P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

Back to P40L-P49Y Contest Page







Callsign Used:




February 2004 Aruba Trip Notes – ARRL DX CW

Saturday, February 14, 2004.  I arrived at 9 p.m. on the AA flight from Miami, after an uneventful trip – the only difficulty being awakening at 3:30 a.m. to drive to SFO.  Chris and Cindy (age almost 11) picked me at the airport and we drove to the house where Jean-Pierre and Andy (age 4) were waiting.  I gave them gifts (truck book for JP, scented soap for Chris, valentine picture frame for Cindy and toy car for Andy).  The place looked great. This is the second to last weekend of the 50th annual Carnaval festivities, and the Parade of Lights is going on in Oranjestad.  Chris and JP suggested that at this time the best view was on TV.

All my radio gear magically survived unscathed.  I had one suitcase weighing 55 pounds, with almost all of it being SO2R stuff, plus tools, tower climbing belt, cables, etc. -- and barely enough clothes to wrap around it all.  In spite of my concerns, the TSA at SFO ran it through the big machine, said it was “clean,” and sent the suitcases on their way without inspection.

Turning on the radio, there seemed to be some intermittent problem with the FT-1000 not putting out enough power into  some of the antennas.  [After much experimentation and fiddling over the next few days, including changing of antenna jumper cables, the problem eventually cleared itself up.]  I hook up the answering machine, record a message and call home.  All seems to work. 

Chris had picked up my license allowing me to use P40Y starting February 15th, so at midnight, I started out on 75m phone.  Running barefoot, I happened upon an SP8 in the DX window.  After a quick QSO, it turned out he was running a DX net, so I stuck around and gave out a few dozen contacts to EUs, then hang around till 1 a.m. working more EUs and some W/Ks, including K6TA, K6KO and N6BT. 

Sunday, February 15, 2004.   Slept in till 8:30, then went outside to inspect the antennas with the binoculars.  I chatted with the next door neighbors who live in the two-story green house, James (an anesthetist, not a doctor) and his wife Ester (?).  To pin down an uncertain area, I asked him on what day garbage was collected.  He said it was so unreliable that he contracted with a private company.  I then went off to do some food shopping in one of the local supermarkets to the South, saving a major shopping trip to the larger stores north of Oranjestad for later.

I called Humphrey Maasdamme, P43HM, to arrange a tutoring session for my Aruban license exam.  He showed up at the agreed upon time of 4 p.m.  He is a slight, elderly gentleman about to turn 75 years old.  He “brushed me up” while we sat at the kitchen table for about an hour and a half.  He would draw diagrams and ask questions, all about vacuum tube circuits – not one question about transistors, ICs, digital forms of communication or the like.  I mostly knew what he was talking about, though we argued about one or two points, and there were a few areas where he had to correct my thinking.  When we finished he said that I really knew my stuff, and he pronounced me more competent than other Americans he had tutored over the years.  Thanks, Ameco “Amateur Radio Theory Course.”

We then discussed an electronic device that he had asked me to buy for him and bring to Aruba, at his expense.  This is a funny story, because he had found it on eBay, and wanted to know how far I lived from eBay.  He was somewhat taken aback when I explained that although eBay was very close by, it wasn’t actually a store, and that the item he wanted was being sold by someone in Vancouver, B.C.  Anyway, he said that he still did want it, and I promised to try to get one for him (it’s a machine that converts videotapes between PAL and NTSC formats). 

We had our first evening radio sked on 7055 kHz LSB, listening 7233, with K6TA and W6LD. 

Monday, February 16, 2004.  Chris came over at 8:30 and led me to the Dunlop tire dealer/repair center in the industrial area just across from the airport (C.A.R.S. Automall N.V., Wayaka 33, 583-0355, turn right at the airport light, then right and right again).  When I picked up the car in the afternoon, they had determined that the check engine light just indicated a previous “misfire detected”, and was nothing to worry about.  I also bought two new rear tires, since the old ones, though they still had tread, had many sidewall cracks.  The bill was 288 florins (1.77 florins = $1US). 

At 10, Ken Lovell from the DTZ came over to do the station inspection.  He was very pleasant and spent about an hour here.  The inspection, last done in 1992, was apparently triggered by our change in ownership.  He filled out a number of forms, and took the serial numbers I gave him of the FT-1000, FT-990, Alpha 87A, and Alpha 86.  He wrote down some of the specs on the radios out of the manuals, and wanted some info on the antennas and towers (mostly just brand of antennas and heights of towers).  He briefly looked at the outside station ground and seemed satisfied. 

