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AE6Y Nov. 2009 Aruba Trip Notes – CQWW CW Contest – P49Y

Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y
1/10/10 [Public Ver.]

Tuesday, November 25 - Wednesday, November 25, 2009.  My usual redeye to Miami, AA 272, leaving  SFO at 11:45 p.m. was full, though the terminal was not very crowded even in this Thanksgiving week.  Unlike in March, I didn’t have to unpack my backpack to show the TSA my K3 or the Begali Simplex I was also carrying (and not on the return either, this time).  Slept well on the plane, then got about another hour’s sleep in the Admirals’ Club in MIA,  and another hour or so on the plane to Aruba.  The latter flight was delayed due to rain in MIA, so I didn’t arrive there until about 4:00 p.m. local time.  Picked up my Hertz rental car, a Chevy Aveo economy car, and drove to the house. 

A quick look around verified that all the antennas looked OK, except for the lower wire of the 160, which had been detached (and even cut, per J-P) from the neighbor’s telephone pole and was coiled up at the base of the back tower.  [I reattached it the next day, using some light rope and a ladder to reach as high as I could.  The remaining length seemed about right, and the SWR did check out OK on the whole band.  Upon leaving, I untied it and coiled it back up at the tower.  To avoid future problems, future users should just attach it to the pole each time.  We used to have a simple hoisting mechanism at the pole involving a continuous loop of rope, but that has been removed, and I don’t see a need to replace it if we just tie it as high as possible each time, using the ladder stored in the garage.]

The house looks great, though the shack was not operational.  The shack was neat, but the prior operation had not restored the SO2R cabling.  All the pieces were there, but very little was attached.  Although this caused me some work in recabling everything, Ed later explained that they had done this intentionally, knowing that I was the next user and would set up my K3, etc., in my own fashion.  My concern, however, is that if we ended up with some other user (e.g., if I had had to cancel for some reason), they would have no idea how the shack should be set up.  My recommendation is that we ask that it always be left in its “normal” state as a fully functional two-Icom SO2R station, with headphones, key, and keyer all attached, so that any user can simply sit down and start operating the station as they find it. I left it that way, as I had in March.

The temperature was probably about 85 degrees, with some humidity.  The weather stayed fine for the whole trip, with little patches of rain here and there.  The island looked fairly dry, though it had obviously rained a bit that morning.  I called Lisandro, explaining that I would be eating in due to the extensive shack setup required, but that I’d like to come over and visit later in the evening.  Feeling a  bit lethargic after the overnight flight, I decided that I should go for a run (also because I basically had not done so for three weeks at home due to an extended cold). 

After putting on my running gear, I drove over to say hi to John Crovelli to see how he was coming on the massive tower and antenna rebuilding project that he’d been working on all week.  We had supplied three sections of our old Rohn 25 as well as the old C31XR to the project.  John was totally stressed out, having rebuilt the top three sections all by himself.  I stuck around a bit to help hoist the mast that he had already put in the middle of the tower.  He suggested eating at La Granja, and I said I intended to eat in – but he seemed so starved for human companionship that I relented and suggested we go there at 7:30.  I took my usual run on Spanns Lagoenweg from Marina Pirata to La Granja and back, feeling weak but enjoying the exercise. The road in front of Marina Pirata is newly paved, and there have also been extensive improvements made on the water side of the street, including new tables and thatched umbrellas, landscaping, etc.  The project is called Mangel Halto. 

Returning to the house, I plugged the modem and router into the power outlets in the master bedroom, and hooked the modem to the phone jack there.  It all seemed to initialize automatically, and my laptop immediately found its old friend Frostholm to make the internet connection.  John picked me up at 7:30, and we were the only customers at the restaurant.  The place seems in a bit of decine, but as usual my lomito and his steak were good, side dishes plentiful, and the whole not very expensive.  I then hooked up the radios.  Taking a break at about 9:15, I drove over to visit Lisandro and Lissette, staying for about an hour.  The main attraction is the C-130 model airplane that we had brought down for him in February, 2008.  By the time of my last visit in March, he had built the basic fuselage and wings, but this time he had all four electric motors installed powering the propellers.  They will be run by a special battery pack.  At my request, he started up one of them, and the propeller really pulled hard.  I could see that it actually might get off the ground.  He invited us to a model airplane convention in Curacao the first weekend in October 2010 (maybe operate CQP from there??). 

