Winter Cometh

I have been off the air for much of the last year, but there’s a good chance that will change soon.  There is no noble reason for my lack of presence on the ham bands: it was lawn mowing.  I still haven’t buried the coax running from my house to my antenna and in the past my landlord took special care when mowing the lawn to stop his zero-turn mower, move the cable over a few feet, and thus keep the lawn maintained without cutting the cable to shreds.  Now that my wife and I have actually bought the house rather than rent it, the mowing has fallen to me.  I am, apparently, more lazy than my former landlord.  I disconnected the cable, coiled it up to the house, and went to town with my lawn tractor.  Then I dragged it (my butt, not the cable) back into the house without reconnecting the antenna.

Mowing season is over, though, and the antenna is connected once again.  We shall see how much I’m on the air but if I had to predict in advance, I will likely be on digital modes this winter.  My sleeping schedule is out of whack and talking assertively into the microphone is more likely to interfere with my wife’s sleep, so the digital modes have a certain appeal.  Will I get my act together in time for digital contests?  We shall see…

Worked All Continents Achieved

Worked All Continents WS3S

WAC Certificate

As I try to catch up on my websites, I have to post about getting my WAC award.  I should have been able to complete this achievement about 6 months prior but a DXpedition made me wait to finally confirm our communication because I would not send them about $50.  So in my first four months of operation, I managed to contact someone on all 6 inhabited continents.  Antarctica does not count towards the award due to its special circumstances.

I’m sure I still have much to learn, and can probably continue to tweak my equipment to get it set better but I can talk around the world already, which is certainly a good sign.

RTTY Roundup 2015 Results

I’m not the best contest-participant yet, I’m sure.  I spent the first half hour realizing my RTTY setup wasn’t actually correct.  When I monitored my own transmission, I just heard a piercing squeal, not the telltale RTTY sounds obvious from all the others in the contest.  It took just a little searching around to find a webpage explaining how the MMTTY program is actually supposed to be configured.  Sure enough, things were fixed and my signal sounded exactly as I would have expected.

I only managed to participate for just over 10 hours of the 24 hour maximum, but managed a 6,625 score (assuming I did the score right, I erred on the low side with DX countries) with 125 QSOs and a multiplier of 53.  I seem to have a knack for a high density of multipliers, so maybe when I can get really invested in the contests my luck will hold out and I’ll have some higher scores.

For what it’s worth, here was my “strategy.”  I started on 10-meters since DX worked well for me in the 10-meter contest.  I scanned and looked for people parked on frequencies.  It was interesting how long into the night I was still receiving signals.  I was surprised at how fast the activity ended though, an hour or two after sundown while I went to get a snack, all activity died.  I switched to 20-meters to see what propagation was there, and managed contacts for several hours.  Once it was fairly late, I switched to 40-meters since my readings suggest it’s a “nighttime band.”  The bulk of my contacts were on 40m.

Ultimately I got tied up with what progress I was making with the Worked All States award and decided to park on a frequency and see if people would come to me.  I made over 30 contacts that way, most of them states I still needed!  I don’t know yet how well 40m is supposed to perform on DX, but I managed to reach a handful of European countries, with Romania already confirmed on Logbook of the World.

A small stack of QSL cards ready for sending.

A small stack of QSL cards ready for sending.

All in all, I must say I’m a fan of RTTY contests.  They may be too mechanical for some, but I’m a computer scientist so I’m possibly biased in favor of it.  So my experience includes a phone contest and a data contest.  Next stop, maybe I can manage some ragchews…