Field Day Introduction - part 2

Discussion of ARRL Field Day event.

Field Day Introduction - part 2

Postby Jamie_WB4YDL » Sun Jun 12, 2011 10:41 am

It turned out to be a beautiful Sunday today and I thought I would take a break from the action in the ARRL June VHF QSO Party to continue with part 2 of this Field Day introduction. I didn’t get any replies regarding folks’ Field Day experiences of yore, so I’ll share some of my memories. Before I operated with clubs, and before I joined or even knew about the existence of RARC, I usually operated with a friend in the B classification. When I was in training and living in New Orleans, a friend of mine in the Air Force and I gathered our ham radio stuff and we camped out on the beach of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. As usual, it was very hot ! I had a 2 room tent and I set up the radio in one room and the sleeping cots were in the 2nd room. It was mostly like an oven ! At any rate, I had my trusty Kenwood TS-440S and a Butternut HF6V vertical that we stuck near the surf and threw out a ground rod. This effectively made the Gulf of Mexico the antenna’s ground plane ! It played extremely well. We also erected a military surplus mast with an inverted-V antenna for the low bands. We had a good time and made our share of mistakes (such as leaving food items outside the tent where stray dogs would find it !), and we were glad to get home !

The B classification represents a great way to just go out to the park and go for it all by yourself with a battery and a hank of wire in a tree. If you’re by yourself, you are 1B and if, like above, you’re with a friend with 2 transmitters, you are 2B. If you just take turns with one radio, you remain 1B. When I first moved to the area back in 1993, I didn’t know anyone in ham radio and hadn’t a clue that a radio club pseudo-existed. This was before the Obion County library was built and meetings were, um, … sporadic. At that time, we were renting a small house in the Midway community and I made the acquaintance of one Steve KQ4UB. Steve’s XYL Barbara had just had their youngest son, John, born. Each year, until I finally got our house built, we would meet at his QTH where we would ‘camp’ outside and setup our Field Day operation. It was a fine excuse to get together and grill ribs and just have a great time. We didn’t set the world on fire with our scores but we learned a lot. Uh, note to self – use something besides two sections of Rohn 55G (each weighing over 150 pounds !) to elevate a Field Day antenna !!

When we finally were able to have Field Day out on our acreage, we had to cope with new and various problems. But each time we learned how to erect new antennas, work with new radios, and utilize new modes, such as satellite communications using an Arrow antenna and Steve’s new FT-847. This was an impressive radio for its time and I ended up purchasing one soon thereafter. Field Day is an excellent time to try new modes of operation, but it is not a time to learn how to use the radio ! Steve had some frustrating moments trying to figure out some of the nuances of this fancy radio. At that time, I had finished constructing my Elecraft K2 – just the QRP CW radio. I decided to just run QRP and CW mode throughout the event and I had a ball ! This is another thing about Field Day – you don’t have to run with a portable generator and 100 watts. I didn’t own a generator at the time and I just set up a gell cell and the Butternut vertical and went to work. Yes, of course it was hot – very hot ! And we were in tents.

Finally, I found out about RARC and we had Field Day at a small park in Dresden – with little league baseball fields around us ! Yikes ! This was not a very organized operation with different stations running both phone and CW and I think our exchange was 4 or 5A. It was here I learned not to use a vertically polarized antenna anywhere near horizontally polarized antennas during Field Day. The interstation interference was immense and made operations of any sustained period nearly impossible. Yes, we had to dodge baseballs – and yes, of course it was hot ! Again many lessons were learned and we got better – much better – after that experience.

Well that’s it for my memory lane on Field Day especially as it relates to my soft spot in my heart for B class operations. Again if you have any questions or comments on any of the above or Field Day in general, don’t hesitate to chime in.

Have fun on Field Day ! :D

73, Jamie
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Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:45 am
Location: Union City, TN

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