Adventures in ham radio

It has been awhile since I’ve posted a roving adventure here. Partly that is because the past year has been crazy-busy. I skipped the September 2017 VHF contest, Idaho QSO party and 7QP this year. I did rove for the January 2018 contest (placed 1st in Limited Rover!). I didn’t blog about it because I simply didn’t have time to write up anything before submitting my contest log. The new log submission deadline is too short to enter my logs and write up the adventure in any detail—at least sometimes.

So, I roved in the 2018 June VHF contest. It generally went well, and there were lots of other rovers on the air in the Pacific Northwest. Overall, I was pleased. The only negative was a total absence of sporadic E (Es) propagation for the weekend here. Zip, zero, zilch. Maybe one or two superstations found a brief opening here and there from the Pacific Northwest, but I heard no Es stations, which is pretty unusual for the June contest.

My route was pretty much the same as described here, but with two changes. First, I used to have a sweet spot in CN85 on an empty lot (with the owner’s consent) that regularly got me into the Puget Sound and W. Oregon on all four bands. Alas, the lot has been developed and there is a family living where I used to park my rover. I tried a spot at the same elevation slightly south of there. It gave me great reach to the south, but part of Green Mountain blocks me to the north. I’ll look for something better for September. The second change was Sunday afternoon. My CN98 spot is usually the side of Mt. Pilchuck on a national forest service road at about 3,000′. This year that forest service road was still gated shut by the start of the contest. Instead, I went to the Lime Kiln Trailhead (a Washington State park) at about 600′ for CN98. It worked well, but not as well as sitting at 3,000′.

The equipment was almost identical to last June. I had rebuilt my 11 el. 222 MHz and 8 el. 2m beams as I snapped the wood booms in half during the January contest after failing to dodge a low hanging tree. The 6m yagi required a bit of work, too. I haven’t repaired my 6m amplifier, so I was running only 100w on 6m.

It rained on and off all weekend. The only serious issue I had during the contest was when my windshield wiper motor decided to die at 9pm on Saturday night. It wasn’t a fuse. The lack of wipers changed the timing of some of my stops, as I would wait until the rain subsided before traveling. As it turned out, I got pretty lucky with the breaks in the rain.

There was a good turnout of other rovers. My log included AC7SG/R, AL1VE/R, K7BDB/R, KE7MSU/R, NR7RR/R, VE7AFZ/R, and WA7BBJ/R. On Sunday afternoon, Todd, NR7RR met me on the highway in Black Diamond for a brief chat with him and his wife Toni.

Results

Last year was a good contest. I made 647 QSOs for 542 points, and 59 grids worked + 10 grids activated for 69 multipliers. Last year’s (preliminary) score was 58,788. This year was okay, but not great:

After removing duplicates, here are the numbers for 2018:

Number of QSOs:      512
Points:      701
Grids Worked:        38
Grids Activated:        10
Total Mults:        48
Score: 33,648

 

Here are the details by band and grid. Last year’s numbers are in parenthesis:

6 meters
2 meters
222 MHz
432 MHz
Total
CN76
8 (7)
10 (13)
3 (5)
5 (8)
26 (33)
CN77
7 (9)
10 (10)
7 (4)
7 (4)
31 (27)
CN85
22 (33)
27 (32)
11 (18)
17 (22)
77 (105)
CN86
25 (44)
24 (28)
15 (18)
16 (19)
80 (109)
CN87
21 (21)
18 (21)
11 (9)
11 (12)
61 (63)
CN88
9 (19)
14 (19)
7 (5)
9 (12)
39 (55)
CN95
7 (12)
9 (10)
2 (5)
3 (5)
21 (32)
CN96
21 (36)
18 (18)
11 (10)
11 (10)
61 (74)
CN97
22 (44)
21 (16)
14 (8)
14 (12)
71 (80)
CN98
14 (34)
16 (16)
8 (10)
14 (9)
45 (69)
QSOs
156 (259)
167 (183)
88 (92)
101 (113)
512 (647)
Points
156 (259)
167 (183)
176 (184)
202 (226)
701 (852)
Mults
9 (26)
12 (13)
8 (10)
9 (10)
38 + 10 (59 + 10)

 

And here are the grids worked for each band:

 Band Pts #Grids Grids
6m 156 9 CN76, CN84–CN88, CN96–CN98
2m 167 12 CN76, CN84–CN88, CN93, CN96–CN99, DN04
1.25m 176 8 CN84-8, CN93, CN96-CN97
70cm 202 9 CN76, CN84-8, CN93, CN96-CN97

 

Here are the stations with ten or more QSOs in my log:

  • 31 N7EPD
  • 31 KE7SW
  • 27 NR7RR/R
  • 26 W7FI
  • 25 AC7MD
  • 22 AC7T
  • 19 W7GLF
  • 19 K7ND
  • 18 K7JX
  • 16 K7YDL
  • 15 N7KSI
  • 12 N7ZO
  • 12 N7QOZ
  • 11 KF7PCL
  • 10 W7BA
  • 10 KE7MSU/R
  • 10 K7CW
  • 10 AC7SG/R

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The Salmon Run is an awesome contest. Even in years like 2017 when conditions are poor, I cannot resist the two day rove through western and central Washington. This year, I didn’t modify my route, but I reconfigured my antennas in anticipation of poor HF conditions.

Route

The day before the contest, I published my route and schedule. I’ve used this route for five years now, with only a few tweaks each time. The two-day, 22 county trek begins on the King–Pierce county line about an hour south of my home. It ends near the Grand Coulee Dam on the Okanagon–Ferry county line.

This map shows the route for Saturday (click for larger images). It starts on the King (KING)–Pierce (PIE) county line and then goes through Kittitas (KITS), Mason (MAS), Grays Harbor (GRAY), Pacific (PAC), Thurston (THU), Lewis (LEW), Cowlitz (COW), Wahkiakum (WAH), back through COW, into Clark (CLAR) and ends on the CLAR–Skamania (SKAM) county line for the last hour or so until the contest suspends at midnight. From there, I drive an hour east to a motel in The Dalles, OR for a few hours of sleep and a hot shower.

Map of the Saturday route, covering W. Washington
The route on Saturday, covering 12 Western Washington counties

Sunday morning begins with a 2.5 hour drive to Eastern Washington before the 9:00 am starting time. The contest resumes at 9:00am on the Yakima (YAK)–Klikitat (KLI) county line. The route continues through the Benton (BEN), Franklin (FRA), Adams (ADA), Lincoln (LIN), Grant (GRAN), and Douglas (DOU) counties, and ends on the Okanagon (OKA)–Ferry (FER) county line for the last 90 minutes.

Map of the Sunday route, covering E. Washington
The route on Sunday, covering 10 Eastern Washington counties

Equipment

My main contesting rig is still a Kenwood TS-480SAT at 100W. A Yaesu FT-857D with a LDG tuner serves as a second rig and was particularly useful for exploring other bands. A second FT-857D monitored either 6m or 2m SSB, and fed a 2m and 6m brick. Finally, a TYT-9800 quad band rig monitored 6m FM and 2m FM simplex frequencies. I’ve never made a HF contest QSO on 52.525 MHz FM, but I hold out hope that someday it will happen.

Photo of the equipment rack
The equipment rack. Note that the heads are remotely mounted.

The black box sitting on the left controls a remote antenna switch that switches between antennas and swaps antennas between the Kenwood and Yaesu radios. A K1EL WinKeyer can be seen on top of the LDG tuner and is loaded with macros for the contest. I load one macro on the fly with my county (or counties), and the keyer does much of the work for me in calling CQ and giving reports.

At the lower left, an antenna rotor control can be seen. This is used to rotate the front VHF antenna stack.

