Archive for September, 2014

WA4ZKO 2014 2m Fall Sprint Wrap-Up

Posted in Contesting, VHF-UHF with tags , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2014 by WA4ZKO

The Quick Summary:

4 QSOs for roughly 1/2 hour total operating time.

BAND    2m
QSOs     4
GRIDS    3

BEST DX:  Not sure where N8XA was, but guessing K8TQK at 81 miles (EM89JE)

SCORE:  A whopping barn burner score of 12, grin.

Hey, I’m not complaining considering how thin the local activity levels have become, a flat band, and only running QRP to a halo antenna.

The Longer Version:

Well I was a few minutes late getting started, could only operate for short periods of time since I was at work, and only running 4-5w to a halo antenna at 20 feet. Thus I didn’t go into this sprint expecting much, especially after how low the local activity levels were during the Sept VHF Contest.

The 2m SSB noise floor was surprisingly quiet considering I was operating just a few feet from a small server farm. I had the little Yeasu FT-817ND rig on a 12v 12 Ahr LiFePO4 battery that can run the rig on high power for several hours. I used this battery pack during Field Day for HF Robust Packet APRS with excellent runtime. I just setup on top of some nearby file boxes and logged contacts the old fashioned way (pen and paper) for later entry. A shot of this impromptu portable setup is below:


I forgot to pack a coil of RG-8 with me, so I had to use a pretty lossy run of RG-8X. I could work everyone I heard with one exception. I heard N8QAZ near Columbus Ohio well, but could never get his attention. He was CQ’ing way too fast without much of a receive gap in between CQs so I only tried him a few times before moving on. Gotta slow it down if you want to hear the weak ones.

First QSO of the evening was Dennis N9TZL in EM78qx and easy at 23 miles. Last QSO was N8XA who was also portable somewhere in EM89.

Well I got on the air and made a few Qs, worked some grids and 3 states with just QRP. Better than not being active at all. The FT-817 has opened up some portable operating options and fun. I should of bought one years ago.

Well it’s officially Fall this evening and that wraps up the 2014 Summer VHF contest season. From here it’s the 222 Fall Sprint on September 30th. I will not be active for that one. Considering the low activity levels on more popular bands, very hard to shell out the cash for a 222 transverter right now.

Next possible contest for me will be the 432 Fall Sprint on October 8th.

Then it’s the 902 MHz and up Sprint on October 18th. While I have given thought to a 1296 transverter (just like with 222), around here 900 MHz is a lost cause due to all the Part 15 wireless internet systems all over the county. At least around here, we (hams) have essentially lost the 33cm band to WISP QRM from one end of the band to the other.

Oh well, hope to hear you on for the 432 Sprint.



WA4ZKO 2014 ARRL September VHF Contest Wrap-Up

Posted in Contesting, VHF-UHF with tags , , , , on September 21, 2014 by WA4ZKO

Well, as usual I hoped to be more active in this one than I was. I spent a good chunk of the weekend to/from or at the hospital. For those not in the loop, my Father has been facing some serious health challenges. He is doing somewhat better now, but far from out of the woods.

Even with everything else going on, I still managed to get on the air briefly at times over the weekend. It was a good to get a break away from everything else going on. I got in the shack for a few minutes late on Saturday afternoon then a bit longer in the evening after sunset. Then on Sunday it was just a few minutes around 1pm and that was it.


The Quick Summary:

16 QSOs for roughly 1 hour total operating time. Not too bad all things considered.

BAND    6m  2m  432
QSOs     2  10   4
GRIDS    2   9   4
STATES   2   7   3

BEST 6m DX:   W4IY FM08 at 397 miles
BEST 2m DX:   N3HBX FM19 at 402 miles
BEST 432 DX:  K8EP FM09 at 389 miles

SCORE:  Looks like about 300.

That said, since I don’t have the time to operate in a competitive manner anymore I don’t worry much about scores and log submissions. I find it much more enjoyable to just get on the air, give the grid out, put a few Qs in the logbook and call it a day. Plus if I don’t submit logs, then I can operate however I want without worrying about running afoul of some silly rule/rule change some worrywart wanted.

Longer Summary:

My first QSO of the contest was AK3Q down on the river in Bellevue, KY and the struggle he had with hearing me on 2m SSB at 33 miles had me worried that something was wrong on my end considering what I had aimed his way. I suspect he was using a vertical and down behind a lot of terrain. Either way, good to hear a new call on 2m SSB. I probably missed others, but he was the only KY station I heard on the air. Wow.

My worries were very short lived as I immediately worked W8SPM over in FM08 with ease. I think he said he was portable (and QRP ?) up on Spruce Knob, WV which is 279 miles out. The FM08 contact was followed by expected big signal levels from WB7PMP in EM88. Then a nice 402 mile 2m contact with N3HBX in Maryland a few miles north of Washington made it clear my 2 meter SSB gear was working just fine!

As expected, the cold front that came through just prior to the contest wiped out what was nearly daily nice inversion tropo in the area. The band was pretty flat to my west, but there seemed to be some enhancement off to my east. I could hear several of the guys to the east fussing that the band was in great shape over there, but not very many folks active. Here locally the usual hotbed of Cincy area activity was strangely silent for a major contest whenever I checked the bands.

It sounded like there might of been a rover or two up around the Chicago area, but as usual no joy in getting their attention. I thought I heard some activity in the noise floor to my south (probably the Atlanta area folks), but didn’t work anyone down that way.

Granted I need to be careful judging activity levels considering how sporadic my own operating was. I undoubtedly missed a few folks. Still, for a major contest the bands were pretty empty around here.

I gather 6m opened to the Colorado area on Sunday evening. Hopefully some were able to get in on that opening. I only worked a couple stations on 6 meters. 2 meters seemed to be where most of the action was when I was active.

Some nice comments and “thanks for the 2m beacon” were received. Good to know folks find the 144.276 EM78RP beacon handy for evaluating the band and antennas.

Since the 432 side of my FT-847 is acting flaky, I used the FT-817ND rig and a 100w brick for my 432 contacts. I really didn’t expect too much from the 817’s receiver on 432, but it pleasantly surprised me. It seems every bit as good as the 847’s UHF side…maybe a bit hotter? Combined with the 100w amp it proved it can get the job done.

Oh well, now on to the Fall Sprints.