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SO 40m HP

AE6Y February 2016 Aruba Trip Notes – ARRL DX CW Contest

Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y
[pub. ver.]

Monday, February 15 - Tuesday, February 16, 2016. I took the usual AA redeye leaving SFO at 2130 to MIA. An uneventful flight, and spent several hours at the Admiral’s Club at D30. The Aruba flight was delayed; they announced that due to thunderstorms in Miami, the plane was in Ft Myers. I was travelling light, without my K3, as I was thinking of doing a single band 40, due to a desire not to have to sit for 40 plus hours, as a result of new circulatory problems in my leg.

Due to the three-hour delay, I didn’t arrive at the cottage until almost 6 p.m., and was not able to make a shopping trip as I had done on the last visit. Instead I quickly unpacked, put on my running gear and went to my old running grounds at Savaneta. Not too bad a run, temp about 80 degrees some humidity, but strong, gusty winds. Then home to arrange via phone and email a dinner with John Crovelli at B55. Back home a little before 10, and checked that the radio worked. Fortunately, Ed had left everything connected, instead of disconnecting all the electronics and the antennas. Since he just left this morning after his week here for CQ WPX RTTY, that wasn’t taking any kind of risk.

I had foolishly forgotten to reserve a car from Hertz until shortly before the trip. All that was available was a Kia Sportage SUV. It’s probably the nicest car I’ve rented on the island, but was outrageously expensive. One nice feature is a full size radio with large buttons, unlike the typical rental that has a half-size DIN radio with tiny buttons and labels in 2-point type. Lissette has one also and says that the basic model (no nav, backup camera, etc.) costs about $29k in Aruba. 

 The new cable modem internet seemed to work fine. I connected to the Linksys system, which doesn’t require a password. There are also two ARRISS systems, that are higher speed, but I haven’t yet tried them out [later: tried one, no problem]. Checking email revealed several law work documents that needed reviewing and general attending to.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016.  Up a bit before 8 to do some office work on the computer. Made some coffee from stock left in the freezer and had a banana for breakfast from the three that Ed had left (unfortunately, no milk or coffeemate, though I later saw that there were cartons of almond milk in the cupboard for an emergency supply, no doubt). 

Did office work for a while, then off to go grocery shopping at Ling and Sons. On the way I stopped into Carl’s to meet the German tenants. Ben, DL6RAI, the owner, was out, but I chatted a bit with Olli, Paul and Tom. John was starting to go up one of the towers. On the way back, stopped into WEMA to buy light bulbs and a new flashlight. 

After a lunch of a tuna fish and cheese sandwich and a cup of yogurt, I set up the radio. Since I’m only using one radio, it’s really simple. I was using my brand new Windows 10 Acer Laptop, which worked great. The Compaq 4-port USB expander plugged into a USB port. Into it are plugged the serial convertor for K3 control, the cable for the Winkeyer, and the PS2 to mouse and keyboard converter. The HP monitor is set up through a VGA to HDMI dongle, with resolution set to 1280 by 1024. I don’t need to use the DX Doubler, so I just plugged the Winkeyer key output into the paddle input on the K3 (replacing the Logikeyer that was set up there) in parallel with my amp keying box and plugged the headphones into the front panel. I’m using the Winkeyer ptt also, plugged into the back of the K3. I ran the 91b through its paces and it seems fine. All settings are exactly as marked on 80, 40, 15 (the only bands I tried). I ran a pileup for about a half hour on 15 with strong signals from EU and USA. [note to self: don’t forget to bring RCA 2-1 adaptors; I needed one for keying, and found one in the “audio cable” box in the second BR; also an Elecraft front-panel mic adaptor, which I normally don’t need with the DXD]. 

Went over to Lissette’s and Lisandro’s house and visited for about two hours, then back for a run. They both are suffering from the stomach flu, so we didn’t plan any meals. Lisandro’s shack continues to be a technological wonder. The HF station is about the same as last year, but his new interest is setting up a comm link with the International Space Station. He has no fewer than nine monitors set up and is working to calibrate a two-axis rotor (sitting on the table) for use in steering the antenna. 

