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AE6Y Trip Notes October 2017 CQWW SSB Contest P49Y Aruba

Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y

Tuesday, October 24 – Wednesday, October 25, 2016.  I took the usual AA redeye leaving SFO at 2235 to MIA. After an uneventful flight, I spent several hours at the Admiral’s Club at D15. Did some work on a litigation case and reacquainted myself with my Sony recorder used for recording the contest. It’s one of those devices that works well, but has unintuitive controls and settings. I’m not bringing my K3, so I just have the small backpack, well stocked with books from home and from the great bookstore at SFO opposite the Admiral’s Club. Got to Aruba on time at a little after 2 and everything went smoothly, except that there was about a 15-minute line to get the bags through customs, though they only seemed to be bothering with locals, not tourists.

My Hertz car was a small Chevrolet Sonic that seemed to work fine, in a gutless (but adequate for the island) sort of way. Fortunately it has strong air-conditioning, as the temp was about 90. The house looked great. Cris has repainted it since my last visit, again white, but with a strong color which she called violet, but looks more like magenta, for the trim. It’s quite visually striking. She discussed this with me on my last visit, I had given her carte blanche, and she really used that authority.

Checking out the station, the K3/P3 seem to work OK. I hooked up all the antennas, using barrel connectors to bypass the 4O3A filters and they all seemed to work. JP had reported some problems with the 80m dipole, so I tried hot switching the on-off switch at 20 watts, and that seemed to do the trick. He also had reported a malfunction in the C31 rotor, but rocking it a half dozen times freed it up. A little before four, I was getting hungry and decided to go on a shopping trip to Ling and Sons. Though I had seen several cruise ships from the plane, it turned out that the traffic wasn’t bad either going by the back way, or returning right through Town. BTW, where one used to turn left at the Texaco to get to Lings, there is now a Citgo and a roundabout.

Other notable traffic improvements include the finishing of the 4-lane highway between the airport and our roundabout, and the repaving of our street with nice new paving. Due to the new road construction, here are updated directions to the house: 1) we are at the fourth roundabout south of the airport (not counting the one at the airport itself), 6.3 km from airport. 2) Make a 270-degree left turn at the roundabout and we are 1.1 km on the left. In the daytime, our towers are clearly visible. At night, we are just past the two story, lime-green house. Note that the third roundabout is for the road to Santa Cruz, which has cleverly been repositioned to line up with the road to the shore, replacing the former set of two traffic lights a few hundred feet apart. Just past it going south, the road veers left and all four lanes pass over the new bridge over the Spanish Lagoon. The old right of way is being turned into a some sort of linear exercise park.

I went running at my old route on Spanns Lagoenweg, starting at Marina Pirata, but had to curtail the run when I saw a pack of five dogs furiously chasing a car, then transferring their affections to the only other jogger in evidence. Still had a nice 33-minute run, in spite of my usual day-of-arrival blahs. Returned at about 6:30, and there were messages on the machine from John Crovelli and Yuri. John and I ended up since our usual local trattoria B55 had closed, sharing a pizza (which he paid for in honor of my 72d birthday today) at the UC Pizza place (Urataka Center). To get there turn right at Mondo Nobo in Santa Cruz and it’s about half a mile on the left on the way to Arikok Park. I had noticed it on my last visit to the park with Bob Chortek, and it seemed really out in the middle of nowhere. But the pizza and a couple of Balashis were very good.

I was going to do more radio set up but was too tired, so I read a bit and crawled into bed at about 10:20, then delightfully received a birthday call from the kids in Portland, followed by a call from Yuri to discuss his borrowing our FT1000D tomorrow.

Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. I awoke a little after seven and put on work pants and boots for a trip into the cunucu. Fortunately, the top wire of the 160m vertical dipole was still attached to something way out yonder, which was surprising considering all the construction behind James’s house next door, where they are basically building another house in the cunucu. The short yellow rods were still in the ground, so it was an easy task to lay out the wire for the lower leg of the antenna and install it on the yellow rods stored in garage, attaching the far end with a rope to a bush beyond the last pole. Still, I was sweating when I finished – it looked like it was going to be another hot day. Back in the shack it seemed to load up fine.

