Field Day 2023

June 24 - 25 , 2023

Prologue:

The Amateur Radio Relay League each year sponsors the annual Field Day event. This event is the most popular operating event in North America and encourages operators to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. This year, members of the Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club again met at Glenn N4MJ's excellent shop facility to take part in another great Field Day.

Participation in Field Day is open to all stations in countries within IARU Region 2, which encompasses North and South America. Many DX stations however also enjoy getting in on the fun ! As we climb further into Solar Cycle 25, it was anticipated that the higher frequency bands would produce many contacts.

There were a few rules changed for this year's event. One year after eliminating the high power category, the ARRL back-tracked a bit by allowing a high power category that consisted of class A (club stations), B (one and two person portable stations), and C (mobile stations) not to exceed 500 watts. Classes D (home stations), E (home stations on emergency power), and F (EOC stations) can not exceed 100 watts. This strange rule did not affect operations for Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club as we always limit power to 100 watts to obtain the low power multiplier on scoring.

The Get On The Radio (GOTA) station rules saw the most changes. This year, any contact made on this station in any mode will count 5 points. There is also no limit to the number of QSO's that can be made for credit on this station. Additionally, The GOTA Coach bonus was simplified to just supervising 10 QSO's. Gone is the "double-double" bonus and that strategy.

Also, since the digital modes such as FT8 and FT4 are so popular, there had to be limits placed so that multi-channel streaming and automated operations were prohibited. Changes were also in effect that changed several of the Canadian provinces and updates to the logging software from N3FJP had to be made. For example, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was changed to Golden Horseshoe (GH).

With all these changes and with the pandemic years well behind us, it was no surprise that, across the country, everyone was itching to take to the field and operate in Field Day. A very welcome addition to the Field Day shop was the addition of internet wireless access. This allowed for precise clock syncing across all computers, which is important for digital modes.

Setup:

As mentioned above, this year's event was again at Glenn N4MJ's shop located between South Fulton and Martin, TN. The nice thing about this facility is that it is air-conditioned and now has wifi internet ! We could now watch the Cardinals' games while operating FT8 ! The Thursday prior to Field Day weekend is when we gather and setup the radios we'll be using. This all went very smoothly.

Patrick KO4HEX again headed up the GOTA station with his very nice Kenwood TS-590S transceiver. This station runs with Glenn's call sign N4MJ. This is a very popular station and is quite busy with the youth participation

For class 2A, the two transceivers consisted of Jamie WB4YDL's Elecraft K3S radio and Michael AK4VU's very nice Kenwood TS-480HX transceiver. Each radio had digital interfaces and each of these two stations had laptop computers interfaced running networked N3FJP Field Day logging software as well as up-to-date WSJT-X and flDigi software.

The "free" VHF station would again consist of Jamie WB4YDL's Yaesu FT-847 transceiver and would have 2 meter, 70 centimeter, and 6 meter antennas attached. In the last couple years, we have been successful in obtaining the 100 point bonus for making a satellite contact. Using an Airspy SDR for receive really makes a huge difference as you can see the entire satellite passband on its software. Most linear transponder satellites operate to receive on the 2M band, and transmit on the 70 cm. band. This year, however, there were not as many active satellites and modifications had to be made to work satellites that reverse this operation - that is transmit on 2M and receive on 70 cm. SatPC32 control software as well as SDR Console was configured to control these two simultaneously to follow Doppler changes in frequency as the satellite passed overhead. The antennas (simple Arrow yagis for 2M and 70 cm) were mounted on a PVC crossboom using a Yaesu G-5500 alt-az rotator system. With the increase in solar activity with solar cycle 25 ramping up, it was hoped that 6 meters would be a productive band. This station is also responsible for a LOT of points gathered with Winlink radio email traffic and messages to the section manager and section emergency coordinator.

The following afternoon, we met to raise the antennas we would use. For HF, this consisted of an inverted-L antenna for the Elecraft K3S station and an long offset-center dipole (OCD) and a Mosley TA-32 Mini yagi for the Kenwood TS-480HX station. We also had another OCD that would be attached to the GOTA station. These antennas are very simple antennas and took little time to deploy. The 6M antenna would also be a small yagi on a mast. 2M activity would borrow the satellite Arrow yagi for such things as Winlink traffic.

The Operation:

The weather on Saturday morning was beginning to get pretty warm. No rain was in the forecast. Everyone was going to remain in air-conditioned comfort regardless. Even still, Patrick KO4HEX and his son Patrick Jr. decided to pitch a tent and camp for the night. This was the highlight for young Junior's weekend !

With the advent of a new ham club in Hickman, KY, and with their recent VE testing sessions, there was no testing session this year at Field Day. We were honored to have as guests this year ARRL ARES Section Manager David Thomas KM4NYI, Assistant SM's Chuck Talley KJ4KVC and Matt Nicholas KG4LIO. They were very interested in our setup as they were making the rounds visiting Field Day sites in west TN as well as the new Hickman, KY Field Day operation.

