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AE6Y Nov. 2012 Aruba Trip Notes – CQWW CW Contest – P49Y SOABLP

Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y
11/28/12 [Public Ver.]

Tuesday, November 20 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012.  My usual AA red-eye to MIA from SFO, left about a half hour late at 9:30 p.m. but otherwise was completely uneventful. I did have to take the K3 out of the backpack at SFO for the first time this year. The shortened P3 in my computer bag aroused no suspicion. After the usual 5-hour layover at the Admiral’s Club at gate D30, arrived in Aruba on time at 2:40 p.m. and breezed through customs, luggage was there already, picked up a Hertz Nissan Versa, and arrived at the cottage shortly after 3 p.m. Note that they are doing major traffic work at the airport. Strangely, they seem to be replacing the traffic light at the entrance with a gigantic three-lane roundabout. There is also now a very small temporary roundabout just south of the airport, so we have to be careful in specifying directions that our roundabout at Pos Chiquito may not be the first one encountered (it’s safe to describe it as being about 6.5 km from the airport).  

The house looks great as usual – thanks, Chris. Upon arrival, the shack was set up with our K3 as the left radio, no right radio, the 91B on the left and our “new” 86 on the right. The 87A and the “old” 86 are in the closet in the MBR. I put my K3 on the left and the shack K3 on the right. Initially, the right radio gave high SWR on all antennas. This was cured by jiggling the right-angle coax connector at the back of the 86 (which I later removed when I left the shack). Also the DXDoubler wouldn’t activate Radio 2 when using the front panel switch. I noticed the indicator light was a little dim; curiously this had also happened at K6TA’s for CQP last month, and the cure was the same: reseat the Anderson PPs in the RigRunner box to increase input voltage.

I also hooked up the internet connection and telephones, which Ed has organized and greatly improved. The modem is now in the master bedroom. The drill is as follows, following the directions that Ed had left for us: (1) Connect DSL cable in BR to the side of the black connector hanging from the modem (not the end slot). (2) Plug in modem. Four green lights should come on. (3) Plug in router in shack. (4) In dining room, connect phone cord to the phone jack on the wall. Worked without a hitch all week. But note that our old answering machine has apparently given up the ghost (actually the problem may be the batteries for the remotes), so we now have a standard Setar phone without an answering machine – we should get a new one, as people kept telling me they had called but hadn’t been able either to reach me or to leave a message.

The 160m horizontal bottom leg of the vertical dipole has to be rolled out each trip. It was neatly coiled on the tower. I put on my long pants and hiking boots and took the bush trimmer, knife and tape, and ventured out to extend it. It goes to a thorn tree in an obvious location more or less under the upper leg. There is a bent metal pole near the tree that can also partly support it, and I also propped it up about 30 feet from our back fence on a wooden pole with a nail in it that seemed ideal for the purpose. James and Esther seem to be planting a small tree farm out there, but fortunately nothing tall enough to interfere. After my usual late afternoon run at Savaneta (feeling reasonably good this time), a shave and shower, I drove off to meet John Crovelli at B55 for an 8 p.m. dinner, arranged when I had stopped over at his house on the way to run. Although as usual for dinner there were only a handful of other diners, they seemed to have good fresh food; don’t know how they do it, but apparently they survive on a massive tour bus lunch trade.

I finished the radio setup, with two K3s initially. The computer was hooked up to run the whole contest from one USB port, using all four USB connectors in the Compaq 4-port expander: external keyboard and mouse to USB dongle, rig control for each radio to USB-to-2 serial port converter, USB relay box to Radio1/2 input on DXD, USB to Winkeyer (for keying and PTT). External monitor attached. Got on the air for a while, low power (actually never turned on the amps at all for the entire trip, with one disastrous exception related below). Twenty was open around the world. Between roughly 10 and 10:30 local time, I was called by KH6 in Hawaii, 6V7 in Senegal, two VU2s in India and a bunch of US stations. Then ran a few stations on 160, all US, but mainly to check that the beverages were hearing the stations that PJ2T, PJ4/K4BAI, P4/R5GA and P40W were hearing. Off and on I’ve been reading Dick Fitchen’s book, “The American Covenant”, which I finished on Friday. To bed, very tired, at about 11.

