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AE6Y February 2006 Aruba Trip Notes – ARRL DX CW Contest

Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y

Tuesday, February 14 - Wednesday, February 15, 2006.  For  a short trip, to maximize time in Aruba I took a 9:00 p.m. red-eye to Miami, arriving at 5 in the morning.  A five-hour layover and one flight later, I was in Aruba at 1:30 p.m. local time.  No trouble with Customs, who waved me through, though I had our FT-990 in one suitcase.  Chris, Andy and Cindy drove up exactly as I arrived.  Although I wanted to get right to station maintenance as recent renters had reported some problems, I first spent over an hour on the phone on business, thanks to K6TA and K6KO, who had supplied a new cordless phone and seen about getting  the phone line, which had been marginal in October, fixed.  The phones and the line worked perfectly this time. Thanks to them also for the new shack chair and bath mats.

The temperature was in the low 80s and relatively non-humid; very decent weather for walking in the cunucu, as I walked all three beverages.  [Actually the WX was virtually the same for the whole week – excellent].  Somewhat surprisingly, all were intact, feed lines, transformers, wires and all.  Some old metal roofing had been dumped on the EU feed line near the far end, but it seemed to be OK. This was quite a change from four years ago when I first encountered the beverages and the cunucu on my first trip to the island.  It was all quite a mystery then, but now the layout seems logical, and I recognize various “paths” to travel midst the thorn bushes and cacti. I sure wouldn’t walk there without blue jeans and hiking boots, however, plus work gloves and a branch trimmer. 

Andy Bodony, K2LE, had left the three feed lines bagged outside the shack window.  I brought them in through the window, and hooked them up to the switches that are now set up on the new table under the window (thanks to Ed Muns, I believe).  I think they may have been partially mislabeled, and have asked John Crovelli to check it out and label them properly when he stays at the house after I leave.  The beverages now run into Carl’s old Ameco preamp and a multiband Dunestar filter set up on top of the Alpha 86.  They then go with a simple T-connector into both radios. 

The six main coaxes had to be plugged into the SixPak, which is now a harder job due to all the coax stubs that are left attached.  The C31 cable was not labeled, but I eventually figured out which one it was and plugged it into the StackMatch, and then labeled it.  I was greatly relieved to find that all antennas and both radios worked.  I didn’t try out the amps until the day after the contest, but then they were both fine as well. 

At about 4:30 I felt the need for a run, so I took my usual route along Spanns Lagoenweg from Marina Pirata to La Granja and back.  Not sure if it was the time of day, having flown all night, or the heavy air, but my feet felt absolutely leaden.  Then talked to K2LE several times, who is trying to arrange a local dinner. 

Instead of going food shopping, I bought a sandwich at the local Subway, then spent the evening hooking up the computer to the radios and testing things out, including quite a bit of time experimenting with the beverages. That was easier to do while listening to pileups on PJ2/W8AV and PJ4/KU8E, instead of my own, but I also did make a few QSOs just for practice.

I have the computer set up in front of the Alpha 87A, hooked up as follows: Serial port (Com1) to CW keying, LPT pins 16 and 17 to PTT and R1/R2; USB to 2-serial port device to two rig control cables; USB to PS2 to mouse and keyboard; external monitor.  It all worked fine, but see the notes later about the CW problems when Windows somehow decided that one of the USB devices was really Bluetooth and kept trying to set it up.  During the contest, after I switched to the laptop keyboard and monitor, I realized how much better it is ergonomically to use the external keyboard and monitor.  The monitor is much higher, and the keyboard can be moved around and is larger – the combination means that you don’t have to sit hunched over the laptop, so it is much easier on your neck and shoulders.