All antennas seemed to be working, after some fooling with the connectors and cycling the SixPak and StackMatch.  The beverages also seemed to be OK, so I was delighted never to have to tromp through the cunucu on this trip.  After checking in with Sandy and Holly in Portland, it was to bed at midnight.  My new iPhone works fine. It automatically syncs with the Setar 3G network, and the “international assist” feature puts a “1” automatically in front of U.S. numbers.

Thursday, November  26, 2009.  Woke up around 8 after a very sound sleep and wondered outside to hook up the lower leg of the 160 H-dipole, then headed off to Ling and Sons for groceries.  On the way, stopped to visit with Carl and Sue at their new place on Montana in the Noord district.  Their house seems about done, and there is a lot of aluminum in the air, including a four-element SteppIr and several side-mounted antennas on their three towers.  In the shack are two FT1000D stations, one with his new Alpha 8410 and one with an 86.  Leaving their house, I had a donut and coffee at the Dunkin Donuts at the roundabout by the Hunny Punny, on the theory that one should never shop on an empty stomach.  That theory failed this time, however, as I splurged on about $125 worth of groceries; much more than usual – I decided to pamper myself and buy more of everything than usual, just in case I had a sudden yen to pig out on only one kind of food during the contest.

Back home, I hooked up the amps, having to use the instruction book for the 86 and our folding inspection mirror kept in the shack tool cabinet to find the proper relay jack (the outside one, under the fan).  I set up the computer; as usual, all sorts of things didn’t initially work properly, but eventually got beaten into shape.  For example, my little switchbox that is useful for tuning up, suddenly stopped working.  I took it apart and checked what little there is inside with a VOM; there was nothing really wrong and cleaning off the output RCA plug seemed to restore normal functioning. 

Incidentally, the computer is hooked up in the usual fashion: laptop on the table at the left.  One USB to the Compaq 4-port expander.  External monitor plugged into the side.  Two serial ports to the rigs, Y-connector to mouse and keyboard, and USB relay box connecting only R1/R2. CW and PTT were by the WinKeyer, which was connected to another USB port. 

Spent about two hours in the afternoon helping Crovelli, along with Whitney Humphreys, his landlord’s son and a teacher of computers in Santa Cruz.  John had rebuilt our old C31XR in the morning, and we helped to pull it up alongside the tower to mount it on the mast.  This was a good three-person job, with John on the tower, Whitney pulling, and I pulling and loosening and tightening guy wires.  We would raise it to just below a guy, then John would affix a temporary rope guy below the antenna, and disconnect the permanent guy.  More pulling and the permanent guy would be reattached, and the process repeated for the second set of guys.  Of course, there was also a lot of jockeying of the antenna to get the various elements around the remaining guys.  But, amazingly, the job got done and John attached it to the mast, all in pretty high winds, BTW.  Nothing fazes him.

After another late afternoon run, I cleaned up and drove back to John’s, and he drove us to our 8 p.m. Thanksgiving dinner at the Radisson.  This was very convivial and fun; although the buffet was not nearly as lavish as at the Hyatt last year, the cost was only some $23 per person, versus $54 at the Hyatt, so the value quotient was certainly greater.  Present were Carl (P40V) and Sue (P40YL), Martin (P49MR), Chris (P43C) and JP (P43A), Lissette and Lisandro (P43L), Jackie (P43P) and Katrina and 7-year-old Jasmine, John and I.  Emily (P43E)  had been having an earlier dinner there with relatives, so it was nice to say hello to her again.

JP and Chris came over to the house afterwards, mainly so I could give Chris the Christmas present for Cindy that she had asked me to buy for her.  JP also picked up the vintage Yaesu microphone that I had brought down for him.  This looks like a commercial broadcasting mike, and complements his Yaesu collection nicely.

I got on the air briefly, mainly to verify that the 160 antenna was OK, and it seemed to work fine.  The band was noisy, even on the beverages but I did work a few EUs, and even a 4Z1 in Israel.  Had a nice EU pileup going on 80 as well, working about 25 countries in less than a half hour.  Then to bed a little after midnight.

