Contest: CQ WORLDWIDE DX CONTEST, SSB
Class: SOAB(A) HP
Operating time: 20.0
Band QSOs Zones Countries
160: 2 2 2
80: 91 15 55
40: 111 20 61
20: 184 37 84
15: 129 27 78
10: 307 24 99
Total: 824 125 379 Total Score = 1,180,872
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
10m was on fire from the get-go. Things were going along swimmingly the first overnight, though a little slow on 80 (and nothing really on 160). Lots of life on 40 but even 20 was open long after it had shut down in previous years. Called it a night at 3am, grabbed a few hours' sleep and started to pick up mults like mad just around dawn; first on 15 then up to 10. The green spots were turning red, the red spots were turning blue and the blue ones were turning grey in quantities I'd never done before. All S&P. And such a winter-wonderland quality, I observed through the floor-to-ceiling shack windows! It was truly magical, both inside the shack and out.
Dark Magic, it turned out.
Starting just after 1pm, my SWR started to go nuts on 10 and 15. 20 was marginally better but only just. By 2:15, I was over 6:1 on the two upper bands. My MFJ tuner could match it after a lot of tweaking but at the price of 2-3 minutes between QSOs. I was getting real-world signals of 55 where I'm normally 30-over. I walked outside and looked up and what should have been a nice forest of silvery-aluminum elements looked like a convention of white PVC pipe 70 feet in the air. My 80m wire was about 1" thick. Snow falling at a rate of 2" per hour at that time.
I made the best of 20 and picked it as clean as I could but the going was tough. Tried running but I was just not loud enough to hold a frequency. 10 and 15 were hopeless. Broken, I broke for dinner. Roast Beast wasn't as tasty knowing I was getting my head handed to me on the upper bands. Got a scare at about 5pm when the power failed for around 20 minutes but it came back, and so did I.
40 turned out to be pretty good, although the tuner got a real workout there,
too; at least I was making plenty of Q's. 80 was a different story. I went out and knocked snow off the wires but because of forecast high-winds, I'd brought the tower down to about 55' instead of 70, and the little limp wire just wouldn't play. Back to 40, then. I was making some good headway until 11:20pm on Saturday night, and that's when the wheels fell off. We went dark and stayed dark until 1:34 pm on Monday afternoon. We don't own a genny and one couldnt be found for love or money at any store within 200 miles, so that was that. CQWW ended, I failed to make DXCC on even a single band and my score was a dismal 1.18M; about a third to a quarter of what I'd hoped for. The next day I woke to the discover the loss of half my 80m vee (which, if I'd used stouter wire, would have taken the tower over with it when the falling tree limb hit it). Our beautiful 100+ year-old oaks all suffered severe damage, too.
Inside the shack was mostly good, but I had minor video-card trouble that caused my second monitor to go out more than a few times. A high-powered auto-tuner would have been worth its weight in gold, though. The Mark V, the amp, computer and ancillary gear were all very well-behaved. Big kudos to my AL-1200 that fought into 2:1 and even 3:1 at 1200W and never complained once.
Hopefully ARRL-SSB in March will make up for this bitter disappointment.