Saturday, October 25, 2008

Too much work, not enough radio ... again

It occurred to me that I hadn't posted in almost three weeks. Thinking about why, I realized that I'm in one of those cycles where I'm working more than usual, leaving less time for radio (and other "free time" activities). When I get home from work at 8PM, it's a little hard to find time to fit in radio along with all the usual things that go on around here, and while I have had the radio on, I haven't been making a lot of contacts.

Still, I have been doing a few things, and it's time to "get on the horse again" and post an update.

At the end of my last post, I was talking about the California QSO Party, and how I only had a limited time to work that event. I did work a few more stations, but wound up with only about 20 stations contacted in total. That's by far my lowest total ever, but I did send in my log anyway. Hopefully next year I'll have more time and the conditions will be better.

Last weekend I did spend some time participating in the JARTS RTTY contest. I made 173 contacts spread out over two days, which while not exactly championship level, was fun. I'm really starting to enjoy the RTTY contests more and more, and I think I'll makle an effort to look for more ot them.

Early last week, the kids called me at work during the afternoon with the news that my G5RV had come down, probably due to the high winds we were experiencing. Other than when I dropped it intentionally last year when having some tree work done, it's been up for around 7 years now, which is a fairly long time. I figured that the wires had broken, and I'd need to replace it. I had the kids take a picture of what had happened and send it to me, and it turned out to be not nearly as bad as I thought. All that had happened was that one of the support ropes (which is itself held to the tree with a bungee cord acting as a shock absorber) had somehow gotten disconnected. In fact, probably because that rope has been over a high branch for so long, the antenna itself barely dropped at all. When I got home that night, I found the ropes dangling from a branch, although by the next morning, the pull from the antenna had started to pull the rope up into the tree and was threatening to get out of reach. (There's more than enough rope to be within reach with the antenna on the ground, but it was coiled up and the coil was almost out of reach.) I was able to pull the coil of rope down and I tied the bungee, which was now hanging low enough to reach, to a chair to keep it in place until I had a chance to see what had happened and repair it.

(I just re-read that paragraph and I realized that I should explain that the support rope for the antenna goes up from the ground and over a fairly high branch in the tree. As a result, when the antenna goes down, the rope pulls up).

I'd taken Friday off to use up some of the vacation days that I have left over (my company has a pretty generous vacation policy, but if you don't use up your days, you lose them) so I took the opportunity to fix the support rope. I pulled the ladder out of the garage and climbed up to where the main coil of rope was hanging (in mid-air), and found that the 3 inch long eyebolt had somehow pulled out of the tree. The support rope and bungee were still tied to it, and I honestly can't figure out how it could have pulled out, but that's what happened. The fix, of course, was easy: I drilled a pilot hole in the tree at an appropriate height and simply screwed the eyebolt back into the tree. I tied off the line again, and I was back in business.

As proof that the antenna was still working just fine, I finally made a contact with the VK9DWX team on Willis Island, which I'd been trying to do for the past couple of weeks. Willis is a relatively rare location to work on radio, and I'd been coming downstairs before work to try to make a contact on 40m, which seemed like my best chance. Unfortunately, even though I could hear them fairly well, I just wasn't able to make a contact in the morning. Fortunately, yesterday afternoon I was able to make a single contact with them on 30m CW, so I was able to put Willis Island in my logbook as all-time DXCC entity #287.

The CQ WorldWide DX Contest is taking place this weekend. As I mentioned in my posting about that contest last year, this isn't really my favorite contest, and in fact, as I write this, the contest is probably around halfway over and I haven't made a single contact. I will likely get on the air in a little while, but I don't expect to make a lot of contacts. (Of course, I've said that before then gotten wound up in the contest. We'll see what happens this time.)


  1. Anonymous12:06 PM

    I heard you calling a station or two on Sunday, so I know you got on. It's my first CQ WW SSB contest and probably, as you noted, not one of my favorites. With 100 watts and a G5RV and not really able to make US contacts, it is tough getting through some of the pile ups. But alas, I spend a good portion of Sat and Sun on the air and made 158 contacts most on 20m. In my quick analysis, I added 11 new countries to my list where a contact was made. I'll have to verify that. but it's a lot more work doing phone then RTTY. With persistence I think I was able to make a voice contact with anything I saw spotted other then Japan (China, etc) and Australia. I couldn't even hear the China/Australia operators but I could hear many of the Japan ops. They couldn't hear me since there were times when they were calling CQ and I was coming back with my call and they would just call CQ again. More power and bigger antennas. Or maybe more sunspots.

    The weather late on Saturday was really blowing. On Sunday morning I went out and pulled up the antenna (G5RV) a bit since it seemed to have slacked in the high winds we had.

    David - K2DSL

  2. Hi David -- I probably spent 6 or 7 hours in front of the radio during Saturday and Sunday, almost all during the daytime. I had a few less contacts than you (I think it was 144), but I definitely agree about how it's tough trying to work those guys with 100w into a G5RV. There were numerous occasions where I'd hear someone just CQing over and over, nobody calling but me, and I wasn't heard. I know that a lot of those guy have a lot of noise on their end, so us little pistols really have a tough time. I did manage to work a couple of JAs late Saturday afternoon (might have been very early Saturday evening), but other than that nothing terribly interesting. (In fact, it looks like almost 35% of my contacts were with stations in Italy, Canada, or Spain.) I usually get a handful of new band fills in a contest like this, but it doesn't look like I got anything this time. Oh well.