The WPX CW contest was on over the weekend. I had no intention of participating as my slow speed and deaf ear would probably not have been welcome on the bands. However out of curiosity I had a listen and it was utter madness – even with my narrow filter I didn’t stand a chance of decoding anything with just my ears. However I installed CW Skimmer on the laptop and noticed something straight away – all the morse was machine generated. I suppose who in their right mind would take part in a 48 hour contest doing things by hand. So I decided that if everyone else was doing it why shouldn’t I? My Icom IC-746 has 4 keyer memories. I set up 2 of them – 1 to send my callsign and the other to send the report & serial. At least the radio has a serial counter with automatic increment. No need to exchange pleasantries in a contest! So I managed to work 45 countries. Yes it was necessary to know the code – occasionally I needed to glance at the waterfall to see if my callsign was coming back to me correctly- CW Skimmer is very good but not foolproof. It looks like I might fork out the $75 when the trial period is up. Anyway I did manage another ATNO – 9M8K (East Malaysia) so the efforts were worthwhile. Now to practice my dits and dahs a bit more!!
I just bagged PY0NY Fernanda de Noronha on 12M RTTY for another ATNO. Thats 189 entities worked so far. I had worked him earlier in the evening but conditions were not too good and I have a feeling that he logged me as EI5HR. I went back after a while and he was decoding much clearer and not too busy so I called again and he came back the first time (with the correct call!) so I should definitely be in the log. He does check for dupes as I had seen him tell a few German stations so its just as well I worked him again. I know that an email probably would have sorted it anyway.
Recently I went for a trip up the Slieve Bloom Mountains to try a bit of portable operating. Band conditions were not good that day due to magnetic storms with almost nothing to be heard on 40m. I thought I was being clever using a long wire antenna so I could operate on multiple bands but I was taught a harsh lesson. I could hear some strong stations on 20m coming in from Belarus and Slovakia but when I tried to work them I got RF back into the rig and consequently a QSO count of zero – “Strong signal – bad modulation”. The weather was not good as you can see from the picture so I made my way home to double check the rig to be on the safe side. I had a nice chat with Maurizio IK4BPV who confirmed that the WX was just as bad in Northern Italy and that my rig was fine.
After a quiet few days I had to pull down my 2m/70cms vertical as the SWR was rising. There was a bit of corrosion inside and maybe the capacitors are gone. I will leave it on the ground for a while till I decide what to do with it! In its place I stuck up an old Antron 99 that I rescued from the roof of a church and which I had the intention of putting on the gable end of the house. Anyway I’m glad I did as I was rewarded with Burkina Faso on 15m JT65 with just one call for an ATNO.