Thursday, November 22, 2012. A good night’s sleep till about 7 a.m., then some coffee, using leftover ground coffee in the freezer, and for a snack breakfast I broke into my “emergency” M&Ms that I always travel with. 10m was wide open to EU, and there was a very satisfying pileup, but after about 20 minutes I had to leave to go shopping at Ling & Sons, as I had promised John to help with his antenna work at 10 a.m. To try to avoid the trap of shopping on an empty stomach, I had a doughnut at the Dunkin Donuts at the Noord turnoff, but nonetheless overindulged to the tune of $133 at the store. Then to John’s for about 2 ½ hours stomping around in the cunucu helping him put up his wire beams (4 el 40, 2 el 80), hung from the catenary between his two towers, the southerly one of which he had rebuilt in the last week and surmounted with a C3. His cunucu is much more user-friendly after his host, Humphrey, had the shrubbery bulldozed. The area between the towers looks more like a field than its former jungle. John treated me to an air-conditioned lunch at the Santa Cruz Subway, then back home a little before 2.

Played radio for a while on 15 and 10, also experimenting with running without filters. In an attempt to squeeze the last watt through the feed lines up to the antennas, I bypassed both amps with coax unions. The high power filters seem to make no difference, so I cut them out for the rest of the trip, just connecting the antenna coaxes to the SixPak as previously. The low power FilterMaxes do help a bit, but don’t eliminate the problem. The only noticeable interference is from 80 to 40, from 40 to 20 and from 20 to 10, but in no case is it disabling (at least barefoot). I wonder if we should try some ferrites on radio leads, as I noticed the pilot light on the RigRunner mounted on the wall below the window was blinking as I keyed the right radio on 15. I compromised by leaving the low power filters in line on the right radio, but not the left radio, since that would be the run radio generally.

Another late afternoon run, about a minute faster than yesterday, then back to cool off and read some more of Dick’s book. After a shower and shave, off to pick up John for Thanksgiving dinner. We stopped at Carl and Sue’s to get Val (Valery Petrov, R5GA, P40F in the contest), who is staying there for the second year. It was clear talking to him and to John, that both of them are wrapped up in a personal competition. Last year John beat him on mults, though Val had 500 or so more contacts. Val has clearly been analyzing the situation and is changing his strategy. Val seems to be in his late 30s and is divorced with an 8-year-old son. He works in IT for an Italian company in Russia, and speaks adequate English, but is not fluent enough to enjoy dinner table conversation.

In previous years the Radisson hotel Thanksgiving buffet had been inside/outside at the Laguna Restaurant in a pleasant ambiance. Unfortunately, they had a lot more people this year, so it was moved indoors to a ballroom, in a much less gemutlich setting. Also noisier. We had seven at our table: John, Val, Chris and JP, Lisandro and Lissette, and myself. Our reservation was at 7:30, and we ended up closing the place down. Unfortunately, the buffet also got worn out, and by the time we wanted dessert, the dessert buffet was mostly gone. In fact, a slightly drunken guy came by to ask how everything was, and I complained that there was no stuffing, whereupon he brought some, but it wasn’t very good. Later he asked again and I again complained that there was no pumpkin pie (just little squares of some kind of pumpkin tart). He returned ten minutes later with two large slices of pecan pie a la mode, and even entertained us with a magic trick (making a lit cigarette disappear into a dinner napkin). He said he didn’t know why he was a chef, since he didn’t know how to cook, but they made him a chef anyway. Apparently he is a TV chef personality on Aruba, recognized by our Aruban companions. It was $33 per person, which is not a bad price, but I vote to go elsewhere in the future.

