K1RA @ W1RT Rover ARRL Sept VHF 2012

W1RT Rover Sept VHF 2012This post is very late in coming, but here goes… For the fourth year in a row I had the opportunity to rove and operate with John W1RT in this past ARRL Sept 2012 VHF contest. It’s appearing that John’s usual rover partner Christof, ON4IY, won’t be available over the coming year given he and his wife are expecting child. So, I was happy to be able to take the shotgun seat in the Intergalactic Battle Jitney. As in the past, I would man the low band station covering 50 through 432 MHz. I tried to capture some pictures (click on any within here) leading up to and including our weekend’s adventure. Throughout the article I also present some of our best DX across the bands to include distances worked from each of our visited grid squares. In the end I provide some post-contest analysis with a presentation of some graphs, charts and dynamic KML maps showing who we worked per grid per band. Finally there is also a Youtube video of a compilation of miscellaneous clips I took from some spots along the way at the very bottom.

W1RT Rover 1st Place Sept VHF 2011This year John had planned to change up the rove route again from years past. On our Sept 2011 rove, we bettered our best score from Sept 2009 by ~3,600 pts, clocking in at ~251.3K and capturing the first place spot in our category. We’ve been shooting to break 300K pts for some time and were hoping this would be the year we did so. The following is my view up to and into the entire event.

The original W3IY Rover (circa 2000)Over the weeks leading up to the contest John and I had discussed several options for this year’s rove. John had thought he’d like to remember Bill W3IY (SK) by taking on a coastal rove. Sept. offered the best time of year to catch V/UHF tropospheric openings over long distances. Water paths provide for some excellent DX opportunities and to date, John had never experienced what both Bill and Christof had said were some of their best contest experiences along the coast. In the years Bill roved with Christof they would start far south, down the coast in FM15 and run north and zig zag covering FM25, FM16/26, FM17/27, FM18/28 and FM19/29, operating at such places at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel overlooking the water.

North & East Coast US Ham DensityAlthough the route offers some potential propagation advantages, one big disadvantage is that there are few to no locals to be worked across the bands down southeast along the Carolina and Virginia coastlines. Also starting far away from the ham population densities tends to make it more difficult to raise the attention of those further north, especially if propagation is not enhanced. This make it harder and to garner extra QSOs and QSO points. Therefore, planning a rove route is extremely important in attempting a winning score. Another key factor in determining a successful route is whether or not to chase tropospheric propagation, which is dictated by the weather. The V/UHF and microwave bands are often more dependent on local weather conditions than say HF.

Several weeks out prior to a contest it is difficult to predict the weather for a particular weekend. It is common though that during a Sept. VHF contest we will occasionally get a hurricane come up the coast or in off the Atlantic. Occasionally the remnants of one will come up out of the Gulf. What would this year bring us? We weren’t sure as we began making our plans in mid-August. We’d mull over routes for a few weeks before we settled on (the first) one. Depending on where we decided to go, that would dictate what authorities we would need to contact ahead of time to get the needed permission to operate, if necessary.

New battery box position New battery box position Deeper operating table (uwave seat) Deeper operating table (low band seat)By mid-August John had just finished operating the ARRL UHF contest earlier that month. Over the long hiatus since Sept. 2011 John had opted to re-engineer the entire inside of the rover’s operating area. This would be yet another incarnation John had dubbed Jitney ‘MK3’. A few major changes include re-positioning the battery box from behind the van seats to between the two operating positions in front of the 19″ rack. This allowed for a more easier climb from the front seats to accessing the rear operating area. Another big change was increasing the depth of the operating table. Although John’s K2’s don’t take up much room, having a keyboard, mouse and keyer/paddles didn’t leave much room. At some point John wishes to use K3’s and the old arrangement just wouldn’t allow for the larger radio. I look forward to bringing my K3 along for the ride next year. After the August UHF contest John and Christof noted the following: no transmit on 903 MHz, no receive on 3 GHz (needs preamp), no receive on 10 GHz (needs a FET), 144 amplifier problems, logging computer f’d. John assures me by Sept we’d be relatively bug free.

