Friday, November 21, 2008

Where I'm Starting

This year I had so much fun in the November Sweepstakes, I decided to see what I could do to improve my score next year. Being a pretty goal-oriented person, I thought for a while, and decided a reasonable goal would be to beat my 1977 SS CW Score (that's dating me; I was 15):

WB8YVI 34,428 points, 302 contacts, 57 sections, 11 hours, low power

This year, I did:

CW: 7,052 points, 86 contacts, 41 sections, about 5 hours, low power
Phone: 18,594 points, 166 contacts, 56 sections, about 12 hours, low power

So my goal for the 2009 Sweepstakes is to make 35,000 points each weekend.

So, what's it going to take to do this? There are some simple things:
  • More time: if I was able to put in a few more hours in each contest, that would help a lot.
  • Better use of time: I tried to operate the first two hours of the Phone contest, and for a weak station like mine, I think that time would have been better used on Sunday afternoon, when all the loud guys have worked each other. Given that I'm not going to have anywhere near 24 hours to spend, allocating the time better would help.
  • More skill: For example, I can be a lot faster at Search and Pounce, if I practice. I often listened to a full exchange or two before calling a station, even if I knew he wasn't a dupe. I'm sure I'll pick up lots of pointers on the NCCC reflector.
  • Computer logging and station automation: My CW weekend was all hand-logged. For Phone, I got N1MM, but was still learning my way around.
  • Call CQ: I never did! Ok, well I did a couple of times, but got discouraged. I've now got my K1EL Winkeyer working with N1MM, and I plan to get things hooked up so I can use N1MM's digital voice keyer. That should make calling CQ less tiresome.
But there are also some bigger things, and that's where I'm hoping to get some advice via this blog:
  • Better antennas: Currently, I have:
    • A G5RVjr on a mast attached to the chimney at the rear of the house (top of the drawing). The vertex is at about 22 feet. The antenna runs E-W, so on the upper bands, the major lobes are pointed north and south, and therefore this antenna doesn't put much of a signal where I want it for domestic contests.
    • A stealth 40M 1/4 wave vertical in a tree, with the feed point at 5 ft. There are currently 6 radials in the yard. This antenna worked surprisingly well in the SS on 4OM and 15M. Also, for some reason, this antenna picks up a lot less local noise, which suggests that the noise source is closer to the G5RV.
    • I think I need:
      • Something that will radiate on 80 meters - probably a low NVIS antenna - that will let me work close-in stations (I put up a temporary NVIS antenna for Phone SS this year and it turned out to be my most productive band)
      • Something that radiates well to the east on 20, 15, and 10
    • I have a tiny, tiny lot, so this is going to be a challenge!
  • Fix my local noise problem: I've got at least three different types of local noise that are causing me grief. I need to track those down and kill the source, and/or look into some sort of noise suppression.
  • Practice, practice, practice: I'll try to find opportunities to get on the air as I can, and practice with Morse Runner.
Navigating this blog:
  • The blog posts are in reverse chronological order.
  • Each blog post can have labels that identify the topic of the post. The navigation bar on the right side of this page has links to posts having a certain label. I've been tagging posts with the labels "antennas", "noise", and "skills" to categorize the various things I've been thinking about.
So, that's where I'm starting. Over the next year, I'm going to tackle each one of these, solicit opinions/advice, and blog about what I learn. Hope to hear from you.


Gordon, KM6I


Anonymous said...

Hi Gordon,

One important you want to continue to have a "stealth" station? The best small-ish rotatable antenna for 20 thru 10 meters is a 2-element quad. Supported by a 10 or 15 foot pole off the peak of your roof, it would give good performance. However, it would not be "stealth" anymore.

Having a uni-directional antenna might reduce the level of received noise if the noise sources were off the back or side of your antenna.

73, Rich, N6KT

Gordon Good said...

That's a good question, Rich, and one I probably ought to address before going much further. Initially I'd sort of drawn the line at wires and verticals, I guess because I wanted to avoid any type of conflict with the neighbors. But I don't have any reason to believe there will be a conflict, as we have a good relationship with each of our neighbors. So I'm re-thinking that assumption.

I did have a 2 el Quad in a roof-mounted tripod on my parent's house when I was in high school, and worked a lot of DX on it.

Looking at the photos on the Cubex web site, I gotta say, the quad seems like it would be more conspicuous than, say, a Force 12 C-3SS, and the Force 12 advertises about 12 dBi gain.

Also, I would be a little concerned about putting a 30-lb antenna + rotator onto our shake roof (although the roof is going to need replacement anyway in a few years).