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AE6Y November 2006 Aruba Trip Notes – CQWW CW Contest

Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y

Wednesday, November 22 - Thursday, November 23, 2006.  I was able to take this trip unexpectedly, due to the postponement of Sandy’s surgery to Nov. 30th, which left time for a very quick trip to try my hand at CQWW CW for the first time.  John Fore and his last year’s companions (N6XI, KX7M) couldn’t make it, and since I had left all radios, amps and antennas in working order a month ago, it seemed like a great, spur-of-the-moment, idea.  I took the AA 10:15 red-eye from SFO to Miami, then the 10 a.m. flight to Aruba, arriving at 1:40 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving day.  I was expecting a huge rush at SFO, and arrived several hours early,  but there were literally no lines at all at the ticket counter or at security, though the plane was full.  Maybe the lateness of the hour helped.  I was carrying JP’s repaired FT1000D in a large suitcase, but other than paying an overweight fee, I had no trouble with it at either end, and JP later confirmed the radio was perfect.

Upon arrival (after being met at the airport by Chris and Andy and dropping off the radio at their house), I walked all three beverages.  The cunucu is much more overgrown than a month ago, and John’s large clippers came in very handy for trimming back cactus branches to maintain the path.  All three seemed fine: wires, transformers, and, as far as could be ascertained, feedlines.  I brought the feedline ends through the window and laid out the three coiled wires from the stake in the yard as radials. 

Since the contest started the next day, I wanted to get everything hooked up as quickly as possible, so I plugged in all the antennas and radios and set up the computer with everything running off one USB port. That port fed the Compaq 4-port hub.  One of those ports went to the USB relay box, with two cables feeding PTT and R1/R2 on the DX Doubler.  One port went to the 2-serial port converter.  One serial port did rig control for both radios, and one was for CW keying.  One final USB port went to the USB-dual PS2 adaptor feeding the mouse and keyboard.  I had the computer set up on the side table, with the external monitor in use on the desk shelf.  This all worked perfectly throughout the contest, and the CW was sent with no timing glitches (CQPWIN set to TM4 - the  QueryPerf method of timing - and Norton and wireless disabled). 

The ICOMs had been set to Transcieve ON in their menu system (under “Others”).  This feature had to be turned off for rig control to work on the two radios, otherwise they try to control each other.  Also, each had to be set to a separate CIV address.

I got on 20 SSB a bit in the late afternoon, which was open to Europe.  Then a 6 p.m. sked with John, who wanted to show radio to some of his Thanksgiving guests.  No trouble hearing him even on his low dipole.  JP came on the air also, but only had a 40m vertical, so it was an odd 3-way conversation, with my having to relay between the two of them.  Ken, K6TA, and Kay also joined in.  At about 7:30, John Crovelli came by with Dick Norton, N6AA, who was going to operate P40T from Jacky’s QTH (P43P).  We had an enjoyable Italian Thanksgiving dinner at Don Carlos in Oranjestad.  Both John and Dick are in the CQ Contest Hall of Fame and have been operating this contest (including winning it) for decades. Dick has the additional distinction of having operated it from all 40 CQ zones.

Arriving back home around 10 p.m., I was listening to the radio a bit when I heard a commotion outside.  Investigating, I found two Aruban men had parked their car right next to mine.  I wasn’t sure of what was going on, but it turned out they had a horrendous flat tire.  I offered to help, and they asked if I could give them a lift home, about a mile away.  Not sure if this was a good idea, I did it anyway, and Ronaldo and Jack thanked me and invoked multiple blessings on me.  Maybe this will help my contest karma. 

Friday, November 24, 2006.  In total contrast to the constant work of a month ago, this was a quiet day waiting for the contest to start at 8 p.m. local.  I slept until about 8:30 a.m., then had a pleasant open-air breakfast in the café of the Hyatt Hotel.  Then to Ling and Sons to stock up on contest food, spending only about $50 instead of the usual $90 due to the short length of the trip.  Took a nap from about 3 to 5:30, then set out contest food, putting out some snacks, making sandwiches (PBJ, cream cheese and jelly, tuna salad, chicken salad), etc.  On the way  to shopping, I put in gas and (on JP’s advice) a bottle of injector cleaner.  The car is running very well, except for the radio and a/c, which work not at all. 