Friday, November 27, 2009.  Up at 8:30 after a second good night of sleep (hope these will help me stay awake this weekend!) then to the Hyatt for a leisurely breakfast outdoors.  Since I was nearby, I stopped off for a visit with John Bayne (KK9A, P40A) and Leslie at their old house.  Thought it’s been sold, John can continue to use it for the time being on an occasional basis.  Back home, 15 sounded dead, so I ran some stations on 20, then made a curious discovery.  We have two power supplies (25 and 30 amps), for the rigs and a 7 amp supply for all the accessories.  However, they were hooked up wrong, so that the second radio was on the 7 amp supply and the accessories on the 30 amp supply. 

I decided to set up the second Icom Pro2 as a band scope for the K3, putting it next to the monitor (it works fine, just tuned to 8215 kHz).  I attached both Icom power cables together with wire nuts to a small piece of heavy wire found in the “wires” box in the second bedroom, plugging the other end of the solid wire into the power supply outputs (necessary because the outputs won’t physically accommodate more than one large cable).  This worked fine in the contest.  I generally napped and took it easy for the rest of the afternoon, including putting out candy and liquids (water, iced tea, Gatorade) and making a number of contest sandwiches (egg salad, tuna salad, peanut butter and jelly, cream cheese and jelly).

CQWW  CW Contest Saturday, November 28 - Sunday, November 29, 2009 – Contest notes more or less as dictated during the contest. 
Just before the contest, while warming up a frequency on 40, AB3CX says that my first character sent is being clipped.  I listen on the second radio and it sounds OK, But I check the K3 book and change the amp delay setting in the menu from the normal 8 msec to 15 msec.  It sounds OK, but as the contest starts, I note numerous guys sending their call after I  come back to them.  Again listening on the second radio, I can hear the clipping.  I start to use the footswitch, but think that will be a disaster for the whole contest.  I then have the bright idea of turning on the K3 VOX (even though I am using the PTT from Winkeyer) and that cures the problem.  This was very odd – not sure if it was just due to the Titan interfacing. Whew! 

I’ve been on 7053 since the start of the contest.  It’s now 0335Z and the current count is  675/57/19 (QSOs/countries/zones) on 40.  No second radio use, as the pileups have demanded full concentration.  A few minutes of mult hunting yields 6Y, EA8, E7 and YS: 4 more countries and two more zones.  I’m about to try 80, which is very noisy and I can only work the strongest EUs, guys like 9A1A and OK5W.  After about 40 minutes, I try 160, then return to 80, 50 minutes and about 105 Qs later [should have stayed longer on 160, in retrospect].  160 is very noisy, but 80 sounds much calmer than earlier and I can work more EUs.  4O3A moves me to 40 for a double mult (he later does the same on 15 and 20 – he’s clearly aggressively pursuing a mult total).  I do a little listening on 160 on the second radio, yielding two strong contacts: PJ2T and KV4FZ.  At 0725Z I’m falling asleep at the switch and will take a 9-minute break.  I’m trying to keep such breaks to 10 minutes or so to force more seat time.  Totals are 40:743/65/22, 80:64/40/13; 160:105/11/7.   First zone 25 on 40, JA3YDK, is at 0739Z, surprisingly early [I later work lots of them on both 40 and 80].  I bounce around 40 and 80 and occasionally 160 for the next few hours.

At 1116Z I’m about to depart the low bands, as 20 seems to be opening to Europe.  The low band totals for the first night are 40: 938/75/26, 80: 459/53/18; 160: 122/15/10 [but note that the 160 total is inflated because I accidentally logged “SSTO” when attempting to send a “STO” command to store the K3’s frequency and power, and CQPWIN unfortunately thinks this is SU in Zone 34!].  160 is very disappointing due to high noise.  80 got much better towards morning, and just got AH2 and VK2 for double mults on 40 but haven’t heard any ZLs. 