The operating position has four remote heads (TS-480, 2 FT-857Ds, and a TYT 9800 head) mounted on a piece of sheet metal. On top of the dash, two Android devices and a GPS are mounted. One Android serves as a 24-hr clock and the other provides real-time information on the current county. A TomTom GPS is is pre-loaded with the day’s route and way-points.

Photo of the operating position.
The operating position.

The antenna farm included three home-built screwdriver antennas mounted in the truck bed. One was mounted behind the tool box. Two other screwdrivers are on the rear right side and rear left side of the truck bed. A 6m whip and a 2m whip on magnet mounts are attached to the roof for monitoring the FM portions of these bands.

The antenna farm
The antenna farm

By using three screwdriver antennas, I can minimize the amount of time required for band changes. The antennas have two standard configurations. By day, they are set up for 15m (left front), 20m (right rear) and 40m (left rear), and by night, 20m (left front), 40m (right rear) and 80m (left rear).

The antennas are optimized for the night-time configuration. The 40M/80M screwdriver has a large capacitance hat. Additionally, the whip is cut so that the antenna is just under the legal height (14′ in Washington state) when tuned for the CW portion of 80M. The 20M/40M screwdriver has a smaller capacitance hat and, again, the whip is cut so that the length is barely street legal in the CW portion of 40M. The 15M/20M whip is a bit shorter and has no capacitance hat so that it can go down to the 15M phone band and as high as 40 CW.

In recent years, I mounted one of the screwdrivers on the front of the truck, and used a 10m whip behind the driver’s seat that, with a tuner, serves as a backup 10-40m vertical. This year I figured that 10m would be dead. And, in any case, I could use a tuner with the 15m antenna on 10m if the band opened. This year, I moved the third screwdriver to the rear in place of the 10m whip. The antenna is much more effective here than on the front of the truck. In the front, I returned to a configuration I used several years ago, with a 6m hex beam and a four element WA6VJB “cheap yagi” for 2m mounted in a rotor on the front of the truck. The stack is built to be street legal (i.e. it doesn’t exceed the overhang limits) and could be rotated while in motion. These antennas are for the weak signal portions of 2m and 6m.

The antenna farm
More antenna farm

This worked well this year. Early on Saturday when HF was in bad shape, I made a fair number of QSOs on 144.2 MHz and 50.125 MHz.

The Contest

The hour drive from home to the KING/PIE county line gives me a chance to re-familiarize myself with the equipment, antenna switching and antenna tuning, and to make sure everything seems to be working. There were only a few minor tweaks to be made when I arrived a few minutes before the contest. A quick run through the bands showed that forty meters was quiet. Twenty meters at least had some signals. In recent years, Scandinavian contest signals have boomed in on 20m for the first half day. This year…nada. I worked only 10 stations (20 QSOs) on 20m in the first 25 minutes. The last pair of QSOs was with W7DX, for 500 bonus points.

I heard my buddies Mike, KD7TS, and Ray, W7GLF, chatting on 144.200 MHz, so I worked them on SSB (4 QSOs). They then worked me again on CW (4 more!). I heard mostly weak signals on 20m SSB, and only managed to complete one QSO before, out of frustration, calling CQ on 50.125 MHz. My buddy Tom, KE7SW responded immediately. He offered to work me on 2m SSB as well. And we kept going…40m, 20m, 15m, 10m, and 80m, for a total of 14 SSB QSOs.

Starting on the KING/PIE county line
Starting on the King/PIE county line

An hour into the contest, 20m CW seemed to pick up a little; In the final 10 minutes at this stop I worked a few more stations on 20m SSB, including W7DX for another 500 bonus points.

The 30 minute trip through PIE to KITS produced a discouraging zero additional QSOs; however, I managed a handful of in-motion QSOs in KITS, including CW and SSB QSOs with KD7TS on 2m FM. I spent 25 minutes on the KITS/MAS line, on a dirt road a short distance off of State Route 3, but I couldn’t get a run going and left with only a handful of new contacts. Things picked up slightly as I headed to the PAC/GRAY line, (23 QSOs in 90 minutes), including making a couple of rare 15m CW QSOs.

The PAC/GRAY line is on a gravel road between Oakville and Brooklyn. I sat there for 90 minutes and worked 25 stations (3.6 minutes per contact), so the rate was creeping up. Nine of the contacts happened on 40m, and 7 were on VHF with KD7UO, W7GLF, and KG7P. The rate went down again (5 minutes per contact) in the 25 minute trip to the THU/LEW county line stop, and pretty much stayed there during the stop. At this time (2330z), 20m started closing and 40m started opening up a bit. I made only one more 20m QSO after that at 0123z with K9FD in Hawaii. Thinking that I might be able to work Japan as well, I CQed and tuned around on 20m CW, but turned up nothing.

Contacts in COW were all in motion on the way to (and from) WAH; I worked a respectable 25 QSOs in 35 minutes, all on 40 CW. I stopped in WAH for about 90 minutes starting at 7:15pm, and 40m was still productive for about 30 of those minutes. A switch to 80m got a couple of respectable runs going on both SSB and CW for the next hour. The return trip took me back into COW, where I was able to re-work some of those 80m SSB stations.

The last stop of the day was on the CLAR/SKAM county line, and I arrived at 0550z (10:50 PDT). The air was quite thick with smoke from the Eagle Creek fire–like being in a bar before Washington’s indoor smoking ban. In past years, the contest slowed considerably in the last hour, and this year was no exception. I worked a handful of stations on 80m CW and a couple on 40 CW. While this was happening, I noticed some activity on 2m FM. I worked W7TKX on 146.52 MHz, and a bit later K7YUF, W7RC, K7RMO, WB7PGB, KG7VAK, KG7YOL responded to my CQs. Indeed, it turned into miniature QSO party/chat net. KG7YOL and WB7PGB were kind enough to work me on 6m as well. I was quite grateful for the QSOs and the company.

At midnight, I set off for a 70 minute journey to a motel in The Dalles. Interstate 84 was closed most of the way on account of the Eagle Creek fire, so I stayed on the Washington side on Hwy 20 most of the way. At one point, I could see a “small” section of the massive fire right across the Columbia river. In the dark, it looked like an enormous vertical wall of flames. It was indescribably surreal.

Sunday morning I was on the road by 6:30 PDT for a 9:00am appointment with the YAK/KLI line. In the past, I could pull onto a bit of double track etched into a field of sagebrush, putting me on the county line about 10 feet off the road (alongside the sign). This year, however, it was a plowed field and driving on someone’s agricultural field was not an option. Instead, I had to squeeze my truck off the shoulder on a rather steep bank, with the front of the truck just breaching Yakima county. The photo doesn’t really show how uncomfortably steep this position was.

Sunday morning on the YAK/KLI county line
Sunday morning on the YAK/KLI county line

Twenty meters was so-so on Sunday morning. I made 16 contacts in 40 minutes (2.5 minutes/contact). Of course, 16 contacts means 32 QSOs on a county line. I left a bit early and headed for an unplanned 15 minute stop on the KLI/BEN line. There I worked 12 stations, mostly on 20m. I continued through BEN into FRA for about 90 minutes and worked 40 more stations (2.25 min/contact), all on 20m.

A ten minutes stop was scheduled for the FRA/ADA county line. Here, I turned down a relatively unused county line road, and stopped right in the middle to put each side of the truck in a different county. I caught a few stations on 80m SSB and a couple on 20m SSB. Fortunately, no other traffic used the road during my brief stay. Shortly after noon, I went back to 20m CW for the 45 minute trip through ADA, making about 26 QSOs in motion.

An unplanned 10m stop on the LIN/ADA line produced a handful of 80m SSB QSOs, most were on the frequency that K7IDX kindly offered. Afterward, I pounced on a nearby strong signal from WW7LW and got confused…he kept repeating my report back to me. The confusion arose because WW7LW was also on the LIN/ADA county line in a wheat field about 1/2 mile from me. Unfortunately, it was in the wrong direction for an eyeball QSO, but I appreciated the 4 (2×2) QSOs.

