P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

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Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y

Tuesday, May 25 – Wednesday, May 26, 2021.  I was on my usual AA redeye to MIA, leaving at 10:45 p.m., then a five-hour layover in MIA before arriving in Aruba at about 2 p.m. the next day. I left the house at about 7 to allow plenty of time, but encountered no traffic, immediate pickup at Anza Parking (though still no valet service) and no line at the counter or TSA, so I emerged into the new AA Terminal 1 with about two0 hours to kill and almost no way to do so. Just like last October, most of the shops and restaurants were closed, even at 8 p.m., and the Admirals Club still was only open until 3:30 p.m.  

On Monday I had flown back to SJC from Portland. PDX seemed back to normal with lots of customers, and SJC was busier than it had been a few months ago, so I was surprised to find the AA terminal at SFO still so empty.

I checked just one suitcase, filled probably 40% with stuff for Cindy and Lissette. There were a few items for JP also; unfortunately, I had to leave behind a truck model package that he had had delivered to me. It was about 40 inches long, and I had no suitcase big enough to carry it.

The K4 was one of Rick Tavan’s, N6XI, two field test units, and Elecraft had approved my borrowing it from Rick to wring it out in DX contest conditions. Unfortunately, it is about three inches wider than the K3, so it did not fit in my normal K3-transporting backpack. Instead, it did fit rather snugly in a small carry-on suitcase, cushioned by Rose Kopp’s K3 travel bag that Rick had also lent me. So it should be pretty safe in transit. I had picked it up last week, but only had a short time to experiment with it. It’s generally backwards compatible with the K3, e.g., it still has a 15-pin accessory port and an RS-232 port, but it also has 4 USB connections. In general the construction seems a bit more solid than the K3, and, of course, the touch-screen display is just beautiful. My CQPWIN program seems to work fine for rig control and sending CW through the Winkeyer to it, so I suspect it will be easy to use.

Aruba has the same rules as last October regarding needing a Covid PCR nasal swab test for entry. And exit has gotten worse, since there is a CDC requirement for a test before returning. Both have to be within 72 hours of the flight. Testing is more widely available now, however. I managed to get a rapid results (20 min.) NAAT test in Portland at one of Legacy GoHealth’s urgent care clinics, per Holly’s suggestion. Aruba has a number of testing sites, including some open on Sunday. I’m going to try for a test Sunday morning, a slack time in the contest.

I slept for several hours on the plane, then had a nice breakfast at the MIA Admirals Club at D37 while waiting for the Aruba flight. MIA seems pretty much like normal, with all shops open and lots of people scurrying around, but my guess is traffic is down.

Arrival in Aruba was a real mess and careened off in a bad direction until finally ending well. First, there were several planes arriving at the same time, creating long lines before passport control to check on everyone’s testing status. The lady checking Covid tests accepted my results and gave me a blue placard, but I foolishly left that at passport control, and the person there didn’t stop me. The net result was that after getting the luggage there was a second check for the blue cards. I didn’t have mine and my Abbott ID Now NAAT test required some separate verification from the health care organization. Unfortunately I didn’t have that on my phone. They were very nice and let me sit down near the carousel and look on my laptop, but even though I was registered with Legacy GoHealth, I couldn’t access their website (presumably their fault, not mine). After a while, in desperation I showed the lady the email from them saying I had results, then showed her the document sent, which I had saved on the screen, and she let me through. I was afraid I’d have to go through local testing, which they can do, but fortunately got out of the airport without such a test in about an hour. The saving grace is that they didn’t inspect my luggage, which included lots of stuff for Cindy and for Lissette. Also my K4 – John Crovelli, W2GD, said that he had had a lot of trouble with his K3 and had to affirm in writing that he would take it back out of the country.

The Hertz car is a Nissan Sentra. It works fine but has the most nonuser-friendly radio I’ve ever seen. It’s a Pioneer half-height unit, but in all the driving I did on this trip (approx. 320 km in all) I never figured out how to tune the radio or even set up the display to be visible in daylight. The controls and the tiny buttons were inscrutable and seemingly useless. Who designs such a radio? Arriving at the cottage, I started setting up the K4 and checking the antennas. They all seem fine, except the SteppIR acts like it isn’t connected.

