Soapbox:  tales and photos from the 39th annual August UHF Contest in 2016

     We will post soapbox items as quickly as possible when we receive them after the contest.  We don't have a  Wordpress-type interactive system, so please email your comments and photos to N6NB: woverbeck@fullerton.edu .



K0BAK
KK6MC
K5SW
WB9KMW
N6NB



K0BAK

 After just getting back from a 2000+ mile drive from Philly suburbs to Tuscaloosa AL and back, including some HF activations of NPOTA parks, I was reluctant to participate in the August UHF contest. My only other effort in 2014 from a great spot in the Pocono Mountains was a big disappointment, netting only 1 confirmed contact in 2.5 hours, so I wasn't enthusiastic about trying again. However, with encouragement from the Packrats club, and understanding the push to get in as many logs as possible for this contest, I decided to at least try for a couple hours near the end of the contest.

I operate Limited Rover in VHF contests, so I had just 222 and 432 for this contest, with 10' beams and about 60w and 100w respectively. Operated portable (single op low power) at Mt. Penn in Reading PA (FN20bi); when I got there around noon Sunday EDT, NN3Q/R was already set up and getting ready to leave. With only two light beams, I was able to get them about 30' high on a walk-up mast. I operated for about 2 hours till near the end of the contest.

With 16 contacts in 2 hours at the end of the contest, the results far exceeded my pessimistic expectations. I am hoping to have time next year to add 2 more bands to my rover setup; if I do I will be able to operate Limited Rover in the UHF contest next year -- unless I have to drive to Tuscaloosa again.

222 9 Qs, 432 7 Qs, 9 grids total, about 2 operating hours

-- Pete Kobak, K0BAK
 
 



KK6MC


KK6MC repairing antennas in Clear Lake, Iowa...
 
 
 


...And here.

KK6MC operating in EN23.

KK6MC in EN33

K5SW

The 39th UHF Contest is in the books.First one NOT put on by the ARRL.
I already mailed in my contest log forms, please send yours in ,even if
only 1 contact made.

In August, WX, in Oklahoma, is HOT HOT HOT, and tropo condx are poor at
best, but I love it, (the UHF CONTEST). It is not like a 50 and 144 mhz
contest, as you work hard for all the contacts, and most are completed
via CW.Signals are weak for the most part and my 1296 contact @ 247
miles with WQ0P EM19, was no exception, as it  took many transmissions
to get his call and grid, with his 8 wts,( I run 45 wts)at my station
via my tower preamp, but we got it done. That is the fun of the UHF
contest, persistance and operator skills, mainly CW.

On 222 mhz I had 5 grids-EM12,13,19,27 and 48 Best DX 324 miles

On 432 mhz I had 9 grids-Em12,13,15,19,25,27,48 & EL29 Best DX 435 miles

On 1296 mhz I had 2 grids-EM19 & EM27 Best DX 247 miles

Total of only 19 contacts, but a fun time being in the contest.

  Sunday Morning ,I QRTed abt 10:30 to 12PM for Church, between Noon and
1PM all I hrd was W0RT and WQ0P talking on 144.2 abt their "clean
Sweep", no sigs on higher bands.

  During the contest, I found no EM28 or EM29 sigs on any UHF band, even
JD, N0IRS, was not on for the contest.K5PJR EM37 was gone for the
funeral of Mike W5MWB, so no EM37 on 432 or 1296 this contest
either.KG5MD EM36 was not active , so no 222-432-1296 from EM36.Condx
were poor to my South, worked W5FH EL29 on 432  ( running a KW), but cud
not hear his 50 wts on 222, where in the weeks prior I cud work him
daily.Also EM32 LA was absent, as often I work them on 222 and 432. So
all in all, just poor activity and condx .No rovers came thru my area
either.On a sked, I did hear N0URW 's KW on 432 EN41 for one xmission,
but QSB'd down , so no Joy there.Never tried with K2DRH either.I did
find a period , about 5PM Saturday ,where sigs seemed louder and beam
headings to my North were very broad, hearings stns well off path, for a
short time.Other than that the prop was poor to fair.Getting up Sunday
morning, going outside , I saw where there was little cooling of the
Earth to enhance any condx. W5VY EM34 did not rove this contest, so
missed his rover on 222-432-1296.

