Posts Tagged ‘field day’

Field Day 2015 – Comprehensive Report

Most of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club showed up at Spring Lake Park at 10:00 AM or a little beforehand. There was enough pre-Field Day organization that we all pretty much knew what had to be done and what our roles were. Set up went well:

First - set up the antennas, and organize the tent - our "home" for the next 24+ hours.

South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club - NJ2SP - 3A - NNJ

Battery - all power provided was from solar charged batteries. No generators were used or fossil fuels burned to generate RF for the weekend.




Ron N2LCZ helping with the "tower" guys.

In addition to helping up with setting up antennas, Ron devised and built a network so that we could link the logging computers together. No small feat under the conditions we were operating under. N2LCZ is truly SPARC's resident Computer Expert (in addition to his yeoman's work as Club Secretary).


Notice the ominous looking sky - it was a harbinger of what was to come.


Dave KD2SFI (black t-shirt) putting together antennas for GOTA and VHF/UHF.

Dave Hackett KD2FSI, was our Field Day Committee Chairman this year. Dave was the "gasoline" in our Field Day "engine". Dave may be recently licensed, but he's already built up a good knowledge of what will work and what won't. He's got an enthusiasm for Amateur Radio and Field Day that is positively infectious. Dave is the kind of guy that makes you can't wait for the next operating event. If I was putting together a DXpedition to a very rare and exotic locale, Dave would be #1 on my short list of Hams who absolutely had to be part of the crew.


We had the tri-band beam set up on an extension ladder tower affair designed and constructed by our own Philip DeFort, KD2HPG.  Phil is a graduate of our Technician class from last Autumn. In addition to his mechanical contributions, he also added to our score by making some of his first on-the-air contacts as a Ham. He brought along his teen-aged son (also named Philip) who is now serious about getting his own ticket.


Here's a photo of Phil making some of his first contacts.

In addition to the tri-band beam, we brought back the EARCHI for another year. We had a ten meter dipole for GOTA and some VHF/UHF antennas built by Dave KD2DSI. We also had a W3EDP antenna up, which was built for the SSB station in anticipation that 20 Meters would probably close for the evening at some point.

We got through set up high and dry and were on the air promptly for the 2:00 PM EDT Field Day start. And that's when things started to go wrong. First, the winds kicked in and then it started raining buckets. It ended up being the soggiest Field Day that I can remember. In addition, it was pretty chilly all day. I was wearing a t-shirt with a sweat shirt on top, and resorted to adding a jacket as temperatures fell and humidity increased to 100%.  There were several times during the night when some of us went to our cars and just sat for about a half hour or so with the heaters on in order to get warm and dry out for a little bit.

Soon after the start, it became apparent that something was drastically wrong with the beam. The KX3 took a long time to find a match and even when it did, the antenna was not performing as expected. My Autek antenna analyzer showed the driven element was somehow resonant way out of band, so we switched the SSB transceiver over to the W3EDP and limped along for the weekend with that. Unfortunately, the W3EDP didn't perform much better, as I think there may have been a balun problem there. We would have been better off using Marv K2VHW's G5RV as we did last year, but it was already raining buckets and I wasn't about to risk pneumonia just to get another antenna up into the trees.

But even with the antenna mishaps, there were bright spots. Marc Sullivan W4MPS, who is a good QRP friend from North Carolina was in town to visit his daughter. He came by the Field Day site with his wife for a quick visit to say "Hello" before heading to his daughter's house. He came back by himself shortly after the starting gun sounded for a longer visit. And Marc's presence was truly a God-send because right around that time, the digital station was having some RFI problems which was causing their laptop to freeze. They needed some clamp on ferrites, which I had at home. Marc volunteered to keep our CW station busy while I was off fetching the ferrites and doing some other things.


Thank you,  Marc W4MPS for helping out!
 