Thursday, February 16, 2006.  I went to sleep at midnight and was awakened at 7:30 from a sound sleep by a phone call from John Crovelli, who thought I was on the air because he saw a packet spot for me; [this must have been a precursor of all the mistaken spots that will plague me in the contest].  I was quite hungry, so after making a pot of coffee using what looked like the can I bought last October, I headed off to Oranjestad to Ling and Sons, my favorite supermarket.  On the way I stopped at John’s and we chatted for a while.  He’s busy putting up his wire beams, which he had left coiled up on the rope between his two towers.  Eighty-five dollars later I’m out of that great store.  On the way back I stopped at Huchada’s bakery on the service road just east of the WEMA hardware store, close to the supermarkets.  A ham and cheese sandwich and two chocolate croissants were a fine breakfast.  There are two such bakeries; the other one being near us in Santa Cruz, just north of the stop light, on the east side. 

Back home, it’s out to the cunucu to try to improve the beverage grounds.  Johns Fore and Crovelli believe that adding quarter-wave wires will help the beverages (though ON4UN’s book suggests that a better result would be obtained by chopping up the wire into multiple, shorter wires).  I had brought some lengths of insulated 18-gauge wire from home, and I ended up adding a 132-foot wire and a 66-foot wire to the termination end of the western US beverage, which heretofore had no wires.  The longer one runs more or less under the antenna wire, while the shorter one goes out to the south.  These are attached with a cable clamp, but not weatherproofed at all.  I also ran a 66-foot radial to the common termination in the yard of the other two beverages.  It follows the front wall of the house, as there were already two such grounds running through the yard.  The feed points all have radial wires already. I left three 132-foot coiled wires in the beverage box in the second bedroom.

Then a little car maintenance.  The tire pressures were 25 psi all around, but I couldn’t add air with the hubcaps on because the stems aren’t long enough.  So I levered all of them off and added air at the Valero in Santa Cruz to 32 psi.  I also mounted the new license plates that Chris had obtained (replacing blue plates with red ones). 

By now it’s late afternoon, so I took my usual run at Saveneta and went off to pick up John at 6:45 to go up to Playa Linda for the dinner K2LE had arranged.  Playa Linda is one of the older time shares, just west of the Hyatt.  There is a very pleasant Italian restaurant, Azzurra, where we ate. It’s close to the water and is under a big canopy, open at the sides.  Present were Andy, K2LE, Martin Rosenthal, P49MR, Joop Bok, P43JB, Emily Thiel, P43E, John and myself.  The dinner was very convivial, with lots of talk about Emily’s recent invitation to participate in WRTC in Brazil in the summer.  Andy is going as a referee, and John will probably go also (surprisingly, he wasn’t selected on the rating system, in spite of years of excellent results). 

Andy has a month of time-share time split between two penthouse suites.  He showed us the one they are currently in, and it was very impressive. There’s a wrap-around balcony from which he has views for 270 degrees from the north all the way around to the west.  He can see both the sun rise over the Hooiberg and set over the water.  His shack is actually on a covered balcony with a fine view of the water – it must be one of the most picturesque ham shacks in the world.  He runs an FT900 with 100 watts to a vertical on the roof, and gets out quite well.  It’s kind of windy up there, though. 

Home at 10:30, I did a little 160 operating to verify things are still working.  There is some loud man-made noise from somewhere, but basically the band was in good shape. 

Friday, February 17, 2006.  For the first time in my nine trips to Aruba, the power went off, at 8:30 a.m.  I called Elmar and actually got a live person who told me they were aware of it and were going to fix it soon (strangely, he said it was a fuse problem).  Power was restored after an hour, and was fine for the rest of the stay.

After a bit of operating on 15 CW, I got out the tools and did some ICE filter surgery.  John Fore had brought down two spare units, that Ed had tested good, but in order to plug and play them, I had to add two extra power inputs to the back to be able to daisy chain power.  These are RCA jacks; they are not ideal because if you try to plug into them with power on it is easy to draw a spark or blow a RigRunner fuse, but they do have the advantage of using easily available cables.  I had brought down (and left) a new 3/8” Ryobi corded drill because the old one was really beat up.  After some drilling and soldering, the job was done (and I later left Spare #1 as the left radio ICE and brought the old left radio unit back home with me to fix).

