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To: 3830@contesting.com
Subject: [3830] CQWW SSB YN2AA(N6GQ) SOAB HP
From: webform@b41h.net
Reply-to: jeff@n6gq.com
Date: Tue, 2 Nov 2010 12:24:52 -0700
List-post: <3830@contesting.com">mailto:3830@contesting.com>
                    CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB

Call: YN2AA
Operator(s): N6GQ
Station: YN2AA

Class: SOAB HP
Operating Time (hrs): 46

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
  160:   71     5       11
   80:  634    22       60
   40:  830    23       82
   20: 1615    31       98
   15: 1611    25       92
   10:  423    18       36
Total: 5184   124      379  Total Score = 5,961,053

Club: Northern California Contest Club


First, I'd like to express my sincere thanks to Octavio (YN2N) and his wife,
Martha. They are wonderful hosts, and I greatly enjoyed staying with them. The
food, accommodations, and company were fantastic! I would love to go back
again, they really made my stay memorable and I couldn't have asked for more
wonderful people and a more wonderful stay.

As far as the contest goes, this year I felt like rather than a SOAB effort, I
was doing a M/S with Mr. Murphy himself. Alas, that's contesting, and that's
what makes it interesting. I usually write pretty long 3830 posts, mostly
because I like to memorialize my memories but also to give others a perspective
on what was going on "behind the mic". 

Since I'm mostly a CW guy and not much of a phone op, I like to try out things
during SOAB phone contests to see how they work. This year I decided to try and
keep with a theme of being extra courteous and also making sure that I sign my
call with every QSO. So after each QSO I made sure I either said "Good Luck!"
or "Thank you!", and signed my call. I was also experimenting with phonetics
(or lack thereof) and found something interesting (more on that later). When
signals were strong and there were lots of callers, I signed "YN2 double A" -
it's going to be interesting to see the NIL report to see if this caused a lot
of people to incorrectly copy the call, it may have been easily understood by
the masses, or perhaps not. I'm not sure. But it flowed well so when rates were
high I used it and it seemed to work ok.

I left San Francisco Tuesday night on a 1:22AM flight. That was my first
mistake because I was trying to get over the Fall cold that I had for the
previous week. The late night didn't help, nor did the two chatty women sitting
next to me on the plane that talked and laughed all night on the plane,
overpowering my earplugs. So when I arrived in YN, I was very tired and my cold
was coming back. Not good for an SSB contest. 

As I walked out of the airport, I didn't see the transport bus I was supposed
to meet, so I hung out for a while and figured things were just a little late.
After waiting a bit more, I decided to contact my host and find out if he knew
anything - turns out there had been a mistake at the bus company and they had
thought I arrived later. They were profusely apologetic and the owner of the
company picked me up personally, and we had a great time on the way to the YN2N
QTH talking about the YN country, people, etc. It was a Murphy moment but turned
out very positive, as I had a nice ride through the country with a person very
knowlegable about the area. 

Arriving at YN2N's, he has a beautiful QTH on the slopes of the Mombocho
Volcano, with a wonderful shot in almost all directions. To the north and east
are nicely sloped foregrounds and the volcano is sort of behind us, at about
150* azimuth. I had a bite to eat (Thank you, Martha, the food was
*fantastic*!), and then started putting my gear together to get myself tuned up
for the contest. It's Wednesday now, and a quick tune around the bands tells me
that conditions are quite good.  I settled on 10m and started running guys and
even with just 50w out I was getting S9++ reports from all over USA. 

Towards evening, some weather came through, and we started getting quite a bit
of lightning, and I shut down and got a much needed good night's rest. 

