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AE6Y October 2006 Aruba Trip Notes – CQ WW SSB Contest

(Public Version)
Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y

Monday, October 23 - Tuesday, October 24, 2006.  I took the 10 p.m. overnight AA flight from SFO to MIA, then about a three-hour layover for the 10:10 a.m. AA flight to Aruba, arriving about 12:45 p.m., to be met by Chris at the airport.  The 87A in the large suitcase sailed right through customs with nary a glance.  In the Miami airport, I modified CQPWIN to allow 8,000 Instamatch callsigns, since putting in the last two CQWW’s yielded about 7700 unique calls.  I had to fiddle with the cell phone for a while to get it to work (set Settings/Network from Automatic to 850/1900; then local calls are just dialed, and the U.S. is 001 plus area code and number). 

The 2 el 40/4 el 20 had been taken down last Sunday by JP and Lisandro and is now sitting with its boom on the back wall, with half the elements in the backyard and half projecting into the cunucu.  It’s apparent that the repair from last fall hasn’t lasted.  The two ¼ inch stainless  bolts that were used to refasten the 40m driven element boom-to-element bracket have loosened a bit, and the holes in the boom have elongated vertically to about 5/8 inch.  This has allowed the element to tilt, and broken the coax connections to the driven element.  In addition, the 20m driven element had fallen off and was lying against the back wall.  Finally, in lowering the antenna (which must have required quite an effort), they knocked off a couple of the capacitance hat rods from the 40-2CD elements, and the remainder were very brittle and corroded, thus needing to be replaced.  Tom Shiller of Force 12 had given me two replacement boom sections along with new U-bolts, boom-to-element clamps and rivets plus a rivet tool.  The replacement boom sections are actually a piece of 2 inch boom to which he has welded sections of the next larger size, at each end, drilled with bolts to fasten it, the whole thing being about a foot long [and ultimately not used, see below].

Checking the other antennas, I notice that the C-31XR rotor is inoperative.  The indicator points south (though the antenna fortunately is pointing north) and there is no rotation when using the rotate levers.  To make things worse, to take down the 20/40, JP had to unfasten the 80m dipole, which is now hanging by its feedline, and the 160m dipole has had to have its ends unfastened.  Inspection of the wires for the latter shows them to be highly corroded and partially rusted through.  They are copper stranded wire, and in places there is literally only one strand still intact.  It will have to be completely replaced.  Interestingly, the 80m dipole made of enameled copper solid wire looks fine.  John Crovelli recommends using insulated wire for dipoles, as we have for the beverages with no wear problems evident. 

Surprisingly, there was [short-lived] good news when I plugged in and turned on the old 87A.  It worked fine, with  no repetition of the soft faults from May.  Hooking up the computer to the serial port showed that the soft faults had been “34”, i.e., failure of the Tune capacitor motor to work properly.  The symptom had been the Tune lights flashing continuously from start-up.  [Unfortunately, the next day, the amp reverted to its prior behavior, from which it did not recover, so I had to bring it back after all.  It sent an error message to the computer of a tune motor fault.] 

I went over to see John Crovelli this afternoon on my way to Ling & Sons to do some food shopping.  He is planning a serious, all-band effort, but has some tricky repair work.  His 15m beam, which unfortunately is on top of the mast above the 20 and 10, has literally broken in half at the boom clamp, with one half having fallen to the ground. 

Late afternoon, I took my usual run from Marina Pirata to La Granja, then John and I ended up for dinner at the latter.  Getting on email after dinner worked fine.  Before turning in, I had separate telephone chats with Lisandro, who was on his way to the Weather Bureau to start a night shift, and with his wife Lissette. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2006.  This is not the ideal way to spend your birthday.  I just finished eating alone (something I rarely do on Aruba) at the conclusion of a long, frustrating day. 

