January 2012 North American QSO Party

Contest:North American QSO Party
Date: January 14-16, 2012
Mode: SSB
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 0600 UTC Sunday

20 / 2 / 2
15 / 9 / 9
10 / 11 / 9
SCORE: 440 (TIME ON: 43 Mn)

How I wish I could guest operate at a station that has a set up that is conducive to SSB. I enjoy working the mode, but know at 100 watts with a hex beam at 40′ I am going to be very limited in what I can do. Sure, this is a North American contest and 100 watts should be enough power. Yet I struggled for all 43 minutes I logged in the NAQP.

I am beginning to think I have more problems in the shack again. In fact I know I have an RFI issue on 20M, since I was disconnecting all my USB connections when I transmitted. Also I continued face frustrated when I would look at the ALC meter and I am past the limit. This tells me my signal was problem over driven or distorted, but I don’t know. I need to work this out with a NCCC club member. Thankfully I wasn’t using the Alpha 76PA for this contest.

The last issue I could have is a feed line problem. I  need to break out my testing equipment and see if I might need to make repairs or add a new feed line to the hex beam from the shack.

As for the contest itself, I had hoped for 2-3 hours, which is what I committed to when I was placed on NCCC #3 Team. Unfortunately after 43 minutes of spinning the dial I could no longer deal the frustration I was facing and turn off the shack to spend time with my family.

In the limited time I was on, 10M was my best band though out the US. Unfortunately when I came back to the band about 35 minutes later it seemed to have died down and did not result in much. By contrast, 20M for me was terrible. A total of 2 contacts, lots of noise and signals in the muck that try as I might I could not dig out. I did hear a few minor pile ups, but with my limited operating time I was not going to waste it continually calling in hopes I would be heard.

I will continue to participate in this contest and if I get organized, get the time off and the blessing from my wife, I would like to give this a full effort from W6JZH, just down the road. John has a wonderful set up for a single operate (possible SO2R) to use.

January 2012 North American QSO Party

Contest: North American QSO Party
Date: January 14-15, 2010
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 0600 UTC Sunday

80 / 1 / 1
40 / 37 / 17
20 / 135 / 43
15 / 91 / 39
10 / 17 / 13
TOTAL: 281 QSO / 113 MULTS
SCORE: 31,753 (TIME ON: 7 H 32 Mn)

SOAPBOX: Thankfully I had the day off from work and committed to a full effort in the NAQP. While I didn’t draw up any goals, I did use the 2010 NAQP results as a benchmark of what I wanted to achieve. Early on I figure 400 QSOs would be possible, but as the day wore on I realized I was going to fall short. Unlike 2010, I was able to start the contest, which made the difference this year.

When the clock struck 1800z I started off on 20M. Unfortunately CW is not my strongest mode, but one I thoroughly enjoy so my full effort was all S & P. While 20M was productive, it would be 15M that accounted for the bulk of my QSOs the first 2 hours. I also experienced a first for me and my station, as I was able to achieve 3 straight hours of a rate over 40/min, topping at at 50/min at 20z! I know this is small potatoes for those experienced CW operators who run a frequency.

10M seemed to be short lived as I made just 17 contacts during 19z and 21z, 13 of which were multipliers. At 21z, 15M seemed to slow down, but 20M picked up, which is where I remained until the sun set. I also took a few 30 minute breaks at 22z and 00z. In hindsight, I should have stuck around at 22z as another 40 rate might have been possible. 20M was also my “money band” with 135 QSO and 43 multipliers.

During my second 30 minute break I had to get the manuals to the SteppIR BigIR out and make sure everything was connected correctly as I could not hear anything on the vertical. While I didn’t open the antenna, I did home the element in hopes of making sure the element was the correct length for the band selected. What I did realize was the PL-259 connector on the coax  running to the SteppIR is bad. I had to wiggle the connector until I could get it to a point that allowed me to hear the band.

Unfortunately that was only have the problem. While the propagation had improved slightly leading up to the weekend I had a solid S7-S8 noise on 40M when I made the move (probably too early) at 00z. After wiggling my connector, I decided to connect it directly to the transceiver, which made no difference. Frustrated I decided to take another break. After 30 minutes to collect myself I returned, but was frustrated at the pace of the S & P, which yielded approximately 35 QSOs over the next 90 minutes. I could see my goal of even 300 slipping away.

Being more frustrated that enjoying my radio I made the decision to shut the shack down at 02z. Before I did, I was able to make only a single contact on 80m with Jack, KF6T. I thought 40M was bad, but I was either real early on 80M or had further antenna issues, as I could not hear anyone. Instead of riding out the struggling for the next 2.5 hours I thought it would be better for my sanity if I accepted my 281 QSOs and went to build Legos with my son.

My final tally was 281 QSOs, 113 MULTS for 281 points and a final score of 31,753. This would be a 33% increase in contacts and multipliers from my 2010 effort and a scoring increase of 17,803 points or 56%. Anyway I look at it the contest was a success for me and my station. I still call into question my low band antenna, which is really beginning to cause frustration when the sun goes down. I might need to inquire with the brain trust of the NCCC. Being confined to a small backyard, even the 1500 feet of copper radials I have might not be enough to get the signal I desire. The inability to get wires in the air due to no trees also could be an issue. Single band efforts during daylight hours might be more worthwhile if the low bands continue to be an issue, it will depend on the contest.