Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday - A Digital Day

JT65A on 20 Meters Aug 27th, 2012
My operating has been minimal this summer but now that fall is here and in full swing, winter is not far away. I'm finding my shack once again. 

Today was a digital day as it has been very soggy outdoors. In between indoor chores, I ran a little JT65 on 20 and 17 meters this morning and afternoon. I always enjoy seeing someone come back to my CQ but the highlight for today was working AE7ID who sent the grid EN81. Now this got my attention as growing up and living in Ohio before moving to Alaska, I was very active for several years from EN81. Turns out that Steve lives in Vermilion, Ohio. Vermilion was east of where I lived and not far from the vocational school I attended my junior and senior year of high school. I enjoy making it back into Ohio and even more so when I work into my old grid square and better yet, my old county (Ottawa). 

The band was not that great again today but that is where JT65 shines. This is a great weak signal mode and it works well when propagation is not so favorable. After making several contacts on 20 meters, I dropped down to 17 meters and made a few there. After working JT65, I even popped down and made a BPSK31 contact on 20!  

As the sun heads south and the weather begins to become less favorable for outdoor activities, it will be time to warm up the equipment in the shack and begin preparing for the 2012-2013 contest season. Hard to believe it's not far away and I'm still wondering where summer went. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ohio QSO Party 2012

2012 Ohio QSO Party Breakdown 
This weekend was the Ohio QSO Party. Since I missed it last year, I wanted to make an attempt to operate in it this year. When I took a look at the solar conditions and my propagation path to the lower 48, I knew this was going to be a tough weekend for contacts. Also considering I'm 2 x LP (Low Power & Low Profile) that was going to make things even more challenging. But hey, I wanted to support the home team! Considering I'm originally from Ohio, with Alaska as only my second state of residence, I have a weak spot in my logbook for those Buckeye stations. 

Ohio QSO Party CW Stats
I normally use Win-test for contesting so I had to download the latest version of N3FJP's QSO Party log. I then had to scramble to find my notes on how I configured the settings to interface my rig with the software. Once I found my old notes, it was not long before I had the computer software talking with my Icom. I had issues with this software sending consistent CW and it was obvious that problem still exists. 

I started out on CW as that's my favorite mode and often I can work many more multipliers (counties) on CW. I was also going to spend a bit more time on SSB in the hopes of working a few more stations on that mode. In previous events, the mobiles really were the key to getting many of the counties (for me anyhow). It was not long after the contest began that I ran into the usual mobile stations running from county to county giving out contacts.

Ohio QSO Party SSB Stats
The only band which I had any propagation was 20 meters and it was pretty poor to say the least. I normally have a great path into Ohio but with added absorption miles above me, the band was here for a bit then gone. Several times I tuned the SSB frequencies not to hear a peep but thankfully a handful of Ohio stations could be heard on CW. CW once again saved the day as I worked 38 counties on that mode (See Photo Above) and SSB came in second at only 12 counties worked (See Photo Directly Above). I called CQ on both modes a few times but was really unsuccessful at getting many contacts. It seemed that S&P (Search & Pounce) was the only way to play today. 

The band (20 Meters) was pretty much toast for me by 2200z. I have to hand it to several of the Ohio stations for pulling my 100 watt signal out of the mud. The mobiles did an outstanding job as always and if it were not for them, I would not have worked half of what I did.

I cancelled my trip to Fairbanks to pick up some new windows for our house so I could at least work a few hours of the contest. Even though propagation was poor and I only logged 60 contacts, it was a fun time. It's always a pleasure to work so many of my old friends and familiar callsigns and hopefully sending a multiplier their way as well. 

These QSO Parties always take lots of effort by many individuals to make them successful. I have the easy part, participate and send in my log. Thanks to all those that make this, and all the QSO Parties possible. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

NAQP CW August 2012

This past weekend was the NAQP CW Contest. Since the weather was more like fall around here, it was a good excuse to blow the dust off the rig and get in some CW practice. My contacts over the course of the summer have been few and far between. That's okay though as it has been summer (I think) so priority has been on outside activities rather than inside.

When the contest started, the only band that really had any activity was 15 meters. 20 was beyond poor and things did not start to take shape on 15 meters until well after an hour or so after the contest began. I was able to find a clear frequency so I started CQ'n and I was excited to have Steve, N8BJQ be my first logged contest QSO. Always nice to get the home state in the logbook. As it turned out, I worked several of my old friends from the Buckeye State so the ol stomping ground was alive with activity.

The conditions on 15 meters were fair at best. I was not able to get a good run going so I split my time between S&P (Search & Pounce) and running stations (excellent contest practice anyway). By the time all was said and done on 15 meters, I worked all but the following 49 other states; ME, NH, RI, KY, NM, ID and WA. Yes, WA!!? That one surprised me. I was missing most of the Canadian Provinces as well with only NB, ON and MB logged. 

20 meters never began to show any real life until the final hours of the contest. Signals began to get stronger as the afternoon and evening progressed and by the time all was said and done for that band, I worked all but the following 49 other states; RI, VT, NM, OK, WY, MI, IL, WV and SD. And again, most of Canada was missing from my log on this band as well. I found 20 meters to be very noisy and some local QRN did not help. Normally 20 meters is a good band for me to work weaker stations but not during this contest. I did manage to work lots of familiar callsigns and it was great to see everyone again. I have to shout out to Martin, W3MLK who I worked for the first time on CW. Martin, you sounded great here and keep up the great work. Hopefully we will see you as a regular in upcoming CW contests! 

KL8DX Contest Summary
I listened several times on 10 meters but there was not a signal to be heard. I'm hoping that 10 will come back to life this winter as it did last winter. It sure added a level of excitement last contest season. During the CQ World Wide DX Contest last November, I worked just shy of 1,000 stations on 10 meters alone! So, I will keep my fingers crossed.

In the end, my part time effort was just that. I had other things going on so I ended up using a handful of my 30 minute off times. But, it was good to get back on the air and reacquaint my brain with decoding CW. A natural I'm not but I'm naturally addicted. I did QSY a few times upon request for other bands and a few of those were unsuccessful. The most surprising was when I moved to 40 for Dave, K5GN. It was still daylight here and when I arrived on frequency, I could hear him and I was nearly floored that he heard me! Great receiving station Dave as I was 100 watts to an inverted V with an apex at 38 feet or so!

As we get closer to winter (next month if not sooner in these parts) I continue to think about all the work I have yet to accomplish on my antennas. At least I have some of it completed but I need to spend a good day or two focusing on nothing but antenna work. Summers are short so antenna work seems to always get pushed to the bottom of my list of things to accomplish. Do you blame me?

So many of my friends and family in the lower 48 states are dealing with drought and extreme heat. I'm thankful to be living here as our summer has been wetter and colder than normal. With heavy snow last winter, cooler than normal temperatures this summer, seems Alaska is once again on track for continuing to break weather records.  And in speaking of breaking records, with any luck, maybe I can break a few of my personal best contest records over the next several months. As my contesting efforts from Alaska begin to wrap up, hopefully the return of 10 meters as predicted will happen this winter. If the sun stays active and our propagation gets negatively effected by absorption, at least we will have the green lights of the aurora to keep us entertained until the propagation returns.