Our updated QSL cards for this year’s Thirteen Colonies Special Event came back from the printer last week. This let us get about the business of responding to all of the QSL requests to the K2K New Hampshire Station. This project took the better part of two days to complete. We replied to approximately 450 direct QSL requests as well as 180 Buro QSL requests from previous years. The net was that I filled out about 630 cards in about two days. We expect that this batch of QSLs will represent about 2/3 of the QSL requests that we will receive for the 2013 Event.
I believe that operating awards serve several important purposes within the Amateur Radio community. First, they encourage operators to get on the air and operate. Each award is different in this respect – some encourage DX’ing (ex. ARRL DXCC awards) while others encourage specific types of contacts (ex. the RSGB IOTA awards) and others are designed to encourage operators to provide the best possible experience in on the air events. At a personal level, operating awards several two important functions – they give us a means to test the performance of our stations and our skills as operators and they provide us with motivation and encouragement to improve both. Occasionally, an operating award comes along that really means a lot and I am happy and proud to say that I’ve recently achieved one of these. I’ve been active in the Thirteen Colonies Special Event for three years now and I’ve been working to improve our station and my skills as a pileup operator throughout this period. The 2011 event was my first experience operating a special event station (K2K New Hampshire) and I made several hundred digital contacts that year. In 2012, we used the Thirteen Colonies Special Event to prove in our new shack and made over 1,000 contacts using a mix of digital modes and SSB phone. This year, I set out to achieve the Top Operator Award in the high-power, single op category using our recently completed station including our tower-based antenna system and high-power setup. As you can see from the photo above, this effort was successful and provided an award that I will always be very proud to display in our shack.
2013 Thirteen Colonies Top Operator Certificate
I was able to make 5,812 contacts over the 6 1/2 days of the 2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event. These contacts were made across all of the non-WARC bands from 160m – 2m. You can see more of the details of the contacts that Anita (AB1QB) and I made this year here. I’d like to thank Ken Villone (KU2US) who runs the Thirteen Colonies Special Event and Richie Feola (W1STT) who is the New Hampshire coordinator for the event for providing us with the opportunity to be part of something very special.
New K2K New Hampshire QSL Card
Richie (W1STT), Anita (AB1QB) and I have been working on a new QSL card for the Thirteen Colonies K2K New Hampshire station. I think it has turned out quite nicely. The new cards are in the process of being printed and we’ll be sending out the new cards to those who have QSL’ed contacts with K2K this year as soon as we receive them.
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the 2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event. I hope that we created some good memories for everyone. This is certainly the case for me.
When we built our new station last year, I decided to include antennas and equipment for 6m, 2m, and 70cm weak signal work. I have not had much of a chance to operate on these bands yet beyond some 2m EME work and a few contacts on 6m and 70cm. When the 2013 ARRL VHF Contest rolled around this past weekend, I was anxious to participate and get some experience with weak signal work on these bands. I spent some time on 6m the week before the contest to get a feel for this band and to check out my equipment. There was a good 6m opening to my east during this time and I was able to work CU1EZ on Azores; EA8DBM, EA8/G8BCG, and EA8CK on the Canary Islands; and J69MV in Saint Lucia. The longest of these contacts was over 3,100 mi. I’ve read a good bit about propagation on 6m – 70m including how short some of the openings can be. I certainly experienced this during the 6m DX opening before the contests – it did not last for more than about an hour.
Logging And SO2R Control
My goal in the ARRL VHF Contest was to work out a good operating configuration and to get some experience on the VHF/UHF bands and I did not plan to compete for a top score this time. To keep the software side simple, I decided to use my DX’ing logger, DXLab which is already configured to work with both our Icom IC-7800 (6m radio) and our Icom IC-9100 (2m and 70cm) radio. I also used our MicroHAM MK2R+ as an SO2R controller to share headphones and microphone between the two radios. This worked out OK as the QSO rates during this contest were not extremely high even when I was running.
I used two programs for controlling the rotator associated with the 6m SteppIR (6 elements), and the 2m (18 elements) and 70cm (21 elements) M2 Antenna Systems beams. The main program that I used here was Ham Radio Deluxe rotator. I chose it because it had the best grid square overlay map. This was very useful for getting the antennas pointed at specific grid squares to work stations on 2m and 70cm after an initial contact on 6m. I also had DXLab’s DXView available to lookup the specific coordinates for stations but I did not use it very much during the contest.
