Back in good shape with a clean sweep of the 13 Colonies

Since getting new low-loss coax the home station has been running better than ever. That was evidenced over the last few nights in trying to capture a clean sweep during the 13 Colonies Special Event.

I really enjoy working this one. I’m not as fast as some of these guys, and I often only operate in the evening for a few hours,  so it takes me a few days to get the sweep. I managed about half the stations easily, mostly working them on CW to avoid SSB logjams. Even so, when I went to SSB, I was able to crack the pile-up.

That was evidenced last night when I logged Virginia (K2B) for the final QSO of the event. He had a busy pile-up on 40 meters and operators were losing their sh!t on the cluster, badmouthing the operator for “not being able to control the pile-up” and other random stuff that some entitled hams feel they need to complain about. I really feel bad for operators who are working these special events and get this kind of treatment, particularly in this mostly trivial hobby.

Anyway, after seeing a dozen of these complaints roll up on dxheat.com about how horrible the K2B operator was, it was time for me to tune over and listen for myself. He was fine. He was busy, but whittling through the pile-up. His signal was also huge, being in that sweet spot range for 40 meters from my QTH.

I tossed my call into the void over hundreds of others. He got me immediately, 100% copy on my call. We exchanged signal reports and just like that, I was done with the event.

Looking back over my log, I had 21 total QSOs during the event, with 11 of those CW. I didn’t attempt digital modes. I had the most QSOs with K2K (New Hampshire) with dupes on 40m CW (oops), one on 20m phone and another on 20m CW. I grabbed K2L (my home state of SC on 80 meters CW and phone), and I also nabbed the bonus station of WM3PEN with a near ESP QSO with fading conditions on the 20m band.

I found CW a lot easier to deal with, even on the two split operations I worked (one was K2I, New Jersey, my penultimate QSO). There really is something magical about the K3 radio because it just gets heard, whether on CW or SSB. These splits were a piece of cake, especially using the P3 panadaptor (I say this to people so often I feel like a broken record, but it’s really an advantage). I also have to give a hand to the Yamaha CM500 headset. These things are comfortable and I can listen without getting ear fatigue. They just sound good.

Speaking of CW, using my key after two cups of coffee resulted in some poor code — too nervous! However drinking a couple beers seemingly improved my fist and my operating, as I found myself hitting the keyer with a lot more confidence.

This is the second year I’ve done the full sweep. Maybe I’ll even send off for the QSL card this time!

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Two all-time new ones!

I was looking back on my Logbook of the World account the other night and lamenting the fact that I’ve been stuck at 93 confirmed DXCC entities for at least a few years now. As I’ve posted here before, I’ve contacted more than 100 countries, but I really want to complete the award using LOTW confirms only.

So I thought it was time for some targeted DXing. Scour the clusters, find the obscure countries, determine if they are on LOTW, and if so, try to work them. As I am still down an antenna here, I met up with friends Saturday morning over at the Little Mountain shack to use the tri-bander.

GP0STH, Guernsey Island

Right off the bat we snagged GP0STH, Guernsey Island, on 20m phone. There were a few other interesting prospects on the dial. Vatican City was booming but working a pile 5-10 up. The operator isn’t an LOTW user, but we gave it a shot anyway to no success.

A code operator from Ghana was also operating a split pile-up but an inability to get heard, plus massive QSB made that attempt a failure as well.

Fortunately,  a DXpedition in Niger had a great pair of ears. 5U5R was operating split on 15-meter CW. I jumped in and he got me after about 5 minutes of trying. I felt like it may have been an ESP QSO, so I was encouraged when I checked his online log this morning and found a confirmation for my callsign!

So that’s a few new ones in the book and hopefully they will result in LOTW confirmations. If so, I’m five away from the wallpaper!

Nice effort for the S.C. QSO Party

A group of us decided to break away from normal club plans and team up for the South Carolina QSO Party this year. We chose to operate from the shack of the Dutch Fork Amateur Radio Group and used their callsign, W4DFG.

