The reason it is easier is because Dxing and Contesting are games of opportunity. Successful point to point daily schedules imply achieved consistentcy.
Sometimes it pays to do something you have not done before. As it turns out it can be quite educational as well as purposeful. Prior to this past 12 month period I have never taken part in a regular point to point radio schedule. Previously, my radio activities normally involved some form of contesting or DXing and perhaps some round tables with locals. I began this CW schedule about this time last summer with a daily schedule to the eastern seaboard in an attempt to improve my Morse capability. Early on I thought this was going to be duck soup. Little did I know. Things went along very well for about 3 or 4 months until I discovered the pain my partner was enduring due to my low power (200 watts) and simple antenna. Keep in mind that we are doing a daily schedule. Enter a used amplifier. A pair of 3-500Z’s makes life a lot easier on those special days when propagation leaves us in harms way and we end up communications challenged. Adding the amp made our schedules bearable and consistent. Our number of days missing schedules due to propagation problems number less than 3 YTD. Then along came May/June/early July. Mother nature gave us a goodly dose of E Layer propagation that essentially forced us to move from 1300Z to 0100Z. Making this change tended to smooth things out a bit and again we had a reliable path. The E Layer propagation was acting like a firewall preventing signals getting to the F Layer. Along the way I expect to run into more and different of Mother Natures vagaries and have to yet again learn new tricks. But that is the fun part isn’t it? To help with this my friend and partner in Mass. has introduced me to some valuable web resources such as Ionograms presented on the web by the Lowell Digisonde at:
Most useful of all the number on the left margin is FOF2. Think of MUF as about 2.5 times FOF2. In June and July you can often see an E Layer very active at about 100 KM’s. This acts like a brick wall to F Layer propagation. This site self updates frequently.
Also helpful, especially in summer months is the lightning map at:
I generally have one or both of these resources in separate windows during and before my schedule times.
In any event, point to point communications, at the lows of sunspot cycles is a challenge if trying to maintain a good reliable circuit between 2 or more points 2800 KM’s apart. After all is said and done this last 12 months has been a very rewarding and educational experience. I find myself looking forward to another 12 months and onward.
Best, Chas W7MAP/5