I attended to some work emails, then hooked up the tuner for 40 phone. I replaced the felts and mic shield on the shack Heil Proset, but found that it only worked on the right earphone. Not sure why; I’ll bring them back for analysis at home. Hooked up the computer, putting it on the main table to the right of the rig, since there is no second radio and our card table has disappeared. Checked out the 91B, which put out over a kW on all bands. I ran about 100 US and EUs on 15. Very strong sigs from Europe, which boded well for the contest.

Yuri and his friend Anta were to come by at 10:30, but apparently got thoroughly lost on the way so were delayed, but did eventually did show up and took away our FT1000D to use in the contest. I later went over to see Cris to discuss finances an give her some cash, stopped in at JP’s dealership to chat, then had lunch of a coffee milkshake at the Ritz.

Back at the shack, I replace the grey PS2 keyboard with the ratty looking white/yellow one. It’s very grungy, but the keys are a little quieter – and a bit better after cleaning with Windex. If I’m too repelled, I’ll put the grey one back (which I did later). We could stand to bring another one down. I have to be careful not to pound on the keys, as the VOX can be set off with the grey keyboard when I’m hunched over trying to interpret a callsign.

I spent some time checking out John Fore’s suitcase full of Dell laptops. All four worked, though one might have a dead battery. [Ultimately, after fiddling, switching batteries, etc., it turned out that they all were OK]. I then hooked up the K3 to key both amps as I had done in the past. This is to allow them to be set on separate bands for quick band switching. Last time I used the Alpha-Delta coax switch on the table leg to do this, but that meant that only one amp could use the C31. This time I left the C31 Stackmatches in place as normal, but added another Alpha-Delta switch (found in a bin on top of the closet in the second bedroom) to switch the radio output to either amp. That means that I have to switch the Sixpak manually for both amps. I also bypassed the left radio filters just for simplicity.

I was checking out the 86 Amp at about 1700 local time when I heard signals on 10. I ran about 60 guys (all US), many with good signals, then decided to go running. I went up to the airport path this time. Much nicer than at Savaneta: no dogs or cars, but quite a few walkers and joggers, showing that this path is starting to get more usage than when it was first built. John came by to pick me up at 7:15, and we met Lisandro and Lissette for a lovely dinner at Marina Pirata, sitting out by the water. The fish were quite hungry. They really went for bread, somewhat less for pieces of fish, and not at all for broccoli. I had fresh barracuda, grilled in a lemon butter sauce that was very good. After my 45-minute run in the heat, the two Balashis went down well also. I had brought a small flashlight in case our porch light was out when I got back (it wasn’t), which turned out to be very useful for reading the menu and even seeing the food in the dark on the deck.

Lisandro and Lissette explained the many large flags we had noticed all around (for example, there is a huge yellow flag flying on a hill at Frenchman’s Pass near us). These are for different political parties. The Green Party (the AVP) had controlled 14 of the 21 seats in the Parliament, but in the recent election they only got 9 seats, and the Yellow Party (the MEP) also got 9, so they will have to form a coalition government. The colors have no actual meaning (i.e., the Green Party isn’t an environmental party as in Europe); they are simply to identify the parties. The new PM may end up being a female tax attorney.

Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.  Got up a little after seven and had cereal and coffee for breakfast. I wanted to get some pictures of the front of the house in the morning light, so I moved the car away and did snap a few. In the shack, I hooked up the recorder. A very simple hookup now, starting with a ¼-inch stereo cable plugged into the front panel phones jack. It has two female jacks. One of which I used for the headphones and the other (with a 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch stereo adaptor) for the stereo cable to the recorder. The mic is plugged into the Kenwood Heil adaptor (red band) at the front panel mic connector. I had debated doing all of this at the rear panel, which would have the benefit of making the RF gain control easier to access, but decided to do it this way for simplicity of changing headphones if necessary. To switch from my Heil headphones to the Yamaha CM500s I had brought for a spare, it is necessary just to access the Mic item in the config menu and turn the bias on by pressing “2.” Best to use it the low gain setting, (which also works for the Heil), and the VOX gain may need to be reduced a bit.

At about noon I went out for a run, same route as yesterday, but only 28 minutes in deference to the 91-degree bright sunshine. Not a single other jogger or walker in evidence. Back at the house, I whiled away time reading and doing work emails and document review. At about 4:15 I took a trip through the Taco Bell drive-through to have some early dinner. It’s hard to eat during a phone contest, though, of course, the Classic, 24-hour, category does allow for relatively normal eating in off times.

