Posts Tagged ‘pileups’

Feeling “Fox-ish”

Tonight is my turn to serve as one of the two Foxes in the 20 Meter QRP Fox hunt.  If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about – they say a picture is worth a thousand words:

No, no, no, no – not quite, but let me give you the lowdown, if you’re not quite familiar with the concept of QRP Fox hunting, and want to give it a shot. For the “official” rules, please check out:
Tonight, Don NK6A and I, W2LJ will serve as the two Foxes. We will both be hiding in the 20 Meter woods, somewhere between 14.050 and 14.070 MHz.  One of us will be the “lower Fox” hiding between 14.050 and 14.060 MHz. The other will be the “upper Fox” hiding between 14.060 and  14.070 MHz.
Your job, as one of the Hounds, is to find us and work us – both.  Don and I will both be working split, that is, transmitting on one frequency and listening on another.  Just like W1AW/XX and DXpeditions and rare DX do. Once you find us, you have to figure out where we’re listening. Once you think you have the spot – and ONLY then, I might add, you will throw out your call sign. Please! Only once or twice – not over and over until the cows come home! The QRP Fox hunts are a great place for learning and practicing pile up discipline.You know ….. the DX Code of Conduct.
The Fox will announce the call sign he has heard and will send his exchange to that station like in this example – let’s say I pick out AB9CA’s call from the pack of Hounds. I will send:
I am saying that I have heard you, AB9CA, your RST is 559, and that I am in NJ and my name is Larry and that I am transmitting using 5 Watts.  Once AB9CA hears my half of the exchange, he will come back with something on the order of:
He’s telling me that my RST is also 559, that his name is Dave, that his QTH is AL and that he’s also transmitting using 5 Watts.  ONLY when I acknowledge him with a “TU” and then send a “QRZ?” asking for the next station, is the exchange completed.  If he does not hear my “TU”, then he either has to listen for my fill request(s), or try again later as the exchange was not completed.  Only when both Fox and Hound receive their exchanges, is there a valid QSO. This is known as “grabbing a pelt” amongst us Fox hunters. If you work only one Fox, you have a “One-fer”, work both and you have a coveted “Two-fer”. And believe me, due to band conditions, there will be times you will walk away with a “One-fer” and will be quite happy with it!
That being said, you really do have to try and work both Foxes in a 90 minute period, from 0100 – 0230 UTC. Here on the East coast, that’s from 9:00 to 10:30 PM.  If you’re located in the middle of the country, you probably stand a good shot, as I am in NJ and Don is in CA.  East coast stations may not be able to hear me, especially if the band is long.  West coast stations may not hear Don.  BUT ….. the theory has been known to go out the window compared to reality – so who knows?  Even though it shouldn’t happen, I just might be able to hear up and down the East coast as well as the rest of the US and Canada. It’s happened before! And don’t give up just because you might not hear either one or both Foxes. Band conditions have known to change at the last minute. I can personally tell you that there have been times that I have not heard a Fox for 80 of the 90 minutes of the hunt, only to have him pop his little fuzzy head out of the woods for the last 10 minutes. If I had QRT’ed early, I would have been out of luck. There have been a time or two where I was the last Hound in the hunt to grab a pelt. Persistence can pay off here – big time.
Foxes tend to send Morse at a speed around 20 WPM.  But please don’t feel intimated by that.  If you are comfortable sending and copying at 15 WPM, 12 WPM or even 5 WPM – please call me anyway!  I will slow down for you.
Why should you join in on the QRP Fox hunts?  First off, they are fun! Lots of fun. Secondly, participating will increase your skill sets (buzz word alert!). You’ll find your Morse Code speed increasing and maybe more importantly, your skill in dealing with pile ups will increase dramatically.  I have been participating in the QRP Fox hunts since my call sign was N2ELW – and after a hiatus, have been participating as both a Hound and a Fox continuously since 2003.  My ability to work DXpeditions, special events, scarce DX has increased by light years.  The success I have in DX chasing as a QRPer, I owe directly to the training ground of the QRP Fox hunts.
 Ahhh! The sweet smell of QRP DX!
So don’t be intimidated by the pileup or the code speed. Jump in and give it a go. The fun you will have and the sense of accomplishment from “grabbing a pelt” or two is worth the effort you’ll put in.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

The allure of DX

is a very good thing, but can be bad at times.  My buddy W3BBO describes it as an “obsession” or an “addiction”.  I’d have to agree with him there. Once you get your first taste and get hooked, there’s no turning back. Add QRP power to the mix and,  if you’re addicted to challenges – stick a fork in you, you’re done.

The bands were alive with signals again during lunchtime today.  But yet, I only worked two stations. My addiction got in the way. I worked Laci HA0NAR in Hungary, who I have worked many times before. I also worked LY10NATO, who asked me to spot him, as he was calling CQ without many takers.  Being in the car, away from the Internet, I didn’t have that luxury.

