[CQ-Contest] 8P5A (W2SC op) SOAB CQWW SSB (Very Very Long)

Georgens, Tom tgeorgen at lsil.com
Mon Nov 5 00:58:54 EST 2001

8P5A (W2SC op) SOAB HP

		QSO	Zone	Countries	
160		64	8	16		Inverted Vee @ 80'
80		458	15	62		Inverted Vee @ 50', W2SC
40		735	23	88		3 El @ 90'
20		1669	31	114		TH7 @ 50', TH6 @ 50'
15		2456	37	121		TH7 @ 50', TH6 @ 50'
10		3386	34	113		TH7 @ 50', TH6 @ 50', 5 el @
		8768	148	514	--->  15.2 Meg

I was having dinner several months back with a pair of experienced Caribbean
contesters and they remarked about how painful it was to read my last
contest write-up about CQWW SSB 2000.  The combination of fixing antennas
for days in the broiling sun and then running out of energy during the
contest was a scenario they both had dealt with first hand.  For me, this
was the second time it  had happened.  While I had won North America each
time, and had my plaques, neither time did I feel the satisfaction of doing
my best and I felt like I had been defeated.  Beyond simply putting in my
best effort, my goal was to break the North American record, which I felt
was legitimately within my reach.  Falling short was going to gnaw at me
until I had my next chance.

After the last WW SSB, the current North American record holder (CT1BOH at
KP2A) wrote me a very classy note and Jose indicated that he too had two
disappointments before he set the record.  However, standing in front of my
quest was the fact that the station owner in Barbados was shutting down the
station in May after about a decade of building and rebuilding.  The thought
of seeing the station close down seemed to be a shame but the thought of not
getting another shot at CQWW was starting to bother me.  I returned to the
station for ARRL CW and was fortunate to win for a second time, but it did
little to soothe my disappointment over my difficulties in the CQWW.  With
my wife Kathy's concurrence, we took over the station from the previous
owners and extended the lease on the property.

By far, the biggest headache of owning a contest station in the Caribbean is
the relentless effects of a very corrosive environment.  Although there was
a great deal of hardware down there, more and more of it was broken.  The
tall tower is 90 feet and held a non-functional 3 element 40 meter beam with
a 5 element 10 with a broken director above it.  These antennas were turned
by a balky Tailtwister.  The first priority was to get this antenna set
working but I could not do it myself.  After six months of needling, I got
K5ZD to volunteer and I got an unsolicited offer from N5KO at Dayton who, in
turn, volunteered K6AW.  The four of us took a trip down in August and spent
three grueling days in brutal heat and humidity doing a number of jobs.  The
40 and 10 were completely taken down, rebuilt and had new feedlines
installed.  The rotor was replaced as was the 160 meter inverted Vee.  We
also replaced a feedline, rotor, and crankup cable for a TH7 on another
tower, as well as painted a third tower that was very rusty.  It was a very
productive three days and I am very grateful for the help of Randy, Trey ,
and Steve.

One of the things that did not get done on the maintenance trip to Barbados
was the replacement of the bandswitch in the AL1200 amp.  Trey and Steve
quite astutely recommended taking the amp home and repairing it under more
relaxing and comfortable circumstances.  This worked out well as I was also
building and testing a super SO2R box that would control all station
operation, including automatic antenna selection, headphone switching,
beverage control, and miscellaneous interlocking.  The month leading up to
the contest was spent wringing out all of these items, which was
particularly difficult given that I do not have any antennas at home.  

The AL1200 had something wrong with nearly every circuit and was badly
corroded.  Eventually, the power meter, HV meter, and IP meter circuits were
all repaired and the bandswitch replaced.  The amp seemed to be in good
shape.  Likewise, the SO2R box was working very well.  In conjunction with
the SO2R box I used an 8 input by 2 output relay box that I used to route
any of eight antennas to two feedlines.  I had used this box for years when
I last had my station and it worked fine.  However, when using the high
power amplifier, I decided to do a poor-man's measurement of isolation
between feedlines to get a gauge as to how much front end protection I
should be using.  It turns out that 1500W on 10 meters was returning 5 watts
down the other feedline.  I don't know why I did not notice this at my old
station but it would preclude any real SO2R operation.  I clearly needed
different relays but it was days before it was time to leave and too late to
fix.  (I can hear Jay typing me an E-mail right now).  The loss of true two
radio operation was not fatal since there was limited opportunity to do it
at such high QSO rates, but it also precluded using all of the other station
automation gear I just built.  The setup in Barbados is a two radios and two
amps and, even if I did not do SO2R, automating the switching made band
changes, moving guys, and recovering from component failures much easier.
My solution, however brute force, was to put an added relay in the beverage
box that would disconnect the antenna from the radio that was not the
current transmitter.  This would effectively make the secondary radio deaf
until it became the primary.