CQWW Phone Contest Saturday, Oct. 28 – Sunday Oct. 29, 2017 – Contest notes. 20 was great before the contest for ten minutes while warming up the frequency. Got called by JAs and an HL. Then after about 20 min in the contest, working mostly US, it just stopped coming. Very strange. As I found out the next two days, the band was just about closing up by 0000Z. I tuned around for a few minutes, then quit the band. What a discouraging way to start the contest. However, 40, though usually dreaded by me, was terrific. My best hour of the contest was the 0100Z hour, with 313 Qs on 40! This is on 7218, and John Fore later said that going high in the band was a good move to get a clear frequency. Of course it’s not in the EU band, though a few do call in. At 0244Z I decide to go below 7100, first to 7058, then to 7087 to run EUs. The 91B works fine without the tuner below 7150 and with the tuner above 7150. At 0335Z I’m going to try 160, which is very disappointing. Better than 2015, though, when it was so noisy that I only managed to work 3 stations, all in zone 9. But virtually no answers to CQs, not even from the big American multis that usually pick you up right away, so after 10 minutes I head to 80. A pretty good run on 3750. At 0507Z, while tuning around on 80, I work CN2AA who asks me to move to 1888. Although that is a high swr region for our dipole, I do go there at maybe 700 watts on the 86, and we make the move successfully.

I decide to take a break at 0624Z, with 40: 865/54/15, 80: 218/28/13, 160: 13/11/6. 40 has been terrific with excellent runs. 80 has been a struggle with not very many EUs worked. I’m going to take some time off and maybe get back on at around in the 10Z hour to try to work Asia on 40. It’s now 2:30 a.m. local time, so I’ll try for about 3-4 hours of sleep. Overall total is 1142 by 146 for 486k points. I am not very pleased with the totals, mainly due to poor 20 at the start.

Back on the air at 1024Z, starting on 40. I work a few new mults, then head to 20 at 1048Z, first searching and pouncing for EU mults, then starting an EU run on 14128. A very nice morning run restores my spirits. Now at 172/48/16 on 20 at 1130Z. To 15 at 1137Z as the band is wide open to EU. Again first some tuning around then a run on 21189 of EUs. I later go up to 21335 and 21425, but am still working mostly EUs with a few US.

At 1252Z I decide to take an hour off, not quite sure why, but I’m a little tired of running EUs. I have 8:47 of on time, a little more than one-third of my allowed 24 hours. The 15 meter total is 206/44/11. Up to 1.3M points. After a brief nap and some food I come back on an hour later and resume EU runs on 21183, then longer on 21155. It’s now 1527Z after a very nice run on 15, at 523/58/16.

Going to 20, which seems to be open to EU. I stay on 14282 for a mixed US/EU run until 1617Z. 10 does not seem to be open, but I do work a few SAs and a few Ws, but then move to 15 to look for rate at 1630Z. I’m trying to conserve on time, so will take another hour off at 1759Z; I’ve been on for 12:50. Total is 2.1M points. A very nice run on 15. I keep checking 10. It’s not open to the US for me except for one or two guys. The total is only 18/12/9, mainly SAs. Need to come back later this afternoon to work some more mults on 20 and 15, while hoping that 10 opens to the US.

Back on at 1905Z and 10 is indeed open to the States, though not at a high rate (141 Qs in 55 minutes). For a while, I seem to be working only zone 4 stations, though some DX and zone 5s call in as well. But in search of rate, I decide to head to 20 at 2000Z. I run EUs on 14128 for a half hour then head back to 10, afraid to miss any interesting opening there. The opening is a little broader, but still no EUs. A detour to 21264 yields 46 Qs, then a wonderfully exhilarating run on 14289 results in 736 Qs with excellent rate (289 in the 22Z hour!). There is a large but manageable pileup, which was big enough to keep the frequency pretty clear. Mostly US but some DX, and a bunch of JAs near the end (but no other Asians). Then turned the C31 to the south and worked a few new SA zones.

