Field Day results


Well, I made it to Nebraska to operate Field Day with my cousin Brad, KG0GY. Despite breaking both of our antenna supports, we managed to get low antennas on 20 and 40 meters and make about 370 contacts — 368 of them on CW.

We both learned a good lesson — you can’t have too many antenna plans for Field Day. When the first support broke, we joked about going to Plan B. By Saturday afternoon we were on Plan D, but luckily, that one held up.
Next year, we’ll do more antenna preparation.

For me, it was a kick to operate from Nebraska, and send NE as the section. It had been 30 years or so since I had done that.

The photo above is Brad, hard at work. We ran my K2/100 and his Icom 746Pro.

Field Day is coming


Field Day, where Hams all around the country spend a weekend “in the field” operating under emergency conditions is coming. Next weekend I’m travelling to Nebraska to mount an operation with my cousin Brad, KG0GY, from Juniata, Nebraska.

Brad and I have similar operating interests, and we’ve been talking about doing this for years, so it should be fun. He’s been active with the Lincoln Amateur Radio Club for years, and I’ve been active with the Wheaton Community Radio Amateurs. We’ve both been active in Field Day with those clubs, and have both been very active in those clubs. We also share the view that we’re tired of clubs, but like Field Day, so this is our solution.

We’ll be operating 80, 40, 20, and 15 meters, primarily on CW, but may run a little SSB, if we’re bored. We’ll be running my Elecraft K2/100 and his Icom 746Pro. I’ve got a small Honda EU2000 generator that will provide our power.

My Field Day philosophy has always been “if I have to spend more than a couple hours in preparation and more than 30 minutes in setup, it’s too complex.” For the 20 and 15 meter antenna I’m using my Force 12 vertical dipole. I’ve used it past Field Days, and it meets my antenna raising criteria: “If the antenna is too big for my wife to put up, it’s too big.” I’ve included a shot of the antenna broken down and ready for transport. The base is the biggest part of the package.

I’ll post more details from the Field Day site next week, and more photos and summary after the event.

Look for us on 80, 40 and 20 CW as KG0GY, 2A NE.

Novice station

The wife was cleaning out some old trunks and found this picture from january 1966 of my Novice station. Yes, I was 12 years old, WN0NHG, and the proud owner of a Heathkit HR-10B receiver, a Globe HG-303 transmitter, and a Knight Kit SWR bridge. Note the QSL cards on the wall, most of them with other Novice calls.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, in the past there was a Novice class of license, which was how most people got into Ham radio. It required passing a 5 word per minute code test and a simple test, mostly covering regulations. It was good for one year, and you were limited to three 50 KHz bands on 80, 40, and 15 meters. Transmitters had to be crystal controlled and limited to 75 watts.

But with those limitations, and a rotten, wide receiver in the HR-10, I worked all over the U.S. and Canada and had a ball.
Note the Heathkit speaker in the upper right corner of the photo. I’m still using it today. You can spot it in some pictures of my current station on this blog. Sadly, I don’t have any wallpaper with rocket ships on it.

Summertime blues

It’s finally spring, and while that means warmer weather and May flowers, it also means thunderstorms, poor band conditions and less activity on the radio, at least in my case. Last weekend was a beautiful weekend, so a couple of quick contacts early Saturday morning was the end of my activity.

I did buy another radio during the last two weeks. Ever since the Dayton Hamvention last year — the world’s largest gathering of hams — I’ve been thinking about ordering an Elecraft K3. I’ve held off, thinking that I’d wait until the new radio was in full production and there wasn’t a six-month wait.

Then I talked the N4LQ, Steve in Louisville, KY, on his K3 the other night. When I asked about the K3, he told me he had replaced his Icom 7800 — a $8,000 radio — with the $2,000 K3, and was hapy he did. That sold me and I went to the Elecraft web site and ordered my K3. I won’t see it until September or October, but that’s ok. I’ll have it ready for contest season next year.

Speaking of contests, the biggest ham radio even for me of the summer is Field Day. Held in June, it’s where hams set up “in the field” using emergency power and operate for 24 hours. It’s often done with local clubs or groups, so it’s a nice chance to get out of the basement and out in the open air and do things with fellow hams.

The last eight years I’ve operated 40 cw with the Wheaton Community Radio Amateurs, the local club I belong to. This summer I’m trying something different. I have a cousin who is a ham in Lincoln, Nebraska, so he and I are going to do a two-man, two station portable operation from his mother’s farm. His call is KG0GY and Brad and I are both CW ops, have both been active in our respective clubs, and are both ready to try a Field Day on our own, so to speak. If it works out, it could turn into a new tradition for us.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll detail my Field Day plans and results.

A good radio weekend

Saturday morning is probably my most consistent time to get on the air. I usually get up early, the wife is still in bed, and I head for the basement to play with the radios for a a couple hours. For some reason, the dogs have gotten in this habit, and wait for me by the basement stairs on Saturday and Sunday morning and are upset if I’m not heading downstairs by 7 or so.

Here’s a quick wrap-up of this weekend’s contacts — all on 40 meters and CW.

K4UY, Ron in Madison, AL. This was our third contact in the last year. We talked about where he lives, the Huntsville area, and how nice it is. I travel a lot for work, so often know the area where my contacts live. People like to talk about where they live, so that’s often good fodder for conversation.
NS9F, Gene, Lockport, IL. This is maybe 10 mile from my house. I’ve run into this gentleman a couple times on 40 meters, we had a nice chat.
KB5GXD, Angelo, St. Joseph, MO. I’ve talked toAngelo, a retired doctor, several times. Another nice chat.
Then later in the evening: YP9W — Romania. There was some Romanian contest going on, and I heard people working this station. I gave him a call and worked him on the first call. That’s my DX for this weekend.

