SKCC Sprint

I've spent a couple of hours this weekend (so far mainly on Saturday), playing in the SKCC Sprintathon CW contest ... the rules demand that only hand keys, including bugs, be used. I hauled out my original gray Vibroplex, purchased back in 1964, when I decided that using a straight key was just too slow. I was doing a lot of DXing and contesting back then, with my trusty DX-20, VF-1 VFO and assorted groundplanes on top of my parents three-story house in the middle of Vancouver ... it's hard to believe that it was quiet enough there but those were the days before computers, switching power supplies and and so many other noise-making devices that we have today. They truly were the 'good old (quiet) days' of radio. My favorite contests back then were the 'W-VE', where any 'VE' became instant DX and the subject of good-sized pileups and the CW 'Sweepstakes' ... back when the exchange was, if I recall correctly, just NR, RST and QTH.

My antenna farm sat on our high, peaked roof and consisted of groundplanes for 40m, 20m and 15m ... these were made of inexpensive galvanized drain pipe, about three or four inches in diameter. The 40m one was guyed and also had one end of my 80m dipole attached to it, which ran out across the yard and across the back lane, terminating on one of BC Hydro's wooden (telephone) poles. Every once in a while the telephone guys would take it off and toss it over the fence whereupon I would get out the ladder and re-attach it, where it would stay for another year or so.

For this weekend's CW party, I have put my 'Tri-Tet-Ten' on 20m, doubling from a 40m crystal to 14051.5, placing me pretty close to the Sprint's watering-hole QRG of 14050. I have had way too much fun with this simple one-tube radio since building it, mainly for 10m CW, in anticipation of the present solar cycle's peak years. Although it puts out almost 5W when quadrupling to 10m, I can get a whopping 13W from it on 20m, which is plenty of power to have some fun.

So far I've worked about 40 stations, all on CQ's, since I can't really QSY to answer others ... so if you are around this afternoon, please give me a call should you hear my little rig. It's a real nice change to hear non-machine sent CW for a change and fists ranging from one end of the scale to the other ... really a nice reminder of what the bands used to sound like when I first got on the air.
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

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