Monday, January 10, 2011

Buffet of Ham Radio Fun with a Sad Ending

This past weekend had a bit of everything for the contesting type. I wanted to operate in four different contests, the NAQP CW, the PODXS 070 PSKfest, SKCC WES, and the ARRL RTTY Roundup. And to top it all off, I was going to operate as K3Y/KL7 in the SKCC Weekend Sprint. So, with all that going on, I could not just focus my efforts on one contest but had to spread my operating across a few modes as a few of the contest times overlapped. My operating began in the NAQP CW contest. It was apparent that the bands were very poor due to the effects of a high speed solar wind. Running 100 watts from Alaska during this type of geomagnetic activity is like running QRP using 1 watt to a coat hanger. After a few attempts at trying to get a run going, I gave in and flipped the power switch to my AL-1500. I knew it was going to be a rough weekend! And yes, if I do submit my log, it will be a checklog due to using high power (NAQP is only a low power contest).

After parking and calling CQ and nearly wearing out my F1 button on my keyboard (CQ NA), when all was said in done I flew the white flag at 2240z. I operated three hours and only made 126 QSO's and worked 33 multipliers. Yea that's rough but I understand that contesting is not always easy. I'm not saying I gave up, just moved onto the next contest is all.

I made my first PSK31 contact at 2305z as it took me a bit to get the station set up to run digital. I worked the contest until the end, my last QSO being at 2359z. When the dust cleared in just under an hour, I worked 27 contacts on PSK31, with one being a dupe. It seems I was having better luck on PSK31 than I was on CW! 

As far as the RTTY Roundup, I only made a handful of contacts between 0110z on the 9th and 0135z. I made a whopping 11 contacts on RTTY before deciding to move on. I had not operated RTTY in ages so it was good to get my feet wet again. I do plan a low power run in one of the up coming major contests. 

Sunday was dedicated to operating K3Y/KL7 for the SKCC club. I operated for 6 hours on Sunday making 63 contacts. Again, very poor band conditions lead to a slow rate. Obviously working manual CW my rate is going to be substantially lower. I'm am not very good with high speed CW so my average rate during a contest is only around 130 an hour on a very good day. I described myself as a DX'er and a greenhorn contester. I won't be breaking any records or hanging any plaques on my shack wall. I'm in it for fun and have been lucky enough to score a bit of wallpaper for my efforts. 

My Monday operation for K3Y/KL7 was from 1900z thru 2359z. The band (20 meters) was a bit better today but still not very good. I was experiencing lots of QSB and it was obvious I was being heard much better than I was hearing. Still with that said, I was able to struggle and make 45 CW contacts. 

QRP operating is a bit different and it can be really tough at times to pull those stations out. I am getting into QRP myself so I am beginning to understand the challenges with running lower power however, I think operating from here with QRP levels multiplies the difficulty by 10. Granted, when the band is wide open, it's open. But on an average day, life is tough here with 100 watts. Just ask any Alaskan station that has operated low power in the NAQP contests. I bet they all tell you the same!  But, I enjoy helping other hams complete their quest for a new state, DXCC country, or county award. But when I get comments like;

"Phil, thanks for being there for us during this month of K3Y.  What fun it is.
Once I got the sweep, I've now moved to do it again, QRP (4W)  It's all about
band condx's and good op's like you.   thank YOU!"

It makes it all worth while. I had a few more positive comments on the SKCC Sked Page.   So even though it was a struggle, it was well worth the effort to not only support a great mode, but also support a great club and doing what ham's do best, helping others! Oh and I did have fun, too.

In reference to my sad note, I had worked several stations in the NAQP using the name "Tom". Little did I know, until I started to read the 3830 posts, that it was for WX4TM! I was floored when I read that! I had not heard the news that Tom became a Silent Key. Tom was always extremely kind and we talked about Alaska through email and on radio, even stopping during contests for a brief chat. Had I known, I would of been using Tom as well in my exchange. Tom, you will be missed and there will from now on be a void in my logbook. Thanks for all the QSO's!!!


  1. I am very sorry to hear about Tom WX4TM. Although I have only been active on RTTY for about a year, we did not work in any contests until September 9th, and then had six QSOs in the month that followed. Like you, his presense on the airwaves will be missed. VY 73 de KJ8O

  2. KJ8O - Tom and his wife spent time in Alaska and we had some conversations regarding their time here. We not only shared the passion for the hobby but also for this great state. I regret missing them on their last trip up. But like with many of our relationships with ham radio, we have friends we never personally meet. But with this hobby, even though you may never meet another ham you have become friends with, it's almost as if you had been good friends growing up next door to each other. Thanks for the comment and for reading.