Adventures in ham radio

Archive for the ‘mobile/rover’ Category

WW7D/M’s 2016 7QP

The 7th call area QSO party (7QP) was held on Saturday, May 7th this year. This was my 6th consecutive 7QP as a mobile station. It is still 18 hours of frenzied ham radio fun.

Last year, my buddy David and I roved from central Montana to central Washington state, hitting a total of 30 counties. We considered running a similar route this year, but for several reasons opted to head back to Idaho and tweak our 2014 7QP route. Our hope was to add the rare Lemhi and Custer counties in exchange for Owyhee county.

The week of the 7QP, David came down with a nasty chest infection that pretty much ruled out three or four days on the road. This meant that I would do the 2016 7QP solo. My final schedule included a stop in Lemhi in exchange for Owyhee. I tried to work in Custer, but the county added a lot of time on an unfamiliar gravel road. That would have been okay with a driver, but was too much for my solo effort.

In past years, David and I acquired a late-model vehicle, which I would get a day or two in advance and do a no-holes, no damage installation. But without David, I would use my 1988 Toyota Pickup truck—the one that is approaching 240,000 miles. Consequently, the equipment set-up was almost identical to what I used in March for the 2016 IDQP.

David and I had planned on leaving on Thursday for the 12 hour drive to SE Idaho. We intended to do spend the night near the Oregon, Idaho border and do a joint SOTA (and possibly NPOTA) activation sometime on Friday. This is pretty much what I did, only solo.

I left Redmond at 5pm on Thursday, and stopped in Baker City, OR, for the night. The next morning, I drove to Idaho while chasing SOTA activations as a warm-up exercise for the 7QP. At Mountain Home, ID, I took a diversion north and headed to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. When I arrived in the afternoon, it was raining enough to put a damper on thoughts of a joint SOTA/NPOTA activation. But the skies were clear to the west, so I hung out for awhile and the rain stopped.

I took the break in the weather to hike to the summit of Big Cinder Butte (SOTA: W7I/CI-126, NPOTA: MN21 & PV05), and activate the summit and Craters.

I arrived at my motel in Driggs, ID with plenty of time to relax and hit the sack early.

Equipment

A Kenwood TS-480sat was the RF workhorse this contest. I also had a Yaesu FT-857 and an LDG Z100plus tuner set up as a spare and to monitor bands for openings. Additionally, another Yaesu FT-857 monitored 2m simplex for local QSOs. A home-built antenna switch using latching SMA relays was used to move different antennas among different rigs.

The remote heads were mounted on a panel in front of the center console. On the dash itself were two cell phones. One served as a 24 hr clock. The other ran the “WhereAmI” app that uses GPS to tell me what county I am in.

This is the Rover “dash board”.

Antennas were three homebuilt screwdriver antennas. The rear left antenna was on 15m by day and 20m by night. The rear right antenna was 20m by day and 40m by night. And antenna mounted in a rotor off the front of the truck (the rotor is just a mount…no rotation was necessary), was set for 40m by day and 80m by night. Finally a 10m 1/4 wave whip is mounted in the bed just behind the driver.

The antenna farm consists of three screwdriver antennas (one mounted at the front, and two in the rear bed), one 10m quarter wave whip near the front of the bed, and a 2m/432 MHz mount on top of the cab.

The Contest

The fun began on the Teton, ID and Teton WY, county/state line. Forty meters CW was hopping at the 7am MDT (1300z) start of the party. My very first QSO was with another rover, Dink, N7WA/M, who was on a county line in Washington state. That resulted in four QSOs (two counties to two counties). What a great way to start! Next was my buddy Gabor, VE7JH, one of the mighty VHF contesters of the Pacific Northwest. Soon after, I worked our 7QP host, Dick, N7XU/M, in Twin Falls, Idaho…perhaps at the same spot I would be at in the afternoon. I worked an Oregon county line station, AA5TL/7, for another 4 QSOs.

Sitting on the north end of the Wyoming–Idaho state line (N. Stateline rd).

After 25 minutes, I realized that every QSO except the one with VE7JH was a 7 call area QSO. They were not the folks who got the most benefit from my 12+ hour drive to the Idaho/Wyoming border. I switched to 20m CW and almost immediately worked N7WA/M, still on a county line–four more! I did manage to work an Iowa station before turning to 40m SSB. Here I did a quick search-and-pounce and found W7AFA in CA, K8TE in NM, and a bunch of 7-land stations, including three members of my local Radio Club of Redmond (WA), Steve, W7QC (portable in Boundary County, ID), Grant, KZ1W and John, K7RLD.

After 40 minutes, I had 50 QSOs in the log–most double-QSOs, and a few quadruple QSOs. It was time to drive.

Twenty meters was now pretty open as I drove through the counties of Teton, Madison, Fremont, back into Madison, and into Jefferson. Occasionally, I would try 40m, but it didn’t last that long, and I was back on 20m. Fifteen meters was a big disappointment. I managed a single 15m QSO while driving through Clark county to the Clark–Lemhi county line.

I spent 55 minutes on the Clark-Lemhi county line, and it yielded 104 non-duplicate QSOs (mostly double QSOs, but one quadruple QSO). That felt good! Six of the QSOs were on 15m.

The Clark–Lemhi county line.
The Clark–Lemhi county line.

After a short drive back through Clark county, I landed on the Butte–Jefferson county line. Fifty minutes here produced 94 QSOs. Not too shabby! Twenty of the QSOs were on 15m. That was the only real “run” for that band. In fact, 1817z was the last 15m QSO for the contest.

The Butte–Jefferson county line

While sitting on the Butte–Jefferson line, I noticed that, in my haste to redo the trip as a solo effort, I had messed up on the travel time between two counties–I put zero minutes where I should have had 30 minutes. The error meant I would be about 30 minutes behind schedule. I decided to skip a few short stops along Interstate 15 to make up for the time. I sailed through Jefferson, Bonneville, Bingham, Bannock, Power, Cassia and Minnidoka, finally stopping on the Minidoka–Jerome county line. During this adventure I pretty much camped on 20m with some 40m QSOs sprinkled in.

After a 10 minute stop, the journey continued into Jerome and took at diversion south to Twin Falls county, were a 30 minute stop yielded 25 QSOs. Forty meters provided a few QSOs, but the majority were on 20 CW and a handful on 20 SSB.

Back on the road, I finished Jerome county, headed north through Gooding county and into Lincoln county. The 60 minute trip produced 58 QSOs, before I stopped on the Lincoln–Blaine county line. There I got a 20m SSB run going that produced 36 QSOs in 20 minutes.

Back on the road in Blaine county, I headed north to US 20 and headed west through Camas and into Elmore county. Beginning around 0000z, and for the next 2 hours, I transitioned from 20m to 40m as the money band. During this same period, the rain started. And the rain occasionally turned violent with electrical storms and brief episodes of BB-sized hail.

By the time I hit Ada county, 20m was fizzling out. At the Ada–Boise county line I made an unplanned stop. The rain was very heavy, and there was heavy lightening activity, seemingly, a few miles north of me to where I was headed. My plans had been to take a dirt road about 5 miles to the Boise–Gem county line. I’ve done this spur numerous times, including in March for the IDQP, but never with heavy rain. The road was rutted and I would be fairly exposed to lightening with few trees and rolling hills. Instead, I decided to work the Ada–Boise line and take a small diversion to Gem county from Payette county.

Ada–Boise produced 43 QSOs for a 30 minute stop. Through the rain and darkness, I headed through Ada county and then Canyon county into Payette county, where I parked at the north end of Labor Camp road, on the Payette–Gem county line. This was a spot I had used during the IDQP several years ago. After spending a few minutes on 40m, I switched to 80m (at 0415z) and got something of a run going. I left after 25 minutes and 48 QSOs, and then headed through Payette county for 30 minutes to the Payette-Washington county line.

After a few QSOs on 40m, I went to 80m (0525z) and stayed there for the remaining 95 minutes of the contest. I left the Payette–Washington county line after 20 minutes and 30 QSOs, with 75 minutes remaining in the 7QP. I made a dash through Washington, Idaho into Malheur county, Oregon, and then into Baker county, finishing the contest close to Baker City, where I stopped for the night.

Results

In the end, I activated all 29 planned counties, although I made but a single QSO in Bannock county. After removing duplicates, we ended up with 750 CW QSOs and 130 Phone QSOs for a total of 880 QSOs. Last year I made 1,019 QSOs, but that was with a driver. Here is the distribution of QSOs by band and mode:

Band
CW
Phone
80
104
4
40
184
23
20
435
103
15
27
0
Total
750
130

In all, 329 unique calls were worked. Here are the top stations worked by number of QSOs and counties:

Call
QSOs
Counties
N6MU
21
18
N7WA/M
15
6
WA2VYA
13
13
N8II
13
9
VE7JH
12
10
W6AFA
11
11
KD7H
10
10
N5AU
10
9

Total multipliers were 52. This included 45 states (all but DE, LA, ND, NE, and SC), four VE provinces (BC, ON, QC, and SK), and three DX entities (DL, HA, and JA). Thus, 750 CW QSOs and 130 Phone QSOs the claimed score is:

52*(750*3 + 130*2) = 130,520.

(Shortcut to this post.)

Advertisements

WW7D’s 2015 ARRL UHF Contest

The ARRL UHF contest comes at the most spectacular part of the year in Western Washington. Typically we have pleasant sunny days with highs in the mid- to high-70s, and lows around 60. That isn’t what happened this year. Instead, the weather forecast was for highs in the mid-90. Oh well…at least my old 1988 Toyota Pick-up has wing windows.

Post-contest, I can say that the weather wasn’t so bad, and the contest offered great challenges and plenty of fun.