I then set about installing all the SO2R gear that I had bought/built at home.  The filters and decoders fit under the shelf to the right of the 990, with the homebrew relay box wedged in behind.  I removed the old SixPak controller and the Intelligent Band Decoder, and put them in the second BR closet.  The SixPak relay box had to be rewired for my Molex connectors (the former setup was hard-wired, but now it is all detachable). Gratifyingly, it all works.

There was an hour-long heavy rain in the late morning, after which the 20m monobander seemed weak on receive, as K6TA had reported.  Later in the afternoon, it  seemed ok.  Does this imply that there are some conductive paths activated in the rain? 

After picking up the car at 2 p.m., I drove to the DTZ to get a copy of “The Laws”, as Humphrey had insisted I do.  Ken Lovell gave me the English translation, which he said he had gotten from Humphrey some time ago.  It’s actually two laws, from 1972, and deals only with licensing and examination, not operation.  I paid my 50 florin invoice for the exam, and also 258 fl.  for John Fore’s license.  There is an RBTT bank about 5 blocks towards town on the same street as the DTZ, and if you pay at the RBTT, you pay a lesser commission, since that is the DTZ’s bank.  This all took some time, as John’s invoice wasn’t ready initially – and when I returned, the license wasn’t ready, so it will have to be picked up later.  On the way, I bought a set of Stanley tools (long nosed pliers, 6” dikes and lineman’s pliers, all to be used in wiring the 220v extension cable).  I then took a run along the beach for 26 minutes.

At 7, I met Emily, P43E, at her house.  She has one tower up, and two more in the works.  It’s a large property of two acres or so, as part of a family “compound.”  Unlike ours, this is “property land” (i.e., owned in fee),  so she says the government has very little control over what they do on it.  A file cabinet in her future ham shack contains the P4 QSL bureau.  I took back cards for Carl, John, and myself.  We had dinner at Driftwood, a crowded seafood restaurant in town.  I had reasonably good Wahoo with Aruban red sauce.  After a late night sked with John and Ken, I was again tearing apart cables to try to find an intermittent on the “normal” antennas.  Didn’t get to bed till 1 a.m.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2004.  This was a blah day.  I fiddled around in the morning testing cables, finally coming to the conclusion that one or more antenna cables hadn’t been completely tightened [later I replaced the RG8 from the 87A to the Stackmatch with another jumper cable, which seemed to resolve the situation].   I then went out into the cunucu , which is really overgrown as a result of last fall’s heavy rains.  We need a branch clipper and a machete to cut it back a bit.  I did find the  U.S. beverage, but the EU beverage seems to have disappeared, though remnants of the wire can be seen. 

After noon, I drove up to Ling & Sons, the terrific supermarket just north of Oranjestad, which has all sorts of interesting foods.  Surprisingly, though, I had to go to three places to find Mr. Coffee coffee filters, having this morning used up the last of the box of 100 that I bought a year ago.  After a number of calls to Efy de Cuba re the bucket truck, we rescheduled to Wednesday.  I noticed that the 80m antenna can only be loaded to about 800 watts before giving 100 watts of reflected power (even though the SWR seems to be only 1.5:1, and acts normally, rising into the phone band to about 3:1).  The FT-1000 tuner also seems to have a problem on 15 meters, not immediately putting out full power.  Not using the tuner also causes strange birdies, moans, and whistles on receive, particularly noticeable on 160.  I suspect there are front end problems with the 1000.  I seemed to be constantly running into problems, most of which are operator-caused.  For example, in the late afternoon the FT-990 seemed dead on receive, a problem traceable to the RX ANT button’s being depressed (unlike the 1000, there is no indicator light on the 990 for that button)

 I did hook up the Alpha 86 to the FT-990 and it works fine.  It barely fits on the equipment shelf, with its feet just hitting the wood.  I wanted to cut a large hole for the 86 power cord in the back of the table.  I ended up buying a 2 and 1/8 inch lock set hole saw.  It was quite a hassle to drill the hole as the top surface laminate is quite hard. 

 Since the boom truck wasn’t coming, I honored John Crovelli’s request and picked him up at the airport at about 3 p.m.  He was toting over 100 pounds of  radio gear, including a 756 PRO II and lots of antenna supplies.  His setup, near JP’s, is a whole different world than ours.  He rents out a room in a house on a dirt road, populated with junker cars.  To get in, you climb in through a window (there is also a ladder and trap door into the upper part of the house).  Inside are a bed, an air conditioner, and an operating desk.  Outside are two towers (80’ and 70’, both Rohn 25) with a stack on one tower and a tribander on the other, and with a rope in between from which he planned to string wire beams. 

