Six Meter Surprise

Muncie Reservoir

We visited the famers market on Saturday morning as is our usual routine. This time around the sweet corn is coming in nicely and we ended up bringing some of it home along with a handful of green beans, snap peas, red potatoes, radishes and tomatoes. Since becoming empty-nesters just a month ago, we still haven’t quite figured out how to cook – or buy food – for just the two of us.

The weather was still picture perfect after a splendid 4th of July so after our morning at the market, we spent much of the rest of the day outside. We drove out to the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which is headquartered on a thousand wide-open acres here in Muncie, and watched many skilled pilots put their larger than life models through the paces in preparation for the Nationals Competition (NATS) that will take place here beginning tomorrow.

After that, we drove back out to the Prairie Creek Reservoir and took a long walk around the shore of the lake. It’s a great place to get out of town and out of doors without having to make a long road trip.

By the time we got back home and had enjoyed those fresh veggies for supper (the sweet corn was excellent!), it was getting dark and I headed to the shack for awhile. I still hadn’t worked the W1AW portables in Utah and Wisconsin this week so I thought it time to get them in the log if possible. My work schedule isn’t permitting me enough time to get them all, but I think I’ve managed to work both stations, at least once, every weekend since early April or thereabouts and now the chase has become a routine.

Normally I can spin the dial from 7.0 to 7.03 and find the mini pile-up that has come to characterize these W1AW/p operations. But not tonight. Tuning around yielded no results so I called on the DX cluster for a little assist. The spots showed them operating on 12 and 6 meters with one aging spot showing the WI station having been on 30 meters about an hour earlier.

Given that my antenna isn’t optimized for 12 meters and doesn’t exist for 6, I decided to swing by 30 meters to see if the /9 was still hanging out there. Lucky for me he was, and in just a few seconds he was in the log.

One down, one to go.

The cluster still showed the UT station on Six meters and not only that, it showed that there was an opening in progress on the Magic Band. Having nothing but my long dipole connected to the rig I thought I’d have a listen since openings on Six can be very exciting. Turns out, I never was able to hear W1AW/7 on Six meters but there were a handful of signals that were easy copy and all of them calling CQ. I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained, and hit the auto-tuner. That went well but the instant I touched the paddles to reply to a persistent CQ call, it was lights out.

The radio tripped out. The mismatch caused it to fold back enough to activate the safety circuit. I’ve seen this happen before and knew it would be two minutes before it reset itself. When it did, Mark, K1RO in New Hampshire was calling and listening with a big signal — but what could I do?

It was too much for me fellows. I turned the power back to 25 watts, crossed my fingers and gave him a call. This time, the radio didn’t go dark and K1RO was in the log on Six. I worked a few more in the same manner adding TX and MS before deciding that my luck was probably running its course and I didn’t want to risk damage to the gear.

I never did hear the UT station on 50mHz but by that time he was spotted on 17m and it took just three calls to put him in the log. Both of the W1AW/p stations logged, though only on one band each, but logged, I decided to call it a night.

But that brief opening on Six was exciting and got me thinking that I really should put up a small three element beam. It’s practically virgin territory for me. I haven’t worked DX on the ‘Magic Band’ since Jimmy Carter was president and I’m nowhere near WAS on that band.

Nearly 40 years into this hobby and I’ve yet to run out of new things that need doing…

Author: Jeff Davis