The other thing I wanted to do was to record the contest.  I was going to
have two networked computers with one doing the radio control, DVK and
logging with the other being the back up  and recording.  The backup would
also run Geochron.  The Writelog reflector suggested that MPEG was the way
to go and it would produce a recording that could fit on a single CD.  Since
I do not have a station to test this, I played a CD in my wife's computer
and recorded it in Writelog to check the quality.  MPEG sounded great.  It
looked like we were ready.

As the trip approached I was having an unusual level of anxiety.  Part of it
is the normal precontest jitters as well as the guilt associated by devoting
so much time to such a personal endeavor.  However, this year, the events of
9-11 had an undeniable impact.  Whenever my wife and I travel together
without the kids, we always go through the morbid process of making sure our
papers and finances are in order.  This does not make any statistical sense
relative to the danger involved, but we do it nonetheless.  About a week
before the contest my wife asked if we should contemplate taking different
flights.  I would be lying if the same thought did not cross my mind.
Without digressing too much, my wife grew up in an upscale commuter
neighborhood in New Jersey and I grew up in a lower class Long Island town
that consisted mostly of people who migrated from the city.  We have a very
close attachment  to New York and will never forget our standing motionless
in front of the TV as the WTC attack unfolded.  Nonetheless, we decided not
to let irrational fear make us do something pointless for some incremental
piece of mind.

We left our house at 4:30 AM the Tuesday before the contest and the trip to
Barbados was effortless.  Planes and airports were sparse and delays were
minimal.  Upon our arrival at 8:30PM, the customs adventure began.  The
AL1200 was in a large, handmade canvas bag.  On our way through the "Nothing
to Declare" line, the agent asked what was in the bag.  I don't mess with
customs and said "a radio."  He then said he was expecting me and pointed me
to a guy I needed to speak with.  The guy, it turns out was 8P6SH who was
trying to usher another ham who, unbeknownst to me, was on the same plane
and was carrying a vertical.  Dean eventually finessed me through customs
with the partial assistance of the fact that the customs agent knew his
mother.  A good 45 minutes were wasted but everything got through OK.

The next ritual is the rent a car which, although a bit informal, worked
very well and we were on our way for the 40 minute drive to the station.
Kathy did the driving as it was not raining (that is an inside joke to K5ZD,
N5KO, and K6AW).  As we pulled in front of the station my heart started
pounding as the anticipation of the initial antenna checks approached.
Whether or not the antennas worked would go a long way toward determining
how much precontest effort would be expended.  The first indication is that
we left all antennas pointing east back in August and it was encouraging
that they were still pointing in that direction when we arrived.

Upon entry to the cottage, I went straight to the radio while my wife
started opening the windows.  The good news is that all of the antenna SWRs
looked normal and all the rotators turned.  That was my first deep breath of
the day.  After bringing in the luggage, it was time to start the station
setup and bring all the extra equipment out of the closets.  That first
night, we wasted a fair amount of time with the computers.  The computer
that was there had a mouse that did not work and while Kathy tried to fix
it, she was using my laptop to do E-Mail.  I eventually found a mouse that
worked and wanted to see if I the computer CD was functional as I had
brought a TV tuner card to put in the PC so we could actually have TV down
there.  Unfortunately, the CD player could not read the software CD although
it could play music CDs.  My laptop was able to read the software CD just
fine.  After squandering some time I decided to continue setting up.  I
wanted to try a different setup this year as I wanted to move out of the
corner of the room in hopes of getting better air flow and reducing fatigue.
After moving stuff around and getting some of the equipment in place I went
to bed around 1:30.