Sunday morning we had torrential rains going on, but no lightning so I went down and got on the air. The bands were very poor and I could hear few stations. But I still managed to have several good contacts.
K3MD, John, Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve talked to John several times, we have similar interests and both have too many radios. We talked radios for a while, another common topic that’s easy to talk to people about. Nice contact.
W4OCO, Mike, Mooresville, NC. We didn’t talk long, he was having a hard time hearing me. But after we signed out, W5SG, Bill, near Houston called me. We had a long chat, again, talking mostly about radios because we had some common interests in that area.
These were all CW contacts. What I think I like about CW is that while you’re operating it, you have to focus on it. I woke up this morning dreaming about work and trying to solve a work problem — not what I want to do on Sunday morning. During my couple hours on the radio, work never crossed my mind, because I was focused on CW.
My antennas consist of a SteppIR vertical in the back yard and an 80 meter dipole fed with ladder line in the trees in my yard. The person driving by would never notice my antennas, unless they were looking hard for them.

A little about me

When I’m not in the basement playing with my radios, I work as a editorial director of a small publishing company, producing a variety of trade magazines and web sites in the woodworking and agribusiness markets. You can view a couple of those at Countertop Business and EcoAgri.Biz.

I grew up in a small town in west Nebraska, and got my first ham license at the age of 12. My call was WN0NHG. I got my General license a year later, and was assigned the call WA0QMZ. Back in those days, your only choice of a call was the random call assigned by the FCC. When I got active in ham radio again in the late 90s, I discovered the FCC had instituted a vanity call sign program, so I chose my current call, K9OZ. The 9 is for the 9th call district, which inlcudes Inidiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Nebraska is in the tenth call district, hence the calls with the 0 in them.

What is CW?

CW is sending Morse code, yes those dits and dashes you learned in Boy Scouts, over the radio in a continuous wave mode, hence the abbreviation CW. It used to be widely used in maritime, military and railroad communications. It’s a highly efficent, highly effective way to communicate. You can communicate farther, with less power and a more simple radio, than in most other modes.

A lot of the arcane phrases and abbreviations in Ham radio stem from its roots in telegraphy. Long before kids were texting short messages, telegraphers were figuring out abbreviations. Some of these are being picked up by the texters today, some not.

An unmarried woman is a YL, short for Young Lady. When she gets married, she becomes an XYL, ex-young lady. My wife doesn’t like that phrase, she still thinks of herself as a YL.

CQ is a call you put out when you are looking for someone to talk to. I will send CQ several times followed by my call, K9OZ. Someone hearing that, knows I’m looking for a chat and will reply by calling me with my call, followed by their call. Then we’re in conversation. I’ve had CQs answered by people in the same suburb and people in Antartica. It’s like fishing, you throw your line out and you’re never sure what will bite.

The other ham in the family

My XYL — that’s hamspeak for wife or X young lady — pointed out that I’ve failed to mention that she’s also a ham. A few years ago she decided she wanted to be able to use the radio in the car, and got her license. She later upgraded to a General class license, and even passed the code test back when that was a requirement. Her call is K9GAL. I’ve managed to get her on HF a few times, but she spends most of her ham time on the local repeater. We took this picture a couple years ago in front of the vintage equipment I had at the time. Most of the gear in the background has moved on to other owners.

More radios

One of my favorite new toys is a Patcomm 16000A, the top radio in this photo. I found it on E-bay last month at a nice price, and jumped on it. It is a nice cw rig, with nice filtering and a built-in keyboard. Patcomm went out of business shortly after introducing this radio, so it’s one you never hear on the air. I tell people what I’m running and the general answer is “I never heard of it.” Yet its a dandy little CW rig.

Contesting

I consider myself a casual contester. Sometimes I wonder why, but yesterday was a good example why. Saturday morning is often my time to spend a couple hours in the shack playing with the radios. I’d had a couple nice cw QSOs and listened to part of an AM net, but tuning around I heard CQ 7QP. A quick check of the contest calendar at the ARRL web site and I discovered the 7th call district QSO party was on. Bascially, its a combined state QSO party of all the states in the 7th call district. I was hearing Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Idaho on 40 meters, so I set up my logging program for it and dove in.

By the way, for logging I use N1MM software. It’s great for contests, and you can’t beat the price (free.) I ran the contest for a while, and went on with my day. I had some free time in the afternoon and went to 20 meters and dove back into the contest. Meanwhile the New England QSO party started up, so I was soon hearing stations calling CQ from two different contests — one East Coast and one West Coast. Being in Illinois, I could work either. I started a second log for the NE QSO party, and soon I was jumping between the two contests, depending on geography.

Later in the evening I went back downstairs and worked more 40 meters, then jumped to 80 meters for an hour or so. It was all search and pounce (where you tune around looking for stations calling CQ) but it was fun. By the time I shut down around 11, I’d put over 100 QSOs in the log, run into a couple of fellows I know, and had a good time. What more could I ask for?

By the way, I did most of the operating on the Icom 765. Despite it’s age, it’s a great contest radio. I’d used the 756 ProIII as my condtest radio the last few years, but I sold that radio a couple months ago. I didn’t miss it at all.