Following our usual protocol, John Crovelli drove over in his rental car at noon, and we went to the airport for him to turn it in, followed by lunch at Scandals in the Seaport Center.  Parking was difficult, as a cruise ship was in port.  Back home, I tried to nap a bit, but ended up on some business calls, including a conference call at 4 p.m. that put a damper on my napping ability.

ARRL DX CW Contest Saturday, February 18-Sunday, February 19, 2006 – Contest notes more or less as dictated during the contest.  Brief start on 20.  Just before the contest started, I was chatting with Ira, K2RD, and mentioned I would be running low power.  Just after contact #7 or so, he called again to ask if I meant to be sending 599K.  Of course I did not, so I immediately changed the exchange in the program to 599100, to reflect 100 watts instead of a kilowatt as used previously. Thank goodness he reminded me, or I might have sent the wrong exchange for the entire contest and never have noticed.  20 is terrible, 15 dead, and 40 jammed with EUs, so I end up running on 80 of all places.  I finally find a good spot on 40 at 0040Z (2040 local), but it turns out to be right under P40W.  The first hour’s total is 78, versus 216 last year. Ouch!  After the first three hours, I have 13 QSOs on 20, 92 on 40 and 240 on 80; for comparison, last year the totals at that time were 225 on 15, 318 on 20, 1 on 40, and 43 on 80 – what a difference a year makes!

I hit 160 at 0309Z and run off 113 contacts.  A brief biology break then to 40 for a serious effort in the 0400Z hour.  After 56 minutes on 40, I’m at 257 by 45 and ready to go back to 160 at 0500Z.  Many more dupes this time; I appear to be getting mis-spotted, as many big stations are duping me.  First double move is N4OGW in MS to 80 then to 160.  That puts me at 50, 43 and 36 for mults at 0616Z.  Surprisingly, a move of N6ZZ to 160 fails, as does a move of K4NO in AL.  I catch John CQing at 0707Z; he sends “sri” and leaves (Friday night he is supposed to take even hours, leaving odd hours for me; Saturday night is reversed.)  At 0809Z I’m at 986 by 144 with 51/47/41 low band mults.  Things are really slowing down.  I’m falling asleep at 0816Z, when suddenly two new mults, NE and AB, pop up consecutively on 80.  K0TO calls in on 40 with ID, and I move him to 80, but he can’t go on  160. 

Meanwhile, the computer is driving me crazy; it keeps trying to initialize a Bluetooth device which I don’t have. It seems to think that one of the cables plugged into the USB ports goes to a Bluetooth device – either the USB to 2-serial port adaptor for rig control  or the USB to PS2 adaptor for mouse and keyboard.  I also keep getting error messages about USB devices not being recognized.  Finally, in frustration at about 0920Z I take a 10-minute break and try unplugging the devices, but the Bluetooth icon is still there.  I’ve noticed that when the icon goes to red, then CW starts to get ragged.  I finally go into Add/Remove Programs and remove Dell Bluetooth, which takes a while. After rebooting, the situation is somewhat improved.  It wants to reinstall Bluetooth, and I let it, but the icon doesn’t reappear. 

At 1028Z, no one is answering CQs on 40, 80, or 160, so I take a break for an egg salad sandwich, a cream cheese sandwich, and a pot of new coffee.  The first DC, W3DQ, calls in on 40 at about 1100Z, but my move to 80 fails due to operator error: I accidentally choose W3LPL’s 80m run frequency, and I fail to note that the left radio is connected to the C31.  This is very sad, as I might have been able to move him to 160 as well, and, as it turns out, miss DC on both of those bands.  The sun is just coming up and I’m listening to Paolo, P40G, warming up 20.  He doesn’t seem to get any answers.  80 gets noisier at dawn, but using the beverages on 80 does help (it requires retuning the preamp and band changing the Dunestar filter).   NN7ZZ calls in for UT on 80, after refusing earlier to move from 40 to 80.  He agrees to move to 160, but I commit another operator error and mess up the antenna selection and can’t hear his reply to me, so no contact.

