January 2005

Posted By: W3DIO

2005 January VHF Contest Report

The Preparation:

First of all, we must apologize as there are not many pictures from this outing as it was absolutely FREEZING!!!

We started preparations for the contest on the weekend prior to the contest. We decided to make an attempt at making the mounting of antennas easier on us both as we have learned from our past mistakes. First we took the mount that we u-bolt to the luggage rack bars and drilled holes so we could rotate it 90 degrees. The rotor mount was originally designed to go on the back of K3LFO’s Ford Escape and when mounted, you could tilt the rotor over to the horizontal position in order to mount the antennas from the rear of the car. In September, we mounted the same mount on W3DIO’s Expedition but because the forward luggage rack bar was fixed it was too far forward to tilt up the rotor and mount from the rear of the vehicle. So we decided to turn it to mount from the side seemed like a good idea.

And then it snowed. And it snowed again 2 more times… One thing led to another and it was Friday and we hadn’t gotten anything done. The car battery, coax and antenna testing still needed to be completed. Well, out into the cold once again. The only good thing about it being cold is there was no wind and there was a little bit more humidity in the air so it didn’t suck all the moisture out of you. We began testing the antennas one at a time. We tested 6m antennas and with the antennas leaning over it read 2.5:1 SWR. I was hoping at the time that this was only because of it’s proximity to the ground as we had separated it slightly from the other antennas. Then tested 2 meters and it was fine with very slight SWR (We found later that we had a bad coax and it was intermittent as we rotated the beam). WE tested 220 and as usual it was rock solid. Have we mentioned before how much we love the 220 DEM Transverter? Then we tested 432. Then we tested each antenna individually before connecting the phasing cables to the Power Divider. One antenna worked fine. Excellent! Then we tested the other antenna and had horrible SWR. We looked at it and figured the N connector must have pulled out of it. So we took the coax down and tested it and found that it had indeed been twisted. Fixed it up and tested it on the dummy load and wah-lah. Perfectly good phasing cable once again. Went back to plug back to the antenna and test it one more time. High SWR again. WHAT!?!?!? Well looked a little closer and we saw the connection for the 141 line to the match was severed. It being too cold out and with the impending weather that was predicted for the weekend, we decided to forgo the stacked arrangement for 432 in favor of a single yagi. We hooked it up to the radio, did a final test and all was good. Then we hooked up the 1296 with its new coax and it looked great. We then pushed the antenna rotor mount over from the horizontal position to the vertical position, ran the coax through the side window and labeled the coaxes. I can’t tell you how much labeling helps!!! We have learned something new every time out and that is definitely a big plus.

Now that the low power tests were completed, we hooked up to the amplifiers and tested everything once again. Unfortunately we currently only have 2.5 amps. TE Systems 1542g at 400 watts (2 meters) and a 432 old Mirage amplifier that puts out 100 watts(sometimes). Well this weekend was one of those good times so we made up our 3db loss on transmit only having one antenna with 3db more power going from 50 to 100 watts. YEAH! We still would have preferred the second antenna as well. The remaining 1/2 amp is our 220 Transverter. It was putting out much more than 25 watts but that is probably because it was adjusted when running only off the 12v marine battery, not while the car was running. With the car running it was more like 35 watts. We adjusted the power inputs for 2m, 220 IF and 432 so that we didn’t push them too far. Especially since we had just gotten our 2m amplifier back from TE Systems after it had blown the 1st stage transistor. It was working excellent with max power input (25w) so we cranked it back to 15w for the contest which still got us almost 300 watts out while the alternator was running putting out 14.5v. We also decided to put a coax switch in next to the main rig to be able to transfer 6 meter antenna between the IC-706 and TS-2000x.

I think we’re ready! But, what about the weather? We’ll see!

