September VHF 2019 Wrap Up

This was my first September Contest, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I figured that activity rates would be a little lower, club activity may not turn out as much as January or June, and a WNY September can either be cold, or sweltering hot. For the first time in this contest year, I can honestly say that something went off without a hitch. Sure, there were little hiccups along the way, but everything just seemed to work.

My plan for this contest was to hit six grids, FN22, FN23, FN13, FN02, FN12, and FN03. I started the day out in FN22 from a cell site actually. It was up around 1820′ with a clear shot North East.

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View from FN22
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View from FN22

Not necessarily where I wanted to aim, but it wasn’t bad. This site yielded about 20 contacts, most of which were digital, and unique grids for me (especially on 2m) which was a nice little bonus for the time to drive out there for sure. After about two hours, keeping on schedule, I moved on to FN23 which was about a 15-20 minute ride down the hill, across the valley, and back up. Similar story in FN23, only about 15 contacts from there.

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FN23

So around 6:30pm I started the trek back westward towards the home grid. Along the way I setup in FN13 for about an hour and a half. After getting setup and being on the air for 45 mins, it was getting late enough that I thought I’d try some MSK144 Meteor Scatter. I switched the mode over and began to transmit when all the sudden WSJT-X decided that it wanted to just stop working. The program closed, and would not relaunch. I tried rebooting, unplugging and plugging back in the radio, but nothing worked. I gave up for the night, worked a few more stations on voice, and called it a night.

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FN13 Fireworks

I started the next morning in my usual spot in FN02 – WSJT-X still just did not wanto to launch, so I fiddled with the software while making voice QSO’s. It got to a point where it would launch, and whenever I would select anything on the screen the app would crash. After about two hours of fiddling I was able to FINALLY get a stable enough launch to switch the mode back to FT8, and get digital back going. This was my first experience with this issue, and I’ll have to look into it more. I made a small handful of digital contacts, and picked up a few unique grids, but the majority of my time operating and contacts made from FN02 were 2m Voice. In my three hours operating from this spot I more than doubled the amount of contacts I had from the day before, which was fantastic to see.

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FN02
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Station Setup

I headed out of FN02 to meetup with the club members on the road for our Rover Lunch and “Grid Blitz.” We had six rovers, and one fixed station working the Blitz, an average attendance for this contest event. We did our quick grid circle, and we were back on the road. I headed down to FN12 after the lunch as two of the other rovers were headed to my usual spot in FN03.

Getting on the air in FN12 took a little more time than I had planned on account of rain. I got right to work on it when I stopped, but just having to step carefully on the slippery metal. Having a full 3 element beam for 6m is great in terms of operation, but having to crawl up on the roof of the car to expand the antenna elements at every stop can be a little annoying in the natural elements. While at the rover lunch, I was given a 2.3g transverter to borrow to run some additional contacts. I hung on to this post lunch since we were headed to different grids and we figured we could work. Boy am I glad I did, we worked, and I was able to contact two additional stations as well, and those multipliers really start to pile up on those bands!

I had other commitments on Sunday evening, however while I was driving between grids, I flipped the mobile to 146.55 FM and made another dozen or so contacts while driving between grids to and from where I needed to be. When I was done, I still had about a half hour left in the contest, so I parked on the street in FN03 close to two stations, ran the bands with them, and happened to catch another local clubs rover station on their way home.

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Contest Mileage

After having finally settled my contest log, it turned out to be one of my best scores ever. Initially, RoverLog was apparently set for January scoring, so I was given some false hope on my initial score of over 31k. After getting all of that squared away and ready for submittal, my final claimed score was 25,959. I anticipate a few of those contacts going down, but mostly on 6m and 2m due to FT8 – since WSJT-X does not interface with RoverLog on my computer, those were all input to my log manually after the contest, and there were one or two dupes in there. This is one of my best scores ever in a contest, and a great way to finish out the contest year.

Looking back, while this January was good – with a final score of 22,800, it just didnt compare to January 2018. And looking at June, it was kind of a throw away for me this year (effort wise), so September was a nice addition to make for 2019 to try to bring myself around. Compared to prior years, the effort was actually there this year to make the rover the best it could be, and a thank you to those that helped get me on the road starting back in January. For the 2020 Contest year, and looking forward to January 2020, there are going to need to be some changes made as things are starting to just get too disorganized for my liking, and some additions put in to get on the higher bands. I know I keep saying that, but I keep turning away multipliers that are easy points. Looking forward to June 2020, there is going to need to be an overhaul to my traditional method as I plan to undertake something completely new for that – a SOTA Contest.

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