Posts Tagged ‘Operation’

CQ WW SSB 2010 N7BT (@W7IV)

It was with great pleasure that I had the chance to operate at Paul W7IV’s station for this year’s CQ WW DX SSB Contest. We operated with Don’s N7BT call in the M/2 category. The team comprised Paul W7IV, Don N7BT, Dick N7RO, Phil VE7YBH, Dean KW7XX, Doyle KC7GX, Gary W7GLC and myself.

This was the biggest contest setup I have been involved with so far and it was an opportunity I could not pass up. Paul’s station is a few mile outside of Bellingham in Washington, just over the border from Vancouver. He has started to build a great station on his lot and already has three towers up with a fourth on the way as I speak.

The main station was an Elecraft K3, a new rig for me but one that I would appreciate immensely toward the end of the contest. Station two was an Icom Pro II, very familiar for me as I’ve honed my contest skills at VE7NSR on a Pro III. We ran 1.5kW on the main station with a Alpha 87a and 1kW from the second station with an Icom IC-PW1.

Another first for me was using WriteLog. I found it a little clunky at first and I missed the better designed bandmap and rate meters that N1MM has but am beginning to appreciate the text entry and editing capabilities.

Tower 1 has a SteppIR MonstIR Beam our main 20 & 40m antenna and a few meters above that, the pride of the station, an OptiBeam 80m 2 element yagi. Tower 2 was a SteppIR 4 element Yagi, this would become our main 10 & 15m beam.

I operated during the daylight hours alongside Paul, Don, Dick and Doyle, taking turns to operate or log. On Friday evening we went head first onto 15m hoping for a run of JA’s that never materialised. Conditions were not optimal and things only became tougher at night though Dean and Phil did manage a decent run of VK’s on 20m and JA’s later on 40m.

On Saturday morning I helped Phil finish his shift logging EU stations and then got a chance to run on the K3 toward Europe. 20m was choc-a-bloc, bloody nuts it was! I decided to start searching for mults and this proved fruitful, upping the scoring with the minimum of Qs. In fact I love searching and pouncing and after nearly two years of low power ops from the condo and VE7NSR I feel it is a skill I have honed well. I also love the K3’s sub receiver, having a second dedicated knob for it is really handy. While trying to bust one pile up you can be easily listening for the next mult.

After a break and some logging time it was back to operate station two on 15m on hopefully a run to Asia. Again the runs were in short supply so picking off the mults from the cluster was the way to go. With Doyle spotting new ones, we got every country and zone we could possibly get into Asia at that time on 15m. Tiring in the evening I gave Phil and Dean a hand as they started out on another tough night on the top bands.

The final day of any of 48hr contest always brings out a sense of urgency and it was no different this time round. From the get go I was in the seat on 20m to Europe getting a few runs here and there and at the same time trying to pick off a few more mults, highlight was 5Z4EE answering my call! Again the K3 is awesome for this, I can be calling on one freq and easily tuning around for new mults on the sub receiver.

For the runs it was a case of finding the minimum of space and just elbowing your way onto a frequency. There is no other way to put it, you need to push your way through the crowd and make room, nobody else going to do it for you. This was the coldest, hardest lesson I learned all weekend.

After lunch I sat and logged with Paul as he worked into Asia on 15m. At last we got the runs I felt we deserved. We worked simultaneously into South America as well, flipping the SteppIR 180 degrees as required, picking off some new zones and mults in the process. The JA’s woke up from their slumber and in the final three hours we clocked 60, 70 and 100 Qs each hour with the rate clock tipping well over 200/hr at times.

We also had VKs and ZLs calling from the side of the beam and worked numerous new mults including Cambodia and Vietnam. The logging was frenetic. Paul would CQ on one frequency and I would observe the spots, check if they were dupes or new mults in the log, stack a few up and pass him the frequencies. He’d line them up on VFO B, work’em and then flip back to the calling frequency. Those last few hours were lots of fun, even if I was only logging! I would happily do that for hours on end if the runs are good.

