One of my goals for 2005 is to make at least one QRP QSO each day of this year. I had this goal in mind; and it became reinforced when the North American QRP CW Club offered it's "QSO a Day" award. So far, for every day this year, since January 1st, I have made at least on QRP CW QSO a day. Thus, MOCAD or Make One Contact A Day.
There have been days when it has been oh, so difficult. In early January and February there were a couple of days when we had mass coronal ejections so severe that the bands sounded totally and unequivocally dead. Even then, I still managed to eke out at least one QRP CW QSO a day.
Last week, however, was a challenge of a different color. Keeping my goal alive while going on vacation with my wife and kids to Lake George, NY. It would be a test of operating with QRP power on a portable basis with "compromise" antennas for the entire week.
We stayed at a great place, the Stepping Stones Resort in Diamond Point, NY. The place is owned and operated by a fantastic husband and wife team - Chuck and Ronnie. Chuck didn't even bat an eye when I set up my PAC-12 antenna on our parking apron in front of our cottage. In fact, some of our neighboring vacationers had relatives who are or were hams and they all took my portable operating in stride.
The goal was to make a QSO each day in as quick a fashion as possible; so as to maximize my vacation time with my wife and kids. It was definitely difficult, being in a situation where I wasn't really aware of the solar weather and how the bands were going to be. And once or twice, I really didn't think that I was going to make it. But each day, with either my PAC-12 or my Hamsticks magmounted to my Ford Explorer, I managed to get in a QSO or two.
20 and 40 Meters were the bands I decided to stick with; as they are usually the most reliable for me. On a couple of days, both bands were strangely quiet, devoid of any signals to speak of. The worst day was Wednesday, when I ended up working Bob KF4GDX. Bob and I have worked each other before; and our amazingly short QSO ended up being each of us telling each other how crappy the bands were! But a QSO, however short, is a QSO and I was mighty glad to be able to add it to the log.
I tried out several different strategies; and learned from each one. First, I tended to hunt on and around the FISTS watering hole frequencies. FISTS is a club with members who are dedicated to keeping Morse Code alive. They tend hang near the ".058" frequencies, such as 7.058, 14.058, 3.558, etc. More often than not, I was able to work a FISTS member who was just hanging around. Second, one day I was successful by "tailending". I tuned around listening for a strong signal and called that station as soon as he completed the QSO he was in when I found him. The Ham in question came back to me and we exchanged signal reports as well as the basic info. The last strategy was one of desperation that worked nicely. One day as it was getting close to 2400 UTC and I still needed that QSO; but the bands sounded dead - I ended up calling CQ anyway. And wouldn't you know it, I ended up with a QSO in the log for my efforts! So it just goes to show that even when a band sounds dead, it can't hurt to put out a CQ.
I was quite thankful, however, that I was able to keep my operating time to a minimum while still reaching my radio goal. My other and most primary goal was to have fun with my family; and I'm glad to be able to say that I reached that goal, too.
73 de Larry W2LJ
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