Portable Operations – What I Carry

I guess I should post up something that isn’t about contesting. I am often asked about my portable setup so I figured just to post it up here to show all.

This setup works for me but it might not work for you. I attempt to pack as small and minimal as possible when it comes to portable. I know some who pack everything including the kitchen sink so opinions will vary.

Here is my portable setup

20150816_165422

That’s basically it. Here is a break down of the above picture

Elecraft KX3 – This is the most important part. When I was getting into portable operations, I wanted a radio that wouldn’t waste energy. The KX3 was just released and it met everything that was on my list. It can use AA batteries, the antenna match option works wonderfully, it has multiple modes and nice sized screen. I will admit it was expensive but I felt if I use it 50 times, it would be worth the cost. If the KX3 is not an option than an Yaesu FT-817 will do or those CW QRP kits like KD1JV’s MTR/Sprint radios.

G5RV Jr Antenna – Some people question as to why I went with a G5RV jr antenna and the answer is simple as that I had one laying around so why not use it. When stored properly, it doesn’t really take up much room. I had great luck with it so I kept using it.  However the one I had wasn’t suited for portable use. It was breaking apart and used solid core wire for the 450ohm “ladder” line.

20140308_121257

I ended up making a smaller one. I made custom end insulators that act as winders. I also used polystealth wire and a BNC port. The new antenna is much smaller and is somewhat easier to deploy.

Here is the radio with the G5RV jr working some DX while portable in Vermont.

EARCHI end fed antenna – This is my other antenna that I use if I want to be very quick or the local environment prevents me from using the G5RV. It’s just 31 feet (around 15m) of wire that is hooked up to a 9:1 UnUn. Even though I much prefer the G5RV, the end fed works okay.

portableKX3SC

Here is the Endfed on the beach in South Carolina. Salt water works wonders. Setup was less than 5 mintues and it didn’t take up much room in the car.

Jackite Telescoping Kite Pole (Mast) – For a long time I would tie rope to rocks and throw them over tree branches. In some locations there were no trees which made it much more difficult. Even though a portable mast is bulky for me, I think it’s necessary. I ended up going with Jackite’s 31′ Fiberglass pole because it was 31′.  It is designed for windsocks/kites but hams use it for antenna supports. It made portable communications much easier.

kitepolesota

Should have added something for scale. My only complain is the caps can easily come off which sucks when you’re in the middle of the woods when it happens. Little bit of electrical tape does the trip.

Logbook – I use two logbooks during operations. One is just a regular notebook that can fit in my bag and the other is the voice recorder on my phone. That way I can make youtube videos and also go back if I messed up my paper log. The notebook is just full of scribbles. Soon as I get home I enter them into the proper logging software or website.

Foam Pad – I carry a foam pad that gardeners would kneel on. It provides some cushion and ground isolation. It’s a must have and fits nicely in my bag

Misc Antenna Items – I usually carry a roll of RG-58 with BNC ends, tent stakes, small spool of nylon high vis mason rope and bungee/tie down cords. I avoid using any type of nail or screw. I do not want to disturb the environment. I say the stretch/bungee cords is what I use the most to secure the mast to trees and/or benches.

Dedicated Bookbag – When I was at costco I saw some bookbags on sale for $15USD and couldn’t resist. I dedicated it to portable operations since I usually don’t plan my operations.  When I get home after each portable operation, I make sure to organize my backpack and have it ready for the next time. I leave almost everything in the bag so I can almost grab and go since I decide to go out usually at the last second.

Future Plans

I’ve been trying to learn CW for a long time now. I am getting better but once I am confident that I can do CW without any kind of assistance, I will go out with a smaller rig and different antenna. I want a smaller light weight pack. I would also like to find ways to go without a mast but there are times where the area is unknown.

Thanks for reading,
NT1K

ARRL 10m Contest 2015 – Soapbox

ARRL-Flag-waving-Large_54

Contest season for me is still going strong. This past weekend was the ARRL 10M contest. I was looking forward to it because our local amateur radio club participates as a group effort and I would like to add to the effort. Last year I managed 345 contacts which I ended up with 103,452 points. I guess my goal is to break that.

I decided to enter as a single operator, low power without using assistance of the cluster/skimmer. I knew band conditions weren’t going to be so great. It wasn’t going to be packed with juicy multipliers everywhere and felt that I wasn’t going to be having high rates.

This year I put more focus in CW contesting. Without the cluster/skimmer I knew that Morse code will be much harder. No problem, I need less assistance anyways.

Starting Off Slow

0z came and I was off to the races. However around here 0z is 7pm and the band is pretty much closed to skywave contacts. There were a handful of local ops running and I managed to make contact with them. It was nice to make contact with locals. Plus it’s nice to see who around here is playing. through out the contest I would keep tabs on them and see who they were contacting.

I went to  bed making only a dozen or so contacts.

The Contest Continues On

I woke up Saturday thinking it would be like Christmas morning as a kid. Got my coffee and hopped on the air expecting wall to wall contesting like years past. Well the solar cycle slapped me in the face this year. There wasn’t much on. However I hear DX stations so I will work them!

South America was really strong. I was hoping to make some contacts with countries I need like Boliva and the Falkland Islands.

I ended up not making many contacts on Saturday as the day was nice and I had other on my mind. Propagation predictions said I should be around 2pm local time for the peak but I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ve notice some locals putting a good effort though.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

After the run I had on Saturday, I wasn’t expecting Sunday to be much better. Sure enough I got on the air and it confirmed my feelings. I don’t think I made any European contacts. I concentrated my efforts on making contacts to west on CW. I needed a bunch of states for the ARRL triple play award so my efforts were on the US and SA.