Sunday afternoon with a brief stop on the LIN/ADA county line
Sunday afternoon with a brief stop on the LIN/ADA county line

The QSO rate slowed during the 45 minute journey through LIN. Forty meters was dead (with a high noise level). I managed a few QSOs on 20m on SSB and CW, and heard a rare signal on 15m CW. It was K7TQ/M in nearby ADA county. With a little over 2.5 hours remaining, I hit GRAN county. The QSO rate was moderate on 20 CW during the 15 minutes to the GRAN/DOU county line.

The GRAN/DOU county line is accessible on the edge of a dirt road with massive power transmission lines a few hundred yards away. In past years, this location has produced sustained runs on 20m and 40m. In 2017, the location was moderately productive with 26 contacts (52 contest QSOs) in 45 minutes on 20m CW and 75m SSB. Forty meters was (still) dead, and my CQs on 80m CW produced nothing.

With 100 minutes left in the contest, I made a 30 minute dash through GRAN, briefly back into DOU, then into OKA, making about 20 20m QSOs en route. This landed me on the OKA/FER county line for the last 70 minutes of the contest.

Here, I made a couple more 20m QSOs before turning to 80m SSB. I was looking for K7IDX, but found WW7LW again on LIN/ADA for 4 more QSOs. Next I found Todd, K7TAO, a SOTA buddy, who offered to spot me and give up his frequency. After the 80m SSB QSOs dried up, I gave 40m CW a shot, but only managed 2 QSO. Next was 20 SSB, where I worked N8II. We QSYed to 20m CW and worked again. I suspect he spotted me there, because I got a small run going after that. For the last 15 minutes of the 2017 Salmon Run, I went to 80m CW, but could hear nothing. So I stubbornly started calling CQ. After a few minutes I got a small run going (5 contacts, 10 QSOs) that took me right up to 2359z. It was a good way to end.

The 4 hour trip back to Redmond was uneventful. Just after leaving the Grand Coulee area, a light rain started that persisted much of the trip. This was good. The entire region really needs the rain, if only to help extinguish numerous forest fires. The trip through Snoqualmie pass started with heavy smoke from the Jolly Mountain fire that gave way to more rain, fog and traffic congestion. This part of the trip was made more pleasant because I found four other hams on 146.52 making the same trip.

Results

After eliminating duplicates, I ended up with 630 QSOs–about 80 fewer than last year. 432 of these were CW and 198 were phone. Compared to last year, there were a lot more phone QSOs, in part because I was focusing on 80m SSB much more this year. For the past couple of years, I worked W7DX only on CW. This year, I worked ’em once on CW and many times on SSB for 1000 bonus points.

My total multipliers were 70, down from 76 last year. Multipliers included 37 states (down from 38), 31 Washington counties (up from 28), and 2 Canadian provinces (BC, ON, down from 4 last year). I worked no DX! Spending time on 80m SSB really helped find some of the rarer counties. The missed counties were ASO, COW, DOU, GAR, PEND, SAN, WAH, and WAL (three of these counties I activated). The missing states were AK, AR, DE, ME, MS, MT, ND, NH, RI, SD, VT, and WY.

The final preliminary score, including the bonus points, was 119,440, down from 154,628, but almost identical to 2015’s 119,636. That year, a solar flare wiped out HF on Sunday.

Here is the final tally of QSOs by band

Band
CW
Phone
80
37
116
40
89
4
20
289
36
15
3
2
10
0
2
6
4
10
2
10
28
Total
432
198

The 630 QSOs included 215 unique calls (down from 241 last year). Here were the top stations worked by number of QSOs:

Call
QSOs
K9CW
20
N8II
17
N7IR
16
K2SSS
16
AE5GT
15
KE7SW
14
WA6KHK
12
W7GLF
12
WJ9B
11
W7DX
11
KI0I
11
K7IDX
11

A few special mentions and thank-yous are in order. First, Bruce, K7IDX, repeatedly offered me his frequency on 80m and spotting me. This resulted in a lot of those 80m phone QSOs, bumped up my multiplier count, and, when I was in a rare county, gave other folks the opportunity pick up new multipliers. Todd, W7TAO, did the same thing the one time I worked him. Tom, KE7SW, ran the bands with me when things were otherwise relatively slow. Ray, W7GLF, Mike, KD7TS, and Dale, KD7UO, let me interrupt them on 2m SSB, and then took the time to work me on 2m and 6m in SSB and CW. Finally, a bunch of friendly hams hanging out on 146.52 near Portland, K7YUF, W7RC, K7RMO, WB7PGB, KG7VAK, and KG7YOL were “game” working me in the final hours of Saturday night.

In summary, conditions on Saturday were not so good this year. Participation seems lower, although the conditions may have made it just seem that way. We definitely could have used more mobile stations. But I had an excellent run and a good time. Sometimes these mobile contests feel like a struggle trying to safely balance navigating, driving, operating and logging. This time, I had a good groove going, and was able to pull it all off without stress or frustration. Perhaps the lower QSO rate helped? It certainly helped that my equipment and antennas were working well.

I look forward to next year’s Salmon Run!

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WW7D’s 2017 Salmon Run plan

WW7D will be mobile for the 2017 Salmon Run, activating 22 counties. This post discusses my route, schedule, and frequencies.

Route: My route will be much like last year’s. On Saturday, I’ll start out on the King–Pierce county line, and make my way west and south, ending near the Columbia River on the Clark–Skamania line. Here are the details for Saturday (time are PDT):

  1. King–Pierce: 9:00 AM — 10:30 AM
  2. Pierce: 10:30 AM — 11:05 AM
  3. Kitsap: 11:05 AM — 11:25 AM
  4. Kitsap–Mason: 11:25 AM — 12:10 PM
  5. Mason: 12:10 PM — 1:05 PM
  6. Grays Harbor: 1:05 PM — 2:10 PM
  7. Pacific–Grays Harbor: 2:10 PM — 3:40 PM
  8. Grays Harbor: 3:40 PM — 4:10 PM
  9. Thurston: 4:10 PM — 4:30 PM
  10. Thurston–Lewis: 4:30 PM — 6:00 PM
  11. Thurston: 6:00 PM — 6:10 PM
  12. Lewis: 6:10 PM — 6:40 PM
  13. Cowlitz: 6:40 PM — 7:25 PM
  14. Cowlitz–Wahkiakum: 7:25 PM — 8:55 PM
  15. Cowlitz: 8:55 PM — 9:40 PM
  16. Clark: 9:40 PM — 10:30 PM
  17. Clark–Skamania: 10:30 PM — 12:00 AM

Here is a picture of the route (same as last year):

Sunday, I’ll begin in the south part of central Washington, and make my way north:

  1. Yakima–Klickitat: 9:00 AM — 10:00 AM
  2. Klickitat: 10:00 AM — 10:10 AM
  3. Benton: 10:10 AM — 11:15 AM
  4. Franklin: 11:15 AM — 11:55 AM
  5. Franklin–Adams: 11:55 AM — 12:05 AM
  6. Adams: 12:05 AM — 1:00 PM
  7. Lincoln: 1:00 PM — 2:20 PM
  8. Grant: 2:20 PM — 2:35 PM
  9. Grant—Douglas: 2:35 PM — 3:20 PM
  10. Douglas: 3:20 PM — 3:35 PM
  11. Okanogan: 3:35 PM — 4:00 PM
  12. Okanogan–Ferry: 4:00 PM — 5:00 PM

Even if you get bored on Sunday afternoon, try to get on for the last two hours (2 PM to 5 PM), as I will cover five relatively rare counties.