I operated most of the day on Saturday and for a few hours on Sunday as preparations for the upcoming ARRL Field Day exercise required me to be away from my shack during parts of the contest period. I had good results running on 6m and used this band and mode of operation to make most of my QSOs. I also was able to run for some short periods on 2m as well. I have amplifiers which make about 1 Kw available on both of these bands which greatly helped my ability to run effectively on 6 m and 2m. Most of my contacts on 70cm were a result of stations that I contacted on 6m or 2m suggesting a contact on that band as well. I have about 100w available on 70cm and this provided to be adequate for contacts on 70cm as I was able to get my antennas pointed accurately before moving up there to make a contact with a station that was just worked on 6m or 2m.
I really enjoyed this contest a lot. The pace was a little more relaxed that most of the other HF contest that I’ve participated in and using two radios in SO2R mode was a new operating experience for me which was technically challenging at first. The following is a summary of my contacts during the contest.
There was a brief opening on 6m to Florida, USA on Sunday morning and I was able to work several stations there from my shack in NH, USA – a distance of about 1,200 mi. I also made contacts to the midwest and to several of the US eastern central coastal states during the contest. All in all, the ARRL VHF Contest was a lot of fun and participating in it helped me to gain confidence in my setup on the VHF bands. The only change in my VHF/UHF setup that I plan to make for the next VHF Contest is to use the N1MM Logger to take advantages of its ability to more effectively automate control of my SO2R setup.
Between the contest and my previous EME work, I have worked a total of 42 grid squares on 2m and I am hoping to be able to complete an ARRL VUCC Award on that band sometime in near future.
I have been working to improve my CW skills for some time now as well as working towards a number of operating awards including the CQ WPX Award of Excellence. The CQ WPX Award of Excellence requires quite a range of confirmed contacts with CQ recognized prefixes including 600 using the CW mode. I was able to move both of these goals forward by operating in the 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest recently.
N1MM Logger/FLdigi Setup For CW Mode
I again used the N1MM Logger along with FLdigi as a CW decoder in this contest. I am not yet proficient enough with CW to operate without a decoder but I did find that working a contest with the aid of a CW decoder like FLdigi helped me to improve my CW skills by practicing them. I found FLdigi to be a fairly effective CW decoder. I set up FLdigi as a Digital Interface Window in N1MM which allowed me to click on call signs and contest exchange information that it decoded to enter this information directly into the N1MM logging window. This saved time and reduced errors during contest operations.
MorseDec CW Decoder For iPhone
I also used the MorseDec CW Decoder on my iPhone as a second decoder and the FLdigi/ MorseDec combination was effective in this contest. In some cases, one would successfully decode the received CW when the other did not.
Online Contest Score Website
Another tool that I used for the first time in this contest was the Online Contest Server website. This tool allows one to post and compare your score in real-time during the contest to those of other operators. It was very easy to enable this capability using the N1MM Logger – all I had to do was to create an account on the Online Contest Server website and enable N1MM to post my scores which it did every few minutes. Anita (AB1QB) learned about this interesting tool during her participation in Contest University at the 2013 Dayton Hamvention. I found that being able to see how I was doing relative to some of the other operators was good motivation to keep going during the contest. This also gave me an indication of how others with scores close to mine were balancing adding to their score via more QSOs vs. searching for additional prefixes (i.e. multipliers). It also shows each operator’s statistics by band which is helpful for comparison purposes.
Contest Band Conditions
Unfortunately, band conditions were less than ideal during this contest. A series of solar storms started on Friday evening just about the time the contest began and continued through the entire contest period. This made for some challenging operating conditions during most of the contest period.
Countries Worked In The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest
In spite of my limited CW skills and the band conditions, I was pleased with the results that I was able to obtain working the contest. I probably worked about 60% of the available operating period during this contest. I mostly operated in Search and Pounce mode due to my limited ability to decode CW by ear. I did run briefly on 160m and 40m late at night to get some experience with running in CW mode. As you can see from the above, I was able to work 86 DXCC entities during the contest – not quite a DXCC but I was very happy with these results given my limited CW abilities.
AB1OC Final Claimed Score
I was also able to make a little over 500 QSOs and worked 344 prefixes during the contest. This brought my total prefixes worked towards the CQ WPX Award of Excellence in CW mode to 550 of the 600 required. While all of these prefixes will probably not be confirmed, I am now within striking distance of completing this aspect of the award and I should be able to snag the final number of prefixes required to reach 600 confirmed via non-contest operating.
The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest was a lot of fun and it helped me to improve and build confidence in my CW skills. I would encourage our readers to try CW if you do not currently use this mode. It is challenging to learn CW but there is a great deal of DX available via this mode and I believe that some of the finest operators in the world use CW as their preferred mode.
