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Spring/summer 2010

Posted by n1li on August 6, 2010 at 1:59 PM Comments comments (0)

When I came up to Maine in May to open up the house, turn on the water, etc., I did a quick visual check of the antennas. Everything looked fine, and had apparently survived the 100mph+ winds of the February coastal storm. That storm caused a huge amount of damage on the island, blowing down about 1000 trees and qualifying the island for FEMA funding for cleanup.


It was a breezy day, winds about 40mph, and after about 2 hours, I happened to look up and noticed that half of the 2nd director on the top SteppIR was gone and about 1 foot of the copper tape was dangling out the end! I found it on the back lawn.


A couple of weeks later I came back up and the other half was on the ground in the woods.


SteppIR reports they had not seen that failure mode (it was not the infamous Mission boots...in this case, the internal fiberglass tube broke) and graciously replaced the EHU assembly and fiberglass tubes. The antenna is rated at 100mph, and I guess we exceeded that in the coastal storm. Note to self...


The storm also knocked several trees down on my 2-wire Beverage, and I had to cut it to take it down before the summer season starts, as agreed with my neighbor. I will have to buy a replacement run of ladder line for it if I want it to be 500 feet again (instead of 350 feet).


I had some friends coming out for the IOTA contest in July, and when I finally got around to turning everything back on, I found that the lower ring rotor was stuck. I put up the spare motor, and was back on the air. No idea why the old motor failed...when I get it back from TIC, maybe there'll be a clue.


This summer has gone by too fast...it is probably too late to get the big station improvements done. I have collected a lot of parts, but putting it all together is probalby out of the question at this point. I guess I will have to settle for just getting back to last year's status. That will be enough work.

2009-2010 Contest Season, final report

Posted by n1li on August 6, 2010 at 1:23 PM Comments comments (0)

Hmmm. Looks like I never got around to finishing the reports for the season.


CQWWCW - November


Everything was in good shape, and I had a full complement of working antennas and a back up for each band. I even heard K1LZ ws going to go Multi-multi, so all I had to do ws beat K5ZD (and K3CR, and a few others...). These guys are hard to beat (especially Randy).


After last year's debacle, when I had the highest numbers on all bands except 40 (where the beam failed halfway through the contest), I was ready.


I felt like I did pretty well, with a few exceptions....the big sunrise hours on 20M were slower than last year...nto sure why...instead of 180-190 hours, I was having 130-140s. The low bands performed well, but 160 was not as good as the past few years...only about half the QSOs, but the multiplier seemed OK.


When the dust settled, the 3830 reports were:


K5ZD                 3979 132 480 46 6,963,336 YCCC

K1DG(@N1LI) 3898 135 489 46 6,960,096 YCCC

 

 

This is as close as it gets. I know Randy is a more accurate op than I am, so I fully expect to drop a bit in the log-checking, so this will likely be the order of finish. It was a very exciting competition, and great fun chasing a great op like Randy.


And the breakdowns...


K5ZD    94/15/ 45     482/21/ 88  1228/31/114  1447/33/117  699/23/ 99   29/ 9/17

K1DG 161/18/ 68     715/21/ 84    995/33/114  1525/33/113  488/23/102  14/ 7/8

K3CR    97/19/ 53    457/24/ 83    894/32/118  1417/35/113   636/26/101  33/10/16


I know I missed a short opening on 10 and didn't try hard enough. 11 mults is a lot to give up. 15 was a problem due to location I think - just a few miles too far north. Unlike the phone contest, I just could not get anything going, despite a lot of trying. Despite the slow hours on 20 Saturday morning, I guess I ended up spending more time there when 15 was punk. Randy did very well on 40, while I guess did OK, but just spent mroe time on 80 where this station has more muscle. 80 and 160 were, as usual, the differentiators here, even though conditions were not great.


Randy says he is done with 40+ hour single-op. I have heard that line before.


But I am sure someone else will emerge and keep me in the #2 spot next year.


But I'll be in there trying anyway. I love this game!