The Equipment:

TS-2000x (Primary)
IC-706MK2G (Secondary)
DEM 222-28 for 222 Mhz
TE Systems 1452G (144 Mhz – 350 watts)
Mirage D1010 (432 Mhz – 110 watts)
Power System
130Amp Alternator w/auto battery
2 – 115 AH Deep Cycle Batteries (Radios)
2 – West Marine C-50 Battery Combiner
375 watt Power Inverter (Noisy!!)
75 Watt Power Inverter (Lap Top)
(Gets noisy when the battery chargei s allowed to go below 10%)

The Configuration:

Band Power Antenna
6 meters 100W PAR Stressed Moxon
2 meters 350W 11 Ele 12′ Cushcraft
1 1/4 meters 110W Cushcraft 11 Element
70cm (432) 110W 19 Ele RIW Home brew 12′
23cm (1296) 10W Directive Systems
45 Element Looper

The Trip:

We started the contest with W3DIO operating the main rig in the car and working everyone he could from K3LFO’s driveway. We almost immediately found ourselves in a major problem with RFI between the two rigs. We isolated it down to the 400w of 2m RF getting into the 6m antenna down the coax and into the 706 causing the relays to chatter. We decided that we would flip the coax switch to neutral whenever transmitting on 2m meters. Unfortunately, this limited us from taking advantage of having two rigs in the car. We decided 2 things, we needed a bandpass or a lowpass filter for 6meters and we wanted to have coax switches for at least 6m, 2m and 432 to take full advantage of multiple rigs on the lower bands.

We then found ourselves working 1296 contacts and receiving weak signals from K1RZ and a few others (we.re only about 25 miles from Dave). After a few contacts of really weak signals with guys we normally have no problems working, W3DIO went out to check connectors on the 1296 Looper. Sure enough one of them wasn’t tightened down all the way and that cured that problem. I think it wasn’t an hour or more and we had worked almost everyone from FM19 that we heard from that location. The driveway isn’t exactly the best place to be with a house in the way to the East and Northeast. Around 5pm, we realized it hadn’t been snowing for a while. We went inside to take a break and get something to eat. During dinner we decided that the weather report looked good and we were going to attempt to go out to FM09 (Sidling Hill). The drive out there wasn’t too bad and only a few slick spots on the main highways. We arrived at the site around 8:30pm and began operating. We did pretty well as we had already beaten our last January score. Any improvement during a severe weather storm was a good sign 😉 Fortunately the Amateur Radio Gods had more in mind for us rovers this weekend. Although, we did get several comments from other hams saying they appreciated us being out there but still thinking we were nuts. Yes. That is true! It was around 11:30pm and we decided to head home for the night.

Wow. After the first day of operating and we had no major Murphy’s or problems. We made a late start Sunday got out of the house around 10:00am. We decided to head down south to FM18. We first went to a hill in Greenbelt which was just inside the FM18 line. Not too bad a site but a water tower kind of got in the way to the south and west. We made several contacts and then headed over to Dave’s old high school (Eleanor Roosevelt High School) on the other side of Greenbelt. Got there and operated from the parking lot. We worked K1RZ and W4SHG and a bunch of others. Not the best location for operating but it was the best we could locate on short notice to revise our flight plan. We then continued operating while moving towards the Bay Bridge to head to FM28 (Eastern Shore).

Jim(K3LFO) and Dave(W3DIO) Preparing to embark out on the road on Sunday

As we crossed the bridge just before the Bay Bridge experienced VERY high crosswinds. A we were being blown back and forth across the road, the antennas were taking a severe beating. Fortunately the bay bridge felt calm (the wind was at our backs) so we got over it without any incident. We made our way to Denton, Md. in FM28 and found ourselves a parking lot to operate from. I think it was a Food Lion or something. We got a lot of strange looks from their patrons. This is where we ran into the first rover that we have heard on the air since the contest began. N3IQ. Worked them on all bands as they were only a few miles north on the other side of the border in FM29. After a long while we eventually were able to catch K1RZ, K3EAR, W3SO and many others. We decided to head towards FM29 while making several stops along the way at gas stations or any parking lot nearby to work the bands. Worked W4SHG again and W3IP. The sun was going down and finally we made it to a post office in FM29 (Forgot the name of that town). We worked a bunch of our regulars who were looking for us out there but never could get W3SO’s attention. They’d turn their beam our way while calling CQ but then turn right past us so they never heard our reply. Sorry we missed you guys from that grid. Then out of the blue we heard K1JT and K1TEO and worked them on 6-432. Wow that was cool. Shame we had to go all the way to FM29 to accomplish this but the band conditions were horrible to the North East through most of the contest. We started heading back towards the Bay Bridge to head home. We got a few miles from the FM29/FM19 border when we finally heard K1RZ again. We quickly found a spot to work him and brought in a bunch of contacts from him and a few others while operating in FM29. Then we decided to turn towards home again.