It's traditional for our group to start the Field Day activation with the alternative power bonus consisting of a solar panel, battery storage, and Glenn N4MJ pounding the brass on CW for the initial 5 QSO's. He again used his small Yaesu FT-817nd and made short work getting those contacts in the log.

Activation of both HF stations commenced at 1800Z. Harold KJ4FTM started up on 15M running FT8 and Patrick KO4HEX was doing the same on 20M. At about that time, Phillip N4PWG showed up after visiting the Hickman, KY club. Phil is responsible for the very nice Public Information display and, as we were having some lunch, he gave a very informative talk on an easy-to-build end-fed half wave (EFHW) wire antenna. He also copied the W1AW Field Day bulletin as did a couple other members. These all accounted for bonus points which greatly improved our final score.

The GOTA station became very busy as eight kids took their turn making contacts with the help of several coaches and "Elmers". Much fun was had by all and there were a lot of smiles on the faces of the young operators !

Band conditions were improved this year as the solar cycle has progressed. 10 meters was an active band and 6 meters began to produce later during the event. As with last year, Jamie WB4YDL brought his solar telescope which was setup by Harold KJ4FTM. Amazing views of large sunspots and solar prominences were had and enjoyed !

Other bonus points were obtained by observing safety protocols and having a safety officer - this year Jamie WB4YDL. Also a nice write-up of the event was presented on the MeWe social media platform. Unfortunately, we could not obtain the public media bonus this year.

The food !! What can be said that hasn't been said before ? Amazing is the proper word ! All the XYL's pitched in with outstanding nourishment to keep us all fed and watered. Noel KJ4UNX fired up the grill and presented us with thick juicy hamburgers and hot dogs. Harold KJ4FTM again went out of his way with his confectionery skills to bring us his famous multi-layer chocolate cake and huge cinnamon rolls !

This year, we were again honored to have Ralph Puckett, Obion County Commissioner come and visit and give us 100 bonus points. Properly formatted NTS messages were sent via Winlink and the one sent to David KM4NYI, TN Section Manager was sent and confirmed. Winlink messages were being received from all over the country and Canada and easily were good for bonus points. Winlink was also used to send a position report and then later request a list of stations that were heard nearby.

Youth participation was very good this year with 8 kids less than 18 years of age attending, all of which made contacts ! Ben KO4MAO and Patrick KO4HEX, as well as Glenn N4MJ and Jamie WB4YDL all took turns mentoring these youthful operators. Jacob Neill again made a large number of QSO's - 130 contacts made on the GOTA station.

Besides Jamie WB4YDL, Michael AK4VU, and Glenn N4MJ, we had Harold KJ4FTM, Michael Snow N4EBA, Patrick KO4HEX, Ben KO4MAO, Phil N4PWG and Noel KJ4UNX as our on-site licensed operators. We had a total of 13 operators, 6 of which were ARES members. We had a total of 31 signatures on the visitor sign-in sheet that included visitors from Jackson and Franklin, TN.

Jamie WB4YDL was able to log a satellite QSO using the same setup as last year. This involved hearing and seeing the signals through an Airspy SDR and its software and transmitting using the Yaesu FT-847. Both Doppler shifts were interlocked and controlled by the SatPC32 software. This year, Jamie was able to make contact with a station in North Texas using the Russian satellite RS-44. This is an inverting analog transponder mode V/U 'bird'. The signals were strong on this 30 degree elevated pass and it was in the log for another 100 points !

Finally, at 1 PM Sunday, the operations ceased and another Field Day was in the books !

The Results:

So, as the sunspots increase and activity on the bands gets hot, how did this translate for this Field Day ? Here are the line scores :

Score Summary:

  CW Digital
Phone
Total
Total QSO's
5
932
16
953

 

Band / Mode QSO Breakdown:

  CW Digital Phone Total
80M
0
131
0
1631
40M
5
265
0
265
20M
0
135
0
135
15M
0
69
0
69
10M
0
19
0
19
6M
0
43
0
43
SAT
0
0
1
1
GOTA
0
270
15
418
TOTAL
5
932
16
953

The bonus point total this year was 2975 points which was a considerable improvement thanks again to excellent youth involvement and the GOTA station contribution. This is despite not receiving the public media bonus. This amounted to a 905 point improvement over last year.

The total QSO score after the power multiplier (x2) came out to 3780 points a 262 point decline from last year. Most QSO's made were 2 point digital QSO's and the 285 GOTA 5 point QSO's. FT8 and FT4 continue to be the established and most popular modes. Only Glenn N4MJ made CW QSO's which are also 2 points each. Besides the satellite phone contact, there were 15 phone contacts made on the GOTA station by Jacob Neill. The upper bands decided to show up a bit better than last year. There were over 50 more QSO's made on 15M this year as compared to last. 20 meters was steady but 40M was the money band this year with over 100 more QSO's made this year. The total submitted score was 6755 points for Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club in the class 2A category. This was an over 600 point improvement over the previous year.

