June VHF 2012


K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group
Prepares For
And
Participates In The
ARRL June VHF 2012 Contest
by
Andy K1RA

It should not go without saying, before delving into this past June VHF contest, that it is with great sorrow we report no longer having with us one of our groups original cornerstone members, Dr. Gene Zimmerman W3ZZ. As many know, Gene was well known in the VHF+ and radio-sport contesting community. He was an encyclopedia of knowledge when it came to VHF+ propagation, radio contests and operating procedures. Gene was the impetus behind building our multi-operator, VHF+ contest station in the D.C. area, which in turn he helped to mold into a leading competitor in both the limited VHF and unlimited V/UHF and microwave contest categories. Gene was more than willing to share his experiences with new and old alike. He valued everyone’s input and opinions and was always very encouraging to the sport’s newcomers. He included people of all levels of radio experience in the VHF+ aspect of the hobby when writing his magazine articles and organizing contest operations. We will miss Gene very much, but we’ll never forget him and we will attempt to carry on his legacy of promoting VHF+. Thanks to all who sent us their condolences over the air contest weekend. It was good to hear Gene had touched so many lives and had so many friends. Gene W3ZZ R.I.P.


Gene W3ZZ

In this article we present pictures, MP3 contest audio, Youtube video, grid maps and weather maps and a recap of the K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group experience leading up to and including the ARRL June 2012 VHF contest. Over the past year the DVMS and Grid Pirates Contest Group have been continuing to build out their V/UHF and microwave station atop Mt. Weather @ 1800′ in northern Virginia, grid square FM19bb. We’d begun operating from the site in a limited capacity back in Sept. 2008 after retiring from transporting our 3 buses to the Spruce Knob, WVa. FM08fq location. In the 3 1/2 years since then we have moved from using borrowed site tower space and antennas to almost completely erecting our own towers and antenna systems. This was the first contest that we attempted running all bands 50 MHz through 10 GHz in the Multi-Unlimited VHF category.


K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group June VHF 2012 K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group June VHF 2012 K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group June VHF 2012 K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group June VHF 2012 K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group June VHF 2012
K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group June VHF 2012 K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group June VHF 2012 K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group June VHF 2012

This past year we completed several tasks centered around erecting several more towers. Many work parties ensued over the past 12 months. Attendees included tower climbers Terry W8ZN, Mike N2NAR and Andy K1RA and ground support by Craig N4OHE, Rich K1HTV, Dave K1RZ and Mark K4SO. Over a period of weekends and after work evenings the team managed to pull together tower sections and guy cables and stand up over 250′ worth of tower. The tower bases and guy anchors had been set in concrete from way back in 2009. A few pix below from some of the past year’s ground work crew.


Craig N4OHE Rich K1HTV Terry W8ZN Rich K1HTV and Terry W8ZN Mark K4SO and Terry W8ZN Terry W8ZN, Dave K1RZ, Craig N4OHE

The first of two towers that went up this past year was designated as the 432 MHz tower, though eventually it would host some 50 MHz antennas as well. This tower comprises 140′ of Rohn 45. The plan would be for it to hold our rotatable 432 MHz stack consisting of 4x 22 element yagis. We would also place a smaller 12 element 432 MHz yagi fixed SE covering back toward D.C. and down the east coast. Also located at the top of this tower would be the appropriate switching to select between the 2 sets of antenna arrays and a remote preamp. Below are several pictures of the tower construction project prior to any antennas going up.


432 MHz tower 432 MHz tower 432 MHz tower 432 MHz tower

The other new tower built this year was our microwave tower. The base was planted several years ago and has set alone in the field unpopulated for awhile. Over the past few years Terry W8ZN and Mike N2NAR have been around the country gathering Rohn 55 from various tower disassembly projects. Another key aspect of this tower task was the acquisition of the special components to allow this tower to become a completely full standing, rotating tower. With a generous contribution of those pieces by long standing member, Owen K3CB, we were able to begin building the tower. This was constructed of 14 sections of Rohn 55. Below are several pictures of the tower project during it very early construction phase.


Microwave tower Microwave tower ring rotator Microwave tower ring rotator Microwave tower ring rotator Microware tower
Microwave tower Microware tower

The Rohn 55 tower was a beast to raise. The sections are heavy, but fortunately we had a tractor to assist in hoisting up the numerous sections. Craig N4OHE was crucial in pre-fitting all the sections together on the ground to ensure once they were raised that they’d fit together smoothly. Even with all the preparation work, keeping the sections moving smoothly up and away from the tower was a challenge.


Craig N4OHE and the tower raising tractor Tower raising tractor Craig N4OHE and the tower raising tractor, Mark K4SO and Rich K1HTV

As we made our way up and down the tower and as we pulled up sections and attached the various guy rings and guy wires, I attempted to capture pictures from some of the events. Below are several shots of the tower assembly process from various heights as the tower grew.


Terry W8ZN climbs microwave tower Andy K1RA looking down microwave tower Terry W8ZN atop microwave tower Terry W8ZN installing microwave tower guy ring Terry W8ZN even higher on microwave tower Looking down microwave tower

It took lots of climbing over several weekends and after work parties to fully erect and guy the microwave tower. In total we employed 4 rotating guy rings and hundreds of feet of guy wire. After much work we were finally able to look down and around from atop the 140′ tower and were rewarded for our efforts. Below some pictures looking down on our operating positions, around at some of our other tower projects as well as out and across the eastern and western horizons.


50 MHz tower seen from top of microwave tower Looking east from microwave tower 144 MHz and 432 MHz towers as seem from microwave tower Looking west from microwave tower Looking down on buses and 144 MHz tower from microwave tower

All our tower raising projects are complete! Crews finally tightened the numerous guys wires to bring the Rohn 55 microwave tower into its final resting position. At the bottom of the 140′ tower a few large gears, chain and an Orion rotator to turn the entire system.


Microwave tower Microwave tower rotator Mark K4SO, Terry W8ZN and Rich K1HTV on guy wires Rich K1HTV and Terry W8ZN on guy wires Terry W8ZN and Rich K1HTV on guy wires Microwave tower Microwave tower

Of course our tower climbing days aren’t over. Far from it, as we still have numerous antennas to attach and rearrange. Other endeavors this year included building and erecting the 432 MHz antenna arrays and switching, rearranging some of our 50 MHz antenna arrays, redoing 222 MHz and resurrecting our 903 MHz through 10 GHz antenna systems and remote tower mounted 2.3 GHz through 10 GHz transverter and amplifier systems.

As mentioned earlier, we opted to use some of the 432 MHz tower space to hold 4x 3 element 50 MHz yagis. Terry W8ZN built the new array this year and placed it facing west southwest. In the past we had a north westerly 4x 5 element stack on the 50 MHz tower which looked right through our 144 MHz tower. As it turns out this caused some interference to that band. The new array alleviated this problem as the new tower sits southwest of the 144 MHz tower. A designed advantage of the smaller antennas was that the fewer element design provided a wider beam width covering more ground to the west. We also employed one of the existing swivel/tilt, 30′ Rohn 25 bus towers to hold a low 7 element rotatable 50 MHz beam. Below are some pictures of the new 432 MHz tower with both the new rotatable 4x 22 element and fixed 12 element 432 MHz antennas and the 4x 3 elements 50 MHz antennas and the bus tower.


4x 22L 432 MHz, 12L 432 MHz SE, 4x 3L 50 MHz WSW 4x 22L 432 MHz, 12L 432 MHz SE, 4x 3L 50 MHz WSW 4x 22L 432 MHz, 12L 432 MHz SE, 4x 3L 50 MHz WSW 7L 50MHz rotatable @ 30'

After we assembled the new 50 MHz array that in turn allowed us to take the old 4x 5 element north westerly array on the 50 MHz tower and swing it to the northeast. This provided us some much need gain in that direction as well as the ability to quickly zero in on New England and possible European openings. Below are a few pictures of the 50 Mhz tower with the old array swung around into its new position.


