Got some good news yesterday, as it looks like I will be back on the radio as early as next week. I e-mailed Byron, WA4GEG, who has been working on my Yaesu FT-1000MP. It has been at his shop for just over a month, since encountering issues on the 15 meter band. Byron writes, “I have your transceiver repaired, and have been running it for a week now to make sure everything holds. The VCO the affects 15 meters needed repair. Everything else looks good.”
It’s now a race against the clock, as the CQWW WPX CQ Contest begins next Friday at 0000z (5pm PDT). With any luck it will get there as late as Friday and I should be set to operate up to 36 hours of the contest. Not that I will be able to stay awake, which has been a problem in the past. I spoke about this contest on April 4th in WPX on the Horizon.
Not having a radio has put some of my planned worked on hold. I was able to fix my vertical antenna, thanks to SteppIR and remount it in the backyard. Unfortunately with my knee surgery and no transceiver, I have not been up on the rooftop to see what work needs to be accomplished on the hex beam. With any luck, it will plug and play and I will be able to get on the air quickly, if needed. Again, this is dependent on the arrival of the radio back to my house.
As for the contest, I will provide one further update later next week to summarize my goals. If I can put in a full effort and solar conditions are better than what I have seen the past month or so, I should be able to pull off my goal from 2010 of 1 million points. This would be far and away my best showing in any contest I have entered since 2009.
It’s been awhile since I have turned on my radio for and attempted to make any contacts. My radio situation has gone from bad to worse, losing the ability to transmit and receive on 15 meters. This is compounded by the fact I also lost the ability to tune my SteppIR BigIR on any bands rendering it useless.
It was my hope to have both repaired before the start of the new year, but as we are now6 days away from the ARRL RTTY Roundup I am scrambling to find a usable radio more so than a repair for the antenna. Thankfully the NCCC or Northern California Contest Club is always up to help out a fellow ham. I posted a message to our reflector explaining my dilemma and George, K6GT was kind enough to respond and offer me the use of his Yaesu FT-1000 MkV.
Come the end of January I will need to send my FT-1000MP back to Georgia and WA4GEG to make repairs and possibly an upgrade or two. While the radio is dated, it’s the best I can currently afford. While many in our club have transitioned to the newer Elecraft K3 setups, many have some very good rigs being unused. Thankfully George was kind enough to allow me the use of his MkV.
As for the antenna, I am going to pull it down this weekend and see if I can make the repairs needed to allow the Copper-Beryllium tape to move freely up and down the vertical when tuned. I fear this will be easier said than done. Although talking to a tech at SteppIR, he gave me a few pointers, so with any luck I can get the antenna working without having to disassemble and ship to Washington.
I have not been all that impressed with the vertical. Part of that is because of the lack of a good ground system. Underneath the antenna is close to 1500 of copper of varying length, unfortunately the longer runs are what I am missing, so working on 40M and 80M becomes challenging.
Speaking of challenging the RTTY Roundup was one of the contests I fared very well in 2 years ago (2010), winning the category I entered; First Place, Low Power, Single Operator, East Bay. Was not able to put in any effort last year due to our remodel and I would love to come back strong this year and start the year with a real good RTTY Roundup. No idea if I would run low or high power, but given the improved solar conditions I would be inclined to run low power and see if I could best my 2010 record and win another award.
I recall making a post on the QRZ Forums asking the question, “What’s the draw to ARRL Sweepstakes?” It drew a wide range of comments and opinions from both the contesting crowds and the LIDs making off colored comments. Now that I have participated for 3 years I understand the interest and why so many enjoy this series (CW & Phone) of contests. Unfortunately for me this weekend for the phone portion of the contest it would have been better to watch from the sidelines.
I was handicapped going into the contest with a Yaesu FT-1000MP that had no 15M, seems I have a Local Unit that has failed in the radio. Oddly enough, I did report it working for the entire CW contest just 2 weeks ago. I also figured out my antenna issues on the SteppIR BigIR. It see the Copper-Beryllium tape that extends up the fiberglass tubing has come loose and was twisted inside the EHU. I also noted quite a bit of moisture in the housing, which is also a cause for concern. The moisture seal around the EHU seemed to be intact, might require a closer look before I make repairs on the tape.