---------------

ARRL 160M Contest


Note to self: check the calendar next time Mrs. DG says "Let's go to a concert". We had tickets to a concert for Saturday night, so I could only operate Friday night. For a part-time effort, it was fun. I'll never know if I would have beaten K1TO opeating at W8JI. He was ahed in QSOs at the end of the first day...not sure how scores compared, since I usually work more 5-point DX QSOs than others.


----------------

CQ 160M Contest


Made a few changes to my strategy from last year (even though it was a pretty good effort, setting a new record, and beating all the USA singleop and multiop stations).


The changes seemed mostly to pay off, although I had a problem in the first hour with a major European multiop station stealing my frequency. It cut my rate in half, since they were a lot louder than me in Europe. I tried to get them to move, and I know they could hear me, but they had a pretty good rate running Eruope and just ignored me.


I ended up with a few less QSOs than 2009, a few more multipliers, and only one JA (vs. about 30 last year!) for a slightly lower score. And the K1LZ crew, operating portable on Cape Cod had a higher score, so I cannot lay claim to beating *all* USA stations.


Maine was clearly the place to be...K8PO over in Union, ME on the mainland, is right behind me in claimed score. And 3 of the top 4 single-op scores came from the Pine Tree State.


USA Single Op HP

K1DG(@N1LI)   1741 59 82 30 1,292,265 YCCC

K8PO                   1702 58 76 30 1,185,900 YCCC

K3ZM                   1627 57 81 30 1,095,582

K1UO                  1441 58 77 30     941,895


USA Multi-Op HP

K1LZ                    1822 59 87 40 1,495,624 YCCC

W8JI                     1965 60 84 40 1,227,744 ACG

KC1XX                 1870 59 80 40  1,154,256 YCCC

W2GD                  1771 57 83 39  1,106,980 FRC


And with that, the 2009-2010 N1LI contest season came to a close. I chose not to operate the ARRL DX contests on the island, since a 48-hour contest is somewhat unpleasant with no running water available. I did the ARRL CW at KC1XX so I could play with a K3 (nice) and hang out with some friends I hadn't seen for a while( very nice). Then I went to K3LR for SSB, so I could try Tim's 80M system (side-by-side 4-squares - nice) and hang out with some friends (very nice).

 


 



2009-10 Contest Season - Part 2

Posted by n1li on November 14, 2009 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The N1LI station was unavailable for the SS CW weekend...Mrs. DG had a meeting scheduled there, and my presence would have been a distraction. So I operated from home, with the goal of at least getting a Sweep. Had a lot of other stuff planned so it was going to be part-time.

 

Missed the first 3 hours or so, then got on. Conditions seemed very good. Started by S&P, focusing on the rare mults. Alternated run and S&P for about 5 hours, then went to bed  missing 5 mults: NT, NL, AK, ND, SK.

 

Got up in the morning, and swept the 20M band. Found VE5ZX for SK.

 

A bit higher, heard KL7AF call and work someone, so I went up 1 kHz and called him. He didn't answer, but VO1MP did!

 

A little further up the band I heard VY1EI working someone. I was planning to move up and call him, but the guy he was working was VE8EV!! Called him, and then I only needed 2.

 

Had to do some errands Sunday, and came back later to hunt down ND and AK.

 

Ran for an hour or so on 20 to try and lure ND in, even turning a beam up towards KL7. No luck on either. I was on the right band, since I ran a string of 6 MN in a row at one point, but no ND. Went back into S&P mode, calling every 0 station, but none was in ND. But about halfway up the band, heard KL7AF CQing. Turned the bam thattaway, and now it's down to one.

 

Heard VY1EI CQing, and just had to work him, even though I already had NT. Good to have a spare.

 

Was about to give up when I hit the RTTY segment, but kept going, and there on 14074, big as life, was KE0A in ND, who I worked a few years back for a sweep. One call, in the log, and I was done with the 2009 CW SS. A bit over 500 Qs and a sweep in 9 hours of not-very-serious operating spread out over both days, using what is left of my NH station (most of the stuff has been moved to N1LI).

