CQ 160-Meter Contest, CW
Class: Single Op HP
Operating Time (hrs): 30
Total: QSOs = 1471 State/Prov = 59 Countries = 67 Total Score = 670,320
Club: Mad River Radio Club
The nasty northwest noise took a break this week after being present
since just before the ARRL 160 contest. It did appear at the
beginning of the contest but disappeared again before I started
working W7s. I did make one effort to track the noise in the past
month, and I got as far as the pole in front of the neighbor house.
I cannot hear the noise any further away, although the power lines go
various places near here where there aren't any roads. I need to get
a VHF AM receiver to pinpoint the source. Hopefully its the rusty old
cable-TV amplifier box on that pole, and not the guy across the street
who doesn't seem to like me (or anybody).
Thus this weekend had to be one of the quietest 48 hour periods I've
heard on 160, especially Saturday night. I wish I had 4 matched
preamps for the phased verticals! There was just a little static for
a few hours Friday night, and none at all Saturday night. The band
got as quiet as in the daytime. The noise floor on the SDR display
retreated to below the bottom graticule and stayed there which is
about 10-15 db quieter than normal.
Conditions were certainly not as wonderful as the last couple of
years, but averaged over the whole weekend, they weren't bad. In the
old days (more than 3 or 4 years ago), one had to wait until a couple
of hours before European sunrise to readily run Europeans, and it
looks like this season's propagation has returned to that mode.
Saturday was better than Friday, and late was better than early both
I could always hear the Europeans but they could not hear me, except
perhaps at their sunrise. They seemed to greatly enjoy the holes I
could make in the band while running. I was chased off my run
frequency several times by European stations CQing on my frequency,
apparently completely unaware of my presence. They were hard to
ignore, especially when I'm trying to attract some Europeans that
*can* hear me, and even more so when intruder attracts North American
stations that call on top of my run. This exchange happened several
times: Eu: QRL?? Me: Yes!! Eu: CQ, CQ, CQ, ...
I must conclude that my work on receiving antennas has succeeded and I
can now often hear better than I can be heard. Its time to build some
sort of gain antenna for transmitting, to upgrade the simple 65-foot
"Tee" with 75 radials (supposed to be 80, but I ran out of time 4
I slept three hours Friday night and stayed up all night Saturday
night. I ignored Europe for the first 6 hours Friday and concentrated
on running North America. That strategy, especially given the
conditions, worked, and I got ahead of last year. However, Europe
sunrise Friday night was quite slow and I dropped behind. Also, last
year I was multi-op (NZ8R relieved me for a few hours in 2010 after Eu
sunrise). The local sunrise action was very, very slow and by 9am I
was 100 QSOs behind and never caught up.
Last year the band was fairly busy all day, and I made contacts every
hour. This year, there were very few stations on-the-air during the
daytime, so napping (necessary for a single-op) was very appropriate.
I started up again around 1900z and kept going straight through to
1400z except for 2 15 minute food breaks (had to feed the cats, too).
Saturday night, I used the receiving antenna arrangement that seemed
to work pretty well in the December contests. I use a pair of toggle
switches to switch each stereo channel between the "left" radio which
is the phased array / SDR receiver pointed towards Europe, and the
"right" radio which is the K3 and its sub-receiver in Diversity mode
on a pair of Beverages, one to the south on the right channel, and one
to the west on the left channel. The south Beverage hears Florida and
Minnesota great (MN must come in at a high angle), and the west
Beverage hears everything from south west to north west well enough
that I can almost always tell someone is calling.
This is a typical "search" scenario: callers from Europe, and W1/W2
show up on the phased array, although I have to tweak the direction if
the caller is weak. Callers from W3/W4, the Caribbean, and South
America show up on the South Beverage, usually just fine. Callers
from W5, W6, W7, W9, and W0 show up on the West Beverage, and I almost
always have to pick a better Beverage to peak the signal. W8s come
through almost any antenna, and switching usually helps. I leave the
left channel switch on the "left" (phased array) radio, and the right
channel switch on the "right" (K3) radio. If I hear the caller in
both ears, I have to throw one of the switches so that I don't hear
calls in "echo" mode, because of the 20 milliseconds of latency caused
by the SDR receiver (hard to cure with sound card ADCs). If the
caller is weak, it usually helps to throw both switches in the
direction of the ear that hears him, so that the excess noise is
reduced. Currently the SDR receiver is monaural, although there is no
reason for that other than I am lazy. So, both switches left is the
SDR receiver exclusively, and both switches right is the K3 in
Diversity mode with independently selectable Beverages for each
Most of the time, a caller is audible without throwing any switches.
When he is weak, I throw the switch towards the sound, and move
antennas to optimize reception. If he is very strong, I throw the
switch arbitrarily to get rid of the "echo". If there is no audible
caller, than I have to explore with the switches to see if there is a
weak station audible on an atypical antenna. Lastly, any workable
station within the phased array pattern shows up on the waterfall
display, even if the audio is switched away, and that's a clue to look
for a weak caller if there is no one audible.
Hope you all followed that. This contest enjoyed the easiest and most
reliable station finding method so far. It was very nice not having
to push-button through a bunch of Beverages after each CQ.
Worked FO8RZ again late Saturday by watching for his signal to appear
on the phased array waterfall display after switching to "after
Europe" mode (I won't bore you with those details - they are not so
well developed anyway). Also, the phased array can't hear Japan (not
a favored direction - need to build another one) , so the hour before
my local sunrise I searched the old-fashioned way using the K3 and
that big round thing (knob). I heard JA3YBK about an hour before
sunrise, but he couldn't hear me. I kept coming back to his frequency
as sunrise approached to catch him on a peak. In the mean time, I
found JH2FXK, who was weaker, but *could* hear me. YBK disappeared
about 15 minutes before my sunrise, so I never worked him. I heard
VK6LW, but he peaked very quickly, and I could not break the pileup
before Mr. Sun drove the signal away. I had that same problem with a
couple of other JA signals. Maybe the best strategy is just to keep
CQing and hope for the best. Maybe there is no "best" strategy.
Heard but not worked: 4Z, ZS, IT9, VK6, and VP8O. The 4Z just
couldn't hear me, the ZS was buried in QRM with many Eu callers, and
the IT9 was calling someone else. He probably wouldn't have heard me
anyway. I should have stuck around for Orkney but I thought they
would be back the second day. Ooops!
DX Worked: 4O, 5B, 9A (4), A7, C6 (3), CE, CT (4), CT3 (2), CU (2),
CX, DL (53), E7 (2), EA (7), EA6, EA8, EI (4), ES, F (2), FM (2), FO,
G (18), GD (2), GM (5), GW, HA (10), HB, HC, HI (2), HK (2), I (8),
JA, KH6 (4), KL (2), KP2 (3), KP4, LA (3), LX, LY (2), LZ, OE (3), OH,
OK (18), OM (7), ON (5), OZ, P4 (2), PA (11), PJ2, PY, S5 (15), SM
(9), SP (9), SV, T7, TF (2), UA (5), UA2 (2), UA9, UN, UR (7), V3,
VP9, XE (6), YL (6), YO, YU (3), and ZF for a total of 286 DX QSOs.
Equipment: K3 with sub-receiver, ETO-91B (thanks Jeff), 65 foot "T"
with 75 radials, 6 2-wire center-fed Beverages, 4 element broadside
array of 2 element end-fire arrays steerable via software radio (see
Dec. 2009 QEX), two toggle switches, and Writelog.
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