Planning Strategy for CQ WW

I’m been starting to plan my strategy for CQ WW. I’m not sure how many hours yet that I can operate. I thinking in the range of approximately 30

Set-Up:

Telnet filtering

Operating:

1100-1500 must operate

1930-0000 running on 40cw

0600-0700 stick around for EU sunset; I am always pull the plug at 0600z

Canadians !

My last effort from home:

Call: N1SNB
Operator(s): N1SNB
Station: N1SNB

Class: SOAB(A) LP
QTH: Massachusetts
Operating Time (hrs): 25
Location: USA

Summary:   Compare Scores
BandQSOsZonesCountries
160:623
80:1151142
40:1872074
20:2022071
15:2191577
10:14810
Total:74376277Total Score748,007

Club: [none]

Comments:     [email]     2010-11-28 15:26:46
I made a late decision to operate this contest semi-seriously. I’ve only lived in my current QTH for about a year and have done very little antenna work or shack building. Correspondingly, I decided to buy an all band vertical just for this contest to compliment my inverted G5RV. I settled on the MFJ-2990 – a 43 foot beast. The antenna arrived the Friday of the contest at noon time. It needed a concrete footing and took way longer than the 1 hour advertised to get this antenna going. Of course, when I was installing the footing it was below freezing and icing. I also put down 1500 feet of ground radials with hours to spare before the start. But, come 0000z I was ready to go. The antenna, overall, was a strong performer on 80,40 & 20, and was a non-existent peformer on 160, 15 and 10. Almost all my work was S & P. Equipment: FT-857 – 100 w Inverted G5RV on 15 MFJ-2990 43′ ground mounted Vert on the rest of the bands Some General Comments: – Caribbean mults seemed harder than normal, pileups seemed deep on 20, 15 and 10. No 6 banders here. Only one 5 bander, P40L. – Only one European and one African on 10 meters. – The pileups for D4C, C5A, 9L5VT were all crazy – 9L5 seemed to always have the most callers – Semi-rare mults like 5B4,ZA, OH0, IH9 and others were more commonplace than some basic mults like XE, 6Y, ZS, HP, V31 all come to mind – 730 S & P QSOs and 13 CQs – Missed a lot of easy zones – 7 comes to mind – I did use packet – although it was quite useless. Seemed like spot volume seemed down? Here is my band by band breakdown: 160 – My 43′ vertical really sucked it on 160. No DX except for VP9I. Also missed zones 3, 4 and 6….wow! At least, I could hear DX, they just couldn’t hear me. This is an improvement. 80 – I thought 80 was great on Friday night and was not nearly as hot on Saturday. No really exciting contacts. I’ve been doing low power contesting with bad antennas and 100 QSOs is a personal best on 80m. 40 – The new vertical worked well here. I was really happy to snag ZL8, VK4, A73 – all great 100w contacts in my book. A73A was memorable as he was being called by wall to wall EU. 20 – Signals were strong in all directions. Found a lonely 7Z1SJ CQing – also was happy to work JA, VK, ZD8, 9L5, 4Z4 with low power. 15 – Found 9H3, 5H3 without pile-ups which was nice. Signals seemed stronger on Sunday. 10 – So frustrating. LU, CX, and some Carib couldn’t hear me. Signals seemed to be way up and down between S0-S9 in seconds. Worked EA8, CR6 on Sunday Thanks for all the contacts. 73 Jeff jbdemers@gmail.com

2020 SS N1SNB SSB SO-U

Call: N1SNB
Operator(s): N1SNB
Station: N1SNB

Class: SO Unlimited HP
QTH: NNY
Operating Time (hrs): 22
Remote operation

160:   
80:     553
40:     302
20:     267
15:     17
10:     
Total:  1139    Sections        82      Total Score     186,796

My wife asked me this afternoon if this was the last contest for a while and I told her to ask me again next Sunday.

It’s been 24 years since I last did this contest.  What a grind mentally with the QRM and weak signals, I was begging for it to be over by mid morning Sunday.  Other modes and contests seem so relaxing in comparison –  get the callsign and your done or nearly done.   It’s amazing to me that the very piece of information you need can be obscured time and time again….QRMd, faded out, or not otherwise copied.

Missed PE and NT.   I worked a bunch of NNY (NM2O! ) too – so, I think the section was well represented this year.

Thanks to everyone for all the contacts.  And thanks to the guys at Remote Ham Radio for getting me set up to do this contest from NNY. I’ve got a nice thing going doing SSB contests remote and doing RTTY and CW contests from my home station with my more limited antennas.

