Monday, June 24, 2013

Field Day 2013

One of the fun things to do on the yearly Ham Radio calendar is to participate in the ARRL's Field Day, held on the fourth full weekend each June. This is a chance to take your gear into the field, set up a station, and make contacts with as many other stations as possible. While disguised as a contest Field Day is actually the an emergency communications exercise developed decades ago by the ARRL to train Ham Radio operators in the art and science of handling emergency communications under primitive conditions. There is a big difference between communicating on the ham bands from your shack and establishing and maintaining communications under adverse (field) conditions. 

My original plans called for David, N4KD, and me to get together and do a 1B Battery entry from the side lot adjacent to our house in Dacula, GA. With plenty of room to erect wire and vertical antennas we had a seemingly ready made FD area. I was getting things ready Friday. Than came the phone call!

Dave, N4KD, called me late Friday afternoon and told me he gotten tapped for a conference on Monday and had to fly out on Sunday, so there went our FD plans. My alternative was to go find the Gwinnett Amateur Radio Society (GARS) and show up at their FD site as one of the "Pros from Dover"! I took my extremely small N3ZN QRP paddles, the Kenwood headset and some Gatorade and (after driving Peppermint Patti to work) set out for the GARS site at Sweetwater Park in Lawrenceville, GA. 

I got there about 2000 EDT, and found Mike
Weathers, ND4V, (AKA: Mikey) and his K3 set up as the 20M CW station (the GARS group ran 8A this year). I made the rounds shaking hands with the old crew and then it was down to work. About 0100 EDT Sunday morning a pipeline in to the SW and So-Cal opened up. I managed to work the Zuni Loop Mountain QRP Expeditionary Force (AKA: "The Zunis") on 20 on the first call. They were using Cam Hartford's call, N6GA. Cam is the QRP column editor for CQ mag and I've known him for well over 30  yrs. In 1996 Patti and I drove across the country to do a Zuni FD with them on Table Mountain outside LA. Talk about fun!!! I even learned how to cook pizza on a B-B-Q grill!  Anyway, N6GA's sigs were steady S-9 on the K3's meter at my location. Great sounding sigs.

By 0500 EDT I had worked the band dry. No new Qs to be had so I got up, shook off all the 3 inch cockroaches and found myself a bottle of water and some stimulating conversation with the guys at the food tables. Went back to work after about an hour. The band was getting "weird", long skip to the west coast was starting to die off as some sigs from the upper NE filtered through. The NE sigs sounded "weak and watery" with a touch of QSB. Thankfully the day shift, with Mikey in tow, arrived about 0630 EDT to take over the station. That gave me a chance to devour one of Uncle Earle's, AF4FG, "Belly Bomber Breakfast Burritos", which are positively guaranteed to open up your intestinal tract and hit the toilet bowl like a flaming meteor! WHEW!!! Remember Thai peppers?? Well, multiply that x 100 and you get the picture!!!! For the last two days I have been taking a Popsicle to the bathroom to use in lieu of toilet paper!!! 

After picking up Patti at work, we got home around 0800 EDT on Sunday. I hit the rack for a few hours. I felt very good about my time running the 20M CW station and bagging some Qs for the GARS effort. One thing for sure, I have a lot of work to do before I am as good a CW op as Mikey. Mike and Dick Bentley, K2UFT, (who was not present at GARS FD this year) are a couple of world class CW ops. These two are my personal inspirations to get my CW skills up to the next level. (Honest, Mikey....I'll quit using the pencil and paper!!!)

Hope everyone had a great FD experience this year. If not, there is always next year! 

C U on the bands

Vy 73 Rich K7SZ
Bent Dipole Ranch
Dacula, GA

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Field Day 2013

Field Day UPDATE:

Dave Keuchenmeister, N4KD, and I (K7SZ) will be doing Field Day from our side lot in Dacula. As it stands now we will have two K3s as primary and backup stations, a PAR (LNR) End Fed Half Wave (EFHW) and a ZS6 multi-band dipole (think a modified G5RV), and possibly a 20M delta loop or bi-square. Power will be provided by a deep cycle marine battery and augmented (if needed) by several 20Ahr gelled electrolyte batteries. 

As far as a call sign: still up in the air but it will either by N4KD or K7SZ. Listen for us on 20M CW/SSB and 40M CW/SSB. Depending upon propagation we can always come up on the 15M band (near the 21.060 QRP calling freq). 80M has never been a big band for us, so we may come up on 80M CW, we'll just have to see how propagation pans out. 

Hope to work many QRP stations this weekend 

VY 73

Rich K7SZ

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dayton 2013

It's been a while since I posted anything on this blog, so please forgive my inability to stick to a writing schedule!!

The Four Days In May (FDIM) is an annual gathering of QRP operators (those stalwart radio hams that voluntarily use no more than 5 watts of RF power) at the Holiday Inn in Fairburn, OH coinciding with the Dayton HamVention, held in mid-May each year. Don Keith, N4KC and Dave Kuechenmister, N4KD, accompanied me on the drive up to Dayton. We had a great time driving up and back from the ham fest. Don was selling a number of his books (he's a prolific writer, an outstanding conversationalist and just a "fun dude" to be around). Check out his website: Dave is a retired USMC major who flew right seat in the Marine Corps A-6 Intruder aircraft and has a whole bunch of very interesting stories to tell about flying in combat!

