Sunday, June 27, 2021

Field Day - a mixed bag!

(Editor's Note - This post has been edited and supplemented. I have it on good authority that the author was half asleep while writing on Sunday afternoon. LOL!) 


I am starting to write this as I take a brief respite from Field Day. I've come home from our Field Day site to take a shower and go to 9:00 AM Mass this morning. I will head back after to finish out the day.

Yesterday was definitely a mixed bag. We fought the bands, but we also fought the elements. There was supposedly only a 20% chance of rain for yesterday, but I guess that 20% headed to the front of the line. We had intermittent downpours several times during the day. We had four 10 X 10 pop up canopies placed in a row to form a huge 10 X 40 foot tent, so gladly, the operators and equipment stayed dry. However, we lined the open sides of the pop ups with a huge tarp to form sides ..... which quickly became sails. Yesterday turned out to be one of the breeziest days in memory! So we alternated between radio duty and tarp management.  I have to say, now I think I know what Major League Baseball Groundskeepers feel like as they rush to get the tarp on the baseball diamond during inclement weather!

And of course, we had our share of computer problems, too. During a re-fill, the generator that powered our "logging network" was turned off and when it came back on, all the logging computers came back on line except for mine, of course! We discovered a disconnected Ethernet cable a little later and that resolved the problem.

After that, everything went rather smoothly, and when Field Day ended, most everyone was happy with our effort. Our antennas were two MFJ-1928s - one a high power model and one a low power model. We operated 3A Battery, so we were confined to running at 5 Watts. Both antennas performed like a charm, and basically we were able to work everyone that we tried. We ran the two end feds at right angles to each other. The CW antenna ran pretty much North-South, while the SSB antenna ran East-West. Interference was kept to a minimum by carefully making sure that we did not operate on the same band at the same time. There was no need for band pass filters this year.

Our new location was good, maybe a little less traffic than we were accustomed to, but in all we had plenty of visitors. We had a couple families come by with kids in tow - they loved seeing the radios and watching us in action. In fact, a few visitors early on Saturday returned later in the day, specifically bringing their children to show them what we were doing. We had some local Hams come and visit for a while and two in particular - Pete KD2ARB and Len WB2HKK came early on Saturday to help with set up. On Saturday evening, two members of the South Plainfield Town Council came by to visit, bearing gifts - pizza! We have a really good relationship with our Town Council and South Plainfield's Office of Emergency Management. It was nice of them to come by and visit - we really appreciate that! We also were visited by a member of the local Elks club, who asked us if we'd put on an Amateur Radio demo at the town wide block party celebration that is held after our annual Labor Day parade.

Nigh time crew

Marty WB2BEW on SSB, Bill W2AOF on CW

Marty reacquainting himself with a KX3

Dave KD2FSI and Hillary KC2HLA doing some digital.

SPARC with some South Plainfield Town Council members

The CW MFJ-1982LP center support - my 31 foot Jackite. The orange cones prevented people from driving where they shouldn't.

The CW station, pre-Field Day start.

The tarp covering for the pop up canopies

Added yellow caution tape so no one would walk into wire.

Dave KD2FSI's 20 Meter vertical.

The almost constant breeze made the tarp covering "puffy" and act like a sail at times.
KD2FSI's Spider-beam mast is off in the distance. It supported his end fed in the middle.

Marv K2VHW setting up one of our solar panels, to keep batteries charged.

Our banner faced a very busy street, hoping to pique curiosity.

The PVC and CamJam mechanism that KD2FSI fashioned for holding up antenna masts worked very, very well. My End Fed supported by my Jackite pole required a few tweaks of the anchor ropes once or twice to eliminate some leaning induced by the hefty breezes. The whole arrangement was very stable after those were made and there was never a second thought given to the antenna system. I'll have to say again, just for emphasis, that in all the Field Days that we have done as a club since 2014 - this was by far the breeziest!.  According to my weather station at home, we were experiencing sustained gusts in the 11 to 15 MPH range, I know that doesn't sound like a much, but it sure kept that tarp flapping around! While we had a few downpours on Saturday, Field Day 2015 still takes 1st Prize for the "Wettest, Chilliest and Most Miserable" Field Day.

The rigs lived up to their expectations and we had a good productive Field Day.  Band conditions varied. 40 Meters was hopping through the entire event. 80 Meters was busy Saturday evening. I did not get a chance to check out 20 Meters on Saturday, as that was the province of the SSB station. When I had the chance to check it out on Sunday, it was disappointing. Signals were down in the mud and it seemed sparsely populated, considering that 20 Meters is usually "The Band". 15 Meters on Sunday morning was very nicely QUITE busy. I love 15 meters when the band is open and active! In all, we made close to 300 CW contacts, about 60 or so SSB contacts and a couple dozen digital contacts. Our best DX was the North American west coast, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. I never heard a peep from Hawaii this year. Something in the vicinity was creating 20 over 9 hash on 160 Meters - all across the band. This was one of the few years that we did not make at least one contact on 160 Meters.

This year, we intentionally decided to keep the antenna system simpler than in past Field Day efforts. Just wires and simple verticals. No Yagis with makeshift extension tower ladders, no Hex beams. The result was that in after 24 plus some hours of set up and operating, this weary bunch of Hams was able to tear down in 90+ degree weather in little over an hour. Only one man was needed to take apart and pack up each wire antenna. I don't know that it affected our QSO total, but when you're bone tired that is a very nice thing, indeed! 

Speaking of the wire antennas, Dave KD2FSI once again came up with an handy device for storing those. He gave me two and I'll take some pictures for a "Show and Tell" post for another day.

To any of you who worked NJ2SP, the membership of SPARC thanks you! We're already looking forward to Field Day 2022!

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ..............................

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

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