Amps and switch under uwave position Amps and switching under uwave position Amps and switching under low band position Amps and switching under low band positionJohn’s redesign project over the year included moving, remounting and rewiring the 19″ rack worth of equipment, amps, transverters, switching and power cabling. Along the way he put his newly acquired 3D printer to use manufacturing special mounting blocks, brackets and other assorted plastic widgets for securing components, wires and equipment on the walls and tables.

uwave operating position and logging display GPS 10 MHz LO and new logging computer Low band position with new computerAlong with the redesign came a migration of the GPS 10 MHz LO from behind low bands to a new location by uwaves. This was closer to the addition of a new operating and logging computer, upgraded with solid state drives and a new (Pluggable USB) multi-display arrangement supporting two simultaneous operators on one computer. Currently the GPS is used to lock all the uwave LOs at 10 MHz. Eventually the GPS NEMA stream will drive the logging computer for automatic grid entry. Finally John acquired another computer to mount under the passengers seat to assist with navigation, multimedia entertainment and network access.

50 - 432 MHz rotatable antennas 902 MHz - 24 GHz rotatable antennas + 144 MHz long boom uwave rotator 

remote uwave control and transverter boxes uwave crank up mast 5-10 Ghz combo and 24 GHz dishesThere wasn’t much new outside the vehicle. The front array still consisted of a rotator and the 50-432 MHz antennas. The rear stayed the same as well, holding 902 MHz – 24 GHz on the rotatable 25′ crank up military mast. In the past the highest band, 24 GHz, wasn’t operational. This year would be different, or would it? Also on this mast was a long boom 144 MHz yagi, In the past John could switch to it for me manually from his uwave seat with a coax switch on the back door. This year John provided me a new remote controllable relay available at the low band seat. Having a second higher gain array could be of useful for long haul tropo.

W1RT Rover route 1 W1RT Rover route 2As Sept. neared we toyed with an inland south-west to north-east route. This would surely mean we’d missed a fantastic coastal opening. John thought being further west at the beginning might provide a chance to contact more westerly grids while stations are more active near the beginning of the contest. We’d attempt FN00 and FM19 Sat., then FN10, FN21, FN20, FN30, FN31 on Sun. I’d never operated from the FN00 site before, so this sounded tempting. This route didn’t stick for long, within a week we’d fall back on our tried and true north-east to south-west route, but even that route didn’t hold for long. We’d finally settle on a third route by the end of August.

W1RT Rover route 3 (Final) W1RT Rover Final Route ScheduleAfter another week or two John discussed minimizing our driving time while maximizing our operating time on-the-air during the contest. Looking at routes 1 & 2 above, one can see a lot of driving between grids on day 1. If we could select several operating location grids close to each other near the start of the contest, then we might have a chance to increase our QSO point totals. We finally settled on route 3 which meant a long haul drive from CT to our first operating location in PA at Camelback FN21hb. This would put us smack in the middle of Packrat territory near contest start on Sat. We’d then hit FN20, FN10 and FN11 through Sat. eve. Then on Sun. venture out to Blue Knob ski resort then south to our usual Big Mtn FM19aw, possible FM09 jig and finally Skyline Drive FM08us spots. This new route would offer us several hours more operating time over previous years. Starting at Camelback meant a 3+ hour drive before the contest started but that was better than doing it during the contest wasting valuable operating time on the road.

I booked a one-way train ticket from Washington D.C. to Stamford, CT and hopped on and arrived in 1-land Thurs. afternoon before the contest. If all goes well we’ll end up on Skyline Dr. in Virginia Sunday eve about 1 hour from my home QTH. With the contest days away now we’d both been watching the weather reports for the upcoming weekend and realized there is a chance the remnants of a hurricane coming up out of the Gulf might affect our roving plans.

Upon arriving in CT and after a search for lunch and dealing with some terrible traffic, its was off to survey the remaining work to be accomplished before the contest. I proceeded to perform the usual SWR checks on the low bands. The 50 and 144 MHz antennas seem to have issues. I visually note that the 144 MHz antenna t-arm feed on driven element is loose and the solder has cracked. I clean, reheat and re-solder and that fixes the problem. Next I can’t seem to bring the 50 MHz antenna SWR below 3:1. I take it off the mast and place it on the ground to take some length measurements. After some time I discover its been reassembled incorrectly. When John rebuilt using angled aluminum over the summer he accidently switched the side arms between the DE and reflector. After I swap them and recheck resonance the SWR issues seems resolved. All bands seem to be putting out power, but little do we know the 144 amp is most likely not putting out power where we think. Hopefully we’ll get the backup fixed. John talks of stripping transistors out of one shelved amp to fix another.

