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.

2011 CQP

Contest: California QSO Party
Date: October 1-2, 2010
Mode: SSB/CW
Period: Starts 1600 UTC Saturday, ends 2200 UTC Sunday

BAND/QSO/STATES/DX
20 / 214 / 38 / 5
15 / 113 / 33 / 7
10 / 62 / 20 /0
TOTAL: 389 QSO / 51 Mults
SCORE: 41,973 (TIME ON: 8 H 25 Mn)

Soapbox: After participating last year and having my log submitted as a comma delineated I was excited with anticipation at the start of the California QSO Party this year. My original plans were grandiose in scale, but in the end it was nothing more than me in the shack with my hex beam at 20′. Unfortunately Mr. Murphy decided to pay me a visit on Saturday afternoon that left me a dumbfounded and lacking a solution.

Solar conditions were calming down after a week of flares and CMEs had the A index in double digits. By the start of the contest on Saturday it had come down to a reasonable level, as the SSN was 89. Conditions seemed to be good as the contest started. I had set my goals at a “reasonable” level and took into consideration my family responsibilities and weekend duties, even though I had taken the weekend off. I had hoped to make the most of the low bands. Wasn’t I in for a surprise.

As with some contests I enter, being a “lil pistol” I have to pick and choose my spots. I figured I would give 10M a shot before moving to 20M, which is arguably my best band. No surprise I start the contest with N6O, just a few miles down the road, but 10M wasn’t all the fruitful and I quickly vacated and moved to 15M, where I picked up my first multiplier in TX and 6Y6U as my first DX. And again, there was N6O.

Guess I wasn’t surprised when I moved to 20M and N6O gives me my 3 contact with them inside my first 6 contacts. I would go on to work them on CW as well, 10-20M. I would pick things up about about 1712z when I started running on 15M and keep a modest rate for about 45 minutes. This first run would bump me over 100 QSO at 1754. Again not great when compared to other stations, but then I am comparing my score to last year, so this was an improvement over what I achieved last year running as K6B.

Just after 1809z I decided to give 10M a second shot and it paid off for about 10 minutes, putting together a short run, adding some new multipliers for my score. It was also my intention to use 10M to potentially work all 58 CA counties and each time I moved to 10M I was picking up a new country here and there. Unfortunately it would not be enough in the end.

I would end up working my best 10 minutes of the contest running on 20M between 1859z and 1909z and would log 25 QSOs. I had hoped to work more CW and attempted to call and answer CQ on each band “at the half hour” as based on the CQP rules. It really wasn’t as lucrative as I thought it would be. There were also two rally times, 0300z and 0700z on 40/80M, somehow I missed both of them during the contest. It also helps if you are actually on the air come 0300z. I wasn’t.

After my 20M run it was back to 15M and that is when Murphy struck. I was about 12 minutes into a run when after a QSO with VE2SHF 15M on my Yaesu FT-1000MP seemed to die. The station that had called me, asked for a repeat, but his signal got very weak and soon all I heard was static on 15M. I figured it might be RF, so I bypassed the amp and turned the RF power on the rig up to 100 w. No luck. I tried changing antennas from the hex beam to the vertical. No help. The rig was keying, but no power was being transmitted with and without the amp in line. After about 12 minutes of fiddling with it, I said “screw it!” and moved back to 20M at 2035z.

It would be a steady dose of contacts, but 15M is where the action was. About every hour I would move to 10M and swing through the CW and SSB portion of the band and then go back to 20M. I was frustrated at this point with no 15M and was trying to make the best of the situation. I would close out Saturday strong on 20M with my final contact at 1351z. This left me with 377 QSOs after about 8 hours of work.

With my wife and son leaving for Disneyland I played “Dad” for the rest of the night and saw no action on 40/80M. It might have been a blessing in disguise, because I got up very early the next morning to try 40/80M and I had no luck. Even N6O about 3 miles down the road could not hear me on the SteppIR BigIR.