This year we had no 1D stations to add extra points to this score. That pandemic era rule still stands, but everyone decided to get to the field ! Even still, this very fine score is within 100 points of last years total combined score when we had Phil N4PWG's 1D points to add. To do this on a consistent basis speaks to the skill and experience of the operators at Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club. With the change in GOTA rules, we'll have to wait and see how we stack up against our peers.

Epilogue:

The "well-oiled machine" that is RARC Field Day operations was again on full display. Everyone pitched in and did their part with very little supervision. We had excellent participation by our youth visitors and the GOTA station again racked up many points. Outstanding !!

Photography credits go to Jamie WB4YDL, Patrick KO4HEX, and Danielle Willcutt.

The Shop at the QTH of Glenn N4MJ was once again the perfect Field Day location and the club members owe many thanks to Glenn and XYL Linda for a wonderful experience. Thanks also go to our XYL's who kept us fed and hydrated. The full Field Day results are published in the December issue of QST.

Soapbox:

Patrick KO4HEX :

Field Day 2023 kicked off this year in a great way. The weather this year was very pleasant other than the last couple of hours when we were taking down the antennas. Due to work this year I was not able to help assemble the antennas, but Mike, Glenn, Harold, and my dad were able to get it done no problem. The stations this year I believe were the exact stations used last year which made things fairly simple to set up especially with INTERNET in the shack!! A few software updates here and there and we were all set!

The food was spectacular as usual. Noel, the grill master, was able to provide the burgers and dogs and Harold baked his now famous chocolate cake. None of which had any leftovers. There were sandwiches galore from subs to breakfast, as well as many finger foods.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself, because my Field Day experience started at the Fulton County Amateur Radio Club site, (K4CAY). They had a great turn out there as well. Ben, KO4LFZ did a great job with the setup of his gear and the other solder stations and electronic stations. We also did a test session and had 1 ham upgrade to General, and 1 pass his Tech. Congratulations!! Phil, N4PWG, also did a great demonstration of building a nice wire antenna for the FCARC as well as the RARC. Great demo Phil!

Glenn, N4MJ, was able to get our CW contacts, and young Jacob was able to get around 15 phone contacts. Great job! Other than our Winlink and satellite contacts, I believe the majority were either FT8 or FT4. The band conditions were much improved compared to last year. I mainly manned the K3 station on 40 meters and it was active all night long. Well most of the night, as I took my son "camping" this year.

This year my son, Patrick Jr, and myself pitched a little Ozark Trail tent up and actually got some sleep this year. He enjoyed the camping part, but was fairly quiet as far as the radio goes. The sounds of roosters yelling at the sun woke me up at 5am right at sunrise. The weather at this time was almost cool. It was very pleasant as I watched the sun rise and snapped a few pictures.

Overall it was a fantastic field day. It was great to see everyone, familiar faces as well as some new faces from out of town. The band conditions were great, the weather was great, and the food was amazing. I'm not too sure I can think of anything that would have made the experience any better. I hope to see everyone next year. 73 from Patrick, KO4HEX.

Glenn N4MJ :

Over the years the RARC crew has honed FD antenna installation to a science.

In past years, we worked with complex antenna configurations such as tri-band Yagis, Spider beams, spiral verticals, military masts, and various locations and feed control at the site.

Our scores didn't vary much as we tried different configurations.

For the past couple of years, our approach to antenna set-up has been much the same, and again our scores are consistent.

We've been using a light weight 2 element Yagi, an OCF dipole, a simple dipole, and an Inverted L for our HF antennas. 

The most complex antenna we use is for the satellite op. Although somewhat complex it is not difficult to set-up/take down.

So what has kept our scores relatively steady without all the complex antenna configurations? 

A change in operational mode has undoubtedly played a major role.
Phone (SSB) operation during FD operation is was very inefficient, CW has always been efficient but a lack of CW operators has been a deciding factor in changing mode of operation.

Digital mode, usually FT-8 or FT-4, have proven to be very effective for FD operation. So much so that 95% of our op is digital.

The one thing that has always been a burr in our FD operation is consistent operation throughout the 24 hour period.  Read that as ... we have a shortage of dedicated operators. The operators we have are consistent and dedicated but we need more operators to reduce the workload for existing operators. We have the membership but....

Overall, 2023 FD was the most enjoyable FD for yours truly. The wx wasn't excessively hot, our antenna team worked extremely well with minimum supervision, dedicated operators worked the long hours without complaint, the food was super good.

The only complaint I have, and this is beyond our control, is the costs of food and fuel. Inflation has definitely hit FD.

Thanks to ALL for the help and support of FD 2023.

73 de n4mj//glenn


See you on Field Day 2024 !

When all else fails ... Amateur Radio.