Monday, September 24, 2012

A1 to RTTY, It's All About How You Operate

2012 CQ World Wide RTTY WPX Contest 
Receiving a large white envelope in the mail will normally catch my attention. One of those attention getting envelopes arrived today. I was excited to receive the certificate seen to the left for my WPX RTTY effort this year. And I was reminded today during a QSO that next weekend is the CQ World Wide DX RTTY Contest!!! I'm hopeful that the bands cooperate and I will have the time to operate more than a few hours. I know I will be getting a late start at the very least but once home, I plan on firing up N1MM and getting started with my low power effort. And in the contest this coming weekend, Alaska (KL7) counts as a country multiplier, not a state. I always have to check as sometimes we are a country, sometimes a state. 

I had some fun today operating JT65 on 10 meters! I made one CW contact and also a handful of PSK31 contacts on that band as well. With 10 meters showing some signs of life finally, I'm even more excited about next weekend and the many other contests looming on the 2012-2013 contest calendar! 

I have had a few folks over the last few months comment (and congratulate) about me being an A-1 Operator. I've never received a formal notification of this honor but two generous hams felt I was worthy of such an honor and nominated me. I ventured to the ARRL A-1 Operators page and there my name was with all of the others who were granted the same honor!  I'm not sure who those hams were that nominated me but I'm deeply honored and forever thankful.  I always strive to operate to the best of my ability and I know I've had the honor of helping many with giving them a new country, state, county, prefix and more. The A-1 Operator Club is managed by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and I plan on doing my part in identifying those who I feel are just as worthy. I promote our hobby each and every moment I get and anyone who knows me, knows I'm a "Ham!" I'm approaching my 25 year anniversary for being a part of this great hobby. I've made life long friends and many I have never met, and might not ever meet. 

As far as the RTTY contest, it's obvious I must have busted some callsigns as my score is lower than what I submitted. But, with each and every contest, I will continue to strive for that "Golden Log" and hopefully achieve it more times than not. Contesting is about honing your skills and getting better with each and every contest. Now that I've had a summer off from radio, it's time to buckle up and get to working on my code speed again. It's also time to start working the digital modes and getting in some much needed practice for winter. But as the snow that accumulated on my lawn today reminded me, winter is here and I'd better get a move on, soon! 


Call: KL8DX
Operator(s): KL8DX
Station: KL8DX

Class: SOAB(TS) LP
QTH: Alaska
Operating Time (hrs): 24:34

Band  QSOs
  80:    0
  40:    7
  20:  250
  15:  410
  10:  73
Total:  740  Prefixes = 371  Total Score = 628,103

Club: North Coast Contesters


My low power effort as I have not yet had my amplifier repaired. 
Obviously, 15 meters was the money band for me however, 20 meters
produced only 15 fewer multipliers for nearly half the QSO's! This
was due to better than fair conditions into Europe on 20 meters in
the mornings.

We once again are experiencing Chinook winds here in the interior
with gusts over 40 mph for most of the weekend. I had much more
QRN than normal, especially toward the lower 48. I just lowered my
beam as we are supposed to have 65 + mph gusts for the next 24 to
36 hours. My Hazer crank is approximately 4 foot above the ground
and I had to dig snow out from around the crank so I could turn it.
This is due to lots of drifting snow on the north side of my home
where my tower is. These winds are bittersweet. It has been well
above freezing so my heating bill should get a reprieve but the
warmer temps make things very slick outside not to mention it's
hard on the antennas. 

I'm pretty happy with my effort however, I slept in both mornings 
so I left 5.5 hours of available operating time on the table. I
was hoping get a 3am-4am start both mornings but it just did not
happen. Rough week I guess.  

I'm looking forward to next weekend as I once again continue my
pursuit of low power contesting. Two things are very apparent 
with low power;

1. A much lower score
2. Shack is 20 degrees colder than normal

Lots of stations with great receivers and thanks much for pulling
out my weaker than normal signal. I did put a bit more detail from
this contest in my latest blog entry.


Phil - KL8DX
Denali National Park, AK

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

From Guys to Brackets

Main Tower Bracket 
If you have followed my blog for any length of time, I write frequently about our weather, both local atmospheric and space weather. During a past wind storm, my fabricated bracket which held my tower to our house was heavily damaged. Taking advantage of some warmer days here recently, I was able to complete my bracket project and once again secure the tower to the house. This bracket is made from angle iron so I'm not expecting a repeat of my last project which was made from aluminum. I also began changing out my guys, which are Dacron. I use Dacron for several reasons and it holds up very well. The guys I am currently changing out are attached to my Hazer, which normally gets lowered when the local winds begin to exceed 50 mph.

