P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

Back to P40L-P49Y Contest Page







Callsign Used:




May 2002 Aruba Trip Notes

May 22, 2002. Arrived after flights from SFO to Miami and Miami to the airport in Aruba.  Got in about 8:30 p.m. to a rather large airport, Reina Beatrix International.  There were a number of taxis outside, so I took one to go to Carl’s house.  I knew the address and generally where it was.  The driver, a pleasant woman, knew the street, but not the house number.  We drove up the street (which runs right into the main highway, Rte 1A, that runs along the south coast of the island), craning our eyes for a sight of the radio towers, which I knew was the sure way to find the house.  Not easy in the dark, but eventually we did find it.  Chris and Jean-Pierre were supposed to be there, but no one was.  The driver tried to call on her cell phone, but after a few minutes they arrived, with 9-year old Cindy and 3 year-old Andy in tow.  They were very friendly, and rapidly showed me how the various key, etc., worked.

The house itself is a one-story cottage on about a quarter of an acre in a square plot.  Next to it is a large, green two-story house, which Carl’s C31 actually hangs over.  There is a living-dining room, two bedrooms, a radio room, a bathroom,  and a kitchen.  The whole place is probably no more than 1,000 s.f.  A low, cinder-block wall is out front, and a wrought iron gate must be unlocked each time you want to take the car out from the back.  Attached to the back kitchen door is a paved, covered outdoor area currently used to park the car, but a separate garage is under construction.  There is cable TV (about 30 channels, most in English, some in Spanish), a VCR, and separate room air conditioning units in each room except the kitchen.  There is no hot water heater, but the shower produces water just warm enough to use, but not to luxuriate in.  The car is a 1997 Mercury Tracer, not very powerful, but good a/c and a tight turning circle, both of which are helpful (and the power isn’t really needed where the speed limit is 50 mph and there are few stretches of really open road.)

The station consists of an FT1000 and an Alpha 87A amp along with a WX0B Six-Pak automatic antenna switch.  The result is that to change bands, all you have to do is change the band on the radio, and the amp and antenna switch automatically.  Pretty slick.  There are three towers.  The one in back, about 65’, has a 4 el Force 12 on 20 meters on about a 30-foot boom (maybe the same one I used to have).  On the same boom is mounted a Cush-Craft 40-2CD, 2 elements on 40.  A second tower holds a Force 12 interlaced 4 el 15, 4 el 10 on what appears to be about a 36-foot boom, and the third tower has a C31XR.  These towers are about 50 feet high.  The property is on a gentle hill, with clear shots in all directions.  It’s basically on the south side of the island, but that doesn’t seem to affect the station’s ability to get out to the north.

I was anxious to see if the computer would work with the radio, so after unpacking, I hooked things up to try them out.  Everything worked fine.  To avoid hum in the radio on phone (even though not using the computer as a DVP) a two-wire power cord worked well for the computer (power on the island is 115 volts, and the house has normal US wall outlets).  I had brought my Heil headphones, and hooked them up to my Yaesu adaptor, with my footswitch and the radio PTT output (using my LPT adaptor) siamesed into the PTT input on the adaptor.  The computer keying was run into one of the inputs to the stereo key input on the front panel (not sure which one, just used a two-phono jack adapter to ¼ inch stereo phone plug).  Although the FT1000 has an internal keyer, you can’t use it if you use a computer, so Carl has set up a “CW Sending Machine” external keyer plugged into the other key input on the radio.  It uses a classic Vibroplex iambic paddle; although I had brought Bob Chortek’s Bencher paddle and keyer as a backup, I stayed with the one in place, and it worked fine.

May 23, 2002. I felt somewhat at loose ends, not yet settled into the island routine.  Opening the door in the morning, it seemed hot and bright.  Actually the temperature is in the high 80’s each afternoon, with reasonable humidity.  Also a fair amount of wind, especially Thursday and Friday afternoons, when it must have been steady 30 mph for several hours.  Always from the northeast, as is typical in the Caribbean.

I took an auto tour of the island today, starting by driving down the main road south from Carl’s.  The island is only about 30 miles long.  The main town, Oranjestad, is about 6 miles to the north, just past the airport.  Two or three miles north of there (all on the southwest coast) is “hotel row” populated by a succession of hotels and beach resorts.  Some are local, but chains are also represented, including Marriott, Hyatt Regency, Wyndham and Holiday Inn.  The all have beaches and casinos.

There are several supermarkets on the road south of here, though they aren’t particularly large by our standards.  I stocked up with some light breakfast food and snacks.  You can pay anywhere on the island either in dollars or in the local currency, florins.  There are 1.75 florins to the dollar, and you can typically get change in either.  There is no need to change money.  The most distinctive coin is a five-florin piece, which is square.

