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P49Y Aruba Trip Notes March 2015 ARRL DX SSB M/2

Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y
[With comments by AA6VB in two parts]

Tuesday, March 3 – Wednesday, March 4, 2015.  The airline schedules have changed again, and this time my AA redeye from SFO to MIA left at 11:50 p.m. arriving in Miami at 8 a.m. connecting two hours later to a flight to Aruba, without my usual multi-hour layover in Miami. The flights were uneventful, arriving at about 2 p.m. Ed and Cindy Giambastiani were also on the flight (having driven to Miami from their house in Florida), so Ed and I chatted together at the gate and on the plane. Picked up a bare bones Hertz rental, a Chevy Aveo with 22k km on the clock, and was at the house shortly after arrival.

 It had been raining recently. The runways were wet and there were some deep puddles at the airport. Though it was drier at the house, I was glad that no antenna work was necessary. It ended up raining more on Wednesday and Thursday, and even squalled during the contest with enough ferocity to be heard in spite of wearing headphones. Sunday and Monday, however, were beautiful Aruba days with sunshine, some clouds, and temps about 80 at the most with relatively low humidity.

 The house looks beautiful, as always (thanks, Chris!). There is a new, small work table set up under the window in the dining room. Ed (W0YK) and John (W6LD) have done a wonderful job setting up everything for our proposed multi-2 operation. There is a large card table on the opposite wall of the shack from the normal table. They have run Ethernet cables from the Router/switch on the wall, and also to a D-Link switch set up on the NW corner shelf. Between them, there are four Ethernet cables, with two at each table. There are also extension cables to allow the Bandmaster filters and the K9AY switchbox to be set up on the second table, along with coax extensions, all neatly cabled and tied to the curtain rod above the window. Also a 220 volt extension cord for the amp. They had said we needed a Power Pole splitter to power the K3 and the Bandmasters from the power supply set up under the second table, and Bob had prepared a wire splitter, which I set up. Later I found that there were “official” PP splitters in one of Ed’s small boxes stored above the closet in the MBR (the one labeled “W0YK Misc,” if memory serves). Thanks a million, Ed and John, for all the work of making sure all the moving parts were on site, and connecting them all up. I hooked up the antenna coaxes, which had been disconnected at the 4O3A filters (except for the 160, for which there is no filter), as well as the beverages and verified that all are working. Later I disconnected the second StackMatch (which would allow the second station to use the C31) and put the antenna tuner in line with the 40m antenna so that we can use it all the time. With this setup, the minimum SWR wasn’t at 7050 kHz, but closer to 7100. Using the tuner, we could easily operate 7150 to 7250 without retuning the tuner.

With everything working, it was a good time to head off to Ling and Sons for grocery shopping, then go for a run at Savaneta and spend some time this evening hooking up the second radio (i.e., my K3/P3 that I had brought down with me). The R1 station is the shack K3/P3 (we are using the convention that the radios are R1 and R2, which is how they are indicated on the Win-Test screen, but in the Cabrillo log they are indicated as “0” and “1”). 

When I got back from Lings I was quite tired, the effects of a lingering cold and the overnight flight. I started to take a nap, but after a few minutes got up and decided to take a run after all. It was much slower than normal, but still felt good, and it was actually very pleasant to finish after sunset by the light of the nearly full moon. No rain until I got back in the car. The second radio seems to work fine. To bed by about 10, but awakened several times during the night by heavy rain squalls noisily making their presence known on the roof, and also by being heavily congested. 

[Start AA6VB Comments, Part 1]:  

 When Andy invited me to join him in Aruba to operate in the ARRL DX SSB Contest, I was both excited and a bit scared. Although I have been an avid DXer for many years, my contesting was limited to searching the bands looking for "new ones". Not once had I ever called "CQ" during a contest, much less been on the DX side of a pileup. The chance to actually "be" DX was just too much to pass up - especially since Andy implied this would be a "low key" operation. My fear and trepidation greatly increased some weeks later when Andy informed me our team had been expanded to include Scott and Ed, both of whom, in addition to Andy, were highly seasoned contesters. I felt like I had been invited to play in an NBA basketball game with three all stars and I could not even make the High School JV Squad. The pressure was on!