4x 5L 50 MHz NE, 7L rotatable 50 MHz 2x 5L 50 MHz SE, 4x 5L 50 MHz NE, 7L 50 MHz rotatable 2x 5L 50 MHz SE, 4x 5L 50 MHz NE, 7L 50 MHz rotatable

On the 222 MHz front, Chuck W4XP rebuilt a new pair of 16 element 222 MHz antennas. These were installed a top an existing, self-supporting tower on the property. We had hoped to get 4x smaller 222 MHz antennas built and fixed northeast on this tower, but we did not manage to finish that project in time. The main rotatable array was placed on the mast above an existing 10m yagi. Below are the results of the 222 MHz rebuild.


222 MHz tower 222 MHz tower 222 MHz tower 222 MHz tower

Our resident jack-of-all-trades and grounds engineer, Craig N4OHE, contributed numerous hours re-engineering cables runs and underground troughs around the property to facilitate the new antenna and tower installations. Over the past 3+ years much of our coax, heliax, hard line, rotator, network and AC cables were merely lying on the ground. This access left everything free for the bears to chew on, which they indeed did! Several evenings working on site we have seen a bear stroll through our fields. Craig architected numerous supports and cable guides and dug trenches to assist in getting everything off the grass and routed properly between the buses, towers and sheds. As mentioned earlier Craig was also extremely valuable in providing all the initial support work prior to all of our tower projects. He was sole contributor in tasks including organizing, fitting, moving and stacking tower section, preparing cables and repairing antennas. Below a few pictures of some of his most valuable work.


Cable guides Cable guides Cable guides Cable guides Cable guides Cable guides

This year we were determined to enter the multi-unlimited category in the ARRL June VHF contest, so erecting the microwave tower and populating it with equipment was of utmost importance. We’d been out of the unlimited category since June 2008, our last expedition to Spruce Knob, WVa. After finally getting the microwave tower erected in mid-spring, Terry W8ZN made a mad dash to resurrect 903 MHz through 10 GHz gear used on past expeditions. We still had a fair amount of equipment from Spruce that Terry attempted to piece back together. Terry’s goal was to install a minimal system to get something up for use in the spring microwave sprint. Being prior to the June contest it would allow him to test everything out beforehand. Craig and Terry worked over several weeks to fix the old K8GP microwave dual-band dishes. We had one 6′ mesh, 2.3 & 3.4 GHz dual-band dish and one 4′ solid, 5.7 & 10 GHz dual-band dish. Getting the solid dish in place was a challenge. At 1800′ it is usually breezy above the tree line. That dish sailed like a kite even in the lightest of breezes. Suprisingly the large mesh dish was not an issue pulling up and afixing to the tower. Terry stripped down our older 903 and 1296 MHz antenna arrays, opting for single loopers on each band vs. the pairs we had once used from Spruce Knob. For 2.3 GHz and up, Terry mounted all the transverters, amps, preamps and associated power and switching in several large boxes to be located on top of the tower. Below some closeups of the final installation.


Microware tower 903 MHz - 10 GHz Microware tower 903 MHz - 10 GHz Microware tower 903 MHz - 10 GHz Microware tower 903 MHz - 10 GHz Microware tower 903 MHz - 10 GHz Microware tower 903 MHz - 10 GHz Microware tower 903 MHz - 10 GHz Microware tower 903 MHz - 10 GHz

For last year’s contest we’d arranged the buses such that their entry doors faced each other. This allowed us to build a somewhat closed multi position setup where we could easily get to all operating and sleeping positions without having to cross the field, brave the weather or dodge the bears. This contest we had 2x 50 MHz and 222 MHz stations in one bus. This bus also hosts a pair of bunk beds in the back. The other bus housed 144 MHz, 146/223/446 MHz FM, 432 MHz and the 903 and up microwave stations. We bridged the two buses together with our old pirates ‘plank’ and draped some tarps over the doorway to attempt to keep rain and bugs out and cool air in. Below a few pictures looking at the arrangement of the buses.


K8GP buses K8GP buses Bus bridge K8GP buses K8GP buses

As the weekend approached several of us put the final touches on the station, cleaning up and preparing the operating positions. Unfortunately, leaving 2 buses in a field for a year led to a mouse or two making them their homes. Needless to say, we had some serious cleaning on our hands. We’ve got to find a better way to keep those critters out. Craig mentioned he had found some ultrasonic devices he’d used in his storage sheds that he implies seem to work. We will give them a try.

Thursday evening prior to the contest Terry W8ZN and Andy K1RA set up all the station computers and associated network. During the year Terry and Craig laid fiber from an onsite Wireless ISP to the buses allowing us to have high speed internet at each station this contest. We’ll finally have the ability to monitor tropo and ESkip propagation resources and the DX cluster, as well as surf eBay and Amazon during the dull hours :)

We switched our logging software over from Roverlog to Win-Test recently after upgrading all our PCs to P4 1.8 GHz+ machines. We tested out the network, logging and internet and all was go. One other final addition to the network was a handful of old VoIP phones. Andy K1RA built an Asterisk VoIP PBX on an old P3 laptop and programmed the phones for internal station to station dialing. No more wondering if a station operator in the other bus is asleep, left their position or is ready for a pass.

Friday many more members show up on the mountain to be put to work. Terry W8ZN, Craig N4OHE, Rich K1HTV, Mike N2NAR, Mark K4SO and Andy K1RA are all on board. There is still plenty of last minute cleaning and organizing of the various station positions, as well as the installing of radios and wiring up rig interface cables. Mike N2NAR climbs the 432 MHz tower and replaces a blown preamp due to a lightening strike earlier the week before. The new unit works but is a bit noisy. Terry will fix the original later and we’ll send Mike back up the tower Saturday to replace again. Much of the remaining unneeded, unused equipment, cables, connectors, etc. are pushed back to the third (white) bus for storage by Mike and Andy. Later in the day Dave K1RZ shows up with Gary NW5E in tow from Florida. Gary’s a regular operator at the K8GP station, but although Dave isn’t, he’s still a long time standing Grid Pirates member. As it turns out Dave will be joining us for the weekend as his station was severely damaged by a lightening strike and is completely out of commission. Below some pictures.


Mike N2NAR rests after climbing 432 tower Mike N2NAR, Craig N4OHE, Gary NW5E The white (storage) bus

Terry W8ZN pulls together the last remaining pieces to the microwave station to include a Flex-1500 SDR and his 144 MHz transverter that would drive the 2.3-10 GHz boxes on top of the microwave tower, as well as the 903 and 1296 MHz transverters and amps located behind the operating position in the back of the bus. There is still is a bit of wiring of the K3TUF interface and Terry’s MOASU and the computer and SDR required to get the station completely operational. We run into some issues and finally quit Friday night still without a working microwave station. In the process of trying to bring the microwave station online, Terry accidently destroys the 1296 preamp on the tower so there will be more climbing Saturday morning. Terry won’t get much sleep, he’ll work the microwave station issue from home until the wee-hours of the morning. Before we leave Rich also reports that the high 7L rotatable 50 MHz antenna is no longer indicating, meaning more tower climbing tomorrow.


