Sunday, July 10, 2011

On the Road Home

Its been quite a trip, but all trips must end.  I start the road home today; right now, I'm waiting for the car to take me to Sofia Airport.  I board the plane at Noon Sofia time for the flight to England.  After the hour 15 minute flight to Gatwick Airport (taking into account the time change), it will be off to the Hostel for one last night in England.   Then its back to Gatwick for the flight back to USA and Boston Tuesday afternoon, arriving in Boston (again with time change figured in) early evening.

Its been an amazing trip.  Bulgaria is a lovely country, with many unspoiled natural assets.  Most of the US people on the trip thought it looked a lot like Pennsylvania, although the population of Pennsylvania (12M) easily dwarfs the population of Bulgaria (8M).  But it has the gentle rolling hills and lots of arable farmland.  We also noticed the acres and acres of sunflowers that are grown here; we heard it was for the Biofuel use here.  We also noted that the sunflowers all faced east and were surprised at that until I read the Wiki on it- sunflowers when small are heliotropic (they follow the sun all day), but when they have a single full bloom they face east and don't move their flowers.  That would agree with what we saw off the roads.

Enough rambling.  The car is here, and I must go.

IARU Radiosport

I was fortunate to be part of the LZ7HQ team for the 2011 Radiosport.  We were assigned to work 20 and 40 CW from the LZ5R station.  40M setup was an IC781 and Acom 2000 to a SteppIR Monster 40-6M beam.  20M setup was an IC7800 and Acom 2000 to one of two antennas: 6 el on 20M, or a Force 12 Log periodic. As an HQ station, everyone needs you for the mult so the strategy was to run, run, run.  It was also strange to be started a major 24 hour contest at 3pm in the afternoon local!

20M started out strong, with 9 straight hours of 100+ rate; the first 1000 Qs were in the log by 2000Z.  USA stations, to me, were surprisingly weak; only a handful were over S9.  K5 and K0 stations were the same strength as the East Coast stations; the only difference I could discern between the signals was that the East Coast stations were the first to work us and the last to work us.  We did work a KL7 but no VE7; VE7IO was spotted numerous times but we could never hear him.  We did miss a few mults- XU7 and JU1 being two of them- it would have taken too long to crack the pileup when you're doing good rates.

40M started out slower but continually cranked; the first 1000- Qs were in the log by 0100Z.  Conditions, again, seemed to be down; few US stations were S9.  Just like 20M, the K0s and K5 stations were just as loud as the East Coast stations, except the time we could work them as compared to the East Coast guys was even shorter.  NU1AW/5 was spotted for several hours on 40CW before we could hear them.  The West Coast suffered even more; one never called me, and it was Bulgarian sunrise before W1AW/6 and several other zone 6 stations could be heard here, and then they were quickly gone.  Missed VE7 again, even though it was spotted we could never hear it.

We finished with these band totals:
20CW    1894 QSOs     45 HQ stations     45 Zones
40CW    1342 QSOs     40 HQ stations     41 Zones
Total      3246 QSOs      85 HQ stations     86 Zones

Bottom line- it was a lot of fun!  Its nice to be the hunted, and have the stations line up for you.

First US station to work us on both 20 and 40M was George W1EBI.  Congrats!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bulgarian Observations

I thought it might be fun and entertaining to examine some of the things I've learned while in Bulgaria.


Pizza- think cheesy bread sticks.  Or frozen pizza at a roadside stand.

Shopska Salad- the Bulgarian national salad.  Typically made of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions, and covered with a Bulgarian cheese similar to Feta.  I've had several excellent shopska salads here and some not so good; the best ones use very fresh vegetables freshly cut up and a good quality cheese on the top. Add a little balsamic vinegar and its a great starter.

Rakia- Strong, sweet liquor, usually drunk before meals.  When you swallow, you can feel it all the way to the stomach.  Not bad if you like strong, sweet liquors.

Cukes and tomatoes- more flavorful than what you get in the US.  Seems like they haven't been bred for shelf life and ability to be transported, and have been bred for flavor.

Lamb- being in the Balkans, I expected  lot of lamb dishes.  Didn't happen.  Pork and chicken seem to dominate in the meats.