The next day (Wednesday) was going to be outside antenna day and we had two
main tasks.  The first was running the US and European beverages, and the
second was to install and 80 meter wire array.  The US beverage is about 850
feet and stretches across the front lawn, over the walls of two buildings
with collapsed roofs, across a field, over a disgusting chicken coop, and
terminates at a woods.  This antenna has been installed before.  The
European beverage is new and extends across an unused field.  In prior
years, the field had been turned over and was a total mud pit.  Now, with
all the rain, it is a lush, waste deep tangle of grass.  My job is to run
the wires and Kathy installs the support poles.  This year she brought a
dremel tool to cut notches in the tops of the PVC pipe used as supports.

The 80 meter antenna was another story.  Last year, I got killed on 80 to
Europe using the combination of a dipole at 50 feet and a half sloper.  This
year I intended to install one of my favorite antennas.  It consists of a
K3LR/K8UR style folded back sloping dipole.  Effectively, it is a full
sloper hung from the top of the tower with the portion below the feedpoint
folded back to the tower and tied off near the base.  At the tower is a full
wave loop reflector.  This is the same design I used for 40 the year before
when the beam was broken.  The antenna  models well although the reflector
resonates much less than the traditional 5% low in frequency.  I modeled for
optimum performance using EZNEC and then took away the driven  element to
measure the self resonant frequency of the loop.  The installation process
consisted of  installing the loop and tuning it with an Autek antenna
analyzer.  Although the geometry resembled more of an inverted ice cream
cone than a diamond, it resonated very close to the length predicted by the
model.  The sloper was then installed and tuned for acceptable SWR.  Initial
attempts to get an SWR were unsuccessful when I noticed that the top and
bottom halves looked to be different lengths.  I turns out there was a
misunderstanding between my wife and I as to how much to shorten.  Once
straightened out, we got 50 ohms but very low in frequency.  Shortening the
antenna pulled up the resonance but it no longer converged on 50 ohms.  This
too was what the model predicted.  The SWR was not great but it seemed to
working as designed.

Just as we were going to do the final tie off, a truck pulled up.  It turns
out that it was Basil, 8P6EX whom I had never met but worked many times.  He
was a very nice guy and was glad to see the station still in operation.
Just as he was to drive off, 8P6SH showed up with KH6WZ to show him the
station.  My wife and I were less than presentable after working all morning
and were not real hospitable, but I think they all understood.  After tying
off the antenna I made my "anything that looks this good has to work"
declaration and we knocked off.  We decided to start work at daybreak (5:30)
and take the middle of the day off.  The 80 meter antenna was done and one
of the beverages was run, not a bad start.

We left to get some lunch, food supplies, and some more poles and rebar for
the second beverage.  The supermarket was a huge disappointment.  As
recently as August, it was stocked as well as any US supermarket, but this
time is was more than half empty.  Of particular concern was the lack of
Gatorade.  In the ARRL DX I moved to Gatorade rather than Coke and OJ and I
seemed to be much more alert and energetic.  At the hardware store, they did
not have rebar but we got some threaded rod instead that looked to be long
enough.  We also got some copper tube for the ground rods.

We decided to take a nap upon our return and resume at 3:30.  The remaining
job on the beverage was to put up poles on the European version and do the
feedpoints and terminations on both.  The first attempt at pole placement on
the European beverage was not correct so we had to move them.  In the
process of moving the last pole, Kathy yelled that she was getting bit by
something.  She then ran out of the field.  I was working on the terminating
ground rod at the time and by the time I got to her she had thrown off her
shoes and socks and was screaming "ants."  She went inside an put calamine
lotion on her itchy feet and was through for the day.  I went back outside
to finalize the feedlines.  There is a big coax bonepile there, but much of
it does not have connectors installed and other pieces are defective.  I
eventually concluded that anything without a soldered connector was not even
worth trying.  Once again the antenna analyzer came in handy.  I had the
terminators across the leads of the beverage transformers to produce a 50
ohm load.  I plugged one end of the coax into beverage transformer box and
measured the impedance at the other end with the analyzer.