Frequencies I’ll try to land on frequencies ending on a 7, when possible, except on 2m and 6m SSB.

CW

  • 3.547 MHz
  • 7.037 MHz
  • 14.047 MHz
  • 21.037 MHz
  • 28.037 MHz

SSB

  • 3.917 MHz
  • 7.247 MHz
  • 14.327 MHz
  • 21.367 MHz
  • 28.367 MHz
  • 50.125 MHz
  • 144.200 MHz

I’ll also monitor 146.52 MHz FM and 52.525 MHz FM.

Notice that 20m phone is much higher than the recommended frequency. I usually have a very difficult time finding an open spot on 20 phone, so I am just going to start out in the less populated part of the band. When the band dies down, I may move back down to 14.287 MHz or so.

I’ll have a rotatable hex beam on 6m (50.125 MHz) and a 4 element yagi on 2m (144.200 MHz), so don’t hesitate to move me to these frequencies if you are nearby.

Best wishes to everyone participating in the contest.

The classic August UHF contest, started in 1978, is no more. The ARRL cancelled it in 2016, although it was held independently of the ARRL by “a nationwide coalition of UHF-oriented clubs and concerned individuals.” I participated as a limited rover last year, and was pleased to take first place in that category.

For 2017, the ARRL rolled out a new “222 and up distance contest,” held in August. The rules changed substantially from other VHF+ contests. In the rover category, there is only a single rover class. That is, limited and unlimited rovers have been eliminated. Scoring is based on the distance between 6-digit maidenhead grids multiplied by a band multiplier.

There are pros and cons of the new contest. First, it does disadvantage the practice of “grid circling.” The biggest con for me is that there is no limited rover category. It is difficult enough to manage four bands in my tiny truck. Adding new bands isn’t something I’ve really wanted to do. Also the power limits for limited rovers was nice to keep cost and complexity down. Besides that, bigger amplifiers means more heat being spewed out by the radio equipment.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to even participate in the contest. I have been having fun doing SOTA activations, and the combination of a June VHF contest, field day, a July CQ WW VHF contest, and the new August contest has kept me away from hiking way too much this summer. But a week before the contest start, I decided I shouldn’t miss the first “222 and up distance contest.”

Distance scoring provides an interesting challenge for the Pacific Northwest on the “wet” side of the Cascade mountains stretching from Vancouver, B.C. to Portland, OR. There are many high spots in the foothills of the Cascades to the east and the Olympic mountains to the west of population centers. In fact, three grid intersections are located quite close to population centers in the accessible foothills of the Cascades. The setting is excellent for classic scoring. For distance scoring, these locations are, perhaps, too close to population centers.

Maximizing the number of grids one can activate in a 24 hour contest (for which there is only about 14 hours of activity) requires careful planning to ensure there is a good balance between driving and operating. During previous UHF contests, I hit locations at all three grid intersections (CN88/CN98/CN87/CN97, CN87/CN97/CN86/CN96, CN86/CN96/CN85/CN95) activating all but CN95. As a limited rover, I spent less time at each location with only 4 bands that don’t require super precision aiming. Also, I could make many QSOs while in-motion. Hitting more grids helped me work more grids and gave additional activation multipliers.

With distance-based scoring and more bands, strategy must be quite different. I considered numerous routes and timings in the week before the contest. Ultimately, I chose a route that is a subset of my “normal” VHF contest route. I route and schedule of stops is not ideal for a distance scoring contest, but I was just looking to produce a solid score.

Part of my reasoning was that many of the “big players” in microwaves were partially or fully out of business in this contest. Folks were either out of town or had their towers or antennas down being rebuilt.

Route

Saturday’s route started in CN98 on the side of Mt. Pilchuck, on a forest service road. Next was CN88 on Little Mountain, a city park in Mt. Vernon, WA. Then came a long trek to Central Park in Issaquah, WA where I would activate both CN87 and CN97. That was it for day 1. Day 2 started shortly after 7am near the CN87/CN86/CN97/CN96 boundary to work CN96, CN86 and CN87 from Mowich Lake road. I stuck to the route, except that I overstayed CN98 in order to catch W7GLF who showed up about the time I was leaving. Instead, I went to a school in Lake Stevens to activate CN88.

Equipment

The equipment included rigs and antennas to cover 222 MHz through 3456 MHz.

Most of the radios can be seen in this photograph.

The radio rack

A Yaseu FT-857D was the workhorse in this set-up, being used for 432 MHz SSB/CW and with the 900 MHz (SSB Electronic LT 33 S), 1296 MHz (SG Lab), 2.3 GHz (SG Lab), and 3.4 GHz (Down East Microwave) transverters. A 222 MHz transverter (Elecraft) used a Kenwood TS-480SAT as the IF. In addition to these SSB/CW radios, I had a TYT 9800 for 223.5 MHz FM, another TYT 9800 for 446 MHz FM, a Kenwood TK-981 for 927.5 MHz nbFM, and a Icom IC-1201 for 1294.5 MHz and 1296.2 MHz FM.

There were two amplifiers for 222 MHz (weak signal and FM), a 423 MHz amplifier, hidden in the bottom box is a 50 W Stealth Microwave class A 900 MHz amplifier and, hidden in the white box on top, an old Down East Microwave 18 W 1296 amplifier.

The view from the driver’s seat

The rigs with remote heads were mounted on a sliding panel on the center console.

There were lots of antennas.

The rat’s nest behind the radio rack
The rear antenna stack

The rear antenna stack is on a 25′ telescoping mast, and contained eight antennas. On top is a cross-boom with a 12-element loop fed array for 432 MHz and an 11-element Wa5VJB “cheap yagi” (horizontally polarized) for 222 MHz. Next was a cross-boom with four antennas: (1) 900 MHz loop yagi at one end, a 1296 MHz loop yagi at the other end. Sandwiched between was a loop yagi for 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz. On the bottom are two vertically polarized “cheap yagis”, one for 222 MHz and one for 446 MHz.

The front antenna stack

The front stack, was used primarily for in-motion QSOs. The antennas are short enough to legally rotate while in motion. On top is a 222 MHz “cheap yagi”, then there is a horizontally and a vertically polarized 432/446 MHz cheap yagis. Below those is a cross-boom with a 903 MHz horizontally polarized cheap yagi, a 927 MHz vertically polarized cheap yagi, an both horizontally and vertically polarized cheap yagis.

Contest

On Saturday, I started out on Mt. Pilchuck (CN98) expecting that sometime soon, Ray (W7GLF) whould show up on Green Mountain (CN98) just to the north of me. He did eventually show up, but KE7UIU/R and AC7SG/R also showed up on Mt. Pilchuck, and K7GYB ended up somewhere near Green Mountain. When Ray got set up, we tried 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz but couldn’t get either to work. I tried a couple of other times during the contest to make QSOs on these transverters (that I had never used before), but no dice.

CN98 on the side of Mt. Pilchuck

Two interesting things happened. First, I worked Mike (KD7TS) who was at sea level in Ocean Shores, WA in CN76 on 432 MHz. We didn’t have a very good path because I couldn’t hear him on any other band. The other interesting thing was hearing someone call CQ on 1294.5 MHz FM! It was AC7SG/R calling. In many years of having a rig monitoring 1294.5 MHz during microwave sprints and the UHF contest, I’ve never made a QSO on 1294.5 MHz FM. Most of the FM 23 CM contest activity is on 1296.2 MHz FM by a regional agreement, as that allows folks with weak signal equipment that can do FM to work people with FM-only rigs.

I overstayed my stop in CN98, so headed to an alternative CN88 stop in Lake Stevens. The spot is only 400′ AGL, so it didn’t yield many distant QSOs. I did, however, work a bunch of stations in CN98.

