Posted by: GW7AAV | March 27, 2011

That was the week that was

Here I am stuck in work when I really want to be in the ham radio shack or out on the hills. It is the SOTA UHF funday and to be honest I don’t want to loose ground or points on those elusive higher bands to chasers who never normally bother listening for the UHF regulars, but there is nothing I can do about it so I will just have to grin and bear it. I have already (08:30) missed Matt 2E0XTL on Hegest Ridge 1297.5MHz.

I have plenty to sulk about today. If getting up at what would have been 04:30, but because today is the start of British Summer Time is now 05:30, is not bad enough then driving in to work in the dark again certainly is. For the last few weeks the one redeeming feature of the drive to work was some stunning sunrises. Now we are back to cold dark starts and running with headlights on. Why? Just what is the point? For my colleagues on the night shift an eleven hour night beats a twelve hour one, but someone has to do the thirteen hour night when the clocks return to GMT and the shift coming in loose an hours sleep.

It has been a busy week and when I got time to breath I did the mods to Helen’s NUE-PSK unit. My nerves were a bit frayed afterwards as my eyesight is no longer up to such fine soldering and my hands not steady enough, probably due to being worried I was going to mess up. I realised after that the reason getting the solder to stick had been so hard was due to the board having been lacquered post production. The problem with removing the lacquer was down to not being able to see the fine tracks on the PCB or work any kind of tool between the other components as I would have liked. Soldering a few wires seemed an easy job but as soon as the iron touched them the insulation melted back so quickly I thought I would end up replacing the lot. Still it is done now and the USB mod is installed and we have the latest software on board too. Other jobs I had planned for this week took a back seat as what little time I had slipped through my fingers.

On Thursday I was back in work for a refresher course that turned out to be another stresser. I was so out of it that later after playing taxi to the family I came in to the shack and looked at the clock. It was twelve minutes to seven but I read it as twelve to eight. I made a mad scramble to get ready for the RSGB 80m Club Contest. I cleared my desk then set up my log and my recording software, found a quiet frequency switched in the 80/40m trap dipole and pushed tune. As the minute hand hit twelve on the atomic synchronized clock I hit record and started to call CQ, an hour early. Opps! When no-one answered I knew something was wrong I looked up at the clock and swore. What a plonker!

I made some coffee and then I retired to the lounge and slumped on the settee and chilled out by watching a rerun of X-Files I had recorded on the Sky Plus box. I never saw the first series when it was on years ago. Then I returned to the shack for another go.

Surprisingly on what was a very busy band I found a free slot and started calling CQ, however after the first half a dozen contacts the dirty tricks started. First of all a tuning signal appeared making a couple of contacts a little slow as although they were end stop signals and fully quietening. I had to ask for many repeats. Then the killer a duo tone signal of the type one puts into a rig under test so you can monitor the output on an oscilloscope, but normally doing this the rig would be on a dummy load. Stations were answering my CQs but I could not make out any calls under this racket. After ten minutes I went to search an pounce mode, which is not the best method to get a high score unless the band is dead when you get better results working other peoples CQs.

It was a bit depressing to get a log number of 32 when you are still in single figures. It was going to be hard going. In the end I only managed a poor 46, while others gave me numbers closing on 200. My only comforting thought was this was a group effort and John GW4BVE gave me an encouraging number. If only I could have maintained my frequency I may have had at least 100 and probably more. As I worked up the band I worked a station on the frequency I had abandoned and made a mental note of the call. I will be watching for that one in future.

On Friday I worked Phil G4OBK/P on a Wainwrights on the Air (WOTA) summit. He asked me to spot him on SOTAwatch as he was on his way to a SOTA summit. Not just any SOTA summit but the highest mountain in England G/LD-001 Scarfell Pike, which for WOTA is designated LDW-001. What had me laughing was the casual way Phil said he had not intended to do the big one, but as the sun was shining and he was passing by he thought he would add it to his itinerary. He did two more WOTA summits after Scarfell Pike but I never heard him.

One thing Phil did was persuaded me to up-date my chases on the WOTA site. It was when I was doing this I realised that there is at the moment a problem with WOTA. I have a good take off towards Lakeland and have worked all of the SOTA summits numerous times, however I have only worked a handful of WOTA summits that are not also SOTA summits. I can see two reasons for this; First off the none SOTA Wainwrights are more often than not shielded by the surrounding much higher mountains and secondly the majority of activations are handheld only on two meters. Some of this might be because to qualify a WOTA summit only one contact is needed for an activation to count and then there is the fact that a lot of WOTA activations are done by activators whose prime objective is one of the higher SOTA summits and they may as well do the lower WOTA fells that are on route. They however they save the batteries for their HF stations until they get to their prime objective. This is just an observation and I am not complaining, it just may be a hell of a long time before I bag all the Wainwrights.

I do not think activating for WOTA will ever be seriously on my agenda as I have no intention of going back and doing those few I already did for SOTA. Two a couple of weeks before it started. So any WOTA activations will have to also be SOTA or not at all. The stunning Lake District calls me but accommodation is over expensive so my forays in to that part of the UK will have to remain few and far between.

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