2012 CQP Weekend

This weekend is the California QSO Party, sponsored by the Northern California Contest Club. It’s a contest where everyone participating works as many stations from California as possible. This is the rare time that operators want to work a W6 station. It’s a 30 hour contest, of which I will be able to work 24 hours. The contest begins at 16z (9am) Saturday, October 6 and ends at 22z (3pm) on October 7. Last year I put only put in 8 hours before running into Mr. Murphy, which ended my contest

I had planned to work most of the contest but suffered radio issues with my Yaesu FT-1000MP and lost 15M. The other bands were nowhere near as hot, so I shut things down and hoped to return when 40/80M open. Unfortunately as I got set to start I could not hear anything on the low bands. Not even N6O, just 3 miles down could not hear me. This was my final effort for 2011 CQP. Going back to the 2010 CQP I had power issues with the rig, which cut my contest to just under 4 hours, in my inaugural year participating in the contest.

Last year I was assigned K6B by the FCC to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the NCCC. I got the permission to extend using this call sign for the 2011 CQP. Each of the prior years I have operated as a single op, high power. This year I will be a single operator, but looking at running low power (200 w) for the contest. That could change and probably should since it is one of those rare times where people want to talk to me! Might make it more enjoyable as well.

Currently I am negotiating to get Sunday off from work in order to extend my operating period from 10-12 hours to 20-22 hours. I really have no plan as to where I will start or how I will operate. I will look to improve my 2011 totals, which were 382 total QSOs, of which 41 were CW. I am going to make more of an effort to secure CW QSOs. My goal this year will be to work all 58 counties. I ended up 7 counties short last year. With any luck doubling my operating time should award me with those missing 7 QSOs.

If I can’t secure time off on Sunday, then I will log about 10 hours during CQP. I will give the station a once over today and repair one radial for the SteppIR. I will run some power through the Alpha 76PA to make sure all if as it should be and be ready to go when I get home early from work tomorrow. I will miss the start of the contest by about 90 minutes.

Regardless of what happens, it will be a great operating time during CQP that kicks off the new contest season. Looking ahead (and time permitting) I will participate in ARRL Sweepstakes and CQWW DX CW in November.

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August 2012 North American QSO Party – CW

Contest: North American QSO Party
Date: August 4-5, 2012
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 0600 UTC Sunday

SOLAR CONDX: A=7, K=3, SFI=139, SSN=160

BAND/QSO/MULTS

20 / 153 / 45
15 / 111 / 38
10 / 4 / 2
TOTAL: 268 QSO / 85 MULTS
SCORE: 22,780 (TIME ON: 7 H 29 Mn)

SOAPBOX: This was a last minute decision to participate in the North American QSO Party. It’s contest format that I enjoy though, only 12 hours (single operator works 10 hours), a quick exchange providing name and state and everyone is running 100 watts. While NCCC sponsored a few practice sessions, I skipped those but made sure my antennas and rig were ready for the contest come 18z, Saturday morning.

I took a quick check of my August, 2011 NAQP results and thought about my goal. I was hoping to get 8-10 hours of BIC (butt in chair) and unofficially set my goal at 300 QSOs. That would equate to a 30 rate over the course of 10 hours. that rate would be higher if I was more competent in running a frequency as opposed to staying in search and pounce for nearly the entire contest.

I started on 10M and made 2 quick contacts, but for much of the contest 10M was closed. I would finish the band with 4 QSO. Conversely, with the sun scheduled to set at 0310z, 20M would be open quite a while. As it happened, I did not make to 10 hours, let alone 8 hours, so all my contacts were on 15M and 20M.

I went heavy on 15M to start the first few hours and was rewarded with a 46 and a 49 rate the first two hours. Without looking in past contests, I don’t remember another contest were I had two hours over 45 per hour. What was even more impressive to me, I had 5 of the first 6 hours over 30 per hour. As the afternoon wore on activity on 15M seemed to decline, but 20M picked up.

While conditions weren’t as good on 20M as they were on 15M the bands were crowded, as I exceeded my targets from 2011 from 18z until 01z. 20M ended up being my money band with 153 QSOs and 45 mults. The mult number was no better than 2011, but I could of easily continued to operate and get in a minimum of 8 hours.