CN88 in an elementary school parking lot in Lake Stevens

The third stop of the day was on the CN97 and CN87 line in Central Park. This is a surprisingly good location for contesting, but it is pretty close to the populatino centers.

CN97 from Central Park, Issaquah. The CN87/CN97 grid line runs through the first parking island in the background.
CN87 from Central Park, Issaquah. Now we are looking toward CN97, which begins at the parking island after the car on the right

I made a return visit to CN97 to pick up some new stations, but shortly after 9pm local time, I packed up to head home. The park closed at dusk, which was 9:17 on that Saturday.

Sunday morning started very early for the two hour drive to CN86 and CN96 for a 7:00 start time. The radios seemed to work better on Sunday; I made over 70 QSOs from 7am to the 11am stop time.

Results

Even though most of my QSOs were not over long distances, I tried to compensate by making many QSOs. I ended up with 163 non-duplicate QSOs, including 65 on 222 MHz, 69 on 432/446 MHz, 9 on 902/927 MHz, and 20 on 1296/1294 MHz.

The sum of distances times band multipliers was 22,994.

Longest distance:

  • 222 MHz: 339.9 km from CN86XX with KB7W in CN93JX
  • 432 MHz: 297.1 km from CN86XX with KE7MSU/R in CN84FM
  • 903 MHz: 82.27 km from CN96AW with AC7MD in CN87RN
  • 1296 MHz: 187.9 km from CN96AW with K7YDL in CN85MJ

(Short link)

The CQWWVHF contest is one of my favorites. Stations are limited to 6m and 2m, which considerably simplifies a rover. Additionally, the scoring for rovers differs from the ARRL contests: we accumulate multipliers anew in each grid. My strategy in the CQWWVHF differs somewhat from what I do in ARRL VHF contests. I missed roving in 2016 because my truck needed some mechanical work. But I was back in the saddle for 2017.

Plans:

The 2017 route was refined from my 2015 route. Two years ago, I started in CN98 on the side of Mt. Pilchuck at close to 3,000′. This is a fine location for regional QSOs, but the mountain effectively blocks Es to the the population centers in the U.S. Southwest. Therefore, I moved a little to the side of Green Mountain, still near 3,000′. In past contests, I’ve worked big Es openings from this location. The disadvantages are that the roads beat up the truck and the low hanging vegetation beats up the antennas.

Two years ago I activated CN97 from Mud Mountain behind Buckley, WA. This year I stopped by Central Park in Sammamish, WA, where I can activate both CN97 and CN87 with excellent reach regionally. Although Tiger, Squak and Couger mountains block some areas to the south and southwest, the gap between Tiger and Squak mountain opens up the population areas in the direction of Portland, OR. The final changes from 2015 was to flip the order of the last two stops and tweaking the times.

GRID Location Elevation Start Time (PDT) End Time (PDT)
Saturday    
CN98 Green Mtn 2900′ 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
CN88 Lake Stevens (school) 400′ 01:15 PM 02:05 PM
CN97 Central Park, Sammamish 1460′ 03:15 PM 04:15 PM
CN87 Central Park, Sammamish 1450′ 04:30 PM 05:30 PM
CN86 Carbonado 3000′ 07:05 PM 07:55 PM
CN96 Carbonado 3200′ 08:20 PM 09:20 PM
CN87 Carbonado 2167′ 09:10 PM 09:40 PM
         
Sunday    
CN76 Ocean Shores 16′ 07:05 AM 08:00 AM
CN77 Ocean Shores 15′ 08:15 AM 09:05 AM
CN85 Kalama, WA 1700′ 12:00 PM 12:55 PM
CN86 Kalama, WA 1785′ 01:20 PM 02:00 PM

Equipment:

The equipment has changed a bit over the last couple of years.

  • 6m SSB/CW: Kenwood TS480Sat and TE Systems 160w amp (#1)
  • 6m FM: Yaesu FT-857D (#1) and TE Systems 160w amp (#2)
  • 2m SSB/CW: Yaesu FT-857D (#2) and RF Concepts 160w amp
  • 2m FM: TYT 9800
A look inside the “shack”; the rig heads are mounted on the center console (visible behind the steering wheel0

The antennas are pretty much identical to 2015:

  • Front: 50 MHz classic hexbeam at ~9′
  • Front: 144 MHz 4-el WA6VJB “cheap yagi” horizontally polarized at ~7′
  • Front: 146 MHz 4-el “cheap yagi” vertically polarized at ~5′
  • Rear: A pair of 50 MHz 3-el yagis at ~25′ and ~10′
  • Rear: 144 MHz 8-el “cheap yagi” horizontally polarized
  • Roof: 146 MHz vertical (mag mount)
  • Roof: 52 MHz vertical (mag mount)
The antennas deployed in CN97 later in the contest;
notice the missing half element on the lower 6m yagi

Three antenna switches were used to switch 6m SSB/CW between the hexbeam and stack of yagis, 2m SSB/CW between the front and rear “cheap yagis”, and to switch 2m FM between the front “cheap yagi” and the vertical. 6m FM only used the whip antenna.

The Contest:

In retrospect, the trip to Green Mountain was not such a great idea. The vegetation was the big problem. I had to make minor repairs to one of the 6m yagis after arriving at the CN98 stop, and missed the first couple of minutes of the contest as a result.

The contest got off to a great start, however. I worked AC7MD/R in the rare grid of CN78 on 6m and 2m. I was happy to learn that KD7UO was on Quartz mountain in CN97. Last year, I hung out with Dale on Quartz mountain while I was doing a mountain topper operation.

There were so signs of Es that I could hear from CN98, although one station mentioned that the Es map was “lit up” for the U.S.

Ready to go from CN98

While leaving, I damaged the lower 6m yagi even more. Half an element broke off.

The next stop was in CN88 at a school in the city of Lake Stevens. In 2015, the noise levels were terrible on 6m from this location. This year, noise levels were much more tolerable, and the grid (at 400′) was mildly productive.

Toward the end of my schedule stay, I worked W6KH in DM13, but a few more minutes of searching and calling CQ suggested the opening was not sustained. So I decided to make a beeline for CN97, which is a much better location for working Es.

The “beeline” turned into a long slog through a 30 minute traffic back-up on account of a traffic accident on HWY 9. Using the hexbeam mounted on the front of the truck, I ended up making nine Es QSOs while crawling through traffic in CN88 and CN87. Only four grids were represented—DM12, DM13, DM25, DM26.

When I arrived in Central Park, a new problem arose. The parking lot was packed. Fortunately, there was one spot open in the eight parking spots that are physically in CN97. The Es opening had faded, and the only out-of-region station I worked was XE2CQ in DM12. I had planned on moving to the other end of the long parking lot I was in to activate CN87, but the lot was so full and busy, I headed to another, lower, lot. I cut my stay short, since I was behind (and had already worked many regional stations during the traffic backup). The best catch from here was working VE7DAY in CO80 on 6m.

My route to CN86 takes me between CN87 and CN97 a number of times, allowing me to make a few additional QSOs in these two grids. The biggest surprise was working, while in motion, AC7MD/R on the Pacific coast in CN76 on 2m. I hit CN86 right on schedule and got down to business. Again, there were no indications of Es, but I did work AC7MD/R in CN76 again on 2m. The one odd thing is that I worked no stations in CN85 on either band, which is pretty unusual from this location.

The setting sun gave a spectacular orange glow to the trees in CN96; the rear antenna stack is pointed south in a fruitless attempt to work stations in CN85.

