As Ken mentioned, to arrive a day earlier than usual on the Tuesday before the contest was a good decision. We were busy, but all the major work was completed before the start with only minor bruises and sore muscles. This included the assembly, rotor and mast replacement on the crankup for the 40M XM240 beam we airlifted with us, the replacement of the rotor on the Skyhawk which we used for 20M, the replacement of the rotor and feedline for the upper 6 element 10M beam. The 5 element 10M beam we took down from the 40M crankup was reinstalled on the 20M tower. We needed to sort out several feedlines but did not have to install more than 5 PL259S or was it 6? The second 10M antenna was put on the lower 20M tower because the SWR on the other was iffy. The 6 element 15 meter yagi was flipped 180 so all rotors were north centered. Four Hygain Control boxes and three rotors were repaired. There was much climbing to do, but we got it done. The antenna situation at NP3U is better than it had been in a long while.
Along with antenna and tower work, Ken K3IU and James K1SD did much of the preparation in the shack. Several of Carlos’ radios were moved to a safe place to allow us real estate for the K3s and RTTY Meisters. Three RM2s were networked through a switch and tied into Carlos’ ethernet. Yes, he has DSL, which would have been nice to know before the effort of relearning packet and trying to get a long haul RF internet link ready before the trip. We did go ahead and use the DX 2M packet node that Jose KP4JRS setup for us at his Dads QTH 20 miles distant. The packet worked well but we did have a little RF from our HF transmitters get into it. Thanks go to Mike K1DM for bringing his packet hardware, his tower work, and keeping us soldiers in line for the week. We are a tough and unruly bunch.
N1MM did give us a headache. A bug recently introduced did not allow us to sequence serial numbers by band. We lost a little time in panic for a cure but needed to resolve ourselves that it was not a major concern and nothing we could safely fix. We then moved on putting QSOs in the log. ESM worked well but occasionally gave some heartburn, probably self inflicted. It was a joy to use for those long runs, but I still think we need to evaluate time saved vs. potentially lost Qs from bad clicks. I know I had issues with unexpected log and pop calls filling the entry window.
You can’t always plan for the unexpected. During the days before the contest we lost mains power for a while. During the contest and during some of the best runs Sunday we lost a couple of hours. Murphy had hitched a ride with us. He was probably snickering, sitting in first class, which is why we didn’t see him. Unfortunately his tricks probably knocked off a couple million points from our raw score. It looks like we may beat our 2009 score after the robot checks the logs but we may not make enough to take our usual top place. Needless to say, everyone worked hard in this one.
Jay KB1LCQ did much of the menu and food preparation during the days before the contest. He also put in a lot of chair time. Thanks Jay.
Returning to the NP3U team was Carlos WP4N. It was nice to have you back! And a job well done. Newcomer Jose KP4JRS, an avid RTTY contester, added many Qs to the log with nice runs on 10M. He picked up ESM in less than 5 minutes. And Carlos WP4U added to the total for his chair time Sunday. Mike K1DM and James K1SD had their share of Qs. Bill N1HRA outdid himself as usual. There is no doubt, storm conditions at home did cause some stress among our team members.
Ten was crappy the first day but was open a good part of Sunday afternoon. Eighty was very noisy the first night with little activity heard. But good the second night. Best conditions were Sunday. We stayed on the bands where the rates were the best with short breaks to pick up Qs and mults on the others. This sunspot cycle is not behaving normally.
Carlos has added an addition on the side and rear of his house. A cozy place for Ken K3IU to tell you about. There was warm water in the shower. The ice cream truck arrived on schedule. That was worth the trip alone. On Monday an oceanside dinner and sightseeing trip to Ponce completed the tour. Major cleanup was done Tuesday morning. The flight home was an easy one but filled with a little uncertainty about what damage to expect from the snow storm. We all arrived home safely.