[VHFcontesting] VE7FO report on CQWW VHF from DN09

Jim Smith jimsmith at shaw.ca
Sun Aug 11 01:05:56 EDT 2002


DN09  DN09  VE7FO  VE7FO  TEST

So, after all the encouragement, did he actually make it up the mountain 
without forgetting anything and hand out some DN09 Q's?

My elmer, VE7IN, (I used to be his) keeps saying, "You always want to 
make it so complicated!  You don't need a rotor for a beam that's only 
10 ft off the ground!"  So, I agree with him (it's his IC706 I'm using) 
and take the rotor anyway.  As you will see later, I'm really glad I did.

Others also recommended simplicity unless I could be really well 
organized.  I didn't pay much attention to this as I consider 
"well-organized" to be a minor subset of my normal obsessive-compulsive 
anal behaviour.  (My check list took 5 8.5x11 pages.)

I am grateful to those who pointed out that using the vehicle battery 
could lead to an expensive jump start charge (when you're a mile above 
the valley floor services do start to get expensive) and to those who 
suggested that, for a first time effort, computer logging may not be 
adviseable. (Hah!  What do they know?  How am I going to track dupes at 
100 Qs/hr without a computer?)  As you will see, use of the laptop 
probably tripled my score if not more.

I did pay attention to those who suggested that my estimated start time 
of 9-10 am local on Sun. might be a little late for any Es so set a 
target of 0700 local (1400Z) start.

So, based on all the advice and my decisions to ignore some of it, I 
borrowed a laptop from our Field Day chairman (VE7CX), one of the ones 
we used on Field Day, which was convenient as TRLog was already 
installed on it, as well as a backup laptop from a long-standing buddy.  
I also borrowed a deep-cycle UPS battery from the same FD chairman 
(thanks Fred) and borrowed another regular car battery for backup from 
the guys who keep my car running.  I made up an 11 ft tube with end caps 
from 4-1/2" or so plastic drain pipe, loosened the DB62 beam element to 
boom clamps, slid all the elements off the boom, stuffed them and the 
two halves of the boom into the tube, fastened the end caps with screws 
and tied it to the roof racks on the car along with the 10 ft mast and a 
step ladder for supporting the mast while I slide the beam onto it.  
Threw all the tools into a 5 gal bucket, put the bucket, the rotor with 
stub mast, rotor controller, rotor cable, patio umbrella base for the 
bottom end of the mast, batteries, laptops, great circle charts showing 
grids as viewed from DN09ec and the regular holiday gear.  Did I mention 
that this is our annual vacation week we spend at the lake in the 
mountains?  Because of all the ham gear there was no room left for 
certain things such as the blender usually used for making 
fresh-off-the-tree peach Daquiris.  If you're going to compete at the 
higher levels sacrifices have to be made.

When we arrived at the lakeside motel on Saturday afternoon, the owner, 
always dubious about my latest enthusiasm, enquired as to how a step 
ladder fit into my vacation plans.  As always, ten minutes later with 
the explanation not yet complete, he was sorry he had asked.  (Last year 
he was concerned about the 3.5" dia Maksutov telescope that was aimed 
down the beach looking, presumably, at carelessly covered 
pulchitrudity.  I invited him to have a look, an invitation he nervously 
accepted.  To his great disappointment he found himself looking at my 
grandchildren having fun on a slide a mile down the beach.)

Sunday, 0430 local, dragged myself out of bed.  Lack of the 
aforementioned blender made this easier than it might have been.  On the 
road to the mountain at 0530.  Arrive at the top at 0630.  Was glad I'd 
brought my windbreaker.  Although typical afternoon temperatures at the 
valley floor are 35-40 deg C (94-104 deg F) it was cold and windy at the 
top.  Start pulling the beam/boom out of the tube.  Hmmm....  When I put 
all that stuff in there each of the 10 elements had the boom to element 
clamps attached.  i.e. I had loosened the hardware sufficiently to slide 
both halves of each element, still attached to the boom/element clamp, 
off the boom.  Now, after a vertical mile of washboard road, I had a 
bunch of individual half-elements, a whole lot of 2-piece clamps which 
had separated, and 20-30 machine screws, lock washers and nuts, all 
scattered over the 12 ft length of the tube.  Not exactly what I had in 
mind.