Friday, November 23, 2012.  John had asked that we meet for breakfast at Huchada’s at 8 to make sure he got up on time. I was there and had finished my ham and cheese sandwich and coffee when he rolled in a half hour late, explaining that he had overslept due to spending four hours last night trying to fix his amp. He had borrowed Jackie’s (P43P) Acom 2000a, which had worked earlier in the week, but when he turned it on last night it would immediately turn itself off. He couldn’t repair it, but sent off various emails, etc. I offered to lend him one of ours. I also had brought at his request our green bin full of extension cords and three TV dinners that were in the freezer, presumably a relic of his visit to the cottage last month for the multi-op with John, W6LD, and JP.

John came by about noon to pick up our old 86 (i.e., the original one bought in 2003 from Carl and now stored in the MBR closet). We tested it by hooking it up to the right radio, and it worked fine on all bands. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until later that in doing so I had apparently blown out the front end of my K3 set in the left position (recall I had decided to run it without filters, and I suspect that when I left it on while testing the amp, too much RF got into it, perhaps from the joint 10/15 antenna). Pretty stupid, and an example of “no good deed goes unpunished.” Anyway, the work-around was to move the shack K3 to the left position and put one of our Icom 756 Pro2s in the right position. Fortunately, we have all the cables to do so in a plastic bag in the MBR closet on top of the FT1000D, so it wasn’t too bad. However, I didn’t even try to get the BandMaster to recognize the Icom, since I had failed to do so in May and John Fore had similarly failed in October – so band switching for that radio required manual FilterMax and SixPak switching. Not very difficult, but not automatic either.

My usual pre-contest run at 4 p.m. was a hot one. Coming back and parking the car in the garage, I felt as though all my blood had pooled in my feet, and actually had to lie down on the ground for a few minutes to recover my equilibrium. Finishing “Covenant People,” I sent an email to Patti Fitchen (not having Dick’s address), telling them how much I enjoyed it. I took the usual pre-contest shower, napped for about an hour, ate a light dinner (crab sandwich from Lings and sweets), set out contest food, and waited nervously for the first hit of the game.

CQWW  CW Contest Saturday, November 24 - Sunday, November 25, 2012 – Contest notes more or less as dictated during the contest. [I had decided to go Low Power. My overall strategy was to maximize points by going for rate wherever possible. This meant minimizing time on 80 and 160, maximizing time on 10 and 15, and not taking time to tune around for mults but trying to find mults on the second radio on one band while always running on another band. I think the strategy was good, but as always, am amazed after the contest by what I missed. It takes discipline to keep using the second radio, particularly since often pileups demand full concentration, and later in the contest tiredness makes it tough. Also, turning the antennas more would help, as more mults might have called in if I had aimed the antennas south occasionally (either SA or Asia long path at night). For example, amazingly, I worked not a single Zone 12 (Chile), though apparently many were active.]

I start out on 20 working mostly US and JA, with some EU on 40 on the second radio. Switch to 40 after about 40 minutes and have two good clock hours in 01 and 02 (190 and 204) running on 7058. To 80 for 98 Qs in the 03 hour after some tries on 160. First move of the contest is VE2EKA from 80 to 160 at 0423Z (zone 2). I take a very short break at 0430Z. I’m at 20: 74/10/11; 40: 475/47/11; 80: 160/27/11; 160: 24/9/7. Haven’t been able to get anything going by CQing on 160, but have worked a few by search and pounce. P40W and I take alternate hours on 160, and I let him have his favorite 0200 hour (i.e., he gets the even hours on Friday), during which I suspect he got lots of calls from guys just looking for a mult and who then do not need to call a weaker station later. 80 had a difficult pileup at first. Not many EUs, even though they are loud. 40 has been hot, and I’ll go back to that now. 20 is still open to EU, and also gives zone 1(KL7KY) and 30 (VK4CT), but I think I should concentrate on the low bands as much as possible. A move of GW3KDB from 40 to 80 at 0838.

