Working the Oblasts

Location: Man Cave in Berwick-upon-Tweed

Contest: Ukrainian DX Contest, 24 hours over November 3/4, 2018

Contest Software Used: N1MM

Portable operation: No

Radio: Yaesu 857D  operating at 100 watts SSB

Antenna: Cirro Mazzoni Baby Loop

Bands used: 40m and 20m

Hike:  None….I sat for ~4 hours spread out over Saturday and Sunday

Solo operation: Just me operating as M0SNA

Recommend: Not really

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2018

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 6.44.29 AM
Ukraine….only 1150 miles as the crow flies from the Man Cave
24 Oblasts aka regions make up the Ukraine

No one has come out to play. Maybe radio propagation is in the doldrums and I just can’t hear them. With a population roughly equal to California (~43m) and possibly 20,000 licensed hams, I thought this might be an active party. It is a week on from CQ WW which was a party and maybe people are fatigued, bored or worst still hung over.

I enjoy the aspect of a contest that has me look at the basic facts and figures. Where is the country, how big, how small, it’s history, people etc. Sadly the Ukraine as been center stage in the news in the last few years with a “civil war” and annexation of Crimea. I’m no historian but eastern Europe’s lack of natural defensive features has inevitably allowed aggressors and invaders to run amok with borders shifting, countries appearing, disappearing and general misery being handed out, something that my paternal family endured first hand. If you have ever wondered what Armageddon could be then read the history of WW2 in Eastern Europe. It’s beyond sad, its one of cruelty, horror, retribution and an abject desire to survive. If any of us today could experience it for but one moment we would be changed irrevocably.

So it was with some real interest that I entered into this contest and really wanted to work much, all, many of the Oblasts. Dipping my toe into 40m overnight night yielded very little beyond Kiev (KO/KV), Chernihiv (CR), Cherninivtsi (CN) and Sumy (SU). For ancestral, reasons I really wanted Ivano-Frankivsk  (IF) and I tried to work my quarry, UT1S on 40m to no avail. Any fantasy of a clean run across all 24 or so Oblasts was looking like a pipe dream.

Nailing the Oblast of Ivano- Frankivsk (IF)

Early morning Sunday, 20m wasn’t propagating to the point faint calls from Eastern Europe translated into log book entries. The sign of a good contester is knowing when to cut your loses and move on. As a water pistol station, I was beyond that point but sometimes I’m a sucker and the propagation gods knew this, took pity and handed me a reward. UT1S showed up reasonably well on 20m and despite some else’s attempt to use his run frequency, 14.250 Mhz,  I nabbed my IF Oblast and called it quits.

Yeasu 857D, shooting for a 100 watts but loss of Panadapter is a hassle

I used the 857D to try and squeeze more power into the antenna. I missed the Panadpter that is a part of my Elecraft setup and maybe the 857D is a little less sensitive and a little more noisy adding to my struggle in nabbing more Oblasts.

Different antenna for contests?

50 or 100 watts, I need my 500 watt amplifier! I’ve said it before and am saying it again… I just need it.

After I have that hooked up I’ll decide what the future is of the loop. I think it makes a great FT8 40-10m antenna but realistically for contests of substance I’m beginning to think a Hexbeam of some variety is what I need deployed on a temporary basis and then a creative 2-4 phased vertical solution. I think this is where Matt (K0BBC) and I are heading with TI7 antennas and it’s a chance to try before the big one.

Practice makes perfect, becoming an N1MM Jedi 

Well not yet. An analogy of where I am is being able to drive a truck in a straight line and stopping it safely. Each time I take N1MM out for a spin, I learn something new and useful. It’s really the small things that can make the difference between logging calls quickly and comfortably and losing one’s rhythm. Not that that’s todays issue but in places like TI7 and VY2 I do get to dominate and run frequencies. Todays little aha was using the mouse wheel to glide up and down the band and that saved by arm extending up. Seemingly trivial but over 24 or 48 hours little things become fatiguing.

Was it worth the effort?

Always but it was a little disappointing given the lack of participants and I guess propagation didn’t help. I’ll only get better through practice, sometimes disappointment and hardship makes for a better lesson. Live and learn!

24 contacts, that’s really abysmal! 

Call Date Slot DXCC QSL Zone Delete
UA1AFT 2018-11-04 09:14:16 20M PH (SSB) EUROPEAN RUSSIA W 16
UT1S 2018-11-04 09:11:52 20M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
OH7JL 2018-11-04 09:03:09 20M PH (SSB) FINLAND W 15
UW0K 2018-11-04 09:00:37 20M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
IZ5EME 2018-11-04 08:45:41 20M PH (SSB) ITALY W 15
RF9C 2018-11-04 08:38:53 20M PH (SSB) ASIATIC RUSSIA W 17
UZ5P 2018-11-04 08:36:52 20M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
HG4F 2018-11-04 08:29:53 20M PH (SSB) HUNGARY W 15
UT/F5RAV 2018-11-04 08:20:06 20M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
EA7KI 2018-11-04 08:12:48 20M PH (SSB) SPAIN W 14
SP1GA 2018-11-04 07:32:28 40M PH (SSB) POLAND W 15
UX0RR 2018-11-04 06:06:06 40M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
UW5U 2018-11-04 06:03:26 40M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
EA5EL 2018-11-04 05:50:07 40M PH (SSB) SPAIN W 14
UT4U 2018-11-04 05:38:42 40M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
UR2Y 2018-11-04 05:33:46 40M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
UT5UT 2018-11-04 05:19:41 40M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
IK4GRO 2018-11-04 04:59:25 40M PH (SSB) ITALY W 15
UZ5U 2018-11-04 04:38:52 40M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
UF5D 2018-11-04 04:35:05 40M PH (SSB) EUROPEAN RUSSIA W 16
UT/F5RAV 2018-11-03 20:50:00 40M PH (SSB) UKRAINE W 16
IK5RLP 2018-11-03 20:45:45 40M PH (SSB) ITALY W 15
S51CK 2018-11-03 18:13:07 40M PH (SSB) SLOVENIA W 15
S52AW 2018-11-03 18:11:17 40M PH (SSB) SLOVENIA W 15


One comment

  1. Every time you work an entity you learn something either from an operations viewpoint or using the equipment/software. Sometimes they are little things but they all add up to experience and greater expertise.


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