Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 2013 Wrap-Up

Good stuff in November!

DXCC - My Worked count jumped from 143 to 167 countries, I finally got my 100th LOTW confirmation for DXCC Mixed (including cards, the total confirmed is now 121), DXCC Phone is just 3 QSLs away, and I'm almost halfway toward DXCC CW with 49 confirmed. What is truly mind-boggling (to me, anyway) is that I've worked 103 countries on CW since firing up the rig again in June (mind-boggling because I only worked 15 countries on CW between 1987 and 2012). See my previous post for more thoughts on this.

CQ WWDX CW - I played in the contest over the weekend of 23/24-Nov to see if I could snag a few new countries on CW. I surprised myself by working 84 countries with 210 QSOs on 40m, 20m and 15m, twelve of them all-time new ones. Total score: 89,562 all-band, but I submitted my score as a single-band 40m Single Op Assisted entry after noting last year's W5 winner won with less than 5,000 points; my 40m score was over 24,000, so I rolled the dice hoping that I might place well in the 5th call district.

DXpeditions - I managed to work all the big DXpeditions this month. At least all the ones I could hear.

  • XR0YY - Easter Island (20m Phone)
  • K9W - Wake Island (40m & 20m CW)
  • T33A - Banaba Island (40m CW)
  • XR0ZR - Juan Fernandez Island (40m CW)
  • N8A - American Samoa (15m CW)

Google+ -- There are several active ham radio communities on Google+. I encourage people to check them out, lots of good people the G. These are a few of the best:

Random QRM:
  • The K3/KPA500 combination continues to amaze me. I don't know that I pull off half the contacts I make without the afterburner. 
  • Still find the Tarheel screwdriver to be limiting me but for what it is, it's performing as well as I can expect. My DXCC Mixed application has been submitted. 
  • The JRC KY-3 straight key has finally been getting some use; I'm learning that my fist is a whole lot better with the KY-3 than it is with the paddles. 
  • I replaced a single audio cable a few weeks ago and eliminated 90% of the RFI I was getting into my speaker system during transmit. 
  • Priced out a hex beam with rotor, cables, roof tower, and everything else I would need. Looking at around $2,500. So it's safe to say that's not going to happen anytime soon. Looks like it will be Plan B for now: getting the R7000 vertical up on the roof. Maybe an inverted V for 12/10/6m, too, before it's too late for those bands.
  • Where the hell did I put my Yaesu World Map??? I haven't seen it since the move to West and have run out of boxes to look in.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Is it possible that I've become a CW op???

Up until this year I worked exactly fifteen countries on CW; ten of these were worked in 1996 during a single day when I got brave enough to make a few contacts in a CW contest. Despite managing to pass the 13 WPM test for my General license, I lived my first 26 years as an amateur in fear of Morse Code. I just never came easy to me as it does to so many others.

I always suffered from CW Envy, though -- a secret wish that I could copy code easily so I could start playing around in CW contests and have a shot at working the big DXpeditions, all of which seemed unable to hear my puny SSB signals in the pileups. I was determined to make it happen -- I bought a Bencher BY-1 at Dayton in 1993; it was merely a shack decoration for years. I used to keep ARRL code practice MP3s loaded on my iPod and listened to them while driving 3 hours a day while commuting from Sussex to Bergenfield when we were still living in Jersey. I installed optional narrow CW filters in every radio I bought. But it just never took hold.

Fast-forward to June 2008. I got back on the air after being inactive since 1999. I had purchased and assembled the K3 in 2007 while still in New Jersey but was SWL due to a lack of antenna. After moving to TX I got the Tarheel screwdriver that remains my only HF antenna and began chasing WAS and what little DX I could manage on phone and digital modes. At the end of 2009, I resolved to work CW in 2010, but within a few months I was QRT for over three years after another move. I did work 3 countries on CW in January 2010, but my CW resolution was clearly as binding as my perennial resolutions to quit smoking.

Along comes 2013. After missing the meaty part of Cycle 24, I pulled the antenna out of the garage in June, fired up the K3, and slowly started working a wee bit of CW. Then a fair amount of CW. Now, it's almost 99% CW. Not joking -- of over 270 contacts in November, only 5 were on phone, 1 on PSK31.

The Mic: Still good for something.
Not sure exactly what clicked but I'm copying better than I ever have in the past, even though I'm still shaky whenever a QSO strays from a simple 5NN exchange. I'm relying less and less on cluster spots to ID stations, too. Just since getting back on the air this past June I've worked (as of now) 101 countries on CW and have 40 of them confirmed on LOTW. Nineteen of these are all-time new ones for me. My mic has become simply a place to hang my headphones. These aren't impressive numbers for most people, but knowing that I've done this after being in mortal terror of CW for two and a half decades gives me no small amount of satisfaction.

As I write this, I'm sitting on 43 DXCC CW countries confirmed on LOTW (plus one Ukrainian station that I got a card from in 1988) out of 106 worked. And the day ain't over yet. Having just reached my goal of DXCC Mixed on LOTW, I am now setting my sights on DXCC CW, something that I never thought possible until now. Dit dit.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

XR0ZR Juan Fernandez Island - 40m CW

XR0ZR working Europe on 40m CW (2013-11-17 @0700 UTC)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Weekend Haul

A fairly productive weekend at WW2PT...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

OK, so where was I?

The station had been shut down since the end of NAQP Phone on 18-Aug due to work and family considerations, but I found some time to fire up the Flex 1500 and K3 and tune around a bit Sunday afternoon (3-Nov).

Got around to configuring the Flex using some recommended settings I found on the Flexradio email reflector, and it seems to help a lot with the latency and raspy CW audio issues I was experiencing. So I tuned around a bit with that but made no contacts.

Switched over to the K3 and came across the Wake Island DXpedition on 20m phone. Didn't actually hear K9W, only the lunatics and lids making fools of themselves calling on the DX frequency rather than up 5-10 as indicated in EVERY. SINGLE. CLUSTER. SPOT. Shook my head, moved on.

Soon found the Easter Island DXpedition (XR0YY) on 17m phone. The band was going in and out, I could barely hear him and even with the KPA500 kicked in he clearly wasn't hearing me, either. So I figured I'd missed my chance on this one since they're scheduled to close down operations before next weekend. Oh well.

Back on 20m I found ZD8O (Ascension Island) fairly strong on CW. Got him on first call (did I mention how much I love the KPA500?), new one (#144) in the log .

Had a little time Monday morning (04-Nov) around 1230 UTC before getting ready for work and saw in a post on Google+ that XR0YY was on 20m phone, so I took my coffee into the shack and dialed it up. There he was, fairly clear with not too many people calling. I dropped my call a few times and got him. #145 in the log!

This evening (05-Nov UTC) I found and worked ZF2KG (Cayman Islands) on 40 CW. Not a new one for me, but needed on both 40m and CW.

Back up to 20m, I got 9L1BTB (Sierra Leone) on CW and FR5HA (Reunion Is.) on PSK for #146 and #147 -- the latter had been evading me all summer, kept seeing him on PSK Reporter but never while I was at the radio. Nice to finally get that one in the log.

So five QSOs, four new DXCC notches on the belt, and I'm wondering why I stayed away from the rig for almost 3 months.