 Felt quite weak, but did the same run as yesterday in two minutes less. Go figure. Spent the evening reading, going through the Taco Bell drive-through for dinner, then got on the air for about half of the CWT at 11 p.m., working about 75 guys on 40.

Thursday, February 18, 2016. Again up at about 8, breakfast was a bowl of cereal (I traded in my usual Frosted Flakes, though Ling’s did have them this time, for some muesli). Read a spy novel – a silly “airport” book, finished and thrown out today. Started on “Moriarty”, a really well-written Sherlock Holmes spin-off. In the late morning I wanted to see about possibly buying a flat screen TV to replace our old clunker. Lissette and Lisandro had recommended Uni-Com, a store on the same road as the Price Smart near the airport. I went there and saw that a 32-inch LED TV was about 700 florins (about $400). The larger ones were much more expensive, as much as 5k florins. 

 Stopped off at Cris’s to drop off soccer shirts for Cindy and a set of replacement pistons and rings for a truck he is rebuilding for JP, and we arranged to meet at Marina Pirata at 7 for dinner. It’s going to be a doppelabendessene nacht, as I’m meeting Ben and his renters, along with Andy Bodony and John Crovelli at Barefoot at 9!

Then back home for a two-hour conference call on a solar project power contract. For some reason my cell phone wouldn’t dial the States (normally you just dial 1, the area code and the number, as worked fine later), so I ended up making the call on the house phone (needing to dial 001 instead of just 1). May have to make a special allocation when I get the bill from Cris. Took the same run in 87-degree weather, a little earlier today. Felt stronger and shaved one minute and 20 seconds off yesterday’s time. 

The dinners worked out fine. Cris, JP and I had a very pleasant evening, marred only by slow service, at Marina Pirata, then I got to Barefoot at 9:25 – the rest of the guys had just about given up on me, but accepted my profuse apologies, and we had a convivial time on the beach, not leaving till we closed the place down at 11:15 or so. I ate only part of my soup and main dish at MP, and only had a salad and dessert at Barefoot (well, plus two Balashis), so it wasn’t gastronomically overwhelming. Barefoot is just south of O’stad, accessible by a new paved driveway from the roundabout at the south end of town. [Note: I gave Cris some cash, furtively, as it might have looked like we were doing a drug deal!] 

Friday, February 19, 2016. John and I met for breakfast at Huchada’s at 8:30. Very pleasant sitting outside on their veranda and chatting. Then back to the house to do some legal work. In the late morning, I drove off again to look at TVs. This time I went to Hagemyer, just up the street (on the opposite side) from Price Smart, where I also stopped in. Hagemyer, recommended by Cris, had several different brands of 32 inch TVs, for 660-715 florins, all seemingly with a CATV connection in the back (i.e., an RG-6 cable, as opposed to just an HDMI input). Then to lunch at the Dutch pancake house in the Seaport center – an excellent “German” pancake (ham and cheese with as small salad) and a Nutella pancake for dessert. While there I received an email from the DTZ with an invoice for 50 Florins for the P40Y call I had requested two months ago, to have started three days ago. Never did end up using it on this trip (so I can’t be blamed for the excessive dupes, see below). What an inefficient bureaucracy. The DTZ had moved since I last was there, but I found them using Maps on the IPhone, but they were closed for the afternoon. However, back at home, I got a call from Cris. She had received the invoice also, and the DTZ had let her in to get the license! Now that is service. Thanks, Cris!

Incidentally, the new address for the DTZ is Rumbastraat 19, on the southern edge of Oranjestad. It runs roughly parallel to the main coast road. To get there from the north end of the street, take the sharp right at the circle at the south end of O’stad (going north). First right is Rumbastraat, and they are about two blocks on the left, a new, two-story building. Just south of it, the street stops being paved. Alternatively, turn up the street the Price Smart is on, and the first left turn (an unprepossessing, narrow but paved street about 200 feet past a large sign for a pest control company on the left) is the south end of Rumbastraat. 