Microwave station integration Terry W8ZN works on microwave station (Mark K4SO observes) 903 and 1296 MHz equipment (back rack)

Saturday morning most everyone shows up bright and early. Terry replaces the 1296 MHz preamp and begins re-intergrating the microwave station he rebuilt at home late into last night. Mike shows up and again climbs the tower to replace the 432 MHz preamp with a newer, quieter model. Terry discovers pulling all the external rotator control cable connectors on the outside of the bus and cleaning them fixes the high 50 MHz antenna indicator issue. One less tower to climb! The rest of the members perform final cleaning and integration of radios. Rich sets up his K3 on 50 MHz and tests WSJT. Chuck installs his K3 on 222 MHz. Ty K3MM shows up and performs final tweaks on his FT-1000 MP at the 144 MHz position. Mike climbs one of the other short bus towers and installs several FM verticals and Terry installs his tri-band 146/223/446 MHz FM rig and some solid state amps to round out the contest station. Andy makes one final addition to all the computers. He adds Total Recorder software and wires a secondary sound card to all the operating position radio’s line level out jacks. He will attempt recording MP3 audio on the low 4 bands this contest in hopes of catching some interesting VHF propagation. The audio embedded in the article below is experimental and not guaranteed to work on all browsers.

As the clock strikes 1800z Saturday afternoon and the contest gets off to a start we have Rich K1HTV on the main 50 MHz station and Gary NW5E on the seconday, Tyler K3MM on 144 MHz, Chuck W4XP on 222 MHz, Mark K4SO on 432 MHz, Jason KJ4EOO on FM and Terry W8ZN operating the microwave station. Conditions are OK and we begin to work people across the bands. Shortly into the contest Chuck reports that the 222 MHz radio has died. Chuck’s K3 has lost PLL. That’s what he gets for leaving his rig in a closet for a year, Terry comments! Terry pulls his spare out of his truck and replaces the dead one and Chucks is back on the air. Terry is still fighting issues with the microwave station. 2.3 GHz and above are operating sporadically. There is not much activity on FM as Jason interleaves some CQ’s on 146/223/446 MHz rig.

The first hour is usually the best QSO rate hour of the entire weekend. That is the case for 50 MHz where Rich works 87 QSOs and 23 grids. Many locals are logged in the surrounding FM/FN/EM/EN grids out to ~300mi. Rich manages to grab a few sporadic ESkip QSOs the first hour out to ~1000 mi with VE1TWM (FN84) @ 848 mi, VY2OM (FN86) @ 907 mi., C6ABB (FL15) @ 939 mi. and W7XU (EN13) @ 1037 mi. Click any of the hour links or calls within this entire article to play contest audio in embed MP3 players below. Call sign links usually start one minute before the actual QSO any play for only 2 minutes. When playing hourly streams use the < (left) and > (right) arrows in the player to jump backward or forward in 1 minute increments. Within the player window click in the scroll bar area to move within the minute.

Here is a rundown of the 50 MHz station equipment and below that are a number of pictures of the 50 Mhz station and antennas used during the weekend.


50 Mhz #1 – Elecraft K3 (K1HTV) w/ preamp + home brew KW 8877 amp
50 MHz #2 – Elecraft K3 (K1RA) w/ preamp + mod. Chan 2 SS KW amp

Rotatable 7 element yagi @ 135′
Rotatable 7 element yagi @ 35′
4x 5 element yagis fixed northeast @ 90′
4x 3 element yagis fixed west southwest @ 100′
2x 5 element yagis fixed southeast @ 40′


50 MHz antennas, 2x 5L SE, 4x 5L NE, 7L rotatable @ 135' Rich K1HTV @ 50 MHz Rich K1HTV @ 50 MHz 50 MHz 8877 KW amp (bottom) Rich K1HTV @ 50 MHz 50 MHz Solid State KW amp 50 MHz antennas, 2x 5L SE, 4x 5L NE, 7L rotatable @ 135' 50 MHz antennas, 4x 3L WSW 50 MHz antennas, 2x 5L SE, 4x 5L NE, 7L rotatable @ 135' 50 MHz antennas, 4x 5L NE, 7L rotatable @ 135' 50 MHz antennas, 2x 5L SE, 4x 5L NE, 7L rotatable @ 135' 50 MHz antennas, 4x 3L WSW 50 MHz antennas, 4x 3L WSW 50 MHz antennas, 4x 3L WSW 50 MHz antenna, 7L rotatable @ 35' 50 MHz rig, Elecraft K3 50 MHz rig, Elecraft K3 Rich K1HTV @ 50 MHz 50 MHz log computer 50 MHz power

During the first hour Tyler has his best hour on 144 MHz as well, contacting 51 QSOs and 18 grids. Most QSOs are locals out to about ~200 mi., but he does eek out some DX QSOs during the first hour >200 mi. with KB3WL (FN02) @ 243 mi., KA2CYN (FN31) @ 304 mi., VE3NPB/R (FN03) @ 310 mi., K4LY (EM85) @ 361 mi. and W1RZF (FN42) @ 427 mi. Click any of the hour links or calls above to play contest audio in embed MP3 players below. Call sign links usually start one minute before the actual QSO any play for only 2 minutes. When playing hourly streams use the < (left) and > (right) arrows in the player to jump backward or forward in 1 minute increments. Within the player window click in the scroll bar area to move within the minute.

Here is a rundown of the 144 MHz station equipment and below that are a number of pictures of the 144 Mhz station and antennas used during the weekend.


144 MHz – Yaesu FT1000MP (K3MM) + home brew 8877 KW amp

16x – 6 element yagis northeast
16x – 6 element yagis northwest
16x – 6 element yagis southwest
4x – 5 element yagis southeast
2x – FO12′s rotatable yagis @ 200′


144 MHz antennas, 3x 16x 5L NE, NW, SW, 4x 5L SE, 2x FO12 rotatable @ 200' 144 MHz antennas, 3x 16x 5L NE, NW, SW, 4x 5L SE, 2x FO12 rotatable @ 200' 144 MHz antennas, 3x 16x 5L NE, NW, SW, 4x 5L SE, 2x FO12 rotatable @ 200' 144 MHz antennas, 3x 16x 5L NE, NW, SW, 4x 5L SE, 2x FO12 rotatable @ 200' 144 MHz antennas, 3x 16x 5L NE, NW, SW, 4x 5L SE, 2x FO12 rotatable @ 200' 144 MHz antennas, 3x 16x 5L NE, NW, SW, 4x 5L SE, 2x FO12 rotatable @ 200'
Ty K3MM @ 144 MHz Ty K3MM @ 144 MHz Ty K3MM @ 144 MHz 144 MHz real time tropo map

After Chuck’s interrupted start on 222 MHz his first hour is still his best hour too. He works 16 QSOs and 10 grids. Most QSOs are under 75 mi. but Chuck does manage to work beyond that including his best DX contacts for the first hour to include: W3HMS/R (FN10) @ 107 mi., W2MC/R (FM28) @ 157 mi., K3YTL (FN11) @ 172 mi., KN4SM (FM16) @ 184 mi., K4HZ (EM97) @ 203 mi. and K2BAR (FN30) @ 274 mi. Below is a run down of the 222 MHz station and antennas as well as some pictures from over the weekend.


222 MHz – Elecraft K3 (W4XP) + DEMI transverter + home brew 8877 KW amp

2x FO16 16 element yagi @ 130′


Chuck W4XP @ 222 MHz K8GP 222 MHz station 2x 16L 222 MHz @ 130' 2x 16L 222 MHz @ 130' Chuck W4XP @ 222 MHz Chuck W4XP @ 222 MHz

On to the next higher band. Mark K4SO took the 432 MHz seat for the start of the contest this year. Mark is a newcomer to the K8GP group, but has been active on VHF+ from his QTH in the past. We were fortunate to have Mark at several of our work parties this year as he provided ground support as we raised towers and antennas. As the first hour came to a close Mark logged 21 QSOs and 9 grids. This will be one QSO short of his best hour for the entire weekend. As like 222 MHz, most of Mark’s QSOs are locals under 75 mi. He manages to work some DX out to almost 200 mi. to include: W3HMS/R (FN10) @ 107 mi., KA3HED (FM29) @ 154 mi., W2MC/R and N2WSY (FM28) @ 157 mi., K3YTL (FN11) @ 172 mi. and KN4SM (FM16) @ 184 mi. Below is a run down of the 432 MHz station and antennas as well as some pictures from over the weekend.