The pace on 40 picks up after sunrise, just as it did last year.  At about 1212Z I decide to take a 15-minute power nap.  I’m falling asleep at the switch.  I’m at 1230 by 155 for 545k points (40: 591/54, 80:401/53, 160: 224/43).  Back in the seat after a short nap at 1228Z, and the good news is that 20 is full of signals; the bad news is that it is wide open to EU.  I find a spot at 14068 and start running stations.  After a while 20 slows down as we enter the usual Caribbean morning doldrums.  I start ringing the official mult bell and cheering out loud to help stay awake.  Lots of unanswered CQs.  At 1329Z I’m at only 98 by 36 on 20 after 57 minutes on the band.  Checking 15, I can hear US, but they are all running EU. 

Finally to 15 at 1433Z and have an excellent pileup.  Propagation starts out very selectively; e.g., I’ve worked a dozen W4’s, but only in Virginia.  After an hour, I start moving guys to 20; first is W5KK in MS to 20 for a new mult on both bands.  Same with W6SA (NV) and KO7X (WY—gave me a triple mult last year on moves).  I’m really in a groove on 15 after an hour and a half.  I put in 6 db of attenuation and back off the RF gain a bit, as I can hear evidence of P40W somewhere nearby.  Move KY to 20, for the sixth such move.  The moves to 14111 all go smoothly.  Same for VE5ZX, VE7ST, and the first [and only] ND of the entire contest, KD4POJ.  I move KE7NO (MT) to 20 and lose my run freq in the process.  More moves: VE4XT, W0BH (KS).  I’ve basically been camped out on or about 21029 for 3 hours now; it’s the first really enjoyable part of the entire contest. 

I now have 55 mults on both 15 and 20; ironically, on 15 I’m missing only four US mults, DC, NE, ID and SD, all of which I know to be active since I’ve worked each on another band.  Like last year, the maximum mults seem to be 59 out of the possible 63, as the four rare Canadians are never heard (LB, NU, NT, YT).  W3DQ then calls in and I move him to 20 to give DC on each band.  It’s now 2030Z and I’m going to take a break.  I’ve been on the air for just under 20 hours, and the current total is 2244 by 262 for 1.7M points. The high band totals are 15: 860/56, 20: 163/56 (!!). The hourly rates show quite a spread; they are 144, 71, 99, 114, 100, for 15 through 160, respectively. 

After about 15 minutes for lunch, I decide to hang out on 20, which has calmed down since morning.  I don’t have to call CQ for 44 minutes after the first one, as the “fresh meat” pileup rages. The 2100-2200Z hour rate is 189, my best of the contest (for comparison, last year I had three hours over 200, with a best of 216).  At 2300Z I slip past two million points.  K0HW (SD) finally calls in on 20 and I move him to 15 for a double mult. NM7H (NE), not needed on 20, is moved to 15, so I now have 58 mults on each band.

At the 0000Z half-way mark, 15 is just about closed and 20 is closing down as well. By this time my 20m QSO total has gone up from 163 to 669, and the overall total is now 2752 by 266.  I try to stay on 20 as long as possible, because I know it’s going to be a long nighttime slog on the low bands.  The computer has been sending perfect code for several hours and has [temporarily] decided to stop sending me Bluetooth and USB error messages.  In the 0000-0100Z hour the last-10 rate on 20 is dropping into the 70s and 80s, so it is finally time to abandon 20 and head for the low bands. 

I find a reasonable spot at 3540 for a few Qs.  Second caller is reliable KO7X, Al in WY, who obligingly moves to 40 for a double mult.  N1RJ in ME QSYs to 160 and we make the contact easily.  I’m amazed, given my poor record in moving mults to that band.  At 0133Z, I’m surprised by a weak K6YT (W0YK) in CA on 80, since it’s still daylight there.  VE9DX calls in on 40, but a move to 160 fails.  I try CQing on 160 in the 0200Z hour with little success.  But then N4GN in KY calls in on 160 and we move to 80 for another double bell-ringer.  Food break at 0318Z, just past 3000 Qs. 

