Thursday, July 9, 2020

13 Colonies success!

The 13 Colonies event ended on Tuesday and for me, it was right down to the wire but I was successful. I was able to contact all 13 colonies and the 2 bonus stations for a clean sweep along with 2 bonus stations. I really had no plans on participating in this event but while I was headlong into the Canada day RAC contest I kept hearing the 13 colonies stations calling CQ. I then decided to give this event a shot and honestly I had a blast. In this event, you contact the original 13 colony states, you have a choice of CW, SSB or digital or any combination of these modes. My goal was to contact all the states using CW and that almost happened but more on that later. As mentioned in my previous post on the first day I scored 9 of the 13 states and at this point, I was not even considering the 2 bonus stations. Over the next few days, I narrowed my search to just 3 stations that were needed. I was on the hunt for K2C Rhode Island, K2D Connecticut and a bonus station GB13COL from England. I was in the game for the bonus station in England as the day before I was able to get the bonus station WM3PEN in Philadelphia.
With only 3 stations to get in the log the challenge began, I had DX Summit running in the background checking for spots. Since I wanted to keep my CW stretch going it seemed the remaining station's spots were either digi or SSB! The other issues I ran into were when K2C and K2D were operating CW they were lost down in the noise floor. I could hear clear as day the stations working them but the Colony stations were silent. The other issue was with GB13COL was rarely operating CW and I was determined to make all contacts using CW.
My operating strategy was to find the needed stations calling CQ before they were spotted, this was exactly what happened with K2D in Connecticut. He was calling CQ and was weak but there and so I gave him a shot and low and behold he came back to me BUT he was not able to copy my reply. We tried a few time but he then began to call CQ again so it was not a "true" contact. The propagation gods were smiling on me as his signal jumped to about S8 BUT the spotting network gods were laughing at me because he was just spotted and the crowd was growing fast! I tried to throw my 100-watt signal in the fray but the Endfed antenna did not stand a chance against the kilowatt and a beam. The name of the game was to wait for an opening as I hoped the big guns would make their contact and move on.
K2D's signal was starting to fade again, this was how 40m was treating me most of the time. Now the crowds started to die down and he was just calling CQ with no response. He was at the noise floor again and I was having no success. He then jumped to S8 again and I gave him a go and finally, I was in the log!
It was now time to concentrate on K2C in Rhode island and from the comments on the spotting network, K2C was not on all that often......hmmm this is going to be difficult I thought and I had to snag him before he was spotted. There were times when he was spotted in the CW portion but the pileup was crazy, it actually sounded like a super rare DX location was on the air. I was constantly checking DX summit on my laptop in the living room for K2C hoping if I pounced early the pileup would not be at the crazy point yet. My dear wife commented to me that I looked like a stalker when it came to hunting K2C!!
Evening came and in the past, I noticed that GB13COL had been spotted in the evening using CW,  so I went to the shack in search of GB13COL before he was spotted. I was on 40m searching the waterfall for signals and there was one that popped up. I tuned them in and it was K2C......OMG no spots yet, this was my chance to make a clean sweep and get my final Colony using CW. Where my ears deceiving me....he was calling CQ and no takers. I tried calling him but nothing he had no copy and continued to call CQ. I knew it was just a matter of time before he was found and then spotted! As Steve Martin would say "I'm a wild and crazy guy" and it was time to be that person! Normally while on 40m my power is set to 40-50 watts. The reason for this is any higher than 50 watts odd things happen to our washing machine, LED lights and so on in the house. I figured if things go wonky in my home it may be happening to those around me. Thus my power on 40m does not go beyond 50 watts......or at least until now.
I looked to the left and then to the right......with an evil grin on my face the power was cranked to 100 watts. I turned the lights out in the shack and with my head lowered but still a grin on my face I put my call out.......it was answered by K2C and he was in the log. With the lights still out I looked out the window to make sure no homes were on fire, all looked good and I was thrilled.
I had accomplished my clean sweep of all 13 Colony stations using CW and it was now time to set my sights on GB13COL.
I was not determined to work the final bonus station using CW. I had 2 days left to hunt, track and get GB13COL in the log but from following the comments again on DX Summit this final station was rarely operating CW and seemed to hang out on digi and SSB. I tried very hard when they were CW to even hear them but absolutely nothing was heard. I now had one day left and during the day I tried and tried when they were CW and again nothing was heard.
Evening came and they were spotted using FT8..........I am going to give them a go as CW was just not going to work out for this station.
Into the shack I went and started the PC and then the radio and low and behold there they were on the waterfall. Before transmitting I observe the waterfall to see a who is transmitting where. There is no sense jumping into the fray if I am transmitting overtop of someone else as this way neither of us is heard. About 5 minutes went past and I was not in the log yet and then my call came across with a signal report from GB13COL! I was thrilled and sent my report back to make the contact complete and just waiting for his 73RRR BUT I then I saw that GB13COL was transmitting again with my signal report as he did not hear my report. NOOOOOOO so again and again I sent my report and nothing and eventually he started to call CQ again. I was not in the log.....well not yet I was this close and not giving up. I stopped transmitting to get a feel for the waterfall and find a clear spot. I found my spot and after a few minutes of calling he came back to me and I was in the log!!!!!
This was a nice challenge spread over a few days and for sure I will be taking part in this event next year. It's time to send off for my clean sweep plus 2 bonus station certificate. All but one were contacted using CW but I know for sure that GB13COL would not have made it into the log if I waited for a CW contact.