It’s 0952Z. Things have slowed down and I’m having my usual Friday night sleepiness. Totals are 20: 191/33/19; 40: 799/67/20; 80: 313/42/15; 160: 40/14/8. Overall: 1343 Qs by 218 mults for 857k points. No one answers CQs on 160. The second radio has been very useful for finding mults, but this is definitely low power. At 1024Z I break down and make some coffee. Dawn is just peering in the window. 15 is open, but I’d rather go to 10 if it is open, and it is, starting at 1141Z. Massive pileup on 10 finally worked down after 100 Qs, 26 countries in 7 zones, mostly eastern Europe. At 1415Z, P40F moves me from 10 to 15 and 20. It’s 1452Z and I’m having a great run on 10. The total of 555/41/9 (particularly the low number of zones) shows that the propagation is very focused. I’m going down to 15 for a while to spread things out. I want to switch back and forth to try to not miss openings. Time for a small food break. Ten has been a bottomless pit of callers. At 1812Z, TI2OY obligingly moves from my run freq of 28055 to 14100 and 21100 for a double move (I should have done more of this with Caribbean stns). In the same hour, Eric, VY1EI moves to 15 for zone 1 mult and VO2TM from 15 to 10 to 20 for Zone 2. In the 19 hour (a nice 195 hour almost all on 10), AH7C moves to 20 (probably not really necessary, as KH6s are very evident later) as does CX7TT.

At 2028Z, now at 3022 by 273/106. 10: 994/51/19; 15: 543/53/18; 20: 202/42/24. I haven’t spent much time on 20, but having been moving mults there. At 2117Z I’m on 21031. I hear NP4Z on 14068 in the second radio and ask him to QSY to 15 and 10, and he obligingly does so. I’ve been asking XEs (zone 6) to move with negative responses, but at 2131Z, XE2MX does move from 15 to 14111 for me. I hear Yngvi, TF4X on 7060 on the second radio for zone 40. I call CR2X on 20 on the second radio, and he immediately moves me to 7125 and 3566 (note this is before my sunset). I spend most of the next three hours (22, 23, 00) on 20 working mostly US, with many JAs and a smattering of others, e.g. several Chinese zone 24 stns. At 0002Z, YV8AD moves from 20 to 15.  

At the halfway point, 0000Z, 3580 by 294/114 for just under 4.3M points. By the usual rule of thumb of doubling the score and adding 10%, my final score should be about 9.4M points. I’ve been running on 20 for quite a while now, at 10: 996/52/20; 15: 761/60/22; 20: 537/52/26; 40: 899/72/22 and 80 and 160 are unchanged. I’m getting tired and hungry but this is a lot of fun, so I’m going to stay on 20 for a while if I can. Just as on Wednesday night, at 0218Z (2218 local time) a VU2 called on 20 for zone 22 and a little later UA0YAY called with zone 23! After being QRMd by a zone 24 Chinese station, I tune up the band a bit and hear D4C calling CQ. I ask him to QSY to 160, he gives me a frequency, and the QSO is easy (got him on 6 bands ultimately). I decide to CQ on 160 and work 67 Qs in about 50 minutes, all CQing at 28 wpm. Only two EUs, DJ4AX in zone 14 and RZ4HO in zone 16, but both quite readable. I tried partly successfully to move W6YI to 160 as I still needed zone 3. I heard him weakly but go no confirmation, but shortly thereafter W6RJ gave me that zone (and later I got some others).

Things are very slow and I’m having a lot of trouble staying awake, so I decide to hit the sack at 0508Z (1:08 a.m. local time). I take a quick shower; although it’s unpleasant in the tepid water at this time of night, I know it will be worse in a few hours. Elapsed contest time is 28:51, totals are 4179 by 313/125. 10: 996/52/20; 15: 762/61/22; 20: 864/59/31; 40: 1060/75/22; 80: 383/46/17; 160: 114/20/13. Score is 5,375,000 points.