Water- I went 2 weeks here, drinking tap water judiciously, and have had no stomach problems.  I drank tap water at the Pirin resort, Milara plant in Plovdiv, and at the Sunny Beach resort- admittedly, all places with water from more modern purification plants.  I also had ice made from tap water in all 3 locations, and now at several restaurants in Plovdiv, all without incident.  Does that mean tap water in Bulgaria is safe to drink everywhere?  I wouldn't go that far, as outside of the above areas I've only had bottled waters.

Diet Coke- If you are in a restaurant or bar and ask for a Diet Coke or Pepsi, they will stare at you and not bring you anything.  You must ask for a "Coke Light" or a "Pepsi Light" and hope they have it.

Ice- If you want ice, you must ask for it.  Remember, if your ice comes from tap water in a small place, you might regret it.  But, if you don't ask for it, your drink will probably be served at a 50deg F temp.

Fruits and vegetables: fresh and tasty.  I've always washed first, and used bottled water if in doubt of tap water.

Pancakes: a little thicker than a crepe, but not as thick as what Americans think of as pancakes.  A nice light breakfast, with banana, chocolate, or jam.

Ice Cream- I avoided it from street side vendors, even though their displays looked great.  I did eat prepackaged novelty items, but overall this is what I probably missed most on the trip.

Money: Bulgaria uses the Lev as their currency.  1 Lev= .73USD, or 1.31Lev= 1 USD.

Gas Price: For you Americans, gas is priced per liter at 2.34 Lev per liter.  Multiple that by 3.8liters per gallon,and that equates to 8.892Lev per gallon of gas.  Now modify the price at 1.31Lev per USD, and you get a gallon of gas for $6.78 USD.  And we think its expensive at $4 per gallon!

Money exchange: I didn't use any of the money exchange services here; the tour books all suggest that you use your ATM or cash advances from credit cards.  That's what I did, and have no problems getting money when I needed it.  Now, of course, the trick will be leaving the country with a minimum of Levs, as I never know when I'm going to be back and there isn't a big demand for Lev exchanges in the USA

We're getting ready for the IARU tomorrow afternoon.  I was just messing around yesterday, calling CQ and DXing, when I saw spots for the USA on 6M.  I went up there, and with a Monster Stepp antenna was actually able to work K1TOL on 6M!  I was told by several that working the US on 6M didn't happen very often, so I was fortunate to be able to do so.  Right now, I see the US is coming to western Europe on 6M, so maybe we'll get another chance at it this evening.  K1WHS, W3UR and K3ZO have been spotted, but I haven't been able to hear either of them.  The antenna here is a small 3el beam above the Milara factory roof; it works, but K1TOL was barely readable when I worked him.  I also heard N1BUG and another W1 yesterday, but the band faded before I was able to work them.  I'll keep trying, but its probably too late for today and I won't have another shot until Sunday after the contest.

Web Sites Again

The web sites to check for more pictures and results:

and navigate to pictures or results.

continue with  perin2, perin3, etc. all the way to  perin10 so far.

Dennis LZ/W1UE

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Journey Continues

It has been several days since I've blogged.  The competition is now just a memory; if you're interested, the results are now available at

We left Pirin on Sunday, and rode the bus to Sofia and a tour of the Acom factory.  While there, we saw the new equipment that Acom will have on the market (a small transceiver, an 800w amp, and an amp combiner);after lunch, we bused to the LZ9W station in Breznik.  It is 50km west of Sofia, and not far from the border with Serbia.  The station is located on top of an abrupt mountain that is composed mostly of iron ores and metal; ground conductivity seems to be excellent.  Combine big antennas (3 stack of 6el 20M rotatable beams not too high, but in the direction of US, with the drop off of the hill, probably 200ft above ground when you go out 3 wavelengths).  Its easy to see why they have a big signal in the US, and indeed everywhere.  If you google Breznik Iron Ore, you will find out more about the area and its rich ore deposits of iron, silver, and gold.

We stayed at the Hotel Bardoto (which is owned and operated by the LZ9W team, it seems) (but no one seemed to know where the Hotel Bardasho was), and had dinner there.  It was a delightful time, good food, good drink, good friends.

Monday saw our long drive to Sunny Beach, on the Black Sea, and stopping in Plovdiv on the way.  This was a 440km trip, and took over 8 hours.  We did it in two pieces; Breznik to Plovdiv, then Plovdiv to Sunny Beach, arriving a little after 10pm.  While in Plovdiv, we toured the Milara plant where K1LZ's company makes industrial robots.  It was quite eye-opening, to see what is being done with the technology and how the use of robots of expanding in industry.