432 MHz- Elecraft K3 (W8ZN) + DEMI transverter + Lunar Link LA72 KW amp

4x FO25′s 25 element yagis @ 130′
FO11 11 element yagi southeast @ 120′


4x 22L 432 MHz 4x 22L 432 MHz Mark K4SO 432 Mhz Mark K4SO @ 432 MHz K8GP 432 MHz station K8GP 432 MHz station 4x 22L 432 MHz
K8GP 432 MHz KW amp K8GP 432 MHz KW amp

Another newcomer to the group is Jason KJ4EOO. He starts off the contest tuning around FM on 146/223/446 MHz. He’s along for the ride and is looking to learn more about VHF+ and the radio sport community. There isn’t too much activity on FM, though he does manage to snag a few 146 and 223 MHz FM only mobile and rovers out driving around the local area. He keeps tabs on the tropo forecast and watches the real-time 144 MHz APRS tropo maps in hopes of catching some VHF+ enhancement as the day goes on. Below a run down of the equipment and a few pictures.


146/223/446 MHz FM – Kenwood TM-742A + Solid State TE 150-250w amps

146/223/446 MHz ringo ranger verticals @ 40′


Jason KJ4EOO @ 146/223/446 MHz FM Jason KJ4EOO @ 146/223/446 MHz FM VHF tropo forecast Real-time 144 MHz APRS propagation map 146/223/446 MHz FM antennas

The microwave station, handling 903 MHz through 10 GHz, gets off to a very rough start. Terry W8ZN is at the helm and he’s determined 2.3 GHz and up are still not functioning during the first hour. Terry manages only to make one QSO on 1.2 GHz with KA3EJJ (FM19) @ 53 mi. During the rest of the hour Terry troubleshoots the Flex-1500 SDR, PowerSDR and outboard MOASU control circuitry he created to handled the multiple band switching problem. Below is a run down of the microwave station and antennas as well as some pictures from over the weekend.


903 – 10368 Mhz – Flex-1500 SDR @ 28 MHz I/F to 144 MHz transverter
PowerSDR running on a 3 GHz Dual Core P4 PC

903 MHz – DEMI transverter + Solid State 500w amp
45 element looper @ 135′

1.2 GHz – SSB transverter + Solid State 500w amp
55 element looper @ 135′

2.3 GHz – tower mounted DB6NT transverter + Solid State 200w amp
6′ mesh dish – 2+3 GHz dual-band feed @ 120′

3.4 GHz – tower mounted DB6NT transverter + Solid State 100w amp
6′ mesh dish – 2+3 GHz dual-band feed @ 120′

5.7 GHz – tower mounted DB6NT transverter + Solid State 40w amp
4′ solid dish – 5+10 GHz dual-band feed @ 130′

10 GHz – tower mounted DB6NT transverter + Solid State 50w amp
4′ solid dish – 5+10 GHz dual-band feed @ 130′


Terry W8ZN @ microwave K8GP 2.3 + 3.4 GHz xvrter + amps 2.3 + 3.4 GHz xvrter + amps (rear rack) Dave K1RZ @ microwave Dave K1RZ @ microwave Dave K1RZ @ microwave
903 MHz - 10 GHz antennas 903 MHz - 10 GHz antennas Microwave tower 903 MHz - 10 GHz antennas Microwave tower Microwave tower

By the end of the first hour our total score across all bands is 176 QSOs and 61 grids. Not so good compared to our past years on Spruce Knob. We keep plugging along in the hopes that conditions will pick up. Eventually Terry manages to work out all the microwave station issues so we begin making QSOs on the upper bands.

Over the next 3 hours Terry and Dave K1RZ begin to log a number stations out to about 60 mi. on the microwave bands. There are several stations on through 10 GHz though it appears something is not right with our 10 GHz station. Are we way off frequency? Is our receiver dead? We log the following on 903 MHz – 5.7 GHz: KB3STA/R, N3IQ/R, W3HMS/R and WA3PTV/R and W3HMS/R. Other microwave stations who make it into the log include: K4RTS (FM08), W4CLJ (FM18) and N3OC, W3PAW & WM3M (FM19).

Across the other lower bands during those same 3 hours; Mike N2NAR, Gary NW5E and Rich K1HTV all get time on 50 MHz and stretch out their tropo coverage to break the earlier 300 mi. barrier working NN1N, W1VD & N8RA (FN31) @ 304 mi., K1NSD (FN32) and VE3EU (EN93) each @ 345 mi., K1TR (FN42) @ 427 mi., K1WHS (FN43) @ 467 mi. and finally N4QWZ (EM66) @ 530 mi. Rich points out the the ES MUF is increasing across various parts of the U.S. They log a smattering of sporadic-E QSOs from ~900 to ~1400 mi. to include: N4PB & KB4UF (EL96) @ 887 mi., N3LL (EL86) @ 918 mi., WC4H & W4AS (EL95) @ 955 mi., CO2KK (EL83) @ 1117 mi., K9TM (EL19) @ 1274 mi., AG0N & KF0WU (DN81) @ 1331 mi., CO8LY (FK19) @ 1353 mi., XE2N (EL60) @ 1393 mi. and our best DX during this time N7MJ (DN71) @ 1434 mi.


Mike N2NAR @ 50 MHz Mike N2NAR @ 50 MHz Mike N2NAR & Rich K1HTV @ 50 MHz North America ESkip MUF map

On 144 MHz Ty still continues to plug away. He too is increasing his tropo coverage during these 3 hours. He logs a number os QSOs out beyond ~350 mi. to include: VE3EU (EN93) & VA3ZV (EN82) & W1VE (FN32) each @ 345 mi., W4ACW (EM94) @ 361 mi., VE3WCC (FN04) @ 378 mi., W8BYA (EN70) @ 403 mi., K1OR, NE1B & K1TR (FN42) @ 427 mi., and our best DX during this time K1WHS (FN43) @ 467 mi.

Chuck is doing much better on 222 MHz during this time too. Earlier he was averaging QSOs ~75 mi. and stretching out to ~275 mi. Now he’s averaging ~130 mi. and working many more people >200 mi. to include: W3CCX (FN21) @ 223 mi., WN8R & K8MR (EN91) @ 235 mi., KB3WL (FN02) & N8BI (EN91) each @ 244 mi., AA4ZZ (EM96) 248 mi., WA2VNV (FN30) @ 274 mi., K1PQR (FN31) @ 304 mi., VE3WCC (FN04) @ 378 mi., K1TR (FN42) @ 427 mi., and his best DX during this time frame VE2DFO (FN25) @ 466 mi.

Mark is still on 432 MHz increasing his coverage on the band. He has his best hour of the contest during 2100z hour working 22 QSOs and 9 grids. He’s averaging ~175 mi. per QSO now and has logged a number of QSOs exceeding 250 mi. to include: K4SAN (FM05) @ 255 mi., WA2VNV & N2MB (FN30) @ 274 mi., N8RA & W1CTC (FN31) @ 304 mi., VE3WCC (FN04) @ 378 mi., W8BYA (EN70) @ 403 mi., KA1EKR & K1TR (FN42) @ 427 mi. and best DX during this time K1WHS (FN43) @ 467 mi.

Here is an hour by hour breakdown across all bands for the first 4 hours of the contest as some of the operators begin to take a break for dinner. Band data and hourly totals (HOUR TOT) is listed as QSOs / new grids, except for the cumulative total (CUM TOT) column. The PTS column lists running QSO point totals and SCORE is running total score. Click any of the bold QSO/Grid links below to hear a time compressed stream of audio of QSOs from that band’s hour. When playing hourly streams use the < (left) and > (right) arrows in the player to jump backward or forward in 1 minute increments. Within the player window click in the scroll bar area to move within the minute.

