Sunday, July 10, 2011

IARU Championship 2011 or shooting yourself in the foot

Camping in the Adirondacks this year, so I had the choice of going QRP with my Yaesu FT-817 and Transworld antenna or low power with my Icom 706MKIIG, same antenna. Well, after setting up on Friday afternoon, I found that I had lots of noise, S9 and above... Since we were near the office, pool etc. I figured out they had some RFI problems inherent to the mechanical parts of the pool, refrigerators and what not. And campgrounds are known to have electrical problems anyhow. Not much I could do about it, certainly not saving my 24-hours contest...

So I opt for maximum power, set up the Icom 706MKIIG as my station and heard almost nothing but noise on all bands, 40m-10m, covering most of the band... I did manage a few DX contacts, in the 5000 miles range, something that would send he whooping and hollering on 5 watts, but less so on 100 watts. Sure, I'm just operating portable, with a good antenna, but still a compromise one, so I'm not unhappy, but I was hoping for better.

I even tried my FT-817, battery powered, outside the rig with my Alexloop antenna, one that has a directional pattern, but even with this, I could not null the noise. Made a few QRP contacts anyhow...

I had planned on staying up late at night, to improve on my score as much as possible, but conditions seemed so bad that I figured out it is not worth losing sleep over, so I went to bed.

I woke up in the morning, walked the dogs, all six of them are with us in the RV and then it dawned on me. I was using a spare cell phone/iPod charger, the same I used at home, but at home, I discovered its power supply made all kind of noise so I replaced it, this one, a spare, still had the original power supply. I turned the Icom on, to be greeted by S9 noise. I unplugged the sucker power supply and the noise was GONE! Well S2-3 is quite acceptable in a campground! And parts of the 20m band were totally quiet! Ugh! I feel so stupid. A less than $5.00 piece of Chinese crap robbed me of a beautiful day's contest!

When I get back home, I'll give this PS the 10lbs hammer test, meaning what happens to it when pounded by said hammer...

As for hunting the noise down, the RV is 30' long, and that makes it hard to pinpoint the noise. In addition, I have power lines overhead, the power receptacle and the stupid PS were within feet of each other so with only an HT, I don't think I could have zeroed on the real culprit, but I did not try, as I assumed wrongly tht the noise came from the campground...

So here is my score:

At least I participated!

Monday, June 13, 2011


With my wife visiting our grandchildren in PA and me dog-sitting at home, this is a perfect opportunity to try something new, as my activity on VHF has been relatively limited, especially on SSB, actually it was nil there.

So I started making plans, the weather having been quite hot, I wanted to operate from my deck, thus close to my antenna, as I was also the designated rotator... So by Wednesday, I got my equipment out, my little FT-817, my Arrow antenna and I listened/participated to my club's net on 2m FM, making sure that my equipment worked well. Passed that hurdle with flying colors.

But now the weatherman starts talking about colder weather for the weekend, with rain and well already by Friday, the nice weather was gone and we had a bit of rain. So I go to plan B, working from my screened porch. The screening material is metal, so it makes it a great Faraday cage. No transmissions come out of it, unless the antenna is outside, and that means mileage on the rotator's legs, mine!

Now, my Arrow has a diplexer built-in so I did not want it exposed to rain. I hauled my Elk out, checked it with my analyzer and it was fine, so it got the job. With that antenna, I could go to 200 watts so instead of my FT-817, I took the Icom 706MKIIG from the RV and that gave me a certain advantage as now I was able to transmit up to 50Watts on VHF. My computer easily connected to the 706MKIIG and I could have logging on-the-spot and even LoTW as I had wi-fi everywhere. So here I am, comfortably installed in the screened-in porch, working a few stations, when I noticed the sky getting darker and darker, my dogs, one by one going back inside... I had a plastic tablecloth to protect my equipment should high winds push the rain inside... At one point, I went to turn my antenna and the air felt funny, Just a single droplet of rain fell on me, the ground was dry. I turned my antenna by 90 degrees, to try listening to another quadrant. I got back in and my behind did not reach the chair when the sky opened up with a vengeance. Sheets of rain and wind... The tablecloth flew over the station and covered everything. I quickly disconnected the power, then the antenna and moved everything back to the kitchen island.  Reconnected everything, no damage and now, this is where the VHF station will stay till the Party is over.

Unfortunately, I keep hearing the same three, four stations and nothing more. One of then has a contest station, so my 706MKIIG and its Elk antenna slung on a painter's pole (held by duct tape) and bungee corded to the deck swing may not mean much. But maybe propagation will help a bit later on. Anyhow, it is not bad to be contesting without any pressure. Whatever will happen, it will be better than last year!

Well, I never heard any more stains than the four I logged. I will probably need a better antenna if I want to do better, and better propagation too. The antenna is not going to happen, too much expense for too little fun, IMO. So will I participate on VHF events in the future? I hate to say a definite no, and be proven wrong at a later time, but with my current equipment, probably not.

2010 10-Meters ARRL Contest

As you can see from my previous entry, I won first place in the Western New York Section, Single Operator, Low Power SSB. Sure, I'm tickled pink and happy to have sent in my meager results and now can prove that you may be 1st in your category, even with two QSOs. But I was hoping to do a bit better, score-wise at least, this year.

Propagation was not great, to say the least. I also had some equipment malfunction, like my rotator freezing (antenna pointing east) and some quirk in my Heil headset or mike switch, but that was fixed with me reverting to the old hand mike.

The frozen rotator freed me from having to look at propagation charts as my Cobra-Ultra-lite antenna and my Transworld Backpacker are omni-directional so all I could do is listen and answer calls I heard without possibility of enhancing them locally.

This time I'm claiming 26 QSOs and 728 points. This certainly eclipses 2 QSOs and four points from last year. Will it be good enough to win the category? Time will tell.

I worked a Canary Island station, one in Columbia, a few Argentinian stations, Aruba came through too as well as several Mexican stations. Several stations in the US were also worked, NY, AZ, FL, CA and IL. I want to thank the operators for taking my call.