Returning home, I wired up a 220-volt extension cord for the two amplifiers, using parts brought from home.  The plugs here have two flat blades set at the same orientation, plus a ground prong.  The jacks I had brought accommodate those plugs, as well as the kind I use at home which have the two blades offset 90 degrees.  The cord plugs into the wall under the table, with each amp then plugging into its own receptacle. 

Tonight it is off to dinner at Tony Roma’s (next to the Holiday Inn in the high-rise hotel district), with John, Emily, Jackie, Paolo (I2UIY, who is staying at Jackie’s) and Lisandro, P43L.  The three locals are very excited about organizing a major effort for P40HQ in this summer’s IARU contest.  I was not impressed with the restaurant: long wait, slow service, and indifferent food. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2004.  The big event of the morning was my Aruban license exam.  I actually put in a little study time before Humphrey’s and my agreed upon 9:30 a.m. rendezvous at the DTZ for the 10 a.m. exam.  There were three examiners in the conference room at the back of the DTZ (the first time I had been through the normally locked door into the inner sanctum of the DTZ):  Chief Inspector Ken Lovell (who was silent through most of the exam), Humphrey Maasdamme (who did the theory and CW parts), and Mr. Provence a friendly, elderly gentleman who did the regulations.  They were friendly and cordial throughout.

The exam went like this: first Mr. Provence asked a few regulatory questions, then Humphrey grilled me on theory.  Combined, these two elements took about 25 minutes.  I was then sent out in the hallway for a few minutes, summoned back in, and congratulated on passing.  Then Humphrey cranked up a rusty old hand key and a code practice oscillator to send CW to me, using Dutch language plain text at 12 wpm.  I then sent some Dutch text back for a two minutes or so.  I was again sent out in the hall to wait, this time for 10-15 minutes, long enough to read all the notices on the employees’ bulletin board and finish a cup of coffee thoughtfully provided by one of the nice ladies of the DTZ. 

I was then called back in, congratulated again, and given my test grades.  Each element is graded, according to the Laws, on a scale of 1-10, with 6 being a passing grade.  They gave me a 10 on Regulations, a 10 on Theory, a 9 on CW receiving, and an 8 on sending.  On receiving, I thought I had copied perfectly, but Humphrey said I had made a few characters into a new word that should have been part of a previous word.  On sending, Humphrey’s comment was, “I can see you are not a hand key man.”  I  agreed, and reminded him that I had warned them I hadn’t used a hand key in 25 years.   Now there is more paperwork and another fee to be paid.  Ken kindly volunteered to write for my signature the requisite letter in Dutch to the Governor requesting my P49Y call.  When I requested that call sign, he said, “I see you are a Y man.”  I replied, “Y not?”  I left a box of Perugina chocolates for the staff, primarily Pamela (a tall, black woman), and Glenda Hernandez, who seems to be our main contact person. 

I would have celebrated by having a drink in Oranjestad, but I had to get home to call Efy de Cuba about the bucket truck, as I had not been able to reach him earlier in the day.  On the way back, I stopped at Notaris J.W. Bodeker (the notary who had handled our purchase).  Sure enough, there was our lawyer, Mike Hardoar, outside as usual enjoying a cigarette.  They gave me the official deed, with a ribbon and seal. 

The bucket truck showed up at 2 p.m.  I had all my tools laid out to take apart the feed on the 20 meter monobander, and replace the balun and hairpin, using a new Force 12 balun I had brought down, and a new hairpin from last year.  After positioning the truck and raising the bucket, guess what?  We were about two feet too low to reach the boom of the antenna.   They were afraid to raise the bucket any higher, given the blowing winds.  We tried twice, repositioning the truck in between, but it was a no go.  Meanwhile, John had called and offered to climb the tower for me to do the work.  I offered in return to take him to the airport to pick up his rental car. 

I went over to his house, and helped him string beverage wires in his cactus for about an hour.  We then wasted about an hour and a half at the Thrifty Rental Car location at the airport, and he ended up not getting a car, even though he had a reservation.  There were no cars to be had on the island, due to Carnaval.  Meanwhile, the one Thrifty employee was a model of agonizing inefficiency. 

