June ARRL VHF Contest 2003


Nothing was really broke or was in need of fixing….Wow! - I was basically all ready to go. Very strange for the beginning of a contest, but I had been in the position before of sniffing solder fumes the night before. With that in mind, I spent the winter tidying up some things and getting them right. Lots of cold nights in Iowa during January and February, so I made some use of them. However, even so, you know what can happen!

Fixing the 5.7 and 10 Ghz boxes:

As I had done prior the January Contest for my 5.7 and 10 ghz tower boxes, I took the 5.7 and 10 Ghz boxes from N0DQS/R and did a little refitting. I added a 16 watt amplifier for the 5.7 Ghz rover box and also redid the mounting methods for both transverters in both boxes. I then ended up painting both boxes white in color with hopes to help in the drifting problems due to sunshine on the boxes. See the January 2003 contest write-up for details. It's essentially the same exact thing I did to the home station back before the January contest.

Other Shack Notes…

I was busily working on a few other tidbits during the winter as well. I had a few 5.7 and 10 Ghz portable dishes I was working on. One got essentially completed, the other sat about 1/2 done by the time of the contest. I also was working on a few 24 Ghz portable dishes, but I had decided that getting them ready for June was out of the question. Too much to learn in too short a time. So with that, the pressure on myself was off and that turned out to be a good thing. See the other write-ups on the site for the dual band dishes and 24 Ghz project.

Pre Contest Jitters…..

6M had been basically open all week before to somewhere during the day and evening. There were a few brief times 6M was not cooking, but one could feel it in the air that conditions were kinda wild. There had been tons of T-storms across the country, as well as lots of geomagnetic conditional upsets. There was some DX being worked on 6M that week. The band was wide-open Saturday morning before the contest. All the chit chat was about how good 6M had been the days proceeding and with hopes that it would stay for the entire weekend. Most were not to be disappointed.

Tropo conditions the previous week were not spectacular, there were however a few stations worked. I conversed with WB9Z in EN60 on Friday night, pretty good signals. It looked that the WX patterns were only going to get better and the tropo map looked pretty promising mid week. The high pressure was building and everything was pretty stable Friday night and Saturday morning. However it started to get really hot and the wind from the SE was not really coming in yet to bring in some much needed humidity. Things were drying up. Winds from the SE were not slated to come in till Saturday night or Sunday. Also the threat of thunderstorms was there, but scattered and unpredictable. One could never tell until they showed up on radar, so I simply put that out of my mind.

The Contest Begins!

Gene, NØDQS/R tooled down to EN01 for the start of the contest. He was early! A good sign for sure. We ran the bands before the contest as a warm-up to make sure all was cooking. All was well and it did not take much time to work the bands after the contest started. This was good since 6 meters was wide open. I quickly scanned the 2 meter band after working Gene, not to many soles to be found. NØLL - Larry was there from EM09 for 144, 222 and 432 Mhz, but no one else. They were all on 6 meters!

The band was wide open to the SW. Some contacts were made to the pacific NW and directly south to begin with. Signals were very strong and lots of adjacent channel interference, finding a clear freq. was a chore. When I did, it did not last too long. Kind of hard holding a frequency with only 300 watts and 5 element yagi. I'm sure not a big gun on 6 meters! Ned - AA7A was 40 over, so was W7RV, AF6O, WA7JTM and K5AM. All super signals here and running strings of stations.

However, the SSB Electronics LT6S transverter really showed its stuff as I could work lots of very weak stations while having all the super strong stuff right next to me. Lots of multipliers were gained by listening a bit harder between all the QRM. Closer in grids and folks off the side were popping in and out on a consistent basis, all very weak most of the time.

I would check 2 meters occasionally, but still nobody was home. I kept checking in with NØDQS/R to see when he was going to hit the next grid because I did not want to miss any high band stuff. We would work all the bands really quick and then I would go right back to 6 meters.

After a few hours, the band shifted a bit to the New England states. I swung the antennas over there and ran into Jeff, K1TEO and Mark K2AXX. Mark indicated that he was starting to hear a bit of double hop. I said that was cool, but secretly you know what I was really thinking J I wish no Ill will, but it’s a contest you know!

The opening to the NE was short lived, perhaps an hour or so. Then worked into the SE a bit. Florida and GA, Alabama. Some more to the south too. All along at the same time, the band was still open to the SW with a vengeance.

I did a bit of snooping around below 50.125. This gave a few surprises as I was turned towards the SE. DX had been in the band the week before, but I had really never heard it yet. It was the same old story, never get the DX here. However, for the contest, here came HI8 and TG9! A couple of DX grids! Always a treat! I was hoping for the V25, but never heard him. Worked a few XE stations, but nothing to get excited about other than another grid. Well, I guess that’s exciting enough! Arliss, W7XU gave me the tip off on the DX, otherwise I might have missed em! Thank you!