Looking forward to Sept VHF QSO Party and next years Aug UHF Contest again.

I been on VHF since 1957 (Ham since May '52) and remember those early
contests with pleasure, where the modes were AM and CW, and a lot of
Home Brew gear and antennas.

Sam

Sam K5SW ex W5WAX
EM25 Oklahoma
50-144-222-432-1296


WB9KMW

This was my first contest.   Besides making some contacts on four bands (135cm, 70cm, 23cm and 13cm), I used the opportunity to complete a SOTA activation on Gibraltar Rock at W9/WI-037.   Here is a picture of my setup for 1296 MHz with a Directive Systems loop Yagi.  Underneath is an ELK 2m log periodic antenna. 

I use an SB Laboratory transverter for 2 1/2 Watts on 23cm which is mounted behind the Yagi.   My IF comes from an ICOM 7100.  Systems are powered with a LiFePO4 battery. 

In addition, Karl WD9BGA and I made history with the first ever summit-to-summit contact on 2.4 GHz in North America.   We each used 70 milliwatts into a 24 dBi grid parabolic dish.  We communicated via chatting with Pidgin software.   Karl was 33 miles away at the Blue Mounds State Park summit.  We had a 100% clear Fresnel zone which helped immensely.   My Link Quality was 28%. 

73, Larry, WB9KMW


N6NB

     The photo at left shows K6MI (left) aiming his 24 GHz setup toward W6TV from CM97, while N6MTS helps hold the gear on its "antenna support structure."  Non-hams might call that structure an ice chest.  The photo was taken near the end of the UHF Contest on Sunday morning (August 7).

