Tuesday nights are RSGB activity nights and last night (3rd August 2010) was the 144MHz Activity Contest. I never take these things very seriously and I am happy to give away points to those who do. I treat them as a bit of fun, because like happened last night I never seem to be able to get a good run at it. First there was a telephone call and as the rest of the family had gone swimming I had to take the call, then I had a Skype call, and then Helen called me, via the local 70cms repeater, to say she was on the way home and would I like beef in black bean sauce for my supper. Later on I had a break while I ate my meal before I was called upon to uncork a bottle of wine and when a friend called me on another band, I final gave way a half hour before the end for a rag chew. Factor in that every time I want to turn my beam I have to go outside in to the garden and move it by hand and you get the picture. Roll on the day I get my Tennamast up! Today was meant to be taken with fabrication of a new ground post, but it is raining. The one it came with having been made over size by its last owner.
If I were to take these thing seriously I would have to go portable simply to avoid the interruptions and an added bit of hight at VHF is always welcome. All things considered I did okay though. I had a look at the claimed scores and I would be somewhere about mid table going on QSO rate and due to the distances of some of my contacts a bit higher on actual score. That was when I thought I would actually enter my scores for a change, but something had gone wrong. I had decided to not bother with the PC and log on paper as I find it faster. I used a notepad and scribbled down the details before I call the station, that way if I don't get straight through I can move on and come back to that contact. I started off my log with Dave GW8ZRE/P who is an ever present local in these things, but there was a bit of a pile up and I was 003 in his log. I wrote down the time as 1902 and then for some bizarre reason I never wrote down another time in the log until I worked G1HSG/P at 1936. Bearing in mind the interruptions and that I turned the beam a couple of times I have no idea of the times of a stack of contacts. What made it worse was that since I realised in the 80m club contest that I had some errors in my log I have been using the PC to record my contest QSOs. Last night I did not do it, if I had I could cross check the time with the minutes elapsed on the recording. Sometimes the learning curve is steep. Next time I will start the recorder and use a preprinted log sheet.
I have raised my 2 metre beam up a bit higher and that improved things last night by reducing the noise from the computers, games consuls and other electronics in my house. Previously it was about level with my son's bedroom, which was not good. It still however is not above the roof line and so my operation in certain directions is blocked out. When the mast goes up it will be well above the roof line which I am hoping will make a big difference. Unfortunately my QTH is too low down for my liking but whenever I suggest moving higher I face the same arguments about being snowed in from Helen. I always tell her that is why we have a 4x4 but she will not even consider it.
I had an interesting contact this morning on 20m with Edwin HB9ZAP/P who was on SOTA summit Gulmen Reference: HB/SG-033 it is 1789m and worth 6 points. I do not have a good antenna up for 20m and was listening on my 80/40m trap dipole. I could just hear him and then I lost him in QSB, at best he was 4/3. I suspected he might be working vertically polarized and had a listen on my 10m vertical, which is a half wave and so near a quarter wave on 20m but heard nothing, however he was 5/5 on my 6m vertical and much to my surprise the ATU tuned it up easily and I had no problem making the contact. I still cannot figure why the antenna worked so well with the 5/8ths wave on 6m being about 3.75 metres, which is well short of a quarter wave on 14.285 MHz. What is even more odd is it has gone off tune on on 6m and only works with an ATU. Maybe part of the coax has gone short and is acting as part of the antenna or something. When I fix it no doubt it won't work on 20m any more. Not so much of a problem as the other antenna going on the Tennamast when it is up is a tri-band beam for 10/15/20 metres. I just need some good weather to finish the digging and for my pal Graham to finish the fabricating of the new ground socket. Will it ever stop raining? This is Wet Welsh Wales, so maybe not.