June 2018 ARRL Contest

Problems at the remote station prior to the contest prevented me from scheduling an all out effort. The station has 4 antenna options:

  1. TOP vertical stack of 4 X 12 element yagis the top is 160 feet. The rotator has been giving me aggravation.  NG3W Chris went to the site several times to evaluate why rotation was balky. His disturbing visual finding show the top of the tower is no longer straight. There may be binding that is causing the antennas not to turn. The controller by MDS is a small box sending 12 or 24 volts to the rotator. The load causes this voltage to drop significantly and eventually drop to zero with built in safeties. The rotator might stick or only turn a few degrees. Chris also tried a Green Heron controller. That also wouldn’t work. For several days before the contest the antenna was left pointed out WEST thinking I might be able to increase my 2018 GRID count.
  2. M2-2M5WL 85 feet. I suspect the coax had water ingress and has not worked for the last 6 months. Amplifier trips out
  3. EAST vertical stack of 4 X 5 element yagis 100 to 120 feet. This rotates between 180 degrees and 10 degrees on the east side of the tower. This antenna stopped working a month ago. Amplifier trips out.
  4. WEST vertical stack 4 X 5 element yagis 55 to 75 feet. This rotates between 160 degrees and 335 degrees on the west side of the tower. This is working great.

My goals in the contest would be to increase the 2018 GRID total. I hoped to use MSK144 meteor scatter to get this job done. I started the contest on FT8 and to my amazement, with no antennas EAST I logged many stations on the back of the TOP stack… FN53, FN25 and FN46 all great QSOs. I switched to the small WEST stack and logged EM85. Wow, not too bad a start at all. After an hour on FT8 I switched to SSB and CW. My normal daily operation had been to transmit in 2 different directions with 50% power to each antenna. My RX feeds 1 antenna to the RIGHT and the 2nd to the LEFT ear. Without the ability to do this in this contest kept my QSO rates down. Linda and I left for the evening returning late Saturday night. No sleep time for me, I could catch up on sleep after the contest, hihi.

Thanks to the GRID counts going up in the contest I decided to move the TOP stack from its parked position 250 degrees to 80 degrees and test if I could work any EME at my moon-rise 3:40 AM. Moving to rotator a little at a time it was parked waiting for the moon. To my surprise, I saw my signal being spotted in Europe when the moon was still below the horizon by .5 degrees. Having a tall tower on top of a hill certainly paid off! The first lobe of my stack is very narrow and I was only to work stations until the moon reached an elevation around 7 degrees. I logged 7 stations between 0745 and 0818 when the moon was too high. My JT65B  had multiple callers for that entire window. hmmmm, now maybe I need elevation??

Moving the TOP antenna to the EAST gave me more confidence I should begin looking in specific directions for more GRIDS. The thunder storms passing through the area must have kept the rotator cool or the water was a natural lubricant to help with the binding issues. Outside of being slow, I was able to turn the antenna. I hung out on Ping Jockey and easily worked most of the stations I attempted to QSO. K5TR and W0UC were the only 2 that didn’t notice me calling.

Linda and I left for the day and I returned Sunday evening after 0000Z till the contest end. I totaled my operating hours and although I promised Linda I would not be taking the test too seriously, I was still on for just under 19 hours.

The totals:

208 QSOS in 91 GRIDS (7 on EME)