It was now dark and all of the outside work was done except putting the
terminator on the European beverage.  We decided to head to dinner at an
informal beach front place called Cocomos (a K6AW favorite).

When we got back, it was time to fire up the amp.  I reinstalled the tube
and the transformer and put the cover on with just enough screws to close
the interlock switch.  Turning on the amp produced a loud bang.  With the
cover on, I could not see where the problem was but it sounded like it was
on the AC side.  I took off the cover and did not see any sort of burn marks
anywhere.  I jumpered the interlock switch and turned the amp on with the
cover off and it came up fine.  I loaded it on 20 and it seemed well.  I
went to 15 and got a strong RF bite from the TS850 and the computer hung so
I figured I should put the cover back.  It is possible that screws did not
keep the interlock closed and that was the source of the noise.  In any
event, I put the cover back on and it loaded on all bands and worked
flawlessly all weekend.  Just for good measure I ran a few Europeans on 40
and was ready for bed by 10:30.  The disappointing part was that I did not
hear much on 80.  The new antenna made a big difference on D44TC but I did
not hear any Europeans to make any comparisons.

Thursday was "inside day" as it was when I would set up the station itself.
It lacked a crisp plan unlike the day before and the time was not very well
utilized.  I got up early and did some running on 10 and all seemed fine.  I
decided that I did not like the new station setup so I went back to the
original layout.  Two TS850s about 18 inches apart with the amplifiers
(AL1200 and Centurion) on the shelf directly above them.  The laptop was
between the two computers.  The master SO2R control was at my left elbow.  I
moved the three rotor control boxes to an adjacent table on the left and the
second computer was on an adjacent table on the right.  

I had to untangle the 8 feedlines and connect them to the 8X2 box.  All the
while, I would do a bit of running to make sure the amps and antennas were
OK.  What I noticed is that I would occasionally hear the relays in the
relay box click.  It seemed that when I turned the  radio dial (not
necessarily change bands) the frequency readout in Writelog would flash and
the relays would chatter.  Since the Writelog LPT outputs drive the SO2R
box, it is clear that they must be changing.  I reasoned that it was not
crucial since it was only the receive antenna but I never figured out what
was wrong.  I added the beverage control box to the mix and I noticed that
the radio A side did not work.  Something must have shook loose in shipping
so I connected up the radio B side.  Things were still going well until I
tested on 20 and the RF really disrupted the box and the relays were
switching wildly.  One thing the station lacks is small parts like caps to
do RF bypassing.  There are no Radio Shacks or the like on the island

The beverage box was key to using the automated switching since it has the
final relay to provide the isolation.  I had to sit back in the chair to
figure out what to do next.  I also noticed that the bands suddenly seemed
very quiet.  Signals on 10, 15, and 20 were virtually non-existent and my
heart sunk as I thought that I may have damaged both radios with the
switching network.  At this point, I needed to take a rest.  

In the mean time, Kathy decided that she would try to start the generator.
I have no aptitude for such devices but I always wanted to know if the
generator would work if I ever needed it.  I had contemplated using an
inverter and the car to generate AC in the event of a power fail, but the
manufacturer said that the cheap inverters would be too noisy for
communication purposes and  the pure sine wave version was way too
expensive.  I had always wanted to try the generator but never got the
chance.  While I was inside, I heard the sudden roar as the generator
started up.  I had to see it with my own eyes so I ran out and it seemed to
be running well but leaking gas.  One of the hoses was loose and when Kathy
tightened it everything seemed OK.  I measured the output and it seemed good
before the gas ran out.  In any event, it was a relief to have a power fail
solution.  In six trips, power only went out once and never during a
contest, but it is good to have a back up.

I gave the licensing official a call to get permission to use the 8P5A call.
I went through my normal ritual of E-Mail, Fax, Fed-ex, and phone calls but
had no response.  It always seems to work like this.  When I called, his
assistant answered and said he was waiting for my call and had an
authorization to Fax to me.  I had to explain that I had no Fax capability.
Instead I suggested that he leave it at with the receptionist and I would
somehow pick it up.  Kathy decided that she would go get the document as she
wanted to find another supermarket to find Gatorade and some other things
she wanted.  I decided to go take a nap.

