The 432 sprint is a difficult one in good weather...so when faced with bad wx, working any DX at all sometimes seems impossible. With several choices of locations available to a portable station, you would think that one of them might provide a way to escape the dismal wx conditions. But this time, a strong cold front was passing through the entire northeast. I found myself doing what is becoming all too routine this year: weighing all options carefully in order to select the least life-threatening option. Too far south, and I would run into wx that could turn severe, according to the Storm Prediction Center's Day 1 Convective Outlook, and the sharp corners on the rooftop stabilizer are a lightning magnet. Too high in elevation, and the 60+ mph wind gusts predicted for average elevations could be even higher and tear apart the antenna system or roll the van. So this time I chose to head north to a moderate elevation as far as possible from the "slight risk" area outlined for southern NY / northern PA. I traveled to a roadside pulloff in FN23.
While leveling the vehicle, I noticed threatening skies to the west. So I hurried through the antenna setup phase and decided to use less than the full mast height, and tighten just one antenna u-bolt to save time. I had just finished lining up the antenna with north and was shutting the driver's door when the skies unloaded. There would be no time for taking photos. Resetting the rotor control box to zero, I turned the antenna S and began hearing WA2FGK FN21bf. He was busy working folks in other beam directions, so I moved up the band and called CQ, which got the attention of KC2SFU who was hilltopping in FN22dn. Just then my receive died and the TX/RX relay wasn't clicking on transmit anymore. I figured it must be the amp, although it was bought new only half a year ago. Finally, I pushed and pulled on coax jumpers and duplexers and the receive came back to life. The TX/RX relay was clicking on transmit again. Hoping that the gear would hold in position for the rest of the sprint, I finished making contact with KC2SFU who reported hearing me fine now and he was 5x7. A few moments later I worked my best DX with K1WHS FN43mj for a distance of 218 miles (351 km). Tried answering K1DS/R but no luck. Same with K3TUF FN10we. The rain did not let up once in the first hour.
The second hour brought a pleasant surprise with two loud stations getting on the air from Syracuse, NY. One was running 15w into a vertical and was 5x9 from 51 miles away. Over the years I have been disappointed that there hasn't been more activity from such a densely populated area--maybe this is the start of a new era. My antennas shall surely look that way in the future. The rain finally quit temporarily during the 8:00 hour, and then restarted.
In the third hour I ran into WZ1V calling CQ from FN31rh. I answered him and he provided my second longest DX in this event at 199 miles (321 km). I provided his first signal from FN23. By the time we got our beams on each other, his signal had increased to 5x8. Then at 9:17 PM, my HT's WX-Alert function sounded. It was a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for the areas near the NY/PA border that I had purposely avoided for this event. The bulletin mentioned winds "in excess of 60 mph" and although the storms weren't supposed to be as strong this far north, I knew that I could still be in for a wild ride. Late in the 9:00 hour the wx calmed just enough to seem like the eerie calm before the storm. Then the cold front arrived.
Like a wrecking ball the west winds hit the broad side of the van making the rain sound like someone was spraying the van with a garden hose. The van rocked side to side. This activity did not stop for the entire next hour. During this time I heard W2GIO calling CQ, but by the time I got the beam peaked on him he disappeared. Same with K1TEO. I also heard N3NGE briefly, but he disappeared and then thought I copied WB2SIH FN31 on CW, but the signal was so weak that I wasn't sure (the cold front had now passed mostly to my east). Five minutes before the end of the contest, I saw a light in the distance which meant the air was starting to clear. I noticed that the winds had begun to subside. Turned off the rig at 10:59 and the rain had actually stopped, so I went outside and the antenna was still there, no power lines down, no trees down. Not knowing how much longer I would have rain-free conditions, I took advantage of the situation and disassembled the antenna system in record time then proceeded to head home. Earlier that evening when I arrived at the hilltop, the temperature was 62 degrees; when I left it was 41 degrees. Lots of debris on the roads on the 80-mile drive home.
BAND QSOs TOTAL AVG DIST DIST (km) PER QSO (km) -------------------------------------- 432 5 930 186
MODE UTC CALLSIGN GRID DIST (km) --------------------------------------------------------- PH 2325 KC2SFU FN22dn 94 PH 2345 K1WHS FN43mj 351 PH 0042 N2ZPI FN13vb 81 PH 0044 N2TCR FN13va 83 PH 0103 WZ1V FN31rh 321
|"N2SLN: A fringe rover in more ways than one"