HR     50      144      222      432      903      1.2      2.3      3.4      5.7  HOUR TOT  CUM TOT  PTS   SCORE
18   87/23    51/18    16/10    21/9      0/0      1/1      0/0      0/0      0/0   176/61   176/61   215   13115
19   34/10    35/6      7/2     20/3      2/1      1/1      2/1      2/1      1/1   104/26   280/87   367   31929
20   32/6     34/7     16/8     19/4      3/2      2/1      2/1      2/1      2/1   112/31   392/118  542   63956
21   26/8     38/4     11/5     22/9      2/1      5/2      2/1      1/1      1/1   108/32   500/150  709  106350


Chuck W4XP, Gary NW5E, Rich K1HTV, Mark K4SO, Dave K1RZ

Over the next 6 hours we’re all pretty much in the groove. Things are working pretty well. There was the rocky start on the microwaves. During this next window Terry runs home to get his signal generator to test out 10 GHz. We don’t hear a peep out of it on our receiver when he returns. No 10 GHz QSOs this contest :( Other than the 222 MHz I/F radio replacement, no other failures to report. It has gotten quite warm now in both of the buses. Even with the A/C units and fans running full bore, the heat generated from the amps and the sun beating down on the buses all day is starting to make it a bit uncomfortable. It is actually pleasant outside the buses under the awning in the shade. Unfortunately we can not get that airflow through the buses. We’ve sealed up all the windows and covered them with reflective Mylar to keep out the suns rays and cut down on the glare on the computer screens.

During this 6 hour window, up until about midnight local, 50 MHz only works about 10 new DX ESkip QSOs. The band doesn’t pan out to be anywhere as good as it has been in years past. ESkip QSOs out beyond ~800 mi. include: KB5AAB (EM51) @ 817 mi., VE1AHM (FN76) @ 826 mi., VE1ZJ (FN95) @ 964 mi., AC5O (EL49) @ 999 mi., T48K (FL10) @ 1284 mi., K5TR (EM00) @ 1334 mi., ZF1EJ (EK99) @ 1365 mi., N5XTL (DM83) @ 1447 mi. and our one European QSO for the day with CT1HZE (IM57) @ 3639 mi. around 2320z.

On 144 MHz during this time Ty works a handful more stations greater than ~400 mi. to include: NA2NY (FN33) @ 394 mi., W1OUN & AC1J (FN42) @ 420 mi., AF1T & K2HZN (FN43) @ 435 mi. and VE2XX (FN25) @ 479 mi.

Chuck on 222 MHz pulls in a few contacts out ~350 mi. and greater to include: K1GX (FN31) and WA2BTR/R each @ 345 mi., K1KG (FN42) @ 406 mi., and K1WHS (FN43) @ 467 mi.

Mark K4SO eventually has to leave us for the rest of the weekend and John KX4O another newcomer to the group joins us to fill in for part of the night shift on 432 MHz with Jason KJ4EOO. They too work a few stations out over ~350 mi. to include: K1GX (FN31) and W2SZ (FN32) each @ 345 mi., K1KG (FN42) @ 406 mi. and K2HZN (FN43) @ 449 mi.

On the microwaves Dave is still plugging away. Earlier he and Terry weren’t working out much past 60mi. on the microwaves. Now just about every QSO is beyond that. On the low end WA3PTV/R (FM19) @ 60mi. is logged from 903 MHz – 5.7 GHz, WB3IGR (FM18) @ 100mi. is logged through 2.3 GHz, W3SZ (FN20) @ 179mi. on 1.2 GHz. Finally, the two longest DX QSOs on bands 903 MHz through 5.7 GHz inclusive for this time frame are with N3NGE (FN20) @ 179mi. and W3CCX (FN21) @ 223mi.


Dave K1RZ micro, Mark K4SO 432, Jason KJ4EOO FM Ty K3MM 144, John KX4O

Here is an hour by hour breakdown across all bands for the that 6 hours of the contest from 2200z to 0400z. Band data and hourly totals (HOUR TOT) is listed as QSOs / new grids, except for the cumulative total (CUM TOT) column. The PTS column lists running QSO point totals and SCORE is running total score. Click any of the bold QSO/Grid links below to hear a time compressed stream of audio of QSOs from that band’s hour. When playing hourly streams use the < (left) and > (right) arrows in the player to jump backward or forward in 1 minute increments. Within the player window click in the scroll bar area to move within the minute.

HR     50      144      222      432      903      1.2      2.3      3.4      5.7  HOUR TOT  CUM TOT  PTS   SCORE
22   16/5     20/3      9/2     10/2      1/0      1/0      1/0      0/0      0/0    58/12   558/162  793  128466
23   21/5     15/3      5/3      4/1      1/0      1/0      0/0      0/0      0/0    47/12   605/174  853  148422
00   23/2     27/2      5/1     11/2      1/1      1/1      0/0      0/0      0/0    68/9    673/183  941  172203
01   26/3     18/2      6/0     11/2      1/0      2/1      1/0      1/0      1/0    67/8    740/191 1040  198640
02   16/0     20/1      3/1      8/1      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0    47/3    787/194 1098  213012
03   14/0     17/1      4/1      9/1      2/2      3/1      3/3      2/2      1/1    55/12   842/206 1194  245964

As the ops press on into the night I opt to spend about an hour+ under the dark, starry skies and attempt to get some night pictures of the antenna arrays. At night we have several halogen lights mounted on top of the buses pointed down at the ground to light our way around the field. I climb up and point them all up at the skies to throw some photons up at the antennas high above. I open the camera up for some long exposure shots and come up with a handful of shots worth publishing below.


Microwave tower @ night Microwave tower @ night Microwave & 50 MHz towers @ night 144 MHz tower @ night 144 MHz & 50 MHz towers @ night 144 MHz & 50 MHz towers @ night
144 MHz & 50 MHz towers @ night 144 MHz, 50 MHz and microwave towers @ night 144 MHz, 50 MHz & microwave towers @ night 50 MHz & microwave towers @ might

After midnight local and from 0400z-10000z most all of us head off to bed while Rich & Ty press on into the night working stations off meteor trails on WSJT randoms and skeds. There are a few straggler tropo QSO logged up through 432 MHz out to about 400 mi. During the late night and into the morning on 50 MHz we work the following via WSJT meteor scatter out beyond ~600 mi: KN4OK (EM64) @ 597 mi., K9CT (EN50) @ 600 mi., K9NS (EN52) @ 629 mi., K2DRH (EN41) @ 712 mi., VE1SKY (FN74) @ 758 mi., W5ZN (EM45) @ 802 mi., W0VB (EN34) @ 864 mi., KD0KUK (EN35) @ 890 mi., K0AWU (EN37) @ 955 mi. and our best WSJT DX K5QE (EM31) @ 1000 mi.

On 144 MHz we work a number of the same stations as we do on 50 MHz, but not quite so many. The breakdown for WSJT for the night yields: KN4OK (EM64) @ 597 mi., K9CT (EN50) @ 600 mi., K9NS (EN52) @ 629 mi., W9JN (EN54) @ 685 mi., K2DRH (EN41) @ 712 mi., VE1SKY (FN72) @ 758 mi., W5ZN (EM45) @ 80 2mi., W0VB (EN34) @ 864 mi., KA0RYT (EN35) @ 890 mi., K0AWU (EN37) @ 955 mi. and again topping the WSJT DX list K5QE (EM31) @ 1000 mi.

Here is an hour by hour breakdown from 0400z to 1000z. Band data and hourly totals (HOUR TOT) is listed as QSOs / new grids, except for the cumulative total (CUM TOT) column. The PTS column lists running QSO point totals and SCORE is running total score.

