Friday, October 07, 2005

The Doldrums at The Bottom of The Cycle

There may be some people out there who have read this blog in the past and have wondered why I haven't posted anything since after the Outer Banks trips (other than the VE session story). Well, unfortunately, there just hasn't been a whole lot to write about. At this point in the 11-year solar cycle, things are just not all that good as far as HF propagation is concerned. Over the last month or so, pretty much all I've done has been to work some stations on 6 meters (during some occasional Sporadic E openings and during the September VHF contest), and worked a bunch of stations during the California QSO Party.

I did do a bit of mobile 6m while driving home from work, which was fun, when the bands were open. My setup is pretty simple: I have an Icom 706MkIIG (which normally acts as my home 2m/440 station). I put that in the car, usually sitting it the backpack with the head separated and sitting on the seat next to me. I use a tri-magnet mount from Lakeview (the "hamstick" folks) with a 6m stick on the roof, and that's about it. That all sits on top of my truck, and I think that I get a pretty decent groundplane from the roof of the truck (2004 Chevy Trailblazer), so it seems to get out. I actually have sticks for most HF bands, but I've always been nervous about driving home with the longer sticks on top of the truck, because for for any bands lower than 20m, the combined length of the stick, truck, and mount makes it over 14' (I think), and there are a few underpasses that I go through every day that are only at 13' 6" (which I think is the state minimum required height). I've been told that if I go through those at any kind of speed at all, the top ("stinger") part of the antenna will A) probably be bent back anyway, and B) is supposed to withstand being whacked into concrete anyway...but I haven't gotten brave enough to try. For now, I'll stick with 6m when it's open.

Other than that, I did participate in the 2005 California QSO Party, though I didn't have as much time nor make as many contacts as I would have liked to. I like to at least break 100 QSOs, but things just didn't work out for that this year. This is one of the contests that I really like to work because while there's plenty of activity to keep things busy (no calling CQ for 20 minutes or searching around to find a station to work for 30 minutes at a time), there isn't so much that a "little pistol" (meaning a station that's running a fairly low amount of power, 100 watts, in my case, with pretty low-end antennas, a G5RV, for me) can't make contacts. Plus, for the most part, even the really big stations just seem friendlier here than for some of the other big contests. I know that with my station I'm not going to win any awards, but I like to "play" in these contests, and I know that I'm actually helping out the other guys (a point is a point is a point). This is the kind of contest that I'd recommend for someone who hasn't really done any contests but would like to see what it's like.