After having my antenna nested just above the roof for the last few weeks, I have been looking forward to getting it back into the air. I completed the repair of the reflector and I wanted to make sure all was well with SWR and it was ready for the up and coming contest season. It just so happened that today I was getting texts from Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) which I have running on the shack computer, that Europe was hearing Alaska on 10 meters! I had to take a break from working on the tower this afternoon when the winds began to gust upwards of 40 mph. Once that subsided, I was able to get back to getting the antenna ready to make the trip back up the tower. By the time I was able to raise the HF beam to it's normal 43 foot level, I was only hearing a few beacons and stations on 10 meters. But, I should be ready for the next opening! Let's hope 10 meters is open this winter like it was last winter!

I still have plenty to accomplish outdoors and I'm hopeful that we will have a few more days like the last few. We did receive lots of rain recently and it has many of the rivers in Alaska running very high. Many places are experiencing flood conditions and just down the road from where we live, the Nenana River was chewing away at the Parks Highway, reducing it to one lane of travel. Many places south of here received much worse damage, places such as Talkeetna. So much of the lower 48 has experienced drought conditions for months and we just broke the record at our QTH for being the wettest summer since we moved here. 

I've winterized our travel trailer and my QRP operating will now be from the shack. I'm looking forward to having the IC-703Plus hooked up in here again and hopefully participating in a few QRP contests this winter. With the computers running in the shack along with the radio equipment, I can usually expect a furry visitor or two when I'm operating. Seems on those cold winter days and nights, our shack is a pretty popular place to take off the chill. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wallpaper to Wind Gusts

2011 CQ World Wide RTTY DX Contest Certificate
Nothing gets me more excited for the up and coming contest season like some wallpaper reminding me of what a great season last year was! I received this certificate in the mail this week and it will be proudly displayed on my wall with my others. Winter is fast approaching here and temps are below freezing over night these days. It won't be long before snow starts to accumulate in the yard and the days become extremely short. Thankfully, contest season warms the heart and the shack! It will be time again to get out some "butt glue" and stick to the chair in front of my HF rig for hours on end. I'm hoping this contest season is even better than last!

Reflector missing part of an element
Alaska recently experienced some early season Chinook weather systems and the wind storms did a bit of damage in Anchorage and left hundreds without power for days. Here in the interior, we had our share of wind and rain. I happen to be working on a window project during the last blow and heard a loud crash from the back of the house after a 63mph wind gust. I looked out the window in time to see part of my beam go crashing to the ground. I immediately went outdoors and I found a portion of my reflector element missing from my Mosley beam! It appeared the screw that was used to secure the elements together worked loose and the element fell to the ground as my antenna bounced around from the wind.

Only damage from hitting our metal roof
I inspected the section of my antenna closely and I could only see this dent in the trap from where it struck our metal roof. Everything else appeared okay and a search for the missing screw was in vain. I was just leaving for a short vacation so I tossed the element in the garage to repair it upon my return home.

After enjoying a week in Seward with friends, I returned home to an ever growing "to do" list. I managed to clean my wood stove chimney this evening and since I was on the roof, I decided to go ahead and get the beam back in working order. 

Penetrox working as it should
I was once again excited to see that the Penetrox I had used was working just as it should. There was no sign of oxidation on the element and it looked like the day I put the beam up. I can't speak highly enough of this great stuff! I've used it for years on the recommendation of an elmer of mine and I will always have it handy for any and all antenna projects. It has proven itself to me for many years now and has helped extend the operating life of my antennas. Good stuff and I'll leave it at that.

HF beam nested
My HF beam is nested for a few more days. I need to replace my guys to my Hazer and then I need to replace my broken house bracket. I just need a few more dry days to get that done and I can once again put my antenna up to the 43' level and start chasing DX.  And yes, if you have been following my blog, you will see that my Hazer has yet to find a place on my small tower. I need to make a run to "town" and get a 1¾" mast pipe. Once I have that, I can get that thing in the air as well. I'm looking forward to having a beam on 17 & 12 meters!  When it comes to tempting fate with Mother Nature, she tends to always win. At least that seems to be my luck anyhow.