In the morning, I spent some time in the cunucu, making paths with the large two-handed clippers that John Fore had left at the house, which made short work of thick, thorny branches.  I walked all three beverages, and amazingly all three seem fully intact: wire, transformer, feedline and all.  I spent a lot of time with the 40/20 antenna, first unbolting the driven element, then taking all the capacitance hat rods off.  I realized they wouldn’t be easy to replace, as they are 3/16 inch rods, 34½ inches long with a thicker middle piece through which a hole had been drilled for the mounting. 

The first real order of business was to try to replace the rods.  JP and Lisandro had suggested going to a store called Dytham, which is an industrial tool and materials supplier located roughly behind the old Ling & Sons and Hong King supermarkets north of Oranjestad center.  I ended up doing a lot of driving including two trips to that store, and a trip in between to consult with John.  I also needed to get some drill bits, stainless steel hardware and other supplies, mostly at Codemsa (also bought an incredibly useful small plastic vise that can be attached to the outdoor table and is perfect for holding tubing or small parts for drilling, soldering, etc.). 

After inspecting the boom, I decided that it wasn’t necessary to saw out a section and use Tom Shiller’s replacement piece.  Instead, I moved the 40m driven element about six inches inboard, and bought two small lengths of angle aluminum stock that I fastened on the top and bottom of the boom with three hose clamps.  It seemed that the worst case if the boom broke would be that we would lose the one outboard element, which is the second 20m director; presumably that wouldn’t be catastrophic.  

Meanwhile, I couldn’t find any suitable rod material at Dytham, and John said that anything would work, so I ended up getting some 3/8 inch aluminum tubing.  Dytham cut them to length, and when I got back, I drilled holes for the mounting screw.  Unfortunately, I had mistakenly bought 10-24 instead of 8-32 hardware, so I also had to enlarge the holes in the elements and the mounting brackets.  I finally finished installing them all at about 6 p.m.  Lisandro and Lissette came by shortly thereafter, and I gave him the Yaesu rotor cable terminals that he had requested I obtain for him, and gave her a DVD.  I proudly showed JP my handiwork when he came over a bit later, but he was disapproving, saying that they would weigh too much and would put too much stress on the elements.  Lisandro then drove back to lend me a large halogen light to work at night, and he agreed with JP. 

Lisandro had the creative idea that he could literally saw the tubing in half, lengthwise, with his table saw.  This didn’t seem likely to me, but since I had two extras, we drove over to his renovated house, and tried it out.  We abandoned the scheme when the saw seemed to be generating so much heat that the aluminum starting melting.  Plan B was to find aluminum welding rods.  Lisandro has a suggested source, and we made plans to try to find them in the morning.  I was going to do some more antenna work using the borrowed light, but there were tiny bugs biting after sundown, and I was pretty tired, so I packed it in and had the above-referenced dinner.   BTW, his house is in much better shape than in May, thanks to extensive work by them both and the contractor, plus Lissette’s interior painting.

In addition to other negatives about this day, did I mention that the car’s a/c fan stopped working?  The compressor seems to work still, but no cold air comes out (strangely, this is exactly the same symptom as with the window unit in the radio room).  I drove around with both front windows down [and as the week wore on, I got used to this and actually came to like it, as long as I wasn’t stuck in traffic with the sun beating down].  The weather has actually been quite pleasant, with temperature in the mid 80s.  As long as the breezes are blowing it’s comfortable, but in our backyard under the porch roof, it tends to be quite still and thus more unpleasant. 

Thursday, October 26, 2006.  A good night’s sleep after an early turn in at 10:30, enlivened by a happy birthday call at 2:00 a.m. from Holly, who had forgotten that she was now on the West Coast and that there was a three hour time difference to Aruba [which changed to four hours, BTW, on Sunday when the U.S. went off Daylight Saving Time]. 

