Thursday, October 29, 2009

KC9JTL-R in the ARRL 2009 September VHF Sweepstakes

Christopher (KC9JTL) and I had a great time roving to the EN42-52-43-53 grid convergence by Dodgeville, WI for this contest. We got a bit of a late start, but the beautiful drive down there was shorter than I expected, so we arrived more or less as planned, but initial set-up took a bit longer than planned so we got on the air from EN42 about 5:15 pm on Saturday evening.

Our antenna lash-up was as follows. I have a hitch carrier for the back of the Suburban, so we built a platform to which we bolted a roof tripod for a mast. Thanks to a donation by KC9IWE we had a push-up mast mounted on the tripod. On that I put a 6 element WA5VJB "cheap yagi" for 222 MHz, then a 4 element beam for 2 meters, then a 10 element beam for 432 Mhz. On top of it all I put a rotatable dipole for 6 meters that Christopher and I made out of an old fiberglass puptent pole covered with aluminum foil. Rotation was via an "armstrong" rotor.

Our plan was to try and get some 2 meter FM activity going—we even brought a separate 3 element beam for vertically polarized work on 2 meters—but unfortunately FM was a bust. We CQed all the way down and beamed back toward the north but never heard a peep (except N9WU/R who was already down at the grid convergence and heard us right off.)

When we set up on an old airport runway just outside of Dodgeville, we found right off that the feedline was hosed on 432. So we had to settle for QRP FM into a handheld "cheap yagi" from EN42 until we could replace the feedline when we stopped in EN52. And the other glitch is that we found that my FT-897D was almost totally deaf on 6 meters—we had at least half a dozen guys tell us that they could hear us just fine, but we could either not hear them at all or just barely. Still trying to figure out whether that's a hardware problem or some software setting. So we left some 50 MHz Qs on the table.

The really pleasant surprise was 222, on which we had just 1.5 watts from a Yaesu VX-6R into a 6 element WA5VJB "cheap yagi" (I now have an Elecraft XV-222 transverter on that band, thanks for KC9BQA, but I didn't have time to build the needed interface with the FT-897). As you can see below, we made as many Qs on 222 as we did on 432 with 20 watts into a 10 element yagi. So that's a very inexpensive way to get a real footprint on that band.

The whole antenna set-up worked out pretty well. We even moved the vehicle with everything up and in place to transition from EN52 to EN53 (granted, it was only about 1/4 mile on a back-country road).

Despite the inevitable obstacles and limited operating time, we made 75 QSOs. Headed back home much too late, but Christopher kept me awake by filling me in on all sorts of arcane Bionicle lore. It was a lot of fun and we'll definitely be doing it again.

QSOs Multipliers
50 10 10
144 39 26
222 13 13
432 13 13