A mile up the road brought me to CN96, where I was scheduled to stop for an hour. A nice surprise was working John, KF7PCL, in Ocean Shores (CN76) on both 6m and 2m. Just when I was thinking about shutting down for the 2.5 hour trip to my hotel in Hoquiam, I worked N6EV (DM03), W6KH (DM13) and NR7T (DM38). But the Es dried up and I secured the antennas for the trip 10 minutes past the scheduled departure time. As I was rolling through CN86, I heard some more Es activity. Using only the hexbeam, I stopped for 20 minutes and worked eight more Es QSO (but only 3 grids, DM03, DM12, and DM13), and a few more local stations.

The next couple of hours (from 10:30pm to 12:30 am PDT) produced one new QSO, and that was with WZ8T in CN85. Finally…a station in CN85! The only other thing of note for the day was that the 6m amplifier died—probably overheated trying to work Es from CN86.

Sunday morning began at 5:30 am for a 6:00 am departure for Ocean Shores (CN76 and then CN77). Before leaving I moved the 6m amp on the FM rig to the SSB/CW rig.

The location in Ocean Shores is on a spit in the Pacific Ocean, and is theoretically challenging because it’s at sea level, there are rolling hills in the direction with populations, and the Olympic Mountain range blocks everything north and northeast. Still, the location empirically is quite good. I frequently work many new multipliers from this location, and some of the best Es runs I’ve ever experienced are from this location. Oddly, I frequently work stations on the other side of the Olympic Mountains from Ocean Shores. Go figure.

Morning at the Ocean Shores airport (CN76).

I worked all of my “morning person” friends in the greater Seattle region, KD7UO on Quartz Mountain (CN97), and AC7MD/R south of me in CN86, but that was it.

I moved to CN77 a little ahead of schedule to check into the 2m Weak Signal Net at 8:00am PDT. That provided a couple of extra grids (K7SMA in CN85 and WA7ZWG in CN88). I also worked KE7MSU/R in CN86 on both bands. Just past 1530Z, I heard a K6 station booming in from DM13, but he vanished immediately afterward. That was the only (brief) sign of Es on Sunday.

The CN77 location on a dirt waterfront access road.

Things were picking up, so I briefly returned to CN76 for a few more QSO. I was hoping to catch Barry, AC7MD/R, in CN76 as well, but he didn’t show up until I was in CN77 on the trip back. As it happens, the route back to Hoquiam (CN86) passes very close to the CN86/CN87/CN76/CN77 intersection, and there is a 1/4 mile stretch in CN76, where we succeeded in working on 6m. I also caught KE7MSU/R (CN86) on both bands.

The two hour trip to my next stop in CN85 rarely produces many QSOs. I managed only six this time, including working AC7MD/R from CN76 and CN86 and working WZ8T in CN85 on two bands.

I arrived in CN85 only a couple of minutes behind schedule and got down to work. One of my first QSOs was with K7ATN/R in CN95 on 2m, and immediately worked KB7W near Bend Oregon (CN93) on 2m as well. There were plenty of CN85 stations from here, but over half of the QSOs were back to CN87. The final stop, some 15 minutes away was on the North side of Green Mountain in CN86, where a few more QSOs and multipliers were found.

After the contest ended, I packed up the antennas for the long trip home. Before leaving, however, I drove to the east end of China Garden road and hiked to the summit of Green Mountain for a quick SOTA activation.

My secret ingredient: Rover Dust

Results:

After removing duplicates, this year I ended up with 324 QSOs (176 on 6m, 148 on 2m). The total is up a bit from the 298 QSOs from 2015. I made about the same number of 6m QSOs (176 versus 170 in 2015) but many more 2m QSOs (176 versus 128 in 2015).

Multipliers were down a bit this year. I had 95 total multipliers, 53 on 6m and 42 on 2m. In 2015 I ended up with one more multiplier on 6m and two more on 2m. The final (claimed) score is 44,840 this year versus 41,748 last year. A modest improvement.

Here is the breakdown by band and grid-activated of the QSO count:


Grid 6m 2m
CN76 12 14
CN77 11 13
CN85 15 19
CN86 33 24
CN87 24 17
CN88 17 15
CN96 21 11
CN97 23 19
CN98 20 16
Total 176 148
Points 176 296

And here is the number of multipliers by band and grid activated:

Grid 6m 2m
CN76 4 4
CN77 4 6
CN85 5 6
CN86 9 6
CN87 8 4
CN88 7 5
CN96 7 3
CN97 5 4
CN98 4 4
Total 53 42

Here are the folks that worked me ten or more times—a perfect score is 18 (nine grids, two bands):

  • 18 W7GLF
  • 18 N7EPD
  • 18 KE7SW
  • 17 W7FI
  • 17 KB7PSG
  • 16 KD7UO
  • 15 N6ZE/7
  • 14 AC7MD/R
  • 13 N7QOZ
  • 12 KD7TS
  • 11 KG7P
  • 10 KZ1W

Also, Paul, K7CW, who was on 6m only, worked me in all 9 grids.

Summary

The weather was highly cooperative this year, not too hot, not too cool. The atmosphere otherwise was mildly cooperative with some bursts of Es, although there wasn’t huge diversity in the grids worked by Es, and the openings weren’t particularly strong or sustained from what I could tell.

What made this contest fun was the other rovers. Rovers accumulate multipliers in each new grid they reach, so the more rovers the better for everyone. AC7MD/R made a big loop around the Olympic Mountains, lighting up the relatively rare grids of CN78, CN77, and CN76, among others. KE7MSU/R provided CN86 and a rare signal from CN85. N6LB/R activated CN88 and CN87 and possibly other grids. And K7ATN/R provided my only QSO into CN95. All these efforts were appreciated. I also appreciate that Dale, KD7UO, kept CN97 lit up for the entire contest. From many of my grids, Dale provided the only CN97 QSO.

This was a good one.

(Short link)

With the June VHF contest comes possibilities of sporadic E (Es) propagation, high levels of participation and, in the Pacific Northwest, some possibility of snow closures at higher elevations. This year, the snow stuck around for a long time, but cleared up in time for me to rove to some of my favorite 3000’+ locations.

I did the contest as a limited rover again this year—limited to four bands and modest power levels. The rove took me around western Washington from Granite Falls down to the Columbia River gorge and from near Mt. Rainier to the Pacific Ocean.

Equipment

The equipment list is pretty similar to what I used last year, with a little reorganization of both the weak signal and FM equipment.

The equipment rack
The equipment rack

Here is what I used for what:

  • 6m SSB/CW: Kenwood TS-480sat with a TE Systems 170W 6m brick
  • 2m SSB/CW: Yaesu FT-857d (#1) with RF Concepts 170W brick
  • 222 MHz SSB/CW: Elecraft XV222 transverter used with Yaesu FT-857d (#2), plus TE Systems brick for 100w
  • 432 MHz SSB/CW: Yaesu FT-857d (#1) with RF Concepts brick for 100w
  • 6m MHz FM: TYT9800plus (#1)
  • 2m FM: TYT9800plus (#2)
  • 223 MHz FM: Jetstream JT220M with 223 MHz into Mirage 100w brick.
  • 440 MHz FM: TYT9800plus (#1)

…a total of six radios, one transverter, and five bricks.

Heads and other things
For many rigs, the heads were mounted remotely on the center console; two rotor controls and an antenna switch box can also be seen.

Antennas

The Rover antenna farm has not changed in quite a while. Basically, there is a front and rear antenna stack, each with HD-73 rotors. The rear stack is deployed to a maximum height of 25′ at stops, whereas the front stack, with short antennas, is used in motion and was limited to about 9′. Here are the rear antennas:

Antennas
Antennas deployed at a stop (in Ocean Shores, CN76)
  • 50 MHz: Homebuilt 3-element Yagi (top)
  • 144 MHz: An 8 element WA5VJB “Cheap Yagi” (middle)
  • 222 MHz: An 11 element WA5VJB “Cheap Yagi” (bottom right)
  • 432 MHz: 12 element LFA yagi (bottom left)

and front antenna stack:

  • 50 MHz: Two element classic hex beam (top)
  • 144 MHz: A 4 element WA5VJB “Cheap Yagi” (middle)
  • 222 MHz: A 6 element WA5VJB “Cheap Yagi” (bottom right)
  • 432 MHz: An 8 element WA5VJB “Cheap Yagi” (bottom left)

For 222 MHz, a cross-over switch switched the transverter/TE Systems amp and FM rig/Mirage amp between the front and rear antennas. Mag-mount whips were used with the 6m, 2m, and 440 MHz FM rigs.

