June VHF 2019: Poor Score, Fun Run

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June VHF 2019 wasn’t quite what I was hoping for out of the contest. I was looking to go bigger than the last couple of years, and hoping to break the 25,000 point barrier I’ve kind of made for myself over the last couple of contests. While that didn’t happen, I really can’t complain about the overall score. I was away for work the entire week before, so I didn’t quite get to put in the prep time that I was hoping to, however the new 6m antenna was put together, a full 3 element beam, that I would just bring the elements in for driving, and I could have them pulled out in about 5 mins after arriving on site. This was assembled, and on the rover rack set to go! I had more issues finding the U-Bolts to connect the rack to the luggage rack – off to the hardware store I went!

I was unable to attend our club’s Rover Grid Blitz Lunch on Sunday, however a few of us did hit an Eastern Grid Line in the first hours of the contest, which helped a little. I’ve never activated FN22 and FN23 before so this was a great opportunity to scope out the area a bit, as I’m hoping to make some big plans for next year’s June contest!

We found a nice little spot out of the way, did our quick exchanges, and parted ways – even the two hours we were there felt like an eternity though, in between bands I’d switch my main rig over to 6m, and right off the bat we had a clear opening south, so I was getting a little antsy, but we’re in it for the club, and for fun, so while I was waiting I’d throw a call out on 6 using low power since my antenna elements were still in from the drive, and the antenna wasn’t in tune. Within the first hour of the contest I nabbed a handful of 6m contacts.

Once we completed our little roundup, I moved up to a hill in FN23, however the band seemed to have quieted down a little bit. I hammered out maybe a half dozen contacts in unique grids, tried to sked a few out toward club members, however nothing was happening, the spot just didn’t have coverage in the direction I needed, so I hit the road.

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Unfortunately the bad part about activating out there first is that I burn some of the best on air time getting back to my home grid. Around 7:30 pm I’m on location in FN02, and finally back on the air, and that’s a great thing, because 6m is just starting to liven up with activity… on voice no less! I hammer out a few quick Q’s, but then my SWR jumps, radio power cycles, all the good stuff you expect from me and 6m during a contest. The new 3 element beam, that I tested weeks before the contest is giving me trouble? Come on! Well, I fiddle around with the power levels, and notice that it doesn’t really give me issues at 50w, so I just turn the power down and keep calling (not the brightest move in the world), I’m being too impatient to actually think this through given the amount of time I killed driving. The wind blows the right way, and the audio peaks. Strange… I start actually mulling this over, and climb up on the roof to look at the antenna, and in less time than it took me to actually hoist myself up there, I notice that the connector is loose. Go figure! It’s a simple fix!

6m gets all squared away, and I’m back on the air! I work the bands with some people, and make a few more contacts, but I really end my night at about 24 contacts outside of our little grid blitz – one of which was an impressive South Western Michigan on 2m Digital!

The following morning I head out to FN12, my site out there has a pretty clear shot in all directions, if anything I at least have the height on my side. This is where I notice a wide array of activity on 2m digital in the morning. I make some contacts there, move over to 6m, and pull some voice contacts out, but the band just isn’t as open in the morning, so I make a bunch of contacts with some of the local contingent, running the bands, and pack it up for a family commitment for the early afternoon..

I tried to get on the air in FN13 afterwards, trying out a new spot that isn’t as far of a haul as my usual FN13 location (usually I’ll start my morning way out in FN13), but the spot yields not much else other than wasted time on my part. I did attempt to move somewhere with higher elevation, but no positive results. I wind up with maybe 10 Q’s in a matter of two to three hours operating out there, the location was good in theory, having a decent shot to the East (in one location) or West (in the other), but wasn’t very productive.

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I decide to head back towards my QTH, as my usual stop in FN03 is on the way, this always has positive results, and did not disappoint – with a band opening on 6 again, and the locals out in force, I quickly gather up around 50 QSO’s in the same amount of time where I could barely eek out 10 in the last place. Stations were picking me up on 223, finishing a Q with another station, and then we’d work a few bands, just the way it should be, THEN! I start to have RF issues again… as always, without fail. It’s always near the end. And at this point I’m just exhausted from all of the driving I’ve done over the last two days, I still haven’t recovered from my week long training before, and after about 20 mins of fiddling with connectors, cable, antennas, RF decks, switches, inverters, you name it, I decide that’s enough. I pack it up, and head out. On the way home, I pull over at the grid line, break out the HT’s, put out a call for those that didn’t work me in my home grid when I roved in it the prior day, and called it a night.

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For the lack of effort that I actually was able to put in, I really cannot complain with my score of 17,650. It was a ball to work so far West on 2m, even if it was just FT8. The 6m opening led to a lot of Southern contacts on both voice, and FT8. It was nowhere near where I wanted to be, around 4000 points shy of my January score (after log checking), though I put considerably more effort into January. I could complain about all of the people that are just hovering on the 50.313 and running so many FT8 contacts when the band is perfectly open, but I do understand when it’s so sporadic, and you know that you’ll be able to make that digital contact. Moving into next June I’m planning on doing a 7 grid run, and adding the gear I was unable to for this year. If it weren’t for the January weather that we have around here I would probably attempt that run then, but while camping out in the -10 degree weather does sound fun, it becomes very difficult to keep a battery charged in those temps.

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