Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I've got to go WHERE and you want me to be there WHEN?

Unless you’re retired or independently wealthy (and I’m presently neither and probably will never be one of those), work schedules frequently get in the way of ham radio.  And since ham radio doesn’t pay the bills for most of us, we sometimes have to plan ahead and adjust our commitments in order to work new ones.  Case in point was when the surprise notice that Yemen was going to be activated was made public.  When I looked at the dates I immediately got a sick feeling in my stomach because I knew that I would be working in Vermont for at least 80-90% of their scheduled time.

My next worry was, what if my trip got extended?  That’s pretty common and that might jeopardize the  remaining time that I’d have to try and work them.  What if, given the instability of the political situation in Yemen the group was forced to leave early?  Needless to say, I was on pins and needles as I read the DX forums on that touted how loud they were and how massive the pileups were.

My fears proved unfounded as I got home when I anticipated, maybe a half-day later, and after walking in the door (and kissing the XYL, of course), I had 7O6T in the log three times within 30 minutes and ended up with a total of 5 fairly easy QSO’s.  Maybe there really is something to waiting until the pileups die down?

But what if I’d missed them entirely?  I’d rather not take that gamble again, especially with one as rare as Yemen.

There’s a couple of options for working these kinds of rare stations if one is out of town.  You could operate your station remotely.  I have a radio that lends itself well to that.  I have the software already set up.  But quite frankly, I don’t think the usability is quite there for pileups operating a wide-split, at least not how mine is configured.  Too much latency, too much of a delay.  Since tuning after each exchange is not feasible, I would either have to camp out on a frequency and hope for the best.  Not really a good approach.

I could drag a rig with me, but what about the times I fly?  I have enough to bring, toting a radio with me isn’t a viable option.  And the setup would be marginal at best.  Some Most hotel rooms don’t have the means to setup an antenna, at least where I generally end up staying.  And 100 watts to a low dipole from the East Coast probably won’t get  many rare Pacific Islands in the log.

I could try and set the radio up in a park but that requires free time and I’d probably get arrested if I was operating by candlelight at midnight.  If it rains, I’m out of luck.

Mobile.  I could certainly outfit the work vehicles with a temporary mobile arrangement.  It’s been proven that DXing is very possible and even highly successful under these conditions.  It would dictate dragging a substantial amount of crap with me though. 

I’m going to keep looking at the remote option and see if I can do anything that might give better performance.  But given the usual slowness of internet connections in hotels, I’m not holding my breath.

Any thoughts, suggestions?

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