John debugs some microwave issues. He sets up his oscillator and begins tuning in the various bands. 3 GHz seems a bit deaf, so he plans to cobble together a few relays to drop a preamp inline to address that problem. He can’t seem to hear anything on 24 GHz. Little does he remember, until after the contest, he’s calculated his RX frequency incorrectly for the beacon oscillator he’s been using. He begins to disassemble the remote transverter box on top of the mast to attempt to figure out the (non)problem.

Pre-contest weather map Pre-contest weather mapWhile preparing and debugging the rover we discuss the impending weekend weather forecast. Our plans to start the contest at Camelback Mtn could result in a complete washout. It appears we should have planned on making the coastal rove. We keep an eye on the maps and the Hepburn tropo predictions. We will need to make a command decision no later than mid-day Friday if we’re going to rework the entire route. John proposes an alternate option head east at the start of the contest. The idea would be to stay ahead of the front and storm line coming in from the west, which was the remnants of the hurricane that hit the Gulf coast about a week earlier. Propagation predictions seem indicate some enhanced V/UHF conditions out from Cape Cod to the north and south at contest start. Of course this would mean we would have to rework our westerly route given Cape Code, MA to Shenandoah, VA would be too much ground to cover in one contest weekend.

The thought of changing routes triggers John to give Rick K1DS a call. Rick has roved closer in and around Packrat country, so we make our way into the shack and get him on speaker phone to pick his brain. Rick is very helpful with ideas. He informs us of several sites around the FN10/20 & FM19/29 grid corner that might help us garner some much need QSO points up and through the high, microwave bands with several Packrats that are operational through 24 GHz. John has been just dying to make a 24 GHz QSO in a contest and has yet to do so to date, so Rick’s information is well received.

Tropo predictionAs Friday morning comes along we’re still up against some work and what to do for our route. John integrates the new 3 GHz preamp successfully, but gives up on 24 GHz, even though there was never a problem to begin with. We still need to set up all the computers. Several Linux O/S patches and setting up the Pluggable USB remote KVM units. We test out GPS and navigation and 3G tethering for network access to tropo resources. We still haven’t addressed 144 MHz amp. We take a final look at the Sat. afternoon tropo prediction and make a command decision to completely rework the weekends route plan. We will opt to start out on Cape Code and operate from FN42, FN51 and FN41 and cross into CT and grab FN31 before coming back to John’s house Sat. eve to sleep. Sunday we’d adjust the route aborting the FN00 spot and shoot for FN30/20 and the corner spot Rick recommended then hit FM19aw and FM09. Here’s how it looks.

W1RT Rover new ultimate, final route (adjusted for wx) W1RT Rover new ultimate final schedule (adjusted for wx)Friday seems to fly by as we try to wrap up work. As the evening settles in we are visited by the other ‘RT’ of Easton, CT, Ed K1RT. He joins us for dinner and we talk over a few choice beers he’s brought over for us to try. After that, its back to the Jitney. Before Ed leaves he mentions having a 222 FM rig and magmount we could borrow. John doesn’t have any FM gear for any band, so we take him up on the offer. 222 FM could prove useful in Packrat territory when/if we need to coordinate uwave skeds. A quick round trip back to his place and we integrate the rig into the Jitney before we call it a night. Unfortunately we miss our opportunity to perform our pre-contest test with Jeff K1TEO from local Tashau Hill. Will it matter? Things “seem” to be working OK in the driveway. Of course tropo conditions are great the day BEFORE the contest.

144 MHz tropo map 12 hours before contestJohn and I discuss a few final plans and its off to get some shut-eye. It will be an early rise and lots of driving in the morning.

CT into RI John W1RT RI into MAWe get up early Sat. morning to head east. We grab breakfast then its off to grab some food for the road. As we leave Easton, CT we watch the weather maps and real-time APRS tropo maps via the 3G tether. Skies are not too ominous and little would one think there were any storms approaching, but then again we’re headed and looking east! Tropo looks promising according to the maps and it appears there’s enhancement off the Cape. Will we get there in time enough to operate and catch some good DX? Its a long ride east to the tip of Cape Cod as we watch the miles tick by.