Next we bused to Sunny Beach, stopping for some wine tasting in Thrace.  Again, good food, good drink, good friends.  When we finally arrived in Sunny Beach, I was exhausted and headed straight to bed while others played.

Tuesday, the group decided to take a down day.  Seems that everyone was tired, but always being on the go in a strange land and the stress of the competition finally caught up to many of us.  Tuesday night, we headed to Nesserba.  Nesserba is on an island, and is an old town with stone walls dating back several hundred years.  It was mostly souvenir shops, with some entertainment (in Bulgarian, of course), but the place was just mobbed when we got there at 9pm.  After a late dinner and many rounds of toasting, we headed back to the hotel in Sunny Beach.  A small group wasn't done, though, and 4 brave soles headed back out for more fun, not arriving back until almost 6AM.  I know, because my roomie was one that came back then.  I've had problems with my arthritis the last several days, so I've had to curtail my alcohol intake.  The medication that I have doesn't work as well when its taken with drink. 

I did have a chance to try some rakia (Bulgaria's national drink, and almost compulsory before each meal).  It is thick, sweet, and you can feel it go all the way down until it hits your belly.  Its also probably 160 proof, so a little goes a long way!

That's it for now.  Some of the non-LZ competitors left Monday, a few more are leaving tomorrow, a few more between Saturday and Sunday.  I'll be leaving next Monday, after getting an opportunity to be part of the LZ7HQ Headquarters team in IARU over the weekend.  I've never operated a contest with propagation from Europe before, and am looking forward to putting a few Qs in the log.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Contest Impressions from W1UE

Prior to last weekend, I had never operated a contest in this manner.  My impressions:
1. The playing field was about as level as its ever going to get.  Everyone had 1 watt to a small antenna, and
everyone was situated roughly 50M from the nearest stations, then another 50 M to the second nearest station, etc.  
2. The contest required CQ and S&P strategies.  Sitting on one frequency and calling CQ would mean you were losing. 
3. Frequency choice was also required.  In retrospect, I don't think it was an error that the only non-LZ station to break into the Top 10 captured the bottom of the band.
4. Unless you sat there and listened to the entire QSO of the previous station on the frequency, you could not guess at the exchange.  The exchange was made of your 3 digit serial number, and a 3 digit serial number your previous QSO had given you.  You had to copy it; it was not like CQWW where you know 99% of the reports as soon as you have the call.
5. A number of stations had problems with equipment, setup, etc.  IMHO, when setting up 86 stations everything is not going to go 100%.
6. I was the N1MM "expert" for the contest.  I probably helped 30 ops set up their computers for the program.  Unfortunately, many of them had never used it before.  Learning to use any program, let alone one as many options as N1MM, during the contest is not a good choice.
7. I was constantly busy during the contest.  Call CQ, tune the sub rx, call CQ, turn the sub rx, swap VFOs and work someone, swap back, check band map for blue colors, etc.  There wasn't time to waste.
8.  A large part of an international gathering of ops is the social connections that you make.  For me, I had never met a number of the ops.  There are some great ops out there, some that will never make WRTC but are great nonetheless.
9.  After the results were released, competitors were given their UBN report.  You could see what errors you made, and why. 

1.Propagation was eliminated as a variable.  No knowledge of it was necessary to successful compete.

Bottom line: Would I do this again?  Would I come all the way to Bulgaria or New York or somewhere to enter a competition like this?  Yes.  The social aspect, the competition, the uniqueness of the setting all contributed to an enjoyable experience. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Contest Results

Its all over now.  The Grand Banquet has been held, the winners  awarded.  While the fun isn't over, I always feel a little down after the anticipated contest is over.   Most of the narrative below will be on the YCCC members and how they did, as that is my primary readership.  My apologies to any names misspelled or to anyone that I may have overlooked. 

The competitors were all required to submit their Cabrillo files on a memory stick 1 1/2 hours after the contest end.  That seemed odd to me, so I asked why so much time (my log was ready 5 minutes after the contest ended).  I could see maybe 30 minutes, as everyone had to be transported back to the Clubhouse center, but 1 1/2 hours?  Well, it turns out that there must have been at least 10 competitors that logged on paper, and sent by hand, the entire contest.  We heard that one LZ even used a straight key!  So those that logged on paper needed the time to create their Cabrillo files.

