[VHFcontesting] K1WHS 50 MHz Sprint

David Olean k1whs at metrocast.net
Mon May 11 10:01:43 EDT 2020

I  was quite ill in 2017 so no ham radio for that year, then 2018 and 
2019 was all fly fishing for brookies and salmon, so no ham radio those 
years either.  The fly fishing season is in full swing between early May 
to September, so no summer DXing!  The hamshack out behind my house has 
been dormant and unused for over three years. The mice moved in and all 
the bands are compromised. I did a bunch of work and have the ten meter 
stuff fixed. I started out fixing up the six meter stuff next.  I had to 
do some work on my diesel generator too, and it is working well now.   I 
had a cooling problem, but got that all fixed and all is well after 
three years of sitting idle. I rigged up a small solar panel and charge 
controller to keep the generator battery in good condition. That worked 
very well. I checked the VSWR of my four six meter yagis, and they all 
looked reasonable, but I had a huge loss in my switchig system. I 
suspected that the 6 position coax relay was NG, and had lots of loss on 

I started the sprint at 7 PM and was immediately aware that my hearing 
was definitely impaired.  Stations in Connecticut that are normally 
loud, were quite weak. It was very obvious.  K1TEO was 4 or 5 s-units. 
Jeff is normally S-9. Same for good buddy Ron, WZ1V. They were both 
rather weak here. I figure that six meters was down about 10 dB or more 
on receive.  I had huge problems copying most callers as they were 
barely audible and in the noise. In the Sprint, I did work one or two 
stations in FN20 in NY or NJ, but the usual result for me is many 
contacts in grids down into Maryland and the Washington DC area, and out 
to Buffalo and Toronto to the west. I heard none of that, so I was sure 
that my hearing was compromised. The good news was that there was a bit 
of sporadic E to the SW and west.  I ended up working  108 QSOs in 45 
grids.  Not bad for being deaf! Sporadic E signals tend to be louder! 
Most of the evening was spent on SSB. I tried some CW but had  no luck 
there, so went back to SSB.  It was fun to snag some rovers out in the 
Chicago area. AC0RA/R, K0PG/R, K0JK/R, K9ILP/R, and K9PW/R all went in 
the log here. It was really great to hear Pete, K9PW. He operated from 
here many times in the September contests. I finally went up to the FT-8 
frequency after about 0215 UT. I hooked up a laptop, and tried making 
some contacts. That was a chore as  the laptop was an old XP machine 
maybe 15 years old or more. The time was not set, as the BIOS battery 
had  long since died. At least my home made internet link was working. I 
run a 5 GHz link from my house to the hill shack.  I manually adjusted 
the time to get the computer to decode. That was tedious. I made a few 
contacts, and then made the mistake of trying to switch between antennas 
when the transmitter was automatically transmitting. That was a big  NO 
NO. You cannot switch coaxial relays under full power. (1200 watts on 
FT8) I wiped out the six position coaxial relay.  Instantly, I had 
infinite VSWR and when I quit the xmission, I had no receive at all in 
any position.  It was a really bad mistake as 6 position fast switching 
coax relays are as rare as hens teeth.  I was dead in the water.

The next day, I removed the coax switching matrix from the shack wall, 
and have it on the bench for testing. Only the six position relay is 
hosed. I am re building it and hope to get something back together 
soon.  In the meantime, I plugged in a power divider to the two top 
yagis. I immediately saw that the background noise came way up. It went 
from S4  to S8! This is all power line noise from Eversource in New 
Hampshire.  So it looks like there was a problem in the relays and not 
in the antennas. The power line noise is a huge project. Getting the 
utility to fix their poles is a constant process and consumes huge 
amounts of time on my part. It is very frustrating. In the past I had to 
get the FCC to threaten them two different times. My file folder on that 
is about 4 inches thick!  I would rather go fishing.

I am really happy with my results.  Having a 10 dB pad on receive was a 
good handicap. If I ever get the switching stuff fixed, I should be back 
in business.


Dave K1WHS

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