This past weekend was the New England QSO party (NEQP). There was also 7th area QSO party, Indiana QSO party, and Delaware QSO party happening during the same weekend. Even though I love contesting, I really don’t do much from my house because it does create a disturbance and I would like to keep that at a minimum. However I do make an effort to participate in CQWW SSB and NEQP. I really like NEQP because I’m the wanted station and a lot of local operators are active on HF. Now that I have a new beam and a new radio, I wanted to really see what I can do with it compared to years past.
QSO Party VS. Contest
Some people put QSO parties into a different category when compared to contests like CQ World Wide. QSO parties are advertised to be more laid back and welcoming to new hams and new contesters. So you will see a lot of different operating habits. You will see more conversation, real signal reports and you will see a mix of seasoned contesters, new contesters, award chasers and even old timers. Large contests like CQWW are about making the contact as fast as possible and as many as possible.
There wasn’t much I had to do to get ready. I’ve recently installed the DVK/DVR in the K3. It’s a device that can record and play audio clips. This is a great tool in contesting because I can record things like calling CQ and even the exchange and play them over and over. I much prefer using the recorder in the K3 than using wav files over my soundcard. I found that when using .wav files and a soundcard interface, the audio sounds much different from the radio’s microphone. With the DVR/DVK built into the K3, I can control it using the logging software and the audio is pretty much match up. It helped out quite a bit during the contest as my voice was dropping out.
What I like about NEQP is that it starts at 4pm local time. I am not sure if they do it because of the New England Amateur Radio Festival (NEARfest) or for other reasons but I had plenty of time to get stuff done around the house. Soon as 4pm rolled around, I was on the air.
I didn’t spend the entire time on the air. I’m not as serious as other contesters that have an iron butt and won’t move from the chair. I went to the park, fixed some things around the house and did some other things instead of contesting. Even when I was on the air, I wasn’t really serious as some others might be. I was chatting it up with people, giving honest signal reports, trying to help people with audio issues and even ragchewing with other operators. Even though I would like to win my county, it was more about having fun. I’ve received many compliments and tried to give out as many as well. The last 20min of the contest I was in “contest mode” trying to hand out contacts as fast as possible. I have yet tried to participate in a contest from home that involved fast contacts. I’ve only done “Contest Mode” during multi operator events at other stations
Pan adapter usage during contesting
Even though I was mostly calling CQ and not bouncing around looking for contacts, I had the pan adapter running and I felt it made a big difference. I can switch to a band and see that it’s not alive instantly. I could also find “holes” in the band much easier for me to park and call CQ. It made it much more easier and faster to get up and running.
Differences between years past
Having a new antenna and a new radio does make things feel different. The K3 performed well as expected. I think the K3’s DVK/DVR (Digital Voice Recorder) is worth getting even if you have a soundcard interface. I also purchased the 1.8 Khz filter knowing that I will be doing contesting where the bands could be packed. At first I wasn’t a fan of how the filter sounded until it was suggested by Jim (KK1W) to shift the filter. Adjusting the shift made a world of difference and I was able to enjoy what the 1.8kHz has to offer. The bands weren’t as packed compared to the likes of Field Day or CQ Worldwide but it helped with stations that were QRP or in the noise. I purposely setup shop near other stations calling CQ for NEQP and didn’t get much interference from strong near-by stations. Every once in a while someone would setup shop in my passband. Most times it’s an accident but sometimes they do it on purpose with hopes that I would move. depending on the band, I might move slightly up or down but most times I just stay on the frequency and eventually it will clear up. However it does cost me potential points.
Having a beam also made a huge difference of course. When it was just the G5RV, I had a hard time working West Coast stations but that changed. It seemed like I had a pipeline into the Southeast as the majority of my contacts where from 4 land. I’ve also worked some South American DX stations and a couple EU stations off the back of the beam. Even though I was communicating with a narrow signal both in TX and RX, I still received many compliments about my audio with the exception of one person who said I was too narrow for a QSO party. I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes using a wider bandwidth.
However the biggest difference compared to previous years is that I didn’t have to fight anyone on the air. Every previous NEQP, I would end up getting into an argument with someone because I dared to operate near their precious net or someone would purposely jam me. This year I had none of that. Everyone I contacted was nice and wasn’t interrupted by a net or some other type of rag chew. I am not sure if was because the bands weren’t in great shape, that I have new gear, more experience or a combination of everything? Who know, maybe my previous setup was causing more harm during contests.
With NEQP, I didn’t use the cluster or any kind of spotting assistance.
I had no idea that I was being spotted but I had an idea when I was getting a trickle of contacts then all of a sudden I was getting pileups out of nowhere. Thanks to those who spotted me.
I had a great time. It would have been better if my voice wasn’t cutting out but it was great.
Overall I made 664 contacts. Most of them were on 20 meters. However I am impressed with my 40m contacts as I was using my G5RV to make them. 40m helped out with a lot of local counties. My claimed score is 36,521 points. I didn’t think that was a good score until I started comparing them against other claimed scores on 3830scores. I also need to look at my log a little closer because you will see that I made 619 SSB points but yet I made 664 contacts. I feel that something is not correct with my log. It’s possible that the DE contacts I made for DEQP are counted as errors because I put their county as part of the exchange. So it’s possible I have 39K points.
Improvements for the future
After looking at what’s coming through 3830 scores, I have a high amount of SSB contacts. At this point in time, I have the most SSB contacts on 3830 for my category. but yet I have half the points compared to the CW only ops. This means I really need to know CW in order for me to place higher in future contests. I have now set a goal to make at least 60% of my contacts in next years OSO party on CW. I can’t really do much to improve my signal or my SSB rates so I will have to start looking at CW for the points.
I had fun, thanks for reading.
Jeff – NT1K