The K3’s filters are amazing!

arrl10m2015-sdr

Here is an SDR shot of the CW section of 10 meters on Sunday. Compared to last year, this screen is empty. If you look to the right side of the image you will see a very strong CW signal. I thought it was going to wipe out the other two or three signals nearby. When I tuned into those signals, I could barely notice the strong station. It was there and I can hear it but it didn’t really affect the signal I was trying to listen to. This was very nice considering I don’t have a CW filter installed. I was using the 1.8Khz filter.

On SSB the filters got a workout as well. There were multiple loud Brazilian stations almost on top of each other. This is where the 1.8Khz filter really came in handy. I was able to hear each station even though some of the other stations were in the passband. Maybe it’s the kool-aid talking. Not sure.

Claimed Results

Once the band died down to local traffic, I called it quits

arrl10m2015-score

Made a 132 contacts. With the multipliers, I ended up with 26,000 points. Nowhere near the 103,000 I made last year doing mostly SSB. You will see that almost half my contacts were CW.

It was fun but you can see the solar cycle taking it’s toll. I better start working on better antennas for 40, 80 and the 160m bands. A good kick in the butt to make 5 band DXCC as I already have 10, 15 and 20 locked down.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff – NT1K

ARRL 10M Contest 2015 – Recordings

Did I work you in the 2015 ARRL 10M contest? Then it’s most likely I have recording of our contact. Look below to see your call.

 

Contest took place December 11th, 12th and 13th 2015

Callsign Mode Date Time Band Link
AA1JD CW 20151212 011309Z 28MHz Listen
AA1JD USB 20151212 003302Z 28MHz Listen
AA5B USB 20151212 161430Z 28MHz Listen
AB1WT USB 20151212 191356Z 28MHz Listen
AB1XW USB 20151212 160056Z 28MHz Listen
AC4CA CW 20151212 182526Z 28MHz Listen
AC5K CW 20151212 162623Z 28MHz Listen
AE5GT CW 20151212 163628Z 28MHz Listen
CE3CT CW 20151213 185354Z 28MHz Listen
CO6LC USB 20151212 155756Z 28MHz Listen
CR2X USB 20151212 180739Z 28MHz Listen
CT1DVV USB 20151212 161015Z 28MHz Listen
CW5W CW 20151213 185545Z 28MHz Listen
DK8ZZ CW 20151212 153338Z 28MHz Listen
DL1IAO CW 20151212 153238Z 28MHz Listen
EA4TX CW 20151212 154009Z 28MHz Listen
F5IN CW 20151212 154234Z 28MHz Listen
F6HKA CW 20151212 140454Z 28MHz Listen
HA3DX CW 20151212 141204Z 28MHz Listen
HG7T CW 20151212 140900Z 28MHz Listen
HH2-N5JR CW 20151212 184311Z 28MHz Listen
HH2-N5JR USB 20151212 133127Z 28MHz Listen
HI3CC USB 20151212 134027Z 28MHz Listen
HI3TEJ USB 20151212 133859Z 28MHz Listen
HI8JSG USB 20151212 132755Z 28MHz Listen
HI8K USB 20151212 135659Z 28MHz Listen
HK1MW CW 20151213 183729Z 28MHz Listen
HK1T USB 20151212 155252Z 28MHz Listen
HT7C CW 20151213 183438Z 28MHz Listen
IQ2D CW 20151212 154334Z 28MHz Listen
IT9YVO CW 20151212 153518Z 28MHz Listen
J68HF USB 20151212 191517Z 28MHz Listen
K0FX CW 20151212 163148Z 28MHz Listen
K0NM CW 20151212 163247Z 28MHz Listen
K0SN CW 20151212 182411Z 28MHz Listen
K0UK CW 20151212 162749Z 28MHz Listen
K0WA CW 20151212 163528Z 28MHz Listen
K1CPJ USB 20151212 010748Z 28MHz Listen
K1KI CW 20151212 001648Z 28MHz Listen
K1KI USB 20151212 011112Z 28MHz Listen
K1NYK USB 20151212 191658Z 28MHz Listen
K1SND CW 20151212 004744Z 28MHz Listen
K2GAV USB 20151213 193538Z 28MHz Listen
K5NA CW 20151212 163344Z 28MHz Listen
K5TR USB 20151212 160943Z 28MHz Listen
K6XT CW 20151212 182331Z 28MHz Listen
K7BG CW 20151212 183025Z 28MHz Listen
K7GS CW 20151213 184818Z 28MHz Listen
K7JR USB 20151213 192849Z 28MHz Listen
K7RAT CW 20151212 182652Z 28MHz Listen
K7YK USB 20151213 192521Z 28MHz Listen
K8IA CW 20151212 183126Z 28MHz Listen
K8TE CW 20151213 191929Z 28MHz Listen
KA1ZD USB 20151212 002717Z 28MHz Listen
KB5KYJ USB 20151212 160534Z 28MHz Listen
KC1CQ USB 20151212 010556Z 28MHz Listen
KC1XX CW 20151212 004522Z 28MHz Listen
KC1XX USB 20151212 010119Z 28MHz Listen
KE7X CW 20151213 183635Z 28MHz Listen
KP2XX USB 20151212 132411Z 28MHz Listen
KY7M USB 20151212 185247Z 28MHz Listen
LR1E CW 20151212 184039Z 28MHz Listen
LU1FKR USB 20151213 214643Z 28MHz Listen
LU5FC USB 20151213 212952Z 28MHz Listen
N0KV CW 20151212 163919Z 28MHz Listen
N1IXF USB 20151212 132832Z 28MHz Listen
N1KWF CW 20151212 011426Z 28MHz Listen
N1TQP USB 20151212 161521Z 28MHz Listen
N2KW CW 20151212 005711Z 28MHz Listen
N5FO CW 20151212 162925Z 28MHz Listen
N6SS CW 20151213 183338Z 28MHz Listen
N7AU USB 20151212 185130Z 28MHz Listen
N7IR CW 20151212 183050Z 28MHz Listen
N7ZZ CW 20151212 163725Z 28MHz Listen
NC0B USB 20151212 162153Z 28MHz Listen
NP2P CW 20151212 135950Z 28MHz Listen
NR5M USB 20151212 161254Z 28MHz Listen
NU1O CW 20151212 005605Z 28MHz Listen
NU1O USB 20151212 010211Z 28MHz Listen
NV1Q USB 20151213 210839Z 28MHz Listen
P40S CW 20151212 184518Z 28MHz Listen
P40S USB 20151212 155459Z 28MHz Listen
PA3EVY CW 20151212 153906Z 28MHz Listen
PA3GCV CW 20151212 153044Z 28MHz Listen
PJ2T CW 20151212 184438Z 28MHz Listen
PJ2T USB 20151212 191023Z 28MHz Listen
PJ4DX USB 20151212 185740Z 28MHz Listen
PP5JD USB 20151212 181613Z 28MHz Listen
PP5JR CW 20151212 184649Z 28MHz Listen
PP5JR USB 20151213 194800Z 28MHz Listen
PR4C CW 20151213 191137Z 28MHz Listen
PT3T CW 20151213 184154Z 28MHz Listen
PT3T USB 20151213 214218Z 28MHz Listen
PU5CSF USB 20151213 194927Z 28MHz Listen
PX1M CW 20151213 190851Z 28MHz Listen
PX2B USB 20151212 190023Z 28MHz Listen
PY1NX CW 20151212 183224Z 28MHz Listen
PY2WWA USB 20151212 134252Z 28MHz Listen
PY2ZXU CW 20151213 190004Z 28MHz Listen
PY4YY CW 20151213 213916Z 28MHz Listen
PY5FO USB 20151212 193037Z 28MHz Listen
TG9ANF USB 20151212 193457Z 28MHz Listen
TG9IIN USB 20151212 193535Z 28MHz Listen
TM7D USB 20151212 154556Z 28MHz Listen
V31MA USB 20151212 192721Z 28MHz Listen
VE6AO USB 20151213 192813Z 28MHz Listen
VE6WQ CW 20151213 184241Z 28MHz Listen
W0ETT USB 20151212 161903Z 28MHz Listen
W0IZ CW 20151213 184906Z 28MHz Listen
W0ZA CW 20151213 184441Z 28MHz Listen
W1AST USB 20151212 134851Z 28MHz Listen
W1EME USB 20151213 211103Z 28MHz Listen
W1RM CW 20151212 011630Z 28MHz Listen
W1TJL USB 20151212 002113Z 28MHz Listen
W1WEF CW 20151212 004211Z 28MHz Listen
W1XX USB 20151213 212300Z 28MHz Listen
W2RD USB 20151213 194555Z 28MHz Listen
W2UP CW 20151212 162722Z 28MHz Listen
W7RN CW 20151213 184405Z 28MHz Listen
WA0N USB 20151212 162431Z 28MHz Listen
WA1UZX USB 20151212 160439Z 28MHz Listen
WA7NB USB 20151213 210650Z 28MHz Listen
WA8UEG USB 20151212 003531Z 28MHz Listen
WD1S CW 20151212 005403Z 28MHz Listen
WJ9B CW 20151213 185456Z 28MHz Listen
WM1B USB 20151212 131648Z 28MHz Listen
WP4PGY USB 20151212 133657Z 28MHz Listen
WR8O USB 20151212 162326Z 28MHz Listen
XE1RF USB 20151212 192915Z 28MHz Listen
YO2LEA CW 20151212 140715Z 28MHz Listen
ZF1A USB 20151212 155116Z 28MHz Listen
ZV5D USB 20151212 193105Z 28MHz Listen