APRS 144 MHz tropo map pre-contest 

Approaching FN42 site Looking up to FN42 site Road up to FN42 siteWe get to FN42 at 1810z a few minutes after contest start, turn off the engine and switch over to battery power. We crank up the antennas and get read to make some contacts. Unfortunately, VHF looks dead and none of the low bands will key into transmit, or if they do, output power is sporadic. Are there keying issues or have we lost some connections during transit? We waste an hour+ tracing cables, debugging and troubleshooting. Turns out it appears the batteries are low. Were they ever charging? By turning the engine back on and switching over to alternator power the keying and power issues disappear. Lesson #1 always test with K1TEO before the contest in the full-up operating configuration! I take a few pictures during our troubleshooting fiasco.

W1RT Rover FN42 W1RT Rover FN42 W1RT Rover FN42So, at a little after 1900z we finally start operating. At 1916z I make my first QSO with K1TEO. Jeff says I’m weak on 144 MHz, weaker than I should be. The amp seems to be drawing current, but its apparently not putting out power like we think. I move over to 50 MHz to catch a TE opening to South America. That was unexpected. John is having issues and unable to make any uwave QSOs. We waste another 30 minutes debugging.

Operating this far north and east has its issues. Number one, very few people are beaming our direction. The bad weather to the south and west is also apparently washing out operations and people are off the air. After a late start it appears we miss any potential tropo that may have existed at the beginning of the contest. I manage to work some QSOs, but its nothing like starting in FN31 or FN21. Of the 2.5 hours we spend at the site we only mange about 25 minutes operating given the setup and troubleshooting issues we encountered. Only 25 QSOs and 7 unique grids across all bands. A breakdown of our best DX from this grid across bands as follows below the panoramic.

180 degree panoramic view from FN42
FN42 Best DX by Band
50 MHz – PV8ADI in FJ92pt @ 2771mi
144 MHz – W2LV in FN21ib @ 275mi
222 MHz – W2LV in FN21ib @ 275mi
432 MHz – W2LV in FN21ib @ 275miAt 2035z we leave the FN42 site already 60 minutes behind schedule, its time to move onto FN51, the Marconi site. We head south. Skies are still clear and there is a light breeze.

W1RT Rover FN51 W1RT Rover FN51 John cranking up uwave mast FN51 W1RT Rover view from FN51 lookout 

Cape lookout info Marconi lookout Marconi info Looking southWe arrive at the station @ 2100z still 1 hours behind schedule. John cranks up tower and we both begin to operate. I work a few New England stations. John finally starts to make some microwave contacts on 903 MHz and above, though he only works K1TEO. I continue to search out the low bands. Again not a lot of stations to be worked. Compared to years past starting in the heart of VHF population and activity further south, we’re off to a very lack luster start. We don’t mange to work the only other FN51 (KC1MA) local who we’d worked from FN42. I run up to the lookout and take some pictures. We operate for only 30 minutes and contact only 15 QSOs and 3 unique grids across the bands. The breakdown and best DX for this grid across the bands follows below the panoramic.

360 degree panoramic view from FN51
FN51 Best DX by Band
50 MHz – W2SZ in FN32jp @ 174mi
144 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 173mi
222 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 173mi
432 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 173mi
902 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 173mi
1.2 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 173mi
2.3 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 173miIts 2205z and we’re back on the road again heading south and east towards FN41. We opted to cut our stay short and are now only 35 minutes behind schedule. The plan would be to operate 4 grids today to also include FN31, but it looks like we’ll be cutting that close if we wish to get to FN31 before 10pm. Driving south and west skies are turning more cloudy, though still no rain or sign of the impending storm front that is racing towards us.

W1RT Rover FN41 W1RT Rover FN41 FN41 tower 

FN41 tower W1RT Rover FN41 W1RT Rover FN41We have a little difficulty finding the FN41 site but are on the air around 2250z about 50 minutes behind schedule. There is a smattering of Eskip on 50 MHz and I enjoy picking up some many needed unique grids (EM5x, EM6x, EM7x and EM8x) out to 800-1100 miles. John is having slightly more success on the microwave bands, working more than just our main stay Jeff K1TEO by also loging AF1T (FN43), N1GJ (FN41) and W1TR (FN31). We end up with 50 QSOs and 14 unique grids across the bands for about 70 minutes of operating time. Best DX is as follows below the panoramic.