Equipment

For this contest, I participated as a Limited Rover, meaning that I was on 222 MHz, 432 MHz, 902 MHz and 1296 MHz. It would seem I would only need four radios. But, in reality, one needs more than than because weak-signal and FM equipment are quite different and operate in different parts of the band. Here is what I used for radios this contest:

The shack
  • On top of the rack is the 1296 MHz transverter/amp/TR switch/sequencer/IF switch. I described this in more detail last year.
  • Below that is the SSB Electronic LT-33S 903 MHz transverter.
  • Below that is a Yaesu FT-857D for 432 MHz (the head is mounted remotely).
  • Below that is another Yaesu FT-857D that is the IF radio for 1296 MHz and 903 MHz transverters (the head is mounted remotely).
  • Below that is a Yaesu FT-290R 2m all mode rig for 2m coordination and as a back-up IF rig for 903 MHz and 1296 MHz transverters.
  • Below that is an Alinco DR-590 for 440 MHz FM.
  • Below that is an RF Concepts 4-110 amplifier, 100 Watts on 432 MHz.
  • The bottom of the stack is a Kenwood TS-480SAT used as an IF rig for 222 MHz.
  • Mounted sideways on the right side on top is a Mirage C2512G amplifier putting out 100 Watts on 222 MHz FM.
  • Mounted sideways on the right side on bottom is a TE Systems 2212G amplifier putting out 100 Watts on 222 MHz SSB/CW
  • Below that is a 50w 903 MHz amplifier assembly, including the coax attenuator. I described this in more detail last year.
  • On the left side of the rack is a Kenwood TK-981 (12w, 927.5 MHz nbFM).
  • Below that, with a blue display, is a Jetstream JT220M (223.5 MHz FM).
  • Below that is an Icom IC-1201 (10w, 1296.2 MHz FM or 1294 MHz FM).
  • Below that, mounted sideways, is an Elecraft XV222 222 MHz transverter.
  • Two rotors control boxes for Alliance HD-73 rotors can be seen above and below the paddle.
  • Atop the upper rotor is a control for the antenna switching relays. For 222 MHz the two antennas are switched between the two rigs/amps. Three other switches are SPDT relays to switch 432 MHz, 903 MHz, and 1296 MHz between the front and rear antennas.
  • Not visible next to that is a mechanical switch to move the 440 transceiver between the front and rear antennas.
  • Next to the paddle is a K1EL Winkeyer used for CW.
  • Behind the passenger seat was a second battery in parallel with the truck battery with the output piped through a power booster.

The whole mess can be seen from behind here.

The entire rack was secured with several bungee cords around the back of the seat.

Here is the operating position, with two Yaesu FT-857d heads (432 MHz and 903/1296 MHz) and the Kenwood head (222 MHz). Two old cell phones running GPS Test+ show the current maidenhead grid and a 24 hour clock.

The shack

This collection of equipment represent a few improvements and changes over last year. First, is the addition of an amplifier to the 223.5 MHz FM radio. At least half of the 22x QSOs are on 223.5 MHz, so doubling the power over the Jetstream’s 50 W is a nice improvement (and the preamp built into the amp is a little help).

The second difference was using an FT-857d as the IF rig for the 1296 MHz and 903 MHz transverters. Last year I used the Yaesu FT-290R, which worked okay, but the 857d has modern filters, clean switches, a better display, better tuning and an actual headphone jack. Additionally, the rig interfaces properly with the PTT using CW. With the 290R, I had to hold the PTT switch on the mic when sending CW. Overall, the FT-857d was a huge improvement.

The third improvement was a beefier 24v power supply for the 903 MHz 50w amplifier. The Stealth Microwave amplifier runs in class A, making it a power hog. Last year the switching power supply blew an internal fuse halfway through the contest.

Finally, I replaced the Alinco handheld that monitored 1294 MHz and 1296.2 MHz FM with the Icom IC-1201 10w mobile rig.

Antennas

The antenna stacks were quite similar to last year’s. The rear stack covered four “all mode” bands (222 MHz, 432 MHz, 903 MHz, and 1296 MHz), and an additional vertically polarized antennas for 440 MHz FM. The front stack covered everything with smaller antennas that could be rotated in motion.

In all, there were 13 yagis hanging off the truck. Here are the details:

The front stack of yagis is legally usable (i.e. rotatable) while in motion and had seven WA5VJB “cheap yagis”:

The front antenna stack
Lower cross-boom on front mast
  • Top cross-boom right: 8 element 432 MHz horizontally polarized yagi
  • Top cross-boom left: 8 element 440 MHz vertically polarized yagi
  • Middle: 6 element 222 MHz yagi
  • Bottom cross-boom left: 10 element 903 MHz horizontally polarized yagi
  • Bottom cross-boom center left: 10 element 1294 MHz vertically polarized yagi
  • Bottom cross-boom center right: 10 element 1296 MHz horizontally polarized yagi
  • Bottom cross-boom right: 10 element 927 MHz vertically polarized yagi

The antennas were fed by seven runs of LMR-240 that traversed the engine compartment, under the chassis and into the cab through a stock hole under the passenger seat.

Here is the rear antenna stack with a little more variety in antenna design:

The front antenna stack
  • Top: 12 element 432 MHz LFA yagi
  • 33 element 903 MHz loop yagi
  • 24 element 1296 MHz loop yagi
  • 11 element vertically polarized 440 MHz “cheap yagi”
  • Bottom: 11 element 222 MHz “cheap yagi”

The only real change over last year’s antenna assemblage was a few more elements on the rear 222 MHz yagi.

The Roving Plan

Like the last two years, I intended to hit three primary locations—two grid intersections and one border line. There were minor details in stop locations.

The three grid intersections or borders visited

The overall plan was to start out north near the CN87/CN97/CN88/CN98 grid intersection and work my way south to the CN87/CN97/CN86/CN96 grid intersection for Saturday. I would sleep in my truck in a rest area near my last stop for the night, and activate CN85 and CN86 (again) Sunday morning.

Here are the details:

Saturday

  • CN98, Mt. Pilchuck, Granite Falls, WA 2,970′ 11:00am–12:10pm
  • CN88, Lake Stevens, WA 430′ 01:20pm–02:15pm
  • CN87, Redmond, WA 300′ 03:15pm–03:30pm
  • CN87/97, Central Park in Issaquah 750′ 04:10pm–04:50pm
  • CN97, Mud Mountain, Buckley, WA 800′ 06:05pm–06:50pm
  • CN96, Mowich Lake Road, Carbonado, WA 3200′ 07:50pm–09:00pm
  • CN86, Mowich Lake Road, Carbonado, WA 3080′ 09:15pm–10:00pm
  • CN87, Mowich Lake Road, Carbonado, WA 2050′ 10:20pm–11:00pm

Sunday

  • CN85 Green Mtn, Kalama, WA 1785′ 07:00am–09:20am
  • CN86 Near Green Mtn, Kalama, WA 1700′ 9:50am–11:00am

The contest started off well from Mt. Pilchuck. It always does from this spectacular location. My very first QSO was with Loren, WA7SKT, in a valley way to the south in CN86. One of the surprise QSOs in this location was working WA7FUS on 927.5 MHz nbFM. Before the contest started, I had programmed a bunch of channels with different PL tone encoding, and one of them worked to raise WA7FUS. The other nice surprise was working Dale, KD7UO, who was portable at the south end of CN97, on 1296 MHz, and Lisa, N6LB on a nearby mountain in CN98, on one band. We would work on two other bands later in the contest. The final surprise was working Greg, K7YDL, down in Portland, OR, CN85 on 432 MHz.

Ready to go in CN98, Mt. Pilchuck

The next stop, in CN88, was productive, but not spectacularly so, as is usual for this low location. The surprise was working seven stations on 1296 MHz (including KD7UO again), but only one on 903 MHz.

The next planned stop was in my back yard in CN87 that was pretty much on the way to the next location. One reason was to make sure I could work my friend & neighbor Doug, AC7T, on 222 MHz, 432 MHz and 927.5 MHz. My other intention was to refresh my coffee and grab some food. It also allowed me to pick up a few items I had forgotten (sunglasses) and drink lots of cold water. I had messed up the programming on the K1EL WinKeyer, so I went to reprogram it from my home PC. For some reason the USB port was not properly connecting. I ended up wasting 15 minutes before getting it to work.

I ended up spending way too much time at home, so I bypassed my next location (a park in Issaquah from which to activate CN97 and CN87 with good reach to the north) and headed to Mud Mountain (CN97).

Mud Mountain was modestly productive and I got back on schedule. The last three stops of the evening are on the same gravel road that passes through CN87 then CN86 and then CN96. I drove slowly up the gravel road and worked as many people off the front antennas as I could from each grid.

Once in CN98, I set up the rear antennas and worked more systematically than is possible while in motion, and repeated this for CN86 and then CN87. The last QSO of the evening was with Tom, KE7SW, on 927.5 MHz just after midnight while I was heading off to Kelso, Washington for the evening and getting close to his house. We had tried several times to work on 903 MHz from CN87 stops, but it just wasn’t working.

Twilight in CN98

The next morning I set up in CN85 near Green Mountain. Most QSOs were back into CN87, including working a number of people on 1296 MHz and 903 MHz. I made a local (CN85) QSO on 927.5 MHz. My longest QSO was with VE7AFZ/R in CN89 on 432 MHz. I was also mighty pleased to work KB7W in CN93 on 222 MHz and 432 MHz.

Then something funny happened as I tried to work KE7MSU/R on 927.5 MHz. I heard a short warble tone at the end of my transmission (sort of like a repeater).

I looked at the radio and it said “927.5” with TA (=talkaround=simplix) displayed. “I don’t remember a programming option for a ‘roger beep'”, I thought, as I continued calling the other station. Then someone with a 5-land call came back and told me I shouldn’t be using repeaters for the contest. What the…?!? I double and triple-checked the display and, indeed, it said 927.5 and had TA displayed. The other station pointed out that he was in Texas.

I was very busy at the time, so I couldn’t debug and figure out what (linked) repeater I was talking on. I verified (for a 4th time) that the display was “927.5” and that “TA” was being displayed, then powered down the TK-981. When I had a few minutes some time later, I powered up the radio and tested it using a handheld radio on 927.5 MHz. It worked as expected. I subsequently made simplex QSOs on the radio.

This confused me, so after the contest I emailed the AR902MHz Yahoo group for help. I learned that there was a simplex node in Vancouver, WA connected into the AllStar network. I had never heard of the AllStar network, but with a little post-contest homework, the very confusing mystery was solved.

The final stop of the contest was on Green Mountain in CN86, about 15 minutes to the north. Here, again, I worked KB7W (CN93) on 222 MHz and 432 MHz, VE7AFZ/R on 432 MHz as well as 222 MHz, and I worked KE7MSU/R on 927 MHz (without the AllStar problem).