Two days before we were scheduled to leave for Aruba it seemed like a good idea to find my passport. Having located the document, I was both shocked and relieved to find the passport had expired several weeks earlier. There it was - my "out" - I simply could not make the trip without a valid passport. Having practiced law with Andy for some 25 or more years, I know how thorough and resourceful he can be. So, before I could use my "passport excuse" to extricate myself from this predicament I needed to do some due diligence so I could tell Andy I had tried, but was unable, to renew my passport on such short notice. The internet can be an awful resource, because I soon found there are companies which can help you renew an expired passport in as little as 24 hours - and I had 48. Darn!  

Well, with my passport renewed and a rescheduled flight, I was on my way to Aruba. By the time I arrived, Andy, Scott and Ed had configured the station for a "multi-two" operation - whatever that meant - and Andy gave me a crash course in contesting. I was able to assimilate about 5 percent of what was undoubtedly a wealth of contesting knowledge and finally asked him to just tell me how to enter a callsign and use the DVR to send CQ. The rest I would try to figure out as the contest went on. 

[End AA6VB Comments, Part 1]:  

Thursday, March 11, 2015.  Woke up a little before 7 and had breakfast of granola cereal and a banana plus some coffee (couldn’t buy my usual Aruban vice of Frosted Flakes, “Zucaritas,” at Ling’s since they only had the stuff in huge boxes). A very heavy rain squall came by and I was glad, again, for all the antenna work John and Ed had done. I ran some EU and US pileups on 10 and 15 on R1 barefoot just to check things out. On both bands, a very recognizable voice with a strong Southern accent saying “Papa November” turned out to be N4PN at 9A4PN, getting ready to work the contest at 9A1A.

 Scott Redd and Ed came by at about 10:40 a.m. They brought lots of stuff for our operation, including three computers. With those plus my laptop, Scott immediately went to work setting up a fully networked Win-Test system. Each radio had a Run computer and a Support computer, with the run computer for Radio 1 (the main desk) being the master computer. There was lots of fiddling required and small issues to be solved, but fortunately Scott has become Mr. Geek Guru at this. We also loaded a number of WT scripts that N6TV had supplied to automate a bunch of keys. These included F1 and F3 to play in repeat mode the K3 messages one and three, PGUP and PGDN for the RIT adjustment, ESC to stop sending and a few others. Note that if using WT messages, ESC will stop sending, but since we were using K3 messages, there needed to be a script to send the appropriate command to the K3 (in this case just to go into RX mode), to stop sending. One neat thing noted during the contest is that if you tripped the VOX during the message repeat interval, it was treated by the K3 like pressing a button, which immediately canceled the repeated message.

We broke for a McDonalds lunch in Santa Cruz, at the end of which Lisandro, P43L, called me to ask where we were. I had told him to come by at any time to pick up some electronics stuff I had brought down at his request (plus a few small items for Lissette), and he had happened to arrive when we were away. But he waited for us, and we had a nice chat. He is planning a full –bore effort this weekend in his newly-remodeled shack.

We finished our testing and the admirals left at about 4:30. I headed out for a slightly abbreviated run, as we were to meet with the delightful Cindy (Ed’s XYL) and delightful Donna (Scott’s) for dinner at El Gaucho restaurant in Oranjestad at 6:30. Dinner was very pleasant, and I was pleased that Lissette and Lisandro could also join us on short notice. This is an Argentinean restaurant (not a parrillada full-grill affair, but an a la carte meat place) that was quite good and had a nice ambiance once they turned the music down.

Friday, March 5, 2015. A good night’s sleep till about 7:15. Checked out both 86s, which worked fine on all bands, producing at least 1100 watts with low grid current. I made tuning charts for both amps, and also checked out the 80m tuning ranges. In low position, the SWR minimum was at 3680 kHz, with 2:1 SWR limits of about 3655 and 3725. High was set at 3750, with the 2:1 range extending from about 3710 to 3790 or so [I may be misremembering the range limits, but I put a note on the wall with the proper numbers.] The R2 86 (the one that would be for the right radio in the normal SO2R setup) seemed very touchy on 80, however. [Later, in the contest this seemed to get worse, and it wasn’t usable on 80 in the contest. I also was asked at various times to help Bob and Ed tune up that amp. It had grown touchy on other bands, and the tuning seemed to be very sharp, so it was difficult to produce the right conditions to keep the grid current low. Not sure quite what this meant.] 

