Monday, December 3, 2012

Passing a Hamstone & Painful RTTY QSO's

RTTY Weekend
You might be wondering what a "Hamstone" is and rightfully so. A milestone is defined as a significant accomplishment whereas I'm calling my ham related "significant accomplishment" a hamstone! The hamstone accomplished this past weekend was my 50,000 QSO!  I've blogged previously about approaching this number and wondering who that lucky ham was going to be. It was a RTTY QSO during the Ten-Meter RTTY Contest. Now this is from my main logbook as I have worked many more QSO's than that obviously. I have operated during special events, mobile, at other contest stations and portable. But my main KL8DX logbook achieved QSO number 50,000 on December 2nd, 2012 at 2226z. Yes, I know, by some standards this is a small number and by others, it's a huge number. A BIG contest station can rake in 9,000 to 15,000 QSO's in a contest weekend! Now THAT'S an accomplishment. But for my small station, I think it's a pretty big number.

KL8DX statistics thanks to Clublog
I recently wrote about my venturing into the use of Clublog. It's a very valuable website and it allowed me a very nice visual presentation of my activity from here in Alaska. As the chart to the right shows, it gives a very nice detailed overview of my operation by the three standard modes. I obviously did not get serious about operating until 2007. That just happened to be the year that my Mosley TA-34-XL made it back into the air. Going from a ground mounted vertical to that beam opened up the world to my chasing pleasure. I also became involved with the Alaska contesting group and I for the first time had the confidence to take my contesting to the next level thanks to their help and encouragement. I had always been a Search & Pounce (S&P) contester prior to moving here. That all changed with my first CQ once I got my tri-bander in the air. I actually had to work a pile-up, from the receiving side! I'll be honest, that was a bit intimidating and it can still be stressful! Now with reverse beacons and the like, pile-ups happen instantaneously! So, there was a huge learning curve going from chasing to being chased. Being a double multiplier in contests can sure make things crazy. Anyhow, it's no secret from the chart above what my favorite modes are.

KL8DX DXCC totals from Clublog
Even with all that operating I've only worked 203 entities, actually 202, but one has since been deleted. And I've not been actively chasing entities either. I was working hard toward the Honor Roll when I lived in Ohio and had around 306 approved by the ARRL prior to leaving. Quite honestly, I don't have the desire or finances to chase that again. I started all over after moving to Alaska. So, I take em as they come and when I can, I will chase DXpeditions landing a few new ones from time to time. And to top it off, I have yet work all Zones from here! I'm still missing Zones 22 & 34! I did not realize most of this data until I uploaded my logbook into Clublog. If you use it, please consider donating and if you have not, you really should give it a try. When I uploaded my entire log, it was surprising how many of my entities were incorrect in my logbook. I think most of this was due to contest logs & software misidentifying the entity and it fed into Ham Radio Deluxe incorrectly. Either way, I've corrected all the wrong data and I feel statistically refreshed!

A hamstone is not nearly as painful as other stones, like gallstone or kidneystone, but it does require passing lots of time on your Keyster (actually spelled keister, but I think my spelling is more ham appropriate). It can be painful dealing with the hours of "Butt Glue" that is required to stay in the seat and operate. Extreme stationary Gluteus Maximus for Contestmania.  It can also have painful family consequences as many contests are 48 hours in length and take up an entire weekend. But I have a secret weapon! I've never shared this before but my numbers are directly associated to this one thing. That secret is...Arctic Winters! It also helps with the large amount of QSL requests that are directly related to this stationary operating position. I literally had to get a larger Post Office Box at a second Post Office (my Denali did not have a large box available) to accommodate the hundreds of direct requests not to mention the bursting bureau envelopes! 

Arctic Winters are long and cold and with all the Alaska shows on TV, I don't think that's a secret! Even though I live a nice jaunt from the Arctic Circle, at times I would not know it with the temperatures and weather we experience here. Our winter actually begins in late September when our first snow normally arrives and it runs through basically mid May. What is there to do outdoors when the outdoor temperature is -40F or colder? Well, to many who live here, the cold does not stop them. People camp, ski, snowmachine and more when it's that cold. Yes, I have spent plenty of time outdoors at those temperatures but I prefer to enjoy the warm confines of my igloo. It just so happens that Arctic Winter Season corresponds to Contest Season!! With that said, I find it very easy to spend hours at a time in my shack working contest weekends. My activity drops dramatically during the summer months (almost NIL) as most Alaskan's are outdoors enjoying 24 hours of daylight and temperatures that are 125 degrees warmer than their coldest winter day! Do you blame us?

High Ground
Okay, enough about Alaska and my hamstone, time to get back to the weekend activities. I played around a bit in the Tara RTTY Melee but I had my heart set on the 10-Meter RTTY Contest. Let me tell you, 10 Meters was extremely disappointing and painful this past weekend. The indexes did not support propagation at all and I only ended being able to make 55 QSO's! From those 55 contacts, 9 were unique State & Provinces and I managed 4 DXCC entities! It left me wondering what we can expect for the upcoming ARRL 10 Meter Contest next weekend? I can only hope that conditions are much better next weekend. The photo above shows where I had parked and called CQ. The band was so rough with so much QSB, I did not want to interfere with anyone so I ended up in what I like to call the nosebleed section. I had a handful of JA's call in Saturday night with respectable signals but Sunday was a bust for the most part. Some welcome surprises were LT0H, LW5ER and HC2UB. But my path to Central and South America is actually pretty good here often times opening before I hear the lower 48. 

So much talk of the Fiscal Cliff in Washington but it appears like I will be purchasing 4 new tires for our truck in the next few weeks approaching my own Fiscal Cliff. They have a 2-3 week delivery time so I've decided I won't have them installed until after December 21st. No reason to pay for them if the world might end, right? So, assuming we are all here and survive that weekend, I expect to once again be broker than broke after having to purchase tires and all the Christmas presents that will have to be shipped. Hopefully the gifts will arrive 3,000+ miles to their destination before Christmas. And if 10 Meters does not come back to life this coming weekend, I will begin to think we are feeling the effects of a Propagation Cliff. Maybe the Solar Cycle peaked last year and we didn't know it, catching us by surprise.   I'm already experiencing my Twitter Cliff as of late. I'm following so many people on Twitter that I can't keep up with the timeline! 

Hopefully things will settle in Washington and propagation will return. Ham radio is a great escape from what seems to be endless bad news coming from media outlets. Thankfully, I've found the ham community world wide is very friendly and it's a great escape from our daily grind. I'm thankful for all that I have, all that I've done and for all those that have made it possible. 

Oh, and in case you are wondering, NG6S gets the prized #50,000 QSL card for our RTTY contact in the 10-Meter RTTY Contest. I know there won't be a 100,000 from this QTH but I've sure enjoyed each and everyone I have had so far and looking forward to many more. 



  1. Congrats Phil with so many QSO's. It really is a hamstone ;-) I indeed wonder what next weekend will bring us. I hope propagation is just like last year. No one knows....predictions are good though. 73, Bas

  2. Congratulations on the hamstone, Phil. Demonstrates hard work and dedication, especially from AK. We're getting there @ KL2R. I thought I would QSL the 50k with some special thing from Alaska.