WPX CW 2016

The portable "shack" location
The portable “shack” location

The CW WPX is one of my favorite contests, since I’m a multiplier for just about everybody I work. The CQ folks, however, schedule this contest on the last full weekend in May, which in most years also coincides with one of the biggest holiday weekends in the US, not only honoring our fallen service men and women but marking the unofficial start of summer. And is usually the case, my lovely XYL schedules us for a getaway “up north”, relegating any operation I had planned to whatever I can pack in the trunk of the car. Sure, I could stay home and spend my weekend in the basement talking to strangers, but I’ll take a family outing to Michigan’s Beautiful North and grab a few minutes here and there.

The portable contest "shack"
The portable contest shack

I brought along the FT817 along with all the connectivity accoutrements and laptop for logging, and a mag mount and an assortment of Hamsticks for 15, 20 and 40 meters, which I figured would be the bands I’d be most likely to eke out a few QSOs running five watts. I found myself a nice spot overlooking Little Traverse Bay so my signal had a half of a fighting chance at not getting absorbed by the limestone cliffs that line the south shore of the bay. My first operating period was Saturday morning after breakfast and I made 20 QSOs on 20 in quick succession, so it looked like all was not lost. After lunch I returned to the overlook and tried fifteen meters. I could hear plenty of signals but they just couldn’t hear me, and I managed only five on that band total. The telltale QSB was the indication that conditions just weren’t optimal. I had one more bit of time before we headed off to dinner, and while fifteen was a bit better, I decided to stick to 20 meters and do a single band entry – it was my only chance at not totally sucking when the line scores come out. Sunday morning was decent, as the din of the big guns chasing each other had died down and they were actually out hunting for mults. Though I never did try a run (except for one time when I threw out a few CQs just to see if the Reverse Beacon Network could pick me up), I did actually work some decent DX including one JA who was booming in. (Every now and then, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn.)

I finished with an unimpressive (for me) 55 QSOs, 50 on twenty meters, 49 of which were mults, for just under four thousand points, in just under three hours (much of which was spent sending my call over and over). Half the fun was, in many cases, being amazed at where five watts and a dummy load on a stick could be heard, and the skill and patience of the many ops I worked to dig me out and copy my exchange.