Monday, June 25, 2018

That wasn't good - that was great!

180 degree opposites! As much as I feared that I wasn't into Field Day this year, that's how much it turned out to be a truly great experience! Just as I thought, as soon as I gathered together with my fellow South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club members, that's just how quickly the adrenaline got to flowing and the fun and excitement began. And thanks be to God, we never got any of the rain or thunderstorms that were predicted for Saturday.

In addition to the gratification that you get from doing a job well done, some added satisfaction came from a lot of the public that came by and visited our enhanced information booth this year. In addition to the normal ARRL informational handouts, we added some multimedia. We set up a 24" TV which was hooked up to my laptop which was running a continuous loop of a video about Amateur Radio.

We had chairs set up so that people could sit down in the shade of the canopy to watch the entire 30 minute video if they wanted to and more than just a few people did. One woman that I spoke to, in order to ask if she needed any more information about our hobby exclaimed to me, "This is great! I learned so much today! More people should come by to watch this." So in that regard, we did what I think was a pretty good job of creating public awareness for the benefits of Amateur Radio.

Marv K2VHW set up some code keys and code practice oscillators in the info tent for people to try. One man brought his nephew along with him to visit our setup and the youngster really got a kick out of the keys. Marv showed him how to use them and he had fun trying to use Morse Code.

The next day, his uncle came back to visit again to tell us that his nephew got such a kick out of Morse Code and Amateur Radio in general, that he spent hours with his friends on the telephone Saturday evening, telling them all about what he saw and did.  That's called "planting the seed", my friends.

This was SPARC's fifth Field Day and you could tell that we are beginning to get into a routine and really know what we're doing now. I think that "they" would call us a "well oiled machine" - thanks mostly to KD2FSI, W2OIL and KC2YRC and Phil KD2HPG who designed and built our HF tower. We started setup at 10:00 AM and were pretty much finished by Noon. Some final incidental "finishing touches" were taken care of and we were absolutely ready by 1:00 PM with an hour to go.  

As always, Ron N2LCZ had our mini logging computer network up and running flawlessly. He was even able to tap into our Wifi account through the help of a wireless router that Bill W2AOF brought along, so that we had full internet access on site ........ in the middle of Spring Lake Park. It was awesome!

Antennas went up as smoothly as a hot knife through butter and with the help of Dave W2OIL and Dan KC2YRC, I was able to get the W3EDP antenna up even higher this year. We had it as high in two trees as we could get it and it sloped from about 40 feet high in a maple to about 30 or 35 feet at the other end in a pine tree, where it terminated. While the W3EDP was my main stay on 40 and 20 Meters, I was able to make at least one contact on all bands, 160 through 10 Meters with it.  However, for 80 Meters, Dave KD2FSI had me hooked up to his 80/40 Meter Inverted Vee and that wire was simply magnificent. With 5 Watts, I was able to work absolutely everyone that I was able to hear on 80 Meters.

While we had a generator going to run the info booth, all the computers were run off solar power charged batteries, so that we could explain to people about how easy it is to make use of alternative sources of power. We had two solar arrays up and running. These were purchased through Harbor Freight and it was amazing (to me at least) that they supplied ample power even under the overcast conditions that we had.

When "go time" came at 2:00 PM, we got down to the serious business of making contacts. Through the entire 24 hour period, I can honestly say that we had all the radios occupied for at least 90% of the time. Dave KD2FSI and I forsook our customary "middle of the night" 10 winks of sleep this year. The group is probably tired of hearing it from me, but once again I was telling them that "these contacts aren't going to make themselves" and it showed, as we reached our highest number of QSOs this year.  We also had our share of guest operators, including some new Hams from the area who got their first taste of HF thanks to Field Day. Their excitement was palpable.

And even one of our Town Council members took a turn behind a radio, while our Mayor and some other members spent some time talking and visiting with us. SPARC is really dedicated to making Field Day more than just making contacts. We really try to make this a fun weekend "Amateur Radio Awareness Event".

 But we also "put our money where our mouths were" and got down to the busy task of making contacts. Our classification was 3A Battery, so by ARRL definition, we were limited to 5 Watts output - true QRP.  We made well over 300 CW contacts and came somewhere around 175 phone contacts for the weekend, with a goodly amount of digital contacts thrown in for good measure, courtesy of Dave, KD2FSI.

KD2HPF getting "artsy" with a photo of yours truly!

So when 3:30 PM on Sunday came around and all was torn down and put away for storage until next year, I came home tired (no, make that exhausted), but yet thoroughly pleased and happy. I had just spent 24+ hours with people I absolutely enjoy being with, doing something that I absolutely love and enjoy doing. How can you possibly ask for anything more than that?

One final shot of SPARC Field Day 2018.

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

Special thanks to Mario KD2HPF for a lot of fantastic photos of the weekend.

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