HR     50      144      222      432      903      1.2      2.3      3.4      5.7  HOUR TOT  CUM TOT  PTS   SCORE
04    4/2      4/0      1/1      2/1      0/0      1/0      0/0      0/0      1/1    13/5    855/211 1215  256365
05    4/4      4/4      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0     8/8    863/219 1223  267837
06    2/2      2/2      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0     4/4    867/223 1227  273621
07    2/2      2/2      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0     4/4    871/227 1231  279437
08    0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0     0/0    871/227 1231  279437
09    3/3      2/2      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0     5/5    876/232 1236  286752
10    6/1      2/1      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0     8/2    884/234 1244  291096

Sunday morning looks to be another beautiful, sunny day. The skies are clear blue as the sun rises. I run out to the far field and try to grab some more pictures. I snap the following pictures during the daylight looking back and to the west over the K8GP site. What a difference from last night.


K8GP antenna farm after sunrise 144 MHz tower after sunrise 50 MHz & microwave towers after sunrise Microwave tower after sunrise K8GP antenna farm after sunrise

We’re all hoping for some better propagation today. In the past by Sunday morning, from Spruce Knob we would have already broken 1,000,000 points. This year at the same time our score only sits at ~291K, a far cry from the million mark.

During the 4 hours from just after sunrise at 1100z until 1500z we only see some slight tropospheric enhancement on the upper bands. On 144 MHz we work about a dozen QSOs beyond ~350 mi. to include: K1LMY (FN32) & VE3XTM (EN93) each @ 345 mi., K4LY & W4RYF (EM85) @ 361 mi., VA3UP (FN14) & VE3WY (FN04) each @ 378 mi., WB2SIH/R (FN33) @ 394 mi., KB4MRG (EM77) @ 403 mi., K1NDF & W1ZC (FN42) @ 409 mi. and our best morning tropo K4RW (EM92) @ 487 mi.

During this time 222 MHz works some long distance QSOs out beyond 250 mi. to include: K2TER/R (FN12) @ 261 mi., W8PAT (EN81) @ 274 mi., K8TQK (EM89) @ 290 mi., K2BAR, WA2BTR/R & W1QK (FN31) @ 304 mi., W2SZ (FN32) @ 345 mi. K4LY (EM85) @ 376 mi. and our best 222 morning DX, VE3WY (FN04) @ 378 mi.

On 432 MHz during this window we work many of the same station as 222. QSOs out beyond 250 mi. include: K2TER/R (FN12) @ 261 mi., K8TQK (EM89) @ 290 mi., W4VVH (EM95) @ 302 mi., WA2BTR/R (FN31) @ 304 mi., K4LY & W4RYF (EM85) @ 376 mi. and as with 222 our best morning DX, VE3WY (FN04) @ 378 mi.

On the microwave most of yesterdays rovers are out and are within 75 mi. of us. We again work many of them from 903 MHz to 5.7 GHz. Some of the calls spread across the various bands include: N3IQ/R, KB3STA/R WA3PTV/R and NN3Q/R. We finally work long time K8GP member Owen K3CB out on the eastern shore in FM18 on all bands up through 5.7 GHz. Our best DX though comes on 1.2 GHz where we manage to work K1ISR (FM06) @ 205 mi., K8TQK (EM89) @ 290 mi. and W4VVH (EM95) @ 302 mi.

50 MHz offer us the biggest surprise in the morning. Between about 1100z and 1300z we get some multi-hop ESkip into Europe and Africa. We snag the following DX: CT1ILT (IN50) @ 3556 mi., EA1EJ (IN62) @ 3600 mi., CN8KD (IM63) @ 3854 mi. and our longest DX EA7RM (IM87) 3889 mi. About halfway through that opening 50 MHz also starts opening up to the midwest and western U.S. From 1200z to 1500z we log the following U.S. grids via ESkip: DM79, DN70, DN91/2/4, DO42, EM09, EN07/8, EN10/2/6, EN23/5, EN30/1/2/3/5/6/7, EN41/2/3/4/5 and EN53/4/5/6. It looks like this is going to be a big 6 meter day! Even though we’d usually be well above 1 million points by now from West Virginia and wonder if we will even break 1 million points total by the end of the weekend from here in Virginia.

Here is an hour by hour breakdown for the 4 hours from 1100z to 1500z. Band data and hourly totals (HOUR TOT) is listed as QSOs / new grids, except for the cumulative total (CUM TOT) column. The PTS column lists running QSO point totals and SCORE is running total score. Click any of the bold QSO/Grid links below to hear a time compressed stream of audio of QSOs from that band’s hour. When playing hourly streams use the < (left) and > (right) arrows in the player to jump backward or forward in 1 minute increments. Within the player window click in the scroll bar area to move within the minute.

HR     50      144      222      432      903      1.2      2.3      3.4      5.7  HOUR TOT  CUM TOT  PTS   SCORE
11    8/2      9/0      2/0      9/1      2/0      2/0      1/0      0/0      0/0    33/3    917/237 1299  307863
12   12/5     16/2      2/1      4/1      1/0      2/1      1/0      2/1      2/1    42/12   959/249 1368  340632
13   27/14    20/3      6/1      8/1      2/0      4/2      2/1      2/1      2/1    73/24  1032/273 1485  405405
14   36/12    16/0      6/0      5/0      2/0      2/0      2/0      2/0      2/0    73/12  1105/285 1595  454575

Over the next 6 hours activity seems to wane over most bands except 6 meters. Both buses start to heat up again as the sun gets high in the sky. The 50/222 MHz bus A/C is starting to make some strange noises. All of a sudden it starts spitting out chunks of ice! We power it down and give it a rest for awhile, open up the side doors and try to get some more fans to circulate the air.

On each of the bands 222 and 432 MHz you can count the contacts per hour on one hand. On 222 MHz QSOs beyond 250 mi are logged with only: K2TER/R (FN02) @ 262 mi. and VE3NPB/R (EN92) @ 288 mi. On 432 MHz we grab a few more beyond the 250 mi range including: K2TER/R (FN02) @ 262 mi., KA2DRR (FN30) @ 274 mi., W2LV (FN31) @ 304 mi., and K2QO/R & W2CNS (FN13) @ 308 mi.

144 MHz isn’t too much better on QSO totals. That band at least tallies some double digit QSO totals per hour during this window. Ty mentions maybe there should be some mandatory off times for all on Sunday given the low activity. Here’s a list of who he contacted above ~300 mi. on 2m: KA2FWN (FN22) @ 297 mi., K1IIG & KJ1K/R (FN31) @ 304 mi., K2QO/R (FN13) @ 308 mi., VA3ELE (FN03) @ 311 mi., W2CCC (FN23) @ 338 mi., WB1GQR (FN33) @ 394 mi., W1XX (FN41) @ 396 mi. and K1PRO (FN42) @ 427 mi. We notice that we haven’t worked anywhere near as many New England stations as we have in the past from this FM19 location. Is it lack of activity? Is there some sort of front or bad weather up that way blocking signals? Maybe the surface forecast map or satellite imagery can shed some light.


GOES EAST IR JUNE 9-11 2012 Sunday morning surface wx map GOES EAST WATER VAPOR JUNE 9-11 2012

On the microwaves the outlook is even worse with less the 5 QSOs across all microwaves for the first 4 hours of the window. Finally around 1900z we find N3IQ/R, KB3STA/R and NN3Q/R all in FN10 to boost our totals.

The 50 MHz ops seem to be having the best time today. They are grabbing most of the contacts during this period. They log almost 200 QSOs total with ~100 on ESkip in the 600-2300 mi. range. Their best top 5 best DX QSOs are with VE5UF (DO61) @ 1640 mi., WA7JTM (DM46) @ 1808 mi., VE6TA (DO33) @ 1922 mi., KR7O (DM07) @ 2215 mi. and finally W6XK (CM97) @ 2320 mi. Here’s a list of all grids worked during this time >600 mi.: DM78/9, DM88/9, DM95/7/8/9, DN71, DN90, DO61, EM01/2/5/6/7/8, EM12/3/4/5/8/9, EM23/4/5/6/7/9, EM32/4/5/6/7/8, EM54/5/6, EN00, EN11, EN25, EN31/4/5, EN44/5, EN52/3/4 AND FN84.