Back at our house, John scampered up the back tower and decide that he could not reach the 20 meter driven element after all, even though he can on his identical antenna.  After looking at it some more, we realized that our antenna was actually mounted with the mast about two feet from where it should be on the boom.  He had brought a cable of RG-8X from his house, and swapped it out on the 80 meter dipole, saying that it looked as though there might have been some gunk in the connector.  I connected it to the spare roll of coax outside the shack, and the 80 antenna did seem to load up better.  John thought the 20 meter antenna connections looked OK visually (as I did when viewing them from the bucket).  He also said that the 87A is notoriously sensitive on 20 meters, and suggested that simply adding some cable length inside might help.  BTW:  he generally doesn’t use dipole baluns, thinking they are just another element to fail, and on the beams, he uses a balun made by simply winding eight turns of coax around a 6-inch PVC form.  He also recommends strongly using insulated wire for dipoles to reduce corrosion. 

We then went back to his place for some more stringing of vee beams and beverages.  He does his beverages as follows:  A feed line is attached to a K9AY 9:1 transformer.  The beverage wire (insulated 16 gauge) is attached to one terminal, and the other is attached to a counterpoise, which is simply a length of wire laid on the ground.  He thinks this works better than a ground rod, due to the notoriously poor conductivity of Aruban soil grounds.  It should ideally be ¼ wavelength long.  He leaves the other end of the wire unterminated.  That should make the beverage bidirectional.  Ken, John, Ed and I thought on our next sked that it ought to be better on Aruba to terminate it with a 450-ohm resistor, the other end of which is grounded to a rod or another counterpoise – this should make it unidirectional in the direction of termination, thus theoretically avoiding noise from the south. 

I had to leave at 6:45 p.m. to take a quick shower and meet Martin, P49MR, and Truus, P49MRS, at Benihana (this is on the service road adjoining the divided highway north of town, next to Hooters).  They had just been playing golf.  We had a very pleasant dinner, enlivened by the usual Benihana showiness of the food preparers. 

Returning home, I tried both amps.  For a while it was fine, but there was suddenly a loss of receive sensitivity on the FT-990 when the Alpha 86 was in the OPR position.  Fortunately, there is a long description of this problem in the manual, which states that this is due to a small receive fuse’s being blown on the T/R board.  I took the cover off, found the fuse, and sure enough, it was blown.  It was identified as a 125-volt, ¼-amp fuse, and the manual warns sternly against replacing it with anything else.  Searching through our “fuses” coffee can in the cabinet under the table, I found a similar fuse, rated at 2 amps.  I put it in and had no further troubles.  This surely must be  a known design defect, to merit a half-page explanation in the manual.

Thursday, February 19, 2004.  In the morning calm and cool weather, I screwed up my courage and made a quick climb to the top of the back tower,  to tape up the end of the 80 meter dipole coax that had been left on the tower, and to tape the new cable installed by John Crovelli to the legs of the tower.  John and I had run some experiments on 160 last night, and it was clear that he could hear some guys that I couldn’t on the beverage.  I went out in the cunucu and traced the beverage line, trying to elevate it to the tops of cacti where possible.  I also added about 150 feet of some nice stranded, 16-gauge insulated wire that I had found in the storage room, leaving it unterminated (the end that had been supposedly terminated with a small resistor was actually floating due to corrosion in the connections).  I also connected a random length counterpoise to the feed point ground terminal.  The feed point is near a blue iron stake that sticks several feet out of the ground, about even with James’s gazebo about 75 feet south of our property line, and not very far into the cunucu itself. 

I treated myself for the only time this trip to a nice hotel breakfast, at the Hyatt.  They have a lovely facility, where I sat out on a deck overlooking a swan pool.  There are beautiful parrots and other birds in large cages, and the whole ambience is very pleasant. 

I finally got to hook the laptop up to the radios to verify that all interfaces, including CW sending, worked well.  I panicked briefly when the FT-1000 seemed to be spraying RF everywhere.  The SO2R gear was going nuts, with lights blinking on and off on all the equipment.  Replacing the questionable coax from the back of the 87A (which wasn’t even on) to the Stackmatch solved the problem.  It may be that it wasn’t making a good connection (interestingly, that jumper, alone in the shack, had crimped connectors).  The FT-990 and Alpha 86 loaded the 20 meter monobander quite well, easily putting out over a kilowatt. 

I went out for my usual run, then to JP and Chris’s house to go over accounts.  I then took them and John Crovelli out to Marina Pirata, where we sat out on the deck and had the best food for this trip (including the chef’s special: barracuda with shrimp and cheese on top, with Aruban plantains and bread). 