Most of the morning up until about 1530z was a waste of time for me. The radio was on, the contest was going, but I wasn’t with it. I was still frustrated with the loss of 15M on the rig and 20M wasn’t happening. 10M was noise and conditions were worse than the previous day. All I could make were 3 more QSOs 2 on 20M CW and 1 on 10M CW and I called it a contest. At 1551z I was done.

Comparing this to the 2010 CQP results I saw a 49% increase in QSOs, but I worked more QSOs in 3:48 as K6B last year, than I did this year as W6ONV. The only number down from last year was the number of DX stations worked, 11 compared to 3 this year, CA counties, US states and Canadian provinces were all up over 2010. All in all it was a successful contest. Maybe next year I will look at putting in an every bigger effort. Who knows I might even get the mobile plans kicked into high gear. See you in 2012!

CQP Weekend!

This weekend I might actually forgo watching NFL football and European football and participate in the CQP or California QSO Party. For those new to The 6th Floor, this is a year radio contest sponsored by the Northern California Contest Club (of which I belong to). The object for stations inside California is to work as many stations outside the state as possible as well as work all 58 counties.

Last year I had intentions to work much longer than 3:55, but my parents arrived in town and I never got back on the in air. In that time, operating at K6B (a special 1×1 call sign) I made 196 contacts that included 11 DXCC, 8 CA counties and 35 states/6 provinces. It was my intention this year to pull a 35 county mobile operation, but with planning that started early this year ended about 3 months ago when I lost the driver and interest in putting together the operation. It is still a goal of mine and the route is plotted.

Unfortunately the N3FJP software I used last year spit out a bad Cabrillo form and my log was not accepted. I don’t believe it was even used as a check log. Ah well, guess I learned the hard way. I like Scott’s software too. I might take a second look at it and see if there is a way to convert the log file before I give up on it. Right now I am considering TR4W,w which is what I was using for the CWT mini contests.

No idea what I will shoot for as a goal. My son and wife are leaving for Disneyland on Sunday morning, so I should have much of the afternoon, if I don’t’ commit to playing soccer that morning. If I do, then I can write off the afternoon playing radio. Depending on commitment, I would like to get all 58 counties and work all 50 states and about 500 contacts on both CW and SSB. The CW might be a bit slow, please put up with it. I enjoy the mode and love use it, but not the best at running a frequency. See you this weekend in the CQP!

Murphy Strikes CQWW RTTY

It’s really amazing what increased solar conditions can do during a contest!  While I had no real intentions of putting forth a full effort in the CQWW DX RTTY this weekend I had an enjoyable afternoon  for about 2 hours making contact. Things didn’t start out enjoyable, as I had hoped on getting the hex beam up to about 40′ but Murphy struck about 90 minute before the contest.

The Rohn H50 is an improvement over the shorter H30 I had, but still not what I need for my hex beam. After repairing the rotator a few days ago I had hoped the XYL would have been able to slide a few cotter pins through some pre-drilled holes I drilled in the lower 2 sections of the H50. Unfortunately I was not able to get those two lower section extended fully to the point where I drilled the holes and did not drill any intermediate holes. While my XYL did her best to help, this was a job that might require a few other men to help me accomplish the task.

In my frustration and haste I attempted a few different solutions as the start of the contest was drawing near. None of them were working and then Murphy struck. I had the hex beam leaning on the roof and the mast leaning at a forty-five degree angle away from the house. As I tried to extend the lower section of the mast I heard a nasty crack and the hex beam started to fall off the roof. At that moment I looked up and noticed I had cracked off the rotator. The I had just put myself in peril and the start of the contest was in jeopardy.

I quickly drove to Radio Shack because I purchased the warranty for the rotator, unfortunately they don’t handle any warranty items and referred me to an 800 number. In the meantime I was stuck with a functioning (I hope) rotator but no way to mount it to a mast because the threaded screws were bent and in my attempt to remove them, one broke off.

It was back to the “arm strong method” of rotating the antenna this weekend and until I resolve the rotator issue. I rigged a solution (not ideal) to get the antenna up to 30′ or so and make it functional. Tied three guy wires up to prevent it from rotating in the wind and with about minutes to spare I went into the shack to configure my macro keys in Win-Test.