 

 

2009-10 Contest season is underway - Part 1

Posted by n1li on November 14, 2009 at 12:00 PM Comments comments (0)

CQWW SSB went pretty well. Antennas worked fine, except maybe 40M. I cannot figure out if my problem on 40 SSB is antenna, antenna height, or psychological. Probably a little of each. Here are the 3830 posts:

 

K1LZ                    4037 121 452 46 6,603,825 YCCC

K1DG(@N1LI)   3711 126 493 45 6,490,834 YCCC

K4ZW(@NR4M) 3125 124 436 46 4,953,200 PVRC

K5ZD(W1UE)     3246 104 389 41 4,506,513 YCCC

K1RX                   2983 117 422 36 4,487,714 YCCC

W9RE                  2807 126 442 43 4,426,992 SMC

K3CR(LZ4AX)    2724 123 408 44 4,107,285 NCC

 

It is pretty close between K1LZ and me for the top spot...about a 1.7% margin. It will come down to the log checking.

 

The band summary tells a very interesting story...check the 40M column...

 

K1LZ 109/15/ 54 498/18/ 79     821/24/ 89        1379/29/110 1210/27/107 20/ 8/ 13

K1DG 117/17/ 60 519/20/ 87    479/24/ 91        1178/31/121 1379/26/119 39/ 8/ 15

K4ZW 43/13/ 31 242/18/ 72      746/23/ 90          892/34/116 1156/27/105 46/ 9/ 22

K5ZD 46/10/ 22 247/15/ 68       512/24/ 90        1448/29/107 956/18/ 89 37/ 8/ 13

K1RX 81/11/ 40 185/17/ 68       371/21/ 80        1226/33/118 1099/28/106 21/ 7/ 10

W9RE 44/10/ 23 153/18/ 66      377/28/ 99        1043/34/121 1142/27/114 48/ 9/ 19

K3CR 48/12/ 28 193/19/ 64       335/25/ 86        1064/33/115 1057/25/101 27/ 9/ 9

 

Aside from 40, everything else seems pretty solid. Nice to see 15 open...the past few years it has been so marginal that stations less than a hundred miles south of me got openings that I did not. Nice to see that the antennas DO work when the band is open.

 

And I guess I have my SO2R chops down. My multiplier is pretty good...even competitive with the Assisted guys.

 

But 40M...I tried everything...I knew when to be on the band...CQed on clear and not-so-clear frequencies...split and transceive...and could only run for a couple of stretches. And the 06-07-08 period was just not productive either morning...and my competition ran up 250-300 Qs in that period.  What's interesting is that this is not a big problem on CW...at least it hasn't been so far.

 

For WWCW, I anticipate a good showing. Last year the XM240 failed halfway through the contest, and that was my only 40M antenna. I strung up a largely ineffective vertical wire so I could at least finish the contest.

 

The broken XM240 was replaced this year with a Force 12 Delta 240, which seems to be pretty effective at the CW end of the band, but has a lot less F/B and higher SWR in the phone band. And I installed a 3-element wire beam fixed on Europe as a backup. Now I have some sort of fallback antenna option on every band.

 

I feel very very loud on all bands except 40 at N1LI.

 

So I am now planning a second tower for 2010. And some new antenna experiments. All for 40M.

The last-minute pre-CQWWSSB panics

Posted by n1li on October 27, 2009 at 6:24 PM Comments comments (0)

I wrote this about 8 hours before the CQWW SSB...the Web site was down when I tried to post it, so I am posting it now (actually after the contest).

=====

Getting ready for the contest season after a summer of casual operating is interesting. Here are things that have gone wrong and needed fixing in the last week.

 

1. 80M 4-square F/B ratio went in the dumper...from 25 dB down to about 10 dB. Found a broken ground connection on the SE element. Fixing that restored the performance.

 

Whew.

