Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ham Stuff

Name Badge From Ham Crazy
Since I'm finding myself attending a few more ham social functions now being the lower 48, I was shopping for a callsign badge. I've had great luck with my callsign hats using Astrid's (WM8C) and I recently used Ham Crazy for my callsign badge. I have no financial interest in either of these companies, I'm only a very satisfied customer. 

I ordered my callsign badge on the 15th of this month and it was in my mailbox on the 18th! My scanner does not capture the true color of my callsign badge but it's as you can see on their website. Great quality and I did change up my order a bit. I did not want my QTH printed on the badge as I see it changing a few more times over the next few years. I opted for my previous callsigns instead of my town and state. It was professionally done and I'm impressed with the order to my doorstep time. As we get close to the BIG Hamvention, it was time for me to update my wearable signage, which I've done with both companies. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

YCCC - The Contesting Echelon in my Backyard

ID - Contest Style
I spent yesterday afternoon (Saturday) attending the Yankee Clipper Contest Club (YCCC) meeting in Sturbridge, MA. I very much enjoy contesting so once we relocated, taking the advice from a well known contester or two in Alaska, this was the club I wanted to join once we got settled. I fall within the clubs radius (territory) which works out perfectly. The only downside to this entire scenario is my main station is disassembled and I won't be able (with my current situation) to help with other than a minimal score on those contest weekends I participate in. My goal is to eventually help out with some multi-operator stations if I can. Since I run indoors and mostly QRP now, it limits my ability for any high scoring contribution. But, they are glad for any points the membership can contribute. I just know I'm capable of much more but I'm limited by my current setup. I feel like Tony Stewart running a NASCAR race in a 1974 Pinto.  

Attending these meetings, I'm in the company of many of the elite of the contesting world. The club is made up of seasoned and well known contesters along with newcomers who are just getting started. Meetings, such as the one I attended yesterday, can be very beneficial in learning the basics and beyond of contesting. Just as one would sit in a college classroom and learn from their instructor, this is a room full experienced contesters, all of whom are encyclopedia's of contesting know-how. 

The club meeting consisted of a few club presentations, one of which being on the top of my "can't wait to see" list. The first presentation was a detailed slideshow of the planning and building of the contest station owned by Fred & Anita Kemmerer, AB1OC and AB1QB. They have a very nice blog which details their station build. This, like many other stations we read about, is a station I personally could only dream of. However, it's a perfect testament that even with the smallest of stations, it's always worth coming up with a plan after research and before one breaks ground. Anita, like myself, loves the digital modes. Their presentation was extremely detailed and informative even if areas were a bit out of my knowledge comfort zone. The highlight for me was seeing that I had worked Anita, AB1QB from my station in Alaska. They did a nice graphical Google Earth element during their presentation that showed the calls and different countries (entities) they had worked. I got a quick glance at my old call as their presentation scanned over their impressive globe of QSO's.

The second presentation was the one I was even more excited about. Randy, K5ZD put on a great slideshow titled, "How to be a better single operator" and this is where I fall into the contesting mix. I'm always looking for that next tool or piece of advice that will help me increase my contest score. Randy's advice is something of value to ALL contesters, new and old. I've worked Randy many times over the years and he's certainly one to learn from. And, you should recognize Randy's callsign from the CQ Contest World. His signature and callsign are on many of my CQ Contest Awards. I happened to mention to Randy some of the headaches I dealt with on my run frequencies during contests. I would get miss spotted on the DX Cluster and I would immediately start to get several duplicate QSO's. I'd work them, but too many would take what they see on the Cluster as gospel. I would give my call after each and every QSO but I still would end up with several duplicates in most of the major CW contests. And don't guess on callsigns, if you're not sure, ask! Some more great advice by Randy. I used to see many bust my call when I operated in Alaska. One of those contests I summarized my Log Checking Report (LCR) from the CQ World Wide CW DX Contest. In there, are a few I copied incorrectly, many of which were prime examples by Randy. I'm at times challenged being fatigued with the letters "S" and "H" during CW contests, especially if the other station is sending like they having been drinking Red Bull for hours. 

The final presentation was given by Chet, N8RA. His presentation titled, "Field Day from a Sailboat" was very interesting as well. We hams often have a desire to operate in the strangest (and coolest) places. Chet presented his challenges in setting up antenna's on the sailboat but in the end, it was a successful adventure. I also learned some information regarding tides which I had not known previously. 

Even though I did not make a single ham radio QSO, it was a highly productive ham radio Saturday! As the club and many others prepare for WRTC, it's going to be a Northeastern Ham Radio Event like no other. I'm hoping to help where I can but that time appears to be in conflict with the dates of us finding and settling into our next QTH.