|side view of the Limo
|the awning side of the Limo
Despite the fact that the June VHF QSO Party occurs during hurricane season, we were spared any tropical activity. The remnants of Tropical Storm Barry moved into the northeastern US just days before the contest, but did not affect contest weekend. Friday afternoon a Severe Thunderstorm Watch triggered our All-Hazards weather pager (a Motorola pager converted to the local NOAA All-Hazards audio frequency). Luckily, we got over 90% of the tower work done before the first drop of rain fell. By the time the rains came, we were relaxing under the awning chatting with some of the locals who had come to the mountain top to watch the lightning. Later that night, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued for our county, and we did see lightning in the distance for quite a while, but the thunder was quite weak because the most serious activity passed to the south of us. Despite the Special Weather Statement that was issued earlier in the day, we escaped with only some light rain as well as the high winds and rapid drop in temperature that are so typical of mountain top wx. But areas to the south did have a hail report. We had more rain and high winds overnight but then after that we had a dry Saturday. More light rain showed up just as we finished the contest Sunday night, but all in all it was a pleasant weekend with comfortable temperatures.
The annual ARRL June VHF QSO Party starts on a Saturday at 2 PM Eastern time, and runs through 11 PM the next day. We operated about 89% of the total available contest time. Eleven percent of our total QSOs were worked in the first hour of contesting. In all, we ended up with 430 contacts, giving us a 9th place nationally.
Rob KB2YCC had the longest-distance contact of the entire contest. On 6m he worked VP5KE FL41 (Turks & Caicos Islands) for a path length of 1432 miles (2305 km). That was our only DX. Another notable contact was our only contact into the DN field: N2SLN worked WD�T DN94 for a distance of 1291 miles (2078 km) into South Dakota. On 6m we worked 18 states and two Canadian provinces [map].
Our results showed the typical trends: 6m was the leader in both QSOs and grids, and 432 provided more QSOs than 222 did. The 6m enhancement that showed up was very sporadic, often lasting just long enough for one contact into a part of the world that we hadn't seen yet...then it was gone just as quickly. No unusual solar activity was present--the solar flux and sunspot number were both quickly falling on Saturday as Sunspot number 960 was disappearing behind the western limb of the Sun. There was no strong solar flare activity, and no aurora was noticed. No tropospheric ducting (tropo) developed in central New York either, but that's not surprising since inland parts of NY typically have their best chance in August-October each year.
Two meters was the leader in Effective Radiated Power, thanks to Rob's 300-watt amplifier and Ken's incredible 30 elements of aluminum in the air. We also had 4 MOSFET preamps available at this station to help match the transmit muscle, because if you can't hear 'em, you can't work 'em! Two of our best contacts on this band were to the south W4COV FM07 (Virginia) and to the west W8KEN EN91 (Ohio). Both of these contacts happened after some minor Tropospheric Enhancement had set up after dusk Saturday.
Despite the low popularity nationwide, the 222 band performed quite nicely, even capturing more grids than the more popular 432. Unfortunately, the FM station on 223.5 went down just before the contest started. The 222 amplifier got cooked, too, but N2SLN had brought a spare which luckily held up for the entire contest. One of our best 222 contacts was into central OH with W8BAE EN80 for a distance of 440 miles (709 km) which also happened during the minor Tropospheric Enhancement Saturday evening. The 222 band accounted for only 14% of our QSOs, but 21% of our total points.
On 432 we had the highest single-antenna gain of any band, and results showed it. We were delighted to grab a surprisingly high 75 QSOs, which ended up generating more QSO points than 2m. Ken's original 27-element design had a pattern that was too sharp. So he changed a few things, and out came a 35-element monster with a broader pattern (better for contesting where you want to reach the largest possible audience). The bonus was that it had even more gain (18.78 dBi calculated). One of our longest contacts on this band was with K8GP FM08 (Spruce Knob, West Virginia) for a distance of 365 miles (588 km) which also happened during the minor Tropospheric Enhancement Saturday evening.
Team KA2LIM/2, made up of Ken-KA2LIM, Rob-KB2YCC, Dave-KC2JZK, Greg-NX2W, and Lu-N2SLN, started their adventure on 8 June 2007. Ken, Rob, Dave and Greg met at the home of Ken-KA2LIM at about 1000 hours on Friday. Loading everyone's gear into the "Gridsquare Limo" or the trailer and we were ready to go. A quick pause for picture taking and we were on the road just a bit before 1100 hours, headed for Mt. Utsayantha in Stamford, NY. We traveled with two vehicles, the "Limo" pulling the tower trailer with all the antennas and Rob's truck pulling the utility trailer loaded with 3 - 15 ft. towers for antennas and assorted gear.
