So, this post is WAY overdue, but better late than never, right? This year, Nikki and I were in charge of Field Day for the Milledgeville Amateur Radio Club. In all, it went pretty well. We had to disconnect the antennas due to lightening. We had trouble getting antennas into the trees. But, without those things, is it really even a Field Day?
We ended up making around sixty contacts. That’s not too bad considering we were only on the air about 3 hours. We did get a lot of bonus points, so that makes it better. Judging by last year’s results, we’re in the running for the top 2A-Commercial in the state. Since this is my first year running one, I think that is a monumental success. To top it off, everyone had a blast and we were able to showcase the hobby to served agencies, elected officials, and interested community members.
Now, on to a few special event stations, Winter Field Day, and all the excitement the next year has in store.
Well, another big ham radio event has drawn to a close. It was fun, but I fell a little bit short. The 13 Colonies Special Event is each year during the week of Independence Day. Work one, get a certificate. Work all 13 (K2A through K2M) and get a “Clean Sweep” endorsement. I worked 12, being unable to contact South Carolina. That’s the way it goes I guess.
There were two bonus stations this year as well. I was able to work the one in Philadelphia but was never able to make it through the pileup to get the Great Britain station.
Special Event Log – 13 Colonies
Philadelphia Bonus Station
Just as much fun for me was what happened outside of the event. While everyone was trying to work the 15 special event stations, it was quite easy to work other stations while waiting to be able to contact a K2x. I was able to contact six new DXCC entities, work the Gettysburg special event stations, got my first contacts on 2 new bands, and progressed towards my WAS Award.
Unfortunately, the event also highlighted much of what was wrong with this hobby. I invited my mother-in-law into the shack to see what I was working on, then had to awkwardly explain to her that some of the odd noises were intentional interference. Some were operators (albeit excited) jumping into a pileup either ignorant or apathetic to the fact the station was calling by numbers. This, combined with participants who were intent on getting every station with every band and every mode, made the process much more difficult than it could and should have been. Yes, I did contact a few stations more than once. But I made a point of only doing that when they were slow, and I made sure to spot them afterwards to get them more contacts.
I get challenging yourself, but there are only endorsements for CW and QRP. There is no reason to try to complete on all bands except ego. There is no reason to chase all RTTY or PSK31. All that does is add to the chaos, and that is the last thing we need.
The bottom line is I had fun. I will do it again next year. But if amateur radio is to survive as a hobby, we must clean up our behavior. If it comes down to it, we must assist with enforcement as well by not engaging with or acknowledging stations which do not follow (or are even openly hostile to) the proper code of conduct.
Sections worked during Winter Field Day 2017. Generated by N3FJP’s Winter Field Day Logger
This weekend was Winter Field Day. It was a new experience for me, but since I had always enjoyed the Field Day in June, I figured I would give it a shot. I chickened out on setting up outside, even with the relatively mild Georgia winter. So I, along with my iffy immune system, operated from my home station. Or, in contest speak, I was 1H GA (1 operator, home station, from Georgia).
Saturday went amazingly well. I was able to get 75 contacts in just a few hours. Sunday didn’t go quite as well. I woke up under the weather, and I wasn’t able to push through like I would have liked. I did manage to get another six contacts, for an unconfirmed 243 points. I even managed to get six new states (Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia) for my Worked All States award (I still have 11 to go).
Even though it didn’t work out quite the way I had hoped, I still had fun. I look forward to next year. Hopefully, by then I will be able to work digital modes and maybe even Morse Code (that would have taken my score to 729 if I had this go round). I’m looking forward to the June version too. If I’m able, I hopefully be working outdoors with the rest of the club. Continue reading →
At the stroke of midnight (GMT) on January 1st, the program which has brought me the most enjoyment in my 21 years as an amateur radio operator drew to a close. National Parks on the Air, a program by the ARRL on conjunction with the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, gave me the kick start I needed to start using and enjoying the HF bands.
There were awards for chasers who contacted a park (my category) and activators who set up a temporary station in a park, as well as additional criteria for special awards based on number of units worked and promotional efforts during an activation.
I must admit that I was a bit late to the year-long party. I didn’t make my first NPOTA contact until September 17th. But soon, I was hooked. By the end of the year, I had confirmed 57 parks with 60 contacts, earning Honor Roll along the way. While that is a far cry from the top score in the program (K5RX had 460 contacts), for a new HF operator participating only 1/4th of the program duration, I am very happy with the outcome.
This is a video of the pileup for Fort Sumter on December 28th. I had already made contact, but the audio was so good I decided it needed to be documented.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLESNHqg2QY]There is another program, called simply Parks on the Air, that will continue. This one is international and includes state parks, wildlife preserves, and some national forests – making activations much more feasible. I look forward to being able to setup activations during the upcoming year to A. H. Stephens State Park, Hamburg State Park, and possibly Hard Labor Creek State Park. I just need an effective portable antenna system first (suggestions welcome!).