The next day things were a little degraded in terms of propagation, but I still
had hopes that some sunspots would appear and really spice up the weekend! I
looked forward to the traditional Nicaraguan meals that were a great part of
each day as well :) Since I had never seen a real live Monkey before (well,
besides in a zoo), Octavio and I set out to go to one of the islands in Lake
Nicaragua to see some Monkeys. Apparently one of the islands has six native
species of Monkeys - I thought it would be great to have a smiling Monkey on my
YN2AA QSL :) Well, on the way I started getting the tell-tale signs of a
migraine coming on - and for me, it's not the headache, but I get vision issues
(usually go blind in one eye), and I lose the ability to speak and read. This
one wasn't as bad as previous ones but it sort of was a murphy strike 2 :)

On Friday, I was settling in getting used to conditions and the station, and
about 11AM I heard a "Pop!" and realized that the amp had given up. Oh no! What
now - in the mountainous jungle of Nicaragua, where are we going to find parts
for an amateur amplifier, and that assumes that we can diagnose the problem in
the first place. Luckily, Octavio is a master in electronics and had the
problem isolated to one of the big electrolytics in the high voltage section of
the power supply. Now, the question is does he have a spare, because if not,
this is going to be a game changer. It turned out that he did have a few
spares, and within a few minutes, he had the amp on the air again singing.
Murphy number 3.

As the contest started, it was 6PM localtime - a little bit of a dead zone in
YN because 40m is still opening and 20 is starting to slow down, and 15 still
has some JA's and Oceana, but I wanted to try to get the log started early with
some rate. The first hour or so was fairly low rate, around 200/hr or so, so I
went to 40, only to be met with deafening QRM and wall to wall S9+30dB signals
from Europe and USA. Trying to find a run frequency was seemingly impossible,
I'd find one and then get clobbered by an over-compressed   S9+++ signal right
next to me. I did start to get creative with filtering on the K3 though and and
finally was able to get to a point where I could co-exist to a degree with this
QRM but it was difficult. Later, when it came time to move to 80 and 160, I was
met with a Carribean storm that had noise levels at S9 on 80 and S9+30 on 160,
with static crashes on 160 that would pin the K3's S meter at S9+60 - I'd never
seen noise like that before. Wow. I think I only made one or two QSOs on 160 the
first night, Murphy number 4. 

At a point though, 80m calmed down to the point where I could get some good
runs going, and I deviated from my plan, which was to get 2 hours sleep from
3-5AM localtime. I ended up staying on the air and having moderate rate - this
turned out to be a big mistake because I never recovered from the lack of
sleep. That was a dumb move on my part - moral of that story is to stick with
your plan.

The next morning as the sun rose over Lake Nicaragua, signals were LOUD on 20m
from Europe and I did my best to work some before the QRM was too bad. I did
the same as 15m was opening. Then about 10am localtime or so, the rates were
really getting going on 15m, and from looking at previous years logs, I knew
that from about 9 or 10am until about 3pm localtime was the prime rate period.
And sure enough, the rate meter was pegged in N1MM for periods - pegged at 600
QSOs/hr (in the last 10 QSO rate) and high 400's for 10-minute rate. It was
apparently spot-driven - I'd get a huge pileup and the rate meter would
skyrocket, and I'd work 50 or 100 QSOs, then it would drop to nothing. This
happened regularly - and while the rate would climb fast, it wasn't sustained.
But it was fun, and most of the USA hams were well-behaved in the pileup. I
think it was about 10:30, during one of these high rate periods everything went
dark. The power failed. The first thing I thought was "there goes my log"
because when the power went, my computer froze and I had to power cycle it.
Thankfully, N1MM recovered without a hitch! We got the generated started and I
went back on the air after about 20 or 30 minutes of recovery time - but the
generator wasn't stout enough to power the amp, unfortunately. So for the next
10 hours I did my best to hold my own on 100w, but there was a very clear
difference between having the amp and not having it - I couldn't hold a run
frequency and the pileups didn't last nearly as long. The good thing was that
the folks calling me were on average stronger and made the QSOs easier.  Power
finally came back around 8PM localtime and we switched back to grid power.
Murphy number 5. By this time I had pretty much given up on a great score, and
I was more or less just enjoying being in the moment of a great contest and
spending my time enjoying propagation, giving out QSOs, and the like.

