Sunday, January 13, 2013

From K3Y to NAQP & One Week Antenna

This turned out being a short weekend for me but some radio fun was had anyways. Once again, we have been experiencing winds from one weather system after another coming up from the Gulf of Alaska. If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you will know the wind is our biggest challenge next to our deep bitter cold temperatures. South wind gusts just down the road from us peaked on January 10th, at over 80 mph. I'm thankful for our QTH being shadowed somewhat from Mount Healy. This keeps the wind gusts we experience here a bit more manageable. We will see 65 to 70 mph wind gusts here but it's not the 90+ that is experienced at Antler Creek and the area we call the "Windy Bridge" a few miles to our south. Needless to say, the weekend weather once again effected my operating. We only had gusts in the mid 50 mph range, so I did not crank down the beam. Thankfully the Mosley once again showed me why I personally feel it's the best built beam I've ever owned. 

My operating this short weekend was going to focus on the North America QSO Party (NAQP) CW contest and the Straight Key Century Club's Weekend Sprintathon.  I had also signed up to operate as K3Y/KL7 for SKCC's annual January celebration in which they (club members) operate with the callsign K3Y for the month of January. SKCC is what really got me started with my love of using the straight key. My first CW contacts 25 years ago were with a straight key but I did not grow back into using a straight key until about 6 years or so ago. I have four straight keys at my finger tips and they out number my iambic keys of which, I have three. 

My operating in the NAQP was short lived and I was on and off the air as I've been working on a home project and a few other things. My effort is outlined 
to the right. Not really anything to write home about but the Alaska Contest Group was out so not many should have missed Alaska, which was a state in this contest and NOT DX by the way!
My minimal NAQP effort

My main challenge was dealing with the gusting winds and the QRN (Interference) that it was creating. With several wind related systems over the last few weeks, it's pretty obvious that some power lines have been effected and are arching. The noise was enough to effect my effort in hearing weaker stations. It also made it a bit tough to manage with strong stations along side as I had to use my Noise Blanker. So it lead to many repeats asked for and just made the weekend contesting experience much less enjoyable. Probably not a bad thing as I had several other things going on this weekend. Either way, I did make a handful of QSO's and encountered many a friend. I was asked to QSY to the other bands and most were successful. You can tell by the numbers reflected above on where I spent the majority of my time.

Recognize that Spectrum Scope Signature?
I enjoyed chasing SKCC WES stations as well, both during and after the NAQP. I also signed up to operate four hours as K3Y/KL7. The first few hours went well but the solar wind increased and knocked the bands someplace else. With only being able to hear strong stations which had the usual flutter associated with them, my noise made it nearly impossible to work or hear any stations at all. The last two hours of my scheduled effort was pretty uneventful. I had high hopes of working at least 100 stations but I only ended up working a 3rd of that by the time it was all said and done. Once again, the effects of living in a northern latitude made radio'n nearly impossible. But like the NAQP, I'm glad of the contacts I was able to make and hopefully I was able to send a multiplier to a few folks. 

You're probably wondering about my apparent miss use of "Week" in my subject line. Actually, I meant to use "Week" rather than "Weak" but either one would probably work. Just a bit over a week ago I pulled a new antenna from our chilly travel trailer that I had purchased last year. The antenna was one I purchased for portable use while camping. It was a purchased G5RV Jr from W8AMZ. My 80 meter wire antenna began to give me problems after a few years of arctic abuse so I threw this antenna up to use temporarily. I also threw up a second portable antenna, a Par EndFedz 17 meter wire. It took just two storms blowing at over 50 mph to end the life of the G5RV. The end fed is still hanging strong. The G5RV lost an element when the wire broke near the apex! Yes, I can fix it and I plan to. I'm not here to bash this antenna but like a few others I purchased that were made commercially or by someone else, it failed to stand up to one of our typical weather events. It heard pretty well and tuned easily, so it will be worth fixing after "beefing" up a bit. I will be honest, I did not expect it to fail so quickly, especially being brand new and used for the very first time. I'm thinking of a few more Par EndFedz when I can afford them. So far, I'm pretty impressed with em. I gifted a Par EndFedz to my close and personal friend KL1SF, and he has reported it being a successful antenna as well.

So that's my short weekend in a nutshell. I hate to brag (and I actually don't care for this weather) but our temperatures peaked at 44 degrees above zero this weekend! As I write this, it's still 38 degrees above zero! These wind events from the south (Chinook) bring the warm air with them and our temperatures can increase dramatically in just a matter of hours. Much of our snow is melting and areas around the state have experienced flooding from rain and roads have been ice in many of areas south of here. Crazy to think locations in the lower 48 are colder than Alaska in January! 

January is lining up to be a pretty busy month so my operating will occur during small windows of opportunity. That's the beauty of this great hobby, it's always here when I have time, patiently awaiting my return. 


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