Club News and Information
Field Day 2008 Soap Box
Another Field Day has come and gone. This year's set up activities started out tense. The Thursday before Field Day it became apparent that the old Dell laptop we intended to use for logging was too unstable. So we opted for a brand new HP laptop owned by yours truly - the webmaster - and set about a test to make sure the laptop and the Yaesu FT1000MP played nice in the sandbox together.
As it turns out, our DB9 CW rig interface would not work with a USB port. At least not without some massaging that we did not have the time for. So this led to a scramble to find a small footprint PC with and "old fashioned" com port that we could use for FD. Happily one was located, along with a nifty 21" flat screen monitor, thus CW FD was spared from manual operation. After some fits and starts, which included the keyboard passing away on first use, all was sorted out with about 1 hour to spare before FD begin. Of course, there was also the cliff-hanger not having the right cw key plug adapter to the rig, which precipitated a dash to Radio Shack for the correct phono plug adapter. The one problem that defied a solution was that the foot switch to operate phone PTT didn't work.
While we worked out the PC bugs, another crew lead by John Weinfeldt N2NO, was working on the 40m Delta Loop antenna trying to get it in a better set up configuration with mixed results. The 40m loop uses one leg of it's sister 80m dipole for suspension purposes. The 80m Dipole turned out to be stuck in it's current position due to a snag deep in the tree securing one end of the dipole. Therefore, we could not adjust the positioning of the 80m dipole to favor the 40m loop so that both were fully suspended from their respective trees. The result was a 'funny-looking' loop with a big droop, and fouled center feed for the 80m dipole that did not appear to be serious enough to impact performance. After the dipoles were squared away, the HF antenna crew raised the 20m Moxon beam.
Yet another crew lead by Barry Schaeffer WA2UEA, busied themselves erecting antennas for the 6m, VHF/UHF 'scratch' station.
Soon all was made ready and the Club was fully prepared by 1:30pm for FD start at 2:00pm EDT. Operations commenced on time.
FD Ops started for us on the phone bands and we had good results. Visitors to the FD site started showing up (a few were there waiting for us when we arrived). Club members and visitors alike dined on the traditional fare of burgers, dogs, and RF for lunch. It was also gratifying to see two Essex Fells police officers spend an appreciable amount of time at the FD site learning what ham radio and FD was all about. We also had two young visitors, who we promptly put on the air, and snagged 20 bonus point per youngin'. Thanks kids!
FD operating continued into the evening hours pretty much without interruption. Ray Linke, K2DEE provided a delicious catered chicken & veggies dinner which has become a field day tradition of sorts.
Band conditions were neither great nor especially terrible. We were successful at making contact with the majority of stations we tried to work. We did develop problems with the 80m dipole on CW - it needed to be tuned every 25khz or so, which was annoying. Overnight conditions on 80m were challenging but not impossible. The noise floor was at least S9 most of the time with peaks well over that. Also, the 80m band did not seem terribly crowded much of the night, with surprising signal gaps in the extra and general parts of the band. Usually 80m is wall-to-wall all night. We managed a mostly steady albeit slow contact rate most of the night.
Sunday brought a return to a mixture of Phone and CW operating. Towards the end of Field Day word reached us that 15m and 10m had a big opening, so we ended Field Day working CW pile-ups on 15m. We could not exploit the 10m opening as we did not have a 10m antenna.
We were also pleased to see several municipal government officials visit our FD site, which included the Mayor of Essex Fells, and the Mayor of neighboring Verona. It's good to know that Emergency Communications and Ham Radio capabilities are on the radar of these officials. They certainly seemed impressed with our set-up. We can't help but lament that we wish Essex County officials would take the same interest. We also hosted a reporter from the Caldwell Progress newspaper and many of the hams participating were extensively interviewed by the reporter.
The bad weather predicted for FD weekend did not materialize. There was rain for about 15 minutes on Saturday afternoon, and some distant thundering going on Sunday afternoon. Sadly, we know if we opted to operate in the field this past weekend, we would have been thundered, lighteninged, and rained out. That's the RF Gods toying with us.
A rough tally of our points score suggests we should land in the top 5 of category 1F. Too bad we will have to wait until December to find out. Last year we settled for 3rd place nationally for 1F.
Many thanks to all the Club members who contributed equipment or food/supplies (or both) to the event.
Special thanks go to Walter Hartmann of Caldwell, NJ for saving our butts by supplying the PC and extra large monitor. Now, we are spoiled!
Go here to view the Field Day 2008 Photo Gallery
Club Roster of FD participants (in no particular order)
Ray Linke, K2DEE
John Weinfeldt, N2NO
Bob Beck W2FKG
Mike Hartmann, WA2QIC
Barry Schaeffer, WA2UEM
Bob Lange, N2NYR
Harold Engelke, W2IBM
Frank Grosso, K2MLB
Bob Crifasi, KC2RFC
and thanks to Alan Machbitz, K2AJV, non-member guest operator.
We also appreciate the Ham visitors to the FD operation. Please stop by and visit us at a meeting sometime - the club can always use new members!! (sorry for the plug)