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AE6Y Trip Notes October 2015 CQWW SSB Contest P49Y Aruba

Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y

Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015.  Forgot to bring down my dictating machine, so I’ll have to create these notes in real time instead of dictating and typing later. Uneventful flights on AA, leaving SFO at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday night and arriving at AUA at about 1 p.m. today. Got a good sleep on the planes, partly due to having gotten up at 5:15 a.m. on Tuesday, and working all day including a S.J. City Council meeting in the evening before heading to the airport. Although John and Ed had reported long delays at customs, I breezed through. They now have an x-ray machine set up for incoming luggage, but I just walked by it. Of course, this time I am bringing no radios or amps, just the usual interconnect stuff, intending to use the shack K3/P3 in CQWW “classic” overlay mode, i.e., one radio, 24 hours, no SO2R.

Hertz gave me something called a Chevy Spark Lite, which has four doors, but is probably the smallest car I’ve ever rented on the island. The trunk barely contained my one medium-sized suitcase. It was powered by a 3-cylinder engine that looked like you could pick it up and carry it under one arm. Since I got here relatively early, and with only a less than two-hour layover in MIA, I drove up to Lings to do some first-day shopping, including a big purchase of a new bottle of Frangelico. There are two cruise ships in port, so I bypassed the main road somewhat successfully in O’stad to avoid the traffic standstill.

The house looked great as usual. Unpacked and set up the modem and wifi. Fortunately, unlike in May, both my iPad (brought as a backup) and the laptop immediately connected to the wifi for internet access with no hassles. Whew!

I hooked up the various antennas, avoiding the 4O3A filters, and they all seem to work OK, also the DXD, which lives in a plastic bin by the door in the second BR (along with its power cord, the headphone box, and two K3 connection output cords). Will have to run out the 160m lower wire tomorrow morning. Tuning around on 20, I heard Manoj, VU2CPL in Bangalore, and easily worked him barefoot! I was using the shack K3, which seemed to be fine.

Out for a run, warm but not too hot (though the temp was probably about 90 at its peak today), legs felt leaden as usual on arrival at the island, and it was quite windy on my normal route between Marina Pirata and La Granja. Then back for a shave and shower in nice, pretty warm water, and dinner with John, W2GD, at B55. Back at the station, I hooked up the beverages, all of which seemed to work. Intended to do more work emailing, but faded out at around 10:15 and went to bed.

Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. Slept soundly till about 7, then enjoyed a cup of Aruba Coffee Roasting Company ground coffee (the first locally ground coffee, now available for purchase at Ling’s to support local businesses), put on long pants and boots and ventured out into the cunucu to roll out the lower arm of the 160m vertical dipole. It’s very straightforward, using the elegant system put in by John and Ed. The only tools needed were clippers and gloves for some thorn-bush trimming, and a roll of tape to secure the wire roll as it is unwound. There are four yellow rods in the cunucu, and four poles in the garage that fit over them and have slots in the top for the wire. I only used the three closest to the house, and secured the wire end with the black rope to the small, thorny tree just past the last rod. Took only about a half hour. It was quite a bit hotter than normal for this time of day, and I was glad I didn’t wait till later. As a sign of the draught, there was very little bush trimming needed. Back in the shack, it loaded fine on 160 as usual. One to one SWR at about 1830 kHz.  

Hooked up the radio to the computer. Using just the K3, the connections are very simple: just the Compaq 4-port expander (not actually needed) to the USB/serial convertor to the rig control cable (setting the P3 to 9600 baud to match the program). The monitor is plugged into the jack on the laptop and the keyboard and mouse into the USB to PS2 adaptor. Actually don’t need PTT or Mic/DVK or R1/R2 cables, since I’m using the K3 memories for messages. They worked well. I check out the 91B, which easily put out over 1kw on all bands (40 good to about 7150 before SWR gets too high without the tuner). The 80m High and Low midpoints seem to be the same as before: 3680 and 3750 kHz. I ran a pileup of East Coast and EU on 10 for a while, then turned off the amp.