For the contest, Saturday morning we had a general meeting where we discussed the rules and pulled the envelope with our station location and callsign.  The station callsign envelope could not be opened until 0815Z, but each of us had to be transported to our location.  None of the locations were what I would call ideal; Fred K1VR was on a little ridge right off the main road; the largest plants around were all about knee high and a brisk wind sapped the heat out of you.  Jeff K1ZM, Krassy K1LZ, and myself were about a mile away down a dirt road in a forest, and I'd say about 40 ft less elevation than VR.  There was also a hill between VR and the rest of us.  We were in a forest, with many tress around; with a gentle breeze; I moved my table and chair to the shade of a tree (no umbrella at this location) and operated the contest from there.  I was fortunate that there were high clouds for the first 3 hours of he contest; I was only in direct sun for the last hour or so, but even with that I was warm.  Fred froze, and I sweat. 

Upon arriving at the station, we found a generator, a table, a chair, an antenna (already assembled), an AC cord to get the AC to the table, about 50 ft of RG58 with connectors already on, and (at most sites) an umbrella.  I got to my spot around 0700Z, and had everything set up in 20 minutes or so.  Based upon some comments from my two next-door neighbors (CT1ILT and K1ZM), I started up my generator and made sure it ran well.  I was fairly fortunate, as my generator did not produce RFI; some had a major problem with it.  ZM's generator didn't want to run, but seemed to stabilize after awhile; unfortunately, the generator problem came back to bite him during the contest.

All the callsigns were of the format LZ6xx; I was LZ6AU, VR was LZ6AG, LZ was LZ6BA, and ZM was LZ6AT.  LZ6AA to LZ6BD were international competitors, LZ6BE to LZ6CY were LZ ops.  The station locations were spread around the outside of the Golf Course, at least 50 meters from the nearest station.

The competition started at 0830Z; signals ranged from S9 (my next door neighbors) to unreadable (I could hear others working stations that I could not hear).  My strategy was to stay on one frequency the entire contest and CQ there, and use the sub receiver in the K3 to S&P between CQs.  Once marked on the bandmap, I would go back to the S&P frequency after 30 minutes and quickly work them a second time, and so on.  It worked less well than I thought it would; many ops did not return to their CQ frequencies, and many did not return to me via the bandmap but instead found me S&P every time.  ZM had generator problems early in the contest and lost the better part of an hour of operating time; VR had problems sending CW while he was shivering from the cold,  Krassy had persistent RFI problems, and I had a normal antenna instead of one of the QRP models.  We all had problems with our stations, but that's part of the game.  One of the leading stations operated by YO9WF had 270 Qs going into the last 30minutes of the contest when his generator just quit.  That's part of the adventure of traveling half way around the world to operate; you never know what you're going to get.

The results?  Not surprisingly, the top 3 stations were all LZ: 
Call           Raw QSOs      Verified Qs    Accuracy
LZ2PL           298                  284               95.3%
LZ3YY          304                  281               92.4%
LZ2JR           285                  271               95.1%

Top raw QSOs: LZ1MS with 306.  Top accuracy went to LZ4UU with 97.5%.

US Stations:
K1LZ           254                    241              94.9%
K1VR          232                    219              94.4%
K1ZM         222                     212             95.5%
W1UE         225                     211             93.8%
W6OAT       190                     179             94.2%

Evey QSO was cross referenced by the computer checking program; all 6 numbers of the received and sent reports were verified to be correct.  If not, BOTH competitors lost the QSO.  For example, I lost a Q with K1ZM; I sent 008002, and he copied 000800.  Since the program handles only 6 numbers, he probably hit the zero one time too many without realizing it, and the 2 got lost as the 7th digit.  I recorded the contest, but haven't yet gone back to figure out if my rx errors were my fault or the sending stations fault, and if my partner errors were my sending errors or his copy errors.

Its breakfast time.  This posting has been more concerned with operating the contest and the results; more later on my impressions of the contest.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Getting Ready for the Test

At the opening ceremonies tonight, the committee told us several items:
1. The rework dupes for credit time will be 30 minutes.  30 minutes after you've worked a station, you can work them again for points, so we will be using the N1MM LZOpen for 80M.
2. There will be 86 competitors.  That means in any 30 minute time period you can work 85 stations, so there will be a  possibility of 85x8 QSOs, or 760 QSOs.  I expect the winner will have over 450 QSOs in the 4 hours of the competition.
3.There will also be a team competition involved.  Fred K1VR and I will be teammates for the competition; teams will be ranked by the addition of the two scores.