After several hours bouncing among 40 (mostly), 80 and 160, at 0605Z (0205 local), I’m losing focus and starting to fall asleep during contacts, so I decide to take my only real sleep break of the contest.  After a quick shower and about 2 ½ hours of dream-filled sleep, my wristwatch alarms succeed in waking me (that’s always a concern), and I stagger out of bed for a bowl of cereal and coffee.  Then back to the radios by 0850Z, actually feeling better than I recall feeling last year.  There are people to work on 7031.  At 0953Z, I check 20 and hear Paolo, P40G, CQing.  This is before local sunrise; not surprisingly I don’t hear anyone answering him.  The computer is sending some ragged code again.  I put the cover up vertically on the theory that it may be trying to put itself in standby mode, and it seems to help (not sure if it’s just a placebo effect).  On 80 the Eastern US beverage works well as a receiving antenna, though the western US beverage doesn’t seem to.

As the rate slows, I try dual CQing on 40 and 80 to relieve the tedium.  I try 20 at 1121Z, but unfortunately 20 is full of loud EU signals.  I take a band sweep looking for VY2TT or ZM, since PEI is the last mult I need on 20 (except the absent rare Canadians, of course), but don’t find them.  But they are pretty active, so I’m not too worried

In the slack time I start thinking about my computer problems and decide maybe it is simply a USB problem, since I keep getting those weird USB error messages.  So I change everything around, taking keying off an LPT port and rig control from COM1, while eliminating the external mouse and keyboard and monitor.  This unfortunately only gives rig control on one radio – of course it’s possible to do rig control on the two radios with one serial port, since they can have separate addresses, but I hadn’t set it up that way, and don’t want to try to find the cables and adaptors to do it now.  It also means that I have to use the laptop screen and keyboard.  They work fine, but I quickly realize how much more comfortable it is to use the external keyboard and monitor, which allow the operator to move around and change positions, instead of being hunched over the laptop.  But the keying does improve, so it will be worth it to suffer for the remainder of the contest.  Fiddling with the computer and a brief food/frustration break use up 40 minutes of off-time.

I get back on 40 at 1205Z for a reasonable 40-minute run at 50-60 per hour, a full hour after local sunrise.   At 1249Z I finally go to 20, finding a clear freq at 14047 kHz.  I note that Paolo has been on 14035 for hours in his 20m single-band effort, and 8P9PA on 14052 for at least an hour – he’s well to the east, so 20 may have opened earlier for him.  Twenty is awful, and I get only one caller in the first four minutes.  I listen to 15, and decide to go there and CQ, but that experience nets only one contact.  Starting at 1315Z I get totally disgusted and take an unplanned 45-minute break during which I nap and read a book.  When I come back, 15 is in better shape.  VY2SS calls on 15 and I move him to 20 to give me the PEI mult I had been seeking on that band.  A K3 M/M opens up about 300 Hz below me and splatters my frequency with key clicks. 

Meanwhile, I’m listening to an LU on 10 working the US at a rapid pace.  I finally hear the first US station answering him, a W1, so I try 10 myself at 1657Z.  US sigs are very weak, and the first QSO is a barely audible VY2TT -- and then no one else.  Back on 10 after 20 minutes on 15, and I get only five mults, all due north, predominantly VO1s.  John and I are both on 10, but he wipes me out, so I decide to defer to him and go back to 15. 

Then, by 1756Z sigs on 10 sound stronger, and wow! are they ever.  One CQ yields 195 QSOs at a rate of 188 per hour.  Should be faster, but the pileup is so large it’s actually hard to manage in my tired state. Propagation seems to spread from East to West, and in the first 37 mults, there are no 6s or 7s.  It’s an incredible rush.  I guess the whole US now wants to work the Caribbean and SA, since they can’t work EU.  The West Coast starts to come in, first a very weak W6YI (who I believe has an 8 el beam on a mountain top), then very strong OR stations.  I continue to hang around 10 picking off more mults, eventually ending up with 51.  I move K0TO in ID to 15 for my 59th on that band.  A nasty packet pileup, apparently caused by mis-spotting, yields a bunch of dupes.  It’s very annoying to spend the time and mental energy necessary to sort out such a pileup only to make contacts that don’t count.  Unfortunately, I can’t stay on 10 forever, as the propagation is fading out, so I QSY to 20 to run out the rest of the contest.  The last three hours are at rates of 120, 122 and 112, as compared to last year’s rates of 154, 117, 159.