CQWW CW Contest 2015 – Soapbox

CQlogo

This weekend was what some consider to be the biggest CW contest of the year. It appears the last time I attempted this contest (or at least submitted a log) was in 2011 and I made 19,266 points. I guess that’s my goal but I know I can easily beat that so I bumped it to 250k. Since I did over 1 million in SSB, I should at least do 250k… right?

CW Contesting without knowing much CW

Yep, I still have a lot of trouble decoding CW with my head. But that is not going to stop me from trying. I think contesting is beneficial when it come to learning even though I don’t think CQWW should be the place to do it. But I did it anyway.
I entered as “assisted” meaning that I will be using the skimmer/cluster/network or whatever you want to call it to help make contact with other ops.

What I am doing is depending on other people and/or software that will decode those calling CQ and letting me (the network) know exactly where they are. That’s perfect for me because if I have an idea of what the callsign will be, It’s much easier to make the contact.

Skimmer Vs. Spotter

I used two different networks to show me who and where the other operators are. One such network is the spotting network. Think of it as an online chatroom where other operators tell you where other operators are on the bands as they make contact.  Most likely their logging software is setup to send out a message whenever contact is made automatically. Other people using similar software will take that information and display it on a chart where the operator could click on the spot and the logbook would partially fill out and the radio could even tune to it. The software might even color code the spots to let you know if that operator is a multiplier that you need to make contact with. It’s been in use for a long time now and many contesters take advantage of it to increase rates since you are no longer have to search for a signal.

The other network I used is what is known as the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) or “Skimmer”. Its similar to the spotting network except it’s fully automated. It’s not depending on human input. There are hundreds of Software Defined Radio (SDR) rigs throughout the world listening to the bands. A popular piece of software known as “CW Skimmer” will listen to the bandwidth of the SDR and decode any CW signal being sent using a sophisticated algorithm based on Bayesian statistics. If the skimmer picks up anyone sending “CQ” or “Test” or other keywords, it will note the callsign, frequency, sending speed, and even signal strength and send it along to RBN or it’s own network which will end up on your screen if it’s supported and enabled.

I use RBN to usually test to see how far my CW signal can be heard. It’s great for testing out the various CW kits I’ve built. It tells me the Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) and it’s another confirmation that I am indeed on frequency.