We had two K3s (mostly used for SSB), a Kenwood 590 on CW, and a Yaesu 857 for digital modes. Owing to a work commitment, I didn’t arrive at the shack until nearly two hours after the contest started, but I planned to stay in until the end. I quickly setup my K3 and had three major problems right off the bat:

One, the bandpass filter I was handed was causing a very high SWR during anything but the shortest transmissions. I pulled that and we later discovered something inside it had burned out.

Next, the power supply I borrowed (some Radio Shack thing), couldn’t handle long transmissions, such as a RTTY CQ, and as such, my radio kept cutting off. We fixed that issue by swapping in an Astron.

Third, N1MM was freezing up and complaining about my digital setup (specifically, the port). I’d just updated the software the night before and thought I’d tested it thoroughly. Evidently I hadn’t. Anyway, after futzing with that for a couple minutes, I saw my error and I was up to full speed and calling CQ on 20 meter voice.

Sounds like a mess, but this is the typical shakedown after picking up my rig and moving to an unfamiliar location.  Anyway, I had the pleasure of using the shack’s tri-band beam, and that’s always a pleasure. We aimed it west and left it there for the duration of the day and we were able to work just about everything we heard. I didn’t do any search and pounce, and my voice paid for it, especially since I was already nursing a bit of a sore throat/head cold to begin with. I went through a half bag of cough drops and pressed on.

Oh, and I added a neat new piece of kit to my setup: The Yamaha CM500 headset. At a fraction of the price of the Heil Pro Set, the Yamaha seemed to do a fine job. I had multiple unsolicited good reports on the quality of my audio. I didn’t really alter the settings I use for the Heil PR781 (which are the Heil-suggested settings), but I did use less compression and a lot less mic gain, since the Yamaha has an electret mic.

The best part is the easy setup. The K3 has connectors on the rear for headphones and a mic, so the Yamaha plugged in without needing any special adaptors or splitters. The only thing I had to do was switch the K3’s settings to use the rear mic panel and turn on the bias. I was able to run on VOX the whole time and keep my hands free for logging.

So how did the contest go? Fine I’d say! I made 160 QSOs from my station, mostly on SSB, but I did break into some RTTY for a bit. However with the North American QSO Party RTTY contest going, it made for some confusing exchanges. I finally just started sending the NAQP exchange AND the SCQP exchange at the same time. I operated mostly on 20 meters, but dipped into 15 meters for a bit, and did quite a few QSOs on 40 meters later in the day.

The other SSB station, which started on time, managed nearly twice as many QSOs and had a revolving door of operators. We also had a few code operators, who racked up more than 130 CW contacts. Our digital guy probably had the hardest job of the day because there just aren’t many digital participants in this contest, but he did pick up a bonus station on PSK, and another dozen or so contacts, which gave him a nice score.

I noticed quite a few bad attitudes on the air, and I got the full force of one during a run on 20 meters. It went something like this:

After more than 20 minutes of operating on a remarkably clear frequency, 14.263 —

Unknown annoyed guy: “You guys need to move away, you’re interfering with the DX on 261.”

Me: “I’m sorry to hear that friend, I’ve been looking at my panadaptor and I’m clear on both sides.”

Annoyed guy: “OK have it your way, you just keep being an idiot and I’ll keep calling on top of you.”

Me: “No one’s interfering with me. I haven’t heard a thing but the stations calling me.”

Annoyed guy: “Get a better antenna.”

(By now I’m eyeing the K3 and thinking about the giant Yagi I’m using… it doesn’t get much better to be honest.)

I was pretty stunned because I’d cleared the frequency asking if it was in use no less than three times before calling CQ. I wasn’t being interfered with at all. I’m running only 100 watts, and as I mentioned to the a$$hole, the band scope showed a mostly clear portion.

I tuned up to .261 to see what the fuss was about. There was no DX there. No, he was actually at .258 (maybe he moved?), and his sidebands were splattering nearly as far out as .261. Oh, and what was this RARE entity that was worth such angst from my annoyed friend? An American operating from Costa Rica. Wow, that’s right up there with Navassa Island bro.

