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AE6Y Trip Notes October 2013 CQWW SSB Contest P49Y Aruba

Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y
11/15/13 [Public Ver.]

Tuesday, Oct. 22 -- Weds., Oct. 23, 2013.  I took my usual AA flight 272 overnight flight from SFO to MIA, arriving there just after 5 a.m. Then a 6-hour layover at the Admiral’s Club at D30 before the flight to Aruba. Picked up my Hertz Chevy Aveo. It’s unlike recent rentals in being virtually brand new, with only 209 km on the clock, but also something of a stripper (e.g., no power door locks). But it has a very nice built-in radio with easy to use controls, unlike the usual DIN radios with tiny buttons and incomprehensible displays and controls that they usually provide.

At the house at about 3:15. It looks very spiffy, with a fresh coat of paint thanks to Chris, including bright blue trim in place of the more subdued former lime green color. I set up the answering machine and internet/wifi. Unpacked John, W6LD’s, K3 that was in the suitcase in the MBR closet. He had left it in March, and since it was there, I did not bring mine, but instead the KPA500 in the backpack. This was quite a bit heavier load, but arrived with no problems (only requiring unpacking at Aruba TSA on departure). In the late afternoon, I set up the lower leg of the 160 H-dipole. It now runs through our neighbor’s new orchard. There are two temporary supports available, a PVC pipe and a metal rod near the tree that it is tied off to. All SWRs seem to be fine, using the meter in John’s K3, except for slightly high readings (circa 2.5 to one) on the 4 el. 20. [Note that this seemed to resolve itself later on, and caused no problems in the contest.]

Seemed like a good time to take a break, so I went out for a run at Savaneta, feeling my usual Wednesday afternoon blahs, but not too bad. It was pretty hot though (probably about 90 degrees when we landed and a bit cooler by then), so I went through the drive through at the Taco Bell in Santa Cruz so as not to have to get out of the nice a/c in the car. The landscape looks very dry, and JP confirmed later that it hadn’t rained in quite a while. Unfortunately, driving back through Frenchman’s Pass I could see lightning flashes over Venezuela in the distance. The combination of no rain and distant storms is a bad sign, portending noisy low band conditions. After hooking up the second radio, at about 9 p.m. I suddenly ran into a wall of tiredness, probably a combination of flying the night before plus residual jet lag from our recent cruise around Italy, so to bed.

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Up at about 6 a.m., brewed a pot of coffee using some leftover ground in the freezer and some Coffeemate that I had bought on a previous trip and fortunately had never been opened, so hadn’t yet had the opportunity to cake up. I tried 15m at about 1100Z (7 a.m. local time) and immediately had an enormous EU pileup. The KPA500 was set up on top of the Alpha 86 for the right radio, so the amps can be switched in 30 seconds or so just by changing the coaxes in and out and the amp relay key line. It worked flawlessly throughout the trip. To control the pileup, I set the AGC slope control to 15, which allowed for minimum signal flattening, so that I could cut down the pileup somewhat by riding the RF gain control. This also worked well in the contest, though it did require continual work with the RF gain. I decided later that for using the second radio in the contest, however, it is better to use much less slope (e.g., SLP=2) so that it’s easier to tune the second radio with one hand with the RF gain control simply set full on.

After a shopping trip to Ling and Sons ($208, perhaps a new record), I checked out the 91B on the left radio and the 86 on the right radio, and both seemed to be working fine on all bands. The afternoon was for socializing, first with Lisandro at his house. He’s done a great job installing Martin (P49MR)’s old crank up tower right next to his house, with an old Moseley Pro-67 that he got from Emily (P43E) on top. It’s easy to work on them just by climbing up a heavy, home-built wooden ladder onto his flat roof. We chatted for a while in his air conditioned shack, then I headed over to Chris and JP’s to spend some time with her, Andy and Cindy. Then off to Carl’s house to see Robert (W5AJ, P40P) and his dad Bob and Bob’s wife Doris. Their 40m antenna is on the fritz, and they’ve been trying to erect a two element wire beam, designed by John Crovelli, with JP’s help. I offered to help in the morning if they needed more manpower. Finally back home and off for another run -- felt worse than yesterday, but did it in 5% less time. Dinner was a garden salad at McD drive-through. I ran some guys on 20 after dinner. Had a heart failure moment when the rotor on the back tower (20/40) seemed to only want to turn CCW, not CW, but eventually by rocking it back and forth it did free up and worked fine for the rest of the visit. Then a telephone call with John Fore, and tonight I lasted until 9:45 before going to bed.

