Friday, July 05, 2013

My First Amateur Radio Field Day

VA7AEJ (me, on the right) Saturday evening working 80m during Field Day 2013

If you follow my blog, (ha ha, I know that's such an incredibly optimistic opening comment) you'll know that I've only been a licensed Amateur Radio operator since Christmas of 2011. This means that the summer of 2012 and the summer of 2013 are the only two ARRL Field Day events that have come and gone during that period.

Last year my local club did nothing to celebrate Field Day. So, I sat at home that weekend and casually made a few contacts as a One Delta and got a bit of a feeling of what all the excitement was about. It was a busy weekend on the bands and I enjoyed listening to people work the pileups, as well as hearing more YL's, and more kids getting onto the radios and making contacts.

This year I'm on the Executive of the local club and as a new group of members overseeing club activities one of our focuses early on was to resurrect Field Day as a club activity. Overall our club is in a bit of a slump with membership, so we tried to identify activities that would be FUN for the existing members, and might ATTRACT old and new Hams in the area to rejoin the club.

Bob VE7EZI our club president took a great "Hell or High Water" approach to Field Day, he didn't care if only 5 or 6 of us took part, we were gonna make it happen. Good for you Bob!

Bob VE7EZI and Murray VE7MH found a great new location at a local pioneer tourist attraction North of Vernon called Historic O'Keefe Ranch. This was one of the larger working ranches in our area in the 1800's and now the entire site has turned into a tourist spot with historic buildings (main house, bunk houses, general store, church, saddle shop, ice house, museum building, etc.), tours, restaurant, farm animals, exotic animals, rodeo arena, camp ground, etc.

We found a nice large flat field area at the high part of the property. It was a bit secluded, but it gave us the space and freedom to do as we wished. It was home to 4 enormous old trees spaced about 150-200 feet apart in almost a square shape, and our wire antenna guys started to drool at the prospects that the trees offered.

As a club we had some new signs made to direct the public to our location. And we (very smartly) went to the site about 2 weeks before Field Day and setup our crank-up antenna tower trailer "Cranky" which has been in storage for a few years. This turned out to be an excellent idea as lots of tweaking was done and lots of bugs that might of appeared on Field Day were dealt with. Once onsite the management at O'Keefe let us leave "Cranky" there, so that reduced the amount of hauling around we would have to do on the actual Field Day weekend.
"Cranky" setup to the left of the screen with a 3 band Yagi on top working 20m most of the weekend.

 I was so excited about Field Day I personally booked off the Friday so I could pack the 5th wheel and get onsite early. This turned out to be a good idea becasue it took us a few hours on friday night to setup our operating area by eventually parking two 5th wheels side-by-side and lashing some tarps over both of them to provide a roof.

George VA7PRS brought the other RV and it was George and I who camped onsite all weekend and provided security. George also provided coffee and donuts all weekend long :)

Saturday morning the radios arrived and we were on the air and ready for the 11am PST start time for the contest.

During the day we operated Two Alpha so that left everyone time to visit, and play around with other radio stuff. We are so fortunate to have a heavy duty amateur radio satellite enthusiast within our midst and he was onsite to teach us about satellite contacts and with his help we digipeated a message off the International Space Station!!!

All in all a fantastic weekend. I was Net Controller for the club's Sunday Net that weekend so I operated from the site and enjoyed talking to other clubs and their Field Day operations through our Silver Star repeater (VE7RSS - 146.880).

Thanks to all the NORAC members who participated and lent a hand.
Thanks to all the visitors.

Most of all thanks to my daughter Molly who camped with me all weekend, helped me a lot, and was on the best of behaviour :)