Monday, December 16, 2013

ARRL December 10 Meter Contest

Indoor Buddipole in the Hot Spot
The ARRL 10 Meter Contest is one of my favorites because it's all about my favorite band! And, you can do single mode or both depending on your cup of tea. Me, I of course prefer the CW only mode. I was totally bummed that I would not be able to not only compete in this contest but I had little time to devote to it. I had a goal that no matter what, I was going to take my new callsign on it's maiden contest voyage during the weekend!

As I scrambled to get my kitchen table top shack put together on Saturday, I realized the huge disadvantage I would have. The only computer I had available for software use was my Mini Dell. I was also using my Yaesu FT-857D, which had no direct connection to software due to it's very limited single comm port and I've been unsuccessful in getting it to talk to my Yaesu. So, there would be no computer generated CW as I prefer to send with the computer. In thinking even further, I realized that I did not have any contest software on my Mini Dell! What I did have was HRD (not even close to anything that I would use) and N3FJP's Amateur Contact Log (AClog) 3.3 (outdated). I originally left AClog for HRD as at that time, no updates were planned for the software. I saw other programs expanding and adding modes leading to a more all inclusive software system. The disadvantages I found with HRD and DM780 was it was not friendly to my older computers. So hearing AClog was updated, I was heading back to AClog for my everyday logging. I still planned on remaining with Win-test however, I was also going to use some of the updated contest software also available from N3FJP.

ARRL 10 Meter Alaska Records (CLICK to Enlarge)
While I was involved with the Alaska contest group, I was turned onto Win-test. I totally love this program and it will be my contest software of choice. It helped me beat personal bests and achieve a few memorable contest scores. The ARRL 10 Meter records are listed to the right and I'm proud to hold Single Operator CW for Alaska from 2011. I am sure that score will someday give way to another record holder but for now, I feel pretty proud of that accomplishment. I wrote many a blog entry from past contests in my old KL8DX blog

Anyhow, not having Win-test set up on my Mini Dell and only having AClog available, I figured that was better than nothing! I looked all over for my pass codes so I could download and use N3FJP's latest 10 Meter Contest program but I could not locate them! Paying the price once again for waiting to the last minute to think contest. But, I knew my effort was going to be limited and very casual so I suppose that is why the lack of urgency to get my mind, body and soul into contest mode. So, I ran with what I had. A regular logging program and sending manual CW with my Vibroplex. Oh, and not to mention trying to remember the correct call to send as I do still have KL8DX on the brain. It can be tough to erase mental habits in the heat of the moment. Sending the letter A rather than the letter K is a 180 degree difference off the starting line and I've had K calls for years! Now things flow a bit different on the electronic keyer which is less of a problem when I'm using my straight keys. With software, I would not even have to give it a second thought. 

Kitchen portable set-up Contest Style
My Buddipole antenna was tuned and set up in our upstairs hallway (photo at top) and I was ready! My first QSO was on 12/14 at 2053Z with a California station. The band sounded awesome on my indoor antenna! I was undecided if I was going to run QRP or 100 watts. I decided I wanted to see what the rig could do with full power in this contest. I was operating 100% Search & Pounce (S&P) to look for states and countries first, then adding QSO's later. The band was open from the far west to the south, Florida to California. I was only able to spend 2 hours on the air on the first jaunt, which only teased me for more! And in that first two hours, I snagged Hawaii, twice! 

Life kept me busy until Sunday and I was back on the air around 1300z. It was a Europefest! It was unusual for me to hear Europe so strong and without auroral influence! I managed several European countries and worked several familiar callsigns, including my friend Bert, F6HKA in France. I would slowly tune the VFO up and down the band and work as many that could pull my indoor Phil-a-watt out of the crowded band. It was also obvious that my new call had not made it into the Super Check database.  