While I will have a full SS Phone write up later in the week, it was not a good contest weekend. There was some hope beginning the contest on Saturday as I had 3 good hours, unfortunate with the lose of 15M on the rig I could only S&P on 10M and 20M. Still it was a better performance than how I started last year. Dropping the SteppIR BigIR revealed the copper tape problems minutes before the contest, so I erected the Alpha Delta DX-EE for the possibly use of 40M. No one could hear me.
Sunday was dreadful, disappointing and discouraging (enough of the ‘D’ words). I got a late start and when I finally did start the money bands were 10/15M, not 20M, but it was here I could only operate. So I put in maybe 2 hours and called it quits. The “fun factor” was lost and I was not enjoying myself. Too many problems going into the contest, which handicapped me. I guess a saving grace would have been to run as a precedence ‘B’ (high power) over ‘A’ (low power). Not that it would have helped much, as I could work nearly everyone I heard with 100w.
There are only 2 contests that interest me the rest of the year the CQWW DX – CW this coming weekend and the ARRL 10-Meter in December. I will need to send the rig back to WA4GEG in January when he reopens his repair shop. Hopefully I can find a loaner for the time being to compete in a few early January contests.
I want to pass along my thanks to Hank, W6SX up in Mammoth Lakes for his assistance yesterday in working with me to resolve my “chirp” issue. Hank gave me a call and we met on 4 bands yesterday (80M-15M) in order for him to listen to my problem. All worked out well as we started on 40M and then moved to 80M. Both of these tests were run with 100 watts.
Upon moving to the higher bands I had to start the Alpha 76PA in order for Hank to hear me through the noise. Unfortunately 20M caused some RFI in the shack that knocked out my Internet gateway and USB functions and digital interface until. So I had to restart the PC and turn the input power down on the FT-1000MP in order to get about 500 watts out and not cause RFI.
We moved to 15M, which had been my problem band as reported by NK7U and W7POE (via an OO Advisory Notice). After sending a string of ‘VVV DE’ for about 45 seconds Hank could not distinguish any sort of chirp and commented that my signal sounded clean.
I suspect it could be an intermittent issue because my CW signal sounded different yesterday than it did during the 7QP (InQP & NEQP) when the problem was reported to me. This also makes me reflect back to last year when Iain, N6ML e-mailed regarding my signal as seen on CW Skimmer and the “chirp” could be seen. Interesting, but I didn’t put much into at that time.
I did find out, thanks to the brain trust on the NCCC Reflector and at the FT-1000MP Yahoo Group that I do in fact have an internal AC power supply. I do recall opening the FT-1000MP up and toggling the switches to convert the radio to 12VDC when I bought it from Ken, N6RO. From what I have learned on the Yahoo Group is that any 120VAC power code, like that for a personal computer should work. With any luck I will have an extra one in my wire pile and be able run the Ft-1000MP off the AC power supply and hopefully rid myself of the chirp.
Last weekend during the 7QP, NK7U commented about a “chirp” when I keyed up on 15M CW. After that a few other operators later on also made mention to me. In the mail on Saturday was a Official Observer Advisory Notice from W7POE in Washington as he happened to listen to a QSO with KX7L and also mentioned ‘frequency instability’ and a ‘chirp’ in our exchange.
During 7QP I actually sent an e-mail to the NCCC Reflector and got quite a few responses rather quickly. Many commented it being related to the DC power supply (Astron RS-35M) I use to power the Yaesu FT-1000 MP. I attempted to confirm the chirp by listening to CW in my truck on my FT-857D. In my opinion it sounded more like a click, but not being really knowing what I am listening for I cannot confirm it for sure.
Hopefully I can investigate a but further today with another club member on the air. Regardless I need to resolve this problem before the start of WPX on May 28.
Not all news was bad this weekend. I am hoping to put the hex beam on the peak of the roof just for WPX, but my problem would be turning it. Currently I have 3 guy wires I use to turn the hex in the intended direction and then tie the guy wires off.
The members at the Hex Beam Yahoo Group confirmed I could use a Channelmaster RC Antenna Rotator System (Model CM9521-A) in order to turn the hex. At $99 from Radio Shack, this is a great deal than sending off my CDE Ham-M off to be fixed and hoping it would be fixed by WPX. Hopefully in a week or so I will add the CM9521-A to the mast and see how it works. This would definitely help me from running in and out of the shack to change directions.