About 4 miles before the bay bridge, it started getting VERY windy again. The Bay Bridge Authority had high wind warnings and was closed to large trucks. I wonder why they didn’t include insane people with rover antennas on top of their car. The cross-breeze on the highway was getting so strong that the wind got a hold of the 1296 looper and the 222 beam and rotated the vertical mast they were mounted on about 45 degrees. Fortunately it only loosened the mast slightly and everything held together. The 1296 beam was sticking out about 4 feet to the left. We stopped the car and straightened it and got back on the road and 2 miles down the road we had to stop again for the same reason. The winds were getting worse. We had some rope in the car and used it to secure the back end of the 1296 beam to the car so it would not turn. We then proceeded down the road and drove about 25 mph max and then got the Bay Bridge. The Bay Bridge had the middle lane east bound closed. There looks to be about a foot on either side of the car driving in a very tight small lane across the 5 mile span. Once we got to the other side of the bridge the wind started dying down. Thank Goodness!!! The rest of the trip home was uneventful but we did work a few more stations before the contest ended at 11pm EST.


Although we didn’t do as good as we did in June or September, it wasn.t bad. Considering we only did 5 grids instead of 7 or 8 due to the weather. We also did a lot better than last January when the snowstorm totally wiped us out. The propagation was just non existent until Sunday afternoon. Then we managed to work K1TEO on 4 bands from FM29. There were long moments of silence where we only heard the big guns on the air as band conditions went from bad to worse at times. There appeared to be enough active hams on the air to work that kept it interesting. We even worked a bunch of people on 223.50 FM while commuting between Grid squares.

We learned a few lessons from this trip. DON’T FORGET THE TOOLS! Also, Dave (W3DIO) is going to work on putting in a computer w/ Touch screen in his car with GPS, HAM-IM, KM-Rover logging software, ARRL Travel Plus (for those 6 digit grid-squares) and much more. The grid square calculation and mapping via GPS is a priority as we were asked on many occasions for our 6-digit grid-square location to help simplify beam headings. Handling the 17. Apple Powerbook can be cumbersome when trying to operate considering there is no place but in the lap for it. And as much as Dave loves apple, there just isn’t much software available written for Ham’s. The touch screen will make it easier for operating and also we will have the ability to find higher locations with the topographical mapping software.

We need to find better ways to get other stations attention. For instance, we missed W3SO from FM29. We could hear them with their high power on 2 meters but they couldn.t hear us. Repeated calling on both SSB and CW failed to get a reply. Maybe we need to arrange time slots for looking in certain directions. Any ideas?

We are going to try to add 903 by the June contest and possibly a TE Systems 432 amp.

We want to thank K1RZ (Dave) for going out of his way at every grid to work us on all bands. We also want to thank K3EAR and W3SO for being out there to work us. It was fun running the bands from some of our grids with some of the others like N3OC, W4SHG, W3IP, N3HBX as well. Thanks to all for making vhf so much fun!

The K3LFO/ROVER team

Jim K3LFO (k3lfo@k3lfo.org) and Dave W3DIO (w3dio@arrl.net)

The Results:

   2005 ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes       K3LFO

    ROVER                            MDC Section
    Operators: K3LFO,W3DIO

    Band      QSOs          QSO pts.      Mults.
    50         76            76            9
    144        82            82            10
    222        41            82            8
    432        44            88            7
    1296       19            76            4

    TOTALS     262           404          38 + 5 = 43

                          Claimed score = 17,372

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