In contesting both RBN and the Spotting network can help. However it will most likely put you into a different category. There is some controversy over using the networks and some consider it flat out cheating since you are being fed information that could give you an advantage compared to the operator that is not using the network and having to manually search for their contacts. However it’s becoming more accepted.

There is one big problem with using the either network. You can never trust it… ever. With the spotting cluster, you are depending on other people. Those people might not have copied the callsign correctly or there are some evil doers out there that will send out false contacts in hopes to mess you up. The RBN is even less trusting. I don’t think software decoding will ever be perfected to match the experienced human ear. Even though it’s extremely impressive when you look more into it, there is still a lot of bad spots coming from RBN. Even though I wouldn’t trust both, it’s a very useful tool if you want high scores and rates.

I have to look into making the Spotting Network/RBN work better for me. With RBN I just connected to their telnet network and was FLOODED with information. It was so much that it was causing my computer to bog down which affected my CW keyer. It was causing delays and even locking the TX. I ended up having to disconnect and go back to a spotting cluster. There are ways to filter out RBN results to just include decodes from your area/region/zone

If it wasn’t for these networks, I wouldn’t be looking forward to CW contesting. I hope I do enough CW to where I can do some contests without having to use the networks.

Now on to the contest

I’m entering as SOAB(A)LP which means Single Operator, All Bands, Assisted and using Low Power. When it comes to digital and CW contests, I just don’t trust my amplifier so I run low power.

The contest starts at 7pm local on Friday night. However there is a VE exam the same night and I would prefer to be there instead of being on the air. After the exam, I went on 40m and 80m, made a handful of contacts and went to bed.

When I woke up on Saturday and got on the air, EU was booming in on 15m so I spent most of my time on there. My Yagi is tuned for SSB so CW contesting is a no-no since my tuner is not inline with the beam. I could have hooked it up but it’s something I didn’t want to do. That basically cancels out the CW portion of 10m and most of the CW portion of 20 using the beam. I did 20m and 40m off my vertical and kept the G5RV on 80m.

Not really feeling this contest so I didn’t put much effort into rates.

Sunday wasn’t any better. I couldn’t hear much on 10m so I stuck to 15m with the occasional trip to 20m. Towards the end of the contest I was excited to make contact with Alaska and Hawaii since I need LoTW confrimations for Worked All States Triple Play Award. Those contacts and some JA contacts made me very happy.

My CW decoding improved greatly towards the end of the contest. Even though I was still using the cluster, I was able to confirm the calls much faster. Caught a lot of busted calls much easier.

Claimed Results 

NT1kCQWWCW15Score

I ended up making 255 contacts with 143 band countries and 44 band zones which gives me a total of 134,079 points. I spent about 7 hours on the air. I didn’t reach my 250k but I shattered my 2011 score and I had a good time. Hopefully I get some new countries confirmed and I hope AK and HI confirm as well.

I just love how much faster CW contesting is compared to SSB. At least it felt that way for me. I am sure it would become better and faster after I really learn CW.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff (NT1K)

ARRL Sweepstakes 2015 SSB – Soap Box

NovemberSweepstakesLogo

Contest season is still going strong for me. I decided to play in Sweepstakes SSB this weekend because  my local club is putting in a group effort and wanted to add to the collective.

Getting Ready

After the horrors of getting a late start during WAE RTTY, I wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again. Checked the antennas, made sure the software was up to date and pre-recorded my messages into the digital voice keyer (DVK). I also made sure N1MM software was in working order.

My goals for the contest were to get a clean sweep. Never participated in sweeps until this year and I at least want to work all the ARRL sections. I also set a goal of 50,000 or more to help out my club effort.

And we’re off!

Since I wanted a clean sweep, I decided to use assistance from the cluster/network to find those needed callsigns. I started off running search and pounce looking for needed stations. Once I contacted all the needed stations, I just kept tuning around waiting to hear a CQ.

I’ve always heard about the long exchange which is what kept me from participating but doing SS on CW has somewhat prepared me for this. However I didn’t know exactly how people were going to say it. After a dozen or so contacts I got into a groove and started calling CQ.

Born to run

I rarely call CQ because with my station, It’s difficult to maintain a frequency. I am always being pushed out by the big guns. I’ve only ran during the New England QSO party because I’m the wanted station and it’s not really a big contest so real estate is much more available.

Since this contest is for North American operators (US/Canada), I  was able to hold a frequency and call CQ. I have a blast when operators line up to make contact with me. Western Massachusetts (WMA) isn’t considered rare since there are a few contesting stations on the air in the area but It was still fun. Some operators were excited they got WMA and were thanking me for a late multiplier.

Thanks to the almighty DVK

I am not a fan of talking to computers on the phone, why should I be a fan of talking to them on the radio? Some people are down right nasty when it comes to people using a Digital Voice Keyer and I can see their points but the DVK is what saves me and makes it more enjoyable. I used it call CQ and used it to help with every other exchange. Even with the help my voice is almost non exisitant after. I couldn’t imaging doing everything with the DVK. I guess I have respect for those ops with over 1000 contacts that are not using a DVK.

CLEAN SWEEP!

I didn’t spend much time on the air on Saturday. I saved my efforts for Sunday morning and afternoon. Honestly I didn’t think I was going to get a clean sweep due to 40/80 being somewhat closed during the day.  At around noon I needed 8 sections so I was bent on getting them. I had to fight in a pileups for AK and HI but the last three needed sections were WV, RI and GTA. I would not be able to reach them skywave so I hopped on 40 before it became popular and thankfully WV and RI responded to my calls. I was hearing GTA on others bands but it was just too close and my signal was going over them.  I stayed on 40 and sat around for any VE station. Finally around 3pm local I heard someone very loud say GTA. And thankfully they were calling CQ. He responded on my first attempt and jumped for joy

sweep

It’s very nice to see all the ARRL sections blue. Never happened before and was quite happy to do all 83 sections.