Other timetable modifications:
1. 0500-0545Z: There will be a brief opening ceremony for the competition.
2. 0550-0610Z: Technical conference, drawing of lots for obtaining a competitors location and envelopes with callsigns.  There is speculation that all the calls will be LZ5xxx or LZ6xxx, or maybe a combination of both.
3. 0615-0730Z: Competitors report to their respective locations and set up there stations.  Set up will include the radio, all interconnecting cables, power supply, and the antenna.  For my station, I will be provided a generator running 115V and having US AC power jacks available, and a power supply that runs off 115V only.  I will also be provided a table, a chair, and an umbrella to shield me from the sun.  Many of the LZ competitors will be operating from their cars.  Since my K3 only has 10w output, I will be given one of the antennas that has an attenuator for a 10watt power level so I will have the same power to the antenna as all the rest of the competitors.
4. 0745Z: contestants will open their envelope with the callsign inside.
5. 0830-1229Z: the competition will be held.
6. 1230-1300Z: contestants will return to the center.
7. 1330Z: ALL logs must be submitted to the judges in electronic Cabrillo format.  Why so long a time? Some of the competitors will be hand logging, then creating the electronic file after the contest.  This gives them time to do so.
8. 1700Z: Awarding of winners.
9. 1730Z: Banquet.

Its going to be a full day.  I'm having trouble sleeping in anticipation of the day and because I took a nap earlier this afternoon.  I'm leaving the curtains open  in the bedroom, so that the sun coming up will naturally wake me.  I'm going to go back and try and fall asleep again.  If I get a chance to report back before the awards banquet tomorrow, I'll let you know my perceptions of the contest after completing it.

LZ HF Field Competition Setup

BTW, if you'd like to see pictures of the goings on here, Wil K6ND is posting daily pix at 
He's posting the pix on a daily basis; that web site will give you the pix from day 0, then change the address to perin1 for day 1 pix, perin2 for day 2 pix, etc.

We spent this morning checking out each station and making sure they worked.  Assignment of power supplies, computers, programs, etc. were mostly completed.  We have a few more to do this PM.  Getting everyone up and ready is a bigger chore than I thought.  For my station, my K3 power amp stopped working the last 5 minutes of Field Day.  When I hooked it up this AM, it produced 100w, but after about 5 minutes it started with the "Error 12V" again and dropped back to QRP.  Looks like a trip back to Elecraft for the PA is going to be in order.

For those of you elsewhere, I think a discussion of the rules of the competition is in order.  There are rules as written, then there are rules interpretations. The below are MY interpretations of the rules, and not those of the competition committee.  BTW, I am getting my email while here in Bulgaria, so any questions you'd like answered can be addressed to me at

1. There will be 100 stations in the contest.  If every station is separated by 20 meters and they are arranged in roughly a 10x10 square, that gives us a needed box of 200x200 meters, or 600x600 ft.  That's less than an acre of land, and should easily ft on a golf course.
2. Each station will have a 10ft vertical.  An attentuator will be attached to each antenna so that whatever power is input, about 1w will be presented to the antenna at the bottom.
3. The entire band will be monitored by skimmer to check out that there is no one station that has a louder signal than any other station, i.e. the attenuators and power levels are as expected.
4. You are allowed to rework a station already worked if the specified time period is exceeded.  That time period is going to be either 30 min or 60 min.  If the time period is 60 min, say you work a station at 1101; if you work him again at 1157, he would not count as a Q for either station.  What's more, you can't work that station for a valid QSO until 1258 (not 1201).  So the message is clear- make sure you don't rework someone too soon.
5. The sent exchange is your serial number followed by the the serial number of the last station that you worked.  N1MM software will give you the correct exchange if you log the number correctly and have the message set properly.
6. There are no mults.
7. You can only work stations in the contest.  My suggestion is that if someone outside the contest calls you, work him, log him, and he'll go away faster.
8. After the contest is over, you submit your Cabrillo file.  You are awarded points if what you sent matches what he copied, and if what he sent matches what you copied.  If either of you made an error, you both the QSO credit.
9. With that in mind, I also offer several hints on using the logging programs:
a. Even if the other station doesn't send 6 digits, enter it into your logging program as 6 digits.  Make sure the first 3 digits are the number he sent, and the last 3 digits are correct, with leading zeroes input as needed.  If an op sends you 3 026, you must log it as 003026.  If you log it as 3026, the judge's matching program will say the number you copied is 302 and you'll both lose credit for the Q.
b. Using N1MM, if a station that you've already logged asks for a fill, either send the info by hand or open the CW send window with Ctrl-K and enter the info there.
10.  We can use the frequencies 3510 to 3600.  SPREAD OUT!  We each have about 1KHz to call our own; we don't all need to jam into 3510 to 3520.
11. Make sure to update the time in your laptop within a couple of hours of the contest start.  We're allowed a tolerance of 3 minutes, so we need to make sure that everyone turns the clock on 1100 local (0800Z) at the same time.
12. If you use the * in your messages (a wildcard signifying your call), the ONLY change you need to make in N1MM is the "-Change your station data" callsign; that will cause ALL your messages to reflect your assigned callsign.
 13.  Max score, if rework dupe time=60 min, would be 792 points.
Max score, if rework dupe time=30min, would be 1584 points.
 If rework dupe time = 60 min, I would expect the winner over 250 Qs.  If rework dupe time = 30 min, the winner will make over 475 Qs.