Finally, for those who may be curious, here is a list of units I contacted. You can lookup more details about each park by using the designator (in the parenthetical) at the NPOTA website.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail (TR01)
Assateague Island National Seashore (SS01)
Big Bend National Park (NP04)
Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park (HP49)
Blue Ridge Parkway (PK01)
California National Historic Trail (TR14)
Canaveral National Seashore (SS02)
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (RC04)
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (MP01)
De Soto National Memorial (NM05)
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (RC07)
Eightmile National Wild and Scenic River (WR15)
Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historic Site (AA06)
Farmington National Wild and Scenic River (WR16)
Fire Island National Seashore (SS07)
Fort Caroline National Memorial (NM08)
Fort Larned National Historic Site (NS21)
Fort Monroe National Monument (MN32)
Fort Sumter National Monument (MN35)
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (NS28)
Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (NS29)
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park (MP02)
Grand Canyon National Park (NP22)
Green Springs National Historic Landmark District (AA09)
Greenbelt Park (DZ04)
Homestead NM of America National Monument (MN46)
Ice Age National Scenic Trail (TR05)
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (LK02)
Jean Lafitte NHP and Preserve National Historical Park (HP17)
Lake Meredith National Recreation Area (RC14)
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial (NM15)
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (HP25)
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (HP26)
Minute Man National Historical Park (HP27)
Mississippi National River and Recreation Areas (RV04)
Monocacy National Battlefield (BF06)
Natchez National Historical Park (HP29)
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail (TR02)
Natural Bridge (AA26)
North Country National Scenic Trail (TR04)
Olympic National Park (NP44)
Oregon National Historic Trail (TR07)
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park (HP34)
Pecos National Historical Park (HP35)
Petersburg National Battlefield (BF08)
Santa Fe National Historic Trail (TR11)
Saratoga National Historical Park (HP42)
Springfield Armory National Historic Site (NS66)
Steamtown National Historic Site (NS67)
Sudbury, Assabet and Concord National Wild and Scenic River (WR31)
Taunton National Wild and Scenic River (WR32)
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve National Preserve (PV16)
Well, another year’s Field Day has come and gone. And, being Field Day, a comedy of errors made things interesting. To start with, I needed to be two places at one time. So, I started out the day at the Piedmont ARES site in Putnam County. After I couple of hours, I headed south to the Milledgeville ARC site at Georgia College’s West Campus.
Over the course of the day, we had a generator go out, a power supply stop working (probably as a result of the generator), and an antenna fail. But, even with all that and a thunderstorm for good measure, we still managed to have a great time eating barbecue and chatting about the hobby we all love.
Somehow, in the midst of all the chaos, we still managed to make some contacts. I was on HF for the first time since getting back into the hobby, and upgrading to General, and was able to get several contacts around the southwest and northeast portions of the country. A friend of mine sent me a message that Saturday night, after leaving the site, he was able to get more contacts at home working as a 1D than both the PARES and MARC sites combined. That’s how it goes I guess. But anyway, here are some pictures of the day’s events.
Things have changed a lot in amateur radio since I was first licensed. Back then, VHF radio was a way to get out of having a cell phone, or supplemented it when you lived so far out in the country there wasn’t any signal. As I have gotten older and emerged from my unintended sabbatical, some things have changed, and yet a lot remains the same.
Technology has advanced beyond belief. There are modes in heavy use today that hadn’t even been thought of when I passed my Technician exam. But, the core function of ham radio, beyond being a fun STEM based hobby, has been and continues to be public service, especially in times of disaster. We live in a connected world, and I’m as bad as it as anybody. Between WiFi, 4G, and my smart phone, I am constantly IMing, texting, and posting to social media. When those connections become overloaded or go down completely, Ham Radio is ready to stand in the gap.
It does not take much imagination to visualize situations where it may be needed. From basic public service like volunteering for a race to emergency communications in times of widespread disasters, public service is where amateur radio operators move from hobbyests to valuable assets to emergency management.
Tomorrow, operators from around the United States, the world, and beyond will participate in a national emergency drill, known simply as Field Day. The purpose is simple, make as many contacts as possible within the specified time frame under less than optimal conditions. This year, the Milledgeville Amateur Radio Club will be set up at Georgia College’s West Campus. I will be out there for most of the evening, and hope to see you there. I’ll also be trying to at least stop by the Piedmont ARES site outside of Eatonton, if time allows.
Field Day is always a fun experience. The ARRL Website has a locator form for a site near you. I hope you get to join in!