Promptly at 0001Z, after I’ve just taken off the headphones, John Fore calls and we have a long contest post-mortem.  After a quick shower and shave, I pick up John Crovelli for our usual post-contest dinner at a packed Tony Roma’s.  Emily and Lisandro also join us, but Jackie unfortunately has to go to his office, so he and Paolo can’t make it.  I feel much better than I did the previous two years at this time, just a bit tired, but not wasted or exhausted.  Crovelli ended up at 4900 by 341, with the main mult difference being 9 more on 160 and 3 more on 10.  I’m a little surprised that he only has 360 QSOs on 160, since it sounded as though he was CQing there a lot.  I think I have to learn to be more patient with slow Saturday night rates on that band in order to get the western mults. 

Soapbox, as sent to 3830 reflector:
Another enjoyable, but challenging, contest from Aruba. Two years ago when we were both on the Island, John, P40W (W2GD) went low power and I did high power. This year, with John looking forward to a shootout in HP, I decided to take LP. It was quite a change from last year, when I managed over 5800 Qs. Part of it was conditions, as QSO totals were down for all of us, part was going low power, and part was due to not feeling quite as in sync with the contest as I had last year. For some reason, I just didn't feel as competent managing pileups as before. The bands were also much more cooperative last year; for example, 10m then was wide open for us DXers. This year, 10m cooperated just enough to give the advantage to the Caribbean, but not enough to produce the terrific activity of the past.

As usual, this operation was from the P40L-P49Y station (ex-P49V QTH) owned by John, W6LD, and myself. To give an idea of some of the maintenance required by such a place, since last year we had replaced the FT1000Ds with IC 756 PRO 2s. This was mainly due to having front end problems with the older FT1000s, and the difficulty of lugging 65-pound radios back to the States for servicing. I happen to like the PROs very much, but John was less enthusiastic -- but we both agree that having newer, lighter radios is a great advantage in the Caribbean. We also had renewed beverages for the low bands, thanks to extensive work by W6LD, N6XI and KX7M, who hacked their way through the badlands (the “cunucu”, as the locals say) behind the house last fall to string them up for CQWW CW. Miraculously, they were still there. We also had brought back the 87A for servicing, after its power supply board was apparently toasted by a power surge in the summer (when it should have been unplugged), and had major maintenance in October on our 40m yagi (thanks to P43E, P43L and P43M for their help with that one). Not to mention numerous house/shack improvements by K6TA and W0YK in recent months (telephones, shack chair, filter repairs).

Contest Highlights:

1) The highpoint of the contest had to be the brief but exciting 10m opening on Sunday. I worked not a single Q on 10m on Saturday, and was contemplating finishing the contest with the embarrassing total of fewer than 300 mults (as compared to 341 last year). At about 1630Z on Sunday, I tried CQing on 10, but heard nothing. I kept listening on 10 on the second radio, where P40W was trying to get something stirred up. Finally someone answered him, so a few minutes later I started CQing again. VY2TT answered, whisper quiet, but no one else, so I went back to 15. Returning to 10 at 1723, the band was starting to open due north, with ESP signals from VO1HP, VO1MP, VO1OP, KC1XX, and a surprisingly western K8MFO. But I couldn't really hear with P40W on the band -- there was nothing wrong with his TX or my RX, but when you are trying to hear S-zero signals, having him 1/2 mile and 15 kHz away was a deal-killer. I debated slugging it out with John, but decided that he was in the contest HP and more seriously than I was, so I withdrew and went back to 15, in the hope that signals would improve so we could both work the band.