That's about it for now.  By this time tomorrow, it will all be history, with only the submission of the Cabrillo files to follow.   I'm starting to get stoked!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

On to Bulgria!

My Easyjet flight was to leave Gatwick at 0640; I had to get to the North Terminal, check my bag, and go thru security.  I expected this would be easy at 0400, but I was wrong.  When I got to the Easyjet check in line, there must have been 500 people in line!  Seems like there was a threatened public worker strike today, and everyone wanted to be the slowdown so they got to the airport early.  After waiting in line for awhile, Easyjet opened another dozen windows and the line began to shrink noticeable.  Within 40 minutes, I was thru and on my way to security. 

Security was a piece of cake; I practically walked right thru.  It was just a hassle taking the netbook, laptop, and K3 out of the carry-on baggage and then restowing it all.  Then on to breakfast and an hour or so of sitting.

I had forgotten that Easyjet doesn't have assigned seating (oh, so THAT'S why there was no seat on the boarding pass!), and they don't release the gate assignment until 0600 for a 0640 flight.  I got busy doing the morning Sudoku, and looked up to see it was already 0609 and the gate had been assigned for 10 minutes!  In a panic, I scooted to the far ends of the North Terminal (gate 105) and was one of the last dozen people to board the plane.  Needless to say, I was in a middle seat sandwiched between two large Bulgarians, neither of whom seemed to know much English.  Such is life.

We arrived in Sofia right on time, at Terminal number 1.  That was fine, except my ride was expecting me at Terminal 2, the new terminal.  While I was prepared to wait awhile as I had been told that two other ops were arriving after 1pm and the ride was going to bring all 3 of us down to Pirin, I was just about ready to call when he showed.  We hopped in the car and 100 miles later unloaded at the Pirin Golf Course and Resort.

Hey, this place is nice!  I have my own little condo, with television, phone, washing machine (!), and fridge.  After tidying up, I ventured out and found Krassy K1LZ.  He told me to be at the Clubhouse at 8pm for dinner, so having sat all day I decided to walk the 2/3 mile to get there.  The evening was beautiful; when I arrived there, I helped get the antenna installed and feedline run, and made the first QSO using LZ/W1UE with JY5HX.  I was all excited with working the JY, until I realized I was in the same CQ zone as he was!  JY isn't Dx from LZ.

Dinner was good, followed by a few beers. Its now just past midnight here, and my body is beginning to feel it.  Time to turn in and get ready for tomorrow.

Wednesday- Life is Good!

It was almost as good a day as Tuesday was bad.  Got up at 7AM, still baggage-less, but took advantage of the breakfast at the Hostel. Typical British food but it filled me up and the coffee was hot, then I was off to sightsee.
Made it to the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace (Christopher Robin went down with Alice, after all).  Also made Trafalgar Sq- with 4 lions to guard me, fountains and statues all over the place, and the Metropole staring me right in the face- and it was good enough for Nelson. 

What struck me most about London was the traffic.  They are hosting the 2012 Olympics in London; they couldn't do any infrastructure work until after the Royal Wedding, so it seems that every major street has some kind of construction project going on.  Many streets were closed off, and the streets that got the diverted traffic just couldn't handle it.  I think I'd like to go back to London some day, but not until after 2012.

