QSL N6A via:
Charles ("Larry") Word, W4UAT
The 2006 Crew (left to right)
Larry, W4UAT; John, WB6ETY; Arnold, KQ6DI; me; Jeff, WD6FLG; and Don, W6OA. The picture was taken by Jeff's wife Sherri Meyer -- a professional photographer -- on Sunday afternoon right after the contest.The mountain with the fire lookout and tower in the background is Leviathian Peak at 9,700'.
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How it Went
Very well, actually. Don arrived first, then me around 1030, and Larry early in the afternoon on Wednesday. Don had already put the 40m ground plane up. It was cloudy and cold but very little wind. I set my aircraft altimeter to 8,200ft and we set up camp. In the late afternoon, it began to snow lightly, and the mountain began to rise (according to the altimeter which corresponds to a falling barometer). In addition to his 5 KVA main generator, Larry had brought his 3 KVA Honda inverter. If you've never seen one of these, they are really cool! The generator is DC, and drives an inverter to produce 60Hz AC regardless of engine speed. Under no or very low loads, the engine just idles, so we ran it through the night to power the blankets. I tried out the 40m GP with my K2 that evening and made a surprising number of QRP QSO's before my hands froze and I couldn't feel the paddle anymore. Low Thursday AM was around 27F.
On Thursday, we got the Cobra (80m/160m) and the A3 tribander up, again in overcast and some light snow some of the time and bright sun at other times. High temperature might have reached 40F, at least in the direct sun. The Cobra went up very easily, and we were on the air. A quick check on 20m yielded the surprise that Europe was stronger than the right-coast of the US, and we worked maybe a dozen or so in quick QSO's. It appeared the A3 was working just fine. Arnold showed up in the later afternoon, and we were now four. When the sun falls behind the mountains to our west, the temperature has the glide angle of a brick, so we ate dinner and retired, Honda generator purring in the background (since I left most of my hearing in SE Asia decades ago, I couldn't hear it at all in the tent trailer).
Friday dawned very cold -- maybe 26F or so -- but super clear and bright. By this time, the altimeter had started falling and said we were now at 8,100 ft, meaning of course the barometer was rising, a very good omen. Except for making sure all the radio gear and logging computer is working, Friday is usually our goof-off day. If Murphy was going to visit, better now than later, and this year, Murphy cooperated. We discovered that we did not have the TR-Log domain file with the new (this year) standard 4-character CA County abbreviations. Now, for us, only the first California contact is a multiplier, but as a within-CA station, we are required to log the county of all CA stations we work.
So, after an afternoon of searching around on multiple laptops for the right domain file, and thinking we had found it followed by disappointment, I finally offered to edit one of the ones we had to fix it. This was a truly problematical offer since through many tries, I had never successfully edited a TR-Log domain file. I finished it that night in the trailer as my fingers were freezing. Sat AM, we fired up the computer with the edited file, and simulated 58 QSO's with each of the 58 CA counties. Contra Costa had a typo, but otherwise, it seemed good. I thought after the contest had started I should have also simulated contacts with each of the non-CA states and provinces on the premise that, if I managed success on the counties, I surely screwed up something else. I think we lucked out on that one.
Ian, W6TCP, could not make it this year (some excuse about moving to a new home, how hard could that be?), and we did miss him. Rich, NU6T, had some family obligations and we missed him too. When we realized before the event that we might be a little short on operators, I invited my neighbor Jeff, WD6FLG and his wife Sherri. They had been on a short vacation, and the came up in the afternoon, in the middle of a fairly large thunderstorm and the heaviest snow we had seen. Later on, John, WB6ETY, who had also been camping down south in the desert came up, and we were complete as far as operators go. John had missed the last couple of years, and it was really great to see him again.
Our score was up from 2005 by a considerable margin (1,467 QSO's vs 1,152 last year). Despite being very close to the end of Cycle 23, propagation held up well for us. Early Sunday morning is usually snail-slow on all bands, but this year was a surprise. I drew the 0300 - 0600 PDT shift and stayed on 40 CW the whole time with the rate staying above 25 QSO's/hour.
The picture at the left was taken about 15 seconds after the end of the contest. (The clock on the computer was about 1.5 min slow, and apparently so is the clock in my camera!) Hawaii and Northern Territories (HI and VE8) are the multipliers we missed. We knew VY1MB was on, but never found him for NT, and despite calling CQ with the beam west, we never heard KH6. The highlighted "CA" is a bug in TR-log ... rest assured, we did work California! This year, a higher fraction of our total QSO's were on CW resulting in a higher score as well (CW QSO's count 3, phone QSO's count 2 in CQP).
(Normally, when in CQ mode which is nearly all the time, we keep the dupe QSO checking in TR-Log turned off and just go ahead and log dupes since it takes less time to work a dupe than to advise him (and maybe have to discuss it too). This year, we tried the "QSO B4" game, so we have only a few dupes. Unfortunately, several stations did not believe we had them on this band/mode and argued. Eventually, we just gave them a number so we could move on.
Our unaudited final score was 212,688 which was way up from last year, due to higher QSO totals and higher fraction on CW. 42 mults came on 20 CW because that's where we started and the mults come very fast at first. 9 came on 20 SSB which is where we moved next, and the remainder were: 40 CW-1, 40 SSB-3, and 15 CW-1.
Factoids for 2006
This year, our New Guy (and Gal and Dog) was my neighbors Jeff, WD6FLG, his wife Sherri who is a professional photographer, and Coco their dog.
The N6A Mascot
Yet again, we encountered essentially no wildlife, nor did we see any hunters in the aspen groves. The aspens were much further along and even the colorblind guy could easily tell it was fall at 8,500'. The N6A Mascot has apparently either moved to better habitat or made the trip to grouse-heaven.
Our "major convenience" survived another winter and was fully operational. The weather is taking its toll on the plywood however, and even though we have a regulation seat, one's legs do hang over the edge of the plywood and we're starting to pick up a few splinters. So, next year, we plan to build a new one. Given the very low temps and the need to scrub the ice off the seat in the morning, we're considering a heated variety for the new one.
This is also not exactly rough camping either. Arnold brought his microwave so we could nuke some of our foods, and we had Don's propane heater for the operating tent. It worked extremely well, and on the 0300-0600 local shift, I ended up in a T-shirt despite 25 degF temps outside the tent.
Our flag this year (see tribander photo above) was a gift from Marine Ross and his Marines who was at a forward detachment near Al Taqqadum, Iraq. They flew it over their camp on 29 June, the anniversary date when I accepted a comission as a 1Lt in the Regular Air Force from a Marine Captain at his forward fire base NW of Da Nang.
Yet again, we had a great time, and everyone really enjoyed it Thanks to my crew for a super CQP, and special thanks to all of you who found us for a Q.
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