Field Day 2007

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ParkSign314.JPG

Every year, our families take a trip to Myrtle Beach, SC, to enjoy the ocean, beer and various other activities. This year, my buddy scheduled our family vacation on Field Day weekend. There was some twisted logic that lead him to conclude the 4th weekend in June was OK. Well, I can't recall EVER missing Field Day, so I decided to try my hand at QRP operations from a local park in South Carolina. This turned into a great excuse to try something different. Planning and operating in the 1B battery category was a blast. Here's my report. (Note: I won SC QRP 1B1B, but I was the only QRP station. I placed 31 out of 90. First place had 954 Qs!)

Report

I left the condo in N. Myrtle Beach around 6:30AM on Sunday morning. Drove about 30 miles south to Huntington Beach State Park, where I paid the $5 entrance fee.

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My site was located at the group camping area near the north end of the park. There was a group of scouts camped out, but still in bed when I arrived. After taking a look around, I decided to try a secluded wooded location. But the mosquitoes ate me alive! So I coated myself with bug spray and retreated to an empty picnic bench in the nearby field.

My station was a FT-857D and 135’ doublet, fed with 300 ohm twin lead. The doublet was about 20 feet high at the feed point and north end. The south end was closer to 30 feet high. The antenna wire was aligned with 45 degrees, true north. According to multiNEC, WinCAP and VOACAP, the main lobes pointed towards the areas with the best propagation. On 80 and 40 this was Ohio. On 20, the multi-lobe pattern pointed to Michigan and Louisiana.

I used one 12AH sealed lead acid battery for power. According to the manual, the FT-857 draws about 500mA on receive. The battery stayed above 12 volts for the 6 hour operation. I used N1MM logging software, but no rig interface because I didn’t have time to parallel the CW key with the LPT1 key interface. (Really need a USB winkey keyer.)

270

The LDG Z-11 Pro wouldn’t tune the doublet on 40M, so I used a MFJ 16010 and the FT-857’s SWR meter. The LDG worked fine on 80, 20, 15 and 10. (This was consistent with my testing before Field Day and obviously needs some work to find a better combination.)

As predicted, the best propagation was on 40 meters during the start of my operations. My first contact was with VE3ZI at 8:10 AM EDT. Then I worked AR, IN and 5 Ohio stations. After 45 minutes of working the louder stations, I switched to 80 meters before it closed completely. I worked the 5 loudest stations rather easily, but there weren’t any other stations to work. So I switched back to 40 and stayed there until about 11:30. I worked both W4IY (1405Z) and K4TS (1426Z.) W4IY's 40M signal sounded like there was a voltage regulation problem.

According to my predictions, I should switch to 20 around 11:30. Sure enough, 20M was open. After about an hour, I decided to check 15M. It was open, too! So I worked the louder stations, then checked 10M for kicks. I worked two stations on 10M: K1RK in EMA and VE9DX in MAR. I finished the contest on 20M and 15M. My best DX was with AE6C, SV, California on 20M at Noon, which was a little over 2200 miles.

During the early morning, QSOs were a little tougher on 40M for some reason. A few stations struggled with my QRP signal, but during the later part of my 40M ops, it seemed to go a lot easier. I should have logged the stations I tried, but didn’t work.

In general, I tried to work the louder stations unless I was hanging around the QRP calling frequencies. On 20 and higher, I had little problem with the single hop QSOs, but there was fading on the 2 hop QSO’s and stations struggled with my 5 Watts. If a station didn’t answer me after two calls, I would move on. It was tough on the calling stations, if there was nearby QRM.

At 20-30 stations per hour, the rate was consistent with my other QRP contest operations. Of course, this was ALL search and pounce.

I really enjoyed operating alone and QRP. The station worked great and I wasn’t running around fixing computers. Hi hi However, I sure missed the Woodbridge Wireless gang. My friend NOW knows NOT to schedule our family vacations on the forth weekend in June, but if he does again, I know I don’t have to miss Field Day.

Scores

I submitted the scores to the ARRL Cabrillo Web site. http://www.b4h.net/cabforms/ My score was as follows:

Band    QSOs     Pts
 3.5       5      10
   7      70     140
  14      57     114
  21      14      28
  28       2       4
 Total   148     296
           
 Score : 1,480

The multiplier was X5 for using 5 watts or less. So with 250 bonus points, 100 for emergency power, 100 for setting up in a local place and 50 for using the web page to file my score, my total claimed score is 1730. There wasn’t anybody else in 1B battery last year, so maybe this is a winning effort. Hi hi

Update - November 2007 - scores are out and I was right! Nobody else filed as 1B battery for SC. So I took first place!

Lessons Learned

Just a couple lessons learned.

  • I should have tried for the public relations bonus points. Although the morning was peaceful and quiet, by the end of the day, I was sharing my picnic table with several groups. All of them had questions. Since I didn’t make a sign in sheet or print up brochures, I couldn’t claim the 100 points.
  • I need to use different rope for the antenna or a bigger weight. The small weight couldn’t overcome the friction between the tree branches and rope.
  • With so much room, I could have tried different antennas. (e.g. a triangle of 88 foot dipoles.)
  • Bring bug spray and use it!
  • N1MM is a great program. I think it would have been nice to have the rig interface because I forgot to change bands in the logging program several times. I use the rig interface in other contests, so I was used to making the change.
  • Make notes about the contacts I missed.It might be interesting to see where they were located and compare them to the propagation plots.
  • I was not prepared for the rain. I checked the weather reports, so I wasn’t concerned. … but you never know.
  • Bring something to snack on…. I just brought lots of water and missed my lunch.
  • Have somebody take a picture of me at the operating station. I don't like to pose for pictures, but all I have for proof is the picture of the station, etc.

Propagation Maps

I used a combination of VOACAP, WinCAP and 4nec2x to model the 135' doublet and predict the performance. The results were pretty close to the predictions. The WinCAP plots used an isotropic radiator for the antenna. The VOACAP plots used the antenna file produced by 4nec2.

Antenna Patterns

QSO's geocoded and mapped with WinCAP

Propagation prediction overlay with QSO's

VOACAP Maps