Scott and Ed arrived at about 11, and Scott put the finishing touches on the computers, including loading the data bases that we had gotten from Ed Muns which had the state information for US calls. We all practiced running stations for a while. At one point I dissolved in a fit of coughing and had to yield the mic (fortunately that never happened during the contest). I practiced being in partner mode with Scott as the runner. This is a lot of fun and would be incrementally productive in the contest. There is a setting (right click on the partner window) to enable real time mode. That way what the partner types appears right away on the run computer above the normal run stack (if it doesn’t, it may be because the two computers are set on different bands, and the band/mode filtering ̶ also on the right-click menu ̶ hasn’t been disabled). The partner clears it simply by hitting the normal “wipe” command of F11. Using the stack seemed not to be as useful on phone as on CW, since the partner virtually never gets a full call different from the runner. What we decided was most helpful was to have the runner come back to a loud full call, but have the partner type in a few letters of whatever partial call he heard, so that the runner can ask for that station next.

They left at about one, promising to return after dinner at about seven (the contest starts at 8 p.m. local time). I headed off to the airport to pick up our fourth operator, my former law partner Bob Chortek (AA6VB). He had been scheduled to come down on the same plane as I, but a failure to notice that his passport had expired until two days before our departure date led to a frantic scramble to get a new passport and delayed his flights by two days. Bob and I had lunch at Taco Bell then went to the house to start familiarizing him with the station, the logging program, etc.

When Ed and Scott returned, we decided on a watch schedule that had Scott and me starting off on 10 and 20, respectively, with the other two partnering us. The plan was then for me to turn it over to Bob and Scott to Ed. But as Scott always says, the first casualty of war is the plan. After four hours or so, we ended up staggering the shifts, and after that somehow Ed and I became a duo and Bob and Scott were the second pair. Ultimately, we felt that for this kind of operation, 4-on, 4-off worked quite well. It also made sense for Scott and me to alternate, as we had more strategic contest experience than Ed and Bob and thus could be deciding on band choices, when to try to move mults to 160, etc. We all felt in the end that it worked out quite well. One obvious improvement would have been to have set up the third radio on a separate antenna to allow an off-duty op to listen on various bands to offer suggestions for band choices.

Saturday, March 7 – Sunday, March 8, 2015. Contest Notes more or less as dictated during the contest. I’m CQ’ing on 20 with Bob as partner, while Scott is on 10, partnered by Ed. Unlike 2013, when I had a 326 gangbusters hour on 20, this year I have a terrible start. It’s very slow on 14307 (the same freq on which John and Co. did a 300 hour at the start of 2014 contest). Some bozo starts yelling at us that we are splattering him 3 kHz above, and eventually camps out on our frequency shouting obscenities aimed at contesters in general and me in particular, forcing a move. It’s hard with a lot of QRM, but we slog on. I’m watching spots and see 4U1WB in DC, and old friend (from VB’s and my Yukon expedition for CQP in 1998) Bob, VY1MB in YT, spotted. In each case it is easy to go work the spot (in WT, right click on the spot, click on “load spot into sub vfo,” then hit A/B and you are on the spot freq. Just hit A/B again to go back to the run freq.) This was the only band we got YT on, BTW. [In the score reports I noticed that a number of dx stations also got 62 mults only on 20, so Bob may have been a single-band operation].

I get up for the first time at 0330Z and turn the pileup over to Bob, by which time it has become relatively manageable. This, as it happens, is his first ever DX/contest pileup, so he is a bit slow and hesitant. I try to help as a partner, but that is just too distracting for him. Bob gets better and smoother at running the pileup as the weekend progresses – talk about a baptism by fire!

