Field Day – My Opinion

“If winning were not important, why keep score?”

Antenna At NFARL Field Day 2000
An Antenna At NFARL Field Day 2000

Field Day is an opportunity for individuals and clubs to test their ability to operate in emergency conditions. That’s why we locate in parks and fields, powering our stations using emergency generators. We practice for the emergency we hope will never come.

There are always people who want a big picnic. Some of us like to operate radios, and welcome the contest portion of Field Day. The idea that Field Day is meant to be a contest is absolutely correct. If all we wanted was a picnic, we wouldn’t need any radios. That’s not were I want to be.

We are HAM RADIO OPERATORS, and our public duty and vocation is to OPERATE RADIOS. If I am going to spend hours operating a radio on a hot June afternoon, sacrifice a night’s sleep, and stagger around drunkenly on a hot June Sunday dismantling the site, I want it to be worth something. Field Day is based on operating, hence it’s a contest.

Making radio  contacts is a big thing. One problem is that we need people to make those contacts.

Every year there is a crunch to find operators to work both SSB and CW. We have members who do not operate their radios very much. Maybe that’s because a high percentage of our members do not have General Class HF band privileges. That means that we have to work extra hard during the regular year getting members to upgrade, and become honest-to-goodness hams by getting on the HF bands. Repeaters are OK, but they are a nice-to-have thing for club members.

The best radio operating skills are forged on the HF bands in contests. Contests may seem to be a bit cheesy with operators trading only signal reports and some other piece of information. They are much more. Contests teach you how to operate in crowded and noisy conditions, and causes both phone and CW ops to improve their operating skills to compete.

We can’t solve these problems in time for the 2017 Field Day. We will have to go with those operators we have.

I will spend Field Day with my home club, the North Fulton Amateur Radio League. My loyalty lies there.  The last two Field Days, we competed in the 3A Category, and finished #1 in the nation for those two years. This is a source of great pride for the entire club.

Anything less than our past efforts would be a disappointment.

 

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My Elecraft KX3 And The DX Contest

Elecraft KX3 QRP Radio
Elecraft KX3 QRP Radio

For some reason I missed the notices that the ARRL CW International DX contest was scheduled for this weekend. On Saturday afternoon while putting a recently acquired Elecraft KX3 on the air, I discovered the contest was in progress. I was interested to see just what I could do in an International DX contest with only 5 watts.

I got the KX3 from a local amateur, and was not anticipating any problems getting the little radio on the air. There were no problems with the rig, except operator problems.

I could not get the Antenna Tuning Unit (ATU) working. After a couple of hours messing with menus and reading manuals, I made a call to the previous owner. His return call came a couple of hours later, and his advice made the problem disappear.

You see, the KX3 is a QRP radio and mine has the optional ATU. Elecraft has a matching 100 watt amplifier (KXPA100) that will give the rig a boost. The problem is that if the amp has an ATU, you need to disable the ATU in the KX3. The previous owner had the KXPA100 with its ATU, and the option had been disabled in the KX3. After an adjustment in the configuration menu, all was wonderful

The KX3 is one sweet, little radio. The receiver gives big-time performance even without the optional crystal roofing filters because the DSP does a good job of filtering, too.  The KX3 may have the best receiver I have ever had. My Kenwood TS-2000 is a terrific radio with a great receiver, but the KX3 will give it a run for the money.

In the ARRL DX contest on Saturday night, I worked a few eighty meter stations, including one Caribbean station. Of course, my efforts were with using only five watts, the official QRP CW power limitation. It was almost effortless.

On Sunday, I spent a couple of hours on the HF bands chasing DX stations, and recorded about twenty contacts. Some of these were stateside stations, but I worked several Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico, Aruba, Monserrat, and others.

South America was coming in, and Brazilian stations were worked without much trouble. Central American stations in Costa Rica and Belize were also logged. I heard no Mexican stations, and only one station in Chile. I was unable to work any of the two or three Venezuelan stations.

European stations were not plentiful, and my only European station was in Ireland. I worked bands from 10 to 40 meters Sunday. The best band was 20 meters, with 40 meters being very active. It was not a great weekend for DX, but the stations I worked were with only 5 watts. I was impressed.

The reason I acquired the KX3 was to have a radio that I could take on trips, and work out of a hotel, bed and breakfast, or one of my extended family’s houses. I want the ability to play radio while my wife and her buddies do what ladies do. I want to have my own agenda.

It looks like I will do more operating with the KX3 from my QTH. QRP is great fun, especially with a great radio.

 

It’s Field Day!

picture of tri-band antenna for NFARL field day
Tri-Bander Preparation

Our local club, the North Fulton Amateur Radio League has been preparing for months for this Field Day. Last year, we scored #1 in the nation in Category 3A and have tasted victory. We want more. It is an intoxicating thing, winning.

We have gone to great lengths to train new hams to participate in the operating side of Field Day. Like most large clubs, we have band captains and station bosses to make sure that all operating positions are on the air all the time. This is always a problem in that some people want to operate for an hour, and then settle back and enjoy the barbecue.

You cannot have a Field Day without barbecue, but the real reason for the ARRL to sponsor the event is for local clubs to practice their emergency capabilities and show that ability to the public. Our barbecue was catered by one of our fantastic local ‘cue emporiums, and  hamburgers and hotdogs were grilled on site.There were lots of side dishes and deserts to make the most devoted sweet tooth happy.

It did not rain this weekend. Propagation was fine for a summer weekend radio contest. The contacts started out fast and continued at a good pace for most of the evening. In my CW operating position from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM, there was the inevitable slowing down as the ionosphere lost it’s mojo on the dark side of the earth, but it picked up smartly at dawn.

The logging program we used this year was the N1MM log for Field Day. Besides being free, it was a powerful program and facilitated running contacts. It was great. However, not being familiar with N1MM, I had some minor problems not the least of which was how to edit a falsely typed call sign without re-transmitting the entered information. Oh, well. That’s part of growing up.

By the way, I did work N1MM during the wee hours of the morning.

Now that I have had some rest, it is time to count the Q’s, and start making plans for next year’s Field Day.

Seventy-Three, everybody!

AZ-EL Satellite Antenna on NFARL trailer
AZ-EL Satellite Antenna on NFARL trailer