CN86 near Green Mountain

Perhaps the biggest surprise was working Scott, VE7FYC, on Hollyburn Mtn. ( 4350 feet ) in CN89. Just North of Vancouver, B.C, on 223.5 MHz FM. He had a solid signal using a hand-held radio—and we were probably cross-polarized. It turns out I was his only contest QSO for the day.

In the last moments of the contest, KB7ADO, who I had worked from CN85, on two bands, showed up and worked me on 222 MHz, 432 MHz, and 927.5 MHz. It was a nice way to end the contest.

Results

The final tally was 241 QSOs and 22 grids worked. Adding the 7 grids activated gives 29 multipliers. (Last year I had 178 QSOs and 32 multipliers.) Here are the QSO details:

Grid 222 MHz 432 MHz 903 MHz 1296 MHz
CN85 10 15 4 4
CN86 16 18 8 9
CN87 10 13 7 6
CN88 9 5 1 7
CN96 8 16 5 7
CN97 6 9 5 7
CN98 8 15 5 8
Total 69 91 35 48

And here are the grids worked for each band:

 Band Pts Grids
222 174 7 CN85 CN86 CN87 CN89 CN93 CN97 CN98
432 192 8 CN85 CN86 CN87 CN88 CN89 CN93 CN97 CN98
903 126 4 CN85 CN86 CN87 CN97
1296 201 3 CN87 CN97 CN98

The final (preliminary) score is 28,188, a 25% improvement over last year’s score.

The log shows 41 unique call signs, and 28 of them provided multiple QSOs (different bands or from different grids). Here are the stations with double-digit QSO counts:

  • 26 KE0CO
  • 26 K7ND
  • 25 N7EPD
  • 20 KE7SW
  • 19 W7GLF
  • 13 WA7TZY
  • 12 KD7UO
  • 11 KG7P

Things went quite smoothly this year. The equipment worked well and was trouble-free. It was a good adventure.

WW7D roves the 2015 CQWWVHF contest

The CQWWVHF contest comes at the greatest time of the year in the Pacific NW. Summer is underway, typically with dry weather in the 70s or 80s. It helps that the contest comes at the height of sporadic E (Es) season. This year my enthusiasm wavered a bit as the weather forecast pointed to a weekend in the high 90s—pretty unusual for western Washington. And the Es season wasn’t very impressive. Even so I tried to muster all the enthusiasm I could, and ended up putting together a solid rover effort for a hot weekend.

Last year I had made elaborate plans for flying to different grids during part of the contest. There was just no time for that kind of thing this year, and the chance of low coastal clouds in the morning ruled out my favorite airport roving stops. So this one was completely out of the 1988 Toyota pickup. You know…the one without air conditioning.

The only real improvements to the station over last year were (1) the addition of a 4 ele WA5VJB “Cheap Yagi”, vertically polarized, for 146 MHz FM, replacing a 3 element version from last year, (2) extending the rear 2m yagi from 8 elements to 10 elements, and (3) using a spare Yaesu FT-857d to monitor and call CQ on 52.525 MHz FM with 100 watts instead of using a lower power Alinco 6m radio. The extra power achieved nothing, as I ended up with zero QSOs on 6m FM.

Plans:

The plans for 2015 were not all that different from the plans in 2014.

GRID Location Elevation Start Time (PDT) End Time (PDT)
Saturday    
CN98 Mt. Pilchuck 2700′ 11:00 AM 12:15 PM
CN88 Lake Stevens 400′ 01:30 PM 02:30 PM
CN97 Mud Mountain 1461′ 04:45 PM 05:45 PM
CN96 Carbonado 3200′ 06:45 PM 07:45 PM
CN86 Carbonado 3000′ 08:00 PM 08:50 PM
CN87 Carbonado 2167′ 09:10 PM 09:40 PM
         
Sunday    
CN76 Ocean Shores 16′ 07:15 AM 08:05 AM
CN77 Ocean Shores 15′ 08:20 AM 09:05 AM
CN86 Kalama, WA 1700′ 12:00 PM 12:45 PM
CN85 Kalama, WA 1785′ 01:10 PM 02:00 PM

The one big change over last year was the grid order on Sunday. In 2014, I started out near Kalama, WA and worked both CN85 and CN86 before heading to Ocean Shores, WA for CN77 and CN76. This year, I started out Sunday morning in CN76, then CN77, then a long trek to Kalama for CN85 and ending in CN84.

For the most part, I stuck to this plan and kept pretty much on time. The biggest deviation was shortening my stay in CN88 because noise levels were very high on 6m. Instead, I stopped by my house in CN87 where I set up in the back yard for about 30 minutes, made some fresh coffee, and retrieved the sun glasses I had left behind in the morning.

The Contest

I left home at 8:30am for the two hour trip to a landing on the side of Mt. Pilchuck in CN98. Rounding the final corner, across the road from my starting point, was a van, a tent, yagi parts, and two people. Brief introductions followed; what I saw was a pair of hilltopper stations being put together by K7RBW and W7DAO. They estimated getting their stations on the air shortly before I planned on leaving. This positive development meant that I would likely work CN98 on two bands from three different grids!

Ready to go from CN98

CN98 is always quite productive. Besides working from Portland (CN85) to Vancouver (CN89), I was able to work KF7PCL in Ocean Shores (CN76) on both bands. I also worked K7ATN, who was a hilltopper station (10w) south of Portland, and KD7UO, on Table Mountain in E. Washington (CN97), on 6m. Also notable was a 2m QSO with KG7OFQ, doing a SOTA activation on Mt. Catherine.

The next stop, CN88, is an elementary school in Lake Stevens, WA. In the past, this location has worked pretty well. This day, it was more difficult with high noise levels. Still K7ATN and KD7UO were both able to get through on 6m. Of course, K7RBW and W7DAO were booming in from Mt. Pilchuck in CN98.

As I mentioned, I left CN88 early and headed to my backyard, which was on the way to my next stop. While en route, I again easily worked K7RBW and W7DAO (CN98). But I also worked KD7TS (CN97), and K7ATN (CN85) this time on both bands using the small antennas on the front of the truck.

The next stop was Mud Mountain (CN97), which is a reasonably good location. Aside from working KD7UO on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, the rest of the QSOs were easy western Washington contacts. There was no signs of Es openings anytime up to this point.

CN96 is a spectacular rover location, located at 3,200′ along a ridge line on a gravel state highway. From this location I worked people from Portland to Vancouver, B.C. and west to Ocean Shores (KF7PCL). It was at this stop that I made my first and only Es QSO to K7JA in DM03. A little later I heard XE2CQ, and he caught the “rover”, but his signal vanished before completing the QSO.

Sunset from 3,000′ in CN86

A little down the road in CN86 (at 3,000′) is almost as good as the CN96 spot. I spent less time here because the Sunday route includes much time in CN86. A thousand feet lower, and a few miles down the road, is CN87 (again). I made a few QSOs before heading west to Ocean Shores. The 2.5 hour trip resulted in few QSOs, but there was some short bursts of Es propagation to tantalize me along the way.

Sunday morning in CN76

Sunday morning began in the Ocean Shores airport parking lot in CN76. This location doesn’t usually produce lots of QSOs, but is rich in multipliers. This contest produced a good number of both. A little after 8am, I crashed the weekly 2m weak signal net, and netops K7SMA and W7GLF kindly let me work folks. Immediately afterward, I moved a mile down the road into CN77 to successfully catch the tail end of the weak signal net. I worked KD7UO (CN97) on both bands. We had not worked from CN76, so I headed back to the grid to work Dale and a few other people I had missed in CN76 earlier. And then I headed back to CN77 to work a few new people that popped up during my second trip to CN76.

Low clouds over the Ocean Shores runway (CN76)

The CN7x extravaganza was followed by a long, lonely drive from Ocean Shores, WA to Kalama, WA for the last two stops on the north side (CN86) and south side (CN85) of Green Mountain. The CN86 stop was brief, considering I had spent hours in CN86 already, but I did get a couple of new multipliers on 6m out of it. The CN85 spot overlooks Vancouver, WA and Portland to the south and has good reach into Seattle. The stop produced 13 new multipliers, including KB7W in CN93 (on the other side of the Cascades), KF7PCL in CN76, and W7LOU in CN84.

Results:

Last year I made 223 QSOs for 103 grids on 6m and 110 QSOs for 33 grids on 2m, for 443 points times 136 multipliers, giving a preliminary score of 60,248. But last year the final few hours of the contest happened during an enormous Es opening on 6m.

This year I made 170 QSOs for 54 grids on 6m and 128 QSOs for 44 grids on 2m, for 426 points times 98 multipliers and a preliminary score of 41,748.

The score reflects a solid improvement on two meters and a near absence of Es on 6m. Not too bad.

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


Grid 6m 2m
CN76 12 14
CN77 13 12
CN85 22 14
CN86 25 10
CN87 24 16
CN88 11 9
CN96 23 15
CN97 14 14
CN98 26 24
Total 170 128
Points 170 256

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

Grid 6m 2m
CN76 5 5
CN77 5 5
CN85 7 6
CN86 7 3
CN87 6 5
CN88 5 3
CN96 8 5
CN97 4 5
CN98 7 7
Total 54 44

Finally, I want to recognize the stations that worked me ten or more times (maximum of 18 = 9 grids x 2 bands):

  • 17 N7EPD
  • 16 KD7TS
  • 16 KD7UO
  • 16 KE7SW
  • 15 AC7T
  • 13 K7ND
  • 12 N7QOZ
  • 11 WA7GCS

Summary

The temperatures were in the high 90s much of the weekend. It didn’t really bother me until after the contest, when I got stuck for an hour in a traffic jam on the interstate. Aside from that minor issue, it was a terrific contest, even without much in the way of Es.

(Short link)

WW7D/M’s Idaho QSO Party Adventure (2015)

This is the third year I’ve participated as a mobile station in the annual Idaho QSO Party (IDQP), and this one was at least as enjoyable as the first two.

My first trip in 2013 took me through Western Idaho from Elmore county north to Bonner county through 13 counties in total. I had never been in any of the counties south of Nez Perce county, so it was fun exploring new territories. Then, in 2014, I undertook an ambitious 26 county trek beginning in Teton county in east Idaho and ending on the Payette–Washington line in west Idaho, and covering all southern Idaho counties less four in the SE corner of the state.

For 2015, my intent was to improve the 2014 route, execute the plan better and do so with a better mobile station.

