OK, this is a cheesy blog post title. But it’s true. Here’s the picture…and it leads into more important things about Field Day.
My annual Field Day plans are spotty at best due to my wedding anniversary falling near that June weekend. I’ve participated in multi-club “big” Field Day events here in Central Mississippi in previous years. But, frankly, I don’t enjoy them. I prefer a smaller event when it doesn’t conflict with our anniversary plans. This year our planned trip to the UP in Michigan was up-ended by the Covid-19 pandemic. So when my portable ops partner, Mike N5DU, invited me to come out to his farm in Raymond, MS on Saturday, that seemed perfect!
He also invited a new ham in the area, Kyle KI5JCL, to come and learn more about Field Day. Kyle works in the IT field so his “JCL” call sign suffix gave me vivid memories of the days when I worked on the Big Iron, IBM mainframes at the Triangle Universities Computation Center (TUCC) while on the faculty at NC State. (For the uninitiated, JCL was IBM’s nomenclature for Job Control Language.) Kyle checked into our club’s weekly 2 meter net which is how we got to know him. This was a chance to play Elmer to a very tech-savvy, only licensed for a month, ham in our area. While a tad nervous to jump into the pile-up held by a Western PA ham, Kyle worked on him for about 20 minutes before he heard the November Five Delta Uniform phrase coming back to him. Mike and I stood and clapped heartily for Kyle as he stayed with that big fish and finally landed him. Fine Business! The ham in PA may never know how significant he was for the calling amateur on this end of the QSO.
N5DU has a small separate building adjacent to his home for his ham shack, an almost perfect setting from my point of view. It’s in the country on a family farm acreage where there are no deed restrictions on antennas (except internal approval in the household unit, of course) and with almost no RF noise. The N5DU team used a Kenwood TS-590SG feeding an Ameritron ALS-1306 amplifier, an MFJ ATU feeding a Windom about 30′ up among trees. We also exercised a digital station, first on a Xiegu 5105 and then on an Icom 7200. The digital station fed an MFJ-2982 vertical. FT8 was the digital mode of choice. We rotated among the voice and digital stations and…well, all of the snacks and great food Mike’s XYL had on hand for us.
While we didn’t mark any achievements on the scoreboard of this “non-contest, contest” that is Field Day, the N5DU team (led by Mike, frankly) finished with 328 points over 268 contacts. We were missing our CW op, Mike K5XU as well as Thomas N5WDG on this one!
Getting a good group together to share knowledge, skills and suggestions is always a good thing. I have learned a great deal from Mike N5DU, especially on style of operating during a contest. It’s not always about points, Boom! Boom! Boom! But working with ops who are either just getting started or who just stumble across something like this Covid-19 lots-of-teams-working-separately-at-home Field Day is important too. The ARRL’s temporary rule modification to allow home stations to work each other make a notable difference on the band waterfall displays. Watch this video, especially of Mike spending a few moments (and likely losing a couple of contacts during the time where he was clipping along at a 93 contacts-per-hour pace).
It’s fairly obvious that power makes a difference. We were able to hold frequencies and work them for an hour at a time. Having a tower and beam in addition would’ve just underscored that situation. We moved from QRP on digital to upwards of 40 watts or so on the Icom 7200. In some ways, the need to “handicap” contest stations will make a huge difference in the long run for highly competitive contests. But on Field Day 2020, I was just glad to participate in a small team, learn from one another, and getting a Tee Shirt to commemorate the event. Thanks for the gift, N5DU!