 Out for a Savaneta run at 3:30 in 88-degree weather. Fortunately, there is still quite a breeze, so it wasn’t as hot as it might have been. Back home, it took quite a while to cool off, then I showered, napped a bit, had a light pre-contest meal and got ready to join the fray.

ARRL DX CW Contest Saturday, February 20-Sunday, February 21, 2016 – Contest notes more or less as dictated during the contest.  After the first hour on 7006.7 roughly, the mults are 39, all ones, twos, threes but DE, all fours, all 8s but WV, all nines, CA plus AZ, ID NV among the sevens, the only VEs are NS, QC, ON, SK, and received an “NL” from a VO1 [later I figure out that that is the official Canadian abbreviation for the province of Newfoundland-Labrador, though for this contest they are treated as separate, and VO1s are NF (Newfoundland) while VO2s are Labrador (LB)], 179 QSOs, 20.8k points. It’s a crowded band and N3RS’s key clicks are bothersome. I’m sending at 35 wpm on the Winkeyer, with the paddles set at 32 for hand sending. The beverages are working great for listening and the band is pretty quiet. After each QSO, I’m sending F5 (TU P49Y) unless I hear several stations calling, in which case I send F6 (just TU) for several Qs, but never more than three times. I’m using one of John’s new chairs, with the beam pointed about 340 degrees. I have the AGC slope set to 002 and THR at 12. Seems to work fine, though the small pileups aren’t a true test.

 A sudden flurry of dupes at about 0112Z (this happens repeatedly; will have to check for P40Y spots). EUs also call in, and if they are loud or insistent enough, I give them a 599 but don’t log them (will QSL if requested, but they won’t be in LOTW). Last 10 rate gets up to 300 for a while. DC4A opens up right on my frequency. There’s no way that he can’t hear me. But I’m running a pileup and he isn’t, so eventually he goes away. At 0200Z, 379 by 46 mults for 51k points. At 0300Z, now have 54 mults, including all states except DE and ND. At 0337Z, finally get DE (W3DA; eventually, of course, get more). Normally reclusive DC was no problem, with both KE3X and W3DQ calling in early. A very strange periodic noise starts up, peaking about every half second. It seems to be centered around 7006, so will QSY (at about 0337Z). Up to 7017 (where the amp shows only two bars of reflected power instead of 3 lower down). At 0345Z, more dupes. [Later: checking DX Summit shows two P40Y spots at about this time.]

 Things seem to dry up around 0502Z. I move to 7027 to get in the general band, and at 0508Z N0GC gives me ND for my last state. Shortly thereafter N7IV also calls in from there. At 0526, get NF from VO1HP. First break at 0557Z; rate has slowed dramatically, now at 1016 Qs by 59 mults for 169k points. I’m surprised not to have worked PEI, as usually VY2TT and VY2ZM are very active in this contest. Back on the radio, I get no answers to CQs for a few minutes, so I decide to go low on the band to look for them, and lo, there is VY2TT for PEI (later: I see that VY2ZM was a SB80).

OK, it’s 0700Z and I’m at 1076 by 59 for about 184k. I’m planning to take a 90-minute “sleep cycle” nap, as we were discussing at dinner the other night. Maybe activity will pick up after EU sunrise when the EUs stop working the US. Well, I napped briefly, but woke up naturally after only about a half hour. Contacts are coming slowly, but a very faint VY1AAA in YT calls at 0743Z for a new one. (Andy Bodony later confirms that this was W1VE operating remotely from Andy’s QTH in VT, K2LE/1; ironically, Andy himself didn’t work him). 

 At about 0819Z I’m getting called by JAs. Later on they and ZLs and KH6s seem to be everywhere. This reminds me how much more fun a real DX contest is, hi. At 0936Z a rare event for this part of the night: two stations actually call at the same time! It’s 0954Z and this is painfully slow. Please just shoot me if I ever decide to do another SB 40 in this contest (they are definitely more fun in WPX CW and CQWW CW). I’ve had 8 Qs in the last 14 minutes. That’s a lot of unrequited CQing. I’m going to try to sleep for an hour or so. US/VEs are still loud, but they just aren’t answering me anymore.