[Start AA6VB Comments, Part 2]:

When Andy said he was ready for a break and my shift was about to begin, the butterflies really started to swarm. As I sat in front of the rig and called "CQ Papa Forty-Nine Yankee" it seemed like the entire world was talking at once. After what seemed like an eternity, I was able to make out a callsign and log a contact. My first thought was - "I'm going to Bouvet!" Well, not really, but I did think "I can do this". Soon my four hour shift was about over and I was ready for a break. Who can anyone possibly operate for 48 hours straight? After a short nap, I was ready for my second shift, then another, and another. I found myself looking forward to each shift and really enjoyed running the pileups. It was clear this could be addicting. The contest went by far too quickly and I was sad it was over.

What impressed me most about the experience was how incredibly kind and supportive Andy, Scott and Ed were to me. They could easily have expressed frustration and annoyance at all my rookie mistakes but it never showed. To the contrary, they were very supportive and offered helpful suggestions in just the right amount and at exactly the right time. Watching three such experienced contesters in action was a thrill, not to mention educational. I learned a great deal - especially that there is so much to being a good contester!

In the end, I needn't have worried. Andy, Scott and Ed were the finest of "Elmers". I really enjoyed the experience! And to think, I almost backed out!

[End AA6VB Comments, Part 2]

At 0351Z, almost 4 hours in, we are at: 10: 194/35; 15: 428/53; 20: 842/59; 40: 243/38. Scott has QSYed from 10 to 15 and then to 40. In the whole contest we only did 40 on R2, and Ed did the great bulk of it, alternating with Bob or Scott. What iron men, plugging away hour after hour! I, thankfully, didn’t make a single Q on 40 at all, but did hit all the other bands on R1 at various times.

At about 0440Z, I suddenly notice in the log that all contacts are listed as R2, even the ones made on R1. Scott makes a simple adjustment to correct the station numbering in WT, but I will have to correct them all in the log before submittal. It should be easy, since the aberrant ones are all on 20m, and there have been no actual R2 contacts on that band. At 0500Z, Scott decides to go to sleep. Ed takes over. Bob is running on 20 with a nice West Coast pileup that he is managing well. I’m going to take over and move to 80, sending Bob to bed.

It’s now 1230Z, and I just woke up from about a 3-hour nap. The sun is up and it’s going to be a beautiful day. Ed has driven off to McD to get some eggs for breakfast, though I have instead had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich plus part of a pot of coffee that Scott apparently had brewed. Bob’s on 15 and finding it slow going, while Scott is on 40 waiting for 20 to open up. I had quit operating at about 0900Z. The totals now are 160: 82/29; 80: 496/57; 40: 916/57; 20: 1252/59; 15: 459/53: 10: 194/35; total 3399/290 for just under 3M points. At 1245Z I take some pix. Scott has switched to 10, which seems to be open, so this is the start of many hours operating on 10 and 15. I’m about to relieve Bob on 15.

Bob takes over from me again at 1700Z; I’ve been on 15 the entire four or so hours and Ed has been on 10. Updated totals: 20: 1276/59; 15: 1017/59; 10: 932/53; 4.4M points. My hours on 15 were reasonably good but not outstanding; I suspect the rates will improve as the afternoon wears on and the propagation from the US to EU dies. At least, that’s the general idea. Scott and I have a sandwich together and he relieves Ed about an hour later. I’ve set up the KPA500 that Bob brought down as a dedicated 160 amp, but after quite a bit of colloquy, Scott convinces me not to use it. So for moves later on to 160, we just do a very quick retune of the R1 Alpha 86. That actually works well, as the tuning of that amp on 80 and 160 can be done quickly by the numbers.

After a brief nap, I get up at about 1940Z. It’s great to listen to Scott and Bob going full bore on 10 and 15. I work partner mode on 10 with Scott for a little while. It’s a lot of fun, because sometimes he’ll hear a call more clearly and sometimes I will. Scott has enough bandwidth to make use of the extra information (you have to be able to type, talk, listen, and check the partner window), so it does in this case improve the accuracy and rate a bit. At 2048Z I’m about to take over from Bob. New totals are 15: 1629/59; 10: 1736/58; 5.855M points. I have a few good hours on 15, then switch to 20, which is noisier, though it has good rates. At the halfway point, 0000Z we are at 7310/323 for 7.066M points.

