[3830] NAQP CW AD5Q Single Op LP

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Mon Jan 16 03:03:00 EST 2006

                    North American QSO Party, CW

Call: AD5Q
Operator(s): AD5Q
Station: AD5Q

Class: Single Op LP
Operating Time (hrs): 10
Radios: SO2R

 Band  QSOs  Mults
  160:   31    17
   80:  125    43
   40:  290    47
   20:  190    42
   15:   40    13
   10:    0     0
Total:  676   162  Total Score = 109,512

Club: Central Texas DX and Contest Club

Team: Austin Powers Rustlers


This was the “Perfect Storm” at AD5Q:

To set the stage, I must explain that my station is not fully automated. My
6-Pack and bandpass filters are manually switched, and the radios aren’t
interfaced to the rigs due to maintenance issues and past lightning strikes. I
use cheap radios (FT-890/FT-900), which are neat and compact, but do not have
separate inputs for beverage antennas. Thus, they are switched with separate
relays integrated with the all-band bandpass filters and keyed via TX-ground. 
It all usually works fine.

I have recently switched to N1MM software. I like it, and will be posting
several suggestions elsewhere on how to make it work smoothly for SO2R. However,
it is much more dependent on radio interfaces than what I have been using. I had
everything set up and ready to go the night before the contest, with the
software’s frequencies manually set to the bands I was to start on. Minutes
before the contest started, I decided to sync my system clock to WWV the lazy
way (internet software). My connection was hung, so I had to reboot. I then
started the contest, and the first 44 contacts were all logged to 10 meters –
both radios. In N1MM, there is no way to change the band of a contact once it’s
logged. In the past, it hasn’t been a serious problem to change a few contacts
when logged to the wrong band. 

The contest got off to a rough start. I elected to start running on 20 with 2nd
radio on 15. My station is not competitive stateside on 15. The top tri-bander
seems too high (but rotates), the low one is fixed NE, as is the 5 el 10 @ 70’.
The opening was NW and the skip was long. The west coast owned the band and must
have had a blast. I had trouble working them because I couldn’t break the
pileups. I never heard ANYBODY on 10, and there were no workable locals to move
there. I went there often, and dual CQ’ed 20/10 and 20/15 to no avail. The
callers were all on 20. I missed Texas on both high bands.

After 3+ hours and only 200+ Qso’s, I went to append a note to a contact and the
software crashed. No big deal, just load it again. A few minutes later I noticed
that I had logged another 6 Q’s on 10 – both radios. I concluded that my logs
would really be a mess by the end of the contest due to all the band changing.
Since I was due for my first ½ hour break anyway, I decided to export my logs to
both Cabrillo and ADIF, and write software to convert the easier of the two
(Cabrillo) to NA’s “SDF” format so I could finish the contest using NA. This was
the easy part, and I had NA loaded with corrected logs, and messages configured,
in 25 minutes. Additionally, my headphones were wired for N1MM. It has the
ability to control headphone switching by routing the audio of both radios
through the sound card and output to stereo headphones, which I think is the way
of the future. I had to re-route the audio cables through my legacy SO2R box in
order to use NA. Another 10 minutes with some troubleshooting.

But the Radio A/B switching wasn’t working through the LPT cable. I spent close
to another hour troubleshooting, then DUH! Switching NA to/from any other
software requires putting a soldering iron to the SO2R box. The LPT pin for
radio A/B is different and of opposite polarity. I should have foreseen this
earlier, because I have recently switched both my own and WX0B’s SO2R Masters
from NA to N1MM. My break was now 88 minutes. I would have to manually switch
the radios, but was determined to finish the contest because I was on a team –
even if SO1R for the duration.

40 was hot early, and I was off to the races with NA. I also quickly learned
that manually switching the radios wasn’t so bad a handicap. With N1MM, you have
to manually switch the receive and transmit focus using keyboard commands anyway
(with lots of room for mistakes). 2nd radio contacts were actually smoother in
NA with the broken setup than they are with N1MM functioning “correctly”. With
everything working nicely, I started moving mults (I don’t when there are
issues). Rates were up and down on 40. I am satisfied with the 2 el 40 on the
C4XL, but I don’t own the band like at the other place I op.

80 was also hot early. Here I always have a problem when takeoff angle is high,
but it wasn’t. Rates on both 40 & 80 were around 150 max, and when they
eventually dropped under 60 I took my remaining 32 minutes of off time – around
2100z. I noticed that my average rate for the whole contest was only 72/hr,
which equals 720 contacts. I looked forward to big runs on 80 and 160 after the
break to finish out the contest at around 800 Q’s.

But rates were poor on both bands. My beverages went deaf. They were working
fine earlier. I have a pair of 580' 2-wire bevs in the woods, remotely switched
for 4 directions. Now the only direction that worked was SE. 40 was still
runnable, and I finished out the contest running between 60 and 90/hr on 40
while working whatever I could hear on 160 with the SE bev (not much). I did
better on 160 last August, and my final score looks like a mediocre August

I was out in the yard today diagnosing the problem with the beverages. The SWR
at the NE/SW feedpoint really is infinity. I didn’t check the NW because the
feedpoint is several hundred feet further into the woods. My theory is that
because I manually switched the radio A/B on 2nd radio contacts, it frequently
hot-switched. The beverage relays in the shack did not get the benefit of PTT
delay and sent brief RF spikes down the beverage coax – blowing the ferrite
transformers. The SE direction was spared, because I never worked anybody in
that direction. 

So I actually did finish with a full 10 hours, but with my station crippled on
low bands until I find new ferrites. I pushed really hard for the team’s bottom
line. Otherwise, I would have thrown in the towel early. Thanks to those who
moved for me, especially KO7X for the double hop to 80 and then 160 for

Sorry about the long rant. I do that a lot.

Roy – AD5Q

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