In the photo of Marc W4MPS, the guy in background in the rain poncho is SPARC's own Mario KD2HPF. Undoubtedly due to his experience in Scouting, Mario was about the only one with proper foresight to come properly attired for the weekend.  Mario was also a graduate of our last Technician class held in Autumn, along with Phil KD2HPG. Mario was active in the Rookie Roundup and he was active again for Field Day. In addition to being a valuable part of the set up and tear down teams, Mario put in a lot of chair time at the 6 Meter station. He was our mainstay in keeping an eye open for any openings that may have occurred on that band. Mario had a Go Pro with him, and I think there's a video of him calling CQ on 6 Meters kicking around somewhere on the Web.

It was a long chilly night, but it was made bearable by visits from friends from our two neighboring clubs, the Electronic Testing Society of NJ, and the Raritan Valley Radio Club. So many showed up, that it's hard to remember them all and I beg pardon if I forget to mention any - but special thanks to:

Pete KD2ARB for the pizzas, Dave W2OIL and Dan KC2YRC for the home made brownies, the hot coffee and the help with tear down at the end. Marty WB2BEW donated the use of his pop up canopy, kept us company when it got lonely, and was just an all around morale boost. Marty is good people and it was good to have him with us. Same goes for Craig AC2FE, who came in the evening to keep us company for a while.  And Hank N2MU who was not only a friendly visitor, but also a critical thinker who helped us iron out some technical glitches. Again, if I left out any K2ETS or W2QW members, or any other visitors who showed up, I apologize, but my brain is still a little addled from the weekend.

On Sunday, around Noon, Mayor Matt Anesh and councilman Rob Bengivenga showed up at the site. We gave them the nickel tour and explained the operation and its purpose to them. The mayor was by last year, so he was familiar with Field Day, but Councilman Bengivenga was not. 


Yours truly talking antennas with Councilman Bengivenga. 


Marv K2VHW, SPARC President, explaining Field Day and the equipment with the Mayor and Councilman.

And wouldn't you know it, when the dignitaries appeared, the skies brightened up and the sun came out! I was joking around with Mayor Anesh that had we known that he was bringing better weather with him, we would have invited him over on Saturday!


And once again, South Plainfield's Finest parked one of their cruisers by our tent to serve as a little bit of an extra added deterrent against any possible mischief during our overnight stay. Police Chief Parker has been very accommodating towards SPARC, and as the SPPD takes on the role of OEM, we look forward to working with him. I didn't notice it, but fellow SPARC member, Tim Halloran AB2ZK pointed out to me the cruiser's official designation number. 


Car 73 - how appropriate!

So even though it was cold, wet and miserable, and we had antenna problems, and band conditions for Field Day weren't as good as they were in 2014, I think it's safe to say we all had a blast, and that SPARC is eagerly looking forward to Field Day 2016. We're going to remedy our problems and we'll be back, ready to once again take on whatever Mother Nature and Old Man Murphy dish out to us.


Drew W2OU working the digital station.

Drew Moore W2OU is our AC Log expert, fellow CERT member from Piscataway and a very valued member of SPARC.  Drew is a "Ham's Ham" and is a fun guy to be around and to just sit around and shoot the breeze with. Drew is also an ARRL official, so it's nice to have a little bit of the League with us all the time.


Tim AB2ZK and John AB2VE sharing a laugh during a lighter moment.

Tim AB2ZK was our "food guy" this year. Tim ran out Saturday night at 10:30 PM in the chill and pouring rain to bring us some hot sandwiches. He's always got a joke or quip up his sleeve exactly when one is needed. He was in South Plainfield's first CERT class and was a graduate of our first Technician licensing class back in 1995.  John AB2VE helped me set up the W3EDP and the EARCHI antenna. When I was getting a bit frustrated with the way the wind was blowing around the antenna lines I was launching, John kept me focused and on target. John is a veteran member of the South Plainfield Rescue Squad and is a very good friend to have.


W2LJ explaining the KX3 and the CW station to some visitors.
 