Scott’s and my plan for how to get mults on 160 is now for Scott to run on 80 on R1 (heretofore he has been exclusively on R2) and try to do moves to 160 as described above. Unfortunately, the 86 on R2 has gotten very touchy and now really can’t be tuned on 80, so the change of radios is important. This means that when the shifts change we also do a quick headset change, as Bob gives me the Yamaha CM-500 that he had been using on R2 for me to use on R1, and Scott and Ed do the reverse with their Bose QC-15 from R1 to R2.

It’s now 0339Z and I’ve just woken up in the master bedroom, while Ed has just emerged from the second bedroom. Scott has managed to work four more mults on 160; we now have 58 mults on 40 and 80, 33 on 160, and 62, 61 and 60 on 20-10. Total is 8446/332 for just under 8.4M points. The additional mults on 10, 15 and 20 are from VE8NSD, who called Scott on 15. I heard whooping and got a tap on the shoulder, and he was moved to 15 for me. He later called in on 20 also. My operating stint now will be on 80 and 160.

The past four hours were very interesting. Eighty dried up at the end as Bob and Scott showed up at 0800Z. Through some pretty hard work, I did manage to get six new mults on 160. I think only two, Louisiana and one other, were from running on that band and getting called by the mult, while the others were on moves. Interestingly, on two separate occasions, I asked someone to move and they declined (usually for lack of an antenna), but someone else overheard and we made the move. The first was N2IC in NM, who had a nice signal, and the second was the NCCC group at W6WB, which was close to an ESP contact. Other moves included NE and DC (the ubiquitous W3DQ). I tried several moves of MN stations, and had another ESP contact finally with one. There were also a number of failed moves. At one point an audible K4 that I had worked came back to say there were a number of stations calling, but I couldn’t hear any of them through the very high QRN. This was very frustrating.

I just took a nap and woke up at 1130Z, had a bowl of cereal and some coffee. At 1149Z, the three-quarter mark in the contest, our totals are 160: 187/41; 80: 989/59; 40: 1863/59; 20: 1857/62; 15: 2471/61; 10: 2098/60. Scott has gotten two more mults on 160 in his stint, QC and OK. So we have at least broken the respectability threshold of 40 mults, but it’s still painful. Totals are 9465/342 for just under 9.7M points.

The Ed and Andy team just handed over the phones at 1600Z. We’ve increased the high band QSO totals to 20: 1933; 15: 2710; 10: 2428, with no new mults. Now at 10.3M points. Our collective goal now is reach 12k contacts if possible in the next eight hours. It will be difficult, since about an hour and a half ago a loud local noise source just showed up on 15. It seems to be coming from the West or Northwest, and makes it hard to work any but the loudest stations on that band. I even tried using the beverages as receive antennas on 15 (with the K9AY preamp off). This is not very useful, though on the next shift Bob tries it and thinks it helps. The noise may be coming from the church next door as its hours seem to coincide roughly with their church service hours. It renders the C31, which we have pointed at about 300 degrees virtually useless. At one point Ed wanted to turn the 10/15 antenna more westerly to follow the propagation across the country on 10, and I had to restrain him because of the increase in noise on 15 from the rotation.

Ed and I drive back to McD for lunch then he takes me back to the station for a nap, while he heads back to the Radisson for a hot shower and a change of clothes (the alternative being a luke-warm shower at our water-heaterless cottage). At 1700Z, back at the shack, Bob is still battling the noise on 15, while Scott is at the R1 station so he can use both antennas on 10.

We run out the last four hours, Ed on 15 the whole time and I on 10 then moving to 20 for some final good rate time. Wasted a few minutes trying to keep a sked Scott made with a VE1 on 160, but nothing heard. After the contest ends at 2400Z (8 p.m. local), Ed and Scott pack up all their stuff and head back to the hotel area. Bob and I start tearing down the station, as John has asked us basically to restore it to its prior state with just one radio and no cabling or equipment left on the back table. Then we chat and decompress for a while. I compose and post a write-up on 3830 then go to bed at around 11:30.

