CQWW DX SSB results and preps for the CW weekend

I’ve been bad about updating this site. I suppose it is a good thing, but I have been extremely busy – but I know there are those who visit here periodically so I need to be better about updating.

The CQWW DX SSB contest exceeded all of my expectations. I had hoped to break 5,000 QSOs – which would match my last SOAB effort from Guam in this contest back in 1999. It turns out that I broke 6,000 QSOs – but fell short of the Oceania single op record. Conditions were good, but not good enough.

Here is the breakdown:

Band QSOs Zones Countries
160: 5 3 5
80: 124 27 35
40: 602 29 67
20: 1227 35 103
15: 2014 35 96
10: 2414 36 100
Total: 6386 165 406 Total Score = 10,602,889

This score is very close to my CW score from last year. I had more multipliers in 2011, but the QSO total is within 100 or so.

I found a number of small issues with the station during the contest. Most of all, my new remote Beverage switch, utilizing the LM3914, worked very poorly. Specifically, it introduced noise into the feed line, which reduced the effectiveness of the receive antennas. Additionally, the noise floor on my NW and W Beverages was much higher than earlier this year – by 5 or 6 S-units. The European Beverages used to be my quietest antenna, but for the contest it was the noisiest.

I replaced my LM3914 “experiment” with a new design, using +12V, -12V, and 12VAC to switch between four antenna positions. Design is similar to the RCS-4. It works fantastic and all the noise generated by the 3914 IC is gone. I also found and corrected the source of the noise on my NW and W Beverages – a bad connection in the RG-6 cable that feeds these antennas. The bad connection allowed the antennas to function, but high resistance allowed ingress of common mode noise from the shield. Once fixed, my European Beverage is now as quiet as it has been in the past.

Last week I had just finished working PT0S on 40m CW (seconds after sending 5NN) when I heard a loud BOOM of thunder and a loud snap in the shack. I had taken a very close lightning strike. I was completely unaware that a storm had moved in, and lightning is rare on Guam. Turns out I was lucky. So far, the only apparent damage is to one antenna port in my 6X2 antenna switch and the house telephone. I am able to bypass this antenna port – and should be ready for next weekend.

I have a few more things to wrap up this week also before the contest. It’s been busy to find time, because of my work responsibilities as Port Engineer. I have a ship that just entered an availability, so my work load will be greatly increased until the project is complete next February. Here are some photos of the haul out of USCGC ASSATEAGUE, a 110ft Island Class patrol boat based here on Guam.

Looking down at the ship from a camera mounted to the main crane hook about 150ft high.
Divers check out the position of the lifting cradle under the ship
ASSATEAGUE is in mid-air as the floating cranes are shifted around to the pier where the ship will sit until work is complete.

Work project

I have been very busy with my job as a Coast Guard Port Engineer and Contracting Officer’s Representative. The Coast Guard Cutter WASHINGTON has been docked since June for about 2.5 million dollars of maintenance work, including about 600 square feet of plate renewal. This project has kept me busy, and off the air for much of the time.

Today, we launched the ship at first light. I am looking forward to completing this project in the next week or two, which should free me up to chase DX and pileups on the low bands (and high bands if the conditions hold up).

How to lift a 110ft long, 125 ton Coast Guard Cutter

I’ve been extremely busy at work, which has been preempting my operating time. The Coast Guard Cutter Washington recently started a maintenance availability, and I’ve been acting as the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) and Port Engineer.

A couple weeks ago, the ship was hauled from the water with two large floating cranes, each rated 100 tons each. The larger of the two cranes was built in 1944 – old technology that still works!

Moving the ship into position
Using the fork lift as a tow truck
In position – time to hoist
The propellers clear the water
Clear of the water – all movement stops for 10 minutes to make sure everything is holding satisfactorily
Pivoting the barges to bring the ship to the pier – the cranes stay locked in position
Almost there…
getting closer…
All done – time for lunch!


USCGC PEA ISLAND Drydock, Day 51

Work is progressing on the Pea Island’s dry dock, now less than 3 weeks from the finish date.  Most of the hull has been blasted, and the re-installation of the engine room is underway.

Port side of the cutter, with the 1st coat of anti corrosive paint on the hull. Some of the areas are still covered for blasting. The grit from blasting gets everywhere, making a big mess of the yard.
The starboard side of the ship, with the rudders and fin stabilizers hanging and ready to be installed.
All the large machinery has been installed in the engine room, and the piping systems are being fitted to the machinery. The hole in the hull is to fit the new main engine exhaust piping.

The Brown Boobies of Cay Verde

My crew recently spent two weeks patrolling the southern Bahamas, and we spent some time anchored next to Cay Verde.  My Executive Officer and I spent some time exploring the island.  As we soon discovered, the island is inhabited only by birds, lizards, snakes, and crabs.  Brown boobies were nesting all over the island, most tending to a pair of eggs.

There is a small natural bridge on the southwest side of the cay, near the place where we landed.
My XO walks along the beach with most of the small cay visible behind him.
One of the thousands of nesting boobies all over the island
One of several snakes we saw, all of the same species. I’m sure they ate well, feeding on bird eggs. I imagine these snakes are an invasive species which probably arrived by ship at some time in the past.
Here’s the view of the northern side of the island, exposed to the prevailing seas
The CGC Pea Island at anchor, with a nesting booby in the foreground

The story behind my header photo

I took the photo used for the header image.  It shows the USCGC PEA ISLAND’s cutter small boat, transiting southward just off the east coast of Anguilla Cay.  Anguilla Cay is the eastern most island of Cay Sal Bank, part of the Bahamas, which is located about mid way between Cuba and the Florida Keys.  Back in 2008 when I took this photo, Cay Sal was a commonly used stopping point for Cuban migrants trying to make their way to US soil.  We went ashore not only for a chance to explore, but also to look for evidence of recent migrant activity.  I loved this photo because of the turquoise waters.

Anguilla Cay