Lastly, two more SPARC members that I want to mention. Wayne Grennier N2LRE is our Vice-President. He's also our publicity guru who gets and keeps SPARC in the town's local publications. There are so many times that friends come up and say, "Hey Lar, I saw your picture in the Observer about that Amateur Radio thing you're involved with." Word of SPARC gets out because of Wayne. I wanted to snap a Field Day photo of him, but he was too busy flitting around with his camera, getting photos of the rest of us!
 
And our President, Marv K2VHW. Marv saw the need for a new Amateur Radio club in South Plainfield and did something about it. He's our navigator as we sail through uncharted waters. He has a good sense for what's good for the club and he's not afraid to try new things or to listen to a new opinion. SPARC is what it is because of Marv's leadership. We will forever be indebted to him. He keeps us engaged and active - and if a club is going to succeed, that's exactly what you need.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!





Getting ready for Field Day

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the radio is so delightful .... And since we have nowhere to go .... let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!"
 
That may very well be the tune we'll be singing this Field Day 2015. And we're supposed to be luckier than a lot of our fellow Hams in NY, CT, MA and PA. Our little patch of Central New Jersey should see just under an inch of rain, while some of those other spots are supposed to see a lot more. And it will all be a matter of timing. Looking at WeatherUnderground, we just may luck out with the heaviest rain falling AFTER set up and ending BEFORE tear down. 
 
So the intrepid Hams from the South Plainfield Radio Club will do our best to stay high and dry as we put NJ2SP on the air for a second year.  This year, we will be 3A Battery with a GOTA station in the mix.  The Mayor and Town Council have already declared this week to be Amateur Radio Week in our town. The Proclamation was presented last Monday evening.
 
 
I wasn't there for the presentation - I was picking up Marianne from the hospital, but my buds were there!
 
In addition, the Office of Emergency Management procured a tent for us, so we should remain dry and comfortable despite whatever Mother Nature may dish out.
 
 
SPARC in the Park - Field Day 2015
 
Listen for us! We will have a KX3 for SSB, a KX3 for CW and FT-817 for Digital and I think a FT-897 for the GOTA station, which will use call sign KD2FSI. Our antennas will be the EARCHI EFHW for CW, a Tri-band Yagi (using a 20' extension ladder as a tower), and a W3EDP for the lower bands for SSB.  The GOTA station will have a 10 Meter beam for its use.
 
We will be operating totally from battery again this year. No generator, except for a short while that will power a TV monitor that we will be using for an "educational event". We have local Boy and Girl Scout troops heading over for a lesson on radio. We also have ARRL and Town dignitaries scheduled to visit, so it will be an eventful weekend.
 
I really should have taken Monday off from work - hindsight is 20/20.
 
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Yes, I am a bit of a wimp

It's raining outside, so I haven't gone to the Jeep for any lunch time QRP. In fact, I didn't bring the radio with me at all today. Yes, I will confess, I am a bit of a weather wimp. I hate setting up antennas (yes, even the Buddistick, which is a snap) this time of the year in the rain. Not a big issue for me in the late Spring or Summer, when it's warm. But when it's raining this time of year, it just feels raw - colder than it is, even if it's a bit warmer than it has been.

So I've been spending my lunch hour writing this post and Googling "Field Day Wire Antennas". Last year's EARCHI EFHW (Emergency Amateur Radio Communications Hawaii End Fed Half Wave) and G5RV both worked well, and more than likely, we are going to use them again. However, we have decided to add a digital station and a GOTA station, so we need to come up with two more wire configurations.

The digital station will be W2OU's FT-817 and I believe we are using KD2FSI's FT-897. Both W2OU and I have PAR END-FEDZ 10/20/40 antennas. While easy to deploy and use, they would prohibit us from getting on 80 Meters and 15 Meters. I am considering as possibilities, the G7FEK or perhaps the D3+ antenna. Both seem somewhat easy to construct.  As the weather gets warmer, I may have to build one of each and then take them to the local park to see (in reality) how easy they are to set up and what kind of results I can garner.