Monday, March 9, 2015. We both got up at around 7:30 a.m., each feeling that we could have slept longer. A cuppa joe helped me to recover. The first order of business was to take down the lower leg of the 160, which is an easy job for two people. We left the wire and rope taped to the tower and put the tall yellow tubes in the garage, leaving the short yellow tubes in place marking the rebar anchors. The path into the cunucu was nice and clear, once we got brushed aside a rather large and ominous-looking spider sitting in her web spun across the path. 

We finished the station dismantling then went off to do some sightseeing. Just as we were leaving, Jackie, P43P, showed up and we chatted for a while. First drive was south to Seroe Colorado and north on the unpaved roads on the windy side of the island. We stopped at Boca Prins for some spectacular surf scenery. There was lots of spray blowing onto the rocks. Approaching Santa Cruz from the East, we stopped in at the relatively new Visitors Center in Arikok Park, which is very nicely done. They really are maintaining the park very well now. Moved by their community spirit, I gave them a $40 donation, which I hope did indeed go the Park. On the way we had taken a short hike to Mira LaMar, so named because you can see oceans on both sides of the island. It was extremely peaceful and quiet, and the weather was just perfect, sunny, high 70s, low humidity.

We stopped over to visit Lisandro and Lissette at their house. I was very impressed with all the upgrades they had made to the house. And Lisandro had his crank-up tower (Martin, P49MR’s old crank-up that couldn’t survive his seaside, corrosive ambiance) working great with a Mosley Pro 67 on top. He had spent about 40 hours in the contest, making over 4000 contacts. This was a great showing for his first contest. He has also cleaned up and redesigned his shack into a terrific operating position, with an L-shaped table, four monitors, etc.

Lunch with Scott and Ed was at the Palms at the Hyatt on their covered outdoor patio. We had a lively post-mortem on the contest, coming up with some things we would have done differently, but generally all being highly pleased with both the experience and the results. Some suggestions included: (a) a fourth office chair along with gel pads to place in front of the keyboards and for the arms of the chairs; (b) Ed suggested bringing down a Pixel mag loop for 160 and trying to cut down, or null out the local noise that way (we could also try diversity receive); (c) Bose headphones for active and passive noise cancellation; (d) Possibly a third radio for strategy calls.

Bob and I then did some more sightseeing, including the Lighthouse, the Alta Vista Chapel, the wild coastline behind it, visiting Carl’s house, then back to the shack to finish our packing. At 6:15 we drove over to Chris and JP’s, and Bob got a good look at all of JP’s cool stuff, including multiple antennas, his Yaesu-museum shack and truck models (which he has started doing again). Dinner was at Taste of Belgium, in the ritzy shopping center just inland from the high rise hotels. Very good food and conversation. Then back home and to bed to get up early for the following day’s flights back home

Some equipment and software observations.

1) Win-Test.

a) The networking was extremely solid. Once when the R2 compute lost control of the radio it turned out that the serial port for the radio was no longer checked in Options|Configure Ports menu.

b) A nice feature that I should add to CQPWIN is that just typing a band name in the entry window, e.g. “10” or “40” will QSY the radio to the last frequency on that band. This can be used for moves (particularly as a way to get back to your run frequency without bothering to store it somewhere).

c) Using the voice messages from the K3, with N6TV’s scripts is very smooth, as mentioned earlier. It’s very easy to vary the messages. In fact you can put one guy’s messages in Bank 1 and another’s in Bank 2 (switch by Holding the REC button). When I use Scott’s messages I feel like the winner of an NPR quiz game show that gets a celebrity’s voice on their answering machine as a prize. I can’t make any real comparison as to whether his voice or mine is more effective to get responses, or even if there is any difference. The message repeat interval is just a function (MSG RPT) in the MAIN menu. We’ve been using 2 seconds, and sometimes 3 seconds on 160.

2) Elecraft K3

a) An easy way to ask a nearby station to QSY away from your run frequency is to hit A to B button, so that both A and B are on the same frequency (i.e., the run freq). Then tune the main VFO to the offender’s freq and yell at him politely. Then hitting A/B puts you back on your run freq.

b) The 1.6 kHz filter in the shack K3 is hard to use on phone. Not sure of the problem, but if it is switched in manually, it changes the center freq and if you adjust it, it seems to switch out automatically.