Got up at 6:30, had a cup of coffee and a bowl of Frosted Flakes (my Aruba guilty pleasure) and went out to work on the 40/20.  First I rebuilt the 20m reflector, which had been lying on the ground, minus one tip, for some months.  JP had brought over a six-foot piece of tubing for the missing tip, so attaching it was simply a matter of measuring, drilling some 1/8 inch holes, and inserting three pop rivets.  I then drilled out the eight rivet heads on the boom-to-mast clamp, drilled new ¼ inch holes, and bolted it back together with four stainless steel bolts.  I then moved the 40m driven element six inches inboard and similarly drilled out the bracket for four bolts.  The next job was to mount the aluminum angle stock on the top and bottom of the boom over the section with the elongated holes, and tie them together with three hose clamps.  As Crovelli says, on Aruba we do “MacGiver” repairs.

Lisandro picked me up at 9 a.m., and we drove around to four different stores searching for the elusive thin aluminum welding rods.  Codemsa, Kooyman, and KoolTemp were busts, but we finally bought them at BOC Welding Supplies, near the power plant.  These rods were not ideal, having very little mechanical strength, and being too small to drill through.  I finally mounted them using part of the old mounting brackets and wedging a short piece of the welding rod in each connection for extra thickness.  Because these had to make a good mechanical connection, time was spent sanding the insides of the brackets, and scraping off gunk with my trusty Swiss Army knife. 

I spent some time cleaning more gunk off the old coax connections, then unwound one turn of the old coax balun for the 40m feedline, stripped the coax and soldered new eyelets on the ends.  But when I checked continuity between the new ends and the male coax connector at the end of the jumper (which extended back along the boom and about five feet down the tower), I found the braid connection was open.  This after about an hour’s work on the coax, including doing the soldering at the back fence.  Fortunately, we had a brand new 50-foot jumper with shiny new connectors on it in the closet, so I cut it to length, formed the 12-turn coax balun, soldered new eyelets on this one, and taped it all to the boom. 

At about 3 p.m., John called and asked me to come over to help tram up his 15m beam.  I spent about an hour there helping, along with his landlord Humphrey.  This was an interesting operation, the first time I had ever trammed up an antenna (the second was to be a few hours later, see below).  John had lowered the two lower antennas and tilted them to make it easier to tram this one over top, all after having removed the broken 15m beam at the top.  The new one was actually an old CushCraft 4-element monobander that he had reconstructed with some new fittings. A tram line was rigged from the ground to the top of the mast, tightened with a come-along, and the 15m beam attached to the pulley on the pull rope, which was suspended from the tram line, along with a short rope that was attached to the pulley and run out a few feet on the two center elements to tilt the antenna up for clearance.  The pull rope in turn ran to another pulley attached to the top of the mast, and then down to the ground.  John then climbed up on the mast above the top of the tower (a decidedly scary-looking endeavor), Humphrey and I pulled, and the whole job was done in very little time at all. 

I finally finished my ministrations on the 20/40 a little before 6 p.m.  John came by a little later to help in the antenna raising, and JP and Lisandro showed up at about 6:30 as the sun was setting.  Lisandro brought along Raul Croes, P43RC, to help.  While waiting, John and I checked continuity on the rotor cable to the C31, and found no continuity at all on any pairs of cables.  He briefly climbed up that tower and saw nothing obviously wrong with the cable on visual inspection.  His conclusion is that the rotor is shot.

What followed was an amazing two hours of antenna work.  It was getting  dark as the sun went down at 6:30, but Lisandro brought over a portable halogen lamp that could be set on the ground, to go along with the tripod-mounted one he had left earlier.  These were both set up in the backyard aiming up the tower, and he then drove his SUV around in the cunucu (going in about three  houses down the road, which may not be possible much longer as that house seems to be building something that may block that portion of the cunucu) and left his vehicle idling with the lights on.  We then attached a tram rope to his bumper, with the other end going to the top of the tower, and lowered a pull rope on a pulley down the tram rope, maneuvered the antenna very carefully back into the cunucu where it rested on our plastic table and two plastic chairs, rigged it to the tram, and lifted it to the top of the tower.

