Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sweepstakes CW 2015

This year I operated from home and put in a nearly full-time effort. All the equipment was the same as last year. And I again strung up my 2-element triband wire yagi. For some reason, it worked very well on 20m, beating the G5RV by 1-2 S-units on most signals I was hearing, but on 15m signals were usually louder on the dipole. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps there's some interaction between the two antennas, since they hang from the same tree.

In any case, here are the results:

 Band     QSOs     Pts  Sec
   3.5      71     142    3
     7     189     378   13
    14     413     826   22
    21      86     172   34
    28      20      40   11
 Total     779    1558   83
Score: 129,314

Rig: Elecraft K3, KPA-500 amplifier, KAT-500 antenna tuner
Antennas: G5RV inverted vee with apex@60ft, 2-el triband wire yagi@35ft

I opened on 10M, worked most of the stations on the band, then tried CQing with no joy. I dropped down to 15 and did the same, but the band didn't seem to be in very good shape. So this year, 20m was the money band for me. I even had a nice 75/hour run on 20, with some shorter runs with good rate. It's a good reminder that even with a modest station, calling CQ in SS is a good idea.

ARRL SS CW - 2015-11-07 2100Z to 2015-11-09 0300Z - 782 QSOs
KM6I Runs >10 QSOs:

2015-11-08 0008 - 0105Z,   14062 kHz, 74 Qs, 77.9/hr KM6I
2015-11-08 0551 - 0603Z,    7023 kHz, 12 Qs, 58.7/hr KM6I
2015-11-08 1706 - 1735Z,   14029 kHz, 24 Qs, 50.3/hr KM6I
2015-11-09 0014 - 0101Z,   14006 kHz, 36 Qs, 45.6/hr KM6I

I took midnight to 7am local time off, and also ran a few errands in the middle of the day on Sunday, so my total time on ended up being 22 hours.

Rate sheet:

Day        Hr   3.5  7    14   21   28   Tot  Accum 
2015-11-07 21   0    0    0    33   14   47   47    
2015-11-07 22   0    0    1    32   6    39   86    
2015-11-07 23   0    0    59   0    0    59   145   
2015-11-08 00   0    0    75   0    0    75   220   
2015-11-08 01   0    31   7    0    0    38   258   
2015-11-08 02   0    49   0    0    0    49   307   
2015-11-08 03   9    19   0    0    0    28   335   
2015-11-08 04   11   13   0    0    0    24   359   
2015-11-08 05   13   20   0    0    0    33   392   
2015-11-08 06   15   10   0    0    0    25   417   
2015-11-08 07   15   6    0    0    0    21   438   
2015-11-08 14   0    1    17   0    0    18   456   
2015-11-08 15   0    0    43   0    0    43   499   
2015-11-08 16   0    0    20   8    0    28   527   
2015-11-08 17   0    0    35   0    0    35   562   
2015-11-08 18   0    0    0    5    0    5    567   
2015-11-08 19   0    0    33   2    0    35   602   
2015-11-08 20   0    0    22   6    0    28   630   
2015-11-08 21   0    0    26   0    0    26   656   
2015-11-08 22   0    0    9    0    0    9    665   
2015-11-08 23   0    0    32   0    0    32   697   
2015-11-09 00   0    2    35   0    0    37   734   
2015-11-09 01   0    26   2    0    0    28   762   
2015-11-09 02   8    12   0    0    0    20   782   
Total 0    71   189  416  86   20   782  782   

I was worried about getting NT for the sweep, as every time I saw a spot they were S0. But on Saturday night I found them at the low end on 40m with a nice S5 signal and worked them on the first call. EWA, NNY, ME, and UT were also a bit hard to come by this year, but I finished Saturday night needing only PR, which I snagged early Sunday morning.

Sunday got pretty slow, and I ended up CQing while reading W1VR's book on antenna zoning. Next year I'll want to do something more personally challenging, depending on the NCCC's goals for SS. Possibilities include getting off my butt and installing some better antennas, adding SO2R, dropping use of the cluster, using low power, or finding a big station to guest-op at and go for a section/division win again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Echoes during CW Sweepstakes

On Saturday night local time I experienced some echoes of my own signal on 80 meters that were pretty interesting. Here are the details:


0645Z: I'm bouncing between 40M and 80M following RBN spots.
0648Z: I work 4 stations S&P on 80M, and don't hear any echoes.
0700Z: I pop up to 40M to make a couple of S&P QSOs, then call CQ for a bit with no takers.
0703Z: I drop back down to 80 to call K6JS and hear the echoes for the first time. I can hear them so distinctly in between QSK breaks that I think I'm losing a jump ball (that's when 2 or more stations respond to another station's CQ).

