CKARC 2010 Field Day
by Austin Wright, VE3NCQ

Putting up antennasFor 2010, the club planned to improve on last year's score. Don VA3SNW arranged with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Moraviantown First Nation to use the park at Tecumseh's Monument on Longwoods Road east of Thamesville. The site was ideal, with public exposure, no powerlines or noise, lots of space, and a port-o-john.

Preparations started well in advance to get the trailer and everything ready. A press release was sent out to every local media outlet. CBC Radio in Windsor contacted me for a live interview, and several visitors to our site said they came out to see us after hearing about Field Day on the morning show. Not one single Chatham-Kent reporter bothered to show up or cover our event, and we didn't see any invited politicians either.

Club members met in Thamesville for breakfast, then headed out to Tecumseh's Monument to begin setting up. Don VA3SNW showed up with a luxury - a 3-element tri-band beam! This was installed on a guyed 30' mast, complete with a rope to change the orientation.

Putting up the beamNear the trailer, we found a pipe sticking up from an old hand pump that had been removed. This attracted quite a crowd of typical hams, each visualizing how to best utilize such a good ready-made ground. Bill VE3LFD set about attaching our multi-band trap vertical antenna to the pipe. Overgrown tree branches were in the way, but shimming it at a slight angle brought it into the clear.

Look out above! And Below! And Behind!The G5RV antenna was hoisted up the 50' guyed monopole anchored to the trailer. It's fed with ladder line to a balun at ground level. Another inverted V antenna was hung from a tree at a right angle. I made numerous attempts to shoot a line over a branch using my antenna slinging too, commonly known as a slingshot. Finally, Bill was overcome with sympathy or perhaps laughter, and he tossed a wrench and string over the branch on the first try. It's only fair to point out Bill is taller than I.

Powering only 3 rigs, computers, and lights, our generator is rather oversized and loud. Instead of lugging it out from the trailer, Bryon VE3FUZ brought his small inverting-type generator. It ran very quietly off to the side, using a fraction of the fuel usually consumed during Field Day. There was a bit of RF hash at spots on 40 and 20 metres, but nothing that restricted our operations.

VE3DBA on solar-powered GOTAThe trailer was equipped with two batteries, two Kenwood TS-570 rigs, plus the gel battery connected to my own Yaesu FT-757GX. Each logging laptop computer had about two hours of reserve, and the wireless router ran directly from the trailer 12 volt system this year. Nothing would go down when the generator needed gas.

As 2:00 PM rolled around, everything was set up, ready, and working. We had done it! Nobody was actually on the air yet, but socializing is half the fun of Field Day. We also had a steady stream of visitors who were given demonstrations and answers to all their inquiries.

Once we got down to business, I gave a quick review of the N1MM logging software we use. It handles multiple station logging over the network, so we never have to hear, "You're a dupe old man."

VE3FUN and VE3CBPWith all the guests and assembled hams, it took awhile before anyone actally got on the air seriously. Once the running started, it was incredibly easy to get stations in the log. I did more CW and digital this year, while the other stations worked voice. With a better choice of antennas this year, it was easier to keep out of the other operators' receivers, but it was still problematic at times. Making digital contacts was way slower than CW, so they ought to be worth more points.

Members stopped for a barbecued supper and more social time. As evening approached, members and visitors were treated to a fireworks display visible over the field from a couple of kilometers away in Thamesville. Then we covered the trailer back door with a custom screen to keep the critters out. This was obtained last year in response to a mosquito ambush one year that left us all anemic. It turns out the bugs weren't nearly so bad this year.

Under the red bug lightFor bonus points, I was able to copy the ARRL bulletin using several digital modes. This year, I remembered to save the text before closing my program, after our disaster last year.

During the night, we ran several bands. It was surprising how late 20m stayed open. Don VA3SNW had discovered the satellite tracking software on our logging computers, and we all headed outside around 4:15 AM for a good view of the International Space Station, as predicted. None of us thought to try a QSO. Then I snapped some photos by moonlight that were bright as day.

By morning, more people returned, bringing food and coffee for those of us who stayed up all night. Operators took turns working the bands.

Glowing trailer under moonlightWe decided to use some more conventional alternative power this year for our bonus points. Using a solar panel to charge my gel battery, I made 5 QRP contacts on CW, then worked a bunch more with ease on PSK31 and RTTY, each time lowering the power until nothing indicated on the meter.

As 2:00 PM Sunday neared, the weather became unsettled. We hadn't realized just how unsettled until we got a call from the Windsor group on our repeater, alerting us that we were under a tornado watch. When Field Day ended, we tried to finish off some of the good food, as skies darkened and thunder rumbled in the distance. Like clockwork, we always have rain when it's time to pack up.

The moment I tuned in the WeatherRadio, a tornado warning was issued for Chatham-Kent. Nothing motivates a station take-down crew quite as much as the threat of having to chase our gear to the next county. Our Field Day location was evacuated in record time despite rain showers. We hit the main thunderstorm on our way back to Chatham, and thankfully nobody saw any tornados.

Visit by municipal official It was a very successful outing for our club. More people were involved this year, and we made more contacts than ever. Without bonus points tallied in, our score was 1266, with 143 contacts on CW, 24 on digital, and 299 on voice.

See the photo album here.