As I mentioned in the introduction, sunspots are a wonderful thing. I started on 10M and until this point I had made a single RTTY contact with W6YX a few years back. This time around I was able to add quite a few QSOs to the log from Chile to Hawaii, Guam, Japan and Australia! I did spend some time running on frequency as well, which yielded some good results.

I moved to 15M with much better results from JA and OC, which is what I was looking for. I didn’t even attempt to turn the hex beam east for the US or EU. I figured I would give that shot for later on Saturday and Sunday when I get home from work. I am sure the “East Coast Wall” will cause all sort of problems for me. Signals were good and strong and ran a few frequencies along with S&P when I put together a nice group of JAs near 21.100 before I turned off the radio after about 2 hours.

I figure by Sunday will string together about 300 contacts. Again, I am not looking at setting any records or killing myself. I don’t have that sort of time to commit right now due to family reasons and work. Contest season is upon on already and I am hoping to put more of a full effort in the CQP next weekend

Ready for Radiosport?

The contest season is warming up, as are those sunspots. Solar conditions have been excellent, unfortunately I have not been spending much time on air due to other activities filling my free time. I was looking at the SSN of 141 and K of 3 yesterday and turned the radio on with some outstanding 10M signals to T32. Unfortunately when I tried to turn my hex beam in that direction I noticed I had some issues.

I leaned a ladder up to the roof and climbed up for a closer look but could not see much. I then decided to pull the antenna down to return the rotator to Radio Shack and get a replacement, since I had purchased the 1-year warranty. After collecting some tools, I needed to use a hacksaw to cut away a small piece of metal that was holding a set screw against the telescoping mast.

After the tension on the released the mast slid down. It was more evident when retracted the upper sections of the mast and was eye level with the rotator. It seemed the weight of the antenna has collaped into the rotator box. I figured it had damaged the gears. I unbolted the hex and disconnected the feed line. After lifting the antenna off I pulled off the rotator box and took it to the work bench for further inspection.

When I opened the access panel on the bottom all 4 bolts dropped out that held the rotator plate in place, which attached to the casing. Maybe I knock it off to being cheap Chinese made crap! But what should I expect for $99? I tightened up the 4 bolts, cleaned the casing and closed up the rotator and made my way back outside to reinstall on the mast.

Since picking up the last a few months ago I have been working on trying to get the mast to 40′ and have not had much luck. I am about 5-10′ short in what is really a two man operation. The two lower sections of the mast will now be fully extended totaling about 18′. The third section will put me close to 27′ It gets a bit dicey approaching 30′ and above because the mast is only about 2″ in diameter and I should be using guy wires up at 40′. Possible? Yes. Desired? Not really and I am trying to keep a clean (but safe) installation for the HOA and my neighbors.

I reattached the mast to the brackets on the back of the garage and installed the rotator box to the top of the mast. I then placed the hex beam antenna in the slot on the rotator so it can be controlled from inside the shack. With any luck the bolts will remain in place. I guess this will be an item I will need to check periodically to make sure they are not coming loose. With any luck I will be able to slide the mast up to 35-40′ a bit later today.

This is all in preparation for the CQ DX WPX RTTY contest coming this weekend. While I would love to take the entire weekend off and participate, especially with solar condition still very good, I won’t be putting in any sort of real effort. With any luck I will combine for about 10-12 hours, opening on Friday afternoon with 2-3 hours and 7-8 hours over the weekend.

The following weekend it’s the NCCC sponsored CQP, which I am hoping to participate in. While I would like to say it will be a full effort, chances are it won’t. Right now I am planning on taking Oct 2-3 off from work, due to the contest. My XYL and son are leaving that Sunday morning for Disneyland, so it would end up being a free day for me.

Right now, it’s been almost a month since I have really put any time into the radio and even less when it has come to any of the contests over the summer. Not really sure why. I have very little time to take off from work for one, I am trying to save that time and use it wisely, which isn’t easy. I am highly involved in fantasy football and spending too much time on FFS as well as dedicating time with my son and at his school. So radio loses out. Not to worry, it will always be there and as conditions continue to improve all I need to do it turn the rig on, I am sure I will be able to find a signal.