FN41 panoramic from tower
FN41 Best DX by Band
50 MHz – KI4ROF in EM55tmp @ 1066mi
144 MHz – W2SZ in FN32jp @ 166mi
222 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 158mi
432 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 158mi
902 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 158mi
1.2 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 158mi
2.3 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 158mi
5.7 GHz – N1GJ in FN41rr @ 17mi
10 GHz – N1GJ in FN41rr @ 17miIts just after 0000z as we leave the site. We’ve stayed about 30 minutes past our schedule. It’ll be more than a 3 hour drive across FN41 until we get into FN31. The idea was to find a spot along the water by 10:30pm local before people closed down for the night. Now we’d be lucky to be on the air by 11:00pm local. After about an hour, as we make our way back onto the highway the long awaited front of the storm finally reaches us. We travel through heavy rains for about an hour. While still in FN41 around 0200z I crawl into the back to tune the bands and manage to work K1IED (FN31) on 50 MHz. I don’t hear any other stations of the low 4 bands. Approaching 0300z as we cross into FN31 we opt to blow off operating from the shore line and decide to head straight back to John’s QTH. Down I-95 south and we’re home roughly around 1:00am local close to schedule, but at the loss of operating from one grid. We’ll have to make up FN31 somewhere in the morning. The roads are wet, tree limbs are hanging low. Before we’re off to sleep we look up to see the 3.4 GHz looper bent and 90 degrees off axis. We’ll have some repair work to do in the morning. Our original schedule has us up and on the road by 6:00am local and on the air from FN30 at 7:15am local. Fat chance we’ll make that with needed repairs and having to cram an FN31 stop in. We get some much needed rest after a depressing first day behind us. After surveying the situation and discussing options we head off for some shut-eye. I hop on the net to post a quick note to the community about our days events and finally to sleep around 2am local.

3 GHz looper damage 3 GHz looper damage 3 GHz looper damageUp around 7:30a, take a quick shower and head out to help John repair 3.4 GHz. Above a few pictures of the damage to the 3 GHz looper before we make repairs. We should have been on the air by 1200z. If we were, we probably would have cashed in on some tropospheric enhancement around sunrise according to the predictions.

Tropo prediction 1200z Sun. morningWe’re on the road by 9:30am local (1330z) and manage to catch Jeff K1TEO to let him know we’re headed to John’s usual test site in FN31ig from Tashau Hill. A little after 1400z we arrive and setup. I make my first QSO at 1416z with N3LL (EL86) in FL. on 50 MHz. Nice to see a little Eskip still going on. Unusual for a Sept. VHF contest, but I’ll take it to help boost our overall grid totals. As to be expected this grid is quite productive for us. We’re in the heart of activity again and everyone is awake. We operate from this location for almost an hour, contact 57 QSOs and 11 unique grids. Unfortunately in the excitement I don’t capture any pictures from this or the next few grid stops 🙁 Our best DX by band breakdown is as follows.

FN31 Best DX by Band
50 MHz – N3LL in EM86tx @ 1113mi
144 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 285mi
222 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 285mi
432 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 285mi
902 MHz – K3CB in FM18vr @ 233mi
1.2 GHz – K3CB in FM18vr @ 233mi
2.3 GHz – K1IIG in FN31nl @ 25mi
3.4 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 4mi
5.7 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 4mi
10 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 4miIts off to FN30, somewhere across the Palisades.

Crossing into FN30 John W1RT Crossing into FN30We drive around until we find a school parking lot. Its not a great site, but it will allow us to activate a new grid and allow us to pick up some much needed QSO points. We operate from 1700-1730z. In the 25 minutes we’re on the air we contact, 28 QSOs and 5 unique grids. We should have been operating from this grid from 700-815am local (1200-1315z). We’re way off schedule now and we’ll need to make some serious course corrections! Our best DX stats from this grid below a picture of John operating uwaves.

John W1RT uwaves
FN30 Best DX by Band
50 MHz – K2HZN in FN43gk @ 212mi
144 MHz – N2ZBH/R in FN20 @ 66mi
222 MHz – N2ZBH/R in FN20 @ 66mi
432 MHz – N2ZBH/R in FN20 @ 66mi
902 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 43mi
1.2 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 43mi
2.3 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 43mi
5.7 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 43mi
10 GHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 43miGiven the late start after making repairs and the fact we had to pickup FN31 this morning, we’re now almost 4 hours behind schedule. Since this weekend’s roving route was in so much flux from the start and given we haven’t gained many QSO points given our sites hadn’t produced the number of QSOs we’d enjoyed in previous years, we make a command decision to trash Sunday’s official route plan and head to Camelback FN21. That site had offered us a great location and plethora of contacts in the past. So we are counting on a real boost to our score. So, we aborted going to FN20 Eagle rock, NY and hit the highway.