OK, it’s 2353Z, the end of the first day. I now have used 17 hours, 38 min of on time, leaving 6:22 for the second day. Note I’ve been using both amps, one at a time, setting the 91B on one band and the 86 on another and using the Alpha-Delta switch to control which one the radio talks to (with the key out on the K3 keying both amps simultaneously, though only one putting out power at a time). I have to remember to switch antennas manually on the SixPak. On the low bands, I keep the 86 on 160, as its power output is only about 900w on 80 and 40. Generally I run the amps in the 1 to 1.3 kW range. I used the 86 on this run on 20, and was glad to be able to use the C31 for that amp also. First day totals are 10:256/18/12, 15: 1003/62/18, 20: 1137/72/25. The overall rate has climbed to 200 per hour, up from about 186 at the start of the 20m run. The total now is 3531/339 for just under 3.5M points.

I take an hour off then get back on 40 and 160 for about an hour and a half, finally working a few US stations on 160 but no new DX. I think this is where running assisted would be really helpful, to spot brief 160 appearances by DX stations.

It’s 0238Z, score is 3.816M points, 3784/346. I listened for few minutes and called CQ on 80 to no avail, though 40 was much better. I have 5 hours of time left; since it is 10:38 p.m. local time, I’ll plan to sleep for a few hours.

Back on at 0618Z (0218 local), and get 10 new countries on 80 and a few on 40, in a half hour. Will try again close to our dawn on 40. Starting after a few hours more sleep at 1015Z, I do get a few new ones on 40: ZF, YB, KH6, but don’t hear any JAs. Only spend 11 minutes on the air. At 1125/68/20 now on 40. Checking 20 an hour later, I work HC0 and 9Y for new ones in 2 minutes (part of the Classic strategy is to try to find some mults in short bursts of operating time, while still taking off times of at least an hour). At 1310Z, I get on 15 again looking for mults. I don’t want to use my remaining 4 hours just to run EU pileups, as the rate will be much higher running the US in the afternoon. But I do get PJ4, A6, Z3, A4 and 8P (strangely this is the only time in all my tuning around that I hear Tom, 8P5A). I try check every hour or two briefly for new mults as I while away the early afternoon reading.

Feeling slightly stir-crazy, I went for a run at the airport. No sun, heavily overcast, so more comfortable than on Friday. Again virtually no other pedestrians out, but it was much quieter with less traffic as well, since it is Sunday.

On the way back, I went through the McD drive through and was eating my McChicken at the dining room table when I heard a screech and a bang. Going outside, it seemed that someone had run into two cars parked next door in front of the former church house. There was a woman whose car had also been hit, and she was sobbing in front of the house across the street. No one seemed to know exactly what had happened, and apparently the perpetrator had fled. The police came and I went back inside. It was all very strange and unusual. Shortly thereafter an extremely heavy rainstorm started that lasted for about an hour. There was thunder as well. Our power stayed on, but I could hear rain static on the radios, and, of course, the rain was very loud on the metal roof. John Crovelli later said there had been a lightning strike somewhere, and he lost power for an hour and a half, and Lisandro said that Lissette’s sister had suffered surge damage to modems, etc. I’m glad I took in the 160 in earlier today. I was thinking of leaving it out, but it’s very easy to deal with now with the construction outside and it seemed safer not to tempt fate by leaving the lower leg out for John’s CW effort next month. I’m also glad I went running when I did.

Now there are four hours left in the contest, but I only have 52 minutes to go. Just had great runs on 10 and 15 (582 Qs in the 18Z and 19Z hours). At the end of the 15m run I noticed I was missing, of all things, zone 11 (Brazil). Tuning around briefly with the C31 south, I found one easily. Thanks also to VY0ERC for zone 1 on that band (never heard a KL7). The rain static has disappeared, fortunately. However, there is a slow leak in the ceiling of the living room near the front window, which I first discovered when a drop fell on my head. I’ve put some tape on the ceiling to mark it and will ask JP to take a look.

I spend my last time on 20 running US (246 QSOs in the last 46 minutes, a 320/hour rate), with only one new country (GJ2A), and end the contest at 2151Z, just before 6 p.m. local. How civilized!

Monday, Oct. 30, 2015.  As always after a contest, I slept very soundly, awaking groggily at about 7. Had some coffee and restored the shack to its previous state, ready for John’s CW efforts in a few weeks. I picked up John at 9 and we went over to Ben’s to get Yuri and Anta for breakfast at the Palms Restaurant at the Hyatt. Yuri was plagued with some noise issues, but did very well anyway. I collected my FT1000D back from him, but will have to have someone work on the low output on 160-40 issue (Yuri had reported only about 15 watts on those bands, but full output on the high bands). Back at the house, I continued cleaning up and submitted my 3830 report.