At the south end of the island is the second main town, San Nicolas (sometimes spelled with a more Dutch twist to it).  I drove through it, and noticed it wasn’t very lively, and the downtown seemed to be partly vacated and sleepy.  The main industry there is Aruba Coastal Refinery, which has a large facility on the water.  Aruba seems to have a large oil industry, not in production, but in refining.  There are big tankers always visible off shore.  It actually predates the tourist industry, which just got started in the 1960’s.  The neat thing is that the refineries seem to peacefully share the water with beautiful, unspoiled beaches.

At the tip of the island, south of San Nicolas, is Seroe Colorado, a series of beaches and a prison and alcohol rehab center.  After leaving there, I drove all the way up the road to take my grand tour of the island, without stopping in Oranjestad, though one has to slow down for the extensive traffic there.  The island has a population of about 90,000, and they all seem to own cars.

At the northern tip is the California lighthouse, named for a wrecked ship, with a good view of the island.  It’s about 100 feet high.  Continuing around to the east, the northeast coast is very different than the southwest coast, much more rocky, barren, and windswept.  One major attraction is called Natural Bridge, and is billed as the longest such on the planet.  It’s not very impressive, however, since it isn’t out in the ocean, but rather has its top at the level of the surrounding bluffs, with the bridge itself undercut by the ocean.  I found an outdoor international phone there, and called home to leave a message, though it was so windy I could barely hear the answering machine.  I continued to the south through the interior town of Santa Cruz, not finding any particular reason to stop. 

I took a number of photographs, hoping to get some “typical Aruba” shots that I could use on my QSL cards, as I did from the Caymans.  I couldn’t resist also photographing some local signs, as most of them are in the local language called Papiamento.  You hear this spoken everywhere.  It’s a real language, and seems to be closest to Spanish, with English and Dutch words thrown in for good measure.  Although Dutch is the official language here, it’s not much in evidence, as all signs seem to be in English. Spanish, and/or Papiamento.  I don’t think I heard any Dutch spoken, either.

I got on the radio for a while in the afternoon, and found it was fun working pileups with the P40Y call.  I mainly wanted to try it out on CW, to get used to the radio and using my laptop and CQPWIN software (I should add a generic logging ability to it, so I wouldn’t have to make it pretend it was in a WPX contest and have to enter a number for each contact).   For dinner, I stopped at the local Dominos Pizza about two miles south on the main road and brought back a ham/pineapple/anchovy pizza that lasted me through the contest as well.

Friday, May 24, 2002. I slept well, but woke with a crick in my neck and right shoulder that actually made it painful to raise my right arm or look back over my right shoulder (which complicated driving a bit).  Fortunately, it got subsumed in the general discomfort of sitting in the chair during the contest, and eventually disappeared completely.  I didn’t want to spend too much time in the sun or get tired out, since the contest started at 8 p.m. local time.  The island is effectively on Miami time, i.e., three hours ahead of California.  It is actually in the Atlantic time zone, but doesn’t go on daylight savings, which effectively puts it now on EDST, four hours behind GMT. 

I drove back up through hotel row, and had brunch at the northernmost hotel, the Marriott, where there is a beach restaurant set back about a hundred yards or more from the water.  Ate outside, reading a book, then to Oranjestad to explore.  Although no cruise ships were in port, the town is totally oriented towards them.  (One showed up on Monday, looking like a huge, floating hotel, not particularly like a ship at all.)  It’s full of bars, restaurants, and lots of shopping.  Much of it is tropical wear, but there are a great many jewelry shops, selling all kinds of stuff – it’s hard to imagine why cruise ship passengers just want to shop, but apparently that’s what they do.  The waterfront has some pleasure boats along with a number of power and sailboats for sightseeing and fishing charter.  I had a light meal at Iguana Joe’s, upstairs in a very kitschy shopping mall.

I was worried about the contest, because conditions on the radio had been poor when I left home and didn’t sound much better on Thursday and Friday.

Saturday, Sunday, May 25-26, 2002, the Contest. At last, at 8 p.m., the WPX CW contest started.  I had wanted to stay on 40m as much as possible the first night for double points, so I started there and did have a few good hours, mostly running Europeans.  In fact, for the whole contest I worked something like 52% EU, and only about 36% US.  Compared to the Caymans at ZF2AF in March, there were many fewer JAs, and a higher proportion of EUs versus NAs.  Of course, from here NA and EU count the same number of points, since they are both on different continents than Aruba.

It was difficult on 40 mostly due to the S5 summer noise level that made copy of weak signals hard, and required many repeats on serial numbers.  I guess that’s why you get double points.  When I finally had enough, I  switched to 20 (at 0356Z, QSO #354), where the signals were stronger, the noise less, and overall conditions much easier to deal with. Back to 40 at 0553, #574. Went to bed at 0646, (2:46 a.m. local, #629)  still on 40.  My overall rate at that time was only about 91, and I was worried that I had to maximize daylight operating to get a higher rate, even though it was going ok.

