Frustrations

by vk3arr

This week has been quite frustrating for chasing. Conditions have been poor on 40m, and on top of that, the high winds managed to cause a break in my (poorly cable-relieved) feedline. I managed to work Rik VK3KAN on Wednesday around some meetings I had, but completely missed him on the Thursday activations he had (largely due to propagation in the morning). A quick repair job meant I had the antenna back functional in time to talk with Ben VK3FTRV, a first contact for me with him. We had a good chat for about 5 minutes or so, him on Arthur’s Seat, and me on Andrew’s Seat.

Saturday was a bust, almost, as I realised I had not repaired the feedline properly, so down came the antenna again to be fixed. I didn’t manage to put it back up before the tennis match started, but did manage to work Tony VK3CAT with the antenna draped over the shed and the olive trees for a 42 signal from me. Tony was clear enough with his 10 watts and KX3.

I also managed to spill molten solder onto my arm in a masterpiece of stupidity and first-degree burns. There’s that moment where you realise things are about to go very badly and yet you can do nothing to stop it. That happened, and then some solder came flying upwards as a wire separated from a connector. I had the foresight to close my eyes, but I have a nice blistered burn on my arm about the size of a Tic-tac. To paraphrase Nietsche, “Das, was hat dich nicht zerstoert, wird dich wie einen Dickkopf fuehlen machen.” (and with apologies to the entire German race for my poor high-school grammar).

The highlight of the day, for me at least, wasn’t even SOTA related, when I chased my first non-VK signal, Wayne ZL2WL on 20m. It was also my first contact on 20m, but hopefully not my last.

Sunday was the VK2 QSO party with plenty of opportunity to chase, but once again conditions were down, and signals weren’t great. I could hear Ian VK1DI/2, and although I put out a few calls to him, he did not hear me. He was only 4 and 1 in any case, so I am not surprised.

I had more success with Andrew VK1DA, who was on Mt Lowden with Andrew VK1NAM. I had no problem working Andrew DA, but when he kindly handed over to Andrew NAM to work after UTC, the frequency was swamped with QRM. It was S5-6, but with their signals only 4 or 5 and 1, Andrew NAM kept getting drowned out. It was highly frustrating, particularly as they’d gone to the effort to hand over and humour me, and local conditions got in the way. So, sorry, Andrew(s). I will work you both next time, I promise. For the record, I didn’t need to wait for the results of your experiment: the second antenna was way better into VK3 than the first one. Now I just need to find out what that was 🙂

I also heard Al VK1RX, but couldn’t work him either, nor could I work VK2YW, who both faded right out an hour or so after UTC as band conditions deteriorated further. I heard nothing but local signals for the rest of the day. I am now on 365 chaser points, and this week marked an interesting inflection, where I have now worked more chaser points QRP (<= 5W) than I have non-QRP.

Lessons learnt:

  • The sun is a strange and weird beast, as too is the ionosphere.
  • Repair things properly, and you are a happy man. Repair things poorly and you are an idiot.
  • Hot solder hurts. I’m kind of grateful it’s taken me as long as it has to learn that the hard way.
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