Friday, February 20, 2004.   I’ve always had trouble here using the laptop on the operating table; it gets in the way of the radio, the amp, or both.  Ed and John had suggested using an outboard keyboard in our sked last night, but the two on premises both have large, 5-pin DIN plugs, while the laptop requires a smaller, PS/2 connector.  After making some telephone calls this morning, I ended up buying a new keyboard for 20.5 fl. at a place called Antraco, a little west of the Toyota dealer across from King Ribs.  It works great, so I’ve got the laptop in front of the amp, propped open about two inches so I can get to the mouse touch pad if necessary (and because I’m afraid to run it completely shut), using the new keyboard on the desktop and the old monitor on the shelf above the radios [after returning, I found that both a mouse and a keyboard can be plugged into the same PS/2 connector using a Y adaptor]. 

I picked up John Crovelli at 10, and we drove to the DTZ, where we received invoices to pay at the RBTT down the street, 50 florins for his license and about 175 florins  for my new one (not sure exactly what for, but it included another “retribution” fee).  They gave me a very official-looking certificate of proficiency, with my picture on it, all properly signed by acting director Mr. Vis.  I also managed to get the dates changed on John’s license, which had erroneously not included the weekend of the WPX CW contest at the end of May.  After a quick lunch paid for by John at the McDonald’s in the high rise hotel area, I was back home by 1330.  I got everything hooked up OK, then managed to doze for about two hours until 1730.  Since the contest starts at  2000 local time, it’s a real problem not to start out tired.  I made some sandwiches for future use and put out contest food: a bowl of cookies and M&Ms, some fruit, and glasses of water and orange juice. 

ARRL DX CW Contest, February 21-22, 2004. Contest Narrative (more or less as dictated during the contest). Start out on 15, but only about 60 Qs in 20 minutes, so switch to 20.  CW is ragged in the first few contacts.  I look at the laptop and am horrified to see Norton Anti-Virus doing a scan!  I quickly turn it off and all is well.  End the first hour at 199 by 65.  The new keyboard is a great help.  At about 0110Z things start to slow down and I have to call CQ quite a bit.  I go to 40 at about 0114, and it’s hard to find a frequency.  At 0300, to 160 for my first attempt of the evening (P40W and I had agreed that he would have the first 15 minutes of even hours on Friday night, and I would get the odd hours, with the hours reversed on Saturday, and no time constraints if you are moving a mult).  I’m at 536 by 112.  W6RJ is first California on 160 at 0330, very weak.  As compared to last year, I’m actually enjoying 160.  I have 33 mults in the first 69 Qs, and I can hear people pretty well. 

I leave 160 after 49 minutes with 109 Qs and 39 mults to try 80, which I have left the FT-990 and Alpha 86 set on.  It’s quite slow and I wonder what is wrong.  I finally squeeze into 3518 and get a bit of a pileup then things start to pick up.  Part of the problem is that the band is full of strong EUs.  After an hour on 80 I’m at 173 by 45, which is very gratifying.  Strangely, many, many MI but no OH on 80.  At 0500 I interrupt the run to go to 160 again.  Now the inverted vee is receiving better than the beverage, which was not true two hours ago.  A brief break at 0543Z.  160 is at 175 by 42.  My first successful move from 80 to 160 is W5EKF in LA.  It went very smoothly with the two radios.  I can just leave the 1000 on 160 and listen for a clear frequency on it.  At 0612Z I move W5QL to get MS on 160.  I move VE9HC (NB) from 160 to 80 then realize I didn’t need him on 80.  At 0720Z I move a UT station from 160 to 80.  I now have 46 and 52 mults on those two bands,  as compared to last year when my totals for the whole contest were 40 and 50 mults on those bands. 

At 0730Z I check 40 again.  Things are really slowing down, and I can’t stir up much activity on 40, 80, or 160.  My rates for 09 and 10 hours are only 57 and 63.  Of course, it is the middle of the night in the U.S.  It’s now 0447 local time and I find myself nodding off in the chair during contacts.  This doesn’t bode well.  I take a break at 0943Z (0543 local), and I am at 1282 by 223 for 855k points.  Band by band I’m at 15: 60 by 24, 20: 169 by 44, 40: 437 by 52, 80: 388 by 56, 160: 228 by 47.  I actually lay down at 0945Z, and woke up at 1010 feeling somewhat better.  A brief run on 80 then a steady rate on 40. 