Near the end of this 6 hour window we power up the A/C again and start to bring the temperature down inside the bus. Unfortunately, some time after that we loose all power in both buses. We check the breakers and find one quite warm. We check major power distribution points for any issues. We call in Craig N4OHE to assist and end up running a secondary extension cord for one of the A/C units. We’re off the air for about 20 minutes while we troubleshoot and make our changes. Amusingly we’d lost main power last year about this time due to a thunderstorm. That had put us off the air for the rest of that afternoon Sunday. In preparation for a repeat, we had a portable generator on hand this year just in case. Below a few pictures during the ordeal.


Terry W8ZN & Ty K3MM survey power distro Power distribution Mike N2NAR check power connectors Mike N2NAR checks power connectors Backup generator

Here is an hour by hour breakdown for the six hours from 1500z to 2000z. Band data and hourly totals (HOUR TOT) is listed as QSOs / new grids, except for the cumulative total (CUM TOT) column. The PTS column lists running QSO point totals and SCORE is running total score. Click any of the bold QSO/Grid links below to hear a time compressed stream of audio of QSOs from that band’s hour. When playing hourly streams use the < (left) and > (right) arrows in the player to jump backward or forward in 1 minute increments. Within the player window click in the scroll bar area to move within the minute.

HR     50      144      222      432      903      1.2      2.3      3.4      5.7  HOUR TOT  CUM TOT  PTS   SCORE
15   32/6     16/0      1/0      3/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0    52/6   1157/291 1651  480441
16   62/30    11/0      1/0      5/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0      0/0    79/30  1236/321 1736  557256
17   44/8      9/0      1/0      5/0      0/0      1/1      0/0      0/0      0/0    60/9   1296/330 1804  595320
18   24/5     13/0      2/0      2/0      1/0      1/0      0/0      0/0      0/0    43/5   1339/335 1855  621425
19   22/0     10/1      4/0      5/1      2/0      3/0      2/0      2/0      2/0    52/2   1391/337 1944  655128
20   26/12    13/2      5/1      3/0      1/1      1/1      1/1      0/0      0/0    50/18  1441/355 2009  713195

Its getting to be about dinner time now and some of us retreat to under the awning to grab a bite to eat and talk about the weekend, future plans and reminisce about contests past. I have an opportunity to sit with Terry W8ZN and Chuck W4XP and talk about Gene W3ZZ, how we all first met and what happened at their very first contest outing in Jan. VHF SS 1994. We first joke that there are still a number of chocolate chip cookies left to eat. Gene would have polished them all off by now!


Sunday late afternoon @ K8GP

I tell Terry I first met Gene in Meriden, CT in ’74 when I was 10 and not yet a ham. My parents (Rich K1HTV & Phyllis K1WSN) had invited Gene over for dinner. Gene reminded me of a cross between Gabe Caplen (Welcome Back Kotter) and Gene Shalit (Today Show). I remember Gene being quite a comedian and very jovial. We had recently acquired a color TV with a remote control. I recall us watching the Yellow Submarine that night and Gene laughing away, playing with the remote, adjusting the color and tint all night changing the Yellow Submarine to anything but yellow and the Blue Meanies to every color but blue! Little did I know I would reunite with Gene later on when I was a ham (KA1GD) as a teenager when my dad took a job at VOA in D.C. in 1980. Gene would introduce me to PVRC and my first HF multi at W4QAW, which lead to HF multi W3FA and then W3LPL and eventually back to the Grid Pirates.

Terry tells me it would have been 20 years to the day that he had met Gene at the Manassas hamfest in June ’92. They’d initially first talked on the 147.00 repeater earlier in the year when Terry had moved into the area after leaving Ohio. They struck up a relationship given there common interests in VHF and contesting. It was in these early days that Gene planted the seed of wishing to build a competitive multi-op VHF group. Within about a year and a half Gene and Terry would pull together others including Ken KP4XS/KH2F/N4UK, Chuck W4XP, Rol K3RA and John N3HIH and head to Clear Spring, MD WETA site to operate the Jan. VHF SS, known as the “ice and snowfest”. Terry laughs they almost all froze to death that weekend as it didn’t get much above the single digits. They knew once they had survived that weekend that they had the makings of a real team.

During our conversation outside, Rich yells from inside the bus for someone to assist him. 50 MHz has just gone wild! He’s working Europe and west coast U.S. simultaneously and needs someone on the secondary station to start hunting for multipliers. Chuck initially helps out.


Chuck W4XP & Rich K1HTV @ 50 MHz Rich K1HTV @ 50 MHz

We’re getting down to the final stretch. Another 6 hours and the contest will come to a close. We’re still not close to 1 million points, but with the increased 50 MHz activity maybe we have a chance. Rich and Chuck battle it out on 6 meters to see who they can contact for about 3 hours. They hop between the phone and CW portions of the band looking for new and rare grids. You never know how long these openings are going to last, so you have to be quick on calling in and exchanging reports. Turns out no real rush because this opening isn’t a short one. From around 2030z until 2300z our 50 Mhz station works over 30 European stations. Countries worked include: CT, DL, EI, G, GD, GI, GM, GW, F, I and PA. Grids worked in Europe include: IM57/8/9, IO53/4, IO62/3/4, IO71/4/5, IO80/1/3, IO90/1/2, JN08, JN38, JN53/4/9, JO01 and JO21. Our 5 longest DX QSOs of the entire weekend end up being worked during this opening and are with: PA2M (JO21) @ 3880 mi., DL3GD (JN38) @ 4059 mi., DL1YM (JN59) @ 4191 mi., I4EAT (JN54) @ 4355 mi. and IK5MEJ (JN53) @ 4389 mi. Of course as mentioned earlier they are also interleaving and working west coast and mid-west and even far northeast stations as well. Up until 0000z we also log the following U.S. grids via ESkip over 600 mi.: CN78, CN84/7/9, CN94, DM04/7, DM12, DM26, DM33, DM43, DM79, DM87, DM99, DN67, DN70, DO20, DO33, EM12, EM20, EN18, EN24/6, EN58, FN46, FN55, FN64/6, FN75/6, FN84, GN29 and GN37. Our 5 best U.S. DX QSOs during this time are with: K7SP (DM33) @ 1982 mi., KS7DX (DM26) @ 2022 mi., K6MYC (DM07) @ 2215 mi., K6ZH (DM12) @ 2223 mi. and N6VI (DM04) @ 2279 mi.

Over on the upper bands they are all feeling the pinch of the great 50 MHz enhanced conditions. Single digit per hour QSO rates for all the bands. 144 MHz is still working a small bit of tropo plugging away by making CQs on 144.197. They work some contacts out over ~350 mi. including: AA4DD (EM86) @ 333 mi., K1MAP (FN32) @ 351 mi., K1KT (FN41) @ 385 mi., KA2KQM (EM74) @ 476 mi. and N1JEZ (FN44) @ 513 mi.


K8GP 144.197 MHz K3MM's FT-1000MP 144.197 MHz

222 Mhz only works two stations beyond 250 mi., K2QO/R (FN12) @ 261 mi and AA4DD (EM86) @ 333 mi. 432 MHz only work one beyond that limit, K1KT (FN41) @ 385 mi. There are a few microwave station on the air, though we don’t work anything 3.4 GHz or up. Below that we grab WA3PTV/R (FN00) @ 73 mi, K3EOD (FM29) @ 154 mi and K1DS/R (FM28) @ 156 mi.

Here is an hour by hour breakdown for the three hours of the contest from 2100z to 0000z. Band data and hourly totals (HOUR TOT) is listed as QSOs / new grids, except for the cumulative total (CUM TOT) column. The PTS column lists running QSO point totals and SCORE is running total score.