Trying Something New

I’ve always wanted to record my contests but never wanted to take the extra steps. Steve Cole (GW4BLE) from Wales records his contests and makes his contacts searchable. It’s enjoyable to see how you sound on the other side of the pond. I wanted have the exact same thing but I found people weren’t really forthcoming about the details.

There is a 3rd party application for N1MM+ called “qsorder” which will records the contest and will make seperate MP3’s for each contact. It listens to the UDP stream from N1MM and triggers the buffer to record 22 seconds before and after I hit the button to log the contact.

I wanted to find a way to display them like how GW4BLE does it or even the same as the wtQsoPlayer used in Wintest. I ended up making a directory listing, converted to CSV spreadsheet and modified it to link to the files. It’s 5min of work but after the deadline, I will make it available for others to search in the near future.

Claimed Scores

ssssb15

After making a clean sweep, I shifted my focus onto making as many contacts as possible. I wanted to pass 50k and did so right before I had to leave for other obligations.  I ended up with 307 contacts which yielded 50,962 points. I was happy about my results. After looking other claimed results, I guess I did ok.

Lessons learned

I have to look into ways to improve my rates. After looking at the claimed scores form the top of my class in my area, there is no way I would be able to compete unless I moved to a higher location and put up some more aluminum. Either I need to spend more time on the air (have yet to do a contest entirely) or learn how the spin the dial faster, make faster contacts or something.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff (NT1K)

ARRL Sweepstakes Recordings

Here are all the MP3s.

For now, press CTRL-F and search for your call. They are sorted in alphabetical order. I am working on ways to make all my contests recordings searchable.

Callsign Mode Date Time Band Link
AA1HK LSB 20151122 200238Z 7MHz Listen
AA2VK LSB 20151122 203045Z 7MHz Listen
AA7V USB 20151121 215817Z 21MHz Listen
AB1J LSB 20151122 174711Z 7MHz Listen
AB1WQ LSB 20151122 175440Z 7MHz Listen
AC2MT LSB 20151122 143124Z 7MHz Listen
AD0H USB 20151122 192449Z 21MHz Listen
AD5XD USB 20151121 212557Z 21MHz Listen
AD6NR USB 20151121 222657Z 21MHz Listen
AE0EE USB 20151121 220709Z 21MHz Listen
AK3V LSB 20151122 143304Z 7MHz Listen
K0BBB USB 20151121 220648Z 21MHz Listen
K0BUD USB 20151122 165747Z 21MHz Listen
K0CN USB 20151122 162320Z 21MHz Listen
K0EJ USB 20151122 161312Z 14MHz Listen
K0EU USB 20151122 163418Z 14MHz Listen
K0FD USB 20151121 220041Z 21MHz Listen
K0GND USB 20151122 180904Z 21MHz Listen
K0HC USB 20151122 172539Z 21MHz Listen
K0OB USB 20151122 172114Z 21MHz Listen
K0OU USB 20151121 210446Z 21MHz Listen
K0RJW USB 20151122 164506Z 21MHz Listen
K0TT USB 20151122 154747Z 21MHz Listen
K0VXU USB 20151122 194252Z 21MHz Listen
K0ZL USB 20151121 224506Z 21MHz Listen
K1DCT LSB 20151122 141426Z 7MHz Listen
K1DQV LSB 20151122 143040Z 7MHz Listen
K1JB LSB 20151122 200151Z 7MHz Listen
K1KG LSB 20151122 144341Z 7MHz Listen
K1NSS LSB 20151122 200800Z 7MHz Listen
K1RX LSB 20151122 140943Z 7MHz Listen
K2DBK LSB 20151122 200819Z 7MHz Listen
K2PO USB 20151122 162249Z 21MHz Listen
K2RQ LSB 20151122 140616Z 7MHz Listen
K2WJL LSB 20151122 201802Z 7MHz Listen
K2ZR LSB 20151122 174206Z 7MHz Listen
K3CWF LSB 20151122 142852Z 7MHz Listen
K3TW USB 20151121 215552Z 21MHz Listen
K4GAA LSB 20151122 202956Z 7MHz Listen
K4HPS LSB 20151122 143510Z 7MHz Listen
K4MTI USB 20151121 215634Z 21MHz Listen
K4NM USB 20151122 164226Z 21MHz Listen
K4ORD LSB 20151122 143815Z 7MHz Listen
K4OV LSB 20151122 201725Z 7MHz Listen
K4PV USB 20151121 210337Z 21MHz Listen
K4XD USB 20151122 163714Z 14MHz Listen
K4ZIN USB 20151121 214806Z 21MHz Listen
K5LLA USB 20151122 153719Z 21MHz Listen
K5TA USB 20151122 161753Z 21MHz Listen
K5TR USB 20151122 153825Z 21MHz Listen
K5VIP LSB 20151122 142442Z 7MHz Listen
K5XU USB 20151121 214925Z 21MHz Listen
K5YAB USB 20151122 192520Z 21MHz Listen
K6DN USB 20151121 215655Z 21MHz Listen
K6HRU USB 20151122 191204Z 14MHz Listen
K6LA USB 20151121 214346Z 21MHz Listen
K6LL USB 20151122 204113Z 21MHz Listen
K6NO USB 20151121 220827Z 21MHz Listen
K6TD USB 20151122 173051Z 21MHz Listen
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WY7SS USB 20151122 152717Z 14MHz Listen

Worked All Europe (WAE) RTTY Contest 2015 – Soapbox

Another weekend another contest. This time it’s the Worked All Europe RTTY Contest. I have never done much RTTY, let alone a RTTY contest. It’s going to be interesting.  It’s a 48 hour contest which they only allow 30hrs of operating. I set my goals to participate  for at least 5 hours. That’s it… I didn’t care about points, DXCC or anything else. I just wanted to try it out

