Monday, November 14, 2011

Mixed Bag of Digital & Code and Can I Have a SOTA with That?

WAE RTTY Contest November 2011
As we enter into winter, it's much easier to find time to play on the radio. There are several times throughout the winter contest season that one weekend will play host to a few fun contests. I will try to divide my time to play in as many as possible. This weekend was the WAE DX RTTY Contest followed by the SKCC's Weekend Sprint. I decided early on that I was going to participate in both. The SKCC WES is a 24 hour contest during the last part of the weekend so I planned on starting out working the WAE DX RTTY Contest which was all weekend.

WAE RTTY Score Summary
This was a fun RTTY contest due to being able to send and receive QTC's and also not having any continental limits. Q Codes, commonly used in CW and Digital, and are abbreviated ways of asking or answering a question. In this RTTY contest, stations can send and receive a maximum of 10 QTC's, and if accurately sent and received, both stations receive extra points. QTC's can seem a bit intimidating at first but with today's contesting software, it's actually very easy. I personally use N1MM Logger which makes this process a breeze. In short, all you need to do to send and receive QTC's is set up few macros specific to asking or answering a QTC query. In N1MM, hit Ctrl-Z once to bring up the QTC receive screen and hit Ctrl-Z again to bring up the QTC send screen. If your receiving, as the information is passed, you just click on that information in the data window and it will automatically be placed in the proper QTC line in the QTC reception window. The software is smart enough that if there was a decode error, the problematic line will show up RED alerting you to the issue. You can then ask for a repeat of that specific line. When sending QTC's from the sending screen, it's just as easy. This is a summary of how to do it within N1MM only, but doing a search using "QTC" or "WAE" in the N1MM help fill will bring up a well written explanation of how to set up for QTC's.  As you can see from the graphic to above right, I was able to send and receive a few.

The high bands were fantastic this weekend yet again. I set a goal of at least 500 QSO's (Contacts) and I achieve that. As normal, my polar path was much better in the early mornings. I managed to work into Europe both Saturday and Sunday morning but I found this to be a bit tougher using low power. Often times the AU flutter can hinder decoding signals so adding a bit of power behind my low profile signal will often yield fewer repeats. I made 508 actual QSO's by the time I threw in the towel to begin my late entry into the SKCC Weekend Sprint. My total time on for the RTTY contest was 16:23, which left me well below the 36 hour maximum operating time.  

The SKCC Weekend Sprint began actually on Saturday at 3 PM local time (0000z) for me however, I did not begin my participation until Sunday at just before 8 AM local time. My first contact was at 1652z on 15 meters. I made a few contacts on 15 meters as 10 meters had yet to open. My first contact on 10 meters was at 1738z and my plan was to stay on that band until there were no more contacts to be had. That's exactly how it played out! I was lucky enough that the band was so good that I had a steady stream of contacts after calling CQ until 2336z, when I made my last 10 meter contact. Yep, that's 7 hours of using my straight key (Navy Flameproof) and there was not much left of my wrist when I was done. Due to past injuries, I had to wrap my wrist just to make it through, but it was worth every minute of it. When the dust cleared, I made 116 contacts total. It does not sound like much considering that's easily achieved during a CW contest weekend in 1 hour, but when you're manually sending, trust me, it's a few! The highlights were many but it was great to see so many QRP (Low Power) operators make it into my log. I worked several new SKCC operators and many old friends encountered as well.

The main highlight for me this past Friday was working wG0AT, along with N6UHB and KD0PNK, who were running QRP atop Bald Mountain during SOTA (Summits On the Air). They were atop Bald Mountain, FR-093, 39.1377°N / -104.8489°W. I had the honor or operating with Steve early last year from Mount Herman and it was by far one of the greatest highlights of my ham career. Steve made a great youtube video of the event and it can be found here. Kudos to Steve, Chuck, and Naomi on their successful activation and also, thanks for the QSO's!

With our travel trailer deep into its winter slumber, it's great to stay warm by making hundreds of contacts with old and new friends via the HF airwaves on any mode. My next effort will be for CQ World Wide CW at the end of the month. I'm not too far from making my 50,000th QSO since operating here in Alaska. I expect the logbook to reach that milestone sometime before summer of 2012. Sounds worthy of a special QSO confirmation, Alaskan style.


  1. Hi Phil, the WAE contests are not my favorite. I think the QTC option is too complicated. I've been busy with it in the past and listened out for others to see how I should do it. But never been able to send or receive QTCs. I think it is for the more experienced contester. 73, Bas

  2. Bas, I like the RTTY side of it as it's simply point & click. Easy points for sure and also I like the fact it's a bit out of the norm as far as contests go. It took me a bit as well to figure it out but once I did, I'll never go back. :0) Good DX my friend!