About 20 minutes later, signals did sound stronger, so I went back to 10, and the first CQ yielded a monster pileup. Looking at the NA score reports, I can see why -- the Caribbean and SA was just about all there was for NA stations. I didn't have to call CQ again for an hour and a half. I don't feel that I handled the pileup very well. I was tired and had difficulty concentrating, and the pileup was so big as to be difficult to manage. The first hour was 186, whereas last year I had a 215 hour on 10 with a more manageable pileup. Nonetheless, it was exciting to watch the mults come as propagation moved across the country. There were strange anomalies, including working only a few Californians, who were very weak (even W6YI), but shortly thereafter working S9 plus 20 Oregonians. The propagation gradually disappeared, and I was sadly reduced to going back to 20 to finish out the contest (15 was still open, but at the time I had several hundred more Qs in the log on 15, so I thought that 20 would have better prospects).

2) After a hard night slugging it out on the low bands, I was looking forward to 20m opening Saturday morning, but I just couldn't get anything going. After an hour and a half, I only had about 140 Qs on 20, with 42 mults. But switching to 15 just as it opened up proved to be the tonic I needed, with five straight hours averaging about 145 per hour. What was really satisfying, though, was that every time I came across a juicy mult also needed on 20, I would ask him to move, and virtually all the moves were successful. The result was that after this run, I had 55 mults on 15 and also 55 on 20 - where I still had fewer than 160 Qs, but had successfully added 13 mults to the total. Finally going to 20 in the 21Z hour yielded a very satisfying 189 hour.

3) As P40W mentioned in his write-up, one of the highlights of contesting from Aruba is the opportunity to spend time with local hams and visiting contesters. The locals are a very friendly and interesting bunch, and some are world-class contesters (including P43E, who will compete in WRTC, and P43P, from whose station many contests have been won, both by him personally and by visitors). For example, this one-week trip interrupted by a 48-hour contest included meals or visits with: P43A (Jean-Pierre) and his wife P43C (Chris), P43E (Emily), P43P (Jackie), P43L (Lisandro), P43JB (Joop), P49MR (Martin), P40LE (Andy - K2LE), P40G (Paolo - I2UIY), and the ubiquitous P40W (John - W2GD). It's the exact opposite of some contest expeditions, where the ops are essentially isolated in a strange country.

Contest Lowlights:

1) The start of the contest was dreadful. Last year, 15 was open for us but not from NA to EU, and it produced an excellent 216-QSO first hour; this year, by contrast, 15 was closed, and I couldn’t get anything at all going on 20 or 40, so I was reduced to trying to run on 80. Only a total of 203 contacts in the first two hours combined -- a terrible way to start a 48-hour endeavor.

2) Even after studying at the feet of the 160m master, P40W, I still don’t have the hang of operating on that band. Four years ago, in my first ever ARRL DX operation from P4 (and my first lifetime operation on 160), I managed the unimpressively low total of 40 mults. The next year, I worked on it and got a respectable total of 52, then regressed last year to 48 and this year to 45. I seem to do well Friday night, then hit a brick wall on Saturday. Two or three moves went well, but several others, particularly with western stations, did not. I think I need to spend more time running on Saturday night, and be patient even with a relatively low rate.

3) A new laptop caused some strange Windows problems with CW. Using my own software, CQPWIN, I am sensitive to the occasional Windows glitches in CW sending, but have been coexisting amicably with Microsoft more or less successfully since the days of Win 3.1. The trouble seems to be that the new XP machine has too much stuff running in the background, and is trying to be too protective. It would be fine for hours, and then would bombard me with messages about USB devices not being recognized. It seemed to think that a USB to PS2 converter (for external mouse and keyboard) was some kind of Bluetooth device – every so often a Bluetooth icon would blink and CW would sound strange. It’s hard to deal with this kind of issue when you are tired, but I finally tried to remove the Bluetooth software (that I didn’t even know I had), tore out the two USB connections, and continued with a minimal configuration. That seemed to help, but even days later, I keep getting the “USB device not recognized” message. Does anyone know how to clear that up?? I don't have to hack the registry, do I??