Tropo prediction 1800z Sun. afternoonAlong the way we briefly pass through FN20 for about 30 minutes from about 1815-1845z, so I crawl in the back to make a few low band contacts. 15 in all and 5 grids while in motion. Best DX is on 50 MHz with K2LIM in FN12 @ 150mi. By now according to all predictions, the tropospheric enhancement has completely dissipated through the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions 🙁

Camelback - Big Pocono State ParkWe arrive at Camelback around 2000z. The weather is great. Skies are mostly clear and blue with some puffy clouds. We push our way up the hill. This site has an especially great view to the northeast.

FN21 looking northeastAs we make our way to the top of the parking lot we arrive and meet up with competing roving team NN3Q. We greet each other with the usual rover handshake and I take a few pictures of the vehicles side by side before we begin operating.

W1RT and NN3Q Rovers FN21 NN3Q and W1RT Rovers FN21Russ has quite a nice rover setup, so while he operates and before I begin to give him some unneeded QRM I snap some shots of him at the helm. His antenna system looks similar, though slightly smaller than John’s setup. The inside is nicely organized and offers a side by side seating arrangement for the operating positions, with most of the amps located in the back.

NN3Q Rover 

NN3Q Rover NN3Q Rover NN3Q Rover 

Russ NN3QBoth the NN3Q and W1RT rovers overlap operating for about 30-45 minutes. We try to avoid QRM’ing each other too much by band hopping and avoiding staying on the same band at the same time, but after awhile Russ and his roving partner finally move on down the mountain leaving us to operate alone. As expected, this site offers us many opportunities to work many stations far and wide. I work over 75 QSOs on the low bands and John is happy to rake in 45 on 903 Mhz and above. We operate for a total of 2+ hours until ~2210z. That offers us 119 QSOs and 11 unique grids. Best DX as follows below the panoramic.

360 degree panoramic view FN21
FN21 Best DX by Band
50 MHz – K1HTV in FM18ar @ 211mi
144 MHz – K1HTV in FM18ar @ 211mi
222 MHz – WA3EOQ in FM19jo @ 225mi
432 MHz – WA3EOQ in FM19jo @ 225mi
902 MHz – K1RZ in FM19jg @ 157mi
1.2 GHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 191mi
2.3 GHz – K1RZ in FM19jg @ 157mi
3.4 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 72mi
5.7 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 72mi
10 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 72miA final few shots of the rover before we lose sunlight and make our way off the mountain.

W1RT Rover FN21 W1RT Rover FN21Well, now what to do? It would be impossible to head south and west to grab FM19aw Big Mtn, PA and FM09 according to our original route. So, we opt to head to the closest 4 corner grid square. Days earlier Rick K1DS had pointed out a spot that would almost guarantee us some microwave, high QSO point, contacts with several Packrats. So off we were to the grid corner of FN10/20 and FM19/29.

Leaving FN21 Sunset Sun. eveThe sun is starting to go down. So, first its off to grid FN10. It not close by any means, it’s more than a 2 hour drive to get there. While in motion in FN10 I pick up a few stations on low bands and some Eskip to W4AS EL95 in FL on 50 MHz. I catch up with Phil K3TUF and Roger W3SZ on 222 FM to let them know we’d like to run 50 MHz through 10 GHz from the upcoming grid corner. We finally arrive and begin operating from the fixed grid spot around 0045z. We stay there for about an hour, working 39 QSOs and 8 unique grids. I end our stay by working K5QE in EM31 on 50 MHz. Our best DX from this grid is as follows.

FN10 Best DX by Band
50 MHz – K5QE in EM31cj @ 1158mi
144 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 168mi
222 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 168mi
432 MHz – K1TEO in FN31jg @ 168mi
902 MHz – W3SZ in FN20ag @ 12mi
1.2 GHz – W3SZ in FN20ag @ 12mi
2.3 GHz – W3SZ in FN20ag @ 12mi
5.7 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 7mi
10 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 7miOnly a little over an hour left in the contest. Time to hit the road and run this grid corner. We’d operated briefly from FN20 on the road earlier but now we would head to a fixed location were John could get on the microwaves and grab some QSOs. Its coming up on 0200z. We find a spot to stop and start making contacts. For some reason John can’t work Roger so it’s only 50 Mhz to 10 GHz with Phil. I manage to find a few station on the low bands including fellow Grid Pirates K1RZ and W8ZN. By 0220z we’re on the road again. We wrap up this grid with 32 QSOs and 4 unique grids. Best DX as follows.