Planned Route

The planned route is identical to last two years. This map shows the general locations. This year, I stuck pretty closely to the route and timing.

Planned stops for the 2017 Jan VHF contest

The contest starts out in Ocean Shores, WA in CN76 and then north 1/2 mile to the CN77 line. Saturday afternoon is a long trek to Kalama, WA to work both CN85 and CN86, and finally an evening trip into CN95 on the Columbia river near N. Bonneville, WA. This year I stayed in a motel in Woodland, WA for the night.

Sunday morning began with a drive from Woodland to Mowich Lake Road near Carbonado, WA, which permits me to hit CN87 at 2,160′, CN86 at 3,000′ and CN96 at 3,100′. Next, CN97 and CN87 are activated from Central Park, Issaquah, and then off to CN88 at a school parking lot (400′) in Lake Stevens. The contest ends on the side of Mt. Pilchuck at about 3,000′.

Contest Day

I got a good, early start on Saturday, and, unlike last year, I arrived in Ocean Shores with plenty of time to set-up antennas and test out radios and amplifiers. Everything seemed in order.

Starting out the contest in Ocean Shores may not be ideal, since I miss many of the weaker signals in populated areas. But I usually pick up lots of interesting multipliers. From CN76, I almost immediately worked KB7W in CN93 and W7EW in CN84 on 2m. On 6m, I managed to work my buddy John, KF7PCL in CN76 on 6m. I believe he was operating portable from another event in Westport, so 6m was his only band. Frequently we work 2m and 432 MHz, as his home is nearby. I also worked Gabor, VE7JH/R in CN88 on 222 MHz, quite a trick considering the Olympic Mountain range is directly between us.

Stop in CN77
The stop in CN77, Ocean Shores

Many of the same QSOs were repeated from CN77. I briefly passed through CN76 while enroute to CN86. From there I managed to work VE7FYC in CN89, still with the Olympic Mountain range separating us. The rest of the drive through CN86 (with a brief few miles in CN87) was modestly productive, but things really picked up at the stop on China Garden Road in Kalama (CN86). Five miles to the south, in CN85, things picked up even more. One thing I noticed down there is that there is much more contest activity on FM calling frequencies in the Vancouver, WA/Portland, OR area than in the greater Seattle area. There were a lot of “bonus” QSOs on 2m and 446 MHz FM while I was in CN85 and CN86.

Next was an evening stop in CN95 where, with good timing, I would be right across the Columbia River from Etienne, K7ATN/R. In fact, he got there a little ahead of me and said that Steve, K7SWS/R, was on his way back from a rove in E. Oregon. When Steve got there, we engaged in an impromptu “grid circling” between CN85 and CN95, working all four bands with each other for each combination. Combined with a few additional QSOs into CN85 and even CN87, and I ended up with 32 QSOs from CN95, and new multipliers by working CN95 on
four bands.

Sunday morning in CN96
Sunday morning in CN96, looking west

Sunday morning began at 4:30 am (local) to be on the road by 5:00 am for a long drive to CN96. It took an hour and twenty minutes to make my first (in-motion) QSO at this early time. But things picked up and I made 23 QSOs while travelling through CN87 and a few more while driving 15 minutes on a bumpy dirt highway through CN86. I arrived in CN96 by 7:45 am (1445z) and worked folks in CN87, CN86 and even CN85. Around 1510z, there were signs of an Es opening, and I worked a handful of stations (and 7 new grids) centered around DM43 before the opening fizzled out by 1600z. Another hour in CN86 (again!) yielded plenty of QSOs, but no Es DX.

The next stop was Central Park in the Issaquah Highlands. Business was good from CN97, and around 2000z, there was a mild Es opening that provided a handful of QSOs and 4 new grids. My attempts to work new grids were briefly interrupted when a police car pulled up to check out what I was doing. Someone called the police reporting a truck with a lot of antennas. The cop was totally cool about it.

At 2100z I moved into the CN87 end of the long parking lot with hopes of working more Es as well as plenty of locals. Alas, no new grids were worked, although there were plenty of folks in the Puget Sound region providing QSOs. Enroute in CN87 to CN88, I connected on a couple of bands with Gary, WA7BBJ/R, who was in CN98—a grid I frequently activate, but less-frequently work. In CN88 (from a school in Lake Stevens), I worked Gary on the other two bands, and also worked Jason, KE7UIU, in CN98 on 3 bands. In CN88, I also worked John, VE7DAY, in CO70 on 2m (I had worked him a couple of times on 6m already).

School parking lot in CN88
Ready to make QSOs from CN88 from a school parking lot

The final stop of the day was the side of Mt. Pilchuck at about 3,000′. On the way up the forest service road, I passed WA7BBJ/R heading down. We completed four CN98 to CN98 QSOs. The grid itself was quite productive. There was a nice Es opening, but apparently Mt. Pilchuck was between me and the patch producing the opening. In hindsight, I should have gone to another 3,000′ location on the road to Green Mtn during Es season. It would have given me a shot at Es and a few more multipliers. In fact, although I worked 73 QSOs from CN98, only the last one, with VE7AHA in CN89 on 6m was a new multiplier. That was also in the last minute of the contest.

Ready to head home from CN98
The contest is over, and the antennas are packed up for the journey home from CN989

Results

Last year I made 522 QSOs for 667 points, and 55 grids worked + 10 grids activated for 65 multipliers. Last year’s (preliminary) score was 43,355. I was able to improve on most of these stats.

After removing duplicates, here are the numbers for 2017:

Number of QSOs:      647
Points:      852
Grids Worked:        59
Grids Activated:        10
Total Mults:        69
Score: 58,788

 

Here are the details by band and grid. Last year’s numbers are in parenthesis:

6 meters
2 meters
222 MHz
432 MHz
Total
CN76
7 (8)
13 (6)
5 (4)
8 (6)
33 (24)
CN77
9 (7)
10 (12)
4 (4)
4 (6)
27 (29)
CN85
33 (28)
32 (23)
18 (8)
22 (13)
105 (72)
CN86
44 (31)
28 (25)
18 (12)
19 (9)
109 (77)
CN87
21 (35)
21 (16)
9 (7)
12 (8)
63 (66)
CN88
19 (16)
19 (17)
5 (4)
12 (8)
55 (45)
CN95
12 (9)
10 (10)
5 (3)
5 (3)
32 (25)
CN96
36 (23)
18 (18)
10 (8)
10 (10)
74 (59)
CN97
44 (30)
16 (9)
8 (6)
12 (6)
80 (51)
CN98
34 (31)
16 (23)
10 (12)
9 (8)
69 (74)
QSOs
259 (218)
183 (159)
92 (68)
113 (77)
647 (522)
Points
259 (218)
183 (159)
184 (136)
226 (154)
852 (667)
Mults
26 (30)
13 (12)
10 (6)
10 (7)
59 + 10 (55 + 10)

 

And here are the grids worked for each band:

 Band Pts #Grids Grids
6m 218 30 CM95, CN73, CN76, CN79, CN84-9, CN94-5, CN97-8, CO70, CO80, DM03, DM06, DM13, DM33-4, DM38, DM42-3, DM45, DM54
2m 159 12 CN79, CN84-9, CN93-5, CN97-8, CO70
1.25m 136 7 CN79, CN84-9, CN95, CN97-8
70cm 154 7 CN79, CN84-9, CN95, CN97-8

