The Long Way Around

This weekend I’ve been able to spend a few hours chasing stations in the SKCC K3Y Celebration. I’m doing okay considering I’ve only had one other day this month to operate. Africa, Europe, North America. Nothing yet in OC, AS, KH6 or KL7 but these were long shots anyway given the brief time I’ve managed to get on the air.

Also this weekend was the CQ 160 CW contest. I didn’t know that ahead of time, I sort of stumbled into it when one of the SKCC operators moved to TopBand and I decided to follow him there just to see if I could copy. My antenna is really too short for 80 meters and is ridiculous for 160. I didn’t even hear him but I did hear lots of strong stations calling ‘CQ Test’ and a quick check confirmed this was a contest weekend on that band.

I used to operate regularly on 160 and miss it. Well, I should say that I miss the good times – and those are few and far between on TopBand. Usually in the winter, in the dark. All other times the noise on that band is more than I can stand. No matter now, I don’t have room for even a modest aerial on 160 at this QTH and so regularly avoid that end of the dial.

But tuning around in the pre-dawn hours revealed a lot of CW signals crying out in the wilderness.

And a fellow can only take so much before reaching for the key. I didn’t even try to tune-up, what would be the point of being rebuked by the auto-tuner, I knew it was a dumb idea.

Oh, and just to make it tougher, since I was actually working in the SKCC event, I had a straight key connected to the rig. Here were these signals ripping along at 35wpm and me with a straight key, 100 watts and a coat hanger for an antenna. Nuts, I know…

One big signal just kept calling ‘CQ Test’ and I had to oblige him, or try. I reached for the key and tapped out my call sign without hope of a reply. But he did. And so did the next guy. And the next. Some slowed to match my painful 18 wpm, some didn’t. A few required a repeat from me, the rest didn’t.

In the end, I put all of seven contacts in the log. NE, KY, NC, GA, WV, MI, OH. I could have worked more and thought I should try for an even ten. But being the un-prepared interloper I wasn’t willing to risk humiliation – and my real weekend goal was in the K3Y Celebration.

But it’s not my fault if RF wants to roam, even when forced to take the long way around to do it.

Author: Jeff Davis