Getting Ready For RTTY

Since I never really done RTTY, I wanted to make sure I got about doing it the correct way. Thankfully a fellow operator Frank (KG6EYC) was looking to make an FSK unit for his radio so I tagged along and I ended up making a neat unit using an MCU and some optoisolators. That will be for another article.  I got it working with N1MM+ (or so I thought) and I figured I was set for the contest. So far so good

Problems right out of the gate

I should have made some contacts before the contest but dum dum me figured I would have no problem. Well… soon as 0:00z rolled around, I get on the air to seeing nothing coming across my screen. I couldn’t decode any of the signals but I could transmit. After talking with Frank about the FSK project, I didn’t read where I had to use a different RTTY engine in N1MM+. Instead of MMTTY, I had to use a program called 2Tone that would allow me to use my soundcard to decode RTTY but use the MCU to send FSK emulating a TNC. After setting up 2Tone, I was now able to decode stations!

In attempt to  make some points,  I tried contacting stations and no one is replying. If I did get a reply I got “Agn? Agn?”. This means something is wrong. I switched to the dummy load and loaded up another receiver and I know for a fact that I am transmitting a signal. It didn’t appear to be distorted. Then I recalled reading something about signal polarity in my radio’s manual about FSK. I changed the polarity and was able to now make exchanges.

This is why it’s important to make sure your station, software and everything else used in the contest is in running condition BEFORE it starts. But I didn’t beat myself up over it because I wasn’t taking this contest seriously.

First Thoughts About RTTY

I honestly thought I was going to be making blazing fast contacts since it’s a “Digital” mode. Nope… RTTY contacts are much longer than CW or SSB.  Even more so if you are trying to decode a weak signal or trying to decode a pileup.
Working weaker stations means you will be sending out the same messages multiple times.  It appears if there is a pileup or more than one strong operator on frequency, the software will have a very hard time decoding. At least with SSB, you could pull a phonetic out here and there. However it’s still a great mode. Much faster than many other digital modes out there. I was just expecting something else.

It makes for a Busy Screen

WAErtty15

I entered as Single Operator, Low power (un-assisted). I don’t think my amplifier would have been able to handle the duty cycle nor did I want to use the cluster. This contest isn’t as popular so I was able to get in call CQ often.  I also used my Panadapter to hunt down signals. It helped out a lot in this contest.

Bands Were… Meh

10m was just dead. Multiple times throughout the contest there was nothing on 10 so I focused on 15 because I have trouble with CW/Data because my beam is adjusted for SSB. It works well on 15 and the upper parts of the CW/Data portion on 20.  For 40m I used my Vertical and for 80 I used  my G5RV. Nothing spectacular when compared to CQWW SSB just a couple weeks ago.

It was a wake up call that I need to work on better antennas for 40, 80 and 160

Dealing with QTCs

This contest uses QTCs where operators can exchange their recent contacts for points. Usually you send or receive the logs of up to 10 contacts from that you or the other operator made. My first run in with QTCs were during WAE SSB as part of a multi-op. I didn’t want to do it at first due to very long exchange but after the first couple QTC exchanges, it wasn’t so bad. For RTTY, it’s much easier with N1MM. Just press CTRL-Z and click on your fills. However I wouldn’t attempt to send or receive QTCs with weak stations. You’ll end up sending over and over.

I had a great time

Even though the RTTY tones give me a bit of a headache, I had a great time. During WAE for SSB and CW, contacts with those in the same continent don’t count for points but in RTTY it does. I used this contest as a way to fill missing Digital spots for the WAS triple play award. At the time of writing, it has paid off. I now only have to make 16 more RTTY/CW confirmations. Hopefully CQWW CW will get me Alaska and Hawaii on CW

Claimed Total

WAERTTY2015

Overall I did 67.5K points in my 9 hours of operating. If I participate in WAE RTTY in the future, my goal is now set. I doubt I will win any awards from this but we’ll see.

Thanks for reading
Jeff (NT1K)

 

ARRL Sweepstakes CW – Soap Box

Another weekend, another contest. This time it was the ARRL Sweepstakes for CW. I’ve never participated in SS before so it was going to be interesting. Sweepstakes is a US/Canada contest where it’s known for having a long exchange. It consists of a  serial number, class, callsign, check (licensed year) and ARRL section. For this contest I would have to send “123 U NT1K 99 WMA”. That is much longer than the “599 5” sent in CQWW. The exchange is so long as it simulating sending traffic.

Going to try this without a decoder

I wanted to see how well I can do so I turned off the decoder in the K3 and I avoided any software aids. I entered using the unlimited class expecting that I was going to use the skimmer to at least help me get the callsign correct. After struggling with the first couple of contacts, I had enough and fired up decoder. It would take 5 or six contacts before I decided to throw my call out. I wanted to make sure that they didn’t have to do any additional work. Sometimes I would wait too long and the operator calling CQ would move on. Once the decoder was running, I would only search for loud stations.

Do not ever trust the skimmer/cluster

Depending on the contest, you can use the skimmer and/or cluster to make contesting a bit easier. It’s basically a network where other operators “spot” the callsigns and frequencies of people they just made contact with. If you are connected, it would alert you where other operators are. If you are configured correctly, you can just click on the callsign, your radio will tune to that station and your logbook is already partially filled out. It’s a great way to increase your score because you will be able to easily find multipliers and hopefully work them.  However there is a couple downsides. It will put you into a different class/category where it might be harder to win and the information going over the cluster might not be accurate.

During SSB contests, the cluster is being fed with information provided by the operator. If he/she didn’t hear the callsign correctly, they could easily spot a wrong callsign. Most times it’s an honest mistake but there are times I’ve seen people purposely throw out false spots to laugh at those who blindly follow the cluster. There are some anti-skimmer/cluster contesters who think it’s cheating.