It’s now 1130Z  and the sun has been up for a half hour.  I ignore JAs calling on 40.  I switch to 20 on the 990, which easily drives the monobander to about 1150 forward and 75 reflected watts.  20 is wide open to EU; 10 is dead.  I make a pot of coffee.  The U.S. is working EU, but the good news at 1235Z is that I’ve broken a million points.  At around 1230Z the rate picks up to 200/hour on 20 and I have small frequency fights with an FM5 and an S51.  Only one contact on 10 at 1335Z, so back to 20 then 15.  I leave the 990 on 20, and cruise on 15 and 10 with the 1000.  I briefly try alternating CQs on 20 and 15 and get a few responses that way.  I hear VO1MP CQing on 20, so I give him  a call for a quick NF mult.  I start to get rate on 15, then at 1437Z take a break for a quick half sandwich. 

I then go to 10 which is opening up.  In 60 minutes I have 181Qs by 37 mults.  This is fun.  I pass 2000 Qs at about 1640Z.  I set the 990 on 15 and start moving mults there from 10.  At 1653Z, I hit 300 mults.  At 1736Z, VE4YU calls in on 10, the first VE4 I’ve heard in the whole contest, so I move him to 21079 and 14079 for a triple mult.  These weren’t exactly clear frequencies, but we were there and gone quickly.  At 1800Z I hit 2M points (2200 by 304).    I get back on at 1814Z and try 15.  I move ID from 15 to 10 and UT from 10 to 15, for my last Stateside mult needed on 15.  At 2029Z I move VE5CPU from 10 to 15 to 20, for a triple mult.  I’m now at 323 mults, equaling my last year’s total.

It’s now 2051Z on Saturday, and after a good hour and 20 minutes on 10, I’m going  to bypass 15 and move to 20, where I have the fewest contacts.  I get a steady rate of 185, and at 2155Z I move KE3VV from 20 to 15.  He’s in DC and must get asked to move a lot, as he had declined a move from 10 earlier.  At 2115Z I must have fallen asleep with my hand on the Enter key, as there are four QSOs entered with no call signs. I broke 3M points a few minutes ago; at 2324Z I am at 3066 by 328.  It’s now 0030Z and I’ve just had an hour and 20 minutes on 15 at a 170 rate.  The band seems continually about to close, but keeps producing a pleasant, small pileup.  Conditions are better than expected, but I am getting so tired and hungry that I am falling asleep between QSOs and find myself staring at the screen trying to figure out why that information is displayed there. 

After a 15-minute break, I go to 20 for a half hour then to 40, which is jammed with strong EU signals.  I end up in a non-ideal location on 7081 in the midst of some phone conversations.  I fail in moving a VE5 and a VE7 to 160, but do move SD.  I bounce around the low bands for several hours, then pack it in at 0710Z for a two hour nap.  John and I traded numbers on 160 just before I quit; I was about 300 Qs and 5 mults ahead (of course, he’s low power, so I probably should be much more ahead).  I was trying for 4000 Qs, but after hallucinating and falling asleep at the radio, I stop at 3876 by 339 for 3.9M points. 

Back on the air at 0933Z, I make a few dozen Qs on 40 but things are very slow.  When I hit 1000 Qs on 40 at 1121Z, I stop and brew some coffee, which tastes wonderful.  I go to 20 and do a lot of CQing with no answers.  Things are so slow that when I hear VY2TT (PEI) CQing on the low end of 20, even though I have already worked him, I ask for a QSY to 40 and he graciously obliges.  While I’m working slow rate on 20 with the FT-1000, I hear Paolo, P40G, endlessly and fruitlessly calling CQ on 21030.  He’s single band, so is just keeping the frequency warm.  If this were a DX contest it would be great, as the EUs are very loud. 

While rotating the 20m monobander, I conclude there is an interaction with the C31.  With the monobander at 300 degrees and the C31 at 360, I can load each to 1.5 KW with reflected power under 100 watts.  The reflected power increases on both as I rotate the monobander more to the North.  At 1230Z I lurch my way to 4000 QSOs.  I was getting very discouraged on 20, but then at 1301Z, NF0N called in giving me NE for my 59th mult on 20.  I’m only missing LB, YT, NWT, and NU.  I haven’t heard any of these on any band (and I have spent some time listening on the second radio for them).  After a 15-minute break at 1327Z, I am unsuccessful getting anything going on 15, which is jammed with strong EUs.  I hear John on the low end of  10, so I try 28032.  I’m afraid I’m about an hour early on 10, but there is really nowhere else to be.  At 1412Z, VE9DX calls in with NB.  I move him to what I thought was a clear frequency on 15, but it turns out to be W3LPL’s run frequency.  But Andy is loud, so I get the double mult.  This is extremely frustrating, though my rate on 10 is in the 80s, so at 1607Z I take a 20-minute break for a sandwich.  I’m only at 4250 Qs and feel I should be way beyond that.

