2012 RTTY RU Goals

It has been a hope of mine that I would be able to put in a 24 hour effort in the upcoming ARRL RTTY Roundup. As luck and my work schedule would have it, I will be lucky to get 12 hours of “BIC” during the contest. More realistically it will probably fall to about 10 hours when all is said and done.

I was able to get Saturday off from work, which allows me time to work the start of the contest through a time of my choosing. Looking over my 2010 RTTY Roundup statistics, I should be able to make 300 QSOs, if not more. Recently 15M has started to be the hot band in contests, but being without a radio that had that made things tough. In 2010 15M was not good (15 QSOs) and 10M was non-existent for me, while 20M was the hot band with 422 QSOs.

Unless I am fortunate enough to get Sunday off I will plan on 350 QSOs with 48 states and 12 Canadian provinces. With the solar cycle really heating up in the last few months, we should have some nice propagation into Europe. At least that is what I am hoping for so I can improve on my 21 DXCC worked in 2010. Taking these numbers into consideration I will figure a final score of 25,200. Not great by any stretch, but given the conditions I have to work within, it’s better than not participating at all.

Radio Repair: Part 3

I am glad I did not save all this work for the day of the contest, because there would have been no way I would finished it all before the contest started. Since the XYL is off at work today and my son is keeping himself busy with toys from Christmas I had time to further troubleshoot the SteppIR BigIR and connect the Yaesu FT-1000MP MkV in the shack.

Since it was more important to work on getting back on the low bands (40/80M) I decided to pull apart the SteppIR BigIR and take a second look at it. Yesterday was nothing more than replacing the spindle correctly to take up the slack on the copper tape that runs up and down the length of the antenna, depending on what band I am on.

It sounded terrible as I let it calibrate, eventually it stopped and thankfully there was no visible damage done to the sprockets or the copper tape. I then came in the shack and changed bands to 20M. A quick check and the tape was spinning and feeding into the antenna. I reconnected the 80M coil and the 1:1 balun and the antenna seemed to work. Rarely do I use the vertical for anything other than 40 and 80M because of the hex beam ends up working 5 different bands (10M thru 20M). This is the main antenna I use when contesting on 10/15/20M.

I then turned my attention to the Yaesu FT-1000MP MkV I got on loan from George, K6GT. I cannot thank him enough for lending it to me. Hopefully I can put in a good show this coming weekend during the ARRL RTTY Roundup and give George partial credit for allowing me actually get on 15M. It’s been a while since 15M working on my Yeasu FT-1000MP.

The easy part was to remove my rig and replace it with his MkV. Once the new radio was in place, I connected my radio to an adjacent outlet and began configuring the loaner unit. There were a few new menus and the front panel is a little different than what I have been used to. The menu navigation was just as easy. Some menus went unused, but about 20 minutes and I had the new rig configured with all my settings. I went off in search of a RTTY signal.

I found two hams having a QSO and it seemed I was decoding correctly using MMTTY. Half the battle won.  I found WM5DX calling CQ and answered his CQ. He told me I was “upside down” on my signal and he could not see my print. A quick flip to the correct menu and I modified one setting. I found WM5DX about 2 minutes later and answered his CQ. When he finally turned his beam towards me he said I was 10 to 20 db over. I was glad to know I could transmit and receive.

One minor issue I had was with the rotator and I can’t pin a reason as to why. I had to set up two ladders to get on top of the roof to investigate. I opened up the rotator housing to confirm all the wires were connected. They were. I checked the power in the shack, it was on, as well as the wires that move the antenna. All connected. I attempted to turn the hex beam a second time and it moved. So, while it was a problem momentarily it seems to have worked itself out. All the better, because the last thing I want to do is resort to the “armstrong” method of turning my hex beam.

So all seems ready for RTTY RU weekend. There will be 4 established practice sessions sponsored by the NCCC beginning Thursday with 2 different sessions, followed by 2 more sessions on Friday. While I can’t confirm I have either or both days off from work I am hoping to get both off. Since my 2010 effort of 652 QSOs and 49,552 points running high power (500 watts). This was one of my best efforts in ANY contest to date, based on the number of contacts made. I will post my goals on Friday.


Radio Repairs

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.