Highlight of the afternoon was spotting V6B in Micronesia on the cluster. We were working South America at the time, hit 180 on the SteppIR and worked him first time, busting the pile-up as all the ‘big’ east coast continued to struggle…….we had a good chuckle about that one!

Though the guys would admit they had set their sights a little higher we still turned out a good performance for a non-big gun station. Thanks to all the guys for a fun weekend, hopefully the first of many.

Claimed Score (as submitted to 3830):

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
  160:   28     4        3
   80:  137    23       35
   40:  463    29       63
   20:  573    35      106
   15:  650    30       88
   10:   96    10       16
Total: 1947   131      311  Total Score = 2,259,062



I had always wanted to put a bit of time into this one. In the end I worked a bit of the Friday evening, most of Saturday daytime from VE7NSR, along with VA7JMO as a Multi-Single.

Ran for a time on 40m and 80m on the Friday evening and Saturday though mostly S&P. Was the first time doing any significant running on sideband. It was lots of fun and not as scary as I thought it would be. I’m always worried about screwing up callsigns but it never became an issue.

I used the the ProIII’s built in DVK, as setting up the DVK from N1MM would be painful. Getting the audio levels right out of a sound-card can be difficult. The ProIII DVK delivers audio indistinguishable from that of live on-air audio, plus it’s really easy to setup. It is a pity that there is no way you can key the ProIII DVK directly over CI-V from N1MM like you can with the Yaesu FT2000. I think I might buy the Better RF ‘I-Mate’ which allows you to key the DVK memories externally.

There were lots of highlights for me. I enjoyed running but I think it is better suited to a lower noise environment. There were so many stations I just could not pull out of the mud, especially on 40m. DX wise the highlights were working ZL and VK stations with low power on 40m and 15m for the first time. In fact the first contact was on 40m, with a wire dipole at 100W, not bad for a solar minimum.

VE7NSR SteppIR 3ele: This is our workhorse antenna.

VE7NSR SteppIR 3ele: This is our workhorse antenna.

15m was a blast on the Saturday. It was like a DX expressway. I don’t know was it the case that 20m was so busy that many stations moved up or were conditions that bit better? I think it was more a case of the former to be honest. Bands will sound dead if nobody is operating on them.

20m was tough. Europe was tough even after the wall of east coast stations dissipated, so much splatter. Picking off the JAs in the late afternoon is fun though, turns the tables on our east coast cousins who can pick off the Europeans at ease. It’s nice to be able to pull up into a minor pile-up on a JA station and work him first time round as stations further east struggle. Such was the case on 15m for the VK and ZL stations I worked along with FK8GM in New Caledonia and E51JD in the Cook Islands, it’s all ocean between here and there.

I tried working 9M8Z but to no avail on 15m or 20m. After the contest was over I wondered why. I loaded up Google Earth and pinpointed my station and his. 9M is on roughly the same 300 degree path from VE7NSR as the JA stations are. However the take off angle is a lot lower and Cypress Mountain looms high on that horizon, oh well!

Total contacts were 238 for 54,366 pts. Usually good enough for a cert. in the M/S category in BC but looking at the 3830 list it seems VE7SV are entering as a M/S this year as opposed to their regular M/2 or M/M. I don’t think we could catch their 2700 contacts!

ARRL Field Day 2009

The North Shore Amateur Radio Club (NSARC) this year operated as a 2F emergency operations centre station. Usually the club organises a field event on Cypress Mountain but this year it was felt it would be better to showcase the communications room at the North Shore Emergency Management Office (NSEMO). NSARC maintains a number stations in the room as part of an agreement with the NSEMO, in effect creating our club station.

This years station, VE7NSR comprised of the following:

Icom IC 756 ProIII with a SteppIR 3 element yagi on 20m.
Icom IC 756 ProII with a inverted V dipole on 40m
Icom IC 7000 with an assortment of yagis on 6, 2 and 70cm.

We also operated the IC 7000 as a Get on the Air (GOTA) station with the callsign VE7EMR. This was radio fed into an N4PC loop operating on 80m.