2015 Route

In the months leading up to the 2015 IDQP, I spent a lot of time with mapping software trying to squeeze in a few more counties. My main constraint was to end close to the Washington or Oregon border to facilitate a drive home on Sunday night. The best I could find was to trade off a bit of sleep in order to add a single new county (Lemhi) to the mix. I made a few other minor changes to the route and stops, and changed the timing of some stops.

The plan for day one begins on the Lemhi–Clark county line on the Salmon highway followed by an eastbound trek to the Madison–Teton county line. From there, the route backtracks a bit before heading south, eventually taking a short spur into Twin Falls county. From there the route zig-zags north to Blaine county and then west through Camas, Elmore and ending at a motel in Boise (Ada county).

WW7D/M's 2015 IDQP Route, Day 1
WW7D/M’s 2015 IDQP Route, Day 1 (click for larger image)

Sunday morning begins before sunrise with a trip up to the Boise–Gem county line located several miles down a dirt road off of highway 55. The route backtracks from there through Ada county into Canyon, takes a detour through Owyhee county and then north through Canyon, Payette and ends on the Payette–Washington county line.

WW7D/M's 2015 IDQP Route, Day 2
WW7D/M’s 2015 IDQP Route, Day 2 (click for larger image)

Equipment

The primary radio was a Kenwood TS-480SAT putting out 100 watts. Additionally, two Yaesu FT-857Ds were available as back-up rigs and for some special purposes (discussed below). As it turned out, the two Yaesus got almost no use.

The rover vehicle was my trusty 1988 4WD Toyota pickup truck. I purchased this vehicle with almost 200,000 miles on it in 2013 just before using it in my first IDQP.

Four antennas were used for the contest. Three antennas were homebuilt screwdriver antennas. Two screwdrivers were mounted toward the rear of the bed.

The three rear antennas
The three rear antennas

Each screwdriver had a daytime configuration and a nighttime configuration. The passenger-side rear antenna had a stinger with a small capacitance hat on it about two thirds of the way up. This antenna was my primary 20m antenna during the day and could go to 40m at night. The driver-side rear antenna had a stinger with no capacitance hat. This antenna was primarily used for 15m during the day and 20m at night.

Just behind the driver, toward the front of the cab was a 1/4 wave 10m whip. This antenna was for 10m, and connected to a Yaesu with an LDG antenna tuner. The antenna was a perfect match without the tuner, but the tuner would allow me to use the whip on 15m or 20m, should the need arise. Why would the need arise, you ask? Well…suppose a low hanging branch took out a couple of screwdrivers… The antenna was only used for 10m, but rather fruitlessly.

Another view of the three rear antennas
Another view of the three rear antennas

The third screwdriver antenna was on the front of the truck, mounted in an Alliance HD-73 rotor. The rotor is normally used for VHF and UHF rover operations, but it makes a fine platform for mounting one screwdriver antenna. This antenna had a large capacitance had made of stainless steel wire and an aluminum central hub. A stout 3.5′ stainless stinger supports the hat and allows the antenna to be tuned from 80m down to 20m. It was used as a 40m antenna for the day configuration and an 80m antenna for the night configuration. A cross-over switch was used to swap the front screwdriver and the rear driver’s side antennas between the other FT-857 and the Kenwood. That allowed me to use the FT-857 to, say, hunt for 40m stations while 15m was still open on Saturday. Or look for 15m activities on the FT-857 early on Sunday morning while using the front antenna on 40m with the TS-480.

The front screwdriver antenna
The front screwdriver antenna

For solo operations, one must not only make QSOs and log, but also drive safely and navigate accurately. An old Android cell phone provided a UTC date and time function using the GPS Test+ application. Another cell phone ran the Where am I? application that displays a small map and names the current county. This application requires a data connection and tends to chew up one’s data allotment. A GPS was programmed with county line crossings and stops as waypoints. I recently purchased a TomTom GO 500 GPS, and used it for the first time as a rover in the January VHF contest. It worked well enough that I felt I could rely on it for the IDQP. It didn’t let me down. In fact, I loved the right sidebar function that shows linear distance to waypoints and displays gas stations. Last year, I had an anxious 30 minutes after I missed a gas stop and proceed to consume all but one gallon of gas in the tank before finding a gas station. (This year, I also carried a jerrycan with 5 gallons of fuel…just in case.)

All logging was done on paper, using a clip board firmly attached to my right leg and mechanical pencils with stout 0.9mm lead. Driving and logging isn’t for everyone. It takes much careful practice, but one can learn to operate a radio and log safely while driving. Usually I stick to CW while driving because it ends up being less distracting (don’t ask me why…it is just that way).

The Contest

The contest began for me on Friday morning, in Redmond, WA, with a 12 hour drive to Idaho Falls. I didn’t quite have my station completely assembled, and the antennas were stowed in the back of the truck for this part of the trip. Speeds of 70 or 80 MPH put wear and tear on the screwdriver antennas, particularly the finger stock, so I didn’t want to add to this unnecessarily.

Fortunately, the contest begins at 1pm local time, giving me plenty of time to sleep-in, finish station and antenna assembly and get to my starting point. On Saturday morning, I drove to a parking area near the Clark–Butte county line that I remembered from past contests. I arrived with three hours to kill, with a 20 minute trip to the Lehmi–Clark starting line. That was plenty of time to install antennas, tidy up wires, set up log sheets, eat, make a few phone calls, monitor the bands, check the oil, and kick the tires.

The Lehmi–Clark line had plenty of room to safely park on the county line. Twenty meters CW seemed like a good place to start. My buddy Doug, AC7T, immediately came back to my CQs. Of course, it helped that I had been on the phone with him an hour earlier, killing time before the start. But I only worked one more station before switching to 20 phone. This also yielded only a couple of QSOs.

On the Lemhi--Clark county line at the start of the IDQP
On the Lemhi–Clark county line at the start of the IDQP

Fifteen meters was in better shape and I managed a couple of short runs on both CW and phone, including a handful of European stations. Aside for a brief 15m run on the Clark–Butte line, the band was never really as productive as 20m for the rest of the IDQP. Twenty meters CW and phone became relatively productive as I traversed Clark, Butte, Jefferson, Madison, Fremont, and Madison again on my way to Teton; still, I could tell conditions were significantly down compared to the two previous years.

By the time I left Jefferson county for the final time, almost 300 QSOs had been logged (including a couple dozen duplicates), and 185 multipliers. One of the fun things about the IDQP (relative to, say, the Salmon Run or 7QP) is that mobile stations accumulate multiliers anew with each county and by mode. Hence, I tried to spend time working phone and CW in each county.

Traveling through Bonneville, Bingham and Bannock counties produced moderate QSO rates on 20m. I hit Power county at about 0100 UTC, and 20m was fading; but 40m wasn’t quite ripe yet. The QSO rate went way down through Cassia and Minidonka counties, with a mix of 20cw and 40cw. Perhaps the only saving grace was the kick of working OM2VL in both counties…on 40m, no less! Fourty meters improved a bit in Jerome county. Again, I worked OM2VL. The QSOs came one per minute (phone and CW) after crossing into Twin Falls county for a 30 minute stay.

Back in Jerome county at 0350 GMT, the first 80m QSOs came through with W7GF in Oregon and KG7E in Custer county, ID. But it was back to 40m CW for a rate of about 0.5 QSOs per min. The rate slightly improved and 80m showed some improvement in Gooding and Lincoln counties. Fourty meters was fading during a brief stay on the Lincoln–Blaine line. A big surprise was working OM2VL (again!) at 0529 UTC on 40m CW as I got rolling through Blaine. Shortly after that, it was all 75m and 80m for the evening, and the rates were pretty low for the 2:45 minute trek through Camas, Elmore, and Ada counties. Essentially, each QSO took 12 minutes. I deeply appreciate the few people (esp. W7GKF, KB7N, NU0Q) that stayed up late and followed me for across these counties.

Sunday morning I was on the road by 1315 GMT (7:15 MDT) some 30 minutes before sunrise. There was no activity on 15m or 20m, but I managed a pair of 40m CW QSOs while en route through Ada county. I arrived on the Boise–Gem county line just a few minutes late. This is my favorite county line in Idaho, being on a dirt road at 4,200′ in the middle of the rolling Boise Mountains.

On the Boise--Gem county line Sunday morning
On the Boise–Gem county line Sunday morning

It was difficult to scare up QSOs this particular Sunday morning. I finally managed to get a small run going on 20m phone, followed by 20m CW. CQing on 40m got a single response from Doug, AC7T. I only managed a handful of other QSOs on 15m and 20m before my hour was up. In all, the Boise–Gem line produced 38 QSOs in one hour, which was a bit disappointing. Last year, I arrived at the same time, stayed for a little over an hour, and made 116 QSOs—mostly on 20m, but including 12 QSOs on 40m and 32 QSOs on 15m. I think this exemplifies the difference in conditions between last year and this year. But don’t take this as a complaint…the entire challenge of radiosport is taking the conditions you have and maximizing one’s score.

By 1600 UTC, I had passed through ADA and into Canyon county, and 20m started showing more life. Rates returned to almost normal in Owyhee county where a 50 minute stay produced 40 QSOs, primarily on 20m. Last year I spent a few minutes longer than that in Owyhee and came away with 60 QSOs split between 20m and 15m. Fifteen meters continued its lackluster performance for the rest of the contest, as I worked my way through Canyon county again, and through Payette up to the Washington–Payette county line.

On the Payette-Washington county line
On the Payette–Washington county line for the last hour of the 2015 IDQP

The last hour of the contest was pretty good. I made 39 QSOs x 2, all on 20m. I tried 15 and 10 meters as well, but there was nothing doing. Last year, I spent the last 35 minutes in the same spot and worked 38 x 2 QSOs. For the last few minutes of the IDQP, I went into search and pounce mode for the first time in order to work some strong WIQP stations on 20m phone and CW.

Score

I spent a few days entering paper logs into the computer and doing the scoring. In the end, I had 724 QSOs minus 33 dupes for 691 valid QSOs; of these, 530 were CW and 161 were Phone. For mobile stations, multipliers accumulate for each new county and by mode. There were 365 CW and 119 Phone multipliers for a total of 484.

Last year’s efforts produced 802 QSOs and 491 multipliers. So there was a 14% decrease in QSOs but only a tiny decrease in multipliers. Some of the decrease in QSOs resulted from trying to do more phone QSOs in order to bump up the number of multipliers.