I passed a milestone in my career as a HAM a few days ago – I completed my 10,000th QSO from my home station! The call was with VP9FOC, Yuri the operator of a Special Event Station in Bermuda commemorating the 75th anniversary of the FirstClass Operators Club. My 10,000th QSO was using CW and I was QRP 5 watts. I very much hope to someday have the CW and other skills to be able to be part of the FirstClass Operators Club – that would be quite an honor indeed. It was certainly good luck to have this station be my 10,000th QSO. I decided to create the video tour above of the 10,000 QSO’s I’ve made from my home station. I hope you enjoy it.
We’ve been using DXLab for logging and other station management functions and I learned recently that DXLab can use Google Earth to plot QSOs on a map of the world. For fun, I decided to make a video showing where we have made QSOs using our new station over the last 11 months.
As you can see, a great many of our QSOs have been made to the United States and Europe as part of the various contests that we’ve been in. Anita has worked a number of contacts to Japan and we’ve both worked a good bit of DX around the world as well.
QSOs From Our New Station By Band
We have had quite a bit of activity on all of the HF bands and we are looking forward to more fun on 6m, 2m and 70cm as time and conditions permit.
This past week has been very productive in terms of 2m Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) QSOs. I’ve continued to use the WSJT Software to make Digital EME QSOs on 2m during both the ascending and descending periods of the Moon. To date, I’ve completed 30 QSOs and worked 16 countries on the 2m band using the Moon as a reflector. The countries and stations I’ve worked include:
As you can see from the links to the QRZ pages for some of these stations, many have built fairly sophisticated EME systems.
I2FAK 16×19 EME Array
At this point, I have worked 4 of the 6 continents needed for a Worked All Continents Award via Digital 2m EME. I have set completing and confirming the needed contacts for this award as my next goal. EME contacts are great fun and the EME Ham community has been very helpful to me in getting started.
QSL’ing has often been referred to as the “Final Courtesy of a QSO” and it is certainly a lot of fun to send and receive QSL cards from friends and acquaintances that you’ve made on the air from around the world. QSL’ing is also an important part of qualifying for operating awards which help to hone an operator’s skills as well as encourage test and enhancement of your station. To these ends, I am working towards a variety of operating awards including:
I recently switched to the DXLab Suite of logging and DX’ing programs to facilitate the tracking, QSL’ing, and application tasks associated with these and other awards. DXLab includes a very sophisticated set of features for DX’ing and award tracking. The combination of all of the new QSOs made during the three contests I’ve participated in over the last few months plus the enhanced award tracking features in DXLab resulted in a large number of QSOs that needed to be confirmed. It would be wonderful if all Hams used the online QSL’ing services (LoTW and eQSL) to confirm QSOs but this is far from the case. As a result, I decided to create a batch of QSL card mailings to try to confirm the needed QSOs.
QSL Label Via DXLab
DXLab has many nice features which can be used to print QSL card labels (or complete cards) and to address the outgoing and return envelopes associated with direct QSL requests. It also provides a tool called Pathfinder to aid in the discovery of QSL routes. These tools were very useful in creating some 400+ direct QSL mailings this past weekend plus another 30+ cards that were sent via the ARRL Outbound QSL Bureau. DXLab also handles online QSL’ing via LoTW and eQSL as well as uploading to ClubLog. It would have been quite a chore indeed to generate all of these cards and mailings without DXLab!
I am very much looking forward to getting cards back from all over the world. It makes checking the mailbox fun!
I am continuing to work the major HF contests to both improve my skills and to work towards a variety of operating awards. My latest effort here was to participate in the recent CQ WPX SSB contest. My schedule did not permit operation during the full contest period but the results were still pretty good. I again used the N1MM logger including its voice keyer features and this was a great aid during contest operations.
Countries Worked During 2013 CQ WPX SSB
I was active on all bands 160m – 10m in this contest and was able to work 106 countries – again working a DXCC. The scoring system in CQ WPX SSB favors the lower bands (160m – 40m) so I tried to concentrate there when I could.
AB1OC Claimed Score
My best band overall was 15m where I was able to run during several of the active daytime periods. I am still considered a “rookie” by the rules of this contest, having been licensed for less than three years at this point. Based upon the claimed scores on the 3830scores site, It looks like I may be one of the top “rookies” in my category and will perhaps place in the top 15 in my category overall. The contest also contributed some new prefixes towards the CQ WPX awards that I am working on. Lots of fun as usual.
