Over the North Pole

This weekend, I've been participating in the SKCC Weekend Sprint when I get the opportunity in between other obligations. At about 0900 local, I heard F6HKA on 20 meters coming in pretty well with a very fluttery signal. As you can see on the azimuth map for my QTH, the path to France goes right over Greenland, so it's not a huge stretch to assume that the unique signal quality is due to auroral effects from the increasingly active Sun.

After about an hour of trying, I finally managed to snag a QSO with Bert using 5 watts! A great day for QRP!


Take a listen to this QSO which was recorded a bit before I made my contact with F6HKA. You can definitely hear the watery, fluttery sound of his signal.

Ringing in the New Year with K3Y/7

Over the course of the New Year rollover here in Beaverton, I had the opportunity to operate SKCC special event station K3Y/7, which celebrates the 3rd anniversary of the manual key operation group. I had a great time operating, but I found the band conditions to be challenging. In the course of 4 hours (probably 3 hours of actual operating time), I only made 9 complete QSOs. The QSB was brutal tonight; I missed completing QSOs with a fair number of stations because of it. If I couldn't hear you better than 559 on the peaks, I had a very tough time getting all of the required information.

My favorite QSO had to be the one with WA6NPC. He proudly told me his key was strapped to the arm of his rocking chair and he was rocking chair mobile. He was also quite prepared for the holidays with an ample supply of fruitcake. FB Bill!

I don't know why, but I got some real jittery nerves on the key tonight. I was receiving OK, but had moments when I was transmitting when my brain just stopped converting text to Morse Code. How embarrassing. My apologies to anyone who had to suffer through that. I will have the callsign for at least two more operating periods (3 Jan 2200-2359 UTC and 10 Jan 0400-0559 UTC), so I hope to have a better QSO rate in my next attempts. Thanks to everyone who worked me, I hope you all had a great Straight Key Night.

Sophomore Weekend Sprint

This last weekend Jennifer left town for a business trip, so Baxter and I are currently own our own as bachelors. So I got the chance to participate in the monthly SKCC Weekend Sprint without too many interruptions and "honey do" items. Last month was my first try at WES, and I pretty much just dipped my toes in the water, with a total of 6 QSOs. This time, I felt a bit more comfortable and had more time to devote to the sprint (not that WES is a stressful event, on the contrary, it is very laid back). On this attempt, I turned the IC-718 down to 5 watts and went true QRP. Overall, I had a much better showing than last time. 16 total QSOs, 9 S/P/C, but only 60 bonus points. According to the theme of this sprint, bonus points were given for DX contacts, contacts with non-Centurion and non-Tribune members, and contacts with the club call. I tried a few times to work the two DX stations that I heard on 15 meters (just barely), but they never heard me. I also struck out when trying to contact the club call. Still, I had a blast this time as I got more comfortable with the event and with my CW skills. I'm not a contester, but this is a really enjoyable event, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes to use a straight key. I also found out that 15 meters seems to be a bit more open than I even suspected right now. Next time, my goal is to break 20 QSOs and up my score a bit more. I hope to work you in the next WES!

A Little SKCC Activity

New Beaverton Shack
Shack in Progress

On Friday, I noticed that this weekend was the monthly SKCC Weekend Sprint-a-thon. Since I'm a straight key guy, I figured this would be a good way to get in some of the CW practice that I desperately need. The event runs from 0000 to 2359 UTC on Saturday, but I didn't get on the air at any point on Saturday local time. I missed the initial rush of the opening of the contest, but I still had time to catch the second half of the event this morning.

My first couple of QSOs were not very pleasant, since it's one thing to copy CW at 15 WPM from a practice MP3 but quite another to do it under real-world conditions. However, once I loosened up, the CW ability started to come back to me more naturally. Since I still have a touch of the key fright, I was OK with S&P QSOs, but didn't work up the nerve to snag any contacts with a CQ of my own. I set myself a modest goal of 10 contest QSOs, but I didn't really sit down at the shack and make a serious effort at it. The bands weren't very good today, and there were long dry spells where I didn't hear any SKCC members calling CQ. In between stints at the key, I tried to get caught up answering e-mail and took care of some of the endless chores that need to be done around the house. I also have to admit that I didn't run QRP, but was at about 20 watts for the event. I guess going with higher power is a crutch carried over from my old QTH, but I think I could have used 5 watts or less just fine. No one seemed to have any real trouble hearing me (as long as the QSB didn't get me).

After all was said and done, I didn't quite hit my goal, but I did have an enjoyable time. I only managed to complete six QSOs in the event, altough I did work club call K9SKC in the old 40 meter novice band for extra points. If I did my calculations right, I got 80 points. Not very impressive, but I wasn't trying to be competative. I'm glad I took the time to try the event, since it got me some much-needed practice, as well as a handful of contacts towards my Centurion award. I had also heard that the organizers wanted 100 submissions for this WES, so I'm doing my part. Overall, an enjoyable way to spend some weekend time and a confidence booster as well.