Monday, July 6, 2020

The 13 Colonies Event continues......

During my adventure with the 13 Colonies event, I was able to see the advantages my Icom 7610 brings to the table. The name of the game with the Colonies event is to try to log all 13 (Clean sweep) colonies stations. At the get-go of the event for me, the stations were very easy to log but as you come closer to your last 2 colonies it became a bit more tricky. This is were my 7610 gave me a great advantage. During this event, I learned very fast that the best way to log a station is to find them calling CQ before they are spotted on a network. Once they have been spotted the crowd starts to gather and my success goes way down for a contact.
 The 7610 has what is called "Dual watch" this utilizes the two completely independent receivers in the radio. This allowed me to leave VFO A (listening with my left ear)  on a spotted frequency listening for a lull in the activity. VFO B (listening with my right ear) was moving around on the same band or different band hunting for a nonspotted colony station calling CQ. If VFO A was getting really crazy with callers but I wanted to stick it out for the just in case moment, I am able with a push of a button to mute VFO A. With each receiver you have filter, twin passband, NR, NB and antenna choices you can make to help out with you dealing with band conditions. Finally, as you can see from the screenshot above I was able to activate the "Dual scope" option and have a separate waterfall for 20m and 15m or you can do it for the same band as well. I have always been an Elecraft person (I still have the KX3 so I guess I still am) but I am very impressed with the 7610 a great bang for your buck!

At this point, I am looking for K2C out of RI and GB13COL in England and I want to continue using CW as all other stations were logged using this mode. At this point in time I have found that K2C spends little time on CW and as for GB13COL many have said they just cannot hear them and I concur. It 's getting down to crunch time as the 7th is the last day so let's see if the ham gods are smiling on me? If not then I have found out about a great event that seems to be very well attended and for the most part the participating stations are on the air and activating most if not all modes. Good luck to everyone who are still looking for their clean sweep in this event.

Friday, July 3, 2020

The annual 13 Colonies special event.

The annual 13 Colonies special event  (please view link to learn more about the event) was going on during the RAC Canada Day contest on July 1st. Last year I read about this event on Larry W2LJ's blog last year and he had a posted about it as well as this year. While I was operating the RAC Contest I found over and over a number of the special call letters from the 13 colonies event kept popping up. I then decided my operating would become contesting /13 Colonies Event operation. I was shocked that by the end of the evening I had a total of 9 of the 13 special calls in the log. Now there really are 15 stations you can contact as there are 2 bonus stations and I was able to snag one of those as well. I was on last evening but was unable to secure any additional contacts. The fun begins now as I have to search out specific calls that I need. Larry W2LJ did mention that the event can get very busy and last evening I was listening to a station (that was already in my log) and it was so busy and the pileup was crazy he had to operate split!
I will be on again this weekend to see if I can get all 13 stations and the bonus stations. Stay safe everyone and thanks very much for taking the time to stop by the blog.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

There may be more than RF on your antenna!


Yesterday late afternoon I had a chance to sit down and put my feet up on the patio. I was checking out the new QST on my Ipad with the sun coming in and out from the clouds. From my position, I have a clear view of my Endfed wire. As I was gazing at my Endfed and the nice clear sky something on my Endfed antenna caught my eye there was movement on the antenna!
As I got closer my antenna was very busy with black ants going back and forth on the antenna. I was shocked by the amount of activity the tree that supports my antenna does have lots of ants. I was curious where they were going and what all the excitement was about. The opposite end of the antenna is terminated at my shed. I saw them coming down the support pole, along the roof of my shed then onto a maple tree branch that was just touching the peak of my shed roof. Not sure what they were after but whatever it was it seemed it was worth the trip.
Meet and greet 
I did notice when ants met who were travelling in opposite directions they seemed to greet each other. After some reading (ants are fascinating) it was not so much of a greeting but more a checking each other out to see if they were from the same colony.......if not it would be a fight to the death! Sometimes there is more than just RF and SWR floating around on your antenna.