CKARC 2008 Field Day
by Austin Wright, VE3NCQ

CKARC Trailer The CKARC had a very successful Field Day event. The location in a remote campground-like setting provided low noise and ideal signals. A team of volunteers had the trailer and tower all set up before I arrived at noon Saturday, and some were spotted fishing in the pond. We set up a vertical antenna, grounded the trailer and set to work networking the two laptops for logging.

This was the club's first attempt at computer logging, so we used this for the educational bonus points. It took some networking genius to get the two computers to see each other, but the N1MM software was easily installed and set up. Our first hour was spent getting this system to work and showing everyone how to use it. This was learned quickly by each operator - much better than using paper logs and hearing, "You're a dupe OM."

Computer Logging Setup We operated as 3A this year on generator and battery power. Radio position 1 was a club Kenwood on a screwdriver antenna, operated by Don VE3DBA and Don VA3SNW. This station mostly made contacts on 10m and 15m using paper logs that were then transferred to the N1MM software. Position 2 was an identical club Kenwood linked to the ether with a trap vertical beside the pond. At various times it was operated on 80m, 40m, 20m, 15m & 10m SSB by Janet VE3FUN, Bill VE3LFD, Adam VE3MUN, 15-year-old Sean VE3IHC (on his first Field Day), and Joshua from VE6-land. The final position was myself VE3NCQ using my newly-repaired Yaesu FT-757GX on gel battery, through a tuner and ladder line into the inverted V atop the tower. It worked CW on 80m, 40m, 20m, & 15m, Digital on 40m & 20m, and SSB mainly on 80m & 20m with some 40m overnight.

The intermittent rain barely hampered our efforts. Using the club trailer kept the water out, but the mosquitos with their thousands of blood-thirsty prickers made their way in and laid waiting for amateurs. Several were successful. Splatter from full swatted mosquitos was worthy of a CSI episode, and carcasses from the not-so-lucky ones began piling up around the operating positions. I pulled an all-nighter to take advantage of the propagation and keep an eye on the equipment. The inverted V worked so well that I was kept busy doing search and pounce, breaking pileups, and pulling out stations running 500-1000 kc apart.

Operating Position Band conditions were incredible over the weekend, with no apparent explanation from the propagation indices. The 80m band wasn't noisy like usual and was good for contacts all night long. Likewise, 40m stayed alive constantly, and 20m was open with wall-to-wall signals for the full 24 hours, including short skip. Even 15m & 10m had activity much of the time. Perhaps all this good propagation on the HF bands explains why I heard nothing on 160m, although I'm sure many used it also.

By morning, coffee arrived and fresh operators returned. In the final couple of hours, all three stations had a fantastic run, logging contact after contact. We worked them right up until 2:00 PM even as the crew began dismantling things outside. Of course, that's when the rain started again, but we still got packed up and ready to go in only an hour.

The Fishing was good This Field Day was very well prepared, using the outstanding capabilities of club assets. We also identified some deficiencies and improvements that would enhance an emergency deployment. This includes bug lights, bug vacuum, outdoor lighting, a permanent Wi-fi network, and an RFI-free inverter. I'll slip a 3 element tribander on the list too for good measure.

Overall, the Chatham-Kent Amateur Radio Club had a very successful Field Day, possibly one of the best in years. With 8 operators, and another 7 or 8 who helped set up, feed the troops, or just drop by the site for a visit, the CKARC is alive and well. Hopefully this will generate even more excitement for next year and allow us to improve our score. We've got a whole year to work on our "Murphy" list!