I had a similar incident later on 40 meters, when a guy jumped in on top of my callers and made a rant about foreigners. Then someone called him an idiot and the frequency erupted in insults. I just moved off that, waited a moment and came back to it once the troll had moved on, presumably to 7.200.

I wasn’t the only person fighting trolls, as I heard our other SSB station run off a few.

But overall, a strong finish on the day. We logged 639 QSOs and should have a top finish in our class!

My First SOTA Activation: Sassafras Mountain (W4C/US-001)

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The overlook at Sassafrass Mountain affords a beautiful view to the west.

Cross one more item off my ham radio bucket list: Activating a peak for Summits on the Air.

When I was first seeking my license, I quickly discovered the cult that is SOTA. I believe it was Jerry, KD0BIK’s podcast that introduced me to the concept, but it could have also been many of the blogs I follow. Certainly, the famous videos posted on YouTube by Steve, WG0AT, probably played a role, as they are a ham radio resource that everyone seems to discover at some point. I was fascinated by the program and couldn’t wait to get started.

Not long after getting on HF, I purchased a Yaesu FT-817 and a Buddistick and started planning my first summit. Well, that was more than 3 years ago. Some while back I actually hiked from Rocky Bottom, to the 1,083 meter summit of Sassafras Mountain, the tallest peak in South Carolina, with the intention of operating, only to discover on the peak that I’d left my paracord home and couldn’t suspend the dipole I’d brought along.

I enjoyed a panel discussion on SOTA at a Charlotte Hamfest in 2013, and that was the day I realized I would need to make a serious effort to learn Morse code, as all the guys who presented operated strictly CW.

So now, some years later, this past Saturday, I finally found myself again standing on the peak of Sassafras Mountain with my 817, a dipole and a vertical antenna. This time around I was accompanied by fellow ham Steve, KI4VGA, who I’ve mentioned here before. We’re both nascent code operators trying to get better, and we both enjoy operating in the field.

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There were once trees up here, but the peak has been deforested to make way for another overlook and trail amenities.

The once lush peak had been deforested since my last visit, so there were no trees of consequence to hang the dipole. The vertical was made for this, so I erected it and got down to business tuning the coil for 40 meters SSB.

I’d planned to use Rockwell’s SOTA Goat app on my phone to spot myself, but cellular reception was dicey to non-existent. I proceeded to call CQ on the phone portion to no avail. Many minutes of calling elapsed with no luck. I clicked up to 20 meters and tried again. Nothing.

Just for fun, I plugged in Steve’s Bencher key and called CQ SOTA. To my surprise, KX0R came back to me. I struggled mightily to copy his code though. He’s a big SOTA fan, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he were transmitting from a peak himself.

sota4

Yep, we’re going to use the Buddistick for this.

About that time my cell phone’s reception picked up and I was able to submit my spot to SOTAWatch, and noted “slow code PSE” in the comment field. Immediately, I had stations calling. It probably wasn’t a pile-up, but it sure felt like it. Between Steve and I, we were able to make out the callsigns of most of the stations. It took liberal use of the question mark to complete the calls, but most guys seemed patient. I was grateful for the 500hz CW filter too.

We had a nice opening to the west and logged Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Missouri and more. I logged 13 QSOs back-to-back and went QRT. I was twitching with adrenaline and I realized I’d been in a trance-like state for the better part of 20 minutes. I tried 40m SSB once more, submitted a spot, and picked up a single Florida station. Perhaps it was the approaching storm, but the noise levels seemed high on 40, so I turned off the rig and began packing up, confident that we’d activated the four-point peak.

I’m amused at how I’ve come full-circle: I got serious with Morse code because of my interest in SOTA. Then, when all seemed lost on my first activation, using Morse code turned out to be the key to success.

sota5

Straight key, FT-817 and a paper log, a.k.a., “working with stone knives and bear skins.”