A stop for food after 2 hours on the road was refreshing. Took advantage of being at a Wal-Mart to buy food supplies for the weekend and we were back on the road. A quick ride of about 40 minutes and we arrived in Stamford. Stopped at a gas station to fuel the vehicles before ascending to the mountain top. Back on the road, through the village and made our turn on to Tower Road. Now this road is very steep and about half way up the macadam part the "Limo" ran out of power(?) or whatever...after all, it weighs 10,000 pounds empty and we had it loaded. Murphy had struck for the first time. Rob and Dave went back to the village and got some transmission fluid, got back and we added two quarts, it helped but still could not pull the grade. They took the utility trailer to the top of the mountain and came back, hooked a chain to the "Limo" gave a pull and away we went up the hill. That's all that was needed, a little help. Stopped at the dirt road that goes to the top and the "Limo" made it the rest of the way on its own power.
Upon arriving at the top of the mountain, we spotted the Limo for the weekend and then set up our creature comforts...ie: sleeping quarters & awning on the side of the limo for cooking and eating. Lu-N2SLN arrived and our team was now complete. Next was to get the towers and antennas set up and hooked up. All went well as planned. Set up the generator, fired it up and proceeded to check that all rotators were in working order. All was going well until we got to the 222 tower. Rotor turned to the west but would not turn back. Darn thing worked at home before we left, Murphy struck again.
We changed out that rotor with a spare and we were back in business. Next we checked to make sure all stations were working, got to the 223 FM rig and the VSWR was out of sight. Ken pulled the antenna down and tried to rework the driven element but to no success, so we were out of business for 223 FM. Ol' Murph got us on this one.
Saturday morning we woke up to the sound of "reveille" being played on Greg's cell phone. Rob said that'd better not happen again or an accident might happen to the phone. We're all up now so it's time to go down into the village to T.P.'s Cafe for breakfast. What a great place to eat at very reasonable prices. Good breakfast had by all and it's back to the mountain top. We finished re-checking everything and proceeded to make a few contacts on each band before the contest started. Took a break, ate some snacks, had some homebrew beer. Rob and Ken are homebrewers and each brought a 5 gallon container of beer, each distinctly different, but both tasting very good.
It is now 1800 UTC 9 June 07 and the contest has started. All goes well for several hours with each position being manned leaving Ken to keep checking on everything to make sure all things are in working order. Then ol' Murphy struck again with one of the network computers locking up. We had two stand-alone computers running with the same logging program so it was easy to switch to the stand-alone when needed and keep right up. Ken was able to get the networked computer back up and running into the network in a few minutes. This happened several times throughout the entire contest period. Problem being: dead batteries in two of the laptops. A lesson learned and this will be corrected before the next contest.
Contacts really slowed down around midnight on Saturday. Rob stayed up until 2AM while everyone else went to bed between 1 and 1:30 AM. The generator was left running so we did not have to turn everything off. Ken was up at 0530 to gas the generator, that done he started looking for contacts. Around 0630 AM the generator started acting up, like there was water in the fuel. So Greg and Ken went down off the hill and got some dry gas to add to the tank of the generator. It helped a little bit but still did not solve the problem entirely. So, we switched to the back-up generator and it ran smoothly until it ran out of gas. Murphy stikes again. Four hours to go until the end of the contest, no more gas in the cans, so we drain some gas from generator number 1 and put it in generator number 2. Bingo! we are back up and running...oh yes, this also crashes the computer network, so it takes a few minutes for Ken to get the network back and operating. With 3.5 hours to go the generator starts sputtering and trying to die. Greg to the rescue. With some choice "words" and literally shaking the generator, it smoothed out and continued to work. Greg wound up babysitting the generator to keep us on the air until contest end. Nice Job Greg...
It is now down to three minutes until the contest ends and Rob makes two more contacts on 432 that put us over the 70,000 point mark. Contest ends, rigs are shut down, computers are left on for a while to ensure that the automatic backup takes place. We all move outside under the awning to have a glass of beer and talk over the contest. About 11:45 PM we go back in and backup the data files to a couple of floppy disks, shut everything down and go to bed for a well-deserved sleep.
06:30 on Monday morning Ken and Greg are up and tear-down and pack-up is started. By 10:40 AM all is packed and ready to go. We assemble at one overlook on the mountain for a group photo shot. Took three for good measure and were leaving the mountain by 10:50 AM. Stopped at 11:45 at Burger King for lunch and then proceeded home.
In summary: Good friends together for the weekend, good food, great homebrew beer, poor band conditions, dedicated operators and a good time had by all.
Band QSOs QSO pts. Mults. ---------------------------------------------- 50 165 165 46 144 130 130 32 222 60 120 24 432 75 150 22 ---------------------------------------------- TOTALS 430 565 124 --- Claimed score = 70,060 ---
|Four bands, two days, one goal: zero stress.