Went running at 6 or so. Both sneakers delaminated during the run, so much so that I had to throw them and my socks out when I returned. A very strange event. Then John and I met for dinner at Kibaima, the old B55. My cheeseburger was much better than I recall the meat (filet?) being last October.

I hooked up the Winkeyer and the computer and operated low power in the 0300 CWT. Made about 75 contacts and felt quite rusty. Only a few on 80, where I struggled to be heard. To bed after a glass of Frangelico circa 12:15.

The computer hookup to the K4 is simpler than with the K3. I don’t need any USB-serial converters at all. Here’s the setup:

1) Monitor to hdmi port on computer with adaptor.

2) Compaq 4-port USB expander with

a. One USB cable to Winkeyer

b. One USB cable directly to USB square slot on back of radio, for freq and rig commands

c. One USB to PS2 adaptor for keyboard. The mouse is using my wireless Logitech mouse, with a USB dongle in the computer (I didn’t bring the matching keyboard, or I could have used that as well).

3) Headphones in back of K4

4) Output of Winkeyer siamesed with my tune-up switch to the key in jack on the back panel of the K4. Note that the K4 has a convenient button labeled TUNE LP that I set for 20 watts for amp adjustment.

Thursday, May 27, 2021. Up at about 7:15 feeling quite logy and off to Ling’s for a $170 shopping trip. The house had run out of many necessities, including beer, paper towels, etc. After some coffee back at the house and a bowl of frosted flakes, I felt a bit better.

I checked antennas and hooked up the Mid-Tri to one of the StackMatches to be able to switch between it and the normal monobanders. Got a scare when the Mid-Tri didn’t seem to be rotating and there was a “no motion” error on the GH controller, but playing with the rotation manually seemed to free it up. Drove over to see Cris and JP (briefly, on his way back to work) and Andy, to drop off all the stuff I had transported for Cindy and Andy.

BTW, since I always get confused trying to find the Urataka pizza place, which is hidden in the back country, I drove carefully to it using iPhone navigation. So here are directions to Urataka from the bottom of JP’s street: drive .4 km to a small roundabout then another 1.0 km to where the road veers off to the left. Take a sharp right and Urataka is about 1/3 mile on the left.

The 91B reassuringly seemed to put out 1kw on all bands (and it worked flawlessly during the contest). I listen to the transmitted signal on the K3 (with its antenna disconnected) to verify that even at full break-in the 91B keeps up with the K4. However, I now realize KK9A, who was here in March for WPX SSB, left the 80m inverted vee tuned for phone, resonant at 3696 kHz. I will have to lengthen it, but will do it first thing tomorrow morning, when it will be cool out.

In the afternoon, I had about three hours of telephone and Zoom work calls. I also listened to the Thursday afternoon mass at the kids’ school; the first graders were featured, and Roxy did great as the first reader introducing the ceremony. Zoom worked fine for a meeting arranged by the office, but another one produced error messages saying I couldn’t connect to it from Aruba. Then finally off for a run from our circle on the path north to the next circle (the same run I got rained on during CQWW SSB last fall), and off to the Taco Bell for a quick take-out meal. Not so quick actually, as the line extended out into the street, and it took about 15 minutes in all. Then back home, and I run some guys on 40 cw. Got tired and tumbled into bed a little after 10.

Friday, May 28, 2021 – Saturday, May 29, 2021.Up at 6:15 and went outside to lengthen the 80m dipole. I had calculated that the lengthening should be about 36 inches to bring it to 3530, but there were tape marks and heavy tape set at what was labeled on one of the ends as “3.5.” That represented 32 inches of added length. I used those marks, as otherwise I would have had to take off the tape to get the wire through the insulators. In the shack it showed resonance on the AA-55 at 3558 kHz, with the SWR at 1.17, and an SWR of 1.5 at the band edge of 3500. Had to get the ladder out of the garage to reach the end in the cunucu. I was serenaded by furious barking from four dogs next door.

