Working the Virginia QSO Party

I’ve been working the Virginia QSO party all weekend.  Its the last real time for me to work HF prior to taking down the station for moving.  Band conditions couldn’t be worse.  Last year, everyone mentioned that activity was mostly 40m, with some 80m.  This year it seems like most activity was on 80m, with 40m as an afterthought.

What was different for me: this year instead of doing S&P contesting, I decided to primarily find a frequency and sit on it, no matter how long, and let a pile up come to me. I worked WC8VOA, on 7215khz, they asked very nicely if I would mind taking a break from the contest and talking to some boy scouts for a few minutes.  I figured, sure, why not, future of the hobby, be nice, etc.  Honestly, it was the most action I had been getting for awhile.  I spoke with 3-4 kids, and they went QRT, and I thought that was the end of it. I dunno, perhaps I was spotted? Perhaps a few hundred of their closest friends were listening, but well, I was in a solid pileup for an hour after that, I can only think they had something to do with it. Much appreciated.  I learned a few things about working pileups.

  1. Once you settle on a call sign, stick with that call until you work them or they give up.  Otherwise some operators will attempt to walk all over you.
  2. Some people will tune up right on top of you.  Ignore them entirely, act like you can’t even hear them.  If you acknowledge them, it only empowers them.  Eventually they figure you can’t hear their QRM and go away.
  3. Establish a rhythm: If you’re not going to chat with each contact, keep the exchange similar for each contact you make. The stations waiting to contact you will respect the rhythm, and cause less interference as a result.
  4. Be nice to the operators.  Yes, you may be king of the pile up (for the whole hour I was king), but never lose your cool.  Also, slow it down, speak slowly, clearly, and then slower.  I spent some time trying to work other pileups, and heard a few people lose their temper.  I sympathize, but it didn’t solve anything.
  5. Take breaks.  I found I could only work for 2 hours at best before I was exhausted.  The ergonomics of the station didn’t help, but I found I needed to take a break, get some food, walk around, listen to something other than static.

Anyway, its a few things that I picked up working the contest.  The trip is coming up soon!

73, Alan, KE4TA, 9Xsomething

Time is getting close, and the antenna is on the way.

I finally have our housing assignment, unfortunately it faces towards the SW, so I’m not sure how well it will make it to the US except via long-path.  The house does have a big backyard, suitable for some decent antennas… so I decided on a Sentinel Hex Beam for 20/17/15/12/10/6 meters.  It has a diameter of only 22 feet, and is suitable for use with my push up portable mast.  Although I do have a rotor, I will likely leave the rotor off of the mast, and point it in one direction for a few days, then go outside and turn it.

For anyone hoping to activate Rwanda on 30/40/60/80/160, I may attempt to make a wire antenna, but that will require seeing the lot first hand.  I will have sufficient wire with me.

For anyone interested, I will be participating in the Virginia QSO party this weekend.  I enjoyed this contest last year, and it will give me a chance to work some pileups.

Our fly out date is May 26th!!!

Alan, KE4TA, 9Xsomethingsomething