Jack Schuster, W1WEF

I was really looking forward to this year's contest. After being distracted by the WRTC gang last year, I was set to do a serious CW ONLY effort again. I set up my IC706 as a second radio, using three verticals out in the woods 250 feet from the tower . With verticals this far away I can search for mults on the 706 without any stubs or filters.This would be the first contest with the new Pentium 166, so I should be able to work 'em faster yet! hi...

Thursday night, I remembered to check my antenna directions, and saw the top mast had slipped 45 degrees in the rotor again. I'm always hesitant to torque those tailtwister U bolts too much, because I've had them snap more than once. The next morning I headed up the tower before coffee, at about 6AM. At 65 feet up the tower, I have a work platform. Underneath it was a wasp nest I hadn't seen before.

Climbing very carefully past it, I got to the top of the tower without waking up anyone in the nest, and corrected the direction problem as I watched the sunrise over the trees. Now I had to not only get down past the nest, but my sidearm at 60 ft was stuck again and I had to see what I could do with that. Not much, it turned out, but it was stuck on Europe so I could live with that. I did manage to get down the tower with no wasp encounter.

Friday morning I decided to practice using the second radio, and see if I could get a run going and enter calls in a test IARU log using my newly downloaded CT9.29. Good thing I did that! Of course I should have done it earlier, and not the last day before the contest , but I was on the Cape the past week rebuilding the part of my house the termites ate...but that's another story.What I discovered was that 9.29 wasn't recognizing multipliers! I replaced it with trusty old 9.23.

All set, a decent night's sleep, I even went out to the bagel shop before the 8AM start time and had breakfast. Checking the bands out before the 1200Z starting bell, I found NU1AW on 20 with K1CC at the helm. After talking to Rich a couple minutes, I noticed something funny in his signal. I didn't want to alarm him, but told him it sounded like he might have dirty contacts on his paddle. I proceeded to look for a starting frequency and was off! In the first five minutes 18 Qs. Good European signals on 20. At 12:55Z I moved to 15 with 124 Qs in the log on 20. However, during the first 55 minutes I found alot of guys all over the world with "dirty contacts".

Luckily, I discovered that this phenomenon only appeared when I had the narrow filter switched in on the 765. I ALWAYS use the narrow filter (500 hz), but I've been told I should listen wider and catch more of the guys calling off frequency. I normally twiddle the RIT constantly, but now was going to learn how to do without CW filters. It actually was quite interesting, and I didn't have alot of trouble with QRM in this contest.

15 was open to Europe with some signals so loud it seemed like 10 might open. Moving to 10, my first Q was CT1BOH. K3ZO answered my CQ, followed by AA0BY, IK2,OL7, EA7,S57HQ, and a few more Europeans and Ws. The rate wasn't there, and having worked all I could hear on the band, I went back to 15, and bounced around between the three top bands, catching a few mults on the second radio.

Things were going well, although my rate wasn't as good as I would have liked when I accidentally hot switched the Heath remote antenna switch!

Well, it was all over at 1823Z. I could no longer select any antennas, and it was stuck with a high SWR. Normally, at this point I would have gone up the tower to try to salvage the contest somehow, but the antenna switch is right near the work platform with the wasp nest.Although very disappointed, I decided in the middle of the day not to meddle with the wasps. I would pack up and go back to the Cape, and give out a few points on the way from the car.

A few hours later, I was ready to head out. I just had to hook up the 706 so I could operate mobile. All set, I called someone from the car to make sure it was working OK, and the 706 powered down. It turned out I had a dead battery...it measured 10V. With the XYL away as usual during a contest, the only wheels I had were the RV so I tooled down to Sears to get a new battery.By the time it was installed, I decided to sleep in Connecticut and hit the road real early the next day. I had lost my enthusiasm to the point that I didn't even feel like operating 80 and 160. THOSE antennas didn't go through the switch.Next year hopefully, I'll keep my station in better shape and do more operating BETWEEN contests so I know it works!

One last word...about termites. When I built my energy efficient house on the Cape ten years ago, styrofoam insulation on the outside of the foundation was touted as a worthwhile investment. I put 2 inch rigid foam from the footings to the sills. Above grade I coated it with cement, so it looked like a normal foundation. What was apparently not widely known then (and now either!) is that termites love styrofoam. By tunneling right through the center of the foam, they dont have to go to the trouble of building mud tubes up the side of the concrete foundation. You wouldn't believe the network of tunnels they made in my styrofoam. It's all removed now, above grade, and down about 18 inches below grade, and the ground was treated with termiticide. I would not recommend using styrofoam to my worst enemy, and if you have it going above grade I would seriously REMOVE it ASAP! Even below grade around the bulkhead where there was no wood to eat, the foam harbored ants and the termites ate through it more there than where there was wood above. Fortunately, all they ate on the house was the box headers on the front and back, and they hadn't gotten into floor joists or the pressure treated double sills. I replaced the damaged wood and just have some shingling to finish up. The damage was not noticeable until I happened to remove insulation at the header inside the cellar when I was installing an additional outside faucet.

See you in the next one!




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