Monday, October 22, 2007

This post has no title

It's a potpourri blog entry this week, several random bits and pieces.

Fellow blogger Scott, NE1RD, will be active from St. Kitts (V4) as V4/NE1RD starting this week. He'll be operating in CQ Worldwide SSB contest next weekend (low power, not QRP, as was incorrectly reported elsewhere) and will be on the air outside the contest as well. I've mentioned this a number of times already, but he's written extensively about his preparations for this trip at his regular blog (100 Pound DXpedition) as well as the separate The 100 Pound DXpedition to St. Kitts website.

Speaking of CQWW, that's one of the "biggie" contests, and while I'll probably "play around" a bit, I don't expect to put too much time for a couple of reasons: First, the band conditions remain awful. That means that a small station like mine, which is relatively weak, has an even harder-than-normal time trying to make any contacts at all. I know that my station is not competitive, and I do not expect to win anything in this kind of contest (despite previous comments to the contrary, for the really big contests, it's pretty darn tough to win anything because of all the competition), but I do like to be on the air. However, it gets frustrating when I can't even work anyone, or it takes me 15 minutes to work a run-of-the-mill station, repeatedly calling. None of that means that I won't try, it's just that it's a whole lot more fun when I'm actually making contacts. The second issue is that I've got a bunch of family obligations this weekend which are going to cut big gaps into my operating time. As I said, I'll be out there, just not as much as I'd like to be.

Despite the band conditions, I have been able to work some interesting DX. Over the past couple of days, I've worked 5L2MS from Liberia on several new bands, and also the C52C group in The Gambia as well. Neither of those were new countries for me, but I did pick up a couple of new CW bands for C5, and several new bands with the folks from 5L2MS. The latter group is still operational, and I'd like to try to pick them up in a few other places. Both groups seemed to be well organized and had surprising good signals to my location.

Part of the reason that I was able to work both of these stations is that I like to think that I'm working smarter, not harder (harder=more power, better antennas, etc.) Not that I wouldn't mind the "harder", but that's not what I've got. To reiterate what many (including me) have said before, you need to listen before you try to transmit. In both of these cases, I was able to find a pattern where the operator was listening (like most DXpeditions, they operated split, meaning that the operator transmitted on one frequency while listening over a range of other frequencies for those stations calling), either noting that he'd move up then down, or all the way up, then start from the bottom of the range again, etc. It's very satisfying when you're able to "bust" a big pileup by quite literally being in the right place at the right time.

One last item is that I did something yesterday that I don't do very much: I had a nice ragchew with Ian, GI3ZDE in Northern Ireland. I've heard Ian many times before, mostly on 20m, but never really "stopped by" to chat. Yesterday, I saw him spotted on 17m, so I tuned in to listen while doing some work on the computer, and after he finished a couple of contacts, I figured I'd say hello. We probably spoke for about 10 or 15 minutes, and might have gone a bit longer but the band was starting to drop out (in fact, within a few minutes of completing our QSO, I couldn't hear him at all as he continued to work other stations). I was trying to figure out how many contest or short DX contacts it would take to fill 15 minutes of operating, but decided that was a pretty pointless activity. It was just nice to chat with a fellow ham on the other side of the Atlantic, talking about something totally unimportant.

And that too is what ham radio is all about.

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