Back on 21016 at 1627Z with a nice pileup, first time today.  It stays that way for hours, marred by the boorish behavior of a KQ2, who calls me, then camps out about 100 Hz above me, QRMing me for the next 10 minutes.  A big gun HG1 and a K1 do the same, but I outlast them both.  Finally hit 4500 Qs at 1820Z.  This run is all on the FT-990/Alpha 86.  I move to 10 on the FT-1000/Alpha 87A at 2004Z after having been on the same frequency on 15 for 3 ½ hours.  At QSO 4863, I hit 5M points.  After 77 Qs on 10, I go to 20 at 2042Z and run out the contest there.  I have an hour-long pileup on 20 (173 Qs in the 21 hour); in my addled state, it’s very hard to straighten out the pileup, especially since I think I am choosing engineers for our train on the screen, instead of logging Qs.  I hit 5000 Qs at about 2200Z and feel very discouraged to think there are two more hours to go.  About that time after an unsuccessful move of a VE6 to 10, I return to my frequency and chase a rightful occupier (K0IR) off it.  I know it’s wrong, but I’m just too tired to look for a new one.  The contest mercifully ends with 5276 by 343 on the screen for 5.4M points.  This includes 21 dupes and the above-mentioned four sleeping non-contacts. 

General observations: 

  • I was planning to play in the big dog category of single operator, all band, high power.  There tends to be some jockeying for position among the Aruba contest contingent regarding categories before each contest starts, as they generally try to avoid head to head competition.  This time none of the locals were planning to be on, perhaps due to it’s being the grand finale weekend for Carnaval.  Before the contest I knew that Paolo, I2UIY, had been planning to operate from Jackie’s station.  When we had dinner, he said that he was tired from the previous weekend’s operation in CQ WPX RTTY as P40G, so for this one he would operate single band (he decided on 15).  I also don’t think he likes having his eating habits disrupted as much as a full bore effort requires.  John Crovelli, W2GD, was planning to operate as P40W low power, so I just wanted to stay ahead of him if I could.  He’s such a good operator, and so experienced on Aruba, that I knew he could beat me even without his amp (he does have a Ten-Tec Titan that he leaves down there).
  • There was going to be a lot of other competition from great stations, including:  HC8L (W6NL), KP2CW (K6VVA at KV4FZ), ZD8Z, D4B, ZF2NT, FM5BH, WP3R (K9PG), WP2Z, etc.  Before the contest I heard numerous other Caribbean stations on, including 8P9JA, J7s, an FS and an HP9.  Even though some of these presumably would be multis, it wasn’t going to be easy to match last year’s 4th place finish.  However, that was my first time ever in this contest from DX, and first time ever on 160, so I was hoping to do better on mults this year.  Here’s a comparison of claimed scores for P40Y this year versus last year (note that P40T (N6TJ) came in second and P40Y fourth last year; the winner was WP3R at 5.6M claimed):