This past weekend, I operated in the 2013 BARTG HF RTTY Contest. I had previously learned some things during our multi-single operation in the 2013 CQ WPX RTTY contest and made some enhancements to our contesting setup. As a result of this experience, I set a goal of making a serious effort in a RTTY contest. The 2013 BARTG HF RTTY contest ran from 0200z Saturday March 16 – 0200z on Monday March 18. I operated in the Single Operator All Band category, which allowed me to operate for 30 hours out of the total contest period of 48 hours (each break had to be at least 3 hours).
N1MM Setup – Left Monitor
I used the N1MM logger again in the SO2V configuration with our Icom IC-7800 transceiver. We added the 2Tone decoder, which when used along with MMTTY, made a huge difference in being able to pick the call signs and exchange information out of the sometimes garbled exchanges. I kept a window up with each decoder, which gave me two different interpretations of the RTTY signals. When I couldn’t make sense of what I saw in one window, I could almost always pick out a call sign or exchange from the other. This improved my QSO rate as I did not have to ask the station to repeat the exchange. As conditions deteriorated on Sunday due to a Solar Flare, using 2 decoders made a big difference.
The N1MM screen shot above shows the SO2V configuration that I used with 2 decoders associated with each VFO. SO2V was helpful in speeding up the search and pounce. You can tune one signal in on one VFO, and while you are waiting for your chance to call, you can be finding the next signal in the other VFO. Each VFO has its own call sign entry window on the left, and then 2 digital interface windows (with the decoded RTTY text) and 2 tuning windows per VFO – one with 2Tone and one with MMTTY. The upper left window has the spotting network, which was useful, but in a RTTY contest, I can find far more stations in search in search and pounce mode by manually tuning through the band. I also used the Check window, which looks up call signs in the Super Check Partial database. This was also a big help in determining whether I got a call sign correct – if it cannot find a match, it suggests other similar call signs, also speeding up my QSO rate.
The lower right hand window shows my QSO rate – if this gets too low, it could indicate that its time to change bands. Also it has a band timer – there is a rule for my category that I must stay on a band at least 5 minutes – the timer tells me when I can change bands again.
N1MM Setup – Right Monitor
Here is the N1MM setup on my right monitor. The multiplier window shows which multipliers I worked on each band. For this contest, the multipliers were DXCC countries and W, VE, VK and JA call areas. The two windows on the left are the band map windows – one for each VFO. It shows spots and stations that I have worked. If I click on one, it tunes the VFO right to the station – useful in search and pounce mode. The right monitor also has my QSO log, the spotting cluster access window, and the score window. Below are the graphical statistics showing my progress during the contest which are provided via an analysis program called Athena. You can see that once the Solar Flare hit during the day on Sunday, 20m was practically the only band with steady traffic. 15m and even 10m opened up again later in the afternoon.
Since this was a European hosted contest, I started out on Friday at 10pm Eastern Time on 40m, pointing our two SteppIRs toward Europe, which was very productive. I spent some time on 80m but by 3am Eastern Time, the traffic slowed down so I took a break to sleep. I started up again Saturday morning around 9 AM, and was able to run on 20m for some time. The SteppIR beams have a Bi-directional mode which was very useful. This configuration of the SteppIRs worked really well since most of the stations in the contest were either in Europe or the US and I could point the SteppIRs in both of these directions at the same time using the bi-directional mode. By afternoon, 15m had opened up and I had good runs on both 20m and 15m. I was able to make some calls on 10m as well, but that band was not as productive. After dark, I worked 40m toward Europe, but took my break at midnight, since I learned on Friday that the late hours are not so productive. Before going to bed, I checked my email and saw a message from my local PART club that a Solar Flare was heading toward Earth and would hit by Sunday.
Sure enough, when I woke up Sunday morning, the solar storm had hit, the K-Index was 6 and all of the bands were rated as poor. I was going to give up… but AB1OC convinced me to go down to the shack and keep operating as I could still reach the closer US stations. Surprisingly, when I turned on the IC-7800, I was hearing stations from Europe on 20m. So I did some search and pounce until I found a run frequency. QSOs were not coming as quickly as they did on Saturday but I was still making them at a good pace. 20m was the only band that was really open for most of the day. Later in the day I turned toward the southwest and received many calls from the US, and surprisingly quite a few from Japan and New Zealand as well. The SteppIRs are amazing antennas!!
My goal was a score of 1 Million and I probably would have hit it if not for the Solar Storm. Even so, I came pretty close as you can see my score data below. I worked close to 60 countries, all of the US areas on most bands, and many VE areas and even a few JA areas.
Claimed Final Score
I posted my score to the 3830 website and as of this morning’s report my claimed score ranked at the top of my category – I am hoping that this will hold up. Each time I operate, I learn more about N1MM and I’m looking forward to the next contest to learn even more about its capabilities and to be able to better take advantage of SO2V.