Adventures in ham radio

Before writting up these contest summaries, I review the previous year and the previous similar contest (in this case, the ARRL June VHF contest). That way I can discuss what has changed from one year to the next and from the previous contest to the next. I used to quite enjoy imagining how station improvements and stop or route changes helped improve my score.

But for at least the past year, I’ve changed very little about the rover, and have made only minor changes to routes. This isn’t simply about laziness or lack of desire to change. Not infrequently, when thinking about a forthcoming contest, I’ll pull up some web tools to hunt for new places to stop, or new routes to follow. And I am always interested in new toys to make roving more productive or easier. But for the most part, I have a solid and manageable rover with routes that make good use of the ham population, geography, and road infrastructure in the Puget Sound region.

The station equipment in a rack
The station equipment racked-up and ready to roll

So, really, there isn’t much new to report for my station set-up, antennas, rover platform, etc. for September that wasn’t described in the ARRL June VHF write-up. One minor difference was the order antennas were placed on the front mast. In June the 2m antenna was on the bottom…this time it was in the middle.

The Contest

The week preceding the contest, I was in Bethesda, MD for a few days. I flew back on Friday night, and got home after 10pm. Most of the rover installation was completed the weekend before, but I still had a few things to take care of, so I was up at 6am for the 8am departure to Ocean Shores.

That almost worked…I was a bit slow getting out of the house. The trip to Ocean Shores was uneventful, but I arrived at the Ocean Shores airport parking lot (CN76) with 5 minutes to get ready for the contest. Fortunately everything went smoothly. The rear antennas were deployed, and I was calling CQ only a few minutes after 11am.

The first response came on 6m from John, KF7PCL, who lives in Ocean Shores (CN76). John and I had corresponded by email before the contest. He told me his antennas had been damaged in a recent wind storm, and he wasn’t sure if he would have 2m and 432 MHz available. Alas, he had gotten something to work because we ran the other bands without difficulty.

Six meters was quite noisy from this location, but 2m made up for it. The two surprises were working on 2m KD7HB in CN94, followed by KB7W in CN93. Both are in Oregon on the other side of the Cascade mountains.

After the scheduled 90 minutes, I made a dash 1/2 mile down to road to CN77. Here KF7PCL led off with three QSOs for three bands. Six meters was even more difficult from this spot. One of the highlights was working my friend Doug, AC7T, on 6m, 2m, and 222 MHz. Doug lives in my Redmond, WA neighborhood in a Condo with severe limitations on antennas.

The Rover set up near Grays Harbor in CN77
Ocean Shores, near Grays Harbor, in CN77

After the CN77 stop, I swung through CN76 again to pick up a couple extra stations. While en route, I was able to work VE7JH (CN88) in motion on 6m and 222 MHz, making it a sweep for us from CN77.

I was headed to the S.W. corner of CN87 with the aim of working KF7PCL three more times. Not only did I work John, but a bunch of other stations were able to hear me on both 6m and 2m. I worked KD7UO who mentioned that he was with KD7TS on a mountain top in CN96. That is a grid I frequently activate, but rarely work.

From there I made a two hour and thirty minute dash through CN86 (with a brief return to CN87) on my way to Green Mountain in Kalama, WA. This trip rarely produces many QSOs (except when there are Es openings), but for some reason I was able to work a surprising number of stations: 8 on 6m, 6 on 2m, 3 on 222 MHz, and 3 on 222 MHz.

Near Green Mountain in CN86 with the antennas stilled stowed for transport
Just arrived near Green Mountain (CN86) with the antennas still stowed for transport

The pace picked up considerably from near Green Mountain (Kalama, WA, CN86), starting with a 2m QSO with KD7HB in CN94. I also worked VE7AFZ/R in CO80 on 2m, the first time I’ve ever worked that grid. The only negative surprise was the lack of activity in CN85. I only worked K7YDL, K0JJ and N7ZO from this location that sits above the greater Portland area.

Antennas deployed in CN86
Antennas deployed in CN86

Five miles to the south, I set up in CN85. This stop was quite productive, but again, there was little CN85 activity. I did work VE7AFZ/R (CO80) again, and worked KD7UO (CN96) on all four bands, worked KB7W (CN93) on 2m, 222 MHz, and 432 MHz, and worked K7RBT in CN84 for a new 2m multiplier.

Finally, I took a long, late-night drive to N. Bonneville (CN95), along the Columbia River gorge. I was a little concerned about making any QSOs from the spot because (1) I wouldn’t arrive until after 9pm PDT, and (2) I rarely work anyone outside of CN85 from this spot.

But the trip paid off with 21 QSOs, including K7IDX/P in CN87 on 6m, W7LUD in CN87 on 2m, both KD7UO and KD7TS in CN96 on 4 bands, and 5 stations in CN85, some on multiple bands.

Around 10:30 pm, I headed north for a 2 hour trip to a motel in Chehalis, WA.

