99 and counting…

Some amateurs contest. Others chase DX. While many more ragchew. Regardless of what you decide amateur radio holds for you, one area that thrills me is chasing wallpaper. Maybe it was the fact my father had a nice collection of awards, as well as QSL cards in his shack as I was growing up.

I still remember my thrill when I finally had all 50 states confirmed for my Worked All States Award (WAS) in March, 2009 after working Vermont and submitted the application to the ARRL. Now I am one confirmation away from my initial DXCC. My current total sits at 99 confirmed, while I have worked some 129 countries not all of them use LOTW. For some it’s the thrill of the chase and logging “a new one” in your logbook as opposed to chasing wallpaper.

Two of my more recent DXCC entities have been the Philippines and Nigeria, both have been worked multiple times the past few months, but neither have confirmed. The other award I am on the verge of submitting is the ARRL’s newest, the Triple Play Award.

This award has an operator confirming all 50 states on CW, Phone and Digital. My current total sits at 149 confirmed. The last state, which comes as no surprise to me is the need for Delaware (on Phone) to confirm our QSO. I have worked numerous contacts using this mode, but to date none of the have uploaded their contacts.

Nonetheless I am excited about the prospects ahead. Much like participating in a contest, the only one I am competing against is myself. I continue to enjoy what limited time I get operating and always have fun working states and countries.


With the delivery guaranteed by Monday, February 22, things are looking up for the next RTTY contest on the schedule, the NCJ sponsored NAQP! Since there is no high power entry, I will be reconnecting the Alpha 76PA and retuning it for an upcoming contest. I might have to put some time into the 5-band hex as well. For whatever reason, the 20M wire is sagging again. I am not sure why this continues to occur. I am hoping the fiberglass spreaders are not collapsing again. I checked and re tightened them just a few months ago. My guess is during the off season (this summer) I will be going over the hex with a fine toothed comb again and make sure everything is in place correctly.

While I hesitate to toss any prediction out right now I did take a look at my score from last year (cannot remember if it was February or July) to start getting some idea of where I could possibly score in 10 hours of operating. Since this is a domestic contest, I should fair very well, especially on 20M. We will have to wait and see how the propagation is for 10M/15M. I also noticed I had some 40M contacts and a single 80M contact. Not sure when I would have switched to 40M, but have been close to the end of the contest.

I am still on a high after last weekend and my success in the WPX RTTY Contest. The past three days have been great on nearly every band as the solar flux remains high and the solar cycle continues it upward trend. Just yesterday I was able to work Tasmania (15M SSB), New Zealand (10M CW) and French Polynesia (20M CW) with only 100w! The 10M contact was great, as I believe it was my first DX (outside of Canada) contact 10M. As for Tasmania (VK7) it was a solid 57 report from John, who was just waking up, while TX4T was no waiting.

As awards go I am now up to 72 (mixed) for my DXCC award, I continue to see new DX roll in from the WPX where I worked 57 countries! 20M continues to dominate, where I have 63 confirmed. The ARRL Triple Play Awards continues to frustrate me, where I now have 135 confirmed via LOTW. As for missing states, Delaware confirmation via LOTW still eludes me. Although I have worked a SSB and RTTY contact last year, yet the op does not use LOTW. The other odd state is Nevada, I just recently confirmed a CW contact, but our next door neighbor state has been hard to come by.

NAQP Phone Today!

With any luck I will be able to participate 7-8 hours today in the NCJ NAQP Contest, the phone edition. I had a good amount of luck a few weeks back in the CW contest, just missing my goal of 200 Qs, but improving on my 2009 score. Today, I look to work many much needed states (hello, NV, WV and DE) on a number bands as I look to have a good showing personally and for the NCCC (and my NCC Team, Team 4).

While I don’t intend on achieving any awards in the NAQP, I am looking at rounding out needed contacts for my ARRL Triple Play Award as well as my WAS (via LOTW) and my 5BWAS. A confirmation via LOTW has seemed to elude me since 2007. I have made a number of QSOs with Delaware, but none of them have confirmed via LOTW. I do have two QSL cards to show for my efforts on 20M. But in this digital age, I would like to confirm DE digitally. Along with DE, I am missing AR, NV, OK, RI, SC and WV for the Triple Play. I am baffled as to why NV has been so difficult to confirm. During the NAQP CW I was able to finally confirm NV on CW. All in all I am short 5 CW contacts, 7 phone and 4 digital.

