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Thu Nov 2 11:58:22 EDT 2017

CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB

Call: 8P5A
Operator(s): W2SC
Station: 8P5A

Class: SOAB HP
QTH: Barbados
Operating Time (hrs): 47.5
Radios: SO2R

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
  160:  159    11       31
   80:  663    18       75
   40: 2156    29      110
   20: 2082    35      105
   15: 3057    32      116
   10:  997    21       66
Total: 9114   146      503  Total Score = 14,459,071

Club: Northern California Contest Club


It turned out to be a more eventful weekend than I expected.

My wife Kathleen and I were setting up on our first day.  Things were
progressing as usual with slow progress alternating between outdoor antenna
setup and indoor preparation as the rain dictated.  All of sudden there was a
terrifying sound.  Kathleen was in another room and she described it as a train
going by.  It sounded to me like a huge electrical short except louder and
longer lasting.  We just had a lightning event.

I happened to be standing next to the subpanel for the shack and turned down
all the breakers.  She ran in and we were both shaken, but safe.  We looked
around for ongoing issues, like a fire, but did notice we no longer had power.

It was not clear why the generator had not activated.  Since it was our first
day, we had not even looked at the generator yet.  There was a fault light lit,
which I reset and the generator started.  Unfortunately, it stopped 10 minutes
later.  Eventually, I found the issue and it ran for the next 7 hours until the
power company fixed the problem out at the pole in the pouring rain.  I am
always impressed by the response of the local power company in Barbados.

When my hands finally stopped shaking, I turned the breakers back on in the
shack.  Once again I hear a brief crackle and saw a spark/ember on the floor. 
That said, there was no burning smell or obvious damage anywhere.  After
building up the courage to turn on the radios, they both came up with ERR KEY
messages.  I could see that the master station controller, which controls all
the automation of the station, and the CW, was not working.  This was the
beginning of two solid days of sequential problem identification and

Besides the two K3 radios and computers, the rest of the gear in the shack is
home brew.  While I did not have the resources to repair everything, at least I
knew how it all worked.  I did have a number of spares for the key components,
but other gear needed to be repaired or patched enough to function, even in a
degraded mode.

Even with spares, like the station controller and the computer plus 8 serial
ports that had been blown, lots of rewiring of cables had to be done.  By the
end of Wednesday, the station was again functional, although had less
capability in some areas, and no spares remaining for subsequent failures.

Thursday, I fixed a problem to the 160 antenna that was unrelated to the
damage.  At this time I had some time to test some new functionality I added to
the station about antenna selection.

Testing went well and while the station was operational, there was a lot of
disruption and I was worried about lingering effects of the strikes as well as
interstation interference, RFI and intermittent connections due to all the
hasty rewiring that needed to be done.

When the contest time came, I was mentally exhausted from the intense problem
identification and solution realization cycles repeated over the last few days.
 Nonetheless, the station had been stable over the prior 24 hours and there was
nothing left to do except wait for the next issue.

Fortunately, the next issue never came.  There was a balky footswitch that I do
not use very often, and the new battery in my headphones died about halfway
through.  Other than that, the station was perfect all weekend with all
hardware and software working as expected and no intermittent or one time
problems. It was probably the smoothest operation in memory. Even the new
antenna selection options worked as planned and added materially to the score.

As for the contest, 10 was way down on Q's and mults.  80 and 160 did not seem
as good as last year either.  However, 15 was outstanding and I ended up less
than a percent lower than last year's score.  I finished elated but exhausted.
Kathleen said I was more subdued than usual post contest, but I was too tired
to smile. 

These weekends are full of surprises, and it is (almost) easy to look back and
laugh, but I realize that we were lucky not to be injured and the contest was

Kathleen is an indispensable part of 8P5A, and this weekend it was especially
true.  While I was trying to find and come up with a solution to the next
issues, she was frequently implementing, installing or cabling the fix to the
prior problem.  All the while she was offering support and encouragement

Thanks to everyone for the Q's and moves.  Thanks to my ham friends for their
words of support during the week.  Also, a welcome to my new QSL manager HA1AG
who will take over from NN1N to who I am deeply indebted for the great job he

Finally home for some peace and quiet, and then fixing all the broken gear in
my 69.7 pound suitcase

73, Tom W2SC

QSL via HA1AG or LoTW

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