Thanks to Bryan for letting me use his station this weekend, and to Robert K5PI, who maintains the place and keeps things in good working order. This year, I went out to the station the weekend before the contest to set things up (configure TR Log, adjust the 80 meter dipoles to phone length, set up the DVK, etc.) so I could just show up on Saturday morning and not feel rushed before the contest.
I got off to a bad start. When I sat down in the chair a couple of minutes before the start, it sounded like 15 meters was completely dead (I could only hear one or stations, and they sounded weak,) so I decided to start on 20 meters, which was painful and not nearly as rapid a start as last year. It eventually dawned on me that it wasn't that 15 meters was dead, but that my radio B was deaf. It couldn't hear anything at all on 40 either, and I knew that wasn't right. I did a quick SWR check to confirm that, yes, it was connected to a resonant antenna system; and yes, the SixPack was switching things properly. So, that kind of bummed me out - I figured the receiver was bad and I'd have to swap it out when I took my first off-time (which I wasn't planning to take until 2AM local or whenever the rate dropped off around then.) A long while later, when I made the band change to 40 meters, and had been using the Beverage occasionally on radio A, it dawned on me that maybe something external in the receive-only chain (Beverage interface box maybe) wasn't working right. When I did stop for the night, I squeezed around behind the table and found the loose RF cable. The Beverage interface mod on the back of the Kenwood TS-850 uses RCA connectors, which can come loose pretty easily, and I must have accidentally caught it and pulled it out while I was plugging in the coax and rotor cables before the start.
The other thing that went wrong on Saturday was the DVK. It's a W9XT Contest Card, and it may just be getting old. The relays worked fine, and it may have been recording just fine, but the playback was erratic. I'd record a message, it would play back once; after that, it would key but not play any audio, and I'd have to use ESC to unkey. Sometimes I'd make a new recording and it would play back once, sometimes not. I gave up using it. At my first off time, I rebooted into DOS (instead of using a full-screen DOS window under Win98,) tried it a bunch of times, and then finally it seemed to record one CQ message and replay it consistently, so I decided not to push my luck and used that memory all day Sunday.
This year, I stayed on 20 meters a little longer than last year, and I think that helped me catch up after a slower start. It looks like I had actually pulled a few ahead of my QSO total last year by the end of the first five hours. But, I lost ground on last year's total the rest of the night, and finished 17 QSOs behind where I had been last year when I finished for the night. The last two hours (0600 UTC and 0700 UTC hours) in particular were painful, and well below what I did last year. I'm not sure what happened there.
On Sunday morning, I woke up an hour earlier than I did last year, and I think that helped a lot. I found a lot more stations on 80 meters in the 1200 UTC hour than I would have expected. I made my first second-radio QSOs in that hour on 40, as well, and then CQed on 40 meters for about 10 minutes before deciding it was time to find a run frequency on 20 meters. I found a great big hole at 14.155 MHz and began to CQ.
My first 20 meter QSO of the morning was at 1300 UTC exactly, and I had two and a half great hours, including a 79 QSO hour and an 88 QSO hour. Around 1504 UTC, a pair of jammers decided to harass me. I'm used to being hassled basically every contest, but this was new. I'd been on 14.155 MHz for two hours now, and as happens once in a while I hit a lull of maybe six or seven unanswered CQs. Jammer A says "Wouldn't ya have more luck in the General band?" Most often, this kind of comment is a one-off, so I call another live CQ. Jammer A repeats his question, but another station answers with a callsign. I send my exchange to the contester, and as I am receiving her exchange, jammer A repeats his question on top of her. I complete that QSO and call "CQ contest" again and jammer A is persistent about asking "Wouldn't ya have better luck in the General band?" Finally, I ask him for his callsign, but he only repeats his question (he never gave a callsign,) and I CQ again. Now, I hear "CQ Contest, Kilo Five Texas Radio, Contest!" over and over again. At first I figure George has made a mistake, is sending on the wrong VFO or maybe doesn't hear me (we're at an awkward distance from each other,) so I tell him the frequency is in use and give my callsign. I do this a few times when jammer B pops in and says "I guess he's no more interested in listenin' to you than you was to that other fella'!" He only says this once and never sends a callsign, but that's when I begin to clue in that George (and it is his voice) isn't really pausing enough between CQs, isn't working anyone, and is too many bars on my S meter (again, because of the awkward distance.) So, Jammer A recorded George CQing earlier in the contest, and is now replaying it to harass me. It is an interesting choice to be sure, given that George was a groomsman at my wedding. I slide down about 1 kHz and call CQ there. The jamming recording follows me. I slide up two kHz and the jammer follows me there. Down 2 kHz. Up 2 kHz. Very persistent. So I stop and listen for a bit and the jammer stops. Maybe 90 seconds later, I call CQ again on 14.155 MHz, and he never returns. This took about five full minutes, but it seemed like it took a lot longer.
