I have had a few extra hours to spend on the radio over the last 2 months! In this time, I have dedicated myself to working on my DXCC! Its seems that DXCC is almost the probationary goal of new hams interested in working DX! In fact, some clubs only offer provisional (or associate) membership for operators who have not yet obtained their DXCC award.
As of October 10th, 2014, I only had somewhere in the area of 30 countries in the logbook and less than half of them confirmed. Indeed, I had a long way to go. I spent the next several days, weeks and months, plugging along looking for those countries that I had yet to get in the logbook. The various clusters made it easier to navigate the bands in search of those unworked entities. Some days I would only get 1 or 2 new entities and others I would add 5 or 6 in the log book. I would upload to LOTW every evening and download every morning. I found out, very quickly, that it was much easier to make the contacts than it was to confirm them. The ARRL only accepts LOTW and QSL cards that have been verified by an ARRL card checker. The very popular route of eQSL does not count toward the ARRL awards.
The cluster that I use at the bottom of my HRD logbook has a field that notates weather the DX station claims to use LOTW. As useful as the visual reference is, not many stations are blessed with this mark. I also question the accuracy of the notation. Never-the-less, it is a useful tool to direct your efforts toward ones who will confirm via LOTW.
There is also the route of direct, via QSL manager and the bureau. My current experience with QSL’s direct has been fairly successful, especially if the station or QSL manager is stateside. You can usually find their QSL info and such on their QRZ page. But you still have the cost of envelopes, stamps (to and from), “green stamps” and the cards. At current cost of postage and supplies, an international direct request (QSL card, international stamp, 2 green stamps and 2 envelopes) cost $3.39 and domestic (QSL card, 2 domestic stamps, 2 and 2 envelopes) cost $1.22. These do not include any address labels or envelope printing if you choose not to write your address on all envelopes. It can add up very quick especially if any of them get “lost” in the mail outside of the US!
Dxpeditions and other organized trips are usually guaranteed confirmation, either by direct QSL or LOTW. (In fact, the Tromelin Island trip of Oct/Nov 2014 was the first top 10 dxpedition to upload to LOTW during the expedition!) My first batch of cards via the bureau will be going out soon. As cost effective as they may be, I have read where they can take months, even years for conformations and have risk of never reaching the intended recipient.
As of today, November 17, 2014, I now have 100 DXCC entities logged but only 51 confirmed. I’ll definitely be working on more countries to the list to improve my conformation ratio. Even if I have already worked a entity but not confirmed it, I’ll be paying attention to that demarcation on the cluster for LOTW user!
Should LOTW be mandatory? Of course not! But it sure would come in handy for the ones like myself that are chasing DXCC, Honor Roll, WAZ, etc. I do encourage anyone who has not already to signup for LOTW; even if you don’t intend on using it for awards or such. It’s free and make things a lot easier for those of us who are looking for the conformations. This is the reason that I will be signing up for eQSL. Not that I will rely on it for the conformations and such, but other people may. With logging programs used by amateur radio operators, it’s just too easy to set it up and allow it to work in the background!