After a weekend of RTTY and CW contesting, I’m starting to understand the Elecraft hype. While I’ve enjoyed operating the K3 for the past two weeks, the real beauty of the radio didn’t reveal itself until I tuned around on the CW portion of 40 meters during a busy contest weekend.
The image at the top of this post is a 20 khz slice of 40 meters captured from the P3 panadapter. While I’m used to gazing at a waterfall with PSK traces, I wasn’t prepared to see the entire portion of the 40 meter band covered in CW signals. Keep in mind, this is only 20 khz… it looked like this from 7.001-7.060 mhz!
Even more startling, is that I was able to work nearly every trace up in that image, owing to the capabilities of the K3’s filtering and weak signal reception. Yeah yeah, I know I’m about five years late on this revelation, but this is a new way to work for me, and I can’t see myself ever using a radio without a panadapter now, contest or not!
Whoa slow down… let me back up. So this past weekend I decided to put the K3 through its paces in a contest environment. Up until now, I’d only used the K3 casually around 20-30 watts doing digital modes and some CW. It was time to turn up the heat a bit and see how it performed in difficult situations. I’m happy to report that it performed flawlessly as I drove it hard on full power CW and 80+ watt AFSK RTTY for hours on end.
Friday night I participated in the TARA Grid Dip Shindig, a 24-hour RTTY/PSK-only contest sponsored by the Troy Amateur Radio Association out of New York. The exchange was simple: Name and 4-character grid locator. I enjoy these smaller contests, as they are typically low-pressure and the bands aren’t as jammed up. I began after dinner, about an hour after the contest started. Right off the bat I had success on RTTY, working every signal I could locate on the 20 meter band. Even weak signals were fine, as the K3’s RTTY pass-band filtering was helpful in pulling signals out of the mud. I had decent success in run mode on 20 meters also. I attempted some QSOs on PSK, but only saw one Grid Dipper on the waterfall and he vanished before I could lock onto him.
I went up to 15 meters, and even though the band seemed to be open, I didn’t see any RTTY, so it was down to 40 meters, where a couple operators were hanging out. I worked them, went into run mode again, and closed the evening with only about 25 or so QSOs. There just wasn’t a lot of activity for the Grid Dip.
I resumed my hunt for grids around noon Saturday and picked up a few more. While there were technically many hours left in the contest, I decided to call it quits, take a long, 6-mile walk to clear my head, and return for the start of the North American QSO Party CW contest.
The fact I’m even attempting to participate in a CW contest is laughable at this point in my ham adventure, but I do own a Winkeyer and I know enough CW to make a mess of things. I relied on a combination of the K3’s CW decoder and Fldigi to help me interpret calls and exchanges. I simply can’t copy these guys yet; they move way too fast. Even with the software helping me, it’s a slow process of trying to get the call right, figure out the exchange and work up the nerve to call the station.
Things started off well, but I quickly realized people may be copying my exchange (name, state) wrong. After receiving the station’s exchange, I would send “R ANDY SC” … Of course the R is shorthand for “roger” but if the op on the other side isn’t paying attention to spacing, he could copy my name as RANDY. I realized this was happening when an op repeatedly asked me to send my name. I finally did a fill on the paddles at a slow speed and he gave me a QSL and we completed the contact.
After that, I re-wrote my macro to say “thank you” instead of “roger ” — “TU ANDY SC” — and it seemed to clear up the issue.
Long story short, I worked about 70 CW contacts over the course of a casual evening, with the lion’s share of those on 40 meters. The P3, combined with the 200hz filter, made stepping from one station to the next very easy — even after a few adult beverages, hehe.
By the Numbers
TARA Grid Dip Shindig, RTTY only
42 total QSOs on three bands
- 40m: 6 QSOs
- 20m: 26
- 15m: 10
74 QSOs total on four bands
- 80m: 6
- 40m: 39
- 20m: 15
- 15m: 14
Total unique states contacted over the course of the weekend (both contests): 35
DX stations (most were on RTTY): Slovak Republic, Canada (2-3 different provinces), Slovenia, Netherands, Romania, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, England
I uploaded all my QSOs to LOTW and just after this weekend, I’m nearly halfway to Worked All States: CW. I’m going after that Triple Play!