My downfall came when I heard TX6G on 12 Meters. He was LOUD. 599+ loud at times.  I immediately thought, “Wow! THAT loud, here’s my chance to work them QRP.”.  Not today, Grasshopper, not today.

Undoubtedly, if I wasn’t so hard headed, I could have worked at least three or four more stations in my limited time allotment.  However, my stubborn Polish side got the better of me, and I did a Don Quixote, and chased a windmill. 

The windmill won.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Two more pileups busted tonight.

Ten Meters was busy after I got home from work – plenty of signals.  I heard TX6G but they were kind of weak, so I decided to check 15 Meters.  They were louder there and their pileup wasn’t quite as busy as on 10 Meters.  So, I started sending my call, with no luck. After a bit, I noticed their signal was starting to fade. Not wanting to lose them, I decided to go QRO and bumped up the power to 75 Watts. Bingo on the first call at higher power – TX6G is in the log for a new DXCC Entity. The group is there until April 1st, which is a week from tomorrow – so I will try throughout the week to try and get them via QRP. That’s a tall order, but do-able if the pileups get smaller as the DXpedition draws to a close.

From there I went back to 10 Meters and listened more than anything.  I heard quite the few JAs and tried calling a few, but 5 Watts just wasn’t cutting it.  Then, I heard a fierce pileup for VP2V/SP6CIK.  I managed to bust that pileup with 5 Watts.

I was amazed at the ferocity of that pileup.  While the British Virgin Islands are an easy hop from the US, I guess they are a rarer entity from Europe and Asia.  I heard quite the few JAs being answered as well as a lot of European stations. Whoever was behind the key was handling the pileup methodically and precisely. Very good pileup management and very good pileup discipline.  I only heard a few “UP”s from the Pileup Police.  All in all, it was a well behaved group.

I didn’t go out to the car at lunchtime today, as winter has returned for a brief visit. It was 27F (-3C) and I just wasn’t in the mood to freeze.  Tomorrow we’re supposed to get anywhere from a dusting to 3 inches (7.5 cm) of snow.  BUT, by Friday and Saturday, it’s supposed to be back up near 60F (16C). That’s the only good thing about late March snows in New Jersey – they tend to disappear fast.

I guess the old Mark Twain quote about the weather in New England holds true for New Jersey, too. If you don’t like the weather in New Jersey, just wait a few hours. It will change – especially this time of year.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

A personal challenge

I went out to the car during lunchtime today.  Temperatures here in New Jersey have cooled down. It was only in the upper 40s here (about 9C), so instead of standing outside and operating from the rear hatch of the Jeep, I sat inside to keep out of the breeze.  Activity on 10 Meters seems to have gotten sparse. I still hear signals, mind you, but they are not as loud and not as “wall to wall” as they were just a few weeks ago.  I don’t know if it’s that the band has changed a bit, or perhaps the novelty of 10 Meters coming back to life has worn off. In any event, I found myself on 17 Meters today, tuning around the band to hear what I could hear.

I worked EI13CLAN, whom I worked last month on 10 Meters.  He was very strong, a very legitimate 599.

The tuning around some more, I heard XF1P calling “CQ DX UP”.  OK …….. Mexico.  But the pileup was huge …… HUGE!  I wasn’t exactly sure why. Mexico is not exactly what you’d consider to be the rarest of rare DX.  I reasoned that with a pileup that big, something that I was unaware of must be “up”.  Additionally, I  took it as a personal challenge. Could a QRP station running 5 Watts to a Buddistick possibly bust that pileup?  XF1P was 599, but just barely. There was QSB to boot. I was reasonably sure that my signal would be audible on his end, but with that pileup, would I get lost in the sauce?

I sat there for about  20 minutes, listening and sending out my call. The KX3, with it’s Dual Watch feature, almost makes it unfair.  I was able to follow XF1P along the band as he would move slightly after answering each station, XF1P in my right earbud and the station he was working in my left earbud. It just became a matter of sensing his pattern and setting the transmit VFO just a tiny bit higher after each call. Also, I had to time the sending of my call –  not transmitting immediately, but waiting for the pileup to fade “just” enough where my call would be heard among the cacophony of all the true 599s that he must have undoubtedly been hearing.  Finally, I heard him send back “W2L?”. Wouldn’t you know it? True to form, all kinds of stations without a “W”,” 2″ or an “L” anywhere in their calls began blindly transmitting.  Not deterred,  I stayed with it and threw “W2LJ” out there just a couple of more times and was rewarded with a confirmation.

Coming back from lunch, a quick peek on the computer before resuming work informed me that XF1P is an IOTA DXpedition to Partida Island – NA-124 located in the Gulf of California off the coast of Baja, Mexico. It is an uninhabited island, so I guess that makes it rare as IOTA goes.  The pileup of IOTA devotees was intense, but I accepted the challenge with 5 Watts, took advantage of XF1P’s exceptional ears, and got through!  That’s always a good feeling. And it also goes to show, that if I can do this, then YOU can do it too. It just takes some persistence and a lot of listening.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

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