The following table shows the breakdown of multipliers, CW QSOs and phone QSOs by county activated.

County Mults CW QSOs PH QSOs Points
ADA 11 12 0 24
BAN 14 18 0 36
BIN 28 25 15 65
BLA 5 6 0 12
BNV 12 6 11 23
BOI 19 12 10 34
BUT 23 27 4 58
CAM 5 4 2 10
CAN 18 25 1 51
CAS 9 12 0 24
CLA 38 42 15 99
ELM 4 3 2 8
FRE 16 25 0 50
GEM 17 9 10 28
GOO 8 8 4 20
JEF 25 32 5 69
JER 15 20 3 43
LEM 16 9 10 28
LIN 10 12 0 24
MAD 36 46 15 107
MIN 6 10 0 20
OWY 28 24 15 63
PAY 28 39 5 83
POW 16 19 8 46
TET 31 26 15 67
TWI 21 24 8 56
WAS 25 35 3 73
TOTAL 484 530 161 1221

The final score is found by multiplying points by multipliers giving 590,964. This is down a bit from my score of 715,387 last year, but no complaints. It felt like everything worked better in 2015 (except the atmosphere) and I am very happy with the station improvements, plan execution and the score.

Here are the top stations worked by number of QSOs:

Call
QSOs
W7GF
23
W9PL
14
NA2X
14
AC7T
14
WQ7A
12
OM2VL
12
K0PFV
12
K0HNC
12
WB0PYF
10
K2CVW
10
KN4Y
10

Looking out the window
Looking out the window on the Lemhi–Clark county line

Conclusion

As I did last year, I must conclude that the IDQP is a blast to work mobile. Idaho has small counties, outstanding roads, and stunning scenery. If you’ve ever wanted to do a mobile HF contest, this one definitely should be at the top of your list.

The RF conditions were rather down this year, but last year’s conditions seems spectacular. The weather cooperated, with only a few sprinkles. The skies were mostly overcast, which is perfect for my old truck without AC.

Many thanks to everyone who participated within state and outside of Idaho. I had a great time.

(Short link to this post)

WW7D Roves the 2015 January VHF Contest

The ARRL January VHF contest brings a pile of challenges for a rover. The weather is a big uncertainty. In the Pacific Northwest we rarely have debilitating snow in the lowlands (but did in 2012). Sometimes the snow prevents travels to modest elevations (3,000′). Rain and fog are more likely the issues for us. And fog mixed with near-freezing temperatures can lead to icing of antenna parts while driving.

The other challenge for a rover is darkness. The days are getting longer, but are still way too short. This isn’t just a problem while roving—logging in the dark, setting up antennas in the dark, etc. Rather it affects the station installation. It’s a challenge coming home from a long day at work and motivate antenna installation…likely in the rain. (I know, I know, at least we don’t have the cold temperature that much of the country has.)

And then there is the “rust” of four months without roving for a contest. (The Fall Sprints help a bit with this. )

Even with these challenges, somehow I managed to eek out a rover station this year to compete in the Limited Rover class. I didn’t have the time to do too much innovation over last September. There were a few station adjustments and some tweaking of the route.

Route

The route followed the same general pattern I used last September, starting out in Ocean Shores, WA near the CN76/CN77 line on Saturday morning, and working my way to the CN85/CN95 line on the Columbia river near N. Bonneville, WA, and then to a motel in Centralia, WA for the night.

Sunday’s route went from Centralia to Mowich Lake Road near Carbonado, which permits me to hit CN87 at 2,160′, CN86 at 3,000′ and CN96 at 3,100′. This was followed by a new location in the parking lot of Central Park of Sammamish, WA, which gives access to CN87 and CN97 at 700′. Then off to CN88 at a school parking lot (400′) in Lake Stevens, capped of by a trip up Mt. Pilchuck at about 3,000′.

Planned stops for the 2015 Jan VHF contest
Planned stops (Saturday are blue, Sunday are green) for the 2015 January VHF contest

I sent my schedule out to the members of the Pacific Northwest VHF society. For the most part, I stuck to the schedule. The two major changes were that I began in CN76, moved to CN77, and then back to CN76. Also, it turns out that the CN87/CN97 spot in Sammamish was so productive that I skipped the next stop in CN97 at 1,450′ on the side of Tiger Mountain. The change helped keep me on schedule.

GRID Location
Saturday Start End
CN77 Ocean Shores      12′ 11:00am   11:25am
CN76 Ocean Shores      15′ 11:40am   12:50pm
CN77 Ocean Shores      12′   1:05pm    1:50pm
CN86 Kalama, WA 1687′    4:50pm    5:50pm
CN85 Kalama, WA 1760′    6:20pm    7:35pm
CN95 Bonneville     65′   9:00pm  10:00pm
         
Sunday Start End
CN96 Carbonado 3183′    7:45am    9:15am
CN86 Carbonado 3049′    9:30am  10:15am
CN87&CN97  Sammamish   738′ 12:00pm  12:50pm
CN97 Issaquah 1461′    1:25pm    2:25pm
CN88 Lake Stevens   429′   3:55pm    5:15pm
CN98 Mt. Pilchuck 2980′    6:40pm    8:00pm

Equipment

The equipment list was quite similar to what was used for the 2014 September VHF contest. Three rigs took care of SSB and CW on the four bands a limited rover is allowed. A Kenwood TS-480 served as a 6m rig. Two meters and 432 MHz were handled by an FT-857D. And another FT-857D was used with an Elecraft XV222 transverter for 222 MHz.

For FM simplex frequencies there was an Alinco 6m FM rig, an Alinco dual band (2m/440 MHz) FM rig, and a Jetstream 222 MHz FM rig. The resulting six microphones demands discipline in always hanging the rig mic on the right hook…every time. I mostly did that.

A look inside the WW7D/R station
A look inside the WW7D/R station

One of the FT-857D heads was mounted on the dash, and the other FT-857D head and the Kenwood head were mounted on the center council using spring clamps. The system works well for my vehicle. Two rotor controls were used to turn the front and rear rotors. They were powered by a 600 watt inverter.

Two RF Concepts and two TE System bricks brought power up to near the maximum allowed for a limited rover on the four SSB/CW bands.

Another look inside the WW7D/R station
Another look inside the WW7D/R station

A dash-mounted cell phone provided a 24 hour clock for (paper) logging, and a second cell phone displayed my current grid. Both of these phones needed no data connection to provide these functions. One new piece of navigation equipment was a TomTom GPS. I purchased it just after Christmas and worked very hard to learn as much about it as I could. The route planning method is quite different from the previous GPS I was using. In the end, the TomTom worked out pretty well.

Other pieces of equipment include a K1EL Winkeyer loaded with CW macros, a Tascam DR-1 digital recorder, a N8XJK Super Booster, a fancy homebuilt antenna switch, and a low-tech 3-position switch to move the CW paddle between rigs.

Here is a peak at the back side of the rack.

The sausage making behind the scene
The sausage making behind the scene

It’s amazing it all works. In fact, the only issue was with the power connector on the 6m amplifier, and that was minor. The rack is completely assembled, wired, and tested in my shack and then moved into the rover. Only power, external speakers, a paddle connector, a ground, remote heads, and 10 antenna connectors are attached for installation.

Antennas

Antennas were cleaned, refurbished, and tuned in preparation for the contest. I also did some clean-up and tuning of the two masts.

Rear antenna stacks

The rear mast extends to about 25 feet for when the vehicle is at a rover location and contains the following:

  • 50 MHz: Homebuilt 3-element Yagi (top)
  • 144 MHz: An 8 element WA5VJB “Cheap Yagi” (middle)
  • 222 MHz: An 8 element WA5VJB “Cheap Yagi” (bottom)
  • 432 MHz: 12 element LFA yagi (bottom)
The rear antenna stack from CN86
The rear antenna stack from CN86

Front antenna stacks

The front antenna stack can be extended to 25′, but typically sits about 10′ above ground. The antenna dimensions fit within Washington state’s overhang limits so that it can be legally rotated while in motion. For some parts of the contest, like driving up Mt. Pilchuck, the mast was lowered to about 8′.

  • 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)
The front antenna stack facing north from CN86
The front antenna stack facing north from CN86

FM Antennas

For the four FM bands I used the following antennas:

  • 52 MHz: A mag-mount 6m 1/4 wave whip antenna
  • 146 MHz and 440 MHz: a hygain dual band loaded whip antenna
  • 223 MHz: A cross-over switch switched the 223 MHz FM rig and 222 MHz transverter between the front and rear 222 MHz antennas

The rear 6m and 432 MHz yagis were fed with LMR 400. All other directional antennas were fed with LMR-240.

The Contest

CN76 and CN77

I arrived at Ocean Shores with about 15 minutes to the contest start, and parked in the (car) parking lot of the small airport in CN76. Antennas were set up, equipment was checked out, and I prepared log sheets for the grid.

My first three contacts (6m, 2m, and 432 MHz) were with John, KF7PCL, who lives in Ocean Shores (CN76). QSOs were a bit slow after that. I kept pointing my antenna south to try and work K7NIT/R who was starting out the contest at the southern end of CN76. I found her after about 15 minutes.

Within the first 15 minutes, an Ocean Shores police officer pulled up next to my truck. He was friendly and curious, and left wishing me luck.

After an hour in CN76, I had worked only 25 stations. But, remarkably, 15 of the QSOs were also new multipliers.

When I arrived at my planned CN77 spot, a dirt turn-around at a T in the road, there was a house being framed! Too bad…it was an excellent spot. A nearby location along a creek gave me a good pullover, but the trees kept me from extending the mast to its full height. I could have re-positioned the truck to clear the trees, but that would have consumed even more time.

An hour in CN77 yielded only 21 QSOs and three new multipliers. A brief return to CN76 filled in a few missing QSOs, and I was on my way out of town. I take a small detour leaving Ocean Shores to pass through CN87 and CN86 so that I can work John, KF7PCL, in each grid on three bands (for a total of 12 QSOs). My unfamiliarity with the new GPS combined with being rusty logging while driving caused me to pull over for the last set of QSOs. I ended up about 15 minutes behind schedule.