I did some work reviewing documents for work. After breakfast I drove around up to the California lighthouse just to get out of the house. I stopped in at Ben’s to see John and Leslie, but the house was locked. There is a roundabout now at their turn. Today is hotter than the last two days, probably about 88 degrees.

Checking conditions, I noted that at about 1 p.m., 15 was open to EU and I ran a small pileup. Off to run at 4 p.m. on the trail starting at the Santa Cruz intersection with the main road. Forty minutes in the sun felt good.

The contest started poorly for me. I didn’t establish a frequency solidly at the start and ended up having to move around for a while before settling in at 7051 after 7 minutes. The band was extremely crowded. I can’t recall ever having as much difficulty establishing a run frequency on 40 CW. I was feeling out of sorts and discouraged, and only ended up with 120 QSOs in the first hour on 40. For comparison John Crovelli’s first two hours were 161 and 148, leaving me initially in the dust.

Towards the end of the second hour, I went to 20 which was wide open. The band was less crowded, and my rate picked up to 143 in the 0300Z hour (actually my single best hour of the contest). If I end up coming in second to KP2M, it will be because of poor operating by me at the start of the contest. I returned to 40 in the 0400Z hour, and the band had somewhat calmed down, leading to two respectable hours of 139 and 120. I tried 80 briefly in the 0300 and 0600 hours, but netedt only 30 QSOs. There seemed to be no reason to abandon 40 for 80, with slower rates.

When 40 started to slow down, I tool an hour and half off from 0725 to 0909, when I wanted to resume to catch Japanese stations, and in the next 142 QSOs on 40, I did get 37 JA prefixes.

After another hour and half off I hit 15 at 1243Z and stayed on 15, with interspersed off times until 2252Z. My best three hours are 19-21, with rates of 141, 135 and 137. John was nearby, and had a similar experience (140, 132, 130). This was an enjoyable run. Signalsw ere good and there was less QRM on a band with more room to spread out. Starting at 0018, I spent almost three hours on 40 and 45 minutes on 20, finally going QRT for the night at 0344Z. This is just before midnight local time, and it was really fun to be dxing on 20 so late at night. There was great propagation over the poles to Asia and deep Russia, but I needed to maximize more 40m time the next day, so I pulled the switch at 2396 QSOs, and did not get back on the air for 14 ½ hours, until 1818Z on Sunday. Had a glass of Frangelico, finished my fourth airplane book of the trip, and went to bed.

By the way, on 15 and 20 I have been running the monobanders to the northeast and the Mid-Tri to the northwest, sometimes splitting power between them. Switching between them helped when the pile-up grew too big, as the monobanders, particularly, are very directive.

To get more control of RF gain to try to sort out a pile-up by volume, I set the AGC threshold on the menu to 8. There is less adjustment range than on the K3; it only adjusts from 4 to 8. I set the slope to 10 (similarly, its range is only from 10 to 15). I’m not sure exactly what these numbers mean or if they are comparable to K3 values which cover a wider numerical range, but they do allow some control over the RF gain by using the RF gain knob.

Sunday, May 30, 2021 I slept dreamlessly till awakening naturally at 7. Brewed some coffee then went off for my test at the Palm Beach Plaza testing center. Had to wait about 20 min in line behind a group of a dozen women but was out in 25 minutes or so total. They use the Aruba Health App, which gives you a QR code they can scan. The actual test involved a throat and one nostril swab, using the same q-tip, and they promise to email results within 24 hours. Let’s hope so. It cost $75, and they accepted my $100 bill without demur (though there are signs at many stores saying they don’t accept $50s and $100s due to counterfeiting).

Strangely, as I was leaving I ran into John, who was walking around outside looking for the testing center. I drove him there, as it’s easy to find if you know where it is, but isn’t signed from the outside. He’s at 2500+ Qs with 9 hours left in the contest (i.e., presumably he has been on for 27 hours). I then drove to the Hyatt for a traditional breakfast on the patio watching the koi and black swan in the little pond. They only had a buffet, presumably in a cost-saving measure, and it wasn’t a very lavish one, but adequate for my needs.