I ended my sightseeing about 3pm, picked up my carry-on luggage from the Hostel, and proceeded out to Gatwick Airport.  First task was to check in at the Yotel there, and had a neat 8ft by 8ft room with private shower and TV right on the airport grounds.  Second order of business was to shake enough trees to get my missing luggage.  If I didn't come up with the luggage, it was going to be very difficult to put together a station for the Saturday competition.  A call to the baggage company, GBS, netted little other than "we're too busy to look at what's been sitting here all day".  I simply wasn't going to stop at that, so I went to the Information Desk.  They called Airport Service, who then called GBS; it was true Catch 22.  I couldn't go down and look thru the luggage they had because it was in a secure area, and no one would let me in.  Someone from GBS or Airport Service could escort me in, but they were both too busy.  So I remained without luggage.  The biggest positive of this go-around was that I could verify that my luggage was indeed there!  After waiting an hour and still not having the luggage brought up, I was told to go to the Airport Sky counter and ask them to contact GBS, so I did.  They called on the phone, and got the run-around for 20 minutes of phone tag.  GBS said they would bring the bag up "when they had time".  Finally, 2 hours 10 minutes after I first started trying, someone from GBS appeared, unannounced, with my bag.  Yippee!  With the baggage now in my possession, I got some dinner and settled in for the night at 8pm knowing that the 4AM wake-up call would come quick.

All in all, a good day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wednesday Plans

Woke up in the middle of the night, couldn't go back to sleep.  Pretty jet lagged right now.  Had a nice meal with Kazu JK3GAD/M0CFW and we talked about a wide range of subjects about and for radio contesting.  Tipped a few pints, also.  He'll be on in IARU as MJ0CFW, so will be looking for him.

What to do today?  Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, get some clothes, find my lost luggage.  That should do it.

More later.

Believe Me, I Couldn't Make This Up!

I always think of travel as an adventure; unexpected things crop up that can never be anticipated.  Boy, wasn't that ever right for this trip!

I got on the train in Southboro Ma at 1656, as scheduled.  The train made it one stop- to Ashland- and the locomotive stopped running.  I mean, it just quit.  An hour later, another train diverted and picked us up, but instead of being at Logan Airport at 1830 I got there at 1920.  Okay, the plane wasn't to leave until 2120, so I had plenty of time.  Wound my way thru security, then proceeded on to the gate.  I noticed a blinking light on the Departure display, so I stopped to check it out and noticed it was MY flight that was now DELAYED.  It wasn't going to leave until 2250, according to the board.  But that's okay, as I had a 2hr 25 min layover in Iceland anyway.  The layover would be shorter.  All part of the adventure.

The plane, however, didn't leave until 2336, 2hrs 16min late.  Now my layover was 9 min, which really can't be done.  I checked with the flight crew, though, and they assured me that the plane from Iceland to England would wait for me, as the pilots on our flight were going to be the pilots on the next flight.  Reassured, I relaxed, and thought it was all part of the adventure.

As I look outside the window I can see the approaching daylight.  The moon is just a sliver in the sky.  The turbulence we're going through isn't too bad.  I had no idea what time it was, as I didn't carry a watch.  I was still tired from FD this past weekend, but my mind was winning the battle that "its light out- time to get up!"
over my body saying "More sleep!  More sleep!"

We got to Iceland late, transferred planes and took off.  Very smooth, trouble free.  Walked right through passport control, right through customs.  Estimated arrival in Gatwick was now 1400 local, about an hour later than scheduled.  \Even the landing in a thunderstorm- with lightning and pouring rain- didn't faze me. See, its just an adventure!

I still had to go through Passport Control, and it was a breeze.  Then I went to the carousel to pick up my bag.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally, the bags stopped coming, and I and about 30 other people were still waiting.  30 other people that had all got on the plane in- uh oh- Boston.

We trekked over to the Baggage information area, pretty secure that we had made the connection in Iceland but our baggage didn't.  Of course, the airline didn't know anything about it, but we filled out our paperwork and eventually left.  The only thing I'm sure of is that the baggage wasn't there.