(George tells me that he has heard from other contesters who were also jammed this weekend with the same recording.)
I took an off-time in the 1600 UTC hour. I'm not sure if that was a great decision or not, but my productivity on 20 meters was fading and 15 meter wasn't quite there yet, and my rate had taken a dive. My 2000 UTC hour was terrible. I decided to move from a slow CQ run on 15 meters to try my hand at CQing on 20 meters for a while and troll though 15 meters on the second radio (and maybe find Yt/Nwt/Nu,) but that was a disaster. I could never get anything going on 20 meters, and ended up with a full hour of only 40 QSOs. My next off-time was in the 2100 UTC hour when a line of thunderstorms rolled by and I had to disconnect the antennas and rotor cables for a half hour or so. I took another half hour off in the 0000 UTC hour when things had slowed down again, and took my remaining minutes of off time at the very end.
I was beginning to worry about working a clean sweep on Sunday. I only worked my first Pacific section station in the 1700 UTC hour, which left me with only the Yt/Nwt/Nu section to find. My repeated second-radio passes up and down the bands failed to find anything that resembled a Yt multiplier pileup, though. A VY1 station eventually did call me in the 2300 UTC hour on 20 meters, for the sweep. I worked at least two stations in every other section, and I even worked eight stations in the Maritimes, which used to be a hard section to work, but is now much easier to work in the Sweepstakes than Delaware.
I made 91 more QSOs on Sunday this year than I did last year, and at times I was over 100 QSOs ahead of last year's pace. I feel really good about that. This is a personal best score for me.
Station: http://www.kkn.net/~w5kft/ 160 - Inverted V @ 145' 80 - Sloping dipoles - NE, NW from 150', SE from 135' 40 - Cushcraft 40-2CD @ 150', rotatable Cushcraft 40-2CD @ 70', fixed NE 20 - Hy-Gain 204BA @ 157', rotatable Hy-Gain 204BA @ 105', fixed NE Hy-Gain 204BA @ 53', fixed NE Hy-Gain TH7DXX @ 60', rotatable 15 - Hy-Gain 155CA @ 135', rotatable Hy-Gain 155CA @ 90', fixed NE Hy-Gain 155CA @ 45', fixed NE Hy-Gain TH7DXX @ 60', rotatable 10 - Hy-Gain 105CA @ 140', rotatable Hy-Gain 105CA @ 100', fixed NE Hy-Gain 105CA @ 60', fixed NE Hy-Gain 105CA @ 30', fixed NE Hy-Gain TH7DXX @ 60', rotatable Radio 1: Kenwood TS-850SAT, Ameritron AL-1200 Radio 2: Kenwood TS-850SAT, Ameritron AL-1500 Headset: Heil Proset DVK: W9XT Contest Card Software: TR Log 6.79 Other: SX0B StackMatches, Ameritron RCS-8V switches, ICE bandpass filters, Top Ten Devices Band Decoders, Top Ten Devices DXDoubler, CDE rotors
Contest Logging was done with TR LOG contest logging software. The following reports and log were created using TR LOG's post-contest processor.
Last Updated 14 April 2016