Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CQ World Wide SSB - Better Late than Never!

Despite my best efforts over the preceding two weeks, 0000z on Friday arrived and I was still looking at an empty room and had more work to do outside on the tower. After staring at the gigantic yagi hovering over the front yard for the past few days I decided it would be prudent to beef up the tower supports. I fabricated a mid-point guy station and ran a set of guy wires up to the 32 foot mark. I also strengthened the mounting point at the eave of the shed. I was pretty sure it would be better to miss the first part of the contest than have a storm blow in and turn all my hard work into twisted scrap metal.

Early Saturday morning I brought in the desk and amp rack then finally started to pull the electronics out of the old mobile shack trailer and install them in the new room. By the time I had everything mounted and connected and brought in the antenna feedlines it was almost midnight. Fortunately, when I turned on the power everything worked nearly perfectly. As I switched through all the bands and antennas I could hear signals from 80m all the way up to 10m. After a year-and-a-half hiatus and 11 days of putting it all together I was finally back on the airwaves!

I had been watching the geomagnetic forecast for the past few days and it said things would be pretty gloomy. Multiple solar flares were predicted to impact the magnetosphere and cause radio blackouts and stormy geomagnetic conditions. This spelled disaster for HF radio from this latitude but luckily all the solar nastiness passed by without hitting us. The result was probably the best radio conditions for a CQWW SSB contest in over a decade! Even at midnight local time I was hearing many stations from Europe and the Middle East on the 10m band. I decided that I was going to enter the single-band 10m category. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from up here to work the world on 10m and I wanted to make the most of it.

I decided to begin by concentrating on collecting unique CQ zones and countries for multipliers (and also to boost my DXCC numbers on 10m!). Pretty soon I had worked everything I could hear on 10m and the band and I both started fading. It had been a long, long, day! I turned in for the night and hoped that the good conditions would continue on Sunday.

After three hours sleep I popped out of bed at 6am and headed back to the shack. Not only was 10m open again, European stations were booming in! I picked my way through the band working as many new countries as I could. By 1700z the North American stations started coming through and I knew it was time to make some hay. I swung the big TH6DXX to the southeast and started calling CQ. Almost immediately I began getting replies. The rate meter spiked at over 200/hour and I filled the bucket as fast as I could.

I put 500 stations into the log over the next few hours but then I started watching the spots. This was my first time having reliable internet access during a big contest so I was finally able to connect to the spotting network. As I watched all the juicy DX spots rolling past on the screen I decided I wanted to boost my multiplier count. I gave up my run frequency and started 'playing'. If I had been making a serious effort from the beginning of the contest I probably would have been more disciplined but really I wanted to take advantage of the conditions to work as many new countries on 10m as I could. I even spent some time hunting for a couple of all-time new ones on the other bands but other than 7O2A (Yemen) that I had worked the night before on 15m I came up emtpy handed. As I usually do in these contests, I spent the last hour beaming out to the Pacific working JAs and island stations.

Final numbers were 665 contacts, 59 countries, and 27 zones.

Here is the new station. Flex 3000 SDR, TS-2000, and BH30 amplifier. Out on the tower is a 4 element 6m yagi at 75ft, the TH6DXX at 65ft, a 40m 1/4 wave sloper, and a 30m delta loop. On the roof of the house is a 43ft vertical for 80m. Still to be done over the next few weeks is hang the little TH3 yagi on the tower at 32ft, add the loading coil to the vertical for 160m, and install the beverage and flag receiving antennas for the low bands.

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