At 0835Z, after a three-hour nap in bed and some breakfast, I’m ready to reenter the fray. At 1028Z I’ve run out of things to do. I get no answers on any band. On 160 all I hear are PJ2T and HK1NA. 80 is very noisy. I had a nice JA run on 40 but it seems to have dried up. Did move 9Y4 and TF4X from 40 to 80. I hear JA3YBK CQing weakly on 80, but he can’t hear me – not surprising given what I assume is a huge power differential.

Starting on 15 at 1101Z, it takes 49 minutes to work down the pileup, mostly Russians but also western EUs. Also get called by MD2C on 15 and make a double move to 10 and 20, then lose my run freq. It’s pretty easy in this contest to get a new run freq, so I’m not so worried about losing one. I’m chased off my 10m freq by 4Z4DX who opens up just above me, so I move after working him for a new mult. I try unsuccessfully to move 4U1ITU from 10 to 15 --not sure what went wrong. At 1413Z I’m completely losing focus, so I take a 15 minute power nap in the chair, waking after only 10 minutes due to the very loud sound of a “goose drownder” (rain pounding on our metal roof), and surprisingly feeling refreshed. I walk around a bit, have an apple and start again. Although this seemed to be just a heavy squall, it actually rains, with serious winds, off and on all day. This is a great day to be indoors on Aruba.

The rest of the afternoon is spent bouncing around between 10 and 15, until heading for 20 at about 2110Z. I spend about 4 mins on the second radio busting the pileup on ZD8W on 15 (power would definitely help here). I listen for a while to V26K on 21025 while running on 20. Eventually his large pileup diminishes enough for me to call him (he’s quite weak). TF2CW, Siggi, calls on 10 and we move to 20 -- turns out later he is actually a SB 20! I have a very good run on 40 for the last hour and a half or so, after moving from band to band to find a good run band. In the last 20 min the score breaks 9M (it’s actually about 200k above indicated, due to some mults not being scored properly). A65BR gives a nice double mult at 2354Z. The contest mercifully ends a few minutes later.

 I take a shower and shave, then drive over to get John. We stop at Val’s, where he was just about to go to sleep, but we drag him off to a 3-man post-contest dinner at Tony Romas. Salad and baby back ribs make a nice contrast to my mostly junk food diet of the last two days. To bed at around 11:30. 

Monday, November 26, 2012.  Wakened at 7:30 by another storm pounding the house, but managed to go back to sleep until 8:45 or so. It’s sunshiny out, so the storm hopefully is just another passing squall. I felt very logy, but coffee and Tylenol help, and I slowly returned to normal. Spent the morning disconnecting radios and tidying up the shack, also reading 3830 reports from other contesters and composing and posting my own. In general, scores appear to be down a bit from last year.

By prearrangement I met Lissette and her sister Angeline and brother-in-law Ryan at her house to see a house that they inherited in Meiveld and are trying to sell to avoid foreclosure. It’s not far from Emily’s (P43E). It’s a pretty large house on 1300 meters of land (i.e., about 13,000 square feet). A second story contains just a loft. There are two bedrooms, a large living room/family/dining room on the main floor, and a kitchen with an island. Also some odd features, including a large room where auto parts were sold. A garage in back has a race car (some kind of stock car) and a red 1974 L82 Corvette, of all things. One neighbor is a Chinese market, with houses on the other side. The place needs some fixing up, as it appears not to have had recent maintenance and has some obvious signs of water damage. I said I didn’t know of anyone in the market at this time, but would mention it to club members.