The second night was an interesting one - noise levels were much more
manageable on 80/160, and so I hopped back and forth between 40, 80 and 160 as
rates allowed. Around 11:30PM localtime, I figured I'd best check 20m just in
case there was an opening there. When I switched bands I couldn't believe it,
20 and 30 over S9 signals from zones 20, 21, 39, etc. (short path). I worked a
bunch of new mults and did some CQ'ing and worked a bunch of new stuff as the
greyline moved across western Asia into Eastern Europe. As things were starting
to slow down, I figured I'd best just check 15m and see if there was anything
going on there. I tuned across 15 and heard nothing via the short path
direction to Europe. Then I figured I might as well swing the beam out over the
Pacific (long path) - and when I did, the band was full of Europeans. Not
terribly strong, but they were everywhere. I then thought I'd best check 10m
and low and behold, moving to 10m I hear A73A calling CQ - by now it's 1:30AM.
I quickly tuned the amp and called him, and made the QSO on the first attempt.
I also heard DR1A and IQ9T calling CQ on 10 but they couldn't hear me (long
path also). This was the time when I fully gave in to my geekiness and totally
lost focus - I had decided (over the past day) that due to the Murphy visits,
cool propagation, and the utter enjoyment of tuning around the band and giving
out a new mult won over trying to finish with a kick-butt score.

Anyhow, being jazzed about the LP QSO with A73A on 10m, I went back to 20m and
it was shutting down, so I spent the rest of the evening on the low bands, and
headed off to bed at about 4:30AM. I got one hour sleep and was back on the air
at 5:30AM for the sunrise.

By now I was running on 1 hour sleep and I was beginning to feel the effects -
seeing double, making mistakes, and not being completely coherent. Not good. I
had done my best to remain hydrated, but it was extremely warm that week in YN,
and very humid, and it kind of threw me for a loop. Even though I had doubled my
water intake, I was still dehydrated and that wasn't helping. My diet had been
in check, but the heat was a variable that I didn't allow enough room on - and
that probably didn't help my exhaustion. After a few more bottles of water and
some caffeine, I was back up to speed and working guys again. Sunday would be
spent switching between 10, 15 and 20 mostly.

Around noontime local on 10m,  I had worked C91WW and a 6W, and figured it was
time to swing the beam to Africa and call CQ for a few minutes, hoping to pick
up a few rare mults/zones. After a few CQ's, I hear "9<noise>echo sierra mike".
I'm thinking 9U, 9X, 9Q or something like that...but can't get the prefix.
Moving the yagi around doesn't seem to help, he's coming from due East, right
across central Africa. Then I think "maybe it's a 9M" so I swing the beam to
the Pacific, but nothing there. Bringing it around again, he comes again out of
the noise where I can then get the 9W2ESM callsign - long path, in the middle of
the night for him. We made the QSO, at which point a few other Carribean
stations had heard this and jumped in to try to make the QSO as well. Wow, that
was another cool 10m LP QSO story!

So now it's almost over, my throat is burning, I think I have a fever, and I
have lost focus and pretty much lost interest in making any kind of big score,
but I am having a lot of fun finding unexpected propagation, giving out the YN
mult (I think I was the only YN on in the contest), and trying to hone my
skills. I'm also appreciative of K9YC's help in getting my K3 audio set just
right, and enjoyed many reports of "Great Audio!" - the K3 SSB TX audio now
seems like it's right up there with the best and is taylorable in any way you
wish, and can be made to sound really great. Thanks, Jim!

The last 2 hours of the contest were spent on 20M with some great rates and new
mults. I find it especially fun when the pileup gets big, the rates get high,
and people join in the fun and do their best to keep the rate up - that's
really neat and I appreciate the assist. It then becomes a team effort because
we both want to finish the QSO quickly, get the QSO or new mult in the log, and
move on to the next one. It can get fast-paced and exciting!

I also tried something new this time - I took a hardware digital recording
device and recorded the entire contest to MP3. I have it indexed by time, so I
can go in and quickly grab audio from anywhere in the 48 hours. If you would
like to hear how you sounded at the other end, over the pileup, or whatever,
let me know and I'd be happy to share the audio with you. The whole archive is
big but a small chunk is no problem. I'd love to share and hopefully whomever
is interested can get a peek at something they might not normally get to see -
how they sound on the other side.

Thanks again to Octavio, YN2N and his wife Martha, and thanks to everyone who
provided QSOs during the contest and before. 

Rig: Elecraft K3 + 400w
Antennas: Cushraft A3S, 2 element 40m quad fixed on Europe, Dipoles for 40, 80
and 160.


Jeff N6GQ, YN2AA

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