At about 11:30 I went out for my usual run. Very hot. “Mad dogs and Englishmen.” I felt better than yesterday, but my time was actually a bit slower. I had an urge for a milk shake and started to go to the Ritz burgers and shakes place on the highway a little south of us, but when I got out of the car, I was afraid I would faint due to blood pooling in my legs, so I got back in the car, drove home, and had half a container of peach juice plus some cut fruit, which eventually restored me enough to have a 1:30 p.m. conference call with clients. Then a shower – due to the heat, the water was at an unusually pleasant temperature for a change.

I decided to see about contest recording using Goldwave, to satisfy the new rule requiring top-finishing operations to record the contest. Running a line from the stereo Line Out on the K3 into the mic input on the computer seemed to work OK. Using 8-bit mono files, one minute of recording is about 350kb in wav format (more in mp3), so a whole 24 hours would be about 500 mb, which should be manageable. I used the K3 Menu setting of Line Out setting “=phones”, to also record tx. I ran a bunch of guys on 10, while checking the recording, which seemed to be reasonably good. In Goldwave, setting the Options/Control Properties volume slider to 25 db produced good audio levels. [Note that during the contest I made quite a hash of this. I had set up five separate 5-hour long recordings, intending to initiate them serially, but several times I forgot either to start or stop a recording, so the outcome was somewhat fragmentary.]

In my spare time I finished a David Baldacci “airport” book, and have started on both “World Order” by Henry Kissinger, and a David MacCall Smith Botswana book. Picked up John at 6:15, and we drove to Barefoot, a very nice restaurant, a notch below the Flying Fishbone, but the same general idea with tables on the beach. We were under a thatched roof, but on sand, so I took my sandals off and wiggled my toes in the sand. Very pleasant ambiance and good food. It’s at the south end of Oranjestad, in the newly remodeled area across from the old Talk of the Town Hotel. The front entrance is unprepossessing, but inside it’s very nice. We saw lots of walkers and joggers on the new path that parallels the road from there down to the airport. After dinner I dropped John off then visited with Lisandro and Lissette at their house for a few hours.

Coming back, talked to Sandy on the phone, then hooked up the 40m tuner. As usual it had no trouble matching the antenna above 7150, with only the Transmitter capacitor needed touching up for frequency shifts.

Friday, Oct. 23, 2015.  A quiet day. Had some coffee, read for a while, then drove up north to get out of the house, stopping in at the Toyota dealership to chat with Jean-Pierre. He probably won’t be on in the contest, since his antenna for his favorite band, 15 meters, is lying on the ground after he had to make some repairs to it. Then to the Dutch Pancake House at the Seaport Center for lunch. Incidentally, they now charge for parking out front (and were putting Denver boots on cars), though if you are patronizing the center, you can park for free in the back. Next stop was to chat with John Bayne and Leslie at Ben’s (Carl’s) QTH, then to the California Lighthouse, stopping to say hello to John Crovelli, who was banging away at rust on Martin’s tower. Very bad traffic everywhere, and only getting worse. They are refurbishing the lighthouse, a tourist guide who was standing around baking in the sun and wanted to talk informed me, due to a transfer from one Ministry to another, at a cost of 1.2M florins. He also talked about the moving of the container port to a newly constructed facility on the coast a little north of us, which will allow expanded tourist facilities (now also under construction) at the old facility at the north end of Oranjestad.

Now I had thought Aruba’s power supply was pretty reliable, but had to rethink when all power went off at 4:11 p.m. I called Cris, who said she had heard on the radio that it was island-wide. Later Lisandro called and confirmed that, saying that he had heard it would be back on just about at the start of the contest. Got out the flashlights and candles, and waited it out. I wanted to go running, but not to return from a run to an un-air-conditioned house, so I just sat around, read and waited. Fortunately, the power came back on about two hours later, and was OK thereafter. Much better than in CQ WPX CW this year, when the power failed for five hours (due to a local line break) literally one minute before the start of the contest. I heard later that it had gone off again on Sunday at the north end of the island due to lightning strikes.

