The Best Laid Plans …

I am often brutally reminded of how much influence our Sun has on propagation, both good and bad!

Hoping to enjoy some further contest work and improve my ear-brain-keyboarding skills, I had prepared everything for this Saturday's 24-hour 'KCJ' Contest. The 'Keymen's Club of Japan' is an annual affair that seems to attract a lot of domestic JA activity, with bonus points when they work any DX stations. I checked my N1MM Logger software but it didn't seem to have the contest. I did find it in the program's UDC (User Defined Contests) section but had to download and install a unique 'Sections' file from a Japanese website, as the contest requires the Japanese to exchange their Prefecture abbreviations. I eventually had N1MM working perfectly for the KCJ contest and with the contest starting at 0500 locally, I tuned up everything for the normally excellent 40m path to Japan in the morning and went to bed.

Rising just a few minutes before the contest start, a quick check of 40m indicated that something was not right ... not a JA to be heard, in fact almost no signals to be heard! Checking the web for more info, I quickly discovered a 'K' index of '7', indicative of very disturbed conditions. Along with a strong southerly pointed Bz, it seemed that we were in the middle of some strong auroral conditions ... back to bed with hopes of the afternoon 15 or 20m path to Japan being better.

The afternoon path never really materialized either. Normally, propagation between the west coast and Japan is very good, with lots of strong signals being the norm ... but not today. Over the course of several hours, only four JA stations found their way into my log, and they were all a struggle.


The earth had been hit, rather unexpectedly, by another whopping 'coronal hole stream' and propagation was truly dismal. With only a smidgen of keyboarding practice, I had to admit defeat ... the Sun had messed things up once again, as it has been doing for the past year as Cycle 24 slowly slides downhill. Unfortunately there is always a lot more flaring and streaming on the way down than on the way up. Hopefully the Sun will soon get this out of its system and radio conditions will quiet down and stabilize for the upcoming fall and winter DX season.

There is one more chance left, this evening, to get in some more keyboarding practice. The 'Flying Pigs QRP Group' holds their monthly 'Run For The Bacon' CW QSO party, starting at 0100Z tonight. Non-members may also join in the fun by sending their 'power' level instead of a membership number ... so maybe I'll run into you tonight.

Now it's back to N1MM to reconfigure for the QRP Party and hope that old Sol will co-operate for the Sunday night crowd, but you know what they say about the 'best laid plans...'

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

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