Contest notes (more or less as dictated during the contest).  Start on 40 for about an hour and a half, then move to 80.  It’s hard to deal with the instant packet pileups, as everyone just calls at exactly the same time on exactly the same frequency.  At 0255Z I am at 229/13/37 on 40 and 198/9/27 on 80.  I am going to look for mults on 80 for a bit, then go to 160 (my deal with Crovelli is that he gets the first 15 minutes of even numbered hours on 160 on Friday, and I get the odd ones, then we switch on Saturday night).  At 0003Z, about an hour on 160 has yielded 10 zones and 23 countries.  It’s 0551Z, and have just enjoyed a nice run on 40 (now 458/17/58). I take a break to check 160, but the band is extremely quiet, and the 87A immediately faults.  I think there is something wrong with the inverted vee and go outside with a flashlight to check.  Everything looks fine, and upon returning to the shack, I see that I have the Stackmatch set to the C31 position, so that explains the difficulty.  I’ve been running the right radio and the 86 on 40, and using the left radio and the 87A on 80 and 160.  Love the instant band switching. 

I get up at 0751Z to stretch my legs.  The total is 993 by 193.  By band: 20: 5/4/4; 40: 458/17/58; 80: 344/16/48; 160: 185/13/33. I’ve been running on 1835 for the last 40 minutes or so, then tuned around for a few new mults.  The beverage receiving antennas are working very well, and I am using them exclusively on 80 and 160.  First JA is at 0812Z on 40.  Just as the rate is slowing down on 80, I get a call from VK7GN for zone 30 for quite a surprise.  The next caller is ZL3MD for zone 32 (this is the kind of propagation that Crovelli knows like the back of his hand).  They come in on the West US beverage.  I take a break at 1057Z, about to switch to 20 after a night on the low bands. Current totals are 40: 667/22/73; 80: 440/23/58; 160: 199/13/33.  At 1215Z I’m falling asleep in the middle of QSOs, so I decide to try a 15 minute power nap, an idea gleaned from Tom, W2SC, 8P5A.  I set the watch alarm, sit down in a chair and have what seems to be a long, complex dream, but I snap out of it immediately when the alarm goes off – and, surprisingly, do feel refreshed.  Hopefully that and some fresh coffee will give me a second wind.  The log shows a QSO with UW2M in zone 16, then, 21 minutes later, the next one with UW8M also in zone 16.  Switch to 15 at 1249Z, and the first 10 QSOs are in zones 15, 13, 39, 15, 33, 15, 15, 16, 20, 15.  So it’s mostly EU, with others calling in.  Off 15 at 1453Z after a nice run, with the band total at 267/16/44.  During the 15 run, I have the right radio and the 86 set to 20 and manage to work a few new mults on that band (IH9P, CT8T).  I start to do more of this later in the contest. 

I’ve been listening on 10 on the second radio, and move there at 1500Z. It’s mostly East Coast, but the first two QSOs are 6W1RW and HC8N.  There’s an instant packet pileup about 45 Qs deep.  A milestone: contact 2000 at 1711Z.  Now at 2006 by 386 for 2.245M.  First move of the contest is GI4VIV from 20 to 21111, but I forget to set the 20m freq in memory and lose it.  A few minutes later, working 6V7D on 10, he suggests moves to 15 and 20, which both work.  ST2T, zone 34, calls in on 15, and we move to 20 easily.  I’ve been using the monobander pointing about 330 and the C31 at 060, and splitting power between them, which seems to work well.

The 1800Z calendar hour is my best of the contest, 204 Qs running stateside on 15.  In the next few hours I am mostly running stateside on 20.  I do move KH6BK from 15 to 20, then at 2217Z, work 4U1UN on 40 on the second radio.  I run a bunch of JAs on 20, then at 2317Z I have to take another wake-up break for 19 minutes.  Returning, I go on 40 and immediately work 8Q7DV in zone 22. He suggests a move to 80, but I can’t hear him on that band.  Another failed move: I try to move VE2WDX in rare zone 2 from 40 to 20.

At 0000Z, the first day totals are 10: 124/14/24; 15: 768/24/69; 20: 677/21/62; 40: 669/22/75; 80: 440/23/58; 160: 199/13/33. Total is 2877/113/311 for 3.5M points.  [Note that 8P5A’s rule of thumb is that total score is twice first day plus 10%.  Mine is really twice plus 30%, which is some evidence that I had a much worse first day than the big guys have]. 

I try 160 at 0000Z, since I now have primacy on the even hours.  The immediate result is some new mults: ZF1A, 5A7A, 4O3M, VP5W, CM6YA.  The 5A7A contact is difficult, and he may have me as P40Y, but the contact is definite.  I’m having fun looking for mults on 160, and I understand Crovelli’s comment from last year about how 160m DXing may hurt the overall score, as it’s tempting to spend a lot of time at this.  I have a nice run on 40 until almost midnight local time.  I’ve worked some zones I couldn’t get on 20 SSB, including RW9USA in zone 18 and ZS1EL in zone 38.  For the whole run, I use the 2 el yagi at 45 degrees, and the right radio with the Alpha 86.  That seems to be a good compromise direction for the antenna.  The noise level is higher on 160 tonight, so it’s not as much fun as last night.

