Thursday, March 31, 2011

Six-Band Worked All States

When I was a novice, I really wanted to earn the Worked All States (WAS) award. I wasn't an ARRL member at that time, but I figured I could go ahead and work the states and get the cards. Well, I did get confirmations for 30-some states, but never quite completed that award before moving to Georgia.

In the late 80s, I married, bought a house and set up a modest station, the dream of earning WAS came back. But then something happened. During SS Phone in 1988, I managed pull a sweep -- working all ARRL sections (76 at the time). I didn't just work all states, but I had worked all states in a single weekend.

Earning WAS didn't seem like enough any more. What I really wanted was five-band worked all states (5BWAS). What I'd missed though, was that you can work all the states in a weekend, but getting the cards to confirm that takes some doing. When I moved in 1994, it was far enough to reset my WAS efforts, and I hadn't even collected enough cards for basic WAS.

Logbook-of-The-World (LoTW) changed all that. Soon after signing up, the confirmations poured in. By the time the site supported the WAS award, I soon had enough to qualify for Basic and Phone WAS in march 2006. By next year, I had CW, 20m and 40m, and added RTTY in the fall of 2008, and 160m shortly thereafter.

Working all states on each band takes a little patience. The process can be accelerated by operating contests: North American QSO Party (NAQP), RTTY Round-up, and ARRL Sweepstakes (SS). It certainly helps to work all three primary modes: CW, Phone, RTTY.

Each band has its own character and challenges:

20m - easiest band to work all states. During one NAQP, I had a fabulous run on 20m, and later realized I had worked every state on 20m during that contest.

40m - certainly the second easiest. With the right conditions, 40m can be just as productive as 20m. Probably a bit of a challenge without a directional antennas.

160m - if you operate the ARRL 160m contest, as well as the CQ 160m contests, it is surprisingly easy to get 160m WAS. You don't need huge antennas. I worked all states with just a short, shunt-fed tower.

10m - if you operate the ARRL 10m contest, you can make a lot of headway on this band. The tricky part is the close-in states. Ground wave may not be effective for more than a few dozen miles, so you either have to look for backscatter opportunities, or wait for those rare conditions during the sunspot maximum where we have shorter skip.

80m - this would be easier than 160m, except that there aren't dedicated contests for this band. The hardest states are probably those farthest away. For me, this was AK and HI.

15m - short-skip makes this just as hard as 10m, but without the benefit of a dedicated contest. My last state for this one was SC.

After years of operating contests and collecting confirmations on LoTW, I just needed two to finish 5BWAS: 15m SC, 80m AK. I did some data-mining of my log books, and found I had three QSOs with SC over the years. I mailed out QSL cards with SASEs, and was lucky enough to get one station to confirm me. I'm currently waiting for 15m WAS to be awarded.

Alaska on 80m presented an interesting challenge. But, I had worked KL7RA on 160m using both CW and Phone. Seems I just had to look for AK on 80m this winter. Despite watching for spots and coming close a couple of times, I started to get worried -- spring was almost here, and it would soon become hard to work anything that far away on 80m due to summer noise.

I finally broke down an e-mailed KL7RA and asked him when he'd be on 80m. While he was QRV for the ARRL DX, I managed to miss him again. Finally, Rich agreed to a schedule.

The trick is to find a darkness path between GA and AK. The most optimum time would be right at Georgia sunrise -- but I couldn't ask Rich to get up in the middle of the night. Instead, we opted for about an hour and a half after his sunset -- which is 2:30 AM for me.

It took three tries, but we finally made the connection with readable signals. Thank you Rich!

With the confirmations in hand, I now just have to wait for the ARRL to process my 15m WAS, apply for 80m WAS and ask for the 5BWAS as well. So, very soon I will have accomplished what I set out to do over 20 years ago.