Well, it’s 1716Z, taking a brief break, at 2518 qsos, after a very nice run on 15 at good rate (best clock hour is 206 in the 1400Z hour).  On 15, I have 741/52/18,  while the 20 count is 258/40/12.  I decided to spend as much time on 15 as possible, since I don’t know how long it will be open and I can always go back to 20.  I’m starting to hear a few stations on 10, so want to go there next.  I’ve been using the K3 and Titan on 15, using both the C31XR pointing ENE and the regular 5 el. 15 yagi pointing roughly north.  I want to do the same on 10, or I’d switch to the Icom/Alpha pair to give the Titan a rest.  I quickly get 8 countries and 5 zones on 10, lots of New England zone 5 but no zones 4 or 3 for the rest of the US.  KC1XX becomes my first 6-band contest partner.  Finally get a VE3 for zone 4.  Decide to leave 10 at 1809Z on the reasoning that it’s an inefficient way to run the US, and I’m picking up  multipliers very slowly with this propagation: only at  76/14/8 on 10. 

At 2045Z, it seems that the big switch has just been thrown on 15, slowing it down completely after a few hours of nice rate running the U.S. (1900Z hour is 189).  Now at 1208/63/23 on that band.  20 plays well (195 Qs in the 2100Z hour).  Ending a 20 meter run at about 2300Z, I go mult hunting, finding a few good ones like Alaska/Zone 1, FM5, CX, now at 661/61/21 on 20.   At 2314Z, switching to 40 after a few minutes hiatus, I’m close to my target of working 3500 contacts in the first 24 hours. It’s going to be a long night as the lower bands are very noisy.  Just CQing on 40, I could barely hear anything at all.  At the half-way point, I’m at 3521/284/107 for 4.09M points.  The 2300Z hour is my slowest of the entire contest, just 76 QSOs (and only 77 in the next hour).

Later, I’m getting decent rate (100 plus per hour) on 40, and it seems a bit quieter than earlier. 160 condx are better tonight. I just worked Denmark, and have heard other EUs.  But the amp is acting up.  It suddenly cuts back power from a kilowatt to almost nothing. I think it must be the antenna, and even go outside with a flashlight to verify that the lower wire is still connected.  It’s 0307Z and I’ve had a nice run on 80,  just worked HC8GR on 40, having got their freq from the HC8GR station on 160.  [Note: leaving 160 is my big mistake of the contest.  After the contest, I find that the 160m coax connector is loose at the SixPak, even though I was sure I had checked it before the contest.  I think that is all that was wrong.  Had I worked another 10-20 or more mults on 160, I would have move up from 7th to 6th place in the claimed standings, ahead of ZS4TX.  Because the 160 had a very broad resonance, Crovelli had put in my mind the idea that there might be something wrong with the coax, so when I started having the amp problems, I just assumed the coax or antenna was malfunctioning.  This was a major failure of a tired operator.  Fortunately, I think this was my only major strategy mistake of the contest.]

At 0505Z, I’m again falling asleep and taking a brief break.  Have been on 40 for the last almost two hours and it’s been quite productive.  OK, it’s 0611Z and I can no longer remember what the knobs and computer keyboard do, I’m making mistakes and wasting time and no longer know what’s going on, so it’s time for a nap (even though the rate on 40 in the 0500Z hour was 105, which is pretty good for the middle of Saturday night).  I’m at  4221/317/112 and 5.27M points.  40 is now up to 1460/88/29. 

At a little before 0900Z I’m back on the air after a very refreshing nap, actually lying down on the bed, and have a spent some time on 40 and had a long run  on 80, including numerous JAs.  Surprisingly, I don’t feel nearly as wretched and miserable as I have in the past after these naps; not sure why, but I certainly feel better than in past contests.  At about 1015Z, I hear K5ZD ask V26K on 80 to move to 160.  I follow him there and make the Q on 160 barefoot, then ask V26K to QSY to 40, which he does for a double mult.

At 1117Z, I’m at 80: 756/72/20, 40:1577/91/29.  I can hear the big EUs now on 20, so it’s time to abandon the low bands again.  A weird experience at about 1337Z, I’ve been on 14030 for the last two hours but get chased off by HK3TU, who is quite loud. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he can’t hear me so well since I’m beaming north.  (I do work him for a mult a half an hour later on the second radio on 14030, where he still is – guess it’s a good frequency.)  But it’s very annoying, so I’ll check 15.  I’ve not been moving many guys, but do have a successful double mult move of VU2PAI (India, zone 22) from 15 to 20 at 1437Z.  That was right after ST2AR called in from zone 34 on 15, but said he couldn’t move because he is single band.  15 is now at 1322/70/25, and 20 at 925/72/25 so they are both coming up a little bit.