 

2. Yesterday I discovered that transmitting on Radio 2 caused Radio 1 to go into TRANSMIT mode - no output power, just switched into TRANSMIT. This has never happened before. First thought was that it was some kind of cockpit error related to the microHam control box or the Win-Test software or the interaction of the two, or a hardware failure in the microHam box.

 

Disconnect mic cable, problem still there, so it's not a PTT misdirection. Hmmm.

 

After lots of fiddling, I tried Radio 2 barefoot. Problem gone. OK, so it's an RF issue, not a Computer Science issue. Gradually turned up power, and it was fine up to about 1000W output.

 

Unplug headphones, it's a little better. Hmmm. Ferrite on headphone cable helps a bit, but still have the problem at 1500W output.

 

Then I remembered that last year I had a different radio in the Radio 1 position. Looked at the rear, and the ground wire was not connected to the radio. Re-connected it, and the problem was a little better.

 

Then I realized that Radio 1 and Amp 1 were "grounded" only to each other, but not grounded to the rest of the station. One clip lead later, the problem was totally gone.

 

Whew.

 

3. Yesterday I decided that I needed to order spare driver chips for the SteppIR controller. I opened up one of the controllers to get the part number, and when I re-assembled the box, the controller was dead. Took it apart and re-assembled it, and it came back to life, but the SWR was way off.

 

Tried the CALIBRATE function, no good. Minor panic.

 

Then I took the box apart again and remembered that there are two connectors that have to mate even though you can't see them unless you take the box entirely apart. Did that, the CPU chip looked a little loose in the socket, so I reseated it, connected the controller with the cover off, and it worked.

 

Carefully re-assembled it, and all is well.

 

Whew.

 

4. The tree guy finally arrived to cut down a few dead trees that were bigger than I wanted to tackle single-op. One of them was close to a guy point and the SW 160M element. I went out to help, and he was careful, and limbed the tree a few times to clean it up before dropping the main trunk.

 

This involved moving the 160 wire out of the way, but it still got snagged slightly on one falling limb...no damage.

 

Whew.

 

Then when we were getting ready to drop the trunk, I was the rope man, and pulling initial tension on the rope was sufficient to snap the 18-inch diameter rotted birch trunk before the tree guy could even fire up his saw. It fell inches away from the base connection of the SW 160M wire, and a couple of feet from the guy anchor.

 

Whew.

 

5. This morning, the main tuning knob on the FT1000 froze solid. This would be a major problem if I can't fix it. I have a spare radio, but it's not an FT1000, and I'd have to build some kind of adaptor for the microHam cable.

 

A quick search of the FT1000D Yahoo group archives suggested that a small shot of silicone spray or even WD40 would loosen it up. I have no silicone spray here on the island, but I have WD40. A small shot did indeed fix it. It's nice and loose now!

 

Whew.

 

Cruising the bands last night, everything basically seems to be working OK.

 

As I write this, with about 8 hours to go before the contest starts, the only thing I know is broken is the propagation, and there's not much I can do about that. 15M is in poor shape. Caribbean stations are running European pileups, but the Europeans are very weak here - they were very loud yesterday. But I managed a QSO with ZR1ADI on 10M a few minutes ago - the first amateur signal I have heard on 10 all week - so I now know that the 10M antenna is working.

Getting ready for the Fall 2009 Season

Posted by n1li on October 22, 2009 at 12:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I see that I now have blogging capability on this site. Guess I ought to use it.

 

This summer saw mostly repair work at the station. Heavy rains through June and most of July limited the otudoor work.

 

I finally (with an assist from K1RX) got the broken XM240 40M beam down. Turned out to be one of the common failure modes of that antenna - a corroded and loose sheet-metal screw where the loading coil connects to the element tubing. There's a photo someplace on this site.

 

I had a spare 40M beam - a Force12 Delta 240 - so that went up in place of hte XM240. I was a little nervous about this beam...it is soooooo small for a 40M antenna, with 38-foot elements. But it's soooooo light and easy to put up. Cut for the CW band, it has a flat SWR at 7040, and rises to about 1.5:1 at the bottom of the band, and is up to about 2:1 at 7200. On-air testing shows that it gets out fine, and the F/B ratio is quite good in the CW band, dropping a bit in the phone band.

