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2012 ARRL SSB DX Contest, In review.

Well, this being my first attempt at a contest, I thought I would post a few comments. OK, not really my first contest, but I can't count the other two, since I only spent a few minutes in them. This contest I spent considerable time, and set goals for myself. Friday night I had dinner plans so I didn't get started until about 10PM local, or 03:00Z Saturday. After getting set up with the logging program, N1MM, I proceed to scan the 80M band for contacts. I set a goal of 100 QSOs, a goal I thought I should be able to do. I decided to use the "Search and Pounce" approach. I don't really have a "Big Gun" station. It is only a TS-940 and a SB-200 amplifier, for about 500W +/- PEP output, feeding a dipole for 40M and 80M, and an Inverted-V for 20M, 15M, and 10M. Neither is more then 25' above ground level. I use a MFJ-962 to match the amp to the antennas, I'll get to the MFJ-962 later, let’s just say it has an 'issue'. Around 05:30Z Saturday I decided to call it a night and take a break, so I watched a movie andwent to sleep.

Saturday I had to run some errands early, so I didn't start until  14:00Z or so, then ran pretty much straight until the SB-200 amp had a mechanical failure around 20:00Z. The fan blade from the cooling fan came loose from the fan motor shaft and was scraping the bottom of the case. Arrgh! Tear apart the station to get the amp out into the living room so I could take it apart and reattach the fan blade. Also took this opportunity to clean out the RF deck area. It was covered in cigarette smoke residue (it WILL get a full tear down this spring) also took the time for a quick dinner break, back on around 23:00Z. By now it was all 20M then on to some 40M. Things were going pretty smooth for a while, until I went to 80M. Tuned the radio and amp into a dummy load to get started, then went to do a quick tune up on the dipole. That's when it happened! Both needles on the meter of the MFJ-962 pegged full scale. At first I thought I was in the low power setting on the tuner, but a quick check confirmed that I was NOT on the low power setting. This happened once before, and I returned that tuner, but now it happened again. I am  starting to think I have an issue with either the amp or the antenna/feed line. Something happens inside the tuner so that, even with only 5 watts running through it, I get full scale readings. If I leave it alone for a few hours it works ok. I say ok, only because now the calibration is off. By now it was late, maybe 07:00Z (2AM if you are keeping track) and I had a tuned to fix, so I open it up and can't really find anything scorched or melted, and I just put it back together. Oddly it works, just the calibration is off, so I close it back up and head to bed. Sunday, back on at 14:30Z and run mostly 10M to 20M, because I know that antenna and feed line are ok. I work for another eight hours or so until the both the tuner and I give up. I wanted to try 40M again, but the tuner said NO, and both needles in the meter pegged. At this point I didn’t have the drive to tear out the tuner and look at it again, and my voice was getting rough. So for just about 15:30 of on air time I worked 182 QSOs, 111 mults for a score of 59,940 points. (I had two QSOs that didn't count, rookie mistake) Considering I left a lot on the table by not working 40M and 80M anywhere near as much as the other bands, not working 160M at all, and not getting the much needed multipliers, I don't think I did too bad. I had fun, gained a lot of experience using the variable bandwidth filter on the TS-940, and found out how narrow you can get, and still copy the calls. The CQ WW WPX SSB contest is in a little over a week, I will try to spend a few hours in that one as well, but probably not as much as this one. 73 John

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