Well, it’s 1055Z, 6:55 a.m. local time, the rate is laughably low, I’m falling asleep at the CQ button, so I think I’m going to give up for the night Even though the band is still wide open, I feel as though I’m just uselessly contributing to the world’s carbon footprint by wasting RF. I’m at a raw score of 1179 QSOs by 61 mults for about 206k points. Only missing NT and NU. I imagine there is some possibility of a VE8 calling in tonight for NT, but the chances of there being a VY0 on for NU are pretty slim. [Note that if someone else wins 40m in this contest, it will probably be this decision that is the cause, as Sunday morning I stayed on for 76 more contacts in the 11 and 12Z clock hours.] 

After a few hours of sleep, I make a few log corrections that I had noted on paper and have a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Andy Bodony, K2LE, came over by prearrangement at noon to operate from our house for a few hours. He set up his K3S on the right radio side, feeding the Alpha 86, and is running stations on 10m, using his own computer, headphones, etc. I went out for a run at 12:30, and had sunny, hot (89 degrees) run along the new path from the airport to the City. Parking at the south end of the paved spots, opposite the Do-It Center, I ran up to the entrance to the Renaissance Hotel just below the Seaport Center and back. Very little shade, and quite a bit of headwind on the way back. Then drove down to the Ritz for a delicious strawberry milkshake, enjoyed outside in the breeze reading Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” a strange post-apocalyptic novel. The sky was typically Aruban, with partial sun and partial clouds. Lisandro and Lissette say that with the drought there is less cloud cover generally, leading to hotter days and cooler nights.  

 I’m getting back on the air about 2210Z (6:10 p.m. local). Two hours earlier I had listened on 40 and there were absolutely no signals. Now the band is choc-a-bloc with Europeans. By 2232 I have only about a dozen Qs, two of which are dupes (actually only 23 in the first 45 minutes), and I’ve been calling CQ for the last 4 minutes without a reply. The band is open, though, and I’ve worked as far west as NM. A flurry of calls at 2259 with more dupes. It would be very interesting to see if these dupes are claiming to be single ops or not, as they are obviously feeding off packet spots [note that after the first night I had fully 8% dupes – and those are only the ones I logged; sometimes I got so frustrated that I refused to log them.] At 0000Z I’ve finally made 100 Qs since getting on the air tonight. Now at 1280 by 61 for 221k points. Now on 7030.4; not a bad frequency though there are key clicks around. I move to 7050 in a while to get rid of dupes.

 It’s 0029Z now, and CQPWIN shows just over 12 hours of BIC (butt in chair) time into the contest, with an overall rate of 114, at 1391 by 61. The rate sheet shows hourly rates of 75, 74 and 75 in the 23, 00, and 01 clock hours. I seem to have been spotted at 0112Z; probably correctly, as it leads to only a few dupes – perhaps people who think they worked P40Y earlier (or maybe they are just careless packet spot users). It took about 20 minutes to work down that mini-pileup. Good time to take a break and walk around a bit. I have noticed that FL and GA stations are coming in much stronger on the West US beverage, while signals from further up the Coast are better, as usual, on the East US beverage. At 0218Z I’m QRMed off 7044, which I have been occupying for quite a while, by weird-sounding signals; I assume it’s some digital mode, and the users are like the SSTV guys on phone, defending “their” frequencies even when in use by contesters. I QSY to 7020.3. It’s hard to tell if there is a benefit in going below 7025. Generally speaking, the DX stations hang out above that to work the general licensees, though I notice that the Germans, seemingly using P40XM and not P40FA as they had told us, seem always to be around 7015-7020.

 With 14 hours of operating time, at 0318Z, at 1567 by 61 for 268k points. The 02 and 03 hour are my best of the evening, at 109 and 102 Qs per hour (though, of course, last night the respective rates were 184 and 174). The band continues to be quiet; I wish this were a DX contest. Terrible key clicks from IR4M; this is the second time I’ve noticed them on different frequencies – he’s about 300 Hz away and making it hard to copy weaker signals. It’s right before midnight now, 0358Z, and I’ve had a succession of dupes so am going to change frequency, which seems to be the only way to get a fresh start each time they become too annoying. I take another short eating and walking around break.

