Yesterday marked the half-way point for E51AMF, Manihiki Atoll, E5/N. This is a solo operation and the first DXPedition by me, K7ADD, a relatively new ham. I appreciate all the attention that the trip has brought to The Amateur Foundation and we’re grateful for the donations that we’ve received. As a reminder, all donations and OQRS fees beyond QSL costs will be donated directly to the Amateur Foundation. This is a self-funded trip.
I set some goals for the trip; some published, and some personal. The conclusion of the first half is an appropriate time to reflect on progress and take note of areas for improvement. I hope that the following helps both those looking to work me in the next two weeks and those who are considering their first DXPedition. This has been and continues to be a tremendous learning opportunity.
4493 in the log (2673 SSB, 1695 RTTY, 113 JT65/JT9), 2846 unique callsigns, 102 DXCC entities worked
A simplified view of the goals of the trip as spelled out on the plans page):
- Work Europe – E5/N is wanted there (#25 most wanted), especially on RTTY and low bands.
- Hand out ATNO (All Time New Ones) – it’s rare everywhere (#65 globally)
- Maximize Rate – I have limited pile-up experience and want to build upon my operating skills on all modes and conditions.
Reflecting on each of these, I’ve done well and will also work to improve on each.
- Work Europe:
Successes: The EU percentage of the overall QSO count stands at 13.8%. This is good, not great, considering a relatively low QSO count. I’ve intentionally spent time working Europe during their morning greyline, when a sliver of overlap exists for 40m and 80m propagation.
I’ve spent time with VOACAP and have a good understanding of when I should be working what bands.
I’ve done a good job of asking areas with favorable conditions to QRX while I listen for Europe. Following the same pattern (work 5-6 JAs, listen for EU, work 5-6…) has provided a predictability that allows for a good balance between rate and Europe.
Areas for improvement: I have not been keeping a schedule conducive to Europe’s evening greyline. I need to sleep earlier and set an alarm for early early AM, local time.
- Hand out ATNO:
Successes: While the Club Log statistics are somewhat flawed (explanation), it is likely that the percentage of hams for whom I was an ATNO is somewhere north of 28%. This has been incredible and I love seeing “73 ATNO!” at the end of a RTTY contact.
Areas for improvement: I had not anticipated the level of engagement in the “Leaderboard.” I believe that it may have taken a handful of opportunities to work weaker stations away, as some of the “big guns” chased band slots. As a counterpoint, my interaction with some of the “leaders” has been some of the most rewarding of this trip – honestly, a great group of people. For the last few days, I may concentrate on EU and ATNO and ask others to stand by. I’ve also been a bit dismayed by the number of hams who I’ve worked on the same band-mode 8-10 times. This is most true in the US General section of 40m phone (7.178 and up). Communication with this group is particularly challenging, as some of them are clearly using a paper log and likely aren’t using twitter or even QRZ.com. I take this as a sign that I’m working the same band-openings a bit too frequently.
- Maximize rate:
Successes: Conditions have not been the best, but I’m pleased with the statistics. I had my fastest rate yet: 255/hour average for a full 30 minutes. I’ve also become proficient at ‘stacking calls’ in RTTY. This is particularly powerful when working a wider split (up 1-3). I will be working CQ WPX RTTY from E5/S (South Cooks) as E51ADD, with the solitary goal of making this work for me and making it second nature.
Areas for improvement: I’ve struggled with both software and hardware on this trip and that have occasionally hampered me, especially on when working RTTY. I am also working to improve my skills in stacking calls on phone, “LZ1JZ 73 and thank you, now W7ECK you’re 59.” I can use more practice with this. I will be recording audio over the next two weeks, hoping to listen and learn from my mistakes for my next trip, contest, or Sunday night 40m “fun run.”
Outside of these goals, I want to share some general observations of my experience, including some things I’ve learned.
This location is incredible. It’s idyllic and remote. It’s tropical and is in the southern hemisphere (25C warmer here than at home!). It’s a perfect location for my first “real” DXPedition. I have an elmer and friend who has travelled to this island and graciously provided tips that I couldn’t have gleaned in any way except the “hard way.” My island hosts are incredible people and have been visited by ‘radio people’ before and have had universally positive experiences with us. If you’ve seen the photographs you’ll understand how hard it will be to leave.
Being on this side of the pile-up is very tiring and quite rewarding, but not quite how I expected. Every time I QSY, I make open an opportunity for a contact with one location and close the door on another. It’s been fascinating and frustrating to build an understanding of the differences in propagation between here and at home. Conditions haven’t been great, so this has been a tough guessing game. I should have made the decision to skip 160m all-together earlier. It’s so badly wanted that I’m receiving daily pleas to operate there.
Our community is full of intelligent, thoughtful, and creative people. I’ve had some great on-air conversations and electronic exchanges with people that I’m sure will remain friends beyond this trip. I’ve made good friends close to home, in preparing for the trip, and have had tremendous support from all over. I am grateful for the help, criticism (even that which isn’t terribly constructive offers an area for growth), and well-wishes I’ve received. My only regret is that I found the hobby in my early 40’s instead of in my early teens.
This trip has also redoubled my motivation to learn CW. So often, I could hear a DX station, but not well enough to copy SSB or decode RTTY. This may make a good excuse to return (and to work 160m!?) someday.
Thanks to the team (N5EIL, W7ZCU, and N3BBQ), my trip-elmer N7QT, and the countless who have helped as informal pilots, liaisons, and have provided encouragement. And to my incredibly patient YL – who else has someone in their life that would say, “yes, that sounds like and amazing experience!” and then help with preparation and packing?!
This trip was made possible through equipment provided by DX Engineering. They’ve been incredible to work with. I innocently asked if they had loaner gear and was overwhelmed by their support.
The Western Washington DX Club provided funding. I decided to match their funds with a donation to the Amateur Foundation. Great to work the members of a club that serves as a resource for DXers old and new (me!) around the Puget Sound.
Again, thank all of you.
73, K7ADD as E51AMF