Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Warm, Humid & Busy with the ARRL DX CW Contest in the Rear View.

Winding (Grinding) Road of Life
Here we are at the end of August and normally, I'd be excited about the upcoming contest season. The reality of it is, there has been little time for ham radio. That does not appear to be changing any time soon. My last QSO was a contest QSO during the CQ World Wide WPX CW Contest on May 25th, 2014! I knew it had been awhile but I did not know it had been that long. 

Living down here in the lower 48, it's still very warm and humid. Back in Alaska, they have snow in the forecast and it's weather I was used to this time of year. Summers seemed short but with the 24 hours of daylight, you packed in many an hour of summer fun before the September snows arrived. Here, summers are much longer as is fall, so there is more time to spend doing things outdoors, if you have the time. 

The weeks are long, the weekends are short and life has been very busy. We (my wife and I) spend hours and hours commuting to and from work each week, at least fifteen hours per week. That right there is my radio time. My weekends are for home activities and when the weather allows, we hop on the Harley and head for less busy roads, normally into New Hampshire. The photo above was taken by my bridal passenger as we made our way down a less traveled road enjoying the lack of commuter mayhem. 

I like to compare my current life to a weekend contest. Fast paced, lots of interference or QRM (traffic), some great runs (early morning commutes when we beat the crowd) and some grinds, those days when you are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, which is most afternoons. I went from apps that ran APRS to apps the help me find the path of last resistance, like WAZE. When we lived in Alaska, I never worried about traffic! Here, it's key to getting some of my life back. If you're not familiar with WAZE, it's a live representation of traffic conditions and it can help you find the least congested path to your destination. If I did not use WAZE on a daily basis, I'd be losing even more of my personal life. I have no affiliation with the company, only a satisfied user. 

Why do I miss ham radio? Seems most everyone is pretty darn friendly, with the exception being the 14.313 idiots. Hams create software that would cost hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars in the real world and we can download them for free! Nothing is free here in MA! There is a tax, a fee, or a process for everything!  My yearly license plate excise taxes would easily purchase that new HF rig I've wanted for years! I miss communicating with the different HF modes and here, people communicate with horns and hand signals. European pileups were cake compared to life in the Boston fast lane. Kudos to those that live for it and enjoy it, but like SSB contests, it's not really my cup of tea (Pun intended).

AK2MA Single Band QRP Effort
In reviewing my ARRL DX CW Contest results, I obviously busted a callsign or two. I'm not a CW expert nor do I claim to be. I do try to get each and every QSO accurately logged but like many factors in my life, I'm still striving for perfection. The screenshot to the right is from the ARRL Contest Results page. When I look back at my setup, I can't help but be happy with my score. Low power, indoor antenna, minimal effort and I wanted to send a few extra points to the Yankee Clipper Contest Club. I can only imagine what I might have accomplished if I had my AK setup down here! But any contest effort is better than none. So in the end, how did I do? My 3830 pre-log checking post is listed below. I think I did pretty well considering QRP in a major contest is normally a struggle but working with my setup tested my patience and operating skill like never before. I'm most pleased that I kept all my MULTS (multipliers). Hopefully future contests will be logged at ARS AK2MA, where ever that might be. 

3830 Post Below -

ARRL DX Contest, CW
Call: AK2MA
Operator(s): AK2MA
Station: AK2MA
Class: SOSB/15 QRP
Operating Time (hrs): 16.5
Band QSOs Mults
15:   150        57
Total: 150      57         Total Score = 25,650

Club: Yankee Clipper Contest Club


Since moving to MA from Alaska, I've spend the vast majority of
my time unpacking and getting settled back here in the lower 48.
My antenna's and equipment are still mothballed and I don't see
any real station for me anytime soon. I've pulled my portable
equipment out and that's my current station setup.

Spending 9½ years as KL8DX at Denali, this was a very different
experience for me. And to make it more extreme, I decided to give
QRP a try. That in itself can be challenging but what made it even
more challenging was operating with an indoor antenna. I decided
on 15 meters for my single band entry as I figured that would offer
me the best conditions and the most multipliers for my QRP effort.
My evenings were busy so my strategy was to get the best bang for
my QRP buck.

It seems the Alaska weather has followed me. As in the case over
the last few weekends, I spent a large part of this weekend clearing
10+ inches of fresh snow which took up the vast majority of my contest
effort. I did not get on the air until Saturday morning so I knew going
in, this was not going to be a all out QRP effort.

I won't bore you with the details of my QRP struggles but operating on
this side of the pileup and running QRP has been a humbling experience.
So many great stations / operators / receivers that pulled my weak signal
out for a contest QSO. I missed more multipliers that were loud but could
not hear me, but I expected that. I'm still satisfied with my limited
effort. Sorry to EC2DX & IB9T for the dupes. My filtered IC-703+ handled
the busy band quite well. Many European stations had my Icom bouncing on
the kitchen table they were so unbelievably strong.

73, Phil AK2MA

Station: Kitchen table setup consisting of IC703+ @5W or less
Antenna: Buddipole Deluxe in upstairs hallway
Sofware: Mini Dell using N3FJP's Contest Log



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