6 meters was really jumping around, always open somewhere. Around 2130 it was only open to VE5 and VE6, but boy were they coming in! Doug - VE5UF was running 4s and 5s and was having a good go at it. Soon after that it was back to 5, 6 and 7 land for more fun! ( And the occasional 4 lander! )

Between chasing NØDQS/R and working 6 meters, I was starting to get fried. Thank goodness the band started to die off a bit as I was having a hard time finding any more guys to work. I know you never wish that the band would die, but all I could think about was all the 2 meter QSOs and grids I might be missing, rovers too. It's hard enough around here on the higher bands as it is, much less miss the first whole day on the band!

STRIKE ONE for NØDQS/R was when towards late afternoon, the cable for his crank up mast broke. He was getting set up to work me on 5.7 and 10 Ghz when it all happened. At the distance he was away, about 100 miles, we decided to just "shoot through" the rack of antennas on the roof on the rover, just to give it a shot in terms of trying to lose as little time as possible. It was an interesting conversation between himself and I as we discussed the possibility of what may or may not happen if we tried this, worried if all the other antennas might make the dishes screw up somehow. After we discussed things, we decided to "just do it" and be damned with the consequences. This turned out to not be a problem as elevation was not the key here, just good pointing does the job (and power!) Gene did a slight detour the next morning to fix his cable. (Can you imagine the stares as he worked on the rover in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Watertown SD!)

Late evening brought some good higher band activity. The "Prime Time" for the tri-state area. WØOHU - ED was at the IBM club station. We were working on all the bands and got to the final one for 1296 and it did not have a key connected. So, he had to dig up a manual, a key and figure out how to get it all hooked up. He said it was a long shot considering the coax and antenna they had at the club station, but we banged away and made short work of it. And Ed got a quick lesson on the FT-736R manual. Thanks Ed! Also, Rich - NØHJZ was operating portable from a park since he had just relocated his QTH, so he did not have stuff up for the contest. No problem from the park, signals very good! Other locals like Gary - WØGHZ was worked on most bands. Lenny - KØSHF - we did pretty good with him through 902 Mhz. Eric - KT8O was in there along with Justin - -K9MU. Relatively new guys to the contesting in the area and their efforts are greatly appreciated, as are all. I'm just afraid their getting the same sickness I got about 4 years ago J Other notables - Clair KØCJ - a breeze on all bands thru 1296 - thanks Clair! WØAUS, Bob worked on a few bands, but his home location does make it difficult sometimes, but the efforts are appreciated. Dave - NØKP was worked easily as usual on his bands and Jon - WØAMT was at home giving out points. Jon usually does the roving thing, but recently put up a tower to do some home operating. Sounds like it was working good!  Perry, KØKD out of Des Moines was in there for a bit too.  Nice to see Perry on the bands as I was the recipient of a few more higher band contacts!

Things settled down around 0620 UTC and 6 meters was declared closed (for the time being). The band had been open since the beginning of the contest - so it was a very long 6 meter opening! Late evening was upon me and NØDQS/R was almost to his first nights QTH. Gene and I hooked up on all the bands for the first 9 grids with little trouble. The longest contact was 163 miles, but towards the night, conditions were not horrible, so SSB on 10 Ghz was the rule.

I spent some time looking around and getting a few worked, but I think most headed off to bed wore out from the 6 meter activity. My WSJT schedules started at 1:00 AM and I got things ready for the long sleepless night.

Things did not start off too good. I had worked K3EAR earlier in the day on 6 meter SSB, so our 6 meter WSJT schedule was not needed. However, I did not get things rolling until just before the 2 meter schedule time. The problem was that they were already going as they had stepped up the 2 meter scheduled time to the 6 meter time. (at least I think that’s what they did) I head them many times in the last 5 minutes but then they stopped. So it was a miscommunication on my part that when I said in our schedule info to QSY to 2M right after 6M, well they took that quite literally. Next time I will be clearer. I ran into VE5UF on 6 meters and worked him, but we were clear to keep the "same time" for 2 meter WSJT. Oh well, live and learn. The better way is to make all 2 meter scheds first, before the 6 meter schedule with the same station. Then there will be no confusions. Chances of working the station on 2 meters before the 2 meter WSJT sched is pretty rare. (that would be cool though…)

The rocks were very good for 2 meters, I had no problem working W2SZ, VE5UF, W3CCX and Russ - K2TXB, however I never heard K8GP. With rocks so good, it’s hard to believe, there must have been some kind of melt down there. Most contacts were done in 10 to 15 minutes. Doug - VE5UF was about 6 minutes. Not bad! Info back from K8GP after the contest indicated that they had forgot to QSY to our predetermined frequency. They did not realize it until 15 minutes into the sched, which I had bagged it by then! Next year guys!

I managed to sneak in a hour and a quarter nap and was ready to go again. The sun was starting to come up!

6 meters was dead. There were a few meteors to be had but that was about it. I caught Gene – NØDQS/R as he hit grid number 10 up in EN15. Conditions were pretty good and we ran the bands with ease up through 10 Ghz. As we were on 10 Ghz, we were just chatting away after the contact for the grid. We were discussing what his strategy was for the day and when and where I was to look for him during the day. I was just done talking to him about how good his rover stuff was working, especially 5.7 and 10 Ghz when he did not come back to me. I called Gene on 2 meters and was told the bad news. For some reason, both those transverters receivers died. Gene said that while I was talking, he heard a few "pop/crackles" and the RX gain noise went away. A bit of testing and it was confirmed, he had no RX on both 5 and 10 Ghz. He still had power out, but no receive. That was STRIKE TWO! Damn that Murphy guy…..I should have kept my mouth shut….

I let out a bit grown of sorrow as I had anticipated working him in 8 more grids. We both knew that we could do it, in fact the hard grid paths were done the day before, the rest would have been cake!

After that, it kind of let the wind out of my sails. We were both pretty bummed out. To make matters worse, conditions were seemed dead for a while and nothing was to be had on 6M or 2M. Just the occasional straggler on 2M and a few brief meteor scatter 6 meter contacts.

However, I came across Matt, KAØPQW in EN33. We worked on all his bands including 222 Mhz FM. We had only been able to do it once before, so it was pretty neat to do. Matt is only running a small vertical just outside the shack and with my yagi being horizontally polarized, makes the trip pretty difficult most times. So the tropo right then and there was not too bad that way. I then ran into Curt - K9AKS and Matt - KFØQ. Both had set up in EN43 as portable operation. So, I ran with both of them on all their bands. That kind of got the blood flowing again.

I then had some scheds with multi-op W1XE out in DN80. Conditions were pretty marginal but we managed to make it on 50 and 222 Mhz. Nothing heard on the higher bands. We had made it on 144 Mhz the day before. It was a rough go, so I hope that we could hook up again later in that day as conditions usually improved out that way in mid afternoon it seemed.

I worked a few more and then ran into multi-op WØEEA out in DM79. He was very good copy but at the same time W1XE was marginal. Strange as they are not far apart. We ran back and forth a bit coordinating on 2 meters and worked through 432 Mhz. I was heard on 903.1 Mhz, but never heard a signal back. I was running over 250 watts, so that was not too surprising as they were running only 50 watts. Bummer! Trys on 1296 resulted in ziltch.

The tropo was starting to pick up. I was hoping that 6 meters would hold off just a bit more! I however would check the band every 5 minutes or so just to see what was up. With that I ran the antennas north and picked up Ross - NØMSS - EN16 and Dennis, NTØV -EN08 to name a few. Ross and I worked all the bands he had. 6, 2 and 432. Dennis and I ran 50 Mhz through 432, 222 Mhz included. So it was real good to run into those guys. Tries on 1296 with Dennis turned up short. It was a good multiplier catch. Tropo on 6 meter ground wave was especially good. Mr. 2 meter, Dick - KØMQS was worked on 2 meter and asked to QSY to 6M. Dick said "I don’t think it will work!" I indicated that the 6M tropo was real good at the time and coaxed him to give it a shot. Sure enough, real good copy. Never let em try to talk you out of a try!

With that, looking toward EN37 for Bill - KØAWU and Jim KBØCIM tuned out well. Worked those guys with not too much effort. No 1296 again with Bill, but boy those guys were pretty strong when the tropo swung up a bit!

Caught Gene in a few more grids, but still the 5 and 10 Ghz rigs were dead on RX. Contacts on 3456 and down were very easy as he got a bit closer in towards his final grids. Things started to slow down early afternoon. I think I snuck in a quick nap and a shower!

Late afternoon I chatted a bit back and forth with Marc - WBØTEM over in EN12. Mark had been on all weekend with Don - KAØBZV. They were working on equipment and make some good contacts. We worked together a bit to try the work the guys out in Colorado, also tracking of NØDQS/R. Arliss, W7XU also got on with his family to give out points. Thanks guys! Anyway, I was telling Marc I was now ready for 6 meters to open again as It seemed we had exhausted all the locals and nearby folks. He said, don’t worry, it will open in about 45 minutes. Well, he was not too far off!

I had just finished working Gene in EN22. STRIKE THREE had just come. He was trying to get through the 32,33,23,22 grid corner as fast as he could, he was toying with the idea of hitting 21 and 31, but the rover threw all the belts. He said that when the AC belt came off, it took the rest of them with it. Well Gene was prepared. He is quite the mechanical dude. He had all the spares he needed. It was just a problem changing them in 90 degree heat with bugs all over and with the engine still super hot. As I talked to him, I could tell that he was going no further. He had just ran out of time. I said "good luck" and "Thank You" as I spun the dial to 50 mhz. So, with three strikes, Gene - NØDQS/R headed home….I give him lots of credit for hangin in as long as he did.

At around 0000 UTC, 6 meters opened again to the South, Southwest and a bit the Northwest. All the big guns were there again, AA7A, AF60, W7RV, etc. etc. Super duper strong. I called CQ for a pretty long time and had pretty good results, picking up 3 or 4 here and there. When nobody would come back for a bit, I would tune around, but it was getting hard to find folks to work! Again the QRM was pretty bad, but the LT6S transverter did not let me down for the weak multipliers. They were definitely in there! I can see how having a KW on the band would be a huge advantage, but my 300 to 350 watts was doing pretty good. The band was pretty full of QSB, it would be wide open then nothing for a bit. This is how it was pretty much all night for the rest of the contest.

I even slugged it out with AF6O on 50.125 and was able to copy the weak one. He probably was mad, but when he would leave the frequency for a bit, I would slide down there and pick up more guys, then it seemed he would hear that the band was open again and would begin calling. Well, I could only take so much of that, cause pointed right at him he was 30 to 40 over most of the time. Yehaa! That guy was like a beacon for sure, great signal and audio, always strong and clear. But I tell you, there were multipliers to be had on that frequency! I think there were 3 or 4 QSOs going on 50.125 at many times. Everyone kept their cool though which was nice and if you wanted to be there, you just had to deal with the strong signals!

The contest ended with me picking up Gary - WØGHZ on 3456 Mhz and working Jon - WØZQ all the way through 2304. So that was a good sweep towards the end. Also, Rick - KCØCQN got on for a bit and I was able to work him on a few bands. Rick had just moved to a new QTH so it was nice to have him on the air again. 6 Meters was buzzing right to the end and I was glad when the clock ticked to 0300 UTC. I was worn out!

Contest Summary: KMØT SOHP

Band QSOs Pts QSO Pts Grids
50 MHZ 367 1 367 163
144 MHZ 92 1 92 47
222 MHZ 51 2 102 30
432 MHZ 51 2 102 31
902 MHZ 25 3 75 20
1296 MHZ 32 3 96 21
2304 MHZ 19 4 76 17
3456 MHZ 17 4 68 17
5760 MHZ 11 4 44 11
10 GHZ 10 4 40 10
Totals All Bands 675 1062 367


Wow! It turned out pretty good. My best score yet. Wonder what the score had been if Gene - NØDQS/R had not lost the 5.7 and 10 Ghz dishes! Might have been 8 more QSOs and 8 more mults per band! I was hoping to break 400K - but I just could not find any more stations to work. 6 meters was full for the last hour, but not many new guys to work!

In 2002 151,105 / 412. In 2001 I scored 283,725 / 524. In 2000 - score of 136,408 (433 qsos in 2000, but only 50 mhz through 1.2 ghz that year)

"The Rover’s Corner" ©


What can I say, the rovers helped out. Here is the chart of Rover activity I worked:

50 MHZ




144 MHZ





222 MHZ


432 MHZ


902 MHZ


1296 MHZ


2304 MHZ


3456 MHZ


5760 MHZ


10 GHZ


Total Qsos






Total Rover QSOs = 163

Rover QSOs % of Total QSOs = 22% WOW! Who says rovers are not necessary? (nobody actually…) This is up from last year in terms of QSOs but not percentage. (2002 -117 and 28%) - but still down from 2001 June contest. (179 Rover contacts - 34% total of QSO count) QSO count being up is good. Percentage of total is good too. Means I had more overall QSOs, which is the case. However it can be seen from the chart that Roving is not a June sport down here in Iowa….except for Gene J

I heard KØPG/R one time, but just briefly. No other local rovers, the EN34 rovers were hard to hear. One fact for sure by being on 6 meters all the time, it would make it hard to track the rovers in the area. The 3 rovers shown above with one contact on 2 meters were from the DN90s and EM28. So these were farther out contacts for rovers, just happened to come across them. Lots of 6M eskip rovers, that was cool. Actually caught two of them in two grids!

Grid Summary Chart:

Here are some grid charts showing the extent worked on the various bands. These where clipped from Vqlog, a program I am currently experimenting with. I was able to export in ADI format for my contest data from VHFDX (which I feel is superior in speed and ease of use for logging these VHF contests) The data transferred very quickly to Vqlog without any problems. The neat thing about Vqlog is that it has the ability to generate graphs, maps and charts based on the QSO data.

See You Next Contest!  I think its time for a nap!


Mike - KMØT EN13vc