Being a night owl, I don't move that quickly in the morning, especially 
during those hours I didn't realize were part of morning.  I always 
thought they were just add-ons to late night contesting/DX hunting.  
Took me 3 hours to get everything set up so it's now 0930 local.  
Anyway, everything's functioning and I confidently call CQ on 144.2 SSB 
with the beam pointing at Vancouver/Seattle.  Called a few more times.  
Nothing.  Tried CW on the same freq.  Nothing.  Tuned around a bit.  No 
SSB heard.  No CW heard.  Hmm...  Well, the 706 MkII is only 10 W on 2, 
let's head for the big time stuff on 6 with 100W.  Call CQ on 50.125 SSB 
wondering how well I'll be able to manage the pileup.  Not a problem.  
Not a single answer.  Try CQing a little more.  Nothing.  Try CW.  
"DN09  DN09  VE7FO  VE7FO  NST".  Why NST?  Well, TEST is a whole dit 
space longer and every contester knows you can't waste time sending 
spaces that don't convey any information.  It could easily cost you 
several Qs/hr.  Still no answer.  Do it some more.  Still no answer.  
Tune around a bit on 6 to see what I can hear.  Nothing.  Hmm....

Got out my list of local repeaters and requested a signal check.  Got a 
response.  Made me very, very happy to know that there was someone else 
alive out there.  Had him give me a long count while I turned the beam.  
Yep, there is a pattern so guess it's working.  Thanks Vern.

Here's where the benefits of the laptop and rotor start showing up.  Set 
TRLog to Auto CQ with a listening time of 2 seconds until the next CQ.  
Fall asleep listening to perfect 23 wpm CW.  Wake up... it's still 
going, but no fish on the line.  Couldn't do that without the laptop.  
Amuse myself for an hour or so by checking that the rotor display of 
degrees with respect to True North is correct (Tower Talkians will know 
that there are many ways of determining True North, some involving owls 
and wasps) and just generally enjoy pointing it this way and that with 
my new and quiet rotor.  At least an hour of pleasure I wouldn't have 
had without the rotor.  Got tired of that and found something else 
exciting to do.  Eat lunch.  Think of packing up but remember many 
contests when the decision to stay in the chair paid off.  Got serious, 
pointed the beam due N, called CQ (6m CW) a half dozen times, moved the 
beam 15 deg CCW and repeated.  At around 270 deg or so I heard an 
unfamiliar sound!  Someone is sending my call!  It's VE7DXG in CN88!  I 
work him crisply with us doing the standard exchange followed by TU 
VE7FO TEST.  This seemed to me to be a rather abrupt way of dealing with 
the only other person alive on the planet but hey, that's contesting.  
Fortunately, he wasn't dismissed that easily and suggested we QSY to 2.  
The freq he suggested was right on one of the buzzes from the inverter 
running the laptop but I did hear him and we did the ESP thing.  Wow!  A 
short term (90 sec) rate of 90 Qs/hr!  If I can maintain this I'm going 
to really clean up.  Well, that's how it should have been, but there 
were 7 minutes between Qs.