Friday, Oct. 25, 2013.  Awoke at about 7 (trying to “sleep load” for the contest), and after some coffee found that 15 was in great shape to Europe. Decided, hey, it’s my birthday, so how about a nice breakfast at the Hyatt? Then drove around a bit, noticing lots of new construction, including progress on the new Ritz-Carlton and Westin in the high-rise hotel area. Stopped in at the Toyota dealership to say hello to JP, then back home. It’s quite warm, but I’m going to go running shortly because I just want to do it early in the day. There were actually very slight rain sprinkles at both the beginning and end of the run. Heavier rains, sadly, held off until Sunday and Monday. They would have been nice to have to wash off the power lines to perhaps reduce power line noise that tends to build up in dry periods. The afternoon is spent with general pre-contest preparations: putting the car in the garage, re-putting up the lower end of the 160, dozing in bed, a shower and light dinner, setting out pre-contest food, pacing about nervously, etc.

Contest Notes, CQWW SSB, Oct. 26-27, 2013, SOABHP, P49Y, more or less as dictated during the contest.  I start on 14265 and have a nice run (265 in the first hour), then about an hour on 40 running mostly EUs on 7073. Tuning around briefly on 20, I work CR2X, who immediately asks for a move to 40, which is easily done. It’s 0417Z, and I’m at 718/63/22 on 20 and 210/54/14 on 40 and 1/1/1 on 160 (HK1NA only). I’ve been on 20 for the last hour and a half and I’m going to take a tiny break. Then work a few guys on 160, but they are difficult contacts, and I try 80. Fun on 20 at the end of the 0500Z hour: B9/BY9GA for zone 23 and B3C for 24, plus zones 30, 31, and 32. Move YN2AA from 80 to 160 (thanks, Jeff). At 0751Z just got up for a small food break. Things are slowing down on 40. Totals now are 15: 1/1/1/(D4C), 20: 741/66/26, 40: 390/77/23, 80:147/18/9, 160: 16/7/5. 160 is extraordinarily noisy and 80 isn’t much better.

At 0843 I have to get up and make some coffee, falling asleep at the switch and the contact rate has really slowed down. At 0959Z, after the first 10 hours, I’m at 1490/178/68. 160 continues very difficult. Moved XE1RCS from 40 and after many tries we finally made the contact. Failed to move VE2IM for zone 2. 80 is also very noisy and seems to have very light activity, so I’m disappointed in the mult totals. 40 has been by far the best of the low bands. In the 1000Z hour, work some VKs, including zone 29 [Some good stuff in the log near our sunup show the huge problem caused by my oversleeping the next morning and missing getting some more interesting mults]. At 1107Z I’m about to quit the low bands. Had a very good run on 40 recently on 7202 kHz and the 40m total is now 742/84/28. I see on the second radio that 15 is open to EU, though, so it’s time to go up there. I’m going to run on the left radio (K3, 91B) and set the right K3 with the KPA500 ready for quick QSYs.

It’s now 1347Z, and I’ve been on 15 for a few hours, now at 545/68/19 on that band and now to 10. Although it’s been mostly EUs, some other interesting DX has called in, including VR2/IK7YTT (zone 24), YB (zone 28) and VK6NTE (zone 29). At 2104Z, I’ve just had a very long run on 10; it’s been very quiet and I’ve had good frequencies for a couple of hours. There’s activity a long way up the band; I have run freqs of 28539 and 28660 for hours. Have made a few moves, e.g., GI0UVD to 15, GJ6WRI to 15 and 20. In the middle of a US run, VU2BGS calls in at 1918Z. Had my best hour of the contest, the 18Z hour at 308. Now at 1534/70/26 on 10, 559/73/21 on 15. Since I’m running out of steam on 10 and am getting hungry, time for a quick break then probably resume on 15. It’s now exactly the halfway point at 0000Z. I’ve had a good run on 15, but it’s been getting kind of noisy, so this may be a good time to break and go to 20. Halfway totals are now 4383/335/123 for 5.9M points. 10:1535/71/27, 15:1161/80/27, 20:771/68/26, 40:742/84/28 and 80 and 160 are unchanged.

