DX, Contesting and more …

ARRL VHF June 2020

June 18th, 2020 | Posted by DJ8OG in Hamradio

Gary, W4EEY and I were again Rover during this years ARRL VHF contest. We choosed the same QTH as last year but a bit different setup. Gary is in charge of the VHF station during the Greer Amateur Radio Fieldday at the end of June and we wanted to try the setup before that event.
We met on Saturday morning and drove to Paris Mountain State Park. Once we arrived we could park at exactly the same spot like last year. It was a nice sunny day and we started to install the antennas. We hat two mast, the 6m mast was on the back of the truck and the 2m / 70cm mast was Gary’s new Mastwerk Tripod and Mast so we were able to rotate the antenna with a small wrench from the bottom without opening clamps from the mast.
We installed 2x 2 elements on 6m, about 6ft apart. The initial plan was to have them looking 90° apart but we discovered heavy noise from most of the directions at Paris Mountain. The only directions we could use were NE and SW, so we adjusted the antennas 180° and hoped the bands will open to the “right” areas.

We tried to find the QRM maximum and cause but without success. We had lunch and started the contest at 18z. Nothing to hear on SSB and CW so we QSY’ed to FT8. Slowly we got some QSOs in our log but by far slower then we hoped and compared to last year. We heard lots of stations calling CQ DX in FT8 and also close stations were more interested in DX then in contest QSOs. As our only direction without QRM was NE we tried to see whats it all about and found EU signals. Of course whenever we called them another station was stronger and we were not heard. Anyway we had fun we could RX Europe and we were also spotted on PSK Reporter, so we knew we could make it, one day … or maybe today? You have to be persistent 🙂 we got EI, YEAH oh no wait, the QSO disappeard 🙁 before we could complete. But then there was another EI and we finally made our first 6m EU QSO. No we found the right “pipeline” after the EI we got 2x G and one station from France. Wow, amazing, 100W with a small 2 element antenna. We closed the station for this day and hoped that the next day would be better, without that amazing strong QRM. Saturday was very disapointing with some EU highlights but before we drive back for another rover activity to Paris Mountain that QRM needs to be indentified.

On Sunday morning we met early and drove from SC to the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC. We choosed the same QTH like last year, and like Saturday we could use the very same parking lot like a year ago. The weather at 6020ft was totaly different. It was cold, some clouds but we thought it will be warmer and sunny later that day. After installing the antennas and the station we wanted to start but the had a problem with one 6m antenna. We had to take it down and check the connections, then raised it again and everything was okay. We installed it this time like planned, 90° offset, so less mast turning and only switch between these antennas, once its still not enough we could walk to the mast and turn it by our “armstrong” rotor 🙂
The first signals were from W5 and some W8, the 90° setup seemed to work. I started in SSB and got a nice little run for about 30 minutes. No big pile up but much better than Saturday. Less W5 stations called and we turned one antenna to W8 and one to W2, still hoping on EU :-). Gary did some FT8 and finally we got into FT4. Much better, faster, more fun and we bounced in between FT4 and FT8 on 6m and 2m. We were surprised that 2m had so “many” FT8 signals, compared to last year and this year we had only 3 elements compared to 6 elements on 2m last year. 70cm was also 3 elements (10 elements last year).

2m and 70cm QSOs
150W into 3 elements on 2m
50W into 3 elements on 70cm

Gary and I changed seats every hour. I walked a small trail at the Haywood Jackson Overlook, Gary was mostly explaining our setup to visitors while I was at the station. In the early afternoon I tried some SSB CQ calls and all of a sudden we had heavy QRM, not the same type like on Saturday, it were stations left and right from us and they were so loud we could not copy anything, so I needed to QSY. I found a rather clear spot and called some CQ and had the best hour running W9 and W2 at the same time, after 60 minutes we logged 157 QSOs. Clouds were rolling in and thunder came closer, it started to rain with some hail. But we were still doing a good rate and both decided to stay “online” but the rain caused heavy static and the rate droped to almost nothing.

Every once in a while we could copy strong signals but stopped for a while until the static noise was over. It washed away the condx, no SSB signals on the band anymore once the thunderstorm was gone. We tried FT8 and FT4 again, we coud still do some nice contacts there but then decided to close the station once the rain stopped completely.

A little summary from Sunday, totally different to Saturday, without the noise and with great conds, mostly US some VE. One CO called but disappeard in QSB.

We finished with 419 QSOs from both grid squares, 25 QSOs on 2m, 2 QSOs on 70cm and the rest on 6m. We were QRV in SSB, CW, FT8 and FT4. We made more than twice the QSOs and score from last year but we are a bit short on multipliers because we had no luck on Saturday.
For 70cm we had to rewire our 2m station and only did that once for a sked and got 2 QSOs. We have no 1.25m and could not QSY when we were asked, we have already identified some improvements for the next time, stay tuned …
We´ve been QRV for almost 8 hours (less than 2019), and spent quite some time on the road and setting up the station. We had a fun weekend handing out these the squares. Thanks for all QSOs and Gary for all the work he did to prepare the station.

Claimed score

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