Time to Change the Rules for Field Day

I just finished writing about how Field Day can be “seasoned to taste”…adapted to your particular interests. Overall, I think the ARRL has done a good job of crafting Field Day rules that provide some incentives for certain types of operation and activities. Get On the Air (GOTA) station, the free VHF station, and Class F (EOC location) are examples of positive rule changes that have been made over the years.

Still, I think there is room for improvement:

  • Eliminate the point advantage for CW and Digital contacts Why does Field Day have a scoring scheme that favors a particular mode? That is, CW and Digital contacts count 2 points versus 1 point for Phone. If these modes have some kind of efficiency advantage, then let that be the reward.  If not, then why the scoring incentive? The point benefit makes no sense to me, so I would eliminate that 2X advantage.
  • More Points for VHF/UHF Field Day is supposed to be about operating under simulated emergency communications. However, most real life EmComm activity makes heavy use of FM VHF and UHF to get the job done.  I would increase the number of points awarded for contacts on 144 MHz and higher to 2 points per contact, to compensate for the natural shorter range of these frequencies.
  • Remove Restriction on 146.52 MHz Also to encourage VHF operating, I would eliminate the prohibition against using 146.52 MHz. No other calling frequency is restricted in this way.
  • Make the Contest 24 Hours Field Day is set up to run 27 hours as long as you don’t set up at the start of the contest. It seems that must clubs set up early and just operate the first 24 hours. I would just simplify the event and make it 24 hours.
  • Bonus Points for VHF Packet or APRS Modern traffic handling uses digital methods, so I would encourage this by offering 100 bonus points for either establishing a functioning APRS station or packet radio system.
  • Require Electronic Log Submission Come on, this is the 21st Century….paper logs should be eliminated and all logs should be submitted electronically.

Well, my VHF+ tendencies are showing. These are my suggestions—what do you think?

73, Bob K0NR

ARRL Field Day: Season to Taste

The 2011 Field Day is over. I have to admit that I am a bit ambivalent about Field Day…I can take it or leave it. But I have always thought that one of the great things about Field Day is that it can be tuned to whatever interests you or your club. It can be a serious radio contest (well, almost); it can be an EmComm Drill, it can be a Radio Campout;  it can be a food fest, it can be a beer-drinking party. Insert your idea here.

Here’s how my Field Day played out this weekend. The plan was to escape to our cabin in the mountains and set up a temporary HF + VHF station powered by a gasoline generator (1 transmitter, Class B). I used a basic trap dipole on 40M/20M/15M, a 6M5X Yagi on 6 Meters and a 2M9 Yagi on 2 Meters. I was hoping for some decent propagation on 20 Meters and 15 Meters, if 6 Meters opened up that would be awesome.

An urgent matter popped up on Saturday which took priority for most of the day. I finally got on the air Saturday evening and was pleasantly surprised to find 15 Meters still open. I worked quite a few stations on 15 M SSB until the band faded, then I slipped over to 20 Meters. Later, I noticed that 6 Meters had some life in it, so I turned my attention to that band, working back into the southeast.

The next morning, I checked 6 Meters and it was open again to the east. I was cranking out the contacts on 6 Meters but occasionally flipped around to the other bands. It was interesting to compare the 6 Meter activity on Field Day to the June VHF QSO Party. The propagation and number of stations on the air were similar. The skill level of the Field Day crowd was noticeably lower, with more dupes and sloppy operating. (That would be Field Day as a training event.)

Band  Mode  QSOs    Pts
 7    LSB      6      6
 14   USB     37     37
 21   USB     92     92
 28   USB      1      1
 50   USB    273    273
 144  USB      3      3
 Total       412    412

As you can see from the score, Field Day turned into a second June VHF contest for me, with 273 QSOs on 6 Meters.

A great time was had by me. How was your Field Day?

73, Bob K0NR    1B CO

June VHF QSO Party — Awesome Conditions

The ARRL June VHF QSO Party should be the most fun VHF event of the year, but sometimes the propagation works against us. You see, June is supposed to be the primo time for sporadic-e propagation in North America but the ionosphere doesn’t always get the memo. This year was an absolute blowout with 6 Meters open for most of the daytime hours of the weekend!

As I prepped for the contest, I told myself  “don’t worry too much about 50 MHz, try to fill in some more grids on 2 Meters.”  This might have been my subconscious mind preparing for a crappy weekend on 6 Meters. I did manage to acquire a new and improved 6 Meter Yagi antenna (M2 6M5X), which turned out to be a very nice improvement over the old 3-element Cushcraft that I have been carting across the state for decades. I had decided to ignore the other bands and focus on 2 Meters and 6 Meters.

Here’s the antenna array, consisting of a 2M9SSB (12.0 dBd gain, 14.5 foot boom, 9 elements) and the 6M5X (9.4 dBd gain, 18 foot boom, 5 elements):

I operated from our cabin up in the mountains, grid locator DM78av. I don’t have a permanent station installation but instead operate in a portable mode. That is to say, I strapped a mast onto the front deck and supported the antennas that way. These two antennas are a really good choice for a portable station…not real small but they can be moved around.

