Category: Single Operator High Power, Phone Only
George was kind enough to lend me the use of his station again for this contest. I arrived an hour before the start and George was just getting ready to put up a 10 meter dipole on the tower farthest away from the other 10 meter antennas to give me a second radio antenna. It was a very worthwhile addition.
Last year, I used only one radio all weekend, but this year the second radio got a lot of use. Even with just the dipole, it enabled me to hear new stations to work that I might otherwise have missed. Sometimes I could work them on the dipole, other times I had to quickly QSY the run radio to use the directional antennas to call. George has front-end protection on both radios, so I never had to worry about accidentally damaging one of the receivers. The run radio did pretty much wipe out the mult radio receiver when I was transmitting, though, so I could only S&P between CQs, not during CQs as you might normally do in SO2R. The other thing that was different from real SO2R is how TR Log behaves. The process works fine until you complete the second radio QSO and the software doesn't switch back to the run radio. I assume TR must be looking for a radio on another band. I would have to ESC out and hit Alt-R and then visually check the screen to make sure I was going to transmit on the correct radio. Eventually, I learned to make the second radio QSO by just using Alt-R from the start.
I had some Eskip right from the start this year and managed to work two hours of over 100 QSOs, my first back-to-back 100+ hours ever at the contest start. A nice surprise in the first hour was working a DC station that ended up being my only QSO with that multiplier. The skip was all over, starting with the Carolinas and Virginia, but spreading to include everywhere in the single-hop distance from Florida to Ontario to the Dakotas. I even picked up some relatively short skip into Kansas and Arkansas. The skip thinned out in the 0200 UTC hour and then got really thin in the 0300 UTC hour. W0SD was nice and loud for several hours during this time. My last skip QSO was with a station in Colorado at 0324 UTC, a new multiplier, and the western-most station I'd worked so far. I made only one QSO in the 0400 UTC hour, another Texan, and nothing at all in the 0500 UTC hour. I called it quits for the night around 0600 UTC. I was only 20 QSOs behind my first night last year, and was actually 74 QSOs ahead of where I was after the first night in 2002.
I got up at 1200 UTC, briefly checked the band, took a shower, ate a cereal bar, and got back on the radio. I made my first QSO of the morning at 1227 UTC, and heard a few other stations I had already worked the night before, but was only able to work two more stations in the rest of the hour. I started out on 28.480 MHz, and eventually found out that a DX station in South America (which I could not yet hear) was on the same frequency. I decided to move, but I don't think it made much difference to me yet, as the skip was still really thin. Fifteen minutes later I could hear the DX station that had chosen the same frequency as me on my second radio and worked him - it was my first DX multiplier of the contest. Two minutes later, a KP2 station called me for my second DX multiplier. Most of the skip in the 1300 UTC hour was to the upper Midwest and Ontario.
My rate gradually built through hard-fought hours of 53, 63, and 71 QSOs each, but only took off in the 1700 UTC hour when I must assume I became the beneficiary of a better E-layer cloud. I picked up a few DX multipliers before this happened, though - almost all of them in the Americas: P4, KP4, FM, OA, TI, HI, VP5, VP2M, KG4, PJ2, HR, LU, and ZF. Some of them I found on the second radio, some called in. I did have a handful of QSOs with Europe and Africa. The first European was a TK at 1523 UTC, followed by an EA at 1541 UTC and another EA at 1546 UTC. I would work three more EAs before 1700 UTC. My first African QSO was an EA8 at 1648 UTC. I would work two more EA8 stations, a CT3 station, a 5U station, and a CT station by 1746 UTC. All of the Europeans called me (I never heard a European calling CQ all weekend,) but one of the EA8 stations, the CT3 station, and the 5U station I found on the second radio. I also had a few seemingly random new multiplier QSOs with stateside stations, picking up Louisiana (second radio) and Utah (called me) withing minutes of each other just past 1600 UTC. Other interesting multiplier working in the 1600 UTC hour included Arizona, Oregon (I would end up working LOTS of Oregon stations), and Oklahoma on backscatter.
The 1700 UTC hour on Saturday was my second best QSO total for any hour of the contest at 121 QSOs, and it was the last of my three 100+ hours. The skip was kind of long, hitting a new part of the continent, and I soon filled in all the missing New England state and Maritimes provincial multipliers except for Labrador and New Brunswick. I also picked up Quebec, New Jersey, and Delaware in this hour. The 1800 UTC hour was the first serious opening to the west coast, when I began working California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia in abundance. The skip was long, though, and I wasn't working any of the closer states like Nevada, Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming. The skip was still coming in somewhat from the east, too, and I picked up my first New Brunswick station at 1809 UTC. I picked up some more multipliers on the second radio in the 1800 UTC hour, including ZL, CX, and PY.