K2VHW has a few disassembled multi band yagis in his garage. If he can determine that he has all the pieces and parts, we broached the concept of perhaps deploying one using an extension ladder as a "tower". That would make life a little easier for the QRP SSB guys.

My goal is to keep things as simple as possible while still allowing us to get credible results. After being out in the field for 24+ hours (if you include set up), no one really wants to face the prospect of spending an enormous amount of time tearing everything apart.  Come 2:00 PM on Field Day Sunday, my mind is more on a good meal and a hot shower than worrying about packing and stowing.

We have ample time yet, so more investigation seems likely.  Now if only I can find my copy of Bill Orr's "Simple Wire Antennas". That would help immensely!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Did you participate in Field Day 2014

and submit a log to the ARRL?


You can check to make sure they received it, and if there were any discrepancies with the class/category that you claimed.

Go to: http://www.arrl.org/news/2014-arrl-field-day-logs-received-list-available-for-review

Scroll way down to the bottom of the page and download the PDF.

Even though we got an e-mail confirmation when our log was submitted, I double checked to see if the log for NJ2SP was there. You can call me paranoid, but I just wanted to make sure our inaugural Field Day effort gets counted amongst the masses.

It's there.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

17 Meters was decent

I managed to hobble out to my car at lunch time today.  The weather was decent, but my right foot isn’t. Seems I aggravated the same tendons and ligaments that I had a few years ago – so now I’m wearing “the boot” for the next week or so. Sigh.

Anyway, after the past couple of days of torrential rain, the skies were blue and sunny today.  The temperatures were downright pleasant and 17 Meters seemed to be hopping.

I worked CT8/DL5NUA, CR5W, and J79BH. So – I reached the Azores, Portugal and Dominica – not terrible.

In other news, we have 118 Skeeters signed up for the Hunt on August 10th. Still plenty of time to sign up. We could use more participation from the West Coast states – HINT, HINT, HINT!

I also attended a meeting of SPARC, the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club.  We reviewed our Field Day effort and claimed score before officially sending our entry off to the ARRL. We also started making some basic plan changes for next year.  It’s so nice to know that my fellow club members had a good enough time with a QRP Field Day that they want to do it again next year!

By the way, if you want to read the local newspaper’s account of our Field Day – here’s the link:  http://tinyurl.com/ls56z6u.  I think they did a very good job, even though they did get some of the details wrong (like our callsign, for example). But on the whole it was an excellent article which put Amateur Radio in a very positive light.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Field Day 2014 – Wow!

That’s all I can say – wow!  A magnificent time was had at the first Field Day for the South Plainfield Radio Club.  I posted the following to QRP-L, and I’ll insert some other thoughts at the end.

The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club operated Field Day in Spring Lake Park in South Plainfield, NJ. We used Club call NJ2SP, and ran as 2A (Battery). The “2A” were two Elecraft KX3s. The CW station ran to a EARCHI antenna (53 foot radiator, 9:1 UNUN, 25 foot length of coax). The elevated end of the EARCHI was about 30-35 foot up in a tree. The SSB station used a G5RV, about the same height between two trees.

Our operating position behind our club banner. 
And if you look closely (click on the picture for a bigger image) you can see the EARCHI antenna sloping upward and away towards the tree it was anchored in.

The EARCHI antenna was a resounding success. The KX3’s internal tuner handled it exceedingly well on all bands. We made just a tad over 270 CW QSOs, with our best DX being Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands.

Dave W2OIL and Marv K2VHW working on deploying G5RV feedline.

The G5RV worked exceeding well, also. The KX3 again tuned without a hiccup. The SSB team completed just over 100 SSB QSOs – these guys are all QRO ops and they were skeptical about completing even a single QRP SSB QSO. They ended up surprising themselves, and they ended up being quite amazed at what they were able to accomplish. Yes, it was not as easy as using 100W rigs, but even in keeping with the ARRL’s 5 Watt limit for the battery category, they were quite pleased.

