Monitoring 147.270/R and 145.670/S(FM/DV) and 442.750/DV in Toledo, Ohio


What is contesting?  Simply put, it's an organized event (either sponsored by the IARU, ARRL, a Local Group, etc).  Some of these events can generate quite a following and even give out awards, certificates of completion, etc.   Probably the highest profile contest is ARRL's Field Day in June of each year.

I'm not a avid "contester" per say, but I enjoy it.  Why?  Well, for one, it can be a very good way to test your stations capabilities.  I'm a big proponent of having fun with ham radio, but also helping the community, when needed in an ARES capacity.  Dragging your equipment out of the shack for portable operations can test your personal limits as well as your stations capabilities.  In an ARES capacity, you do what you can, with what you have.  Some contests 8 hours, some 12 hours and some 24 hours or longer.  That can tax your equipment, as well as your physical limitations to operate.

One of the other reasons I primarily participated in QSO parties, or other contests is it's an easy, very easy way to get DX and other awards WAS, WAC, etc.

Below I am operating in the "2011 Ohio QSO Party" at Maumee Bay State Park while camping with the family.  I was only 1 of a couple operators in Lucas County and was the the first contact in Lucas County for a lot of stations - so that was neat.  I participated in this contest with just a 20 meter ham stick, tuned to 20 and 40 meters about 20 feet off the ground.  Worked quite well.  I made contacts inside the state of Ohio as well as outside the state (Alabama, Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, Florida) and even outside the country (Italy and Germany).  I ran power from about 25 watts up to 100 watts.

Some contesters operate at the full legal limit - 1500 watts, but I prefer to operate Low Profile (under 100 watts).  For me, a contest can be a competitive event - that's what a contest is - but every contestant should be on the same playing field.  For me, when you have stations running full legal limit and stations built with 10's of thousands of dollars, they're going to win every time.  You can't beat them.  They just over power everybody else.  They won't admit it, but that's life.  So for me, I don't play contests that I can't win, I just play for fun and do what I can...I enjoy playing the game, sharpening my listening and communications skills.  Plus, with propagation, you never know what's going to happen and who you're going to get when you call CQ.

When contesting, you should, if possible log your contacts directly into a logging program.  Or if paper logging, do it in pencil.  Here I'm using paper and pen as that's all I brought.  The problem to that approach is making corrections with pen is problematic, dealing with the wind blowing paper around, etc.  I brought a laptop for doing digital modes, but there just wasn't the activity I was looking for, so I packed it back up and went back to SSB phone.  Sometimes that's a little more fun for me to hear voices.  Just depends on my mood, I guess.  I say use a computer for logging your contacts because most contest organizers prefer log submissions in Cabrillo format.  That way you don't run the risk of logging errors transcribing your data back to a computer and risk ruining your sequence numbers, etc.

The only rookie mistake I made during this contest was calling "CQ CONTEST" on 14.260, then a station came back "N8ZAK, this is an emergency frequency for Hurricane Irene."  To which I immediately replied, "my apologies, N8ZAK, QSY and clear of the frequency".  I didn't listen long enough and call "Is this frequency in use?"  I literally, just shook my head afterwards....but I'll never make that mistake again. You've just got to be careful as there are nets and other users of the frequency out there and even though no one person owns the frequency, you should yield to operations more important than contesting.

The rules of contesting...listen first, be courteous to your fellow hams, use the least amount of power as necessary, and most importantly, have fun!

73 - Zack