2014 ARRL Sweepstakes – CW

I participated as a single op, QRP, non-assisted. I think the ARRL Sweepstakes is one of the more challenging contests from the perspective of the sheer amount of information required for each QSO. There are plenty of ways to go wrong, so you really have to be detail oriented to log each contact correctly 100% of the time.

Propagation was generally pretty good here in northern Idaho. 20, 15 and 10m were the workhorse bands this time out.

I finished with an unofficial score of just above 12,000, well down from my first place finish in the Idaho section for QRP in 2013 of 18,592. In the end, I was my own worst enemy.

Not sure why but I had SWR problems on 20. Since my antenna is a fixed loop running around my roofline it’s not clear what may have caused the issue. At any rate, my internal antenna tuner on the KX3 was unable to bring the SWR down much below 2-1 so I was probably not putting out much more than a watt or two on 20m. That probably hurt my score and I should have checked and corrected this ahead of time.

Right out of the gate I made some mistakes getting my log set up, which was caused by not being completely familiar with a new version of MacLogger on my new Mac. So, when the contest began, the first QSO logged got numbered 000 instead of 001. I would have noticed that had a reconfigured my log view to be showing the QSO number. My new Mac is a desktop, which replaced a Macbook which has a much smaller screen. Instead of maximizing my log view I packed a bunch of other stuff on the screen (DXmaps, timers, etc.) and failed to reconfigure the MacLogger display properly. Don’t get me wrong, MacLogger is a fabulous contesting application. Top notch. I even used the contest helper window which has built-in timers providing information on time between Qs and time on band. Having real-time QSO rate information sharpens your focus and makes it much more obvious when lots of time is slipping by between QSOs, making you realize it’s time to move on or get off for a bit. Live and learn.

I worked about 19 hours of the 24 allowed, but actually made another mistake by failing to check my 2013 log to see how many Qs I made in that contest. As it turns out, I decided to stop once I reached 166 Qs this year because it was getting late on Sunday for me. I believed I was ahead of my count for 2013. Wrong. In 2013 I scored 188 Qs plus nearly 10 more sections. Again, I should have checked beforehand.

My QSO breakdown was
40m – 20
20m – 54
15m – 54
10m – 36

One more learning experience for me was getting up too early on Sunday morning (1200 UTC) to try to catch the band openings. I blew 90 minutes of operating time. I should have gotten off, grabbed a few more hours of sleep and logged by on when things opened a bit later. Activity began picking up around 1330 UTC.

All in all it was a great contest for me. Consistently strong signals from the teams in Hawaii and Alaska, they were blowing my doors off. I ended with 37 sections.

For those who participated this time out, congratulations! For those who did not, I hope to see you next year or perhaps in the upcoming CQWW CW contest at the end of November.

2013 ARRL Sweepstakes update

A few weeks ago I was stunned to receive in the mail from ARRL HQ a certificate with my name and call on it for taking first place in the Idaho section for QRP operators in the 2013 ARRL Sweepstakes!  Looking back on my post from that contest I noted how favorable propagation conditions were, but I never dreamed I would actually win a section.

Well. here I am a year later on the eve of the 2014 ARRL Sweepstakes and looking for defend my humble title. I’ll be running my KX3 at about 5 watts, using the same dipole/loop antenna configuration.

Good luck to all those competing! I just check band conditions and things look great! 10 meters is really hot. I can’t wait to get started!

QRP ARCI adds nifty new way to log awards data

If you’re into collecting awards for QRP operating, consider stopping by a new QRP ARCI site just set up buy Julian – AK4VL. He’s done a very nice job of creating a web page that allows quick efficient data entry for claiming QRP operating awards. Currently, the site is set up for Kilometers Per Watt (KMPW) award. So, if you’re running 5w or less and QSO with stations over about 5,000 Km away (regardless of their power) you can stop by Julio’s site, enter you QSO data and submit the information for an award through QRP ARCI.

He’ll be adding interfaces for more awards soon. Stop by and have a look. He’s done a very nice job.

Julio is also the creator of the HAMjitsu QRP site.

Thanks Julio!

QRP: A (minor) star on Kon Tiki!

I watched the 2012 movie adaptation of the 1947 documentary, Kon Tiki, made by Thor Heyerdahl of his famous balsa wood raft adventure from Peru to Polynesia. The movie was nominated for an academy award and it’s easy to see why. Very well done with some amazing special effects work. I had no idea that for the trip, Heyerdahl’s crew included not one but two radiomen! The film shows the radio receiver, key and headphones used. I wasn’t able to determine the receiver manufacturer, but it looks like they used a J-38 key. Power seems to have been provided by a crank-powered generator of some kind.