I don’t believe I would of had any problems reaching my goal of 300 QSO. I stopped with 268 (2 dupes) and with 4.5 hours to go when I shut the shack down. 20M was still very active, especially the East Coast, but I had yet to move to 40M, which would have provided new mults and at least 30 QSOs. Still I had a great time participating and helping NCCC #4 in the team competition. Thanks to all for the contacts.

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RTTY WPX Award

RTTY WPX Award using MMTTYA small pat on the back for myself as I achieved another award from a radio contest back in February. During the weekend of February 11-12, the CQ World Wide RTTY WPX took place. This is a 48 hour contest, in which you make contact with as many different operators as possible that have unique prefixes. This was also the first time I decided to work a contest on a single band, I chose 15 meters (21 MHz) for the RTTY contest based on propagation data and recommendations from members in the NCCC.

While my score wasn’t all that impressive and I was a bit discouraged with how my final numbers came out. I was hoping for 300 QSO (contacts) but ended up with only 203. When the log checking was complete after the contest that number had decreased to 197 valid contacts and 157 prefixes for a final score of 59,817 total points. I did provide a complete write up at the conclusion of WPX.

While the award was for most contacts on 15 meters in the 6th district. It’s actually a minor achievement, which I will chalk up to a learning experience. There are some contests that I cannot afford to work the entire time, limiting my operation to a single band decreases the time I need to be in front of the radio. Then again, I don’t enter contests to win, but to improve my operating and have some fun. If I happen to win paperwork, great!

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2012 ARRL Field Day

Contest: ARRL Field Day
Date: June 23-24, 2011
Mode: Mixed
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 2059 UTC Sunday

BAND/SSB/CW/DIGI
20 / 6 / 17 / 2
15 / 0 / 5 / 0
SCORE: 96 (TIME ON: 1 H 06 Mn)

SOAPBOX: It’s not really an event I look forward to since it’s not a “true” contest, yet many treat it as such. That is not the reason why I am not fond of Field Day. Last year I operated ‘1E’ or emergency power using a portable generator. With all the problems I encountered I only hung around for about 3 hours, got bored and turn the radio off. This year, I was hoping to use FD as a stepping stone to better my ability to run a frequency, but that never happened. I did spend about 5 minutes on 20M and only received 1 call that I could not pull out of the noise. Conditions were rather sloppy and after 30 QSOs I called it quits. For me radio should be enjoyable and during this time period I was not having fun. Why continue?

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Hex Beam Repaired

Ever have a project you expected to take a short period of time, but in the end you spend much longer than anticipated? While my “STD List” is long…that’s my “shit to do” list (thanks to Greg for the acronym), I thought I would take a few minutes to fix some minor issues on my hex beam antenna yesterday. I assumed it would be quick job before moving on to trimming bushes, mowing the lawn and taking care of things I do weekly. Well 90 minutes late the antenna was torn apart and I was rebuilding it in the backyard.

It was something that needed to be done, but I dread trying to get the antenna down from the mast, which is 34′ in the air mounted to the upstairs portion of the house. I thought I could do the repairs on the roof, but all I got was frustrated, along with sunburned, so I made the decision to lower it to the ground, knowing I would have difficultly remounting it.

The work took about 4 hours yesterday, as I untied all the elements and remeasured all the pieces back to their original factory recommendation. I also cleaned up the antenna, which was all for not since the spider colonies will be back within days I am sure. Hopefully I was able to correct an aesthetic problem with the fiberglass spreaders that are bent upwards. Think of an upside down umbrella (or see some images here).

I spent 2 hours this morning preparing the mast and rotator in order to return the hex beam to it’s perch, just above the peak of the house. I had hoped to add a hole for a cotter pin in the mast that would allow me to raise the antenna 50′, but quickly ditched that idea.

I had to make two attempts to get the antenna, which is 22′ in circumference, from the garage roof to the second story roof. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but was able to accomplish it on the second try with no major issues. I figured I would encounter more problems than I did, but that was not the case. Thankfully the antenna is fairly light weight and even with the wind blowing, does not really waver.

While this project was not a “must do” item on my list, I am thankfully it is done and out of the way. There are a few summer contests on the horizon that I will be hoping to work in. The first is ARRL Kids Day, hopefully I can get Zachary to make a few contacts this year, as we had no luck last year. Hank, W6SX has talked me into working ARRL Field Day and trying to run FD stations to improve my Morse code receiving, as practice for CQP, which takes place in October. Finally in July it’s the IARU World Championship, if time permits (as well as the XYL) I will put in a full, 24 hour effort.

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