Winter Field Day (WFD) 2018 @ W5RRR

WINTER FIELD DAY 2018!

On a cold, rainy weekend of the January 27th, members of the JSCARC successfully marked W5RRR’s presence in our first ever 2018 Winter Field Day event. KB5PGY, W9TWJ, and W5OC setup portable operations from the outdoor picnic tables adjacent to the W5RRR shack.   The intrepid trio strung up a variety of temporary antennas which included two long wire antennas (Zepp, End-Fed) strung from the trees and two exotic portable vertical antennas: 1) The Next Generation Antenna (N6BT) V-8 and 2) the Transworld TW-2010/4040, both ground mounted. The V-8 antenna required a bit of ingenuity to mount but W9TWJ ended up hammering down 2 leftover fence posts from last year’s summer FD, which worked great as a self supporting ground stake.

Luckily, the rain was never heavy, but the constant misting and drizzling soaked all of our paper products (cheatsheets, pads, etc). The use of trash bags sure helped keep the water off of the equipment, at times. On the other hand, perhaps the soggy ground helped our performance with a most excellent ground conductivity.

Tanner setup portable ops with his ICOM IC-9100 and mostly anchored down 20 SSB during the day. Dave Fanelli brought his TenTec OMNI on Saturday, and his TS-2000x on Sunday, while working SSB and Digital. I represented CW on 20/40m and borrowed the shack’s TS-2000 from the shack. My IC-706 sat in a box as a backup but wasn’t used.

With Saturday relief operators, Jeff AB4ME and John AB5SS, we had a terrific 1st showing of WFD for the club.

Lessons Learned

These types of emergency preparedness operations are extremely important and humbling. Murphy didn’t overwhelm us, but we had several lessons learned to keep in mind for the next one:

  1. Generators.  Yep, they need to be kept maintained. By late Saturday, one of the Honda generators began to run rough and started coughing and sputtering. Finally it died. Luckily we had a backup generator, and powered that one up to finish up the contest. Jeff AB4ME advised that the carburetor gets gummed up, and special cleaning needs to be performed to keep the system working. Next stop, Jeff’s house!
  2. Radio Frequency Interference.  We saw this during June Field Day, but it cropped up again. Although Digital modes were more impervious as expected, the PSK31 caused wideband noise if operating on same band. For CW/SSB, we had lousy luck operating on same bands. In fact, we rarely could operate both CW and SSB stations simultaneously even while on separate bands due to harmonics. Yes, antenna placement was a major factor, but we hardly had time to determine a setup that worked well.   On Sunday, we even moved the V-8 from one end of the field to the other, but no joy. Use of bandpass filters, placements of antenna, and lowering power levels are things we should review for the upcoming Field Day. Of note, with the end-fed wire, he had troublesome RFI feeding back into the TS2000x. Would have been interesting to see if ferrites could have helped.
  3. Logging Contacts. Well, I have a Mac and our club logging SW (N3FJP) is PC-based. I decided to go primitive and only use an excel spreadsheet. We’ll, it worked, but it created unnecessary manual headache for Tanner, as he integrated his, David’s and my scores into a single file. Arguably, I should have formatted my spreadsheet for better integration, but having a smart logger application also provides warning of duplications and status of multiplers needed (e.g. sections not worked). Had I operated more seriously, I definitely would have gotten into trouble with the simple spreadsheet. The best solution is to use same SW and fileshare.
  4. Clothing. I *hate* wet feet. The morning of setup, we sloshed through the field which was nearly a shallow lake since it rained heavily the night before. Even with my precaution of wearing boots during the antenna buildups, my feet and socks got wet. I took an unplanned trip back home to change socks and shoes. Note-to-self: bring extra clothing.
  5. Tuners and Analyzers. Especially because we used two random length wire antennas, the MFJ 259 antenna analyzer was a godsend. It was used constantly to retune the antennas for different bands and it was used to troubleshoot when we were trying to isolate problems. We had two Dentron antenna tuners. Oddly, one worked better than another. This taught me that the sometimes achieving a good match requires critical values of inductance. Both of these tuners use discrete taps into the coils, so obviouslly one tap provided the needed inductance that the other didn’t quite have. Roller inductor type tuners are best! Also, these tuners are essential to properly match portable antennas, if you plan to operate in different portions of the band. For example, the Telewave TW2010 had most of the settings preset in the SSB band. The SWR in the CW and Digital bands was extremely high. So Dave F used the tuner to keep his radio happy in these cases.
  6. Ropes and Tiewraps. Essential. Used extensively. Never forget these and bring a lot!
  7. LED Drop lights. Being the thoughtful and prepared person I am, I bought two nice Sears droplights to help illuminate our area during PM operations. These are the modern day LED variety, which operate cool, cast a bright light, and won’t likely burn out. Well Tanner lost over an hour of prime operating time since it produced a noise floor which wiped out his station. He thought the propagation went bad, so he tolerated it for quite awhile. Yep, took that long before he isolated to Dave’s fancy new lights. When he turned it off, the band opened up.

Performance:

  • I was impressed with Tanner’s Next Generation Antenna (N6BT) V-8. I believe it’s fairly new, and boy does it perform well. It’s actually a vertical dipole but with an odd looking horizonal element mounted at the bottom base. 80-10m. N6BT is the vendor of this antenna and he was the founder of Force 12– so it’s pretty obvious he understands high performance antennas.
  • The 2 wire antennas worked *great*. Hang ’em high and they will perform. We hung them up high in the trees thanks to my trusty surf fishing pole and a .3 lb 3″ hexbolt sinker.
  • Dave used the Transword so can’t comment too much. I tried a couple of times, but didn’t have too much luck. Will need to take this guy out on a better test later on in my backyard. It’s rated very highly by portable ops. folks.

The Results:

Thanks to Tanner, he quickly integrated the data and submitted our claimed score at 10968. I think we had a good showing of mixed mode QSOs : CW=75, Digital =32, SSB=248. We operated casually only, so that’s a pretty nice score. Tanner compared our score with last years entrants (although this year the competition has likely grown) and we would have landed top 15!

The Future:

I hearby decree the Winter Field Day will now become a stable on the JSCARC calendar. Next year should be fun, as we get more members involved. This year’s event has been a resounding success for a quickly put together operating event that wasn’t very well promoted in the club.

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