I eventually wound my way through Gatwick, and found where to buy the train ticket to Blackfriars.  When I bought the ticket, the clerk told me that, due to a lighting strike that took out the main Control Panel in the Central Dispatch, the trains were all running late.  Sure enough, an hour later I was still waiting for a train to Blackfriar Station. One finally did come, and I got to the Hostel at shortly past 1700 local.

Even though it was threatening another thunderstorm, I was able to walk the 3 blocks to the Hostel and didn't get wet.  It was the first time I really smiled today.

I still have my K3, USB level converter, and headphones that were packed in my carry-on; everything else I need for my station was in my checked luggage.  I sure hope it shows up tomorrow!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Departure Day!

Just a few hours from now, I'll be on my way!  Packing is about 40% done, although the list on what I'm packing has been done for several days.  I go to London first for 3 days, then on to Bulgaria on the 30th. 

My  K3 developed "ERR 12V" in the last 5 minutes of FD.  Manual says to see if there is a short on the Power Amp +12V line, and if there is the problem is in the Power Amp.  It also says to try resetting the PA circuit breaker, and see if that solves the problem.  Haven't looked at it yet, but I'm getting a bad feeling on it.  When I turn the K3 off, then on, then key it at the 50w level, I immediately hear a "click" inside the radio and the power scale on the display shows I'm back in QRP mode.  Since this is, in essence, a QRP contest, the K3 will still be usable at the QRP output level, so I'm taking it.  No other radio choice at this point.

Had fun at the Algonquin Amateur Radio Club Field Day this past weekend at the local EOC.  We entered as 4F, with 4 stations available.  Antennas are always somewhat of a compromise, but our setup this year resulted in absolutely NO interstation interference.  Late in FD, we even did a test to see if we could transmit RTTY and operate CW on 20M at the same time, and it actually worked.  Now, next year we'll have to try it for real during the contest.

Back to packing.  I have to be on the train at 4:45 to get to the airport for a 9:20pm flight.  Hope to work lots of you guys from LZ during the IARU in a couple of weeks.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday June 24- The Journey Nears

Just 3 days until I leave for Bulgaria.  Have finally gotten all the kinks out of the itinerary- looking forward to getting there.  I'm going from Boston to London on Monday, have a few days in the London area, then on to Sofia Bulgaria, and then to the Pirin Golf Course, on Thursday 6/30.  Not being much of an international traveler, it kind of makes my head spin.  Bulgaria is going to be completely alien to me; not only do I not speak the language, but I can't even read the alphabet!

I've been doing some research on Bulgarian food and, of course, Bulgarian drinks.  Some of it sounds less than exciting, but, what the hey!  When in Bulgaria, do as the Bulgarians do.  One thing for sure- its going to be a unique experience!

The LZ Field Open is also going to be a unique experience.  If you aren't familiar with it, their website is  Choose your language, then you can look at the rules, etc. having to do with it.  It looks like their goal of filling the 100 slots for competitors has been realized; a look at the competitor list shows ops from 16 countries on 4 continents will be there; US ops include K1ZM, K1LZ, W6OAT, K3LP, K1VR, and AI6V.  The rules are also slanted to provide a pretty level playing field: QRP stations, 80M only at 1100-1500 Local time, an impossible-to-guess, always changing exchange, no multipliers, and points awarded only if the exchange was copied correctly by both stations.  I understand that the Europeans have been doing things like this for some time, but this is the first time I've been involved with it.  My expectations are rather low, but I do have my game plan for the contest in place, now only need to execute it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wednesday 5/4- The Idea Surfaces

For those that don't know, I'm a Ham Radio contesting nut.  In the last few years, I've had some major successes, being top US SOABHP op in the CQWW RTTY for the last 3 years, being top US SOABHP op in the RTTY Roundup 2 years in a row, and placing in the Top 10 in CQWW and ARRL DX contests from the US.  I wanted to attend WRTC last year, but my daughter chose that weekend to get married, so it was out of the question.  Now, the opportunity has arisen to participate in the LZ HF Field Day the weekend of July 2.

This has opened a whole list of interesting ideas for me.  I've never been to Bulgaria or the Balkan area before (got as far as Venice, Italy in 2004), so it will be a new experience for me.  I signed up yesterday, and am now wrestling with the choice of airlines, travel schedules, and what else I want to do when I'm in Europe.  I don't go to Europe all that often, especially not as far east as Bulgaria, so I want to see and do as much as I can while I'm there.  I also need to converse with a few of the other US ops that are going.  More later.