This was my first field day as a licensed operator so I decided to jump straight into the deep end. I had signed myself up for a nice spot at around 9.30pm on the Saturday evening. Little did I know that I would remain the rest of the night, fortunes swaying with the changing band conditions.

I arrived early at 7.30pm hoping to sit around for a while and soak it all in. I hadn’t operated for over two months as work commitments had meant my weekends were tied up. As no other newly minted hams had showed up my first task was to fire up the GOTA station and score a few bonus points. I’m not sure of the exact amount of points but I believe it was standard scoring per QSO and then a bonus for each 20 QSOs. All the stations were using N1MM for logging but as I was switching the callsign to VE7EMR it was easier to paper-log than create a second instance of N1MM.

In about two hours or so with a few breaks I racked up about 25 QSOs on 80m. The band was poor at first, but around 9pm it came alive as more and more regional field day stations were switching over to 80m with the setting sun. I decided to call it quits on the GOTA station once I had filled out a page of a standard RAC logbook. This was my first time operating on 80m.

Switching to the 20m station things were a lot slower than I expected. The number of QSOs dropped considerably after 11pm. I kept plugging away logging a few Hawaiian and Alaskan stations and a few west US coast stations that had slipped under the radar earlier in the day. At about 12.30am I heard a Japanese station call CQ, he had a queue but an orderly one at that. Running 100w in poor conditions I knew I wasn’t going to bust the pileup.

I moved up the band and had a listen around but it seemed the band had gone long with little or no North American activity. At about 1am I decided to come back to the JA station. The queue was still there so I knew I would have to play the waiting game.

I have no problem pounding on the door of a DX station, but I’m more of a sly fox than a big gun. Its all about timing. Every station is going to call when the DX calls ‘QRZ’, there’s no point calling then. Listen to the rhythm of his QSO’s. Maybe the DX has a QSO that goes awry and the natural rhythm of the QSOs is upset, you should be ready to pounce on this ‘dead air’. At about 1am I bagged JE7YSS.

Throughout the event all of our QSOs were logged in N1MM. To highlight the stations contacted and provide a visual representation of the days proceedings club member Luke VA7LWE had designed a piece of software that interacted with the log in N1MM. His program ‘Visual QTH’ will listen for log traffic that N1MM generates over IP. (N1MM will send log contacts over IP to other instances of the software on the same network so as to keep the logs upto date on each station if running multi-multi, this avoids dupes).

Luke’s software extracts information from the log and correlates it with information from the database. Each QSO is presented as a point on a global map and with distances between your QTH and the station contacted calculated. The software also pulls up a QSL card and website of the station contacted (if available) and displays them in a scrollable list. To top it off the software announces each contact in cw and computer generated voice! We had the software running from a laptop projecting onto a large screen in a room adjacent to the radio-room. This allowed visitors to visualise the QSOs as they were being made. Read more about Visual QTH here.

At about 2am I switched over to 40m on the second 756 station. Things were slow here and once the Asian shortwave broadcasters kicked in around 3am the band became unusable except for a little sliver between 7150 and 7200. Having never operated at this time of day before I decided it would be beneficial to stick around and watch how the bands develop if only for educational purposes.

With sunrise calculated for around 4.20am I expected conditions on all bands to change considerably before, during and after this period. I was especially interested to see how 20m would shape at this time in the morning, but it didn’t. I kept monitoring 20m, up and down the band. Nothing. Around 6.30am some Florida stations were weakly heard but far too weak to work. It took another full hour before I could begin making contacts again, working a few in far southern Florida.

Gradually the pace of the QSOs quickened as the band opened up on the South East US. However what surprised me was how long it took for 20m to ‘warm up’. It was a full four hours after sunrise before the band would be what I would call ‘usable’ at about 8am. Granted I have never experienced 20m at this time of day before but it was a bit of a surprise.

With a only hours left in the event and a QSO hungry shift coming on stream in the morning I decided to call it quits and head for my bed. It was a very enjoyable night overall. I really familiarised myself with the ProIII on this event and I’ve found a comfortable operating zone with the controls I need the most, VFO, AF gain, noise reduction, passband tuning and notch. If every radio only had those I’d be happy.