I had some tech issues originating with both my internet connection and an intermittent VOX that really slowed things down particularly Saturday night.  Lost the 80/20m/15m amp on Sunday – dead w/no output

Happy Thanksgiving and GL in WW

2020 CQ WW SSB VP9I

Call: VP9I
Operator(s): N1SNB
Station: VP9I

Class: SO(A)AB LP
QTH:
Operating Time (hrs): 40
Location: Other North America

Summary: Compare Scores
Band QSOs Zones Countries
160: 115 3 3
80: 508 12 30
40: 780 12 35
20: 1471 19 54
15: 604 17 49
10: 37 8 8
Total: 3515 70 179 Total Score 1,839,500

Club: Yankee Clipper Contest Club

Comments: [email] 2020-10-26 00:58:35
I am very happy I was able to get to Bermuda to this contest, with travel restrictions and world events making most travel impossible.

But getting here was interesting.

I had to take COVID test in Boston and then pay extra money to get authorized by Bermuda to visit once I could prove a negative PCR COVID test within days of departure. When I got off the nearly empty plane, I got tested astride the tarmac by someone in a Hazmat suit next to the “Welcome to Bermuda” sign and proceeded to my quarantine as I awaited results (negative!)

I was also bringing Ed, VP9GE (my host), a refurbished rotator. I had it in my suitcase and, of course, it made the drug-sniffing dog go crazy, and the suitcase got opened, and the entire airport security team joined in the questioning.

Hurricane Epsilon added to the worry. It was a tropical depression that was stalled SE of VP9, then the day before I left (last Monday) it strengthened and turned towards Bermuda. I decided to proceed anyway even though the weather was going to be an issue for days

It was a close run affair and the hurricane shaved the island on Thursday to Friday with a long period of powerful winds. Ed’s tribander was down for repairs and stayed that way until the storm passed. The gale winds subsided by Friday afternoon. I spent several anxious days waiting for high winds and the destruction of the low band wires.. – luckily, neither materialized.

The contest itself was fun – but I think the lack of expeditions really shaved my score of dozens of easy mults that are usually very very easy to work here. Running 100w and a tribander w/wires made it very hard to work remaining distant mults.

I suspect there was increased competition for the mults out there – and it seemed that stations were mainly paying attention to their own part of the world. I didn’t work any Middle East stations, none from continental Africa and only one from Asia. I couldn’t get through to any VK/ZL on 40/80 and this is usually an easy QSO at daybreak. I worked only a handful of eastern EU stations and missed numerous easy mults.

Running Europe was also exceptionally hard and only occasionally successful. I simply wasn’t loud enough to be heard by second-tier European stations – even working top tier stations in Europe was difficult.

I also had to go get another COVID test at the post office (yes, 3 TESTS!) mid morning Saturday. The test was scheduled by the government and was non-optional and non-time flexible. It was the painful double nostril “brain scrape” variety that left me seeing stars – who needs sleep when someone in a hazmat suit in the post office can wake you up with a 6 inch swab up your noise?

VP9 WW SSB gurus N1SV and K1XM gave me some tips on what to expect here – and they prepped me for the reality that the mornings are incredibly frustrating. 12z-16z is S & P here and the rate is very very low. The afternoons were much better, particularly on 20m,

Because of the lack of expeditions and out of a sense of goodwill, anyone that asked me to move to another band got an “affirmative” to their request. I completed 29/30 pass attempts (sorry Bob, KQ2M – I could hear you…but no dice.

N9NB and W3LPL were my only 6 band QSOs. Best hourly rate was 276.

On to Sweepstakes.

2020 SS N1SNB SO U HP

I hadn’t operated this contest in a very long time.  My last entry on record with the ARRL was in the mid 1990s.  Those sweepstakes still bring back a lot of memories from 25 years ago and I remember the drama of frantically searching for Nebraska with hours to go.

But fast forward to the present

I had three major goals in this contest.  To make 500 QSOs between 2100 and bedtime, practice SO2R, and get things set up and feeling good for upcoming contests.

I don’t really have the antennas to be able to mount a real SO2R type effort where both radios have access to loads of resources.  I’ve found that with my minimal antenna setup (in DX contests at least), I rarely have a choice of productively running on more than one band.  So I practiced the key contest ‘SO2R light’  scenario of running on my one key band  with my key antenna and legal limit power and tuning on the others with inferior resources.

On the S & P radio,  as I pre-logged contacts –  I’d get them preloaded into N1MM as I waited for a chance to call.  The S & P station was a multiband 43′ vertical,  700w, and an IC-7300.  This worked well,  but I found it frustrating to get a caller on the hook on the run radio while I suffered through the back and forth on the S & P radio.  I played around with this too much on Saturday night and should have just focused on the run.