(Direct link to mp3, if your browser isn't showing an audio player.)

0706Z: I find a clear frequency at 3571 and start calling CQ. Again the echoes are so pronounced I think I'm doubling with another station.

(Direct link)

0730Z: I pop back up to 40M for a couple of S&P QSOs. No echo there.

0746Z: I send a series of dits on my CQ frequency so I can measure the delay later using Audacity.

(Direct link)

Here's one echo, zoomed in. I've selected the time period from when I send the dit to when the echo is heard. That's reflected in the "Selection Length" text at the bottom on the window, where you can see that the delay is 0.157 seconds (157 milliseconds). 186,000 mile/sec * 0.157 sec ~= 29,000 miles, roughly the circumference of the earth.

0752Z: I work N6RO and the echoes are starting to fade.

0802Z: I hear K6MMM (about 15 miles directly south of me) and hear echo on Rich/Anna's signal.

0804Z: I head to bed.

What was happening?

I'm not sure if it was related, but there was a coronal mass ejection late last week that impacted the earth. If I recall correctly, the A index was about 42 and the K index was 4 at the time I was hearing the echoes. Those numbers represent geomagnetic activity in the unsettled to minor storm range.

I did find another blog post from W2PA about a similar phenomenon (with links to other QST articles about echoes like this, as well as longer-delayed ehoes). My best guess is this was some sort of magnetospheric ducting. I can't imagine around-the-world multi-hop F2 propagation being this strong. The delay of the echoes is consistent with an around-the-world trip, although from reading the articles, it looks like magnetospheric ducts can take the signal away from the earth and back.

The effect seems to have been localized to stations in the immediate area. One station in Sonoma County (K6SRZ), about 70 miles NNW, reported the effect, as well a few stations just to the south of me in Campbell (W6FB), Cupertino (N3ZZ) and Los Gatos, CA (K6MMM). I did not hear the echoes on stations in SoCal, nor did I see anyone other than N3ZZ reporting it in soapbox comments on the 3830 reflector.

My big regret is that I didn't think to hook up my SDR and capture the entire band data. Then I could have gone back and listened to all the other local stations on 80m to see which ones were experiencing the echo. But what a reminder about how cool mother nature can be!

Friday, December 27, 2013

My First Lumber

Pacific Division Winner
Single Operator Unlimited High Power CW

Woohoo! Thanks to AD6Z for hosting me. And to the "usual suspects" (N6RO, K9YC, and other NCCC big guns) for not entering SO/U/HP in 2012. :-)

Monday, November 4, 2013

SSCW 2013 Recap

                    ARRL Sweepstakes Contest, CW

Call: KM6I
Operator(s): KM6I
Station: KM6I

Class: SO Unlimited HP
QTH: Mountain View, CA
Operating Time (hrs): 21

Band  QSOs
  160: 0
  80:  47
  40:  168
  20:  336
  15:  193
  10:  10
Total:  754  Sections = 83  Total Score = 125,164

Club: Northern California Contest Club


K3, KPA-500, Dipole @ 60ft, temporary 2-el triband wire yagi @ 35ft

This year was the first year since 2009 that I activated my home station. For the past few years in SS CW and Phone I've been a guest op at AD6Z's shack above Los Gatos, CA, but Kevin's moved, so it was time to find a new place to operate. Initially I'd thought about finding a new station host, but since this year is a focus year for NCCC in the November Sweepstakes, I felt like I could make the best contribution to the club effort by getting my own station on the air and putting as many QSOs in the log as possible. Also, I had a division win last year from Kevin's shack (Pacific Division SO/U/HP), so my need for a personal best was temporarily satisfied.

In my previous post, I laid out some overall goals for my CW effort this year. After the first weekend, I'm pretty pleased with my results, although my BIC* time was not as optimal as it should have been, On the plus side, I made the clean sweep, I'm close to my (slightly optimistic) target number of QSOs, and Murphy stayed away for the whole weekend.

I wasn't thinking clearly and committed to the club to make 800 QSOs, as I (erroneously) remembered making that many contacts in the past. What I was actually remembering was making 832 contacts from AD6Z during the second half of a split-site effort in 2009. Oops! Looking back, the best I've ever done from home was about 600 QSOs and an 80-section sweep (pre-Ontario split).