Sunday morning, I was up and out of the motel by 6am for a 90 minute trip to CN96. To my surprise, there was a lot of activity that early in the morning. I made 15 QSOs driving through CN87 and then another 12 QSOs in the 15 minutes passing through CN86.

Photo of the rover ready for action in CN96
Ready for action in CN96

CN96 was quite productive, including new multipliers for CN97 on 222 MHz with WA7BBJ, and CN89 on 2m with VE7AFZ/R. After that, I moved a few hundred meters down the road for my fifth excursion into CN86 to make 14 more QSOs, no new multipliers.

About five miles down the road from the CN86 stop was CN87. I had also made four brief excursions into CN87, but this was the “official” stop that produced a bit over 30 more QSOs, but no new multipliers.

I left CN87 a little early for the last stop near the CN86/CN96/CN87/CN97 intersection on Mud Mountain in CN97. This was my first and only trip to that grid, and it produced 65 QSOs and new multipliers for CN89 on 432 (N7ZE/VE7/R) and CN99 on 2m (VE7AFZ/R).

At this stop, I noticed that the microphone audio on the FT-857d used for 432 MHz was intermittent. Since I had a second FT-857d in the truck, I was quickly able to narrow the problem down to a bad microphone (but good cord). I had a 2m/432 MHz diplexer in my spares box, so I set up the “good” FT-857ds to cover both 2m and 432 MHz for the rest of the contest.

I left Mud Mountain with for an hour trip to CN88. The route was entirely through CN87. In my fifth segment through that grid, I was able to scare up ten additional QSOs.

The CN88 stop was at an elementary school in Lake Stevens, but at only 400′ MSL, I don’t have high expectations for this stop. It did produce a modest 42 QSOs and one new multiplier—CN99 on 6m with VE7AFZ/R. Another rover, KA7RRA/R (Dave) was nearby in CN88, and decided to stop by.

I suggested that he consider going to CN98 for the close of the contest. I would be there as well, but in a different location. We were, I believe, the only stations activating CN98 for the contest.

CN98 was modestly productive at about 50 QSOs, but in some past contests, this 3,000′ location has resulted in many more contest-end QSO and many new multipliers. This time I worked three new multipliers with KA7RRA/R in CN98 on the three bands he was carrying.

After the contest, I stowed the antennas and waited for Dave to stop by for a short debriefing, and headed back to Redmond.

Score

After removing duplicates, the log showed 546 QSO for 755 points, and 40 grids worked. I had an additional 10 multipliers for activating 10 grids. The final (preliminary) score was 37,750.

Last year, there were 476 QSOs for 535 points and 43 grids worked (plus 10 activated) giving a score of 33,655. Last year there were more rovers covering rare grids. I think the improvement in score came from a subtle change.

For both years, I had a TS-480SAT and two FT-857ds, as well as a Elecraft XV222 transverter. Last year, I used the transverter with one FT-857 and used the other FT-857 for both 2m and 432 MHz. This year, I moved the transverter to the Kenwood and had dedicated 2m and 432 MHz rigs (until the mic died in CN97). The TS-480’s two menus let me switch very quickly between 6m and 222 MHz.

The dedicated 432 MHz rig seems to have really improved my score, with 124 QSOs and 10 multipliers this year compared to 79 QSOs and 9 multipliers last year on that band. I may have lost a few 6m multipliers (161 QSOs and 9 mults this year versus 145 QSOs and 13 mults last year). Frankly, I think that difference is the lack of other rovers this year.

Here is a breakdown of the score by band and grid:

Grid 6m 2m 1.25m 70cm
CN76 8 18 4 9
CN77 9 13 6 10
CN85 24 20 7 13
CN86 24 27 15 20
CN87 23 21 12 16
CN88 12 13 7 9
CN95 8 7 3 3
CN96 19 22 12 15
CN97 19 19 11 17
CN98 15 16 8 12
QSOs 161 176 85 124
Points 161 176 170 248
Mults 9 14 7 10

 

And here are the grids worked for each band:


 Band Pts #Grids Grids
6m 161 9 CN76, CN85-88, CN96-99
2m 176 14 CN76, CN84-89, CN93-4, CN96-99, CO80
1.25m 170 7 CN85-88, CN93, CN96-97
70cm 248 10 CN76, CN85-89, CN93, CN96-98

 

The stations with 10 or more QSOs in the log were:

  • 35 W7FI
  • 33 KE7SW
  • 32 W7LUD
  • 28 VE7JH
  • 28 KE0CO
  • 20 KD7UO
  • 20 K7CW
  • 19 WA7TZY
  • 17 KD7TS
  • 17 K7ND
  • 17 AC7T
  • 16 KG7P
  • 14 N7EPD
  • 13 N7EHP
  • 12 WB7FJG
  • 12 WA2BFW
  • 12 KF7PCL
  • 11 WA7SKT
  • 11 KA7RRA/R
  • 11 K7IDX/P

This year there were few rovers in the region. At one point, I heard W6 stations coming in, but the Es opening disappeared before I could work them. Overall, it was an enjoyable contest with a good score to show for the effort.

(Short link to this post.)

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