Part-Time Effort

With all the things on my STD list to complete during my days off, I was not able to get my transceiver, the Yaesu, FT-1000MP boxed up and shipped off to Byron, WA4GEG in Tennessee. He is my source for all things concerning my radio, as it has been there two previous times. Unfortunately looking at the calendar there are some enjoyable contests on the horizon that I was hoping to participate in. Thankfully George, K6GT has loaned me his back up radio, which was unused until I get mine repaired and returned.

Next week is CQ WW WPX RTTY and while it was a very strong contest for me a few years back, it will only be a single band effort next weekend, depending on if I get both days off from work. This decision after speaking with SteppIR tech support last night on the phone only to realize I probably did more damage than I thought to the mechanical workings of my BigIR MkIII. So much for operating on the low bands (40M/80M). Much like my amp going out 2 years before prior to this contest, it could be a blessing in disguise.

Looking at the 2011 and 2010 results from WPX RTTY, this would give me the best chance to win some wallpaper (ham speak for an award). My best best will be 15M or 20M, depending on what the propagation is doing next weekend. This means I would operate about 2 hours before sunrise to about 2 hours after sunset. This could go longer depending on sort of activity I would get beaming JA/OC.

It doesn’t get much better as the following weekend is ARRL DX CW followed by NAQP RTTY the week after. I will need to get the “okay” from the XYL before I ask W6ZJH if I can guest op from his shack for this contest. Chances are it will be all of February and a part of March before I get my radio and antenna back from being repaired. Until then, I will have to pick and choose my efforts when it comes to contesting. With any luck, I could have everything back up and running by the time JIDX CW rolls around on April 14.

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.

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.

NAQP RTTY – On Hold

It wasn’t but 4 days ago I was preparing for the summer edition of the NCJ NAQP RTTY contest. Unfortunately due to life priorities, I have to bow out of a full time effort and go to work. Not to worry, really. The great part of being involved in amateur radio. Even if you don’t get to put a full effort or any effort into a given contest, chances are good there will be another contest next weekend. If that is not enough, I have the rest of my life to participate in this contest, but for now I must take a step back this weekend and reevaluate my time.

It will be interesting to see how the band conditions are, with the SFI and SSN both on the rise recently activity should see an increase. Hopefully we can see another decrease in the A-Index, which currently stands at 8. The summer NAQP contest haven’t been my strongest contests. In the past it was directly related to the lack of solar activity, when comparing it to the winter NAQP contests in February.

It is possible I will put in a few hours when I get home from work at 22Z. With any luck I could catch activity on 20M into the early evening, moving to some activity on 40M and maybe even 80M. It’s possible I could put in about 8 hours, if I work straight through to 06Z. Not sure that is possible, but the opportunity might be there. At any rate the NAQP was the only contest I was considering an effort in this month.