I laid down with my eyes open for a while and decided to scrap my automation
and go back to the manual method I used last year.  At this point a stable
situation had to be the top priority.  I jumped out of bed and  began
rerouting cables to the main K4BAI antenna switch which is now on it last
legs.  The antenna feedlines all came to a single switch which selected an
antenna and routed it to a wattmeter and to another two position switch
directly in front of me that would route the antenna to either of the
amp/radio pairs.  I also went back to an Ameco RF driven beverage switching
box.  It has a preamp as well but it is not necessary with the long
beverages.  The downside is that, if this old box dies, there is no real
beverage solution and it meant that only one radio could get the beverage.
Also, another switch would be necessary to choose between the two beverage

When I was done, I noticed that the computer could no longer control one of
the radios.  It took a reboot to make it work again.  One of the radio
combinations must have coupled RF into the line.  I was a bit concerned
about this going in even though I tested it the best I could at home.  My
laptop does not come with the two serial and two parallel ports necessary
for this configuration.  I bought a PCMCIA to parallel port card for the
second parallel port.  For serial, I used a USB to serial converter and it
was this port that was failing.  I then went back and disconnected all extra
cables to the laptop for the station automation and I put a toroid around
the USB cable.

Now that the station was reconfigured, it was time to pretune the amps and
try to wring out the RF problem.  I made cardboard cut outs to mark the
amplifier settings but it was so humid that the expensive Scotch 33+ tape
would not stick to the amps and I went to the other Scotch tape - the
transparent kind.  I went through every band/amp/antenna combination and
recorded the settings.  In every combination, I played a recorded test
message to check for RF in SSB mode.  None was found.  If the contest
started now, the station would be ready.

Kathy returned from her trip with the license as well as the mother lode of
Gatorade.  She also had another brainstorm, Slim Fast.  The idea is that it
would fill some more of the nutrition gaps but could be consumed through a

The last job was to get the second computer networked and the recording
working.  I have a null modem network cable that I use to direct connect the
two computers.  We were getting ready for dinner and I figured that I could
get this done while she was getting showered and dressed.  However, I could
not get the Microsoft networking to work.  This was particularly frustrating
since I had the same two PC's talking when I was down there in August.  It
was time to leave and I made no progress.

At dinner, I told Kathy that I was hyper all day and could not relax.
Things were basically in good shape, even if this networking never worked,
but I was still too keyed up.  I said that I felt wound too tight to do well
this weekend.  It is unlike me.  I am usually very intense but seldom out of
control.  We had a good dinner but I was distracted.  

When we got back, I found the problem to be trivial and it worked just fine.
I had to install Windows media player 7.1 (to get MPEG capability) as well
as the latest version of Writelog.  I also moved over the latest Master
file, country file, and Geochron.  I started recording and went to 80 meters
to check out the antennas.  I was testing the audio knobs and worked a few
guys when P40W called in.  We were chatting about stuff when a station broke
in who turned out to be G3WXX.  I switched to the array and his signal
jumped by what my S-meter would call 20db.  I was very excited.  Kathy was
sitting behind me doing instant messaging to our daughters and her friends
and she could tell I was excited.  John and I signed off and I proceeded to
run a number of Europeans.  I then went to 40 where European signals were
50 over 9 on the meter.  I then ran a few on 20 and went to bed around
11:30.  Another point of note was that John heard from somebody else that
propagation had died earlier in the day.  This lowered my concern about the
radios.  He also mentioned that a solar disturbance was predicted for
Saturday night.  In any event, it was a bad day that ended well and I went
to sleep with a smile.  

Friday was just a rest day as the station was ready.  The plan was to just
run a few guys here and there in the morning and make any final adjustments.
I had a conference call for work at noon after which Kathy and I would go
out for lunch.   After that, I would return and sleep while she went to the
beach.  In the morning, I decided to listen to the recording I made the
night before and it sounded awful.  It seemed to have gaps and I could not
tell whether it was record problem or play back problem.  The computer is an
old Cyrix MII, 300MHz with 64 MB of RAM but it should have the juice to do
MPEG encode/decode.  I decided to switch to an ADPCM mode which sounded