I bounce around the low bands for the next few hours and finally am dying during QSOs, and guys have to keep reminding me to finish the contact. At 0703Z (0303 local time) I finally decide I need to take a rest.  I’m at 3607 by 472 for 4.9M points.  I’m afraid to go to bed, however, so I do another chair nap, this time setting the alarms for 90 minutes.  I do feel better after awakening and having a quick sandwich, but am very disoriented at the keyboard, and can’t quite figure out what the program is doing.  Fortunately, I can make contacts and log them on auto-pilot, so I keep going in spite of my muddled mental state. At 0947Z two nice mults call in on 40: T88MR for a double mult (zone 27), and RW0LZ for my first zone 19. 

After a short break, I hit 20 at 1049Z.  Tuning around, I find YB5AQB for a nice double mult.  I would have thought to hear more zone 28s, as they are usually strong in Aruba, being roughly antipodal.  I have the C31 aimed at EU and the monobander pointing west, hoping to find Pacific stations.  The strategy works, as I get calls from VK2DAG and HS0ZDJ in zone 26, both double mults.  Another falling-asleep-at-the-switch episode causes me to try my second 15-minute power nap at 1213Z, followed by a food break.  It’s amazing how one can fall into a seemingly deep sleep, then snap out of it in 15 minutes, refreshed.  At 1347Z I run across CU2A on 15, and he moves me to 20 and 10.  I have to smile, as his chosen freq on 20 is the same one I have been using: 14111. 

It’s now 1652Z, and I’m in a really interesting 10m run that started when I came back from a brief break at 1453Z.  I should have checked 10 before taking the break at 1434Z, because when I returned, I could hear Crovelli running an EU/US pileup on 28035 or so.  It’s amazing how with one radio he always seems to be on the right band.  I called CQ on 28016, and had an instant pileup. I again split power between EU and US, but am disappointed as the pileup changes mostly to US and I don’t work as many EU countries as I would like. The pileup continues at a lower rate, with a number of Caribbean mults calling in.  I probably spend too much time on 10 (and I know Crovelli is leaving earlier), but it is really enjoyable, with a mixture of weak and strong signals from many areas.  The noise level is nonexistent, so very weak stations can be heard.  VQ9JC in zone 39 calls in and I move him to 15 and 20.  This is the fun of 10m --  you never know what is coming next.

As the rate slows on 10, I start looking for new mults on 15 on the second radio, including V26K, P40T, HK0GU, VP5W, TI5N, H7A, then switch to 15 at 1855Z and I stay there for the next two hours with a good stateside run (calendar hours 173, 159).  ZP5MAL calls in during the run, and I move him to 14111 and 28111 as well. I start looking for mults on 20 in the 2100 hour, finding a bunch of then, including 9Y, PZ, 5Z, CX.  At the end I’m in a frantic rush to break 9M points, which I barely do. The rate is slowing on 20 in the last hour after an excellent hour of 181 in the 2200 hour, and I am afraid of getting trapped in JA-limbo, trying slowly to decipher weak JA calls.  I foolishly move to 40 at about 2223Z, but can’t get much going, so I go back to 20 for the last half hour to run out the contest (never should have left – or perhaps should have fished for mults on 80 and 160). 

John Fore makes his usual post-contest call right after 2400Z, and we chat for a while before I shower and shave to go out with John and Dick to Tony Roma’s for the post-contest dinner.  I feel pretty good, except that my feet are really swollen from fluid retention due to all the sitting.  When we compare notes, Dick and John both have about 6400 QSOs; Dick has the same number of mults as I, giving him about 11M points, while John had another 50 or so for 12M.  Checked email at home, then went to bed at about 12:30.  I was delayed a bit going to dinner by the fact that there was a very large snake in the road at Frenchman’s Pass;  John Crovelli and JP both said that someone had freed some boa constrictors on the island, and they were thriving, having no natural enemies, so that is what it must have been; it looked like it belonged on the Discovery Channel, not on a local road.

Monday, November 27, 2006.  It is a beautiful day, but I missed a substantial portion, sleeping like a log until 10:45 a.m.  Having nothing urgent to do, I decided to spend a relaxing day as I used to on prior trips, and headed off to the beach.  I stopped in at John Bayne’s, P40A, at Tierra del Sol and chatted a bit with him and Leslie, who were just leaving to return to the states after being there five weeks.  He has a second tower (an aluminum, self-supporting one), and all the mechanical work is absolutely first rate.  I knew better than to inquire how he has done in the contest, where he was a QRP entrant.

