I was able to spend some time on the air last evening and managed to work Jerry K4KBL down in Georgia again, I got a 579 in some very noisy conditions here. Jerry was working some SKCC contacts and heard me calling CQ and answered my call. Thanks Jerry! Conditions were SSN:33 SFI:91 A:32 K:3
Solar conditions are funny things at times, and even though I have been a ham for alsmot 30 years now, I still can't predict what will happen by simply looking at the numbers. I still find it best to just get on the air and see what you can hear.
I have worked loud 599 stations to only find out they are QRP...and I have worked VERY WEAK CW QSO's and found they were running 300 watts. Antenna systems are crucial to being heard and hearing signals, but that's not where the magic of radio stops. The atmospheric conditions of the planet Earth, and the solar conditions can help or hurt your chances greatly. We have no control over solar conditions, but we can learn to do some predicting as to how well the bands will be working for us on any given night. Frankly, if I make a QSO with my 2w and the HW-8 the bands are GREAT from my point of view.
Paul Harden NA5N, wrote a great piece on Solar Activity and HF propagation for the Four Days in May symposium in 2005. It's well done and Paul has years of experience. He was working at the Very Large Array in New Mexico the last time I knew. Give it a read and maybe it can help you figure out the mysteries of the sun and how it affects HF radio wave propagation.
Best 73 de KB9BVN