Sunday, July 17, 2016

NAQSO RTTY Contest Experience

To get some experience with RTTY, and digital in general for the state QSO parties, I decided to work a few hours in the NAQSO Party RTTY contest this weekend.

Justin (KE0HXL) and operated from his house as it's very RF quiet and there was a place for us to setup inside in the A/C, plus he has a lot of trees in his back yard, good for hanging dipoles.

I ran my linked dipole cut for 40m.  One of these days I'll create a post on how I made the linked dipole and what I used for parts as it's been a great dipole for portable work.  I need to make a 20m section for it, so maybe that will be the blog post in the future.  My 40m dipole was a inverted V hung to about 25ft up.  I hung it in a north/south orientation, to cover most of the east/west path of the US.  I was hoping to run somewhat of an NVIS configuration with it being so close to the ground for 40m.

There is a 40m dipole up there, somewhere!

Justin used a dipole cut for 20m with a 1:1 MFJ balun.  His antenna was a horizontal dipole about 25ft up in the air.

20M dipole hung at the top of the picture.

My 40m dipole was fed with my 200ft of LMR-400 since it was quite a ways from the house.  We just pulled the coax through a small window and into our operating position in the kitchen.  The window is behind Justin's 2nd monitor in the picture below.

Justin's operating position.
Justin ran a laptop with N1MM along with Fldigi for the RTTY software and his TS-480.

I bought out the Flex and 2 monitors.  I must say, with the rigs already setup in my contesting box, setting up is so much easier.  I've also paired down the amount of equipment I take in the last few portable operations.

My operating position.

First was lunch.  Grilled chicken breasts with lettuce, tomato and sharp cheddar cheese really hit the spot after working outside putting up antennas.

Our setup is progressively getting quicker with every portable operation we run.  With the addition of our military masts, we are able to get a dipole up in a field very quickly (under 30 mins).  We also are perfecting the art of using the slingshot and fishing reel to really pinpoint the branches we want to string wire through.  Having the right tools at the right times helps.

We started operating around 1pm and did some off and on troubleshooting and misc tips and tricks conversation throughout the day.  Justin had an issue transmitting, so we did some troubleshooting around that to get it working.  It was an ALC setting in his radio.  I think we shut the radios off around 5pm and started packing up, so we operated 4 of the 12 hours scheduled contest hours.

I started off on 15m, as my 40m dipole tuned right up with no issues.  I worked around 15 stations on 15m.  Around 3pm, that band started to dry up and I then moved to 40m.  I didn't run more than 30 watts the whole day.

For some reason, I've noticed my 40m dipole hung right at 25 to 30 feet really has a pipeline into OH, as a majority of my contacts were from there.  Propagation was also good into MI and MN off the end of the dipole.

I think we made around 55 contacts total.  Furthest for both of us was CA to the west, and Massachusetts to the east.  We picked up a few Canada stations also.

Looking through our log, we made contact with K3LR (DX Engineering owner) and the contest station of K9CT (it's all about RATE!) during the contest.  I worked K3LR on both 15 and 40m.

Things I learned to be integrated into future QSO parties and contests.

1) Pulling out call signs on RTTY can be tough with all the extra junk being decoded within FLdigi.

2) Running is much easier than S&P, some because of point #1 above.

3) When calling CQ, I noticed when someone answered my CQ, it started on a new line most of the time, so I often looked for that to help pick out if that station was replying to me.

4) You can totally work SO2R with RTTY.  Calling CQ on one and search and pounce on another or running on both.  During our next state QSO party, I'm going to try and run voice and digital at the same time.

5) I need to work on the modulation as I think some of my signal was a little hot.

This was a learning day for us.  I'm going to submit the log, but don't expect to win anything.  Now on to the NA QSO Party in Aug!

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