On the way, I figured out why I ended up with grease on my arm on Friday.  It is due to the guide wire for the motorized shoulder belt in the car jumping out of its track and hanging down, instead of all being contained inside the frame.  The operation is now erratic, and I had to disconnect the shoulder belt and now try to avoid touching the wire.

I ended up on a small beach south of Marmok, but north of the high rise hotels and my normal Eagle Beach.  The further north you go, the rockier and smaller the beaches are (though I gather the snorkeling improves).  This one had a rocky bottom, so I wore my Tevas in the water.  The water was very shallow with no waves, but it was delightful to be in the sun and water.  On the way back home, I stopped in to see Joop Bok, P43JB, and had a beer sitting out in his garden in Oranjestad.

I went for a much-needed run on my usual course form Marina Pirata to La Granja, then after getting cleaned up, back to Marina Pirata for dinner with JP and Chris.  This was the first bad meal ever at that restaurant.  The main problem seemed to be that the waitresses forgot about us, and the food just sat around too long.  The ambiance, as usual, was delightful, sitting on the edge of the deck overlooking the fish swimming around in Spanish Lagoon.  We mapped out a plan to try Tango (an Argentinean meat restaurant) and the Flying Fishbone (down the road from MP in Savaneta) next trip.

The weather was absolutely delightful on the whole trip, particularly on this day.  The temperature has been in the low 80s, with some humidity, but not even too uncomfortable to be driving around in an un-air-conditioned car.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006.  Chris picked me up at 6:15 a.m. to go to the airport for the 9:00 a.m. AA flight to Miami.  As happened last month, I and others dutifully got to the airport early, then ended up waiting more than a half hour for the Aruban security checkpoint to open at about 7:30.  Other than that, uneventful flights to MIA and SFO, arriving at SFO at about 4:45 p.m. 

Soapbox as sent to 3830 Reflector:
This trip was completely unplanned.  For the last two years, my station co-owner John, W6LD, has operated this contest as a multi-single, P40L (setting a SA MS record last year).  He couldn’t make it this time, and due to some last-minute scheduling changes, I was able to make a very quick trip, arriving on Thursday and leaving on Tuesday.  With the help of P43A, P43L, P43RC and W2GD, the antennas had been beaten into shape last month for CQWW SSB, the Alpha 87A had been replaced, and it seemed that everything was in order for a short trip that would actually feature operating, not station maintenance (though I don’t recommend flying all night two days before the contest).

This was my first ever CQWW CW, and, wow, was it a learning experience!  There were three of us in AB HP on Aruba, and I got taught some real contesting lessons by two of the best, both prior winners: Dick Norton, N6AA, operating as P40T at Jackie’s, P43P, and John Crovelli, W2GD, P40W.  The three of us were at roughly comparable stations within about four miles of each other, and the two of them outscored me by a combined 5 million points!

In talking to them afterwards, and comparing rate sheets, it was clear that the major edge they had was the ability to take advantage of high-rate opportunities on the first day.  Thus, each of them had about 900 more QSOs than I did on the first day, but only about 100 more on the second day.  I probably spent too much time looking for mults, as I had about the same number as Dick, even though he had 1000 more QSOs.  But mainly, I just have to get better at the art of picking whole calls out of the packet pileups and responding quickly. Regardless, it was a terrific experience.

As usual on Aruba, even on a short trip there is the bonus of having fun with very friendly people, including Jean-Pierre, P43A; Chris, P43C;  Emily, P43E; Jackie, P43P, Joop, P43JB; John, KK9A, P40A; John, W2GD, P40W; Dick, N6AA, P40T.

Radios: Two IC-756 PRO 2s, Alpha 87A, Alpha 86
Antennas: Force 12 4 el 10/15/20, 2 el 40, C31XR; inv vees for 80, 160; 3 beverages
Software: CQPWIN, ver. 10.5

73 and thanks to all who participated,
Andy, AE6Y, P49Y

General observations.  This was a very competitive contest.  Here are the band breakdowns for P49Y, P40T (N6AA at P43P), P40W, V47NT (N2NT – in NA), and CT3NT (Jose – CT1BOH), with dupes removed (all SOABHP).


P49Y 2006

P40T 2006

P40W 2006

CT3NT 2006

V47NT 2006

















































Sleep strategy:  I basically tried to stay up as much as I could.  I did take some meal breaks, and also took two 15-minute power naps and one 90 minute power nap (all taken sitting in a chair).  I actually had QSOs in every calendar hour of the 48, but adding up all of the breaks over 10 minutes, the program says I took off a total of 4 hours 45 minutes.  It’s probably true that flying overnight Wednesday night isn’t a good way to stay rested for a contest starting Friday night.