This operation was a lot more complicated than it may sound.  For one thing it was dark and quite windy up on the tower, where John spent two hours.  Maneuvering the antenna through the cunucu was not easy, as there are some tall bushes right behind the fence, and we had to be very careful not to bend an element or knock off a capacitance hat.  Then the rigging had to be redone twice to get the right center of gravity and tilt, and finally, only with the help of gust of wind was John able to reach the antenna and guide it over the guy wires.  JP and Lisandro handled the rigging, Raul and I were on the haul rope, and John did the high tower work.  But, amazingly, by 8:30 p.m. it was up and bolted in place.  JP and Lisandro said they often did such work after dark, but it was a first for me and John (who has installed hundreds of antennas in his career). 

So, after a long, exhausting day, I took a shower and drove over to get John, similarly cleaned up, and we had dinner on the water at Don Carlos in Oranjestad.  Very nice Italian food marred only by our general tiredness and some small bugs that seemed to attack both our sandaled feet.  I then checked email and went to bed, finally, at about 11:30. 

Friday, October 27, 2006.  Up at 6:30 and two quick trips up the tower.  The first was to tape up the coax connections to the 20/40m feedlines, and the second was to re-hang the 80m inverted vee, which had been unfastened to allow the antenna to come down, and was just hanging by the feedline.  This necessitated several trips back into the cunucu to loosen and tighten the back end of the vee.  Although I dislike tower climbing, I have to admit that it was very pleasant up there, with a light, cool breeze.  As you climb down, the temperature goes up when you get within about 10 feet of the ground, and there is less breeze at that level as well.

In the later morning, I switched the transformer out of the old Alpha 87A and into my new one, and drove it over to John’s to lend him for the contest.  He can make much more use of it than I can, since he’ll be multi-band, while I’ll be single-band with no need for a fast, autotuning amp.  Both the 20 and 40 parts of the raised antenna seemed to work fine, as did the old Alpha 86, so I felt comfortable relying on that amp.   On the way back, I stopped at Winter Garden market and stocked up on liquid supplies; I have been drinking a huge amount of fruit and other drinks just to stay hydrated (I think I understand now how kids become obese just from ingesting so many calories through sweetened drinks).

Hooking up the computer to the radio for the first time this trip, everything seemed to be a little screwy in ways I don’t remember having trouble in the past.  I had used a PS2 wye connector with my old laptop, but the new one only has USB ports and I didn’t seem to have the right adaptor, so I couldn’t hook up the external mouse and keyboard.  Actually, I could have used the mouse, as it is a USB mouse with a PS2 adaptor, but the keyboard was the more important.  Lacking the right hardware, I just used the laptop as is, putting it on the table and not using the external monitor either.  Then the USB relay box wouldn’t work, since the drivers seem to have disappeared.  I didn’t try to reload them, but just used the LPT box for PTT and mic/dvk.  As a single band entrant, I won’t need to worry about rig control or R1/R2 switching, so this is perfectly OK.  The audio from the computer headphone jack through the W2IHY i-box to the radio sounded very clean.  I moved the Alpha 86 to the left side of the table, and will be using the left radio only. 

Around 5 p.m., I moved the car into the garage, locked the gate, and thought about taking a nap.  Then I realized that as a single op on 20, I probably wouldn’t be going to bed very late, so I reversed the above steps and drove over to Savaneta for a run.  After cooling off I had a light supper and got ready to join in the fray when the contest begins at 2000 local time. 