2011 ARRL Sweepstakes – SSB

Contest: ARRL Sweepstakes
Date: November 19-21, 2011
Mode: SSB
Period: Starts 2100 UTC Saturday, ends 0259 UTC Monday

20 / 106 / 39
10 / 51 / 16
TOTAL: 157 QSO / 55 SECT
SCORE: 17,270 (TIME ON: 6 H  Mn 22)

SOAPBOX: Dreadful, disappointing and discouraging is the only way I can sum up my (lack of) performance in the ARRL Sweepstakes SSB Contest. I went into the contest handicapped since I lost 15M on my Yaesu FT-1000MP to a Local Unit problem. Although it worked

during SS CW, it failed to work for phone this past weekend. The second problem
I noted about 90 minutes before the start of SS was a noise coming from the
SteppIR BigIR when I turned it on. It didn’t sound as if the sprockets were moving the tape. I decided to open the EHU and lo and behold, the Copper-Beryllium tape has come off the spindle. Now I know why during SS CW when no one could hear me on the low bands. So before the contest even begins I am down to two bands; 10M and 20M. Of course most of the action seemed to be on 10M and 15M.

The first 4 hours were the best of the contest for me, but without the low
bands I didn’t keep the BIC past sundown. No low bands meant time with the
family and thoughts of getting up at sunrise on the east coast for some 20M
activity. Of course I get “railroaded” into take my in-laws to the train
station, only to find out their train was cancelled. I ended up losing most all
of the morning and when I did get on the air, I was done. I logged maybe 2.5
hours and couldn’t do it any longer. I was not having fun on 20M and running as
an ‘A’ I could not be heard by many stations. I finally called it quits at 2053
and tried to fulfill the rest of the afternoon with other thoughts.

I didn’t come close to meeting any goals I set, how could I with no 15M, which
probably hurt me more than 40/80M did. I did try to salvage 40M by quickly
raising a wire to about 20′, but it was really not worth the effort I tried
calling from the local stations after sundown and could still not be heard. But
there is always next year, which I will look forward to. Just need to make sure
the ham gear is in WORKING condition during the summer so I don’t run into
complications during the contest. On a positive note, I did work DE on phone,
which was my last outstanding state for my ARRL Triple Play Award. Now to wait
for the LOTW uploads.

2011 Sweepstakes Goals – SSB

Two weeks ago I participated in the CW portion of the ARRL Sweepstakes, which resulted in a mixed bag. I increased my score over last year, but found some glaring problems with my station that prevented me from achieving my goals. This weekend it’s the SSB potion of the contest, one in which I usually struggle given my antenna situation. Last year it was rain noise that caused problem. Unfortunately rain is also forecast for this weekend beginning Friday with a possible lull on Saturday, only to return on Sunday.

My problem with 15M still seems to exist on my FT-1000MP, it comes and goes. I will consider myself lucky 2 weeks ago the band worked on the radio. This past week I have not had use of 15M. Due to family and other commitments I have not had time to pull down the SteppIR BigIR and look into the reason why I was not getting a CW signal out, which was the main reason behind not meeting my goal 2 weeks ago. If that is any indication, I probably won’t have use of 40/80M this weekend, which is going to be very tough.

Looking back at last year I operated as a precedence ‘U’ in the contest. This year I might bypass running assisted and operate as an ‘A’ (low power), as I did in the CW portion or ‘B’ (high power) in order to get a signal out to be heard. Last year’s goal was to make up the balance of the 1000 total QSOs I was hoping to achieve and get a clean sweep.” Neither happened, partly due to the rain noise and the fact I missed the first hour of the contest.

I am still hoping for 1000 total QSOs between the two contests. After scoring 411 in the CW contest that leaves me with 589 remaining. That might be difficult if 40/80M isn’t working and 15M, due to the radio does play nice. I would much rather have 15M over 40/80M, but that is completely out of my control. I will pull down the SteppIR today and give it a quick look to see if there is anything I can  spot.

Last year I scored 94 contacts on the low bands, which is what I would like to see this year. Most of those 40M contacts were due to the NCCC Rally we heard during the contest that netted me more than 50 contacts in about a 30 minute period.

This year the hex beam is higher. I might extend the mast 10′ to nearly 50′ for this contest, but that still won’t resolve the other issues I have to contend with. Regardless of what happens I will have a have fun and try to keep my “BIC” as long as possible to maximize my score. With any luck 10M will possibly pick up the slack for 40/80M for me. The key band still is 15M, I need to make sure I have that band working or else it will be nothing more than a low power effort on my part working only the daylight hours.