Greetings from EL89.
The permanent home station is still many months from completion, so my plan for the June contest was to participate in the K5QE multi-op in EM31. Current travel conditions made this a risky proposition, so I opted to stay home and setup a 6M5X 6m beam on a 15 ft mast in front of the house (see photo). It is supported by a drive-up mount that I saved from my rovering days. The primary objective was to assess how the new QTH would work for VHF amateur radio, ie. noise, activity, propagation, etc.
Noise seems to be non-existent compared to our old Albuquerque QTH. No birdies were detected in any direction on 6m and I was able to confidently operate without the noise blanker. Pancake-flat Florida has no mountains, allowing for low take-off angles. I added 10 new 6m DXCC in about 3 days with this modest, rover-like setup and yes -- all with FT8. The downside, of course, is the weather. I was QRT from the contest at various points for lightning and water getting into a cable connection. It rains a lot here.
The contest kept me very busy. There was a pipeline of propagation up into the FM and FN grids for almost the entire weekend. It's no secret that there is a lot of VHF activity in the New England area, but a contest reveals just how much. It felt like I was playing whack-a-mole as new stations kept popping up.
It was also nice to have lots of activity in adjacent grids. When Es propagation faded, folks from around Florida and south Georgia were busy working each other on FT8. The N4SVC contest station is just north of me in EM80. They did not bother me much, except during Sunday morning meteor scatter. I have a hunch it was a new operator because the sequences were set for 30 seconds instead of the established 15 seconds on 50.260. This QRM killed half the receive window, but I was able to sneak-in 5 MSK144 QSOs when their antenna was pointed sufficiently away from me and/or the op was on bathroom break. On-the-job-training is probably not a good idea during a contest with a powerful station.
I used FT8, FT4, SSB, and even some cw to make 323 QSOs with 129 multipliers. I eventually learned the limitations of my small station with FT8, not attempting signals weaker than -8 dB. I simply wasn't being heard. The majority of contacts were made using FT4 when 6m was wide-open, probably close to 150 QSOs. Excellent propagation, chaos, and the slow slog on 50.313 eventually pushed digital ops to 50.318 and there was plenty of activity there. It was efficient and orderly with almost everybody displaying excellent contest etiquette. I used the color highlighting in the FT4 activity window to great advantage as I quickly spotted and worked new multipliers, also answering the random callers. My last two mults came quite literally in the final 60 seconds of the contest when the band was open to the midwest.
EL89 is not a particularly rare grid, although it appeared to be in some demand as I got small pileups calling me on ssb. Several thanked me for the new multiplier. Besides me, there were at least two other EL89 stations active on 6m during the contest. The grids in central and south Florida have far more activity.
New Mexico stations worked: AA5B and WS5N. Heard but not worked (to the best of my recollection): KC7QY, K5TA, W3IH, and AA5PR/R in DM73.
73 Mike WB2FKO