#150 N3ME Confirmed!

Tonight I confirmed #150 in my chase for the ARRL Triple Play Award. For those who are not hams (amateur radio), this is making a contact with someone in every state on SSB (phone), CW (Morse code) and RTTY (teletype). The award has been available since January 1, 2009 and I have been chasing it since. With the LoTW confirmation today of N3ME, Tony in Delaware I have achieved this award sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).

For me, Delaware has always been a challenge to log when chasing states for a WAS or Worked All States award. While I had worked Delaware 21 times, only 6 of those contacts were on phone, one of which was confirmed in eQSL and by QSL card. Unfortunately to apply for the Triple Play Award all the QSOs (or contacts) must be confirmed by ARRL’s Logbook of the World, meaning electronic.

The end of 2011 was not great for me when it came to operating. Along with radio problems, I suffered some antenna problems and didn’t put as much effort into my hobby as I probably should have. The contact with Tony, N3ME occurred during the 2011 ARRL Sweepstakes (Nov 20-22) on 10M. In fact I e-mailed him yesterday to inquire about the confirmation of our contact because I saw he had uploaded his logs to LoTW. The problem was on my end, as I forgot to upload my log from that contest. If I did that at the conclusion of the contest, I would have been granted this award before the end of last year.

I e-mailed Tony this evening to explain my mistake. His response, “Grin – glad I am not the only one who “goofs” from time to time – congratulations!!!” No sooner did I finish that e-mail, I applied for the award through the ARRL website. Hopefully I receive it before the end of the month.

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.

The Neverending Story: QSLing

When I started making regular contacts on HF back in 2008 I was a fanatic when it came to “finishing the paperwork.” When I received my first 1000 QSL cards from UX5UO I could not wait to fill them out and mail them. Now here we are 3 years later and some 7500 contacts later and I am behind.

I believe this probably typical for many hams, especially the OM who have been in the hobby for many years or no longer QSL for whatever their reasons. I still find this aspect to be a very important part of the hobby. Unfortunately I am thousands of contacts behind sending out QSL cards. I am debating using the bureau more since the price of even sending 1 QSL card continues to rise. I believe that to be the driving factor (maybe time factor involved too) when it comes to why more hams do not QSL. Add to that eQSL and Logbook of The World have introduced the “electronic QSL” which gives you almost immediate confirmation of a contact. Still, I feel there is something missing if I can not have a card from a distant land (or state).

One of the greatest things my father gave to me, his collection of QSL cards from the 1970s. I can sit there thumbing through the two shoe boxes full of QSL and never get bored. There has been a few occasions, where I have run across a card of a familiar call sign and notice I have worked this same individual some 40 years later.

One of the best is Ichiro, JA7COI. He sent me two QSL cards last year. I opened my log and started filling in the appropriate column, but I noticed the date did not match up, nor did the contest or year. 1976! As he would go on to explain via e-mail, he was working towards the ‘Yomiuri DX-10000 Award.’ You can read more about JA7COI in a story I posted January, 2010, ‘1976 QSL Card and Upcoming Contest.’

Much like amateur radio being a lifetime hobby, QSLing takes a similar approach. I consider 300 QSOs during the weekend to be an immense amount of work after the contest ends. Not only do you send your score to the appropriate sponsor, but I send it off to my club’s e-mail reflector as well as 3830. I then convert the Win-Test file to an .ADI in order to import all my QSOs into my logbook. After a few minutes, the contacts are imported and updated with the personal information and exchange during the contest. Finally I can upload to eQSL and LoTW and slowly (ever so slowly) the chore of filling out QSL cards. Guess I will consider myself fortunate that I don’t work ALL contests and their time limits, that dark, bottomless pit would look even deeper.

Some day I will catch up. There are shortcomings to both the online services, but you can read about those elsewhere, I don’t have complaints about their. For me, it’s all about the paper, but in order to get some paper you need to make the effort to send some. Thankfully I have had a real good return rate on DX cards, not so much on domestic contacts. I am sure there are hams who have my card or envelope sitting in a pile, much like I have; 8P9NX, JA7DLE, DM3HZN, DL5AXX, AH2R, SP3003LG (shortwave listener), EA7TG, JA2FJP, JL1OXH, 7L3LNF, JA1UTZ, JA1HGY, W5WMU, 8P5A and the list goes on…

K6B: Good Operating!

I have never been the station from which a pile up has built. I have experienced that the past two days, as I call ‘CQ’ as K6B, Kilo-Six-Bravo. This special event call sign is one of approximately 500 stations in the Northern California Contest Club that is “celebrating 40 years of contesting excellence.” I opted for the 1×1 using K6B, since our club motto is “kick butt” I felt the 1×1 call sign was fitting for the special event.

