2011 7QP

Contest: 7th Area QSO Party
Date: May 7-8, 2011
Mode: Mixed
Period: Starts 1300 UTC Saturday, ends 0700 UTC Sunday

40 / 10 / 43 / 1
20 / 38 / 65 / 1
15 / 3 / 25 / 0
TOTAL: 51 PH / 134 CW / 2 DIG QSO / 77 Mults
SCORE: 39270 (TIME ON: 11 H 12 Mn)

SOAPBOX: First off, thanks to the organizers and participants of the 7QP. This is only the third year I have participated and like the previous two years, it was a blast! While I did not make my minimum goal of working 12 hours I still improved upon last year’s score. My only issue I have with this contest is that Win-Test 4.5.1 does not support the 7QP, so I loaded up the Texas QSO Party and used it for all three QSO parties (InQP and NEQP) during this weekend. All scoring then is manually computed, I have not made the decision to switch to N1MM.

I was able to start the contest at 1300z and went right to 40M. I was not expecting much but was able to put up my best hour of operating with a 37 rate to start the contest. Things were looking up early and I was very pleased with the activity until about 1430z when I decided to move to 20M. After about 90 minutes I put together 57 QSOs on 40M. I had hoped this was a sign of things to come. Unfortunately on the back end of the contest, I had already made the decision I would not operate into the night, so I would miss 40M/80M when the sun went down.

The next 2 hours were spent on 20M and even though I was able to add another 20 QSOs to my overall activity, it was nowhere near what 40M was earlier. Still, I was able to keep contacts filling the log at a steady rate. In fact all activity in the 7QP was done S&P, I did not attempt to run on any frequency on any mode.

Just after 1600z I decided to check 15M CW and was able to log a few quick contacts, but I spun through the CW and SSB recommended frequencies and activity was just not there, so it was back to 20M. I picked 15M back up about an hour later on CW, where I was able to add another 5 QSOs in quick succession.

Starting at 1800z I would tune through 20M CW and 20M SSB, followed by 15M CW and 15M SSB, alternating between the two bands for the remainder of the contest. Occasionally I would check 10M, but never did hear anyone call on either CW or SSB.

All in all it was another great time in the 7QP. Must say thanks to the guys at NK7U, who I ended up working 6 times. I did notice more activity out of Utah this year than last. The same can be said for Wyoming. I believe I logged 4 WY stations. Unfortunately Nevada was non-existent, with the exception of W7RN, my lone NV contact on 20M SSB. As for Montana I followed K7RE and K7BG, both operating mobile. Still the activity for MT was better than I expected.

Compared to 2010 I saw a 68% in my total score. I increased my CW activity from 53 to 134 QSOs (60% increase), but saw only 5 more phone QSOs this year (51 vs 46). Mults were also up 35% from 2010 with 77 this year (50 in 2010). Of course these numbers would have been even higher IF the decision was made to work into the night, but family responsibilities and my job prevented me from going after sundown. Still, I am very pleased with the operation during 7QP. Thanks to all who heard my “chirpy” CW, see you in 2012!

Lost Art of Communication?

Flipping through the May, 2011 issue of QST I come across the ‘Correspondence’ column where hams send in their opinions on a variety of amateur radio subjects. One in particulate caught my eye from Wallace, W7UUO titled, ‘A Lost Art.’ In his opinion over the years he has been licensed the “art” of communicating has been lost. These days instead of gaining pleasure out of communicating, better known as “rag chewing” it seems to be airwaves dominated by signal reports.

I understand and respect his point of view as a long time amateur. Times have changed in 50 years of amateur radio, but the main purpose for radio remains the same…communication. I look at it from another perspective and I believe I have written about this previously. In a world of hustle and bustle, I don’t get the luxury to spend hours a day in the shack meeting other like minded hams over the airwaves.

While my opinion might change as I get older, when my son grows up, moves out, gets married and more importantly, I retire. Right now I am more interested the quantity of contacts, one reason I enjoy contesting. As a relative newcomers to HF, I am excited to work new DXCC entities in nearly every contest I enter.

There have been times in the past I have enjoyed good conversations with other hams. I can recall operating as K6B last year, celebrating the NCCC’s 40th anniversary and Donald, K6ILG contacted me and we talked for about 30 minutes. This while operating a special event station, but nonetheless I took the time to slow things down and have a long rag chew. What made this more unique, Don was only about 2 miles away in my city.

So while a rag chew is not the most important aspect for me, I do enjoy meeting and talking with other amateur operators. For me, it’s all about available time, since I don’t have much being able to put in an hour or two over the course of a contest weekend could end up netting me quite a few QSOs.