CN86 and CN85

From that CN87/CN86 spot, it is about 1:45 until my next stop. In the process, I pass through CN86 into CN87 and back into CN86. For the first 30 minutes I worked zero stations. But then things picked up and I made 23 QSOs and three new multipliers before arriving at my stop. While whizzing southbound on I-5, I worked all four bands with WA7BBJ/R who was about 10 mile ahead of me in I-5. This was unplanned.

Once set up in CN86, I immediatelly worked WA7BBJ/R again, this time he had crossed into CN85. In all 38 QSOs and 10 new multipliers came from this location.

By the time I got set up 5 miles to the south, in CN85, I was 25 minutes behind schedule. The new location did not disappoint, and I quickly worked 42 stations. My last QSO was with KF7PCL back in CN76. By the time I left, I was only 12 minutes behind, with a 70 minute drive to N. Bonneville. A handful of en route QSOs contributed to the log.

CN85 and CN95

The CN85–CN95 border on the Columbia River is tucked away in a gorge. For the most part, only Portland stations can be worked from there, as signals are almost entirely blocked in the direction of Seattle (as the map shows). A state highway follows the river on the Washington side, and I-84 follows the river on the Oregon side.

Topography at the CN95 stop
Topography at the CN95 stop

I had a good reason to not be late to CN95. The reason was that Rachel, K7NIT/R (along with her driver, Etienne, K7ATN) was scheduled to be on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, while I was heading Eastbound on the Washington side of the Columbia River. We decided to do a cross-river grid dance.

I was supposed to arrive at 4:50, but turned up about 10 minutes late. Rachel was in CN95 and that gave us time to work the four lower bands. They moved into CN85 and we worked four more time. By that time, I hit CN95 and we worked again, and then they returned to CN95 for four more. The whole thing took 35 minutes, including some additional QSOs with K7YDL. It was awesome getting four bands worth of multipliers from CN95! That was a first.

Another 10 minutes of calling CQ produced only a couple of stations, before departing for an almost 2 hour trip to a motel in Centralia, WA. I only made one new QSO during this leg.

CN96 and CN86

The alarm woke me after five hours of sleep. Thirty minutes later, I was on the move to Mowich Lake road and CN96. First I had about 90 minutes of travel (mostly) through CN87…that provided 13 new QSOs. Then there was 20 minutes of travel through CN86 from about 2,200′ to 3,200′. Even though I had spent many hours in CN86 already, this brief trip through CN86 provided another 6 QSOs.

I arrived at CN96 about 2 minutes late and stayed for 95 minutes (instead of the scheduled 90), providing 51 QSOs. Back to CN86 for a (planned) 45 minute stay, I worked 27 stations (four of these were dups). By the time I hit CN87 again, I was 10 minutes behind schedule.

Leaving this grid intersection, I had a 95 minute trip that took me between CN87 and CN97 multiple times. The trip was remarkably productive, netting something like 35 QSOs.

The end point was a park in Sammamish, WA that had a long parking lot with a rotary at each end. The grid line passed through the eastern quarter of the lot. Barry, K7BWH/R, and Rod, WE7X/R had suggested we meet in this parking lot to do a small, 3 band, FM only, grid dance.

I was a couple of minutes late, but we worked each other, and a handful of other stations on FM simplex frequencies on 2m, 222 MHz and 432 MHz. I set up my antennas in both grids and worked what remained, primarily to the north.

The Canadian community pitched in some new multipliers: VA7FC (CN79 on 6m and 2m), VE7DAY (CO70 on 2m), and VE7XF (CN89 on 6m). A bit later, the rovers added even more multipliers. Dave, KA7RRA/R, on Mt. Pilchuck provided CN98 on 6m. Steve, KE7IHG/R, was in Ocean Shores in CN76, where we worked on 223.5 MHz FM. He then moved to CN77 and worked me on 4 bands, for 4 new multipliers–432 MHz was tough, but doable. The final new multiplier of the contest was KE7IHG/R on 6m from CN77.

WA7BBJ/R worked me on 4 bands while he was in CN97 and then, again, when he hit CN87. No new multipliers, but lots of points. Man…what an incredible spot! In fact, I overstayed my schedule, and skipped doing more CN97 from Tiger Mountain. That spot might have had some good coverage into Portland, but it would have put me too far behind.

CN88

The next stop was an elementary school in Lake Stevens. I made good time getting there and started but five minutes after the scheduled time. The 90 minute stay (plus a few QSOs while in motion) gave 48 QSOs.

CN98

The last grid was CN98, about 3,000′ on the side of Mt. Pilchuck, with excellent reach north, west, and south. I lowered the front mast before the ascent. The (mostly) gravel road comes with plenty of overhead clearance for antennas, but some nasty potholes require deviations to the edges of the road where branches hang lower. For once, I hit the airwaves ahead of schedule—by one minute—leaving 91 minutes to the end of the contest. There was a burst of activity at the end, as I made 65 QSO, including two with AC7MX that went right down to the end.

A dark finish to a dazzling contest weekend
A dark finish to a dazzling contest weekend

Oh…I almost forgot to mention the weather. It was warm all weekend, and Sunday was sunny. At the end of the contest, skies were reasonably clear at an altitude of 3,000′, but there was dense fog in the lowlands that extended my 90 minute trip home by about 10 minutes.

On the trip home, all the radios were turned off, except the one tuned to the public radio station blaring the blues.

Results

Two things stand out about this contest. Foremost is the number of rovers on the air in the Pacific Northwest. Eleven rovers provided me a total of 116 QSOs and 22 rare (if not unique) multipliers. Here are the numbers of QSOs and rare multipliers:

Call QSOs  Multipliers
WA7BBJ/R 28   0
K7NIT/R 24   3
KE7IHG/R 17 10
K7BWH/R 13   0
WE7X/R 12   0
VE7JH/R   8   5
KA7RRA/R   5   1
VE7AFZ/R   4   3
WA7YOQ/R    2   0
W7IEW/R   2   0
K7AYP/R   1   0

VE7AFZ/R was in CN99 when I worked him from CN76 about 35 minutes into the contest. I pointed out that I had never even worked CN99 before. He replied that he had never worked CN76 before (HA!). We worked again, a short while later, when I got to CN77.

The other notable thing was the number of active Canadian stations. In addition to VE7JH/R and VE7AFZ/R, VE7DAY, VA7FC, and VE7XF provided unique (or rare) multipliers. The result was QSOs in CN78 and CN89 on 4 bands, and CN79 and CO70 on two bands.

Score

Work consumed my time for about a week, and it wasn’t until the next weekend (Superbowl weekend) that I finally had a chance to transcribe my hand-written logs into the computer. After discounting for duplicates, here’s the outcome:

Number of QSOs:      522
Points:      687
Grids Worked:        55
Grids Activated:        10
Total Mults:        65
Score: 44,655

The score shows a nice improvement from the 2014 ARRL January VHF Contest. The number of QSOs increased slightly from 492, a gain of +30. Total points increased slightly by +43 from 644. The big difference was in the number of grids worked, which increased +18 from 37.

Here are the details by band and grid:

6 meters
2 meters
222 MHz
432 MHz
Total
CN76
6
16
1
5
28
CN77
8
10
2
2
22
CN85
18
22
6
10
56
CN86
29
33
13
18
93
CN87
24
27
12
10
73
CN88
17
15
6
9
47
CN95
3
5
3
3
14
CN96
17
21
7
6
51
CN97
19
26
13
15
73
CN98
20
21
9
15
65
QSOs
161
196
72
93
522
Points
161
196
144
186
687
Mults
16
17
11
11
55 + 10

And here are the grids worked for each band:

 Band Pts #Grids Grids
6m 161 16 CN73, CN76-9, CN84-9, CN95-8, CO70
2m 196 17 CN76-9, CN84-9, CN94-9, CO70
1.25m 148 11 CN76-8, CN85-9, CN95-7
70cm 186 11 CN76-8, CN85-9, CN95-7

My gratitude to all the folks who got on the air. Here are the stations with double digit QSOs in the log:

  • 36 N7EPD
  • 28 WA7BBJ/R
  • 26 KE0CO
  • 24 KD7UO
  • 24 K7NIT/R
  • 22 K7YDL
  • 18 KF7PCL
  • 17 KE7IHG/R
  • 16 WA7TZY
  • 14 KG7P
  • 13 WB7FJG
  • 13 K7BWH/R
  • 13 AC7T
  • 12 WE7X/R
  • 11 W7VB
  • 11 W7PT
  • 11 KX7L
  • 11 K7ND
  • 10 K5TRI

Last year, I closed my January post by suggesting it would be very difficult to score over 35,000 in the absence of sporadic E openings for this contest. Clearly, I was wrong. But the credit really goes to the increased activity, particularly on the part of other rovers.

I’ve long maintained that more rovers translate into more fun for these contests. That certainly was the case this year.

(Shortcut to this post)

WW7D/R’s 2014 September VHF Contest Rove

The ARRL September VHF contest comes with uncertainty. Will there be any residual sporadic E (Es) propagation left over from the summer? Will the weather in Western Washington be sunny, dry and beautiful, or cold, wet and dismal?

The weather question is a big one for the Pacific Northwest, as we are frequently transitioning between spectacular summer weather and gloomy fall weather. This year, the weather forecast was for spectacularly sunny and warm for the contest weekend. I made big plans to split my roving between driving and flying between grids, something I haven’t done for a couple of years now (except for a recent 6m Sprint).

But as the weekend of the contest rolled around, things at work were very busy and time consuming. Soon it became clear that I didn’t have the free time to realize both modes of roving. I had time to get the truck rover in order, but I needed a few more hours than were available to get the airplane rover in shape and do the planning for new routes.

I made only a few modifications to my June VHF Contest route. Specifically, I tried out a new CN88 spot that would get me away from the RF noise I experienced in my usual location at Lake Stevens High School. That changed the schedule a bit for Sunday.

