Where to run an activation on 40 CW is a tricky question. Part of the problem is that 7.030 has been a QRP calling frequency for many years, long before the weekday contests became popular. Many chasers and activators consider this the primary frequency for CW activations.
Many times I’ve started an activation at 7.033, only to have it adversely affected by CW OPS contesters opening up at their start time, unknown or forgotten by me. Many of the CW OPS are aggressive and inconsiderate in their single-minded pursuit of contest contacts. They don’t send “QRL” first, and they tend to favor even KHz, so they often start loud and dominant on an activation on 7.033 or similar.
Since I rely mostly on the RBN Hole for spotting, I know that there’s no problem about getting re-spotted if you QSY. As long as you have an alert posted correctly, and you’re in the time window, you can QSY from 7.033 (or whatever) up to 7.063 (or elsewhere), call CQ for a minute or two, and you will be re-spotted at your new frequency. Since the 7.060-7.065 window is lightly used, the RBN will spot you in 1-2 minutes, assuming you have a decent signal, and the “Hole” will usually follow.
On days when I remembered there was a contest, I’ve set up my activations for 7.062 or 7.063, and all has gone well. The RBN Hole spotting is quick and works about 99% of the time.
What fellow SOTA ops do across the ocean isn’t relevant to what we do here on 40M CW. 40M is rarely used for SOTA DX to EU, and conforming to EU frequency allocations is NOT our problem over here. Our goal is to agree among activators about where we run our activations, in order to be clear of horrible QRM from zealous contesters. We also want to be found easily by chasers, including S2S operators.
It’s much better to stay near 7.060-7.065, or maybe 7.030 - 7.035, than to go off in the QRS wilds near 7.050, or somewhere else. The regular chasers aren’t usually looking for us around 7.040-7.055, and likewise we S2S chasers don’t usually have time or sufficient patience to tune all over the CW band hunting for you. Also, many QRS operators seem to favor that area near 7.050, and we would be invading their space for no good reason.
I really want to get you in my S2S logs, and being somewhere where I don’t hear you is a problem for me. You also will make fewer contacts than if you were easier to find. Many of the sharper chasers tune around the common frequencies and have their spectrum scopes set to look there.
Consider this reason to stay on “agreed” frequencies in a small part of the band: there will come a day when you need to be spotted. There are many reasons you may need to be spotted:
- You may not be able to self-spot
- You may not have posted an alert
- You may have decided to do a summit unplanned, with no alert, etc.
- You may decide to do a second or third summit, different from the one(s) you alerted
- The RBN may be down.
- The RBN Hole may be down.
- You planned on the RBN Hole for your spot, but you’re too far outside the time window
I’ve chosen to do SOTA activations without a spot several times. What I usually do is to start calling CQ SOTA near 14.063 until a chaser finds me, and then I request a spot. This usually works if the band is open, and there are a few chasers looking around for activity. Once you get spotted, you’re off to the races! If you eventually decide to QSY, announce your new frequency to the chasers, request a spot, and you may get lucky. None of this works if you choose frequencies that are off the beaten path!
There is a certain logic that because we’ve mostly agreed to activate near 14.062, 21.062, 28.062, etc., that we should be near 7.062 on 40M. This is easy to remember and teach.
We’ve been using the 7.032 place for so long that we’re reluctant to head up to 7.062, except during contests, if we remember! I’m not sure I want to abandon 7.032 altogether yet.
Lately I think that there’s less QRP near 7.030, and a lot more conversational CW, often QRO. Sometimes lately I hear people on almost every even KHz down there, as I look for my starting frequency. That’s a reason to move up near 7.062.
Last, if there’s a REAL CW contest on the bands, such as the CQ WW, frequencies way off the norm are where you want to be. I’ve had good results going up to near 7.09, 14.09, etc. when the bands are packed with powerful signals. The RBN Hole still works, and many of the chasers are smart about the situation. Being off the main road works better than staying on the crowded highway when the traffic gets too heavy.