At about 12:30 local time I went running on the trail starting at the airport to the Coral Pyramid. Only one other Mad Dog or Englishman was out but it actually wasn’t too bad, with a lower temp than yesterday and a stiff cooling breeze. I then couldn’t resist driving to the Ritz (about 3 km south of our roundabout) for a vanilla milkshake before returning home to rejoin the fray.

I checked email at 6 p.m. and was pleased to see that my test results from this morning had come back. They are on my health app as negative! Fortunately.

Checking 40, the East Coast beverage seemed surprisingly weak, and that had been my most useful one the past two nights. But turning on and off the preamp in the K9AY switchbox seemed to restore it, so it may be a control problem.

I only had 3 ¼ hours of my 24 hours left, so I tried to maximize rate on 15 and 20. When I quit 20 at 2021Z (4:21 p.m. local) I checked 40 and it was dead, but by 6 it was alive with EUs. So my plan was to try to spend my last hour and a quarter on 40. That band was in good shape, and I ran out the contest there getting lots of 6-point QSOs.

John and I met for a pizza and Balashi at Urataka at 8:30 for our post-contest dinner. It was actually crowded when we arrived with the outside patio filled and with amplified music. But it was quieter inside, so we had a good contest chat. When I got home I started checking contest reports and drafting my own write-up. Also picked up a copy of Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, one of my favorite books that I had left here a few trips ago, and started reading it as I am otherwise down to my last book (“the First Muslim” a fascinating look at the life of Muhammed).

Soapbox, as sent to 3830 reflector: 

I got off to a bad start Friday night on 40, on a very crowded band with a lot of atmospheric noise (which calmed down later) and an op feeling very rusty and uncoordinated (the op calmed down later, also). I was seriously discouraged, but forced myself to remember that Friday nights are usually the hardest in contests from here. Needless to say, once I got in the contest groove, it became much more fun.

And some friendly assistance from the ionosphere certainly helped greatly. 40, 20, and 15 were all in great shape here. It was particularly fun to work 20 near midnight and get the old-fashioned, high-sunspot over the pole propagation to deep Russia and Asia. I could easily have spent a lot more time enjoying dx-ing on 20, but the classic category forces choices. 15 produced my highest hourly rates Saturday afternoon. 80 was very noisy and unproductive compared to 40. I never tried 10, because the opening I did hear Sunday morning seemed to be shallow and focused on the East Coast, so there was no point in experimenting while 15 was hot.

Early in the first hour, while looking for a frequency on 40, I called P44W, and I think I may have made one more S&P contact in the contest. But other than those, I only turned the tuning knob to try to find a clear frequency, and my contest procedure this time was 100% running.

I was using a K4 field test unit borrowed (with Elecraft's consent) from N6XI (thanks, Rick!), and it was pleasure to use the new, colorful and more computer-controlled display. In general, it's backwards compatible with a K3 for external connections, so is very easy to get it working if you are used to a K3. The Elecraft crew have been working on this radio for quite a while, and their work has paid off with a very user-friendly and technically top-notch radio. Thanks, guys for the loan!

Our new suite of antennas from just barely pre-Covid times worked great, and the directionality on 20 and 15 was helpful in narrowing the pileups somewhat, which often came from NA and EU at the same time.

I have enjoyed the classic category in CQWW DX contests on several occasions, and thought it would be fun in WPX as well, now that it is officially a 24-hour category. There's always off-time strategy calls to be made in this contest in the SO category for 36-hour operation, and even more so for 24. I also enjoy getting some real sleep time, and the feeling that if you are going crazy and just need a break, or want to enjoy a leisurely meal, you can just take an hour off and not feel guilty about the non-radio timeout.

The social scene on Aruba is slowly inching towards normalcy. It's still a pain to have to get tested before coming (within 72 hours of flight time, the Aruba requirement), and then get tested again before leaving (within three days of flight time, the CDC requirement). At least on the latter front, there are now a multitude of convenient 7-day a week walk-in test sites, and John, W2GD, and I went to the same one in slow contest time Sunday morning for our exit test.

