday night. Listened to that for a while, but I only heard him work a couple of east coast stations. The west coast and mid-west were pretty thick, so I didn’t waste time. Tuning up the band I found HI3 calling with no pile-up. Also worked a G3 and a few Caribbean stations.

The K9AY made the difference on several Q’s. The noise wasn’t bad, but There were a couple of relatively weak stations that really peaked on the K9AY but were in the noise floor and not copiable on the inverted-L. Armchair copy on the K9AY. Interesting. Many others were easier copy on the xmit antenna. Also interesting.

The matching network is another great application for a relay box, so I can have a good match at selected parts of the 160m band. With low power, the 3KV panasonic capacitors seemed up to the task, and I saw no signs of the SWR shifting when running, so I presume they are able to handle the 100w level. With several in parallel they seemed to handle the current. Given the bandwidths I am seeing, resonance points at 1815, 1840, 1865, 1900, and 1930 should serve the purpose.

Station:

  • Elecraft K2, 100w, into inverted-L and four direction K9AY rx array

The Good:

  • The matching network changes worked.
  • The inverted-L improvements seemed to help the station to be heard, but there’s no easy way to quantify that.
  • Rain shield added to cover feedpoint held up to nasty WX.

The Bad:

  • Not enough time available to operate.
  • Missed the start of the contest.

The Ugly:

  • None!

Summary:

Call: W4KAZ
Class: Single Op LP
QTH: NC
Operating Time (hrs): 5

Total: QSOs = 200 Sections = 50 Countries = 5 Total Score = 22,825