This was the 7th time I had attended and my 3rd time being a speaker/presenter at the HARA venue speaking on QRP. This year's turnout was larger than the previous two years, which is always gratifying. This year my topic centered on antennas used for QRP. Primarily concentrating on wire antennas which are inexpensive to build, easy to erect and are extremely effective, even when using power levels 13dB lower than a standard 100W transceiver.

After my 45 minutes of fame on the podium, I started out trying to cover as much of the flea market as possible. Along with me was Frank, KL0SW, who had flown in from Big Bear, CA. Having never actually toured the huge flea market at the HARA venue I was totally amazed at the shear amount of tail-gaters. While not looking for anything in particular for my station (except an Astatic D-104 microphone), we were on the look out for a Drake MN-4 antenna tuning unit (ATU) for Frank's "new" Drake TR-4 station. We found one and managed to get the seller down to $30! What a great find. 

Thursday evening was vender's night at the FDIM venue and was very well attended. I managed to procure a few of my QRP books from the ARRL booth earlier in the day and set up shop next to Don's table. I should mention at this point that Don has a number of books in print about submarines. It just so happened Colin Turner, G3VTT, an old friend from the UK had arrived at the FDIM with George Dobbs, G3RJV, the head honcho of the G-QRP-Club. Colin and I have been friends for over 30 years and he was the man who rekindled my interests in WWII US Navy "fleet boats", more commonly called diesel-electric submarines.

As a "Welcome to America" present for Colin, I had obtained a copy of Don's book, "Undersea Warrior", the story of Dudly "Mush" Morton the unparalleled sub commander of the Wahoo. Colin and I had discussed Mush Morton quite a bit while I was in the UK and I knew that anything to do with Mush or the Wahoo would definitely grab his attention. Boy! Was that an understatement. I had Don personally autograph my copy of the book and I presented it to Colin. He was genuinely impressed. About 30 seconds later I introduced him to the author (Don) who had been sitting about 5 feet away from Colin all evening long! That pretty much tied up the evening for those two!

It was great seeing George, G3RJV, and Colin. George, his wife Jo, and my wife, Patricia, had conspired to throw me a surprise birthday party at the RJV QTH, on March 6th, 1983. About 25 G-QRP member were in attendance and, after copious amounts of single malt had been ingested, I was presented with not one,  not two, but THREE Haggis....courtesy of George Burt, GM3OXX, and Ronny Marshall, GM4JJG, who braved the trip down from Scotland, Haggis in hand.

To make a long story short, I survived the Haggis, the party, and had a great time, thanks to the blokes from the G-QRP Club.

Friday was another day cruising the flea market and the HARA venue looking at all the neat toys us ham radio operators just have to have. Friday evening at the FDIM venue was a "show and tell" featuring many homebrew rigs and accessories. Many of these home made pieces of gear were entered in the building competition. The innovation that is shown on some of these radios and accessories is truly amazing.

Saturday was more of the same: running around HARA watching all the demos and looking things over. I ran into Bob Lusby, K9FOH, one of the guys I use to work with at RAF Mildenhall back in the early 80s. Once Bob and I sit down and start talking about the "good old days" when were were both in the USAF, it always brings up some very strong and wonderful memories of that time of my life. I can truthfully say that my 5+ years in the UK with the USAF were the most productive years of my USAF career.

Saturday evening was the QRP Banquet. Awards for the homebrew contest were presented and, of course, the prize drawings. The FLying Pigs were in attendance, led by one of the nicest guys I know, Ed Hare, W1RFI, who just happens to be the ARRL HQ Lab supervisor. What are the "Flying Pigs"? To define it in one word: "Entertainment!"

Dino Papas, KL0S, was at our banquet table, along with Bob, K8FOH, Dave, K4KD, Don, N4KC, just to name a few. Dino, an avid homebewer, is always a pleasure to talk with. He's had articles published i Popular Communications, and is a real go-getter when it comes to building gear.

The banquet wrapped up about 2300 and a bunch of us continued our discussions in the bar of the hotel. Finally,  I needed to get some sleep as Don, Dave and I were leaving about 0900 in the morning to return to Atlanta and Birmingham.

All in all it was a great four days. I always complain about how I really don't like crowds....and REALLY I don't, but when you combine the FDIM and the Dayton HamVention you have enough things to keep a person busy without worrying about crowded conditions. Plenty to do and see, that is for sure. I hope to be going again next year, if the Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise!

The next big venue is the Huntsville (AL) hamfest August 17-18, 2013 ( Don, N4KC, has already indicated he would be going, ditto for David, N4KD. It looks like I will be presenting at this gathering, also. It promises to be a fun time. Not only that....there is the NASA museum close by, so I know where I am going to be hanging out!!

Look for me running K7SZ/QRP on mainly 40 meters (CW) and possibly 20 meters (CW & Phone) this upcoming weekend. I'll be running a K3 with some hastily erected wire antennas in my back yard.