I realize now that I couldn’t have done this a few years ago; I needed the additional experience of several years to understand how to manage (if you want to call it that) several code callers, and how to stay cool, get the full callsign, exchange reports, and recover from huge mistakes. And well, I know I made a lot of mistakes. And it’s OK to screw up. After all, I’m sitting on a slab of granite, with a 5-watt radio, tapping out code on a straight key, on a fricking mountain!

Needless to say, I understand why people are addicted to SOTA and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity. South Carolina has very few peaks, but I’d enjoy hiking back up to Pinnacle, or Table Rock someday, maybe in the fall during cooler temperatures.

Two more ham radio bucket list items to go: Talking to astronauts on ISS and EME!

Learning how to be a ham again

I logged my first QSO of the new year tonight, and it was a CW contact.

I missed all the action with the North America QSO Party (SSB) this weekend, although I did have the radio on for an hour or so and listened to the exchanges. I managed to clear some time Sunday evening around twilight in hopes of catching some grayline propagation.

I started on 17 meters USB and discovered the band was open. My first target was a station in Guadeloupe, FG4NN. While he was +10dB over S9 here, he wasn’t hearing me. To be fair, he had a lot of JAs calling him and was grabbing them over weak stateside stations like me. I don’t blame ’em.

While waiting in the pile-up, I heard N0UN boom in at 40 over, one-shot the QSO and get out. I’m a fan of N0UN’s blog, so it was cool hearing him live.

Anyway, life’s too short to sit in an endless pile-up on sideband, so I dialed up 20 meters, didn’t hear anything fun there, and made my way to 40 meters. There was a lot of SSB action, but mostly ragchew, so I decided to check the CW portion of the band and see if I could make any sort of QSO before heading to dinner.

Tuning around, I heard a CQ call and paused. It was FG/F5HRY, a French station, apparently operating out of Guadeloupe (the Caribbean again?). At first, the code sounded like gibberish to me. I realized just how long I’d been away from the rig. Fortunately, he was keeping the exchanges as short as possible: 5NN TU. I can understand that just fine. I like that.

I placed the rig in test mode and tested out my key for a minute or two. Yep, I can still send my call and 5NN. Once he ran out of takers, I fired off my call and (of course) botched the “S,” sending an “I” instead. I’m used to making this mistake, so I tried to keep cool. He came back with KK4DID, so I resent my call. He came back with a partial and “?” for the suffix. Excellent. I fired my call off again, didn’t muff it up, and he repeated it back with a report. Then I realized my hand was shaking I was so nervous. I barely managed to key out “RR 5NN TU” and that was that. My first QSO of 2015 was in the log.

I have a couple informal goals for the year:

  • First and foremost, I need to get interested in the hobby again, even if I can just set aside and hour or two several times a week to operate. SPAR Winter Field Day is coming up this weekend, and while I won’t be operating solo, I sure hope to make a few Qs with my club.
  • Secondly, I want to officially complete DXCC. I have more than 100 unique countries in the log, but I’d say only about 60 of them are confirmed via Logbook of the World. It’s time to get this one sorted out.
  • Finally, I want to activate a Summits on the Air peak. I’ve wanted to do this since before I was licensed. I have the gear to do it; I just need to make the time.

There’s no excuse not to work an SKCC sprint

I joined SKCC last year as a way to improve my CW skills via their e-mail reflector and the monthly sprints they host. I’ve only made a few SKCC contacts since then, but they have all been memorable.

A few months back I was hanging around the SKCC board on the Sked Page trying to pin down a few states I needed for the Triple Play, and I worked a few of the gentlemen using my straight key. A few days later I received an e-mail from Ed, KG4W, who encouraged me to participate in some of the SKCC sprints, because South Carolina isn’t a state often heard during SKCC activity.