3) Headphones

a) We have a variety. Bob and I have been sharing my Yamaha CM-500. This is very lightweight and comfortable. The mic is high sensitivity (on the K3 set the Mic to Low Gain with bias), so the Mic Gain is about 11 and the Comp about 20. I find it works best with the mic about an inch from my mouth and Vox Gain at about 30. Bob is using a footswitch for PTT, and I did that for a while but eventually went back to Vox, which is certainly more convenient. The headset doesn’t attenuate ambient noise, however, so the other operator can be quite a distraction. I also brought my Heil Proset, which is similar (K3: set the Mic to High Gain with no bias, and a higher Mic setting is needed), but we didn’t use it except for a partner headset.

b) Ed and Scott prefer Bose QC-15s which are active noise cancelling headsets. The active cancellation takes out the a/c drone, and the greater passive insulation strongly reduces the ambient noise pickup. These don’t come with a boom mic, but Ed got an Aviation company, UFlyMike to manufacture a pretty slick boom mic that simply plugs into the cable jack on the headphone. It’s K3 settings are similar to the Yamaha’s. On the plane back to SFO, Tom, W2SC, said he uses the same headset with a homebrew adaptation to use a Heil boom mic.

4) Computers

a) We’ve been using wireless mice and keyboards with no problems. There are at least four mice and four keyboards that are OK. There may be more mice. There was one more keyboard that was missing its RX dongle. We have also had virtually no interstation interference. There was a moment where 20 caused massive interference with 15, but Scott quickly solved it by unplugging the mic cable on a R2 partner headset that had inadvertently been plugged in.

b) The computers are three of Scott’s Windows 8.1 machines. He’s a great fan of that OS. Also, my laptop as R2 partner with its old Windows Vista OS, of which no one in his right mind (including yours truly) is a great fan.

Contest Soapbox, as sent to 3830 reflector. 

This was a relatively casual Multi-2 operation just to have more fun than is possible in the relatively constrained world of a M/S in this contest. The Admirals, Scott (K0DQ) and Ed (N4OC), joined me as station owner (AE6Y) and my law partner Bob (AA6VB). After the first few hours we basically operated two radios with one operator on each radio with a four-hour-on, four-hour-off watch schedule.

Although Bob is an experienced dxer from home, this was his first real contest operation, and his first time handling pileups from the DX end. He progressed hugely during the contest and kept his end up. He says he enjoyed the challenge and the collegiality, and is definitely on his way to becoming a rate junkie like the rest of us.

Conditions were pretty good, except that we had a terrible noise level on 160. We have beverages that normally work well, but 160 this time was just awful. Our mult total on that band is the worst we have ever had, and many moves failed. At one point a guy told me there were many stations calling, but I couldn't hear any of them. Apologies to one and all. It was very frustrating.

Our other contest excuse was some kind of strong local noise that wiped out 15 meters for several hours on Sunday morning. We gotta work on that one. But, overall we had a really nice time, and are now set to enjoy the lovely Aruban weather (assuming the fierce rains of the past week are over, that is).

BTW: Congratulations to local Aruban Lisandro, P43L, who has been developing his own HF station and got his feet wet in this contest in a big way. Welcome to the Club! And congratulations to the crew at TI5W for a fine showing.

Thanks to everyone for the Qs, and particularly to those we couldn't hear on the top band. Also thanks to John (W6LD) and Ed (W0YK) for doing a whole bunch of antenna repair work after their recent ARRL CW contest, and leaving things in great shape, and network-ready, for us. Scott, by the way, is a real computer guru with Win-Test, and had our four computers set up (with some advice from N6TV) and working perfectly all weekend.

Thanks also to all the W/VEs for their participation, including to quite a few who made 5 and 6 banders this weekend.

73, Andy, AE6Y, P49Y

Rig: K3 x2, Alpha 86 x2
Ant: 2 el 10, 5 el 15, 4 el 20, 2 el 40, 1 el 80, C31 (all Force 12), vert dipole and 4 500-foot beverages for 160.
Software: Win-Test

Here are the claimed scores of th top three Multi-Twos this year.


P49Y 2015

PJ4G 2015

TI5W 2015