With CW contesting, it’s a different story. There is now software called “skimmers” that will listen to entire CW sections of bands and decode any CW and post it to the network. This almost takes out the human error factor but as I found out this weekend many times, information on skimmer could be just as bad. Things like signal to noise ratio (SNR), QRM, band changes, overdriven signals and even horrible spacing or sending from the operator can confuse the skimmer into giving a bad spot.

There has been many times this weekend where I would see multiple spots on the same frequency with different but similar callsigns. It just goes to show that you should never believe what you see on the cluster! Confirm the call before contacting because it might be wrong call or a dupe.

This wasn’t a serious effort.

I barely know CW and there is no way I can predict the exchange. I guess that’s why some really like this contest. It’s difficult for the new CW operator.
At first I wanted to see what I can do without using the cluster. For every one contact I made, I had to listen to 6 contacts before I know the call and exchange they used. After about a couple contacts, I abandoned using my ear and fired up the decoding software.

I thought I would be relying on the skimmer for the contest but I’ve barely used it. You can’t tell you are working a multiplier until you hear the exchange being sent. What I ended up doing was turning off the skimmer/spotter and clearing out the band map. I would just spin the dial around until I heard a loud CQ. There was so many people on the air that I didn’t have to spin it much. If they acknowledge someone else or I caught it in mid-exchange, I would note the callsign down on my bandmap. If they are a multiplier or a State I needed for Triple play, I would wait. Otherwise I would move on and later go back.
I just spinning until I hear “Dah dit dah dit, dah dah dit dah  (CQ) or “dit dit dit, dit dit dit” (SS) or “Dah, dit dit dah” (TU).

Improvements from other CW contests

I have been practicing code more and more and I must say it showed. I didn’t have to depend on the decoder as much but I would like to do a contest where I didn’t have load it up. I would like to run for change.

Claimed score

ARRLSSCW2015

Claiming 14,616 points. I wish I committed more time. I wanted to do a clean sweep and work multiple needed states for triple play.

It was a great time, the K3 and the serial keying worked without issue and now I can’t wait for CQWW CW contest.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff – NT1K

 

BAC Contest – SoapBox

This past weekend was The Gentleman’s Radio Society’s  BAC contest.
BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Content. This contest was centered around drinking and points are awarded if you are drinking a beverage that contains Alcohol. What makes this contest truly unique is that you can work the same operators again if you switched styles of drink (from beer to vodka for example). This contest takes place the week after CQWW and I consider it to be a fun and enjoyable contest.

Some of the members of The Gentleman’s Radio Society went up to contest station K1TTT to operate during the event as WA1J. I figured it would be fun to give it a try. Got myself some beers, went up to the shack thinking I was just going to contact WA1J but I ended up running on 20m.

I didn’t operate hardcore contest style. I was giving out honest reports, getting peoples names and even chatting it up a bit. I am not a fan of ragchewing but this contest was the perfect excuse to keep people moving along. Most of the contacts were unaware of the contest and they chuckled when told about it. I got a lot of “That’s my type of contest” from operators.

It was an interesting contest and hopefully it gains popularity.

My score ended up being… Not sure? I am not even sure how many contacts I’ve made.  I want to say around 50 or so. It doesn’t matter because it was a fun time talking with those around the US.

Maybe you will be on the air next year?

Thanks for reading,
NT1K

 

CQWW SSB 2015 Extended SoapBox

CQ World Wide Contest for SSB was just this past weekend. For those who are unaware, it’s basically the largest Phone contest of the year and it’s the un-official kickoff to the contest season. Now that I have a beam, I wanted to play and put an honest effort in making as many contacts as possible. I want to put in a serious effort and help my local contesting club but the real motive is to get all time new DX contacts and increase my DXCC per band counts.

Getting Ready

If you want to do well with any contest, preparation is important. You want to make sure your station and antennas are in working order, you want to make sure all your software is working and up to date and you want to have a good idea of what band to be on and when throughout the contest.

In the weeks prior my CL-33 has not been behaving and I was seeing 7.0SWR across 10, 15, and 20. I am thinking water got into something because it happened right after a bad rain storm. I wanted to get on the roof to clean and reseal all the connections but now there is some mental block about getting on my own roof. Thankfully the SWR returned back to around 1.0 the week of the contest.

Thinking the beam was toast, I revisited my Butternut HF9V that I’ve basically never used. I switched between that and the G5RV using the heathkit SA-2060 tuner I had.  I never liked the butternut as the G5RV seemed to out perform it almost every time. I tried adding more radials during the summer and even tried re-tuning without much difference. I’ve been planning to add Inverted V antennas for 80 and 40, I purchase a used B&W Coaxial 5 position switch to replace the 2 position switch that was switching my beam or the tuner. I took the butternut off the SA-2060 and fed it directly to the new switch. There was a major difference to where the Butternut was just as good, if not better than the G5RV.

For this contest I will be using the CL-33, Butternut Vertical and my G5RV dipole.

A couple days before the contest I went to VOACAP to get an idea of what band to be on and when. Since I now have a directional antenna, I have to also think about when and where I need to point it in order to utilize my rates.

Running as SOAB (A) HP

I decided to run SOAB (A) HP which means Single Operator, All band, (A)ssisted, High Power.  Depending on the contest, you have a choice which class you want to enter. Sometimes it’s wise to pick a class that the big guns won’t use or one that no one uses. I know for a fact that I won’t win ANY of the classes that I would try out for. Even though I think I have a great station, in this contest it’s menial compared to others in the area. I cared more about DX contacts than points so I wanted to use the amplifier and make use of the spotting network to assist me in making contacts.

Let the games begin!