P40Y 2004

P40Y 2003

P40T 2003

































  • As compared to last year, my QSOs were up about 130 (the total for 2003 includes over 100 dupes, but for 2004 I tried not to work dupes, so there are only 21 in the log).  My mult goal was to work at least 15 more than last year, aiming for 55 on 80 and 50 on 160, with the others expected to be about the same.  In fact, mults were down by one collectively on 10-40, and up by 21 on 80/160 for a net gain of 20.  This was due to concerted efforts to move mults, and generally being more aware of them.  I probably created 25-30 mults by moving stations (though a number of those would later be worked anyway), and had about a half dozen failed moves.  I was particularly careful to move mults to 80 and 160.  In fact, I ended up with 6 band Worked all States, except for NV on 160 and WY on 10.  As far as I could tell, the max possible mults were 59, as there seemed to be no one on from LB, YT, NT or NU out of the total possible of 63.  I did work several WY stations on all other bands, so I thought I’d naturally get one on 10.  In desperation at 2200Z on Sunday, I did try to move a VE6 from 20 to 10, but the band had closed by then.   Similarly, a NV move to 160 failed. The surprisingly high total on 80 is just dumb luck, I think, from getting called by the right stations. Two stations that I had already worked (N0NI  in Iowa and VY2TT in PEI) kindly moved when asked while they were CQing).
  • Sleep strategy needs re-evaluation.  Mentally, I was in much worse shape than last year due to lack of sleep.  I basically didn’t sleep at all until Sunday morning; a much better strategy would have been a longer sleep period on Sunday morning or a sleep period each morning (e.g., John Crovelli generally aims to sleep two hours each night).  Sunday morning, I was off the radio from 0710 to 0933Z (0310 to 0533 local).  My QSO totals for the next five hours were 27 (27 minutes only), 49, 35, 45, and 47. The following three were only 87, 80 and 89.  The contest didn’t pick up until I started in on 15 at 1627Z, where I stayed for 3½ hours on 21015 with rates in the 130-150 range.  The problem seemed to be that conditions were so good to EU that the US/VEs weren’t listening to the South.  As a result the usual Caribbean morning doldrums were of longer duration than usual.  I just couldn’t keep going past 0310 local Sunday morning, but there doesn’t seem much point in getting back on before local sunrise at 0700 (or somewhat later, when conditions are so good).  Sunday afternoon I was falling asleep at the radio and hallucinating for hours at a time. 
  • Interesting hallucination: I was convinced for a considerable period of time that I wasn't logging contacts.  Rather, I was helping someone else to choose a good engineer for our train, represented by the logging screen, while the exchange received was the destination the engineer was proposing.  Eventually, I realized that I was the one who had to decipher the pileup, and that it wasn't a life or death matter, as I was only logging contacts, not running a railroad.  Hard to explain, but there it is.
  • The station played very well and everything worked fb.
    • Radios were fine.  The FT-990 had a “scratchy” sound on receive, probably just due to the CW offset being set too high. Other stations generally called about 120 to 180 Hz high on the FT-990 and about 30-50 Hz low on the FT-1000.  This suggests that the CW offset is correspondingly high on the 990 and low on the 1000 as compared to the average, and both should probably be adjusted (though a 50-80 Hz difference can help differentiate them to the operator).
    • As noted by K6TA, the FT-1000 tuner has to be left on for quieter receive operation.  This is no problem, but suggests that something has failed in the front end or in the tuner itself.  Glad we have a spare radio (BTW, JP mentioned unsolicited that he’d be happy to lend us his MP in a crunch.) 
    • I didn’t make many second radio QSOs, but it was very handy to have the two radios for checking band activity, facilitating finding a clear QSY frequency, and even searching for rare mults.  All of the automatic switching gear worked perfectly.  The filters sometimes allow one radio to be heard in the other, but most band combinations are OK.
    • There seemed to be a bit of RF in the shack when the FT-1000 was on 160, but this was noticed only in that the monitor would distort very slightly, and the 160 light on the left radio filter would flicker a little.  There were no other symptoms. 
    • I usually left the 990/86 tuned to wherever I though I might move mults, generally 20 or 15 in the day and 80 at night.  I didn’t use it on 160 because I wanted the APF available on the FT-1000 for 160 usage.  The receive antenna can only be connected to one radio at a time, unless some sort of isolation device is used (otherwise, the two other radio loads the one using it down).  Note also that the RX Ant button on the FT-990 has no indicator light, so check it if the radio seems dead.
    • Antennas:  160 good, 80 loaded to 1000-1200 watts, 40 - 10 all good, including the C31.  There is some interaction between the C31 and the monobanders that varies with pointing directions.  The 20 monobander worked fine for the whole contest, and could be loaded above 1000 watts when pointed to 300 degrees (West Coast).
    • For phone, the 80 meter antenna ends may need shortening, as the SWR is 3:1 or so there.
    • Issues of exact antenna loading go away when one runs 1000-1200 watts as the norm for a safety margin.  It doesn’t matter if each ant would load perfectly or not or whether the FT-1000 will put out a full 200 watts, as the radios are only putting out 40-50 watts into the amps, and the amps can take up to 100 watts reflected power.  Similarly, the tuner fluctuations on the 1000 on 15 were of no concern.
    • Both amps were rock solid with no hard faults whatever.  They are quieter than the air conditioner.
    • Thanks to suggestions from John and Ed in our nightly skeds, I finally solved the laptop positioning problem.  In the past, it always got in the way of either the FT-1000 or the Alpha 87A.  This time, I hooked up the new keyboard and the existing monitor to it, so I could leave it almost closed in front of the amp ( I left it slightly open for access to the mouse as necessary).