CQ WW SSB Contest Saturday, 28 (GMT) -- Sunday, October 29, 2006 – Contest notes more or less as dictated during the contest. The contest starts off well on 14209, but I’m slowing down at 0301Z after three hours.  I’m at 585/13/20 (QSOs/zones/countries); this has reached the point that 15 was last year just after the contest began, so there is definitely more to do on 20 in the evenings than on 15 last year.  I had a good 2 hours, then in the last 20 minutes have been tuning around working mostly SA.  [The first two hours at rates of 252 and 207 turn out to be my only hours of over 200 QSOs in the whole contest.]  The only non-Americas station was 5Z1A, zone 37, which called in with the beam pointing north earlier.  To bed at 11:30 after reading for a while, setting the alarm for 5:40 a.m. (0940Z)

Next morning, after a quick breakfast of cereal, OJ and coffee, I’m back on the band a little after 1000Z.  20 is pretty dead, but some of the big multi EUs are just starting to come through.  The progression is familiar: at first, they can’t hear me, then they can but my CQs don’t get answers, then I can start running.  First Q is CT3YA  at 1016Z.  The sky is just starting to lighten up, and the first true EU is OT6A  a minute later, and the first CQ answer is EA5RS at 1027Z.  By 1040Z I establish a run freq at 14102 and am starting to get answers.  Five minute later the ionospheric switch (or maybe the EU packet cluster switch) is thrown and I have an instant 20-minute pileup. 

At 1307Z, I’ve been on 14162 for a bout a half hour after moving off 14102 due to the importunings of a polite Canadian  who mentioned that there were a bunch of packet networks in that area.  Now at 1014/25/73 for 288k points, I’m going to take a spin around the band then get something to eat.  Back running after a 20-minute break, and the rate has slowed down to a crawl, even though the band is wide open to Europe.  This is the Caribbean morning doldrums.  The 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17Z hours rates are 54, 57, 71, 74 and 70.  For a while in the 16-17 hour, I go up to the American phone band.  I start using the monobander pointed NW, even though the C31 pointed north gives stronger received signals, in an effort to minimize strong EU QRM.  There is wall to wall EU QRM all over.

At 1657Z I’m at 1251/25/89.  At about 1830Z, I end up on 14145 and have a great EU pileup going for quite a while.  Then an XE1 opens up on the same frequency and our pileups merge together.  Yuck!  At 2146Z I end the very consistent EU pileup that has been 120-145 per hour for the last 4 hours.  I turn the monobander to Asia (about 330 degrees) and am immediately answered by a JA.  At 2148Z, the tally is 1837/27/105 for 703k points.   I work several JAs but don’t hear any other Asians.  Have worked several VKs and ZLs, but that is it for the Pacific.

I head up to the US phone band and the 22, 23 and 00 hours yield more satisfying rates of 178, 187 and 179.  By 0210Z the band has pretty much shut down for me.  There are still stations audible, including several Hawaiians.  The U.S. stopped answering about half an hour ago.  I turn the antenna south and picked up some SA QSOs.  Beaming west and calling for the Pacific was fruitless, so I think it’s about time to QRT for the evening.  I’m at 2483/31/113 for 1.032k.  [Note that after the contest Crovelli said that later in the evening the band was open to VK/ZL with very strong signals.  I’m sure I missed some QSO and maybe some interesting mults by not staying up, but for me one of the attractions of the single band operation is the ability to get a reasonable night’s sleep, instead of staying up and babysitting the band with lots of CQing at very low rates.]

All in all, the day was tough.  The rates were slow until the mid afternoon when the EU pileups started.  But even the pileups were difficult, because there were lots of highly distorted signals, with QRM all over.  As I noticed last year, a clear, unprocessed voice will cut right through the clutter.  Often it is a G, but also some DLs are similarly clean.  The eastern and southern EUs have by far the worst intelligibility problems.  The contest average rate is about 134 QSOs per hour at this point. 

This morning I sleep a bit later, arising at about 0610 local, have a cup of coffee  and a roll with cream cheese and jelly for breakfast and get back to the radio at about 1040Z.  I start running on 14128 and have a nice EU pileup for about an hour, in which time I’ve worked 140 stations, then it suddenly stops.  I get my first new zone of the new day at 1210Z, when TF/DL2JM calls in for zone 40.  At 1211Z I’m at 2654/32/115 for 1.123M points.  It’s very frustrating getting no more answers on 14128 so I cruise the U.S. phone band, which is full of wall-to-wall EUs, all of whom with one or two exceptions I’ve worked already.  It would be impossible to hear a weak DX station on this band.  I find a spot high on the band at 14316 and get a few U.S. callers.  I’m sharing a frequency with an SM6 and an IR2, but a good part of the U.S. doesn’t yet have the band open to EU, so they can only hear me on the frequency. 