I got to around 400 Qs by the time I pulled the plug for the night – so I missed that goal.  I also missed the sweep.  I missed the usual suspects in NW Canada plus Alaska.  I saw Alaska repeatedly spotted but could never hear them.  The last mult worked was Hawaii, working KH6TU first,  and then a minute later KH6CJJ on 15m.  Both were first call, strong clean QSOs – which was exciting.  It’s very fun that 15m has been back….I hope things hold up for WW.

One place where I really blew it was with spotting.   I operated with assistance to prep for the DX contests. Despite great tips from the last YCCC meeting, I still didn’t quite have the right set up.  At the outset,  I connected to W1VE and limited incoming spots to verified calls from zone 5 spotters (seemed smart?).  I was prematurely patting myself on the back for implementing more filtering than I normally did.  I didn’t really do anything with spots on Saturday night.  My plan was to use them to get through the Sunday tedium.

So on Sunday morning I realized my setup was deficient, the bandmaps were still full of junk.  I’d get busted calls show up with the correction in parenthesis in blue in the bandmap, even though I worked the corrected station (how do I get rid of these?),  many of the skimmers in zone 5 were hearing stations on ground wave in zone 5 that I obviously could not hear,  and the combination of these two things from all the skimmers meant the maps were just full of junk.  At this point, I should have stopped and tried to think about how to fix the problem. I didn’t and really only operated part time on Sunday.

By late Sunday afternoon I had a revelation while raking leaves.  What if I just used spots from one or two local skimmers?  I added that into the mix and things got much better, much quicker.  I still need to figure some things out with blacklisting calls but I felt like 1-2 local skimmers with verified spots was a huge improvement and manageable

Band

160:    4
80:     215
40:     330
20:     88
15:     5
10:     

642
Sections        81
104,004

Next up is WAE RTTY.   

73
Jeff
N1SNB

Equipment & Hardware

I’m rebuilding my station in Haverhill, MA now.  I sold everything back in 2014 when work, travel and family commitments were overwhelming.  Now, I’ve got some basic equipment and have begun the rebuild. My focus will be investing in antennas, feedlines and amplifiers.

I have another station at a cabin in Washington, NH  I will be using this station in the fall for ARRL Sweepstakes and the 160 contests. 

 

 

Current Haverhill Station:

Radio & Amplifier:

Alinco DX-SR8/T  – super basic but functional for digital modes.  Not good for CW
Icom-7300  – highly functional, a great radio.

RM Italy HLA-305V – I bought this to have a simple amp for digital modes, like RTTY, that I could drive with less than 10 watts.  Requires a very beefy power supply.
AL-811

Antennas:
43′ Vertical  w/remote tuner
DX-LB 160-80-40 Dipole as Inverted V
20m Delta Loop
15m 3e Yagi homemade, fixed south
20-10 Tribander

Peripherals

Dunestar Bandpass Filters
Tigertronics SignaLink  (for FT8)
Alinco DM-330MVT PowerSupply

Washington, NH
Yaesu FT-857d
Cushcraft MA160V (destroyed  – sometime in the winter of 2019)
40m Delta Loop
20m Delta Loop

Updates in Haverhill, MA

 

September, 2020
Added Dunestar Bandpass Filters
Reconnected Inverted V for 160-40

August, 2020
Added ICOM-7300 and AL-811 Amplifier

July, 2020
Added Remote Tuner to the base of 43′ Vertical

April 23, 2020
Some more radial work. Had some issues today with a loose coax connection going to the antenna switch, was relieved it was easily fixed.

April 16, 2020
Added another 300′ of radials under the 43′ vertical

April 15, 2020
Added WinKeyer between N1MM and radio.  Gave it a shakedown in CWT.  CWT is a challenging contest for me.  The speeds are high, the Alinco has a not-so-great CW filter and receiver and my signals are week.

April 13, 2020
Added Dunestar Audio Mixer into the station to mix audio between radios and televisions.

April 12, 2020
Continued adding radials to the 43′

April 11, 2020
Continued adding radials to the 43′.

April 10, 2020
Fixed shorty 160-80-40 DX-LB trapped dipole.  This antenna had a tree fall on it years ago.  The coax was destroyed. But otherwise everything was working.  Fed with new 50′ of LMR-400 to RCS-4 control switch.  Sealed the antenna connection with copious amounts of #33 scotch electric tape and cold sealing tape

Ran new 150′ of RG-213 made in America for Amateur Radio Supplies from the RCS-4 switch back to the shack.

April 9, 2020:
Added additional ground rod to 43′ foot vertical

April 8, 2020
Added new ground radials to 43′ foot vertical.