He was kind enough to suggest a “rubber stamp” format to make the exchange easier to deal with, but he also clued me in on a very nice logging program developed for SKCC, called SKCCLogger, that queries the SKCC database to extract the name, location and SKCC number automatically as the QSO is being logged. This is not unlike the QRZ function on something like Ham Radio Deluxe, but the added benefit here is that it pulls the SKCC number, which is likely the trickiest portion of the exchange.

So I installed AC2C’s SKCCLogger (SKCCLogger direct download), allowed it to download data files from SKCC, and took a look around. My first thought was “Wow, this is a nice logging program,” not just for SKCC, but for any general logging. I set up the ports for my radio in the configuration and it pulled the frequency from my radio without any issues.

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AC2C’s SKCCLogger, ready for action.

Since I can’t remember my own SKCC number most of the time, I was happy to see my number in the top of the logging window as a constant reminder. Typing in a callsign, the remote station’s name, location and SKCC number appeared instantly in the logging fields, and the logger checks for dupes. One tap of the enter key and the QSO is logged, and ready for the next QSO, quickly, as in N1MM style.

This program should make search and pounce sprinting a piece of cake!

So what about the exchange and format of the SKCC sprint QSO itself? Well, Ed gave me some good advice (which consequently, is good advice for any CW contest or even a rubber stamp QSO:

  • Wait for the remote station to call CQ, an example for SKCC would be “CQ WES DE KG4W” – WES is short for “Weekend  Sprintathon”
  • Toss out your callsign, “KK4DSD KK4DSD”
  • Provided I get heard, the remote station should come back with my call, or at least a partial. I know from experience, people often send “DSD?” because my call is rather long, that’s the last part they catch. When a station comes back with my partial, I simply send my whole call again, once or twice.
  • Listen for the exchange: So assuming I’m working Ed, KG4W, he’d send something like “KK4DSD UR 5NN VA ED NR 2416S DE KG4W BK” — BUT, the SKCCLogger program has already given me all that info, so I COULD be daydreaming about sipping a cold beverage on the island of Ibiza while I work QRP DX from the shore, and I’d still have Ed’s info correct.
  • Then it becomes my duty to send my exchange, which would be something along these lines: “RR UR 5NN SC ANDY NR 10768 DE KK4DSD BK”
  • I’d confirm his final “TU dit-dit,” log the QSO, and spin the dial in search of another.

One power tip: Be sure to update your information on SKCC’s site to ensure your name/state is correct. When I signed up on SKCC, I used “Andrew” as my first name. On the air, I always use the name “Andy” as it’s shorter to send in code.  So I went to the SKCC site and had them update my name to the shorter version. A few hours later, I re-downloaded the SKCC data in the logger and my handle was properly updated in the database.

A couple interesting stations in the log

I managed to work W1AW/0 and /5 both on 40 meter CW Saturday night (that makes two bands for each now), but it was a contact with Panama, HO100CANAL, that really made my day. That’s not a call sign I’d like to have to send in CW very often though. It was a new country for me too.

All three QSOs were straightforward splits and easy grabs.

I saw some Macedonian stations on the cluster last night and heard Z35T booming on 20M with very few takers. I tried working him several times but either he didn’t hear me, or chose not to respond, because he merely continued calling CQ.

A short distance down the band I located Z33Z, equally strong, but with QSB, and he picked me up on the first shot. Unfortunately I muffed my own callsign and ended up sending something like KK4DIN, so after he sent me a signal report, I tried to get my call corrected. It took a few tries but we got it sorted out.

After the QSO I checked my log only to realize I’d worked Macedonia ages ago. So much for new DX — although it was nice to get that country on code. At present I have 107 DX entities in the log, with 64 confirmed on Logbook of the World. Perhaps one weekend I will figure out which countries I need to send QSL cards to in order to complete DXCC.

First QSOs with the Vibroplex

I was fortunate to have off on Friday, so I took the opportunity to get on the air for a bit this morning before I headed off to run errands.

