I had a really good time operating in the CQ WW CW contest this past weekend. I'm on the road this evening, so I don't have my official results handy, but I seem to recall having upwards of nearly 300 QSO's, and about 125 countries overall. I should probably take this moment to say that I'm really not interested (for the time being) in the number of contacts, but more in the country total. I had set a goal beforehand of trying to reach 100 countries, so I was very pleased to have made my goal. Now, one thing that I've not done yet is to examine just how many 'different' countries that added up to, since whenever I changed bands, the country count started over. I may be disappointed :)
Regardless of how my total turns out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
A couple of observations:
1. The contest started slowly for me. I could hear lots of Europeans when the contest began, but they were having trouble hearing me, even when the freq seemed somewhat clear or they called CQ again, presumably since they didn't hear anyone answer them. Persistence was the key and I really thank those that took the time to dig my call out of the muck. Things improved after about 3 or 4 hours, I started getting through more consistently. Saturday seemed a lot better, and Sunday seemed pretty good too.
2. I had some problems with RF and my WinKeyerUSB and my K2 on 20 meters. As soon as I would send one exchange, it would crap out. Nothing would make it through afterwards. This wasn't the case on any of the other bands. What this nuisance did, however, was force me to use my FT-1000MP instead of the K2 on Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons. Even though it did a fine job with the stock 500 Hz filter kicked in, I greatly missed my K2 during those periods. I'll need to work on a solution for this as some ferrite beads temporarily placed on the keying line didn't have any effect. Compounding the problem was that I had hastily rearranged the operating position, placing the Yaesu on the left of my monitors and the K2 on the right. That left my standby serial keyer cable too short to reach the K2 from the computer, which is also on the left. When I found a serial extension, I didn't have the right adapter to fit into the rear of the K2 while leaving the computer interface connected. Probably should have run to Radio Shack, huh?
3. The normally unflappable N1MM Logger crashed at least a half dozen times during the contest. I had made an exception for this contest by actually downloading and updating the country list and master callsign database PRIOR to starting the contest :) but I had decided against updating my version because it explicity stated on the N1MM website to avoid using the most recent update for this contest. Hmmm. I'll chalk it up to just a glitch, but I couldn't find any rhyme or reason to the crashes.
4. I've read some of the recent postings on the CQ-Contest email reflector regarding spotting errors. Several hams were complaining that their callsigns were spotted incorrectly and were lamenting that they might not receive credit for the contact. Without calling anyone out, I heard some of the folks on the air during the contest who were complaining and here's my comment...SLOW DOWN. QRS, in other words. Do you really need to go 50 WPM for an exchange that takes all of 5 to 7 seconds at 25 WPM? Gimme a break, I think most of them are their worst enemy. If I have to listen to your callsign 5 times to get it right, I'm moving on.
5. I'm very weak on 80 meters. I may need to add more radials to my vertical or consider putting up a full-size dipole. Switching over to the G5RV up about 45 feet wasn't any better, worse in fact.
But all in all, those were minor gripes in the big picture.
On the plus side, I worked a few new countries (sure hope they QSL via LOTW), reinforced my belief that persistence pays off more often than not, learned a few new tricks, and hopefully set a good example of operating. A couple of times I accidently found myself straying too close to the edges of my frequency allotments, I wasn't very proud of that and quickly QSY'd. That's a little too easy to do using the spots sometimes. I need to see if there's a way I can prevent that in the software before the next contest - probably is. I don't believe that I actually went too far, but no reason to push it, right?
I heard some activity and worked a few stations on 15 too. Maybe that is a sign of things to come in the near future?