Sunday, July 26, 2009

FOBB 2009 - Post Mortem

I had a good time; and in the end, that's all that counts.

Things started out as I thought they would. I ended up finishing my morning event at about 12:15; just as I thought and posted last night. I got home, changed and headed to the local park, instead of heading out to Washington Rock; which ended up being a GOOD thing. Explanation later.

This year, I brought along a little camping table which made operating a touch easier. It was easier on my back not to be hunched over sitting on the ground operating.

I set up the zip cord 88' EDZ with the Black Widow as a support. It was OK; but as I eyed the trees around me, I thought I might be able to use one of them as a center support. The trees in this park are huge and the lowest branches are at the 30 foot level (I wish I had some of these in my back yard; or lived next to this park!). I took some twine and tied it to a 1 oz. fishing sinker and stuffed it into a tennis ball. I heaved it up into the tree and crossed a sturdy branch the first try! I got the center of the EDZ up easily; at least 10 feet higher than the crappie pole would have provided.

The ends were another story. The next available trees had lowest branches at about the 35 to 40' level. I tried a few times with the tennis ball; but was unsuccessfull and didn't want to waste a lot of time, so I used the antenna as an inverted Vee. Note to self .... acquire a good sling shot for next year.

I hooked the zip cord "feedline" up to the ZM-2 antenna tuner and took the K1's autotuner off line. I tuned the ATU for loudest received noise and then maximum power out as per the K1's power out display. I heard signals on 20 Meters; but they were all down in the mud. As a backup, I brought the Buddistick along and hooked it up also. Same thing - all the signals were in the mud.

I worked a few stations; but wasn't setting any personal records or burning up the band. I was thinking of packing it in; but decided to try 40 Meters. The antenna loaded up easily on 40 and I had a QSO with AA2YV in Rochester, NY for a bit. After signing with Bill, it was the point at the halfway point of the contest; and it seemed that conditions started to improve for me. I kept bopping between 20 and 40 Meters and ended up working 12 stations - 9 states and 8 Bees.

About a half hour before the official end of the contest, I heard my buddy, Bob W3BBO on 40 Meters. I tried to work him and thought I was going to; when all of a sudden his signal, which was 559, QSB'ed down to ESP level. I figured with only 15 minutes left, I would pack it in, clean up my area and head home. As it was, the static crashes were becoming louder and louder and when I took my headphones off, I could hear distant rumbles of thunder.

When I got home, the sky was that old familiar lead gray color. The thunder was getting louder and it was starting to rain. If I had been operating at Washington Rock, I probably would have gotten stuck in the torrential downpour that had begun. Marianne and the kids arrived home at that point, an just after they made it indoors, we saw a bright flash and heard a viscious crack of thunder. Marianne told me that she had smelled something funny and I went to the front screen door to take a whiff. It smelled like the incense they use at Church on Christmas and Easter. Knowing that incense comes from tree sap, I immediately realized what had happened. That lightning bolt had struck a nearby tree and the sap had exploded and was burning off and bubbling.

Sure enough, a tall pine tree the next block over was on fire.

I called 911; and was told that someone had already called it in. The Fire Department arrived within minutes and put the flames out. That tree is the tallest in the neighborhood and in a way, I'm surprised that it hasn't been struck by lightning before. I'm glad that I had disconnected the antennas from the home station before I had left for the park. And it also turned out to be a good decision to stop early and get the antenna down and put away before it could become a hand held lightning rod!

73 de Larry W2LJ

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