In about 4 hours of operating I have close to 200 QSOs from many amateurs in the United States as well as DX stations from Japan, Hawaii, Argentina, Ireland and most surprisingly Sierra Leone, which was a first for me, operating any mode.

My best hour of operating so far as been a rate of 89/hour, but operating this special event has not been about rate, at least for me. I have tried to make it a point to pull up QRZ info on the station I am talking to and attempting to comment on something in their profile before giving a signal report and moving on.

The event is in full swing, which started on 18 September and goes through 2359 UTC on 01 October, where it will lead into the CQP (California QSO Party), which is sponsored by the NCCC.

So far the main modes I have concentrated on have been SSB and RTTY on 17M and 20M. I was looking for DX yesterday beaming Japan and the South Pacific on 15M and 20M, but had no luck making any contacts.

I do plan on offering a QSL card at the conclusion of the event, as well as uploading my log as K6B to LOTW and eQSL. It will be a very simple design, as I anticipate on using this call sign in the future for club sponsored event, possibly to include CQP. I did plan on operating at K6B for CQP, but might decided to see if I can get the call sign extended for an additional 24 hours just for the event.

It has been a great event and I have met some wonderful hams, then again that is what makes amateur radio a great hobby. Hopefully I have a chance to work many more across the US and abroad as I plan to spend many more hours beginning today, on nearly any band. I think I will give 40M a shot later today on SSB and see if I have any luck. Thanks to all I have contacted. 73.

NAQP is Coming!

I have toyed with the idea of not participating in the July 17th NAQP RTTY Contest because of all the other responsibilities I have during the summer. Radio is usually not included in many of those. This is the “off season” for many in radiosport, but I have decided to get the day off from work and put in my 10 hours in hopes of bettering my score from the February version of this contest. If you recall that was the contest that spurred me to write, Contesting: Send Your Log In!. I mention this because somehow I forgot to send my results in to the NCJ. If I would have, I would of had a top 10 finish in 6-land and would have bumped my NCCC #2 Team up in the standings. How this happened, I still don’t know.

In hopes of having a good showing for NAQP I need to get on the roof and drag down the 5-band hex beam. I believe I am having issues with the antenna that have not been addressed. Given the current solar conditions, there might be absolutely nothing wrong with it, since I was able to make a good number of Field Day contacts last weekend. At any rate, I am looking to upgrade my DXE Hexx Beam.

Thanks to Al and Rod at DXE, I am going to add a HEXX 5-Band Stainless/Teflon® Rigid Balanced Feeder and feedline current choke as recommended by DXE. I have been cheating and using the vertical feedline current choke.

After placing my order with Rod I spoke to him at some length regarding the new, rigid feeder. Thankfully I have SWR measurements for the hex, but made mention I might need to shorten the wires on the hex near the low ends. We will see if that is indeed needed once I get the new feeder in place. But will that happen prior to NAQP? I doubt it. At any rate I will get on the roof or pull the antenna down and install the new feed line current choke and clean up the wires. It’s looking like a shabby antenna again as the spreaders are either collapsing on themselves or the clamps holding the wires are loosening. Nearly all 5 bands are sagging, which has been an issue since I first built my hex.

As for the contest, I started looking at my February 2010 results that had me log 342 QSOs, 137 mults for a final score of 46,854 points. I had a goal of 350 QSOs, which I fell just short of but exceeding my goal on mults and final score. This will be the first time I have put a full effort in the July edition of this contest. The way solar activity has been damn near nil, I hope it takes a turn for the better and quickly.

One change I plan on making this year is the scheduling of my 2-hours off time. Last year I worked 10 straight and took the final two hours off. I think that was a mistake as I missed out on 40/80M. This year, based on my February results I am going to take 00-02z off since those were the two worst hours I had. If all goes well I could lock up a number of personal achievements: 80M WAS (8 states needed), 40M WAS (5 states needed), RTTY WAS (1 state needed), 80M RTTY WAS (9 states needed), 40M RTTY WAS (9 states needed), 20M RTTY (3 states needed) and if 15M is open then I could add to the 24 confirmed states I already have.

Delaware. Nevada. West Virginia. Maine. Rhode Island. All these states seem to share a common theme because I need them for all the aforementioned awards. What frustrates me more is I have worked many of these states at the start of 2009 (ARRL Triple Play Award), but the amateur on the other end either hasn’t uploaded to LOTW or doesn’t use LOTW. Yeah, I know send a QSL card. I could and I probably should, but LOTW is so convenient and in my experience RTTY operators are the more faithful in uploading their contest logs to LOTW.

So in the coming week I will set my goals for the NAQP. I am looking forward to a quick 10 hour contest and hopefully adding some new wallpaper to my shack.