Trying Contesting

By | December 12, 2019

I am fairly new to Amateur Radio, first licensed in January 2019. The great thing about the hobby is how absolutely broad it it. “The hobby of a thousand hobbies” as oft cited on The Ham Radio Workbench Podcast) There are so many aspects to try out. My interest in getting my license was focused on emergency communications in the event of a natural disaster. Supposedly we are overdue for “the big one” and I want to be better prepared and to offer assistance if possible. (For a terrifying video simulation of a Cascadia Subduction Zone quake, check this link out).

Since obtaining my license and first rig, I started learning more about digital modes and about chasing DX. I didn’t buy an HF radio until after I upgraded to Extra, so hadn’t been able to experiment in the HF bands. As I’ve discussed in earlier posts, due to limitations with my antenna, I started by using WSJT-X. It was fun to make contacts under such poor conditions (both natural and operational.) One way I got to test out my system was by participating in my first contest, first annual World Wide Digi DX Contest (“WW Digi”). I wasn’t able to put in a lot of time actually operating due to chores around the farm, but still I enjoyed participating.

The next contest I participated in was after hanging the antenna higher, the 2019 Western Washington DX Club’s Salmon Run. This was my first real test operating on SSB. I enjoyed working on phone since up to this point I’d been mainly using digital modes. I had no expectations of winning, or even of getting a “clean sweep,” but did enjoy using the event to learn more about contesting, trying out N1MM logger, and better understanding my radio.

This year I tried my hand at the CQ WW DX SSB contest. Again, I had no illusions of winning, but was disappointed about the poor conditions, and at the noise that made me decide I’d rather work on chores at times. This all to get to the point of my post. I realized that these contests were a kind of “stress test” which helped me see both the strengths and weaknesses of my station and my abilities.

Strengths:

I learned how to operate my radio more thoroughly. Having to dig signals out of the noise and trying to be heard among the pileups helped me figure out the filters and eq settings.

I learned how to operate in a contest and get comfortable using SSB. I had to this point been pretty ‘mic shy.’ Plus I learned the lingo and procedure involved in contesting to boot.

Challenges:

Noise! I need to figure out what noise I can eliminate in the QTH, and identify whatever other sources are around.

Poor conditions. Not much I can do there but be patient. However, if this is the low point in the solar cycle, there’s more to look forward to considering I’ve been able to make some good DX contacts as it is today.

Limitations of my antenna. The G5RV works well, but will never beat out a beam or Yagi and is not rotate-able. Nonetheless, it works for now (as well as the added 4(5?)BTV.

OK – 73 for now.

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