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[VHFcontesting] ARRL Jan VHF contest woes

To: <vhfcontesting@contesting.com>, <yccc@groups.io>
Subject: [VHFcontesting] ARRL Jan VHF contest woes
From: <chetsubaccount@snet.net>
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 2021 10:31:02 -0500
List-post: <mailto:vhfcontesting@contesting.com>
I currently have no idea what my score it.

Who says VHF contests are boring?  The fun begins long before the contest
and lasts well after.

My station was last configured for December's 10M contest. Everything was in
place, and worked, and I had a great time. Now for the January VHF contest,
a lot had to be changed. To cover the bands, there is no single radio,
amplifier, and multiband antenna that will do the job. So in the weeks
before the contest, the antenna farm was reconfigured to pipe the various
antennas to the shack, and the transceivers, transverters, preamps,
amplifiers, and antenna switches were reconnected and tested. N1MM+ and
WSJT-X was updated, networked, and tested. Even Windows 10 was allowed to
load in the helpful? H2 updates to the helpful? H2 updates and settle out.
This time there was no change to serial ports or sound card settings. The
station was ready, I was ready, and that was fun. 

I started the contest by CQing on USB, with dueling CQs for 6M and 2M
putting 40 contacts into the log in the first hour. In the next hour, some
long conversations with old friends slowed the rate down, but that was
enjoyable too.  After that, how come no one is answering on 6M anymore?
Glance over to its wattmeter and see no watts! What? The trusty old Heathkit
SB-200 has been quite reliable. The tubes are lit, HV is good, idle current
is good, T/R relays switch, the K3 is producing drive, but no watts. With
the amp in bypass mode the K3 power makes it to the wattmeter so the cables
and connectors are OK.  I take it to the bench and open it up but find
nothing obvious; nothing burned, melted or disconnected. After a good half
hour, I leave it there. Well, I can still run the K3 on 6M at 50 watts. This
seems like a good time to switch to FT8. As usual  I put the 2M radio on the
main computer's entry window 2 in N1MM+ and for 6M FT8 I switch the 6M radio
to be controlled by a secondary computer to allow me to set  independent
mode, time sequence, logging, etc. But this time WSJT-X does not key the 2M
radio. It worked last week. So I go back a version of N1MM+, and WSJT-X, but
that does not fix it. N1MM+ of course squawks that this computer has a
different version so I eventually go back to the latest.  I try 2M on entry
window 1 and it keys OK so I go with it even though visually I have the
windows now swapped from their usual positions, but I do not want to waste
any more air time. FT8 gets another 70 Qs into the log before I decide to
quit for the night. 

Sunday morning, I awake at 4:30 with my mind trying to figure out what is
wrong with the 6M amplifier and with keying the 2M radio on WSJT-X. I know I
will be unable to get back to sleep so I brew some coffee and follow my
hunch on WSJT-X. Aha! There was a wrong parameter setting for WSJT-X on
entry window 2! Fixed! As long as I am awake this early, might as well try
some meteor scatter on 2M where I have a full 200 watts. I only hear one
ping from a W5 station but he is unable to hear me. Next, I try CQ'ing and
do get an answer but am unable to complete the QSO after 20 minutes. Very
few pings of any kind heard so I give up. Back to FT8 and some USB and get
another dozen Q's. Early morning is turning out as a slowwww time so I go
back to looking over the 6M amp again. Clean the relay and bandswitch
contacts, wiggle the tubes in their sockets, and hook it back up. It makes
watts again! I make some very pinpoint E-skip contacts on 6M to the
southwest and I pick up another 7 grids on USB before returning to FT8. Well
that was fun.

For the rest of the morning and afternoon I run FT-8 with an occasional
excursion to USB on 6 and 2M to get whatever I can there. 

FT-8 provides continuous action until about 4 pm and then.the 6M amp is not
producing watts again, sigh...

And now I also notice that the 2M FT-8 contacts have not been going into
N1MM+'s log! Am I sure? Yes, they are in the WSJT's contest log but not in
the N1MM+ log for the last 4 hours. But 6m is there. What the?

The lack of sleep and the intense fun of this contest are now taking their
toll and I decide to quit, even before my planned return back to SSB to run
the 222 and 432 bands with the known big guns that have that capability. 

Before I quit, I make copies of the WSJT-X Cabrillo, contest log, and ADIF
files from 6 and 2M computers to allow recovery and reconstruction of the
N1MM+ log later. I notice that the logger score window is slightly off on
the computers- there is one too many 222 contacts shown on some but a
rescore gets them all the same. 

This morning I turn on the computers and start N1MM+ on them. Now the
borrowed laptop for 432 has an empty log- ?!?. It's log matched the others
last night!  Doing a rescore brought it in line again- they are now all
missing the 432 contacts. Sigh.. 

Like I said at the beginning, I have no idea right now what my score is.
Today's fun is just beginning.

Chet, N8RA

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