The rest of the afternoon got rather slow. I worked only 37 QSOs in the 1900 UTC hour. I did not make a single W/VE QSO between 1905 UTC and 1932 UTC, and made only three W/VE QSOs during the entire clock hour. The 2000 UTC hour was a little better with 55 QSOs, including some skip out west to California, but the skip went long and thin, and I finished off the daylight with hours of 32, 40, and 17 QSOs. Highlights during this time included being called by a GM3 station at 2003 UTC, an LA station at 2056 UTC, a YL station at 2100 UTC, an SM station at 2103 UTC, and a TF3 station at 2211 UTC. I worked this same kind of opening to northern Europe last year at around this time of day, and it was just as exciting this year. I never heard a European CQing during this opening - they all called me. I also worked Alaska at 2112 UTC and Alberta at 2127 UTC.
My first JA QSO was at 2202 UTC. I would eventually work 12 Japanese stations, with the last calling in at 2257 UTC. The only other multiplier I worked in that general direction was a KH0 who called in just before the first JA at 2156 UTC. I never heard any Asiatic Russians or Koreans. I worked a smattering of Pacific island QSOs, inclduing Hawaii, ZK1, and P29 in addition to VK and ZL stations. I worked only four QSOs (all Texans) in the hour between 2346 UTC and 0049 UTC when the Eskip picked up again to the northeast.
The Eskip Saturday night might have been even better than it was Friday night, but of course I'd already worked a lot of stations. I still pulled in hours of 40, 85, 66, and 47 QSOs. The skip covered the same geography as the night before: everywhere from Florida through New York to the Dakotas, but also had longer skip into New England, and shorter skip into closer states like Kansas and Louisiana. The opening started an hour later than Friday night, but lasted an hour later into the evening; the last QSO I made was at 0536 UTC. When I called it quits for the night at 0600 UTC, there were no more signals on the band.
I woke up at 1200 UTC on Sunday, showered, ate a cereal bar, and got back on the air around 1220 UTC when the band was still clearly closed. My first QSO of the morning wasn't until I worked a KP4 at 1306 UTC. Those first three hours were tough, with only 11, 23, and 34 QSOs. Most of the time, I could only work W/VE stations by beaming SSE and working backscatter. Once in a while, a small E layer cloud would give a brief Eskip direct path to somewhere on the east coast, but those moments were brief. One exciting QSO was working a Wyoming station, off backscatter, at 1515 UTC. I worked one European and one African in the 1500 UTC hour, an EA and an IT9 - both called me. Things picked up in the 1600 UTC hour as I got good Eskip to the east coast. I worked another EA station and a CT station in this hour, and was called by a weak F6 at 1702 UTC - my last European QSO of the contest. The polar opening at 2100 UTC - 2200 UTC did not repeat itself on Sunday.
The next several hours are slower, as the Eskip thinned out and I began running out of new stations to work. The 1800 UTC hour on Sunday, though, was my fourth-highest QSO total hour of the contest with 90 contacts in the log. Most of the skip was to the west coast, working California, Oregon, and Washington, but I was also still working stations in the New York and Pennsylvania area. I found an S9 station at 1807 UTC for a great multiplier, and finally picked up Nevada for my 48th (and final) worked state at 1827 UTC. The band conditions really took a rapid dive and I made only 16 QSOs in each of the 1900 UTC and 2000 UTC hours. My final new South American multiplier came at 1949 UTC when I worked an HK station.
I made only two QSOs in the 2100 UTC hour, and again made only two QSOs in the 2200 UTC hour. There was no opening to Japan on Sunday. I went for a full hour and twenty-eight minutes, between 2211 UTC and 2339 UTC, without a single QSO. A little bit of life sprang into the band in the last twenty minutes of the contest, and I found a really sweet multiplier on the second radio when I worked an FK8 at 2343 UTC for my QSO number 1500. My last two QSOs were fellow Texans at 2347 UTC and 2357 UTC.
I worked only about a third as many European QSOs as I did last year, but the big difference was in the number of W/VE QSOs: I made 874 more W/VE QSOs (69% more) last year. I also missed four states and provinces (Idaho, Montana, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) this year that had been sure things in years past. Last year, I had eight consecutive hours of 100+ QSOs on Saturday. This year, I only had three 100+ hours all weekend. I worked fewer DX stations in every part of the world except South America, where my QSO total improved from 67 last year to 86 this year.
The weather held out great all weekend (no thunderstorms!) and the station played well. Anything I could hear on the second radio's dipole I could work. I have no idea how many second radio QSOs I made - probably fewer than 100.
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 29 November 2018