I noticed the solar flux index was quite high, so I started on 10 meters. As I tuned around I encountered two beacons located in California. Interesting. I decided to call CQ at 10 watts or so on CW and see if I could get spotted on the Reverse Beacon Network. I got spotted alright, by KD6WKY, who hailed me for a QSO. I was struggling mightily to both copy and send the code, so I hacked and slashed my way through what had to be an awful QSO for the guy on the other end. At least he was a solid 599!

I tuned around a bit on 12 meters and ran into PJ4H, a German DXpedition on Bonaire. He was running a split operation, with very few takers, so I jumped into the fray and one-shotted the QSO, sending 5NN SC TU and backed out.

I decided to see if anything was shaking on 17 meters, and it was. It took me a few tries, but OV1CDX out of Denmark caught my call and we had a very brief exchange. He was a solid 589.

I switched over to SSB and heard KP4FD on the phone portion of 17M. He picked me up on the first shot, and during our chat, mentioned to me that he did his basic training at Ft. Jackson here in Columbia. I get that response quite often.

Seeing some new action spring forth on the panadapter, I spun the dial backwards a few KC and landed on CT7AEQ out of Portugal calling CQ. Another one-shot!

I returned to the radio around 11 p.m. and went on the hunt for some nice action on CW. I found WD9DWE calling CQ at a medium pace on 40 meters, so I gave him a call and we had a nice rubber stamp QSO with an exchange of SKCC numbers for good measure.

Then it was down to 80M CW to snipe off W1AW/5. He was operating split and grabbed me after two calls. Great op!

I just added W1AW/0 over on 20 meter CW after hanging out in the split pile-up for a bit. I’m getting some good practice with the Vibroplex. This thing has really grown on me. I feel like it could be adjusted a little tighter, but it’s working out quite well — much nicer than I thought when I first began using it 6 days ago.

First look: The Vibroplex Vibrokeyer

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My “new” Vibroplex Vibrokeyer, circa 1978.

I learned CW on a set of borrowed Bencher BY-1 iambic paddles. Ultimately I had to give those paddles back to their owner, and I’ve been paddle-less ever since.

Having knocked out more than half the U.S. states on the old Ameco straight key, and used it for a few late-night ragchews, it had become the proverbial “extension of my hand” — and yet pounding out each dit and dah was, to be honest, tiring, possibly owing to the fact that the Ameco isn’t a high-grade key. The flimsy stamped metal parts, sloppy action and stiff springs made for a “unique” experience. Only after trying a precision Kent straight key at the Charlotte hamfest did I understand what I had been missing.

I tried a Begali recently, and it was definitely a high-quality item. It’s a piece of fine art, and probably too nice for a CW novice such as myself. Yes, the Benchers are just about right for me: Utilitarian, precise and no-nonsense. I’ve recently entertained the notion of a sideswiper, or “cootie” key.

Last week a member of our club indicated he had picked up a lot of ham gear at an estate sale. He told me had Vibroplex paddles, which I took to mean, he had dual lever iambic paddles. I was certainly interested, because Vibroplex is one of the oldest companies in ham radio, and they have a notorious reputation for building quality code keys; in fact, the official ARRL “Centennial Key” is a Vibroplex Deluxe Iambic.

So when I saw the Vibrokeyer, I was initially taken aback, fearing I was looking at a bug. Where was the other paddle? I took a closer look and determined I could hook it up as either a sideswiper, or a semi-iambic style keyer (Technically it’s not iambic, since you can’t close both contacts at once). It was old and that appealed to me too. Plus, online reviews of it are universally positive, so I whipped out the cash and headed home with a new piece of kit to play with. The key came in the original box shipped from Vibroplex, with the original typed instructions on adjustment and usage.

The first order of business was adjusting the key. As it rested in the box, the action was floppy, with more than a centimeter of lever movement side to side. A couple adjustments later and I had it firmed up, with about 1-2mm of movement on the arm and contact spacing just slightly larger than the width of a sheet of paper. It felt about right, so I configured it as a sideswiper by connecting it to my straight key cable, then tied the two outer contact posts together with a short jumper of hookup wire.

Right off the bat, I didn’t like this configuration. The key is fairly heavy, but the feet on the base lack grip and the back-and-forth motion needed to send continuous strings of dits had the key sliding all over the desk. Even after I secured it a bit more, I discovered I didn’t really care for the sideswiper mode because my timing was inconsistent. I believe I could improve with practice, but the Vibrokeyer seemed too clunky for this technique, and not really intended for that purpose.

Just for giggles, here is a brief video of me sending some code as a sideswiper. My technique is quite poor, but by the end of the string, I’ve settled into a nice speed:

Next, I fabricated a new cable so I could use the key as intended, with repeated dashes and dits courtesy of my rig’s keyer.

My code sounded a lot better and I found the key much easier to use, until the old muscle memory of squeeze keying took over and I found it nearly impossible to retrain my fingers to send letters starting on a dit, like R, L and F. Practice, practice and more practice will be required. 17 WPM seems to be about my sweet spot at this time.

Here’s another quick video of the key in automatic operation. I still need to minimize my hand movement, but at least I’m not slapping it around:

Impressions

The Vibrokeyer is chunky. Heavy, but not heavy enough. Instead of a scalpel, I feel like I’m using a ratchet wrench. It feels very “American” and I don’t mean that in a bad way necessarily. It’s the Corvette to the Porsche: Big, brash and brutal, but still very, very good.

Like one of the old jacked-up mag-wheeled Camaros of the 1970s, I feel like the key sits up a little too high. The hinged action of the lever results in a certain “floppy” quality. Further adjustment is likely needed. The trunnion screws that float the lever in place also need to be adjusted to remove some of the up and down rattle. I’m still working on this.

Honestly, I’m not sure this is the key for me. I’ve tested a Vibroplex Code Warrior Jr . several times and it suits me. It’s small, elegant and effective. The Vibrokeyer is going to take some getting used to, but I will persist and keep practicing. This key has been on the market since 1960, and as one reviewer on eHam noted, this is a “timeless classic,” so I intend to explore it as fully as possible before writing it off completely.

Three down, one state left

Despite my rambling post of only a few hours ago, things are looking hopeful. I managed to get three big ones in the log this evening.

My efforts in e-mailing hams paid off for Delaware and Wyoming, and the K3UK board finally yielded a North Dakota digital QSO to land me a true Worked All States – Digital endorsement. I’m still waiting for a few confirmations on LOTW, but with tonight’s acquisitions, I’m left still hunting for Nebraska.

As I mentioned in my previous diatribe, I had to eat some humble pie and start e-mailing some guys in these rare states and ask for help. I located Karl, N8NA, in Delaware via the ARRL’s website because he was the W1AW portable operator for Delaware a few months back. Gee, it sure would have been great if I’d just caught Delaware while that was going on. I must have been reading the new Harley Quinn comics … or something.

Anyway, I e-mailed him and he wrote back within an hour and agreed to meet up with me around 10 p.m. We exchanged cell phone numbers and when 10 p.m. hit, we arranged the QSO and frequency via text message. The irony of this fact is not lost on me. We made the contact on 80 meters, then moved to 30 meters because he needed SC on that band. I was happy to oblige, although conditions were rotten. I could still make out his call, so it went into the log.

Around that same time, Alan, KO7X, out of Wyoming, e-mailed me and said he was game for a QSO. I immediately replied and he responded with a QRG. We completed the QSO on 20 meters with some QSB, but decent reports both ways.

I then noticed Griz, KD4POJ, out of North Dakota, on the Sked Page. He was setting up his rig for RTTY and sent me a frequency on 20 meters to attempt the contact. He was a genuine 599 with a booming signal and we had a conversational but short QSO.

I closed the evening with a quickie QSO with Mark, K4ED, out of Virginia, just to get that state in the log again for insurance, since all my VA contacts thus far have not confirmed for unknown reasons.

The weirdest moment of the night? When my wife walked in while I was in QSO with KO7X to inform me that my keying was dimming the lights in the house. Now that’s some powerful code!