I woke up about 5:00 a.m., the get the JA opening on 20.  Fired up at 0918 (5:18 local) for a few contacts on 40.  Then to 20 at 0945 (#668). Did get some JA prefixes, but not as many as I had hoped.  Stayed on 20 for a while then to 15 at 1044 (#750), for mostly EUs.  Rates were OK, but I didn’t feel really in the rhythm until I switched to 10 at 1538 (11:38 a.m. #1273), where finally the rate zoomed up over 120.  Before that I was getting discouraged.  It seemed to take forever to get to 1000 Qs and my body was complaining about the sitting. 

Several good hours on 10 did wonders for my frame of mind, and I stopped worrying about how I would do, or whether I would embarrass myself at this fine station with a puny score.  Stayed on 10 most of the afternoon, then  took two hours off in the late afternoon at 1925 (3:25 p.m. #1778) for dinner and to maximize 40m time.  I did some time management planning and concluded I should take the rest of my mandatory 12 hours of off time from about midnight to 6 a.m. and then another hour or two late afternoon on Sunday.  In retrospect, this was a good strategy.

On at 2132 after a two-hour break, on 15.  Did very little searching and pouncing, but worked A61AJ before started running again.  To 40 at 2320 (7:20 p.m. #1975).  To 20 at 0031 (# 2062) for a three-hour run, then back to 40 at 0345 (#2410).  Was feeling guilty about not doing enough on 40, but also was getting very tired and having trouble copying on 40.  Shut off at 0407 (12:07 a.m. #2438).  Had a little food and took a shower.  Was very cold, and ended up putting another blanket on the bed.  Slept very soundly until about 0950 (5:50 a.m.) when awakened by alarm.

Got back on 40 for a few Qs at 1016 (6:16 a.m.), then to 20 at 1024 (6:24 am, #2444) hoping to get some JA’s, then to 15 at 1148 (#2550).  To 10 at 1434 (#2776) for a six-hour run. 

I seemed to get a good second or third wind with about 4 hours of operating time to go on Sunday afternoon.  When I took my last hour off at 2045 (4:55 pm #3392), I was on 15 doing well.  Before turning off, I put the C31 southeast and tuned around quickly to work a few new SA prefixes.  However, when I came back on for my last 2 hours on 20 at 2155 (5:55p.m.), I felt totally uncoordinated.  The band sounded strange, I couldn’t tell whether the stations heard slightly off frequency were actually calling me, and my brain didn’t seem connected to my finger to do the logging and ancillary CW sending.  I realized it was just tiredness, and thankfully it ended soon as I had a good last two hours that put my over 10 million and 11M points. 

Towards the end, a new prefix raises the score by 15k or so points, and it was exciting to reach various milestones at the end, 900 prefixes, 3600 QSOs and 11 million points.  Of these, the only one I had actually set as a goal was the 3600 contacts, which represented an average rate of 100 per hour.  I Just barely eked out 3625, but was very pleased to have kept the rate above an average of 100, especially since it had started out slower (of course, that may really mean I should have spent more time on 40 on Saturday night for more points, albeit at a lower rate).   Last contact, appropriately with W1END, was at 2356 with 35:59 showing for elapsed hours on the clock

In retrospect, I think my basic strategy was pretty good, but I should have stayed on longer either night and then not started so early on Sunday morning.  Starting at 8 a.m., instead of 6 a.m., would have improved the score.

Generally, the other operators were very good.  Usually if I came back to a partial call, others would stop so I could pull the desired signal out.  I spent most of the contest running stations at 29 wpm, occasionally slowing slightly to 28 or speeding up to 30.  Had no real frequency fights, with only two unpleasant exceptions.  The combination of a strong signal and a pileup combined to keep others away.  Occasionally, when someone did start up in my normal tuning range (about plus or minus 200 kHz), I would call them and ask them to QSY, which they always did.  The two exceptions were, first, a WC4, who opened up right below me on 20.  I called him several times, and he ignored me completely.  I know he heard me, because I moved slightly, then called him a few minutes later for a QSO and got him on the first call.  Later an NR4 did the same thing and steadfastly ignored my requests to move.  Again I QSYed and a few minutes later he called me for a QSO.  I can’t believe that either one of them didn’t hear me quite clearly, as they were both had strong signals.

Monday, May 27, 2002. I felt much refreshed when I woke up at 9 a.m., after almost 12 hours of sleep, and also felt much more in tune with the island today. I’m definitely getting used to the idea of wearing tevas and a bathing suit all day.  Maybe it is the relief from the contest’s being over.  It’s very pleasant not to think about socks and shoes, or to worry about getting sand or water on your clothes.