I then gathered up my rate sheets for the last two years as well as my N6BV
propagation charts.  Things were definitely ready.  I did the call, the
lunch and returned at 2PM and planned to sleep to 6PM.  I did not sleep much
as I was thinking about many last minute items but I was not nearly as wound
up as the day before.  At this point the only thing left was the contest

I got out of bed around 6:30 and paced for a while before my precontest meal
of spaghetti.  It was now time to sit in front of the radio and choose a
place to start.  I like to start with a stateside run on 15 to get into a
groove.  The goal is to start with an easy, high rate hour as a confidence
builder.  However, this is contrary to my broader strategy of focusing on 3
point QSO's, even though it will make the QSO total less sexy.  It is easy
to get lured into running the US boys but my intention was to run EU
wherever possible.  This must have worked since I got complaints all weekend
from the W's about how hard I was to work.

The precontest pileup was going well as I tried to pass the last
interminable minutes before the contest.  It was time to go but I stumbled
out of the blocks with immediate QRM and unimpressive rate.  The band was a
bit too good as much of the pileup was JA's and I simply could not go as
fast as I wanted.  I also think many beams were pointing away from me and 10
might have been a better choice to start.  The first hour yielded 258 versus
last year's 331.  In the second hour, my patience ran out and I made a quick
QSY to 20 but I finished with 244 versus 317 last year.  After a half hour
on twenty, I went back to fifteen to some slightly better hours of 261 and
288.   At the end of 3Z, I had 1051 Q's, over 150 less than last year.  

Even though the rate was OK on 15, I did not want to short 40 and 80 since I
thought I had some firepower on those bands.  European sunrise would be over
in 3 and a half hours and I had yet to hit the lowbands.  4Z produced only
164 Q's but 53 mults on 40.  The beam seemed to be working but it was a
struggle.  To be heard, it was necessary to go low in the band and I was
constantly heckled and jammed for being below 7040.  On top if that, my
attempts to work DX irritated the W's as each CQ was greeted with a pileup
of "listen up."  I could feel the raised middle fingers each time I said no.
I was now 200 Q's behind last year but 30 mults ahead.

I went to 80 at 530 and worked some good rate and closed the hour with a 6
band move of V47KP.  I went to 160 at 630 but it was very noisy and
generally unproductive.  Nonetheless, I made half of my 160 meter Q's in
this hour.  I did catch the 20 meter, post sunrise European opening but most
of the time was spend hopping from lowband to lowband with a 6 band move of
8P4B in the middle.  After 9 hours I was still about 200 Q's behind last
year but an unbelievable 53 multipliers ahead.  The 40 and 80 meter antenna
work was definitely paying dividends.

One strange problem I had during the night was the crashing of Geochron.
After several hours, the Geochron window went black.  Attempts to restart it
hung the machine and the second copy of Writelog was no longer logging.  I
rebooted the machine but I could not get Writelog to synch with the run copy
even though the network neighborhood window recognized both machines.
Likewise, the recording was not running.  It was hard to give this many
cycles while trying to run at high rate at the same time.  I finally broke
down and restarted my run copy of Writelog and it finally would synch.  I
was relieved to have my backup log back and the recording running.
Unfortunately, I lost about 5 hours of the recording until I finally got
this fixed.  Geochron failed several more times over the course of the
weekend and I do not know why.

It was getting time for the high band runs and I made the QSY to 10 at 938Z.
Consistent with my goal of working 3 pointers I set up below the US phone
band at 28297 and what ensued could only be called a period of perpetual
pileup.  The next hours were 253, 255, 227, 235 and 227.  At 15Z I caught up
to last years QSO number and was at 3278/384 versus 3213/333.  It was now
time for 15 and I again went below the US phone band for a few hours until
going back to 10 for a quick US run which produced the only hour over 300
for the contest.  High rate hours are macho but running Europe at 250/hour
is generally more productive.  It was back to 20 to close out the first day
at 5179/521 as opposed to 5127/477 last year.  I also crossed 7 million
points just two Q's prior to the halfway point.  Writelog does not display
the points/QSO stat but I suspected I was doing much better in this area
than last year.

When running on 15, the serial port problem I had precontest returned and I
lost radio control on the port that used the USB adapter.  I knew I needed
to reboot the computer to fix this but I never had the chance and did manual
band changes for the rest of the weekend.

