Got some good news yesterday, as it looks like I will be back on the radio as early as next week. I e-mailed Byron, WA4GEG, who has been working on my Yaesu FT-1000MP. It has been at his shop for just over a month, since encountering issues on the 15 meter band. Byron writes, “I have your transceiver repaired, and have been running it for a week now to make sure everything holds. The VCO the affects 15 meters needed repair. Everything else looks good.”
It’s now a race against the clock, as the CQWW WPX CQ Contest begins next Friday at 0000z (5pm PDT). With any luck it will get there as late as Friday and I should be set to operate up to 36 hours of the contest. Not that I will be able to stay awake, which has been a problem in the past. I spoke about this contest on April 4th in WPX on the Horizon.
Not having a radio has put some of my planned worked on hold. I was able to fix my vertical antenna, thanks to SteppIR and remount it in the backyard. Unfortunately with my knee surgery and no transceiver, I have not been up on the rooftop to see what work needs to be accomplished on the hex beam. With any luck, it will plug and play and I will be able to get on the air quickly, if needed. Again, this is dependent on the arrival of the radio back to my house.
As for the contest, I will provide one further update later next week to summarize my goals. If I can put in a full effort and solar conditions are better than what I have seen the past month or so, I should be able to pull off my goal from 2010 of 1 million points. This would be far and away my best showing in any contest I have entered since 2009.
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.
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.
I recall making a post on the QRZ Forums asking the question, “What’s the draw to ARRL Sweepstakes?” It drew a wide range of comments and opinions from both the contesting crowds and the LIDs making off colored comments. Now that I have participated for 3 years I understand the interest and why so many enjoy this series (CW & Phone) of contests. Unfortunately for me this weekend for the phone portion of the contest it would have been better to watch from the sidelines.
I was handicapped going into the contest with a Yaesu FT-1000MP that had no 15M, seems I have a Local Unit that has failed in the radio. Oddly enough, I did report it working for the entire CW contest just 2 weeks ago. I also figured out my antenna issues on the SteppIR BigIR. It see the Copper-Beryllium tape that extends up the fiberglass tubing has come loose and was twisted inside the EHU. I also noted quite a bit of moisture in the housing, which is also a cause for concern. The moisture seal around the EHU seemed to be intact, might require a closer look before I make repairs on the tape.
While I will have a full SS Phone write up later in the week, it was not a good contest weekend. There was some hope beginning the contest on Saturday as I had 3 good hours, unfortunate with the lose of 15M on the rig I could only S&P on 10M and 20M. Still it was a better performance than how I started last year. Dropping the SteppIR BigIR revealed the copper tape problems minutes before the contest, so I erected the Alpha Delta DX-EE for the possibly use of 40M. No one could hear me.
Sunday was dreadful, disappointing and discouraging (enough of the ‘D’ words). I got a late start and when I finally did start the money bands were 10/15M, not 20M, but it was here I could only operate. So I put in maybe 2 hours and called it quits. The “fun factor” was lost and I was not enjoying myself. Too many problems going into the contest, which handicapped me. I guess a saving grace would have been to run as a precedence ‘B’ (high power) over ‘A’ (low power). Not that it would have helped much, as I could work nearly everyone I heard with 100w.
There are only 2 contests that interest me the rest of the year the CQWW DX – CW this coming weekend and the ARRL 10-Meter in December. I will need to send the rig back to WA4GEG in January when he reopens his repair shop. Hopefully I can find a loaner for the time being to compete in a few early January contests.
Early Wednesday afternoon the FedEx delivery truck pulled up and I was handed my box that was shipped from WA4GEG after being repaired. After removing my Yaesu FT-1000MP I placed it on my shack table and connected it to the power supply. I then spent the next 15 minutes modifying the menu settings. Since purchasing the US Interface Navigator I had changed settings pertaining to the ‘USR’ setting for digital use, such as PSK31. Once I had the necessary menus modified I connected the antennas and went looking to make a few QSOs to see what difference I could hear.
RTTY still seems different than on the loaner FT-1000MP I was using. Not sure why but the obvious is a menu setting is incorrect. I need to play with the ‘WIDTH’ knob and shift the signal into the scope with running MMTTY. I did not previously have to do this, so it seems it is just a setting I failed to set correctly.
After spending a few minutes spinning the dial on 20M up from 14.080 I ran across a signal with a strong British accent. I listened for a few minutes as this individual was handing out 59 reports and engaged in a little bit of rag chewing. I then heard him sign, VP8LP. from the Falkland Islands. A new DXCC for me! Oddly enough just 15-20kHz, VP8DMN (DXpedition) was calling CQ and working a pile up. It was no waiting with Bob (VP9LP), as I got him on the first call.
About 30 minutes later after checking the packet cluster I saw 5N7M calling CQ on CW. There was a small pileup, but I decided to give it a shot, I have not had much luck working Africa, with the exception of D4C. I have heard signals from Senegal, The Gambia as well as South Africa and DXpedition a few years back to Glorioso. So it was a thrill to get my first mainland Africa QSO in the book and confirmed on 20M.
We are just a few weeks away from the next big RTTY contests. WPX is quickly upon us, followed by the NAQP. I am planning full time operations for both of these contests, where I will work 30 hours during WPX and the full 10 for NAQP. I am sure the XYL will love this, but hopefully it will prove successful. RTTY still seems to be the best mode for my given antennas and limitations I have. Depending on propagation I can actively work 15M and 20M is my “money band.” Once the sun goes down, I must use the SteppIR BigIR, which while not the best does provide some good signals on 40/80M for RTTY (and CW). In a week or so I will post my goals for WPX.
It’s nice to have my FT-1000MP back in the shack and running very well.