Contest starts at 00:00z which is 8pm ET. I was able to help out my local club with a VE session and had enough time to get on when the contest starts. I didn’t follow my own advice and my station was not setup for contesting. I had to find and plug in the headset and configure N1MM+ for the new contest. I ended up starting late.

Problems right out of the gate

Soon as I transmitted on 20m, bye bye N1MM. RF is getting into my computer and it was nasty. Things were typing itself and my computer was making restart attempts. I immediately suspected the keyboard. I unplugged the keyboard and sure enough my computer RFI went away. My expensive (to me) DAS mechanical keyboard is not ham radio friendly. I plugged in my backup keyboard and sure enough, windows decided to take forever to install the driver. I ended up using a PS/2 keyboard and had to restart the computer.  I ended up starting almost an hour late. This is why you should prepare your station before the contest.

Things are getting better

Once my computer issues were fixed, I was back on the air.  10m was closed for me and 20 and 15m were meh. 40 meters seemed to have all the action so I was fighting the contest with the G5RV and vert. Not a good way to start but at least I am making contacts.

CQWW1540m

Here is a view of 40m about 2 hours into the contest. I have my SDR taping the IF stage of the K3 and I use it as a pan adapter. It gives me an idea of what the band is like. I can cycle through the bands and stop on the most active one for contacts.

I made as many contacts on 40m as possible. I decided to give 80m a try and wasn’t able to make many contacts. I can hear a lot of stations but even with 500w, they couldn’t hear me. I ended up giving up the fight and went to be around 1am ET (5z).

I ended the night with about 50,000pts.  I was sort of bummed out about it and I was thinking that I wasn’t going to break my 300k I made in 2011 before I lost power due to a really bad snow storm.

A New Day

After waking up, getting some much needed food and coffee in the system, I went back to station and thankfully the bands were open. I spent the morning working as many mults and double mults as possible and then circled the bands for contacts. I was depending more on the cluster but as time went on, I started to use the dial.

15mCQWW

15 meters seem to be the place for me. I spent a good part of my day on 15 spinning to SA and EU and sometimes out West/North.

Night Time Asia

Up until now, I had a very hard time working ASIA. I almost NEVER hear anything in Asia. I would be lucky to hear Japan every once in awhile but this night was different. Not only did I make Japan contacts, I also made contact with China, Singapore, Asiatic Russia and even heard South Korea.  I was a very happy ham radio operator.

Things are looking better!

Even though I walked away to spend some time playing with the kids and doing some work around the house, I crushed my 2011 record. I was now in “contest mode” where that was all I thinking about. Once I started struggling on 40m, I went to bed hoping conditions will stay the same for sunday.

I went to bed with 700,000pts. I now had dreams of making my first ever 1,000,000pts from home.

10 Meters was alive and business was a booming

I missed grayline but after my Sunday Morning coffee and Bagel, I went back on the air to find 10, 15 and 20 booming with activity. 40m was booming but I was hearing mostly the big guns working people that I couldn’t even hear. After clearing out any possible mults I went to work at my rate. I was clicking and spinning as fast as I can. If I couldn’t establish contact in two tries, I moved on unless it was a multiplier or much needed DXCC entity.  Western Sahara (S0S) took a good hour to break.

cqwwsb10m15

10 meter was just amazing. People were complaining about 10m band conditions a week prior but by looking at the above spectrum, 700Khz were packed with stations. I spent a good part of my day on 10 and 15.

15m open to Japan

Towards the end of the contest, 15 meters opened up to Japan. When everyone was on 40, I was still on 15 working as many Japan Stations as possible. My rates suffered but I was having to much fun working areas I never worked before. I’ve exceeded my goals so now it’s just working mults and needed DX.

I will say that the K3 with the 1.8KHz filter worked like a charm. However the best option for the K3 was the Digital Voice Keyer. I control the DVK using CAT commands through N1MM and it made contesting much easier. I can still talk after the contest!

The fun must come to an end.

I went back to 40m for the last 5min of the contest and watched my pan adapter to see the entire spectrum that was alive with signals fade out to just a few. I am sure the ragchewers and net participants jumped for joy but I was also jumping with joy. It’s done. I can return to life.

Claimed Scores

NT1KSCreenShot

I ended up with over 1.25 million points. I wanted to stop at 1 million but when I reached it, I had around 890 contacts and I started concentrating at making at least 1,000 contacts. Too bad I wasn’t focusing on countries worked because I would have pushed harder to get 3 or 4 band DXCC instead of putting around towards the end.

It felt great. I’ve broke many personal records and now I’ve set the bar high when it comes to future contests. I also felt like I am finally helping out the Yankee Clipper Contest Club (YCCC) in which I was logging for. I often feel intimidated by the YCCC members due to the massive score submissions and their station. Even though every point counts, 50k or even 100k appears to be small potatoes to them. I know I can run with the best of them on phone, but I don’t have station to prove it. This year was an improvement for sure.

Lessons learned

No matter what I do, I try to walk away with learning something. Even though I participated in many contests, I am still learning and being reminded about things I forgot about or don’t care about.  I need to work on antennas for 80, 40 and maybe even 160 meter. The solar cycle is not going to improve and if I want to maintain 1 million points, I need improve my antenna situation.

Due to my property size, I am looking at some options. I think I could get away with a double L antenna for 80/160. However I feel I might end up with inverted V dipoles. I also need to complete my 300′ receive beverage antenna that is looking at Europe. I may even upgrade to a reverse-able beverage so I can hear SA better as well.

I was reminded to make sure my station is in COMPLETE working order. CQ World Wide CW is a month away and I need to make sure my homebrew winkeyer can do the job. I

Overall thoughts

It was fun and thanks for reading my Soapbox. Scores have been submitted to CQ and YCCC and logs have been uploaded to LoTW and Clublog. Now I  get to see what LoTW confirmations come through. So far two new DXCC contacts and a ton of band confirmations. Well worth getting on the air.

  • Jeff (NT1K)