More dupes around 0426Z. It’s gotten much noisier on the band. Seems like atmospheric noise; on the P3 you can see the base level suddenly jump 10 or 15 dB. It’s now 0510Z, at 1719 Qs (still the same 61 mults; my fantasy of being called by a VE8 for NT never materializes). I think I’ll try a 90-minute nap. Although I had set the alarm, I woke up after about 40 minutes, feeling somewhat refreshed, so back at the radio (the log shows 44 minutes off in the 05Z hour). 

 I finally crash through the 300,000 point barrier at 0636Z with QSO #1760, KD5MMM. Suddenly have to chase SP8K and S50A off my frequency, both of whom start CQing at the same time with nary a “QRL?”. In the 0800 hour, I do take a longer nap, from 0852Z to 1019Z. Of course, there are still guys to be worked, but the rate in the 07 hour had slowed to a crawl at just 37 Qs. It’s hard to stay awake between contacts at that rate. Back on, the band has fewer signals, as it’s way after EU sunrise. There are lots of JAs and ZLs, but overall it’s less hectic sounding. Suddenly NP2G opens up with a huge signal just 50 Hz below me. There’s no way he can’t hear me, but for about 5 minutes he ignores repeated requests to QSY, though he eventually takes the hint. If I were QRP, I’d expect such behavior, but with a KW, there is no way he’s unaware of me.

It’s close to 8 a.m. local, an hour and a half after sunrise, and I’m falling asleep between QSOs. A very weak station starts calling CQ on my frequency. I can’t tell who it is, possibly a Pacific DX, but when a very loud WE3C starts calling him the better part of valor is for me to QSY. OK, time to bag it for the morning at 8:46 a.m., at 1929 Qs for just under 327k points. I’ve generally been sending slower the second night, at 32 or 33 wpm, with occasional forays to 30 wpm when it seems that it might shake loose some hesitant callers. 

  I go to sleep for about an hour and a half, then get up and brew some coffee. Andy Bodony comes back over at 11, to operate on 10 for another four hours. His final totals are 1126/59 for 213k points -- a very nice effort. Like yesterday, I went out for a run at about 12:30. Same basic route as yesterday, but I parked at the north end and ran south, then back to the Renaissance. Incidentally, I walked around their grounds and beach area after the run and was quite impressed. There are many iguanas; I miss the ones we used to have, but since we no longer have irrigated landscaping, they seem to have migrated to wetter areas. The weather was the same, but a bit less sun, so the run felt a little cooler. Then a vanilla milkshake at the Ritz (which, BTW, is 3 km south of our roundabout, on the right, just about one km past the sign for the Flying Fishbone).

 After Andy left circa 3:20 (with Agnes and a family friend in tow), I drove over to visit with Martin and Truus. An easy trip, as there was little traffic on a Sunday. Truus’s daughter was visiting, and they are expecting kid, grandkids, and a great-grandbaby this week. Their antenna unfortunately points only SE now, since the thrust bearing is frozen, and John hasn’t had a chance yet to get to it, having been occupied with Ben’s antenna work all week. They also have a problem getting their IC-2KL to work with a borrowed FT-840, but I think that is simple matter of figuring out the DIN pinouts at an accessory jack to key the amp, and I talked to JP about working on it for them, as it seems to be important to them both. Martin really likes phone rag-chewing, and Truss is still occupied with YL nets. They are about to celebrate a 40th wedding anniversary, and a not-to-be-named-here birthday for Truus.

Back home, I am determined to do what I can in the contest in the late afternoon, even though I know it won’t be any fun until probably the last hour before the contest ends at 8 p.m. local. First QSO at 2146Z is VE1BAB in NS. But I notice that the settings I had changed in CQPWIN weren’t remembered, and had to reset them all. After some thought, I realized this is due to W10’s feature for saving files in a virtual storage location unless you run the program as an administrator. For some reason that I don’t understand, I seem to have to tell Windows each time to run VB6 as an administrator – there must be a way to save that authorization for automatic use.  