The most bizarre event of the weekend occurred about mid day when I noticed
two strangers standing behind me as I operated.  One of them showed me his
hat which had a PJ7 call on it.  It turns out that they were on the island
and went looking for the station.  I was quite clear that I was not
interested in a visit which they completely understood.  They asked to look
around and take pictures, which they did.  They were very polite and
understanding but it was still a bit weird.  

K5ZD has a rule of thumb that the final score is two times the halfway score
plus 10%.  This would be 15.4 Meg which would be a record breaking score.
0Z is typically a low morale point for me since the realization sets in that
it is only half over.  I set my focus to win every hour against last year's
score and I also began thinking about the timing and length of my rest time.
I was acutely aware of my fading in prior years and I could feel my anxiety
level rise.  I was feeling good but I know I was feeling good this time last
year as well.  It finally occurred to me that the source of my precontest
tension had more to do with my maintaining my mental state than any
technical concern.  I finished my second Slim Fast and I had yet to touch
caffeine and it was time to press on.

I was feeling manly about my forty meter signal and I wanted to get to the
band a bit earlier to try and get some interesting mults.  UN1LT called in
and asked for a move to 80.  I was clearly pumped but nothing was heard on
80 as we picked a poor frequency.  Later D44TC called in asked for a move to
160 and I told him he was dreaming.  I went anyway and we had an easy QSO.
IH9P and IG9A were loud up there but they CQ'd in my face.  I ended up with
only 9 Q's on 160 the second night.  One thing of note was a wild stretch of
over an hour on when I tried 20 meters.  I had not run much stateside on 20
and a huge pileup ensued that I could not work out even after nearly 400
Q's.  I wanted to get back to 80 for European sunrise and I just walked away
from a raging pileup.  

The next 80 minutes was one of the most gratifying periods of the contest. I
worked two Europeans on one call after they CQ'd in the face of a decent
size pileup.  Feeling strong, I went down to 3737 and tried to run Europe.
It was a bit spotty a first but built up over time and I ran off about 90,
mostly European, stations and gained 20 multipliers.  On two occasions,
Caribbean stations stopped by to ask if the stations I was working were on
this frequency.  I really felt good about the effort that went into the
antenna at this point.

I moved up to 40 to catch the last of the Europeans there and tried to work
the Pacific types.  I did a very poor job here the night before and I am
sure I missed a bunch of very workable mults.  Writelog seemed to have a bug
with the automatic split frequency information.  It took a while for me to
figure out that it was loading the VFO's but not putting the 850 into split
mode.  Also the SWR on the yagi was bad high in the band and the amp did not
like going up there without retuning.  Messing with all of this cost me a
shot at 4U9RG but I did get a JA into the log for a double mult.

It was getting time to think about taking a break as it would be time to
start on 10 meters at 930Z.  At 817Z I decided it was time.  The deal was
that I would wake up my wife and she would be my human alarm clock.  I went
inside at 820 (4:20 local) and woke her up with instructions to let me sleep
until 445 local.  No sooner than I laid down it seemed that she was waking
me up.  Coming out of the sleep was no problem which is relatively uncommon
for me and I felt very refreshed.  As it turns out, when I sat down there
was an HK on the frequency where I left the radio and I worked him at 847Z
for a new multiplier.

I chased some mults and waited until 10Z to go back to 10.  At this point I
was 6394/612 compared to 6141/575 the year before.  It was starting to sink
in that the record was reachable if I could somehow keep from becoming
delusional again.  It was clear that 10 was not the same as the day before.
Signals were way down and the Russian stations were in far less supply.
After a few decent hours, I dropped to 129 and then 122.  I tried moving to
15 for a while but it was slow.  I worked HB0/HB9AON and moved him to 10 and
tried to get things going there for a while but I had to go back to 15.
Being a bit frustrated and having a hard time hearing through the QRM, I
decided to go even lower in the band to find a place where I could hear.  I
was already below the US phone band as it was but  I chose 21120 and racked
up 203 and 166 hours to Europe working guys right at the noise level.  In
the midst of this, I could feel the delusions coming on again.  I can't
explain sleep deprivation delusions to anyone who has not lived through
them, but I aggressively fought back.  The last time I went through this I
made a note to myself that said "Don't indulge the delusions."  Basically it
means that, when you become delusional, stop and regain reality by
explaining to yourself what the contest is about.  If you let it go, the
mind games take over and you lose control.  I know it is hard to explain but
it is essential not to let yourself lose touch with reality for long.

