Posts Tagged ‘field’

ARRL Field Day 2009

The North Shore Amateur Radio Club (NSARC) this year operated as a 2F emergency operations centre station. Usually the club organises a field event on Cypress Mountain but this year it was felt it would be better to showcase the communications room at the North Shore Emergency Management Office (NSEMO). NSARC maintains a number stations in the room as part of an agreement with the NSEMO, in effect creating our club station.

This years station, VE7NSR comprised of the following:

Icom IC 756 ProIII with a SteppIR 3 element yagi on 20m.
Icom IC 756 ProII with a inverted V dipole on 40m
Icom IC 7000 with an assortment of yagis on 6, 2 and 70cm.

We also operated the IC 7000 as a Get on the Air (GOTA) station with the callsign VE7EMR. This was radio fed into an N4PC loop operating on 80m.

This was my first field day as a licensed operator so I decided to jump straight into the deep end. I had signed myself up for a nice spot at around 9.30pm on the Saturday evening. Little did I know that I would remain the rest of the night, fortunes swaying with the changing band conditions.

I arrived early at 7.30pm hoping to sit around for a while and soak it all in. I hadn’t operated for over two months as work commitments had meant my weekends were tied up. As no other newly minted hams had showed up my first task was to fire up the GOTA station and score a few bonus points. I’m not sure of the exact amount of points but I believe it was standard scoring per QSO and then a bonus for each 20 QSOs. All the stations were using N1MM for logging but as I was switching the callsign to VE7EMR it was easier to paper-log than create a second instance of N1MM.

In about two hours or so with a few breaks I racked up about 25 QSOs on 80m. The band was poor at first, but around 9pm it came alive as more and more regional field day stations were switching over to 80m with the setting sun. I decided to call it quits on the GOTA station once I had filled out a page of a standard RAC logbook. This was my first time operating on 80m.

Switching to the 20m station things were a lot slower than I expected. The number of QSOs dropped considerably after 11pm. I kept plugging away logging a few Hawaiian and Alaskan stations and a few west US coast stations that had slipped under the radar earlier in the day. At about 12.30am I heard a Japanese station call CQ, he had a queue but an orderly one at that. Running 100w in poor conditions I knew I wasn’t going to bust the pileup.

I moved up the band and had a listen around but it seemed the band had gone long with little or no North American activity. At about 1am I decided to come back to the JA station. The queue was still there so I knew I would have to play the waiting game.

I have no problem pounding on the door of a DX station, but I’m more of a sly fox than a big gun. Its all about timing. Every station is going to call when the DX calls ‘QRZ’, there’s no point calling then. Listen to the rhythm of his QSO’s. Maybe the DX has a QSO that goes awry and the natural rhythm of the QSOs is upset, you should be ready to pounce on this ‘dead air’. At about 1am I bagged JE7YSS.

Throughout the event all of our QSOs were logged in N1MM. To highlight the stations contacted and provide a visual representation of the days proceedings club member Luke VA7LWE had designed a piece of software that interacted with the log in N1MM. His program ‘Visual QTH’ will listen for log traffic that N1MM generates over IP. (N1MM will send log contacts over IP to other instances of the software on the same network so as to keep the logs upto date on each station if running multi-multi, this avoids dupes).

Luke’s software extracts information from the log and correlates it with information from the database. Each QSO is presented as a point on a global map and with distances between your QTH and the station contacted calculated. The software also pulls up a QSL card and website of the station contacted (if available) and displays them in a scrollable list. To top it off the software announces each contact in cw and computer generated voice! We had the software running from a laptop projecting onto a large screen in a room adjacent to the radio-room. This allowed visitors to visualise the QSOs as they were being made. Read more about Visual QTH here.

At about 2am I switched over to 40m on the second 756 station. Things were slow here and once the Asian shortwave broadcasters kicked in around 3am the band became unusable except for a little sliver between 7150 and 7200. Having never operated at this time of day before I decided it would be beneficial to stick around and watch how the bands develop if only for educational purposes.

With sunrise calculated for around 4.20am I expected conditions on all bands to change considerably before, during and after this period. I was especially interested to see how 20m would shape at this time in the morning, but it didn’t. I kept monitoring 20m, up and down the band. Nothing. Around 6.30am some Florida stations were weakly heard but far too weak to work. It took another full hour before I could begin making contacts again, working a few in far southern Florida.

Gradually the pace of the QSOs quickened as the band opened up on the South East US. However what surprised me was how long it took for 20m to ‘warm up’. It was a full four hours after sunrise before the band would be what I would call ‘usable’ at about 8am. Granted I have never experienced 20m at this time of day before but it was a bit of a surprise.

With a only hours left in the event and a QSO hungry shift coming on stream in the morning I decided to call it quits and head for my bed. It was a very enjoyable night overall. I really familiarised myself with the ProIII on this event and I’ve found a comfortable operating zone with the controls I need the most, VFO, AF gain, noise reduction, passband tuning and notch. If every radio only had those I’d be happy.