Unfortunately, a digital mode like PSK31 (and RTTY in some respect) allows for the heavy use of macros, which potentially kills a worthwhile QSO. Rarely do I ever use macros when working either mode. Even at that I have responded to a CQ call with a personalized response and end up getting a macro reply. Maybe that’s the way some modes are going. Regardless, each operator has their own interest(s) when it comes to amateur radio, for some it’s the rag chew, for others contesting and there is a world of radio in between.

2011 Virginia QSO Party

Contest: Virginia QSO Party
Date: March 19-21, 2011
Mode: Mixed
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday, ends 0100 UTC Sunday

20 / 4 / 8 / 1
TOTAL: 13 QSO / 9 Mults
SCORE: 698 (TIME ON: 3 H 30 Mn)

SOAPBOX: I found myself wanting to work the VAQP more than the BARTG RTTY Contest, not quite sure why. Part of the reason was hoping there would be a good amount of participants on for the VAQP, but I found it somewhat discouraging that I only finished with 13 QSOs after some 3 hours spinning the dials.

This was just one of 3 contests I was playing in at the time, but I did have some good fun in the contest. I just wish conditions were better. I had some poor propagation to the East Coast, which did not help. No one was on 15M and 20M was really the only frequency I picked up my contacts on. I would switch between the CW and SSB “suggested” frequencies and could usually find a quick QSO.

I was able to log K4NVA, the club station of the Sterling Amateur Radio Club, which brought in 500 bonus points. My last QSO was a PSK31 QSO from N8RGQ, who was operating QRP. All in all it was enjoyable and just another new QSO party I can say I have participated in.

The Waterfall

It has been nearly a year since I ceased using the operating mode, PSK31 and decided to focus on RTTY as my main interest.  With recent band openings on 20M I have decided to get back into the PSK31 arena on 14.070.15 MHz and start working domestic (mainly) stations. Although the past two days I have worked Canada, Mexico and France. Along with those DX stations I have worked new stations or states I need for the ARRL Worked All States award using PSK31.

I have also started to send out QSL cards again, some that are nearly 3 years old, already filled out and just sitting in a shoebox waiting to be mailed. I decided to spend $100 on one dollar bills and $40 worth of stamps to send out a few groups of QSL cards. This too stems from my early start on HF working only PSK31 stations.

Since I have gotten into contesting, it is nearly impossible, time wise and financially to send out cards to EVERY contact. While I would like to, it is not really an option at this time. So I will continue to pick and chose and send cards as I see fit. Of course any cards received are immediately answered and sent back (no SASE required).

As it sits now I am about 12 stations short of the WAS using PSK31, there seems to be some good sunspots coming into view, hopefully that will buy us some good propagation for the time being in order to work more PSK31 stations.

Personal Satisfaction: AC4BB

While contesting is a great aspect of amateur radio (for me at least) what makes the hobby more satisfying are those individuals who set out to to achieve personal goals. I know I speak on this topic every time a contest rolls around. I don’t have the biggest antennas or the loudest station during any contest, so there is a very good chance I won’t even compete to be top in any category. I don’t have a problem with that. As long as I achieve the personal goals I set I see my seat time as being successful and hopefully along the way I have learned something new.

Reading the Forums at QRZ this morning, Bryan, AC4BB is trying to achieve something never accomplished by another ham. He is attempting to work all US counties (USA-CA) using PSK31. Unfortunately, as Bryan says, “The County Hunters have all but refused to acknowledge what I’m doing because I’m using neither SSB nor CW to accomplish my goal.” Sad, but when Bryan achieves this distinction and all 3077 are confirmed I don’t believe any organization to deny him this achievement. That would not be “promoting the hobby” in my opinion.

Thankfully I have a close tie to PSK31 since it was the first mode I used to exchange my first QSO. I have even confirmed Bryan twice using PSK31 in 2008 and 2009. I wish him all the best and hope he keeps the amateur community updated on his progress.

The recent NCCC meeting got me fired up for ARRL Sweepstakes and CQP. In fact I was looking at setting a goal of operating from all 58 California counties, but as I continue drawing my route I find I am not even half way up the state before we are some 21 hours into the contest. Looking at it realistically starting in Northern California and driving south would give you a better chance of working in more counties than starting in San Diego and driving north.

While I don’t think this CQP attempt will come to fruition, it is something interesting to consider, after all this is CQP. Mobiles and county expeditions are part of the enjoyment during this contest. Add to that the “XYL Factor” that comes into play being gone for nearly a day and a half.

Setting goals is a great way to get added enjoyment out of amateur radio. There are some big contests coming up, BARTG RTTY this weekend and the CQWW WPX SSB next weekend. I might be able to put in a few hours this weekend for the BARTG, I am possibly going to work as part of N6RO in the team effort for WPX. Set your goals and let the chase begin.