Lessons from WAE

I’ve been working steadily to get the equipment and antenna needed for a busy fall contest season.  This weekend I participated in the WAE contest.  I made some observations that I think will help future efforts

  • I like the stacked monitors, one atop each other versus monitors side by side
  • Always have extra amplifier fuses and backup tubes
  • Use the N1MM available mults and Qs window.  I like it much, much better than using just the bandmap
  • Do more on 80m and 15m.  I have easy, in-expensive solutions for 15m – but for 80m?  My plan is an inverted-L –  we’ll see.

 

 

Planning for the Fall Contest Season

The longer COVID has gone on, the only thing that has become clearer is that there is no clear end game in sight. I fully expect to be in some lockdown this winter, coupled with no travel (personal or professional), that leaves a lot of time for radio.

As such my own ham plans have continued to evolve.

I’ve begun working on the set-up in earnest.  The hardware will be two IC-7300 radios running N1MM.   It’s going to take two months to get everything in place and get the gear here.

Below, you can see the beginning.  I’ve got a 36″ x 80″  table with a 12″ riser measuring 20″ x 48″.    On the back of the table,  I have copper pipe serving as a bus bar.  The power supplies are going to move off the main table to a small table just off to the left of the main table.  I’ve pulled the table out from against the wall by 18″ giving me just enough room to squeeze back there.

On the antenna side,  my plan is pretty straightforward.

Radio A (left) will be a multiplier radio, fully automated with N1MM:
AL-811 Amplifier
43′ Vertical with MFJ-998RT Remore Tuner

Radio B (right) will be the run radio, fully automated with N1MM
Expert1.3K-FA Amplifier
160m:  Inverted Vee
80m:  Inverted Vee (or maybe Inverted L)
40m:  Delta Loop
EU:  20m, 3 ELE Beam
EU:  15m, 3 ELE Beam
EU:  10m, 3 ELE Beam

 

IMG_2927

One of the pleasures of FT8

One thing that I’ve really enjoyed about FT8 is the ability to work smaller stations around the world.  In contesting parlance, these are second tier stations – stations that aren’t necessarily running big power and big antennas.

It’s been a lot of fun on FT8 to work, for example,  more SVs and TAs than ever before.  Guys running 100w with a balcony or rooftop antenna in Athens or Istanbul are workable.

Last night on 30m, I had a great “deep Russia” run on 30m.  Check it out:

2020-05-01,01:43:30,2020-05-01,01:44:45,UA9JLL,MP23,10.137300,FT8,-08,-14,,,
2020-05-01,01:49:30,2020-05-01,01:50:45,UA9LL,MO27,10.137300,FT8,-08,-17,,,
2020-05-01,01:52:00,2020-05-01,01:53:15,RA4LY,LO44,10.137300,FT8,-12,-06,,,
2020-05-01,01:53:45,2020-05-01,01:55:15,R1QA,KO99,10.137300,FT8,-10,-12,,,
2020-05-01,01:56:15,2020-05-01,01:57:15,UA4HJ,LO43,10.137300,FT8,-11,-10,,,
2020-05-01,01:59:00,2020-05-01,02:00:15,KE6PLA,DM04,10.137300,FT8,-08,-11,,,
2020-05-01,02:01:15,2020-05-01,02:02:15,RA9WAN,,10.137300,FT8,-09,-17,,,
2020-05-01,02:02:45,2020-05-01,02:05:15,KD4IE,EL98,10.137300,FT8,-08,-19,,,
2020-05-01,02:07:30,2020-05-01,02:10:15,W6JCH,DM13,10.137300,FT8,-07,-09,,,
2020-05-01,02:15:45,2020-05-01,02:17:15,VE7UM,CN89,10.137300,FT8,-17,-16,,,
2020-05-01,02:19:45,2020-05-01,02:20:45,UA4CCH,LO21,10.137300,FT8,-07,-20,,,
2020-05-01,02:27:15,2020-05-01,02:30:14,RW0AR,NO66,10.137300,FT8,-23,-20,,,
2020-05-01,02:30:45,2020-05-01,02:31:45,AD0WX,EM48,10.137300,FT8,-02,-03,,,
2020-05-01,02:32:30,2020-05-01,02:33:45,UA6HJT,LN14,10.137300,FT8,-16,-18,,,
2020-05-01,02:37:45,2020-05-01,02:38:45,RK4R,,10.137300,FT8,-06,-15,,,
2020-05-01,02:39:45,2020-05-01,02:40:45,R4IK,,10.137300,FT8,-06,-13,,,
2020-05-01,02:42:00,2020-05-01,02:42:45,R2DRE,,10.137300,FT8,-05,-17,,,
2020-05-01,02:43:30,2020-05-01,02:44:45,RK7C,LN05,10.137300,FT8,+00,-14,,,
2020-05-01,02:51:30,2020-05-01,03:58:01,RK4PH,LO45,10.137300,FT8,-13,-14,,,

I think this is what makes FT8 great.  It’s opened up a pretty great world for small stations.  I run simple antennas and low power but I know my signal predictability can reach most corners of the world at certain times on certain frequencies that I could not get too on SSB or CW.