With the exception of 10M, I have a very good start on my 5BWAS. 20M is short Delaware (but I have confirmed it via QSL card). 15M I have made 25 contacts, 43 on 40M and 33 on 80M. Not sure I will be home in time to get some work in on 15M, but this is where I will start if the propagation is still there 2100Z. As for 10M I am sure I am somewhat out of luck until the solar cycle improves. I have confirmed 7 of the western states, so there is a start. Since I don’t have 160M, 10 will be the 5th band I will confirm in the future.

I looked back at the NAQP (phone) last year, which occurred in February and August I scored 408 (24 Qs) and 1215 (45 Qs) points. I will be able to double the combined efforts of last year in a hour or two. With phone being easier for me to run (as opposed to CW) I should be able to secure a frequency and put together a few hours on 15M or 20M and go right past last year’s total. I would like to surpass 200 Qs with 50 mults (approximately 10000 points).

I got involved in a “grey area” during the CW contest. As I do before any contest I go through the rules, since there could be some updates. NAQP does not allow the use of a cluster for a single op effort, but it says nothing about spotting those you contact. So, like a good amateur I was spotting everything I worked. The difference was I was not using the cluster to aid me, as it is against the rules and I was a single op. I posted this to the NCCC reflector and also contacted WA7BNM at the NCJ regarding the rule and he said, “Single ops can post spots to clusters, as long as they don’t have access to cluster posts while doing so.” Although just to keep me “clean” I won’t even spot this week in order to help the M/2 stations in the club. Best of luck to all, see you on the bands!

Frustration Claims Victory

Sometimes I wish I would have never changed my PC being used for my ham radio station. Since unplugging my old PC nothing has worked. Nothing! In the past two months I have made a total of 2 QSOs because of these ongoing issues. Thankfully this is the “off season” for contests, but as we head into August, the contests are coming, starting this weekend with the NAQP – CW.

I am keeping my fingers crossed I will figure shit out by tonight so I can participate to some degree on Saturday. I don’t feel very confident about it, but there is still a glimmer of hope alive. With this “down time” I have relocated the shack to a corner of the garage (images coming soon). I had electricians wire in a few new outlets, a light and a switch to control the light, all on their own breakers. I also hung faux wood paneling on the wall and raised the floor with some 2x4s and plywood. All in all it turned out well. I still have some work to do, but right now my main priority is to get the station working.

I am using a Yaesu FT-1000MP, Rigblaster Pro (also tried the SignaLink USB) and an Alpha 76PA. After spending about 3 hours trying to get the rig to work correctly with the Rigblaster Pro, I gave up. Even with horrible conditions, I was able to received PSK31 on 14.070. I also seemed to send fine, although my CQ call was never answered. So there is some question that I was not transmitting, yet all the indicators told me otherwise.

I have yet to be successful configuring RTTY and CW. Right now, my priority is CW in order to participate in the NAQP. I was able to get the rig to transmit, but no power was included. Why? I dunno. I continue to have COM port issues. The new PC has a single COM port, but the Rigblaster can be configured with a serial to USB cable, which I was using and could see in the device manager. I also picked up a PCI board that has two serial ports. Overkill I am sure, since I don’t really need it, but there should be no reason in the world this exact setup worked on my old PC and does not configure on the new PC.

Worse comes to worse I am going to try to old PC again. I brought it downstairs “to the shack” but did not have time to connect it up. As long as I can get the CW function working this weekend for the contest I will be happy. I am still working on my ARRL Triple Play Award and only need 14 QSOs using CW to help me. Past history is not on my side, as I could not get the old PC working once I disconnected all the cables. Hopefully my luck changes today.

I also started working on the ground system. The electricians drove an 8′ half inch copper rod in the ground just opposite the radio. I play on getting three more installed, two at the base of the antenna, based on K9STH’s grounding primer (found on QRZ.com). I will then hopefully tie in all the ground rods, as well as the copper grounding strip at my desk.


Probably the last big contest for a few months as we are about 3.5 hours away from the CQWW WPX – CW Contest. This is where operators worldwide work prefixes, basically everybody works everybody! This is a very enjoyable contest. I am looking to hopefully round out my needed contacts for the ARRL Triple Play Award, needing about 15 states. I am also hoping to log some new DXCC entities.

I have been following the SFI, A and K indexes, right now and while they are on the rise and conditions on 20M have been very good this week there won’t be great expectations. Hopefully the improvements to the antenna system will show a bit more promise. Regardless I am not setting my expectation level all that high. It is very realistic at about 200-250 contacts, depending how much time I get on Friday and Saturday. I did take Sunday off, so I will get a bit of extra time to play on Saturday.

Regardless of how I do and what new entities I log I am excited to finally have another contest in sight. The rig is ready, Win-Test is ready and all my CW macros are ready. Yeah, sorry purists, in a contest it is all computer generated CW, not key or bug.