The big picture is that the same grid intersections or lines were targeted:

General locations for stops on Saturday (blue) and Sunday (red)

Here were the scheduled stops (times in PDT):

GRID Location Elevation Start Time End Time
Saturday Start
CN76 Ocean Shores 16′ 11:00 AM 12:15 PM
CN77 Ocean Shores 15′ 12:30 PM 01:45 PM
CN86 Kalama, WA 1700′ 04:55 PM 05:55 PM
CN85 Kalama, WA 1785′ 06:25 PM 07:40 PM
CN95 Bonneville 100′ 09:05 PM 10:05 PM
Sunday Start
CN96 Carbonado 3200′ 07:30 AM 09:00 AM
CN86 Carbonado 3000′ 09:15 AM 10:15 AM
CN87 Carbonado 2050′ 10:30 AM 11:25 AM
CN97 Buckley (Mud Mtn) 1200′ 12:15 PM 01:45 PM
CN88 Marysville, WA 600′ 03:50 PM 05:05 PM
CN98 Mt. Pilchuck 3000′ 06:30 PM 08:00 PM

 

Station Installation

Again…pretty much the story from June. One major change since the June VHF contest was the addition of a dedicated rig (FT-857) for the Elecraft XV222 222 MHz transverter. Previously, a Kenwood TS-480SAT did dual duty as a 6m and 222 MHz rig, but the effort to change between the bands made it difficult to optimize either band.

The equipment rack included two FT-857Ds (2m, 432 MHz from one and 222 MHz from the other), one TS-480SAT (6m), a dual band Alinco FM rig, an Alinco 6m FM rig, and a Jetstream 222 MHz FM rig. That’s six separate microphones, something that requires severe discipline in systematically placing a microphone on the assigned hook.

The equipment rack.

Two rotor control boxes (rear and front) can be seen as well as a digital recorder, paddle, antenna relay switch box, and key switch box. Two FT-857D and the TS-480SAT heads were remotely mounted on the dashboard. Cell phones provided grid information and a 24 hour clock.

Other equipment.

The Contest

Early Saturday morning, I heard a news report that the intersection of I5 and US 101 was closed for an expansion joint repair, and that long delays were expected. Oh great! I had three passes through that intersection. The first was my trip to Ocean Shores for the start of the contest. The second one was simple to avoid, and the third one was very early in the morning on Sunday morning. In any case, I spent a few minutes re-programming the GPS with some alternatives to avoid that intersection. It meant I was late leaving home for Ocean Shores.

I arrived in Ocean Shores (CN76) with about 15 minutes to prepare for the start of the contest. Things started out pretty well. I first worked Mike, KD7TS, on Mt. Pilchuck in CN98. Next came John, KF7PCL, who lives nearby in CN76. We worked 6m, 2m, and 432 MHz. I caught a couple more stations on 432 MHz after that. The biggest surprise was working K7AWB in DN17 on 6m. Things worked pretty well on 2m and 432 MHz, but 6m and 222 MHz were a challenge for reasons I still cannot fully explain. Six meters just seemed very noisy.

Next was CN77 a couple of miles to the North. This was largely a bonanza of 2m QSOs with a few 432 MHz and 222 MHz QSOs and a handful of 6m QSOs thrown in.

I circled back in to CN76 to work Eric, N7EPD, on three bands, and even caught his neighbor Rick, N7EHP, on 2m. I planned a route out of Ocean Shores that took me through CN87 and CN86 very close to the CN76/CN77/CN86/CN87 intersection, with hopes of working John, KF7PCL, on three bands in two new grids. That worked exactly as planned! This burst of activity was followed by a long drive through CN86 to Kalama, WA that yielded only a few occasional QSOs—about 7 in two hours.

Checking the antenna load while in motion through CN86.

Things picked up when I arrived at my spot at 1,700′ in Kalama in the late afternoon. Six meters was still not working well, but I managed numerous QSOs into both CN85 and CN87 on all four bands. KB7ADO showed up from CN86 and we worked 2m, 222 MHz and 432 Mhz.

Set up near Green Mountain in CN86.

As evening approached I traveled about 5 miles south to CN85 where I worked many of the same stations in CN87 and CN85. From this location, I was able to work some other interesting stations, including KF7PCL in CN76 on 6m, KB7Q in CN93 (Bend, Oregon) on 2m and 432 MHz, WE7X way up in CN78 near Port Angeles, WA on 6m, and KD7HB north of Redmond, OR, in CN94.

Sunset from near Green Mountain in CN85.

The last stop of the day was an hour and twenty minutes away in Bonneville, WA, just over the CN95 border in the Columbia River Gorge. Upon arrival, I found Etienne, K7ATN, and Rachel, K7NIT (FM only category), Lou, WA7GCS, and a couple of other CN85 stations. The only non-CN85 station was Paul, K7CW, in CN87, who is still the only CN87 station to work me from this rather rock-enclosed location (this was his second time).

It is a long and lonely trip from CN95 to my hotel near Centralia. I sometimes work a station or two in CN85. This time, I was pleased to work Mike, KD7TS, on Mt. Pilchuck (CN96) on 2m from I5 while in CN85, and then we worked on 2m, 222 MHz, and 432 MHz after I crossed into CN86.

I hit the hotel and was in bed by 12:30 am, only to get up again at 5:30 am for a quick shower and to hit the road at 5:50 am. My destination was CN96 at 3,200′. On the hour and forty minute trip there, I worked the early-risers club, including Tom, KE7SW, on 4 bands, Jim, K7ND, on a number of bands, and Jim, W7FI, as well as a few others.

This spot near the CN86/CN87/CN96/CN97 intersection is always quite productive, even at 7:30 am. I wasn’t able to awaken anyone in CN85, but a number of interesting stations popped up elsewhere, including John, VE7DAY, in CO70, Rod, WE7X in CN76, Mike, KD7TS, in CN98, Michael, KB7W in CN93, and Michael, W7QH, in CN84.

Early morning in CN96.

From CN96, I made a brief stop at 3,000′ in CN86 (again). Considering that I had already spent hours in the grid the previous day, this stop provided a surprising number of new multipliers including VE7DAY in CO70 on 2m, WA7BBJ in CN97 on 6m and 432 MHz, KD7TS in CN98 on 6m, N6ZE/R in CN88 on 222 MHz, and WE7X in CN78 on 432 MHz.

The next stop, a few miles down the road, was a return to CN87, at about 2,000′ feet. This short stop provided plenty of QSOs into CN87, CN88 and CN98, but no new multipliers.

About 30 minutes away from there was the CN97 stop at the CN86/CN87/CN96/CN97 intersection, on Mud Mountain at 1,200′. This stop was remarkably productive with 55 QSOs into CN78 (WE7X), CN87, CN88, CN96 (N7BUS), CN97, CN98, and CO70 (VE7DAY).

Activating CN97 from Mud Mountain. The power lines go to a nearby hydroelectric generation facility.

From there, I had to travel 2 hours, mostly through CN87 and into CN88. The CN87 part of the trip produced 2 QSOs. Once I hit CN88, however, there was plenty of work to do. The CN88 stop was the only new location I tried this contest. It is on a small pull-over on a rural highway and gets me up to 600′. In all, CN88 produced 50 QSOs, with two new multipliers from VA7FC in CN79 on 6m and 2m.

The new CN88 stop.

The last stop of the day was Mt. Pilchuck at 3,000′ in CN98. The stop was at a location some distance from Mike, KD7TS, who spent the weekend on a shelf off the side of Mt. Pilchuck. We worked two bands while I was en route, winding my way up the mountain, and the other two shortly after I got there. Mike then stopped by for a visit on his way home. With less than 2 hours remaining, he had pretty much tapped out the region, and had a long drive home.

The grid was quite productive for me with 64 QSOs and three new multipliers: WE7X in CN78 on 222 MHz, and NL7B/R in CN77 on 6m and 2m.

Results

It was a good run. I stuck to the schedule throughout, but could be flexible when there was a benefit to it (like returning to CN77 from CN76). The station performed well and reliably, even if 6m didn’t seem to work a well as it should. The addition of a dedicated 222 MHz SSB rig seemed to work well, even at the expense of another mic in the “shack.”

Here are the QSO results:

Grid 6m 2m 1.25m 70cm
CN76 10 13 2 6
CN77 8 20 3 3
CN85 20 15 6 9
CN86 20 31 15 18
CN87 13 19 10 9
CN88 17 18 8 7
CN95 4 5 2 1
CN96 14 15 10 7
CN97 16 19 10 9
CN98 23 17 14 10
QSOs 145 172 80 79
Points 172 141 160 158
Mults 13 15 6 9

 

The total number of QSOs was 476, for 635 points.

And here are the grids worked for each band:


 Band Pts #Grids Grids
6m 145 13 CN76-79, CN84-88, CN97-98, CO70, DN17
2m 172 15 CN76-79, CN85-88, CN93-4, CN96-98, CO70
1.25m 160 6 CN78, CN85-88, CN98
70cm 158 8 CN76, CN78, CN85-88, CN93, CN97, CN98

 

That makes a total of 43 grid-band pairs.  To that we add ten multipliers for the grids activated for a total of 53 multipliers.

The final score was 33,655 (before checking by the ARRL).

Last year I had 36 grid-band pairs and ten grids activated for 46 multipliers, and 607 points for a raw score of 27,922.

There were fewer rovers this year. I found NL7B/R, AL1VE/R, N6ZE/R, KA7RAA/R and K7IP/R, although most of them were not on, or were out of range of western Washington for most of the contest. Last year there were eight rovers, most of them quite active throughout the contest.

The top stations in my log were:

  • 20 AC7T
  • 14 K7ATN
  • 14 K7ND
  • 14 KB7DQH
  • 28 KD7TS
  • 30 KE0CO
  • 31 KE7SW
  • 14 KF7PCL
  • 14 KG7P
  • 21 N6ZE/R
  • 36 N7EPD
  • 27 W7FI
  • 28 W7LUD
  • 19 WA7TZY
  • 16 WE7X

It was an enjoyable contest, where most everything worked well.

(Short link to this post.)

WW7D/M does the 2014 Salmon Run

It seems like just a few weeks ago that I was writing up the 2013 Salmon Run results. But it’s true: the 2014 Salmon Run has come and gone. And what a run it was!

Personally, it was one of my best contest efforts, in the sense of station set-up and reliability, ease of operations, planning, and execution. Unfortunately, the propagation fairies were having some fun playing tricks on us. Even so, I get the sense that many of us were still having a good time. Although I didn’t top my score from last year, I am still pretty pleased with the results.

Route

The route is pretty much a tweaked version of the one I ran last year. I posted the details for this year here. Basically, I worked Western Washington counties (KING, PIE, KITS, MAS, GRAY, PAC, THU, LEW, COW, WAH, CLAR, and SKAM) Saturday, and Eastern Washington counties (YAK, KLI, BEN, FRA, ADA, LIN, GRAN, OKA, FER, and DOU) on Sunday.