It’s now 1457Z and I’ve only made 55 Qs in the last hour. Things have come to an abrupt halt.  No one answers CQs and I’ve worked everyone I can hear on the rest of the band.  Ok, it’s  1610Z and I’m going to take some time off.  I’ve made only 18 contacts in the last hour and this is really discouraging.  The band is full of signals; no will answer CQs either below the American band or within it, and when I tune around, I’ve worked virtually everyone who is CQ’ing.  I keep hoping to hear some rare new ones, but have no such luck.  It’s 1211 local time and this is actually the worst Caribbean morning doldrums I have ever experienced – presumably the perils of going single band. 

So I end up taking off until 1650Z, when there is a EU pileup awaiting. I’m mostly running with the 4 el at 60 degrees, and at 1855Z VU3DMP calls in for Zone 22 and shortly thereafter ZM2RR in New Zealand on the same antenna.  At 2020Z I take a short break, have a bite to eat, then come back to work the U.S.  I’m at 3316/33/119 for 1.442M points.  The first JA shows up at 2130Z as usual.  I’m on 14172 for a while then get chased off there by QRM and end up at about 14252, again battling QRM, to run out the contest. Totals: 3852 (including dupes, 3724 without)/ 33/120/for 1.688M points, operating 30.2 hours. 

            I shower and shave and drive over to Crovelli’s to pick him up for our post-contest Tony Roma’s dinner.  We had agreed ahead of time that I should do ether driving since he will be working many more contest hours and not have the benefit of a decent night’s rest.   Neither Emily nor John Bayne show up, so it’s just the two of us.  John has actually beaten his last year’s score, ending up with 10.5M points.  Since there seemed to be a dearth of serious SOAB  HP entrants this year, it’s very likely that he has won the contest.  We don’t get back till after 11 p.m.

Monday, October 30, 2006.  I sleep until 7 a.m., one of the benefits of  a single-band entry being not needing to sleep till mid-morning.  I have a cuppa joe and check emails, and am dismayed to see that 5Z1A has reported in to the 3830 reflector with about 150k more points than I.  He had hundreds fewer QSOs, but worked 160 countries.  I am disappointed with my 120 countries, but don’t know how I would have possibly found 40 more.  In fact, as a single op, how did he? 

This would be a perfect beach, taking it easy, kind of day.  But I’m feeling the pressure of home ownership and the need to leave the station with functioning antennas for all 6 bands, so I decide to replace the 160m inverted vee antenna.  We don’t seem to have enough suitable wire in the garage, so I drive to several stores fruitlessly looking for suitable wire (which ideally would be the kind of insulated 14 gauge stranded wire available on 500-foot spools at Home Depot in the states).  I start at Codemsa, but they have nothing other than normal electrical wiring cables.  Then to Kooyman with same result (Kooyman is up the PriceSmart road from the Coast road, actually near the octagonal Banco di Caribe building near the DTZ), then to Kooyman Techniek, which has lots of electrical supplies, but no suitable wire (to get there from Kooyman, turn right at the Marathon Video onto 5B towards Santa Cruz, and it’s on the left).  Right across the street from Kooyman, by the way, is a large book store with books, magazines, and gift cards. 

I finally bought 300 feet of what I thought was the proper wire at the WEMA in Santa Cruz, for the seemingly expensive price of about $40.  When I got home, I found to my dismay that I had actually purchased a cable with four 22- or 24-gauge insulated conductors, which would be useless for a dipole (though Crovelli pointed out later that, doubled, it would make reasonable rotor cable).  Reduced to rummaging further in our store room, I eventually came up with some insulated 14-gauge flexible blue wire and some 16-gauge black wire (the latter of which was not long enough, so I had to splice in a bit of the other wire). 