I’ve been watching the sky darken and at about 1730Z there is a brief, violent rain squall which causes some rain static on 20 in the middle of a very nice run of mostly U.S. but also some EU zones 14 and 15. I keep getting ready to leave, but there seems to be a steady stream of callers at a rate of 130-150, not bad for the second day.  I’m listening to 10 on the second radio, and move there at 1824Z for about 25 minutes and 56 Qs.  It would be fun to do some DXing on 10, but again it doesn't seem to be very efficient, so back to 15 for a while mostly running U.S. (180 in the 1900Z hour). Mostly U.S. on 20 in the 20-22 hours, but suddenly at 2037Z, ZL2BR calls in on 20.  I turn the antenna west but don’t hear any other Oceanic stations – then a few minutes later TX3A calls in weakly from Chesterfield Island in zone 30, at the tail end of their very successful two-man DX-expedition.  I also work several new mults on 15 on the second radio.   

20 suddenly dries up with about an hour to go in the contest.  I go to 40 and have instant bedlam.  See the soapbox below for a description of what the last hour felt like to a confused, tired guy. 

I don’t feel too bad after the contest, and a shower and shave rejuvenate me.  Drive off to pick up John, and we join Carl and Sue at Don Carlos in Oranjestad for a post-contest dinner. The place is just about deserted.  The food is good, with the usual annoying and intrusive waiter/owner there. To bed at about 11 to sleep the sleep of the damned.

Monday, November 30, 2009.  After a few welcome cups of coffee, I checked the resonance of the 160 with the Palstar ZM30 antenna analyzer, and it does seem to have a dip around 1840 as it should.  That’s when I noticed that the connector wasn’t screwed in properly to the SixPak.  Argghh!  This was particularly annoying since I had thought about that exact problem and had hand-checked all the coax connections before the contest, but must have been fooled by one that seemed tight but was probably slightly cocked and not making good contact.  I strongly suspect that was the only 160 problem, but in my confused state Saturday night I jumped to the wrong conclusion that the 160 antenna wasn’t working, thus leaving many potential mults on the table.  Anyway, I untied the rope at the power pole and coiled up the lower leg of the 160 with its rope on the back tower, so the next user just has to run it out to the pole again.

BTW, the Palstar is a bit corroded, and the batteries seem to be dead.  I was going to bring it home, but coincidentally JP asked to borrow it.  I left it for him on the coffee table with the proviso that he had to get the batteries out and clean it up – he agreed.

I visited for a while with Chris and the kids, JP still being at work, and we went over finances, etc.  I admired the tower work JP did on his recent vacation, moving one of his stainless towers about eight feet further from the house so it could be guyed better.  This involved pouring a new concrete base and constructing three new concrete elevated anchors.  Most impressive, as was Chris’s painting of the house in white with a very nice lime green pastel accent color.  Stopped off to say goodbye to Crovelli, then for a late afternoon run at Savaneta.  I did something I’ve never done before, and that is to go swimming there – at the second turnout past Marina Pirata there is a wooden staircase down to the water. There is no beach, but the rocks are easily navigable.  It was absolutely delightful, floating in the clean warm water, watching the sun set in one direction and the full moon rise in the other.  It’s swimming with Tevas on, but out past 20 feet or so there is a nice sandy bottom, and the water isn’t deep.  Dinner was leftover contest sandwiches.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009.  An uneventful trip back, including lugging a suitcase with Carl’s Alpha 86 to be sent to Alpha for repairs.  Spent many hours talking radio with Tom, W2SC, whom I met in the Admiral’s Club in MIA, and who was my seatmate on the return flight.  First class, no less (wanting to use up AA miles), so lots of good food also.  The HC8GR contingent was on the same plane: W2VJN, W6RGG, N5KO, W6NL, K6BL, so we spent a while chatting contest in the departure lounge at MIA. 

Soapbox, as sent to 3830 reflector. 