On this visit it's been fun to see some Aruba regulars: JP, P43A, and Cris, P43C; John, W2GD/P44W; John KK9A/P40A; Lisandro P43L and Lissette. On my last visit in October, social interactions were sharply reduced by a curfew and strict restaurant social distancing protocols, but these are in the process of being lifted, so we'll be able to have our usual good times here.

Thanks as always to co-owner John, W6LD, and soon to be returning after vaccination Ed, W0YK, for their station maintenance efforts and to Cris and JP for their work on the house.

And thanks to everyone around the world for all for the great contest participation this year. Full write-up will be on our website: www.arubaqth.com (this will be our 173d contest listing!) 73,

Rig: K4, Alpha 91B
Ant: JK 4 el 20/2 el 40 at 65 ft, JK Mid-Tri at 45 ft, JK 5 el 15 at 55 ft, 80m inv. vee, beverages
Software: CQPWIN, ver. 13.1

73, and thanks for all the Qs,
Andy, AE6Y

Monday, May 31, 2021.

This was a day for social activities. I woke up at 7 and started checking 3830 reports, then sent off my own. John and I had arranged to meet at the parking lot of the Santa Cruz Bar restaurant at 8:15, to drive together to Lindas’ Pancake House (on the road from Ben’s house to the hotels, just before the Citgo and Wendy’s) to meet John Bayne for our post-contest breakfast. After John didn’t show up for 10 minutes, I drove on myself, arriving 10 minutes late, and we had a delightful breakfast on the front open-air seating. I had suggested 8:30 because I remembered it gets crowded, and sure enough when we left an hour later there were a dozen or so people in line for a table. We enjoyed their usual great Dutch pancakes (mine with brie, walnuts and honey – it looked familiar, and I think I ordered the same thing last time I was there over a year ago). Leslie was with John, and we had a very pleasant chat. John Crovelli called on my cell as I was driving back to the house and apologized for oversleeping.

To Cris and JPs at 12:30 for to talk the house and finances. Re repairs, I showed pics of the front step, the tile on the front porch, and the two doors. We also discussed the a/cs and the big wooden table. Then over to visit Lisandro and Lissette. We talked at some length about remoting, and he has been in touch with the DTZ about that. They have been very pandemic busy. Lissette has been nurturing a large variety of orchids, and they have planted a large vegetable garden with among other several varieties of plantains and bananas. Finally, Lisandro has started construction on his backyard observatory for his 10-inch telescope. Very impressive industry!

Returning home, I went running on the inland part of yesterday’s trail for 45 minutes in the sun and wind, then showered and changed, waiting for Lisandro to come over to view the K4 for a while. He clearly wants one!

Met Cris, JP and John at Barefoot (at the roundabout at the north end of the airport and the south end of O’stad) for a very good dinner. For me: Caesar salad (with extra anchovies) and Grouper Romana (over pasta and vegetables) along with key lime pie. At dinner, JP and Cris helped us to understand the intense of political activity that was evident all over the island. All 21 parliamentary seats are up for election on June 25. If MEP or AVP wins 11 they form a government. There are signs all over and many flags: yellow for MEP, green for AVP. Cris is for AVP, but JP can’t vote since he is a citizen of Belgium. I found out that the AVP was in power when all the trails that I use so much were put in, over MEP opposition, so I’m with AVP also. JP says they are both centrist parties and that the agenda of each is primarily to oppose the other. Sounds familiar.

Tuesday,June 1, 2021. Had some coffee then composed an email to N6TV and N6XI about my impressions of the K4. Then went for 50min run at our roundabout. It’s getting hot, but there was a nice breeze, as there has been all week. Coming back I looked for the stakes that JP had set out for the raised guy along our north wall to replace the old ground mounted one behind the tree in front of the garage. It looks like it’s in the right place, and JP says there is no impediment to constructing it. For the other ground-mounted one along the south wall, he says he needs to figure out how to temporarily guy the towers while he replaces it. It has two guys to the back tower and two to the south tower.

The airport was very crowded, and my plane left almost two hours late, at abour 4:30, but I made my connection in MIA and ended up back home circa 2 in the morning.

To bring next trip: running shoes, tags for labeling feedlines. Printer? (I couldn’t get the shack printer to work, even though I put a new cartridge in).