To do the soldering of eyelets and the splicing, I set up a new plastic clamp/vise that I had bought on the white plastic table outdoors and used John’s huge soldering iron, which actually started to melt the table while resting on a little stand on the table.  The next problem was how to manage the dipole wires single-handedly from the tower, which is no simple task, especially since they need to be routed properly with respect to the guy wires.  What worked was to coil up each side on one of our orange reels, then attach the feed point end to the existing 160m dipole wire.  I then climbed the tower with the balun, and pulled up each leg of the dipole using the existing wires.  Unfortunately, I somehow managed to drop a wing nut from the balun on the way up, necessitating another trip up and down the tower, but eventually got it all worked out. 

One end of the dipole was run out to the cuncucu and anchored to a large rock, while the other attaches to the telephone pole using the black rope around the pole and the white line to the insulator.  I intentionally had cut the ends long, and the Palstar analyzer showed a resonance at 1620 kHz.  Several trips back and forth and shortening each end by about 16 feet raised  the resonance to 1830 kHz, and I finished the installation.

This work was all finished at about 5:30 pm. It took up the entire day, except for a visit with Chris, Andy, and Cindy to give presents and deal with finances.   I must say that this is the first trip where I have really felt constrained by my obligations as an owner.  When I arrived, the only fully working antennas were for 10 and 15; we are now back to operation on all six bands, but I haven’t gone to the beach once.
I had invited all the tower people to a celebratory dinner party, and Lissette was to make reservations at the Promenade in San Nicholas.  It was closed on Monday, however, and after some discussion I ended up making a reservation (in Spanish) at my favorite local restaurant, Marina Pirata (they are closed on Tuesdays).    We sat out on the deck right by the water for about two and a half hours, enjoying excellent food, drink, companionship and weather.  In fact, today was probably the best day for weather of all, with the temp in the low 80s and the humidity seemingly a bit lower than earlier.  Present were JP & Chris, Lisandro and Lissette, Raul, John, and I. 

I got home around 10:30 and verified that all antennas were working properly, as was the returned new Alpha 87A (with the old transformer in it).  Current state  of antennas:

  • 160:  Resonant at 1830 kHz. 
  • 80:  Cut for CW.
  • 40 -10: all working normally, except that the C31 is fixed north. 
  • Beverages. All three working well and showing good directionality.
  • Other:  Six meter yagi above the 10/15, not tested.  At the top of the tower there are now the 80m and 160m dipoles, plus a hank of rope and another coax feedline just taped to the horizontal support.  This is presumably the same feedline the other end of which is coiled up at the base of the tower.  It could be used for yet another dipole, say for 30m. 

I spent the next few hours packing up the old Alpha 87A for return, putting everything away, tidying up, putting the beverage feedlines outside (in a bag taped to the tower outside the shack), packing, etc.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006.  My plane was to leave at 9:00 a.m.  Somewhat traumatized by a dinner discussion emphasizing long delays at the airport (which I had never actually experienced before), we agreed that Chris would pick me up at 6:30 to get to the airport.  There actually were much longer delays than normal, mostly at the U.S. Customs security checkpoint, so I was glad for the extra time.  Otherwise, the flights back were uneventful, arriving in SFO (via MIA) at about 5 p.m., and catching a ride home on the South Bay Shuttle.  Packing the Alpha in its box inside the extra-large suitcase seemed to work fine, and didn’t arouse the interest of security or customs, though I did have to pay an extra $25 each way, because the suitcase was over 50 lbs. 