I was going to run at the airport, but I drove past it to check out the Surfside restaurants, making a reservation at Barefoot for 7:30. Then got caught in a brief rain shower. Instead I drove south to Savaneta for my usual run from Marina Pirata to La Granja, where it had not been raining at all. But it was pretty hot. Had a quick milkshake at the Ritz, then to the house to meet John, who came over at 3:30. He climbed the C31 tower and verified that the antenna was swinging freely, though the rotor was rotating it. In other words, the brake is shot and the rotor needs to be replaced. He attached one of our garage storeroom ropes to the boom and anchored it to the 10/15 tower to prevent the antenna from swinging enough to break the cables.

John thought he had found the source of intermittent noise on a pole at the foot of JP’s street, I think. I mentioned that we had an MFJ noise sniffer device, so I gave it to him to borrow. He assembled the small 3 el. Yagi, while I took the unit apart and threw out the old, corroded battery and had to file the connectors to clean them. Fortunately, there was a new 9-volt battery in our battery box (thanks, John and Ed, for your organizational efforts) and that one worked. So we’ll see if the device works for him.

After a shower and shave, I picked up John and then Cris and JP and we all drove to the Barefoot restaurant, in the Surfside area just before entering Oranjestad. We were seated on the beach and had quite a good meal. Afterwards, I drove them back to the house to show JP and Cris where the ceiling had leaked. Hopefully, they will be able to do something about it.

Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017.  Did the usual packing, cleaning up, etc. I went out for a last run at about 9:30. It was very pleasant at Savaneta, and I felt as though I had finally hit my stride and could run on and on. I then went for a swim. There is a small concrete structure with steps leading to the water (and even a light pole above it) not far down from Marina Pirata. It’s pleasant because you can go in the water there without sandals, as the bottom has been cleared for a way out. Delightful. Then went to Santa Cruz to fill up on gas, and back to the house for a PBJ for lunch. Finally to the airport for my 3 p.m. flight to MIA, and then to SFO, scheduled to arrive at 11 p.m. It was a long day.

Contest Report, as sent to 3830 reflector. 

Well, this is my fourth Classic entry (phone this year and in 2015, and CW in 2014 and 2016). It's definitely a good "old man's" category. It's so civilized to get some sleep and be able just to walk away from the radio for an hour if all that QRM screaming distorted audio in your ears can't be suffered any more, hi.

The contact total is down about 6% from 2015, but mults are down by about 15%. This was due mainly to worse 10m propagation, but also to a reduced zone count on other bands due to less worldwide propagation from here, e.g., to Asia and Oceania. Here's a comparison of contacts/countries/zones on 10 meters: 2017: 565/24/13, 2015: 2372/81/26.

But there were great stateside runs on 40-10 to liven up the contest. It's hard to believe that my best hour was on 40 meters (313 Qs) on Friday night(a 40m record from here in any contest).

Aruba had lots of activity, with John, W2GD, on as P40W (LP(A)), Yuri, VE3DZ, as P40T (AB HP), and Lisandro, P43L, as a single-band 80, plus some other locals as well. In lieu of the traditional post-contest diner, we elected this time for a post-contest breakfast at the Hyatt, with everyone in much better shape than in the evening.

Thanks to everyone for the generally good manners shown in the contest. I had a few very brief episodes that sounded like jamming (e.g., one guy cursed me out for a while on 20 till the pileup drowned him out). But it sure would be nice if the distorted audio guys would turn down their processors. In the pileups, it is always easier to pull out the callers with very clean audio, even if their signals aren't as strong as someone you have trouble understanding because of garbled audio.

As always, thanks to co-owner John, W6LD, and frequent user Ed, W0YK, for all their efforts in maintaining the station, and to Cris and Jean-Pierre (P43C, P43A) for their help with the house. BTW, I'll put a picture on the website shortly displaying Cris's new trim color for the house: a bright magenta that is much more interesting and eye-catching than the old blue or green colors she has used in the past. A full write-up on the contest will also be there. See www.arubaqth.com

73, Andy, AE6Y

Rig: Elecraft K3, Alpha 91B
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. 12.9

Here is my band breakdown, along with John (W2GD)'s effort at P40W in the SOAB Low Power Assisted class, and Yuri (VE3DZ)'s effort at P40T in the SOAB High Power class this year for comparison:




P40T 2017 SOAB HP