FT8 with an Amplifier?

I’ve really been enjoying FT8 over the last month.  I’ve made a ton of QSOs.  Very fun.

I’ve been running about 5w from an Alinco DX-S8RT into a 43′ Vertical.  The Alinco doesn’t have easily adjusted power out – so it’s either 1w, 5w or about 80w (advertised as 100w).  I recently added a RM Italy HLA-305V amplifier into the mix.  My 5w on 40m is now about 190w. The results have been astounding.  My average CQ response rate on 40m (sample sizes of 500 QSOs in 0000-0400z hours) of stations calling me went from an average of 5 QSOs per hour with 5w to 13 per hour with 190w.

I’m tremendously happy with this station improvement.

Good Ground Systems are Expensive

This article does not constitute advice. Please consult an engineer or professional if you need help.  I read the excellent ARRL book Grounding and Bonding for the Radio Amateur to get my inspiration for the ground system I am going to describe.

I’m using the word ground system for a reason.  I’m trying to accomplish multiple things by improving my station ground system:

  • AC Safety
  • Lightning Protection
  • RF Management

I want to show one diagram from W8JI’s website below.  It’s important because it is a reasonable proxy for what I’m trying to do.  See below.

Background:

  • There is no economical way for my feedlines to come in to the house next to the utility entrance, so my feedline entrance is separate than my utility entrance (where my power comes in).
  • My house’s AC service ground rod is in my basement.

What I decided to do:

  • Currently, I have one master feedline that goes out from my basement shack to a 4 position switch.  Just before the run hits the switch, I pass the run through a UHF-UHF bulkhead box that has a 5′ ground rod beneath it.  The attachment is done with #6 AWG wire.  My 43′ vertical also has 2 x 5′ ground rods beneath it bonded to the radial field of the antenna.  The goal of these ground rods is to keep as much energy away from my house, in the event of lightning hitting an antenna or nearby area.
  • I have three Alpha-Delta lightning Transi-Traps on the feedlines (one spare, one for HF described above, and one for VHF antennas).  The Transi Traps are rated at 2KW and are able to pass DC as I use DC for antenna switching.  These are located at my basement feed-line entrance. Each one has its’ own 5′ foot ground rod.  All the rods are bonded together.  The goal of these is to shunt off transient energy before it gets to the radios.
  • The Transi-Traps entrance point is bonded to the Utility AC service ground rod that is some 40ft away in the basement via #6 AWG wire (even if I brought the feedlines into the utility entrance. The Utility AC service basement ground rod is in a remarkably inconvenient location from both the service entrance and the feedline entrance (and about 50′ further from the antennas than the feedline entrance).
  • I also employ a perimeter ground loop.  The loop is 175′ of #4 AWG Copper wire. It is bonded to both the feedline entrance point and the AC service entrance.  The depth is about 12″. At the AC service entrance, I am using the same path to ground that the phone & internet companies are using to get to the AC service ground rod in the basement, via a small bus bar outside of the house with small gauge wire. The idea here is that based on a lightning strike to the antennas or the power lines without a perimeter ground, I may just be partially diverting the energy.  It’s my Alamo.  I’ve got more to do to beef this up – getting a professional to add heavy gauge access to the AC service ground rod (I have yet to price this out).  Another improvement will be to add more ground rods to the perimeter ground.
  • Each piece of equipment I have with a ground connection is attached to the system (Transceiver,  Power Supply, Antenna Tuner) via a short run of copper braid.  They all run to one point on a 2′ stand-alone copper pipe bus bar where they are firmly secured with hose clamps.  This bus bar is bonded to the run that goes between feedline entry ground and AC service ground.

Materials totaling $517:

  • Transi-Traps.  $55.00 x 3   =  $165.00
  • Ground Rods.  $12.00 x 6 =  $72.00
  • Ground Rod Clamps  $5.00 x 8  = $30.00
  • 100′ of #6 AWG  $75.00
  • 175′ of #4 AWG  $125.00
  • 2′ Copper Pipe Bus Bar  $20.00
  • 30′ of 1/2 inch copper braid  $30.00

 

Houseground-best