As it turned out, I kept to the route and stuck closely to the schedule. Doing the route for a second time has its advantages—this time there were no wrong turns or other unwanted excursions.

Platform

The Salmon Run comes at a very busy time of the year for the mobile contester. The week before the Salmon Run is the ARRL September VHF Contest. The Monday after the Salmon Run is a 2m VHF Sprint. On top of that, the Salmon Run happens just as things get very busy for me at the University of Washington, as we ramp up for the school year that starts the next week.

The Salmon Run platform was a little more complicated than necessary because it included stuff left over from the VHF contest and allowed me to quickly set up for the sprint the Monday after.

Last year, I did the Salmon Run in my 1988 Toyota pickup truck, with two homebuilt screwdrivers in the back of the bed on each side, a Hustler stalk toward the cab, and a front rotor with a short 2m yagi and 6m hex beam on the front. The VHF antennas were good for a few QSOs with Gabor, VE7JH, who I knew would be on a mountain top location with good reach into Western Washington. But I hadn’t heard from Gabor about a Salmon Run effort this year. Additionally, I had built a third screwdriver that I wanted to mount on the front. That would mean I could go Hustler-free for the Salmon Run.

So, I again installed two screwdrivers on the back (with an unused rotor in place for the Monday sprint):

Rear antennas

For the front antenna mount, a chunk of aluminum bar was fashioned into an antenna mount using the rotor:

The front antenna using an antenna rotor for mounting.

The large coil of coax is two lengths of LMR-240 that would feed antennas on top of a 25′ mast for the VHF sprint. One of them fed the screwdriver antenna.

Additionally, magnet mount verticals were used for 6m and 2m…just in case someone wanted to try these bands.

The antenna farm.

The front screwdriver had a whip length that made it useful for 10m to 75m. The rear driver-side antenna worked on 15m to 80m, and the rear passenger side antenna had a whip with a capacitance hat that allowed it to work very well from 20m though 80m. With three screwdrivers, it would give me the ability to move between 15m, 20m, and 40m during the day with no antenna reconfiguration, and between 20m, 40m, and 80m at night.

Inside the truck was a rack of gear that included two Yaeus FT-857Ds, one as a second HF rig (with an LDG tuner) and one for 6m and 2m, a Kenwood TS-480SAT as the primary HF rig, an Alinco 2m FM rig, and 170w bricks for 6m and 2m. To the left of the rack can be seen an antenna relay control box that allowed me to switch antennas between the Kenwood and Yaesu rigs, and between the VHF equipment, and a paddle, a Tascam DR-1 digital recorder, a K1EL Winkeyer, and a switch to move the keyer between three rigs. A rotor control box—not used for this contest—can be seen in front of the pantry. One dual antenna control box for the rear antennas and a single control box for the front antenna can be seen near the midline.

The shack.

The operating position included heads for both HF rigs and two cell phones. One phone acted as a 24 hr clock. The other phone ran an application (“Where Am I”) that continuously reports the current county—just in case I got confused about my location.

The operating position.

Behind the passenger seat sat a second battery in a fiberglass box, an N8XJK Super Booster, and an antenna relay box.

The Contest

Saturday

I left Redmond, WA about 7:30 am (PDT) for the 9:00 am contest start, and arrived on the KING–PIE starting point about 30 minutes early. That gave me plenty of time to test out the equipment, get the antennas set up, and listen to the bands. I found that 20m was in fantastic shape with lots of Scandinavian stations booming in for the CW Scandinavian Activity Contest. I could hear some activity on 40m and 15m.

As 9:00 am approached, 20m seemed to fade a bit. I spent the first 20 minutes trying to work Scandinavian stations, but only managed four before N6MU found me on CW. We also worked 20m Phone, a pattern that would continue through the contest. After 20m phone failed to provide many QSOs, I went to 15m CW and managed to work a couple of stations in the SC QSO party. Before leaving the county line, I tried 40m and managed to work BC and a few WA stations.

To give you an idea of the band conditions, last year from this spot, I made 36 contacts (times 2 because of the county line), although 4 of these were with VE7JH on 2m and 6m SSB and CW. So, let’s say 32 contacts, about 2/3rds on 20m. This year I made 15 QSOs, 2/3rds of them on 20m. The one interesting difference is that this year I worked Sweden, Finland and Norway. Last year produced only North America QSOs at that first stop.

Twenty meters was modestly productive for the next few counties. I arrived at the Grays Harbor–Pacific county line at 2:10 pm, and finally got a serious run going, but on 40m. Twenty continued to be marginal. At 4:00 pm, driving through Grays Harbor, a few Japanese stations popped up on 15m along with a handful of U.S. stations. Twenty meters seemed to open up around 5:00 pm while I was on the Thurston—Lewis county line. An hour or so later, it became unproductive.

Sitting on the Grays Harbor–Pacific county line

Speaking of the Thurston—Lewis county line…. When I got to the county line, I was backing my truck up to be on top of the line. The rear passenger screwdriver—the one with the capacitance hat—snagged a road-side sign. As I continued to back up, it bent the antenna forward and broke it at the base. And it was my best antenna, but I still had two screwdriver antennas to work with. The repair is pretty simple…if I had carried a spare part, I probably could have fixed the antenna in about 10 or 15 minutes.

Down goes one screwdriver antenna.

Eighty meters opened up about 7:30 pm (PDT) while I was on the Wahkiakum–Cowlitz county line. I got a run going on CW and then an even better run on Phone, and it was pretty much just 80m for the rest of the evening.

At midnight, I was in the hills above the Columbia River on the Clark–Skamania county line. In previous years, I would stop at a hotel in Washougal, WA about 20 minutes West of me, and then wake up at an obscene hour for a 3 hour drive to E. Washington. I’m definitely not a morning person, so I’d rather drive late at night, than get up early. So this year, I decided to do some of the driving at night. I drove 1.5 hours to The Dalles, Oregon to spend the night in a hotel.

Tucked in at the Skamania–Clark county line.

Sunday

I was out of the hotel parking lot by 7:00 am (PDT) for a 2 hour drive to the Klikitat–Yakima county line.

Sun rise over the Columbia River on Sunday morning.

The fuel gauge read a little under 1/2, but I decided to get gas closer to my first stop of the day, because that way I could make it through the day without refueling again. That was a mistake. After crossing back into Washington, I came across a sign saying there was no gas for 85 miles.

That brought back memories from last year, where I was getting low (but not critically low) on gas by the time I hit Prosser. I had less fuel in the tank this year. My gut feeling and my calculations on fuel range suggested that, if I drove for fuel economy, I should just be able to make it to Prosser—but with little reserve. Hence, I prioritized fuel economy. All I really had to do was make it within 2 miles of Prosser, since that last 2 miles was a steep, winding descent into the city, where I could coast within reasonable walking distance of a gas station.

I arrived at the Klikitat–Yakima county line with about 10 minutes to spare, and spent the time re-configuring the two remaining screwdriver antennas. At 9:00 am, the fun began on 20m with a long run of QSOs, including stations from Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Hawaii, and Japan!

After leaving the Klikitat–Yakima county line, the schedule called for a long, non-stop drive through Benton, Franklin, Adams, Lincoln and Grant counties before stopping again on the Okanogan–Ferry county line. Although gasoline was the first thing on my mind, I did manage to work a pile of stations on 20 CW in Benton County before the long descent into Prosser.

About to make the 2 mile descent into Prosser, on a gravel road.

I recalled from last year, that the gas station took a long time to come across just following my route, so I headed to the center of town looking for a fuel station. Spotting no fuel stations, I chose to park and find out where a nearby station could be found before I ran out of fuel. I got out of the truck to call a friend who could look it up more quickly than I could on my cell phone. The friend didn’t answer, but in the few feet I walked, I spotted a gas station right around the corner. Problem solved.

My error in fuel planning put me about 12 minutes behind schedule. I was able to make that up en route, and was back on schedule before Grant County.

With only one exception for 15m, I stuck to 20m CW and phone as I worked my way North. Conditions were fair to good on 20m, just not spectacular.

I had planned for it to take about an hour from the Grant County line to the Okanogan–Ferry county line. In reality, this took only 30 minutes. After a 20 minute run on 20m, I went to 40m, and after a slow start managed a good run on CW and then phone. I left the county line 25 minutes early to head for the last stop of the day, the Grant–Douglas county line.

Sitting on the Okanogan–Ferry county line

Twenty minutes later, on the Grant–Douglas county line, I had a small run going on 40m, and finished off with a small 20m run (that included working Iceland, for a new multiplier). The last 15 minutes proved almost totally unproductive. I worked W6AFA on phone, but couldn’t get any responses to my CQs. Still, I finished with a smile, knowing that everything went pretty darned well.

Results

The next week was spent entering QSOs into the computer, checking for typos and dupes, scoring, and hand-creating the Cabrillo file.

The result was 824 QSOs, 549 CW and 275 phone.

For multipliers, I worked 43 states, missing LA, MA, ME, NE, RI and VT. I only worked four Canadian regions, BC, MAN, MAR and ON. Thirty three of 39 counties showed up in the log, the missing counties being BEN, DOU, FER, JEFF, LIN, and WAH. And there were 11 DX multipliers: DL, G, HA, I, JA, LA, OH, OM, SM, SP and TF. The net was 91 multipliers.

Last year I worked 972 QSOs (775 CW and 197 phone). But what was lost in QSOs, was nearly made up in multipliers: last year I worked the same number of states, one more Canadian region, seven fewer counties, and seven fewer DX entities.

The final score this year is 200,927 (including a 1,000 point bonus for working W7DX on two modes). Last year, the final score was 213,082 (including a 1,000 point bonus).

Here is the final tally of QSOs by band

Band
CW
Phone
80
46
80
40
102
137
20
382
58
15
19
0
10
0
0
Total
549
275

Here are the top stations worked by number of QSOs:

Call
QSOs
N6MU
43
VE7CV
20
N7EPD
17
KB7N
13
OM2VL
12
NT2A
11
W5ASP
10
K9CW
10
K4BAI
10

QSL: I will eventually upload the contest QSOs to LOTW. If you want confirmation via LOTW for a contest QSO, please use WW7D/M for my call. Paper QSLs are good via mail or bureau.

(Shortcut link)

Tag Cloud