The CW North American QSO Party is coming up this weekend. I hope to get into it, at least for part of the time. The way things have been going lately, though, nothing is sure. I think I enjoy the CW contests the most of all. I’ve been doing so much keyboard digital operating lately, it’s nice to get back to the original digital mode for a change. Not to mention that the bands seem to miraculously spring to life during the bigger contests.
It’s been raining and storming for the past few days, so even though I’ve been hiding indoors out of the damp, the lightning and thunder have kept me “radio silent.” Tomorrow night is our monthly club meeting, so I’ll have a chance for some “eyeball” QSOs.
I had a fun time Saturday morning in the IARU HF contest. I made 141 CW contacts … all search & pounce. I had a higher score this year than last year, so I did improve. I had a birthday party to attend Saturday afternoon and evening and then church on Sunday morning, so my radio time was limited to Saturday morning only.
Propagation was good. I had contacts on all bands, 80 through 10 meters. There were lots of good, strong signals. Eighty and forty were noisy, as is normal this time of year, but there were always contacts available.
I have to say that the IC-7300 was a pleasure to use. The bandscope and filters were so useful. That and N1MM+ made the contest fun! I used my 100 watts, homebrew vertical and tuner and was pleased with the results. I do wonder, though, what I could have done with a “decent” antenna? I remember the old days of paper logs, dupe sheets, and manual keying so well. No comparison nowadays.
I would encourage you to participate in contest operation, especially if you’re new to the hobby and haven’t tried it already. It can be a bit intimidating, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a good way to work new countries/prefixes/counties or whatever. Maybe it’s not for you … that’s OK too, but you’ll never know unless you try it.
Conditions were really nice this evening. Plenty of action on FT8, CW, and SSB on 40, 30, & 20 meters. Lots of Thirteen Colonies stations active. I think I worked about seven unique stations, and several of those on multiple bands and modes. I probably would have worked a few more, but there were some pretty active thunderstorms on and off all evening, so I pulled the plug several times. I think there’s another day of activity left, so maybe I’ll see if I can get all thirteen in the log … probably not, though. No big deal if I don’t!
The storms played havoc with my barbecuing plans for dinner, too. The chicken went into the oven instead of onto the grill. Not a good idea to be outside waving a set of metal tongs around in a thunderstorm. I can remember being at a transmitter site when lightning hit the tower … it took a while before my heart rate calmed down. The fiberglass antenna cover for the antenna that was struck looked like a burned, peeled banana. That definitely increased my respect for Mother Nature.
Oh … I calculated my ten-digit grid square (don’t know why, other than just for the heck of it). In case you care, it’s FM17SB46MH. I think that puts you in the middle of my living room. Can’t be too accurate … HA!
It was a good evening on the bands. I had FT-8 contacts on 80 through 10 meters … even picked up two new countries. Sixty meters was busy, and I had a Jamaican CW QSO on 40 meters.
In my guise as a public safety radio professional, I spent the day listening to a sales/technical representative from JPS Interoperability Solutions tell us all about their products. They offer ways to tie together disparate communications equipment (UHF, VHF, landline, cellular, , HF, trunked, analog, digital, video …). You name it, they can make it talk together. I’ve used their equipment over the years, and they build good stuff! I even have a JPS NRF-7 here in the shack, which was an early product for the Amateur market. It’s an audio dsp unit, and still holds its own, even after many years.
I bought a copy of Stu, KB1HQS’s new book, Portable Operating for Amateur Radio, and hope to get a chance to read it this weekend. I’ve followed his blog online for a while, and enjoy reading what he has to share. It’s $9.95 for the Kindle edition on Amazon ($19.95 for the softcover). I prefer the Kindle editions. Not only do you get them pretty much instantly, but they’re a considerable savings over the physical book. You don’t need a Kindle to read them. You can download a free app for your computer or phone.
This weekend was the CQ WW WPX Test, CW. As you can see, the bands were pretty busy …
Imagine if it was like that every day!
I dabbled a bit and worked 80-some stations over the two days. I also took breaks and worked a few FT-8 contacts, too. Not in it seriously, but just keeping my CW hand in.
This was the first time I’ve hit the CW heavily with the IC-7300 in a major contest, though, and I’m really impressed. It is a real pleasure to work CW with this rig. I never experienced any overload, even though the bands were booming. The filters are superb, and I could pull out just about any station I tried. Judicious use of the RF gain is the secret!
The only problem that I didn’t resolve was with the N1MM+ logger … I could not get the Telnet working for the packet cluster. It worked the last time I used it … not this time though. Telnet works fine with SpotCollecter in DXLab, so I dunno?
An observation … although they were there, the 50 wpm ops seemed to be fewer. There were lots more stations sending at an easily copyable 25 – 30 wpm.
There were good signals on 80 through 10 this weekend. I checked six meters several times, but if there was an opening, I missed it. Not only good signals, but some good ops, too. It was a pleasure to participate.
My setup was the IC-7300 with 31-foot homebrew vertical and an LDG AT-100ProII tuner. Nothing special. I was hearing North America and South America and the Caribbean pretty well, but Europe was pretty sparse, propagation-wise (for me). Nothing at all out of Asia or Africa.
There was some pretty violent wind, rain, and lightning on Saturday night, but I’d already pulled the switch and gone to bed. Didn’t bother me a bit.
So … now the contest is over, and the bands are back to normal. See the picture above? I just checked, ten minutes after the end of the contest, and there are only five or six CW signals visible on my 40-meter spectrum scope … . What a difference forty-five minutes makes!
Field day is coming up next month. I guess that’ll be the next big thing I’m involved with. I’m looking forward to it!