Category Archives: Contests

2014 CQ WW DX CW contest

Another CQWWDX CW contest in the book! Propagation, at least for my location in the panhandle of Idaho, was excellent for this year’s contest. Worldwide communication, even for me at QRP power, was possible on 15m and 10m during daylight hours. For me, that meant working 51 DXCC entities and 22 of 39 CQ Zones.

I notched about 80% of my contacts on 15m and 10m. Ultimately 10m was the strongest band for me. Conditions on 40m and 20m were not nearly as good, much more QRN and weaker signals overall.

I operated primarily during daylight hours as band conditions were not suitable after about 8PM PST for me. Both Saturday and Sunday, 10m and 15m came to life at about 1500Z and stayed very active until about 0300Z. I attempted to work 40m at night but QRN was hitting S3-4 which made communication difficult. At any rate, there was very little DX (i.e. non-North American) activity on 40m from my QTH.

Both mornings I was able to work many JAs on 15m and 10m. As the gray line moved on there was more action from the European side.

Propagation into South America was problematic for me. I could consistently hear stations from Brazil, and other parts of S. America, but was not able to reach them except for two contacts, 1 in Venezuela and 1 in Brazil. HK1NA in Colombia was consistently booming in but I was never able to connect with them.

On the other hand, I had no problem working Australia and New Zealand, making multiple contacts during the contest. In addition I was able to work Guam several times, Pakistan and other stations in parts of Southeast Asia.

I even managed to work Finland twice on long path – which seemed amazing given my QRP power. I suspect I heard them on long path and they heard me on short path?

At any rate, I ended up with 166 QSOs for the contest, which I am very satisfied with.

I hope you had as much fun as I did!

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.

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.

The 2013 Pacific Northwest DX Convention

On August 3, 2013 I attended the 58th Pacific Northwest DX Convention in Spokane, Washington. It’s been held every summer since 1955! This year’s convention was my first, but I came away very impressed with the organization and speakers.

Randy, K7TQ, Convention Chairman and his team did an excellent job organizing the convention, bringing in top-notch speakers, and offering great door prizes. The sponsorship of the convention rotates among the Willamette Valley DX Club, the British Columbia DX Club, and the Western Washington DX Club.

This year the Spokane DX Association hosted the convention, which put it near my backyard in Moscow, Idaho.

There were over 20 door prize contributors, including Ham Radio Outlet, Tigertronics, Writelog Software, West Mountain Radio, Alpha Amps, the ARRL, and The Daily DX. ICOM and Yaesu were on hand with displays and give-aways.

Randy, W7TJ, led off the presentations on Saturday morning with a very serious talk entitled, “Preparing for the Propagation Winter.” The talk focused on the current solar minimum our Sun is experiencing, in which solar activity is quite low, sunspots are much less frequent and of smaller size and intensity. All these factors, and more, mean HF propagation conditions are not nearly as strong as in previous years. Randy suggested that low-band DXing (80 and 160 meters) might be something to take more seriously.

I also heard,subsequently, that our Sun is in the process of flipping its magnetic poles. Currently the south magnetic pole of the Sun has already flipped. The North magnetic pole will soon flip as well, which has far-reaching consequences not just for Earth and our immediate solar system, but, as far as scientist know, even beyond!

For now, I plan to soldier on with my QRP work on 40-10 meters. Not enough real estate for the likes of 80 or 160 meter antennas. HI

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The second speaker, Lance, W7GJ, gave a brilliant follow-on presentation about 6 meter moonbounce work he did during a recent DXpedition to French-owned Clipperton Island, off the west coast of Mexico.

Lance’s presentation introduction was a perfect lead-in after Randy’s talk, as 6 meters is less dependent on ionospheric propagation. In fact, lower solar activity means 6 meters is becoming ideal for moonbounce work. I know Lance peaked my curiosity! It’s amazing what he accomplished with his 20-foot yagi.

Just getting to Clipperton Island turned out to be quite an adventure as Lance explained. During the DXpedition he made 50 moonbounce contacts under conditions that included high winds loaded with salt spray which corroded some of the gear.

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Geoff, W0CG/PJ2DX was up next and gave a very interesting look inside the world of station PJ2T (Curacao), one which many of you have no doubt worked over the years (myself included). Ever wonder why you hear PJ2T on the air all time time? That’s because it IS on the air all the time! Geoff shared stories of what it takes to keep the station on the air, in terms of station maintenance, legal and governmental paperwork, and operating. I have a whole new appreciation for PJ2T and would love to visit and operate from such a fabulous QTH. But Geoff’s presentation brought home the reality that keeping PJ2T on the air is literally a full-time job for himself and the support team. Interested in helping out? Contact Geoff.

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Jim, K9JF, presented, “The DX’ers favorite wallpaper,” next and did a fine job talking about the wide range of awards he has earned over his long career in ham radio. It’s hard to believe he’s been able to hold down a full-time job and still garner all these awards and QSOs!

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Next, Elvin, JA3CZY, gave a great presentation entitled, “The state of amateur radio in Japan.” If his presentation is any indication, Japanese hams are operating in fine style. He shared photos of some of the most amazing antenna farms I’ve ever seen. His QTH is no slouch either, with a transmission line running from his QTH to a roof-top location located some 1200 feet away and about 14 stories in the air. The antenna tower can be raised, lowered and rotated remotely. There is also a video camera mounted nearby so he can keep an eye on the whole set up. I spoke with Elvin just after his presentation and told him that I fully agree with one of the thoughts he left us with: Just call CQ! He noted that everyone is always amazed at how much activity there is during contests. His philosophy is that if more people would try calling CQ during off-contest periods, the bands would show more activity. I suspect he is right.

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We heard next from Dave, NN1N from ARRL, who has made a point of collecting callsigns over the years. I believe he has had over one dozen. He has a passion for collecting obscure QSL cards and challenged the audience to identify the locations of such calls as LY1000BY, Q2MK, VS9UA, AR1WW, and 3B2HA. Can you guess? He stumped most of us with his very entertaining presentation.

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Bob, W9KNI, presented on Digging Out the Rare DX. Many of you may know Bob’s excellent book, The Complete DX’er, now in its 3rd edition. It’s an excellent read for the serious DX chaser. Bob shared the wisdom he has gained over the years for best practices and techniques for consistently making rare contacts. Ultimately it gets down to a lot of dedication, late nights, hard work, careful note taking, careful tuning and listening, knowledge of the bands and propagation, and consistent effort over time. Bingo.

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As part of the convention, the Idaho DX Association, which I recently joined, was welcomed as a new participating member of the Spokane DX Association. IDXA will now be able to compete along with the SDXA for the annual DX Challenge Cup. As our total score improves over time, IDXA will be able to compete on its own for the cup. I hope to be a key contributor to that effort, starting with my work as IDXA contest coordinator along with Emmett, NA7EM, the founder and current president of IDXA.

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If you’re in Vancouver, BC in the summer of 2014 please plan to attend the next Pacific Northwest DX Convention. If it’s anything like this year’s it will be well worth the trip! Good DX!