*****

     The 39th annual August UHF Contest in 2016 was really a special occasion for me, and obviously for many others.  After ARRL announced that the contest was being canceled back in March, UHF-oriented clubs and individuals came together to sponsor the contest themselves.  As it turned out, even without ARRL support the 39th annual UHF Contest attracted more participation, as measured by the number of logs submitted, than any UHF contest since 2009.
     I started out to do a small and symbolic entry in the 2016 contest because it came only three days after I got home from the Central States VHF Conference in Rochester, MN and a family visit elsewhere in Minnesota.  Just before that trip, I had been in Hawaii pursuing more microwave distance records during a fairly good (but ill-timed) tropo opening.  In short, I wasn't ready to put on a major effort in the UHF Contest.  However, many people came forward and wanted to operate the contest, perhaps fearing that this would be the last one under the current format.
     N6HC, a famous HF DXpeditioner and DXer of the year honoree at Visalia, said he'd like to operate my Panorama Heights station.  It's on the next hill over from his house and he'd just worked Hawaii (me) from there on 2, 222 and 432.  He was ready to do some UHF contesting. 
     "Great," I said. 
     Then N6TEB said he'd also like to try out Panorama Heights.  Since both wanted to be in the single-operator category, I needed two completely separate stations.  So I rolled my tower trailer out on the driveway and set up a separate station in my minivan, parked in the garage.  N6HC and N6TEB operated with antennas barely 50 feet apart, but with no shared equipment or antennas whatever.  Yes, when the contest was over they were still friends.
     I decided to rove so I could work N6HC and N6TEB from several grid squares, using the rover station shown at right.  When W6IT offered to rove with me if I could outfit another station, I offered the station in my E350 van, which also has all bands through 10 GHz.  Then W6TAI agreed to get on with the station at our home, which also covers all bands through 10 GHz.  So now the plan had grown to five operators using five separate stations, all with amplifiers on all bands through 10 GHz.
     The next day I heard from three of my friends in Fresno.  Would I be willing to take my three "antenna-free" 10-band stations up to the Fresno area for part of the contest (Saturday night and Sunday)?  So if I could pack all of this equipment and haul it north, we would have eight stations with eight operators, all on every band through 10 GHz.  Then I learned that the W6TV station in the Fresno foothills would also be on all bands through 24 GHz and the operator there, W6YEP, would like to work us as we roved through six San Joaquin Valley grid squares.
     From a very small start, this had grown into something not small, but somehow it all came together in a couple of days.
     When the contest began at 1800z, W6IT and I were parked near the Panorama Heights house, where we worked N6HC and N6TEB for the first time.  Then Greg and I went on to Buena Park to activate DM03.  We worked W6TAI, N6HC and N6TEB there on all bands through 10 GHz.  Then Greg and I went to the DM04/DM14 boundary in Monrovia and worked N6HC and N6TEB on all bands through 10 GHz twice more.
     Then W6IT headed back home and I went north to meet K6MI, N6MTS and W6TE near the famous grid convergence at Kettleman City (DM05/CM95/DM06/CM96).  I met John, Ron and Dave at the local In-N-Out Burger.  I thought John and Dave were having "animal-style fries," or maybe I was getting delusional after a long day.  If you ever visit California and want to sound like a local, order "animal-style" fries at In-N-Out.  Those are NOT on the menu, but every order-taker at every In-N-Out location knows exactly what they are.
     By the time we started setting up the three "antenna-free" stations (all similar to the one shown at left), it was after 7 p.m. and getting dark.  Those stations are supposed to go together quickly, but it's never that easy to set up that many pieces of microwave equipment.  The biggest problem was that I've standardized on 2-pin Cinch-Jones power connectors for more than 50 years.  I must have 500 Cinch connectors in use, counting all fifteen 10-band stations.  The Fresno guys use PowerPoles, as does almost everyone else now.  I brought enough adapter cables, or so I thought.  It turned out I was one short.  Then one of the adapters fell into the black hole between W6TE's truck cab and his large tool box in back.  We had to steal some Cinch connectors and hand-wire several cables to get my "quick-setup" stations running for K6MI, N6MTS and W6TE.  Thank heavens for tape.
     It was about 8 p.m. when we started our DM05 run, right by the In-N-Out Burger parking lot.  Surprisingly, we all quickly worked W6TV 90 miles away on all bands through 10 GHz.  K6MI, using his own new 24 GHz setup, also worked W6TV on that band.  Before the contest ended, John would work W6TV on 24 GHz from six different grid squares.
     We quickly moved to a hilltop in CM95 and ran through the bands again.  Once again, everyone worked W6TV on all possible bands.  Then we went to CM96 (in the flatlands north of Kettleman City) and again ran through the bands.  It was about 10 p.m. when we backtracked into DM06 and all worked W6TV (and each other, of course) once more.  Then we all drove the 80 miles or so to Fresno to spend the night.  Early Sunday morning we went to the Madera convergence to work W6TV and each other on all possible bands again, first in CM97, then in DM07.
     Another of the "antenna-free" stations is shown in the photo at right.  One thing that I thought was really amazing is that the three guys using "antenna-free" stations worked W6TV over fairly long paths as easily as I was working that fixed station with loop-Yagis and other larger microwave antennas. 
     As you can see in the photographs, the stations that I call "antenna-free" use WA5VJB's small PC-board log periodics for 902, 1.2, 2.3, 3.4 and 5.7 GHz.  Those antennas work amazingly well on five amateur bands.  No one would claim they work as well as separate long loop-Yagis for each band, but they work well enough that every possible microwave contact was completed. 
     I can't even imagine hauling three extra toolbox stations (each with larger microwave antennas mounted on a rooftop platform) to Kettleman City to outfit three guys in the middle of a contest--just as it was getting dark on Saturday night.  I started building these smaller stations because it was getting more and more difficult for me to lift the toolbox stations onto a rooftop platform while standing on a ladder.  But it turns out that they also have other advantages:  they are easy to transport and easy to "mount" on a car seat.  Now if I would just take along some extra power adapter cables, we'd be all set.  The rover page at n6nb.com has more technical information about these compact microwave stations.

--Wayne Overbeck, N6NB