 Power source for the laptops

Power source for the CW station

We operated on solar charged batteries all weekend without a hitch. The energy hogs for the weekend were the two laptops that we used for logging. The Field Day rules state that since we were not using the laptops for rig control, we could have powered them from mains (which we did not have) or a generator (which we had, but didn’t use). In keeping with our self imposed “severe emergency capability” theme in order to make this a drill as much as possible, we also powered them off a deep cycle battery using an inverter. We needed to switch the laptops over to a fresh battery somewhere in the mid morning hours, Sunday.

SPARC’s first Field day was an outstanding and unqualified success, and I think we ‘busted’ the myth that Field Day has to be QRO to be fun.

~~~~~~~~~

The EARCHI worked great and way better than I dared hope for. With less exceptions than I can count on one hand, I was able to work everyone that I tried to.  Being on an energy budget because of the batteries and wanting them to last all weekend if possible, I didn’t try calling CQ or running a frequency (it was S&P all weekend).  I will reserve that for FOBB and the Skeeter Hunt, which are only four hour events. I can afford to be a little “battery foolish” during those, and I expect the EARCHI to work just as well during those two events.

Our publicity table.

The other Godsend of the weekend? That Joplin ARC antenna launcher kit that I purchased and built up. We were able to place antenna lines pretty much exactly where we wanted with hardly any effort at all.  That thing is one of the greatest things since sliced bread! One or two of the guys were skeptical about being able to place an antenna line so easily and accurately with such little effort. The old saying is “That seeing is believing”. They’re believers now!

The VHF/UHF antennas for our GOTA station.

Protection from South Plainfield’s Finest!

We had wonderful support from our Mayor, Town Council, Office of Emergency Management and our Police Department.  They even parked a car by our site for the overnight, to act as a deterrent against any potential mischief makers!
Tim AB2ZK making SSB QSOs in the dead of night.

Marv K2VHW taking a late night turn at the CW station.

Dawn breaking over South Plainfield on Sunday morning.

Field Day aftermath. 
After being awake for 24+ hours, I fell asleep while waiting for the Mayor to show up late Sunday morning. I woke up in time for his visit, though!

Being in the park, we had a lot of curious people come by.  We answered any and all questions and we handed out quite a bit of ARRL printed material about Amateur Radio. An encouraging sign was that several parents came by and wanted more information for their tech minded offspring.

Squeezing out some last minute QSOs as Field Day draws to a close. Tim AB2ZK on phone, W2LJ on CW.
The moral of the story is that Field Day is fun!  It doesn’t have to be elaborate to be a success. With two wire antennas and two QRP rigs anchored at 5 Watts, we had a blast.  Oh, and we made the local paper, too!  http://tinyurl.com/ls56z6u  Some of the details were not exactly reported accurately, but it was good exposure for Amateur Radio nonetheless!

In closing, I’ll answer a question that was posed to me by a member of the visiting public, the way I wanted to answer it. A woman asked me if it was a bit extreme staying awake throughout the 24 hours of Field Day. Of course, I gave her the answer of “In the event of an emergency or a natural disaster, sleep may very well be a luxury, …….” Yadda, yadda, yadda.

What I wanted to say was any of the following:

1) It’s Field Day! Sleep is overrated!
2) Heck no Lady! Field Day is fun!

Or I could’ve gotten all Clint Eastwood and said:
3) Ma’am? I’ll sleep when I’m dead!

One final, last added mention.  Last year, Marv K2VHW introduced me to Deep Woods Off moist towelettes.  They are a must for the Field Day Go Package. They worked extremely well, and I was not bothered by a single “Skeeter” (pesky little fellows, I should have had them pound brass!) all night long.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

This is Amateur Radio Week

in South Plainfield!

Field Day is two days away and the weather here is supposed to be gorgeous! Psyched!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!


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