Back home to read email and operate a bit on 15 phone (not logging contacts, however) using the Elecraft hand mike. Both US and EU. Back out into the cunucu to roll up and tie off the 160m antenna (the support pole near the fence seemingly had been propped up with some loose rocks – I don’t remember doing that, so if the neighbors did so that was truly a neighborly thing to do). I also walked the beverage feed lines, just to be out in the sun, doing some bush trimming as I went. My admiration for the beverage installers (primarily W6LD and KX7M) continues to be unbounded. The feed line for one of the beverages (I think the EW one) heads off to the left at some point, and I never actually reached its actual feed point, due to the undergrowth. Since I was already hot and sweaty, it was time to head off to Savaneta for a run in the afternoon sun and a ritual swim in my “private” swimming hole near Marina Pirata.

At about 6, I visited Chris and JP to chat with them, see the kids, and discuss finances. We sat outside on their porch in a very pleasant temperature, then John and I had a relatively light dinner at B55.

Final packing, including putting the P3 in my suitcase, buffered with dirty clothes. I left the K3 set up as the left radio, with the right radio slot vacant. I also hooked up an Elecraft hand mic that I left there and the N0SA paddle and Logikit keyer, so that the station is ready for phone and CW. Note that to use the mic, you must go into the Mic Menu item and set it to Fp.H (front panel high, tapping key “1” for the high) and tap key “2” to turn on bias.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009. 

Contest Report, as sent to 3830 reflector. 

Class: SOAB LP
QTH: Aruba
Operating Time (hrs): 44
Radios: SO2R

  With Aruba to be well represented in the HP ranks (P40F-R5GA and P40W-W2GD), I thought I would do something different. SB was a possibility, but 15 and 10 are usually dominated by more southern stations, I have already done 40 twice, and 20 seemed like it might be a bit of an orphan this year, assuming condx were going to be good for the high bands, so the relative simplicity of LP was the decision. In general, it was fun, though I certainly could have used an extra 10-13 dB on occasions when trying to get through pileups for a mult on the second radio, and also on 160. On that band, with our excellent beverages I was in the annoying position of hearing stations that I just couldn't work, and it was quite frustrating.

The score and mult totals are a bit approximate, as I need to train my software to deal better with certain calls (e.g., VP2V/AA7V it thought was in the US, though if the order had been reversed it would have known better), and also using a CTY.DAT file from 2009 was a little foolish, since it missed PJ4 and PJ7 as separate countries....

My personal K3 suffered its first injury in 5 years, due to pilot error. I forgot that I had bypassed our external filters in an attempt to push every possible watt into the antennas. Unfortunately in testing an Alpha 86 that I lent to P40W, I accidentally left the K3 on while using the amp with the second radio (and a shared antenna), with the result that receive is now dead, and it needs some ministrations from Elecraft. Fortunately, the shack K3 worked fine, as did a spare Pro2 for a second radio. I must say that the K3 is really an amazing CW run radio. Unless someone nearby has key clicks, you can be in the middle of a very crowded band and never know your neighbors are there, though you can see them all around on the P3.

As usual, Aruba has a pleasant social side, with a Thanksgiving dinner at a hotel buffet with W2GD, R5GA, P43A, P43C, P43L and P43L spouse. It's a shame to go back home tomorrow, though Sunday was uncharacteristically rainy and windy all day -- a great time to be indoors playing radio.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest and especially to those who moved bands upon request. Apologies are due for my occasional QLFs on moves when tiredness caused a freq to be misinterpreted, the wrong radio to be chosen, the operator to momentarily fall asleep and forget what he was doing, or some other blunder to prevent the QSO from being made.

73, Andy, AE6Y

Rig: Elecraft K3, Icom 756 Pro2
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. 11.6

Here are some comparison scores. Note the heroic effort by AA3B at V26K. He has won this contest many times, including last time, from the V26B superstation, but the building was destroyed by fire one week before the contest. He managed to operate from next door, having to go outside to change feed lines to change bands.


P49Y 2012 LP

V26K 2012 LP

P40F 2012 HP

P40W 2012 HP

P49Y 20009 HP