The FT-847 puts out 100 Watts on 6 Meters and (with an amplifier) achieves 170 Watts on 2 Meters.

On Saturday morning, 6 Meters was open to the southeast, before the contest started. I held back until the contest began and then jumped in. It was pretty much a blur after that…mostly working 50 MHz but I flipped back over to 2 meters to see who I could work there.

The final score is my personal best for the June event:


Band       QSOs X pt =  QSO pts.  X   Grids   =     Points
50         500    1      500           170           85000
144        28     1      28            13            364
TOTALS     528           528           183           96624


After the contest, I sent my electronic log into the ARRL for the contest and then uploaded my log to the Logbook of the World. LoTW has had a slow start but they recently upgraded it to handle VHF grids and VUCC. So just a few hours after the contest, I uploaded my log and received over 75 QSOs confirmed! Wow, talk about instant gratification…this is how it should be. No waiting around a couple of years for the cards to show up. If you are not using LoTW, now is the time to get on board.

73, Bob K0NR

TWiT Ham Nation on the Air, er Network

Ham Nation is On the Air, or should I say On the Network?

I previously posted about Bob Heil (K9EID) hosting the Ham Nation netcast on the TWiT network. The show is off to a great start with the first few episodes: The History of Ham Radio, Emergency Communications and Ham Radio Basics. You can view Ham Nation on iTunes or go to the TWiT website.

Check it out.

73, Bob K0NR

Want to Try Working the June VHF Contest?

Here’s a reminder that the ARRL June VHF QSO Party (AKA The June Contest) is coming up next weekend. This is a great opportunity to have fun operating the VHF and higher bands.

Here’s some info I sent out to our local club (sorry, it is a little specific to our area but you may find it useful anyway).

The ARRL June VHF QSO Party is next weekend (June 11, 12), which is The Big One in terms of VHF events. This is the best opportunity to try out VHF contesting!

Here are some practical thoughts on how you might start:

When Should I get on the Air?
The contest runs from 1800 UTC Saturday to 0259 Monday, which translates to 1200 Noon Mountain time on Saturday to 9 PM Sunday. (By the way, you should keep your log in UTC. You can always find the correct UTC time by going here: http://time.gov/timezone.cgi?UTC/s/0/java )
You can operate any time during the contest but I’d suggest focusing on noon to 6 pm Mountain time on Saturday.

What if I only have FM equipment?
Many of our new Technician licensees only have a dualband FM radio, often an HT. This will limit your activity in the contest but it doesn’t count you out. My suggestion is to get on the air on Saturday afternoon and try to contact as many stations as you can on 147.555 MHz and 446.000 simplex (Stu W0STU suggested 446.100 MHz which is also fine.) Stu W0STU and Steve WG0AT will be doing a portable operation from the top of Mt Herman on Saturday afternoon and they will be active on FM. I am sure they will appreciate a contact and a bunch of the Scouts are likely to be on the air. Don’t just work Stu and Steve….talk to everyone that you can.
I will be up in the mountains west of South Park and will also be listening on FM. I will be more difficult to reach but not impossible. Take that as a challenge! (Hint: it helps if you have a yagi antenna pointed West.)

Where Should I Go?
For starters, you don’t have to go anywhere, you can operate from home. But Height Above Average Terrain matters, so you might consider finding a “high spot” to operate from. Obviously, Stu and Steve are thinking Mt Herman is an excellent spot (which it is). There are other peaks along the Rampart Range (Raspberry Mt, Sundance Mt, etc.) that are just as good. The highest spot that is easy to get to is Pikes Peak (duh) and there is a road to the top! And Mount Evans is another option, west of Denver. If you are going to be out running around doing errands on Saturday, you can operate mobile from the car. In fact, you might want to be a “rover” and make contacts from multiple grids.

What about 6 Meters?
Six meters is usually the most fun band in the June contest. Normally, things are pretty quiet on 50 MHz and you work just the locals. But then the band opens with sporadic-e propagation and you’re working Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, Washington, California, Canada….almost anywhere in North America. For this, you’ll really want a SSB radio that can operate on 50.125 MHz USB (calling frequency) and move up from there as the band gets busy. Even a modest antenna, like a simple dipole, can work on 6 Meters. So don’t think you need something fancy to get started. There may be FM activity as well, which would be on 52.525 MHz.

Set a Goal
The basic idea is to see how many stations you can work on each band. You can also set a goal such as trying to get the Worked Colorado Award  ( http://rmvhf.org/Certs/Award.html ) which is achieved by working 6 different grids on any VHF/UHF band.

What Else Do I need to Do?
Read the rules, which are available here: http://www.arrl.org/june-vhf-qso-party
Make sure you know your grid. The Monument area and all of metro Denver is in DM79. Colorado Springs and Pueblo are DM78. The dividing line runs east/west roughly at Black Forest and the USAFA stadium.

Here’s some more VHF information on my web site:

How To Work A VHF Contest

Getting Started on 2-Meter SSB

So You Want to Be a Rover

And don’t forget to have fun!!!!

73, Bob K0NR