CQWW Phone Contest Saturday, Oct. 24 – Sunday Oct. 25, 2015 – Contest notes. I warm up a nice frequency of 14238 for about ten minutes, then the contest starts with the usual roar at 0000Z (2000 local time): 252 Qs and 55 mults in the first hour, all on that frequency. As always, some fun DX call in: e.g., 9V1YC for zone 28, TF3JB for 40 and E51EAQ for 32. After an hour I tune around briefly getting some new mults, then reestablish a run on 14168. At 0140Z I move to 40, which is bedlam. After about 10 minutes of S&P I find run freqs first at 7048, then at 7067. It’s such a mess that I try 160 at the top of the 0200 hour, but only hear/work YW4V, HK1NA and PJ2T, all zone 9, and the only stations I hear on the band at various other times when checking it. I CQ for a few minutes (seems like an eternity) with no takers. This is where I really miss a second radio, which would greatly simplify monitoring the band and/or moving stations to it.

I start a nice run on 3751 at 0215Z. It’s very noisy , but in the rest of the hour I work 136 stations, including a number of EUs. I spend the next few hours hopping between 40 and 80, with an excursion to 20 in the 0500 hour. In general, signals are strong on 40, but there is a lot of QRM. I have a nice EU run on 7049 in the 0400Z hour and a US run on 7228 in the 0600Z hour. It seems to be taking forever to reach 1000 Qs, so I decide to take off a few hours at 0746Z, and get a few hours of shut eye.

Back on at 1044Z on 40m to try to work some Pacific or Asian DX, and the first contact is VK2AN for zone 30, but then pretty much only US except for YC8QT in zone 28. So to 15 at 1107Z. I can’t yet get a run going so I S&P for about 20 minutes, working about two dozen EU mults before establishing a run freq on 21339 which I stay on until 1249Z. Although this is in the US band, it’s virtually exclusively an EU run. Then to 10 for about the next four hours of good rates (267, 270, 284, and 248, in the 13-1600Z clock hours). I take about an hour off starting at 1655Z just because I’m getting tired and hungry and want to recharge my batteries. Then two good hours on 15 with mixed EU and US turning into more US as the afternoon wears on. Back to 10 for a US run on 28477 starting about 2027Z. First JA is JM1LPN at the relatively early hour of 2043Z. The next one isn’t until 2101Z (and then it’s big gun JA3YBK), then they start to be more prevalent, and I eventually work about 60 more. The frequency is very quiet, and though they are not loud, I can run them at a good rate, as the signals have no flutter, and in general they enunciate very clearly with clean audio. It may be the easiest JA run I’ve ever had from Aruba.

But by 2231 I think that the rate is slowing and I should look for some mults on 20, so establish a run freq at 14228 (only slightly bothered by the slow scan crowd). I do get some new Asian mults, e.g., JA, BY for Zone 24, and VR. Then a strong US run (288 in the 2300Z hour). Wanting to save some time for Sunday, I QRT for the night at 0018Z. Totals are 4278 QSOs with 445 mults for about 5.5M points.  

Waking at about 6 a.m., I do get on briefly on 40 and work a few new mults, including JA and KL7 as expected. Only spend about 20 minutes on the air as I am trying to preserve a few hours for high rates on 15 and 10 to try to make my new goal of 5000 contacts in 24 hours. I have a cup of coffee, but think, hey, it’s my birthday (70th!), and if I’m spending it alone at least I should have a nice breakfast, so I head out to the Hyatt for breakfast at the Palm Restaurant on the patio. It’s not really very special and is overpriced, so I’m becoming convinced that I need a better breakfast treat place.