 

We (myself and few of my friends who visited during the weekend of the IOTA contest) used this antenna and everyone was quite pleased with the performance. We had some very big pileupes form Europe.

 

The XM240 may someday morph into a Moxon and go back up int he air, but I will need a second tower for that. It's just too hard to have the 40M antenna on the same tower as the SteppIR - a lot of work to maneuver it around when maintenance is needed.

 

The other work done this summer was replacement of the wires on the 80M 4-square and the 160M array. In addition, I spent some serious time trying to tune the 160M array a little better. Both of those projects were successful. And I think I may have picked up a dB or so on the 160M antenna, which was alreayd pretty good.

 

I thought about the need for back up antennas and determined that 40M was the only band where I had only one antenna. As demonstrated in the CQWW CW last year, if that goes bad, I am totally out of luck. About the time I was thinking about this, the YCCC held a contest for the "best station improvement you can do for under USD100".

 

I spent a couple of hours playing with models for 40M wire beams, and came up with a 3-element design that I could fit in one of the few unused parts of my property. Unlike a lot of 3-element beam designs, this one has a pretty flat SWR across the band, with direct 50-ohm feed, and little change in Zin from 40 feet to about 70 feet. Not counting the coax, it cost just under the $100 limit. I splurged and bought new coax, so I went over.

 

Two days of slingshot/string/rope work, and I had it in the air, with elements in the 50-60 foot range, not quite horizontal or even parallel, and not all quite at the same height. But as W2PV used to say "Yagis really just WANT to work". The SWR "curve"  is as flat as the model said. And it seems to work better than the D240 at 100 feet at the beginning of the afternoon opening, then drop to about 5 dB down from the high antenna as the opening progresses. It is a lot quieter on receive, so all things considered, I think I have a workable backup antenna for 40 now, at least towards Europe.

 

I also did a little fiddling with the top TIC Ring to see if I could make it more reliable, and rebalanced the top SteppIR. So far it seems better.

 

The 80M 4-square F/B ratio deteriorated last week. Upon inspection, one fo the elements had the grounds come disconnected. FIxed that ysesterday, and it seems fine. Dump-power testing shows minimum dump power to be about 1%, and minimum between 3650 and 3670, depending on direction.

 

There was an intermittent on Radio 1 yesterday while I was listening on 80M. Tracked it down to the jumper from the amplifier to the wattmeter...it was a commercially-made jumper (I got tired of making my own, and bought a handful of them last year). It seems to have gone intermittent at the connector...it is a crimp-type. Replaced it with a home-made soldered jumper, and no more problem.

 

Yesterday I was trying to track down an annoying delay in the DVK function of the MK2R+ box and Win-Test. After the CQ message, there was about a 1.5-second delay before returning to receive. An hour or so of fiddlign with the various settings, configurations, etc. was unproductive. I sent an email to N6TV to get a copy of his settings for WT/MK2R, and he replied, with a short "p.s." of "I assume you checked the VOX delay on the rig". Umm...oops, no I hadn't, and yes, that was the problem all along.

 

It is now a day and a half before the CQWW SSB contest. Everything seems to be working. There is still a little interaction between the two radios, but it's no worse than last year, so I think I can live with it. Maybe I'll replace a few of the crimp-type jumpers in the antenna relay matrix.

 

On-air performance seems OK on all bands. Still rock-crushing loud on 160 and 80. Beverage is working again...never found anything broken with it, and it still sounds a little weaker to Europe than I remember, but it is effective in improving readability. 40 and 20 seem fine. 15 was open the past few days, and I was able to break most pileups on one call and raise my own pileup pretty quickly. Nothing heard on 10M yet. Antennas seem OK, just propagation I guess/suppose/hope.

 

Now to go do some other stuff to take my mind off the contest a bit. But mayeb I'll tuine 15 and 10 just one more time...


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