Highlights on Sunday was working CT9, TK5, CN8, and a huge surprise was ZM90DX! I had to listen to that station for a few just to make sure I had it right! The excitement did not stop there as a ZS1 fell into the old logbook as well. I worked several of the big Caribbean stations and as propagation worked westward, I had my hopes of hearing Rich, KL7RA. I did hear Rich on Saturday but his pile-up kept me from even attempting. I knew with my set-up, I had to hope I could hear him on Sunday and try to snag him when the pile-up had calmed a bit (Mult strategy).

WCVB Weekend Forecast Non Propagational
While slowly tuning up the band, there was Rich for the second night with a signal of 599 +. Damn he sounded good and it had me hoping that I had sounded half as good when I operated from my old QTH in Alaska. I joined in on the pile-up and after several calls, I knew it was going to come down to the typical pile-up busting strategies. My plan was to move just a hair off frequency and then it would be all about timing. After a few more attempts, I heard a lull between those firing their calls to Alaska at the same time and I sent mine. It paid off as KL7RA made it into my logbook! I celebrated by taking another break from the rig to head outdoors and deal with the fresh 9+ fresh inches of snow that had fallen since Saturday evening. 

After spending 3 hours clearing the heavy wet snow from around the house, I made it back to the radio for my last hour. I managed several stateside QSO's with again, many a familiar callsign from contests past. I worked my last station at 2303z. 

In the end, I worked 32 states and I managed a total of 46 entities. 10 meters showed once again why I love it so darn much. You can literally work the world with little to nothing when the band is open. I only managed 185 QSO's over the weekend with a total operating time of 9 hours or so. Horrible QSO rate but again, it was S&P with many an interruption so my total time operating was much less than that. I missed finding a clear frequency and calling CQ. I very much enjoy running stations but in struggling with my set-up, I opted to just take it easy. Most everyone snagged my call the first time, several asking for a confirmation probably do to not being listed in the master callsign database. A few missed the letter "A" and sent K2MA, but I always made sure I attempted to correct them. A few in their haste may still have busted my call but for the first contest spin, I think things went very well.

Thanks to those who pulled me out of the mud! I could only think how fun the contest would be if I had my 4 element and tower up! If it was this much fun running my indoor radio set-up, it sure had to be fun for those with exterior aluminum. 

I have started to receive a few QSL card requests for my new call so I'm working with a printer on a design for my next QSL. I hope to start answering QSL's sometime in January of 2014. I've got my new call linked to LOTW and EQSL. Things are coming together slow but sure. My station is once again in a box and the antenna packed back into the bag it arrived in. I expect my next round of operating will be for Straight Key Night. I want to wish everyone the safest of holiday's and the very best of DX in 2014! Now I need to attempt converting a regular logging .adif file to a .cbr file that I can submit. Since the contest, I have located my pass codes for N3FJP's software so you can sure bet I will be downloading all the new updates and they will be readily available in the event I'm able to work the next big contest with my wanna be laptop. 

DX and Contest on my friends!


  1. Hello Phil, a fb job with the indoor antenna. Even for you, used to the big beam up in the north, it was fun. That is most important. And a good way to get used to your new call. Have fun and contest on. 73, Bas

  2. Good evening Phil, as Bas said great work from the indoor antenna! We got just the tail end of the snow storm but that still gave us 20cm....down east they looked at over 40cm's.

  3. Thanks, Bas! You're very right! I had a great time even though I miss the pile-ups and being chased. I can't wait for the next one!

  4. Howdy, Mike! Yea, I think winter has finally arrived but I'm used to it. The only thing I'm not used to is the heavy wet snow. This winter has been pretty neat having snow and temps well above zero. Another thing that's new to us, LOL. Happy Holidays my friend and thanks for reading my ramblings and I hope to catch you on the air in 2014!

  5. Wow....that really brings back good memories when I lived in a 30 unit apartment complex. Come to think of it; it still reminds me of my current station. Hihi

    I can barely string 15-17-and 10 meter dipoles here. Needless to say; and long random wire works too. Hihi