After that first contact, there are no answers to CQs for the next 8 minutes! I try tuning around for stations to work, but every US/VE heard is already in the log. Next answer at 2200Z is a dupe, and the one after that is an R7, whom I’m not supposed to work, though I did this one out of sheer boredom. I’m immediately called by more non-counting EUs. Arrghh. In the first 45 minutes I have exactly nine Qs in the log, three of which are dupes. Even a VE3 that I worked a few minutes ago tries to dupe me now. An N8 calls; I have him twice in the log already, and he tried for another Q yesterday, so this would make four. Maybe I should take it as a compliment. Loud clicks from an EA5 250 Hz below. I’ve been on 7044 for quite a while, but a loud WX0B opens up right below, ignores requests to QSY, and starts running an EU pileup, so I move up a kHz or two, to actually a better freq. The rate eventually improves in the last hour (to 69, a respectable number for this time), but still with a frustrating amount of dupes. I am pleased to get beyond 2000 raw QSOs and 340k points, as I had been trying for both milestones and wasn’t at all sure I’d make it. 

  Final tally: 2039 raw Qs, 1870 valid ones, 61 mults, 342,210 points. Op time 22:38 hours, average rate 90.

 After the contest ends, I give Sandy a call, unplug various antennas and power cables, start packing, for my flight home tomorrow, have a glass of Frangelico, and work on these notes

Soapbox, as sent to 3830 reflector:

 I've done single band 40m entries before, in CQWW CW and WPX CW, and really enjoyed them. But if you ever hear me suggesting it again for the ARRL DX contest, please just shoot me instead. This was a tough way to spend a weekend during which, for medical reasons, I didn't want to do all the sitting still required for an all-band effort. So I thought 40 would be fun. And it was, for a few hours, but there were a lot of other hours with endless CQ-button pushing to little or no avail. The band was in great shape to EU in the evenings and to JA, ZL and the Pacific in the early mornings, and, of course, to the US and Canada all night -- it would have been a lot of fun to have been working DX this weekend, not just NA.

 And did I mention the dupes? I was staggered to have logged 169 dupes, over 8% of all contacts. And those are only the ones I logged. There were times when I got so frustrated I would do a QSO B4 and just move on (for example, two N8s who were both in the log twice and yet each called two or three more times!). While I'm mentioning pet peeves, let me add key clicks to the list --from several big gun stations that should know better.

 But I don't want to come across as an old curmudgeon. Of course, contesting always has a bright side, which included this weekend some very nice high-rate hours on Friday night, and the usual exhibition of very good operating skills by many of the contest participants. The station set up was simple and everything worked, as Ed, W0YK, P49X, basically left the radio and antennas hooked up from his recent WPX RTTY effort. And our new cable modem high-speed internet and (even) my new Windows 10 laptop all cooperated. Thanks to Ed and co-owner John, W6LD, P40L, for all their work in organizing the house and station and keeping both maintained.

 And, of course the usual ham radio social scene on Aruba was in full-swing, including JP and Cris (P43A, P43C), Lisandro (P43L) and xyl-Lissette, Martin and Truus (P49MR, P49MRS), Andy (K2LE, P40LE), John (W2GD, P40W) and a contingent of DLs: Ben (DL6RAI), and his guests Olli, Paul and Tom (DH8BQA, DL5CW, and DL5LYM). The island was definitely RF-central for the Caribbean this weekend.

Congratulations are in order for some fine efforts from Aruba, including P40XM as a Multi-2, P40W as a SOAB QRP, and P40LE as a limited time 10m single band from our QTH (using his radio) in the afternoons when I was not operating. 

73, and thanks for all the (non-dupe) QSOs, Andy, AE6Y, P49Y

 Rig: K3, Alpha 91B

 Ant: Two el. Force 12 at 65 feet, beverages

Software: CQPWIN ver. 12.8