Having worked through my first bout, I was starting feel good, but I knew
the worst was yet come.  It was now time to go back for a USA run on 10.
This stint was my downfall the last two years and this year I decided that I
would go slow and not consume much energy.  At this point, Kathy came home
from the beach as she knew it was the critical time.  I don't know what she
could do as slapping me, pouring water down my shorts, and jamming ice cream
in my mouth did not work in the previous years.  In any event, I went about
the run very deliberately and sacrificed some rate.  I had a 247 hour on 10
which was a bit disappointing and then I had a 213 hour running the US on
15.  While I was running, I could hear Kathy talking to somebody who turned
out the be one of the guys who had stopped by the day before.  He had come
back for more information.

My next move was to 20 where a huge European pileup quickly developed.  I
ran it until 2230Z when I finally worked it down.  However, fatigue was
setting in as I tranced for a while as seemed to be working guys
subconsciously.  I would see the rate meter at 175 but I could not remember
working anyone.  I took a while to get my mind working again and I really
was not fully alert the rest of the way.  I decided to tune for some mults
as I knew I was missing some easy ones.  Particularly, I wanted to find HC8N
as I was missing it on 5 bands.  I had a vision of a 5 band move for 10
mults.  I finally found them on 10 and asked for a move figuring they needed
me as well.  In response to my request, I got a terse "no."  It was the only
time all weekend that I resented having 8P4B on the air as I am sure that
they were the source of 8P on the other bands.

This was the one time in the contest that I missed not being able to do SO2R
as I would have liked to keep running as I tuned for mults.  Unfortunately,
it did not occur to me to use the beverage as a listening antenna on the
second radio.  I suspect that lack of thinking probably cost a couple
hundred thousand points. I still wanted to take one more pass at 40 and
QSY'd at 2315.  I did not manage many Europeans but I did have a number of
local mults call in that I moved to other bands.  After some coaxing I gave
in to a request to listen up and ran off about 30 W's.  When the stations
ran out I decided to just run out the string on 15 at 2340 and put another
60 Q's in the log.

The contest was finally over and I broke the record by 2 million points.  I
told Kathy that this was the most difficult thing I ever did.  I tuned to
3830 but did not hear anything so I got no feedback on how people did over
the weekend.  I got out of the chair and had an extreme pain in my lower
back.  Kathy went out to get something to eat and I talked to my daughter on
AOL Instant Message.

One point of satisfaction was the impact of the antennas on 80 and 40.  On
80, I worked 118 Europe + Africa versus 21 last year.  On 40, I worked 411
EU + Africa compared to 274 last year.  Overall, the focus on 3 pointers
produced only 38% North American contacts and a points per QSO value of
2.62, a record high for me.

After a meal, I took a shower and hit the bed for an overdue sleep after
being awake for all but 25 minutes of the last three days.  That night, I
woke up to an intense rain.  The metal roof combined with the aluminum
awnings are very noisy when it rains.  It sounded like thunder outside but I
just fell back to sleep.  As it turns out, there was a lightning storm that
night which is relatively uncommon for Barbados.  Fortunately nothing
happened to the equipment that was all still connected.

The next morning it was pouring rain as we tore down the antennas and I
disassembled the station.  When the rain subsided, I did some rust proofing
on the tall tower and then we both went to the beach.  We had dinner that
night at our favorite restaurant on the beach and left on Tuesday morning.
The return trip was uneventful and it was good to be home.

This trip was a culmination of months of work and planning and I would like
to thank the stations for  all the Q's and moves.   I would also like to
thank  K5ZD, K6AW, and N5KO without whose help, I could never have been
ready.  More than anyone else, this could not be done without the help and
complete support of my wife Kathy who was incredible through the entire

Crossing item 7 off life's to do list . . . priceless.

73, Tom W2SC 8P5A

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