Category Archives: Contesting

2015 August UHF Contest Results

2015 August UHF Contest certificateOpened the mailbox today and was surprised to see an envelope from Newington waiting for me.  Looks like I placed third in the Atlantic Division (SOLP) and first (out of two) in the MDC section!

Missed all the VHF+ contest this year but I’m hoping to get my antennas back up and figure out what to do with these transverters.  I had a slight point deduction due to a mis-copied grid when I contacted WB2JAY and a couple of duplicates.  I had fun participating and hope to do so again soon.

ARRL Contest Branch
Call:       WG3K
Category:   Single Operator, Low Power
Location:   MDC

************************** Summary ***************************

      15 Claimed QSO before checking (does not include duplicates)
      14 Final   QSO after  checking reductions

      54 Claimed QSO points
      51 Final   QSO points

       8 Claimed grids
       8 Final   grids

     432 Claimed score
     408 Final   score
   -5.6% Score reduction

    6.7% Error Rate based on claimed and final qso counts
       3 (16.7%) duplicates
       0 (0.0%) calls copied incorrectly
       1 (5.6%) exchanges copied incorrectly
       0 (0.0%) not in log
       0 (0.0%) calls unique to this log only (not removed)

********************** Results By Band ***********************

             Band   QSO  QPts  Grid

   Claimed    432    12    36     5
   Final      432    11    33     5

   Claimed   1.2G     3    18     3
   Final     1.2G     3    18     3

   Claimed    All    15    54     8  Score      432
   Final      All    14    51     8  Score      408

*************** Incorrect Exchange Information ***************

 432 CW 2015-08-02 1334 WG3K         FM18 WB2JAY       FN10 correct FN30

*******************  Multipliers by band  ********************

432 multiplier total 5

FM19  FM29  FN10  FN20  FN31

1.2G multiplier total 3

FN10  FN20  FN31

Activating Apple Orchard Mountain (W4V/RA-001)

On Saturday, 16 July 2016, Dave KB3RAN, Steve N3IPN, and I hiked up Apple Orchard Mountain (SOTA W4V/RA-001) to activate it for the Appalachian Trail Golden Packet event.  While we were there we took advantage of the altitude and activated the summit for Summits on the Air (SOTA), National Parks on the Air (NPOTA), and the CQ WW VHF Contest.

Getting to the summit

Steve N3IPN and Eric WG3K hauling their gear.

Steve N3IPN and Eric WG3K hauling their gear.  Photo by Dave Hardy KB3RAN

Wow, getting to the top isn’t easy.  First we took way too much stuff.  We were, however, prepared for most anything.  Suffice it to say we’ll be better prepared for hiking and less prepared for anything next time we activate a summit.

We were originally hoping that one of the existing tenants on the mountain could have allowed us access by vehicle to the top but everyone was otherwise engaged and so we were left to drag everything up the service road to the top on foot.

The service road is a nice, paved road of approximately six-tenths of a mile in length.  It is grueling carrying a bunch of stuff to the top, however, and it took us around 45 minutes to traverse the distance hauling our wagons.

Convenient vehicle parking is available just north of the service road along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Setting up the gear

Eric gets the APRS digipeater on the air.

Eric gets the APRS digipeater on the air. Photo by Steve Hempling N3IPN

Our first priority was setting up the APRS digipeater for the AT Golden Packet event (as AOMTN-5).  We were running late so we wasted no time putting the antenna up ~12 feet in the air and powering on the radio.  We were rewarded by hearing packets coming through from both Northern Virginia to our north and Comers Rock to our south.

Because we had setup the station quickly we didn’t get an opportunity to look around and determine if there was a better location for our station.  Turns out we were close to the summit but needed to continue a few hundred yards further to reach it.  After catching our breath and regaining a little strength we picked up the APRS digipeater, feedline, and antenna and moved it to the summit.  I don’t think the performance of our setup improved but the views certainly did!

Panaramic shot towards the northwest from Apple Orchard summit.

Panoramic shot towards the northwest from Apple Orchard summit.  Antennas are up and rain is approaching!  Photo by Eric Christensen WG3K

There isn’t much shade on the summit so it’s important to either bring some sort of shelter or move off the summit a bit.  Just to the north is a rock pile with several trees growing that could offer some shelter if needed.

Other users of the summit

There is no shortage of antennas on Apple Orchard Mountain.  As this is the highest summit in the area, at 4215 feet, so many people want their radio systems up there.