(Note that score and countries count is approximate.  Some recent improvements in my software made it forget that most KG4s aren't Guantanamo and that NP3D/W2 isn't interesting DX, so will have to make a few corrections)

This was only my second all band effort in CQWW CW (the first being in 2006, when I finished ninth in the world but only third on Aruba, behind N6AA and W2GD!), and I had psyched myself up for a major effort in staying awake.  Last two years were 40m SB, which is a comparatively civilized way to do this contest. I felt pretty good for most of the contest, although with occasional falling asleep-at-the-switch episodes, but at about 0600Z Sunday, I was becoming totally uncoordinated and confused, so I took about a two-hour nap which turned out to be just what was needed.  No major hallucinations, though in the very last hour of the contest, as things were drying up on 20, I QSYed to 40 and had an instant pileup.  I was convinced that I was in a large room full of Europeans, who were yelling at me for intruding, and were ready to start a fight with the W/Ks who started calling.  I somehow managed to make 122 very befuddled QSOs in that last hour, but I was sure that I was about to end up in some sort of knife fight with the EUs! 

Low points:  (1) A stupid operator error could cost me in the standings.  We have a not-terribly good vertical H-Dipole for transmitting on 160 (in contrast to our receiving beverages, which work great on 160-80-40).  The lower leg had been reported as removed some time ago.  It runs to a neighbor's telephone pole and apparently got in the way of the garbage trucks.  I reattached it, and the antenna seemed pretty flat on most of the band. W2GD convinced me the coax might be failing, but it did seem to work, so I used it as is.  Then during the contest, the Titan starting faulting on that band intermittently.  I had convinced myself there was a major problem, so I did only a minor effort on 160 (one and a half hours in all).  I couldn't think of anything to do Saturday night, even though I could hear some EUs. Anyway, after the contest, it seemed that the connector was loose at the Six-Pak!  Although I had checked them all before the contest, I must have made a mistake on that one.  I suspect I could easily have worked a number of additional mults, if I hadn't been so ready to believe there was a major problem.

(2) I was very concentrated on QSO rates, so I did very little hunting for mults, though I did get some on the second radio.  I had a goal of 6000 contacts (which I barely made if you count dupes), but undoubtedly left some easy mults on the table.  But since one mult is worth about 10 or so QSOs in this contest, I decided, for example to go back to 15 on Sunday afternoon for a higher rate, rather than stay on 10 in the hope that some odd mults would appear.  I may have overdone this.

High points: (1) Some very good hours on 15, 20, and at the start, on 40. Also, the odd experience of running JAs on 80 Sunday morning.  But what has happened to the old JA discipline?  It used to be that if you sent JR1? and there was a JF1 calling, he wouldn't reply.  Now the whole JA pileup seems to keep calling.  Has there been a general deterioration in Japanese society, or are the contesters just more aggressive now?
(2) Being able to stay up for just about the whole contest, and feeling OK at the end for our usual Aruban post-contest dinner.
(3) As always, the K3 is an excellent run radio and insulates you very well from adjacent QRM.  To help its second-radio capabilities, I hooked its IF output to our second 756 Pro2 and used that as an effective but expensive band scope (an idea from W0YK). 
(4) The usual Aruban social calendar, which included a Thanksgiving dinner with P40V (Carl, AI6V) and P40YL (Sue, AI6YL), P43L (Lisandro) and Lissette, P43P (Jackie) and Katrina and Jasmine, P43A (Jean-Pierre) and P43C (Chris), P43E (Emily), P49MR (Martin), and P40W (John, W2GD); and a nice visit with P40A (John, KK9A) and Leslie.  This is such a nice place! (License plate logo: One Happy Island).

Thanks to everyone for the QSOs, especially some weak stations that had to wait patiently in pileups. Some of these were very nice mults, e.g., TX3, HL2, CE0Y, and are much appreciated.

Rig: Elecraft K3, Icom 756 Pro2, Alpha 86, Ten-Tec Titan
Ant: F12: 1 el 80, 2 el 40, 4 el 20, 5 el 15, 2 el 10; C31XR. 160 H-dipole. Beverages.
Software: CQPWIN ver. 11.5

Here are some comparative scores:


P49Y 2009 HP

P49Y 2006 HP

P40T 2006 HP

P40W 2006 HP









































[The claimed score is in 7th place worldwide, but first place in South America.  All higher claimed scores are from Africa or North America.]