It’s now almost midnight local time, 0400Z, I’ve had a great 20m run on one freq (14203) for about 2 1/2 hours. It’s been a lot of fun. Now at 1446/97/32 on that band, with lots of interesting mults having called in, e.g.,HS, VU, OD5, A9, 3B8 (the only zone 39 in the contest), JW. I’m getting pretty sleepy. 

Well it’s 0539Z, nothing new on the low bands. Ran some guys on 20 in the Eu portion of the band, mostly Russians, and not working any new mults, except for some VK/ZLs. Now up to 98 countries and 34 zones. I can’t stay awake any more so will go lie down for two or three hours.

Famous last words. I didn’t hear my wristwatch alarm, overslept, it’s broad daylight out now, and here I am at 1142Z getting back on the air. In the past I had always set multiple alarms, including in my iPhone, but this time I just relied on my wristwatch. Not sure why. Terrible mistake, missed the chance to get early morning/sunrise mults on the low bands [later: This undoubtedly cost me at least one place in the rankings, dropping me from fifth to sixth in claimed scores, as NH2T finished a bit ahead of me with fewer contacts but more mults, and the order probably would have been reversed if I hadn’t made this dumb mistake.]

I run out the contest on mostly 10 and 15, and the last hour or so on 20. I try to use the KPA500 more for moves among the high bands; don’t do enough, but do move MD2C from 10 to 15, 9H5DX from 10 to 15 to 20, E51USA from 10 to 15, OA4TT from 10 to 15, CW7T from 10 to 20. The finale on 20 is lots of fun, as the band is open around the world, and the ultimate hour yields 271 contacts. Should have gone there earlier. Move a couple of mults in the last hour, including CE3BC to 15 (where I was missing both CE and zone 12). KC4AAC (Antarctica) calls in with 6 minutes to go. Still just about nothing hearable on 80 and 160. After the contest, I feel pretty good (and no hallucinations on Sunday afternoon, the one silver lining from having gotten too much sleep). Finish my latest Jack Reacher novel, have two glasses of Frangelico, start perusing 3830 score reports, and hit the sack a bit before 11 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. Got up early for a post-contest morning at 6:30, composed and sent off my 3830 report, entered corrections in the log from those that I had noted down on paper during the contest (mostly correcting zones for US guys). Got on the air a bit. 10 meters was wide open. I had decided to reactivate my P40Y call, so I used it these two days, not wanting to risk confusion by using it before the contest. Then JP and Robert and I had a nice breakfast at the Hyatt, replacing our normal post-contest dinner. Seems like a positive change, as we certainly have a lot more energy after the contest. Back on the air, I received a request to try 12 meters. I found I could load up the C31 on 12. The K3’s internal tuner will work there, but using the KPA500 required the antenna tuner to be on line (which during the contest had only been used on 40 phone above 7125 or so). But there actually wasn’t too much activity on that band, so most of the rest of my radio time was spent on 10 and 15. 10 was booming, and I was getting terrific reports with the 2 element beam pointing north from all over the US and Western Europe.

I went out to reel in the lower leg of the 160. The good news is it was cooler and I didn’t even work up a sweat. The bad news is that the wire had parted right near the back fence. I originally though it might have been cut, but it just appears to have corroded away near a splice. After a shower and shave, Chris and JP came by a little before 7 for our dinner at the Flying Fishbone in Savaneta. This really is an excellent restaurant, and we had a very good meal, sitting at a table right on the beach. In fact, as we were eating the tide was coming in, so some of the tables were getting water underneath them. Some romantic couples were sitting at them with their shoes off, and there were lots of cell phone pictures being taken. Back about 9:30 and went over finances with Chris.

Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. Had reasonable night’s sleep, made a pot of coffee, fooled around a bit on the computer, worked on my trip notes from our Italian cruise, went through the log looking for obvious errors and uploaded it to the CQWW website. After an egg salad and cheese sandwich for breakfast, I decided what the house really needed was a floor reading lamp to put by the chair in the living room. After four or five fruitless stops in various stores, I found a three-lamp floor lamp at the Kooyman’s northeast of the airport. Only one lamp is really needed for reading, but the extra candlepower could be helpful for general lighting or for doing electronic tasks, like soldering at the kitchen table.

A quiet afternoon, hanging around, playing radio, taking a drive down to San Nicholas just to see what has been happening south of us, then a final run at Savaneta, followed by a swim (gotta do one per vacation) at Mangel Halto. Came back, started packing, and Lisandro and Lissette picked me up at 7:30 for a very convivial dinner at our usual haunt, Peanuts in Oranjestad. On the way back we drove by their house so I could admire (in the dark) Martin’s tower now cranked up to 50 feet. Very impressive, indeed.

Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. Had an afternoon flight, AA at 3:20, so I hung around in the morning, then went out for a drive in the vicinity of Santa Cruz. On our street near Frenchman’s Pass, I stopped in at the Rosa Kap Salon for a haircut. Rosa didn’t speak any English, but did a serviceable job, though a little shorter than desired. Oh well, there’s a saying that the difference between a bad haircut and a good one is two weeks -- maybe a month in this case. The flights back were uneventful, though not too much is gained by leaving in the afternoon. There were much greater crowds, and long lines both at Aruban Passport Control and at U.S. Customs, than normally for the morning flights. Back at SFO before 11 p.m.

Contest Report, as sent to 3830 reflector. 

Class: SOAB HP
QTH: Aruba
Operating Time (hrs): 41
Radios: SO2R


Band QSOs Zones Countries
160: 23 6 11
80: 155 11 23
40: 735 28 84
20: 1835 34 107
15: 2159 32 96
10: 2749 30 90
Total: 7656 141 411 Total Score = 12,498,384


What a contrast: excellent condx 40-10, as everyone has noted, but a horrendous amount of local noise on 160 and 80 that rendered them practically useless here. Not sure if it was due to thunderstorms over YV (from which lightning could be seen in the distance in the evenings), or just from some noise-generating malicious spirits, but it was the worst I've ever experienced here. In 2010, in a MS, we worked 97 countries on 80, but this year even my lowly total of 23 took a lot of effort. And our usually reliable set of beverages made no impact on the noise.

Then I compounded the problem by making a rookie mistake: took a "nap" early Sunday morning that turned into a major sleep (i.e., 6 1/2 hours instead of 2 1/2 hours as intended), when I slept right through the alarm! I usually set multiple alarms, but foolishly didn't bother this time. The flip side is that I felt fine on Sunday afternoon, instead of the usual sleepiness and hallucinations, but I would have gladly traded that good feeling for 4 more night time hours on 40/80/160.

But the high bands really were fun, all the equipment and antennas worked, and it is always exciting to share the airwaves with thousands of operators around the world who spent a great weekend on the radio, so I'll just chalk this one up to a learning experience.

Aruba was well represented also by Robert, P40P (W5AJ), running assisted from the P49V QTH and Jean-Pierre, P43A,who as usual did a great job as an SB15 from his location about a mile from here. We missed P40W (W2GD), who had to cancel his visit for family reasons, but had him here in spirit cheering us all on. Thanks to co-owner John, W6LD, for leaving his K3 here to augment the usual shack K3. That allowed me to bring my KPA500 in my backpack instead of my own K3. The KPA500 was great to use on the high bands for instant QSYs. Thanks also to Chris (P43C), who keeps the house in good order and recently repainted it with elegant bright blue trim.

73, Andy, AE6Y

Rig: Elecraft K3 x2, KPA500, Alpha 91B, 86
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. 12.6