4) The worst annoyance of all was dupes. There are legitimate reasons for a dupe; for example, due to QRM, QSB, etc., there may be a question as to a contact, so an insurance contact can be appropriate. Some are just honest mistakes. But the great bulk is due to carelessness in use of packet spots. It's obvious to me that I was mis-spotted a number of times, presumably as P40Y, not P49Y. When this happens, there ensues a sudden flurry of callers, almost all of whom are dupes. The worst are some of the big gun multis, who call insistently, and loudly. They obviously don't listen to the station they are calling, because throughout the contest I was sending my callsign after every contact, or, at most, after every second contact. Even repeating the callsign over and over doesn't deter these guys. I consider this very poor operating practice. After the contest, P40G noted that he had been spotted as PV0G several times, with the same infuriating results. So, please spot carefully, and those of you who are relying on spots, please listen to the station before you call. The dupes really do affect one's score, as they waste a lot of time during which one could be working new stations.

Radios: Two IC-756 PRO 2s
Antennas: Force 12 4 el 10/15/20, 2 el 40, C31XR; inv vees for 80, 160 Software: CQPWIN, ver. 10.2

Congratulations to P40W and P40G on great efforts, and thanks to everyone for the contacts.

Monday, February 21, 2004.  Slept like a log until 10 a.m., and felt quite logy upon awakening, but a pot of coffee helped greatly.  Then had breakfast at the house and checked email. 

In the morning I went over to Lisandro’s new house  Actually it’s not new, but is the house he grew up in. He and Lissette are doing extensive remodeling and expansion, including adding a 2-story garage and ham shack.  It’s just south of the Hooiberg in an area called Ceroe Bientu (or Sierra Biento -- windy hill).  I met his contractor, another ham named Carlos.  After lunch back home, I called Paolo, I2UIY, who was been at Jackie’s for 12 days, operating the RTTY contest last weekend and then the ARRL.  He is leaving in a few hours, so John and I drove up for a visit.  Jackie was there on a lunch break, so we chatted with him for 20 minutes or so, then with Paolo for another hour.  He’s also going to WRTC, as  log checker.

Back to the house to pick up some beach stuff, then off to Eagle Beach for my obligatory hour on the beach.  It was lovely, though a bit too breezy.  After a short run, I got cleaned up and met JP and Chris for a very pleasant dinner at Marina Pirata.  I then had a number of station activities, including swapping out the left ICE 419A (with blown 160 and high SWR on 15) to bring back home with the one in the closet labeled Spare #1.  I also am bringing back my MFJ 259, which Andy Bodony had returned to me, after reporting (as had W0YK) that it was not working properly.  Checked the amps, both of which seem to be fine on all bands. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2006.   Mostly packing and tidying up the station this morning.  I drove to John’s at noon, as we have arranged that he will drive me to the airport and take the use of the car, and then move into the house for two weeks.  He will be doing some work on the place: painting towers, possible swapping out the C31 rotor for the spare TailTwister we have, checking the beverages.  I reviewed the visitor info sheets that various visitors had recently left, and consolidated them into a new visitor instruction sheet.  This emphasizes that everything is to be unplugged when finished and that visitors aren’t to use SO2R without explicit authorization.  Then back to CA, starting on the 2:41 pm AA flight from AUA to MIA, and a long flight to SFO, arriving at 9:30 p.m.

General observations.  With Crovelli going HP, I decided to go LP.  This is actually usually a very competitive category in ARRL, so I’m not sure it would be any easier to win, but having finished 4th, 3d and 2d in the last three years, a win would be nice.  Here is a comparison of my scores for the last four years, along with Crovelli’s this year (all with dupes removed).


P49Y 2006 LP

P40W 2006 HP

P49Y 2005 HP

P40Y 2004 HP

P40Y 2003 HP

















































QSOs were obviously way down from last year, but they were for everyone.  For example, last year Tom, W2SC, took the HP crown with a total of 6000 Qs. This year, W4PA appears to have won again from that station, as 8P9PA, with 5300.  P40W came in second with 4900. My mults were also down, mainly due to 10 meter condx, but also a poor showing on 160.  The log shows about two dozen successful moves, and there were about 6-8 more (mostly to 160) that didn’t work out.