HR     50      144      222      432      903      1.2      2.3      3.4      5.7  HOUR TOT  CUM TOT  PTS   SCORE
21   24/14     5/0      1/0      4/0      0/0      0/0      1/1      0/0      0/0    35/15  1476/370 2052  759240
22   21/8      5/1      1/0      3/1      1/1      1/1      0/0      0/0      0/0    31/12  1507/382 2090  798380
23   33/15     7/1      0/0      2/0      1/0      1/0      1/0      1/0      1/0    47/16  1554/398 2152  856496

It is the final sprint to the end. There are just 3 hours remaining in the contest and then it’ll be over. I (Andy K1RA) have the opportunity to work the 50 MHz band until the end, as Rich finally has to take a break after hours and hours in the hot-seat. Gary NW5E points out our all time 50 MHz grid total record is 262 and questions whether we can top that this weekend. Although conditions to Europe have subsided, the band is still in great shape to much of the mid-west, western U.S. and VE5/6/7′s. During the 0000z hour I clock K8GP’s 2nd best hourly QSO rate (70) and 2nd best new worked grid total (27). I continue working stations all the way out to the west coast until around 0120z. I log the following grids during that window: CM87, CM98/9, CN82/3/4/5/7/8, CN93/4/6, DN05/6/7, DN14/5/7, DN30/5, DO21, DO33, DO43 and DO70. My 5 best DX QSOs are with: KC7I & W7SX (CN84) @ 2325 mi., W2VJN (CN83) @ 2334 mi., AA7E (CN82) @ 2345 mi. and K6OO (CM87) @ 2425 mi.

From there on in I continue to work many ESkip stations in the upper mid-west and even a number of stations to the north and northeast. It is then I start hearing some very short ESkip. I work N8GP in EN90 at S9 signal strength. Wow, that wasn’t groundwave! The ESkip is getting intense. I hear K1WHS, but not when I switch over to the northeast array. He’s barely audible there, but pointing the 7 element beam @135′ toward 330 deg. he’s S6-7. That’s some intense back scatter! Just then as I watch the log window I see Ty begins to log some interesting QSOs on 144 MHz.

On 144 MHz Ty has been suffering the typical consequences of an ESkip heavy June contest where most of the activity and enhanced conditions are centered around 50 MHz, but at 0117z that all changes. W0ZOK (EN16) calls in from 1094 mi. Its ESKip on 144 Mhz, a rarity especially during a VHF contest! Over the next 30 minutes he works W0PHD (EN18) @ 1150 mi., then N0RCT (EN36) @ 921 mi. followed by NT0V (EN08) @ 1233 mi. for his longest DX QSO of the weekend. The ESkip subsides for about 15 minutes then Ty works his last DX ESkip QSO at 0152z with VE4MA (EN19) @ 1197 mi. What a run, that’s 5 new grids in the log!

No ESkip on 222 MHz, though they still manage to pull in a few tropo QSOs out beyond 250 mi. with N1GC & N4HN (EM95) @ 302 mi. 432 MHz does a bit better working: WM8I (EN80) @ 282 mi., N4HN (EM95) @ 302 mi., N8DJB (EN81) @ 339 mi., W4JST (FM14) @ 345 mi., NT4RT (EM94) @ 361 mi. and K1KT (FN41) @ 385 mi.

Even the microwave station manages to make a number of QSOs above 100 mi. on 1.2 GHz Terry works W3FEY (FN10) @ 107 mi., K8RYU (EM99) @ 171 mi., WA2LTM (FN20) @ 197 mi., K4QI (FM06) @ 222 mi., W4VHH (EM95) @ 278 mi. and W2SZ (FN32) @ 345 mi. As well we work WA2LTM and W2SZ on 2.3 GHz. The only other QSO is on 5.7 GHz with WA2FGK (FN21) @ 183 mi.

50 MHz is open up until the very end. In the last 30 minutes I sill manage to work a combination of tropo and ESkip QSOs. The remaining QSOs in the 50 MHz log are: K8GT (EN82) @ 358 mi., VE4TV (EN19) @ 1183 mi., KB8U (EN71) @ 412 mi., K7BV (FM04) @ 322 mi., VE3TU (EN58) @ 854 mi., VE3JJA (EN29) @ 1107 mi., W9FZ/R (EN65) @ 643 mi. W3EP (FN31) @ 304 mi. and finally W1AIM (FN34) @ 450 mi. The contest is over!

Here is an hour by hour breakdown for the final three hours of the contest from 0000z to 0300z. Band data and hourly totals (HOUR TOT) is listed as QSOs / new grids, except for the cumulative total (CUM TOT) column. The PTS column lists running QSO point totals and SCORE is running total score.

HR     50      144      222      432      903      1.2      2.3      3.4      5.7  HOUR TOT  CUM TOT  PTS   SCORE
00   70/27     5/0      1/1      5/2      0/0      2/1      0/0      0/0      0/0    83/31  1637/429 2245  963105
01   44/9     12/6      3/2      6/2      0/0      2/0      0/0      0/0      0/0    67/19  1704/448 2325 1041600
02   24/6      6/1      1/0      2/0      0/0      2/1      1/0      0/0      1/0    37/8   1741/456 2375 1083000

Not had enough yet? Below you’ll find our final score break down, future K8GP plans and some interactive grid maps, as well as a mechanism to play QSO audio from any specific call sign we worked on 50 or 144 MHz.

Here is the K8GP June VHF 2012 score breakdown.

- BAND   QSO DUP LOC  POINTS AVG PTS AVG DIS
---------------------------------------------
-   50   814  11 249     816     1.0  1279.7
-  144   449  15  75     449     1.0   333.6
-  222   116   3  40     234     2.0   300.1
-  432   205   3  44     410     2.0   268.5
-  902    26   0   9      78     3.0   121.7
- 1296    41   2  16     126     3.0   196.4
- 2320    24   0  10      96     4.0   148.8
- 3400    17   0   7      68     4.0   118.1
- 5700    17   0   7      68     4.0   125.3
-  10G     0   0   0       0     0.0     0.0
---------------------------------------------
-TOTAL  1709 34 457    2345     1.4   760.6
=============================================
-          TOTAL SCORE : 1,073,374

We did break the 1 million point barrier but barely. That’s less than half the score that we’d submitted from our final years from Spruce Knob. We didn’t break our all time 50 MHz grid total record of 262 but we got fairly close. We’ve still got our work cut out for us over the coming years. Future work includes moving the old white bus next to the other two and moving the amps out to cut down on heat and noise. There are still some fixed northeast arrays that need to be assembled and installed for 222 and 432 MHz, as well as continued work and growth of the microwave station.

Below are maps of our log for the low 4-bands 50-432 MHz for the contest weekend. The more red the grid color, the more QSOs we contacted in that particular grid. Click a grid to see a list of calls contacted. Click the links below each map to see a larger more interactive grid map for that band.

50 MHz QSO Density Grid Map


View Larger 50 MHz Grid Map

144 MHz QSO Density Grid Map


View Larger 144 MHz Grid Map

222 MHz QSO Density Grid Map


View Larger 222 MHz Grid Map

432 MHz QSO Density Grid Map


View Larger 432 MHz Grid Map

Finally, did you contact us on 50 or 144 MHz? Do you know someone who did? Would you like to hear the QSO? Enter a call sign below and then click 50 OR 144 MHz button. If we contacted that call on that band we will attempt to play the recorded QSO. No guarantees, as this is all experimental.

Search:
Call sign: and OR MHz

Hope you enjoyed the show

73 and look to work you in the next VHF contest!

andyz – K1RA

K8GP Grid Pirates Contest Group
June VHF 2012 ops:
Rich K1HTV, Andy K1RA, Ty K3MM, Mark K4SO, Jason KJ4EOO, John KX4O, Mike N2NAR, Gary NW5E, Chuck W4XP and Terry W8ZN

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