Wednesday, 26 August 2015

My Field Day 2015

This is the third post on the YRARC Field Day 2015. The first talked about the melted coffee pot award, while the second was mostly about the weather.

This time I'll cover the 40m SSB station, which is not coincidentally the one for which I served as band captain. This was a departure from my last two fields days where I captained the digital station (PSK31 and in 2014 RTTY). The decision to move was partly to do something different, and partly to give the opportunity for Brian, VE3IBW, to lead the charge this year (we can always use more band captains!).

As usual, my preparation was full of optimism and ambition. Fortunately Bob VE3WY had agreed to help out with the antennas, and in return I set up the rest of the 40m station, serve as monkey for antenna setup, and supply N1MM Logger Plus on my spare laptop for 6m and 160m.

Speaking of N1MM, there were two firsts this year. With the exception of 40m CW and the satellite station, all stations in YRARC Field Day were networked together. Setting up N1MM was the easy part, with the heavy lifting done by David VA3DCY who handled the wireless network infrastructure. Networking provided a running total of what was going on at all stations, a way of using contacts on other bands to check the exchange information, and replication of the log providing an automatic backup.

The second innovation, only used on 40m SSB, was a prerecorded CQ call. Not only does the prerecorded call pack more audio punch, thanks to preprocessing of the signal, it saves the vocal cords for long sessions. I don't know about other people, but after half a dozen or so calls with no answer, I'm usually ready to give up. With N1MM automatically repeating the call every few seconds, it was easy to keep going for an hour at a time. The problem of course is holding a frequency against all the kilowatt operations out there.

For some reason, which I now forget, we started a couple of minutes after 2pm, and the band was full of stations calling CQ. So spending time on search & pounce operation was in order. It went pretty well although I was getting a bit of noise from the Digital station. Unlike the last two years, where the digital station ran my Elecraft K3, this year's transceiver didn't seem to be as QRM-friendly (although maybe being on the receiving end this time coloured my perception). Fortunately the dipole, with partial cross-polarization (it was a sloping dipole), provided a bit of relief. The noise on the vertical was about 2 S-units higher most of the time.

I finally found a frequency about 10KHz from the top of the band, and had moderate success calling CQ there. Unfortunately at no time during the 24 hours did I have more than 4 or 5 stations answer in a row. I can only dream of commanding a frequency for long runs.

The rain did not relent until the 24 hours was almost up, and in the late evening the winds really picked up and made our leaking tent even less hospitable, but it wasn't until we saw lightning at about 1:30 AM that we shut everything down and disconnected for the night, despite having modestly good band conditions. It was a small storm and I probably could have waited an hour and resumed operations but to be honest I was a bit fed up with the conditions and longed for a warm bed.

The tent was still standing when I returned and we finished the morning with a bunch more contacts. The power to the station from the generator kept getting interrupted which was a minor inconvenience because I had a battery backup for the rig and a good battery in the laptop, although it would take out the second screen and the desk lamp. The problem was traced to panel of electrical outlets attached to the generator. They were all GFCI outlets and they kept tripping, no doubt due to the wet conditions. This was solved by plugging the extension cord into a different generator without GFCI protection.

Ending up in the neighbourhood of 250 contacts was lower than I would have wanted, but the upside is that it will be an easier score to beat next year. I hope the weather will be more cooperative but at least we had the chance to prove our deployment capabilities under less than ideal conditions, furthering the emergency preparedness objectives of the day.


  1. The weather was horrible but it did not dampen the spirits of the FD team as the pushed forward making as many contacts as they can. Elmer came and went of course but new creativity fixed the problems.

  2. Elmer? Do you mean Murphy? I was in a tent with Bob WY so I had Elmer with me the whole time! Murphy is always lurking in the shadows somewhere.