FN20 Best DX by Band
50 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 126mi
144 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 126mi
222 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 126mi
432 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 126mi
902 MHz – WB2RVX in FM29mt @ 57mi
1.2 GHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 126mi
2.3 GHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 126mi
3.4 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 9mi
5.7 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 9mi
10 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 9miTime is running out and the contest is almost over, less than 1 hour to go. We zip down the road a few more minutes and then head across the line into FM19xx. No time to ragchew here. We only have time to grab Phil and run with him across the bands, though we manage to catch K1RZ on 1.2 GHz. Then at break neck speed we head onto the final grid. Its a mere 10 QSOs and 2 unique grids logged from here. Best DX is as follows.

FM19 Best DX by Band
50 MHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 15mi
144 MHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 15mi
222 MHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 15mi
432 MHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 15mi
902 MHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 15mi
1.2 GHz – K1RZ in FM19jg @ 77mi
2.3 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 15mi
3.4 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 15mi
5.7 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 15mi
10 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 15miA quick role across the line into FM29ax and we wrap up the contest. John runs Phil across the bands and I find Terry W8ZN to run on the low bands and that’s all there’s time for. The contest is over. Another 10 QSOs and 2 grids.

FM29 Best DX by Band
50 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 120mi
144 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 120mi
222 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 120mi
432 MHz – W8ZN in FM19bb @ 120mi
902 MHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 16mi
1.2 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 16mi
2.3 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 16mi
3.4 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 16mi
5.7 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 16mi
10 GHz – K3TUF in FN10we @ 16miNot exactly how we expected to end the contest. We should have been in FM09 according to plan, a mere hour or so from the K1RA QTH where we would crash for the night. Instead we are some 3 hours away! It’ll be another long drive across FM19 and FM18 until we are in Warrenton, VA. We break 100K pts, but its nothing to write home about. In the past years John and I had broken well over 250K in the hopes of reaching 300K. We’ll have to see how the rest of the rovers did with the weekend’s bad weather and conditions.

Busted 3 GHz looper Busted 3 GHz looper Busted 3 GHz looper Busted 3 GHz looperWe pull into the local Sheetz gas station in Warrenton, VA FM18cr at around 2am. We step out of the Jiteny to look up at the antenna arrays and we are not happy with what we see. Somehow the 3 GHz looper again bit the dust. This time though the front end sheered off and is somewhere between here and PA. The antenna is trashed and would not be repairable 🙁 Back at my place we tally up the weekends expenses. Not cheap, especially with a nonrefundable $100+ hotel room we never used out by FN00. We’ll have to recover for a few days and regroup to discuss future plans. John will make the long drive home to CT via MD Monday morning after visiting friends in the DC area.

W1RT Rover Sept VHF 2012

Thanks to John for pulling together another fun roving experience!

click here.

73 & thanks for the QSOs

andyz – K1RA

50 – 432 Mhz op @ W1RT/R – ARRL Sept 2012 VHF Contest

The final breakdown of contacts, grids and QSO points for W1RT Rover Sept VHF 2012

RoverLog QSOs by Activated Grid:

Grid  QSOs      Grid  QSOs      Grid  QSOs
FN31   57       FM19   11       FN10   39
FN41   50       FM29   10       FN20   48
FN51   15       FN42   25       FN21  119
FN30   28

RoverLog Score Summary, Using new rules:

Band    QSOs Value  QSOPts  Mults
50       99    1      99     29
144      74    1      74     18
222      60    2     120     15
432      57    2     114     15
902      27    3      81     11
1.2G     33    3      99     11
2.3G     21    4      84      9
3.4G      9    4      36      4
5.7G     11    4      44      4
10G      11    4      44      4

Grids activated: 10

Totals:  402         795    130

Claimed Score: 103350

The Gory Post-Contest Analysis (Chart, Graphs & Maps)
For those interested in the details of the post-contest analysis continue to read on. Below are some graphs I created that compare various statistics for W1RT Rover in both the ARRL Sept 2011 and 2012 VHF contests.

When did we work new unique grids over the entire contest in Sept 2011 vs 2012?

How many QSOs and QSO Points did we earn per hour in Sept 2011 vs 2012?