Soapbox, as sent to 3830 reflector:

  As usual, this operation was from the P40L-P49Y station (ex-P49V QTH) owned by John, W6LD, and myself.  Although the weather was excellent the whole week I was on there, and I managed to get lots of sun, this was the first trip in which all the sun was enjoyed while sweating in the backyard doing antenna work, with nary a trip to the beach the whole time.   When I arrived on the island on Tuesday, the station only had fully operational antennas for 10 and 15.  Our 4 el 20/2 el 40 had been taken down a few days earlier by Lisandro, P43L, and Jean-Pierre, P43A, and lay propped against the back fence.  The 40m driven element had loosened on the boom, tilted at an alarming angle and broken the coax, and the 20m reflector had literally dropped off! This antenna had lasted for seven years on Aruba, which is actually a pretty respectable service life.

Now, in addition to those maladies, the capacitance hat rods had corroded to unstable brittleness and the braid on the feedline had rusted away along the boom (due to a small hole that had been taped over at some point, but had admitted enough water to do the damage).  I spent the next few days repairing the antenna, then on Thursday night, it was raised — after sundown – in a truly heroic two-hour effort featuring JP and Lisandro on the tram, Raul, P43RC, and myself on the pull line, and John Crovelli, W2GD, in the wind and dark on top of the 55’ Rohn 45 tower. Friday morning I had to re-attach the 80m dipole, and then on Monday spent the entire day building and installing a new 160m inverted vee.  The old one had been made from copper stranded wire, and in some places its existence was literally “hanging by a thread”, i.e., with only one strand surviving the ravages of corrosion. 

As W2GD noted in his write-up, keeping a station going on an island is definitely not a plug and play experience.  In addition to helping us, John had a huge amount of maintenance to do on his own station, not even counting his usual installation of beverages and vee beams for 40/80.  This included replacing a 15m beam, half the boom of which had literally fallen off – and it was the top antenna above two others on a mast of dubious condition.  If he ends up winning the contest, he certainly deserves it.

As usual,  one of the highlights of contesting from Aruba is the opportunity to spend time with local hams and visiting contesters.  Both work and socializing was a pleasure with P43A (Jean-Pierre) and his wife P43C (Chris), P43L (Lisandro) and his wife Lissette, P43RC (Raul), and P40W (John - W2GD). 

The main lowlight is my usual after-the-fact feeling that I missed an awful lot of multipliers.  For example, I never even heard, or worked, ZS9X or zone 38, and similarly missed some other stations with large scores that should have been workable.  I’m somewhat mollified by noting that my mult totals are about the same as the nearby multi-ops PJ4E and PJ2T, but still it seems that a lot of DX was missed.  Anyway, thanks to everyone I did work for another exciting CQWW. 

Radios: IC-756 PRO 2, Alpha 86 amp
Antennas: Force 12 4 el 20, C31XR (fixed North)
Software:  CQPWIN, ver. 10.5

73, Andy, AE6Y, P49Y

Additional information

Station Needs:

  • Soldering.  We have a crummy RS iron, and John’s huge 120 watt iron.  We could use both a soldering gun (say 100 watts) for splicing wires etc., as well as a decent temperature controlled iron for electronic work. 
  • Dipole supplies.  Center baluns, end insulators, wire.
  • Small parts.  Organized nuts and bolts and washers in common sizes (at least 6, 8, 10)
  • Electrical tape and coax seal.  I packed 7 rolls of the former, but they somehow got lost and didn’t resurface until I was back home (strange, but true…)
  • Good utility knife ( I always bring my Swiss Army knife and find it incredibly useful)
  • Heil headphone replacement felts and windshield.
  • Coax jumpers (I used a 50-foot one for the replacement 40m feedline).
  • Beverage wire
  • Return JP’s FT-1000D to him (ALF has it at home)

New Equipment left:

  • Palstar ZM30 antenna analyzer.  This replaces the MFJ 259, which I have back at home, and worked very well.
  • Alpha 87A.  I left behind my newer unit, using the old xfmr, and brought back the old one for repairs.
  • MFJ power line noise sniffer (with 3 el beam).  Left in the closet, but not used.  Didn’t have any power line noise, probably due to the recent rains.