Back at the house, I nap and read, now “The Insubstantial Air”, the story of America’s WWI aviators in France, which is quite interesting. I think I should be tuning around for mults, as, in theory, I can work them without using much of my remaining time, as long as bouts on the radio are separated by an hour of off time. I do a bit of it and find FR4NT on 10 for zone 39 (and actually my only African zone in the entire contest outside of the many zone 33 stations). But I don’t have the willpower to keep looking every hour. At about 11:30 I decide again to go out for a noontime run, but this one isn’t so bad, as it’s mostly overcast and s bit cooler than on Wednesday. I take the new running path, all the way from its southern terminus at the airport (opposite the Island Asia and DoIt Center stores) up to its other terminus at the river at the south end of Oranjestad just before the Seaport Center. The roundtrip takes me 41:55, for future comparisons. The path is made of brick pavers, and best of all is totally without automobile traffic, unlike my usual route at Savaneta. I see a few walkers at this hour but no other joggers (though I had seen some at the Hotel area ). There are also two fruit drink sellers using generator power, as one sees at the California Lighthouse.

I get back on the air at about1730Z (1330 local) and have some high hourly rates on 10 (146 for 32 minutes, then 254, 284), then switch to 15 to run out the contest, as my 24 hours are up at 2048Z. Probably could have switched earlier, as got a few more mults on 15 than on 10, but it’s hard to leave when rates are good. A strange thing happens near the end when my program refuses to log 2E1AYS, an English station. It takes me a while to figure out that the program is interpreting his callsign as a command to switch to 20. I’ll have to modify the program so it can tell that such a callsign isn’t the equivalent of “20”, which is such a command. [Upon later analysis, I see that I had used the VB6 function VAL to determine a numerical value for a the entry in the callsign window. That function interprets “2E1” to be numeric notation for two times ten to the first power, i.e., twenty, thus thinking the operator wants to QSY to 20. An easy fix.] I “treat” myself to a birthday dinner of takeout from the drive-through at McDonald’s.

John Crovelli calls just after the contest was over and wanted to grab a bite at B55, but it is closed. Instead we go up the road to the Shahai Grill, a bar/restaurant/poolhall/ice cream parlor not far up the road from his turn off in Santa Cruz. An odd place, but they are open and he has a “steak” dinner while I have an orange soda. Having toasted myself already with two glasses of Frangelico after my contest was over, I don’t want any more alcohol.

Monday, Oct. 26, 2015.  Up before 7 feeling quite sluggish, but some Aruba-roasted coffee helped. I went out and rolled up the 160 ant and taped it to the tower leg as before. It was more humid than earlier days, and I was very happy to get back into the air conditioning. I spent a little time with the small file set I had brought down for use in, e.g., filing corrosion off amp tube anode caps, chamfering slightly the holes in the yellow tubes to make it a bit easier to start to pull the 160m wire out of the holes. I put the files in the cabinet in the radio shack.

Met John at Huchada’s for a leisurely breakfast on their new, semi-enclosed patio. Then went through the log looking for obvious errors and submitted it. Tried to get gas, but the gas door lock wouldn’t release when the lever was pulled. Back at the house, I took off the interior panel, but couldn’t reach it. Later used a beer can opener as a gentle pry bar, and that worked. Sometimes simple low-tech methods work best! Talked to Lisandro on the phone, who had power supply surge problems that blew out his amp power supply, with the result that he just had some fun handing out Qs, instead of his planned full bore entry.

Took another run at the airport. It was cloudy and calmer, and my run took one and a half minutes less than yesterday. As I was nearing the finish, a guy jumped out of a car and asked if he could run with me. I was taken aback for a moment till I saw it was John Bayne; he and Leslie were on their way to the airport when they saw me on the path. He was unhappy with the contest, citing power problems and line noise, and said that he even turned on the amp. Afterwards had some coconut water to cool off a bit at one of the fruit drink stands set up on the path. Then drove to the Ritz south of our traffic circle for a delicious strawberry milkshake. Just ad I was finishing it, Robin called to wish me happy birthday, and we had a nice chat. I had been planning to go in the water at Savaneta, but by then I had cooled off and decided just to go home.

