Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cayman Update #1

Greetings from Grand Cayman! So far, I haven't been on the radio too much (maybe about 90 minutes over the past couple of days) and as of this writing, have made 47 contacts. Certainly not very many, but I think it's going to pick up. I operated for a bit yesterday, after a very long day (woke up at 4:30 AM to head to the airport), and another bit today. Yes, this is a vacation, so I haven't spend a lot of time of time on the radio, but I have had a lot of fun so far with what little time I have spent.

I did run into a couple of problems: The first problem was getting the antenna to tune. I'll have some pictures later, but the antenna is mounted on a railing outside the room where we're staying (which is basically a 4-bedroom house). My room is on the 2nd floor, overlooking a canal, and maybe about 1/2 mile from the North Sound. The problem is that the antenna is very close to the house, and that's making it difficult to tune. I probably spent about 45 minutes this afternoon getting a decent SWR on 20m, which I had expected to be the "bread and butter" band. Once it got tuned up, I did fairly well; Most stations were in the US, but I've worked some VEs, Italy, Spain, Venezuala, Puerto Rico, Netherlands, Finland, a few others. Over the next day or so, I will set up for 40m, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to work a lot more countries outside of North America.

The second problem is that I discovered that the laptop that I'm using (a Dell D620) causes a bunch of QRM in two difference ways. The first problem is that apparently the power supply for the laptop is really noisy. It's so noisy that I've been charging up the laptop when I'm not operating and leaving unplugged when I'm on the air. I was going to take a few ferrites with me and didn't, which was a mistake. The second issue is actually a bigger one: It seems that whenever I touch the keyboard, the noise from the laptop dramatically increases through the laptop. (As my friend Larry, N4VA points out, apparently I make a good antenna.) Because of this, it's making logging tricky, since for all but the strong signals the noise from the laptop wipes out the signal. I've managed to work around this for the most part, but I may wind up going to paper logging at some point.

But despite these small problems, I am having fun. I've had a couple of small pileups, and I'm having a blast being "wanted" for a change. What's been nice is that while I'd love to be able to try my hand at running a really significant pileup, things have been such that I can usually have a short chat with folks instead of the typical "some-station you are 59 from ZF2DK QRZ".

I do plan to try to get on 40m over the next day or two, and I think that I'll be able to do a bit better than. I've been a little reluctant to re-configure the antenna, since it's been quite a challenge getting it set up for 20m, but given my operating schedule, I think I'll do better on 40.

One other thing that I wanted to mention is that I've uploaded my logs to date to both the ARRL Logbook of the World and to DL5NAM's site.

One other update is that I will NOT be doing any PSK31 when I'm here. The problem with the laptop has really ruled that out completely. As I mentioned in some prior posts, practice doesn't make perfect, it just gets you closer. Unfortunately, this is one thing that I wasn't prepared for, and if touching the keyboard cause QRM, it's going to be really tough to work PSK. Lesson learned.

Thanks to those who have worked me. Most likely, I'll be on 20m again tomorrow at around 22:00 for a while, so look for them then. I've been near, thought not exactly on, 14.260. We have some relatively early dinner plans tomorrow night and if we get back when I expected, I may be on 40m at around 0200Z or a later.

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