How did we perform per grid square in Sept 2012? See the pie charts for time spent operating per grid, new unique grids earned and QSO points earned per grid WE operated. Unlike years past where we worked more unique grids at the beginning of the contest, this year it was at grids FN21 and FN31 with 40 and 27 respectively on day 2. No surprise since it was tough to work station from Cape Cod on day 1. Likewise FN21 and FN31 offered us the most QSO points with 261 and 104 respectively. Its all about being close to the ham population densities.

Who contacted W1RT Rover the most during ARRL Sept 2012 VHF contest on the low 4 bands, microwaves and overall? On 50-432 MHz: Jeff K1TEO with 25, Terry W8ZN with 20 and Phil K3TUF with 16. On 902 MHz and above: Phil K3TUF with 29, Jeff K1TEO with 17 and Russ NN3Q/R with 6. Overall across all bands this year it was Phil K3TUF with 45 and runners up Jeff K1TEO (43) and Terry W8ZN (23).

How did our overall running, hourly scores from Sept 2011 and 2012 compare for the low 4 bands only, microwaves only and all bands combined? For each score graph QSO Pts are multiplied times the number of grids tallied at hourly intervals to calculate running score over the entire contest period. For low 4 only this means 50-432 MHz QSO pts * grids worked on 50-432 MHz, the same was done just for microwaves only and finally all bands together. These graphs show this year we had an extremely slow start with a much longer off-the-air period than last year.

W1RT Rover Sept 2012 Grid / Band Maps
Finally, I created a script to parse our log and generated QSO data as KML overlays on Google Maps. These overlays consist of details of the station callsigns we contacted in the ARRL Sept 2012 VHF contest from the various grids and bands we operated. The following map is an example of this QSO KML for W1RT/R operating from ALL grids on ALL Bands. Clicking on a marker icon will give you more information about the station we worked to include their call, grid and distance to our QTH. Click the View Larger Map below this map to see the entire list of call signs we contacted and a more interactive map. Below this map, use the form to choose another grid and band that W1RT/R operated and click Submit. That will pop up a full page map showing you who we worked and where. Come back here to pick another grid and band to plot additional maps.

View Larger Map of W1RT Rover from All Grids on ALL BandsPlot a Grid / Band Map for W1RT Rover Sept 2012
Plot a map for a given grid and band range for W1RT Rover in the ARRL Sept 2012 VHF contest. Pick a Grid and a Low and High Band and click Submit. For plotting a single band set Low=High Band.

Pick Grid:

Pick Low Band:

Pick High Band:

John’s final comments after the contest and returning home to CT…

Regarding 24 GHz not working:

“There’s an LO box up in the 24G box, it contains an N5AC PLL board. I send up 10MHz synthesized from the main microwave box. The problem is, for all bands other than 24 GHz the LO output is off unless band is selected. Because 24 GHz LO (10MHz) comes from a different output on 9912, it’s on all of the time and changes for each band. That’s confusing the N5AC board so I’m tearing it all apart again”

Regarding intermittent power out of low bands:

“I’ve ordered all new DEMI low band transverters to replace the Elekraft. I expect delivery at the VHF conference in Oct.”

Regarding trashed 3 GHz looper:

“A new replacement 3 GHz is on order after sacrificing the original to the VHF contest gods.”

Regarding 5/10 GHz dish:

“Its taken a beating over the years, a new dish is on order too.”

de W1RT

Here’s a video collage of some movie clips and static pictures I took over the weekend. Not many shots of us operating, its mainly views of the rover and sites we operated from and shots from the road along the way.

What happened to John and I in the ARRL Sept 2011 VHF contest? Read the story here.


andyz – K1RA
50 – 432 Mhz op @ W1RT/R
ARRL Sept 2012 VHF Contest

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3 Responses to K1RA @ W1RT Rover ARRL Sept VHF 2012

  1. Pingback: K1RA @ W1RT Rover ARRL September VHF 2012

  2. Pingback: K1RA @ W1RT Rover 2012 ARRL VHF Contest Writeup - W4TI

  3. Lou Eckert says:

    Enjoyed your write-up on this east-coast rove. I have rovered many miles fron Illinois and from Colorado (most states in the center 1/3 of the continent! Good job, it sounds like K1TEO owes you a beer, Hi. Check our the video I poosted last week from photos at AA9D and W0EEA in the 1990’s…

    AA9D Video… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQQAox8DqmA

    73 de Lou KT1R in FN54 Maine (ex N9KC)

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