For the contest I raised my temporary 2-element wire Yagi, hanging diagonally from my big redwood tree. It's consistently about an s-unit better on receive than the multiband dipole at 60ft, which is what I would expect.

Because of my son's soccer match, I couldn't start on time, and ended up finally getting started at 2336 UTC. I was feeling fairly loud on 15, and even put together a one-hour run of 60 QSOs on 20 meters starting at 0140, which I found a little surprising given my simple antenna and 500W signal. I had a good S&P session on 40, found 80 very noisy, and conked out too early (0721Z). That was not good, as I ended up only spending 21 hours BIC.

Starting at 1340 the next morning, I started on 20 meters, and bounced back and forth between 20 and 15. 10 never seemed to be good when I listened. Sometime Sunday morning I found ONE for the sweep. Things were predictably slow on Sunday, although when I popped down to 40 for the NCCC rally I did find a few KBers there. I spent the last 2 hours on 40 meters, except for the 80-meter NCCC rally where I picked up 8 KBers.

I finished the contest with 754 QSOs and the sweep, which I am pretty pleased with. It's 30% lower than my score from last year, but then again I had 2 elements, not 5 on 20/15/10, 1/4 the power, and 3 fewer hours. It looks like I'll be able to make KB-1000 this year.

Thanks for the Qs!

* BIC == Butt In Chair

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SS2013 CW Prep

Aargh, SS 2013 has snuck up on me like a stealthy brain-eating zombie. Here's my last-minute panic plan. I don't have a station to guest-op this year, so I need to maximize my home station's effectiveness. This means:

    • Putting up the best temporary antenna(s) I can muster
    • Optimizing my BIC time
    • Doing all the usual things

Given all these constraints, my goal is to make the NCCC KB-1000 award (1000 QSOs across both SS weekends) this year. My stretch goal is 1200 contacts total.


  • A clean sweep on CW
  • 300 contacts on SSB
My temporary 2-el triband yagi is already in the air, but is missing a functional feedline. I'll get that at HRO Sunnyvale tomorrow and should have the thing operational on Friday.

Operating Plan

I'm going to miss the first few hours of the contest because I'll be at my son's soccer match. I should be home around 1700 local time and on the air around 1900, which means I've had 5 hours off time already. Other than that I should have as much BIC time as I need. Looks like an all-nighter!

On the air I'll be operating Unlimited HP, using the cluster spots as much as possible to optimize mults and keep the S&P rate high. On Sunday I'll try to be fresh meat as much as my modest antennas allow.

Operating plan for the SSB weekend is still TBD. Hope to see you on the air this weekend!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

SSCW 2012 PAC division SO/U/HP Win!

Yeeha, I won the Pacific Division Single-Operator Unlimited High Power category in the 2012 November CW Sweepstakes! Results are on the ARRL Contest Results web page. A 10^6 thanks to Kevin, AD6Z, for giving me access to his station for the weekend. And the pasta feed!

The one bummer is that I lost my clean sweep in the log-checking process. I'm not sure which one I lost, but I recall having an ESP QSO with at least one of the rare Canadian provinces. I also lost 29 QSOs to log checking, or 2.6%, which is 0.9% worse than last year''s error rate.

Friday, December 28, 2012

SO2R - are you nuts?

Call me crazy, but I've decided to build a single operator two radio (SO2R) station on my small suburban lot.

And I have no towers - just a big redwood tree with an inverted vee at 60 feet, and a ground mounted vertical (still under construction).

The goal isn't to win any major contests. The goal is to build my operator skills so that when I have the opportunity to operate from a shack that is SO2R capable, I can take full advantage of the station's capabilities. In the November Sweepstakes CW contests the last two years, I've had exclusive access to AD6Z's SO2R-enabled shack, but was unable to take advantage of all that aluminum. However, I did make use of the second receiver in my Elecraft K3, and I feel like I've learned enough to at least give SO2R a try.

So, the goals are:
  1. Don't spend a ton of money
  2. Allow me to practice SO2R on any arbitrary pair of HF bands
  3. See rule #1
The first cut on the overall design is:
  • Use the radio I have - a Yaesu FT-857D - as the second radio 
  • Erect a second antenna as far away from my G5RV as possible
  • See if using these two antennas without any bandpass filters works
  • Build or buy an SO2R controller
Likely fails:
  • My K3 has a great front end, but the FT-857D may not perform well with a strong local signal, especially when I'm running the KPA500 amplifier. Maybe a bandpass filter on the FT-857D will do the trick.
  • Operator brain explosion