Many antennas on Apple Orchard Mountain

Some of the antennas on Apple Orchard Mountain.  Photo by Eric Christensen WG3K

One user of concern for SOTA activators is the WA1ZMS 2m beacon on 144.285MHz.  Due to the proximity of this auxiliary station the weak-signal portion of the 2m band is likely unusable.  We were lucky that WA1ZMS was able to turn off the beacon for the AT Golden Packet event since the frequency used was close to the beacon’s frequency.


AT Golden Packet Event

The mission was to link up the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  Using fifteen digipeaters, we pass messages along the Trail to prove that we can setup an ad-hoc network on short notice.  We were successful in seeing sites 3 through 12 this year.  We also tested 9600 baud which also worked well.  Simplex voice communications were used to help coordinate the event on UHF.


We also activated for SOTA, NPOTA, and CQ WW VHF Contest.  Conditions weren’t great and most of my contacts on 6m and 2m were limited to a few grid squares around.  I did manage one contact out to the Midwest but most of my contacts were very much local.

It was fun giving out W4V/RA-001 for SOTA and TR01 for NPOTA.  I also worked a station that had 432MHz capabilities even though it wasn’t for the contest; I’m all about putting the contacts in the log.

The antennas used were a Buddipole 2-element 6m yagi and horizontal loops for 2m and 70cm.  The radio was a Yaesu FT-857D.

Contact Summary

  • Six Meters – 10 Contacts
  • Two Meters – 9 Contacts
  • 70 Centimeters – 1 Contact
  • Voice – 18 Contacts
  • CW – 2 Contacts

Other missions

Another mission that I was successful in was updating OpenStreetMap data for the area.  Updating this information will hopefully provide others wishing to activate the summit with better cartographic information.

View Larger Map


I haven’t talked about Dave and Steve’s attempts at activating the summit.  In spite of good radios and antennas the contact count wasn’t great.  Part of the problem was that we didn’t have any way of self-spotting on the SOTAwatch2 site meaning that their QRP signals just couldn’t be found easily.  Hopefully we won’t have this problem next time.

A non-contester's results of the IARU HF Championship

Unless you were asleep at the dial you probably heard a lot of yelling, begging, and contacts being made on the HF bands yesterday.  From 1200Z yesterday to 1200Z today stations were on the air doing what contest stations do – making contacts.  Ahh, yes, it was the weekend for the IARU HF Championship.

I hadn’t planned on participating until I started seeing some islands starting to be advertised on the spotting networks.  Since I’m still chasing the islands I immediately seized the opportunity and started making contacts.  80m was also open to Europe in the overnight hours (particularly after 0400Z) so I was able to pick up a few countries there as well.

Here’s some of the places I put in the log during the contest:

  • Aland Islands, 20m CW
  • Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, 15m SSB
  • Isle of Man, 20m CW and 40m CW
  • Faeroe Islands, 40m CW
  • Aruba, 80m CW and 40m CW
  • Germany, 80m CW
  • Canada, 15m CW and 80m CW
  • South Cook Islands, 20m CW
  • Portugal, 80m CW

Most, if not all, of these contacts were either new countries, new bands, or new modes.  That brings my current DXCC count to:

  • SSB – 118
  • CW – 65
  • Data – 106
  • Overall – 165

Looks like I will be competing in the upcoming Maryland QSO Party and helping out with the ARRL Rookie Roundup – RTTY, both as K3CAL.  Those contests should be a lot of fun!

Oh, and a checklog has been submitted to the ARRL.

ARRL Sweepstakes contest and LoTW

The ARRL Sweepstakes contest (phone) took place last weekend and I spent a few hours on the air making a few contacts. Although I didn’t have much time to spend on the event I did add twenty new contacts to my log. Since I’m working on my WAS from my new home in Maryland (contacts made before I moved up here don’t count since they were made greater than 50 miles away) working the Sweepstakes contest let me add a few more states to my log (I now have twenty-four states confirmed via LoTW). I wish I had had more time to devote to the event but I’m glad I worked the stations that I did.

I downloaded my LoTW QSLs today and found that fourteen twelve stations have already uploaded their contest contacts. That’s really great to already have those states confirmed so quickly. I wish everyone did this.

I’ll update this when the contest results are available.

Upcoming IOTA Activations

I’m currently planning on two IOTA DXpeditions: Smith Island (NA-140) and Hatteras (Pea) Island (NA-067).  The DXpedition to Smith Island is up in the air due to my having to sail there but the latter to Hatteras Island will definitely happen unless there is some hurricane that forces us to stay home.

