Monthly Archives: November 2013

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.

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KX3 setup

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

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

2013 CQ WW CW contest

I plan to operate the 2013 CQ WW CW contest from Ogunquit, Maine. It’s a beautiful location right at the beach so I’m looking forward to some ocean-influenced propagation during the contest.

Not sure yet what kind of antenna I’ll set up. My hotel room is on the second floor with a nice deck up about 20 feet looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean.

I plan to use simple wire antennas, so I’m bringing about 50 feet of speaker wire and two collapsable 16-foot fiberglass poles so I can rig a longwire, dipole or inverted vee. I’m also packing about 50 feet of twin-lead for a transmission line for inverted vee / dipole setups.

I’ll be running my KX3 at 5w on 80-10m.

Good luck if you plan to compete! Let’s hope the propagation gods are smiling down on us all for the CQ WW CW contest!

 

Code practice: It’s starting to pay off

It’s been many weeks since I began working to increase my code copying speed. This week I noticed that I can now get nearly 100% copy in my head at 25 wpm. I’m at 65-75% solid copy in my head at 30 wpm. At 35 wpm I’m consistently able to copy longer stretches of code. In fact, tonight, while doing my 35 wpm W1AW code practice I began to experience what it feels like when you begin to really hear faster CW as a language and not simply dits and dahs flying past your ear drums. I was actually able to relax a bit and hear what was sent more like a conversation vs. translating as I listened. And, with longer words (e.g. antenna, or communications, or transmitter) once you hear the front end of the word and recognize it sound or signature, you know what’s coming and so can relax a bit and take in the overall context to confirm what it is.

I must say that after all these weeks, it’s very gratifying to get to this point. Of course, the more I read about high speed code, the more I realize that speeds between 25 and 45 wpm are considered below threshold of high-speed. They’re more like medium speed to guys that are real speed merchants. High speed is probably more in the range of 50 wpm and up.

Naturally, just as I thought 30 wpm was way beyond my reach but realize it’s within my grasp, I still wonder how I can ever reach 50 wpm, but the experience I had tonight made me realize that copying in my head is the way to go. You’re free to sit back and just listen and focus on what’s being “said” instead of worrying about being able to read what you’ve scrawled down, or typed on the “mill.”

My ears are gradually getting tuned for higher speeds.

In the end, like many things, it gets down to practice, practice, practice. And then, practice some more.

 

80th annual ARRL November Sweepstakes

Wow! Really had a very successful Sweepstakes. Propagation conditions were excellent from North Idaho with all bands open at some point: 80-10m. I was able to work nearly 40 states plus several Canadian provinces including two hams, Jay – VY1JA and VY1EI, in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, who were booming in throughout the contest. I worked them both on 15m.

Running QRP, I ended the Sweepstakes with 188 contacts. Here’s the breakdown by band:

80m: 20
40m:   9
20m: 76
15m: 73
10m: 10

My contacts on 80m were a first for me as my bent dipole is not really optimized for work on that band. Nevertheless I managed 20 contacts, third best band for me, whereas 40m is usually the workhorse. For some reason, I was not getting out on 40m, although I was hearing plenty of activity. It was nice to see openings on 10m for a change. 10m is usually dead for me in this part of the country.

Score was 22,560. This was my best contest outing ever in terms of sheer number of contacts. I must admit that by Sunday evening I was really exhausted. That said, it was a great experience. I have to say everyone was very patient with my QRP signal, often having to ask for multiple repeats to capture everything in each exchange. That’s one thing about the Sweepstakes, each exchange carries a lot of information.

The one big surprise for me was that I only contacted and heard one other ham running QRP during Sweepstakes: NK6A. It will be interesting to learn how many hams were running QRP during Sweepstakes.

2013 ARRL Sweepstakes – CW

I’ll be operating QRP (5w) for the 80th ARRL CW Sweepstakes this weekend. I plan to work 40, 20, 15 & 10m if the propagation gods smile down on my humble QTH here in north Idaho. Fun begins at 2100Z! Regardless of what happens it will be a blast.

Did a little be of observing this morning from W7UQ at the University of Idaho for the Idaho Simulated Emergency Test – “Hack Attack” which simulated the Internet and grid being down. They were mostly working phone phone but were trying to get digital up as well.

In the meantime, I’m off to get set up for the CW Sweepstakes this weekend. Hope to see you on the air! GL.

QRQ code practice update

I continue to practice CW at higher speeds. My strategy is to practice 3-4 times per week as follows using the ARRL code practice archive site. I begin at 35 wpm in listen-only mode during the text portion of the practice. Despite the fact that I can only copy up to about 5 words in a string at a time my goal is to be able to copy 100% without using paper or a mill. At 35 wpm I may only get 5-10% correct. Once practice shifts to sending numbers and call signs, I switch to writing it down, since (at least for now) it’s very difficult to hold random numbers in my mind and understand them. During this portion, ARRL is sending call signs and scores.

After that sessions ends (about 7-8 minutes), I shift to 30 wpm practice and repeat the same process for another 7-8 minutes, then move down to 25 wpm.

After several months I’m copying much better at 30 wpm, consistently able to understand what I’m copying, getting many phrases correct but, on the whole probably only copying (hearing not writing) 40% of what I hear. I’m getting probably 80-90% of the calls and scores during the 30 WPM sessions.

At 25 wpm I’m copying correctly in my head at probably 80-90%. I’m able to copy nearly 100% correct on the calls and scores at 25 wpm, which feels great now.

So, over time I really am improving. You just have to stick with it to see the pay-off.