My XYL and I traveled out to the Harrisburg, PA, area over the weekend to spend some time with our daughter and her family. Yesterday, I set up my KX3 and Alexloop in the backyard to make a few SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contacts. Ol’ Murphy was certainly with me.
First, I had a problem with my little American Morse MS2 straight key. Well, not the key itself, but rather a bad connector or cable. I spent some time playing around with it but I had no multimeter to troubleshoot it and no parts to repair it.
Tuning around the bands, I couldn’t hear a lot of activity. The SKCC stations I heard seemed pretty weak and I wasn’t having any luck making contacts. I checked the Band Conditions website and saw that the bands were in bad shape. At that point, I threw in the towel and chalked up a win for Murphy.
Today I decided to give it another shot. The bands sounded better and I could hear some WES activity. I remembered a trick that Burke N0HYD employed to pull off an SKCC contact with me a while back. So, I channeled my inner MacGyver and set up the KX3 for a straight key and connected my Palm mini paddles. I turned the paddles over on their side and used one lever as a straight key. The straight key workaround worked surprisingly well. The “feel” wasn’t half-bad, actually.
With the improved band conditions and the straight key workaround, I made several SKCC WES contacts, including one with Bert F6HKA. Bert has great ears and has managed to pull my puny QRP signal out of the noise on several occasions. I finished my session with a nice two-way QRP QSO with Mac NN4NC down in North Carolina on 40 meters. I was only on for an hour or so but it was fun.
Despite my lack of a functioning straight key, I managed to put a few new SKCC stations in my log today. MacGyver would have been proud.
72, Craig WB3GCK