On the weekend of June 27, the CKARC returned to the campground-like setting at Ron Oliver's to participate in the annual ARRL Field Day. Following breakfast in Thamesville, members began putting weeks of preparation into practice by setting up the trailer and erecting antennas.
This year, the club decided to use the multiband trap vertical, placed almost directly in the pond to ensure a good ground. The large monopole was attached to the trailer and raised with a G5RV fed with ladder line. A secondary inverted-V was placed a short distance away. The trailer is equipped with batteries, but generator power was maintained the whole time, keeping the machine well away from the trailer to avoid noise.
Running once again as 3A, the operating positions were more elaborate this year. Just in time for Field Day, the group secured the use of several laptop computers, all of which were loaded up with all kinds of amateur radio software, including the N1MM Contest Logger. A wireless router was operated in the trailer, allowing all the laptops to communicate in real time. Each operator was able to see what the others were doing, including the frequency in use, stations worked, and mode. An additional computer in the picnic shelter also displayed this information for those not in the trailer, and it hosted a networked print server which came in handy when copies were needed of ARRL section abbreviations.
The first position was the VE3NCQ grab-and-go kit consisting of a Yaesu FT-757GX on gel battery power. A RigBlaster Pro interfaced the radio with laptop, and was used for the digital modes, some CW, and as a contest keyer. A rather large tuner handled excursions away from resonance on the G5RV without the troubles a smaller unit sometimes experiences.
Down the operating desk, position number two had a laptop for logging, along with a club Kenwood TS570. This rig mostly used the vertical with the built-in tuner. Power came from the trailer 12 volt rail. The end position was identical, with the trailer screwdriver used for the antenna before it was switched to the other G5RV.
Several club members took turns running the Kenwoods, while Austin VE3NCQ maintained a steady stream of contacts on his own radio, primarily on CW, with a few good runs on voice and some digital modes. The plan was to maximize bonus points and make as many QSOs as possible. There were some problems with the signals interfering with each other, so a strategy was used to keep everyone on different bands. When members were not operating, they spoke with guests, socialized, and checked out some of the ham software on display at the information table. Of course, everyone stopped operating to enjoy barbecued supper.
Club members ran the stations for 24 hours straight, some continuously. Attempts were made to work several satellites for bonus points, but despite hearing signals on several birds, a completed contact proved elusive for another year. Several attempts were made to copy the ARRL Field Day bulletin, and this did pay off with the bonus points. Traffic was handled on the Ontario Phone Net, which earned another set of easy bonus points. Adam discovered a number of Benny Hill episodes on one laptop, which provided some midnight comedy between contacts.
Drawing from a list of deficiencies noted in 2008, the club made several improvements to the outfit. A custom screen was constructed to cover the trailer rear door, which kept the bugs way down from last year, and allowed a fresh breeze to flow. The power busses were improved with lower gauge wiring, and ground straps were added to each operating position. Red filters were placed over the trailer lighting, but the initial guffaws soon turned to appreciation as the bugs were no longer attracted in swarms at night. They also helped preserve night vision, which came in handy when a sudden downpour sent Adam and Austin outside at 3:00 AM to close the door, cover loose equipment, and make sure nothing was getting wet that wasn't supposed to.
Propagation was not as good as other years, but plenty openings were still found. A total of 367 contacts were logged, on 80m, 40, 20m, 15m, and 10m, an increase over last year. Austin held a frequency on 80m for over two hours, making over a contact per minute.
The highlight of the day came just before takedown. Dan VE3DAN (VA3OT) put considerable effort into attaching a generator to an exercise bicycle. This was connected to a battery, and Sean VE3IHC was volunteered to provide pedal power while VE3NCQ quickly worked stations on 20m for Natural Power bonus points.
At the conclusion of Field Day, everything was quickly dismantled and packed away, followed by a tailgate feast of all the remaining food. The tired operators then went home to sleep. All the paperwork was assembled and submitted to the ARRL. The results should be posted in the next few months, and the CKARC will find out where they placed amongst 3A Ontario stations.
The Chatham-Kent Amateur Radio Club had another very successful Field Day. Participation was up, contacts were up, and the score was substantially improved despite poor propagation. The "Murphy List" was also considerably shorter.