Sunday, October 26, 2014

CQ WW SSB - No Contest

I had big plans for CQWW this year.  Conditions were pretty bad in the week leading up to the contest but two things happened that made the difference for me. First off, my annual antenna project did not start out well.  Knowing that it was going to be another year until I can put up a decent tower for my big S-33 yagi, I had intended to put up a smaller, temporary tower with just the driven element off the yagi as a rotatable dipole for 40, 20, and 17m.  A bucket truck was arranged and schemes were devised how to get it into and out of the neighbor's yard through the deep snow.  Thursday was dedicated to getting everything ready.  Rotator serviced and tested.  Mount and thrust bearing fabricated and cables prepped and ready.  Friday after lunch I picked up the truck and went to work.  Everything went smoothly except for one tiny detail: the lift didn't have enough reach to get over the fence to where the tower was going.  It was short by about 6 feet.  With only a few hours to go until the contest started it was clear I wasn't going to have any of my work done.  Then the second blow fell: an X-class solar flare.  That was it for me right there.  No way.  At this high latitude, a solar flare is game over for radio games.

Since I had the bucket truck and was skipping the contest, I pressed on with the next two projects: the 30m full-wave delta loop and the TH3.  Both items were in the plans since the very beginning and last year I had even hung the wire on the Mastrant guy ropes for the delta loop.  It took some doing but I eventually retrieved the coil of wire dangling off the guy and strung it across to the other side to form the bottom of the loop.  Several iterations of tuning with the MFJ-259 later, the delta loop was born.  The feedline is all 75 ohm, thirty feet of RG6 from the antenna, about half of it wound into a choke right at the corner of the loop then down the guy to a 1/2" P500 hardline to the shack.  At the end of the hardline is a short section of RG-11 that trimmed the entire feedline to a 1/4-wave multiple to make a perfect 50 ohm match for the antenna.

When I first checked the loop was resonant on 8.8MHz.  As I trimmed it up to 10MHz I kept getting higher and higher in the air.  I almost ran out of vertical reach on the boom! 

The next trick was putting up the little 3-element yagi on a fixed mount in the middle of the tower pointing at North and South America.  This will be handy for lots of reasons, not least of which will be generating some wave angle diversity when run in parallel with the big TH6 at the top of the tower.  All things considered, the installation of this one went rather smoothly despite having to fabricate a mount and drill mounting holes for it on the mid-point guy station.  Doing this kind of work with a bucket truck sure beats climbing up and down the tower!

From top to bottom: Hygain VB-64DX, the TH6DXX, and the TH3JRK (a TH3JRS with kw-rated traps from a MK4 on the driven element).  You can see the 40m sloper at the top right and the 30m delta loop in the back with the coax choke on the right.

Both antennas work fine and I'm sure the delta loop will rapidly become my star receiving antenna.  It really seems to hear well on all bands, and on 30 meters it works like a charm.  I worked 5R8M in Madagascar on 30m RTTY for a new one tonight!

I also kept an ear on the radio most of the weekend.  There were a few times that NA was fairly loud on 15m and 10m opened up a bit but for the most part I didn't regret my decision not to play.  I even got up in the middle of the night and checked the bands looking for a 10m opening or some low-band action but nada.  The solar flares just kept coming all weekend.  Counting the one right before the contest started there were SEVEN flares including three X-class.  Not much fun for contesting, let me assure you.  Hopefully things will improve markedly before Sweepstakes Phone in late November!

No comments: