June ARRL VHF Contest 2006


Stepper Big IR Vertical - It's not just for HF anymore....

Tower Woes:

During the spring, my tower blew out the M2 Orion rotor from all the abuse of the NW Iowa winds over the last 8 years or so.  This took some time to figure out how to fix, and it did not get done in time for the June 2006 Contest.  For details on how this got resolved, check out my ARRL 2006 UHF Contest write-up.

Anyway, the tower was laid over and I was not able to get on all the bands for the contest.  With that, I decided to take the kids to the ham fest in Sioux City to check out the ARRL regional convention.  We had a pretty good time and I managed to pick up a few parts to help out down the road.

In the few days preceding this, the 6 Meter band had been absolutely on fire.  E-Skip was wild all across the country for the early part of the summer.  On our way back, the 6 Meter band was filled up really good and signals were really strong from the mobile.  I worked a bunch of guys and started to think about not being on for the contest, which had me pretty bummed out.

So, as I was driving, I thought about how I could get on in some fashion.  It then dawned on me that I could try my Stepper Big IR Vertical antenna.  It had a 3/4 wave mode for 6 Meters, so I could get a bit of gain.

So when I got home, I got the Stepper fired up and put my MFJ-259 on it to tune...I got a real good match on 3/4 mode at 50.125 and then hooked up my 50 MHz gear to it.  Wow, the band was still on fire and I got pretty excited.  I booted Roverlog and got ready to do battle, just on 6 Meters.

The SDR-1000 on 6M:

During the spring, I did a shack redo again for the 2nd year in a row.  I decided to go all SDR for my VHF bands.  During all the change out, I sold my FT-1000MPs and got another 1 watt SDR-1000.  During the configuration of the shack, I decided to dedicate one SDR-1000 to 6 Meters alone.  This was very similar to my previous setup where I had one of the FT-1000MPs configured that way.

The nice thing about having a dedicated SDR-1000 for 6 Meters with the SSB Electronics 6 Meter transverter, I was able to program the XVRT menu in the PowerSDR software to get the correct frequency readout.  Doing that along with a bit of interfacing relays made it all come together quite easily.  See my SDR webpage for details on the interfacing...

I got a chance to test out the setup by Working W7XU while he was at VP2V - his signal is shown above...

Here was how simple it was to setup the offset to get the frequency readout for the SDR-1000 on 6 Meters.

So when the contest came up, I was ready to go, other than the tower / rotor problem.

How did it all work out?

Installation of the ground radials for the Big-IR a few years ago...

Well, for what I had going, I was thrilled.  The SDR Bandscope was awesome.  In conjunction with the SSB Electronics LT6S transverter, I could take whatever the band could throw at me.  I worked guys in the mud with front-end blasting signals on both sides.  For those of you who were on for this contest, you know what I am talking about.  This particular day was filled with the strongest signals that had been seen for maybe all time on 6 Meters.  Records were broken in terms of QSO and grid counts that were had by Single Ops, it was total mayhem on the band....and guys with riceboxes were suffering for sure :)

As for how the vertical worked, well I was pleased for what it was.  I was putting about 300 to 350 watts to it via a long lossy LMR-400.  So when the band was up, no problem.  When things dropped a little, It was a bit hard to get answers to my CQs.  For the most part, I would CQ my guts out and had pileups for quite a few minutes.  This is the first contest where I actually had "QSO Rate".  I had a few 1 hour+ runs going when the voice gave out...time for a voice keyer!  When things died down, I would hunt and pounce, then try to find another clear frequency to begin calling again.  The SDR bandscope made it pretty easy to find a hole.

The Stepper operated flawlessly and never gave me any problems.  The one really neat thing was that when I called CQ, I had stations from all parts of the country calling me, so quite a few multipliers were had from that respect, and a lot of them were pretty close in to EN13.  I was working guys off the front, back and sides of the antenna at the same time :)  Those signals coming in were really blasting the SDR-1000 and LT6S, but I just laughed and narrowed the filters to take the QRMers out of play.  Another neat observation was that I could really see with the bandscope who was hitting the linear amps too hard.  Boy were some guys WIDE!  I'm not naming any names, but you probably know who you are....and I have you recorded :)

Here are some examples of what the band looked like per the SDR-1000 Bandscope....

Where the filter is shown is where I was working guys...

Note that the bandscope is + / - 20 KHz for a 40 KHz width.  This is running the SDR-1000 at 96 KHz sampling which was a new feature in the 1.6.2 series of PowerSDR if you have the right sound card.  It's pretty sweet...As one can see, I was operating a variable filter width....just under a 2K width.

 Contest Summary: KMØT SOHP

Well, I know its not a record....but hey.... it was a vertical antenna, so I need a break here!  (Maybe it's a vertical record?) I wonder how I could have done had the tower been up with a working rotor so I could use my 6M5!  I hear some guys worked over a 1000 QSOs on 6M that weekend.  I have no doubt I could have been there too with 200 grids based on how the band was.  6 Meters truly was a magic band that weekend.  Oh, I missed the 2 Meter E-skip too, I heard folks talking about it up and down the 6 Meter band...pretty cool indeed.

Band QSOs Pts QSO Pts Grids
50 MHz 491 1 491 143
Totals All Bands 491 491 143


73 and thanks for working me!

Mike- KMØT