 

Here are the stations with ten or more QSOs in my log:

  • 35 KD7UO
  • 34 KE7SW
  • 21 N7EPD
  • 21 AC7MD
  • 19 KE0CO
  • 18 KG7P
  • 18 K7ATN/R
  • 17 WA7TZY
  • 17 N7EHP
  • 17 K7SWS/R
  • 15 WA2BFW
  • 15 VE7JH/R
  • 15 N7QOZ
  • 15 N7MWV
  • 14 WA7BBJ/R
  • 13 W7FI
  • 13 K7ND
  • 12 W7IEW
  • 12 AC7T
  • 11 K7KAD/R
  • 10 K7JX
  • 10 K7ALO
  • 10 K0JJ

A special thanks to the other rovers, who made the contest much more fun for everyone, including me:

  • 18 K7ATN/R
  • 17 K7SWS/R
  • 15 VE7JH/R
  • 14 WA7BBJ/R
  • 11 K7KAD/R
  • 3 K7WW/R
  • 2 VE7AFZ/R
  • 1 WA8WZG/R
  • 1 AC7SG/R

(Shortcut to this post)

WW7D/M does the 7QP

The 2017 7QP was held from Saturday, May 6, 1300 UTC to Sunday, May 7, 0700 UTC. This was my 7th consecutive year running the 7qp. This year, like last, I did the 7QP without a driver. (The four years before that, my buddy Dave, drove while I operated.)

My route this year was slightly tweaked from what I did last year, basically roving through 29 counties, mostly in Idaho. Again, I roved in my trusty 1988 Toyota Pickup (with over 240,000 miles). Again, I used three homebuilt screwdriver antennas and a 10m whip. Again my primary rig was a Kenwood TS-480SAT with a Yaesu FT-857D as a backup. In fact, this 7QP was remarkably similar to last year’s adventure, include similar weather, including thunderstorms about the same time and place.

The equipment rack
The equipment rack including a TS-480, two FT-857s, a TYT-9800, and a 2m brick

I posted my schedule elsewhere before the contest. The 7QP rules were changed for 2017 so that APRS could be used by mobile stations with position reports only. My little ARPS box worked well for about half the contest. Then it quit…perhaps I accidentally unplugged it from USB power or powered it down by setting something on top of its power button.

Radio heads and cockpit information equipment
Radio heads (Top to bottom: TS-480, FT-857, and a TYT-9800) and cockpit information equipment (Tomtom GPS for navigation, Garmin eTrex for UTC clock and elevation)

I left about 10am on Friday morning for the 13+ hour trip to Driggs, ID. A screwdriver on front of the truck gave me some practice worked SOTA activations while en route. By the time I arrived, got checked in, organized things for the next morning, I hit the sack after midnight with the alarm set for 6am. The next morning, I was sitting on the end of “State Line Road”, simultaneously in Teton County, WY and Teton County, ID by 6:45 am. I set up the three screwdriver antennas and did some other pre-contest preparation for about 15 minutes and joined the contest a few minutes after the 7am (MDT or 1300z) start of the party.

View from the IDLEM/IDCLA line
View from the IDLEM/IDCLA line

Twenty meters was in pretty poor shape at the start, so I began on 40m CW for most of my stay in WYTET/IDTET. At 1330, I tried 20m again with only a few QSOs before moving to 40m phone. Twenty meters blew open about 20 minutes later while I was in motion through IDTET. For the next two hours, I switched between 20m and 40m, CW and SSB to equally good effect.

The antenna farm
The antenna farm: a front-mounted screwdriver with cap hat for 40m (day) & 80m (night), right rear screwdriver with small cap hat for 20m (day) & 40m (night), left rear screwdriver for 15m (day) and 20m (night), center left 10m whip, roof mounted 6m whip, roof mounted 2m whip and roof mounted 2m APRS antenna.

I reached the IDLEM/IDCLA line about 1600z (some 25 minutes early!) and tried 15m for a few QSO. Really, I would only find one other small (regional) opening on 15m for the rest of the contest. Twenty meters was in great shape, in fact, I stayed way past my departure time by 25 minutes. I would never completely make up for this lost time until the end of the contest. It’s worked out because I reduced stops during low-yield parts of the contest. IDLEM/IDCLA was worth 140 QSOs. The next stop was on the IDBUT/IDJEF line that produced 48 QSOs in 16 minutes!

In motion through IDJEF, IDBNV, IDBIN, and IDBAN the QSO rate was a phenomenal 50/hour. At about 2015z, things slowed down considerably on 20m, and 40m wasn’t so hot; the QSO rate dropped to 16/hour for a couple of hours. Forty meters opened up sometime around 2230z, and by 0000z, the QSO rate was up to 48/hour as I headed north through Lincoln and then Blaine Counties. By 0200z, I was cruising through IDELM and the QSO rate picked up again to one QSO per minute, well into IDADA county.

At a scenic overlook pullover in IDTWI
At a scenic overlook pullover in IDTWI

At 0330z, I arrived at the IDADA/IDBOI county line, some 50 minutes behind schedule. My 25 minute stay on this line produced 60 QSOs, all on 80m CW, including QSOs with VT and CT stations in the NEQP. Forty minutes later, I hit my last stop on the IDCAN/IDGEM line for just a few minutes. I kept in motion through the final four counties IDPAY, IDWAS, ORMAL and ORBAK. I noticed in IDPAY that my front screwdriver (set up for 80m at night) was showing SWR changes. I figured the finger stock was beat to a pulp in the top of the screwdriver, so I switched to 40m for the last hour. In fact, a thumbscrew holding a shunt coil to ground had worked its way loose. If I had stopped to investigate, I would have had 75/80m for the last hour. Oh well.

I rolled into Baker City, OR, where I had motel reservations, just as the contest ended. It was good timing—I was really not wanting to be driving by then. The next morning, I activated a nearby SOTA summit before heading home to Redmond, WA.

Results

Even though was behind schedule for much of the party, I still hit all 29 planned counties. After removing duplicates, the log contained 723 CW QSOs and 136 phone QSOs for a total of 859 QSOs. (This is slightly down from the 750 CW QSOs and 130 Phone QSOs from my solo effort last year). Here is the distribution of QSOs by band and mode:

Band
CW
Phone
80
109
5
40
218
50
20
379
81
15
17
0
Total
723
136

Here is the breakdown of QSOs by activated county:

County
QSOs
IDADA 61
IDBAN 16
IDBIN 37
IDBLA 31
IDBNV 13
IDBOI 30
IDBUT 32
IDCAM 14
IDCAN 15
IDCAS 7
IDCLA 89
IDELM 61
IDFRE 26
IDGEM 6
IDGOO 13
IDJEF 80
IDJER 12
IDLEM 72
IDLIN 39
IDMAD 41
IDMIN 5
IDPAY 24
IDPOW 19
IDTET 35
IDTWI 19
IDWAS 11
ORBAK 16
ORMAL 12
WYTET 23

In all, 335 unique calls were worked. (Slightly better from 329 last year). Here are the top stations worked by number of QSOs and counties:

Call
QSOs
Counties
N6MU
27
22
K6SRZ
18
16
W0BH
15
9
NA6O
12
12
WA6KHK
11
11
N2MM
11
10
K5KPE
11
10
NX6T
11
9
K7UM
10
5

Total multipliers were 59 (up from 52 last year). This included 48 states, all but NE and (oddly enough) ID, six VE provinces (AB, BC, NB, ON, QC, & SK), and five DX entities (DL, HA, I, JA, OM). Thus, 723 CW QSOs and 136 Phone QSOs the claimed score is:

59*(723*3 + 136*2) = 144,019.

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