I decided to make this a beach day, starting with brunch at the Hyatt Regency.  They have a nice restaurant, and I hung out just inside the outside doors.  This is at the edge of a beautifully done pool complex, including a multi-level water slide, live parrots, and extensive landscaping, not to mention the usual white beach with open thatched umbrella structures (ubiquitous on the island).

I then drove south of the hotels to a large public beach area that was nearly deserted (I think it is Eagle Beach).  I set up a plastic chair I had brought from Carl’s and took a dip in the ocean to cool off.   The sand goes all the way out under the water, with nary a rock to bother your feet.  The water temperature is in the mid 80s, very comfortable.  I sat reading for a while before taking another dip, feeling that I was really in the Aruba groove.  Later I drove down to Seroe Colorado, where Baby Beach is said to have excellent snorkeling.  I had brought my mask and snorkel, and for $5 I rented fins for the afternoon, and another $5 got me a beach chair.  Baby Beach is so named because it is a protected lagoon with very shallow water for a long way out, not to mention that cushy sand bottom.  The snorkeling was along the rocks at the south end of the lagoon, and was nice but not spectacular.  The water wasn’t crystal clear due to the heavy wave action just offshore, and the fish were there, but not in huge populations.

When I returned in the late afternoon, there was a concerned message on the answering machine from Carl wondering if I was sick, or the house had burned down, as he hadn’t heard me all weekend.  Actually, I had been wondering where he was, as I was surprised not to work him in the contest, although I did work a number of NCCC club members.  Somehow he must not have found me, and probably doesn’t use packet, since I obviously was spotted during the contest.  I figured out how to call from his phone (just dial 00, 1, and the US number) and left him a message.  Then Chris called, having received a similar worried call from Carl.  I reassured her, and she said they would be emailing him tonight.

I had been planning to get on the radio for a while then go out to dinner and maybe see a movie in town, but one thing led to another, and I stayed on the radio till after 10 p.m., by which time I had no energy left for an excursion, so I satisfied myself with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple before turning in for the night, worn out from the day outside, the radio operation, and the lingering effects of the contest. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2002. I continued my tour of local hotels by having breakfast at the Holiday Inn, getting out of the house at the unusually early hour of 8 a.m.  You can really see the difference among the hotel chains.  This one is much less landscaped and plainer than the Hyatt, and the buffet was sort of lackluster also.  But it was pleasant to sit outside.  Afterwards, went shopping for gifts in Oranjestad, having finally brought myself to the right frame of mind for that endeavor.

I had signed up yesterday for a sailboat tour to Venezuela on a huge racing catamaran called Cat People.  The trip started at 1:30 and lasted until almost 6.  It was supposed to be over earlier, but light winds cut the sailing somewhat short; in fact, we only got to with in about four miles of the coast, instead of the promised two miles, and it was just barely visible on the horizon.  Not very impressive visually.  The catamaran itself is quite a impressive, though since it was built for racing it isn’t very comfortable and there was no place really to sit other than on the main hull or in the nettings between the hulls.  A guy had sailed the boat around the world in 119 days six years ago, and the present two-member crew had sailed it here from Amsterdam in 22 days, so it clearly had a lot of speed potential (hulls 72 feet long, main mast 100 feet high, reportedly).  There were about 30 passengers on the trip, which cost $65..  Last contact, appropriately called W1END, at 2356 with 35:59 showing for elapsed hours on the clock  The weather was nice, but overall it was rather boring.  Met a nice Belgian doctor visiting Aruba for a while.

Had dinner at a restaurant in the seaside mall on the water, Villa Germania, steak Caesar salad, chocolate cake and a delicious pina colada.  Then back home.  Turned on the radio for some final operating, starting with about 170 QSOs on 20 CW.  As before, used the computer for sending, so it was quite restful, but the pace wasn’t too fast, overall about 110 per hour with no large pileups.  Then switched to phone at about 8:30 p.m., and it was a whole different story, with larger pileups and a rate of 150-200 per hour.  Finally quit at 10:30 to try to keep a sked with a Cuban who had requested six meters.  Carl has an IC-756 set up with a small 6m beam on top of the 10/15, but I couldn’t hear anything at all on it.  I was also getting pretty tired, but wanted to pack up before going to bed.  Finally finished packing, straightening up the place, returning the radio room to normal, writing in the guest book, etc., took a shower and to bed by midnight.  Have to get up at 6 a.m. to be ready for my 6:30 taxi ride to the airport for the flight back to Miami and SFO.  [As a final note, the airport experience on the way back was very quick, as you go through US customs in Aruba, rather than having to reclaim your luggage in Miami as is normally the case.]