Smith Island

Smith Island is a small island in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.  Available only by boat, we’ll be sailing there to operate from the marina using shore-based antennas and transceivers.  I’ll provide an update as it gets closer to the time to make our way south.  Operation will be over the last weekend in July 2013 for the annual IOTA Contest.  Operation will be most likely be 10m through 40m phone.  I may be able to do some CW as well depending on how much practice I get before then.

Smith Island isn’t going to happen for the IOTA contest this year. I will try to make it over there later this year, however.

Hatteras Island

I’ll be on vacation August 4th through the 10th on Hatteras Island.  Operating will be vacation-style and I’ll try to be available 6m through 40m, phone and CW.  I know this island group has been well represented in the past so I don’t expect many pileups but maybe I can work some rare ones myself!

Again, I’ll update this post as time gets closer for these events to happen.

DXpedition to Core Banks NA-067

Picture of Amanda operating HF.

Amanda, KI4IWS, operating HF on Core Banks.

A small cadre of hams invaded Core Banks (Portsmouth Island), North Carolina (NA-067) for the 2011 Islands on the Air (IOTA) contest as N4I.  Although many others activated NA-067 from other islands that were much easier to get to, Eric W4OTN, Amanda KI4IWS, Bill KG4CXY, Leslie, and Robyn WA4WPD packed gear up in a few vehicles and took a boat over to the island where we took refuge in a rental cabin provided by the National Park Service.

Picture of the Core Banks rental cabin

Core Banks rental cabin with antenna.

Officially part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, Core Banks is a strip of barrier island off the coast of North Carolina just south of Ocracoke Island and north of Morehead City.  The cabin is actually a duplex; we rented both sides and used one for our radios while the other side held our food and sleeping quarters.  Antennas included a dipole and a vertical loop that faced the Atlantic Ocean.  Overall, signals were good and 111 contacts were made to 40 DXCC entities using phone, CW, and digital modes during the operating period.  Unfortunately, we really aren’t contesters and spent more time conversing than transmitting as one could tell from the low QSO count.  Overall we had fun operating which is what matters.

Amanda not on the radio.

Amanda KI4IWS not on the radio.

Picture of Robyn WA4WPD and Bill KG4CXY working DX on Core Banks.

Robyn WA4WPD and Bill KG4CXY working DX on Core Banks.

The Portsmouth Island Four.

The Portsmouth Island Four (the fifth is taking the picture).

CQ WW SSB – 15m Open

15 meters is open to Europe from the east coast of USA.  You have to be greater than 4000 miles, less than 6000 miles, and the wind has to be blowing in the proper direction for those stations to hear me.  I missed on OH0 because they were just too close.  Since when is being between Sweden and Finland too close?

Amateur Radio Contest logging software for Linux

I’ve been looking for a good amateur radio contest logging program for Linux.  Little did I know that the solution was right under my nose!

fldigi is a great amateur radio program that will encode and decode almost any digital mode you can find out on the HF bands.  This morning I noticed a new mode: SSB.  Now I can’t confirm this but I’m pretty sure this isn’t a means of transmitting voice from your desktop but rather a placeholder for using fldigi’s awesome contest logger for your next voice contest.

I’ve used fldigi in contests before but they have been RTTY contests.  The log output works perfectly and allows me to immediately submit my log to the contest managers, to GlobalQSL for my bureau cards, and import the contest log to my traditional logging software CQRLOG.

I’ll be trying out this solution this weekend on the CQ WW SSB contest.  I’ll try to document my feelings on Monday.

2010 CQ WW WPX RTTY Contest is complete!

After thirty hours of listening to “diddles” the 2010 CQ WW WPX RTTY Contest is over!  Band conditions did not let me down, this year.  I had excellent results from all bands and even scored a New Zealand contact!

435 Contacts
47 DXCC Entities
47 US States
17 CQ Zones
15 Meters: 103 contacts (36 countries, 8 US states)
20 Meters: 105 contacts (34 countries, 20 US states)
40 Meters: 116 contacts (27 countries, 29 US states)
80 Meters: 111 contacts (12 countries, 35 US states)

My total score is estimated at 105,462 but I may end up competing in a single-band competition.

Some contacts of note are (i.e. DXCC entities I need confirmation):
5B/UT0U – Cyprus
6V7V – Senegal
SI4G – Sweden
SM6NET – Sweden
ZL1BYZ – New Zealand

I also worked the three states (Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming) I need for my WAS so as soon as I get confirmation on these contacts I’ll be submitting my documentation for that award.

Thanks to everyone whom I contacted this weekend and a special thank you to my lovely wife who kept me fed and tolerated the whole event.