During the crossing the movie includes several scenes of the radiomen struggling to get antennas working. In one scene they attempt to get an aerial in the air with a balloon even. Ultimately they appear to have settled on a simple long wire hoisted up along the mast.

The radio is used to report their position during the journey and when they ultimately reach Polynesia you hear the sounds the the BBC coming from the radio and see one of the radiomen cranking the power generator.

It seems likely this would have been a QRP operation start to finish.

The movie is definitely worth watching. I caught it on Netflix.

QRP operating awards

The January issue of QST features an article entitled, “One-thousand Miles Per Watt” which focuses on operating awards the QRP enthusiast can earn. I went back through my logbook and discovered I had more than half a dozen QSOs in 2013 that qualified for the 1,000 miles per watt! Although the QST article talks primarily about NAQCC and QRP ARCI awards, there are many other organizations that offer QRP awards. For example, DXAwards.com list dozens of these awards from around the world (some links have gone stale but the page is actively updated).

This past weekend I submitted the required log info on my Thousand Miles Per Watt QSOs to NAQCC and QRP ARCI. Both clubs give you the option of having the awards sent FREE via email or, for a nominal shipping fee, sent via snail mail. I used info from my LoTW entries, which also includes a QSO confirmation number and date. For the most part the awards are done on the honor system, but I felt better including LoTW proof of my QSOs.

Can’t wait to receive my awards, get them framed and up on the walls of my shack. At 5w or less and with my simple, fixed wire antenna I know I’ve earned each of those awards, so I’m proud to show them off.

How about you?

Additional notes from operating from Maine

After the 2013 CQ WW CW contest I did some additional operating from my vacation location in Ogunquit, Maine on the the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Operating November 26-28, using the same setup as I used for the CQ WW CW contest (KX3 powered by 8 AA batteries running about 3w CW to a 50-foot longwire wrapped around the porch railing of my second floor hotel room overlooking the beach) I had QSOs with:

  • Jeff – PJ2/K8ND in Curacao on 20m at about 2130 Z
  • Les – KL7J in Alaska on 15m at about 2030 Z
  • Jiri – OK2RZ in the Czech Republic on 40m at about 2215 Z
  • Dave – VP5/W5CW in the Turks & Caicos Islands 15m at about 1300 Z
  • Simon – M0VKY in England on 15m at about 1300 Z
  • KG2A QRV as V25A in Antigua & Barbados on 20m at about 2100 Z

Great fun working QRP oceanside with a simple non-resonant antenna!

2013 CQWW CW report

This year I worked CQWWCW from a seaside hotel in Ogunquit, Maine (FN43QF88). My setup, directly overlooking the ocean, included my KX3 running about 5w into a 50-foot longwire draped over the second floor balcony railing off the hotel room. The KX3 was powered only by a set of 8 AA rechargeable batteries.

Since my stay in Maine was not primarily for CQWCW, I only worked the contest for about 6 hours (Sunday AM & evening). I had flown in from Idaho on Saturday and so didn’t arrive in Portland until late.

Despite the abbreviated operating schedule I notched 105 contacts across 33 countries.

I did not have my laptop so I logged all contacts manually on paper which slowed my QSO rate. But I had no hopes of winning in any category anyway. I focused more on increasing my country count on QRP.

My antenna was broadside to the north which probably explains why I worked almost Europeans, the only exceptions being CN2R in Morocco and P3Z and P33W in Cyprus (technically an EU entity).

QSO breakdown by band:
40m: 3
20m: 46
15m: 11
10m: 45

I was able to add the following to my country list:

OH0V: Åland Islands
P3Z & P33W: Cyprus
LZ7I: Luxembourg
ED6A: Balearic Islands

I brought along my Goal Zero solar charger but weather conditions limited my ability to recharge batteries. I must say that the day after the contest I was able to get a full charge on 4 AA’s in an afternoon on a fully overcast day with the unit suspended in front of a sliding glass door from the curtain rod by a pair of shoe laces.

I was satisfied with my results from contest. This was my first time operating from an ocean-side location. Considering my antenna was just a 50 foot length of thin speaker wire up maybe 20 feet from the ground, I think I did well.

Next time, given the chance to operate from a similar location, I would bring my S33 vertical and a better battery power source.

KX3 setup

My view out the hotel sliders to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

My Goal Zero solar charging unit suspended from the curtain rod and charging a set of 4 AA batteries.