Encouraged, I auto-CQ some more.  15 min later I hear someone call a 
VE4.  This 706 doesn't have a cw filter, otherwise I wouldn't have heard 
this.  I move up to where this is happening and hear VE7SL attempting, 
successfully, to work the VE4.  I turn the beam to VE4.  Nothing.  Oh 
well, I happen to know that SL has a noise problem.  Whenever a prop 
driven aircraft flies through the pattern of his 6m beam, he hears 
ignition noise.  Other than that, nothing.  When they are finished I 
dump my call.  Nothing.  Maybe Steve thought I was calling the VE4.  
Back to auto-CQ on the calling frequency.  After a while Steve calls 
me.  We make the Q.  A while later VE7DXG calls me again and suggests we 
try SSB.  He wanted to tell me something and had made an accurate 
assessment of my cw capability outside the contest box.  We established 
SSB contact and he told me that there were a bunch of guys who wanted to 
work me.  Bring 'em on, I say.  He makes a couple of calls and, lo and 
behold, there are 3 or 4 SSB W7s on the frequency.  He tells them I'm 
QRV and they ask my QRG.  He tells them I've been CQing on CW right on 
the calling frequency for the last half hour.  In the meantime I turn 
the beam on them and call.  They go back to DXG sounding rather bored 
and say they didn't and don't hear anything.  Come on guys, this is DN09 
and I'm trying for that DXpedition feeling!  Given that response, 
there's nothing else to do but CQ in their face.  That'll fix 'em.

Auto-CQ until the end and pack everything up, thinking that I made a 
mistake in the ham gear/blender trade off and vowing that I'll never do 
this again.  I attribute the 3 Qs I made to the use of the laptop for 
auto-CQ and the rotor for making it easy to turn the beam in 15 degree 
increments.

While taking down I realize that I had actually set up in a little bit 
of a hollow.  Not much of one but my beam was only 10 ft. high.  I found 
I could drive along the ridge to another location with a couple of 
towers on it where, had I set up there, I would have been sitting on a 
localized dome maybe 100 ft higher with nothing in the way in the 
foreground.  Hmm..., maybe next year.

A couple of days later, I consulted a topo map with back/forestry roads 
and found something called Mt. Baldy which is 1400 ft higher than Mt. 
Kobau.  Through various subterfuges and inducements which will not be 
described here, I convinced my XYL that we should drive 75 miles East 
for lunch and, on the way back, explore a famous ski hill.  When we got 
to the bottom of the ski lift, I looked heavenwards and saw the New 
Jerusalem.  A large, bald dome at 7500 ft, bald save a couple of 
towers.  Where there are towers, there are roads.  "Hey, the view should 
be really good from up there."  This is where I ran out of Brownie 
points so didn't get up there.  Don't know if there is public access but 
looked like a killer QTH.  Will I be there next year?  If the test dates 
coincide with our vacation week, maybe.  Don't know what I'll do for an 
antenna as the DB62 is going up on my tower in a couple of weeks and 
will be a real hassle to take down again.

I had to give the 706 back to VE7IN.  He won it a while back at the 
Pacific Northwest DX Convention.  The next one is Aug 2-4 in Portland 
and I'm going to be there.  The raffle prize is an HRO $US1000 gift 
certificate.  I have already figured out that, if I win it, I'll get an 
FT847 so I can do this VHF stuff a little better.  Now, if I've got an 
847, it wouldn't be too hard to justify, on a percentage basis, another 
beam, especially for operation on Mt. Baldy.  Maybe I'll buy my first 
tent.  I guess a little generator wouldn't hurt either.

I'm back from the convention.  There were 4 VE7s there.  They drew the 
raffle ticket. V......E......7......O......N.  Damn.  So, VHF contesting 
may be in my future but don't look for me any time soon.  Well......, 
maybe someone can suggest a transverter solution whereby I could make 
use of my 1000MP MkV.  I will have the DB62 mounted above the about to 
arrive Force 12 C4SXL and it would be nice to be able to plug the coax 
into something.

Bottom line?  It was an experience.  Not a good one but a learning one.  
A surprisingly large number of people (12) came by while I was up 
there.  They asked me what I was doing.  I said, "I'm involved in a Ham 
Radio emergency preparedness exercise along with others all over the 
world.  This is a test of my ability to, all on my own, set up a station 
in the field independent of commercial power supplies and then 
communicate effectively with others doing the same thing."  I know, that 
sounds like Field Day, not CQ WW VHF but you have to tailor the message 
to the recipient.

Would I do it again?  The ham in me, while suppressing the "Not bloody 
likely" statement from the practical side of me wants to do it again.  
Don't know if I will or not but next year not too likely from mountaintops.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions and advice.

73 de Jim Smith    VE7FO











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