Out of a sense of guilt due to all of the excellent organizing of the house done by Ed and John, I decided to tackle the mess in the two large kitchen drawers devoted to tools and supplies. I first emptied a third drawer just to the left, which had various cooking stuff that had never been used since we bought the place, necessitating a trip for large trash bags to Mundo Nobo to be used in a midnight trash run tonight. I put major tools in there, and spread out other stuff after throwing out quite a bit and moving some (like a can of paint and a spool of wire) to the garage storage area. Just cleaning the emptied drawers was a daunting task

The evening was capped off with a visit to JP and Cris’s to talk over finances, and then a very nice dinner with them and John at Chalet Suisse, a large European restaurant at Eagle Beach.

Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015.  Woke up at 5 a.m., thinking about possibly bringing the 91B transformer home. I tried putting it in the backpack, but it made the backpack virtually impossible to carry, as it’s not designed for such loads. Tried putting it in the suitcase, but then I needed to put lots of stuff in the backpack and computer bag, but they weren’t big enough. I thought of leaving a bag of stuff for John to bring back in November, but on balance it seemed to make the most sense just to leave the transformer in the closet (with a tag on it, since Ed likes the little tags…) and ask them to arrange to bring it back in November, since there will be a number of guys traveling. I was glad I made that decision, as there turned out to be long gate-to-gate walks at MIA and DFW. Back home by about 10 p.m. after three routine flights, starting with the AA flight from Aruba to MIA at 9:45 a.m.

Contest Report, as sent to 3830 reflector. 

Having really enjoyed the 24-hour "classic" version of CQWW last year in CW, I decided to do it again in phone. Last year it was a social issue -- my family was on the island with me for Thanksgiving, and I wanted to spend more time with them and less on the air or as a zombie after the contest. This year I was by myself, but the idea of celebrating one's 70th birthday (Sunday) alone is bad enough without the concomitant hallucinations and fatigue that go with a full -blown effort in this contest. It also leads to a certain simplification of transport; for example, I could simply use the resident shack K3, without having to bring down my own for a second radio.

An interesting question is what strategy to use to pick your 24 hours. Last year, I just operated the first half of the contest, since I wanted to be free on Sunday, but this year I had no such constraints. Instead I ended up basically doing the same thing but reserving about 3 1/2 hours for Sunday. got on briefly at our sunrise to try to work some Asian DX on 40 and again briefly on 10 in the local morning, then spent the remaining hours in the high rate periods on 10 and 15 roughly from 1730 to 2100Z. Not sure that was optimal, but it was fun!

Conditions seemed to be good on the high bands. 40 was OK, 80 was noisy and 160 so noisy as to be virtually unusable (and one of the impediments of only using one radio is the difficulty of checking on other bands while running a pileup. This is easier to do on CW, even with one radio, but it is much more difficult to manage your run frequency on phone).

As usual the house is in great shape and all the equipment worked, even our 91B into which we had to put a replacement transformer last month. Thanks to co-owner John, W6LD, and frequent user Ed, W0YK, for their efforts, and to Cris and Jean-Pierre (P43C and P43A) for their house maintenance.

Aruba was well represented in this contest, not only by Americans P40W (W2GD) and P40A (KK9A), but also by Aruban newly minted contester Lisandro, P43L, who seemed to be having a ball.

73, Andy, AE6Y

Rig: Elecraft K3, Alpha 91B
Ant: F12: 1 el 80, 2 el 40, 4 el 20, 5 el 15, 2 el 10; C31XR. 160 H-dipole. Beverages.
Software: CQPWIN

Full write-up will be on www.arubaqth.com

Here is my band breakdown, along with last year’s winner, John Crovelli's effort at P40W in the Low Power Assisted class, and John Bayne's effort at P40A in the High Power Assisted class (who reported bad power and noise problems) this year for comparison: