I awoke this morning and one of the headlines in the NY Times said that a
suicide bomber in Sanaa, Yemen had killed something like 300 people
yesterday not far from the government house - if I recall reading it
Since I was there not 4 days ago, there but the "GRACE OF GOD GO
I".....fortunately, our team all made it out of there safely as far as I
know and I doubt I would return anytime soon.....even though the Yemeni
people I met were all friendly, hard-working people who treated us very
LET'S TALK ABOUT 160M STRATEGY
As we all know, 160M is still the GENTLEMAN'S BAND - but, whenever
something like a 7O6T shows up, we all (myself included) sometimes
forget ourselves and fall into the very bad habit of:
1) Calling even when we cannot really hear
2) Calling on QSB peaks when we think we might hear
3) Calling even when it was not our callsign that the station is responding to
ETC ETC ETC
I heard all of this and MORE in the bedlam that was the 160M NA pileup in the days leading up to my departure to 7O.
W3UR even remarked on ON4KST that when R7LV was answering me and had me
as K1Z? K1Z? K1Z? - that every letter of the alphabet was in there on
TOP OF ME as I was trying to get the last letter across - and I believe
he was probably correct as the calling qrg surely was not clear when I
checked it now and then.
Now why am I mentioning this? Well not because it is poor operating
procedure (which it truly is and we should all try to be better than
that) - but for a far more IMPORTANT reason.
What sounds here in NA as a cacauphony of MASSIVE NOISE that is S9+ 40DB
is far worse over at 7O6T. Picking out stations who are 339 in that
kind of hysterical calling takes forever and when openings are really
short, what it does is actually drive the RATE DOWN and fewer qso's are
actually made in the time that is available - and that hurts everyone.
For example: On 11 May when I worked 134 NA in 85 minutes, I was
listening DOWN 4 I think it was and, once the band really opened to the
East Coast around 0045z, there was a MASSIVE CORE PILEUP centered on
1821 or so - and truth be told, there was some SERIOUS NA RF in there
However, and this is the main point I wish to make here - even though I
am a pretty decent op on Topband, even I cannot deal efficiently with
that kind of MESS in my headphones. I quickly realized that I had two
1) Grapple with the HUGE MESS - and pick out a call or a partial call
every 2-3 minutes or so - a process which could easily have WASTED
PRECIOUS TIME in what were VERY SHORT openings
2) Tune off to the side up or down a bit and listen for stations who
were calling in relatively clear space - please note that even a far
weaker signal than the MAIN ROARING PILE has a distinct advantage over
those in the MAIN PILE - and truly seasoned 160m ops like
W9ZR/K8MFO/W8UVZ/K8GG/N4JJ/NA0Y/WB9Z and others are well plugged-in to
this fact. They made it into my LOG because they knew what to do in
order to be heard - they all realized their signals would never be as
BIG over in 7O as stations in Maine or New England and they changed
their calling behaviour as a result and it worked!.
The reason I worked as many truly DISADVANTAGED stations in the "hole"
as I did was because they did it right and LET ME FIND THEM.
When I spoke to Jerry WB9Z, he told me he had almost given up - but just
as the signals were going into "STAR WARS" mode, I found him and I only
heard his call once - with all kinds of doppler and echo on it - BUT HE
WAS IN THE CLEAR.
He was easy copy even though his true RST was something like 339.
So there is some strategy to be applied here the next time folks:
1) If you think the operator is doing some TUNING on the other side of
the pile - spread out and get into a clear spot and LET THE OP FIND YOU.
2) Unless you are a W8JI or a VE1ZZ or even a W8LRL - or unless you
happen to own an ocean front location, calling into the MAIN PILE is
like suicide. I did not do too much listening to the main pile - except
when I could pick out a caller who peaked for a few seconds - but it
was far more effective to tune off to the side and work the weaker guys
who elected to call outside the maddening, hungry crowd.
Guys - there is a real lesson here.....I hope it works for you the next
time if you realize the operator on the other side is not focusing on
the main pile exclusively....
7O6T FREQUENCY SELECTION
When I visited with AA1K and W3UR, I told them I probably would listen
for the USA below 1810 kHz in an attempt to keep the European guys out
of my hair when directing CQ's to NA only. I usually like 1801-1804 if
it is clear. This time, I found for the MOST PART, the EU stations
honored my CQ NA attempts and only a few times did I have to ask for
them to give me a clear shot at NA.
THANK YOU TO EUROPE for that kindness - we worked a bazillion Eu
stations on Topband - and you guys had more than a clean shot. The NA
guys had poor prop and little time to make the grade - and this kindness
enabled many to make the grade in the end.
Generally, I would have to say condx were POOR to NA during my 5 nights there.
Sometimes the band would open about 0000z but close prior to 0100z for the most part.
It would open about 0030z and close to NA for the most part by 0115z.
EXCEPT FOR THE NIGHT OF MAY 10 into MAY 11th (by zulu time). This was a kind of day we all LIVE FOR on Topband!
VE1ZZ showed up at 2359z and as usual blew me out of the chair.
I told Jack that I was at the key and he checked in about 5 mins again to advise that I was truly 599+ at his QTH.
So I asked Jack to please call me and tell me WHEN NA was hearing me and
calling me. This Jack did as requested and please note he did not tell
me who was calling - what he did was say NA W1 is calling now.
About 10 minutes later I managed to pick out a very weak Will K6ND
calling from Mass and this started a run of stations that was
It was slow going at first but by 0040z I could hear the ROARING MAIN
PILE - and every time I listened it was CHOCK FULL of W1/W2/W3 stations.
If I knew the call, I stayed with it a bit but quickly realized that
it was not the best approach.
What I did that night was something I learned long ago from Don Miller's
operations in the 1960's. Don, who we all know is infamous, did happen
to be one of the smartest CW operators who ever lived - and what I did
was only a part of what I knew he was capable of doing in managing a
I split my VFO's and tuned off the pile in one ear and then listened
just on the other side of the MAIN pile in the other ear. I could also
hear pieces of the MAIN PILE just off to the side in one ear.
Very soon thereafter I found I was able to pick out 3 to 4 calls at a time and I would send the first one a report.
Sometimes, the calling station did not CFM and come back right away - so
I sent the NEXT caller on my short list a report - got the CFM on that
one and then called the first station a second time - if still no reply,
I went on to the 3RD callsign I had in my head. If he did not CFM I
sent it again. Then I sent a report a 3rd time to caller number 1 and
so on and so on until those 3-4 stations I knew were good QSO's.
Then it was on to the next batch of calls - It worked I think because I
knew some guys probably were not hearing me all that well - but rather
than do this stuff single-thread, I was able to maintain a much HIGHER
run rate by multiprocessing the run and there were times that 3-4 qso's
were taking place all at the same time - with repeats to be sure being
sent when necessary to ensure I heard a guy come back and actually send
me a report.
(What Don Miller used to do was a little more extreme - Don would answer
10 stations at a time - send 599 - and then pick out the next 10 and do
it again. As a kid in High SchooI, I used to listen in awe to him do
this from VU2WNV - man that guy was really good at it too!)
THE REMAINING NIGHTS ON 160M
May 12th was an RL3FT night and for Yuri, the band condx of May 11th did
not repeat themselves and I know he went out there really psyched and
came back complaining that he had NOISE - and that the band did not open
for him until something like 0128z. Still I think he said he worked
about 4 JA stations (more on that front in another email) and something
like 16 more NA stations. We were both hoping for alot more - but you
take what the band gives you and don't question why really.....
May 13th was another K1ZM night and I managed to work something like 10
JA's, plus VU2BGS, 9M2AX, ZS4TX (I think it was this night for Bernie).
NA condx were poor and I probably worked only 27 NA stations total.
May 14th was another RL3FT night - and again Yuri said he had NOISE and
no condx. He worked no more NA stations as I recall and since 160M was
poor, he did some 80CW and some 80SSB. He even worked about 80 stations
on 160M SSB. I tried that 3 times and never had a nibble - so congrats
to Yuri for at least making some SSB qso's on Topband.
May 15th was my last night out at the beach and I will begin that
segment in the next message - as that and the JA story require some
bandwidth to relate.